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Golden age: Roll call


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By 1949 Richard Conte and Susan Hayward had each been making films for a decade. But since they usually worked at different studios, they did not have a chance to costar together. That is, until Hayward left the employment of Walter and moved over to 20th Century Fox where Conte was under contract. A series of films were arranged to capitalize on Hayward's talents, and among the first of these was the gangster family drama HOUSE OF STRANGERS. Edward G. Robinson was signed to play the corrupt patriarch, and Conte was cast as one of his sons. The story was more about a woman (Hayward) marrying into the family, but many of the main scenes hinged on the relationship between the young couple. As the couple, Hayward and Conte exhibited a type of chemistry that helped make the movie a hit with audiences. Six years later, the two teamed up again. This time it was a biographical musical at MGM called I'LL CRY TOMORROW, about the highly dramatic life of singer Lillian Roth. Hayward and Conte play a destructive couple in the clutches of alcoholism, and both give strong performances. 

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Richard Conte & Susan Hayward present and accounted for..!

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0127 of 1300
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In addition to having one of Hollywood's most unusual names, Mayo Methot holds the distinction of having been the third wife of Humphrey Bogart. She met Bogart when he came to Warners in the mid-30s to make THE PETRIFIED FOREST, where she was already under contract. At this point of her career, she had been relegated to playing secondary roles. After she wed Bogart, the parts she took were smaller and less frequent. An on-going bout with alcoholism didn't help her ability to land better roles or hold on to her now more famous husband. Explosive fights led to the unraveling of the marriage in the mid-40s, and Methot's drunken tirades inspired Claire Trevor's later performance in KEY LARGO. But back when she first arrived in Hollywood, there was a promising beginning. Mayo Methot was cast as the leading lady opposite Adolphe Menjou in THE NIGHT CLUB LADY; and she had a major role in VANITY STREET alongside Charles Bickford and Helen Chandler. 

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Mayo Methot present and accounted for..!

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0128 of 1300Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-02-01%2Bat%2B7.51.5


George Nader started in movies after studying drama in college and applying his craft at the Pasadena Playhouse. In the early 1950s, he landed bit parts in motion pictures and on television. A cult film, ROBOT MONSTER, brought him to the attention of execs at Universal, who signed him to a contract. Between 1954 and 1958, he starred in eleven pictures for the studio. The athletic and handsome looking actor did well at the box office, but he did not reach the level of fame that other Universal leading men attained. After his contract ended, he took starring roles in several short-lived TV series at the end of the decade. By the early 1960s, he had moved to Europe where he reinvented himself as a German movie star. He returned to California in the early 70s, where he did a few guest roles on American programs before an eye injury caused him to retire from acting. He then turned his talents to writing, penning science fiction stories. In later years, he spent time with old Hollywood friends and watched his nephew Michael become a TV star.


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George Nader present and accounted for..!


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I watched George Nader in Ellery Queen-- he should have been a much bigger TV star.

One thing I read about him is that when he was at Universal, while they gave him decent assignments, he sort of got lost in the publicity shuffle, because they were promoting Audie Murphy, Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis and Jeff Chandler. So he didn't always get the kind of push that the other leads received. I think this carried with him over to television. But he was the #2 box office star in Germany several years in the 60s, so he certainly had fans.

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One thing I read about him is that when he was at Universal, while they gave him decent assignments, he sort of got lost in the publicity shuffle, because they were promoting Audie Murphy, Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis and Jeff Chandler. So he didn't always get the kind of push that the other leads received. I think this carried with him over to television. But he was the #2 box office star in Germany several years in the 60s, so he certainly had fans.

I could be wrong, TB but I think it was maybe Nader who took the fall for some things Rock Hudson did in his personal life, and Nader never recovered the momentum in his career. The story I recall was that "Confidential" magazine had some unsavory scoops about Rock that they were possibly going to publish, and the studio let other less successful male actors be somewhat vilified, and threw them to the wolves with insinuations about their off-screen lives, in stories being printed up in scandal magazines to save Rock from public exposure. I always liked Nader and thought he was the first George Hamilton but without the extreme tan!

