In his later career he played Boston Blackie in a series of B films. But at one time Chester Morris was a leading man in A pictures, and seemed destined for superstardom.
Born John Chester Brooks Morris in 1901, the son of showbiz parents (one actor, one comedienne), he started appearing in movies in 1916, and continued making pictures and appearing onstage for more than a half century.
He died in 1970 while appearing in a stage production of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial at Pennsylvania’s Buck County Playhouse.
Although he worked during the early silent era, his career as an actor didn’t take off until the transition to the “talkies” in 1929. He was big with sustained star potential — usually via tough guy roles — by the early to mid-Thirties. Here he is (below) in a 1931 drama, playing a disenchanted Wall Street broker who quits his job to take to the high seas tracking down Prohibition bootleggers.
But by the 1940’s things went south and his career suffered. Then came Boston Blackie.
In the Fifties and Sixties he turned to tv and stage work. Ok, let’s see how much you know about our man, Chester Morris. As usual, answers tomorrow.
Question 1. Morris was one of the first actors to be nominated for an Academy Award. What picture was it for? a) The Big House; b) Alibi; c) The Road to Yesterday; or d) Blondie Johnson.
Question 2. Morris’ female costar in Corsair, billed as “Alison Loyd,” was forced to change her name in order to get cast in the picture. Who was this actress, really? a) Carole Lombard; b) Joan Blondell; c) Billie Burke; or d) Thelma Todd.
Question 3. In Columbia Pictures’ Boston Blackie series, begun in 1941, Morris plays a) a crusty police detective; b) a crime-solving playboy; c) a crusading district attorney; or d) a safecracker-jewel thief trying to go straight.
Question 4. Made at the rate of two a year, how many installments of Boston Blackie did the studio release? a) Five; b) Seven; c) Three; or d) 14.
Question 5: Morris’ most famous feature, 1930’s The Big House, launched the sound movie career of one of his costars. Who is he? a) Humphrey Bogart; b) George Raft; c) Wallace Beery; or d) Robert Montgomery.