Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Lyle Talbot


sanfranciscosearcher

Recommended Posts

Nice to see TCM running movies featuring actor Lyle Talbot (1902-1996), one of the hardest working and busiest actors on stage, screen and TV for over 60 years. A founder of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), he was a contract player at Warner Bros. in the pre-Code 1930s era. Romanced everyone from Ginger Rodgers to Barbara Stanwyck, Carole Lombard to Mae West. Appeared in over 150 films. Talbot was also there at the birth of TV, appearing in countless shows, including his longterm role as neighbor Joe Randolph on "Ozzie and Harriet."

 

Now there's a new biography of Talbot's amazing life, loves and lore.

 

It's called, "The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth Century" by his daughter, Margaret Talbot, who is a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine.

 

Highly recommended to all TCM regulars.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Talbot's been in just about every kind of movie from high-classed pre codes to the cheeziest Ed Wood crap. But, hey! He was WORKING.

 

 

Since film acting carries constantly the highest unemployment rate of any other profession, that's saying a lot. A real trouper and a true professional. I always liked that man.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}No "parking cars or pumping gas" for Lyle Talbot.

I'm reading Margaret Talbot's excellent book about her father right now, and she mentions that Lyle was particularly proud that he never had to take a non-acting job to make a living, unlike many of his actor friends who did things like selling real estate to make ends meet.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I always laugh when I hear Lyle Talbot's name because it reminds me of an old comedy bit (I cant remember who) where someone impersonated Louella Parsons who was describing some party she was at and she'd list the guests. Each bit would start with Lyle Talbot was there, and so-and so and it would end and Marion never looked lovelier! (Davies) Its a lot funnier than I described it.........Does anyone remember who did that???

Link to post
Share on other sites

That's one way of looking at it. I think his unwillingness to say no to Z-grade producers sort of tarnishes his overall reputation.

 

There were plenty of other performers who did not sell real estate. Bette Davis acted professionally her whole life. William Powell retired comfortably and never had to sell real estate (in fact, he continued to be offered roles that he turned down). Loretta Young did not go to work for Century 21, either.

Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=TopBilled wrote:}{quote}That's one way of looking at it. I think his unwillingness to say no to Z-grade producers sort of tarnishes his overall reputation.

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

> There were plenty of other performers who did not sell real estate. Bette Davis acted professionally her whole life. William Powell retired comfortably and never had to sell real estate (in fact, he continued to be offered roles that he turned down). Loretta Young did not go to work for Century 21, either.

Margaret Talbot acknowledges very explicitly in her book that the price of maintaining Lyle's "showbiz-only" living was taking any work that was offered: she says he was "proud of never once having turned down an acting job."

 

Ms. Talbot has no illusions about the quality of some of the productions: "He'd been in Ed Wood movies, for God's sake." She's just making the point that, in his own mind, Lyle "felt lucky" and, to his family, "was a great success ... even when he was out of work or acting in B- and C-grade dreck -- because unlike so many actors, he had never had to take a job that wasn't in showbiz."

 

Given that Lyle was someone who had hoped to be a star but never got beyond being a contract player or freelancer, it's not hard to see how just staying in show business would feel like an accomplishment, especially when personal friends in the business had been forced to give up and turn to non-acting work.

 

Of course, Talbot wasn't the only actor to earn his life's living exclusively in showbiz. You're right that Bette Davis, William Powell, and Loretta Young, among others, did the same. But those particular folks were all major stars, unlike Lyle. It's not surprising that stars like Davis, Powell, and Young not only had better choices when it came to roles (although Davis did publicly complain about the lack of suitable roles), but also had the financial stability to forego roles that they didn't want.

 

Talbot never reached that kind of success in his career, but he was still glad just to keep the career going instead of being forced to give it up and earn his living doing something that he didn't love. I can see how, by his own terms, he felt like a success. There are worse ways to spend your life than by doing work that you love, even if you have to make some compromises.

 

Were the compromises (e.g., the Ed Wood movies) worth it? I can see how someone might say "no," but I guess they were worth it to Talbot, and to plenty of other actors who made similar, albeit not identical compromises, to keep their careers going. Like Lyle, others from the Golden Age of Hollywood continued their careers by moving into television and other lesser productions. Heck, even some formerly major stars had turned to dinner theater productions by the 70s. You do what you have to do.

 

Edited by: BingFan on Feb 21, 2013 1:11 PM

Link to post
Share on other sites

Nothing against the man personally or his surviving relatives, but I think we are over-stating his Hollywood legacy. He made some questionable career moves in my opinion and it makes him seem like a sell-out. I do get the part about wanting to continue to work, but sometimes you have to be choosy about the roles you do, and he clearly was not choosy.

