Carradine found himself accepting ludicrous parts in Poverty Row and low-budget chillers in order to fund his ambitious theatrical productions, by the 1960s he was degraded by taking on roles just to pay the bills.
He traveled to Africa for Paramount’s Tarzan the Magnificent and acted on Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone 1960 episode ‘The Howling Man.’
When David Ellington (H.M Wynant) seeks refuge at a remote monastery where Carradine is the solemn Brother Jerome in a heroic white beard, robes, and staff and the brotherhood stands guard over the devil (Robin Hughes) whom they trapped and locked away. Ellington disregards their warning and unwittingly releases evil upon the earth. This was a more sedate role for Carradine.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6240 Hollywood Blvd. on February 8, 1960.
In 1962 he returned to Broadway in Harold Prince’s production A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. He played Marcus Lycus the scheming whoremaster of a Roman house of ill repute. The show saw 964 performances in New York’s Alvin Theatre.
“A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum” – Zero Mostel, right, is the lead performer in the Broadway musical “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum”, along with (left to right:) John Carradine and Jack Gifford.
Carradine also appeared in several television series. Lock Up 1960 – as James Carew in the episode ‘Poker Club.’ He made an appearance in The Rebel 1960 as Elmer Dodson in episodes ‘Johnny Yuma’ and ‘The Bequest.’
These were bare times for Carradine. He wasn’t making it financially for all the film and television work. He took a role in NBCs Wagon Train in 1960 in an episode called ‘The Colter Craven Story’, directed by John Ford.
Considered his favorite experience working in the horror genre – was appearing in Boris Karloff’s superior horror/film noir anthology series Thriller 1961, which ran from 1960-1962.
From an interview with KMOX in 1983:
What was your favorite horror film that you did?
“Oh god I don’t know. Eh, I don’t think I had one. I think it’s probably something I did with Boris. I did several for Boris. He had his own series that he introduced as a host and on a couple of them he worked also on as an actor. And I did two or three of those with him and for him. And I think that was the best part of the horror genre that I did.”
What was he like to work with.?
“Oh, charming. He was a charming man. And I first worked with him on the first thing he did in this country. We had a play down in Los Angeles, the old Egan Theater which was a 400-seat theater down on Figueroa street. And we did a play together called Window Panes which he played a brutalized Russian peasant immigrant unlettered. And I did a Russian peasant half-wit and there was a character sort of a Christ-like character who was wanted by the authorities as he was, was a rebel. But the ignorant peasantry took on him almost as a Christ figure and I did that for ten weeks and we moved over to the Vine Street Theater which is now the Huntington Hartford in Hollywood. And Boris played the brutalized Russian peasant and played it to the nines. And we became very good friends then. And that was in 1928. And we remained good friends until he retired and went back to England.”
For Thriller, Carradine was cast as Jason Longfellow and Jed Carta in ‘The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk’ starring Jo Van Fleet and directed by John Brahm, and ‘Masquerade’ starring Elizabeth Montgomery and Tom Poston directed by Herschel Daugherty and blessed with a whimsically macabre score by Mort Stevens.
Above are two images: from the episode ‘Masquerade.’
For the series, Carradine appeared in two of the most comic and compelling episodes. In‘The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk’ and ‘Masquerade’ he was both sardonic and sinister.
In Masquerade airing in 1961 Carradine plays Jed Carta, leader of a depraved family of murderers and cannibals who entraps wayward travelers, stealing their money and butchering them like hogs. When Tom Poston and Elizabeth Montgomery stumble onto the creepy dilapidated house to get out of a rain storm, Carta greets them with dark glee, trading menacing cracks with Montgomery. What lies beneath the surface might be something more nefarious than the mere suggestion of evil cloaked in black humor that surrounds the Carta family and Carradine’s spooky wisecracks. He’s magnificently droll, skulking around the dreadful house, with Poston, and Montgomery being assailed by disembodied cackling and dimwitted Jack Lambert who wields a large butcher knife lumbering around. Dorothy Neumann plays the feral Ruthie chained to the wall spewing animosity for the Carta clan and demonstrating an itchy type of lunacy. It’s both comical and arouses jitters simultaneously. In my opinion, it is one of Carradine’s most underrated roles in the horror genre, emphasizing his ability to shuffle both dark humor and horror equally.
