Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Neville Brand (1920-1992)

A beautiful mug.

“With this kisser, I knew early in the game I wasnt going to make the world forget Clark Gable.

Rumpling Edmond O'Brien in D.O.A. (1950).

[On playing villains] “I dont go in thinking hes a villain. The audience might, but the villain doesnt think hes a villain. Even a killer condones what hes done. I just create this human being under the circumstances that are given. I dont think hes a villain. Everybody just condones his own actions.

Abetting Lee Van Cleef in Kansas City Confidential (1952).

[After Don Siegel awarded him the lead in Riot in Cell Block 11] “Theres only one way to thank you. Im going to play Dunn — shit, I am Dunn.” (From A Siegel Film)

Giving Whit Bissell a close shave in Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954).

Riot in Cell Block 11 is based on truth. I had the role analogous to Earl Ward, who was responsible for the riots in a Michigan prison last year. This convict was admired by his fellow inmates. Our producer, Walter Wanger, took us to Folsom Prison, and we encountered much trouble and lack of cooperation from the cons. But then they realized that we were trying to represent some of the good things that came out of the riots, and then they backed us all the way. I found that homicidal psychopaths run the prisons, and it is absolutely necessary for segregation into types. A majority of the cons are not criminals in the true sense of the word, and hence they should not be put into association with habitual criminals. I studied many books on crime to be able to play the part convincingly, but when we arrived at Folsom I realized that they were human beings, so I just acted as Neville Brand.” (1955 interview with Jerry Pam)

Playing games with Inger Stevens in Cry Terror (1958).

“I look at the pretty boy actor as a mass-produced item as opposed to the ugly one as a special order. Take me, for instance. Somebody at a party told me once that my face looked as though the entire Russian army had conducted a three-day battle on it in mountain-climbing boots.” (Brand as guest columnist in the June 9, 1966 Citizen-News)

Channeling Al Capone in The Scarface Mob (1959).

“Guys like me will be around this town a lot longer than the pretty boys because we are — like the specialty items in the auto business — special models, unique and one of a kind. Nobody forgets our faces once theyve had a good look at em. We may produce nightmares instead of pleasant dreams, but we arent forgotten.” (Brand as guest columnist in the June 9, 1966 Citizen-News)

Creeping out Anjanette Comer in Death Stalk (1975).

[On being wounded during WWII] “I knew I was dying. It was a lovely feeling, like being half-loaded.” (1966 TV Guide interview with Arnold Hano)

Finally a good guy: Reese Bennett on Laredo.

[On his drinking] “The booze became medicine, man. Suddenly youre not drinking to get drunk anymore. And the only way you can hit the morning — I used to call that just getting even — is to grab that jug. Id have a pint of whiskey in the morning just to make a phone call.” (1975 Los Angeles Times interview)

My favorite Neville Brand films: D.O.A. (1950), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950), The Mob (1951), Kansas City Confidential (1952), Stalag 17 (1953), Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954), Cry Terror (1958), The Scarface Mob (1959), The George Raft Story (1961), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tom Ewell (1909-1994)

The sardonic everyman.

“Marilyn didnt think she was any good. She suffered from a tremendous inferiority complex. It was very difficult for her to show up on a set. More difficult for her than for anyone Ive ever worked with. She wanted so desperately to be good that she found it hard to do even the smallest scene. She used to vomit before she went before the camera.” (1979 interview with Charles Higham)

The lecherous everyman in The Seven Year Itch (1955).

“Jayne Mansfield was quite different. She was devoted entirely to her own publicity. We appeared together in The Girl Cant Help It for the director Frank Tashlin, who had a marvelous cartoonists eye. The studio was trying to create another Marilyn.” (1979 interview with Charles Higham)

Working his mojo on Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Cant Help It (1956).

“Ill never forget the first day Jayne and I met, which was also the first day of shooting. Jayne was wearing a dress which was too tight to walk in. Mickey Hargitay, who was married to her, had to carry her on to the set over his head like a suitcase. She was stiff as a board! He deposited her on the sound stage, and she stood up like a shop dummy. Ill never forget it. Shed be looking over my shoulder in the middle of a scene. I assumed she was looking at Mickey. There was love in her eyes. Well, I snuck a glance around, and she was gazing into a full-length mirror! I couldnt believe it.” (1979 interview with Charles Higham)

Enjoying The Great American Pastime (1956) with Anne Francis.

