September 30, 2015

#SOTM - TCM's Star of the Month Oct. 2015 - David Niven

David Niven was a former British army lieutenant whose debonair charm conquered Hollywood and helped make him an Academy Award-winning star and a perennially popular character actor.

Slim, witty and lighthearted, Niven crowned two urbane decades before the film cameras with his Academy Award as the best actor of 1958, which came for his performance as a fraudulent British major in the drama Separate Tables.

He had important roles in many other films, including Samuel Goldwyn's Wuthering Heights (1939), in which he played the gentle husband of a restless Merle Oberon. And he starred as the adventurous Phileas Fogg in Michael Todd's Around the World in 80 Days (1958).

Niven's other major films included Dawn Patrol (1938), Stairway to Heaven (1946), The Bishop's Wife (1947), Enchantment (1948), Court Martial (1955) and Where the Spies Are (1966).

In an industry not known for traditional politesse, he sometimes astounded film critics by writing them thank-you notes after they had praised his work.

Such mannerly flourishes sprang naturally from Niven's upper-crust background. He was born James David Graham Niven March 1, 1910, in Belgrave Mansions, London, England.

His father, William Edward Graham Niven, was a British officer who died in the Gallipoli campaign of World War I. His French and British mother, the former Henrietta Julia Degacher, later married Sir Thomas Comyn-Platt, a Conservative Party figure.

The future movie star attended the Stowe School in Buckinghamshire and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. Commissioned a lieutenant in the British army, he saw service on Malta before resigning from the army in 1932 to seek his fortune across the Atlantic.

He drifted his way around the world, working as a lumberman, laundry messenger, news reporter, bartender, the representative of a London wine firm in the United States, and even a gunnery instructor to Cuban revolutionists.

Then his travels took him to Los Angeles.

Niven's film career began in the 1930s with work as an extra and in bit parts. It then ripened into solid featured roles in more than a score of pictures, including a part as a flirtatious major in Dodsworth (1936). But it was not until after service as a British army officer during World War II that Niven attained full stardom.

In 1939 Niven walked out on a lucrative contract with Samuel Goldwyn to become the first major star to enter the armed forces.  Briefly involved with British Intelligence, he transferred to the Commandos and landed on the beaches of Normandy in 1944.  He attained the rank of colonel and was awarded the American Legion of Merit.

Niven was given leave to appear in two British war propaganda films: The First of the Few (1942) and The Way Ahead (1944). The films were released in the United States as Spitfire and The Immortal Battalion.

While overseas, Niven met and fell in love with a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) named Primula Susan Rollo.  "Primmie" was the only daughter of Lady Kathleen Hill and Flight Lieutenant William Rollo. Niven and Rollo were married on September 16, 1940 at Huish Church on the Wiltshire Downs.  Their son David, Jr. was born December 15, 1942. He's a British film producer and film actor, with stints as an executive at Paramount Pictures and Columbia Pictures. James Graham Niven, called Jamie, was born three years later. He's Chairman of Sotheby’s The Americas.

At the end of the war, David brought Primmie, three-year-old David, Jr. and five-month-old Jamie to Los Angeles to resume his career. They were only in the States for six weeks when tragedy struck on May 20-21, 1946.

During a party at Tyrone Power's house, a terrible accident occurred. While playing the hide‑and-seek game Sardines, for which the lights had been switched off, Primmie mistakenly walked through a doorway thinking it was leading into a closet. The doorway instead led to the basement. Primmie fell head-first down a steep flight of stone steps into the cellar. She died the following day of a fractured skull and brain lacerations.

Niven recalled this as the darkest period of his life, years afterwards thanking his friends for their patience and forbearance during this time. He claimed to have been so grief-stricken that he thought for a while that he had gone mad. Following a suicide attempt involving a handgun that failed to go off, he eventually rallied and returned to filmmaking.

On January 14, 1948 he married Swedish model Hjördis Paulina Genberg Tersmeden. They adopted two daughters, Kristina in 1960 and Fiona in 1962. Niven’s second marriage was as tumultuous as his first marriage was content. Hjördis (pronounced Yer-diss), unable to achieve an acting career, had affairs with other men and became an alcoholic. She was especially cruel as he was dying of ALS, often mocking his slurred speech, shuffling gait and skeletal appearance.

In 1951, Niven made a brief detour to Broadway, starring in the farce Nina, which had 45 performances.

Niven realized the value of television and in 1952 co-founded the prosperous Four Star TV Production Company. He served as host of The David Niven Show from 1959 to 1964 and starred in The Rogues in 1964 and 1965.

Niven won a Golden Globe Award for his work in The Moon Is Blue (1953), produced and directed by Otto Preminger.

He gave what some film historians call one of his finest performances, in Court Martial, a British drama that drew some enthusiastic reviews when it appeared in 1955 but has since been largely forgotten.

The next year, in the box-office hit Around the World in 80 Days, Niven's acting attracted less attention than it otherwise might have, because the cast included many other stars in cameo appearances.

In later years, Niven appeared in such comedies as the entertaining Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960) and The Pink Panther (1963), which was the first of the Panther series.

Niven, whose characteristic querulous expression etched deep lines in his forehead, said once that one of his rules of life was to try to look as good as possible, but never to try to look younger.

"Mutton masquerading as lamb is always unattractive," he said.

Late in his career, Niven also gained success as an author. His best-selling volume of memoirs, The Moon's a Balloon, was praised in 1972 by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt in The New York Times for its "racy wit and fine sense of the absurd." His 1975 nonfiction work, Bring on the Empty Horses, was praised by William F. Buckley, Jr. in The New York Times as "a book about Hollywood and incidentally a masterful self-portrait."

And his best-selling 1981 novel of Hollywood and wartime London, Go Slowly, Come Back Quickly, was praised in The Chicago Tribune for its "wonderful anecdotes and escapades." He published the less successful Round the Rugged Rocks in 1951.

While Niven was co-hosting the 46th Annual Oscars ceremony on April 2, 1974, a naked man, Robert Opel, appeared behind him, "streaking" across the stage. Niven quipped, "Isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?"

In 1980, Niven began experiencing fatigue, muscle weakness and a warble in his voice. His 1981 interviews on the talk shows of Michael Parkinson and Merv Griffin alarmed family and friends; viewers wondered if Niven had either been drinking or suffered a stroke. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease in the US and Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in the UK) later that year.

While appearing in his last films, Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), the actor's speech became so slurred due to his illness that his lines were later dubbed by impressionist Rich Little.

In February 1983, Niven went to London for treatment of his illness, and his wife reported that he was very weak and tired. After nine days in a London hospital, he flew to Switzerland.

Niven died July 29, 1983 in his Alpine chalet at Château-d'Oex, Switzerland, a nephew reported. He was 73 years old.

Niven's nephew, Michael Wrangdah, said at Château-d'Oex: "My uncle died peacefully and without pain. His last gesture a few minutes before he died had been to give the thumbs-up sign."

Shortly before his death, Niven allowed himself a nostalgic glance over his career and said: "The whole thing has been such fun, I always expect a little man to tap me on the shoulder and say: 'Sorry chum, you've been found out.'"

Biographer Graham Lord wrote that "the biggest wreath, worthy of a Mafia Godfather's funeral, was delivered from the porters at London's Heathrow Airport, along with a card that read: 'To the finest gentleman who ever walked through these halls. He made a porter feel like a king.'"

TCM's Star of the Month - October 2015

Raffles (1939)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Sam Wood. David Niven, Olivia de Havilland, Dudley Digges, Dame May Whitty, Douglas Walton, Lionel Pape. Niven is good but can't match Ronald Colman in this nearly scene-for-scene remake of the 1930 film about a gentleman thief (with a notably different finale). Medium-grade fluff. B/W. 72 mins.

Bachelor Mother (1939)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Garson Kanin. Ginger Rogers, David Niven, Charles Coburn, Frank Albertson, Ernest Truex. Rogers unwittingly becomes guardian for abandoned baby in this delightful comedy by Norman Krasna. Remade as Bundle of Joy. Also shown in computer-colored version. B/W. 82 mins.

Dawn Patrol, The (1938)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Edmund Goulding. Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone, David Niven, Donald Crisp, Melville Cooper, Barry Fitzgerald. Remake of 1930 classic is fine actioner of WW1 flyers in France; Rathbone as stern officer forced to send up green recruits, Flynn and Niven as pilot buddies, all excellent. Insightful study of wartime camaraderie and grueling pressures of battlefront command. B/W. 103 mins.

Wuthering Heights (1939)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: William Wyler. Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, David Niven, Flora Robson, Donald Crisp, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Leo G. Carroll, Cecil Kellaway, Miles Mander, Hugh Williams. Stirring adaptation of Emily Bronte's novel stops at chapter 17, but viewers shouldn't despair: sensitive direction and sweeping performances propel this magnificent story of doomed love in pre-Victorian England. Haunting, a must-see film. Gregg Toland's moody photography won an Oscar; script by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Remade in 1953, 1970, and 1992. B/W. 104 mins.

Splendor (1935)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Elliott Nugent. Miriam Hopkins, Joel McCrea, Paul Cavanagh, Helen Westley, Billie Burke, Katharine Alexander, David Niven. Familiar story of McCrea's family upset when he loves poor-girl Hopkins instead of upper-class young lady; script by Rachel Crothers, from her play. B/W. 75 mins.

Eternally Yours (1939)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Tay Garnett. Loretta Young, David Niven, Hugh Herbert, C. Aubrey Smith, Billie Burke, Broderick Crawford, ZaSu Pitts, Eve Arden. Way-out idea comes off fairly well; Young is married to magician Niven, thinks his tricks are taking precedence to their married life. Also shown in computer-colored version. B/W. 95 mins.

Dodsworth (1936)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: William Wyler. Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton, Paul Lukas, Mary Astor, David Niven, Gregory Gaye, Maria Ouspenskaya, Spring Byington, Harlan Briggs. Superb adaptation of Sinclair Lewis novel about middle-aged American industrialist who retires, goes to Europe, where he and his wife find differing sets of values and new relationships. Intelligently written (by Sidney Howard), beautifully filmed, extremely well acted, with Huston recreating his Broadway role. John Payne (billed as John Howard Payne) makes screen debut in small role. Won Oscar for Interior Decoration (Richard Day). Unusually mature Hollywood film, not to be missed. B/W. 101 mins.

Charge of the Light Brigade, The (1936)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Michael Curtiz. Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Patric Knowles, Henry Stephenson, Nigel Bruce, Donald Crisp, David Niven, C. Henry Gordon, Robert Barrat, Spring Byington, J. Carrol Naish. Thundering action based on Tennyson's poem, with immortal charge into the valley of death by British 27th Lancers cavalry. Lavish production values accent romantic tale of Flynn and de Havilland at army post in India. Max Steiner's first musical score for Warner Brothers is superb. Balaklava Heights charge directed by action specialist B. Reeves Eason. Also shown in computer-colored version. B/W. 115 mins.

Prisoner of Zenda, The (1937)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: John Cromwell. Ronald Colman, Madeleine Carroll, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., C. Aubrey Smith, Raymond Massey, Mary Astor, David Niven, Montagu Love, Alexander D'Arcy. Lavish costume romance/adventure with excellent casting; Colman is forced to substitute for lookalike cousin, King of Ruritanian country, but commoner Colman falls in love with regal Carroll. Fairbanks nearly steals the show as villainous Rupert of Hentzau. Screenplay by John L. Balderston, from Anthony Hope's novel. Also shown in computer-colored version. B/W. 101 mins.

