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Brian Donlevy: An actor who never gets his due?

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During the hundred years I've been posting here, in all that time, I don't think there's ever been a thread or discussion dedicated to Brian Donlevy. Is it because he blends effortlessly into so many classic films that he's easy to overlook?

He started as a model, even appeared in some silent films when he was quite young...but his success in Hollywood as a second tier actor didn't begin until the mid-30s. From 1935 to 1969 he appeared in a number of studio films, quite a few of them "A" pictures with important directors.

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 7.33.17 AM.jpg

Last night I watched DESTRY RIDES AGAIN. He's fourth-billed and it occurred to me how easy going he was in his scenes with Dietrich. In fact I'd say he had better chemistry with her than Stewart did. I also noticed when he laughed and when the camera was close up on his face that he probably had the best teeth of any male actor during the golden age of Hollywood. Okay perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but look at this winning smile:

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 6.59.45 PM.jpg

He often played tough guys, which meant he was cast in a lot of crime dramas, westerns and war films. He certainly relished these kinds of roles.

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 6.48.43 PM.jpg 

But he could even be counted on to play more vulnerable characters, such as the romantic figure in 1949's IMPACT, which I think is his best performance:

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 6.55.26 PM.jpg

If I had to make a list of Brian Donlevy essentials, I'd choose:

1. DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939)
2. THE GREAT MCGINTY (1940)
3. THE GLASS KEY (1942)
4. WAKE ISLAND (1942)
5. HANGMEN ALSO DIE (1943)
6. CANYON PASSAGE (1946)
7. KISS OF DEATH (1947)
8. KILLER MCCOY (1947)
9. A SOUTHERN YANKEE (1948)
10. IMPACT (1949)

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Brian Donlevy was also the screen's first Professor Quatermass in 2 films, doan forget that.

1. the creeping unknown

2. enemy from space (Quatermass ll)

Image result for brian donlevy quatermass

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Hi;

 

Donlevy was so comfortable being a good guy or someone inbetween.  He was fantastic in The Miracle at Morgan Creek as McGinty again. I thought he was in jail but he appears again as McGinty, the governor.  In "Morgans Creek" there is fantastic manic interaction between him and Akim Tamaroff.  Tamaroff is another neglected actor.  Well, they worked at Paramount during their early years therefore people do not view their films at much.  It is a shame that young people do not have the opportunity to view Paramount films such as the films of Carole Lombard, the early Marx Brothers, Mae West and the diva Dietrich. Thank goodness that TCM is devoting May to Dietrich and her great Paramount film as "Blonde Venus".  "Blonde Venus" is a must see with her "Hot Voodoo Number". 

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I never could accept him as a tough guy lead character, I liked him in supporting roles like the straight arrow assistant D.A. in "Kiss Of Death". He has a memorable final scene as the deaf gangster in "The Big Combo".

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I love Brian Donlevy! My grandmother used to always talk about him being one of the Arrow Collar men in magazine ads, since people like he and Neil Hamilton had been used as models for the very influential artist, J.C. Leyendecker in such campaigns for the shirt company. Donlevy was a very competent actor and in so many roles very effective. Great write-up about him and thanks for submitting for our pleasure!

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Brian Donlevy was a solid actor and enhanced many of the films he was in.

My favorite films are:

1. Born Reckless (1937);   This 'light' gangster type film also has Rochelle Hudson 

2. Beau Geste (1939)  Gary Cooper and Ray Milland,  but Donlevy won the best supporting Oscar.

3. DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939)
4. THE GLASS KEY (1942)
5.  Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)
6.  Two Years Before the Mast  (1946)
7. KISS OF DEATH (1947)
8.  IMPACT (1949)

9. The Big Combo (1955)

10. A Cry in the Night (1956)

 

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1 hour ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

Brian Donlevy was a solid actor and enhanced many of the films he was in.

My favorite films are:

1. Born Reckless (1937);   This 'light' gangster type film also has Rochelle Hudson 

2. Beau Geste (1939)  Gary Cooper and Ray Milland,  but Donlevy won the best supporting Oscar.

3. DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939)
4. THE GLASS KEY (1942)
5.  Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)
6.  Two Years Before the Mast  (1946)
7. KISS OF DEATH (1947)
8.  IMPACT (1949)

9. The Big Combo (1955)

10. A Cry in the Night (1956)

Thanks for mentioning his performance in BEAU GESTE. I've never seen TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST.

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TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST should be shown on a double bill with BOTANY BAY.

both star alan ladd and both have irrationally cruel and sadistic ship captains, Howard Da Silva and James Mason.

:D

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I don't see it mentioned here yet, and so I will.