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I could be wrong, TB but I think it was maybe Nader who took the fall for some things Rock Hudson did in his personal life, and Nader never recovered the momentum in his career. The story I recall was that "Confidential" magazine had some unsavory scoops about Rock that they were possibly going to publish, and the studio let other less successful male actors be somewhat vilified, and threw them to the wolves with insinuations about their off-screen lives, in stories being printed up in scandal magazines to save Rock from public exposure. I always liked Nader and thought he was the first George Hamilton but without the extreme tan!

I thought maybe it was Rory Calhoun, who had a prison record, that was thrown to the wolves. (Rory survived, easily.) Was Nader included in the feeding frenzy, too?

 

In my earlier posts, I did not play up George Nader's sexuality, because the point I was trying to stress is that his career never had the kind of momentum Hudson's had, or any of the other leads at Universal in the 50s. Maybe Nader's personality was too quiet, and he blended in too well. I'd like to see some of his German films. I have a feeling that foreign directors probably cast him and used him in roles differently than Hollywood did.

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I thought maybe it was Rory Calhoun, who had a prison record, that was thrown to the wolves. (Rory survived, easily.) Was Nader included in the feeding frenzy, too?

 

In my earlier posts, I did not play up George Nader's sexuality, because the point I was trying to stress is that his career never had the kind of momentum Hudson's had, or any of the other leads at Universal in the 50s. Maybe Nader's personality was too quiet, and he blended in too well. I'd like to see some of his German films. I have a feeling that foreign directors probably cast him and used him in roles differently than Hollywood did.

Hey, TopBilled, I based my post on what I'd read in the past and from a "Confidential" magazine I own [i collect them!] but just to fact check a bit I went online and found the following that relates a bit of the story:

http://gayinfluence.blogspot.com/2012/10/george-nader_11.html

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Hey, TopBilled, I based my post on what I'd read in the past and from a "Confidential" magazine I own [i collect them!] but just to fact check a bit I went online and found the following that relates a bit of the story:

http://gayinfluence.blogspot.com/2012/10/george-nader_11.html

Thanks CaveGirl.

 

Usually I get some 'likes' and maybe a comment or two. But apparently, George Nader is a hot topic, which I didn't realise!

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0129 of 1300


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Most classic film fans associate Dame Judith Anderson with her well-known role as the servant Mrs. Danvers in Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation of REBECCA. And rightfully so; it's a truly extraordinary performance. But it wasn't Anderson's first screen appearance. The Australian-born character actress was already known for her stage work when Darryl Zanuck hired her in 1933 for a movie at 20th Century Pictures (which soon merged with Fox). In BLOOD MONEY, she played the sister of a crime boss and was romantically involved with a crooked bail bondsman. After her success as Mrs. Danvers, Anderson worked for Zanuck again on the 20th Century Fox production of LAURA. Other notable film roles followed. She was a victim in the Agatha Christie classic AND THEN THERE WERE NONE; she was Edward G. Robinson's spinster sister in THE RED HOUSE; and she turned up as Walter Huston's wife and Barbara Stanwyck's nemesis in the western noir THE FURIES. In the 1950s, Anderson did occasional roles on television (one outstanding example-- on the series Wagon Train where she suffered at the hands of savages). But the actress's primary love remained the theatre. She was lured away from the stage in 1970 to play opposite Richard Harris in A MAN CALLED HORSE, and in the 1980s she took a regular role on a daytime soap opera.


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Judith Anderson present and accounted for..!


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The first time I saw Judith Anderson was in Tennessee Williams' A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. She played Big Mama and I really thought she was from the South-- she was so good.

 

Many years later, I find out she's not even an American, but she's from Australia. What an actress!

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I'm glad you mentioned that performance. She's fabulous as Big Mama. 

