There’a a wonderful artist out there, Joe Phillips, doing great posters of what classic film stars would look like as comic book heroes.
If you’d like to see more, or order his posters, contact the following link.
There’a a wonderful artist out there, Joe Phillips, doing great posters of what classic film stars would look like as comic book heroes.
If you’d like to see more, or order his posters, contact the following link.
At first glance a cut-rate Hollywood version of Marilyn Monroe, she has confounded Hollywood watchers in recent years because she was more — skilled both promotionally and as a thespian (doubters should check out her earliest movies).
Jayne Mansfield made a big imprint in Hollywood during the Fifties and Sixties, the dying days of the old studio system. She famously held court in Beverly Hills, in a pink, Spanish-style mansion complete with heart-shaped pool and master bed. Media were invited non-stop.
Alas, the goal of “improving herself” was elusive. Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox both explored her career potential and found it wanting. Mansfield was reduced to making exploitation pictures in Europe. Her end came much too soon.
How much did you actually know about this fascinating Hollywood comet? Let’s take a look at the answers to our Monday Quiz (to review the questions, just scroll down to the blog below), and find out.
1) Answer: Mansfield’s real name was a) Vera Palmer. Jayne was her middle name. Emma Matzo was Lizabeth Scott’s original monicker; Virginia McMath was Ginger Rogers; and Bette Perske belonged to Lauren Bacall.
2) Answer: b) Mickey Hargitay.
3) Answer: b) Columbia Pictures’ tidy 1957 film noir, The Burglar, has a less-flashy Mansfield portraying a somewhat innocent young woman under the protection of hardened criminal Dan Duryea. The picture proved Mansfield could act and landed her a studio contract. The picture itself wasn’t so lucky. It had a troubled releasing history and didn’t hit theaters until a full two years after its completion. It’s still worth checking out.
4) Answer: d) Sophia Loren, who had just arrived in Hollywood and was being feted at Romanoff’s restaurant in 1957. Loren later recalled: A tipsy Mansfield sat next to her at a table and started talking — it was like a volcano erupting. As she got more and more worked up, suddenly I found one of her breasts on my plate. I looked up at her, terrified. She barely noticed, regained her composure, and left. One especially quick reporter took a picture of the scene, and the image went around the world.
5) Answer: b) False. Mansfield was no dummy. She supposedly possessed an 163 I.Q. and could speak foreign languages.
6) Answer: a) Anne Baxter.
7) Answer: a) True. Mansfield posed nude for Playboy at least twice.
8) Answer: Jayne Mansfield, who starred in both the 1955 stage version and 1957 film adaptation of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter.
9) Answer: b) Mansfield’s friend and sister sexpot, Mamie Van Doren.
10) Answer: Actress Mariska Hargitay, Mansfield’s fourth offspring courtesy of second husband, Mickey Hargitay.
Her A-list contemporaries dismissed her as a no-talent, publicity-seeking sexpot. Bette Davis famously remarked that her definition of “dramatic art” was knowing how to fill a sweater.
She died early — at age 34 — in a grisly automobile crash that still fascinates the more ghoulish element of Hollywood savants. Her good looks and her career (comprising some 35 movie and tv credits) are still celebrated by recent generations of fans including at least one rock group and a heavy metal ensemble.
She battled the bottle during much of her career, married three times and mothered five children. I didn’t come to Hollywood to be the girl next door, she pronounced. I came to be a movie star. And for much of the mid-Fifties through the Sixties, she was.
So how much do you know or recall about Jayne Mansfield. Let’s try our Monday Quiz to find out. As usual, questions today, answers tomorrow.
1) Question: What was Jayne Mansfield’s real name? a) Vera Palmer; b) Emma Matzo; c) Virginia McMath; or d) Betty Perske.
2) Question: Which of Mansfield’s husbands was a bodybuilder who adorned Mae West’s muscleman Las Vegas act? a) Matt Cimber; b) Mickey Hargitay; c) Paul Mansfield; or d) Sam Brody.
3) Question: Which one of the following film noir titles is said to have launched Mansfield’s acting career? a) The Killers; b) The Burglar; c) Nightmare Alley; or d) The Night Runner.
