Tag Archives: Hollywood

Edward G. Robinson

Introduction

Edward G. Robinson (born Emanuel Goldenberg; December 12, 1893 – January 26, 1973) was a Romanian-American actor of stage and screen during Hollywood’s Golden Age. He appeared in 40 Broadway plays and more than 100 films during a 50-year career and is best remembered for his tough-guy roles as gangsters in such films as Little Caesar and Key Largo.

During the 1930s and 1940s, he was an outspoken public critic of fascism and Nazism, which were first growing in strength in Europe and led up to World War II. His activism included contributing over $250,000 to more than 850 organizations involved in war relief, along with cultural, educational and religious groups. During the 1950s, he was called to testify at the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare, but was cleared of any Communist involvement.

Robinson’s character portrayals have covered a wide range, with such roles as an insurance investigator in the film noir Double Indemnity, Dathan (adversary of Moses) in The Ten Commandments, and his final performance in the science-fiction story Soylent Green. Robinson received an Honorary Academy Award for his work in the film industry, which was awarded two months after his death in 1973. He is ranked number 24 in the American Film Institute‘s list of the 25 greatest male stars of Classic American cinema.

 

Early years and education

Robinson was born as Emanuel Goldenberg to a Yiddish-speaking Romanian Jewish family in Bucharest, the son of Sarah (née Guttman) and Morris Goldenberg, a builder.

After one of his brothers was attacked by an anti-semitic mob, the family decided to immigrate to the United States. Robinson arrived in New York City on February 21, 1904. “At Ellis Island I was born again,” he wrote. “Life for me began when I was 10 years old.” He grew up on the Lower East Side, had his Bar Mitzvah at First Roumanian-American Congregation, and attended Townsend Harris High School and then the City College of New York, planning to become a criminal attorney. An interest in acting and performing in front of people led to him winning an American Academy of Dramatic Arts scholarship, after which he changed his name to Edward G. Robinson (the G. standing for his original surname).

He served in the United States Navy during World War I, but was never sent overseas.

 

Career

Robinson began his acting career in the Yiddish Theater District in 1913 and made his Broadway debut in 1915. He made his film debut in Arms and the Man (1916).

In 1923 made his named debut as E. G. Robinson in the silent film, The Bright Shawl.

He played a snarling gangster in the 1927 Broadway police/crime drama The Racket, which led to his being cast in similar film roles, starting with The Hole in the Wall (1929) with Claudette Colbert at Paramount. Paramount kept him on for a comedy, The Kibitzer (1930).

One of many actors who saw his career flourish in the new sound film era rather than falter, he made only three films prior to 1930, but left his stage career that year and made 14 films between 1930 and 1932.

Robinson went to Universal for Night Ride (1930) and MGM for A Lady to Love (1930) directed by Victor Sjöström. At Universal he was in Outside the Law (1930) and East Is West, then he did The Widow from Chicago (1931) at First National.

Robinson was established as a film actor. What made him a star was an acclaimed performance as the gangster Caesar Enrico “Rico” Bandello in Little Caesar (1931) at Warner Bros.

Robinson signed a long term contract with Warners. They put him in another gangster film, Smart Money (1931), his only movie with James Cagney. He was reunited with Mervyn LeRoy, director of Little Caesar, in Five Star Final (1931), playing a journalist, and played a Tong gangster in The Hatchet Man (1932).

Robinson made a third film with LeRoy, Two Seconds (1932) then did a melodrama directed by Howard Hawks, Tiger Shark (1932). Warners tried him in a biopic, Silver Dollar (1932), where Robinson played Horace Tabor, a comedy, The Little Giant (1933) and a romance, I Loved a Woman (1933). Robinson was then in Dark Hazard (1934), and The Man with Two Faces (1934).

He went to Columbia for The Whole Town’s Talking (1935), a comedy directed by John Ford. Sam Goldwyn borrowed him for Barbary Coast (1935), again directed by Hawks.

Back at Warners he did Bullets or Ballots (1936) then he went to Britain for Thunder in the City (1937). He made Kid Galahad (1937) with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart.

MGM borrowed him for The Last Gangster (1937) then he did a comedy A Slight Case of Murder (1938).

He and Bogart were in The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938), then he was borrowed by Columbia for I Am the Law (1938).

In 1939, at the time World War II broke out in Europe, he played an FBI agent in Confessions of a Nazi Spy, the first American film which showed Nazism as a threat to the United States.

He volunteered for military service in June 1942 but was disqualified due to his age at 48, although he became an active and vocal critic of fascism and Nazism during that period.

MGM borrowed him for Blackmail (1939) then he played Paul Ehrlich in Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet (1940) and Paul Julius Reuter in A Dispatch from Reuter’s (1940), both biographies of prominent Jewish public figures. In between he and Bogart were in Brother Orchid (1940).

Robinson was teamed with John Garfield in The Sea Wolf (1941), and George Raft in Manpower (1941). He went to MGM for Unholy Partners (1942) and made a comedy Larceny, Inc. (1942). Robinson was one of several stars in Tales of Manhattan.

He did war films including Destroyer (1943) at Columbia, and Tampico (1944) at Fox. At Paramount he was in Billy Wilder‘s Double Indemnity (1944) with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck; at Columbia he was in Mr. Winkle Goes to War (1944); he was opposite Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea in Fritz Lang‘s The Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945).

At MGM he was in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945), then did Orson WellesThe Stranger (1946) with Welles and Loretta Young. Robinson followed it with a thriller The Red House (1947) and starred in an adaptation of All My Sons (1948).

Robinson appeared for director John Huston as gangster Johnny Rocco in Key Largo (1948), the last of five films he made with Humphrey Bogart and the only one in which Bogart did not play a supporting role.

He went on to be in Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948), and House of Strangers (1949).

Robinson found it hard to get work after his blacklisting. He was in low budgeted films: Actor’s and Sin (1952), Vice Squad (1953), Big Leaguer (1953), The Glass Web (1953), Black Tuesday (1954), The Violent Men (1955), Tight Spot (1955), A Bullet for Joey (1955), Illegal (1955), and Hell on Frisco Bay (1955).

His career rehabilitation received a boost in 1954, when noted anti-communist director Cecil B. DeMille cast him as the traitorous Dathan in The Ten Commandments. The film was released in 1956, as was his psychological thriller Nightmare.

After a subsequent short absence from the screen, Robinson’s film career—augmented by an increasing number of television roles—restarted for good in 1958/59, when he was second-billed after Frank Sinatra in the 1959 release A Hole in the Head.

 

Robinson went to Europe for Seven Thieves (1960). He had support roles in My Geisha (1962), Two Weeks in Another Town (1962), Sammy Going South (1963), The Prize (1963), Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), Good Neighbor Sam (1964), Cheyenne Autumn (1964), and The Outrage (1964).

He had a key part in The Cincinnati Kid (1965) and was top billed in The Blonde from Peking and Grand Slam (1967).

Robinson was originally cast in the role of Dr. Zaius in Planet Of The Apes (1968), and even went as far to filming a screen test with Charlton Heston. However, Robinson dropped out from the project before production began citing heart problems and concerns over the long hours under the heavy ape make up. He was replaced by Maurice Evans.

Later appearances included The Biggest Bundle of Them All (1968), Never a Dull Moment (1968), It’s Your Move (1968), Mackenna’s Gold (1969), and the Night Gallery episode “The Messiah on Mott Street” (1971).

The last scene Robinson filmed was a euthanasia sequence, with friend and co-star Charlton Heston, in the science fiction cult film Soylent Green (1973); he died only twelve days later.

Heston, as president of the Screen Actors Guild, presented Robinson with its annual award in 1969, “in recognition of his pioneering work in organizing the union, his service during World War II, and his ‘outstanding achievement in fostering the finest ideals of the acting profession.'”

Robinson was never nominated for an Academy Award, but in 1973 he was awarded an honorary Oscar in recognition that he had “achieved greatness as a player, a patron of the arts and a dedicated citizen … in sum, a Renaissance man.” He had been notified of the honor, but died two months before the award ceremony, so the award was accepted by his widow, Jane Robinson.

Robinson also did radio work. From 1937 to 1942, he starred as Steve Wilson, editor of the Illustrated Press, in the newspaper drama Big Town. He also portrayed hardboiled detective Sam Spade for a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of The Maltese Falcon.

 

Personal life

Robinson married his first wife, stage actress Gladys Lloyd, born Gladys Lloyd Cassell, in 1927; she was the former wife of Ralph L. Vestervelt and the daughter of Clement C. Cassell, an architect, sculptor and artist. The couple had one son, Edward G. Robinson, Jr. (a.k.a. Manny Robinson, 1933–1974), as well as a daughter from Gladys Robinson’s first marriage. In 1956 he was divorced from his wife. In 1958 he married Jane Bodenheimer, a dress designer professionally known as Jane Arden. Thereafter he also maintained a home in Palm Springs, California.

In noticeable contrast to many of his onscreen characters, Robinson was a sensitive, softly-spoken and cultured man, who spoke seven languages. Remaining a liberal Democrat despite his difficulties with HUAC, he attended the 1960 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, California. He was a passionate art collector, eventually building up a significant private collection. In 1956, however, he was forced to sell his collection to pay for his divorce settlement with Gladys Robinson; his finances had also suffered due to underemployment in the early 1950s. 

Robinson died at Mount Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles of bladder cancer on January 26, 1973. Services were held at Temple Israel in Los Angeles where Charlton Heston delivered the eulogy. Over 1,500 friends of Robinson attended, with another crowd of 500 people outside. His body was then flown to New York where it was entombed in a crypt in the family mausoleum at Beth-El Cemetery in Brooklyn. Among his pallbearers were Jack L. Warner, Hal B. Wallis, Mervyn Leroy, George Burns, Sam Jaffe, and Frank Sinatra.

In October 2000, Robinson’s image was imprinted on a U.S. postage stamp, its sixth in its Legends of Hollywood series.

 

Political activism

During the 1930s, Robinson was an outspoken public critic of fascism and Nazism, and donated more than $250,000 to 850 political and charitable groups between 1939 and 1949. He was host to the Committee of 56 who gathered at his home on December 9, 1938, signing a “Declaration of Democratic Independence” which called for a boycott of all German-made products.

Although he tried to do so, he was unable to enlist in the military at the outbreak of World War II because of his age; instead, the Office of War Information appointed him as a Special Representative based in London. From there, taking advantage of his multilingual skills, he delivered radio addresses in over six languages to countries in Europe which had fallen under Nazi domination. His talent as a radio speaker in the U.S. had previously been recognized by the American Legion, which had given him an award for his “outstanding contribution to Americanism through his stirring patriotic appeals.” Robinson was also active with the Hollywood Democratic Committee, serving on its executive board in 1944, during which time he became an “enthusiastic” campaigner for Roosevelt’s reelection that year.

