One of the last great composers has left the stage. There are over 192 credits listed for composer, Billy Goldenberg, the songwriter, music director and conductor. Goldenberg added his dramatic, evocative, dreamy and groovy style to so many popular films, tv movies and television themes, you might not have known, was his.
He is an Emmy Award winning composer who garnered over 25 Emmy nominations, and created some of the most haunting melodies, trippy electronics, and catchy themes than are unequaled.
From Steven Spielberg’s 1971 “Duel”; his combination of electronic and orchestral music for Rod Serling’s 1969 “Night Gallery” pilot; and his grandly romantic 1971, “Ransom for a Dead Man,” the second “Columbo” pilot that sold the famous Peter Falk series. -Variety
I had the incredible opportunity to see Billy Goldenberg live in New York, while he went on the road with Bea Arthur, playing piano for her one-woman show “…And Then There’s Bea” in the early 2000s.
It was a an incredibly memorable experience to be right up front, near the stage, with two of my most beloved talents. Bea Arthur crooned sentimental tunes, accompanied on piano by the marvelously intuitive Billy Goldenberg. Their synchronicity, their chemistry created a magical evening of music, nostalgia and a deep friendship between these two geniuses.
Billy Goldenberg will be honored in a documentary that is close to completion by writer, director, film producer and friend, Gary Gerani, who has been putting together the tribute, with tireless effort, respect, awe and love for his friend and one, who is one of the greatest composers/musician and mensch.
2020 has seen many, many losses, Olivia de Havilland, Shirley Knight and now Billy Goldenberg. It’s a piece of sweet memories starting to fade away from this side of the veil, but we have to hold on to their presence, because remembering them and their legacy is vital to keeping them with us, and keeping their legacy alive.
Billy Goldenberg scored many popular feature films, for instance:Play it Again, Sam and Up the Sandbox 1972, The Last of Sheila 1973, Busting 1974, Queen of the Stardust Ballroom 1975, and The Domino Principle 1977.
The Domino Principle 1977
The Last of Sheila 1973
Just a few television credits — Steven Spielberg’s directorial debut with -Duel 1971 tv movie, Alias Smith and Jones tv series 1971-73, Reflections of Murder 1974 tv movie, Smile, Jenny You’re Dead 1974 pilot for Harry O, The Legend of Lizzie Borden 1975 tv movie, One of my Wives is Missing 1976 tv movie, Helter Skelter 1976 mini-series
He was responsible for 7 episodes of Columbo with Peter Falk including some of my favorites, Ransom for a Dead Man, Murder by the Book, Suitable for Framing, Lady in Waiting, A Stitch in Crime and A Friend in Deed.
Billy Goldenberg set the trend of staging musical scores that were bathed in supernatural, intriguing and enigmatic atmosphere. He was a weaver of spellbinding dreams!
Here’s just a snippet of his work in television-
Ransom for a Dead Man
Murder by the Book
A Stitch in Time
The Name of the Game 1968-71
Fear No Evil 1969 tv movie
Night Gallery 1969 tv pilot
The Neon Ceiling tv movie with Lee Grant
The Sixth Sense 1972 tv series
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark 1973 tv movie
Circle of Fear tv series 1972-73
Ghost Story/Circle of Fear 1972
Harry O tv series 1974-76
Kojak tv series 1973-77
Your EverLovin’ Joey, with music in my heart says, Farewell Billy…
WHILE YOU’RE WAITING FOR THE LAST DRIVE IN’S UPCOMING SPECIAL FEATURES…
Some of the great Saul Bass original title designs for shows like Quinn Martin Productions by Lee Goldberg, or evocative series scores from such notable composers as Billy Goldenberg,Jerry Goldsmith, Cyril Mockeridge, Pete Rugulo, Lynn Murray, John Williams, Dave Grusin, Nelson Riddle and more…!
Sit back and enjoy almost 3 hours of retro television intros from the 1960s to the 1970s. With a smattering of vintage commercials thrown in for your amusement! It’s the perfect backdrop when your looking to draw the whimsy of nostalgia up your flue!
See you ’round the snack bar… next up my interview with the legendary Lee Grant!
Untroubled good looks, faraway poise & self-control, with a satyric smile and brushed-aside sophistication – that’s Bradford Dillman
Bradford Dillman is one of those ubiquitous & versatile actors who you find popping up just about everywhere, and whenever I either see him in the credits or think about some of his performances, I am immediately happified by his presence in my mind and on screen. It’s this familiarity that signposts for me that whatever upcoming diversion I’m in store for will be something memorable indeed.
He’s been cast as a saint, a psychopath, an elite ivy league intellectual with an edge, an unconventional scientist, a military figure, a droll, and prickly individualist, a clueless bureaucrat, or drunken malcontents and he’s got a sort of cool that is wholly appealing.
Bradford Dillman was omnipresent starting out on the stage, and in major motion pictures at the end of the 50s, and by the 1960s he began his foray into popular episodic television series and appeared in a slew of unique made-for-television movies throughout the 1970s and 80s, with the addition of major motion picture releases through to the 90s. His work intersects many different genres from melodramas, historical dramas, thrillers, science fiction, and horror.
There are a few actors of the 1960s & 70s decades that cause that same sense of blissed-out flutters in my heart — that is of course if you’re as nostalgic about those days of classic cinema and television as I am. I get that feeling when I see actors like Stuart Whitman, Dean Stockwell, Roy Thinnes, Scott Marlow, Warren Oates, James Coburn, Lee Grant David Janssen, Michael Parks, Barbara Parkins, Joanna Pettet, Joan Hackett, Sheree North, Diana Sands, Piper Laurie, Susan Oliver, and Diane Baker. I have a fanciful worship for the actors who were busy working in those decades, who weren’t Hollywood starlets or male heartthrobs yet they possessed a realness, likability, a certain individual knack, and raw sex appeal.
Bradford Dillman was born in San Francisco in 1930 to a prominent local family. During the war, he was sent to The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut. At Hotchkiss, his senior year he played Hamlet. At Yale, he studied English Literature and performed in amateur theatrical productions, and worked at the Playhouse in Connecticut. Dillman served in the US Marines in Korea (1951-1953) and made a pact that he’d give himself five years to succeed as an actor before he called it quits. Lucky for us, he didn’t wind up in finance the way his father wanted him to.
Dillman enrolled and studied at the Actors Studio, he spent several seasons apprenticing with the Sharon Connecticut Playhouse before making his professional acting debut in an adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarecrow” in 1953 with fellow Studio students Eli Wallach and James Dean. Dillman referred to Dean as ‘a wacky kid’ but ‘very gifted’.
He only appeared in two shows in October 1962 The Fun Couple in 1957 with Dyan Cannon and Jane Fonda before the play closed in New York only after two days.
We lost Bradford Dillman last year in January 2018. I was so saddened to hear the news. And I missed the chance to tribute to his work then, but now that his birthday is here, I feel like celebrating his life rather than mourning his death, so it’s just as well.
Bradford Dillman wrote an autobiography called Are You, Anybody? An Actor’s Life, published in 1997 with a (foreword by Suzy Parker) in which he downplays the prolific contribution he made to film and television and acting in general. Though Dillman didn’t always hold a high opinion of some of the work he was involved in, appearing in such a vast assortment of projects, he always came across as upbeat and invested in the role.
“Bradford Dillman sounded like a distinguished, phony, theatrical name, so I kept it.”
[about his career] “I’m not bitter, though. I’ve had a wonderful life. I married the most beautiful woman in the world. Together we raised six children, each remarkable in his or her own way and every one a responsible citizen. I was fortunate to work in a profession where I looked forward to going to work every day. I was rewarded with modest success. The work sent me to places all over the world I’d never been able to afford visiting otherwise. I keep busy and I’m happy. And there are a few good films out there that I might be remembered for.”
After careful deliberation & shared concentration on some of the most groundbreaking and beloved classic television series, the final list is here! Visit Classic TV Blog Associations Blog (Link Above) to read how the list evolved…
I am proud to have been part of this project. Many of the shows included on the final list were series I suggested and while series such as Naked City, Boris Karloff’s Thriller, Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Dark Shadows, Dr. Kildare, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Leave It To Beaver didn’t make the ultimate tally, I am content that many many fans will agree it is an all inclusive collection of shows that contributed to our collective consciousness, influenced generations of series to follow and left indelible impressions in our hearts and minds.
The Twilight Zone
I Love Lucy
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
All in the Family
Monty Python’s Flying Circus
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Andy Griffith Show
The Golden Girls
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Hill Street Blues
The Odd Couple
The Outer Limits
Your EverLovin’ Joey saying see ya soon and keep showing your love for those classic series that will forever remain –the finest television viewing experience for all time…
It’s that marvelous time again, when one of the most enjoyable Blogathons has come around, it’s the 7th Annual What A Character Blogathon. And the reason I adore it so much –it’s purpose is essential in paying tribute to the memorable character actors who have often added the sparkle to the cinematic sky of movie stars– they touch our lives so profoundly because of their unique contribution as the characters they bring to life!