4) Question: Mansfield famously showcased her generous cleavage (see photo above) at a Hollywood soiree scandalizing which one of the following attendees? a) Gene Kelly; b) Barbara Stanwyck; c) Fred Astaire; or d) Sophia Loren.
5) Question: Mansfield played the dumb blonde with such fidelity because she really was dumb, that is, not very intelligent offscreen. a) True; or b) False?
6) Question: Mansfield was signed by 20th Century Fox in order to continue a line of famous female studio actresses with broad box office appeal. Which one of the following does NOT fit that description. a) Anne Baxter; b) Betty Grable; c) Alice Faye; or d) Marilyn Monroe.
7) Question: Mansfield was one of the few big studio actresses of her time to pose nude for Playboy magazine. a) True; or b) False?
8) Question: Mansfield’s 1957 movie, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter, was based on a Broadway play by George Axelrod. Who played Mansfield’s role in the original stage version?
9) Question: After substituting for a name female personality at a Biloxi, Mississippi supper club engagement, Mansfield took her last drive (her car careened into the back of a trailer truck some 20 miles outside New Orleans). The question is: who was Mansfield substituting for? a) Diana Dors; b) Mamie Van Doren; c) Marilyn Maxwell; or d) Cleo Moore.
10) Question: Can you name Mansfield’s famous offspring, who has a regular role on the NBC crime drama Law & order: Special Victims Unit?
She has done more for Italy than Pizza and Pasta combined. That’s an exaggeration of course, but not much of one.
Sophia Loren is Italy’s most prominent international star, and has been for some time. She was born in a hospital ward for unwed mothers in Rome in 1934, and raised in a fatherless household in the tiny town of Pozzuoli, abutting Naples, a locale whose spirited vitality infused countless performances in Loren’s lengthy career (nearly 95 credits to date and counting).
As a young girl, Sophia recalls being shunned at least partially because of her appearance.
Because I was very dark and also really skinny, everyone called me Toothpick, Loren wrote in her most readable 2014 memoir, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life.
But just before she turned 15, I suddenly found myself living inside a curving, glowing body … Whenever I walked down the streets of Pozzuoli, the boys would turn around and whistle after me.
In 1949, Loren also found herself being judged in a beauty contest to pick Queen of the Sea and her 12 Princesses. The idea was to parade the winning ensemble throughout the local streets as a morale boost to Neapolitans still recovering from the devastation wrought by World War II. The newly curvaceous Sophia was chosen as one of the Princesses.
Other beauty pageants followed. In one Loren was ceremonially “godmothered” by another Italian actress with Hollywood ambitions, Gina Lollobrigida. (Lollo much later said that Sophia and her press agents started this “rivalry with me — and she hasn’t stopped for 50 years.”) We are skeptical of that claim.
By the early Fifties, Loren began working her way to the movies. At first by modeling assignments interspersed with fan magazine covers under the name of “Sofia Lazzaro” (the “Loren” came later, a variation on the surname of Swedish actress Marta Toren). She was fortunate in that Italian movie production was flourishing then — thanks to box office receipts racked up by Hollywood films playing in Italy.
The Italian government’s decision to freeze the earnings garnered by American films meant that Hollywood had to come to Italy to spend the proceeds on new, locally-filmed productions. The currency mandate sparked at least two decades of Italian film prosperity, the rebirth of the famed Cinecitta Studios outside Rome. The locale soon became known as “Hollywood on the Tiber.”
It was at about this time that the 17-year-old Loren first encountered a 39-year-old lawyer and film producer on the rise, Carlo Ponti. Both personally and professionally, it was the meeting of her life. Right from the start he conveyed a wonderful feeling of assurance and familiarity , as if we had always known each other, the actress recalled.
Despite Ponti’s earlier marriage still in force, the two commenced living together in 1957, setting off an enormous stink in an official Italy opposed to divorce much less bigamy. This was no joke. Loren and Ponti were for legal reasons forced to move to Paris for a lengthy spell and then to Switzerland. The pair finally tied the knot officially in 1966, and remained married until Ponti’s death in 2007.
