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If They Had Lived...


Det Jim McLeod
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I was speculating on actors who died when their careers were still going strong, and what path they might have taken.

Here are two I thought about, you can comment on them or add other actors or actresses and give your thoughts.

Lon Chaney Sr.- his last film was his only talkie-"The Unholy Three" (1930) and I was struck by his gruff voice and tough talking character. It made me think he could have played gangster roles like "Scarface" or "Little Caesar"

James Dean-I think he would have kept on getting good roles in films and probably would have won an Oscar. He may have been competing with Paul Newman and Steve McQueen for roles. I can definitely see him in "Cool Hand Luke" or "The Great Escape"

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One can only imagine the kind of sparkle Carole Lombard could have continued to create on screen if she had not perished on that plane crash. I could definitely see her in Judy Holliday's roles in ADAM'S RIB and BORN YESTERDAY.

James Dean was a very talented guy, but I wouldn't trade Paul Newman as war hero/turned convict on a chain gang Lukas Jackson for anything. Though I do think Jimmy could have pulled off McQueen's role in THE GREAT ESCAPE.

Despite the naysayers for his casting as Ashley Wilkes in GONE WITH THE WIND, I think Leslie Howard did a damn fine job in the role and put out other such fine work as in BERKLEY SQUARE, OF HUMAN BONDANGE, THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and THE PETRIFIED FOREST. I think AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER might have benefited much more if it had Leslie rather than Cary Grant for the part.

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The following died just as their careers were seeming to taking off.

John Hodiak suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 41, in 1955, He was in a few great Film Noir.

Steve Cochran On June 15, 1965, at the age of 48, Cochran died on his yacht off the coast of Guatemala, reportedly due to an acute lung infection, again another Noir actor who died too early.

Jeffrey Hunter also died early May 26, 1969 at age of 42.

Jeff Chandler age 42 died on June 17, 1961.

and of course John Garfield died at age 39 in 1952

It would have been interesting to see what they would have done, in the 60s and 70s.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, cigarjoe said:

Steve Cochran On June 15, 1965, at the age of 48, Cochran died on his yacht off the coast of Guatemala, reportedly due to an acute lung infection, again another Noir actor who died too early.

Jeffrey Hunter also died early May 26, 1969 at age of 42.

 

and of course John Garfield died at age 39 in 1952

It would have been interesting to see what they would have done, in the 60s and 70s.

 

 

It is indeed a tragedy that John Garfield was derailed from giving so many more fine performances in years to come due to his heart condition and the HUAC blacklisting him. He had such an enormous talent, it's so unfair that he came to such a sad end.

I never knew that about Steve's demise. I agree he too left us all too soon. Even if he played a lot of rats most of the time he was still enjoyable to watch.

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2 hours ago, Bethluvsfilms said:

One can only imagine the kind of sparkle Carole Lombard could have continued to create on screen if she had not parished on that plane crash. I could definitely see her in Judy Holliday's roles in ADAM'S RIB and BORN YESTERDAY

     I don't see her in either of those roles. Carole would have been in her early 40's by the time these films came out and would have been too old for those roles. I can see her in Adam's Rib doing the role played by Katherine Hepburn (with some extra comedy thrown in) and I can also see her playing against Cary Grant in Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House. She might have even tried some dramatic roles to expand her talents as an actress. Who knows? She might have even decided to settle down and have a family with Clark Gable and quit films altogether. 

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I suppose she would have been a little old for the part for Billie, but heck, age is just a number to me. She still might have been able to pull it off. 

Heck Marilyn Monroe was over 30 playing a 25 year old Sugar Kane in SOME LIKE IT HOT, but I doubt very many people were aware of that fact when the movie came out. 

Doris Attinger (Judy Holiday's character) in ADAM'S RIB might have had to be adjusted to fit Carole's age, but let's face it, there's no age limit when it comes to infidelity and wrong spouses.

I think it would have been great to have seen a Carole/Cary Grant teaming somewhere down the line had she lived on, but I wouldn't want to lose Myrna Loy in MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE. 