I want to thank Aurora of Once Upon a Screen, Paula Guthat of Paula’s Cinema Club, and Kellee Pratt of Outspoken & Freckled. for giving me the opportunity to once again show my sincerest love for the actors & actresses who are so discernible within the art of film, television and theatre. It is their unforgettable performances that make it a much richer, more compelling experience — as they are as much the stars who inhabit the dream of art because of their singular personalities.
I’ve been participating now for 7 years, and it’s always a great expedition to delve deeper into the careers of the people who I’ve found the most enigmatic, extraordinary, and uniquely engaging. This year I’ve been excited to pay special attention to two remarkable women, Eileen Heckart, and Louise Latham.
For years I have always thought of these two women together, as one of those odd associations–yet inexplicable– that makes you put certain faces or impressions together in your head. Another example of two actors that often seem to merge in that vast noggin of mine — I’m always thinking of E.G. Marshall and Eli Wallach together. Heck, maybe, next year I’ll do the same double feature for them. As I adore them both!
It struck me that I should pair Eileen and Louise as a kind of sisterhood, for both of their uniquely extraordinary styles stand out and somehow stand together for me. And an interesting confluence happened as I went on my more intensive journey of discovering of these two fine actresses. I found out that Eileen Heckart and Louise Latham appeared together in a rare episode of The Doctors and The Nurses an hour-long television medical drama that ran from 1962-1965. In a macabre tale reminiscent of a Robert Bloch story — the episode is called Night of the Witch, about a woman (Eileen Heckart) who is tortured by the loss of her 6-year-old daughter, and seeks her own brand of retribution from the medical staff she believes is responsible. The hospital receptionist who is cold and unfeeling is portrayed by none other than Louise Latham. The fascination I’ve had to see this performance led me to hunt down a rare copy and now I own it and have put together a sample of it here for you. It’s a rather long clip of the episode in honor of their appearing together. It showcases both their talents. I hope you enjoy the excerpt And I am praying that the television series itself will someday find a full release as it is worthy of being re-visited for its groundbreaking content, incredible cast, and performances.
As in past What A Character Blogathons, Burgess Meredith, Ruth Gordon, Agnes Moorehead, Martin Balsam, and Jeanette Nolan–each of these actors– had a way of elevating every single project they were involved in, making it just that much more fascinating, delightful, heart-wrenching and unquestionably memorable because of their performance–no matter how small their presence, they changed the landscape and impacted the narrative.
It is my absolute honor this year to feature two of the most remarkable women whose legacy still lives on.
It’s that wonderful time of the year when we all get to celebrate those unsung actors with loads of character, thanks to Aurora of Once Upon a Screen, Paula’s Cinema & Club& Outspoken and Freckled who are hosting the Fifth Annual WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON 2016… This will be my fourth time contributing to this fantastic event, having covered Jeanette Nolan, Burgess Meredith, and last year’s Agnes Moorehead. As many of you know, it’s often the actors on the periphery of some of our favorite films that fill out the landscape with their extraordinary presence, a presence that becomes not only essential to the story but at times become as memorable perhaps even larger than life when compared with the central stars themselves. I’m thrilled to be joining in the fun once again and am sure that it’s going to be just as memorable this year as ever before!
The ASTONISHING… RUTH GORDON!
“The earth is my body; my head is in the stars.”-Ruth Gordon as Maude
Maude: “A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They’re just backing away from life. *Reach* out. Take a *chance*. Get *hurt* even. But play as well as you can.”
I’ve been waiting to write about my love of Ruth Gordon for quite some time and felt that this would be the best way to get off the pot and just start singing those praises for this remarkable lady of theatre, film, and television. Ruth Gordon in so many ways channeled her true personality through the character of Maude, in life –she too always projected a spirit that played as well as she could…
“Choose a color, you’re on your own, don’t be helpless.” –Ruth Gordon -An Open Book
There’s a vast dimension and range to Ruth Gordon’s work both her screenwriting and her acting, the effects leave a glowing trail like a shooting star. With her quirky wisdom and sassy vivacity that plucks at your heart, Ruth Gordon stands out in a meadow of daisies she is emblazoned as bright and bold as the only sunflower in the field. No one, just no one has ever been nor will ever be like this incredible personality.
For a woman who is impish in stature, she emanates a tremendous presence, a smile like the Mona Lisa, sporting a unique and stylish way she expresses herself with a poetic & fable-like language. Ruth Gordon is a character who dances to a different rhythm — how she sees herself and how she performs *life* is uniquely mesmerizing as it is burgeoning with all the colors of the universe.
Ruth Gordon is a dramaturgical pixie, with a curious hitch in her git-along… an impish dame who rouses and fortifies each role she inhabits with a playful, mischievous, and almost esoteric brand of articulation.
In a field of different daisies Ruth Gordon is that sunflower that Maude soliloquies poetically to Harold —
Maude-“I should like to change into a sunflower most of all. They’re so tall and simple. What flower would you like to be?”
Harold-“I don’t know. One of these, maybe.”
Maude-“Why do you say that?”
Harold-“Because they’re all alike.”
Maude-“Ooooh, but they’re *not*. Look. See, some are smaller, some are fatter, some grow to the left, some to the right, some even have lost some petals. All *kinds* of observable differences. You see, Harold, I feel that much of the world’s sorrow come from people who are *this”, (pointing to a daisy) yet allow themselves to be treated as *that*.” (she gestures to a field of daisies)
From the Arlene Francis 1983 interview with Ruth Gordon– actress, screenwriter and playwright…
Ruth Gordon 1975 photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt
Ruth Gordon never wanted to be told how to write nor be instructed on how to act… from her autobiography An Open Book- “I don’t like to be told how to act either. When I’m left alone thoughts come… ‘Don’t try to think’ said our New England philosopher, Emerson, leave yourself open to thought. If you find out stuff for yourself, you get to know what you believe; what you like, how to live, how to have a good time. It’s important to have a good time.”
from Hugh Downs Interview
“ I did grow up to have character. And I’m always doing some damn thing that uh I don’t wanna do but I know it’s right to do. And I finally thought of something in my next book and I’m gonna have it in there and it’s a very important thing to remember. Just because a thing is hard to do doesn’t make it any good. You tackle something and you work at it and slave at it and say now I’m gonna do this I’m gonna do it and when you’ve done it better think it over and see if it was worth it… some easy things like falling off a log and stuff those easy things probably just as good but a New Englander has to do it the hard way. “
Arlene Francis “You once said ‘never face facts’ how can you avoid it?”
Ruth Gordon-“Oh my god look, we’re not facing facts now surely cause I might dry up and not have a thing to say in the world and then where would you be, you know… […] it would be stupid there are enough hazards in the world, I’m 85 now and I’m at my very best peak of my looks which might be an interesting thing to anybody because you figure, 18 why wouldn’t I be better looking than now?… “Don’t lets anyone tell their symptoms, it would be the most boring thing, even though everybody has so many… so the ‘don’t face your facts’ is if you face what’s the matter with you, you know we’d open a window and say goodbye everybody like tinker bell and take off and hope you could fly (she laughs) Don’t face the facts you know, I was 18 years old I was going on the stage didn’t know anybody in New York and I didn’t know anybody on the stage, and I wasn’t beautiful and I wasn’t tall which everybody was in those days, and uh I didn’t have any money and how was I gonna do this, so if I didn’t ‘not face those facts’ I’d say too bad she wanted to be an actress…”
Ruth Gordon, who always dreamed of becoming a ‘film’ star, beside an astonishing stage presence talks about winning awards for her work–“ The main award that I really value is the award I give myself and people say Oh you don’t know when you’re good you know, the audience knows, people know but you don’t know Well that’s stupid I know when I’m good for myself You might not like it, they might not like it, the public might not like it, but I know that wonderful performance that doesn’t happen too often, when anticipation and realization come together because that night when it’s all perfect and is great and you know … that you’ve just taken off… that’s my award…”
Ruth Gordon is bold and vibrant and an actress who never shied away from taking the quirkiest and most eccentric roles. From irreverent Ma in Every Which Way But Loose (1978) and the poignant Becky Rosen in Boardwalk (1979) to the perspicacious Maude in Harold and Maude (1971) George Segal’s Tushy biting batty mother-Mrs. Hocheiser in Where’s Poppa? (1970) and of course the queen of campy kitschy New York City’s enigmatic coven hostess with the mostest– Minnie Castevet in Rosemary’s Baby (1968) …
Once Ruth Gordon personified the unforgettable Minnie Castevet in “Rosemary’s Baby”in 1968 she manifested a lasting and unfading, enigmatic character that only Ruth Gordon could infuse with that unforgettable energy.
Minnie is perhaps one of the most vividly colorful film characters with her sly and farcical mispronunciations and a wardrobe that is distinctly tacky. Part cosmopolitan part menacing, no one could have performed Minnie Castevet quite like Ruth Gordon, that next-door meddling neighbor who befriends an American housewife, who is secretly waiting to become the godmother to the devil’s unborn son.