In early July 1944, less than a month after the invasion of Normandy by Allied forces, Robinson traveled to the front in France to entertain the troops, becoming the first movie star to go there for the USO. He personally donated $100,000 ($1,500,000 in 2015 dollars) to the USO. After returning to the U.S. he continued his active involvement with the war effort by going to shipyards and defense plants to inspire workers, in addition to appearing at rallies to help sell war bonds. After the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, while not a supporter of Communism, he appeared at Soviet war relief rallies to give moral aid to America’s new ally, which he said could join “together in their hatred of Hitlerism.”

After the war ended, Robinson spoke publicly in support of democratic rights for all Americans, especially in demanding equality for Blacks in the workplace. He endorsed the Fair Employment Practices Commission‘s call to end workplace discrimination. Black leaders praised him as “one of the great friends of the Negro and a great advocator of Democracy.”

During the years Robinson spoke against fascism and Nazism, although not a supporter of Communism, he failed to criticize the Soviet Union which he saw as an ally against Hitler. However, notes film historian Steven J. Ross, “activists who attacked Hitler without simultaneously attacking Stalin were vilified by conservative critics as either Communists, Communist dupes, or, at best, naive liberal dupes.” In addition, Robinson learned that 11 of the more than the 850 charities and groups he had helped over the previous decade were listed by the FBI as Communist front organizations. As a result, he was called to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1950 and 1952 and was threatened with blacklisting.

As appears in the full House of Un-American activities Committee transcript for April 30th 1952, Robinson “named names” of Communist sympathizers (Albert Maltz, Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Frank Tuttle, and Sidney Buchman) and repudiated some of the organizations he had belonged to in the 1930s and 1940s. He came to realize, “I was duped and used.” His own name was cleared, but in the aftermath his career noticeably suffered, as he was offered smaller roles and those less frequently. In October 1952 he wrote an article titled “How the Reds made a Sucker Out of Me,” that was published in the American Legion Magazine. The chair of the Committee, Francis E. Walter, told Robinson at the end of his testimonies, that the Committee “never had any evidence presented to indicate that you were anything more than a very choice sucker.”

 

Other

Robinson has been the inspiration for a number of animated television characters, usually caricatures of his most distinctive ‘snarling gangster’ guise. An early version of the gangster character Rocky, featured in the Bugs Bunny cartoon Racketeer Rabbit, shared his likeness. This version of the character also appears briefly in Justice League, in the episode “Comfort and Joy,” as an alien with Robinson’s face and non-human body, who hovers past the screen as a background character.

Similar caricatures also appeared in The Coo-Coo Nut Grove, Thugs with Dirty Mugs and Hush My Mouse. Another character based on Robinson’s tough-guy image was The Frog (Chauncey “Flat Face” Frog) from the cartoon series Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse. The voice of B.B. Eyes in The Dick Tracy Show was based on Robinson, with Mel Blanc and Jerry Hausner sharing voicing duties. The animated series Wacky Races character ‘Clyde’ from the Ant Hill Mob was based on Robinson’s Little Caesar persona.

In the 1989 animated series C.O.P.S. the mastermind villain Brandon “Big Boss” Babel’s voice sounded just like Edward G. Robinson when he would talk to his gangsters. Then years later voice actor Hank Azaria has noted that the voice of Simpsons character police chief Clancy Wiggum is an impression of Robinson. This has been explicitly joked about in episodes of the show. In “The Day the Violence Died” (1996), a character states that Chief Wiggum is clearly based on Robinson. In 2008’s “Treehouse of Horror XIX,” Wiggum and Robinson’s ghost each accuse the other of being rip-offs. Another caricature of Robinson appears in two episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars season two, in the person of Lt. Tan Divo.

 

 

Hal Wallis

Harold Brent Wallis was an American film producer.

Wallis is best remembered for producing Casablanca (1942), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and True Grit (1969), along with many other major films for Warner Bros. featuring such film stars as Humphrey Bogart, Betty Davis, and Errol Flynn.

 

Life and Career

Aaron Blum Wolowicz was born October 19, 1898 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Eva (née Blum) and Jacob Wolowicz,  Ashkenazi Jews from Suwalki region of Poland who changed their surname to Wallis.

His family moved in 1922 to Los Angeles, California, where he found work as part of the publicity department at Warner Bros in 1923. Within a few years, Wallis became involved in the production end of the business and would eventually become head of production at Warner. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, he was involved with the production of more than 400 feature-length movies.

In addition to the films cited above, Wallis produced such hits as Dark VictoryThe Maltese Falcon, Sergeant York, and Now, Voyager. During the 16th annual Academy Awards, when the award for Best Picture was announced for Casablanca, Wallis got up to accept, but studio head Jack L. Warner rushed up to the stage “with a broad, flashing smile and a look of great self-satisfaction,” Wallis later recalled.

I couldn’t believe it was happening. Casablanca had been my creation; Jack had absolutely nothing to do with it. As the audience gasped, I tried to get out of the row of seats and into the aisle, but the entire Warner family sat blocking me. I had no alternative but to sit down again, humiliated and furious…. Almost forty years later, I still haven’t recovered from the shock.

Jack Warner, Michael Curtiz, Hal Wallis (L-R)

This incident would lead Wallis to leave Warner Bros. in April. He started to work as an independent producer, enjoying considerable success both commercially and critically. The first screenwriters he hired for his new enterprise were Ayn Rand and Lillian Hellman. Among his financial hits were the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedies, and several of Elvis Presley’s movies.

Wallis  produced True Grit, for which John Wayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor of 1969, and its sequel. After moving to Universal Pictures, he produced Mary, Queen of Scots (starring Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson), and Anne of the Thousand Days (starring Richard Burton and Canadian-born actress Geneviéve Bujold). He received 16 Academy Awards producer nominations for Best Picture, winning for Casablanca in 1943.

For his consistently high quality of motion picture production, Wallis  was twice honored with the Academy’s Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. He was also nominated for seven
Golden Globe awards, twice winning awards for Best Picture. In 1975, he received the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in motion pictures.

In 1980, Wallis published his autobiography, Starmaker, co- written with Charles Higham.
In the 1930s, Wallis used his investment dollars to develop residential real estate in Sherman Oaks, California. He named one of the streets after himself using his nickname “Hal” and his nick-middle name “Brent.” Halbrent Avenue, Sherman Oaks, CA is the street, and most of the original homes are still standing today. It’s very close to Ventura and Sepulveda Boulevards near the infamous Sherman Oaks Galleria used extensively in
the 1982 movie romp, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

 

Marriages

Wallis was married twice, to actress Louise Fazenda from 1927 until her death in 1962, and to actress Martha Hyer from 1966 until his death in 1986. He had one son with Fazenda,
Brent Wallis.

 

Death

Wallis died in 1986 from complications with diabetes in Rancho Mirage, California, at the age of 88. News of his passing was not released until after his private memorial service was
completed. U.S. President Ronald W. Reagan (who had worked for Wallis in On the Santa Fe Trail and This Is The Army) sent condolences to the family. Wallis is interred in  crypt at the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

Edmond O’Brien

Edmond O’Brien (September 10, 1915 – May 9, 1985) was an American actor who appeared in more than 100 films from the 1940s to the 1970s, often playing character parts. He received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the corresponding Golden Globe for his supporting role in The Barefoot Contessa (1954), as well as a second Golden Globe and another Academy Award nomination for Seven Days in May (1964). His other notable films include The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), The Killers (1946), White Heat (1949), D.O.A. (1950), Julius Caesar (1953), 1984 (1956), The Girl Can’t Help It (1956), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1961), and The Wild Bunch (1969).

 

Early years

O’Brien was born Eamon Joseph O’Brien in Brooklyn, New York, of English and Irish stock, the seventh and last child of Agnes and James O’Brien. When he was four years old, O’Brien’s father died.

He put on magic shows for children in his neighborhood with coaching from a neighbor, Harry Houdini. He performed under the title, “Neirbo the Great” (“neirbo” being “O’Brien” spelled backwards). An aunt who taught high school English and speech took him to the theatre from an early age and he developed an interest in acting. O’Brien began acting in plays at school.

After attending Fordham University for six months, he went to Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre on a scholarship. He studied for two years under such teachers as Sanford Meisner; his classmates included Betty Garrett.

“It was simply the best training in the world for a young actor, singer or dancer,” said O’Brien. “What these teachers encouraged above all was getting your tools ready – your body, your voice, your speech.”

In addition to studying at the Playhouse, O’Brien took classes with the Columbia Laboratory Players group, which emphasized training in Shakespeare.

 

Theatre

O’Brien began working in summer stock in Yonkers. He made his first Broadway appearance at age 21 in Daughters of Atreus.

He played a grave digger in Hamlet, went on tour with Parnell, then appeared in Maxwell Anderson’s The Star Wagon, starring Lillian Gish and Burgess Meredith.

 

Film Actor

O’Brien’s theatre work attracted the attention of Pandro Berman at RKO, who offered him a role as the romantic lead in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939).

He returned to Broadway to play Mercutio opposite Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in Romeo and Juliet.

RKO offered O’Brien a long term contract. His roles included A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob (1941) and Parachute Battalion (1941). The latter starred Nancy Kelly who O’Brien would later marry, although the union lasted less than a year.

O’Brien made Obliging Young Lady with Eve Arden, and Powder Town. He was loaned to Universal to appear opposite Deanna Durbin in The Amazing Mrs. Holliday (1943), after which he joined the armed services.

 

World War II

During World War II, O’Brien served in the U.S. Army Air Force and appeared in the Air Forces’ Broadway play Winged Victory by Moss Hart. He appeared alongside Red Buttons, Karl Malden, Kevin McCarthy, Gary Merrill, Barry Nelson and Martin Ritt. When the play was filmed in 1944, O’Brien reprised his stage performance, co-starring with Judy Holliday. He toured in the production for two years, appearing alongside a young Mario Lanza.

 

Warner Bros

In 1948, O’Brien signed a long term contract with Warner Bros, who cast him in the screen version of Lillian Hellman‘s Another Part of the Forest. This starred Fredric March who also appeared with O’Brien in An Act of Murder (1948).

He was then cast as the undercover cop in White Heat (1949) opposite James Cagney.

“He [Cagney] said he had only one rule,” O’Brien noted. “He would tap his heart and he would say, “Play it from here, kid.” He always did and I believe it’s the best rule for any performer. He could play a scene 90 ways and never repeat himself. He did this to keep himself fresh. I try to do this whenever possible.”

