Melyvn Douglas was a true star of Hollywood’s Golden Age, starring opposite Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Irene Dunne, and almost every top leading lady of the 1930s. In addition he is one of the few actors to win what we call “the triple crown” — an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony Award.

He won those awards in his later years, as a character actor and not a leading man. What’s interesting about his career is what he had to do in his “middle years” to earn a living and keep his career alive.

When he returned from serving in World War II (where he achieved the rank of Major) he was no longer considered leading man material and was relegated to secondary roles in films such as The Sea of Grass and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.

When is film career stalled he turned to that “new” medium TV. He starred in a detective series, Steve Randall –Hollywood Offbeat, on the Dumont network. The series was enough of a hit to move to CBS. While with Dumont Douglas even briefly hosted a game show — Blind Date. He tried his hand back on Broadway (where he’d begun in the early 1930s) in a musical version of Juno and the Paycock. It was a flop.

But he had some success hosting a Western TV anthology series, Frontier Justice, which was produced by Dick Powell‘s Four Star Productions.

Then he hit paydirt. He won the Tony Award for his portrayal of ¬†William Russell in Gore Vidal‘s Broadway hit The Best Man.( Henry Fonda would play the part in the film version.)

Now as a character actor Douglas hit his stride. An Oscar for Hud, and another for Being There. And an Emmy to boot for CBS’ Playhouse’s Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night. And he didn’t.

But oh, those middle years.

 

 

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