Gordon appears as if she was cut from a mold that makes her seem like a rebel to the inner workings of Hollywood. And as extremely unconventional as she can be, there is always a depth and authenticity to the wackiest of characters she’s portraying. From the lyrically loving and life-devouring Maude in Hal Ashby’s different style of love story.
“ Well it’s a very good movie, I was absolutely wonderful Collin Higgins wrote a great movie Bud Cort was sensational, Hal Ashby became one of the top directors so how do you account for that, well it just happened. But, you see, some guy in Cambridge Mass. he wrote from the YMCA he wrote me a letter and he said, ‘I’ve seen Harold and Maude’ I don’t know how many times he’d seen it, and he said I’m at a loss to know why it means so much to me and I think about it , I think about it a lot and I finally came to the conclusion that it’s because to get through life you have to have somebody to tell it to’ that’s a very profound remark. I’ve had lovers I’ve have friends I’ve had family and I didn’t exactly tell it to them but Garson Kanin I tell it to him whether it’s bad whether I’m a failure whether I’m going grey. Somebody to tell it to. And it’s a very very necessary part of life. And in Harold & Maude Harold who was a kind of helpless geek with looks riches money everything he had … except knowing how to live. And Maude who didn’t have anything except she knew how to live. And Harold could tell it to her. he could tell it to her. She didn’t always have the answer. But he could pour it out. And so it was wonderful really, just pour it out, I said once even if I’m wrong agree with me because you know to Gar, have somebody you know would stand up for you.”
Ruth and husband Garson Kanin… super writing team!
Bud Cort remained very close friends with Ruth Gordon. Here he is talking about her tremendous influence on This is Your Life television show honoring the extraordinary actress/writer.
Ruth Gordon and Hal Ashby on the set of Harold and Maude 1971.
from the Dick Cavett interview from September 19, 1969 expressing how if you had never seen Ruth Gordon on the stage “You would lament that fact… a lady who is one of the incomparable ladies of American Theatre. There have been cults about Ruth Gordon for years and years and years. When great performances on Broadway are discussed, Laurette Taylor in The Glass Menagerie or Mildred Dunnock in Death of a Salesman, or Vivien Leigh or any of the classics are referred to Olivier in Oedipus, Ruth Gordon in *The Matchmaker* is always brought up as one of the masterpieces of all time. And she has been a wondrous presence in the theatre for over 50 years. Splendid comedian and a splendid comic writer.”
Ruth Gordon Jones was born October 30, 1896, in Quincy, Massachusetts. “growing up with the brown taste of poverty in her mouth.” As a child, she wrote fan letters to her favorite film stars and received a personal reply from Hazel Dawn. So struck with stage actress Hazel Dawn after seeing her perform in “The Pink Lady” in Boston, Ruth Gordon decided to go into acting. After high school, she went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and was an extra in silent films made in Fort Lee, New Jersey making $5 in 1915. She made her Broadway debut in 1915 as one of the Lost Boys later that year in Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up as Nibs. She garnered a favorable review by Alexander Woolcott, who at the time was an extremely influential theater critic eventually the two became close friends and he was her mentor. Gordon was typecast in “beautiful but dumb” roles in the early 20s.
Ruth Gordon began to hone her craft and push the range of her acting ability which she revealed in Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, the restoration comedy The Country Wife in which she appeared at the influential theater–London’s Old Vic. She eventually found her way to Broadway and landed a role in Henrik Ibsen’s A Dolls House during the 1930s.
Severely bow-legged, in 1920 she spent time in a hospital in Chicago where she had her legs broken and straightened.
Ruth Gordon as Edward G. Robinson’s wife in director William Dieterle’s Dr. Erhlich’s Magic Bullet 1940.
Ruth Gordon with the great Greta Garbo in director George Cukor’s Two-Faced Woman 1941.
She was married to actor Gregory Kelly from 1921-1927 when he died of heart disease. In 1929, she had a child (Jones Harris) with Broadway producer Jed Harris. She starred in plays in New York City and London, not doing another film until she played Mary Todd in director John Cromwell’s Abe Lincoln in Illinois 1940, co-starred with Edward G. Robinson in director William Dieterle’s Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet 1940 and appeared as Miss Ellis in director George Cukor’s film starring Greta Garbo film Two-Faced Woman 1941 and co-starred with Humphrey Bogart in Action in the North Atlantic 1942.
Ruth Gordon plays Ann Sheridan’s mother in director Lewis Milestone’s story of a small fishing village in Norway and the resistance to the Nazi occupation, Gordon plays Anna Stensgard the unassuming wife and neurotic mother who lives too much in the past in Edge of Darkness 1943.
In 1942, active on Broadway again, she married writer Garson Kanin and started writing plays. Together with her husband, she wrote screenplays for Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy like A Double Life 1947, Adam’s Rib 1949, and Pat and Mike 1952. She also wrote an autobiographical play “Years Ago”, that then became a film directed by the great George Cukor starring Jean Simmons, Spencer Tracy, and Teresa Wright in The Actress 1953 about her life growing up and getting into the theatre.
Ruth Gordon and her husband were included in a round-up of theatre actors questioned by the House on Un-American Activities in 1947 and flown to Washington for questioning. Nothing came of the investigation.
In the 1960s she returned to Hollywood with roles in films and television adaptations–
The television movie version of Noel Coward’s 1941 play Blithe Spirit—Ruth Gordon manifests the spiritual medium Madame Arcati in the 1966 tv version.
Ruth Gordon as Stella Barnard co-starring with Roddy McDowall and Tuesday Weld in Lord Love a Duck 1966.
Playing Mrs. Stella Barnard in Lord Love a Duck 1966 The film stars Tuesday Weld as the innocent attention-seeking teenager from a broken home who aspires to become loved by everyone wears 12 colorful cashmere sweaters given to her by friend and mastermind Roddy McDowall (who was 36 at the time playing a teen!) Director George Axelrod’s biting satire pokes fun at teen beach movies of the 1960s, elitism, and the adults that satellite around their machinations …
Stella Bernard: (Ruth Gordon) “You lied to me, Miss Greene. You permitted me to believe your father was dead.”
Barbara Ann: (Tuesday Weld) “Well, they’re divorced.”
Stella Bernard: (Ruth Gordon) “In our family we don’t divorce our men; we *bury* ’em!”
Where’s Poppa? 1970 In director Carl Reiner’s black comedy- Ruth Gordon lets it rip as the irreverent Mama Hocheiser whose senile antics are driving New York attorney Gordon Hocheiser (George Segal) to the brink. When he finally meets the loving and naive nurse Louise Callan (Trish Van Devere), worried his mother’s idiosyncrasies will ruin his budding romance, he grasps at any means to finally get rid of her! Ron Leibman is hilarious as Brother Sidney!
Inside Daisy Clover 1965, for which Ruth Gordon returned to the screen after almost 20 years -was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe as Supporting Actress… One of my favorite directors Robert Mulligan creates a portrait of a tomboy (Natalie Wood) who dreams of being a singer, lives in a trailer, and runs a beachside concession stand where she forges the autographs of Hollywood stars — suddenly discovered Daisy rises to stardom herself, falls in love with Robert Redford, only to turn her back on the viciousness of the business.
Ruth Gordon plays her quirky card-playing mother whom she calls ‘Old Chap’ who lives in her own world. Daisy loves her dearly, but the studio heads force her to hide Old Chap/Mrs. Clover is in an old age home and tells the public she’s dead in order to project her star image without an eccentric & batty mother in her life. Ruth Gordon once again plays batty to the poignant level of art form.
Inside Daisy Clover co-stars Christopher Plummer, Robert Redford, and Roddy McDowall, with a wonderful soundtrack, “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” by André Previn and Dory Previn.
Police (Harold Gould)-“You waited seven years to report your husband missing?” Mrs. Clover-‘The Dealer’“I just started missin’ him this morning.”
Natalie Wood grew so fond of Ruth Gordon after working on the film Inside Daisy Clover that she made her the godmother to her daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner
Gordon plays Alice Dimmock involved in a dangerous battle of wits with the menacing Clare Marrable who buries her victims in her lovely rose garden–Geraldine Page hires companions who have nice savings built up and no relatives to come around looking for them in What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice 1969.
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO AUNT ALICE? 1969 directed by Lee H. Katrin was Produced by Robert Aldrich Music by Gerald Fried.
In this taut Grande Dame Guignol horror thriller Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice 1969, Ruth Gordon portrays Alice Dimmock who sets out to uncover the truth behind her companion’s (Mildred Dunnock) disappearance after she takes a job with the austere and cunning Clare Marrable, a prolific serial killer who sows the seeds of her rose garden with her victims.
Director Lee H. Katzin and Bernard Girard’s psychological thriller positions two powerful actresses in a taut game of cat and mouse…
Geraldine Pages plays the ghastly & audacious serial killer Claire Marrable, whose husband left her penniless. In order to keep living a life of luxury and comfort she begins offing her paid companions who have stashed doe and no family to come looking for them. When Edna Tinsley played by Mildred Dunnock goes missing and becomes part of Mrs Marrable’s wondrous garden of roses, Ruth Gordon pretends to be Page’s companion in order to get to the truth about her missing friend.
