On "No Down Payment": Anne said...This is what makes me wonder if Jeffrey Hunter and Patricia Owens'scharacters had even consumated thier marriageThe kid's got a broken radio, Jeff pulls out a screw driver and sets to work.Tony Randall gets smarmy with Jeff's wife and he's a frozen bystander...if Tony was mashing a radio, I think Jeff's character would have sprun into action. March 9, 2013
On "Trooper Hook": Vienna said...Wonderful review ! I haven't seen TROOPER HOOK for a long time but hope it becomes available on DVD. You describe Joel and Barbara's characters so well. An unusual role for Barbara. I guess she chose to do it for that reason. March 11, 2013
Anne said...Thank you for writing about this little gemOne can see this film on the encore west channel now and then and it's astonishingly good. With a budget not enough for a modern office pastry cart, it shows what can be done with excellent writing and acting....and directing. I love how we see the tiny stage from afar, then we see it though Nanches legs, we are right behind him, and we now know he's on their trail...it makes him almost a gonzilla of a threatChildren: let Mr. McCrea and Ms Stanwyck show you how it's done.They are hotter across a dusty feed store than many buck necked couples in love scenes today.March 7, 2013
On "Any Number Can Play": Vienna said...I love this film. Great cast, though I hate seeing Audrey Totter so totally wasted. All Audrey seemed to do was stand around with a glass in one hand and cigarette in the other.I thought Alexis Smith did well ,playing a woman whom I 'm sure was meant to be older than Alexis who was probably about 30 at the time.Great to see Mary Astor though,again, what a small role. And Marjorie Rambeau is always a joy.It could have been a play, with the only sets the gambling club and Gable's house.An unusual role for Gable and he was convincing.March 1, 2013
On Anita Sharp-Bolster: Vienna said...I've just see Anita in THE LONDON BLACKOUT MURDERS and she is so good as another battle-axe character , but with a touch of comedy . Nice tribute. Thanks.http//:dancing lady39.wordpress.com February 2, 2013
On Victor Jory - On Stage and Screen: Vienna said...Thanks for great tribute to Victor Jory whom I like, especially in a couple of films where he isn't the villain! In FIGHTING MAN OF THE PLAINS, Victor does his best to help Randolph Scott and becomes a good friend to Scott's character. Such a contrast to Victor's usual roles. I also liked him in a little B, THE UNKNOWN GUEST where he is the leading manI had no idea Victor and Alexis Smith did two plays together - thanks for the information. Oh to have seen them!January 24, 2013
On And Then There Were None: Ryan said...I bought this years ago on DVD, and it's still my favorite movie version of this story. The cast was perfect, and to tell you the truth, though I love the book, I almost prefer this ending. I think it's the hopeless romantic in me.February 19, 2013
In the summer of 1952 Victor Jory toured the eastern summer theatre circuit with Alexis Smith in Noel Coward’s “Private Lives”. The sophisticate role was a natural for Miss Smith, who was typecast as such by Hollywood since her film career began some 12 years previously. But it was an even more natural fit for Victor Jory, who had a much longer film career, and a much, much longer stage career. Hollywood had already typecast Jory as a scruffy villain. On stage, he was urbane, witty, and devilishly charming. His second home on stage is proof that not all Hollywood character actors are what they seem.
From the Boston Daily Globe August 12, 1952: “The Boston Summer Theatre may be air-cooled but it sizzled last night with the heat engendered by Victor Jory kissing decorative Alexis Smith in that famous second act of “Private Lives”…I never saw…quite as much vigor and passion as Miss Smith and Mr. Jory, who seemed to enjoy every second of the sophisticated romp…The dialogue is light, witty and thoroughly naughty; the acting should be on the same order. And Miss Smith and Mr. Jory live up to audience expectations. It was a wonderful evening and the audience was capacity.”
Alexis Smith had minimal stage experience when she was in college, but Victor Jory had played stock theatre everywhere from his early apprenticeship at the Pasadena Playhouse to stages across the continent and as far as Australia. He played Shakespeare, Ibsen, Moliere, and Shaw. He wrote plays, and directed.
A year later, Miss Smith and Mr. Jory took another summer tour, this time with “Bell, Book and Candle.” From the Boston Daily Globe, June 28, 1953, Alexis credits Victor Jory, who directed, for teaching her stagecraft: “I can’t believe that anyone in the whole world could have taught me as much as Victor has about my job. Working with him is better than any training school of the theatre you ever heard of. Mr. Jory has a vast amount of experience and he is willing to share it. Some actors are reticent when it comes to giving newcomers tricks of the trade. Victor is generous and kind. He has taught me all I know about legitimate theatre.”