 

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Some of them would have transitioned to television. 

Jeffrey Hunter would easily have starred in a crime drama or medical drama in the 70s (like Chad Everett and George Peppard did) because he had that kind of presence to lead a series. Or with his looks he would have been on primetime soaps in the 80s.

Steve Cochran's career probably would have gone the way Aldo Ray's did. Where he was still too "important" to do a weekly TV series but would have guest starred if the money was right. Though he would have probably stuck with leads in more low budget films, like horror, giallo and spaghetti westerns.

I think Monroe would have been washed up by 1970 but probably made a comeback in the 80s if she wrote a tell-all book about her life.

Dean would have gone off and lived in Europe and ended up like Montgomery Clift.

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5 hours ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

James Dean-I think he would have kept on getting good roles in films and probably would have won an Oscar. He may have been competing with Paul Newman and Steve McQueen for roles. I can definitely see him in "Cool Hand Luke" or "The Great Escape"

I don't know, seeing Dean's sudden bursts of Method Acting in his films--Filmstruck's Twitter page has had fun comparing Dean's "You're tearing me apaaart!" in Rebel to with Tommy Wiseau's from "The Room"--puts one in mind of what happened to Marlon Brando ten or twenty years after "Stell-laaa!"  

Except that Dean didn't quite seem to be as ambitious to play against his own real-life brooding-delinquent-who-stumbled-into-acting personality, and probably wouldn't have played Shakespeare's Marc Anthony quite as well.

1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

I think Monroe would have been washed up by 1970 but probably made a comeback in the 80s if she wrote a tell-all book about her life.

Monroe was aware that she didn't like glamorous concocted studio images--always sardonically joking about "her"--and she was curious to break out into more challenging projects to play against her image but didn't quite know how to do it, especially if her Acting Institute coach wasn't around.  Even when all her other smitten directors were starting to give her less glamorous and more sympathetic parts like "The Misfits", just to see her natural offscreen personality emerge in casual clothes.

Watching Fox's restored "Something's Got to Give", she's still not quite on the beam for playing a fast-paced dialogue comedy, compared to trouper Doris Day in "Move Over, Darling"--Doris could move on to 60's comedy and TV sitcom, but Marilyn in "Let's Make Love" looks like she feels she still "has" to do breathy-earnestness and suggestive musical numbers.

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1 hour ago, thomasterryjr said:

I often wonder where Jean Harlow's career may have taken her if she had lived past June 1937.  I think she would  have stop doing comedy/wise-cracking roles and try being a drama actress.  But this is only speculation.  

     I too have often wondered where Jean's career might have gone had she lived. She was only 26 when she died so she had several years ahead of her as a leading lady and at her death she was at the peak of her popularity. MGM had already toned down her image due to the production code in effect and she proved to be as popular as ever. MGM had many films already scheduled for her when she died. She was pegged to co-star with Cary Grant in "Topper"  and I think she would have been much funnier and appealing than Constance Bennett. She had already started playing more sophisticated roles to suit her toned down image. Unfortunately, we'll never know.

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     Sometimes I wonder where Rudolph Valentino might have gone had he not died before the sound era. His popularity had slipped somewhat but it gained momentum when he signed on with United Artists for The Eagle and Son Of The Sheik. He had an accent but those who knew him claimed his accent wasn't thick. But the sound era also brought a new type of romantic idol such as Clark Gable. The era of the Latin lover ended. Rudy's contemporaries such as Nils Asther and Ramon Novarro weren't as popular in the sound era and faded. Ramon had a pleasant voice and even a great singing voice but it wasn't enough. I wonder if Rudy might have failed the voice test and retired, become a character actor such as Gilbert Roland or possible a producer/director working behind the scenes. 

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Besides Jean Harlow, who has already been mentioned, I have wondered about Robert Walker and where his career might have gone if his life hadn’t been cut short so tragically.  After giving his most memorable performance in Strangers on a Train, I think he might have been on the brink of creating a new image for himself and taking his career to a new level.  Then, too, he was a very troubled person and maybe it was all just a matter of time anyway.