Ruth Gordon was amazed at the showing of What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? She figured that by playing the part of a woman in peril at the mercy of the ruthless and calculating psychopath, performed perfectly by Geraldine Page, at the final moment of confrontation her split decision to for self-preservation and become a murderer herself or be true to her inherent goodness allowing herself to be a victim. Ruth Gordon believed that it was this defining moment the goodness that ruled Alice’s heart and head would be the most powerful moments in the film. Yet, when the audience responded to this critical scene, to her surprise they screamed out “Kill her, kill her!” The audience wanted Ruth’s character to live so badly…
from director Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude (1971).
A 79 old woman and a twenty-year-old lost soul meet at a funeral and find love and life together in a darkly light comedy. Bud Cort creates an iconic figure of a young privileged young man disillusioned by life, who gets a kick out of antagonizing his priggish mother Mrs. Chasen (Vivian Pickles) with creative faked suicides. Once Harold is exposed to the wisdom and insight that Maude imparts, she manages to open up his heart and teaches him how to reach out and embrace the substance of life’s beauty.
“You know, at one time, I used to break into pet shops to liberate the canaries. But I decided that was an idea way before its time. Zoos are full, prisons are overflowing… oh my, how the world still *dearly* loves a *cage.* “-the inimitable Maude
Harold: “Maude” Maude: “Hmm?”Harold: “Do you pray?” Maude: “Pray? No. I communicate.” Harold: “With God?” Maude: “With *life*”
Every Which Way But Loose 1978.
Ruth Gordon plays the impertinently, uninhibited Ma to Clint Eastwood as trucker Philo Beddoe & Orville (Geoffrey Lewis) who travel around the West Coast looking for street-style prize fights. Along for the ride are Beverly D’Angelo as Echo, and evasive love interest Sondra Locke as country singer Lynn Halsey-Taylor. There’s a hilarious assorted misfit motorcycle gang member and Philo’s pet Orangutan Clyde who’s always stealing Ma’s Oreo cookies!
Ruth Gordon reprised her role as the cantankerous Ma in Any Which Way You Can 1980.
Ma after Clyde has eaten her bag of Oreos-“Ohh! Stop that, ya goddamn baboon. No respect! No privacy! No nothing!”
co-staring with Lee Strasberg in Boardwalk 1979.
Lee Strasberg plays David Rosen and Ruth Gordon portrays his wife Becky who own a wonderful little diner, a loving older couple who have lived in their Coney Island Jewish neighborhood for 50 years until a gang moves in and changes the communities quality of life by threatening the local store owners with violence if they don’t pay ‘protection’ money. When David defies them, they burn down the diner and desecrate the synagogue. Janet Leigh also co-stars as Florence Cohen.
Ruth Gordon manifests a marvelously warm and poignant chemistry with master actor/teacher Lee Strasberg.
She personified the unforgettable role of Minnie Castevet in “Rosemary’s Baby”in 1969. Manifesting an unfading, enigmatic character that only Ruth Gordon could perform.
Ruth Gordon started to get more regular film and television roles. Reprising the role of Minnie Castevet in the made for tv fright-flick Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby (1976) and played the devouring Jewish mother Cecilia Weiss in the television movie The Great Houdini 1976. And the television movie The Prince of Central Park 1977.
Ruth Gordon was cast in the feature film The Big Bus (1976) among a terrific ensemble of actors. She appeared as Arvilla Droll in Scavenger Hunt 1979 and the very touching film about growing up and friendship- My Bodyguard 1980 in -Maxie (1985) Ruth Gordon plays Chris Makepeace’s kindly but rascally grandmother, while he finds a way to school bully Matt Dillon from beating him to a pulp, he finds an outcast that everyone is afraid of to be his bodyguard in Adam Baldwin. The film also co-stars John Houseman.
Ruth Gordon co-stars with Chris Makepeace in 1980s My Bodyguard.
Ruth Gordon co-stars with Glenn Close in Maxie 1985.
As the eccentric Marge Savage in the ABC tv Movie of the Week directed by John Badham starring Alan Alda- Isn’t It Shocking (1973) Gordon possessed the seamless ability to oscillate between a delightfully aerated conviviality and acerbic snapdragon capable of delivering the most colorful tongue lashing!
Alda plays a small-town sheriff with his quirky secretary/sidekick Blanche (Louise Lasser) who is daunted by a string of mysterious deaths that are plaguing the elderly town folk. Edmund O’Brien plays Justin Oates an odd serial killer who is holding a lifetime grudge against his old friends who humiliated him in high school. Marge was his great love who might have done him wrong! Co-stars Lloyd Nolan, and Will Geer and the county coroner who uncovers the weird details that connect the murders.
Lynn Redgrave stars with Ruth Gordon in the stage production of George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession.
Ruth Gordon was nominated for Broadway’s 1956 Tony Award as Best Dramatic Actress for playing Dolly Levy in Thornton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker.” Ruth Gordon says that Wilder had been a tremendous help and influence to her, having ‘picked him up in front of The Booth Theater’ way back when. She won a Golden Globe award as Best Supporting Actress as Natalie Wood’s mother she calls Old Chap in Inside Daisy Clover and a much-deserved Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Rosemary’s Baby.
She was nominated for a Golden Globe for playing Maude in Harold and Maude in 1971.
In the 1970s and 1980s she played parts in well-known television shows like Kojak as psychic Miss Eudora Temple in Season 2 “I Want to Report a Dream”, Rhoda, and Taxi(which she won an Emmy for.)
and in the superb episode of Columbo as mystery writer Abigail Mitchell one of the most sympathetic murderesses’ of the series as she avenges the death of her beloved niece with unrelenting Lt. Columbo dauntlessly nipping at her heels. And though Abigail finds Columbo to be a very kind man, he tells her not to count on that. He must stay true to his calling as a homicide detective though we wish he would just Abigail get away with murder– in “Try and Catch Me.”
Ruth Gordon as mystery writer Abigail Mitchell: I accept all superlatives.
Ruth Gordon also had the distinguished honor of hosting Saturday Night Live in 1977.
Ruth Gordon died of a stroke at 88 in Massachusetts with her husband Garson at her side.
“She had a great gift for living the moment and it kept her ageless.”
— Glenn Close
Ruth Gordon had quite a unique way of expressing herself on stage, screen, and in person, and as Dick Cavett had said about the great actresses’ ability to always project her incomparable persona, what we get! — “It’s a lesson in something that only Ruth Gordon can teach.” And as she would say, she had “a lot of zip in her doo dah.”
I’ll end by saying this about this astonishingly iconic character whose sagacity and spark will never dim when asked that particularly interesting question, ‘If you had 3 people you could meet in Heaven who would you choose?’ Ruth Gordon, you would be one of them!- With all my love, MonsterGirl
This is one of the most searing neo-Film Noir police procedural/syndicate treasure hunts and shadows eye candy featuring a truly frightening and frenetic performance by our beloved Peter Falk who not only manifested THE only possible rumpled detective in a raincoat, that– “just one more question” knows who the guilty party is in the first five minutes of meeting them, Columbo (sorry Lee J. Cobb) whose inimitable style began the television detecting technique where we know who did it.
As ColumboPeter Falk usually uses the art of ‘misunderestimation’ and quaint anecdotes about relatives who may or may not exist, as he politely taunts and squeezes with relenting loose end-tying questions pushing the culprit into a corner they can not escape from. In Murder, Inc (1960) Falk is so dark and brooding as a little thug with mad at the world and no acuity toward right and wrong. The only time I saw him create a darker character that sent chills down the back of my neck was in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour that aired on December 13th, 1962 called Bonfirewhere he plays a psychopathic lady-killer who is posing as a firebrand evangelist.
I am planning a very special tribute to the genius of Peter Falk and his unmade bed detective always on the prowl for the jugular, with a very different slant on the show, (no hints please) hopefully getting it ready by the winter of 2017 if I can enlist the wit & wisdom of fellow Columbo-worshiping Aurora of Once Upon A Screen to join me in pulling it off!
In his 2006 autobiography, Just One More Thing, Peter Falk attributes his performance as the crazed Reles in Murder, Inc. to launching his career! Not to mention that the great stage actress/teacher Eva Le Gallienne highlysuggested after Falk was caught sneaking into her acting class as part of the American Repertory Movement, that he stick with it!
Peter Falk received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his ruthless, violent, and misogynistic murderous thug real-life hit man –Abe Reles.
film critic Bosley Crowther wrote:
“Mr. Falk, moving as if weary, looking at people out of the corners of his eyes and talking as if he had borrowed Marlon Brando’s chewing gum, seems a travesty of a killer, until the water suddenly freezes in his eyes and he whips an icepick from his pocket and starts punching holes in someone’s ribs. Then viciousness pours out of him and you get a sense of a felon who is hopelessly cracked and corrupt.”
