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The Star Machine


speedracer5
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"I am big.  It's the pictures that got small,"

 

-Gloria Swanson as "Norma Desmond," Sunset Blvd.

 

This thread was inspired by a book I am currently reading, The Star Machine, by Jeanine Basinger.  I'm only about 20% through the book, and it's been very interesting so far.  My only complaint is that the author tends to insert her own (often snarky) commentary, which in my opinion, detracts from her information.  With that said, the chapter I just read was very compelling and I think would serve as an impetus for an interesting conversation.

 

The Hollywood "Star Machine" worked endlessly to mold nobodies into big stars.  Some "nobodies" who are discovered are already attractive (e.g. Errol Flynn, Lana Turner, Cary Grant, to name a few) and studios go straight to work grooming them for stardom.  Other nobodies (e.g. Eleanor Powell, Rita Hayworth, Clark Gable, etc.) need some work and go through extensive cosmetic procedures, diction lessons, dance lessons, etc.  When the studio deems the potential star "ready," they're placed in small background, non speaking roles, until they graduate to bit parts with a handful of lines.  Eventually they're placed in bigger, supporting roles (or in some potential stars' cases, a lead role) to see if they catch on.  No matter how much time and effort is spent grooming these potential stars, the studio does not decide who gets to be a star and who doesn't.  It is up to the public to decide who they like and who they don't.  There is no tangible reason why one person makes it and another doesn't.  Performers who become stars just have "it," and oftentimes it is difficult to articulate why this person has "it" and this other seemingly identical person, does not.  A person could be the most gorgeous person in the world, but if the audience rejects them, they're done.  A studio will dump them and move on to the next potential star. 

 

One example that was given in the book was Greta Garbo vs. Anna Sten.  Garbo was a star.  Audiences loved her.  Along the same vein, audiences loved Marlene Dietrich.  She and Garbo had "it."  What "it" was, is nothing that can be stated matter-of-fact.  Sten was just as beautiful as Garbo, but the public said "no.  We don't want her."  The author theorized that perhaps Sten's failure to catch on in the US is due to the studio promoting her as "another Greta Garbo."  Audiences didn't feel the need to see another Greta Garbo, when they had the real thing still making films. 

 

Who are some other actors who should have become stars but never really caught on? Why do you suppose they didn't have any star quality?

 

Who are some actors who worked steadily, but never had their big break? 

 

How does a star become a legend?  Obviously, stars become legends after a passage of time.  In the 1940s, Humphrey Bogart was just another working actor.  What makes someone attain "legend" status as opposed to merely star status? Bette Davis and Ann Sheridan are contemporaries.  However, Davis is a legend.  Sheridan is merely a star.  What is "it" that Davis, Bogart, Grant, Gable, et al. have, that their colleagues like Sheridan, Ida Lupino, Jack Carson, Dennis Morgan, et al. did not?  

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I'll start:

 

Ginger Rogers vs. Ann Miller.

 

Rogers is undoubtedly a legend.  Aside from being an Academy Award winner, Rogers' legend status is cemented in her ten musicals with fellow legend Fred Astaire.  How did Astaire become such a big star? He wasn't particularly attractive like Cary Grant, he wasn't rugged like Clark Gable, but he was elegant and a fantastic dancer! Ginger Rogers was beautiful and also a fantastic dancer.  However, she wasn't just a dancer.  She demonstrated a flair for comedy in her musicals with Astaire.  Throughout the late 1930s and 1940s, she was able to further show off her versatility with roles in films like Kitty Foyle (1940), Stage Door (1937) and I'll Be Seeing You (1944).  She also showed a knack for screwball comedy in films like The Major and the Minor (1942).  Many female dancers were able to perform in a variety of different roles, but there is something about Rogers that stands out.  I will admit that I was somewhat indifferent to Rogers when I first saw her, but the more I see her, the more I like her.  I think the film that made her "click" for me, was The Major and the Minor.  She was hilarious in this film.  She was absurd as the 30 year old masquerading as the "12 next week" pre-teen.  She exudes charm in this role.  She has "it."  What is "it?" Is it her charm? Her looks? Her persona?