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9 hours ago, starliteyes said:

I have wondered about Robert Walker and where his career might have gone if his life hadn’t been cut short so tragically.

That's a great example. At the end of his life he was getting a lot of villain roles. In addition to "Strangers On A Train" he played Burt Lancaster's scheming brother in "Vengeance Valley" and was Helen Hayes' Commie son in "My Son John". If he lived into the 1960s and 1970s I could see him in corrupt politician roles in political thrillers. He may have been good as Deep Throat in "All The President's Men". 

If he got back into comedic roles, he could have played a befuddled father (like Ozzie Nelson or Fred MacMurray) in a TV family sitcom.

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13 hours ago, hamradio said:

One actress that died very young was Dorthy Dell at 19.  She was killed in an auto accident shortly after appearing in "Little Miss Marker" (1934)

Dorothy_Dell.jpg

I believe she was only in four motion pictures.

Another one with a short career was talented Russ Columbo (no relation to the detective).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russ_Columbo

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I immediately thought of Judy Tyler, best known for starring opposite Elvis in Jailhouse Rock (1957). Unfortunately, after filming she and her husband were killed in an automobile accident on their way back to the East Coast. For Boomers like myself she has immortality for her role as Princess Summerfall Winterspring on the old Howdy Doody TV show. She later had a prominent role on Broadway in Rogers and Hammerstein's Pipe Dream, based on Steinbeck stories, and her song from that show, Everybody's Got a Home But Me, has become a minor standard. In Hollywood, she made the forgettable but unforgettably titled Bop Girl Goes Calypso, then moved on to Jailhouse Rock, which by all rights should have launched a major movie career for her. Next time you watch it, pay special attention to her and I know you'll see what I mean.  

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Florence LaBadie, silent screen actress, who died in 1917 at age 29 from injuries suffered in a car crash. There were all sorts of unfounded rumors about the circumstances of the accident, the most ridiculous being that President Woodrow Wilson ordered her murdered because she had become pregnant by him. 

She was a very popular star at the Thanhouser Film Corporation, making mostly short films. Some of them still exist and can be found on youtube, among other sites. I suppose she would have been reduced to character roles once she entered her 30s and 40s.

inside.jpg?quality=90&strip=all

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6 minutes ago, scsu1975 said:

Florence LaBadie, silent screen actress, who died in 1917 at age 29 from injuries suffered in a car crash. There were all sorts of unfounded rumors about the circumstances of the accident, the most ridiculous being that President Woodrow Wilson ordered her murdered because she had become pregnant by him. 

She was a very popular star at the Thanhouser Film Corporation, making mostly short films. Some of them still exist and can be found on youtube, among other sites. I suppose she would have been reduced to character roles once she entered her 30s and 40s.

inside.jpg?quality=90&strip=all

Beautiful. She has a very "modern" look to her, which is really to say timeless.

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On 8/13/2018 at 10:43 AM, Det Jim McLeod said:

I was speculating on actors who died when their careers were still going strong, and what path they might have taken.

Here are two I thought about, you can comment on them or add other actors or actresses and give your thoughts.

Lon Chaney Sr.- his last film was his only talkie-"The Unholy Three" (1930) and I was struck by his gruff voice and tough talking character. It made me think he could have played gangster roles like "Scarface" or "Little Caesar"

James Dean-I think he would have kept on getting good roles in films and probably would have won an Oscar. He may have been competing with Paul Newman and Steve McQueen for roles. I can definitely see him in "Cool Hand Luke" or "The Great Escape"

I think Lon would have continued on for many years and though I love Dean I think he would have self-destructed and had an early demise sadly.

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I think Tyrone Power's abilities as an actor were revealing himself in the last 10 years of his career.  I believe that he would have continued to get better parts, and as he aged, potentially become Oscar material.  After his performance in Witness for the Prosecution, I could easily see him as a lead in a Hitchcock film playing a morally ambiguous character.

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