Reles who reigned over the Brownsville district of Brooklyn during the 1930s depression era, was a clever and shifty taker and hit-man who could make people’s murders appear like brain hemorrhages by using an ice pick in just the right way. Lawman Burton Turkus (Henry Morgan) whose book the screenplay is based on, together with Det. Sgt. William Tobin (Simon Oakland) keeps track of this psychopathic criminal who is now working for the powerful crime boss Louis ‘Lepke’ Buchalter played as a self-indulgent burlesque man-child by David J. Stewart (Carnival Rock 1957, The Young Savages 1961) who runs the nationwide syndicate known as Murder Inc.
Directed by Burt Balaban (Lady of Vengeance 1957) and Stuart Rosenberg who later went on to direct the sublimely thoughtful Cool Hand Luke 1967 starring Paul Newman, he also directed The Amityville Horror in 1979.
Filmed in CinemaScope Murder, Inc. possesses a gritty realism painted effectively by cinematographer Gayne Rescher (A Face in the Crowd 1957, Man on a String 1960, Rachel, Rachel 1968 and Otto Preminger’s Such Good Friends 1971)
The film’s musical score is indeed a great companion to the mood, as Frank De Vol who usually works with Robert Aldrich (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962) creates a tense and bitter little pill, a flamboyant world within the universe of egocentric criminals, petty thieves, depression era storekeepers like the wonderful character of Mrs. Corsi (Helen Waters who only appeared one more time in television’s Naked City in 1958) who runs the little soda shop or Joe Rosen (Eli Mintz) who live in fear for their lives. De Vol’s score in addition to a live smoking performance by the late Sarah Vaughan makes the film’s musical personality work very well with the visual story.
The viciousness touches the garment district, the Unions, the burlesque clubs all the way up to the Borscht Belt where comedian Walter Sage (Morey Amsterdam) is hit by Reles at the request of Lepke. There are cops on the beat and the feds looking to finally incarcerate and shut down Murder Inc. The film is seeded with little cameos by some actor’s first appearances, like Sylvia Miles as Sadie the loudmouth who gets Reles’ hand shoved in her face while in the phone booth.
A small but slick performance by Vincent Gardenia as the mob’s attorney Laszlo, and a terrific stage performance by Sarah Vaughansinging Fan My Brow and The Awakening written by composer George Weiss. I saw Sarah Vaughan at the Westbury Music Fair back in the 1980s! She was nothing less than magical!
The basic gist is this–Reles (Peter Falk) and his flunky Bug (Warren Finnerty) meet with Garment District crime boss Lepke Buchalter (David J. Stewart) who wants to hire Reles as the syndicate’s new hitman. Lepke’s first task is for Reles to hit comedian Walter Sage (Morey Amsterdam) who has a headline act up in the Catskills. Sage has been holding out money from the slots and Lepke is a petty hothead (who constantly drinks milk) with a literal belly ache. Enter Joey Collins Stuart Whitman (I’ve had a long-time crush on this guy and his eyebrows!) a singer, who knows Sage from show business, and since he owes Reles $600 which will soon be $1,000 with every day he doesn’t pay back his loan he feels cornered into helping Reles do him a ‘favor.’ Joey Collins (Whitman) is coerced into driving up to the Borscht Belt in order to lure Sage out of the club so Reles can do his dirty work with his nice clean ice pick!
When Reles pays a visit to the small apartment where Joey and his refugee showgirl wife Eadie (May Britt) live, Eadie is not only rude, she tries to throw Reles out. Reles who obviously has an inferiority complex takes Eadie’s dismissal as a rejection of his manhood and he comes back while Joey is out of the apartment and brutally assaults her with his, “dirty hands, his dirty fingers.”
But Joey is so entangled and emasculated by the predicament he’s gotten himself into, he doesn’t even try to stand up to Reles, but rather feels he is trapped, though Eadie wants to just run and get as far away from Reles and the whole deal. While the couple stays together because they are forced into a dynamic by Reles, they no longer sleep in the same bedroom nor act as a married couple. The weak and shameful Joey should have listened to Eadie!
Reles set the kids up in this glamorous apartment as a front.
Now that Lepke thinks he has everything under control he has Reles working full force taking out anyone who can fink on him. Reles gives a maniacal soliloquy about ‘taking’ manipulating the couple into living as a cover in his gorgeous apartment that is furnished with imported stolen goods and dope.
The police want to bring Lepke in because they have found a witness, small businessman Rosen who Lepke warned already to keep his mouth shut. He should have had his trusted man crush Mendy push him down the elevator shaft when he had the chance. Rosen is seen brought in by Detective Tobin by Lepke, Mendy, and their lawyer Laszlo in the halls of the courthouse. Rosen is now, at least this time– a dead man…
Mendy Weiss (Joseph Bernard) is asked by Lepke to kill Rosen himself, gunning him down right on the street in front of his shop, one pop in the guts, and then a bullet to the back of his head at Lepke’s request. Lepke comes to hide out at Joey and Eadie’s apartment, where he proceeds to demean and treat Eadie like a servant.
While Detective Tobin (Simon Oakland) has been trying to shake things up and harass Reles and Lepke, even asking the small shop owners for their help, as Mrs. Corsi explains to Tobin that innocent people are being threatened, ‘acid thrown’ on their wares, even attacked just being seen talking with the police. She refuses to say a word. He can’t break the protective shield surrounding this gang, nor legally fight against a sly lawyer like Laszlo (Vincent Gardenia).
District Attorney Burton Turkus (Henry Morgan) moves in and begins an all-out mission to bring down Murder Inc. which has its tendrils in Chicago and Florida (What happened to New Jersey? hmm)
Burton Turkus is interrogating Reles after he agrees to turn in state’s evidence. He asks Reles how he can simply murder people without any feelings around it. Reles asks him how his first time on the job as a cop effected him. He tells Reles, he was shaky at first but “he got used to it.” Reles gives him a very matter-of-fact ‘that’s your answer’ look.
Before the police finally pick up Lepke, while in hiding Lepke gets paranoid about his people squealing so he orders a hit on anyone in Brownsville that can connect him to the syndicate, especially Joey Collins and his wife Eadie who are living with him and now know too much. Finally, Eadie can’t bear it anymore and goes to the police and becomes an informant. Turkus takes Joey and Eadie into protective custody. Which isn’t so protective but hey, I won’t ruin the film for you.
Once Reles realizes that Lepke is on his trail he agrees to spill the entire can of Murder Inc. beans on the operation too, knowing the law very well, and making a deal with Turkus for a lesser murder sentence and his promise of protection.
So Reles is also hidden away at the less-than-fortress-y Half Moon Hotel room watched over by disgruntled uniformed cops in Coney Island. I won’t give away the defenestration climax, but I will say that Lepke does finally face execution for his part in several unsolved murders. His last meal must have included a gallon of milk for that upset stomach disorder…
You can absolutely say that it’s Peter Falk’s incendiary performance as the high-strung little punk with a Napoleonic complex based on true-life Brooklyn gangster “kid twist’ Abe Reles earning him the Academy Award nomination for his combustive performance and his myriad of colorfully vicious asides.
It’s what makes Murder, Inc (1960) work so well, but there are a lot of little inlaid gems that make this neo-noir crime drama a conflagration of mind-gripping tropes and wonderful little characterizations.
Murder, Inc is a neo-noir/documentary style/crime-drama masterpiece featuring not only Falk’s searing performance, but David J. Stewart as the despicable complainer -Lepke who ran the syndicate in New York City and was connected to all the major city crime bosses who oversaw big money, murder, and mayhem like a miserable business, taking out potential stool pigeons, or little shop owners who just can’t pay their protection fees — Vicious brutal and utterly mesmerizing the film plays like a nightmare while the well intended but at times inadequate good guys who just can’t seem to legally or physically pin down the bad guys without getting their witnesses murdered. Or it’s suggested that there are also insiders in the police department and government that shield these criminals from prison time. Murder Inc spreads like an insidious disease taking over the city, but like all things violent -they must eventually self-destruct as Stuart Whitman who plays Joey Collins: says to Reles, after he is arrested“I’m gonna watch you fry! I’m gonna watch you fry! I’m gonna watch you fry!”
Eadie (May Britt) is the film’s sufferer and sacrificial lamb as a woman who is either consistently abused and mistreated or woefully looked after by all the men in the film. She is surrounded by dread and ruin.
Talking about Lepke–“He came in the door like a king. He came with a hole in his stomach. All the time he stayed I was his housemaid. Two Minute Eggs… (she closes her eyes)… I boiled a thousand two-minute eggs and never did it right once…”
“I boiled a thousand two minute eggs and never did it right once…”
This is your EverLovin’ Joey saying I gotta go make a two minute egg!
Joey at the Drive In here… thinking it would be such a nice treat to offer up a brief yet deliciously fun post from the snack bar. What better way to enjoy an intermission between my long winded writing than to just get to the point and tickle your vintage TV taste buds with a little amuse-bouche!
TEN TASTY TELEVISION TRIVIA TID BITS TO TANTALIZE!
1) Lt.Columbo (Peter Falk) loves loves loves chili and he’s very fond of health cookies!
2) ChiefIronside (Raymond Burr) eats chili and they all like rum crunchy ice cream
3) The Fugitive’s Richard Kimble (David Janssen) only drinks black coffee… he’s usually on the run
4) The Golden Girls Dorothy Blanche, Rose and Sophia eat cheesecake.