I always thought Donvey was also very effective playing the hesitant Army Air Force General who replaces Clark Gable as commander of the England located U.S. bomber base operations in the WWII drama Command Decision(1948).

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Sorry to tell you Donlevy fans this, but he was truly hated & by all of his co-stars   Most notable in his phenomenal & only nommed role in 1939's "Beau Geste" (strong***1/2)   seen many times on numerous tv specials on *Coop & *Wellmann much were happy when he virtually got stabbed by *Milland in a sequence!  The few actually cheered *Rayon too! & had numerous times where most felt that way about him.   I like Donlevy on screen, "Glass Key" "Great McGinty"   But check it all out!  He was also known to be among the HOLLYWOOD heavyweights to height   Along with *Bogart, Edward G., Raft, of course the tragic Alan Ladd!   *Yul Brynner, Tyrone Power & more

 

Ladd was the most tragic in this dept though  His mother killed herself in his arms taking booze & ant-paste& he was maybe 20 at best &  his friends in high school nicknamed him "Tiny"   Just saw an hr long bio on Mr. Ladd & they used to have a wall listing certain actors hgts 5'7, 5'8 5'10 & if you were that tall you never got into his picture. As for the ladies, they would either have him stand on a box or dig a hole!   MUSTA' BEEN SO HUMILIATING FOR THE ACTOR   NO MATTER WHAT HE WILL ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED FOR "SHANE!"  After that he went down hill of course. Finally killing himself in somewhat same fashion as his dearly departed moither did, but with booze & sleeping pills in 1964 at only age 50-(I'VE ALSO VISITED HIS NICHE, SAME ROW AS *BURNS & ALLEN, CLARA BOIW & NAT "KING" COLE Very top & at the much nicer "FREEDOM MAUS." GLENDALE'S FOREST LAWN" (P.S. He did one fine swan song from '64 & a hit "The Carpetbaggers" (***)  OF COURSE HIS FINALE! & HE IS LAID TO REST IN THE WALL WITH HIS VEERY LONGTIME LADY MANAGER SUE CAROL LADD & did do a couple other fine films "This Gun For Hire" (***) "The Glass Key"(***1/2) "The Blue Dahlia" (***) all under contract to *Zukor& Paramount

 

 

THANK YOU

 

 

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12 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Thanks for mentioning his performance in BEAU GESTE. I've never seen TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST.

 

12 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Thanks for mentioning his performance in BEAU GESTE. I've never seen TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST. But nopt a good Adventure though

 

12 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Thanks for mentioning his performance in BEAU GESTE. I've never seen TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST.

 

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16 hours ago, TopBilled said:

During the hundred years I've been posting here, in all that time, I don't think there's ever been a thread or discussion dedicated to Brian Donlevy. Is it because he blends effortlessly into so many classic films that he's easy to overlook?

He started as a model, even appeared in some silent films when he was quite young...but his success in Hollywood as a second tier actor didn't begin until the mid-30s. From 1935 to 1969 he appeared in a number of studio films, quite a few of them "A" pictures with important directors.

16 hours ago, TopBilled said:

During the hundred years I've been posting here, in all that time, I don't think there's ever been a thread or discussion dedicated to Brian Donlevy. Is it because he blends effortlessly into so many classic films that he's easy to overlook?

He started as a model, even appeared in some silent films when he was quite young...but his success in Hollywood as a second tier actor didn't begin until the mid-30s. From 1935 to 1969 he appeared in a number of studio films, quite a few of them "A" pictures with important directors.

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 7.33.17 AM.jpg

Last night I watched DESTRY RIDES AGAIN. He's fourth-billed and it occurred to me how easy going he was in his scenes with Dietrich. In fact I'd say he had better chemistry with her than Stewart did. I also noticed when he laughed and when the camera was close up on his face that he probably had the best teeth of any male actor during the golden age of Hollywood. Okay perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but look at this winning smile:

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 6.59.45 PM.jpg

He often played tough guys, which meant he was cast in a lot of crime dramas, westerns and war films. He certainly relished these kinds of roles.