After catching the notice of various Hollywood producers, Loren embarked on the Hollywood phase of her career in April of 1957. Among other things, she was greeted by the sight of a slightly inebriated Jayne Mansfield at an industry party sitting next to her and talking excitedly when suddenly, I found one of her breasts in my plate. I looked up at her terrified.
Then there was Alan Ladd, with whom she costarred in 1957′s Boy on a Dolphin and who was nearly three inches shorter than Sophia — so to shoot many of the scenes, he had to stand on a stool…it made him suffer.
Loren was proposed to by Cary Grant, and found herself transfixed by a “perfect” Clark Gable, her costar in 1959′s It Started In Naples.
So perfect that when five in the afternoon came around…it was over, and that he (Gable) could leave the scene midway through and just take off.
Besides Ponti, the man in her life who shaped her most creatively was director Vittorio DeSica, with whom she made 14 films including 1963′s Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow during which Loren famously performs a strip tease for the benefit of her favorite costar, the late Marcello Mastroianni.
It was DeSica who guided Loren through what is her best movie, 1960′s Two Women, which won Sophia a best actress Academy Award. If you can only see one Loren movie, make it this one.
It was the late DeSica who gave a teenage Sophia her first big acting break. I owed him so much, she wrote. In his hands, as with Ponti’s, Sophia felt completely safe.
Today we zip so easily from London to Paris or Brussels using the Chunnel that we forget what a marvel it is. And yet visionaries not only envisioned a tunnel under the English Channel, but indeed a tunnel across the Atlantic.
Michel Verne, the son of Jules Verne wrote about such an idea in a short story, Un Express de l’avenir (An Express of the Future,) way back in 1888. The Strand magazine in England reprinted the story but attributed it to Jules Verne in 1895.
Then in 1913 German writer Bernhard Kellerman published his novel, Der Tunnel. It was made into a silent film. Then in 1933 two sound films were made based on the novel, one German and one French. Curtis Bernhardt, who’d become quite famous when he emigrated to Hollywood, directed both.
The Brits decided to try their hand at the story. Sidney Gilliat‘s adaptation was dropped and eventually a script was written by Clemence Dane, Curt Siodmak, and others. The British wisely decided to cast Americans in some of the leads and got Richard Dix (whose career was waning) Madge Evans and Helen Vinson.
Leslie Banks and C. Aubrey Smith were added and the producers got Walter Huston to portray the American President and George Arliss to play the Prime Minister.
It’s sci fi 30s style. Melodramatic and camp, but a real look into what people thought the future would hold. There’s even a reference in the film (made in 1935) that the tunnel under the English Channel was completed in 1940. And who knows, if the War hadn’t intervened maybe it would have been. After all the Holland Tunnel had opened in 1927 and the Lincoln Tunnel in 1937.
In England the film was titled The Tunnel, but, of course, in America it was retitled The Transatlantic Tunnel. And you will note the poster adds from New York to London.
Recently we discussed Splendor in the Grass, the film with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty and alluded to their on screen chemistry. Of course they were having a torrid affair while making the movie, and it continued for some time.
There are dozens of examples of co-stars taking the love scenes they’re playing to a more secluded spot than the soundstage. It started us thinking about some classic affairs between co-stars and stars and their directors, which sometimes almost wrecked marriages.
Below are pictured Patricia Neal and Gary Cooper who in the late 40s had one of the steamiest affairs going. But he wouldn’t leave his wife for her.
Ingrid Bergman would leave her husband, Peter Lindstrom, even give him custody of their daughter Pia, but he wouldn’t let her. She’d fallen for her director, the Italian genius Roberto Rossellini. After she had their child, Robertino, Lindstrom finally relented and gave her a divorce. (How complicated all this is!)
Rita Hayworth was between husbands when she and Glenn Ford got romantic off screen as well as on. But he was married to Eleanor Powell, who’d given up her career for him and had just had their son Peter. Rita and Glenn remained friends, even drinking buddies, until her death.
Did you know about her performances in some of the leading Film Noir classics such as the one that inspired the picture above (with John Payne in 1952′s Kansas City Confidential)?