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0130 of 1300


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When you watch classic science fiction from the 1950s, one thing you quickly realise is that actor Kenneth Tobey appeared in more than his share of hits in the genre. So why is such a contributor currently without a photo on his wiki page? It's okay, because he is being spotlighted here today for his work in great films like THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD; THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS; and IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA. Tobey, of course, turned up in other types of stories too, like westerns and adventure yarns. When his movie career went into decline in the late 1950s, he jumped to television, headlining the popular Desilu series The Whirlybirds, where he played the owner of a helicopter company.  After the series concluded, he reinvented himself on Broadway in 1964 in the musical version of 'Golden Boy,' which had a lengthy run. He would return to TV with occasional guest spots, which he continued to do well into the 1990s. He wasn't hard to miss playing character roles in his later years, thanks to his red hair.


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Kenneth Tobey present and accounted for..!


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0127 of 1300

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In addition to having one of Hollywood's most unusual names, Mayo Methot holds the distinction of having been the third wife of Humphrey Bogart. She met Bogart when he came to Warners in the mid-30s to make THE PETRIFIED FOREST, where she was already under contract. At this point of her career, she had been relegated to playing secondary roles. After she wed Bogart, the parts she took were smaller and less frequent. An on-going bout with alcoholism didn't help her ability to land better roles or hold on to her now more famous husband. Explosive fights led to the unraveling of the marriage in the mid-40s, and Methot's drunken tirades inspired Claire Trevor's later performance in KEY LARGO. But back when she first arrived in Hollywood, there was a promising beginning. Mayo Methot was cast as the leading lady opposite Adolphe Menjou in THE NIGHT CLUB LADY; and she had a major role in VANITY STREET alongside Charles Bickford and Helen Chandler. 

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Mayo Methot present and accounted for..!

 

This is so interesting!  My first thought was, how could Bogie have such opposite taste in women as short round faced Mayo and Tall long faced Lauren?  Then I noticed they both have the down turned "sloe" eyes.  Finally, I noticed that, in the bottom picture,  Mayo seemed to be wearing all her girl scout badges.  Bless her heart, no telling what a woman might do when Lauren Bacall shows up to compete for her man.

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This is so interesting!  My first thought was, how could Bogie have such opposite taste in women as short round faced Mayo and Tall long faced Lauren?  Then I noticed they both have the down turned "sloe" eyes.  Finally, I noticed that, in the bottom picture,  Mayo seemed to be wearing all her girl scout badges.  Bless her heart, no telling what a woman might do when Lauren Bacall shows up to compete for her man.

From what I read, Bogart was quite devoted to Mayo Methot. They obviously had a volatile relationship but he kept trying to make it work with her. Even after he had an affair with Bacall while making their first film together, he still went back to his wife. But it was painfully clear that the marriage was beyond repair because of her alcohol-fueled episodes. He was probably attracted to Bacall because she was much younger and not as hardened as Mayo Methot was at that point of her life. That's my take on it.

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From what I read, Bogart was quite devoted to Mayo Methot. They obviously had a volatile relationship but he kept trying to make it work with her. Even after he had an affair with Bacall while making their first film together, he still went back to his wife. But it was painfully clear that the marriage was beyond repair because of her alcohol-fueled episodes. He was probably attracted to Bacall because she was much younger and not as hardened as Mayo Methot was at that point of her life. That's my take on it.

I think Bogart's friends called Bacall, Ladder Legs and maybe Humphrey had visions of being a fireman?

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When ZaSu Pitts started in motion pictures, she was known for dramatic roles. But as the talkies took over, her voice seemed more suited to comedy, which is what became her calling card. More often than not, she was used as a foil for the lead stars, but occasionally she headlined her own movies and had one costar in particular that she was most paired with on screen. The costar was Slim Summerville, whose tall wiry frame and deadpan deliveries made him a natural for screwball comedy. Together, Pitts and Summerville appeared in 14 films between 1930 and 1941. Some of the more notable ones included HER FIRST MATE and OUT ALL NIGHT for Universal; as well as MISS POLLY and UNCLE JOE for producer Hal Roach.


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Slim Summerville & ZaSu Pitts present and accounted for..!