 

Ann Miller.  Ann Miller was also a great dancer.  However, she is merely a star of the era, but she is not a legend.  She has "it" when it comes to dancing.  However so did a lot of female dancers that never attained legend status and/or were never able to be big enough stars to carry a film on her own.  She appeared alongside the best performers: Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Ginger Rogers, all legends.  However, she never attained this status.  Why? She definitely is charming and beautiful--though not as pretty as her contemporaries like Rita Hayworth.  Maybe she never got the role that would be her breakthrough role, though she is memorable in On the Town (1949) and Easter Parade (1948).  What is it that Ginger Rogers had that Miller didn't?  Is it due to MGM keeping Miller in musical comedies and Rogers was able to thrive in films outside her original genre? Was Miller like Betty Grable who was reluctant to be outside her accepted genre?  Or would audiences not accept Miller in a non-musical role? 

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Great topic Speedy.

 

There are, of course, Hollywood families and if you are a Barrymore, for example, you already have a famous name which helps- or hurts - your career, depending upon what type of career you want.

 

In regards to the Barrymores:

 

Diana Barrymore vs. John Drew Barrymore (aka John Barrymore Jr.):

 

This is Drew's aunt and Drew's father.

 

 

Until I saw TOO MUCH, TOO SOON - starring your boyfriend in a parallel universe Errol Flynn  as John Barrymore-

 

I never knew much of anything about Diana at all, despite the fact that The Barrymores are my favourite Hollywood dynasty.

 

I have found out from people on this site that she did eventually complete movies, but they don't to mind right away.

 

And yet:

 

You say the name John Drew Barrymore to me and I automatically think: While The City Sleeps. He is excellent as the Lipstick killer.

 

I can see him totally becoming a movie star had he not died.

 

Diana was too overpowered by her family name I think to succeed.  Very sad.  A lot of sadness in this family.

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The Hollywood "Star Machine" worked endlessly to mold nobodies into big stars.  Some "nobodies" who are discovered are already attractive (e.g. Errol Flynn, Lana Turner, Cary Grant, to name a few) and studios go straight to work grooming them for stardom.  They're placed in small background, non speaking roles, until they graduate to bit parts with a handful of lines.

 

This isn't true of Grant. He played a major role in his first feature.

 

Who are some other actors who should have become stars but never really caught on? Why do you suppose they didn't have any star quality?

 

I'm trying to remember who I usually list in the "They should've been Bigger Stars" threads. I'm sure I could list dozens if I wanted...

 

Sexy and funny actresses (not a common combination): Paula Prentiss, Jill Clayburgh. Prentiss' career was derailed by mental health problems. Clayburgh made some poor role choices, and the her window closed.

 

I can understand why Blythe Danner never became a star. Her upper-crust persona was already out of fashion with moviegoers by the '70s.

 

I used to always list Jeff Bridges in these threads. He never became a real box office draw (an animal that is now almost extinct anyway, but that's another topic) and he stumbled into the cult favorite The Big Lebowski, which at least gave him semi-icon status with a certain demo.

 

Lee Tracy had balcony problems.

 

A whole bunch of action/western stars: Scott Brady had a nice sense of humor, as did Rory Calhoun and even more Doug McClure, who probably spent too much time on TV to break through in movies.

 

The various young contractees who came in as musicals were waning: Bobby Van, Tommy Rall... Vera-Ellen was as good a dance partner as Gene Kelly ever had and hot to boot, but always seemed a bit aloof on screen. She was hot and cold

 

I'm sure I'll think of more later...

 

How does a star become a legend?  Obviously, stars become legends after a passage of time.  In the 1940s, Humphrey Bogart was just another working actor.  What makes someone attain "legend" status as opposed to merely star status? Bette Davis and Ann Sheridan are contemporaries.  However, Davis is a legend.  Sheridan is merely a star.  What is "it" that Davis, Bogart, Grant, Gable, et al. have, that their colleagues like Sheridan, Ida Lupino, Jack Carson, Dennis Morgan, et al. did not?