She was called “the most utilitarian of Dark City dames” by film noir scholar Eddie Muller. She was that and more.
Our Monday Quiz is designed to provide you with perhaps a tad more information about Gray that you already possessed. To review the questions, just scroll down to the blog below.
Now to our answers:
1) Answer: Not sure what this bit of dialogue means since Gray was both pretty and smart. In any case, it comes from (c) 1956′s The Killing in which she plays Sterling Hayden’s confused sweetheart.
2) Answer: b) False. Gray was born in 1922 in Staplehurst, Nebraska. She studied acting at Hamline Univ. in St.Paul, Minnesota, then migrated to California where she caught the attention of studio scouts. Her family was solid but not exactly affluent nor sophisticated.
3) Answer: Gray worked a ton on tv from early on in her career, especially in (a) the Perry Mason series in the mid-Sixties.
4) Answer: d) Charles McGraw. She worked with Tyrone Power in 1947′s Nightmare Alley, with Montgomery Clift in 1948′s Red River. And with John Payne (see above).
5) Answer: Gray’s first husband was Rod Amateau, a tv producer-director who worked a lot in the Fifties and supervised The Burns and Allen Show. He later had a hand in producing Dukes of Hazard.
6) Answer: a) Doris Jensen. The other choices are the birth names of, respectively, Ann Miller, Rita Hayworth and Joan Crawford.
7) Answer: b) Alfred Hitchcock.
8) Answer: All three film noir vixens were registered Republicans.
9) Answer: Lee van Cleef.
10) Answer: Anne Baxter. The picture was 1971′s The Late Liz.
She may not be as revered today as her noir sisters (such as Lizabeth Scott, Gloria Grahame or Jane Greer) but she played in the Forties and Fifties key roles in some of the biggest and nastiest genre titles ever made.
She also worked extensively outside of noir arena with some of classic Hollywood’s sturdiest directors. So, let’s see how much you know about one of our favorite noir dames, one who could turn on the nastiness or the charm in the blink of an eye.
As usual questions today and answers tomorrow. Here we go:
1) Question: In which one of the following titles did Gray say, “I may not be pretty and I may not be smart”? a) Kiss of Death; b) State Fair; c) The Killing; or d) The Sleeping City.
2) Question: In fact, Gray was pretty and smart, a highly sophisticated product of an affluent midwestern family. a) True; b) False?
3) Question: From mid-career on, Gray made a ton of tv appearances. Which one of the following tube series was she most identified with? a) Perry Mason; b) The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet; c) McLoud; or d) The Virginian.
4) Question: Which one of the following was NOT among Gray’s leading men? a) Tyrone Power; b) John Payne; c) Montgomery Clift; or d) Charles McGraw.
5) Question: Gray’s first of three husbands was a famous tv director with ties to George Burns and Gracie Allen. Can you name him?
6) Question: Which one of the following is the name that Coleen Gray was born with? a) Doris Jensen; b) Johnnie Collier; c) Rita Cansino; or d) Lucille LeSueur.
7) Question: Which one of these directors did Gray NOT work with? a) Howard Hawks; b) Alfred Hitchcock; c) Stanley Kubrick; or d) Edmund Goulding.
8) Question: Coleen Gray share one notable personal characteristic with our previous two Monday Quiz subject, Marie Windsor and Audrey Totter. What is it?
9) Question: One of Gray’s male costars in 1952′s Kansas City Confidential went on to international stardom thanks to the roles he played alongside Clint Eastwood in “spaghetti westerns” directed by Sergio Leone. Can you name him?
10) Question: In the early Seventies, Gray costarred with this famous actress in an MGM melodrama about religion and alcohol. Can you name this famous actress? (Hint: Think The Magnificent Ambersons).
As we noted yesterday playwright and novelist William Inge also wrote screenplays. It was natural that Hollywood would woo such a successful writer to the big screen. His most famous original screenplay, for which he won the Oscar, was Splendor in the Grass.
Like all of Inge’s work it is set in the Midwest (Kansas) and is based on people he knew.When he was working with director Elia Kazan on Broadway doing Dark at the Top of the Stairs in 1957 he related the tale of sexually repressed youngsters in the 1920s to the director.