Rose Marie (1936)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: W. S. Van Dyke II. Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Reginald Owen, Allan Jones, James Stewart, Alan Mowbray, Gilda Gray. Don't expect the original operetta: story has opera star Jeanette searching for fugitive brother Stewart, as Mountie Nelson pursues the same man. The two fall in love, sing "Indian Love Call," among others. David Niven appears briefly as Jeanette's unsuccessful suitor. Retitled Indian Love Call; previously filmed in 1928, then again in 1954. B/W. 111 mins.

Feather in Her Hat, A (1935)
D: Alfred Santell. Pauline Lord, Basil Rathbone, Louis Hayward, Billie Burke, David Niven. A female shopkeeper sacrifices everything to give her son a theatrical career. B/W. 72 mins.

Matter of Life and Death, A (1947)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. David Niven, Kim Hunter, Raymond Massey, Roger Livesey, Robert Coote, Marius Goring, Richard Attenborough. Powell and Pressburger manage to straddle reality and fantasy in a most disarming manner in this unusual story of a pilot during WW2 who claims he was accidentally chosen to die, and must now plead for his life in a Heavenly court. Like most films by this writer-director team, an absolute original--and a gem, too. U.S. title: Stairway to Heaven. Color. 104 mins.

Bishop's Wife, The (1947)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Henry Koster. Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Monty Woolley, James Gleason, Gladys Cooper, Elsa Lanchester. Christmas fantasy of suave angel (Grant) coming to earth to help Bishop Niven and wife Young raise money for new church. Engaging performances by all--and fun to see children from It's a Wonderful Life, Karolyn Grimes and Bobby Anderson, appearing together. Also shown in computer-colored version. Remade as The Preacher's Wife. B/W. 109 mins.

First of the Few, The (1942)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Leslie Howard. Leslie Howard, David Niven, Rosamund John, Roland Culver, Anne Firth, David Horne, J. H. Roberts, Derrick de Marney, Bernard Miles, Patricia Medina. Howard plays R.J. Mitchell, who developed the ace fighting plane Spitfire which later became one of the Allies' most valuable WW2 assets. Good biographical drama. Howard's last screen appearance. U.S. title: Spitfire. U.S. version cut to 90m. B/W. 119 mins.

Way Ahead, The (1944)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Carol Reed. David Niven, Stanley Holloway, James Donald, John Laurie, Leslie Dwyer, Hugh Burden, Jimmy Hanley, Billy Hartnell, Raymond Huntley, Reginald Tate, Leo Genn, Penelope Dudley Ward, Renee Asherson, Raymond Lovell, Peter Ustinov, Trevor Howard. Exhilarating wartime British film showing how disparate civilians come to work together as a fighting unit; full of spirit and charm, with an outstanding cast, and fine script by Eric Ambler and Peter Ustinov. Film debut of Trevor Howard. Originally released in the U.S. in a shortened, more serious version called The Immortal Battalion (with an introduction by journalist Quentin Reynolds). Original British running time 116m. B/W. 88 mins.

Enchantment (1948)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Irving Reis. David Niven, Teresa Wright, Evelyn Keyes, Farley Granger, Jayne Meadows, Leo G. Carroll. Weepy romancer with elderly Niven recalling his tragic love as he watches great-niece Keyes' romance with Granger. B/W. 101 mins.

Kiss in the Dark, A (1949)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Delmer Daves. David Niven, Jane Wyman, Victor Moore, Wayne Morris, Broderick Crawford, Joseph Buloff, Maria Ouspenskaya. One-note farce about uptight concert pianist Niven, who loosens up when his business manager uses his savings to purchase an apartment building--where one of the residents is perky model Wyman. B/W. 88 mins.

Kiss for Corliss, A (1949)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Richard Wallace. Shirley Temple, David Niven, Tom Tully, Virginia Welles. Puffed-up comedy of teenager Temple convincing everyone that she and playboy Niven are going together; nave fluff. Limp follow-up to Kiss and Tell with Shirley as Corliss Archer; this was her final film. Retitled Almost a Bride. B/W. 85 mins.

Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Michael Anderson. David Niven, Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Newton, Buster Keaton, Jose Greco, John Gielgud, Robert Morley, Marlene Dietrich, all-star cast. Oscar-winning favorite has lost much of its charm over the years, but even so, Mike Todd's version of the Jules Verne tale offers plenty of entertainment, and more than 40 cameo appearances offer plenty of star-gazing for buffs. Great Victor Young score was also an Oscar winner, as was the screenplay (James Poe, John Farrow, S. J. Perelman), cinematography (Lionel Lindon) and editing (Gene Ruggiero, Paul Weatherwax). Remade as a 1989 TV miniseries, and in 2004. Todd-AO. Color. 182 mins.

My Man Godfrey (1957)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Henry Koster. June Allyson, David Niven, Martha Hyer, Eva Gabor, Jeff Donnell. Shallow compared to original, but on its own a harmless comedy of rich girl Allyson finding life's truths from butler Niven. CinemaScope. Color. 92 mins.

Moon Is Blue, The (1953)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Otto Preminger. William Holden, David Niven, Maggie McNamara, Tom Tully, Dawn Addams, Gregory Ratoff. Once-saucy sex comedy about a young woman who flaunts her virginity now seems tame, too much a filmed stage play, with most innuendoes lacking punch. Adapted by F. Hugh Herbert from his stage hit. Hardy Kruger (who has a small part here) played the lead in a German-language version that Preminger filmed simultaneously. B/W. 99 mins.

Bonjour Tristesse (1957)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Otto Preminger. Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Jean Seberg, Geoffrey Horne, Mylene Demongeot. Teenager does her best to break up romance between playboy widowed father and his mistress, with tragic results. Francoise Sagan's philosophy seeps through glossy production; Kerr exceptionally fine in soaper set on French Riviera. CinemaScope. Color. 94 mins.

Toast of New Orleans, The (1950)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Norman Taurog. Kathryn Grayson, Mario Lanza, David Niven, Rita Moreno, J. Carrol Naish. Lanza plays fisherman transformed into operatic star. Rest of cast good, and Lanza sings "Be My Love." Color. 97 mins.

Happy Go Lovely (1951)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Bruce Humberstone. David Niven, Vera-Ellen, Cesar Romero, Bobby Howes, Diane Hart, Gordon Jackson. The charm of its three stars uplifts this otherwise minor musical-romance, set in Edinburgh, with chorus girl Vera-Ellen getting the lead in a show when the director (Romero) thinks she's about to wed a millionaire (Niven) she's never met. B/W. 97 mins.

Happy Anniversary (1959)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: David Miller. David Niven, Mitzi Gaynor, Carl Reiner, Loring Smith, Monique Van Vooren, Patty Duke, Elizabeth Wilson. Funny but strained comedy of married couple Niven and Gaynor being embarrassed by daughter Duke telling nation on TV that father was indiscreet in his younger days. B/W. 83 mins.

Little Hut, The (1957)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Mark Robson. Ava Gardner, Stewart Granger, David Niven, Finlay Currie, Walter Chiari. Busy husband Granger takes sexy wife Gardner for granted. Will her friendship with Niven stay platonic when all three are stranded on an island? Static, flat, talky sex farce, from the Andre Roussin play. Color. 90 mins.

Tonight's the Night (1954)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Mario Zampi. David Niven, Yvonne De Carlo, Barry Fitzgerald, George Cole, Robert Urquhart. Good British cast bolsters appealing comedy about house in Ireland which natives claim is haunted. Original British title: Happy Ever After. Color. 88 mins.

Soldiers Three (1951)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Tay Garnett. Stewart Granger, Walter Pidgeon, David Niven, Robert Newton, Cyril Cusack, Greta Gynt, Robert Coote, Dan O'Herlihy. Boisterous action-adventure with light touch; Gunga Din-esque story has three soldiering comrades in and out of spats with each other as they battle in 19th-century India. Loosely based on stories by Rudyard Kipling. B/W. 92 mins.

Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960)
Leonard Maltin Review:
D: Charles Walters. Doris Day, David Niven, Janis Paige, Spring Byington, Richard Haydn, Patsy Kelly, Jack Weston, Margaret Lindsay. Bright film based on Jean Kerr's stories about a drama critic and his family. Doris sings title song; her kids are very amusing, as are Byington (the mother-in-law), Kelly (housekeeper), and especially Paige as a temperamental star. Later a TV series. CinemaScope. Color. 111 mins.

Impossible Years, The (1968)
D: Michael Gordon. David Niven, Lola Albright, Chad Everett. A psychiatrist's mental health is tested when his daughter starts dating. Color. 98 mins.

55 Days at Peking (1963)
D: Nicholas Ray. Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, David Niven. An American major leads the defense against Chinese revolutionaries in 1900 Peking. Color. 154 mins.

Best of Enemies, The (1961)
D: Guy Hamilton. David Niven, Alberto Sordi, Michael Wilding. Rival British and Italian troupe leaders carry their friendly competition into a POW camp. Color. 104 mins.

Murder by Death (1976)
D: Robert Moore. Peter Falk, Truman Capote, Alec Guinness, David Niven. A criminal madman invites the world's greatest detectives for a night of dinner and murder. B/W. 95 mins.

Eye of the Devil (1966)
D: J. Lee Thompson. Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Donald Pleasence. A French nobleman deserts his wife because of an ancient family secret. B/W. 96 mins.

Where the Spies Are (1965)
D: Val Guest. David Niven, Françoise Dorléac, John Le Mesurier. A country doctor dabbles in espionage to get a new car. Color. 109 mins.

Guns of Darkness (1962)
D: Anthony Asquith. Leslie Caron, David Niven, David Opatoshu. A businessman and his wife are caught in the turmoil of a South American revolution. B/W. 102 mins.

Lady L (1965)
D: Peter Ustinov. Sophia Loren, Paul Newman, David Niven. A beautiful laundress rises through European society. Color. 109 mins.

Before Winter Comes (1968)
D: J. Lee Thompson. David Niven, Topol, Anna Karina. A World War II refugee serves a British officer as interpreter. Color. 103 mins.

David Niven on the Radio

"The Courtship of Miles Standish" on The Hallmark Playhouse: November 24, 1949 - David Niven, William Conrad

"Cavalcade" on Lux Radio Theatre: December 28, 1936 - Herbert Marshall, Madeleine Carroll, Una O'Connor, David Niven, Douglas Scott

"The Gilded Lily" on Lux Radio Theatre: January 11, 1937 - Claudette Colbert, Fred MacMurray, David Niven, George Sanders

"The Sisters" on Lux Radio Theatre: October 9, 1939 - Irene Dunne, David Niven

"Frenchman's Creek" on Lux Radio Theatre: February 10, 1947 - Joan Fontaine, David Niven

"The Bishop's Wife" on Lux Radio Theatre: December 19, 1949 - Tyrone Power, David Niven, Jane Greer

"Stairway to Heaven" on Lux Radio Theatre: April 12, 1955 - David Niven, Barbara Rush

"Bachelor Mother" on The Screen Guild Theater: May 6, 1946 - David Niven, Ginger Rogers, Francis X. Bushman

"The Bishop's Wife" on The Screen Guild Theater: March 1, 1948 - Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven

Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone and David Niven in The Dawn Patrol (1938)

The Dawn Patrol is a 1938 American war film, a remake of the pre-Code 1930 film of the same name. Both were based on the short story "The Flight Commander" by John Monk Saunders, an American writer said to have been haunted by his inability to get into combat as a flyer with the U.S. Air Service.

September 21, 2015

Charles Bickford - Quite a Character

Charles Bickford was an actor whose crinkled hair, gruff voice and granite features made him a well-known figure on Broadway and in Hollywood for more than three decades.