In 1949, 3,147 members of the Young Women’s League of America, a national charitable organization of spinsters, voted that O’Brien had more “male magnetism” than any other man in America today. “All women adore ruggedness,” said organization president Shirley Connolly. “Edmund O’Brien’s magnetic appearance and personality most fully stir women’s imaginative impulses. We’re all agreed that he has more male magnetism than any of the 60,000,000 men in the United States today. (Runners up were Ezio Pinza, William O’Dwyer and Doak Walker.)

Following an appearance in Backfire (1950) his contract with Warner Bros terminated.

 

Freelance

O’Brien then made one of his most famous movies, D.O.A. (1950 film), where he plays a man investigating his own murder. He followed this with 711 Ocean Drive (1950). However, his career then hit a slump. According to TCM, “In the early ’50s, O’Brien started struggling with his weight, which could change significantly between films. He had no problems if that relegated him to character roles, but for a few years, it was hard to come by anything really first rate.”

“The funny thing about Hollywood is that they are interested in having you do one thing and do it well and do it ever after,” said O’Brien. “That’s the sad thing about being a leading man – while the rewards may be great in fame and finances, it becomes monotonous for an actor. I think that’s why some of the people who are continually playing themselves are not happy.”

He made some notable movies including two for Ida Lupino, The Hitch-Hiker and The Bigamist. He also played Casca in Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s film of Julius Caesar (1953).

O’Brien worked heavily in television on such shows as Pulitzer Prize Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre and Schlitz Playhouse of Stars. He announced plans to direct his own films.

In 1951 he was in a well publicized brawl with Serge Rubinstein at a cafe.

From 1950 to 1952, O’Brien starred in the radio drama Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, playing the title role. His other work in radio included Philip Morris Playhouse on Broadway.

O’Brien was cast as press agent Oscar Muldoon in The Barefoot Contessa. He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for that role.

 

O’Brien followed this with a number of important roles, including Pete Kelly’s Blues, 1984, A Cry in the Night (1956), and The Girl Can’t Help It.

TV

O’Brien appeared extensively in television, including the 1957 live 90-minute broadcast on Playhouse 90 of The Comedian, a drama written by Rod Serling and directed by John Frankenheimer in which Mickey Rooney portrayed a television comedian while O’Brien played a writer driven to the brink of insanity.

In 1958 he directed and starred in a TV drama written by his brother, “The Town That Slept With the Lights On,” about two Lancaster murders that so frightened the community that residents began sleeping with their lights on.

From 1959–60 O’Brien portrayed the title role in the syndicated crime drama Johnny Midnight, the story of a New York City actor-turned-private detective. The producers refused to cast him unless he shed at least 50 pounds, so he went on a crash vegetarian diet and quit drinking.

“I seldom get very far away from crime,” he recalled. I’ve found it pays . . . I tried non-crime films like Another Part of the Forest . . . good picture, good cast, but no good at the box office . . . But you just put a gun in your hands and run through the streets during cops and robbers and you’re all set.”

O’Brien also had his own production company, O’Brien-Frazen.

O’Brien had roles on many television series, including an appearance on Target: The Corruptors!, The Eleventh Hour, Breaking Point and Mission: Impossible.

O’Brien walked off the set of The Last Voyage in protest at safety issues during the shoot. He later came back and found out he had been written out of the film. He was cast as a reporter in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) but had a heart attack during filming and was replaced by Arthur Kennedy.

O’Brien recovered to direct his first feature, Man Trap (1961).

He continued to receive good roles: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).

In the mid-’60s O’Brien co-starred with Roger Mobley and Harvey Korman in the “Gallegher” episodes of NBC‘s Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. From 1963–65 he co-starred in the NBC legal drama Sam Benedict.

O’Brien had a choice role in Seven Days in May (1964) which saw him receive a second Oscar nomination.

“I’ve never made any kind of personality success,” he admitted in a 1963 interview. “People never say ‘that’s an Eddie O’Brien part.’ They say, ‘That’s a part Eddie O’Brien can play.’

“I’d like to be able to say something important,” he added. “To say something to people about their relationship with each other. If it touches just one guy, helps illustrate some points of view about living, then you’ve accomplished something.”

He had a role in another TV series, The Long Hot Summer but left after 12 episodes due to creative differences. He was replaced by Dan O’Herlihy.

 

Later career

O’Brien worked steadily throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, his memory problems were beginning to take their toll. A heart attack meant he had to drop out of The Glass Bottom Boat.

“It would be awfully hard to do a series again,” he said in a 1971 interview. “I wouldn’t go for an hour show again. They don’t have much of a chance against the movies.”

In 1971 he was hospitalized with a “slight pulmonary condition.”

His last film would be 99 and 44/100% Dead.

 

Recording

In 1957 O’Brien recorded a spoken-word album of The Red Badge of Courage (Caedmon TC 1040). Billboard said, “Edmond O’Brien brings intensity in the narrative portions and successfully impersonates the varied characters in dialog.”

 

Personal life

O’Brien was divorced from actresses Nancy Kelly 1941–1942 and Olga San Juan. San Juan was the mother of his three children, including television producer Bridget O’Brien and actors Maria O’Brien and Brendan O’Brien.

 

Final Years and Death

O’Brien fell ill with Alzheimer’s Disease. In a 1983 interview, his daughter Maria remembers seeing her father in a straitjacket at a Veterans’ Hospital.

“He was screaming. He was violent. I remember noticing how thin he’d gotten. We didn’t know, because for years he’d been sleeping with all his clothes on. We saw him a little later and he was walking around like all the other lost souls there.”

He died May 9, 1985, at St. Erne’s Sanitorium in Inglewood, California, of Alzheimer’s disease. He was survived by his wife and three children.

Walk of Fame

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Edmond O’Brien has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1725 Vine Street, and a second star at 6523 Hollywood Blvd. for his contribution to the television industry. Both were dedicated on February 8, 1960.

 

 

Gary Busey

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William Gary Busey (born June 29, 1944) is an American actor. A prolific character actor, Busey has appeared in over 150 films, including Lethal Weapon (1987), Predator 2 (1990), Point Break (1991), Under Siege (1992), The Firm (1993), Carried Away (1996), Black Sheep (1996), Lost Highway (1997), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), The Gingerdead Man (2005) and Piranha 3DD (2012). Busey has also made guest appearances on television shows such as Gunsmoke, Walker, Texas Ranger, Law & Order, Scrubs, and Entourage.

For portraying Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story (1978), Busey was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor and won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor. In 2014, he lampooned his public image through a series of advertisements for Amazon Fire TV.

 

Early life

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Busey was born in Goose Creek, Texas, the son of Sadie Virginia (née Arnett), a homemaker, and Delmer Lloyd Busey, a construction design manager. He graduated from Nathan Hale High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1962. While attending Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, on a football scholarship, he became interested in acting. He then transferred to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where he quit school just one class short of graduation.

 

Career

Early career

Busey began his show business career as a drummer in The Rubber Band. He appears on several Leon Russell recordings, credited as playing drums under the names “Teddy Jack Eddy” and “Sprunk,” a character he created when he was a cast member of a local television comedy show in Tulsa, Oklahoma, called The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting on station KTUL (which starred fellow Tulsan Gailard Sartain as “Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi”). For his skits on Uncanny Film Festival, Busey drew on his American Hero, belligerent, know-it-all character. When he told Gailard Sartain his character needed a name, Sartain replied, “Take three: Teddy, Jack ,and Eddy.”

He played in a band called Carp, which released one album on Epic Records in 1969. Busey continued to play several small roles in both film and television during the 1970s. In 1975, as the character “Harvey Daley,” he was the last person killed on the series Gunsmoke (in the third-to-last episode, No. 633 – “The Busters”).

 

Rise to prominence

In 1974, Busey made his major film debut with a supporting role in Michael Cimino‘s buddy action caper Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, starring Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges.

In 1976, he was hired by Barbra Streisand and her producer-boyfriend Jon Peters to play Bobby Ritchie, road manager to Kris Kristofferson‘s character in the remake film A Star is Born. On the DVD commentary of the film, Streisand says Busey was great and that she had seen him on a TV series and thought he had the right qualities to play the role.

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In 1978, he starred as rock legend Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story with Sartain as The Big Bopper. For his performance, Busey received the greatest critical acclaim of his career and the movie earned Busey an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and the National Society of Film CriticsBest Actor award.

screenshot-2017-03-03-12-03-51In the same year he also starred in the small yet acclaimed drama Straight Time and the surfing movie Big Wednesday, which is now a minor cult classic.

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screenshot-2017-03-03-12-06-10In the 1980s, Busey’s roles included the critically acclaimed western Barbarosa, the comedies D.C. Cab and Insignificance, and the Stephen King adaptation Silver Bullet. He played one of the primary antagonists opposite Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the action comedy Lethal Weapon.

In the 1990s, he had prominent supporting roles in successful action films such as Predator 2, Point Break and Under Siege. He also appeared in Rookie of the Year, The Firm, Black Sheep, Lost Highway, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Busey sang the song “Stay All Night” on Saturday Night Live in March 1979 (season 4, episode 14), and on the Late Show with David Letterman in the 1990s.

 

2000s–present

screenshot-2017-03-03-12-04-44In 2003, Busey starred in a Comedy Central reality show, I’m with Busey. In 2005, he also voiced himself in an episode of The Simpsons and appeared in the popular miniseries Into the West. Busey controversially appeared in the 2006 Turkish nationalist film Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, (Kurtlar Vadisi: Irak, in Turkish), which was accused of fascism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism.

In 2007, he appeared as himself in a prominent recurring role on HBO‘s Entourage, in which he parodied his eccentric image, ultimately appearing on three episodes of the show.

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In 2008, he joined the second season of the reality show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. Busey returned to reality television in Celebrity Apprentice 4, which premiered in March 2011, and appeared again in Celebrity Apprentice 6. There, he briefly reprised his role as Buddy Holly by performing “Not Fade Away”.

In a series of 2010 YouTube advertisements for Vitamin Water, Busey appeared as Norman Tugwater, a lawyer who defends professional athletes’ entitlements to a cut from Fantasy Football team owners.

In 2014, he became a celebrity spokesperson for Amazon Fire TV. That August, he appeared in, and became the first American winner of the fourteenth series of the UK version of Celebrity Big Brother.

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On September 1, 2015, it was announced that he would be competing on the 21st season of Dancing with the Stars. He was paired with professional dancer Anna Trebunskaya. Busey and Trebunskaya made it to Week 4 of competition but were then eliminated and finished in 10th place.