 

In his book Hollywood Garson Kanin relates a conversation where L.B. Mayer insisted MGM now had under contract the man who would be bigger than Gable... Howard Keel.

 

On the set of Picnic Cliff Robertson asked William Holden how he got to be such a superstar. Holden smirked and replied arrogantly, "You've got to have it".

 

Robertson was taken aback, since it was unlike Holden to act conceited. "What's 'it'", Robertson asked him. The smirk left Holden's face and turned into a friendly smile, "It", he replied, "is Sunset Boulevard".

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Bette Davis v. Marian Marsh

 

In the early 30s it was probably Marian who stood a better chance for stardom. It didn't happen. Marian was prettier and had a couple of high profile films, Svengali and Beauty and the Boss, this latter being IMO a tour-de-force performance that should have won her a fan base. I don't know her bio so there could be reasons that explain why she didn't really make it. We all know how hard Bette worked.  She really wanted it and was willing to face hardships to get it,  what with Curtiz making derogatory remarks about her on set. If Curtiz' reaction to her was anywhere near a consensus, it's a wonder Bette made it at all.  She broke through in '34 with the (can't think of the title) and followed with an AW then next year. Is enough to say that she was more ambitious than Marian? Although undoubtedly true, it might not be the whole story. I think these are complex questions with no simple answers. I find the whole subject rather dizzying. But the Davis-Marsh question has occurred to me before. Marian seemed like shoo-in.

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You say the name John Drew Barrymore to me and I automatically think: While The City Sleeps. He is excellent as the Lipstick killer.

 

I can see him totally becoming a movie star had he not died

 

?

 

He lived almost 50 years after WTCS.

 

JDB's problem was his erratic behavior. He was to have played the lead in a Star Trek episode, but did not show up for the shoot, forcing producers to cast an actor that happened to be on the lot. IIRC this cost JDB a 6 month suspension from the actors guild.

 

Later as JDB got more into drugs he developed a rep among the Hollywood crowd as unpredictable and even dangerous. According to David Carradine you didn't want to buy anything from him, as he had trouble with the concept of private property. He might sell you a guitar, then later burglarize you house and take it back.

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This isn't true of Grant. He played a major role in his first feature.

 

 

I'm trying to remember who I usually list in the "They should've been Bigger Stars" threads. I'm sure I could list dozens if I wanted...

 

Sexy and funny actresses (not a common combination): Paula Prentiss, Jill Clayburgh. Prentiss' career was derailed by mental health problems. Clayburgh made some poor role choices, and the her window closed.

 

I can understand why Blythe Danner never became a star. Her upper-crust persona was already out of fashion with moviegoers by the '70s.

 

I used to always list Jeff Bridges in these threads. He never became a real box office draw (an animal that is now almost extinct anyway, but that's another topic) and he stumbled into the cult favorite The Big Lebowski, which at least gave him semi-icon status with a certain demo.

 

Lee Tracy had balcony problems.

 

A whole bunch of action/western stars: Scott Brady had a nice sense of humor, as did Rory Calhoun and even more Doug McClure, who probably spent too much time on TV to break through in movies.

 

The various young contractees who came in as musicals were waning: Bobby Van, Tommy Rall... Vera-Ellen was as good a dance partner as Gene Kelly ever had and hot to boot, but always seemed a bit aloof on screen. She was hot and cold

 

I'm sure I'll think of more later...

 

 

In his book Hollywood Garson Kanin relates a conversation where L.B. Mayer insisted MGM now had under contract the man who would be bigger than Gable... Howard Keel.

 

On the set of Picnic Cliff Robertson asked William Holden how he got to be such a superstar. Holden smirked and replied arrogantly, "You've got to have it".

 

Robertson was taken aback, since it was unlike Holden to act conceited. "What's 'it'", Robertson asked him. The smirk left Holden's face and turned into a friendly smile, "It", he replied, "is Sunset Boulevard".

