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The Brass Ring


Guest mongo

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It's a fact that when you hear the names of Tracy, Hepburn, Bogart, Davis, Gable, Crawford, Brando, Stanwyck etc. you think star quality. But how about those many performers who had the potential yet stardom eluded them. Some of my choices would be Robert Lowery, Mary Beth Hughes, James Craig, Peggy Cummins, George Nader and Diane Varsi. Who in your opinion, do you think, just missed the brass ring?

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Guest finnie12, moira

John Hodiak. Perhaps a limited talent,(but that never stopped some actors), the demise of the studio system and his early death in the '50s contributed to his missing the brass ring. His performances in "Lifeboat", "A Bell for Adano" and "Battleground", among others, show his potential as a leading man.

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Guest Dimeo, Nick

I just saw Hodiak in a movie last night with Lucille Ball and remember seeing this post yesterday so I was going to list John Hodiak as never reaching the brass ring but Moira beat me to it. Anyway what about Zasu Pitts, sure she was kinda big in the 20's however I remember her playing little bit parts the rest of her career, am I the only one that thought she was good-looking when she was younger (looked just like Lillian Gish.) Ok, we all know the big three silent comics, but what about Harry Langdon he sure was lost in the shuffle. It's depressing to see someone like Jennifer Jones reach the brass ring and see so many others go unnoticed!

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Nick, you must remember that Jennifer Jones had much help from David O. Selznick just as Norma Shearer did with Irving Thalberg. When you sleep with the producer all kinds of wonderful things can happen.

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Guest K, Sandy

I liked John Hodiak in THE HARVEY GIRLS. That leads me to think of someone else who starred with Judy Garland, but never made it to stardom--Lucille Bremer. We had a discussion about her in the Fabulous Redheads folder. She was at least as good an actress as Jennifer Jones, although she was primarily a dancer. Too bad she didn't make more musicals; she was a beautiful dancer. I tried to watch RUBY GENTRY yesterday on TCM, but I just couldn't sit through Jennifer! The only thing I can watch her in is SINCE YOU WENT AWAY. Which is going to be on late tonight, incidentally.

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Guest Cat, Maggie the

How right you are, mongo! I worked in the music industry for years, and I learned, much to my chagrin, that talent and skill are but a few of the variables involved in reaching the top...or even having a career at all. And it goes without saying that they aren't necessary.

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Guest Griffin, Mark

Lucille Bremer, absolutely... Sandy K is right on about this underrated talent! The early promise demonstrated in "Meet Me In St. Louis," "Ziegfeld Follies" and the campy Minnelli masterpiece "Yolanda And The Thief" wasn't given time to fully develop. Maybe producers at MGM should have tried her as a manipulative femme fatale (a la Bette Davis) in an interesting change of pace? Anyway, her pairings with Fred Astaire prove that Lucille was a very capable dancer and an engaging presence. It's a shame that her Hollywood resume wasn't much longer...

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Ironically the talented Lucille Bremer did appear in two drama's both in 1948, "RUTHLESS" with Zachary Scott and "BEHIND LOCKED DOORS" with Richard Carlson. Shortly after that she decided to retire from the screen. The dynamic John Hodiak had a decent film career in most of the 1940's into the early '50's with prominent roles. Richard Egan always reminded me of Hodiak and I believe they could have played brothers without any problem.

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Guest Cat, Maggie the

What about the folks who passed on the brass ring? Frederic March and Maximillian Schell were both handsome fellers who could easily have become matinee idols, but passed on that career track in favor of meatier, more challenging roles. And George Sanders, believe it or not, had a lunch date with Louis B. Mayer to discuss his possible future as a romantic lead. He blew it off to work on a telescope he was building. In his memoirs, he said his only regret was that he missed a really good meal. According to Leonard Maltin, Edmond O'Brien missed out on the brass ring because of his tendency to put on weight. When I watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I was like, "Who is that little **** playing the poet? He looks like a little baby Edmond O'Brien!" haha. Even though O'Brien was about 22 at the time, he looked about 17, with that peach-fuzzy moustache. But he wound up getting some great parts: Senator Clark in Seven Days in May is a terrific role, and O'Brien nailed it.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest finnie12, moira

Perhaps we could add Richard Conte to the list? His best chance at the brass ring came around WWII, when his breakthrough appearances in "Guadacanal Diary", "A Walk in the Sun" and other films led to his being featured in some interesting post-war noirish films such as "Call Northside 777", "Cry of the City",and, in leading roles, in "Thieve's Highway", and the excellent "House of Strangers" with Edward G. Robinson. Perhaps Conte's Italian ancestry, his relatively short stature and his ability to play both heroic and sinister types convincingly kept audiences of the time from warming to his tough guy appeal as a leading man. His acting,even in poor movies, was often more intelligent than the role as written. The most intriguing story about Conte was the advice he is said to have given this month's featured actress, Shelley Winters. Watching her tie herself in method acting knots over a scene in "Cry of the City"(1948), he took her aside and gently tried to explain to her that the movie they were working on, and most movies, were geared toward the mind of the average 6th grader--with little room for subtlety of character, much less a subtext of motivation. Despite his somewhat cynical insight, Conte kept working and appeared in European B movies and the Godfather films until his rather early death in 1975.