[On his character in The Seven Year Itch] “Well, Im going to be completely honest with you. Billy [Wilder] and I didnt see eye to eye on the film. I had worked in the [Broadway] show for about three years, and so I felt I knew what George [Axelrod] wanted ... for the play. He [Wilder] wanted the part broader than it was in New York. And I felt what George had done was capture something very real.... Elliot [Nugent] was a co-producer of the play, and his son-in-law was the director of the play. And he agreed with me that this man was very innocent.... Maybe he had a twitch or two, but he had never strayed from the fold, and had never really had the itch to such an extent.... So the whole thing had a certain real quality to it. And I just felt that, knowing George, and how he was, that any kind of coarsening of the part, any kind of actual leer ... and Billy wanted the leer in the film. And I fought him.” (undated interview)

With Jean Hagen, as an adulterous husband in Adams Rib (1949).

[When asked by Dorothy Kilgallen if he was tall, dark and handsome during a 1955 taping of Whats My Line] “Alas, no.

Giving hope to lovable schnooks everywhere.

[Responding to Kilgallens facetious claim that 20th Century Fox was giving him Tyrone Powers dressing room] “Im glad to hear that, Miss Dorothy. As a matter of fact I always read your column, so Ill be expecting to see that tomorrow.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Broderick Crawford (1911-1986)

The essence of fifties masculinity.

“My trademarks are a hoarse, grating voice and the face of a retired pugilist — small, narrowed eyes set in puffy features which look as though they might, years ago, have lost on points.

Dispensing justice in The Mob (1951).

“You get lost for years inside this business. You watch people making mistakes about you and theres nothing you can do about it. They told me out here I wasnt the type to play Lennie in the picture [Of Mice and Men, 1939], so I became a B-picture thug at Paramount, for years, working with Lloyd Nolan and J. Carrol Naish, who were also lost, who were as talented as actors get, and who cared?” (1956 article in Pageant)

As Chief Dan Mathews on TVHighway Patrol (1955-1959).

“...back in the days when I was really learning my trade, I could ride on the subway and study people for a day at a time, and remember the little things, movements and moods that made me understand some man Id never see again. All that went into my memory, and I could call it up when I needed it. That may be a kind of technique. And the rough time you have when a character is soaking into you, and making you inarticulate, heavy, dumb, until he grows big and firm enough inside you to take over.” (1956 article in Pageant)

Eyeing his Academy Award for All the Kings Men (1949).

“Im a happy fella. I work, I play. I do what I want to, practically. I like a few people very much. I like to roam around with them. Very much. A few bucks in my pocket, the phone rings, off we go. The bullfights in Tijuana, Vegas, the beach. I like all kinds of exercise. There are games a guy can play for years and years.” (1956 article in Pageant)

Under Neville Brands gun in The Mob (1951).

[On Hollywood parties] “I dont go to them anymore. When people tell you they saw your last picture, well, the way they say it sounds like they hope it was.” (1957 article in TV Guide)

Having a smoke in between saying 10-4.

[On Highway Patrol] “They told me what they had in mind and in five minutes I knew it was for me. Frankly, I was glad to go on the side of the good boys for a change. I had had enough of playing gunmen, goons, morons and meatballs.” (1959 article in Men Only)

Asserting his authority over William Talman and Ralph Meeker in Big House U.S.A. (1955).

“F*** with me and youre f***ing with dynamite. My mother always said be ready, so I start the night before. My father, who broke my nose the first time because I failed to call him sir, told me, Son, in a bar or a theater, always look for the exit — and hold it down to beer when working. But when its cocktail time, stand back! ” (1971 article in TV Guide)

Looking deceptively benign.

“I got it figured. Now write this down, its a prepared statement like Nixon. You live your life, Ill live mine. Im too young for Medicare and too old for broads to care. I collect antiques. Why? Because theyre beautiful. The prop men can see me coming. They know Ill steal anything with a mark on it.” (1971 article in TV Guide)

My favorite Broderick Crawford films: Black Angel (1946), All the King's Men (1949), Convicted (1950), The Mob (1950), Born Yesterday (1950), Scandal Sheet (1952), Down Three Dark Streets (1954), Big House U.S.A. (1955), New York Confidential (1955), Il Bidone (1955), The Fastest Gun Alive (1956), Convicts 4 (1962)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Joseph Cotten (1905-1994)

Talented beyond a shadow of doubt.