 

I didn't realize that Grant had a big role in his first film.  I know that in one of Flynn's early pre-Captain Blood roles, he played a corpse!

 

Lucille Ball on the other hand, is someone who spent years in the star machine at RKO, and even went through the star machine at MGM, and while she appeared in some A-list films (Stage Door, Without Love, Roberta, Top Hat) she only did so when she was supporting a big star.  She did headline a ton of B-films which gave her the nickname "Queen of the Bs."  When she moved to MGM, they dyed her hair her trademark red, and tried her out in musicals and other Technicolor films, even giving her the nickname "Technicolor Tessie," but she never got her big break.  It wasn't until she turned to radio that she finally became a big star.  She of course, became a legend, when her radio show was brought to television and she starred in I Love Lucy.  Lucille Ball had "it" and "it" is apparent in many of her films, even the most mediocre ones.  However, her brand of "it" wasn't suited for the big screen.  The small screen was her niche. 

 

Agreed about Vera-Ellen.  I think she's a fabulous dancer (see White Christmas), however, I agree that she comes across as aloof in her films.  While her acting skills are passable for the type of films she appeared in, she does seem to have a bit of an ice queen quality about her.  She seems to be paired with performers like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, only because of her dancing skills and not because her personality and persona complimented theirs.  Unlike her peers like Rita Hayworth and Judy Garland, Vera-Ellen didn't really have a persona.  She was just an amazing dancer, one that could hold her own against powerhouses like Astaire and Kelly. 

 

--

 

Re: Blythe Danner.  I wonder why her daughter Gwyneth Paltrow became such a big star.  She doesn't do anything for me.  I don't see why Gwyneth has "it" but her mother doesn't. 

 

These days however, do actors really have to have "it"?

 

It seems like nowadays, they're just playing roulette to see which flavor of the month will be a success.  So many of the stars these days are interchangeable. 

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?

 

He lived almost 50 years after WTCS.

 

JDB's problem was his erratic behavior. He was to have played the lead in a Star Trek episode, but did not show up for the shoot, forcing producers to cast an actor that happened to be on the lot. IIRC this cost JDB a 6 month suspension from the actors guild.

 

Later as JDB got more into drugs he developed a rep among the Hollywood crowd as unpredictable and even dangerous. According to David Carradine you didn't want to buy anything from him, as he had trouble with the concept of private property. He might sell you a guitar, then later burglarize you house and take it back.

He did  live that long? WOW. Even worse.

 

Well, this goes to show how little I know of that generation compared to the generation of the three siblings and Drew.

 

Thanks for that further information Richard.  Much appreciated.

 

John Sr. had erratic behaviour too, but he was already a big star.  Eventually, he was dropped by the Bulldog Drummand series.

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Bette Davis v. Marian Marsh

 

In the early 30s it was probably Marian who stood a better chance for stardom. It didn't happen. Marian was prettier and had a couple of high profile films, Svengali and Beauty and the Boss, this latter being IMO a tour-de-force performance that should have won her a fan base. I don't know her bio so there could be reasons that explain why she didn't really make it. We all know how hard Bette worked.  She really wanted it and was willing to face hardships to get it,  what with Curtiz making derogatory remarks about her on set. If Curtiz' reaction to her was anywhere near a consensus, it's a wonder Bette made it at all.  She broke through in '34 with the (can't think of the title) and followed with an AW then next year. Is enough to say that she was more ambitious than Marian? Although undoubtedly true, it might not be the whole story. I think these are complex questions with no simple answers. I find the whole subject rather dizzying. But the Davis-Marsh question has occurred to me before. Marian seemed like shoo-in.

