Yup, there’s our man, Louis Calhern, benignly gazing at the then rising starlet named Marilyn Monroe.
The movie was John Huston’s 1950 opus, The Asphalt Jungle. And contrary to what you might conclude by gazing at this rather bland photo, both Calhern and Monroe were terrific in their parts, imparting superb supporting performances.
He portrays the somewhat stuffy lawyer saddled with an invalid wife, big debts and a shortage of cash. She plays his young mistress with understanding and a certain tenderness.
In addition, Calhern lends a certain sympathy to his character — essentially a spineless, double-crossing crook — whose plight seems plausible to an almost forgivable degree unlike the situations facing the rest of the cast (mostly hardened criminals). And Calhern’s character exits the picture almost honorably.
We’d be delighted if our Louis Calhern Quiz inspires another look at The Asphalt Jungle, and a savoring of actor’s smooth, subtle performance. Now on to our Quiz answers:
1) Question: One of Calhern’s very best roles was that of the shifty lawyer (is that a John Huston’s the tautology?) in John Huston’s superb 1950 film noir, The Asphalt Jungle. The character is the sugar-daddy to which one of the following actresses? a) Virginia Mayo; b) Rhonda Fleming; c) Marilyn Monroe; or d) Diana Dors.
1)Answer: As indicated above, (c) MM.
2) Question: Calhern was nominated for a best actor Oscar for which one of the following titles? a) 1950’s Annie Get Your Gun; b) 1937’s The Life of Emile Zola; c) 1953’s Julius Caesar; or d) 1950’s The Magnificent Yankee.
2) Answer: d) The Magnificent Yankee in which Calhern portrays famed jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes.
3) Question: For six months in the mid-Twenties Calhern was married to his first of four wives, a cultivated actress who would later make her mark on radio and tv. Who is she?
3) Answer: The witty and cultivated actress Ilka Chase, born in 1905 in New York but educated in Europe. Chase had a varied career on the Broadway stage, radio and on tv (she played ‘Aunt Pauline’ in the series, The Patty Duke Show). She is probably best remembered in movies for playing columnist Hedda Hopper in 1955’s Hollywood sendup, The Big Knife.
4) Question: Calhern famously died of a heart attack in Tokyo while making 1956’s The Teahouse of the August Moon. Which one of the following replaced him in the picture? a) Yul Brynner; b) Paul Ford; d) Tom Ewell; or d) Tom Poston.
4) Answer: b) Paul Ford. In May of 1956, Calhern suffered a fatal heart attack while filming The Teahouse of the August Moon in Japan. Ford, who had played Calhern’s part in the original Broadway version of Teahouse stepped in.
5) Question: Calhern is prized for his crisp supporting performance as a spy boss in which one of these Alfred Hitchcock thrillers? a) Topaz; b) Spellbound; c) North By Northwest; or d) Notorious.
5) Answer: d) Notorious.