“Orson Welles lists Citizen Kane as his best film, Alfred Hitchcock opts for Shadow of a Doubt, and Sir Carol Reed chose The Third Man — and Im in all of them.

With Anne Baxter in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).

[On Orson Welles] “I dont know why people regard him as a difficult man. He was the easiest man I ever worked with. And the most inspiring. Contrary to whats been said, Orson as a director was very realistically aware of the limitations of his players. He would never lead them into a position of trying to achieve what they couldnt.” (1973 interview with Derek Malcolm)

Smooth as silk.

“My wife told me one of the sweetest things one could hear: I am not jealous. But I am truly sad for all the actresses who embrace you and kiss you while acting, for with them, you are only pretending.’ 

With Orson Welles in The Third Man (1949).

“I was a so-called star because of my limitations, and that was always the case. I couldnt do any accents. So I had to pretend. Luckily I was tall, had curly hair and a good voice. I only had to stamp my foot and Id play the lead — because I couldnt play character parts.

Acting appropriately in Journey into Fear (1943).

[On copying Robert Brackman, who painted the portrait used in Portrait of Jennie] “On my first try at a faithful imitation of Mr. Brackman, the technical director was on his feet, crying, No, no, no, please, please — no artist was ever guilty of such overacting. I said, The man who painted this picture did exactly that. I looked to [William] Dieterle, who said, Joseph, I must admit, it looks a little broad. Although Im sure its authentic, it is, Im afraid, another example to prove how difficult it is for art to copy nature. I demonstrated more of Mr. Brackmans idiosyncrasies, which drew tolerant smiles from Dieterle, sneers from the technical director, and a stony silence from the crew, most of them old friends.

Romancing Jennifer Jones in Portrait of Jennie (1948)

[On Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte] “I think we all wanted it to be a different picture than it was, especially Joan [Crawford]. She felt Bette [Davis] wasnt trying enough to lift the script up to their level instead of simply playing down to it. She never came right out and said it to me, but I could see it on her face. Joan wanted it to be a quality picture. I think the movie works well enough for what it is, but its no Gone With the Wind or anything resembling a true quality picture.

Sorely missed.

“In Hollywood, those stars who have been around a long while and seem to grow better with time are the ones who regard stardom merely as an opportunity to grow.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lizabeth Scott (1922-)

The ultimate femme fatale.

“The privilege of being a screen actor is having the opportunity of seeing yourself as others see you. Believe me, it is very traumatic. When I saw myself, I thought, Get a train ticket and leave.

With Burt Lancaster in I Walk Alone (1948).

“I dont want to be classed as a personality. Something to stare at. I want to have my talents respected, not only by the public, but by myself.

Technicolor brilliance in Desert Fury (1948).

“Theres no point putting your heart and soul into a part when you know in advance it isnt worth the trouble. Im not speaking as a dedicated actress. Enthusiasm and hard work are requisites for any job a person undertakes. I tried working just for money once and it made me almost physically ill.

With Humphrey Bogart in Dead Reckoning (1947)

[On Bogart] “He didnt take acting seriously at all. I remember after we had worked together for a week or so, he said to me, You know, some days I come in here and I feel so ridiculous, so stupid. Being an actor is crap. Really, I felt that he disparaged, somewhere in his subconscious, being an actor when he was in front of the cameras.” (1974 interview with Robert Porfirio)

Lobby card for Dark City (1950).

“By the time I did Pitfall, I realized when you do your best work, you really have to save it for when the cameras rolling, so I learned to love the camera. I adore the camera. I dont mean I used to yearn for a close-up or anything. I mean I adored it most when a close-up came because I could make love to the camera, and even though my character might need a pair of eyes and a human being to relate to, I never tried to hold back as an actress.” (1974 interview with Robert Porfirio)

Happy new year, indeed.

“Maybe there was a script or two when I was borrowed that I might not have believed in totally. But by the time I started a film, I believed in it totally, because, before Id start any film, Id make a psychological makeup of my character. And once I had that in hand, I knew her motivation. If there was no motivation in the script for what she did, I always psychologically made one up so that my path could be clear as an actress, and as that character in that film.” (1996 interview with Carole Langer)

My favorite Lizabeth Scott films: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), Dead Reckoning (1947), Desert Fury (1948), I Walk Alone (1948), Pitfall (1948), Too Late for Tears (1949), Dark City (1950), Two of a Kind (1951), The Racket (1951), Bad for Each Other (1953), Pulp (1972)  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bela Lugosi (1882-1956)

Good eeevening.