 

Personal life

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In 1971, Busey’s wife Judy Helkenberg gave birth to their son, William Jacob “Jake” Busey. Busey and Helkenberg divorced when Jake was 19 years old. Busey has a daughter named Alectra from a previous relationship. In February 2010, Busey’s fiancee Steffanie Sampson gave birth to their son, Luke Sampson Busey.

On December 4, 1988, Busey was severely injured in a motorcycle accident in which he was not wearing a helmet. His skull was fractured, and doctors feared he suffered permanent brain damage. During the filming of the second season of Celebrity Rehab in 2008, Busey was referred to psychiatrist Dr. Charles Sophy. Sophy suspected that Busey’s brain injury has had a greater effect on him than realized. He described it as essentially weakening his mental “filters” and causing him to speak and act impulsively. Sophy recommended Busey take valproic acid (Depakote), with which Busey agreed.

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In 1996, Busey publicly announced that he was a Christian, saying: “I am proud to tell Hollywood I am a Christian. For the first time I am now free to be myself.” This return to Christianity occurred as a result of his motorcycle accident, as well as a 1995 cocaine overdose.

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In 2011, Busey supported Donald Trump‘s 2012 presidential bid saying, “For the American people, vote for Donald Trump come election night.” In 2015, he again endorsed Trump for president.

Buddy Hackett

Buddy Hackett (born Leonard Hacker; August 31, 1924 – June 30, 2003) was an American comedian and actor. His best remembered roles include Marcellus Washburn in The Music Man (1962), Benjy Benjamin in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Tennessee Steinmetz in The Love Bug (1968), and Scuttle in The Little Mermaid (1989).

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Early life

Hackett was born in Brooklyn, New York to Anna (née Geller) and Philip Hacker, an upholsterer and part-time inventor. He grew up on 54th and 14th Ave in Borough Park, Brooklyn, across from Public School 103 (now a yeshiva). He graduated from New Utrecht High School in 1942.

While still a student, he began performing in nightclubs in the Catskills Borscht Belt resorts as “Butch Hacker.” He appeared first at the Golden Hotel in Hurleyville, New York, and he claimed he did not get a single laugh. He enlisted in the United States Army during World War II, and served for three years in an anti-aircraft battery.

 

Career

 Early career

Hackett’s first job after the war was at the Pink Elephant, a Brooklyn club. It was here he changed his name from Leonard Hacker to Buddy Hackett. He made appearances in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and continued to perform in the Catskills. He acted on Broadway, in Lunatics and Lovers, where Max Liebman saw him and put him in two television specials.

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Hackett’s movie career began in 1950 with a 10-minute “World of Sports” reel for Columbia Pictures called King of the Pins. The film demonstrated championship bowling techniques, with expert Joe Wilman demonstrating the right way and Hackett (in pantomime) exemplifying the wrong way. Hackett would not return to movies until 1953, after one of his nightclub routines attracted attention. With a rubber band around his head to slant his eyes, Hackett’s “The Chinese Waiter” lampooned the heavy dialect, frustration, and communication problems encountered by a busy waiter in a Chinese restaurant: “No, we no have sprit-pea soup … We gotta wonton, we got eh-roll … No orda for her, juss orda for you!” The routine was such a hit, Hackett made a recording of it, and was hired to reprise it in the Universal-International musical Walking My Baby Back Home (1953), in which he was third-billed under Donald O’Connor and Janet Leigh.

Hackett was an emergency replacement for the similarly built Lou Costello in 1954. Abbott and Costello were set to make a feature-length comedy Fireman, Save My Child, featuring Spike Jones and His City Slickers. Several scenes had been shot with stunt doubles when Lou Costello was forced to withdraw due to illness. Universal-International salvaged the project by hiring Hugh O’Brian and Hackett to take over the Abbott and Costello roles, using already shot footage of the comedy duo in some long shots; Jones and his band became the main attraction.

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Hackett became known to a wider audience when he appeared on television in the 1950s and ’60s as a frequent guest on variety talk shows hosted by Jack Paar and Arthur Godfrey, telling brash, often off-color jokes, and mugging at the camera. Hackett was a frequent guest on both the Jack Paar and the Johnny Carson versions of The Tonight Show. According to the board game Trivial Pursuit, Hackett has the distinction of making the most guest appearances in the history of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

screenshot-2017-01-15-15-50-04During this time, he also appeared as a panelist and mystery guest on CBS-TV’s What’s My Line? and filled in as emcee for the game show Treasure Hunt. He made fifteen guest appearances on NBC-TV’s The Perry Como Show between 1955 and 1961.

Stanley

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Hackett starred as the title character on NBC-TV’s Stanley, a 1956-57 situation comedy which ran for 19 weeks on Monday evenings at 8:30 pm EST. The half hour series also featured a young Carol Burnett and the voice of Paul Lynde. The Max Liebman produced program aired live before a studio audience and was one of the last sitcoms from New York to do so. Stanley revolved around the adventures of the titular character (Hackett) as the operator of a newsstand in a posh New York City hotel. On September 30, 1960, he appeared as himself in an episode of NBC’s short-lived crime drama Dan Raven, starring Skip Homeier, set on the Sunset Strip of West Hollywood.

screenshot-2017-01-15-15-53-29After starring on Broadway in I Had a Ball, Hackett appeared opposite Robert Preston in the film adaptation of The Music Man (1962). In It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Hackett was paired with Mickey Rooney, with whom he had also recently made Everything’s Ducky (1961), in which they played two sailors who smuggle a talking duck aboard a Navy ship. Children became familiar with him as lovable hippie auto mechanic Tennessee Steinmetz in Disney‘s The Love Bug (1969).

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He appeared many times on the game show Hollywood Squares in the late 1960s. In one episode, Hackett was asked which was the country with the highest ratio of doctors to populace; he answered Israel, or in his words, “The country with the most Jews.” Despite the audience roaring with laughter (and Hackett’s own belief that the actual answer was Sweden), the answer turned out to be correct. Hackett’s regular guest shots on Jack Paar’s Tonight Show in the early 1960s were rewarded with a coveted appearance on his final program on March 29, 1962.

Later career

Hackett continued to appear on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show until Carson left the series in 1992.

screenshot-2017-01-15-16-07-25In 1978, Hackett surprised many with his dramatic performance as Lou Costello in the television movie Bud and Lou opposite Harvey Korman as Bud Abbott. The film told the story of Abbott and Costello, and Hackett’s portrayal was widely praised. He and Korman did a memorable rendition of the team’s famous “Who’s on First?” routine. In 1979, Hackett was the voice of the groundhog “Pardon Me Pete,”,and the narrator of the Rankin/Bass Christmas special Jack Frost (1979). He starred in the 1980 film Hey Babe!. That same year, he hosted a syndicated revival of the 1950-61 Groucho Marx quiz show You Bet Your Life which lasted for one year. Throughout the 1970s Hackett appeared regularly in TV ads for Tuscan Dairy popsicles and yogurt. But his most famous television campaign was for Lay’s potato chips (“Nobody can eat just one!”) which ran from 1968–71; Hackett had succeeded Bert Lahr as Lay’s spokesman. He guest-starred in the Space Rangers episode, “To Be Or Not To Be,” as has-been comedian Lenny Hacker, a parody of his stage persona. The character’s name was Hackett’s own real name.

 

Other

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For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Hackett was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2000, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.

In April 1998, Hackett guest starred in an episode of LateLine called “Buddy Hackett.” The episode focused on a news broadcast paying tribute to Hackett following his death, only to discover that the report of his death was a mistake. Robert Reich and Dick Gephardt also appeared in the episode, paying tribute to Hackett.

In his final years, Hackett had a recurring spot called “Tuesdays with Buddy” on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn in which he shared stories of his career and delivered some of his comedic routines.

 

Personal life

screenshot-2017-01-15-16-05-36On June 12, 1955, Hackett married Sherry Cohen. They lived in Leonia, New Jersey in the late 1950s. In August 1958, they bought the house previously owned by deceased crime boss Albert Anastasia in Fort Lee, New Jersey. After renovations, they moved in and lived there through most of the 1960s. In 2003, Hackett and his wife established the Singita Animal Sanctuary in California’s San Fernando Valley.

He was an avid firearms collector and owned a large collection that he sold off in his later years due to declining health.

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Death

Hackett died on June 30, 2003 at his beach house in Malibu, California at the age of 78. His son, comedian Sandy Hackett, said his father had been suffering from diabetes for several years and suffered a stroke nearly a week before his death which may have contributed to his demise. Two days later, on July 2, 2003, he was cremated and his ashes were given to family and friends.

 

 

 

The Naked Spur

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I thought it might be fun to switch the focus of these monthly blogposts, from actors to films — the sorts of movies the main character in my Mike Montego series of novels might have watched as a kid or young man. They quite literally “don’t make ’em like this” anymore!

We’ll start with The Naked Spur, a 1953 Technicolor  Western film directed by Anthony Mann, starring James Stewart, Janet Leigh, and Robert Ryan. Written by Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom, the film is about a bounty hunter who tries to bring a murderer to justice, and is forced to accept the help of two strangers who are less than trustworthy. The original music score was composed by Bronislau Kaper and the cinematography was by William C. Mellor. The Naked Spur was filmed on location in Durango and the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, and Lone Pine, California. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay—a rare honor for a Western. This was the third Western film collaboration between Anthony Mann and James Stewart.

 

Plot

In March 1868, Howard Kemp (James Stewart) is tracking Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan), who is wanted for the murder of the marshal in Abilene, Kansas.

On the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Southwestern Colorado, Kemp meets a grizzled old prospector, Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell), and offers him twenty dollars to help out. Tate assumes that Kemp is a sheriff and Kemp does nothing to disillusion him.

They trap someone on top of a rocky hill who Kemp is convinced must be his wanted man. Rockslides force a retreat. Looking for a way around the hill, Kemp and Tate meet up with a Union soldier, Lieutenant Roy Anderson (Ralph Meeker). He has been discharged from the 6th Cavalry at Fort Ellis in Bozeman and is heading east. Tate questions why Anderson isn’t on the Bozeman Trail. Anderson’s story is that there are some “bad tempered Indians” whose chief’s daughter fell in with a handsome young army lieutenant. Kemp has a chance to see Anderson’s discharge order in which he is described as “morally unstable,” and given a dishonorable discharge.

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Tate tells Anderson that Kemp is a sheriff. With the aid of Anderson, who scales a sheer cliff face, Vandergroat is caught, along with his companion, Lina Patch (Janet Leigh), the daughter of Vandergroat’s friend, Frank Patch, who was shot dead trying to rob a bank in Abilene.