Always of independent mind, exceptionally strong-willed and quick with his fists, Mr. Bickford frequently argued and nearly came to blows with Louis B. Mayer and any number of other MGM authority figures during the course of his contract with the studio in the late 1920s and early 1930s. During the production of Cecil B. DeMille's Dynamite (1929), he punched out his director following a string of heated arguments primarily, but not exclusively, related to the interpretation of his character's role.

He was for a time blacklisted among the studios. He spent several years working in independent films as a freelancer, then was offered a contract at Twentieth Century-Fox. Before the contract could take effect, however, Mr. Bickford was mauled by a lion while filming East of Java (1935).

Aged with Character Parts

"Actors," Mr. Bickford once said, "seem to attach some kind of personal importance to heroism and youth, and insist on clinching in the sunset, first making sure that the touch of gray on top has been carefully shoe-polished out. If they want to stay on the screen and make money, which is a point, too, they ought to be willing to grow old and act out villainy."

In keeping with that philosophy, Mr. Bickford manifested an apparent indifference toward becoming or remaining a leading man or romantic idol. The length of his career in Hollywood — nearly 40 years — testified to his willingness to "grow old and act out villainy."

Millions came to know him in the 1960s for his television portrayals in The Virginian series, but he was also known to millions for his countless and versatile character portrayals in scores of movies.

On three occasions his artistry was recognized with Academy Award nominations — for The Song of Bernadette, The Farmer's Daughter and Johnny Belinda — but he never won an Oscar.

Every time he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, one of his co-stars won the Oscar for Best Actress: Jennifer Jones for The Song of Bernadette (1943), Loretta Young for The Farmer's Daughter (1947) and Jane Wyman for Johnny Belinda (1948).

With seemingly equal ease, the rugged-looking Mr. Bickford portrayed priests and farmers, newsmen and ranchers, prisoners and physicians. Among his co-stars were Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Loretta Young, Jane Wyman, Jennifer Jones, Jean Simmons, Lee Remick, Clark Gable, Gregory Peck, Burgess Meredith, Jack Lemmon, Burt Lancaster, Joseph Cotten, Cary Grant and Robert Mitchum.

Two of the actor's most memorable big-screen roles came in the western The Big Country, as a wealthy and ruthless rancher, and in the drama Days of Wine and Roses, as the forlorn father of an alcoholic.

Mauled by Lion in 1935

His life and career nearly ended prematurely in 1935, when a 400-pound lion named Baby mauled him as they were filming a jungle scene for East of Java at Universal Studios.

Handlers hauled the lion away, but not before the animal had torn Mr. Bickford's throat close to the jugular vein. Nearly a year was required to repair the injuries to Mr. Bickford's neck and shoulders.

The Milwaukee Journal - June 24, 1943 features an interesting article about the horrible accident. Click here to read it.

Charles Ambrose Bickford (he used his middle initial early in his career) was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on January 1, 1891. He was the youngest of four sons of Lorettus E. Bickford, a coffee importer, who also had three daughters. Bickford said of his birth, "It's appropriate that I should have come in on the wings of a blizzard. I've been blowing up a storm ever since."

At the age of nine he was tried and acquitted of the attempted murder of a trolley motorman who had callously driven over and killed his beloved dog.

Intending to become an engineer, he enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology following a world cruise as a coal passer for the Navy. He worked as a lumberjack, an investment promoter, and briefly ran his own pest extermination business. At one point, he found himself in San Francisco, penniless. As he later told an interviewer, a date with a burlesque queen led to an introduction to her show's impresario, who offered him a job.

It was his introduction to the theater, and, after a hitch as a lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers in World War I, he returned to acting. He reached Broadway 10 years later, and in 1925 gained recognition as Oklahoma Red in Maxwell Anderson's picaresque drama of hobo life, Outside Looking In.

After further successes on Broadway, Mr. Bickford was lured to Hollywood, for Cecil B. DeMille's first venture in sound, Dynamite. From then on, Mr. Bickford became a familiar screen figure.

While pursuing a busy career in films, Mr. Bickford found time to develop his talent as an amateur painter and to devote himself to many business ventures. At one time he owned a gold mine in San Bernardino County, California, a gas station and garage, a half interest in a pearling schooner, a pair of whaling boats, a hog farm, a chicken ranch, a lingerie shop, and purchased an island off the coast of the Indonesian island of Java where coconuts were harvested.

But acting remained his principal interest, and he told an interviewer once that he intended to continue in that profession "as long as I can get up on my feet."

"No person with acting in his blood ever wants to retire, or is happy if he does," he commented. "He is an actor to the last."

After several years in Hollywood, however, he grew dissatisfied with the parts he was playing. "Gradually I noticed that I was slipping into those cruel, gravel-voiced roles of the chief jailer and the backwoods father and the escaped convict. I made lots of pictures — mostly 'Bs' — and then I began thinking of parts which would take me out of prison cell blocks and off quarterdeck of a hell ship and out of those seven-day epics into which I had gravitated."

In 1941, he began turning down "B" pictures and seeking better roles.

He campaigned for, and won, the role of the priest in The Song of Bernadette and his portrayal led the way to the more serious work he had been seeking.

Despite his success, Mr. Bickford said that he rarely watched himself. "Perhaps it's because I'm too critical that I don't usually see my stuff," he said. "Very often it's a weird experience, and sometimes it's a little nauseating."

In 1919, he married Beatrice Loring, an actress. They had two children, Doris Marie and Rex Albert.

In 1965, Mr. Bickford published his autobiography, Bulls Balls Bicycles and Actors.

Mr. Bickford died November 9, 1967. He had been a patient at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center since July 1967, when he checked in for treatment of emphysema. His illness became complicated by pneumonia and then by a blood infection.

He was cremated and interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, Santa Monica, California.

Charles Bickford on the Radio

Encore Theater
"Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet" - July 23, 1946 - :29:14 - Charles Bickford, Frank Nelson, Paula Winslowe, Norman Field, Barney Phillips

The Fifth Horseman
"Memo to Mankind" - August 22, 1946 - :29:06 - Charles Bickford

The Hallmark Playhouse
"The Barker" - May 26, 1949 - :27:10 - Charles Bickford
"Farmer in the Dell" - January 11, 1951 - :27:59 - Charles Bickford

Lux Radio Theatre
"The Virginian" - November 2, 1936 - :59:39 - Gary Cooper, Charles Bickford, Helen Mack, John Howard
"Song of Bernadette" - October 26, 1954 - :55:14 - Ann Blyth, Charles Bickford

The Screen Guild Theater
"Tuttles of Tahiti" - March 13, 1944 - :28:27 - Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester, Florence Bates, Charles Bickford
"The Informer" - July 10, 1944 - :29:52 - Charles Bickford, Wallace Ford, Reginald Denny, Isabel Jewell
"Barbary Coast" - June 24, 1946 - :29:19 - Charles Bickford, Mary Astor
"The Babe Ruth Story" - October 21, 1948 - :29:03 - William Bendix, Lurene Tuttle, Charles Bickford

Charles Bickford - Public Domain Films

East of Borneo (1931)
Director: George Melford, Producers: Carl Laemmle, Jr., Paul Kohner and George Melford, Writers: Edwin H. Knopf and Dale Van Every, Editor: Arthur Tavares, Cinematographer: George Robinson
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release date: August 1, 1931
Running time: 77 minutes

Cast: Rose Hobart as Linda Randolph, Charles Bickford as Dr. Allan Randolph, Georges Renavent as Hashim--Prince of Marudu, Lupita Tovar as Neila, Noble Johnson as Osman, Tetsu Komai as Hrang the Raftsman

In 1936, artist Joseph Cornell edited this feature film into his short experimental film Rose Hobart which runs about 19 minutes.

Linda Randolph (Hobart) looks for her husband (Bickford) on the island of Marado, just east of Borneo. Although Linda is warned that Marado's jungles are "entirely too dangerous" for a woman, she persists through dangerous raft rides and wild crocodiles. She discovers that her husband is now the personal physician to the island's enigmatic prince (Renavent). The prince lusts for Linda, and a love triangle ensues.

Gangs of New York (1938)
Director: James Cruze, Producer: Armand Schaefer, Writers: Herbert Asbury (book), Samuel Fuller (screenplay and story), Charles F. Royal, Wellyn Totman, Jack Townley, Nathanael West, Editor: William Morgan, Music: Alberto Colombo, Cinematographer: Ernest Miller
Distributed by Republic Pictures
Release date: May 23, 1938
Running time: 67 minutes

Cast: Charles Bickford as Rocky Thorpe/John Franklin, Ann Dvorak as Connie Benson, Alan Baxter as Dancer, Wynne Gibson as Orchid, Harold Huber as Panatella, Willard Robertson as Inspector Sullivan, Maxie Rosenbloom as Tombstone, Charles Trowbridge as District Attorney Lucas, John Wray as Maddock, Jonathan Hale as Warden, Fred Kohler as Kruger, Howard Phillips as Al Benson, Robert Gleckler as Nolan, Elliott Sullivan as Hopkins, Maurice Cass as Phillips

A policeman (Charles Bickford) poses as a look-alike mobster to bust the mobster's gang.

Queen of the Yukon (1940)
Director: Phil Rosen, Producer: Paul Malvern, Writers: Jack London (story) and George Waggner (screenplay) (as Joseph West), Editor: Russell F. Schoengarth, Cinematographer: Harry Neumann
Distributed by Monogram Pictures
Release date: August 26, 1940
Running time: 74 minutes

Cast: Charles Bickford as Ace Rincon, Irene Rich as Sadie Martin, June Carlson as Helen Martin, Dave O'Brien as Bob Adams, George Cleveland as Grub, Guy Usher as Stake, Melvin Lang as John Thorne, Tris Coffin as Carson, Jack Daley as Captain

In this film adapted from a Jack London story, Sadie Martin (Irene Rich) runs a casino riverboat that travels the Yukon River, catering to a variety of prospectors. Despite her success, Sadie strives to keep her daughter, Helen (June Carlson), in the dark about her unsavory lifestyle. But, just as dubious businessman John Thorne (Melvin Lang) makes an offer on her boat, her daughter abruptly returns from her posh boarding school with Bob (Dave O'Brien), a friendly but gullible fiancé, in tow. Sadie turns to her trusted friend Ace (Charles Bickford) to sort out all the complications.

Charles Bickford on Television

2.08 - The Man Behind the Badge - "The Case of the Priceless Passport"
February 26, 1955 NYC
Host and narrator: Charles Bickford
Guest Cast: Willis B. Bouchey as Immigration Officer, Claude Akins as Tony, Leon Askin as Leon, Pepe Hern as Pedro, Robert S. Carson as Winston, George Eldredge as Gallup
Synopsis: A former immigration officer comes out of retirement to expose the illegal selling of American passports in Mexico.

2.33 - The Man Behind the Badge - "The Case of the Hunted Hobo"
August 20, 1955 NYC
Host and narrator: Charles Bickford
Guest Cast: Frank Jenks as Officer John O'Mara, Aaron Spelling as Billy,  Lewis Charles as Cherokee Kid, Bill Phillips as Chester, Maureen Cassidy as Betzy, Amzie Strickland as Betty,  Paul Knight as The Reporter, Don Oreck as Al, Dick McGowen as The Boy
Synopsis: A policeman risks his life to capture a murder suspect in Chicago's hobo jungle.

