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A-LIST EXILES


Klaatu

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I was thinking about the career of Bela Lugosi. In 1931 he'd made Dracula. Women were mailing him marriage proposals. He was at the top of his game. Somehow, in short order, he wound up stumbling from one Poverty Row Studio to another, making movies like THE DEVIL BAT (1940), ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY (1945) and BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA (1952). This last was directed by William Beaudine. Beaudine had once been a high-profile prestige director working with names like Mary Pickford and W.C. Fields. In the cheapies he was known as "One-Shot" Beaudine for notoriously using what should have been unusable first takes. His final two films in 1966 were BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA and JESSIE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER.

 

I realized then that Hollywood is littered with once A-list stars that wound up consigned to the lower depths of cinematic hell. I don't mean a great actor making an occasional bad movie. I'm talking meltdown. I'm talking Errol Flynn concluding his illustrious career with CUBAN REBEL GIRLS. I'm talking about Basil Rathbone in HILLBILLYS IN A HAUNTED HOUSE. I'm talking about guys like John Agar and Edgar Ulmer who'd once been on straight-up trajectories, angering the wrong people and never finding their way back. The results are sometimes fun to watch (like Agar's THE BRAIN FROM PLANET ARROUS or Ulmer's THE MAN FROM PLANET X) but they still must have been tough to folks who remembered the good life.

 

What do you think? Can you think of A-list crash and burns?

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Interesting thread! In the British context, obvious examples are Dennis Price ("Kind Hearts and Coronets") and Victor Spinetti ("Help!") who both ended up in soft-core porn, and director Michael Powell, whose career never recovered from "Peeping Tom." Also, didn't our favorite pre-code star Warren William end up in a few pverty row dogs towards the end of his career?

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Regarding Bela Lugosi, I am always amused because he is fourth or fifth billed in "Ninotchka" (1939) yet I believe he is in only one scene near the end of the film. I think he is even billed above the three envoys who lose the jewels. Maybe a lot of Bela is on the proverbial cutting room floor but that still wouldn't explain how he went from being part of this first-class Lubitsch production to the ones mentioned in the first post of this thread. Strange indeed.

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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Dennis Price in softcore porn???

 

I just watched him over the weekend in "Tunes of Glory", where he gave a very measured and distinguished performance in a difficult role, holding his own with Alec Guinness and John Mills.

 

Gracious me, there must be some kind of story behind that fall from grace...

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Cool post.

Klaatu barada nikto! :)

 

Though not a film star, don't lets forget Lenny Bruce who was railroaded after angering some good 'ol boy bigwig at a party.

 

But in some cases (e.g. Errol Flynn and John Barrymore), I would say that some of the downfall can be attributed to a copious amount of self-destructive behaviour, as well.

 

It is sad, whatever the reason.

 

And yet, from an alternative perspective, I admire these "has-been's" who aren't afraid to face reality and accept that ultimately we are all equal in the eyes of The Conqueror Worm, that Fame is an illusion.

 

Unlike say a "Norma Desmond" or Lupe Velez, who are incapable of coming down out of their listing ivory towers (an inability which, sadly, smacks of vain self-importance), the aforementioned "has-been's" (e.g. Lugosi, Barrymore etc) aren't too proud to survive and take work where they can find it. Just like we all do - the "little people."

 

What's that saying about what ordeal doesn't kill you makes you stronger?

 

Sure, maybe Velez might have had to settle for fourth or fifth banana roles later on, but that seems a far cry from being Purina Worm Chow via suicide at 36. :(

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Regarding Bela Lugosi, I am always amused because he is fourth or fifth billed in "Ninotchka" (1939) yet I believe he is in only one scene near the end of the film. I think he is even billed above the three envoys who lose the jewels. Maybe a lot of Bela is on the proverbial cutting room floor but that still wouldn't explain how he went from being part of this first-class Lubitsch production to the ones mentioned in the first post of this thread. Strange indeed.

 

These things were determined contractually: if the actor was a prominent independent (such as Basil Rathbone) with a sharp agent, or the studio lending a contract player insisted on a certain billing as a condition of the loan, then the billing in prints and advertising was essentially set in stone irrespective of the size of the actor's part.

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YUM! - Louise Brooks! B-)

 

She is such an erotic presence.

 

And though //she brought it on her self// (and I agree in that she did not choose her battles), I admire that she stonewalled the MGM Machine. Something I wish that the equally divine Ms Garland had done.

 

Same with John Gilbert after his decking of that scumbag, Mayer, following Mayer's crude comment to Gilbert who was once again "left standing at the altar" by the also equally divine Ms Garbo.

 

How I wish I could have been in attendance to watch that so-deserved slug! I would have goaded him on and joined him in several kicks to the ribs.

