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"In the Spotlight"

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Thank you, Bargar. I usually go hrough my Who's Who's in Hollywood book and attempt to choose the creame of the crop, as well as those stars that have been neglected.

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In the Spotlight: VAN HEFLIN




The unusual and dependable actor was born Emmet Evan Heflin, Jr. in Walters, Oklahoma on December 13, 1910. Of French-Irish descent, his father Emmet senior was a dentist. The Heflins later moved to Oklahoma City, and when young Van was in the seventh grade, the family pulled up stakes and moved to Long Beach, California.

Van?s first sight of the Pacific ocean kindled a love of the sea and seafaring that lasted the rest of his life. He resolved to become a sailor, but first he enrolled in Long Beach Polytechnic High School.


Heflin eventually enrolled at the University of Oklahoma. By all accounts, he was a good student who seemed to have little interest in acting or theater. There are different versions as to how he became an actor. None seems completely credible.

Heflin cut his teeth on good, bad, and indifferent works.


In New York he tested and appeared in various plays which eventually folded, though he got good notices. Spurned, the "rejected" suitor went back to his first love, the sea. For a couple of years, he sailed on voyages that took him to the Far East, South America, and Alaska.


Caught up in the bright lights and glitter of Broadway, and another play, "End of Summer", was a hit, and brought him to the attention of one very impressed member of the audience, Katharine Hepburn. At her urging, RKO cast him in her film, "A Woman Rebels" (1936), which was a flop.


Blessed with a rich, deep speaking voice, he was also a natural for the airwaves. He became a radio soap opera regular three times a day. Eventually, he chalked up some 2,000 performances.


As luck would have it Playwright Philip Barry plucked him from the crowd and put him up for a part in a new work called "The Philadelphia Story" (1939). Barry knew Heflin and had him in mind for the role of the slightly cynical, left-wing reporter. The female lead was Katharine Hepburn and the play was a smash hit.


Always drawn to success, Hollywood took a renewed interest in Heflin. Warner Bros. took advantage of his vacation from Philadelphia Story to sign him to "Santa Fe Trail" (1940) with Errol Flynn.


After a screen test Heflin was offered an MGM contract. Ironically, Heflin?s first MGM pictures were mediocre vehicles.

His first movie for the studio was "The Feminine Touch" (1941), a piece of romantic fluff that teamed him with Rosalind Russell, Don Ameche and Kay Francis.


Better things were to come. "Johnny Eager" (1942) cast Heflin in the role of Jeff Hartnett, an erudite man whose misfortune it is to be the friend of a sadistic thug named Johnny, played against type by Robert Taylor.

Heflin's performance was outstanding and his peers took notice and honored him with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1942.

He would also appear in "Seven Sweethearts", "Kid Glove Killer", "Tennessee Johnson" as President Andrew Johnson, and "Presenting Lily Mars" with Judy Garland.


Van married actress Frances Neal on May 16, 1942. It was his second marriage. (Some years earlier he was married for about six months to another woman.) Van and Frances shared the fate of so many couples during World War II and had to endure a period of separation after he entered the U.S. Army. Eventually, he served as a combat cameraman in the Ninth Air Force in Europe.


At war?s end, Heflin resumed his career with the noir feature "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" (1946). It?s a murky tale of murder, greed, and betrayal with Barbara Stanwyck.

Followed by, "Till the Clouds Roll By", "Possessed" with Joan Crawford, "Green Dolphin Street", "B.F.s Daughter", "Tap Roots" with Susan Hayward, "The Three Musketeers" as Athos, "Act of Violence", "Madame Bovary" with Jennifer Jones, and "East Side, West Side".


In 1950 Heflin amazed industry pundits by asking MGM for a release from his contract, which had two and a half years to run. The studio did not give him a full release but reduced his commitment to twelve weeks a year. This allowed him to do television and return to Broadway.


Films throughout the 1950s included, "The Prowler" with Evelyn Keyes, "My Son John", the outstanding western "Shane", "The Raid", "Woman's World", "Battle Cry", "Patterns", "3:10 to Yuma" with Glenn Ford, and "They Came to Cordura" with Gary Cooper.

By the 1960s, Heflin?s movies were uneven?some dreadful, some average, and a few outstanding.


Heflin also appeared in many prestige television dramas, garnering an Emmy Award nomination, although he turned down the role of Elliot Ness on "The Untouchables" TV series.

TV gave Van both good and bad experiences. His appearance on "This Is Your Life" was straight out of an introvert?s nightmare. An intensely private man, Van resented the public display and hated the way details of his life were paraded in soap opera fashion.


The movie "Airport" (1970) was Heflin?s last screen appearance and one of his finest performances. He?s "D. O. Guerro," a pathetic soul battered by the storms of life. A failure, he hopes to "redeem" himself by blowing himself up on an airliner so his wife can collect on a life insurance policy.


Van?s personal life came to a sad transition point. After 25 years of marriage, he divorced his wife Frances and moved into a bachelor?s apartment. The couple had three children; two daughters, Vana and Cathleen, and a son, Tracy.


Still the outdoorsman in old age, Van tried to keep in shape. He loved to go sailing and fishing in the ocean. Rain or shine, he swam 20 laps a day in his apartment complex?s pool.


On July 6, 1971, he was stricken with a heart attack while swimming. He somehow managed to get to the pool?s ladder, where he held on until found later in the day. Rushed to the hospital by paramedics, he lay unconscious for days, apparently never regaining consciousness.

Van Heflin died at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital on July 23, 1971. He was 60 years old.


A private man to the last, he had left instructions forbidding a public funeral. Instead, his cremated remains were scattered on the ocean. The sailor had returned to the sea.


Quoted: "Louis B. Mayer once looked at me and said, "You will never get the girl at the end". So I worked on my acting.


Van Heflin has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures and Television.



Eric Niderost - Classic Images



Message was edited by: mongo

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Hi Mongo. I am a "Van Fan"! (sorry, couldn't help it)


We just watched "3:10 to Yuma" and enjoyed his perfomance very much. The interaction

between he and Glenn Ford is excellent.

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Bargar, it's ironic just how good Van Heflin was in many of his motion pictures. Known as an "actor?s actor," he gave strong performances without resorting to showy flourishes and histrionics.

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