Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

People We Like: the great dependables ...

Jack Hawkins [1910-1973]. No wonder when Howard Hawks was casting LAND OF THE PHAROAHS in ’55, he chose Jack for his Pharoah, he has the required natural authority here to be a very commanding Egyptian king. No wonder when William Wyler was casting BEN-HUR he chose Jack for the part of the Roman admiral Quintus Arrius. Again, Jack was perfect here, and no wonder when John Ford was casting his GIDEON OF SCOTLAND YARD in ’58 Jack was the obvious choice for the police commander – which led to all those cop dramas on television. Hawkins it seems always had that natural authority which made him ideal for military men in war dramas and costumers. Odd to think that when young he and Jessica Tandy were married to each other. Other great Hawkins roles of course include his Allenby in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (below), THE CRUEL SEA, ZULU, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, with Loren in JUDITH, with Ty Power in THE BLACK ROSE (1950), MANDY, THE MALTA STORY, LORD JIM, WATERLOO and he is perfect as the leader of THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN in 1960. I won't mention the dreadful SHALAKO or GREAT CATHERINE in '68!
An aside: a lot has been written about the supposed "gay subtext" inserted by Gore Vidal in BEN HUR, concerning Boyd and Heston, but I wonder if they did not have a word with Jack too, as although his hobby is training fighting men in Rome, he practically slavers when he sees the hunky Ben at the oars, and that whole scene and the ones following are all about Hawkins and his attraction to Heston. Is it just me or is that whole "ramming scene" very suggestive .... later Ben is like his hunky boyfriend when they arrive in Rome and Hawkins then "adopts" him, giving Ben his signet ring - it's almost like a civil partnership ceremony! Hawkins though lost his voice in 1966 but continued acting with a voice box and being dubbed (usually by Charles Gray). A brave man indeed.

Trevor Howard [1913-1988]. Trevor was a star and a leading man for a long time, and then like Hawkins and James Mason had a good run in the 60s in strong supporting parts and kept busy right until the end. One always knew one was going to enjoy any movie with Trevor. He was married to actress Helen Cherry and seems to have been a bit of a hell-raiser in his time, but what an actor. I like him as the young leading man in THE GOLDEN SALAMANDER, ’49 with the teenage Anouk Aimee, and THE CLOUDED YELLOW, in 1950 with Jean Simmons, after his breakthrough roles in BRIEF ENCOUNTER (he is just right as Alec Harvey), GREEN FOR DANGER, THE WAY TO THE STARS, THE THIRD MAN and for Lean, his lover coming back into the life of married Ann Todd in THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS in 1948 (a recent discovery, and several of Howards are reviewed here, as per label). THE HEART OF THE MATTER and OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS are also key roles, as are his African roles in THE ROOTS OF HEAVEN for Zanuck by Huston, and Jack Cardiff’s THE LION in 1962, where his gruff manner is perfect. I like RUN FOR THE SUN with Jane Greer and Widmark in ’56, where he is he Nazi holed up in the jungle, and his evil villain in INTERPOL with Anita Ekberg and Vic Mature in ’57. Then there were Carol Reed’s THE KEY with Loren and Holden, and of course SONS AND LOVERS for Cardiff where he and Wendy Hiller are ideal as the warring parents. He crops up in OPERATION CROSSBOW, is ideal in THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE (top with Harry Andrews), and BATTLE OF BRITAIN, and of course back with Lean in Ireland for that priest in RYAN’S DAUGHTER. He was re-united with Celia Johnson for that nice telefilm STAYING ON in 1980. Then there was Wagner for Visconti in LUDWIG in ’72 with Silvano Mangano as Mrs Wagner, Losey’s A DOLL’S HOUSE as Dr Rank, STEVIE with Glenda Jackson, and a schmaltzy Christmas movie CHRISTMAS EVE with Loretta Young in ’86. These are just a few in a long and varied career – and of course his Captain Bligh opposite Brando in the ’62 MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY. They don’t really make them like Trevor any more.