 

I've never heard of Marian Marsh! I'll need to look out for the two films you mentioned to see her in action.  When Bette Davis first started out, Warners didn't know what to do with her.  They gave her the platinum hair--almost like they were trying to make their own Jean Harlow.  I actually really liked her in 1932's Three on a Match, but it was a small role and she definitely did not have the Bette Davis persona that we're all accustomed to.  It wasn't until Human Bondage in 1934 (I think this may have been the film you were thinking of) where she demonstrated her real skill as an actress.  She also appeared in Fog Over Frisco in the same year and showed that she had a bit of a femme fatale side to her.  Finally, this got the ball rolling and she was on her way.  I think another reason that Davis succeeded when so many of her peers did not is because she fought Warners tooth and nail for decent roles and would endure as many suspensions as it took to not get saddled with bad roles.  Davis explained to Dick Cavett in a 1971 interview that I watched, that unlike many of her peers, she wasn't concerned with her salary.  She wanted good parts.  She said something to the effect that "the money will come when you get the good parts."  Perhaps Davis' difference in priorities is what set her apart from others.  

 

EDIT: Okay.  I'm doing research on Marian Marsh.  She was 93 when she died, fairly recently (in 2006).  She did appear in Five Star Final, which I do have on my DVR.  I'll need to prioritize that film and watch it.  She also appeared in Hell's Angels under a different name--Marilyn Morgan.  From reading her bio on imdb, her film Under 18 (1931) was a critical failure.  She was disappointed and exhausted and rebelled against her studio bosses.  They retaliated by not picking up her option and cancelling her contract.  It sounds like she managed to get some decent parts with Columbia later on but when her contract with them expired, she went onto Republic Pictures where she signed up for some second rate films which basically put the nail in the coffin as far as her career was concerned.  It sounds like even if studios didn't decide specifically who would catch on and who wouldn't, they did know how to break a possible star if that person doesn't play along.

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I've never heard of Marian Marsh! I'll need to look out for the two films you mentioned to see her in action.  When Bette Davis first started out, Warners didn't know what to do with her.  They gave her the platinum hair--almost like they were trying to make their own Jean Harlow.  I actually really liked her in 1932's Three on a Match, but it was a small role and she definitely did not have the Bette Davis persona that we're all accustomed to.  It wasn't until Human Bondage in 1934 (I think this may have been the film you were thinking of) where she demonstrated her real skill as an actress.  She also appeared in Fog Over Frisco in the same year and showed that she had a bit of a femme fatale side to her.  Finally, this got the ball rolling and she was on her way.  I think another reason that Davis succeeded when so many of her peers did not is because she fought Warners tooth and nail for decent roles and would endure as many suspensions as it took to not get saddled with bad roles.  Davis explained to Dick Cavett in a 1971 interview that I watched, that unlike many of her peers, she wasn't concerned with her salary.  She wanted good parts.  She said something to the effect that "the money will come when you get the good parts."  Perhaps Davis' difference in priorities is what set her apart from others.  

 

 

Svengali stars  John Barrymore as the title character. I think that is the only film I've seen with Marion Marsh.

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This is one of the more interesting topics that come up in classic films discussions.

 

There is the well publicized Bogart vs. Raft where Raft passed up roles that Bogart turned into film history. Bogart is normally placed near the top (or at the top) of most greatest actor polls . While Raft ended up a Casino greeter. Studios can't make you a star if you turn down great roles.

 

Then there is "Every Sunday (1936) " Starring Judy Garland and Deanna Durbin. MGM was using this film to decide who to keep thinking they didn't need two young "girl singers".

 

I saw a documentary on this (could have been here on TCM) where it was said that "while Durbin was the better pure singer, Garland's singing had more personality. And they felt she would be more versatile. Durbin became a big star in her own right. But, not to the level of Judy Garland.

 

I'm also interested in those the studios gambled on and didn't work out. Thinking they had "it" and turns out the public thought otherwise. 

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Re: Blythe Danner.  I wonder why her daughter Gwyneth Paltrow became such a big star.  She doesn't do anything for me.  I don't see why Gwyneth has "it" but her mother doesn't.

 

Well Blythe put her career on semi-hold to be a mother. She turned down film offers if they required heavy location work so she could stay home with the kids.

 

The irony of this is that while it deprived Blythe of a bigger star career, it did give us Gwyneth...

 

These days however, do actors really have to have "it"?

 

It seems like nowadays, they're just playing roulette to see which flavor of the month will be a success.  So many of the stars these days are interchangeable.

