Friday, May 30

Dunaway

Joan Crawford once wrote... of all the actresses only Faye Dunaway has the talent and the courage and the class it takes to make one a real star.  I might take exception to that but Joan didn't consult me.  If I had consulted her, however, I might have told her that I am not at all surprised she assessed Dunaway in such a way.  In my mind's eye, they are not all that different as actresses and as movie stars they seem to be almost twins. 

Tuesday, May 27

June Allyson

In MGM's 1974 tribute to itself, That's Entertainment, hostess Elizabeth Taylor referred to her Little Women costar, June Allyson, as MGM's most popular musical sweetheart.  Really?  Well, ok, Judy Garland, Jane Powell and Kathryn Grayson, I guess you can go home now.  No need to stick around.  To be fair, Allyson was one of MGM's most popular stars, that's for sure.  The public embraced her whole-heartedly and her pictures were rousing successes.  And while it's true she did sing and dance, she was hardly in the same league as the ladies just mentioned and a few more who aren't.

Friday, May 23

Van Heflin

He was a most reliable actor, mainly a character actor as I see it, although he did have a number of romantic leads while under contract to MGM in the 40s and would later play leads in a slew of decent B flicks.  No matter what he played one could always count on Van Heflin to deliver the goods.

Tuesday, May 20

Robert Ryan

It's always been said that off screen Robert Ryan was a very nice man but let's be clear... he could portray some of the meanest, most low-down, unsavory characters when the part called for it.  In fact, when I first saw his work when I was a young kid, he rather scared me.  I wouldn't call him a character actor exactly.  As a younger actor, he often had lead roles and sympathetic parts, but more often than not, he was a sinister second lead.  As he aged, he certainly fit comfortably into good-guy character roles.

Friday, May 16

Jan Sterling

She was one of those 1950s smart-mouthed actresses that caught my complete attention.  The more platinum blonde she became, the more hard-bitten and the easier it was for trouble to find her.  Jan Sterling was a damned good bad girl and often had that smart mouth shut permanently by movie's end.  Even when she played a good girl, she was still sassy and knew how to bait a man better than a worm on a fishing hook.  Her striking looks often gave way to a malaise and a weariness.  She knew her craft, that was always apparent.  Yet somehow, for some reason, she never made it to the heights that she might have.   

Tuesday, May 13

Sapphic Traffic

What in the hell was going on in Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s that produced so many big lesbian stars?  Are you aware of that?  Maybe it was something in the water or the intoxicating scent of the ever-present orange blossoms or even fresh Los Angeles air. 


Friday, May 9

The Directors: George Sidney

He was what was called a studio contract director.  He was not independent, not a free-lancer.  He was contracted by MGM to do what he was told to do.  In my piece on director Richard Brooks, under contract to the same studio, I mentioned how he bristled at being an indentured servant.  People like Brooks strove for autonomy.  Directors like George Sidney didn't mind at all being told what to direct and when to do it.  Lucky for us he did his job so well. 

Tuesday, May 6

Lilli Palmer

Looking for a book in my library I came across Change Lobsters and Dance, actress Lilli Palmer's terrific mid-70s autobiography.  After reading a few pages, I knew I had my newest posting on an actress I have greatly admired for quite some time.  Her acting was always so engaging and intelligent and her book, by the way, was a total delight, written with style and humor, not written in the usual Hollywood way.

Friday, May 2

Jack Palance

Sudden Fear was my first Jack Palance film and it was a most appropriate title.  He scared me into wide-eyed silence.  Before I could recover I saw him in Shane and shook in my boots.  He was often quiet but his stare seemed to bore a hole in me.  He spoke in a way that was so smarmy and spooky.  His face, which I would come to learn caused a certain angst in many, could make me go cold.  I grew out of this as I got older, of course, but one day as a pedestrian he passed in front of my car while I was stopped at a light at Santa Monica and Wilshire Blvds in Beverly Hills and I sat there rather frozen.  Had sudden fear struck again?