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 6.48.43 PM.jpg 

But he could even be counted on to play more vulnerable characters, such as the romantic figure in 1949's IMPACT, which I think is his best performance:

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 6.55.26 PM.jpg

If I had to make a list of Brian Donlevy essentials, I'd choose:

1. DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939)
2. THE GREAT MCGINTY (1940)
3. THE GLASS KEY (1942)
4. WAKE ISLAND (1942)
5. HANGMEN ALSO DIE (1943)
6. CANYON PASSAGE (1946)
7. KISS OF DEATH (1947)
8. KILLER MCCOY (1947)
9. A SOUTHERN YANKEE (1948)
10. IMPACT (1949)

Last night I watched DESTRY RIDES AGAIN. He's fourth-billed and it occurred to me how easy going he was in his scenes with Dietrich. In fact I'd say he had better chemistry with her than Stewart did. I also noticed when he laughed and when the camera was close up on his face that he probably had the best teeth of any male actor during the golden age of Hollywood. Okay perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but look at this winning smile:   As you of all know "G. McGinty's screenplay did score that year, main possible reason is 2 fold they had (3) writing categories then & wanted to award *Sturges an award

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 6.59.45 PM.jpg

He often played tough guys, which meant he was cast in a lot of crime dramas, westerns and war films. He certainly relished these kinds of roles.

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 6.48.43 PM.jpg 

But he could even be counted on to play more vulnerable characters, such as the romantic figure in 1949's IMPACT, which I think is his best performance:

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 6.55.26 PM.jpg

If I had to make a list of Brian Donlevy essentials, I'd choose:

1. DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939)
2. THE GREAT MCGINTY (1940)
3. THE GLASS KEY (1942)
4. WAKE ISLAND (1942)
5. HANGMEN ALSO DIE (1943)
6. CANYON PASSAGE (1946)
7. KISS OF DEATH (1947)
8. KILLER MCCOY (1947)
9. A SOUTHERN YANKEE (1948)
10. IMPACT (1949)

 

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9 hours ago, spence said:

Sorry to tell you Donlevy fans this, but he was truly hated & by all of his co-stars   Most notable in his phenomenal & only nommed role in 1939's "Beau Geste" (strong***1/2)   seen many times on numerous tv specials on *Coop & *Wellmann much were happy when he virtually got stabbed by *Milland in a sequence!  The few actually cheered *Rayon too! & had numerous times where most felt that way about him.   I like Donlevy on screen, "Glass Key" "Great McGinty"   But check it all out!  He was also known to be among the HOLLYWOOD heavyweights to height   Along with *Bogart, Edward G., Raft, of course the tragic Alan Ladd!   *Yul Brynner, Tyrone Power & more

 

Ladd was the most tragic in this dept though  His mother killed herself in his arms taking booze & ant-paste& he was maybe 20 at best &  his friends in high school nicknamed him "Tiny"   Just saw an hr long bio on Mr. Ladd & they used to have a wall listing certain actors hgts 5'7, 5'8 5'10 & if you were that tall you never got into his picture. As for the ladies, they would either have him stand on a box or dig a hole!   MUSTA' BEEN SO HUMILIATING FOR THE ACTOR   NO MATTER WHAT HE WILL ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED FOR "SHANE!"  After that he went down hill of course. Finally killing himself in somewhat same fashion as his dearly departed moither did, but with booze & sleeping pills in 1964 at only age 50-(I'VE ALSO VISITED HIS NICHE, SAME ROW AS *BURNS & ALLEN, CLARA BOIW & NAT "KING" COLE Very top & at the much nicer "FREEDOM MAUS." GLENDALE'S FOREST LAWN" (P.S. He did one fine swan song from '64 & a hit "The Carpetbaggers" (***)  OF COURSE HIS FINALE! & HE IS LAID TO REST IN THE WALL WITH HIS VEERY LONGTIME LADY MANAGER SUE CAROL LADD & did do a couple other fine films "This Gun For Hire" (***) "The Glass Key"(***1/2) "The Blue Dahlia" (***) all under contract to *Zukor& Paramount

 

 

THANK YOU

 

 

well, he's got me beat. I'm only 5'1.

:D

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4 minutes ago, NipkowDisc said:

well, he's got me beat. I'm only 5'1.

Not sure why Spence felt the need to post gossip or negative comments about this actor.

By the way, does anyone know how his name is supposed to be pronounced?

I've heard it both ways: DON-levy and DUN-levy.

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10 hours ago, spence said:

Sorry to tell you Donlevy fans this, but he was truly hated & by all of his co-stars   Most notable in his phenomenal & only nommed role in 1939's "Beau Geste"

I was aware of this but didn't mention it since to me it wasn't relevant to the topic;  his acting and the movies he acted in.

So no need to be sorry to those like myself that don't let what happens "off screen" impact how they 'view' an artist's performance 'on screen'. 

    

 

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13 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I was aware of this but didn't mention it since to me it wasn't relevant to the topic;  his acting and the movies he acted in.

So no need to be sorry to those like myself that don't let what happens "off screen" impact how they 'view' an artist's performance 'on screen'. 

Thanks James. Interestingly, of all the actors in BEAU GESTE Brian Donlevy was the only one still working at Paramount in the 60s. So the higher-ups at the studio obviously liked him. He was second billed in Jerry Lewis' THE ERRAND BOY and he appeared in several of A.C. Lyles' westerns at Paramount in the mid-to-late 60s.