5) Carroll O’ Connor is the inimitableArchie Bunker who likes either chicken croquettes or a tuna sandwich with an orange on the side and a Twinkie for desert!… in his lunch box. And lovable Edith (Jean Stapleton) buys him Hhm hhm hhm ( Cling peaches) in heavy syrup when they’re on sale or serves up rice pudding with a drop of milk on top unless he doesn’t ask for it. Dingbat!!!! And of course there’s always beer…
6) Jim Rockford (James Garner) eats Tacos for breakfast… with no apologies!
7) Andy and Opie enjoy anything Aunt Bee cooks as long as it isn’t those kerosene cucumber pickles. from The Andy Griffith Show
8) Beaver Cleaver will just not eat brussels sprouts but then again I think I’m the only one who loves them…
9) Harry Morgan as Officer Bill Gannon concocts the weirdest food combinations ever. Especially his recipe for BBQ sauce the secret ingredient is…- from Dragnet
10) The sublime chemistry of the Odd Couple’sOscar Madison (Jack Klugman) eats anything with ketchup on it, and Felix Unger (Tony Randall) doesn’t like pits pits pits in his juice juice juice… uh oh!
“MeTV Remembers the M*A*S*H Finale” Exclusive Broadcast Event With Series Cast and Creators, Airing on Sunday, May 3
In honor of MeTV’s tribute to M*A*S*H here’s Hawkeye crying a river of liver!
And why say…. as long as we’re on the snacking subject if you’ve got any great additions to add, drop by The Last Drive In’s snack bar and let me know.
Your Everlovin’ Joey (MonsterGirl) saying hope you always enjoy the show!
Hosted by Once Upon A Screen- Outspoken & Freckled & Paula’s Cinema Club
As these fabulous bloggers say -“They are eccentric. They are unusual. And they are BACK!”
Character actors are the grease that spins the wheels of cinematic & television memories. I am so thrilled to be participating in this Blogathon because there are a lot of unsung actors that deserve recognition. Though it was a tough decision, I decided to focus on the inimitable Jeanette Nolan!
Jeanette Nolan just kept popping up for me in film and television episodes until I couldn’t resist her often irascible charms, and quirky yet dignified demeanor. Okay okay, she’s played a truly bona fide hag at times. No one cackles and frets quite like a Jeanette Nolan crone.
The transformation… from Maiden to Crone! Perhaps the more genuine utterance of ‘Hag Cinema.’
But, don’t let that fool you into thinking that she didn’t have an incredible depth and range of characterizations filled with heart and a sharply honed instinct for creating an atmosphere that drew you into her orbit, even when she was on the periphery of the story.
I adore this woman and I’m so glad I get to share more than just a few of the memorable moments in Jeanette Nolan’s long career.
Jeanette Nolan’s career as a tireless character actor materialized on classic television in the late 1950s. Nolan was a beautiful woman with deep penetrating eyes whose features conjure a life that has shouldered a lot of memories. It’s not surprising that she began in the medium of radio, with a voice that sounds like it’s been steeped inside an aged cask of mulled wine.
Her acting journey extended well into the 1990s. And it was her versatility and at times deeply unconventional characterizations that created a legacy that would leave a lasting footprint on the radio, film, and television landscapes.
Nolan pursued her education at Abraham Lincoln High School, where she honed her skills and nurtured her passion for the arts. After graduating, she set her sights on Los Angeles City College with the intention of studying music and realizing her dream of becoming an opera singer.
Nolan’s illustrious acting career took off when she joined the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California. As a student at Los Angeles City College, she made her radio debut in 1932, starring in Omar Khayyam the first transcontinental broadcast from station KHJ.
Jeanette Nolan was born in 1911 in Los Angeles California, She began her acting career in the Pasadena Community Playhouse. She made her film debut as Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles’ 1948 film version of Macbeth.
Jeanette Nolan crossed paths with her future husband, actor John McIntire, during their involvement in a West Coast radio program in the 1930s.
McIntire, who served as the announcer for the show in which Jeanette was performing, received an insightful comment from her that would change the course of his career.
“Right then, I thought he should be acting as well as announcing.”– she said In her interview with Radio Life in 1945.
Jeanette expressed her belief that McIntire should delve into acting in addition to his announcing duties. Taking her advice to heart, McIntire soon found himself performing alongside his wife on notable programs such as The Cavalcade of America, The March of Time, and The Court of Missing Heirs.
Jeanette Nolan’s ambitions took an unexpected turn when she found herself becoming a member of the Pasadena Playhouse. However, earning very little during the bleak days of the Depression left her unable to pay for carfare on her meager salary working as a clerk at a local department store and she had to abandon college and part ways with the Playhouse.
At the suggestion of a friend, she explores the world of radio. High School friend True Boardman arranged for her to meet Cyril Armbrister and Nolan showcased her talent by performing a reading for him, and the very next day, the aspiring actress found work making more money.
Recalling this turning point in her life with Leonard Maltin, Nolan shared a delightful anecdote.
“I went to my boss and said, ‘I have to quit.’ She said, ‘What’s the matter?’ And I said, ‘Well, I have a job and it’s going to pay me $7.50.’ She said, ‘Listen, Sarah Bernhardt, you keep your job; if you get more work, we’ll let you go.’ It was just so darling, they kept me on.” Nolan continued to pursue her blossoming career in radio.
Jeanette Nolan embarked on her radio career with a memorable debut on station KHJ in the groundbreaking transcontinental broadcast of Omar Khayyam which marked the beginning of her journey in radio. Among the surviving radio serials, she lent her voice to Tarzan of the Apes and Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher, in which her husband John served as the narrator.
Over time, Nolan progressed to portraying significant roles on esteemed shows such as The March of Time. Additionally, she engaged in various projects, including Calling All Cars, Great Plays, The Jack Pearl Show, Radio Guild, The Shadow, and Young Dr. Malone.
Frequently collaborating with her husband, John McIntire, whom she married in 1935, the couple became a dynamic duo in the world of radio. Their frequent on-air performances earned them the endearing nickname the Lunt and Fontanne of radio.
By the 1940s Jeanette Nolan became one of radio’s most sought-after actresses. Playing the part of many great characters in serialized dramas.
Throughout her career, she graced numerous radio series, including notable appearances in Young Doctor Malone from 1939-1940, Cavalcade of America from 1940-1941, One Man’s Family as Nicolette Moore (1947-1950), and The Great Gildersleeve (1949-1952).
She also treads the radio boards for – Big Sister, Home of the Brace and Life Begins and a recurring role as Nicolette Moore on Carlton E. Morse’s One Man’s Family. Her existing radio broadcasts also include The Lux Radio Theatre, The Adventures of Sam Spade, The Clock, The Columbia Workshop, Crime Doctor with husbandJohn in the lead role, The Ford Theatre, Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood, I Love Adventure, Let George Do It, Manhattan at Midnight, Meet Mr. Meek, The Perfect Crime, The Railroad Hour, and The Upper Room. Jeanette was part of a very notable cast of actors who would appear on shows like Escape, Suspense, and The Whistler.
Despite her career diverging into movies and television, Jeanette Nolan remained dedicated to her roots in radio. She continued to actively participate in the medium, even during the 1970s, by involving herself in drama revivals such as “The Hollywood Radio Theatre” and “The Sears Radio Theatre.” Additionally, she played an active role in CART (California Artists Radio Theatre), showcasing her commitment to the art form and her ongoing passion for radio performances. Jeanette Nolan’s enduring connection to radio exemplifies her unwavering love and appreciation for the medium that initially propelled her career.
Jeanette Nolan’s contributions to Orson Welles’ radio programs, particularly This is My Best and The Shadow, played a crucial role in shaping her path toward the silver screen. Inspired by her talent and potential, Orson Welles successfully persuaded Republic Studios, primarily recognized for their B-Westerns and serials, to fund a remarkable motion picture endeavor. In 1948, they embarked on the production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, with Jeanette Nolan co-starring alongside Welles himself. The movie version got hammered by the critics but despite the unfavorable reviews received for both her performance and the film at the time, it marked her notable debut in the world of motion pictures, further cementing her versatility and skill as an actress.
Nolan as Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles’ production of Macbeth in 1948.
In 1949 Jeanette Nolan appeared in her first film noir, Abandoned directed by Joseph M. Newman.
She’s well known for her iconic role as the cold, cunning, and corrupt Bertha Duncan In Fritz Lang’s Outré violent film noir The Big Heat 1953, Nolan plays a widowed cop’s wife, Bertha who shows no emotion over her dead husband’s lifeless body and stashes the suicide letter to use in order to blackmail crime boss Alexander Scourby.
Gloria Grahame as gutsy Debbie Marsh has just plugged a hole in her ‘sister under the mink.’
As Bertha Duncan, Jeanette Nolan breathed a wickedness into the role that is reminiscent of her Lady Macbeth. Her portrayal brought a palpable sense of villainous allure to the character.
