Tidbits of Trivia
Today at Shadows and Satin, some miscellaneous tidbits of noirish trivia . . .
The distinctive voice of Broderick Crawford (The Mob, Human Desire) was once likened to a cross between “the love call of a caribou and the horn of a diesel streamliner.”
Robert Ryan (Crossfire, The Set-Up) inked a contract with RKO in the early 1940s after he was spotted by a studio director performing in the play Clash by Night, which ran on Broadway for less than two months (despite direction by Lee Strasberg and a cast that included Lee J. Cobb and Tallulah Bankhead). A decade later, Ryan starred in the film version; his film role, Earl Pfeiffer, had been played by Joseph Schildkraut in the Broadway play – Ryan had played the smaller role of Joe Doyle.
While a student At Brigham Young University, Marie Windsor (The Killing, The Narrow Margin) entered and won a number of beauty contests, earning the titles of “Miss Covered Wagon Days” and “Miss D. & R.G. Railroad.”
Joan Bennett (Scarlet Street, Woman in the Window) played Elizabeth Stoddard Collins during the entire five-year run of Dark Shadows, a popular gothic soap opera that ran on ABC-TV.
Jeanne Crain (Leave Her to Heaven, Vicki) had her first brush with the film industry when she was spotted in the commissary of RKO studios by Orson Welles while she was taking a school tour. Welles had his secretary arrange for the 15-year-old Crain to have a screen test for his new film The Magnificent Ambersons. The role for which she tested later went to Anne Baxter.
Vincent Price (Laura, While the City Sleeps) was a well-respected art aficionado who edited or authored several books on art, served as a member of a variety of art-related organizations, demonstrated his impressive knowledge of art on the popular quiz show The $64,000 Question, and worked for more than a decade as an art buyer for Sears Roebuck and Company.
William Conrad (The Killers, Cry Danger) portrayed characters on an estimated 7,500 radio broadcasts.
When Ann Blyth was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Mildred Pierce, she was, at the age of 17, the youngest actress up to that time to be so honored.
On Victor Mature’s (Kiss of Death, Cry of the City) first day of school, he was sent home for biting his teacher; in later years, the actor once recalled, his mother was summoned to his school so often that the other students thought that she worked there.
Born Jane Sterling Adriance, Jan Sterling (Union Station, Appointment with Danger) dropped her last name out of deference to her father, a well-known New York advertising exec who disapproved of her acting aspirations. After a suggestion from actress Ruth Gordon, she also eliminated the “e” from her first name.
Barbara Stanwyck (Double Indemnity, The File on Thelma Jordon) had a tragic childhood worthy of a film noir character: in 1910, her mother, pregnant with her sixth child, was knocked off a trolley car by a drunken passenger and hit her head on the curb. She died from her injuries. Two weeks later, Stanwyck’s father signed up with a crew working on the Panama Canal. His family never saw him again. Stanwyck was three years old.
Agnes Moorehead’s (Dark Passage, Caged) father was a Presbyterian minister. She made her first stage appearance at the age of three, singing on a church program. Years later, the actress would neither confirm nor deny press releases that stated she had also once ridden an elephant in a circus act and performed aboard a Mississippi River showboat during her childhood years.
Before turning to acting, George Raft (Red Light, Nocturne) made an unsuccessful attempt at a minor-league baseball career, tried his hand at professional boxing, then capitalized on his natural dancing ability by entering and winning ballroom dancing contests and working as a “taxi-dancer” in local cafes. His first job on the legitimate stage was as a dancer at the Union Square Theater in New York.
Several film noir veterans were graduates of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York: Lauren Bacall, Hume Cronyn, Kirk Douglas, Nina Foch, Sam Levene, Agnes Moorehead, Thelma Ritter, Edward G. Robinson, and Gene Tierney.