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Moira that is certainly a good account of the talented Richard Conte. Most of the films you mentioned are favorites of mine especially "Cry of the City", "Call Northside 777" and "House of Strangers". There was also a film "Full Of Life" (1956) with Judy Holliday which I thought was underrated and Conte gave a fine performance.

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Guest Dimeo, Nick

I have a great one I just thought of. What about Sam Levene? Some may not know his name but most know his face (resembling a bulldog). Sam Levene appeared in a couple of the Thin Man movies as Lieutenant Abrams. He was great in The Killers, great in Grand Central Murder, great in Golden Boy, great in (one of my favorite movies of all-time) The Sweet Smell of Success, just to name a few. Sam's last appearance in a movie was in the Al Pacino movie And Justice for All, although he was very old he still had the bark left in him.

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Nick, the versatile actor Sam Levine had character actor written all over his face and he made the best of it. He was the guy that usually stole some of the film from the honcho stars and I believe that Sam was satisfied with that.

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Guest son, jery

Frances Farmer, Gail Russell, Elizabeth Hartman and Joy Paige are just a few of the female performers who touched the rim of stardom--but never made it. Farmer had deep mental problems that surfaced as soon as Louella Parsons predicted the blonde beauty would be "greater than Garbo," because of Farmer's scintillating duo performance as mother and daughter in William Wyler's "Come and Get It." She ended up in a decaying state mental hospital for much of her adult life and died in poverty. Gail Russell was another luminous personality who turned to drink to hide her terrors of movie making. Elizabeth Hartman jumped from the l5th floor of her welfare hotel after her reign as the toast of Hollywood following her Oscar nominated role of the blind girl in "A Patch of Blue." Hartman reportedly turned down key star roles because "they were trash." Joy Paige was unforgettable as the young wife in "Casablanca" who pleads with 'Monsieur Rick' to save her husband from losing their travel money at the roulette table. She never appeared in another film and lives as a recluse today.

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Guest finnie12, moira

Jery, that's a great list of talented ladies who missed the ring--I am particularly fond of Gail Russell--her appearances in "The Uninvited" and "The Angel and the Badman" left an indelible impression on me. Of course, one should take this with a grain of salt, but Russell's name was linked with her costar in "Angel...", John Wayne, especially during one of his more turbulent divorces. From what I've read, Wayne may have been beguiled by her at one point, and, being genuinely fond of her, he is said to have helped her financially during her long slide into alcoholism and obscurity. Her vulnerability and winsome dark beauty were lovely onscreen. I don't know much about her, but one actress whose beauty might have led to starring roles was Delores Moran, who, when she was on screen in "To Have and To Have Not", as the wife of a wounded French refugee, came as close as anyone could to eclipsing Lauren Bacall's presence,(she didn't, quite). Moran had a lush beauty that she tried to enhance by becoming a blonde in later movies, such as "The Horn Blows at Midnight". I believe that she wound up marrying a much older producer by the name of Benedict Bogeaus in the '50s. Ella Raines was another actress with intriguing potential. She always seemed like a smart beauty to me, who, despite her 'just one of the boys' 1940s style femininity, never really made it big. Some of her best work was during WWII, especially in "Cry Havoc" and "Uncle Harry", (which is a seldom shown gem with George Sanders in the lead). She had a model's figure for clothes and a sophisticated, intelligent manner that was pretty unusual in movies of her era.

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Guest son, jery

We shouldn't forget all those great gals at Universal who were forced into a steady stream of B's--because the studio could only afford one female star: Deanna Durbin. Evelyn Ankers was number one, in my book, because this woman could do anything. We all remember her now as Queen of the Screamers' because she's famous now for playing in those great horror flicks. But just watch her go to town as "Kitty" the prostitute in "Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror", and also in another Sherlock Holmes goodie, "The Pearl of Death", where she plays four roles. Other outstanding actresses at Universal were cult figures like Fay Helm--she was Jenny in "The Wolf Man" and Margaret Ingston in the terrific, "NIght Monster." Doris Lloyd is another contract player who you saw in nearly every Universal movie made in the 40s. She co-starred with Helm as the evil housekeeper in "Night Monster" and in many of the horror classics. Her juiciest role was as the doomed prostitute in "The Lodger." Universal had some of the best actresses in the business--and didn't know what to do with them.

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