 

As I alluded to before, there are few if any box office draws left. The stars today are franchises, not actors. This era we've been a part of, where people cared about what person played the role, seems to be heading toward the final fade out...

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I saw a documentary on this (could have been here on TCM) where it was said that "while Durbin was the better pure singer, Garland's singing had more personality. And they felt she would be more versatile. Durbin became a big star in her own right. But, not to the level of Judy Garland.

 

I'm not an expert on D. Durbin (far from it), but I believe at her height, she may have been a bigger B.O. star than Garland ever was. I know she is credited with saving Universal from bankruptcy after the B.O. debacle of Sutter's Gold.

 

For whatever reason DD seems to have been forgotten by posterity. This is not a new phenomenon. I recall seeing James Coco on the Tonight Show in the late '70s. He'd recently been to the Soviet Union and to show how out of date people there were, he mentioned they were "very big on Deanna Durbin pictures". At that point I not only had never seen DD but I had never even heard of her -- and I was fairly well-informed about old movies, for a teenager of the time.

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When you say a star has "it", the word that comes to my mind is charisma. Cary Grant has it. George Raft does not. What's fascinating to me is, does an actor generate this charisma through his training, is it naturally a part of his personality in real life, or does it help that he gets the right scripts, or has the right directors?

 

Some stars have such a passion for their craft that they put everything into their roles, and you believe them because THEY believe them.

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This is one of the more interesting topics that come up in classic films discussions.

 

There is the well publicized Bogart vs. Raft where Raft passed up roles that Bogart turned into film history. Bogart is normally placed near the top (or at the top) of most greatest actor polls . While Raft ended up a Casino greeter. Studios can't make you a star if you turn down great roles.

 

 

...or can't act, like Raft.(or as I call the guy, "The Other Great Stone Face after Keaton")

 

Now, the actors I could never understand weren't bigger stars are:

 

Treat Williams

Paul Le Mat

John Cusack

Judy Davis

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When you say a star has "it", the word that comes to my mind is charisma. Cary Grant has it. George Raft does not. What's fascinating to me is, does an actor generate this charisma through his training, is it naturally a part of his personality in real life, or does it help that he gets the right scripts, or has the right directors?

 

Some stars have such a passion for their craft that they put everything into their roles, and you believe them because THEY believe them.

That's why some character actors who never played the lead roles are still beloved.

 

I always smile when I see Eric Blore in a film.

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I've never heard of Marian Marsh! I'll need to look out for the two films you mentioned to see her in action.  When Bette Davis first started out, Warners didn't know what to do with her.  They gave her the platinum hair--almost like they were trying to make their own Jean Harlow.  I actually really liked her in 1932's Three on a Match, but it was a small role and she definitely did not have the Bette Davis persona that we're all accustomed to.  It wasn't until Human Bondage in 1934 (I think this may have been the film you were thinking of) where she demonstrated her real skill as an actress.  She also appeared in Fog Over Frisco in the same year and showed that she had a bit of a femme fatale side to her.  Finally, this got the ball rolling and she was on her way.  I think another reason that Davis succeeded when so many of her peers did not is because she fought Warners tooth and nail for decent roles and would endure as many suspensions as it took to not get saddled with bad roles.  Davis explained to Dick Cavett in a 1971 interview that I watched, that unlike many of her peers, she wasn't concerned with her salary.  She wanted good parts.  She said something to the effect that "the money will come when you get the good parts."  Perhaps Davis' difference in priorities is what set her apart from others.  

 

EDIT: Okay.  I'm doing research on Marian Marsh.  She was 93 when she died, fairly recently (in 2006).  She did appear in Five Star Final, which I do have on my DVR.  I'll need to prioritize that film and watch it.  She also appeared in Hell's Angels under a different name--Marilyn Morgan.  From reading her bio on imdb, her film Under 18 (1931) was a critical failure.  She was disappointed and exhausted and rebelled against her studio bosses.  They retaliated by not picking up her option and cancelling her contract.  It sounds like she managed to get some decent parts with Columbia later on but when her contract with them expired, she went onto Republic Pictures where she signed up for some second rate films which basically put the nail in the coffin as far as her career was concerned.  It sounds like even if studios didn't decide specifically who would catch on and who wouldn't, they did know how to break a possible star if that person doesn't play along.

