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pandorainmay

Let Us Now Praise...Paul Douglas

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"I was a character ever since I was born."-Paul Douglas

 

A Teddy bear, a bully, sometimes brusque, and a bit bombastic at times?Paul Douglas lived only 51 action packed years, but as an actor, he endures on film. His underlying warmth still radiates from each indelible character he crafted on film. It's difficult to believe that the first time that he played in a movie was in the classic A Letter to Three Wives (1949). His believability was complete as Porter Hollingsway, the canny self-made man, who, in his sarcastic wife's words, "was gonna be a giant", and who didn't have time to waste when wooing shopgirl Linda Darnell, though he thought that he knew "class" when he saw it. It doesn't hurt that Joseph Mankiewicz's gifts as a screenwriter and director were coming into full flower when he cast Douglas in this movie.

 

According to Mankiewicz's biography by Kenneth Geist, the erudite Joe was secure enough to cast the untried and very nervous Douglas in this key role. He cocooned Douglas during the filming just enough to bring out his best qualities as an actor. The insightful director seemed to sense that movie audiences would take to him, and he knew that, as the original Harry Brock in Broadway's Born Yesterday, Douglas certainly knew his way around a well-written line. In Douglas, most people could see a guy who sold them insurance or a brother-in-law or someone they might like to share a beer with while watching a ball game.

 

Unbelievably, given his polished debut, "movie actor" was probably Paul Douglas' fourth career path. A Yale graduate, he played professional football with the Philadelphia Yellow Jackets during the depths of the Depression, when the helmets were made of leather and the pickings were mighty slim. This experience may have contributed to his excellent serio-comic playing in one of his most interesting films, the forgotten The Guy Who Came Back (1951). This story, about a former gridiron great who tries to make a comeback, despite Father Time and real responsibilities posed by a wife and son who love him, allows Douglas to display the hollow heartiness of an old campaigner about to come smack against reality for the first time.

 

In actuality, Douglas himself wasted little time pursuing football greatness, once he learned that?thanks to a deep baritone, he could make a steady paycheck as a sports announcer in the tri-state area, and, eventually he supplemented his sports salary with radio work as a Master of Ceremonies, and he gradually added radio and theatre actor to his r?sum?. As a smooth hand at hosting live events, Paul even went on to host the 22nd Academy Awards show in 1950, where he saw Joe Mankiewicz garner a Best Director award for A Letter to Three Wives. Mr. Douglas, unfortunately, would never even be nominated for an Academy Award.

 

Btw, in between all the career hats that he wore, Paul Douglas was married five times, lastly, and reportedly quite happily, to the accomplished actress, Jan Sterling. As Mr. Douglas said at the time of his marriage to Sterling, "If you go to bat often enough, you're bound to get a hit."

 

Additionally, the only other personal information that I've gleaned about the character lead was that he knew how to party, and after working together in the late '40s, he and the fine director with a notorious personal life, Edmund Goulding, leased a yacht and sailed the Pacific for some months, pursuing the good life. Mr. Douglas' sad, early death in 1959 due to a coronary, according to some sources had been coming for some time, as his health started to deteriorate in the late fifties and his weight increased, along with the pace of his hectic life. This sudden end may also be attributable to congenital heart problems that also affected his son by Sterling, Adams Douglas, who succumbed to heart failure at age 48 in 2003, just months before his mother's death.

 

As far as his career went, as soon as he was under contract to 20th Century Fox, Paul Douglas started to display his versatility, nimbly shifting from comedic to serious work. While his best known movies are probably Kazan's Panic in the Streets (1950), Angels in the Outfield (1951), Clash By Night (1952), Executive Suite (1954), and the delightful Solid Gold Cadillac(1956) opposite Judy Holliday, it's the forgotten films that I cherish.