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Can you guess the ones I'll be spotlighting?

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In the week ahead:

 

Saturday February 6th: RKO's ultimate dance partners of the 30s.

 

Sunday February 7th: British leads of the 50s and 60s, this married couple made several hits together.

 

Special series: Classic Powell 101

 

Monday February 8th: Glenn Ford's wife.
 

Tuesday February 9th: June Allyson's husband.

 

Wednesday February 10th: Dick Moore's wife.

 

Thursday February 11th: The fifth most popular British star in 1939.

 

Friday February 5th: Nick and Nora Charles.

 

***

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Ginger Rogers started appearing in motion pictures in 1929, and her costar Fred Astaire arrived on the movie scene four years later. Fred's Hollywood debut was MGM's DANCING LADY, in which he performed with Joan Crawford. It hit screens in November 1933. A month later, around Christmastime, his first picture with Ginger was released-- RKO's FLYING DOWN TO RIO, in which they had supporting roles. It was successful, and RKO began to put them into their own musical vehicle. The next year, they starred in THE GAY DIVORCEE, which was followed by the adaptation of ROBERTA starring Irene Dunne. Until 1939, they made a total of nine films for RKO, dazzling the world with their skills as dance partners. (Fred's previous dancing partner had been his sister Adele on Broadway, but she was reluctant to make movies.) By 1940, it was decided that Fred would move on with other dancers, and Ginger would focus on more dramatic roles. The two did just as well separately as they had done together. In 1949, however, they reunited on screen one last time for the smash hit THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY at MGM. It was their only film in color, and once again, the duo proved how fun it is to get swept off your feet.


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Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire present and accounted for..!


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Fred Astaire had been a star on Broadway and the London stage throughout the 1920s with his sister Adele Astaire.

 

In 1929 Ginger Rogers made her debut on Broadway in Top Speed, along with a chorus boy named Hermes Pan, who would become Fred Astaire's choreographic assistant for all the Astaire Rogers movies.

 

In 1930 Ginger Rogers made her co-starring debut in a musical, the Gershwins' Girl Crazy, and became well-known on Broadway. It was at this time she first met Fred Astaire, who was called in to choreograph some of the dance numbers.

 

In 1932 Adele married into English nobility and Fred Astaire had his first solo hit with Gay Divorce featuring Cole Porter's Night and Day.

 

Astaire's first contract with RKO included Flying down to Rio and Gay Divorce. Because of the success of the Carioca, choreographed by Pan in Flying down to Rio and danced by Astaire and Rodgers, RKO decided to feature Rogers in gay divorce.

 

Astaire thought Rogers was all wrong for Gay Divorce because it called for an aristocratic English woman and Rogers was well-known as the street smart chorus girl in the 42nd Street movies.

 

Astaire was proven to be wrong and the rest is history.

 

And that's the backstory of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

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Fred Astaire had been a star on Broadway and the London stage throughout the 1920s with his sister Adele Astaire.

 

In 1929 Ginger Rogers made her debut on Broadway in Top Speed, along with a chorus boy named Hermes Pan, who would become Fred Astaire's choreographic assistant for all the Astaire Rogers movies.

 

In 1930 Ginger Rogers made her co-starring debut in a musical, the Gershwins' Girl Crazy, and became well-known on Broadway. It was at this time she first met Fred Astaire, who was called in to choreograph some of the dance numbers.

 

In 1932 Adele married into English nobility and Fred Astaire had his first solo hit with Gay Divorce featuring Cole Porter's Night and Day.

 

Astaire's first contract with RKO included Flying down to Rio and Gay Divorce. Because of the success of the Carioca, choreographed by Pan in Flying down to Rio and danced by Astaire and Rodgers, RKO decided to feature Rogers in gay divorce.

 

Astaire thought Rogers was all wrong for Gay Divorce because it called for an aristocratic English woman and Rogers was well-known as the street smart chorus girl in the 42nd Street movies.

 

Astaire was proven to be wrong and the rest is history.