 

Well, Bette didn't play along in that (as you point out) she held out for better roles, etc. It could be that Bette was perhaps more intelligent with this type situation and was a better fighter to boot.They couldn't break her.

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I've never heard of Marian Marsh! I'll need to look out for the two films you mentioned to see her in action.  

 

EDIT: Okay.  I'm doing research on Marian Marsh.  She was 93 when she died, fairly recently (in 2006).  She did appear in Five Star Final, which I do have on my DVR.  I'll need to prioritize that film and watch it.  She also appeared in Hell's Angels under a different name--Marilyn Morgan.  From reading her bio on imdb, her film Under 18 (1931) was a critical failure.  She was disappointed and exhausted and rebelled against her studio bosses.  They retaliated by not picking up her option and cancelling her contract.  It sounds like she managed to get some decent parts with Columbia later on but when her contract with them expired, she went onto Republic Pictures where she signed up for some second rate films which basically put the nail in the coffin as far as her career was concerned.  It sounds like even if studios didn't decide specifically who would catch on and who wouldn't, they did know how to break a possible star if that person doesn't play along.

Oh, she was in Five Star Final? I have seen it, though I don't remember her name.  I do recognize the name Marilyn Morgan, however.

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...or can't act, like Raft.(or as I call the guy, "The Other Great Stone Face after Keaton")

 

Now, the actors I could never understand weren't bigger stars are:

 

Treat Williams

Paul Le Mat

John Cusack

Judy Davis

Paul Le Mat?

 

What was he in?  I don't know the name!?

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Personally I think George Raft has far more screen presence than either  of those blandies Treat Williams or John Cusack. I'm especially mystified by Cusack's decades-long career. I can only presume he's some sort of brilliant behind-the-scenes player like Warren Beatty.

 

Raft is quite enjoyable in one of my favorite studio-era entertainments, the underappreciated Spawn of the North -- an uncredited reworking of The Virginian, but IMHO more fun than the somewhat creaky early talkie with Coop ("Smile when you say that").

 

Raft may not have had much range, but within his comfort zone he generally gave value. Though I will admit, thank the Lord he turned down Double Indemnity.

 

 

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Paul Le Mat?

 

What was he in?  I don't know the name!?

 

In the big hit AMERICAN GRAFFITI and which would springboard many a young actor's career such as Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard and Cindy Williams...Le Mat played the James Dean-like John Milner character who cruises around in his yellow Deuce Coupe hot rod....

 

paullemate28d3849.jpg

 

***edit to follow***

 

Looks like Lawrence beat me to the reply here.

 

;)

Edited by Dargo
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This is one of the more interesting topics that come up in classic films discussions.

 

There is the well publicized Bogart vs. Raft where Raft passed up roles that Bogart turned into film history. Bogart is normally placed near the top (or at the top) of most greatest actor polls . While Raft ended up a Casino greeter. Studios can't make you a star if you turn down great roles.

 

Then there is "Every Sunday (1936) " Starring Judy Garland and Deanna Durbin. MGM was using this film to decide who to keep thinking they didn't need two young "girl singers".

 

I saw a documentary on this (could have been here on TCM) where it was said that "while Durbin was the better pure singer, Garland's singing had more personality. And they felt she would be more versatile. Durbin became a big star in her own right. But, not to the level of Judy Garland.

 

I'm also interested in those the studios gambled on and didn't work out. Thinking they had "it" and turns out the public thought otherwise.

 

Deanna Durbin was just as big a star as was Garland during their parallel careers in the late 30s and the 40s. The difference is that Durbin walked away, decided she wanted nothing more to do with a public life. Of course, Judy became a legend after being fired by MGM, amd she started doing concert tours. She remained in the public eye, on stage, in movies, and on tv.

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