 

I've always been partial to some of his more obscure films, such as the The Big Lift (1949). Dramatizing the Berlin Airlift and postwar relations, Douglas, as a psychologically scarred former POW, gives very moving support to a relaxed Montgomery Clift. Douglas also manages to bring humor and understanding to the often brutal relationship that his character forms with his dominated German girlfriend.

 

Another movie in which his natural manner and sincerity as well as his ability to convey more than is written in the script is director Henry Hathaway's Fourteen Hours (1950). Douglas plays a traffic cop in NYC who attempts to help a desperately suicidal young man (Richard Basehart) on a ledge of a hotel. Fighting pompous brass, self-pitying parents, (Agnes Moorehead & Robert Keith, who are both fine in small roles), and fatigue, the actor performs what amounts to a tour de force, since without his solid, humane presence, the film, while catching the urban atmosphere nicely, would not hold up without the burly shoulders of Paul Douglas' talent to carry it.

 

I also like one of his lighter films?also forgotten by most audiences, apparently, called Everybody Does It (1949), in which he played a guy whose talentless wife (Celeste Holm) was hell-bent on a singing career, even though it turns out he has the best pipes in the family. This film teamed him again opposite Linda Darnell, who was bewitching as an opera diva. Amusingly, Douglas is initially perplexed, pleased and ultimately irritated to find that his innate singing talent is appreciated by everyone but his tin-eared wife.

 

Yet another odd duck of a movie that I'd like to see again, since it was so ambitious in its aspirations to popularize Shakespeare as a modern dress gangster flick, is the British made Joe MacBeth (1955), in which Paul plays the lead opposite Ruth Roman. It even has Sid James of "Carry On" fame in the role of Banky (Banquo). Worth a look, and certainly should be given points as a "nice try".

 

Paul Douglas excelled at playing impatient men with an appetite for life, a certain gruff charm, a disarming jauntiness and lack of true guile. He soared when he had words and direction from a Mankiewicz or a Hathaway, but even when he found himself in lesser material, he could do more with his permanently wrinkled brow, a riveting glance and just a soft turn of phrase than many more well known stars. A fine actor, and one whose lively presence is always welcome in any film. I wish that more of his films were available on dvd, so that others could come to make this 'Regular Joe's' acquaintance. He deserves to be remembered more. He'll always be one of my favorites.

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Thank you so much for this information on the great Paul Douglas.

His portrayal of Porter in A Letter to Three Wives was entertaining,

endearing and genuine. ALTTW is one of my favorites.

 

The Lula Mae/Porter scenario strikes me as a sort of mini-noir

within the subtext of the main plot.

 

Paul Douglas is wonderful, and I appreciate the time you took

to organize and prepare this lovely tribute post to him.

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A great idea to praise such an underappreciated character actor! I particularly liked him in Clash by Night and Executive Suite.

 

Thanks for sharing! B-)

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Paul Douglas reminds me of a Gentle Giant. Always a great performer.Love "The Big Lift" with Montgomery Clift.and "Fourteen Hours" and of course "Panic in the Streets" and many others. Shame he was only 52 when he died.

Thank you Moira, Your giving Mongo a little competition.

 

vallo

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And, at this time of the year, let us not forget It Happens Every Spring with Ray Milland.

 

CharlieT

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Moira:

 

As usual, great job. I've mentioned Mr. Douglas a few times in regard to favorite scenes, and movies he's been in, and indeed, his frustration, and eagerness to please his wife in Everybody Does It, was a pleasure. Your post was so complete, it's hard to find anything to add to it.

 

It just makes me so sad, all these wonderful people who we have lost and will never replace.

 

Anne

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"I was a character ever since I was born."

What a great line to say about yourself.

I may steal it!

 

He was born to play a sports character or manager.With Douglas'

persona, he made audiences feel that "I know what I'm talking about."

 

He had such a short span of productivity, but the performances

he left with us are "top notch."

