These were taken around the time the two worked together.
Like Sidney Greenstreet, Laird Cregar was a big man — standing 6-feet-three-inches tall, and weighing as much as 300 pounds — with a powerful voice. He was tailormade for costumes dramas, swashbucklers and, best of all, a creepy film noir or two. He was heading for an exceptional career in the early 1940s.
But something unexpected happened — he died, at age 31. His film, career almost exclusively at 20th Century Fox, covered 16 titles in just five years, 1940 to 1945.
Unlike Greenstreet, Cregar never graduated over time from strong character actor to top-of-the-line star. Still, he had a principal role right alongside Fox heavyweight Tyrone Power in 1942′s The Black Swan . With the Alan Ladd-Veronica Lake duo, he appeared in This Gun For Hire
Laird became one of Hollywood most reliable heavies. Check him out in the excellent 1941 Fox noir, I Wake Up Screaming, co-starring Victor Mature, Carole Landis and Betty Grable in her first and only non-musical role. Cregar all-too-convincingly plays the creepy villain.
His last movie outing in 1945 was in Hanover Square, paired this time with Linda Darnell. He died of heart failure following surgery for an intestinal ailment. Cregar’s overburdened his system trying to lose a large amount of weight in a very short period. A richly promising career was over much too quickly.
Everyone acquainted with Hollywood lore knows about the “feud” between sisters Olivia deHavilland and Joan Fontaine. But another set of famous sisters, June Havoc and Gyspy Rose Lee also had a contentious relationship.
But no matter what, sisters, it seems, always stick together when it counts. It’s known that Joan came through when Olivia needed financial help. And June told a funny story about Lousie (Gypsy). June was once hospitalized and Gypsy came to visit. “Listen, ” she said, “I’ve written a check just in case you need anything. I’m putting it right in this drawer. And don’t worry, I’m only charing you 6% interest, better than you’d get at any bank.”
Oh course, Gypsy was known to have a great sense of humor. But when she told the story Havoc wasn’t kidding.
He stood over six feet tall — in the Forties an estimable stature — was blond, blue-eyed and considered “dashing and utterly masculine.”
When Marlene Dietrich complained that the male costars she was assigned lacked in the masculine department, our man Brian Aherne was called in. He and Dietrich sparked onscreen — and off. The result was that Aherne became one of classic Hollywood’s hotter romantic leads.
He had a long career in Hollywood (from the mid-Thirties to the mid-Sixties) preceded by films in England (both silent and talkies) and extensive work trodding the boards on both sides of the pond.
So how much did you know about Brian Aherne. After our Quiz, we hope, a lot more. As usual to review the questions just scroll down to the blog below. Here we go:
1) Answer: c) Marlene Dietrich, Aherne’s costar in her fifth Hollywood movie, 1933′s The Song of Songs. The two clicked onscreen and off, and Aherne’s career got a big boost.
2) Answer: b) False. Fellow Brit George Sanders was Aherne’s closest friend in Hollywood. In 1979, Aherne brought out a book he wrote about the former, who was renowned his dyspeptic manner. The book’s title: A Dreadful Man: A Personal Intimate Book About George Sanders. It was a sympathetic remembrance of his pal.
3) Answer: d) Annette Funicello.
4) Answer: As mentioned, d) Marlene Dietrich.
5) Answer: a) Rosalind Russell. She and Aherne costarred in four movies: Hired Wife, My Sister Eileen, What A Woman and Rosie.
6) Answer: a) True. In her 1978 memoir, No Bed of Roses, Joan Fontaine recalled that while she was a guest at a cocktail party at Aherne’s Hollywood house, she was approached by another guest who told fortunes. You are going to marry your host, Fontaine was told. Sure enough, within a week we were engaged. Within seven weeks we were married.
7) Answer: c) Fontaine, who was the first of Aherne’s two wives. The marriage ran from 1939 to 1945. The second, to Eleanor de Liagre Labrot, was longer, from 1946 to Aherne’s death in 1986.
8) Answer: 1939′s Juarez starring Paul Muni and Bette Davis. Aherne played Emperor Maximillian.
9) Answer: a) True. Joan Fontaine’s entanglement with Howard Hughes, still the handsome, shy millionaire, shadowed her planned wedding to Aherne. Finally, Hughes confronted Fontaine, declared his affections and told her that marrying Aherne would be a huge mistake. As time would tell, Hughes may not have been far off the mark.
