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.