In ‘The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk’ starring Jo Van Fleet as Mrs. Hawk/Circe, Carradine plays Jason Longfellow an erudite transient who stumbles onto the true identity of Mrs. Hawk, and the secret of her ‘Isle of Aiaie Home of the Pampered Pig.’
Cultivated and shrewd, Longfellow is a scheming vagabond who plans on using his revelation about Mrs. Hawk to his advantage – much to an ironic end.
It’s an inspiration for writers Don Sanford and Margaret St. Clair to transform a classical tale from Greek mythology and position it within a southern Gothic rural setting, using a hog farm and a visiting carnival/State Fair that adds a layer of mystique and mayhem. There’s a great scene that utilizes theatrical anachronism wonderfully when Cissy Hawk (Van Fleet) carries the bowl, or ‘Circe’s cup’ the night she feeds the pigs grapes and proceeds to turn Johnny (Bruce Dern) back into a man for a while. Under the moonlight, she conducts an ancient rite on modern rural farmland as Pete (Hal Baylor) watches in fright and disbelief from his window.
Not only is this particular episode so effective because of Jo Van Fleet’s performance as the modern-day witch but it’s also due to the presence of the ubiquitous John Carradine, whose facial expressions alone can be so accentuated by his acrobatic facial expressions that make him so uniquely entertaining to watch not to mention listening to his Shakespearean elucidations, hard-bitten insights, and crafty machinations.
Carradine enters the story: A train whistle is blowing in the backdrop. There is a close-up of Jason’s (John Carradine’s) face. Carradine is the perspicacious Jason Longfellow, an erudite transient, shabby and unshaven, dressed like a gypsy with white tape holding his black-framed glasses together. Skinny, almost skeleton-like, and lanky. Longfellow’s razor-sharp acumen betrays his urbane sensibilities that travel incognito like a stowaway. He may look like a scraggly bum, but he is a highly educated defector of society. He also enjoys giving his companion Peter grief, waging his intelligence that he uses as a refuge. Pete is a wayward boxer who looks to Longfellow as a mentor. This horror-themed, fable-like episode is overflowing with ironic, comical repose until the baleful scenes leap out at you when Circe wields her powerful magic.
A Pan flute is trebling a child-like tune, a delightful wisp of scales. To the left of the screen are a pair of black & argyle socks with holes worn in the toes, tapping out the melody in the air with his feet. A fire is burning in the trash can. This is a slice-of-the-night mystique of the hobo’s life. Carradine as Jason Longfellow is sitting in a cane back fan rocking chair, a junkyard living room, and a cold tin coffee pot atop an oil drum.
Suspecting their friend Johnny’s disappearance is connected to Mrs. Hawk (Jo Van Fleet) and the rumors about her young handymen all gone missing.
”If I knew Johnny’s fate, my friend, I’d understand why Mrs. Hawk’s farm is designated Caveat Accipitram among the brotherhood ” Jason’s eyes bulge out of the sockets with glee and rancor.
Carradine manifests an exquisite mixture of the facial expression of a malcontent. Pete seems stupefied –” Hhm?” “Come on.. speak American would ya” Jason raises his voice and changes his tone to indicate the hierarchy in their educational backgrounds. ” Caveat Accipitrum… Caveat Accipitrum BEWARE THE HAWK….” Longfellow ends his little lesson for Pete with emotive punctuation.
He grunts/laughs dismissively “Oh…Hey!” and looks away and takes a drag of his cigarette with his bone-like fingers, squinting his thoughtful blue eyes (not obscured by the black and white film) as if in deep contemplation about the matter. Longfellow was written for Carradine.
Following Thriller, John Carradine made 9 guest appearances on the popular The Red Skelton Hour 1961.
Carradine as Major Starbuckle in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962.
Ford found working with Carradine a trial because of his free-spirited style but he cast him once again, this time joining him in 1962 with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance starring James Stewart and John Wayne. Carradine played the bombastic Senator Cassius Starbuckle.
Carradine’s cameo happens toward the end of the film in a scene at the political convention with him kicking up a fuss “soldier, jurist and statesmen” he’s a mouthpiece for the cattle ranchers opposed to statehood. This would be Carradine’s last significant role with director John Ford.