He had already written a teleplay titled Glory in the Flower, about two middle-aged former lovers who meet again briefly at a diner after a long estrangement. But Kazan suggested the story should be about the lovers, Bus and Jackie, when they were young and in the throes of the sexual repression which ruins their lives. The director and writer decided to work on it together. First Inge wrote it as a novel, then as a screenplay. Splendor in the Grass was reborn.
Just like Glory from the Flower, the film’s title is taken from a line from a poem by William Wordsworth.
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.
A few years before Inge had encountered Warren Beatty when he starred on Broadway in Inge’s one flop play, A Loss of Roses. Beatty was perfect for the sexy young boy, now renamed Bud, and Kazan cast Natalie Wood as the sexually repressed girl, now named Deanie. Their chemistry was explosive and the film sizzled. They also sizzled off-screen.
It was Beatty’s screen debut and he became an overnight star. Wood was nominated for an Oscar (she lost to Sophia Loren in Two Women). Sandy Dennis made her film debut as well and so did Phyllis Diller, who played Texas Guinan.
It is a classic and not to be missed.
The other notable screenplay by Inge is All Fall Down, adapted from a novel by James Leo Herilhy. Again it stars Beatty, this time opposite Eva Marie Saint and supported by Angela Lansbury and Brandon deWilde. Another classic film. Great script, fine performances.
Inge’s last screen effort, Bus Riley’s Back in Town, was not a hit. Apparently there were so many changes to his script to highlight the character played by Ann-Margaret, that Inge had his name removed from the credits.
Inge turned to writing novels. Always a tortured soul. He had been in AA for years and was dealing with not accepting his homosexuality. He committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning at age 60 in 1973. But his body of work remains and makes him one of the most influential playwrights of the second half of the 20th Century.
He was one of the most successful playwrights of the 1950s and all of his hit plays were made into hit movies. William Inge won the Pulitzer Prize (for Picnic) and he later won an Oscar. TV star Kyra Sedgwick is taking one of his lesser known works to The Williamstown Theatre Festival this summer.
The William Inge Center for the Arts is based in Independence Kansas, Inge’s hometown. Those who study the works of this prolific playwright, who committed suicide in 1973, say that this play, Off the Man Road, was probably written in the early 60s. Inge was a man of many talents, a novelist and screenwriter. He’d adapted this work for a TV drama, Out on the Outskirts of Town, which aired in 1964. It starred Anne Bancroft and Jack Warden.
This new interest in Inge prompted us to review the films made from his plays. Surprisingly most are memorable and can be considered classics. There’s Come Back Little Sheba, which launched Shirley Booth‘s film career and garnered her an Oscar. Then came Picnic, Bus Stop and Dark at the Top of the Stairs. All had been hits on Broadway and all were made into artistic and commercially successful films.
Although William Holden (37 at the time) was too old for the lead in Picnic — the young hunk should be 24 or 25 — he gave a good performance and the film didn’t suffer because of his age. Kim Novak was superb as the pretty but rather dull beauty queen. (See Holden and Novak above.) And all the supporting actors are terrific.
Bus Stop gave Marilyn Monroe a chance to prove she could really act, not just coo and pucker. And if you haven’t seen Dark at the Top of the Stairs you have a treat in store. It’s the sort of drama that isn’t made anymore. It captures the spirit of the time (the 20s) and the place (the Midwest) and the emotions of the ordinary people who lived then and there.
Inge, in fact, became known as “The Playwright of the Midwest” since all of his stories were about small town life in America’s heartland.
His play A Loss of Roses was not successful. The story of an older out of work actress who falls for her best friend’s son had flopped on Broadway. 2oth Century Fox still wanted to make the film with Monroe and Pat Boone as the young boy. (Warren Beatty had played the part on stage.) Boone refused and the project languished until Joanne Woodward accepted the role. Richard Beymer was cast as the boy. Retitled The Stripper, the film bombed. But it seemed a blip in an otherwise stunning career.
But by the 1960s Inge was successfully writing screenplays.
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