It also led to some treasured roles in movies like Words and Music in 1948 and No Sad Songs for Me in 1950. And she gave some standout performances in films that followed – particularly Westerns like her role as Harriet Purcell in The Secret of Convict Lake 1951 starring Glenn Ford, Gene Tierney, and Ethel Barrymore.
Her work in Westerns was not limited to television – Other films include, Hangman’s Knot in 1952, and in 1955 she appeared in A Lawless Streetas Mrs. Dingo Brion. The film starred Randolph Scott. Amongst the other oaters to her credits are 7th Cavalry 1956, The Halliday Brand 1957, and The Guns of Fort Petticoat 1957. And as a departure from Westerns, she co-starred in the romantic musical April Love in 1957 starring Shirley Jones, Dolores Michaels, and Arthur O’Connell.
From A Lawless Street.
From April Love 1957.
Nolan made her foray into television in the 1950s but continued to work in radio showcasing how busy she was on shows like The Adventures of Christopher London, The CBS Radio Workshop, Father Knows Best, Fibber McGee & Molly, Frontier Gentleman, The General Electric Theatre, The Hallmark Hall of Fame, Hallmark Playhouse, Hollywood Star Theatre, Hopalong Cassidy, Jason and the Golden Fleece, The Lineup, The Man Called X, Mr. President, Night Beat, Pursuit, Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Screen Directors’ Playhouse, The Six Shooter, Tales of the Texas Rangers, This is Your FBI, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.
With an astonishing number of credits, Nolan’s television career encompassed an impressive repertoire of over three hundred appearances earning four Emmy nominations for her exceptional work on television. She appeared on 2 episodes of Mr. and Mrs. North in 1953, an episode of The Loretta Young Show, Big Town in 1955, and that same year in 2 episodes of You Are There.
This included the religious anthology series “Crossroads” and as Dr. Marion in the 1956 episode The Healer of Brian Keith’s CBS Cold War series, Crusader. She also made an appearance on Rod Cameron’s syndicated series, State Trooper. 3 episodes of Four Star Playhouse from 1953-1956. In 1957 she played Mrs. Blunt in the episode The Reformation of Calliope on The O. Henry Playhouse. Also that year she appeared on 2 episodes of The Joesph Cotton Show: On Trial. She also appeared on Climax! In 1957.
In 1957, she portrayed Ma Grilk in the episode titled Potato Road of the TV Western series Gunsmoke Nolan was cast as Emmy Zecker in the 1959 episode “Johnny Yuma” of the ABC Western series The Rebel, starring Nick Adams. Additionally, she appeared in two episodes of David Janssen’s crime drama, “Richard Diamond, Private Detective.”
In 1958 she plays Mrs. Austen in Rudolph Maté’s war drama The Deep Six starring Alan Ladd.
Continuing to have a prominent presence on television she appeared on dramatic shows like General Electric Theater and 3 episodes of Matinee Theatre that ran from 1956-1958. With guest appearances on tv’s popular police procedural Dragnet, The Lineup, Naked City, and The Restless Gun in 1958 & ’59.
Following that, she took on the role of Janet Picard in the episode Woman in the River of the ABC/Warner Brothers detective series Bourbon Street Beat in 1959 starring Andrew Duggan.
And 2 episodes for another television Western series Tales of Wells Fargo as Ma Dalton and Mrs. Borkman and Emmy Zecker in The Rebel starring Nick Adams.
She appeared in the role of Maggie Bowers In the Peter Gunn episode titled Love Me to Death in 1959. Moreover, while portraying the very staid and cagey Sadie Grimes who sets a trap for Robert Emhardt in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode titled The Right Kind of House, which first aired on March 9, 1958. She also appeared in another Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, Coming Home in 1961.
From 1959 to 1960, Nolan took on the role of Annette Deveraux, one of the co-owners of the hotel in the CBS Western series Hotel de Paree, alongside Earl Holliman and Judi Meredith.
With Judi Meredith in Hotel de Paree.
Jeanette Nolan, Earl Holliman, and Strother Martin in Hotel de Paree.
In 1960, she made an appearance in Richard Boone’s “Have Gun – Will Travel,” portraying a newly widowed sheriff, and then again in 1962 as a mother searching for her lost Eastern school girl. She would make 2 more appearances in the series.
Nolan’s presence was also notable on CBS’s Perry Mason, where she guest-starred in six episodes. Her portrayals included the role of Mrs. Kirby, the murderer, in the 1958 episode titled The Case of the Fugitive Nurse, Emma Benson, another murderer, in the 1960 episode titled The Case of the Nine Dolls, Mama Norden in The Case of the Hateful Hero, Martha Blair in the 1962 episode titled The Case of the Counterfeit Crank, Nellie, the title character and murderer, in the 1964 episode titled The Case of the Betrayed Bride, and defendant Emma Ritter in the 1965 episode titled The Case of the Fugitive Fraulein.
Because of Nolan’s distinctive voice, she would contribute her powers of articulation to the voice of sicko Norman Bate’s mother in Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1960, which also included voice work by another busy character actor Virginia Gregg.
Nolan actually provided the screams for Norman’s “mother” in Psycho (1960)Husband John played Sheriff Chambers.
In 1960 she appeared on screen as Ma Demara in the comedy/drama The Great Imposter by underrated director Robert Mulligan and starring Tony Curtis, Karl Malden, and Edmund O’Brien.
In the 1961 episode titled “The Good & The Bad” of CBS’s Bat Masterson, Nolan made a guest appearance as “Sister Mary Paul,” a nun who unknowingly harbors an injured killer. In 1962 she played Mrs. Brooks in the 87th Precinct episode Idol in the Dust. The show starred Robert Lansing who was married to Gena Rowlands, and co-starred Norman Fell as detectives who worked the rough streets of NYC. Also in 1962, she appeared in the medical drama Ben Casey, and the realist journalist series Saints and Sinners.
In an episode of Boris Karloff’s Thriller – Parasite Mansion, where she inhabits the role of a scraggly old crone in an over-the-top performance as the deranged old Granny who harbors a secret power of telekinesis that she wields over her terrorized women of the family. She also starred as yet another witch in the episode La Strega.
Granny to James Griffith – “Stirs your manhood doesn’t it Victor? That’s why you didn’t get rid of her in the swamp!”
Granny is terrorizing Pippa Scott in Parasite Mansion. ‘pretty baggage.’
On April 27, 1962, Nolan appeared in the episode A Book of Faces of another ABC crime drama, Target: The Corruptors!, featuring Stephen McNally and Robert Harland.
She guest-starred as Claire Farnham in the episode To Love Is to Live of the psychology-based drama The Eleventh Hour. Nolan played a fortune teller named Mme. Di Angelo in the 1963 episode The Black-Robed Ghost of the anthology series GE True, hosted by Jack Webb.
Jeanette Nolan graced various dramatic teleplays in the 1960s, including being a member of the repertory cast of The Richard Boone Show in 25 episodes In 1963. And appeared in the ABC drama series Going My Way starring Gene Kelly as the Roman Catholic priest in New York City.
She was featured in two of John Ford’s films during his later career, Two Rode Together 1961 and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962 where she played Nora Ericson.
Next came ABC’s western series Wagon Train in which Nolan’s husband, John McIntire, portrayed the wagon master Chris Hale from 1961 to 1965. In 1963 she guest starred as Sister Therese in ABC’s WWII series Combat! episode Infant of Prague.
From 1963 to 1964, Nolan made three guest appearances on Dr. Kildare one in which she is obviously made up to look like another old gal. also appeared in a 1964 episode of the short-lived CBS political drama series Slattery’s People, starring Richard Crenna. Prior to that, she had shared the screen with Crenna and Walter Brennan in their sitcom, The Real McCoys.
Nolan flaunted her witches persona in two of Rod Serling’s anthology television series The Twilight Zone – Jess-Belle in 1963 starring Anne Francis and The Hunt in 1962.
And then In Rod Serling’s horror anthology series Night Gallery Nolan starred in the segment “Since Aunt Ada Came to Stay” opposite James Farentino and Michele Lee, where she portrays one of her more sinister crones in her arsenal of witches.
But in 1964, Jeanette Nolan brought back the icy dourness in her portrayal of nurse Mary Fitzgibbon in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode Triumph. She summons the wickedness of her earlier manifestation of Lady Macbeth, as the ‘woman behind the curtain’ directing her husband Ed Begley, a medical missionary to maintain his autonomy at their post when they are threatened by a visit from Brother John Sprague (Tom Simcox) and his sensual wife Lucy. Nolan is chilling as a woman whose paranoia drives her to bear her fangs.
In 1964, Nolan became a repertory cast member of the acclaimed but short-lived television anthology series The Richard Boone Show, appearing in 13 episodes. She also made guest appearances on Gunsmoke in 1964, portraying the character of Festus’ eccentric Aunt Thede.
In 1965 she starred as Aunt Sarah in the psycho-sexual thriller My Blood Runs Cold directed by William Conrad and featuring Troy Donahue as a very disturbed and delusional young man who is fixated on Joey Heatherton.
