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.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Actors want to act

A pleasant surprise watching the latest episde (5th of 6) of the superior BBC comedy series REV, this week, when a surprise guest star turned up - Liam Neeson, as God, no less (its already been transmitted, so hardly a spoiler) - to comfort our troubled vicar Adam when everything is going wrong for him, as this third series gets more sombre. 
I hope there will be an uplifting climax next week. Olivia Colman is also superlative of course, again playing Adam's wife who now has a busy career of her own and in fact we see less of her this time around .... It was good to see Liam and Tom together again - they were the original Oscar and Bosie in that play THE JUDAS KISS which was a successful revival last year, with Rupert Everett, as per my posts at the time - theatre label. Joseph Fiennes (right) too is effective in REV as the bishop. [I have been corrected, thanks Mark - its of course Ralph Fiennes!].

It all reminded me of how much actors want to act (Tom Hollander has just finished playing Welsh poet Dylan Thomas in a new drama) and of course Liam is now an action star, his last one set on the airplane seems a must see when on dvd. I was thinking about how even legendary actors like Jack Lemmon (post below), James Stewart, Henry Fonda et al kept working into old age, when they really didn't need to any more, on the stage as well as film. At least they didn't do too much material of lesser value to damage their reputations - unlike say Ray Milland or Joseph Cotten who ended up in all kinds of dreck, and we won't even mention Joan and TROGRight: the 1998 JUDAS KISS with Neeson and Hollander which I saw in London before it went to New York.

I am of the opinion that most fortunate actors who come along at the right time get "ten good years" (that delicious song Nancy Wilson sang in her live cabaret act), certainly the likes of Stephen Boyd and Laurence Harvey did - mid-'50s to mid-'60s, or Michael York (mid-'60s to mid-70s), York being one of the fortunate ones who was able to continue in lesser supporting roles, whereas Harvey's and Boyd's careers had died before they did. Fortunate indeed are the likes of Dirk Bogarde or Alain Delon or Jean Sorel who can go on for decades, whereas in the theatre actors like Jeremy Brett or John Stride can transcend their good looks as they get older. Is there the curse of the very good looking actor who starts out well but then fizzles out ? (Whatever did happen to Jeremy Spenser, Leonard Whiting, Graham Faulkner, Martin Potter et al...?). Left: the kind of period movie actors must like appearing in: Michael Redgrave, Richard Warwick, Martin Potter, Tom Baker in NICHOLAS & ALEXANDRA, 1971.

Sometimes one sees an actor who started out well and seems reduced to nothing parts some years later, like John Philip Law - so promising in the mid-60s as the angel in BARBARELLA, in HURRY SUNDOWN, DANGER DIABOLIK etc, having literally nothing to do in the all star CASSANDRA CROSSING in 1976, as an aide to Burt Lancaster, right, with Ingrid Thulin. Well I dare say JPL (who died aged 70 in 2008) had that 10 good years.

Ditto Barry Coe, left, who was a promising 20th Century Fox contract player in the '50s and early '60s - Rodney Harrington in the 1957 PEYTON PLACE, the hero in 300 SPARTANS (looking fetching in a mini toga) etc. 
but in 1966 he is an un-named "communications aide" repeating commands in FANTASTIC VOYAGE - an amusing watch last week. He was also Carroll Baker's boyfriend in the 1959 comedy BUT NOT FOR ME with Clark Gable and Lilli Palmer. Coe went into television in shows like GENERAL HOSPITAL and continued acting to 1978. Other tv actors like George Maharis or Gardner McKay fared less well in the movies.