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Just want to add my "voice" to the others here who have thanked you for this excellent tribute to a terrific actor. One of things I love best about these message boards is that they're a great place to discover that actors, actresses, directors, writers, and other film talents who you've always enjoyed but believed to have been forgotten or unacknowledged, have legions of fans just waiting for the right opportunity to express their admiration. Thanks for giving all of Paul Douglas's fans that chance!

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I think that even though A Letter To Three Wives

was his first onscreen credited appearance, he still gave

Linda Darnell a challenge. Lora Mae was a tough dame,

and he "gave as good as he got" in that role.

One of the greatest guys ever on screen.

 

Message was edited by:

SueSueApplegate

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Well you posted one name that I guess was a character, and then you changed your post and put something completely different, so maybe that could get a little confusing there.

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Sorry. I always feel the need to edit so that my meaning, spelling and

grammar are correct. Concise sentences and meaning are always a goal! :)

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He was good in everything. He even put a little humor into Panic in the Streets, which was a very serious movie. In Angels in the Outfield, although he was older, set in his ways, and completely opposite of the type of guy she might fall for, I had no trouble believing Janet Leigh falling for Paul because he was such a wonderful 'teddy bear' and so sweet with the little Corcoran girl.

 

Anne

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"Thank you Moira, Your giving Mongo a little competition."

 

Whoa, Vallo, my friend,

If I had the breadth of knowledge, organizational skills and ability to communicate that Mongo has, I'd be one happy, slightly crazed with joy, movie aficionado. As it is, I cast my bread upon the water here only when time & energy permit & a particular filmmaker from the classic era strikes me pink. My paean to Paul Douglas has been nagging at the back of my mind for some time.

 

After recently viewing a completely unknown (to me) film called Love That Brute (1950) on FMC, the spirit of Mr. D. compelled me to finally put my inchoate thoughts into some semblance of words. Btw, if you haven't seen the film mentioned above, it is a slight comedic piece, but electrified by the star, a myriad of delightful character actors, from Cesar Romero to Jay C. Flippen to Charles Lane, and a very small boy named Peter Price, who was phenemonally funny as a pint-size mug. Naturally, it's not available on any form of video!! Maybe it'd find an audience if they changed the name...Love That Brute shoulda been called Hate That Title, imho.

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> After recently viewing a completely unknown (to me)

> film called Love That Brute (1950) on FMC, the

> spirit of Mr. D. compelled me to finally put my

> inchoate thoughts into some semblance of words. Btw,

> if you haven't seen the film mentioned above, it is a

> slight comedic piece, but electrified by the star, a

> myriad of delightful character actors, from Cesar

> Romero to Jay C. Flippen to Charles

> Lane, and a very small boy named Peter

> Price, who was phenemonally funny as a pint-size

> mug. Naturally, it's not available on any form of

> video!! Maybe it'd find an audience if they changed

> the name...Love That Brute shoulda been called

> Hate That Title, imho.

 

This was shown on FMC as part of the Cesar Romero tribute, glad you liked it!

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I was wondering what put the bee in your beret, Ms. Finnie!

Whatever the reason, I'm glad you crystallized your ideas for

us!

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Um, at any rate, as you quite rightly pointed out Love That Brute is not available on home video, so anyone who may be interested should probably think about marking their calendars and/or TiVos for March 27th at 10:30am, the next showing of the movie on FMC. :)

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I only watched a few scenes today while recording the movie, but it's interesting to see how easily he could switch out of the "sweet dumb guy" that he played in other movies, like Clash by Night and others where he could seem blissfully out of it.

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Let me add my thanks for this wonderful and informative tribute to one of my favorite actors. Paul Douglas was an amazing actor and I just wish he'd made more movies.

 

My favorites are "A Letter to Three Wives," "Clash by Night," "Angels in the Outfield," and "The Solid Gold Cadillac." (His pairing with Judy Holliday makes me wish Columbia had seen fit to let him reprise his Broadway role in "Born Yesterday.")

 

BTW...love the picture! ;)

 

Di

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