10) Answer: b) nearly 35.
Brian who, you ask? We can’t say we blame you.
In the grand scheme of classic Hollywood, Brian Aherne was a relatively minor player. A refined Brit, a centerpiece of Hollywood’s famed English disapora during World War II, Aherne was a solid supporting player from the Thirties until the Fifties and Sixties.
He is perhaps best remembered today for the first woman he married (we’ll get to that shortly in our Quiz). There was no mistaking the respect for his talent. Aherne excelled on London and Broadway stages, in British-made films and some pretty good Hollywood ones. And, he was nominated for an Oscar.
You may not know a lot about Brian Aherne, but after you have some fun (we hope) taking today’s Monday Quiz, you’ll know more. As usual, questions today and answers tomorrow. Here we go:
1) Question: Aherne made a big Hollywood splash in the early Thirties playing a young sculptor in loved with a nude artists’ model. Which one of the following played the part of the latter? a) Hedy Lamarr; b) Joan Crawford; c) Marlene Dietrich; or d) Joan Fontaine.
2) Question: In addition to being a solid actor, Aherne was also an author who penned a nasty book about fellow Englishman George Sanders, whom he couldn’t stand. a) True; or b) False?
3) Question: The long list of Aherne leading ladies does NOT include which one of the following. a) Helen Hayes; b) Grace Kelly; c) Merle Oberon; or d) Annette Funicello.
4) Question: Which one of the following actresses shared passionate love scenes with Aherne off-screen as well as on. a) Joan Fontaine; b) Carole Lombard; c) Loretta Young; or d) Marlene Dietrich.
5) Question: Which one of the following actresses was the most frequent Aherne leading lady? a) Rosalind Russell; b) Bette Davis; c) Katharine Hepburn; or d) Loretta Young.
6) Question: On the advice of a fortune teller, Aherne got engaged to his first wife a week after meeting her for the first time. a) True; or b) False?
7) Question: Which one of the following actually was Aherne’s first wife? a) Olivia de Havilland; b) Eleanor de Liagre Labrot; c) Joan Fontaine; or d) Madeleine Carroll.
8) Question: Can you name the title of the movie which resulted in Aherne’s Oscar nomination in the best supporting actor category?
9) Question: Aherne’s first wife initially hesitated about romancing the actor because she was romantically entangled with Howard Hughes. a) True; or b) False?
10) Question: How many Hollywood movies did Aherne actually make? a) 10; b) nearly 35; c) 20; or d) 82.
You know a film is a classic when someone write an entire book about that movie. Think of books on Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind and Casablanca.
But no film has had more books written about it than Psycho.
Back in 1990 Stephen Rebello published Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. Then one of the stars of the movie got into the act when Janet Leigh (and Christopher Nickens) came out with Psycho: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller in 1995.
Then the floodgates opened. There were 7 more tomes between 2001 and 2010. Then in 2013 a book of 21st Century essays on the film.
Oh, that shower scene.
Nowadays future movie stars get their start on TV — usually in series, sitcoms or soap operas — sometimes in all three — think George Clooney. But in Hollywood’s Golden Age people with talent often had to begin by playing bits in small films. One programmer from 1936, Pigskin Parade, features a number of actors who would go on to super stardom.
The musical from 20th Century Fox starred Stu Erwin, Jack Haley and Patsy Kelly and featured a bunch of youngsters, Dixie Dunbar, Johnny Downs, Betty Grable, Tony Martin (billed as Anthony Martin) and a kid named Judy Garland.
Garland and Grable would go on to become two of the biggest box office draws of all time.
But the film also featured another young actor –though completely unbilled — who would go on to make his mark in movie history. He was a youngster, Elisha Cook Jr., who had a small but pivotal role in the film as a campus intellectual and social agitator. We often think of older character actors but seldom give a thought to how their careers originated. But here we see a young man with potential.
That potential would soon be realized with Cook’s portrayal of the “gunsel” in The Maltese Falcon, and many more years of memorable performances.
Oh yes, that was Roz Russell yesterday.
Last week it was George Montgomery. He was a hunk at 20th during World War II. He was also married to Dinah Shore.
This week we bring you Donald Gordon’s candid snapshot of one of the brightest stars during the war years. She was under contract to Columbia at the same time Donald worked there.
After his retired from a lengthy Hollywood career to his native Malta, Joseph Calleia supposedly told a confident:
Everyone recognizes my face but no one knows my name.