Vandergroat sets Tate and Anderson straight on two facts: that Kemp is no lawman, and that a reward is offered to bring him in— $5000, dead or alive. Tate and Anderson want their shares, to aid Kemp in getting Vandergroat back to Kansas. Lina is convinced that her father’s friend is innocent.

On the trail to Abilene, Vandergroat attempts to turn his captors against each other, using greed as his weapon. He also encourages Lina to use her beauty to divide Kemp and Anderson. When scouting a way through a mountain pass, Kemp and Tate spot a dozen Blackfeet, a normally friendly tribe, far from their normal hunting grounds. They tell the others and Anderson confesses that the Indians are after him. Kemp tells Anderson to hightail it out of there to avoid being captured by the Blackfeet. Anderson thinks Kemp just wants a bigger share of the reward money. He rides ahead, and from his position hidden behind a fallen tree trunk, with his rifle he elects to pick off a chief of the Blackfeet, at the moment Kemp’s group have confronted the Indians and are about to engage them in talk.

During the ensuing battle, Kemp saves Lina from the Blackfeet and she, in turn, helps him when he is shot in the leg. Later, Kemp passes out on the trail and awakes from a delirious nightmare. He thinks Lina is Mary, his ex-fiancée. Vandergroat tells the others that Mary sold Kemp’s ranch, which he left in her safekeeping, while he was serving in the army during the Civil War, and then went off with another man. Vandergroat further reveals that Kemp is determined to buy his ranch back, and that it can’t happen if he splits the reward money with Anderson and Tate.

Lina’s feelings of loyalty to her father’s friend, combined with an attraction to Kemp, confuses her. She has never seen Vandergroat hurt anyone unless it was in a fair fight, but after he loosens Kemp’s saddle cinch and tries to push him off a high mountain pass, Lina’s sympathies for Kemp grow.

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Taking refuge from a storm in a cave, Vandergroat manipulates Lina into distracting Kemp. She tells the rancher of her dream to go to California, where no one knows her and she can make a fresh start. He tells her of his wish to repurchase his ranch. They kiss and this gives Ben a chance to escape. Kemp catches Vandergroat, and Anderson suggests that since the reward is for a “dead or alive” criminal, they should just kill the troublemaker. Tate stops Anderson but, caught up in the anger of the moment and hurt by what he sees as Lina’s treachery, Kemp challenges Vandergroat to a shoot out. The wanted man declines to take part.

Next day, the group comes to a high-running river. They argue about whether to cross or go downstream. Anderson grabs a rope and throws it around Vandergroat’s neck and says he’ll drag him across the river. A fight ensues between Kemp and Anderson, as Vandergroat watches with malicious enjoyment. Kemp finally manages to kick Anderson unconscious. While Kemp and Anderson recover from the fight and Lina searches for firewood, Vandergroat convinces Tate to sneak off with him to find a gold mine, the whereabouts of which Vandergroat has been tempting the old man with. When they depart during the night, he convinces Tate to take Lina along.

Vandergroat and Lina ride double; Tate follows, holding a rifle on them. Ben suddenly yells, “Snake!” and in the confusion grabs Tate’s rifle from him and kills him. He fires two more shots in order to lure Kemp and Anderson to a spot where he intends to kill them. Lina finally sees Vandergroat for what he is.

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Kemp and Anderson discover Tate’s body where Vandergroat has positioned it for an ambush from the high cliff face. Preparing to shoot Kemp, Vandergroat is caught off guard when Lina grabs the rifle barrel, saving Kemp’s life. While Anderson exchanges gunfire with Vandergroat, Kemp removes one of his spurs to aid in climbing up the back of the cliff to outflank Vandergroat. He uses the spur as a combination climbing tool and makeshift piton.

Vandergroat, hearing Kemp, gets the drop on the rancher. However, before he can pull the trigger, Kemp throws his spur into the killer’s left cheek. As Ben reels from the pain of the spur, he is shot by Anderson and his body falls into the nearby river, becoming entangled in the roots of a tree. Anderson lassos a branch on the other side of the river and crosses using the rope. He then wraps it around Ben’s body but is crushed by a large tree stump barrelling down the river.

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Kemp grabs the rope and drags Vandergroat’s body across the river and, in a rage, vows that he will take him back to reclaim his land. Lina pleads with him not to take blood money for bringing Vandergroat in. She says she will go with him, no matter what, marry him, and live with him on the ranch. Kemp realizes what he is doing and his love for Lina makes him stop. He begins digging a grave to bury Vandergroat and they decide to make for California, leaving their pasts behind.

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Cast

 

Production

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The Naked Spur was the third of five Western collaborations between James Stewart and Anthony Mann and also, third of the eight collaborations they did overall. Two previous Westerns included Winchester ’73 (1950) and Bend of the River (1952). The film is notable for having only five actors.

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Robert Ryan, known for his roles as ruthless villains and hard-boiled cops, would work with Mann again in Men in War (1957) and God’s Little Acre (1958). Janet Leigh starred alongside Ryan in the film noir Act of Violence (1948), which was directed by Fred Zinnemann. Ralph Meeker was cast as Roy Anderson, a disgraced Army officer.

Millard Mitchell, who played Jesse Tate, a grizzled old prospector, died at fifty years of age from lung cancer shortly after this picture. This was his next-to-last movie, followed by Here Come the Girls (released October 1953), starring Bob Hope.

The film was filmed on location in Durango and the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, and Lone Pine, California. According to writer and historian Frederic B. Wildfang, during filming, Stewart dedicated a monument in town, marking the area as the “Hollywood of the Rockies.” Production started in late May and ended in June 1952.

 

Reception

The film premiered in the first day of February 1953. That same year, two other films directed by Mann and starring Stewart were also released: Thunder Bay and The Glenn Miller Story.

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According to MGM records the film earned $2,423,000 in the US and Canada and $1,427,000 overseas, resulting in a profit to the studio of $1,081,000. This success ensured three more Stewart-Mann collaborations, including two more westerns. Screenwriters Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom were nominated for the 1953 Best Screenplay Academy Award. In the years since its release, the film has achieved continued success, gaining more critical acclaim now than upon first release. Leonard Maltin has lauded The Naked Spur as “one of the best westerns ever made.”

In 1997, The Naked Spur was added to the United States National Film Registry, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Martin Milner

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Martin Sam Milner (December 28, 1931 – September 6, 2015) was an American film, stage, radio and television actor. Milner is best known for his performances in two popular television series: Route 66, which aired on CBS from 1960 to 1964, and Adam-12, which aired on NBC from 1968 to 1975.

 

Early years

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Milner was born on December 28, 1931, to film distributor Sam Gordon Milner and Paramount Theater circuit dancer Mildred (née Martin) in Detroit, Michigan. The family left Detroit when he was a young child and moved frequently before settling in Seattle, Washington, by the time he was nine. There he became involved in acting, first in school, and then in a children’s theater group at the Cornish Playhouse.

When Milner was a teenager, he moved with his family to Los Angeles where his parents hired an acting coach and later an agent for him. Milner had his first screen test and began his film career with his debut in the 1947 film Life with Father in the role of John Day, the second oldest son of Clarence Day played by William Powell. Less than two weeks after filming for that film ended in August 1946, Milner contracted poliomyelitis. He recovered within a year and had bit parts in two more films before graduating from North Hollywood High School in 1949. He immediately landed a minor role in the film Sands of Iwo Jima starring John Wayne. He also had a role in Richard Fleischer‘s Compulsion, featuring Orson Welles.

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He had several more roles, both minor and major, in war films in the 1950s, including another John Wayne picture called Operation Pacific in 1951 and Mister Roberts with Henry Fonda, James Cagney and Jack Lemmon in 1955. On the set of Halls of Montezuma in 1950 he met and befriended actor Jack Webb. Soon thereafter, he began intermittent work on Webb’s radio series, Dragnet.

 

Career

Milner attended the University of Southern California where he studied theater. He dropped out after a year in the fall of 1950 to concentrate on acting. He made his first television appearance in 1950 as a guest star in episode 28 titled “Pay Dirt” on The Lone Ranger. That same year, he began a recurring role as “Drexel Potter” on the television sitcom The Stu Erwin Show.

In 1952, Milner began a two-year stint in the United States Army. He was assigned to Special Services at Fort Ord on California’s Monterey Bay Peninsula, where he directed training films. He also emceed and performed in skits in a touring unit show to entertain the soldiers. Milner was encouraged by fellow soldier David Janssen to pursue an acting career when his time in the Army ended. He also served at Ft Ord at the same time as future actors Clint Eastwood and Richard Long. While in the Army, Milner continued working for Jack Webb, playing “Officer Bill Lockwood” (briefly the partner of “Sgt. Friday”) and other characters on the Dragnet radio series on weekends. He also appeared on six episodes of Webb’s Dragnet television series between 1952 and 1955.

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After his military service ended, Milner had a recurring role on The Life of Riley from 1953 to 1958. He also made guest appearances on numerous television shows including episodes of The Bigelow Theatre, The Great Gildersleeve, TV Reader’s Digest, Science Fiction Theatre, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, NBC Matinee Theater, The West Point Story, The Twilight Zone (episode: Mirror Image) and Rawhide. Milner also acted in films, the most notable of which are The Long Gray Line (1955), Mister Roberts (1955), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), as jazz guitarist Steve Dallas in Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Marjorie Morningstar (1958), Compulsion (1959) and 13 Ghosts (1960).

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Route 66

In 1960, Milner won the role of Tod Stiles in the CBS television series, Route 66, from 1960 to 1964. Created by Stirling Silliphant, Route 66 is essentially about two regular, but distinctly different young men in a car touring the United States.

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After the sudden death of his father left him unexpectedly penniless, Tod traveled across the United States in a Chevrolet Corvette, taking a variety of odd jobs along the way and getting involved in other people’s problems. Tod’s traveling partner on his escapades was his friend Buz Murdock, a former employee of his father’s played by George Maharis. During the series’ third season, Milner got a new co-star as Glenn Corbett was brought in to replace Maharis. Tod’s new traveling partner was Lincoln “Linc” Case, an Army veteran who had a dark past, and Corbett remained in the role for the remaining season and a half.

Route 66 was a different sort of television program, as the travels of Tod and his traveling partners were shot on location. Thus, Milner spent nearly four years traveling the country for the series, sometimes taking his wife and children along.

 

Adam-12

 Milner and Webb had a long-established working relationship by the time it came to cast Adam-12. Milner appeared in numerous episodes of both the radio and television versions of the seminal Jack Webb series Dragnet. Milner had also worked with Webb in the 1950 film Halls of Montezuma and the 1955 film Pete Kelly’s Blues. This led to the role for which Milner is best known.