[On Dracula] “In playing the picture I found that there was a great deal that I had to unlearn. In the theater I was playing not only to those spectators in the front row but also to those in the last row of the gallery, and there was some exaggeration in everything I did, not only in the tonal pitch of my voice but in the changes of facial expression which accompanied various lines or situations, as was necessary. But for the screen, in which the actor’s distance from every member of the audience is equal only to his distance from the lens of the camera, I have found that a great deal of repression was absolutely necessary.(1930 Hollywood Filmograph interview)

Drinker of blood.

“A strange thing happened to me following Dracula...I discovered that every producer in Hollywood had definitely set me down as a type — an actor of this particular kind of role. Considering that before Dracula I had never, in a long and varied career on the stage of two continents, played anything but leads and straight characters, I was both amused and disappointed. Of course, it is true, that every actors greatest ambition is to create his own, definite and original role — a character with which he will always be identified, but on the screen I found this to be fatal. (1934 interview for The Black Cat press book)

With Karloff in Son of Frankenstein (1939)

 “Never has a role so influenced and dominated an actors role as has the role of Dracula. He has, at times, infused me with prosperity and, at other times, he has drained me of everything.

Getting in touch with his simian side in The Ape Man (1943)

“It is women who love horror. Gloat over it. Feed on it. Are nourished by it. Shudder and cling and cry out — and come back for more.

Displaying his comedy prowess in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

“It is my particular pride that even in the most fantastic of my film roles I do not use makeup. Instead of depending upon masks, casts, court plaster and false features, I create the illusion of a terrifying, distorted or uncanny makeup by an appeal to the imagination. An evil expression in the eyes, a sinister arch to the brows or a leer on my lips — all of which take long practice in muscular control — are sufficient to hypnotize an audience into seeing what I want them to see and what I myself see in my minds eye.” (1935 interview for The Raven press book)

My favorite Lugosi films: Dracula (1931), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), White Zombie (1932), Island of Lost Souls (1932) The Black Cat (1934), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Wolf Man (1941), The Ape Man (1943), The Body Snatcher (1945), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)   

Friday, June 1, 2012

Miklos Rozsa (1907-1995)

Portrait of the artist as a young man.

“You don’t decide to be a composer. You must have the inborn talent, plus a 100% urge to compose... Serious composing is the only art at which you cannot make a living. Its a curse youll follow, though, even if you die of hunger.

Receiving his 1945 Oscar for Spellbound from Ginger Rogers.

[On his score for Spellbound] “Alfred Hitchcock didnt like the music — said it got in the way of his direction. I never saw him since.

The symphonic composer.
“I was never at home in the studio. The so-called Hollywood people and I didnt talk the same language, I admit. For that reason, it was in every one of my contracts that I dont have to go to the studios. I dont have physically to do my work there. I always work at home. I get prints of the film, I have conferences with the producer or the director before, and I only go to the studio at the end to record it.
(1977 interview with Robert Porfirio)

The soundtrack composer.
“Emotions in a film come from elements that may be completely asymmetrical, like a kaleidoscope. Music is the element that keeps the different elements together, because it has continuity and rhythm. Music is the most abstract element in a film, full of impressionistic effects, but it usually has the most symmetry. That is why music should underline drama, not create it. It may be even worse today, the use of what in Hollywood is called wall-to-wall music, but even then many producers and directors did not understand the importance of silence.
(1977 interview with Robert Porfirio)  

Rozsa sometime in the 1950s.
[On his inspiration for Ben-Hur] “I walked long afternoons in the Forum Romanum on the Capitoline and Palatine Hills, imagining the old splendor of the buildings which are in ruins now, and the excitement of the multitude in flowing togas in the Circus Maximus where I wrote the music for the Circus and Victory parades.
(from The Composer in Hollywood)

Receiving his 1959 Oscar for Ben-Hur from Gene Kelly.

“I believe in music as a form of communication; for me it is more an expression of emotion than an intellectual or cerebral crossword puzzle... I am a traditionalist, but I believe tradition can be so recreated as to express the artists own epoch while preserving its relationship with the past.
(from Rozsas autobiography, A Double Life)

My favorite Rozsa soundtracks: Double Indemnity (1944), Spellbound (1945), The Lost Weekend (1945), The Killers (1946), The Red House (1947), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Lust for Life (1956), Ben-Hur (1959), The Power (1968), The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)