Noirvember Day 29: Trivia Tuesday (Part 4)

— Duryea with Helen and their boys.

On today, the last Trivia Tuesday of Noirvember 2022, I invite you to join me in a shadowy pool of trivia featuring the gents of noir!

In the early 1930s, Dan Duryea was making a living by selling ad space in small newspapers for N.W. Ayer, and commuted daily from his home in White Plains, New York to the company’s office in New York City. One day, he was offered a ride from the train station by a fellow passenger who was being picked up by his daughter, Helen Bryan. When Duryea met the young woman, it was practically love at first sight. The two were married on April 15, 1932, went on to have two sons, Peter and Richard, and remained together until Helen’s death in 1967.

Although he enjoyed a successful screen career during the 1940s and 1950s, most offers had dried up for John Ireland by the late 1980s. In a last-ditch effort to secure more work, the actor took out a full-page ad on the back page of The Hollywood Reporter in March 1987. The ad simply read: “I’m an actor. PLEASE . . . let me act.” After placing the ad, Ireland reported that his “phone hasn’t stopped ringing.”

— Webb and his mom.

Born Webb Parmalee Hollenbeck, Clifton Webb was given his stage name by his mother, Mabelle. Webb said his mother happened to be driving through Clifton, New Jersey, one day, and thought that “Clifton Webb” had good rhythm.

Jack Palance was known for his support for Black performers in Hollywood and was credited with being the first White actor to hire a Black stand-in, Marcello Clay, for his short-lived 1960s television series, The Greatest Show on Earth.

While filming the 1946 musical Cinderella Jones, Elisha Cook, Jr., experienced a brush with danger in a scene that was supposed to depict him jumping a horse across a stream. The stunt was shot in a studio tank with a wire guide through the horse’s nose, but the horse got “excited,” put his hoof up over the wire, and dragged the actor beneath him. Cook had to cut himself loose in order to escape from the water.

Called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the early 1950s, Howard Da Silva refused to answer questions and was subsequently blacklisted. He would not appear in a feature film for nearly a decade. In addition, he was cut from the movie Slaughter Trail (1951) and all of his scenes were reshot with actor Brian Donlevy. He later said that he felt a degree of compassion for some of his colleagues who “named names,” but he added that there were some people “who will remain forever nameless, that I will not forgive. Never.”

— Fred Clark would rather act.

Fred Clark majored in psychology at Stanford University, with plans to pursue a medical career. But his plans changed during his senior year, when he appeared in a school production of Yellow Jack. After his graduation, he won a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the die was cast.

While playing a supporting role in Orson Welles’s production of Julius Caesar, John Hoyt got an unexpected promotion. Welles insisted upon using a real knife for the assassination scenes, and during one of the performances, the actor playing Caesar was injured. According to Hoyt, “the poor man lost two quarts — and I was assigned his role.”

In 1961, Sheldon Leonard teamed with Danny Thomas, Dick Van Dyke, and Carl Reiner to create The Dick Van Dyke Show. The four owners of the series formed a legal partnership called Calvada Productions, creating the name out of parts of the names of each (“CA” for Carl Reiner, “L” for Sheldon Leonard, “VA” for Van Dyke, and “DA” for Danny Thomas). Throughout the run of the show, the company’s name was included in various episodes as an inside joke; in one, Leonard appeared in the series as a gangster named Big Max Calvada.

— Too intellectual?

According to Richard Widmark, director Henry Hathaway did not want him for the role of Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death (1947). Because of his high forehead, Hathaway thought Widmark looked too intellectual. Twentieth Century-Fox head Darryl Zanuck wanted Widmark to try for the part; for his test, Widmark wore a wig “that brought my hairline way down like an ape.” He got the part.

Join me tomorrow for the last day (sniff!) of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 29, 2022.

6 Responses to “Noirvember Day 29: Trivia Tuesday (Part 4)”

  1. You must believe in going out with a bang because you BROUGHT it with the last (sob!) Trivia Tuesday!

    I’ve been collecting Old Hollywood trivia since I before I was allowed to cross the street by myself, and almost every item was news to me! Well done, sister!!

    (I wonder who was in Da Silva’s bad books? I’m guessing Robert Taylor…)

  2. Speaking of Dan Duryea, are there any other fans of his and Jayne Mansfield’s work in The Burglar (1957)? It was written by David Goodis, who also gave us Nightfall (1956) and the Bogie-Bacall Dark Passage (1947), but outside of encyclopedias I’ve never seen Burglar mentioned anywhere at all, not even by noir aficionados.

    Burglar was one of those films you might go into almost at random, not expecting much (the film’s release art made it seem lurid, at best), but from its first minutes there’s the thrill that comes from noticing intelligence at work. I recall it was limited but not hamstrung by the era of its release and the code’s requirements, and Goodis actually puts those limitations to good use.

    It’s not just Duryea—Mansfield’s also terrific in a difficult role. I haven’t seen her in enough to seriously evaluate her skills as an actress, but here she’s very solid. Just 22 when Burglar was shot (released in 1957, but shot in 1955, before she’d gotten as much press as she soon would), it’s clear she has an excellent sense of line, of how to move in the role, of how to play the character.

    • It’s a good one. I’ve only seen it once, but I recently read a blog post about it and determined to dust off my VHS copy. Dan Duryea brought it, as always, but I was especially impressed with Jayne Mansfield, and wish that we could’ve seen more of this kind of role from her.

  3. I enjoyed all these tidbits! Can’t imagine anyone but Widmark as Tommy Udo — that’s so wild!

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