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In 1968, Milner returned to television as seven-year LAPD veteran uniform patrol Officer Peter Joseph “Pete” Malloy in the Jack Webb-produced police drama, Adam-12. Kent McCord played his partner, rookie Officer James A. “Jim” Reed. The popular NBC series ran from 1968 to 1975. Like Webb’s Dragnet, it was based on real Los Angeles Police Department procedures and cases. It was hailed for its realistic, positive portrayal of ordinary police officers.

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Milner was Webb’s hands-down choice for “cop behind the wheel” Pete Malloy, in part because his relative youth and prior acting credits and because of his on-camera driving experience from his days on Route 66.

 

Emergency!

 Milner guest starred in three episodes of Emergency! between 1972 and 1976, during and after Adam-12s run on NBC, the best known and first of which was the pilot episode The Wedsworth-Townsend Act.

 

Later career

After Adam-12 Martin Milner starred as Karl Robinson in a television series version of The Swiss Family Robinson (1975–1976), produced by Irwin Allen. Most of his following work was as a television guest star, most notably in action-adventure series MacGyver (as James MacGyver, MacGyver’s father), Airwolf, Life Goes On , Murder, She Wrote and RoboCop: The Series. In 1983, Milner hosted a morning radio wake-up show on AM 600 KOGO, San Diego.

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Milner also has the distinction of having portrayed the victim in the premiere episode of Columbo titled “Murder by the Book.” In 1990, Milner re-teamed with Kent McCord, his co-star from Adam-12, in the cable TV-movie Nashville Beat (1990), originally shown on the now-defunct The Nashville Network. The story, partly written by Kent McCord, had McCord as an LAPD detective who teams up with his old partner, Milner, in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1992, he guest starred on five episodes of ABC’s Life Goes On. After retiring from acting, Milner co-hosted a radio show about fishing called “Let’s Talk Hook-Up” on San Diego-area sports station XETRA AM 690 (now XEWW).

 

Personal life

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In May 1956, Milner met singer and actress Judith Bess Jones at a Hollywood dinner party. They were married on February 23, 1957, in Waukegan, Illinois. They had four children together: Amy, Molly, Stuart and Andrew.

In February 2003, Milner’s eldest daughter Amy, who appeared in an episode of Adam 12, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. She died in December 2004.

 

Death

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On September 6, 2015, Milner died of heart failure at his home in Carlsbad, California, at the age of 83. His memorial service was held by Law Enforcement and community members in Oceanside, California six days later.

 

 

Mario Lanza

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Mario Lanza (born Alfred Arnold Cocozza; January 31, 1921 – October 7, 1959) was an American tenor, actor and Hollywood film star of the late 1940s and the 1950s.

Lanza began studying to be a professional singer at the age of 16. After appearing at the Hollywood Bowl in 1947, Lanza signed a seven-year film contract with Louis B. Mayer, the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer who saw his performance and was impressed by his singing. Prior to this, the adult Lanza had sung only two performances of an opera. The following year (1948), however, he would sing the role of Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in New Orleans.

His film debut was in That Midnight Kiss (1949) with Kathryn Grayson and Ethel Barrymore. The following year, in The Toast of New Orleans, his featured popular song “Be My Love” became his first million-selling hit. In 1951, he played the role of Enrico Caruso (1873–1921), his tenor idol, in the biopic, The Great Caruso, which produced another million-seller with “The Loveliest Night of the Year” (a song which used the melody of Sobre las Olas). The Great Caruso was the top-grossing film that year.

The title song of his next film, Because You’re Mine, was his final million-selling hit song. The song went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. After recording the soundtrack for his next film, The Student Prince, he embarked upon a protracted battle with Studio Head Dore Schary arising from artistic differences with director Curtis Bernhardt, and was eventually dismissed by MGM.

Lanza was known to be “rebellious, tough, and ambitious,” and during most of his film career, he suffered from addictions to overeating and alcohol that had a serious effect on his health and his relationships with directors, producers and, occasionally, other cast members. Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper wrote, “his smile, which was as big as his voice, was matched with the habits of a tiger cub, impossible to housebreak.” She adds that he was the “last of the great romantic performers.” He made three more films before dying of an apparent pulmonary embolism at the age of 38. At the time of his death in 1959 he was still “the most famous tenor in the world.” Author Eleonora Kimmel concludes that Lanza “blazed like a meteor whose light lasts a brief moment in time.”

 

Early years

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Born Alfred Arnold Cocozza in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was exposed to classical singing at an early age by his Abruzzese-Molisan Italian parents. His mother, Maria Lanza, was from Tocco da Casauria a province of Pescara in the region of Abruzzo. His father, Antonio Cocozza, was from the town of Filignano a province of Isernia in the region of Molise. By age 16, his vocal talent had become apparent. Starting out in local operatic productions in Philadelphia for the YMCA Opera Company while still in his teens, he later came to the attention of longtime (1924–49) principal Boston Symphony conductor Serge Koussevitzky. In 1942, Koussevitzky provided young Cocozza with a full student scholarship to the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, Massachusetts. Reportedly, Koussevitzky would later tell him, “Yours is a voice such as is heard once in a hundred years.”

 

Opera career

His opera debut, as Fenton in Otto Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor (in English), came at the Berkshire Music Festival in Tanglewood on August 7, 1942, after a period of study with conductors Boris Goldovsky and Leonard Bernstein. This was when Cocozza adopted the stage name Mario Lanza, for its similarity to his mother’s maiden name, Maria Lanza.

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His performances at Tanglewood won him critical acclaim, with Noel Straus of The New York Times hailing the 21-year-old tenor as having “few equals among tenors of the day in terms of quality, warmth and power”. Herbert Graf subsequently wrote in Opera News (October 5, 1942), “A real find of the season was Mario Lanza […] He would have no difficulty one day being asked to join the Metropolitan Opera.” Lanza sang Nicolai’s Fenton twice at Tanglewood, in addition to appearing there in a one-off presentation of Act III of Puccini’s La Bohème with the noted Mexican soprano Irma González, baritone James Pease and mezzo-soprano Laura Castellano. Music critic Jay C. Rosenfeld wrote in The New York Times of August 9, 1942, “Irma González as Mimì and Mario Lanza as Rodolfo were conspicuous by the beauty of their voices and the vividness of their characterizations.” In an interview shortly before her own death in 2008, González recalled that Lanza was “very correct, likeable, with a powerful and beautiful voice.”

 

Lanza as Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello

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His budding operatic career was interrupted by World War II, when he was assigned to Special Services in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He appeared in the wartime shows On the Beam and Winged Victory. He also appeared in the film version of the latter (albeit as an unrecognizable member of the chorus). He resumed his singing career with a concert in Atlantic City with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in September 1945 under Peter Herman Adler, subsequently his mentor. The following month, he replaced tenor Jan Peerce on the live CBS radio program Great Moments in Music on which he made six appearances in four months, singing extracts from various operas and other works.

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He studied with Enrico Rosati for fifteen months, and then embarked on an 86-concert tour of the United States, Canada and Mexico between July 1947 and May 1948 with bass George London and soprano Frances Yeend. Reviewing his second appearance at Chicago’s Grant Park in July 1947 in the Chicago Sunday Tribune, Claudia Cassidy praised Lanza’s “superbly natural tenor” and observed that “though a multitude of fine points evade him, he possesses the things almost impossible to learn. He knows the accent that makes a lyric line reach its audience, and he knows why opera is music drama.”

In April 1948, Lanza sang two performances as Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly for the New Orleans Opera Association conducted by Walter Herbert with stage director Armando Agnini. Reviewing the opening-night performance in the St. Louis News (April 9, 1948), Laurence Oden wrote, “Mario Lanza performed … Lieutenant Pinkerton with considerable verve and dash. Rarely have we seen a more superbly romantic leading tenor. His exceptionally beautiful voice helps immeasurably.” Following the success of these performances, he was invited to return to New Orleans in 1949 as Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata. But, as biographer Armando Cesari wrote, Lanza by 1949 “was already deeply engulfed in the Hollywood machinery and consequently never learned [that key mid-Verdi tenor] role.”

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At the time of his death, Lanza was preparing to return to the operatic stage. Conductor Peter Herman Adler, with whom Lanza had previously worked both in concert and on the soundtrack of The Great Caruso, visited the tenor in Rome during the summer of 1959 and later recalled that, “[Lanza] was working two hours a day with an operatic coach, and intended to go back to opera, his only true love.” Adler promised the tenor “all possible help” in his “planning for his operatic future.” In the October 14, 1959, edition of Variety, it was reported that Lanza had planned to make his return to opera in the role of Canio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci during the Rome Opera’s 1960–61 season. This was subsequently confirmed by Riccardo Vitale, Artistic Director of the Rome Opera. Variety also noted that preparations had been underway at the time of Lanza’s death for him to participate in recording a series of complete operas for RCA Italiana.

 

Film career

 

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A concert at the Hollywood Bowl in August 1947 had brought Lanza to the attention of Louis B. Mayer, who promptly signed Lanza to a seven-year film contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The contract required him to commit to the studio for six months, and at first Lanza believed he would be able to combine his film career with his operatic and concert one. In May 1949, he made his first commercial recordings with RCA Victor. His rendition of the aria “Che gelida manina” (from La Bohème) from that session was subsequently awarded the prize of Operatic Recording of the Year by the (United States) National Record Critics Association.

 

The Toast of New Orleans

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Lanza’s first two starring films, That Midnight Kiss and The Toast of New Orleans, both opposite top-billed Kathryn Grayson, were commercial successes, and in 1950 his recording of “Be My Love” from the latter became the first of three million-selling singles for the young singer, earning him enormous fame in the process. While at MGM, Lanza worked closely with the Academy Award-winning conductor, composer, and arranger Johnny Green.

In a 1977 interview with Lanza biographer Armando Cesari, Green recalled that the tenor was insecure about the manner in which he had become successful, and was keenly aware of the fact that he had become a Hollywood star before first having established himself on the operatic stage.

“Had [Lanza] been already a leading tenor, if not the leading tenor at the Metropolitan Opera House], and come to Hollywood in between seasons to make a picture, he would have had [the security of having] the Met as his home,” Green remarked. According to Green, Lanza possessed “the voice of the next Caruso. [Lanza] had an unusual, very unusual quality…a tenor with a baritone color in the middle and lower registers, and a great feeling for the making of music. A great musicality. I found it fascinating, musically, to work with [him].”

