Day 30 of Noirvember: Trivia Tidbit Thursday

Young Ava.

It’s hard to believe that another Noirvember has come and gone – it flew by like a bird on the wings of night. For my final post of this year’s month-long shadowy celebration, I’m serving up some trivia about some of our favorite noir performers. I hope you’ll learn something you didn’t know before about some of the fabulous men and women who made film noir come to life. Read on!

At the age of 17, Ava Gardner enrolled in the Atlantic Christian College in Wilson, North Carolina, where she studied business education and secretarial science. But her career plans went in a new direction the following summer when she visited the New York home of her eldest sister and her husband, Larry Tarr, owner of a photography studio. After Tarr placed a picture of Gardner in the window of his studio, it caught the attention of Barney Duhan, a clerk for the legal department of MGM. At Duhan’s request, Tarr delivered a dozen portraits of Gardner to MGM’s New York office, which ultimately led to her first screen test. Shortly afterward, the studio expressed interest in offering Gardner a contract, and as she later stated, “Movies may not have been a dream of mine, but I admit, straight away, that when I compared the idea of a secretarial job in Wilson, North Carolina, with the chance of going to Hollywood and breathing the same air as Clark Gable – well, the choice was not hard to make.”

Sterling Hayden’s final television appearance was in the 1982 mini-series The Blue and The Gray. He played John Brown and sported the wild, gray beard he’d worn since the late 1970s. On several occasions, he’d been asked to shave the beard for a role, but he refused. “Sounds silly, huh? But I like being bearded,” he told an L.A. Times reporter. “If I take it off, it reminds me of those old Hollywood days when I was a male starlet. And I don’t care to remember them.”

A face that would melt in your mouth. Heh.

Speaking of male starlets, early in his career, handsome, curly-haired Victor Mature was tagged with such labels as “Glamour Boy,” “Beautiful Hunk of a Man,” King of Beefcake,” and “A Face That Would Melt in Your Mouth.” The monikers didn’t faze Mature a bit. “I don’t mind being called ‘Glamour Boy’ so long as that check comes in on Friday,” he once said.

When Jean Hagen was a struggling artist in New York, she supplemented her meager income by selling cigarettes at a nightclub and ushering at the Booth Theatre, where she got her first big break. The play on stage at the Booth was Swan Song, authored by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, and one night Hecht asked the attractive usherette what she thought of the play. “’It stinks,’ I told him quite frankly,” Hagen recalled. “He argued with me, and asked me how I would like to appear in it. Did I!” Hagen was given a small part in the play, replacing a departing cast member, but before she was able to assume the role, she contracted appendicitis and was hospitalized. After her recovery, she took over the part, making her Broadway debut in 1946.

George Raft quit school and left home when he was 13, sleeping in subways and mission homes, and making ends meet by performing odd jobs like shoveling snow or delivering orders for local stores. After an unsuccessful attempt at a minor-league baseball career, he put his street fighting prowess to use as a professional boxer, but after fewer than 25 bouts, he switched vocational gears again. This time, he capitalized on his natural dancing ability, first landing a job as an instructor at the Audubon Ballroom and later working as a “taxi-dancer” in local cafes.

Annie Laurie Starr as Amber?

Following a much-ballyhooed search for an actress to play the title role in 20th Century Fox’s production of Forever Amber, the part was given to 19-year-old Peggy Cummins. But just a few months into filming, Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck halted the production – he later explained: “We realized that Peggy could act the role, but she could never look it. She was too young. So we decided to start all over again.” Cummins seemed to view the experience philosophically, saying “You can let yourself ache over your loss – or you can think instead of how wonderful and exciting it was while you had it.” Although the film – with Linda Darnell as Amber – was a box office hit, it was totally trashed by critics, and years later, Cummins admitted, “When I saw it, of course, I just felt relieved.”

George Macready got his distinctive facial scar while a student at Brown University. While Macready was riding in a Model T Ford with six of his frat brothers, the car hit an icy road and struck a telephone pole, and Macready went through the windshield. The only doctor around was a veterinarian, who sewed him up, but Macready contracted scarlet fever because the vet hadn’t washed his hands properly.

While a student at Western High School in Washington, D.C., Jane Greer was president of the dramatics club, but her budding interest in the arts appeared to be forever thwarted when she awoke one morning, at the age of 15, to find that the left side of her face was completely paralyzed. She was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a neurological disorder. Determined to overcome this obstacle, Greer later stated, “I had always wanted to be an actress, and suddenly I knew that learning to control my facial muscles was one of the best assets I could have as a performer.” She was cured by undergoing strenuous physical therapy and by age 16 she had resumed her activities as a model.

Thanks for helping to make Noirvember the best month of the year!

After rising to fame as a crooner in more than 30 Warner Bros. musicals, Dick Powell transformed his screen image from “pretty boy” song and dance man to hard-boiled tough guy, then switched gears again, tackling directing and producing, and becoming the head of a television empire. “I started out with two assets,” Powell once said, “a voice that didn’t drive audiences into the streets and a determination to make money.”

And that’s it for another year!

Thanks so much for joining me and making this the best Noirvember yet! I appreciate each and every one of you.

See you in the shadows!

~ by shadowsandsatin on December 1, 2017.

5 Responses to “Day 30 of Noirvember: Trivia Tidbit Thursday”

  1. Interesting tidbits !!!!!!!!

  2. Excellent Noirvember! I enjoyed every one. Especially liked the trivia for the 30th.

  3. Thanks for a great month of stuff. And I’ve just got to see Sterling Hayden as John Brown!

    Happy Noir Year!

  4. Congratulations, Karen! You did it! And it was a great month of reviews and fab info, such as this post right here. Thanks for giving us readers a terrific 30 days of noir. 🙂

  5. Wonderful, Karen! So enjoyed all of it. Happy Holidays!

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