Barry, centre, in FANTASTIC VOYAGE
Brett Halsey (left) was another of the Fox pretty boys (RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE, THE BEST OF EVERYTHING etc) as was future producer/tycoon Robert Evans (one of the cads in THE BEST OF EVERYTHING), though Robert Wagner and Jeff Hunter were the main Fox contract players, Joanne Woodward and Stuart Whitman too of course. Ditto Fabian - see HOUND DOG MAN post below.
A Fox film like NO DOWN PAYMENT (Jeff Hunter label) is stuffed with their contract players. Jeff Hunter unfortunately died too young too, in 1969, but found his imperishable role as Martin Pawley in THE SEARCHERS, which is always on view somewhere (as it was here yesterday). Robert Wagner was the most successful of all, with some good movies in Europe (THE PINK PANTHER) and successful in television. The Universal-International pretty boys like Rock and Tony Curtis worked hard through supporting parts to build careers and achieve A-list movie status, as before them did Guy Madison and Jeff Chandler and ...while Warners had those blondes Troy and Tab, and Tony Perkins (Tab and Tony tried singing too with some success - see labels), and Kerwin Matthews over at Columbia ... 
One has to feel sorry though for Richard Davalos, over at Warner Bros: the role of Aaron, the other brother in Kazan's EAST OF EDEN must have been a plum role, but with James Dean as Cal, Davalos was completely over-shadowed. At least the DVD contains those screen tests with Dean and Davalos and young Paul Newman who also tested, and was soon doing Dean roles. Davalos's other credit that year (apart from a bit part in a Jack Palance film) was a small part in Warners THE SEA CHASE, a John Wayne-Lana Turner starrer, where sailors Davalos and Tab Hunter go for a swim in shark-infested waters - guess which one the shark heads for.... ?  He contined acting until 2008 with small parts in films like Newman's COOL HAND LUKE, and lots of television. Right: Davalos, Dean & Julie Harris in EAST OF EDEN.

Heavyweight stuff coming up: Finney in Huston's UNDER THE VOLCANO, Frears' PRETTY DIRTY THINGS with this year's best actor nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, LOVE IS THE DEVIL with Derek Jacobi as Francis Bacon and Daniel Craig as his criminal lover .... more impersonations with the Liberace film BEHIND THE CANDELABRA and Helena Bonham-Carter a surprisingly effective Elizabeth Taylor in BURTON AND TAYLOR ....  
Left: Jeffrey Hunter / right: Jean Sorel.


  1. Ralph not Joseph ;) But I have to say how much I love Rev. and how this more sombre series has broke my heart each Monday evening, albeit it in a deliciously bittersweet and thought provoking way. Alison Graham at the Radio Times has written a very snooty review of this 3rd series in which she decrees in utterly self important terms that she as a 'Rev devotee' knows how the characters would or would not act, as opposed to the cast and writers.

  2. Ouch! How silly of me .... Ralph is marvellous in REV and other recent items like PAGE 8. Joseph was terrific in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE but was one actor who did not seem to want to be a movie star.
    Yes I saw the feature in "Radio Times", REV though seems to be taking a downbeat turn with the closure of the church, unless it all comes together for the final episode .....

  3. First - may I take the opportunity to thank you for your wondrous blog, which I pore over ecstatically - I suspect we may entered the world at roughly the same time (early 1950s)? Because of my Dad's work we had passes to every cinema in my hometown (Southend) which in those days boasted at least NINE movie theatres within a couple of square miles; my mum adored 'the pictures' so even as a toddler I went with her to at least three films a week, school nights be damned - then on weekends we would take the short train ride to London and see a play or a big, roadshow, first-run movie like one of the Cinerama epics (in Cinerama projection of course, at the cinema on Old Compton Street). I now live in Los Angeles, so you might say everything has, in a way, come full circle, but with palm trees.
    Being a little gay boy growing up in darkest Essex meant that I relied a lot on movie magazines from the US, which ranged from Modern Screen to the deathless, glorious Famous Monsters of Filmland. Thus I encountered Barry Coe and fell for him (discreetly), and gazed at his image like a lovelorn teenager, as the cliché has it. But I was about ten years old (I knew I was an, ahem, *unusual* child). I too thought Coe was destined to have a grand career. But y'know a lot of careers were felled by booze and scandal or a sexuality that the actor or actress refused to hide or lie about. Unless, like Graham Faulkner, the problem was an absence of that Something Special a star needs - I saw him in a play at Watford Palace, he was in a really minor role (and offstage he was a very likeable young man)... but I knew the play's director, who told me that they'd signed up Faulkner on the strength of the Zeffirelli movie then too late discovered that he wasn't terribly skilled as a stage actor. Alas.

  4. Hi Iain, just seen your nice comments thanks. Interesting on Graham Faulkner, I was surprised to see him - naked again - in that minor silent role in THE PRIEST OF LOVE as the farmer DH Lawrence (McKellen) goes swimming with every morning. Perhaps Graham was chosen for that to display his ample charms once again.

  5. I loved the American movie magazines too, with their endless spreads and colour photos of Troy and Sandra and Connie etc. then I discovered more quality stuff in the English magazines "Films & Filming" ...