 

The Great Caruso

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In 1951, Lanza portrayed Enrico Caruso in The Great Caruso, which proved a success. At the same time, Lanza’s increasing popularity exposed him to intense criticism by some music critics, including those who had praised his work years earlier. His performance earned him compliments from the subject’s son, Enrico Caruso Jr., a tenor in his own right. Shortly before his own death in 1987, Enrico Jr. wrote in Enrico Caruso: My Father and My Family (posthumously published by Amadeus in 1990) that:

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“I can think of no other tenor, before or since Mario Lanza, who could have risen with comparable success to the challenge of playing Caruso in a screen biography… Lanza was born with one of the dozen or so great tenor voices of the century, with a natural voice placement, an unmistakable and very pleasing timbre, and a nearly infallible musical instinct.”

 

The Student Prince

In 1952, Lanza was dismissed by MGM after he had pre-recorded the songs for The Student Prince. The reason most frequently cited in the tabloid press at the time was that his recurring weight problem had made it impossible for him to fit into the costumes of the Prince. However, as his biographers Cesari and Mannering have established, Lanza was not overweight at the beginning of the production, and it was, in fact, a disagreement with director Curtis Bernhardt over Lanza’s singing of one of the songs in the film that led to Lanza walking off the set. MGM refused to replace Bernhardt, and the film was subsequently made with English actor Edmund Purdom, who was dubbed to Lanza’s recorded voice.

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Depressed by his dismissal, and with his self-confidence severely undermined, Lanza became a virtual recluse for more than a year, frequently seeking refuge in alcoholic binges. During this period, Lanza also came very close to bankruptcy as a result of poor investment decisions by his former manager, and his lavish spending habits left him owing about $250,000 in back taxes to the IRS.

 

Serenade

Lanza returned to an active film career in 1955 in Serenade, released by Warner Bros. However the film was not as successful as his previous films, despite its strong musical content, including arias from Der Rosenkavalier, Fedora, L’arlesiana, and Otello, as well as the Act III duet from Otello with soprano Licia Albanese. Ms. Albanese said of Lanza in 1980: I had heard all sorts of stories about Mario [Lanza]. That his voice was too small for the stage, that he couldn’t learn a score, that he couldn’t sustain a full opera; in fact, that he couldn’t even sing a full aria, that his recordings were made by splicing together various portions of an aria. None of it is true! He had the most beautiful lirico spinto voice. It was a gorgeous, beautiful, powerful voice. I should know because I sang with so many tenors. He had everything that one needs. The voice, the temperament, perfect diction. . . . Vocally he was very secure. All he needed was coaching. Everything was so easy for him. He was fantastic!
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He then moved to Rome, Italy in May 1957, where he worked on the film Seven Hills of Rome, and returned to live performing in November of that year, singing for Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium. From January to April 1958, Lanza gave a concert tour of the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany. He gave a total of 22 concerts on this tour, receiving mostly positive reviews for his singing. Despite a number of cancellations, which resulted from his failing health during this period, Lanza continued to receive offers for operatic appearances, concerts, and films.

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In September 1958, he made a number of operatic recordings at the Rome Opera House for the soundtrack of what would turn out to be his final film, For the First Time. It was then that he came to the attention of that opera house’s artistic director, Riccardo Vitale, who promptly offered the tenor carte blanche in his choice of operatic roles. Lanza also received offers to sing in any opera of his choosing from the San Carlo in Naples. At the same time, however, his health continued to decline, with the tenor suffering from a variety of ailments, including phlebitis and acute high blood pressure. His old habits of overeating and crash dieting, coupled with binge drinking, compounded his problems.

 

Death

In April 1959, Lanza reportedly suffered a minor heart attack followed in August by double pneumonia. On September 25, 1959, he entered Rome’s Valle Giulia clinic for the purpose of losing weight for an upcoming film. While in the clinic, he underwent a controversial weight loss program colloquially known as “the twilight sleep treatment,” which required its patients to be kept immobile and sedated for prolonged periods. On October 7, a day before his scheduled discharge, he died at the age of 38. No autopsy was performed. He was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. Maria Caniglia, Franco Fabrizi and Enzo Fiermonte attended the funeral. Frank Sinatra sent his condolences by telegram.

 

Legacy

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Lanza was the first RCA Victor Red Seal artist to win a gold disc and the first artist to sell 2 1/2 million albums. Lanza was referred to by some sources as the “new Caruso” after his “instant success” in Hollywood films, while MGM hoped he would become the movie studio’s “singing Clark Gable” for his good looks and powerful voice.

In 1994, outstanding tenor José Carreras paid tribute to Lanza during a worldwide concert tour, saying of him, “If I’m an opera singer, it’s thanks to Mario Lanza.” His equally outstanding colleague Plácido Domingo echoed these comments in a 2009 CBS interview with, “Lanza’s passion and the way his voice sounds are what made me sing opera. I actually owe my love for opera … to a kid from Philadelphia.”

Even today “the magnitude of his contribution to popular music is still hotly debated,” and because he appeared on the operatic stage only twice, many critics feel that he needed to have had more “operatic quality time” in major theaters before he could be considered a star of that art form. His films, especially The Great Caruso, influenced numerous future opera stars, including Joseph Calleja, José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. According to opera historian Clyde McCants, “Of all the Hollywood singers who performed operatic music… the one who made the greatest impact was Mario Lanza.” Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper concluded “there had never been anyone like Mario, and I doubt whether we shall ever see his like again.”

In 1998, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him. Mario Lanza has been awarded two Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: a Star for Recording at 1751 Vine Street, and a Star at 6821 Hollywood Boulevard for Motion Pictures.

 

Portrayal on stage

In October 2007, Charles Messina directed the big budget musical Be My Love: The Mario Lanza Story, written by Richard Vetere, about Lanza’s life, which was produced by Sonny Grosso and Phil Ramone, and which premiered at The Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Greenvale, New York.

 

Filmography

•    Winged Victory, Twentieth Century-Fox 1944 (un-credited chorus member)

•    That Midnight Kiss, MGM 1949

•    The Toast of New Orleans, MGM 1950

•    The Great Caruso, MGM 1951

•    Because You’re Mine, MGM 1952

•    The Student Prince, MGM 1954 (voice only)

•    Serenade, Warner Bros. 1956

•    Seven Hills of Rome, MGM 1958

•    For the First Time, MGM 1959

 

 

Dan Duryea

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Dan Duryea (January 23, 1907 – June 7, 1968) was an American actor in film, stage

and television. Known for portraying a vast range of character roles as a villain, he

nonetheless had a long career in a wide variety of leading and secondary roles.

 

Early Life

Born and raised in White Plains, New York, Duryea graduated from White Plains High

School in 1924 and Cornell University in 1928. While at Cornell, he was elected

into the prestigious Sphinx Head Society, Cornell’s oldest senior honor society. He

majored in English with a strong interest in drama, and in his senior year succeeded

Franchot Tone as president of the college drama society.

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As his parents did not approve of his choice to pursue an acting career, Duryea

became an advertising executive, but after six stress-filled years, had a heart attack

that sidelined him for a year.‪

 

Acting Career

Returning to his earlier love of acting and the stage, Duryea made his name on

Broadway in the play Dead End, followed by The Little Foxes, in which he portrayed

Leo Hubbard.‪ In 1940, Duryea moved to Hollywood to appear in the film version of

The Little Foxes.‪‬ He continued to establish himself with supporting and secondary

roles in films such as The Pride of the Yankees and None But the Lonely Heart. As

the 1940s progressed, he found his niche as the “sniveling, deliberately taunting”

antagonist in a number of film noir subjects (Scarlet Street, The Woman in the

Window, Criss Cross, Too Late for Tears) and westerns such as Along Came Jones

and Black Bart, although he was sometimes cast in more sympathetic roles (Black

Angel, One Way Street).‪ In 1946, exhibitors voted him the eighth most promising “star

of tomorrow.”‬

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In the 1950s, Duryea co-starred with James Stewart in three films, Winchester ’73 (as

the dastardly “Waco Johnny” Dean), Thunder Bay, and Night Passage. He was

featured in several other westerns, including Silver Lode, Ride Clear of Diablo, and

The Marauders, and in more film-noir productions like 36 Hours, Chicago Calling,

Storm Fear, and The Burglar, not always as the film’s villain but often.

When interviewed by Hedda Hopper in the early 1950s, Duryea spoke of career goals

and his preparation for roles:

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“Well, first of all, let’s set the stage or goal I set for myself when I decided to become

an actor … not just ‘an actor’, but a successful one. I looked in the mirror and knew

with my ‘puss’ and 155-pound weakling body, I couldn’t pass for a leading man, and I

had to be different. And I sure had to be courageous, so I chose to be the meanest

s.o.b. in the movies … strictly against my mild nature, as I’m an ordinary, peace-loving

husband and father. Inasmuch, as I admired fine actors like Richard Widmark, Victor

Mature, Robert Mitchum, and others who had made their early marks in the dark,

sordid, and guilt-ridden world of film noir; here, indeed, was a market for my talents. I

thought the meaner I presented myself, the tougher I was with women, slapping them

around in well produced films where evil and death seem to lurk in every nightmare

alley and behind every venetian blind in every seedy apartment, I could find a market

for my screen characters…. At first it was very hard as I am a very even-tempered

guy, but I used my past life experiences to motivate me as I thought about some of

the people I hated in my early as well as later life … like the school bully who used to

try and beat the hell out of me at least once a week … a sadistic family doctor that

believed feeling pain when he treated you was the birthright of every man inasmuch

as women suffered giving birth … little incidents with trade-people who enjoyed acting

superior because they owned their business, overcharging you. Then the one I used

when I had to slap a woman around was easy! I was slapping the over-bearing

teacher who would fail you in their ‘holier-than-thou’ class and enjoy it! And especially

the experiences I had dealing with the unbelievable pompous ‘know-it-all-experts’ that

I dealt with during my advertising agency days … almost going ‘nuts’ trying to please

these ‘corporate heads’ until I finally got out of that racket!”‪

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In his last years, Duryea rejoined former co-star Stewart for the adventure film The

Flight of the Phoenix, about men stranded in the Sahara desert by a downed airplane.

He worked in overseas film productions including the Italian western The Hills Run

Red (1966) and the spy thriller Five Golden Dragons (1967) in West Germany, while

continuing to find roles on American television. He also appeared twice on the big

screen with his son, character actor Peter Duryea, in the low-budget westerns

Taggart (1964), and The Bounty Killer (1965).

 

Duryea starred as the lead character China Smith in the television series China Smith

from 1952 to 1956, and The New Adventures of China Smith from 1953 to 1954.

He spoofed his tough-guy image in a comedy sketch about a robbery on the Feb. 20,

1955 episode of The Jack Benny Program.