Nigel Patrick [1913-1981]. Nigel was a dapper gent, very insouciant, bred in the theatre and had a some good movie roles in the ‘50s and ‘60s. He is ideal as the teacher who regrets carrying on with Michael Redgrave’s wife in Rattigan’s THE BROWNING VERSION in 1951, and the test pilot who marries Ann Todd in Lean’s THE SOUND BARRIER in ’52, as well as Mr Jingle in THE PICKWICK PAPERS, young Audrey Hepburn’s husband in YOUNG WIVE’S TALE in ’51, and the test driver who wrecks his racing car for love of Ava Gardner in PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN. He pops up in RAINTREE COUNTY in ’57, and that year stars in and directs a droll black comedy HOW TO MURDER A RICH UNCLE, which is too little known now. He is ideal as the police superintendent solving the mystery of SAPPHIRE, a race drama from 1959, and he is the defence council who defends Peter Finch’s Oscar Wilde in THE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE in 1960, a splendid performance, as is his turn with Jack Hawkins in THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN in 1960. Other roles of note were in ALL FOR MARY in ’56 and THE SEA SHALL NOT HAVE THEM, BATTLE OF BRITAIN as well as lots of theatre and television. We like Nigel a lot.

HOW TO MURDER A RICH UNCLE - Having also recently seen Charles Coburn again in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, Nigel Patrick in THE BROWNING VERSION and THE SOUND BARRIER, and Wendy Hiller again in I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING, it was a pleasure to see them together in the 1957 British comedy HOW TO MURDER A RICH UNCLE, directed by Patrick, who also plays the lead and is as splendidly insouciant as ever. He and wife Wendy are the impoverished aristocrats trying to bump off their American relation – Coburn – but every attempt goes wrong, leading to members of the family being bumped off instead. It is low key but nicely droll and should be a much better known black comedy. Supporting players are those wonderful eccentrics Athene Seyler and Katie Johnson (from THE LADYKILLERS), with a young Anthony Newley and an almost silent Michael Caine in one of his first bit parts. A Warwick film which Columbia used to distribute.

Harry Andrews [1911-1989]. Like Anthony Quayle Harry is another ‘great dependable’, equally at home as military men in any war film, or in costume in those ‘50s epics like his Persian king Darius in Rossen’s ALEXANDER THE GREAT in ’56, Balthor the advisor to Gina Lollobrigida’s queen in SOLOMON AND SHEBA, or Hector in the best film about HELEN OF TROY, in 55. He excels of course in ICE COLD IN ALEX, Lumet’s THE HILL, and again like the others here had a very prolific progidious career. He is just right too as the brother of Beryl Reid in the 1970 film of Orton’s ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE eager to get his hands on that enterprising young man. Then there were his roles in Huston’s MOBY DICK, Preminger’s SAINT JOAN, war films like A HILL IN KOREA, a little film I like REACH FOR GLORY with Kay Walsh in 1962 (I must report back on that one), Nick Ray’s 55 DAYS AT PEKING, NOTHING BUT THE BEST, Lumet’s THE DEADLY AFFAIR, THE JOKERS and so many others, BATTLE OF BRITAIN of course, Losey's MODESTY BLAISE with Vitti, and his Lord Lucan in Richardson’s THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE in ’68. Harry kept going until the end of the 80s. He was certainly a trouper.
An enduring memory of the ‘80s is an edition of “This Is Your Life” which was devoted to Harry – and to his, and our, astonishment, out walked Gina Lollobrigida in full Queen of Sheba dress, including that hair ornament, to thank Harry for helping her with her English during the shoot of SOLOMON AND SHEBA. Then she sat down next to a bemused Beryl Reid. Pity I didn’t get to video that…. His IMDB profile lists lots of theatre work with Gielgud and Olivier. I think Harry was what was mentioned then as a “confirmed bachelor” – it is always a pleasure to see him in any role, large or small.

Next: some great female dependables and a couple of dames!

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