Remembering Norman Foster, on the Occasion of the Date of His Birth
Saluting one of my favorite pre-code actors today – Norman Foster, born on December 13, 1903. He’s not necessarily the best actor of the pre-Code era, and he’s certainly not the most remembered, but to me, he’s always a delight to watch.
Foster was born Norman Foster Hoeffer in Richmond, Indiana. He began his acting career in 1926, when he appeared on Broadway in Just Life. He made his screen debut three years later, appearing with Walter Huston and Kay Francis in Gentlemen of the Press. During the early 1930s, he went on to appear in some 25 pre-Codes – my favorites include Men Call It Love, with Adolphe Menjou and Leila Hyams (1931), Under 18 (1931), where he was the billiard-playing, ne’er-do-well spouse of Anita Page; Play-Girl (1932) and Weekend Marriage (1931), both opposite Loretta Young; and Skyscraper Souls (1932), starring Warren William and Maureen O’Sullivan.
In 1936, Foster stepped behind the camera, kicking off a whole new career as a director. He went on to helm several films in the Mr. Moto and Charlie Chan series; films noirs such as Journey Into Fear (1943) and Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948); and such popular fare as Rachel and the Stranger (1948), Father Is a Bachelor (1950), and Sombrero (1953), a musical starring Ricardo Montalban and Pier Angeli. He also wrote the screenplays for five Mr. Moto films, along with a number of other features, and directed numerous television series, including Zorro, The New Loretta Young Show, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Batman, The Green Hornet, and It Takes a Thief (one of my mother’s favorite TV shows when I was little – she always used to call it To Catch a Thief. But I digress.) Along the way, Foster was married to actress Claudette Colbert for seven years, from 1928 to 1935, and to actress Sally Blane – also the sister of his co-star Loretta Young – from 1935 to his death in 1976. Foster and Blane had two children.
If you get the chance to see Norman Foster in action, check him out and see why he’s a pre-Code gem!