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Great Screen Debuts!


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Path, I checked out your site with the Great Screen Debuts and you came up with a fine list of stars who were very impressive in their initial roles.

Here are a few that I thought of:

 

Richard Widmark as Tommy Udo in "Kiss of Death" (Oscar nominee best supporting actor).

Gale Sondergaard in "Anthony Adverse" (won Oscar for best supporting actress).

Claude Jarman Jr. as Jody in "The Yearling" (won special Oscar for best juvenile performance).

Patricia Collinge as Birdie in "The Little Foxes" (Oscar nominee best supporting actress).

Harold Russell as Homer in "The Best Years of Our Lives" (won Oscar for best supporting actor).

 

Mongo

 

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Deanna Durbin In her feature film debut in what was envisioned originally as a minor "B" film Three Smart Girls, her work proved to be so impressive that after looking at the first few days' rushes financially strapped Universal decided to build the film into a star vehicle for her. Launching Durbin as "Universal's New Discovery" was successful beyond the studio's wildest dreams. Not only was the film a huge box office hit, but it scored an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and when her succeeding vehicles did even better, Durbin was credited with singlehandedly saving Universal from bankruptcy. In so doing, she not only became one of the highest paid people in the world, but, as popular culture's first "Teen Idol," she proved that an adolescent could be a major box office draw and film favorite, thus prompting rival studios to develop other adolescent performers into stars such as Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Bonita Granville, Jane Withers and Edith Fellows, not to mention a cadre of "Teen Sopranos" including Gloria Jean, Betty Jaynes, Kathryn Grayson, Susanna Foster, Jane Powell and Ann Blyth.

 

Doris Day Signed at the last minute by Warner Bros. for the lead in a routine musical, ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS, when first choices Betty Hutton (who was pregnant) and Judy Garland (whose studio wouldn't loan her out), Day not only became Warner Bros. biggest star within a few years, but, by the early 1960s, the biggest box office draw in the country for several years in a row, and the most successful film star of those who attained stardom immediately after World War II;

 

Audrey Hepburn Roman Holiday wasn't Hepburn's first film appearance, but it was her first important film role. Signed by Wiliam Wyler for a film project that was originally to top-star Gregory Peck, Hepburn's star quality was so apparent when he viewed the film's daily rushes that Peck insisted that Hepburn be given co-star billing. Peck later modestly refused credit for doing so, claiming that he was just protecting himself. He reasoned that Hepburn's star quality was so apparent that he was sure she'd become a star, win a Best Actress Oscar (which she did) and, if she'd only received supporting onscreen credit, he'd look like a total idiot.

 

Judy Garland After making her feature film debut in a supporting role in the enjoyable 1936 Fox "B" musical Pigskin Parade, Garland was given a similar supporting role in MGM's big budget Broadway Melody of 1938, where her performance of "Dear Mr. Gable" launched her on a film career in which she ultimately became one of MGM's most successful and beloved stars.

 

Wendy Hiller This 25 year-old stage actress was personally selected by playwright George Bernard Shaw and star Leslie Howard to portray "Eliza Doolittle" in the 1938 film adaptation of Pygmalion. Although she continued to favor the stage over the screen, Hiller went on to give several classic screen performances in films like Major Barbara, I Know Where I'm Going and Separate Tables for which she won the Best Supportomg Actress Oscar.

 

Irene Dunne Signed by RKO following her successful stage appearances in touring company productions of Irene and Show Boat, in her second film appearance in the lavish Western Cimmaron she not only became a star but scored the first of five Oscar nominations for Best Actress.

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I read your essay and enjoyed it very much. I also read a great deal more on the site - which I would never have known about if you had not put in in the Forum. Thanks a lot - I enjoyed many of the essays. But I kept thinking, "Who wrote this?" Who is the man in the picture in My Day at TCM - is that you? Who are the "we" you speak about?

 

I think it would be interesting to hear about some of the greats who made their initial screen appearance in abysmal movies - movies which nobody has ever heard of or which disappeared from sight immediately.

 

About the essay, The Blonde Bombshell (I don't know who wrote it): I know that Marilyn had a bit which was cut from Scudda Hoo - Scudda Hay - that must have been before Ladies of the Chorus, right? Then she did a bit in The Asphalt Jungle and was dropped by Zanuck; what came next? I think she was resigned by Fox (and did All About Eve) and I think she did Monkey Business (Groucho's secretary)? Johnny Hyde was dead by this time, wasn't he? Who then "took her under his wing?" Where do We're Not Married and Don't Bother to Knock come along? What I'd really like to know is who gave her her first big picture (and the one with Robert Ryan and Barbara Stanwyck came around this time). Who took a chance on her and gave her a lead?

 

I'm writing this off the top of my head and probably have some of my information backwards. But I vaguely remember an article in Look magazine by Clare Booth Luce shortly after Marilyn's death - when everyone was blaming it on Hollywood and how Hollywood had done her wrong. Mrs. Luce said that had it not been for Hollywood and Johnny Hyde, Marilyn would have wound up as many of the starlets do - a prostitute working Sunset and Vine (this from Clare Booth Luce)! Her opinion was that Hollywood had saved Marilyn - not killed her.

 

Sorry - I've gone on too long. Thanks again for the introduction to classicfilmguide.com.

 

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path40b, A Bill of Divorcement is a good one from many standpoints. John Barrymore is marvelous as a father and husband who returns to his family after over a decade in a mental institution only to find out his wife, Billie Burke, has divorced him and wants to many Paul Cavanaugh and his daughter, whom he has never known, is in love with and wants to marry David Manners. It's a mature, sensitive film featuring heartfelt and genuine performances by all, especially Burke and Barrymore, and it's a marvel that Hepburn is so confident, holding her own against Barrymore and Burke, even though she comes from a stage background. There's some wonderful moments between Burke and Barrymore but the real wonders come as Hepburn spends time with and gets to know her father. I can't ruin the film by describing anything other than the general plot. I'm surprised the film doesn't turn up on TCM; maybe it has and I'm just not aware of that. I know it's not in their library but it's such a crucial film for all concerned and far superior to the 1940 remake with Adolphe Menjou and Maureen O'Hara. I'm not saying it's to your, or everyone's, taste but I like it and was impressed by a great screen debut by Hepburn (and John Barrymore, whom I greatly appreciate).

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Path you must see "A Bill Of Divorcement" Kate Hepburn

opens the film with a fantastic scene forever film history. I have this film on vhs when i need a kate Hepburm movie i choose this one first! Morning Glory,

then stage door...Kate said while making this movie

John Barrymore chased her around the set and tired her

out to no end in closeups in the film he kept putting

his hands where he shouldn't she set him straight as

Kate Hepburn could she also said she loved working with him they became friends John exclaimed after the picture

was finished "She'll become agreat actress" he was right!

Path read your essays on film debuts The little boy in

the film "The Search" with Montgomery Cliff made his

first film debut won an oscar it was the only film he ever made... ? i think correct me if i am wrong path

great job on the essays greatfun to put the thinking

caps on! In the thread 21 Questions you sure got me

scratching my head for the answer i know its on the tip of my tongue lolite.

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Your film site is interesting, path. Lots of good information and intersting opinions.

I too would like to reccomend "A Bill of Divorcement." Barrymore gave a marvelously restrained performance and Hepburn was amazing, for someone who'd never given a screen performance before.

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