So did you know much about the great “character actor” of the 40s, 50s and 60s? That’s him with Judy Garland in Presenting Lily Mars.
(And despite conventional Hollywood wisdom of the time, Van Heflin in his day was a relatively good-looking dude.)
Please note that we correctly use the phrase “character actor” when talking of, say, Guy Kibbee. But the description doesn’t due Heflin justice. Van actually had full-blown costarring roles in all sorts of relatively important pictures.
And sometimes, he carried a picture. For example, in 1946’s film noir classic, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Heflin steals the movie right out from under the likes of Barbara Stanwyck and Kirk Douglas. And, in 1953’s Shane, he is to the plot equally important as Alan Ladd in the title role.
By any classification, he was a superb and hardworking actor. Tab Hunter, who costarred with Heflin in 1958’s Gunman’s Walk, put it this way: The intense one-on-one scenes with Van Heflin were my biggest thrill making (the movie). To me, Van was the ultimate actor. He completely disappeared into character, and everything he did was totally believable.
Ok, let’s get to the answers to this week’s Van Heflin Mini-Quiz. To review the questions, just scroll down to the blog below. Here we go:
1) Answer: (d) Brandon deWilde. He played the young ‘Joey,’ who becomes attached to the ex-gunslinger played by Ladd in Shane. Brooklyn-born DeWilde was a well-known child actor before he got the part, and Shane provided a real career boost. Born in 1942, he was all of 11 when he made the film, which earned him a best supporting actor Oscar nomination. He was killed in a road accident at age 30.
2) Answer: c) Louis B. Mayer, studio boss at MGM where Heflin worked in the Forties.
3) Answer: Heflin was a largely sedate presence in a second marriage to (c) the vivacious social whirlwind Frances Neal. The union, among other things, resulted in the introduction of Ava Gardner to her second husband, bandleader Artie Shaw. (Neal, a friend of the young actress, attended the bride at the mid-October, 1945 wedding.) When Neal was an actress under contract to RKO, she had a bit part in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.
4) Answer: Director Fred Zinnemann’s 1948 thriller, Act of Violence. Heflin is superb as an ex-military man with a dark secret who is being pursued by a maniacal Robert Ryan. See it.
5) Answer: Delmer Daves’ first class western, 3:10 to Yuma. Heflin is once again a good man placed in a dreadful circumstance, taking his life in his hands by escorting a hardened and unnervingly relaxed criminal (Glenn Ford) to a prison in another part of the state. Again, seek it out and take a look.