Yes, here’s another snapshot from our D.G. Collection we want to share with you. Donald’s shots of numerous Hollywood luminaries of the 1940’s were often taken on the run, as was this one. (Check out his shadow on the front jacket of today’s guest star.)
Our man was once one of Hollywood’s leading romantic actors with an appealingly light touch in musicals and comedies with occasional western or drama appearances thrown in. His many costars were some of the classic era’s most memorable figures including Ginger Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck, Eleanor Parker, Doris Day and Sydney Greenstreet.
His name was right up there, rivaling to some extent the star power of the likes of the ubiquitous Joan Crawford. His name above the title could certainly help carry a picture. In short, he was no lightweight.
But why does his name fail to come tripping from the tongue when prominent classic performers are recalled? One of life’s many mysteries, we guess.
Born Earl Stanley Morner in Wisconsin in 1908, he made his first Hollywood movie in the mid-1930’s, and continued making films and tv productions (nearly 80 in total) until his retirement in 1980, 14 years before he died at 85.
A former singer, he fit right in with the kind of light musicals Warner Bros. churned out in the Forties including 1947’s My Wild Irish Rose, the biography of Irish singer Chauncey Olcott. He was directed by Raoul Walsh in the 1947 western, Cheyenne, playing (opposite Jane Wyman) a stage coach robber with a poetic bent.
1949’s It’s a Great Feeling teamed him with a young Doris Day and an actor who would become his frequent screen sidekick, Jack Carson, another unjustly overlooked stalwart.
Carson is spared our man’s contemporary obscurity if only for his amiably sleazy businessman turn as “Wally Fay” — his finest role — in the 1945 version of Mildred Pierce. That classic showcased him as a star going toe-to-toe with Joan Crawford with Carson holding his own impressively.
Our man was by nature a “light” actor, and had no such dramatic breakthrough. He came across as a handsome charmer with good humor and manners to match, a genuinely nice guy with a pleasant singing voice.
If you see only one of his films make it 1943’s The Hard Way, in which he costars with Ida Lupino, Joan Leslie and his pal, Jack Carson. Directed by Vincent Sherman, it’s a stage-mom-on-the-loose melodrama with music.
Offscreen, the actor was the model of domestic stability, married to his wife Lillian Vedder for 61 years. Should we be cynical enough to suggest that no temperament, no scandal, no angst equals no star-name longevity?
To help you indentify our guy, check out the autographed studio photograph below. (We prefer Donald Gordon’s raw authenticity).
Who is our guest star? None other than Dennis Morgan.