September 16, 2015

#LetsMovie - TCM Discoveries Blogathon - In Name Only (1939)

Turner Classic Movies is going after younger viewers who like to socialize around movies with a new branding campaign — above the tagline "Let’s Movie" — the first such outreach in about a decade for the Turner Broadcasting System-owned channel.

New on-air and online spots show groups gathering to watch, for example, The Wizard of Oz projected onto the side of a Kansas barn, John Wayne in The Searchers played off a butte in Monument Valley and Ben-Hur on the outside walls of the Colosseum in Rome.

"We want to appeal to broader movie lovers, not just classic movie lovers," Jennifer Dorian, TCM's general manager, told The Wire.

The message: "These iconic films should be enjoyed by everyone and they’re timeless, so if you love movies, check them out. It's about getting people together and everybody making an event out of seeing an iconic film."

Here's where the clever spots will be seen, starting Sept. 1: on TCM’s air; on; cross-promoted on; on TBS, TNT and CNN Airport Network and on electronic billboards in New York and Atlanta and on-screen ads in some 750 movie theaters across the country.

There also will be a social-media campaign — #LetsMovie — building toward a "Let's Movie" holiday on September 19, 2015, when TCM will encourage fans to watch films with family and friends and share their experiences socially.

Dorian also hopes to stage live events in iconic locations, possibly including a Rocky screening on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

"We feel like we’re the movie place, so let's movie," she said.

The Nitrate Diva says:
On September 19, TCM is encouraging everyone to take a Let's Movie Holiday to share the joy of cinema with friends and family. Why shouldn't the blogosphere do the same? I hope you'll join me in celebrating the movies you've found (and perhaps the friends you've made) through TCM.
I'm proud to take part in The Nitrate Diva's TCM Discoveries Blogathon. I met many new people this summer through the free course TCM Presents Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir, #NoirSummer on Twitter and the Summer of Darkness films. I was also introduced to #TCMParty, where you can watch and tweet along to TCM flicks.

As much as I loved being introduced to many new films noir this summer, my favorite TCM discovery so far has been the work of Kay Francis. She was the Queen of Warner Brothers before Bette Davis.

Kay Francis started her career on Broadway and signed with Paramount in the late 1920s. She frequently costarred with William Powell, and appeared in as many as six to eight movies a year, making a total of 21 films between 1929 and 1931. She became good friends with fellow Paramount star and then-wife of Powell, Carole Lombard.

In 1932, Warner Brothers persuaded Kay Francis to join the ranks of Warners stars. From 1932 through 1936, Francis was the queen of the Warners lot and increasingly her films were developed as star vehicles. By the mid-thirties, Francis was one of the highest-paid people in the United States.

She frequently played long-suffering heroines, displaying to good advantage lavish wardrobes. Too frequently, however, Francis' clotheshorse reputation led Warners to concentrate resources on lavish sets and costumes, designed to appeal to Depression-era female audiences and capitalize on her reputation as the epitome of chic, rather than on scripts.

Eventually, Francis herself became dissatisfied with these vehicles and began openly to feud with Warners, even threatening a lawsuit against them for inferior treatment. This in turn led to her demotion to programmers and, in the same year, to the termination of her contract.

The Independent Theatre Owners Association paid for an advertisement in the Hollywood Reporter in May 1938 that included Francis, along with Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Fred Astaire, Mae West, Katharine Hepburn and others, on a list of stars dubbed "box office poison." After her release from Warners, Francis was unable to secure another studio contract. Carole Lombard, one of the most popular stars of the late 1930s and early 1940s (and who had previously been a supporting player in Francis' 1931 film, Ladies' Man) tried to bolster Francis' career by insisting Francis be cast in In Name Only (1939). In this film, Francis had a supporting role to Lombard and Cary Grant, but wisely recognized that the film offered her an opportunity to engage in some serious acting.

Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, Kay Francis in In Name Only (1939)

In Name Only is a 1939 romantic film starring Cary Grant, Carole Lombard and Kay Francis. It was based on the 1935 novel Memory of Love by Bessie Breuer. The fictional town it is based in, Bridgefield, Connecticut, is based on the town of Ridgefield, Connecticut. According to Robert Osborne, the film was intended to reteam Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. However, the disastrous reception of Bringing Up Baby led to Hepburn being considered "box office poison" and Lombard being cast instead.

Directed by John Cromwell
Produced by George Haight
Screenplay by Richard Sherman
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography by J. Roy Hunt
Edited by William Hamilton
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date: August 18, 1939
Running time: 94 minutes
Budget: $722,000
Box office: $1,321,000

Carole Lombard as Julie Eden
Cary Grant as Alec Walker
Kay Francis as Maida Walker
Charles Coburn as Richard Walker
Helen Vinson as Suzanne Ducross, Maida's "best" friend, who makes a play for Alec herself
Katherine Alexander as Laura Morton, Julie's sister, embittered against men by her own unhappy experience
Jonathan Hale as Dr. Ned Gateson, a friend of the Walker family
Nella Walker as Grace Walker
Alan Baxter as Charley
Maurice Moscovitch as Dr. Muller
Peggy Ann Garner as Ellen Eden, Julie's daughter
Charles Coleman as Archie Duross

The New York Times Film Review - August 4, 1939
Love and the eternal triangle are subjects toward which the movies have never been particularly averse, but upon which they have generally discoursed with prudent caution and romantic bubble-blowing. For this reason — this and the fact that love is more than just a smoke raised by the fume of a scriptwriter's sighs — it is particularly gratifying to encounter a film which does unblushingly tackle the hackneyed theme of husband, wife and other woman, which acknowledges by tactful implication a few of the facts of life, which penetrates with poignant directness into the reality of emotional torment and which permits the "other woman" a contrived but satisfactory victory. Such is the especial grace of In Name Only, the new Cary Grant-Carole Lombard love story, now at the Music Hall.

No one can expect a film to probe much deeper than that into the chemistry of love or into the social conventions which frequently cause its embarrassment, what with the Hays Code and such. So an occasional cliché or recourse to symbolic maneuvering can readily be forgiven. There is enough of the reticence, the slightly skeptical exaltation and the frightening, lonely despair which are usually experienced by mature lovers in this picture to give it superior quality. And it is magnificently done.

The story, as remarked, is no bombshell. Alec Walker, played by Mr. Grant, is a Connecticut squire married to a heartless wife, who hooked him for his money and position. When he meets and falls in love with Julie Eden (Miss Lombard), a widowed artist, he asks his wife to divorce him and she agrees to go to Paris to do so. Confident of her word, Alec and Julie prepare for their life together. But the wife prolongs her stay in Paris, causing Julie understandable anguish, and finally returns home (on Christmas Eve), without a divorce and without any intention of getting one.

Further, this vicious wife threatens to sue Julie for alienation of affections and to drag her young daughter into court as a witness if Alec attempts to divorce her. So Alec and Julie agree to part and the situation is wholly intolerable — until a convenient illness and a sick-bed crisis permit a happy solution.

On the face of it, that sounds pretty bleak. But you don't let it prejudice you. The story, while obvious, is thoroughly convincing, thanks to the "natural" attack which John Cromwell has taken upon it and to some delightfully pleasing dialogue. Mr. Grant is in top form as the done-wrong-by husband who — unlike the husband in Bessie Bruer's original novel — is a thorough gentleman, a surpassing wit and a charming fellow withal. Miss Lombard plays her poignant role with all the fragile intensity and contained passion that have lifted her to dramatic eminence. Kay Francis, on the other side of the fence this time, is a model cat, suave, superior and relentless. And a generally excellent cast contribute in making this one of the most adult and enjoyable pictures of the season.

Variety Film Review - August 9, 1939
In Name Only will get maximum playing time and the best dating the country offers, being a late summer release that has all the elements of audience appeal, together with three star names in Carole Lombard, Cary Grant and Kay Francis as strong convincers.  Where played, it will carry the full burden of responsibility and shoulder it.

A novel by Bessie Breuer, Memory of Love, forms the basis for the wholly capable production turned out by George Haight from Richard Sherman's fine adaptation.  The story is a romantic drama of a familiar but highly poignant brand, relieved by smart comedy lines and touches.  It is sophisticated, adult material which has been handled in a very intelligent manner and, among its attributes, enjoys suspense up to the final footage.

Many happy elements combine to make this one of the best pictures of the year, not the least of these being Haight's superior production, the inspired direction of John Cromwell, Sherman's trenchant dialog and the performances of a skilled cast.  The meat of the love story, with its attendant drama and tension, its tenderer love passages and blasé qualities, has an important complement in the wholly natural but swank comedy touches, supplied both by dialog and action.

An even pace is set all the distance, with no particular hurry suggested, although there is much to do while the 94 minutes unreel. The ending, however, is more abrupt than is looked for, in view of the pace established by deliberately well-planned direction and script, with Cary Grant left on a hospital bed to recover, according to all expectations.

Story plays Grant in a stubborn vein against the knowledge that Miss Francis nabbed him as one does a mackerel, with the action at times appearing to make Grant somewhat unreasonable in his bitterness about the whole thing.  This reflects also in his attitude toward his parents.

The difficulty of breaking up the fortune-hunting marriage so that Grant and Miss Lombard may get hitched, carries the film through the majority of its running time. While intriguing the interest at every turn, maintaining a good grip on audience appreciation, the failure of a better showdown concerning the marriage or a divorce cannot be ignored. In the steering of the story, however, Cromwell has made every situation as believable as could be accomplished in order to sustain the dramatic undercurrent, strife and the beleaguered romance which has developed.  The strokes by which the decks are cleared for consummation of this romance are deft, careful, well-timed and highly effective for the purposes of the finish.

Grant and Miss Lombard emerge highly impressive.  Grant figures in some of the comedy relief but Miss Lombard is almost entirely on the romantic drama side, turning in a fine performance.

As the mercenary wife, Miss Francis does well, shading her role well. She does not photograph as well here, however; makeup, perhaps, somewhat a fault, unless the idea was to make her less glamorous than she has been in the past.

The supporting players are topped by Charles Coburn, as Grant's father; Helen Vinson, doing a vicious society gossiper, and Katharine Alexander, as Miss Lombard's sister.  A kid actress, appearing on the screen for the first time, is Peggy Ann Garner.  She has some sweetness but lacks polish, doing her lines very deliberately and suggesting that air of unnatural action which too frequently is the fault of kids following adult coaching.

In his brief hospital scene, Maurice Moscovich turns in an exceedingly impressive effort as a physician with a foreign accent.

Los Angeles Times Film Review - August 26, 1939 

Awful Truth Is the Kind That Pleases

In Name Only is the type of picture that ladies love to sniffle over. You see, the "other woman" becomes the sympathetic character and the wife, who just married the dear boy for his money, turns into a real villainess. It's all very poignant but the males in the audience are due to get a chuckle out of the eternal triangle in reverse.

In Name Only opened yesterday at R.K.O.-Hillstreet and Pantages Hollywood theaters to full houses, about 75 percent women. They suffered ecstatically along with Carole Lombard and Cary Grant, who couldn't get married because Cary's wife wouldn't like it. Wives are funny that way.

Bessie Breuer's novel, Memory of Love, served as a basis for the production. Richard Sherman, screen writer, retained the intrinsic points. Performances are of a high order.

Triangle Reversed

Miss Lombard, who weeps right convincingly when she wants to, portrays the young widow (with a small child) who falls in love with the handsome Mr. Grant after a casual meeting on the banks of a stream and subsequent picnics. When she discovers he is a married man, she shoos him away, but he comes right back and convinces her that his wife (Kay Francis) has not taken him for better or for worse, but for his money and social position.