He did some television but not much. His movie career never went into decline like a lot of actors his generation.

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24 minutes ago, NipkowDisc said:

please nobody mention Gammera.

I assume it's not very good. LOL

One film of his I like quite a bit is a Paramount title TCM never airs-- it's called THE REMARKABLE ANDREW, a 1942 fantasy-comedy that pairs him with William Holden. Donlevy plays General Andrew Jackson. It's based on a Dalton Trumbo novel. Trumbo adapted his original story for the screen. 

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0035247/

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 2.45.26 PM.jpg

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3 hours ago, TopBilled said:

I assume it's not very good. LOL

One film of his I like quite a bit is a Paramount title TCM never airs-- it's called THE REMARKABLE ANDREW, a 1942 fantasy-comedy that pairs him with William Holden. Donlevy plays General Andrew Jackson. It's based on a Dalton Trumbo novel. Trumbo adapted his original story for the screen. 

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0035247/

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 2.45.26 PM.jpg

Well, now this I must see. AND I know where I can get a copy too. It would be great if Universal would just sell their classic film collection - along with the pre 1949 Paramounts - to WB, if they are interested.

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I directed an interview in 1974/75 with William "Wild Bill" Wellman. He talked about Brian Donlevy and making "Beau Geste". He told the story of Donlevy making Ray Milland's life miserable during the shoot. Always riding him and being an **** in general. Well, it seemed Milland found out that dear old Brian was deathly afraid of blood. Also Milland was a expert swordsman. When it came to shoot the scene where Milland stabs Donlevy with a bayonet, Donlevy was wearing a chest protector, but Ray knew where the protector ended and the skin was open. So Milland pricks Donlevy in his rib cage and the blood starts flowing and Donlevy faints dead away and he never bothered Milland again. Wellmans story, not mine...It was Donlevy that described his morning ritual before going on the movie set..1- Insert dentures....2-put on hair piece....3-Strap on corset...4- ...Lace up "elevator" shoes. He did  get nominated as Best Supporting Actor for "Beau Geste", bur lost to Thomas Mitchell for "Stagecoach"... I was a fan of Donlevy's and enjoyed his films...

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1 hour ago, fredbaetz said:

I directed an interview in 1974/75 with William "Wild Bill" Wellman. He talked about Brian Donlevy and making "Beau Geste". He told the story of Donlevy making Ray Milland's life miserable during the shoot. Always riding him and being an **** in general. Well, it seemed Milland found out that dear old Brian was deathly afraid of blood. Also Milland was a expert swordsman. When it came to shoot the scene where Milland stabs Donlevy with a bayonet, Donlevy was wearing a chest protector, but Ray knew where the protector ended and the skin was open. So Milland pricks Donlevy in his rib cage and the blood starts flowing and Donlevy faints dead away and he never bothered Milland again. Wellmans story, not mine...It was Donlevy that described his morning ritual before going on the movie set..1- Insert dentures....2-put on hair piece....3-Strap on corset...4- ...Lace up "elevator" shoes. He did  get nominated as Best Supporting Actor for "Beau Geste", bur lost to Thomas Mitchell for "Stagecoach"... I was a fan of Donlevy's and enjoyed his films...

Thanks for your comment. Certainly interesting. I'd read about his wearing a corset but thought it occurred later on after he'd gained weight. 

Earlier I posted the photo of him with Dietrich from DESTRY RIDES AGAIN. He was 38 when they made the film. In that picture, he looks about ten years younger. When he made IMPACT, he was 48 and still looked younger. But in the 1950s he aged. In his last films with A.C. Lyles his voice is shot (he would eventually die of throat cancer) but I guess Lyles didn't feel the need to dub him. Maybe that would have been worse than getting nicked in the chest by Ray Milland.

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You might want to watch Donlevy in "A Gentleman After Dark". Donlevy stars and is pretty good in it, but that is not the main reason to watch. It is a sound production code remake of 1928's silent "Forgotten Faces", shown at Capitolfest in 2014. It is as close as you can probably get to watching this late silent era classic.

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1 hour ago, calvinnme said:

You might want to watch Donlevy in "A Gentleman After Dark". Donlevy stars and is pretty good in it, but that is not the main reason to watch. It is a sound production code remake of 1928's silent "Forgotten Faces", shown at Capitolfest in 2014. It is as close as you can probably get to watching this late silent era classic.

Thanks for mentioning this picture. I have a copy of it but haven't looked at it in a long time. I believe it was produced by Edward Small.

Screen Shot 2018-04-21 at 10.17.29 AM.jpg

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