When she first met Jory, she had a different impression. This was on the set of her film “South of St. Louis” (1949), which we discussed here. Jory played a nasty villain. She thought him a “rather horrible person” who was, “dirty, bewhiskered and wearing baggy pants.”
This had become Jory’s fate by the 1940s. Syndicated Hollywood columnist Bob Thomas visited the set of “South of St. Louis”, as picked up by the St. Petersburg, Florida Evening Independent June 14, 1948:
“Victor Jory, the mug they love to slug, was being pummeled by Joel McCrea when I visited the “South of St. Louis” set. The poor guy was being bounced all over the barroom…”
In his acting career, Jory noted in that article he had broken his collarbone twice, five ribs, a thumb and a toe, received numerous cuts and bruises. In private life, he was much better able to handle Joel McCrea or anybody else. A champion amateur boxer, (and a champion wrestler as well as boxer while in the U.S. Coast Guard) he held his own both in the ring, and out of it when provoked.
It had been, first, a hardscrabble childhood. He was born in Alaska and spent his babyhood in the Yukon where his parents had attempted, unsuccessfully, to try their luck during the Gold Rush. They separated at his birth (though Jory’s birthday is always listed as November 1902, there is some information supplied by his daughter, Jean Jory Anderson on a website dedicated to Jory family genealogy that her father was actually born the following April 1903, with some speculation as to his natural father). His mother was a newspaperwoman, and she and her son scraped by financially for many years.
They came back to the US and he spent his childhood in Oregon and California, and then to Vancouver, where he juggled both acting and boxing.
In an article by Nancy Anderson in the Oxnard, California Press-Courier from March 13, 1977, Jory recalled, “I did both, because my mother and I were very poor and we needed all the money I could earn.”
The boxing matches started at 7:30 in the evening, and the theater curtain rose at 8:30. It was a tight squeeze.
“I could get $7.50 a week fighting in Vancouver. Then I could run over to the theater and do my walk-on and get another $1.50 a night.”
It was with another stock company in Denver that he met his future wife, actress Jean Inness. They eloped and were married 50 years until her death in 1978. They appeared together on stage on many occasions.
His first crack at Hollywood came in 1930. In the early years he had a few opportunities to play the romantic lead, such as in “Party Wire” (1935) with Jean Arthur. Here is a smooth-faced, handsome Victor Jory saving the day when his lady friend is threatened by vicious gossip.
He played Lamont Cranston in “The Shadow” serial, but hero roles were for the most part denied him. We are fortunate to have “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1935), which we discussed here, as an example of Jory’s Shakespearean talents. He is the masterful Oberon, King of the Fairies in one of Hollywood’s unusual forays into an artistic film rather than a purely commercial one. His voice is perfect for Shakespeare, with precise intonation and resonant pitch such as actors develop only with stage experience.
Probably he is best remembered as Jonas Wilkerson, the smarmy overseer in “Gone With the Wind” (1939), a brief role that carried him into film villainy for at least a couple of decades.
A film he did later in his career, “The Miracle Worker” (1962) moves him from villain to just bombastic curmudgeon in the role of Captain Keller, the father of Helen Keller. He is marvelous in the role, and though a foil for the new teacher, Annie Sullivan, played by Anne Bancroft, we become sympathetic with this blustering, aging ex-Confederate officer largely through Jory’s heartfelt performance.
We see his difficult relationship with his grown son by a former marriage. His tenderness with his new young wife, played by Inga Swenson. In this screen cap, we see her horror and his intensity as they suddenly discover their infant daughter Helen can neither see, nor hear them. He shouts, shrieks into her face and claps his hands to make noise, but the baby does not respond.
Later in the movie, we see his weariness, his suspicion of Annie Sullivan’s methods, his disdain for her strong personality. Finally, we see his awe, his heartbreaking sense of wonder when the child Helen, played by Patty Duke, learns to communicate. He was not nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, but he should have been.
Reminiscing on his career with Gary Luhr of the Bowling Green, Kentucky Daily News, May 4, 1971, Jory recalled some 140 films under his belt, 480 stage shows at that time, 500 TV shows, and 200 radio programs. He also wrote a travel column. His passions were fishing, and collecting recipes. Jory was a gourmet cook. One wonders if Alexis Smith, who later became a gourmet cook and voracious collector of recipes herself, was as inspired by Victor Jory in cooking as she was in theatre.