Love usually finds its way, but in this case the wife, shrewd and calculating, plays every trump card she possesses to keep her meal ticket. In fact, Grant has to almost die of pneumonia before Miss Lombard takes the final trick.

Difficult Part

Miss Lombard and Grant have more dramatic roles than usual, and only occasionally do their individual comedy characteristics shine through. Just enough, one might say, to relieve the hokum generated.

John Cromwell direct the R.K.O. feature with his usual deft touch.

Kay Francis, in a most unsympathetic role, gives a fine performance. It is a difficult job well done. Charles Coburn, Helen Vinson, Katharine Alexander, Jonathan Hale, Maurice Moscovich, Nella Walker, Peggy Ann Garner and Spencer Charters leave little to be desired as supporting players.

The Washington Post Film Review - August 31, 1939

Triple-Star Cast Gives New Film Brisk Interpretation

A closely woven succession of events, excellent acting and adroit direction serve to refurbish a familiar theme in the thoroughly diverting and, at times, moving screen play that inaugurated its Washington engagement in RDO-Keith's Theater last evening at 5:45. Were the word "Wife" prefixed to the title, a complete index would be afforded to the theme of this expertly contrived comedy-romance that cloaks the antiquity of its triangular story in new dressings of humor, gaiety and high spirits, only occasionally shot through with the deeper emotions.

In Name Only points out with some asperity precisely what complications can be brought into the lives of true lovers and those nearest them by an acquisitive, mercenary and vengeful wife, who refuses to divorce her husband in order that he may wed an honest and respectable young woman, with no predatory instincts whatsoever, whom he has met by merest chance. The wife's shrewd and shrewish plans are heartily furthered by another catty young wife who is her "best friend," albeit not above poaching a little on Alec Walker's time, interest and patience on her own account.

The Best Laid Plans

Maida Walker, after perceiving that she is getting nowhere rapidly is holding the counterfeit "affection" of the man she married solely for his money — and who knows it — accompanies his parents to Paris on the promise to secure a divorce in the quietest possible manner. She has no intention of doing any such gracious thing, but prolongs her absence beyond all reasonable length for the kindly purpose of giving Alec and Julie Eden, the mother of a small daughter who would make an interesting witness in court, ample rope to "hang themselves." It somehow doesn't work out quite that way, although Alec has to come down with a terrific attack of pneumonia and struggle for breath in an oxygen tent to prevent it. The revelatory bedside scenes are the ones that pay off Maida in something considerably better than her own coin.

A familiar plot, yes, but, as I have said, one which, in this instance, has been given new life and new zest by the deftness of Richard Sherman's adaptation of Bessie Breuer's novel Memory of Love and the manner of its enactment. The blithe mood in which the play has been written is taken full advantage of by Carole Lombard, Cary Grant, Kay Francis and their associate players, led by Katherine Alexander, Nella Walker, Charles Coburn, Peggy Ann Garner, the precocious Washington child actress, and numerous others.

First honors, by all means, I should say, go to Cary Grant for so thoroughly natural, honest and amusing a portrayal of the central male character. His performance adds further proof that he rapidly is becoming one of the most facile and most reliable of the cinema's male stars. Carole Lombard, as Julie Eden, the young fashion artiste, shares the comedy scenes with Grant on his own footing. She is as assured, as spontaneously natural and as convincing as he is. Kay Francis, on the other hand, finds scant outlet for any sense of humor in her assignment to the subtly treacherous part of Maida Walker. She is as velvety and disarming a menace to domestic happiness and tranquility as ever clawed a friend . Helen Vinson, long absent from the local screen, as Suzanne, conceals a comparable nature less skillfully beneath a thin veneer of polished gush.

The supporting roles of prime importance are interpreted with characteristic skill by Charles Coburn, as the elder Walker; Nella Walker, his wife; Katherine Alexander, as Laura; Jonathan Hale, the family physician and counselor, and Maurice Moscovich, as his learned consultant. Their joint psychiatric ministrations finally bring order and a "happy ending" out of the chaos projected into their lives by Alec's frustrated wife.

Reading Eagle Film Review - September 3, 1939
The plight of an attractive young widow who meets and falls desperately in love with a married man offers a pulsating dramatic highlight about which pivots one of the screen's most appealing stories in In Name Only, costarring Carole Lombard, Cary Grant and Kay Francis. The hit film is now pleasing movie-goers at the Park.

The wife in this case is a heartless and selfish socialite whose only interest in the man she married is money and prestige. Accordingly, she refuses to grant him a release when he frankly asks for his freedom to marry the widow. Further, she threatens the two lovers with an unbearable scandal.

With their castles crashing about their ears the husband and his sweetheart fins it impossible to carry on and agree to separate forever.

Here the story takes an unexpected turn, mounting with dramatic rapidity to a soul-stirring climax.

Said to be one of 1939's most significant films, In Name Only is a powerful vehicle for its stellar trio. In addition to Carole Lombard, Cary Grant and Kay Francis, the RKO Radio Picture has a distinguished cast, among whom are Charles Coburn, Helen Vinson, Katharine Alexander, Jonathan Hale and Maurice Moscovich, directed by John Cromwell, renowned for Of Human Bondage.

Milwaukee Sentinel Film Review - September 19, 1939
Every histrionic trick in Mr. Cary Grant's repertoire was used successfully to make the new picture at the Warner theater extremely diverting screen fare. It is to say that without him and even despite engaging performances by Carole Lombard and Kay Francis, little more than mediocre entertainment would have been the net result. The sometimes sordid and unhealthy drama deals with two people who never should have married and a courageous widow who finally is able to pry her man from the inhuman clutches of his relentless wife. It is a film that will easily bring tears to the eyes of the sentimental and, as such, could have done handsomely with more comedy without destroying its effect. But in its present condition, Cary Grant makes In Name Only a first rate motion picture.

He is outstanding as the wealthy, handsome young man who learns soon after his marriage, despite the profound protestations of his mother and father, that his wife chose him for his money. Cary, who can cope successfully with comedy or heavy drama, keeps his Alec Walker portrayal restrained, sensible and at all times believable. He has a certain unpretentious charm and naturalness that never becomes revolting.

Miss Lombard and Miss Francis are capable, too, with their parts. The former portrays the young widow who falls madly in love with the married man and then suffers untold mental abuses when his wife refuses to divorce him. It is a terrific mental strain for her and it is nicely indicated in Miss Lombard's acting. I have never seen Miss Francis characterized to better advantage as she is as the mean wife. Only an actress with her experience and ability could make Maida Walker such a cold, scheming, yet human woman.

As I said, comedy could have been more judiciously distributed, for the tension in In Name Only is obviously too strong. However, the most is made of each comical scene and the sequence where Cary bounces into Lombard's room to announce that his wife has left for France to obtain a divorce gets more than a mild share of continuous laughs, though the banter is scarcely what you might call witty. Forgetting this lack, though, one will appreciate the smoothness and coherency of the film. Such supporting players as Charles Coburn, Helen Vinson and Katharine Alexander contribute their talents, but it remains for Cary Grant to make In Name Only well worth going out of your way to see.

Spokane Daily Chronicle Film Review - September 21, 1939
A loveless husband seeks release from his wily wife to wed the sympathetic "other woman" in the triangle play, In Name Only.

The picture is said to develop the "other woman's" side. This role is carried by Carole Lombard. Kay Francis portrays the wife who admits she does not love her husband but wants to keep him for the luxuries and social position he gives her. Cary Grant depicts the unhappy husband. Charles Coburn, Helen Vinson and Maurice Moscovich have important supporting roles in the RKO Radio Picture directed by John Cromwell from a screen play based on Memory of Love, a novel by Bessie Breuer.

"In Name Only" on Lux Radio Theatre - December 11, 1939
Carole Lombard, Cary Grant, Kay Francis, Clara Blandick, Harry Walker, Jean Arden, Julie Bannon, Lou Merrill, Peggy Ann Garner, Wright Kramer

Purchase In Name Only on DVD

Lana Turner Started as a "Sweater Girl"

Lana Turner built a successful movie career on her first screen appearance as a teenage "sweater girl."

Turner was discovered in early 1937 at the Top Hat Cafe, a shop across the street from Hollywood High. She cut a secretarial class and went to the cafe for a nickel Coke. W.R. Wilkerson, publisher of the Hollywood Reporter, spotted the pretty teen, gave her his card and asked her to call talent agent Zeppo Marx. This led to an MGM contract at age 15 and a teaming with director and producer Mervyn LeRoy. Julia Jean Mildred Frances Turner was renamed Lana (pronounced LAH-nah) Turner. ("Lana" is Spanish for wool and is used as a slang term for money in Mexico.)

Turner first attracted attention in They Won't Forget (1937). Wearing a skintight sweater and skirt, she sauntered along a street, spoke not one line, was murdered in the first reel and began a quick climb to stardom.

Lana Turner in They Won't Forget (1937)

Within a year after it hit the movie houses, she was making $260 a week and had received 1,000 marriage proposals. Students at Harvard named her the country's sexy-chestiest girl, and by her 20th birthday, 40 fraternity chapters had adopted her as their sweetheart. For her, the MGM commissary concocted the Lanallure Salad. Columnist Walter Winchell coined the phrase "sweater girl" in her honor. During World War II, she traveled the country promising "a sweet kiss" to any man who would buy a $50,000 war bond, "and I'm told I increased the defense budget by several million dollars."

Mervyn LeRoy guided her career. Some of her early films included Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), Calling Dr. Kildare (1939) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941). She studied with a dramatic coach and soon co-starred successfully with such leading MGM actors as Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable and Robert Taylor.

She was quite convincing in love scenes and in some melodramas. Her films included Green Dolphin Street (1947), Cass Timberlane (1947), The Three Musketeers (1948), The Merry Widow (1952), The Rains of Ranchipur (1955) and Diane (1956).

Her best performance was that of unfulfilled wife Cora Smith who persuades a drifter (John Garfield) to kill her husband (Cecil Kellaway), in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). She wore a turban, a halter top, the 1940s version of hot pants (all in white) and an insolent expression.

Critics hailed the scene in Postman in which she puts on lipstick and preens tauntingly in front of John Garfield as "a great film moment." Not until Marilyn Monroe was any actress to prove her equal at projecting such obvious sexuality from the screen.

Other major roles were a rebellious student in These Glamour Girls (1939), a shallow performer in Ziegfeld Girl (1941) and an alcoholic actress in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952).

Recalling The Bad and the Beautiful, John Houseman, the producer, said he and Vincente Minnelli, the director, had agreed Miss Turner "was capable of brilliant individual scenes, but seemed to lack the temperament or the training to sustain a full-length performance."

"This made our episodic film just right for her," Mr. Houseman said.

Mr. Minnelli recalled using "many ruses and subterfuges" to extract a major performance from Miss Turner, adding, "As she got more into the picture her nervousness disappeared, and she effectively made the character's transition from tramp to glamour queen."

The actress, a star at MGM for 17 years, was a quintessential product of the Hollywood studio system. She recalled in 1969: "It was all beauty and it was all power. Once you had it made, they protected you; they gave you stardom. The ones who kept forging ahead became higher and higher and brighter and brighter and they were stars. And they were treated like stars. We had the best."

Miss Turner was nominated for an Academy Award in 1957 for her portrayal of a neurotic mother in the film adaptation of Grace Metalious' novel Peyton Place. In many later movies, including remakes of Imitation of Life (1959) and Madame X (1966), she played heroines racked by sacrifice and suffering.

