Robert Donat – A Life Too Short

The last film line spoken by Robert Donat before his death was “We shall not see each other again. I think. Farewell.”

Robert Donat was a mellow sounding English actor. Donat was born in 1905 and was in his first Shakespeare production by the age of 16.  He began traveling with his theater group and acted all over Britain. Alexander Korda noticed Donat’s acting chops and gave him a 3-year film contract. During this time Donat’s was cast as Thomas Culpepper, in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). Donat’s went to Hollywood to work on The Count of Monte Cristo (1934). Based on the strength of his performance he was offered the role of Captain Blood (1935). I can maybe see that casting. Donat’s didn’t like life in Hollywood and continued to avoid roles that forced him outside of Briton.

Hollywood usually had to shoot in England if it wanted him badly enough. And that was not a problem, after the box office reception given The 39 Steps (1935), the … Continue reading

Glenn Ford – From Film Noir to Superman’s Father

Glenn Ford

Glenn Ford was born in Canada in 1916 and moved to the US when he was 8. After high school, he began working in theater and taking odd jobs including with Will Rogers who taught him to ride a horse. Wow.

In 1939, he began working for Columbia Pictures and became a US citizen the same year. His first major role was Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence (1939). In late 1942, Ford joined the Marine Corp reserve.

He spent his time working in the Photographic Section. He was discharged in 1944 for ulcers. In 1958, he returned as a reserve officer.

Ford’s best-known role is most likely the film noir classic Gilda (1946) with co-star Rita Hayworth. This pair eventually made five movies together.

Through the 50s and 60s, Ford’s career was on fire. He made thrillers, dramas, action, comedies, and westerns. Some of his best-known films include A Stolen Life (1946) with Bette Davis, The Secret of Convict Lake (1951) with Gene Tierney, The Big Heat (1953), … Continue reading

Sidney Poitier – The Cool Cat from Cat Island

Sidney Poitier in The Long Ships (1964)

Sidney Poitier became a stage actor after moving from Cat Island in the Bahamas and serving time in the Army. By 1949 he was so respected that he was offered a role in No Way Out (1950) directed by Darryl F. Zanuck. In this film, Poitier is playing a black doctor that must treat two white racists, one of which is played by Richard Widmark.

This was the first of the roles he played that showed the conflict between the races. In the Blackboard Jungle (1955) he played a resentful youth that was won over by his teacher played by Glenn Ford. In The Defiant Ones (1958) he played an escaped convict shackled to a white prisoner. In Lilies of the Field (1963), he helped white nuns build a chapel and became the first African-American to win an Oscar for a lead role. In Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) he is engaged to a white girl and has to deal with generational bigotry from both sides. In To Sir, … Continue reading

Anthony Quinn Short Bio

Anthony Quinn

Anthony Quinn was born in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1915. The family moved to Los Angeles where Quinn attended but eventually dropped out of high school. Quinn spent some time boxing and then studied architecture with Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright encouraged Quinn to try acting and by 1936 he was in Hollywood.

Quinn’s first role in tinsel town was The Plainsman (1936) directed by his future father-in-law Cecil B. DeMille. That’s one way to make it big. As part of the studio system at Paramount Quinn was given many ethnic bit parts. Since he was not a US citizen he did not serve in WWII but received extra roles as many actors were away.

At the end of his contract he returned to the stage to sharpen his skills. Elia Kazan cast Quinn and Marlon Brando as brothers in Viva Zapata! (1952). Quinn won the Oscar for best-supporting actor and became the first Mexican-American to win one of the golden statuettes. Quinn wasn’t done as he got his second one for Lust … Continue reading

Burt Lancaster Short Bio

Burt Lancaster

Burt Lancaster was born in Manhattan. All four of his grandparents were immigrants from Northern Ireland. Lancaster grew up on the streets and was a tuff character. He became interested in gymnastics and was a high school athlete. Following his mother’s death, he dropped out of college and later joined the circus at age 19 where he could use his considerable physical skills.

He met his lifelong friend Nick Cravet during his circus period. In 1939, a hand injury forced Lancaster to quit his beloved circus. For a time he worked at department stores as a singing waiter.

When World War II broke out he joined the Army and ended up in the USO entertaining troops. He served in the Italian theater of operation. Following the war, he was not excited to become an actor but he tried out for a stage role and landed the part. With his intense blue eyes, athletic physique, and devilish smile it is not hard to see how he got the role.