 

And that's the backstory of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Thanks for sharing those tidbits! One thing I read was that Adele considered doing a film in England during the mid-30s. But she was afraid for some reason and backed out at the last minute. It's a shame she never did at least one musical film to display her own dancing talents. 

 

As for the earlier Broadway success, there was barely a year between 1917 and 1932 when she and Fred were not in some sort of elaborate stage musical. So that proves their staying power and how popular they had been.

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Bill Travers married Virginia McKenna in 1957 and they remained together until his death in 1994. During that time, they both had careers as leading stars in many British films, several in which they collaborated together. The movies they made began to evolve in the 1960s, reflecting their stance as animal rights activists. One such example is their involvement in BORN FREE where they played conservationists in Kenya. Its themes resonated strongly with audiences, and this led to related productions that followed, notably 1969's RING OF BRIGHT WATER and AN ELEPHANT CALLED SLOWLY, also released the same year. The couple wrote about their experiences filming some of these movies and their passion for protecting the earth's natural environment.


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Virginia McKenna & Bill Travers present and accounted for..!


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Eleanor Powell began dancing as a child and made her professional debut in a vaudeville kiddie revue. By 1929, at the age of just 17, she was appearing on Broadway. She continued to do musical revues on the east coast stage, taking time in mid-1930 to appear uncredited in her first film. It was Paramount's QUEEN HIGH which featured Ginger Rogers. It would not be for another five years, until the dancer-actress arrived in Hollywood to stay. She was fourth-billed in Fox's variety picture GEORGE WHITE'S SCANDALS of 1935 before she signed a long-term contract with MGM which immediately starred her in its own lavish musical productions. Her films at her home studio were extremely profitable during the mid-to-late 1930s, and her popular dance style inspired others such as Ann Miller and Cyd Charisse, who would eventually succeed her at MGM. During the war years her popularity dropped off, and she parted with the studio in 1943. She made an independent film in 1945 released thru United Artists and returned to MGM once more in 1950 to do a musical number in Esther Williams' THE DUCHESS OF IDAHO. After this she was more focused on raising her son by actor Glenn Ford, and she turned her efforts to religion becoming an ordained minister. Though she did not make any more feature films, she did go back on tour in the 1960s, performing at various nightclub venues around the country.


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Eleanor Powell present and accounted for..!


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Eleanor Powell is considered to be one of the greatest tap dancers of all time. At the Cotton Club Bojangles crowned her the Queen of Tap.

 

Eleanor Powell and Bill Bojangles Robinson performed number of private shows together for the elite and for dance teachers conventions.

 

As segregation was enforced in those days, Eleanor accompanied Bojangles to arrive at these performances by way of the service entrances and freight elevators at the back of the buildings.

 

In the movies Eleanor danced with other great tap dancers, including Fred Astaire in The Broadway Melody of 1940. In his book Glenn Ford: A Life, Peter Ford, the son of Eleanor and Glenn, recounts how neighbor Fred Astaire used tell him that his mother was a better tap dancer than he was.

 

She appeared in 11 MGM musicals--Three of which MGM hired Cole Porter just to write music for her tap dancing.

 

What made Eleanor a unique tap dancer was that she was originally a professionally trained ballet dancer. She studied with Russian ballet greats Mikail Fokine.

 

As an accomplished ballet dancer, she could get no work because there were no formed ballet companies in America till after World War 2. So she decided to learn tap dancing which was very popular at the time. Her instructor was Marilyn Miller's Broadway partner Jack Donahue.

 

It was truly Eleanor Powell's professional ballet technique - - which would have put her in any major ballet company today - along with her professional tap dancing that made her style truly unique.

 

In 1965 The Dance Masters of America honored herwith the title of "The World's Greatest Tap Dancer."

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As an accomplished ballet dancer, she could get no work because there were no formed ballet companies in America till after World War 2. So she decided to learn tap dancing which was very popular at the time. Her instructor was Marilyn Miller's Broadway partner Jack Donahue.

Thanks for mentioning this, Princess. Jack Donahue later worked in television, directing The Lucy Shows.

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