Femme Noir Discoveries . . . or, How I Got My Big Break

Ever wonder how some of the stars of noir got their big breaks on the big screen? Read on!

Ida Lupino took the gig intended for her mother.

Ida Lupino (Roadblock, Private Hell 36, On Dangerous Ground)

Lupino’s big break in films came in 1932 when she was cast in Her First Affaire. It was her mother, Connie, who had originally tested for the part – Ida was just along for the ride. But the film’s director took one look at Ida and gave the role to her instead.  She was only 14 years old – but she didn’t look it – or act it.

Marsha Hunt (Raw Deal)

This actress got her big break with a little help from her friends. Two of her buddies managed to place a story in the L.A. Times – totally false, by the way – claiming that she was the top model in Hollywood. The article further stated that Hunt had absolutely no interest in a film career. By noon on the day the article appeared, no less than four studios had called Hunt with offers. She selected the offer from Paramount, debuting in 1935 in Virginia Judge.

Loretta Young (The Stranger, The Accused, Cause for Alarm!)

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. When director Mervyn LeRoy called to offer actress Polly Ann Young a role in his new picture, Naughty But Nice (1927), Polly’s 15-year-old sister, Loretta, answered the phone. Polly was out of town, and Loretta wound up with the part that would eventually lead to her screen stardom.

One picture was worth a career for Lauren Bacall.

Lauren Bacall (The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, Key Largo)

Bacall’s face was her ticket to fame. At the age of 19, after being spotted in Harper’s Bazaar magazine by the wife of director Howard Hawks, she was cast in her first film, To Have or Have Not (1944), opposite soon-to-be-hubby Humphrey Bogart.

Olivia DeHavilland (The Dark Mirror)

The show must go on! Olivia DeHavilland was working as an understudy in Max Reinhardt’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Hollywood Bowl and had to step into the role of Hermia on opening night. When Reinhardt’s production was turned into a feature for the big screen, DeHavilland was tapped for the part in her film debut.

Lana Turner (The Postman Always Rings Twice)

Legend has long held that Turner was discovered at Schwab’s Drug Store but, instead, she was spotted at Currie’s Ice Cream Parlor by talent scout Billy Wilkerson. The 15-year-old Hollywood High School beauty was sipping a soda when Wilkerson took one look and promptly took her to the Zeppo Marx Agency, through which she landed a small but memorable role in her first film, They Won’t Forget (1937).

~ by shadowsandsatin on February 13, 2012.

5 Responses to “Femme Noir Discoveries . . . or, How I Got My Big Break”

  1. Of all the big breaks you mention, I have to say I like Lupino’s the most. What must her mother have thought?

  2. Great stories. Thanks for posting!

  3. Another delight- and insightful post. Thanks for this interesting read!

  4. I can’t believe Ida is 14 in that photo. So mature!

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