On television, her most ambitious effort was The Survivors, a lavish, prime time soap opera based on the Harold Robbins novel about a sordid banking family. Later, she toured in several plays, including the comedy Forty Carats.


Miss Turner was born on February 8, 1921 in Wallace, Idaho, and was named Julia Jean Mildred Frances Turner. Her father, John, was a miner. The family soon moved to San Francisco, where her parents separated. When she was 10, her father was murdered and robbed of money he had won in a craps game. Her mother, Mildred, became a beautician and moved to Los Angeles, where the girl lived for a while in a foster home before returning to her mother. As a teenager, she made $12 a week wrapping packages.

Husbands and Lovers

As she herself once said, "I like the boys, and the boys like me." She eloped with bandleader Artie Shaw on their first date. Within three days she had decided she was unhappy. Within seven months they were divorced and she aborted the baby she was carrying. (February 13, 1940 - September 12, 1940)

She fell in love with Joseph Stephen Crane, a restaurateur and her second husband, over dinner and married him a month later. Someone once said Turner picks husbands in less time than it takes to order off a menu. Crane fathered her only child, Cheryl Christina. Turner and Crane were married and divorced twice. Their first marriage was annulled after it was discovered that Crane's previous divorce had not yet been finalized. After a brief separation (during which Crane attempted suicide), they remarried but divorced 17 months later. (July 17, 1942 - February 4, 1943) and (March 14, 1943 - August 21, 1944)

Her third husband was millionaire sportsman Henry J. "Bob" Topping. "If I didn't love Bob, then why was I marrying him?" she was to ask herself years later. Well, he had proposed by dropping a 15-carat marquis diamond ring into her martini at 21 in New York, "and there's something awfully compelling about a large engagement ring." (April 26, 1948 - December 12, 1952)

Her fourth husband, ex-movie Tarzan Lex Barker, passed out drunk on their first date. Turner divorced him after discovering he had sexually molested and raped her daughter. (September 8, 1953 - July 22, 1957)

Her fifth husband was businessman and rancher Frederick "Fred" May. They remained friendly after their divorce. (November 27, 1960 - October 15, 1962)

Her sixth was handsome Virginia aristocrat and businessman Robert P. "Bob" Eaton. He was a decade younger, and she found out about the extramarital debauchery he practiced in her own bed when her appalled maid saved the soiled sheets. "I vowed...that I'd never trust any man ever again. But in the words of the song, I always pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again." (June 22, 1965 - April 1, 1969)

This time she dusted herself off with nightclub hypnotist Ronald Dante. She fell -- "Why, oh, why?" -- for his persuasive voice and compelling eyes. Their sixth-month marriage ended in court with suits, countersuits, and a judgment of malice, oppression and fraud against Dante. (May 9, 1969 - January 26, 1972)

She was also loved and wooed -- at different times -- by lawyer Greg Bautzer (who ultimately married actress Dana Wynter), by Robert Taylor (then wed to Barbara Stanwyck), by Howard Hughes, by Turkish-Viennese actor Turhan Bey, by Tyrone Power (whose baby she had aborted), by Fernando Lamas (in need of consolation after his split with Arlene Dahl), and by a two-bit bully named Johnny Stompanato.

In 1958, Stompanato died of a stab wound on Lana Turner's bedroom floor. He had been killed by Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane, then 14. Stompanato and Turner had been fighting. They often fought. But this time, Cheryl seized a carving knife Stompanato had bought the day before and plunged it into his stomach. The killing was ruled justifiable homicide. Lana Turner always referred to it -- the most spectacular scandal ever to hit Hollywood -- only as "the incident" or "the happening."

At 61, Turner discovered "the thing about happiness is that it doesn't help you to grow; only unhappiness does that."

You live, she said, "because you live. You do the best you can, and if you're lucky, it's good enough."

Miss Turner's 1982 memoir, Lana: the Lady, the Legend, the Truth, focused on her eight marriages and many romances. The memoir also recalled a suicide attempt (in 1951), two abortions, three stillbirths (in 1949, 1951 and 1956), alcoholism and her religious awakening in 1980.

Why she wrote her memoir: "I refuse to leave this earth with that pile of movie-magazine trash, scandal and slander as my epitaph."

Lana Turner died June 29, 1995, in Culver City, California, after a long bout with throat cancer. She was 74 years old.

September 03, 2015

#SOTM - TCM's Star of the Month Sept. 2015 - Susan Hayward

Susan Hayward Fast Facts

Born: Edythe Marrenner on June 30, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York City, New York
Died: March 14, 1975 (age 57) in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California

Jess Barker (July 24, 1944 - August 18, 1954) (divorced) (twin sons)
Floyd Eaton Chalkley (February 8, 1957 - January 9, 1966) (his death)

Fraternal twin boys, Timothy Barker and Gregory Barker, were born on February 19, 1945.


Academy Awards

1948 - Nominated for Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role - Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947)
1950 - Nominated for Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role - My Foolish Heart (1949)
1953 - Nominated for Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role - With a Song in My Heart (1952)
1956 - Nominated for Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role - I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955)
1959 - Won Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role - I Want to Live! (1958)

Golden Globes

1953 - Won Henrietta Award for World Film Favorite - Female
1953 - Won Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress - Musical/Comedy - With a Song in My Heart (1952)
1959 - Won Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress - Drama - I Want to Live! (1958)

Did You Know?

Was one of many starlets who auditioned for the part of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939).

Was diagnosed with brain cancer, allegedly the result of being exposed to dangerous radioactive toxins on location in Utah while making The Conqueror (1956). All the leads John Wayne, Agnes Moorehead, John Hoyt, Pedro Armendáriz, Hayward and the director Dick Powell died of cancer. The case is still a scandal.

She portrayed an alcoholic in three films, Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman (1947), My Foolish Heart (1949) and I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955). She was nominated for an Oscar for each performance.

Her footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre are the only ones set in gold dust.

Hayward was scheduled to star in a Ross Hunter-produced remake of Stella Dallas (1937), but the film was canceled because "women's pictures" were no longer box-office.

Replaced an ailing Barbara Stanwyck in Heat of Anger (1972), which was to have been a pilot for a TV series to be called Fitzgerald and Pride.

Susan Hayward's movie, I Want to Live captured her fascinating emotional mix. She managed to be as formidable as she was sexy, as courageous as she was abused, and as cold-blooded as she was hot-tempered.

In real life Susan Hayward smoked five packs of Newports a day, and on March 14, 1975 she died. Aristotle Onassis died the same night, which pushed her off most of the front pages that mold the world's memory. But she lived like a star, worked like a trouper and died like a heroine.

I Want To Live was Miss Hayward's personal pinnacle. A four-time Oscar also-ran, she made it 1958 portraying Barbara Graham, a stoic B-girl murderess condemned to the gas chamber. Miss Hayward beamed appropriately when she received the award, remembered all her co-workers gratefully, and later told her husband she'd finally "climbed up on top of that dung heap" that a part of her considered Hollywood to be.

Hollywood had been strictly star system 20 years before, when she arrived by train from Brooklyn with her more glamorous sister, Florence, and against her father's judgment. With all her red-haired drive, she wanted to be Scarlett in Gone with the Wind. Producer David Selznick reviewed her screen test and told her to go home. She said she'd stay, which wasn't really a choice; she'd already cashed in her return ticket.

She cashed in her past, and the name Edythe Marrener when Warner Brothers signed her to a six-month contract. As Susan Hayward, she did promotional tours and a few nothing roles for $75 a week.

"Susan really got kicked around, and I think it got to her," says producer Marty Rackin who rescued her on occasion. "Jack Warner used to say that one actor on his ass was worth two on his feet, and he kept 'em that way. Susan was shy and very insecure then, and after the Warner treatment she never let down her guard. It made her a loner, and she never changed."

Rackin could have gone back further, as Miss Hayward often did, to say her toughness came from her upbringing. Her father, a subway conductor, was a weak-willed alcoholic; her mother, conniving end pretentious. She had grown up dirty-dress poor in the shadow of her mother's favoritism toward her sister, Florence, six years older. Miss Hayward's hip-rolling walk came not from affectation, but childhood pelvic fractures which knit wrong. They knit wrong, she said, because her mother took her to a free clinic rather than an orthopedist.

She moved on to Paramount where she stepped out of line and exploited her exploiters in a 1941 studio sales convention. Chosen to say welcoming words, Miss Hayward said instead: "Several of you have asked me why I'm not in more Paramount pictures, and that's a damn interesting question. Well, Mr. Freeman (Frank Freeman, studio chief), do I get a break or don't I?" Freeman responded with sputtering amiability, the press was amused, the letters to the studio were encouraging, and Susan Hayward shortly found getting better work easier. Not easy, but easier. "I always saw the thing as a job," she later told confidant Ron Nelson.

"I was never late, I always learned my lines and did what the director told me to do because he was the boss. I didn't party; I didn't romance anybody for work, no way. I wanted to make it right."

That was her retrospective view. Hayward scholar Doug McClelland, in a loving, retrospective book nonetheless titled The Divine Bitch, quotes several early co-stars with accounts like this anonymous one:

"From the start, Susan gave the most skilled directors a bad time. She refused guidance, although there were times when direction would have helped her considerably. She was touchy on the set, and it was a rare day when she mixed with the cast during breaks. Somewhere along the line she learned to act. And she didn't stop at being just good. Every inch of that voluptuous woman is an actress. She can portray a lonely, frustrated, desperate woman because she's experienced those emotions. If you look closely, you'll see they've left scars on her heart."

That is, indeed, a secret of her best films: they coincide with tragedies Miss Hayward knew inside-out.

After she got her Oscar, the script for Miss Hayward's life came another movie, I'd Climb the Highest Mountain, one of her rare happy ones. In it she played a city girl who married a rural minister and adjusted to backwoods life. She would live her 10 happiest years with Eaton Floyd Chalkley, a Carrollton, GA gentleman farmer she loved far more than Hollywood.

"I don't miss Hollywood at all, not even my psychiatrist," she said in a 1959 interview. "The career doesn't interest me very much, and more and more I ask myself why I make any pictures at all."

Chalkley had changed her. He was 10 years older, a Georgia boy who had made good as an FBI agent and a Washington lawyer. "A nice guy, a real guy," says producer Rackin, who had intended to have dinner with the couple the night in 1957 they got married in Phoenix instead.

In Carrollton (pop. 10,973), Susan Hayward was Mrs. Eaton Chalkley. She wore bandanas, western shirts and khaki cotton slacks and drove a pick-up. They entertained when they had to, always in big batches.

"Mrs. Chalkley told me she liked the simple people," says Curlie Crowder, a Carrollton woman who worked for the couple for many years. "They was more sincere," she said. "And whatever they say, they be really meaning."

Townspeople liked Susan Hayward, too, "'cause she was a down-to-earth person. In small towns like here, people see each time they meet somebody new, whether they be the same. Mrs. Chalkley was, so they accepted her."

The couple oscillated between Carrollton and Fort Lauderdale where in the late '50s they kept a converted shrimp boat. The boat was to indulge Chalkley's frequent urge for deep sea fishing. His wife always went along, though she loved her husband and the ocean far more than she did fishing.

"He was the strongest male I ever met," Susan Hayward said of Chalkley. "He had the greatest amount of gentleness and a totally even temperament." She told friends how her husband taught her to ride. It began with a casual offer, and almost ended when Miss Hayward fell off.

"Aren't you gonna pick me up?" she bleated.

"No," said Chalkley. "Get back on the horse."

"I really cussed him out," Miss Hayward recalled.

"You want to learn to ride, get back on," Chalkley said calmly. "If not, let's forget it."

