How much did you REALLY know about Herbert Marshall?
Yesterday we extolled the British-born actor’s subtlety and skill opposite Bette Davis’ potent theatrics in William Wyler’s film noir/melodrama, The Letter. (There’s our man pictured center above staring down Davis in a key scene.)
However, to see another, chillier aspect of Marshall’s acting repertoire check out a curious 1947 film noir from an unusual source (MGM, which did not excel in the genre) and a star rarely seen in noirs (Robert Taylor). The picture has a forgettably bland title — High Wall — and it has Taylor playing a decorated war vet with mental problems who confesses to strangling his wife.
Here Marshall is the villain, the polar opposite of his world weary, put-upon husband in The Letter, and he pulls off the characterization with sinister efficacy. Remarkable how versatile and how good he was.
Ok, enough of our commendations to this fine actor. Let’s get to the answers to our Herbert Marshall Quiz. Here we go:
1) Question: As mentioned, Marshall costarred with Bette Davis in 1940’s The Letter. But he also starred in a much earlier movie version of the same material with the same title? Which one of the following was his female costar? a) Gloria Swanson; b) Jeanne Engles; c) Joan Crawford; or d) Marlene Dietrich.
1) Answer: Yes, Marshall did appear very early in his career in an earlier version of The Letter, in 1929, with (b) Jeanne Engels in the female lead. Curiously he played the rakish lover in this edition while taking on the role of the wronged husband in the 1940 version. Good thing too since the rakish lover is never seen in the later version — he is unforgettably killed off by Bette Davis in the opening scene.
2) Question: Throughout his Hollywood career, Marshall had to cope with a serious physical ailment. What was it? a) During World War I he lost a leg, which was replaced by an artificial wooden limb; b)He was born without one hand; c) He was rapidly losing sight in one eye; or d) He had a serious heart condition.
2) Answer: (a) Marshall lost a leg during World War I, and had to cope for the rest of his life with a wooden replacement. He did quite nicely overall.
3) Question: Marshall enjoyed an active marital life, having been wed five times. One of his spouses was an actress known for her ladylike portrayals in several films including Alfred Hitchcock’s 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much. Who is she? a) Clare Greet; b) Nova Pilbeam; c) Cicely Oates; or d) Edna Best.
3) Answer: (d) Edna Best. Their marriage from 1928 to 1940 produced one child.
4) Question: Marshall excelled in the screen versions of the works of which one of the following novelists? a) Edna Ferber; b) Henry James; c) Somerset Maugham; or d) Raymond Chandler.
4) Answer: (c) Somerset Maugham, who wrote the source material for the screen versions of The Letter, 1942’s The Moon and Sixpence and 1946’s The Razor’s Edge. Marshall was involved in all of them.
5) Question: Toward the end of his career, Marshall found himself playing a priest on the 1958 tv series, 77 Sunset Strip. Can that possibly be true? a) Yes; or b) No.
5) Answer: (a) Yes, it’s true. Marshall exploited his talents with style on tv after his screen career ebbed. And yes, he appeared on five episodes of 77 Sunset Strip.