“Offering up a caricatured portrayal of a bombastic Southern blue-blood blowhard, he strikes poses, grandstands, and dishonestly paints his political foe (Stewart) as a killer not fit for government. Without half trying Carradine was capable of exuding just the right sort of seedy grandeur in this pompous scoundrel role; his theatrical oratory enlivens the final reel of a movie. “(Mank)
In 1963 he directed Hamlet at the Gateway Playhouse on Long Island where he performed the melancholy Dane.
Carradine made appearances on the television series The Lucy Show in 1964 as Professor Guzman in the episode ‘Lucy Goes to Art Class.’
Also in 1964, he appeared with Carroll Baker, Karl Malden, and Richard Widmark with Carradine playing Major Jeff Blair a gambler who joins James Stewart in a card game in Ford’s western Cheyenne Autumn 1964.
The Wizard of Mars, and Curse of the Stone Handwhere he appeared for one minute as part of director Jerry Warren’s added footage in order to use Carradine’s name in the credits for his movie pieced together from two French dramas creating an incoherent mess.
Throughout the 1960s he worked constantly in Summerstock – appearing in Enter Laughing, Arsenic and Old Lace 1965 and in Oliver as the sly Fagin in 1966.
Carradine in John Ford’s Cheyenne Autumn 1964 starring Carroll Baker.
Carradine with Andrea King in House of the Black Death 1965/71.
in the low-budget House of the Black Death Carradine had more of a prominent role as Andre Desard, plays the patriarch of a family of Satanists and werewolves, with Lon Chaney, Jr. playing his evil brother Belial who sports a pair of horns and battles over their ancestral home. The film also stars Tom Drake and noir star Andrea King.
1966 saw Carradine cast as a smarmy Dracula once again in the bottom basement horror/western Billy the Kid vs Dracula directed by William ‘one shot’ Beaudine, with supportive roles by Virginia Christine and Marjorie Bennett. Carradine is painted as looking like a pasty-faced, maniacal magician with a greasy satanic goatee mustache, widow’s peak, frills, cravat, and top hat. Traveling by stagecoach in the Old West, Dracula meets James Underwood on his way to the cattle ranch to see his niece Betty (Melinda Plowman). When the passengers are killed by Indians, he assumes Underhill’s identity and seeks out Betty as his next undead bride. Carradine comes under suspicion for a series of unexplained murders. His Dracula sleeps in a bed not a coffin and moves around in broad daylight. Whenever Carradine exerts his hypnotic stare, Beaudine used a colored spotlight that turned his face a bright red, with Dracula dashing in and out of the frame, in a badly designed special effect.
“I have worked in a dozen of the greatest, and I have worked in a dozen of the worst. I only regret Billy the kid versus Dracula. Otherwise, I regret nothing… it was a bad film. I don’t even remember it. I was absolutely numb.”
He had a small role in Munster, Go Home in 1966 for Universal where he played the oddball butler Cruikshank. On television, he appeared on episodes of Daniel Boone in 1968 and Bonanza in 1969 as Preacher Dillard.
In 1967 he hosted five horror tales as part of Gallery of Horrors – Not to be confused with the superior portmanteau – Amicus’ Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors. Five short tales of the supernatural introduced by Carradine, who does appear in the first edition as a 17th century Warlock in ‘The Witch’s Clock’ about a young couple who find a cursed clock that can raise the dead.
‘The Witch’s Clock’ segment of Gallery of Horrors.
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!
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…
Your EverLovin’ Joey saying The Last Drive In is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge!
This Halloween season I’m covering those fierce women who graced the 1950s Science Fiction & Fantasy/Horror screen with their beauty, brawn and bravado! Like years past–I pay tribute to the Scream Queens of the 1930s & 1940s.
We’ve arrived at the 1950s decade’s deliriously dynamic dames… Who had to deal with mad scientists, gigantism, alien invasions and much more menace & mayhem!
Of course I plan on doing the 1960s and 1970s in the next year–and you’ll notice that I am listing some of our Queen B’s future films & television appearances of a supernatural or science fiction nature, and even a few scattered exploitation films that fit the bill. Added are a few photos to fill out the framework of their contribution to the genre. I’ve included honorable mentions to those who starred in at least one film and perhaps a few science fiction & horror anthology shows on television.