She learned to ride well. Chalkley also advised her on scripts and won her better contracts. As a lover's sport, he bought her fresh yellow roses daily, from the first day of their marriage to his death, even when she was on remote location.

Though she curried Hollywood's favor by singing its praises whenever she came to work, Susan Hayward afterward retreated to Carrollton or Fort Lauderdale as fast as possible.

A local Civic Association solicitor quickly discovered the limits of Miss Hayward's neighborliness when she paused in her pitch to coo at her Florida home's furnishings.

"What did you want to see me about?" her hostess growled.

"Joining the association."

"What's it cost?"

Told, Miss Hayward said: "I'll join. Send me a bill and can the chit-chat; it bores me."

It did, indeed, along with bridge and tea and socio-charitable company. It wasn't herself people wanted to meet, Miss Hayward thought, but "either the name or the money. That's what they want," she said. "Or they want me to be a monkey on a goddam stick and I'm tired of that. If they want me, they've gotta pay me." Nobody did, so Fort Lauderdale and Susan Hayward reached a separate peace.

Chalkley was no more visible, though as devout Catholic, he attended Mass almost daily. His wife would have none of it.

From an untreated World War II blood infection, he'd contracted hepatitis. The condition worsened in 1966, while Susan was in Venice shooting The Honey Pot. Filming stopped and she flew home. Chalkley, after two weeks at Holy Cross, felt he was dying and wanted to die at home. His wife didn't believe it but humored him.

In their last conversation, Chalkley said she would be financially secure. But he voiced concern about her soul.

"Susan was still talking to him when he died," says Ron Nelson, in later years her closest friend. He heads the Broward County Heart Association, the only formal charity that interested her. Nelson's style is to merge personal and professional relations into friendship. The style has made him Florida's most impressive Heart Fundraiser, also the friend Miss Hayward chose for company in her own long death watch.

When she realized Chalkley was dead, Nelson recalls, "she locked herself in the bathroom and yelled her lungs out.

"After about 10 minutes, she opened the door and came out composed. She turned to Dr. Leonard Erdman, who'd attended Eaton, and said: 'Okay, Doc, what do I do next?'"

She finished The Honey Pot and five months later converted to Catholicism in a secret ceremony in Pittsburgh.

"I hope to Christ there is something to reincarnation," she told Nelson, "because I want to see Eaton again."

For months after his death, she rarely left her home. In public she drank Jack Daniels and Johnnie Walker Black Label on the rocks. In private she drank them neat, and Beefeater martinis in brandy snifters the size of goldfish bowls. She needed, as she put it, "to get blown away."

Few worthy screenplays came and she declined the best of them: Mrs. Robinson in Mike Nichols The Graduate. She did two TV pilots which weren't bad or good enough. She refused commercials "because I don't think I should stoop to brushing my teeth in public."

Seclusion was again the answer to fading eminence. She read more, everything from Balzac to movie mags which she loved and deplored. She read The New York Times and Wall Street Journal daily, and once in a while would go to Southeast Everglades Bank of Fort Lauderdale to admire her money.

"Susan kept about $400,000 in a paper bag in her safe deposit box," says Nelson, "and she liked to pile it up on the table. I asked her why she didn't deposit it or put it into bonds. 'No, I just like to touch it,' she said, 'I like to count it.'"

She played a trick on her sons — Tim, a Hollywood publicist and Greg, a Jacksonville veterinarian — before she died. She cut up newspapers to the size of dollar bills, put a few real bills on the outside of the money wrappers and left this note in the paper bag: "Where did all the dough go? I spent it, what the hell did you think?"

Miss Hayward and her twin sons by her first husband, actor Jess Barker, weren't close until after Chalkley's death; they grew up with nannies and at boarding schools. She was businesslike with them and stern: Tim learned he was going to work when his mother refused him financial support for a fellowship in cinematography. She did it by shaking her head to his request.

In 1972 she began to experience serious headaches. It was slightly ominous; in 1967 she had had a hysterectomy for tumors diagnosed as benign. She attributed the headaches to too much liquor and shrugged them off until her physical in December 1972 at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

She told no one that doctors had found 20 lesions in her brain; she said the doctors were crazy. In April 1973, she collapsed in the midst of a Hollywood party. Friends were told she was in Cedars of Lebanon Hospital there; actually she was at Century City Hospital under the name of Margaret Redding.

When released in May 1973, the five-foot-one-inch actress weighed 85 pounds. She was wheelchair bound. Under her wig, she had no hair: chemotherapy and radiation treatments had caused it to fall out. The press was told Miss Hayward had been hospitalized for undisclosed tests. She told her friends nothing, Privately, Nelson was told by her physician, Dr. Lee Siegel: "It could be a week, it could be a month, but she's going to die."

By July 4, he predicted. Consulting specialists agreed.

Soon after she returned to her Los Angeles home, Susan asked Nelson to take her to celebrated astrologer Carroll Righter. Astrology had long fascinated her and she was thoroughly conversant if not devout.

He ducked the question, saying her chart showed a decline. "But it's only a professional decline," he said. "I see that you will be alive in January 1975."

The news buoyed her, and so did her improving condition.

"Fantastic accuracy" in radiation treatment had halted her tumors' growth and Miss Hayward was in remission.

Believing doctors had been wrong, she reported for tests at Massachusetts General Hospital in October 1973.

Nelson saw the results when Miss Hayward came to Lauderdale for three weeks before returning to Hollywood. "I met the plane and thought she'd missed it," he recalls. "All the passengers had gotten off and no Susan. The passage was empty and then she came. A nurse was holding her. She wore a sable coat and dark glasses. She was dragging her right foot.

"'Don't touch me,' Susan said, shuddering."

That night, at his home, Nelson offered her a drink. Her nurse shook her head furiously.

"Who the hell says I can't drink," Miss Hayward snapped. "I can do anything I please."

She wanted Chivas Regal and Nelson sent out for it. After three drinks, she collapsed. He let himself cry.

By Christmas, Miss Hayward was dragging her leg more.

A large tumor was growing on the left side of her brain, doctors said. It would move inexorably across to the right side and paralyze her totally. She refused further chemotherapy and radiation and vetoed invasive surgery. Analgesics she accepted in moderation.

Remission blessed her again early in 1974, and she accepted an Academy Awards invitation to present Oscars. Dr. Siegel said it was risky. By March her brain seizures were longer and more frequent. She prevailed on dress designer Nolan Miller to conceal her afflictions. He came up with a high-necked, full length, black sequined gown. Points of black lace hid her left and paralyzed right hand.

Immediately before she was to walk onstage Siegel gave her a massive dose of Dilantin, a drug used to ward off seizures. It worked.

"Well, that's the last time I pull that off," Miss Hayward said, flushed and wobbly afterward. She collapsed of a seizure that night at a small party.

It was evident by July that she needed more treatment. She went to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, finally willing to undergo exploratory surgery. The press got no explanation and Nelson got this one: "It's just that I've got rocks in my head and doctors have a machine that detects them. I've known I had rocks in my head for a long time."

Her therapy, it turned out, had been so good that doctors at first thought the tumors benign. When her doctor came in to deliver the bad news from pathology, she told Nelson: "If he's gonna tell me what I think he's gonna tell me, I think you'd better leave."

He heard screams of disbelief, then silence, and went back in.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"Nothing to talk about, is there?" Miss Hayward said. "I'm going home to Fort Lauderdale and I'm going to act as though it never happened." She sent Nelson out for chicken livers cooked in wine and mushroom sauce.

By the summer of 1974, she was limited to her wheelchair. Her hands shook too badly for her to read or feed herself. She couldn't hold cigarettes and burned up rugs. She wore braces to prevent her paralyzed legs from breaking.

At night she and Nelson watched TV late and talked. Once she said: "The night has a thousand eyes, doesn't it?"

"Are you afraid?" he asked.

"Let's put it this way," she said. "I feel more comfortable sleeping in the daytime."

In September she was flown back to Emory. A brain scan showed rapid tumor growth. Doctors concluded she would soon lose her speech and memory, then the swallowing reflex. Because she explicitly forbade "intravenous or any other lifesaving crap," she'd die once she could no longer swallow.

On October 17, Dr. George Tindall, a neurosurgeon, told reporters Miss Hayward was "quite ill." In fact, Miss Hayward was in a coma, not expected to survive.

After four days she stirred. "I'm thirsty," she whispered to Nelson. It was another rally, though she had no illusions this time. "I don't want anybody to push me over the brink," she said, "and I don't went anybody to hold me back."

Because Chalkley had died in Fort Lauderdale, she ruled it out. Nelson rented a plane to take her back to Los Angeles. In midflight she decided she was hungry. The plane had no food. "So put it down," she commanded. Star and crew had fried chicken in Midland, Texas.

Nelson followed, though he too had a health problem: a worsening heart condition. He followed because he wanted to, had promised to. Before Miss Hayward boarded her plane, she'd said: "Look, they THINK I've got cancer. We KNOW you've had a heart attack. Make a deal? We won't talk about that crap anymore, but let's keep this special thing we've got till one of us kicks the bucket. If it's you, I'll try to be there. If it's me, you goddam well better be or I'll haunt you!"

She would see almost no one as she died in her hilltop home overlooking Culver City. Rackin was told: "Try to visit and I'll never talk to you again." She made exceptions for Barbara Stanwyck; "another Brooklyn broad," in Miss Hayward's book, and for Katharine Hepburn, whom she had not known before her illness.

Nelson recalls Miss Hepburn "driving up in her '61 Thunderbird in blue jeans." She bore a bouquet she had made herself "because the florists around here are a ripoff," she explained.

"'Hi, Susannah; it's Kate,' she'd say. 'Been sticking your behind all day again? Bet it hurts.'"

And then they'd talk tough-trouper talk.

Carroll Righter's magic day came and passed, but by the end of February Miss Hayward's power of speech was intermittent. Nelson or a nurse had to turn her in bed and she could only sometimes swallow.

After four days of unconsciousness, she roused on March 10 and called her son Greg, the veterinarian.

"You know I'm dying." she said. It was the first time she'd admitted it, though he'd been shuttling between his practice in Jacksonville and her bedside for the past 30 months in response to the alarms of doctors.

He asked what he could do.

"Oh, you're a veterinarian," his mother said, "and I thought you might be able to fix up this old horse."

They talked about his wife and practice.

"This is my nickel," she said finally, "so I'm signing off now. I want you to remember something, though. Remember that I love you."

Nelson, at Miss Hayward's behest, called Tim, the publicist. He drove up from his office. She let him know she approved his taking away her financial power, a matter they'd fought about before. "It's the right thing," she said. "You're my son."

Then, Tim remembers, "she said she loved me, and whimpered and collapsed."

Three days longer Nelson waited. For ten days she'd eaten nothing. From scores of religious medals sent by fans, he picked the best and strung them on a safety pin which he pinned to the star's pink nightie.

He kept her hand, as she had ordered, on a big onyx crucifix Pope John XXIII had given her.

On March 14, 1975 at 2 p.m., her head wrenched sharply, her eyes bulged, and Susan Hayward died. Dr. Siegel called her 2 1/2 year struggle "absolutely extraordinary."

"It's amazing to live that long with this type of lesion," he said. "There's no other case like it, nothing in the medical literature." Tim estimated that his mother spent $350,000 to stay alive.

For the quick, quiet funeral she'd ordered, Tim told reporters the funeral would be Monday in Carrollton and planned it for Sunday.