At the time of that article, Jory and his wife were living in Louisville, Kentucky, where they performed in several shows at the Louisville Actors Theatre. Their son, Jon, was the producing director of that prestigious regional theater for over three decades. There are three performance spaces at the Louisville Actors Theatre. The smallest, opened in April 1973, is named the Victor Jory Theatre.
Though Alexis Smith’s first unpleasant memory of Victor Jory was as a filthy saddle tramp in “South of St. Louis”, they both did actually appear in “Lady with Red Hair” (1940) some nine years earlier. He had a small role in this Miriam Hopkins and Claude Rains feature, and Alexis had an uncredited walk-on as Girl at Wedding. It is possible they never met. Coincidentally, her future husband, Craig Stevens, also had an uncredited walk-on. Not so coincidentally, Bess Flowers showed up, too. What were you expecting?
After “South of St. Louis”, Alexis and Victor Jory worked on one more film together, “Cave of Outlaws” (1951). He’s still a villain here, but considerably cleaned up, a man of wealth and power. He vies with Macdonald Carey for the love of the typically cool and aloof Alexis. He gets beaten up again.
It was on the set of “Cave of Outlaws” where she and Victor got to know each other better. They talked of theatre, of his experience in it, and her desire to pursue it. They formed the plan of working together. In the following year, they found themselves in an unexpected hit in “Private Lives”.
The next year, they met with further success in “Bell, Book and Candle”. Their performances were sold out, largely on the strength of their previous hit. From the Lewiston (Maine) Evening Journal, July 3, 1953. Smith and Jory “broke all attendance records at the same theater last year with their presentation of ‘Private Lives’.” They had opened their tour of “Bell, Book and Candle” in Ogunquit, Maine at the famed Ogunquit Playhouse “to the pleasure of all that saw them there.”
Hollywood was entering a precarious period in the early 1950s. Between the studios cutting back on productions, the court-mandated breaking up of movie theater properties, the competition from television, and the Communist witch hunts going on in the industry, actors were being booted out from the system or else voluntarily fleeing for work on the stage or television. It was, not so coincidentally, one of the most celebrated periods of summer theatre, a time when great names and great plays were brought together, and the stage flourished.
Hollywood columnist Bob Thomas noted the loss of acting jobs in the film industry, syndicated in the Waycross (Georgia) Journal-Herald, September 18, 1953. The article’s ominous headline:
Situation Looks Grim for Persons Seeking Film Jobs
He interviewed actor William Holden, who at that time was Vice President of the Screen Actors Guild. Mr. Holden noted that MGM was planning to produce 18 films that year, compared to 40 or 50 films per year done in the past. Paramount was slotted to make 12 movies, and Fox was also slated to make only 12. TV became a haven for struggling actors, not just new actors, but the old character actors who could comfortably fit into several movies a year, even if they grumbled about being typecast as the maid or the heavy. At least they had work. Now, there was little to go around.
Victor Jory already had that problem licked. He was a working actor. The stage was his second home.
Holden noted, “The stage offers a lot more work, particularly in summer theatre. Alexis Smith and Victor Jory just came back from a long tour and made a lot of money.”
To moviegoers, Jory may have been the smarmy Jonas Wilkerson, or the grimy saddle tramp, but to stage audiences he was the witty and urbane sophisticate. The playboy. He was Henry VIII. He was a character actor in that he could play anybody. Tennessee Williams' "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof". Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman". Roles of depth and substance, and fine writing that was worthy of his talent. On stage, he was the star.
Meet Me in Nuthatch - A publicity stunt to attract tourists to a small dying town results in the entire community turning the clock back to 1904. It is local Christmas tree farmer Everett Campbell’s idea, after watching the film “Meet Me in St. Louis,” his young daughter’s new favorite movie. What begins as half practical joke and half desperate ploy initiates the rebirth of Nuthatch, Massachusetts. Tourists do come, along with the media. To Everett’s dismay, his campaign to save their community results in also attracting representatives of a chain of theme parks who want to buy Nuthatch 1904. Everett now stands to lose his town in a way he never imagined, and the community is divided on which alternate future to choose. A local drug dealer, the longtime enemy of Everett, may hold their future in his hands unless Everett can pull off his most spectacular, and dangerous, practical joke.
“…a comforting, pleasant read that stays with you even after the last page is turned. After finishing the book, I found myself still musing about the relationships and how they'd changed and progressed. This book was a nice, hot chocolate sort of read.” Grace Krispy, "MotherLode" blog book review.
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