New titles from others and research in progress

Lew Ayres

October 29, 2012

The University Press of Mississippi has just published Lesley Coffin's excellent biography of Lew Ayres, part of the Hollywood Legends Series I edit. I grew up watching the Dr. Kildare movies on television and had no idea this actor starred in All Quiet on the Western Front and Johnny Belinda. I also did not know that he was controversial because he was a conscientious objector during World War II. Decades later I met him in Detroit while he was touring with a movie he had made about the world's religions. I do not exaggerate when I say he had a saintly aura. I'd love to hear from you about your favorite Lew Ayres performances.

Hollywood Madonna

October 20, 2012

Tags: Loretta Young, Bernard F. Dick, Walter Brennan, Richard Greene, Kentucky

I just learned that Turner Classic Movies is making Loretta Young star of the month for January. I grew up watching her on television making those memorable, sweeping entrances, which Bernard F. Dick describes so well in his biography of Young, titled Hollywood Madonna. Dick's book is part of the Hollywood Legends series published by University Press of Mississippi. Dick has a wonderful chapter, by the way, on Young's radio performances. She took them quite seriously.

I don't know Young's work that well, and I'd be interested in hearing from you about which of her films you think I should watch. I'm looking forward to watching Kentucky starring Young, Richard Greene, and Walter Brennan, who won an Academy Award for his performance. I planning to write a biography of Brennan.

The Incomparable Clifton Webb

October 6, 2012

Tags: Dana Andrews, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Darryl Zanuck

Star of stage and screen
In his prime, Clifton Webb was a great song and dance man--on a par with Fred Astaire. When Otto Preminger wanted him to star in Laura, Darryl Zanuck was skeptical. He wanted the heavyweight actor Laird Cregar. But Webb's ascerbic wit stole the show, and he became a great star for Fox. Zanuck became quite fond of his star, and when the producer's daughter announced plans for a wedding, Zanuck asked Webb to teach him how to dance. Imagine Zanuck and Webb, cheek to cheek. Off screen Webb was not like the waspish Waldo Lydecker (his character in Laura). He was witty, to be sure, but also generous, recognizing early the talents of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean and encouraging both of them. Sitting Pretty includes all of Webb's unfinished autobiography, which--as you might imagine--is as elegant as the man. Dana Andrews learned a lot from his co-star in Laura and the two remained great friends.