Carrollton people knew and baked cakes and hams. They lined seven miles of highway between the funeral home and cemetery. Nobody from Hollywood was there. In what Miss Hayward's maid described as "a little, drizzly rain," and wearing the gown Nolan Miller designed for her for the 1974 Oscars, she was buried beside Eaton Chalkley on the east side of the church amid the piney woods.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help was a church she helped to found. The Chalkleys donated 14 acres adjoining their farm for the church to be built and helped to raise money for its construction. The church was dedicated March 25, 1962.

There's a lie on her pink marble tombstone. It says she was born in 1918. Actually, it was 1917.

TCM's Star of the Month - September 2015

Beau Geste (1939)
D: William Wellman. Gary Cooper, Ray Milland, Robert Preston, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, J Carrol Naish, Albert Dekker, Broderick Crawford, Donald O'Connor. Scene-for-scene remake of famous 1926 silent film (with Ronald Colman) isn't quite as good but faithfully retells story of three devoted brothers serving in the Foreign Legion and battling sadistic martinet commander (Donlevy). Nothing can top that opening sequence! Based on the novel by P.C. Wren. Remade in 1966.

Adam Had Four Sons (1941)
D: Gregory Ratoff. Ingrid Bergman, Warner Baxter, Susan Hayward, Fay Wray, Richard Denning, Johnny Downs, June Lockhart. Handsome but predictable family saga about French governess Bergman watching over Baxter's household after his wife's death. Bergman gives warm performance, and Hayward plays bad girl to the hilt.

Reap the Wild Wind (1942)
D: Cecil B. DeMille. Ray Milland, John Wayne, Paulette Goddard, Raymond Massey, Robert Preston, Susan Hayward, Charles Bickford, Hedda Hopper, Louise Beavers, Martha O'Driscoll, Lynne Overman. Brawling DeMille hokum of 19th-century salvagers in Florida, with Goddard as fiery Southern belle, Milland and Wayne fighting for her, Massey as odious villain. Exciting underwater scenes, with the special effects earning an Oscar. Milland good in off-beat characterization.

Canyon Passage (1946)
D: Jacques Tourneur. Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, Ward Bond, Andy Devine, Lloyd Bridges. Plotty, colorful Western mixing action, beautiful scenery, heated love relationships, and Hoagy Carmichael singing "Ole Buttermilk Sky." Well made and entertaining.

Tulsa (1949)
D: Stuart Heisler. Susan Hayward, Robert Preston, Pedro Armendariz, Lloyd Gough, Chill Wills, Ed Begley, Jimmy Conlin. Bouncy drama of cattlewoman Hayward entering the wildcat oil business to avenge the death of her father, losing her values along the way as she becomes blinded by her success.

They Won't Believe Me (1947)
D: Irving Pichel. Susan Hayward, Robert Young, Jane Greer, Rita Johnson, Tom Powers, Don Beddoe, Frank Ferguson. Fine James Cain-type melodrama about a philanderer who gets involved with three women, leading to tragedy (and a terrific twist ending). Young excels in his unsympathetic role; Johnson does wonders with her scenes as his wife.

Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman (1947)
D: Stuart Heisler. Susan Hayward, Lee Bowman, Marsha Hunt, Eddie Albert, Carl Esmond, Carleton Young. Hayward is excellent as an insecure nightclub singer who gives up her career when she weds soon-to-be radio star Bowman...and finds herself helplessly mired in alcoholism. This was Hayward's breakthrough role after a decade in Hollywood, and it deservedly earned her her first Oscar nomination. Taut script by John Howard Lawson, from an original story by Dorothy Parker and Frank Cavett.

Deadline at Dawn (1946)
D: Harold Clurman. Susan Hayward, Paul Lukas, Bill Williams, Joseph Calleia, Osa Massen, Lola Lane, Jerome Cowan, Steven Geray. Atmospheric but muddled murder mystery, with aspiring actress Hayward attempting to clear naive sailor Williams, who is suspected of murder. Clurman's only film as director. Screenplay by Clifford Odets, from a novel by William Irish (Cornell Woolrich).

Girls on Probation (1938)
D: William McGann. Jane Bryan, Ronald Reagan, Anthony Averill, Sheila Bromley, Henry O'Neill, Elisabeth Risdon, Sig Rumann, Susan Hayward. Uninspired B picture about a young woman (Bryan) who can't seem to stay out of trouble with the law; Reagan is a lawyer who defends her and falls in love with her.

I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1951)
D: Michael Gordon. Susan Hayward, Dan Dailey, Sam Jaffe, George Sanders, Randy Stuart, Marvin Kaplan, Harry Von Zell. Hayward is aces as a model-turned-dress-designer determined to make it in N.Y.C.'s garment industry. Jerome Weidman's flavorful novel was adapted by Vera Caspary and scripted by Abraham Polonsky.

David and Bathsheba (1951)
D: Henry King. Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Raymond Massey, Kieron Moore, James Robertson Justice, Jayne Meadows, John Sutton, George Zucco. Biblical epic with good production values but generally boring script; only fair performances.

President's Lady, The (1953)
D: Henry Levin. Charlton Heston, Susan Hayward, John McIntire, Fay Bainter, Carl Betz. Heston as Andrew Jackson and Hayward the lady with a past he marries work well together in this fictional history of 1800s America, based on the Irving Stone novel. Heston would again play "Old Hickory" five years later in The Buccaneer.

With a Song in My Heart (1952)
D: Walter Lang. Susan Hayward, Rory Calhoun, David Wayne, Thelma Ritter, Robert Wagner, Una Merkel. Well-intentioned schmaltz based loosely on events in life of singer Jane Froman with Hayward earnest as songstress struggling to make comeback after crippling plane crash. Alfred Newman won an Oscar for Scoring.

Lusty Men, The (1952)
D: Nicholas Ray. Susan Hayward, Robert Mitchum, Arthur Kennedy, Arthur Hunnicutt, Frank Faylen. Intelligent, atmospheric rodeo drama, with ex-champ Mitchum becoming mentor of novice Kennedy--and finding himself attracted to Kennedy's no-nonsense wife (Hayward). Solid going most of the way--until that hokey finale. Well directed by Ray.

Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954)
D: Delmer Daves. Victor Mature, Susan Hayward, Michael Rennie, Debra Paget, Anne Bancroft, Richard Egan, Ernest Borgnine. Hokey sequel to The Robe has Emperor Caligula (Jay Robinson) searching for magic robe of Christ; Mature dallies with royal Hayward. CinemaScope.

Conqueror, The (1956)
D: Dick Powell. John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Pedro Armendariz, Agnes Moorehead, Thomas Gomez, John Hoyt, William Conrad. Mongols vs. Tartars, and John Wayne vs. the silliest role of his career, Genghis Khan. Expensive epic has camp dialogue to spare. The film had a sobering real-life aftermath, however: it was shot on location in Utah near an atomic test site, and an alarming number of its cast and crew (including the stars) were later stricken by cancer. CinemaScope.

I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955)
D: Daniel Mann. Susan Hayward, Richard Conte, Jo Van Fleet, Ray Danton, Eddie Albert, Margo. Superlative portrayal by Hayward of star Lillian Roth, her assorted marriages and alcoholic problems. Everything a movie biography should be. Helen Rose won an Oscar for her costumes. Also shown in computer-colored version.

I Want To Live! (1958)
D: Robert Wise. Susan Hayward, Simon Oakland, Virginia Vincent, Theodore Bikel, John Marley, Dabbs Greer, Gavin MacLeod. Hayward won an Oscar for her gutsy performance as prostitute-crook Barbara Graham who (according to the film) is framed for murder and goes to gas chamber. Smart presentation, fine acting, memorable jazz score by Johnny Mandel. Nelson Gidding and Don Mankiewicz based script on articles about Graham. Look fast for Jack Weston, Brett Halsey. Remade as a 1983 TVM with Lindsay Wagner.

Top Secret Affair (1957)
D: H. C. Potter. Susan Hayward, Kirk Douglas, Paul Stewart, Jim Backus, John Cromwell. John P. Marquand's Melville Goodwin, U.S.A. becomes fair comedy, with most credit going to Hayward as fiery publisher who knows all about the past of Senate appointee (Douglas).

Marriage-Go-Round, The (1960)
D: Walter Lang. Susan Hayward, James Mason, Julie Newmar, Robert Paige, June Clayworth. Film version of Leslie Stevens' saucy play about marriage: Mason is professor attracted to free-love-oriented Newmar. Amusing, but lacks real bite. CinemaScope.

Back Street (1961)
D: David Miller. Susan Hayward, John Gavin, Vera Miles. Third screen version of the classic romance about a woman sacrificing everything for love of a married man. Fannie Hurst wrote the novel in 1931. The 1932 film was directed by John M. Stahl and starred John Boles and Irene Dunne. Universal remade it in 1941 with direction by Robert Stevenson. It starred Charles Boyer and Margaret Sullavan.

Valley of the Dolls (1967)
D: Mark Robson. Susan Hayward, Barbara Parkins, Sharon Tate, Patty Duke, Paul Burke, Lee Grant. Three young women brave the world of show business and pills. Based on the novel by Jacqueline Susann. Judy Garland was originally cast as Helen Lawson, but was fired when she (reputedly) came to work drunk; Susan Hayward replaced her in the role after production had already begun.

Stolen Hours (1963)
D: Daniel Petrie. Susan Hayward, Michael Craig, Diane Baker. An American heiress with an incurable disease falls in love with her surgeon. Nice remake of Dark Victory.

Honey Pot, The (1967)
D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Rex Harrison, Susan Hayward, Cliff Robertson, Capucine, Edie Adams, Maggie Smith. A millionaire fakes a terminal illness to fleece his former girlfriends. Hayward's husband, F. Eaton Chalkley, died while she was making this film.

Where Love Has Gone (1964)
D: Edward Dmytryk. Susan Hayward, Bette Davis, Michael Connors, Joey Heatherton, Jane Greer, DeForest Kelley, Anne Seymour, George Macready. Family secrets come to light when a teenager murders her mother's lover. Based on the 1962 novel by Harold Robbins.

I Thank a Fool (1962)
D: Robert Stevens. Susan Hayward, Peter Finch, Diane Cilento, Cyril Cusack. A doctor once convicted of euthanasia gets a job caring for her prosecutor's wife.

Ada (1961)
D: Daniel Mann. Susan Hayward, Dean Martin, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Ralph Meeker, Martin Balsam. A call girl weds an easygoing politician and helps him against corrupt state officials. Based on the novel Ada Dallas by Wirt Williams.

Susan Hayward on the Radio

"Hold Back the Dawn" on Lux Radio Theatre: November 10, 1941 - Charles Boyer, Paulette Goddard, Susan Hayward

"The Petrified Forest" on Lux Radio Theatre: April 23, 1945 - Ronald Colman, Susan Hayward, Lawrence Tierney

"With a Song in My Heart" on Lux Radio Theatre: February 9, 1953 - Susan Hayward, David Wayne, Rory Calhoun, Thelma Ritter, Robert Wagner, the singing voice of Jane Froman

"Susan Hayward" on The Orson Welles Almanac: July 12, 1944 - Orson Welles, Susan Hayward

"Hold Back the Dawn" on The Screen Guild Theater: February 8, 1943 - Charles Boyer, Susan Hayward, Margaret Lindsay

"Heaven Can Wait" on The Screen Guild Theater: May 7, 1945 - Walter Pidgeon, Susan Hayward, John Carradine

"The Dead Sleep Lightly" on Suspense: March 30, 1943 - Walter Hampden, Susan Hayward, Lee Bowman

"Dame Fortune" on Suspense: October 24, 1946 - Susan Hayward