 

Duryea guest starred as Roy Budinger, the self-educated mastermind of a criminal

ring dealing in silver bullion, in the episode “Terror Town” on October 18, 1958 of

NBC’s western series Cimarron City.‪

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In 1959, Duryea appeared as an alcoholic gunfighter in third episode of The Twilight

Zone, “Mr. Denton on Doomsday.”  He guest starred on NBC’s anthology series The

Barbara Stanwyck Show and appeared in an episode of Rawhide in 1959, “Incident

Of The Executioner.”‪ On September 15, 1959, Duryea guest starred as the outlaw

Bud Carlin in the episode “Stage Stop,” the premiere of NBC’s Laramie western

series. ‪‬ Duryea appeared again as Luke Gregg on Laramie on October 25, 1960, in

the episode “The Long Riders.”‪ Duryea also put in a great comic performance in The

Alfred Hitchcock Hour in an episode called “Three Wives Too Many” (1964).

Three weeks later, on November 16, 1960, Duryea played a mentally unstable

pioneer obsessed by demons and superstitions in “The Bleymier Story” of NBC’s

Wagon Train. Elen Willard played his daughter; James Drury, his daughter’s suitor.

Duryea was cast twice in 1960 as Captain Brad Turner in consecutive episodes of the

NBC western series Riverboat.‪

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In 1963, Duryea portrayed Dr. Ben Lorrigan on NBC’s medical drama, The Eleventh

Hour. From 1967 to 1968, he appeared in a recurring role as Eddie Jacks on the soap

opera Peyton Place.

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Personal Life

Duryea was quite different from the unsavory characters he often portrayed. He was

married for 35 years to his wife, Helen, until her death in January 1967. The couple

had two sons: Peter (who worked for a time as an actor), and Richard, a talent agent.

At home, Duryea lived a quiet life at his house in the San Fernando Valley, devoting

himself to gardening, boating, and community activities that included, at various times,

active membership in the local parent-teacher association, and Scout Master of a Boy

Scout troop.

 

On June 7, 1968, Duryea died of cancer at the age of 61. The New York Times

tellingly noted the passing of a “heel with sex appeal.” His remains are interred in

Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Robert Taylor

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Robert Taylor (August 5, 1911 – June 8, 1969) was an American film and television actor who was one of the most popular leading men of his time.

Taylor began his career in films in 1934 when he signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He won his first leading role the following year in Magnificent Obsession. His popularity increased during the late 1930s and 1940s with appearances in A Yank at Oxford (1938), Waterloo Bridge (1940), and Bataan (1943). During World War II, he served in the United States Naval Air Corps, where he worked as a flight instructor and appeared in instructional films. From 1959 to 1962, he starred in the ABC series The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor. In 1966, he took over hosting duties from his friend Ronald Reagan on the series Death Valley Days.

Taylor was married to actress Barbara Stanwyck from 1939 to 1951. He married actress Ursula Thiess in 1954, and they had two children. A chain smoker, Taylor was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 1968. He died of the disease in June 1969 at the age of 57.

 

Early life

Born Spangler Arlington Brugh Taylor in Filley, Nebraska, he was the son of Ruth Adaline (née Stanhope) and Spangler Andrew Brugh, who was a farmer turned doctor. During his early life, the family moved several times, living in Muskogee, Oklahoma;, Kirksville, Missouri, and Fremont, Nebraska. By September 1917, the Brughs had moved to Beatrice, Nebraska, where they remained for 16 years.

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As a teenager, Brugh was a track star and played the cello in his high school orchestra. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. While at Doane, he took cello lessons from Professor Herbert E. Gray, a man whom he admired and idolized. After Professor Gray announced he was accepting a new position at Pomona College in Los Angeles, Brugh moved to California and enrolled at Pomona. He joined the campus theatre group and was eventually spotted by an MGM talent scout in 1932 after production of Journey’s End.

 

Career

He signed a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with an initial salary of $35 a week, which rose to $2500 by 1936. The studio changed his name to Robert Taylor. He made his film debut in the 1934 comedy, Handy Andy, starring Will Rogers (on a loan-out to 20th Century Fox). His first leading role was in an MGM short subject called Buried Loot. Irene Dunne requested him for her leading man in Magnificent Obsession. This was followed by Camille, opposite Greta Garbo.

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Throughout the late 1930s, Taylor appeared in films of varying genres including the musicals Broadway Melody of 1936 and Broadway Melody of 1938, and the British comedy A Yank at Oxford with Vivien Leigh. In 1940, he reteamed with Leigh in Mervyn LeRoy‘s drama Waterloo Bridge.

After being given the nickname “The Man with the Perfect Profile,” Taylor began breaking away from his perfect leading man image and began appearing in darker roles beginning in 1941. That year he portrayed Billy Bonney (better known as Billy the Kid) in Billy the Kid. The next year, he played the title role in the film noir Johnny Eager opposite Lana Turner. After playing a tough sergeant in Bataan in 1943, Taylor contributed to the war effort by becoming a flying instructor in U.S. Naval Air Corps. During this time, he also starred in instructional films and narrated the 1944 documentary The Fighting Lady.

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After the war he appeared in a series of edgy roles, including Undercurrent and High Wall. In 1949, he co-starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor in Conspirator. In 1950, Taylor landed the role of General Marcus Vinicius in Quo Vadis, opposite Deborah Kerr. The epic film was a hit, grossing US$11 million in its first run. The following year, he starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the film version of Walter Scott‘s classic Ivanhoe, followed by 1953’s Knights of the Round Table and The Adventures of Quentin Durward, all filmed in England. Taylor also filmed Valley of the Kings in Egypt in 1954.

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By the mid-1950s, Taylor began to concentrate on westerns, his preferred genre. He starred in a comedy western in 1955 co-starring Eleanor Parker, Many Rivers To Cross. In 1958 he shared the lead with Richard Widmark in the edgy John Sturges western, The Law and Jake Wade. In 1958, he left MGM and formed his own production company, Robert Taylor Productions, and the following year starred in the ABC hit television series The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor (1959–1962). Following the end of the series in 1962, Taylor continued to appear in films and television including A House Is Not a Home and two episodes of Hondo.

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Robert Taylor received the 1953 World Film Favorite – Male, award at the Golden Globes (tied with Alan Ladd).

In 1963, NBC filmed, but never aired, four episodes of what was to have been The Robert Taylor Show, a series based on case files from the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The project was suddenly dropped, and Warner Brothers studio boss Jack Webb sold the network a replacement series, Temple Houston, starring Jeffrey Hunter as frontier lawyer Temple Lea Houston, an actual historical figure. WB had only six weeks to get the first episode of Temple Houston on the air, and the pilot was unusable. The series ran for only 26 weeks.

In 1964, Taylor co-starred with his former wife, Barbara Stanwyck, in William Castle‘s psychological horror film The Night Walker. In 1965, after filming Johnny Tiger in Florida, Taylor took over the role of narrator in the television series Death Valley Days, when Ronald Reagan left to pursue a career in politics. Taylor would remain with the series until his death in 1969.

Taylor was dubbed “the man with the perfect profile.” His beautiful granddaughter, actress Mary Taylor (b. August 7, 1990 Santa Monica, California), was dubbed “the perfect profile of a woman” and “the blonde of angelic face.”

 

Personal life 

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After three years of dating, Taylor married Barbara Stanwyck on May 14, 1939 in San Diego, California. Zeppo Marx‘s wife, Marion, was Stanwyck’s matron of honor and her godfather, actor Buck Mack, was Taylor’s best man. Stanwyck divorced Taylor (reportedly at his request) in February 1951. The couple had no children.

Taylor met German actress Ursula Thiess in 1952. They married in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on May 23, 1954. They had two children together, son Terrance (born 1955) and daughter Tessa (born 1959). Taylor was also stepfather to Thiess’ two children from her previous marriage, Manuela and Michael Thiess. On May 29, 1968, shortly before Taylor’s death from lung cancer, Ursula Thiess found her son Michael’s body in a West Los Angeles motel room. He died from what was later determined to be a drug overdose. One month before his death, Michael had been released from a mental hospital. In 1964, he spent a year in a reformatory for attempting to poison his natural father with insecticide.

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Politics

In February 1944, Taylor helped found the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. In October 1947, Taylor was called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities regarding Communism in Hollywood. He did this reluctantly, regarding the hearings as a “circus” and refusing to appear unless subpoenaed. In his testimony concerning the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), delivered on October 22, 1947, Taylor stated: “It seems to me that at meetings, especially meetings of the general membership of the Guild, there was always a certain group of actors and actresses whose every action would indicate to me that, if they are not Communists, they are working awfully hard to be Communists,” becoming the first witness to “name names” by singling out actors Howard Da Silva and Karen Morley.

Taylor alleged that at meetings of the SAG, Da Silva “always had something to say at the wrong time,” and these remarks ultimately resulted in Da Silva being hounded out of Hollywood and blacklisted on Broadway and New York radio, while Morley never worked again after her name surfaced at the hearings. Taylor went on to declare that he would refuse to work with anyone who was even suspected of being a Communist: “I’m afraid it would have to be him or me, because life is too short to be around people who annoy me as much as these fellow-travellers and Communists do.”

Taylor also labeled screenwriter Lester Cole “reputedly a Communist,” while adding, “I would not know personally.” In consequence, Cole was sent to prison and was never able to write again under his own name. After the hearings, Taylor’s films were banned in Hungary and in Czechoslovakia and there were calls to boycott his films in France.

 

Flying

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In 1952, Taylor starred in the film Above and Beyond, a biopic of Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets. The two men met and found that they had much in common. Both had considered studying medicine, and were avid skeet-shooters and fliers. Taylor learned to fly in the mid-1930s, and served as a United States Navy flying instructor during World War II. His private aircraft was a Twin Beech called “Missy” (his then-wife Stanwyck’s nickname) which he used on hunting and fishing trips.

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Death

In October 1968, Taylor underwent surgery to remove a portion of his right lung after doctors suspected that he had contracted coccidioidomycosis (known as “valley fever”). During the surgery, doctors discovered that he had lung cancer. Taylor, who had smoked three packs of cigarettes a day since he was a boy, quit smoking shortly before undergoing surgery. During the final months of his life, he was hospitalized seven times due to infections and complications related to the disease. He died of lung cancer on June 8, 1969, at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

Taylor’s funeral was held on June 11 at the Church of Recessional at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California. Long-time friend Ronald Reagan (who was then the governor of California) eulogized Taylor. Among the mourners were Robert Stack, Van Heflin, Eva Marie Saint, Walter Pidgeon, Keenan Wynn, and Taylor’s ex-wife Barbara Stanwyck.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Robert Taylor has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street.