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Then there was Veronica Lake and Frances Farmer, two lovely blonde actresses who bucked the system, ended up in 'B' films and then literally self-destructed.

Both ladies would show up years later in a few low-budget flicks with Miss Lake in "Flesh Feast" and Miss Farmer in "The Party Crashers".

 

Another blonde beauty with potential was Carole Landis who should have been offered better roles. Instead she ended up in schlock titled "Brass Monkey" and "It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog" (how appropriate).

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Same with John Gilbert after his decking of that scumbag, Mayer, following Mayer's crude comment to Gilbert who was once again "left standing at the altar" by the also equally divine Ms Garbo.

 

How I wish I could have been in attendance to watch that so-deserved slug! I would have goaded him on and joined him in several kicks to the ribs.

 

I'm with you on that one, Sam! Right to the jaw and left to the gut! The blankity blank! How COULD he do that to Jack?

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"Ray Milland. From 'The Lost Weekend' to 'The Thing with Two Heads.'"

 

"Which is better? To have loved and lost, or to never have loved at all..."

 

I don't remember what that's from, but LuckyDan's Ray Milland notion reminded me of it. The fall of Ray Milland from The Lost Weekend to The Thing with Two Heads or Rosey Greer's "climb" from The Thing with Two Heads to episodes of The Love Boat.

 

:0

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Of course a lot of A-list stars also ended up in the semi-respectable medium of television (e.g. Dick Powell, Donna Reed, Janet Leigh), but even the latter would be hard pressed to see much merit in the camp classic 'Night of the Lepus' (1972), as she and Stuart Whitman tackle giant bunnies as they terrorize a South West Arizona town.

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I don't remember what that's from, but LuckyDan's Ray Milland notion reminded me of it. The fall of Ray Milland from The Lost Weekend to The Thing with Two Heads or Rosey Greer's "climb" from The Thing with Two Heads to episodes of The Love Boat.

 

The Universe has to remain in balance, you know.

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No one mentioned Lon (aka "Creighton") Chaney Jr. He won all sorts of glory in 1940 for his portrayal of "Lennie" in OF MICE AND MEN. I understand there was even an Oscar buzz about his performance. That buzz was shut down pretty well by the time he did

 

BRIDE OF THE GORILLA (1951)

THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE (1959) [where he gets to shake his fist and emote that memorable soliloquy, "I'll kill you Alligator Man!"]

FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF (1964) [his role in this Mexican cheapie was "The Mummified Werewolf"]

 

and a particular favorite title:

 

HILLBILLIES IN A HAUNTED HOUSE (1967)

 

By the end of his career he seemed to be consigned to playing the roles that Tor Johnson would have gotten if he was still working - the big menacing shell-shocked mutes.

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One that's not been mentioned yet, I don't think, is John Garfield, who basically got his career ended because he refused to participate in the "Big Brother" tactics of the U.S. government and 'name names' to the Committee on Unamerican activities.

 

For this reason alone, I have tremendous respect for the man.

 

Message was edited by:

pktrekgirl

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> On that's not been mentioned yet, I don't think, is

> John Garfield, who basically got his career ended

> because he refused to participate in the "Big

> Brother" tactics of the U.S. government and 'name

> names' to the Committee on Unamerican activities.

>

> For this reason alone, I have tremendous respect for

> the man.

 

I agree 100 percent! His refusal not only ended his career, but was mostly responsible for his tragic early death of a heart attack at the age of 39. A great talent, and by all accounts a wonderful man, all gone because of those lousy red-baiting witch-hunters from HUAC. By the way, did you ever see TCM's really good documentary on Garfield, which I believe ran sometime last year? It was excellent. He may be gone, but certainly not forgotten.

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No, I've not see that documentary yet.

 

I'll keep an eye out for it though, because I really like him alot. I've really only started watching more of his films over the past few months, and he is terrific in each one.

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I don't think that he's remembered as an A Lister by many modern day viewers, but Lee Tracy's meteoric career took a drubbing thanks to his inopportune behavior on a balcony in Mexico during the filming of Viva Villa (1934). His dynamic speaking style and brash demeanor often earned him comparisons by his contemporaries to James Cagney. While I don't believe that he had the capacity to show tenderness as well as toughness that distinguished Cagney, his big city boy was certainly a refreshing jolt of java for many otherwise stagy early talkies.

 

The Half-Naked Truth, Dinner at Eight and Bombshell, featured just a few of the corking good performances he gave before that little international incident sent his career, at that most respectable of studios, MGM, into the sunset, (I wonder if Warners would've handled it differently?). He did limp along in alot of intermittently amusing B movies, but the stage saved his artistic sanity and he went out in a blaze of glory in his last film in 1964's The Best Man.

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