That’s not quite accurate, of course, but it wouldn’t be a bad epitaph for a classic Hollywood supporting player for over 30 years. Calleia excelled at playing gangsters, cops and ethnic roles. His career didn’t start out that way. He was a talented singer-composer, and toured throughout Europe during World War I. (He was born in Malta in 1897.)
Singing engagements took him to London, and by 1926, he found himself in New York and playing on Broadway as an actor. His Hollywood career began in the early 30′s, and he worked a lot. Any picture was strengthened by the presence of Calleia in the cast.
With out Monday Quiz, we’ve asked you to identify 10 of Calleia’s some 60 titles. (To review our questions, just scroll down to the blog below.) Now let’s get to today’s answers:
1) Answer: 1938′s Algiers.
2) Answer: 1958′s Touch of Evil.
3) Answer: 1940′s My Little Chicadee.
4) Answer: 1939′s Golden Boy.
5) Answer: 1939′s Juarez.
6) Answer: 1942′s The Glass Key.
7) Answer: 1946′s Gilda.
8) Answer: 1948′s Four Faces West.
9) Answer: 1939′s Full Confession.
10) Answer: 1957′s Wild Is The Wind.
Our recommendation? See them all.
We’re trying something new with our Monday Quiz this time.
We’ve long been fascinated with the great supporting actors of classic Hollywood whose personal backgrounds and offscreen lives remain obscure to the general public but whose faces onscreen are readily if not instantly recognizable.
In the case of male performers, you see them and ask — who is that guy? I’ve seen him a million times.
Our first subject in this format certainly fits that bill.
Joseph Calleia, born in Malta in 1897 (he also died there in 1975 at age 78), began appearing in Hollywood films in the early Thirties, and worked straight up to the late 1960′s. He sometimes approached top billing but usually he played cops, criminals, and various ethnic roles in support of various stars.
Over the course of his career, Calleia appeared on some of Hollywood’s genuine classics. He was a fine actor, and improved anything he was cast in. He was a supporting player in the best sense.
So rather than a focus on personalities, we focus exclusively on their work. In each question we will describe key films relating to our subject, and ask you to identify the titles.
Be careful. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Ok, here we go with the Films of Joseph Calleia. (answers tomorrow):
1) Question: This picture dates from 1938, was produced by Walter Wanger and costars Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr. It’s a remake of a French Jean Gabin showcase, Pepe Le Moko. Calleia plays a character named “Slimane.” What’s the title?
2) Question: This Orson Welles film dates from 1958, and features Calleia prominently as Police Sergeant Pete Menzies, who discovers that his fidelity to Welles’ Capt. Hank Quinlan is fatally misplaced. The title is…?
3) Question: Calleia wasn’t especially known for his comedy performances but here he turns up in support of W.C. Fields and Mae West in this 1940 classic. He is third billed after the two stars, of course. The title is….?
4) Question: William Holden (in his early 20′s) stars in this 1939 film adaptation of a Clifford Odets play about a boxer with musical talent. Barbara Stanwyck is on hand. So is Calleia in his more typical role of a gangster. The title is…?
5) Question: Calleia was sometimes credibly cast in ethnic parts, and here he plays one “Alejandro Uradi” is this 1939 drama coscripted by John Huston. Paul Muni, Bette Davis and John Garfield also show up. The title is..?
6) Question: Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake made some snappy film noirs together, but here they show up with Brian Donlevy and Bonita Granville in this semi-costume drama how politics was practiced in the bad old days. Calleia pays a resentful gambling under boss. Title is…?
7) Question: This 1946 noir classic, starring Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford, has Calleia on the other side of the law, as detective Maurice Obregon. The title is…?
8) Question: Calleia occasionally popped up in a western, and does so here again in an ethnic role as “Monte Marquez.” The stars of this 1948 oater are Joel McCrea, Frances Dee and Charles Bickford. And the title is…?
9) Question: Defying his pattern of playing dubious types or outright criminals, Calleia shows up here in a prominent role as Roman Catholic clergyman “Father Loma.” The star of this 1939 crime drama is Victor McLaglen. The title is…?
10) Question: Calleia was appealing to directors of all sorts of films, and George Cukor chose him for a supporting part in this 1957 prestige item costarring Anthony Quinn and Anna Magnani. Calleia plays “Alberto.” The title is…?