Jeanette Nolan appeared as a guest star on Gunsmoke more than any other character actress. It was her irresistible portrayal as the frontier outcast Sally Fergus in two episodes of Gunsmoke that led to a spin-off Dirty Sally that had a limited run in 1974.
The following year in 1965, Nolan played the treacherous Ma Burns in the episode The Golden Trail on NBC’s series Laredo which was a spin-off of The Virginian. Ma Burns comes off as a woman of refinement but her plot to hijack a gold shipment turns out to be thirty-six bottles of Tennessee whisky.
In 1966, she appeared in the film It’s the End of the Road, Stanley, and in 1967 she portrayed Vita Rose in Like One of the Family. And by the mid to late 60s, she had appeared in a variety of popular series including Perry Mason, Burke’s Law, I Spy, The Fugitive, My Three Sons, and The Invaders. In 1968, Nolan was cast in the episode of the NBC police drama Ironside – All in a Day’s Work where she played a grieving mother who loses her child during a robbery. That same year, she made an appearance on Hawaii Five-O.
She also has supporting roles in the horror film, Chamber of Horrors in 1966 and the zany Don Knotts vehicle The Reluctant Astronaut in 1967 and Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady? In 1968.
One of Jeanette Nolan’s most enduring television roles was on the long-running series “The Virginian,” where she shared the screen with her husband John McIntire. From 1967 to 1970, they assumed ownership of the Shiloh Ranch, portraying the characters Clay and Holly Granger. This significant role provided them with a consistent presence on the show, allowing them to captivate audiences with their performances and strengthen their on-screen chemistry. Their portrayal of Clay and Holly Granger left a lasting impression on “The Virginian” and contributed to the show’s success during their tenure.
Nolan guest-starred on the short-lived sitcom The Mothers-in-Law in two separate episodes during its final season. First, she portrayed Kaye Ballard’s grandmother, Gabriela Balotta, who had a habit of fainting when things didn’t go her way. Then, she would play Scottish nanny Annie MacTaggart.
It was the 1970s and she continued to make her presence known in popular dramas including Medical Center, Mannix, The Name of the Game, Marcus Welby M.D., Alias Smith and Jones, Longstreet, The F.B.I., Love, American Style. She was cast In two classic supernatural series -Circle of Fear 1972 episode The New House, and The Sixth Sense -Shadow in the Well.
In 1972 she appeared in the Made for TV movie Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole starring Susan Hayward. In 1973 it wouldn’t be typical if she didn’t appear on The Streets of San Francisco and in 1975 in an episode of Harry O, and as Mrs. Raye in Police Woman -Don’t Feed the Pigeons and an episode of Charlie’s Angels.
Nolan portrayed Mrs. Peck in the 1973 episode Double Shock of Peter Falk’s unsurpassed detective series Columbo. She is perfectly delicious as the tidy little spitfire who admonishes the sloppy detective in his rumpled raincoat who oblivious to decorum drops his cigar ashes on her newly waxed floor. “You must belong in some pigsty,” She spits out the words as she assaults him with white-gloved fury. Perhaps of all the murderers on the show, no one traumatizes Columbo more than Jeanette Nolan’s little ankle-biter. Starring Martin Landau playing twin murderers it still remains one of my favorite episodes of the show.
In 1974, she briefly starred with Dack Rambo in CBS’s Dirty Sally, which was the spinoff of Gunsmoke, where she had previously played the recurring guest role in three of the show’s episodes.
She would also have a significant part in Daniel Haller’s Made for TV movie The Desperate Miles in 1975 starring Tony Musante and Joanna Pettet. And the following year in another Made for TV movie as Essie Cargo in The New Daughters of Joshua Cabe.
In a much different role, Jeanette Nolan returned to Columbo as Kate O’Connell in The Conspirators in 1978.
The couple who were fluent in voice work collaborated together on two Disney features, The Rescuers in 1977 and The Widow Tweed in The Fox and the Hound in 1981. “But in my heart’s a memory. And there you’ll always be.” Widow Tweed
Like many Hollywood actresses, she would find herself cast in an embarrassing horror film The Manitou in 1978 based on Graham Masterton’s novel which did not translate well to the screen. Boasting a great cast including Ann Sothern, Susan Strasberg, Burgess Meredith, and Tony Curtis – director William Girdler’s film wound up being more of a trippy circus than a serious horror film in which Nolan’s Mrs. Winconis gets lost in the fog about a 500-year-old Indian Shaman who has hitched a ride on Strasberg’s back.
Also in 1978, she would be amongst the stellar cast of Corey Allen’s disaster movie Avalanche.
In 1981 she played the leading men’s mother Mrs. Spellacy in True Confessions Ulu Grosbard’s crime thriller True Confessions starring Robert De Niro and Robert Duvall who play brothers, one a cop and the other a priest centered around corruption and a Black Dahlia-like murder.
In the 1980s she appeared in episodes of Fantasy Island, T.J. Hooker, Matt Houston, Quincy M.E., Hotel, Trapper John M.D., Hell Town, St. Elsewhere, Night Court, Cagney & Lacey, Hunter and MacGyver.
In 1985, she played Alma Lindstrom, Rose Nylund’s adoptive mother, in the ninth episode of the first season of the popular NBC sitcom The Golden Girls.
Her final film appearance was in Robert Redford’s The Horse Whispererin 1998, where she portrayed Tom Booker’s mother, Ellen.
After the passing of John McIntire in 1991, Jeanette Nolan continued her career, leaving an indelible mark before her own departure seven years later.
Before her death at age 86 due to a stroke on June 5th, 1998, her career encompassed so many varied roles, including Orson Welles’s Lady Macbeth in 1948. Her last performance was in Robert Redford’s film The Horse Whisperer, where she plays Tom Booker’s mother “Ellen.”
As you can now imagine, she brought to life some of the most interesting characters in more than 300 television shows.
Here’s Jeanette Nolan in one of Columbo’s memorable episodes ‘Double Shock’ as Mrs Peck keeps a very tidy house.
As the oddball Annie in Dr. Kildare’s The Hand that Hurts, The Hand that Heals 1964
Jeanette as Bernadine Spalding in Emergency! Weird Wednesday 1972
As Dirty Sally Fergus on Gunsmoke
As Mary Fitzgibbons in ‘Triumph’ The Alfred Hitchcock Hour 1964
As Edith Beggs in Coming Home Alfred Hitchcock Presents 1961
As Hallie in The Secret- Medical Center 1972
As Mrs Fleming in The Reluctant Astronaut 1967
Jeanette Nolan as Miss Havergill The Invaders
As Mrs Grimes in The Right Kind of House- Alfred Hitchcock Presents
As Naomi Kellin in ‘Ill Wind’ The Fugitive
Jeanette Nolan in Wagon Train- “The Janet Hale Story”
As Granny Harrad in Boris Karloff’s television anthology series Thriller- “Parasite Mansion’
Jeanette Nolan as Mrs Downey in Say Goodbye Maggie Cole Tv Movie 1972
As Bertha Duncan in 1953 film noir classic The Big Heat
As Granny Hart in Twilight Zone’s ‘Jess-Belle
As Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles’ Macbeth
As Mrs Tibbit in Marcus Welby MD “Epidemic”
As Mrs Waddle in Rod Serling’s Night Gallery episode “The Housekeeper”
As Mrs Fitzgibbons in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour “Triumph’
Jeanette Nolan in Rod Serling’s Night Gallery “Since Aunt Ada Came To Stay”
As Judge Millie Cox in The Streets of San Fransisco “The Runaways”
Jeanette Nolan as Granny Harrad in Boris Karloff’s Thriller ‘Parasite Mansion’
Jeanette Nolan as Emma ‘Martha’ Benson in Perry Mason’s The Case of the Nine Dolls
Jeanette Nolas as Mrs. Trotter in Alfred Hitchcock Presents The Morning After
AsEdna Brackett in Quincy M.E. with husband John McIntire
Here’s to the inimitable actress – never a hag but always a character! Jeanette Nolan!!!, Love Joey
Original Air Date—16 December 1973 Robert Culp plays Dr. Bart Keppel an opportunistic “motivational research specialist guru” who uses subliminal cuts to commit murder. But Lt. Columbo is onto him right from the beginning as usual!
Starring Peter Falk as the inimitable & tenacious, underestimated and hyper perceptive Detective Columbo who always comes prepared with thoughtful anecdotes about his family and his ever present cigar. He’s shabby “like an unmade bed” but always lovable. The episodes are rooted in class conflict as Lt Columbo often inhabits the role of David up against the entitlement ridden criminal who thinks they’re a Goliath yet are no match for such a subtle and agile minded wit.
Columbo – “I don’t think it’s proving anything Doc, as a matter of fact I don’t even know what it means. It’s just one of those things that gets in my head and keeps rolling around in there like a marble.”
Just a quick note about Peter Falk, one of my favorite actors who created one of the most memorable characters of all time.
On June 4 2009 wife Shera Danese released a press statement asking for Falk’s privacy after a very public battle over conservatorship by his daughter. He has since retired from the business, due to illness and Alzheimers. I write this blog quote in honor of my admiration for his past work over the years, and wish the man peace and contentment on his journey.