 

I think his motivation was that he had come up in the Great Depression and was insecure about not having any money coming in, so to ensure an on-going income he did any script that came his way. He was afraid of not working and returning to poverty. That is an interesting psychological case study.

 

I do enjoy his work in those Warners/First National pre-codes. So I am not belittling his talent at all.

 

As for other performers, Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliard were hardly A-list movie stars, but they did not have to sell real estate either. They went stretches without working after the cancellation of their TV series and they managed to stay afloat without ever having to mention square footage.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a hold on my library copy too. I hope it's an interesting read. While he never achived A list status, he worked with many of the greats and I hope she has some interesting stories to tell......

Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=TopBilled wrote:}{quote}Nothing against the man personally or his surviving relatives, but I think we are over-stating his Hollywood legacy. He made some questionable career moves in my opinion and it makes him seem like a sell-out. I do get the part about wanting to continue to work, but sometimes you have to be choosy about the roles you do, and he clearly was not choosy.

>

> I think his motivation was that he had come up in the Great Depression and was insecure about not having any money coming in, so to ensure an on-going income he did any script that came his way. He was afraid of not working and returning to poverty. That is an interesting psychological case study. ...

You make some very reasonable points, and I think you might find that Margaret Talbot's book is consistent with exactly what you're saying.

 

Talbot had a career of notable breadth in some ways -- going from hypnotist's assistant to touring stage star to movie roles playing opposite big stars and then to Ed Wood movies and TV -- but I don't get the impression that his daughter is trying to overstate his legacy. Far from hiding or downplaying the compromises he made during his career, she actually highlights them; she's not trying to say that he was a major star or anything close. That's what, in my opinion, makes Talbot's story so interesting. He went from nothing to Hollywood success and then had to successfully deal with something less than the ultimate success -- stardom -- that he had dreamed of. In a funny way, that makes Lyle more of a hero to me than someone who had nothing but success, because he had to find a way to live with something less than riches and acclaim, as most of us do. Despite what some stars say about the burdens of success, I have to think that the burdens of something less are more difficult to deal with, and sometimes more interesting to read about.

 

I think your theory about why Talbot was afraid to turn down work is probably right. He had many reasons to feel insecure. He was effectively an orphan for the first several years of his life -- his mother died when he was a few months old, and his grandmother, who raised him, didn't allow him to see his father at all for many years. His grandmother ran a two-story hotel in a small Nebraska town, so his upbringing was very, very modest. When, as a teenager, he was able to start making a living as a hypnotist's shill, he felt lucky, and that feeling of luck to be in showbiz never left him. Although I'm not to the point in the book yet where he's living through the Depression, I would guess that the difficulty that many people had earning a living during those years made Talbot feel even luckier to have a career that supported him. As a result, he kept saying yes to every offer that came along, so that his "luck" wouldn't end. (That's what I see when I've skimmed later parts of the book, although I'm not skipping anything.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

My grandparents were of Talbot's generation. They had some hard years in the 1930s and early 1940s, plus a bunch of kids to support. By the time I was born, they were millionaires and owned seven different homes. But my grandmother was always crying poor and saying she need to keep bringing money in to pay her taxes! It never ended with her. There was always this insecurity that they would wind up broke and starve again like they did in the Depression.

 

Unfortunately, they both worked up into their late 70s, pretty much until they died, and they really did not stop to smell the proverbial roses much. My aunt says we have all inherited this drive we have to make money and continue to be successful. But I try to look at my accomplishments and balance it with some relaxation and leisure time. I don't want to think I have to work myself to death or that I will end up with nothing; that kind of fear can be irrational and debilitating.

Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=Sepiatone wrote:}{quote}

> Talbot's been in just about every kind of movie from high-classed pre codes to the cheeziest Ed Wood crap. But, hey! He was WORKING.

>

I agree, he kept busy and while much of it was in bottom-of-the barrel films and serials, and a heck of a lot of it had him unbilled, he continually put groceries on the table. To compare him to some of the others that I see mentioned here is rather stretching that argument - he was never in their league in the first place. I see him pitted here against Oscar-winning names who never sold lemonade on the corner, but hey, those people had more money coming in to invest and set aside for the future so that they didn't have to work.

 

But then there are Oscar winners such as Ray Milland or Broderick Crawford who reached the point of embarrassment with some of their late work. However, Milland made the point on The Tonight Show once that he was still getting offers and as long as you're being seen, no one has to ask "Whatever happened to Ray Milland?"

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

© 2020 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...