Although the play … Continue reading

Lisa Montell Short Bio

Lisa Montell

Lisa Montell was described by IMDB.com as a “Smoulderingly beautiful and a fetching, exotic-eyed vision.” Yeah I’m okay with that description. She was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1933 but he family moved to 5th Avenue in New York prior to the Nazi invasion of Poland.

Montell attending performing arts schools while in New York. The family moved to Lima, Peru in 1953 where Montell was cast in her first film Daughter of the Sun God (1962). The film was so badly shot it took 10 years before it was released in America. While working in other films she was noticed by Hollywood. When her father died Montell and her mother moved to LA. She worked as almost every ethnicity but her own.

In all had around 15 movie roles include World Without End (1956) and She Gods of Shark Reef (1958)but quit acting around 1962 to concentrate on her Bahá’í faith. You can look it up, I had to. It is a monotheistic religion that came out … Continue reading

Hugh Marlowe Short Bio

Hugh Marlowe with Gregory Peck Twelve O'Clock High (1949) Military tribute fest

Hugh Marlowe was born in Pennsylvania in 1911. Marlowe had a radio, stage, and film career. I will confine myself to just the films at this point.

Marlow began his stage career in the early 1930’s at the Pasadena Playhouse in California. His first appeared on the New York stage in a 1936 production of  ”Arrest That Woman.”

Marlowe’s best work was in sci-fi. Marlowe’s first film was Married Before Breakfast (1937). His films included Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Twelve O’Clock High (1949) as a critical character in this fine story along with Gregory Peck, All About Eve (1950), Night and the City (1950), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Rawhide (1951), Howard Hawks’ Monkey Business (1952), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) as the lead Earth scientist, World Without End (1956), Elmer Gantry (1960), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) and Seven Days in May (1964).

When Marlowe’s film days were over he was on the soap opera “Another World” from 1969 until his death in … Continue reading

Richard Widmark Bio

Richard Widmark

Richard Widmark was born in Minnesota and always had an interest in movies. Like so many, he attends college to become a lawyer but he was derailed by the acting bug. By the late 30s, he was acting in New York. When World War II broke out he tried to enlist but was medically disqualified for an ear problem. Following the war, Widmark went under contract with 20th Century Fox. Darryl F. Zanuck saw Widmark’s screen test for “Tommy Udo” and had him cast in this role for Kiss of Death (1947). After being nominated for Best Supporting Actor in this role, Widmark’s career was a blaze.

Through the 1950s, Widmark covered the major genres: Westerns, military, and the thriller.

He appeared with Marilyn Monroe in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) and made Pickup on South Street (1953) that same year for director Samuel Fuller. That same year Take the High Ground! (1953) came out where Widmark played the role of a tough combat veteran trying to prepare boys … Continue reading

Humphrey Bogart Short Bio

Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart was born in New York City but not in Hell’s Kitchen or the rough parts like some of the actors we have already talked about. His parents were doing pretty well. Bogie was preparing for medical school at Yale when he was kicked out of Phillips Academy in Massachusetts. Bogart joined the Navy but it believed the war ended before he saw action. It is during this time that he received the scar on his lip that created his distinctive speaking style. The most commonly accepted story is that he was escorting a prisoner to the brig when the prisoner asked for a smoke. When Bogie looked for a match the prisoner hit him with his handcuffs and escaped.

After his time in the Navy, Humphrey Bogart returned to New York and began acting. In 1930, he signed a contract Fox. He did some shorts but Fox released him from his contract after 2 years. He continued stage work and minor roles until Warner Bros. began preparing to film The Petrified ForestContinue reading

Roscoe Lee Browne Short Bio

Roscoe Lee Browne earned a master’s degree and began teach French and comparative literature. In 1951, he won the world championship in the 800-yard dash. This lead to a change in profession and in 1956 the decision to become an actor. With no training his voice and presence lead to a role in the newly formed New York Shakespeare Festival.

Roscoe Lee Browne began working on and off-Broadway until 1966 when he left the theater until 1983. By the end of the 60s he was making regular appearances in film. His roles ranged dramatic such as Hitchcock’s Topaz (1969), comedies like Dear God (1996), and blackplotations films such as the squeal to Super Fly (1972) – Super Fly T.N.T. (1973). Of course he was great in one of my favorites – The Cowboys (1972).

He was also a mainstay in 70s television on shows such as All in the Family and Good Times. He also replaced Robert Guillaume as the butler Benson on Soap (1977). He died of cancer on … Continue reading