And I guess I should be super clear about this, so no one gets their hackles standing on end, not one actress who wound up only getting an honorable mention, (be it one of your favorites and believe me their are a few of mine on that smaller list), by any means does it imply that I think they have a less substantial participation in the decade’s genre.
All these actresses have performed in other types of films-other genres and dramatic roles and enjoyed a full career that transcends the science fiction & horror films they appeared in.
Allied together they created the fabric of the 1950s decade, colored by their unique and valuable presence to ensure that science fiction & horror/fantasy will live on to entertain and enamor a whole new generation of fans and aficionados.
Collectively and Individually these women are fantastic , and I feel very passionate about having put this wonderful collection together as a tribute!
I can’t begin to describe the admiration I’ve developed over the past several years, by delving into Beverly Garland’s long impressive career as a popular cult actress. All I can think of saying– seems crude– but it’s what truly comes to mind… Beverly Garland kicks some serious ass!!!
From historian/writer Tom Weaver-“For most fans of 50s horror there are just no two ways about it. Beverly Garland is the exploitation film heroine of the period. A principal member of Roger Corman’s early stock company, she was the attractive, feisty leading lady in such Corman quickies as It Conquered the World, Gunslinger, Naked Paradise, and Not of this Earth. In between Corman assignments she braved the perils of the Amazon River on writer-director Curt Siodmak’s Curucu, Beast of the Amazon, and a less harrowing Hollywood backlot swamp in Fox’s the Alligator People. Her 1960s film work included Pretty Poison, The Mad Room and the multi-storied Twice Told Tales with Vincent Price. Overall, this list of titles is unmatched by any other ’50s genre actress.”
The diverse, dynamic and uniquely sexy Beverly Garland was born in Santa Cruz, California. She studied with dramatics teacher Anita Arliss, sister to Hollywood actor George Arliss. Garland also worked in radio actually appeared semi-clothed in various racy shorts, until she made her first feature debut supporting role in the taut noir thriller D.O.A (1949) starring Edmund O’Brien. Beverly started out doing small parts in science fiction/horror films such as The Neanderthal Man 1955and The Rocket Man 1954. But her cult/exploitation status was forged when she signed onto to work with legendary filmmaker Roger Corman, the first film takes place in Louisiana called Swamp Women. In 1983 Beverly Garland received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She worked right up until 2004 and sadly passed away in 2008.
There are so many credits Beverly Garland has under her belt, I can only list the few that are memorable for me, but here she is linked to her massive IMDb list of credits for you to peruse. One of the roles that stands out for me is her groundbreaking role in the late 1950s as Casey Jones a policewoman for NYC in the series called Decoy (1957) Garland finds herself in diverging & dangerous situations where she not only uses her sexy good looks but her smarts and her instincts to trap criminals from all walks of life. It’s a fabulous show and it shows not only how diverse Beverly Garland is but the show was a historical first for a woman starring in a dramatic television series.
Beverly Garland has performed in drama’s including a musical with Frank Sinatra directed by Charles Vidor The Joker is Wild (1957) Film Noir (The Miami Story 1954, New Orleans Uncensored 1955, Sudden Danger 1955, The Steel Jungle 1956, Chicago Confidential 1957, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Adventure, Exploitation, Westerns and Crime dramas & Thrillers like Pretty Poison 1968. For the purposes of The Last Drive In tribute to this magnetic actress, here are those performances in the genre I’m featuring both film & television series!
“The Memories of working with Roger Corman are pleasant because I got along with him very well. He was fun to be around and work with. We always did these films on a cheap budget, and people were always mad at Roger because he’d hardly feed us! And no matter what happened to you, your worked regardless… You could be dead and Roger would prop you up in a chair!”-Beverly Garland
From Beverly Garland’s Interview in “Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers: Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls and Makeup” by Tom Weaver (McFarland 1988).
In The Mad Room (1969) her character was pregnant–so was she at the time, with her son James.
[referring to her 1950s Roger Corman cult films] “It’s funny today because it’s so ridiculous. But at the time, it was very serious! We were just actors doing our best, I think. None of us overacted. I’m not saying we weren’t good. We didn’t do it tongue-in-cheek. We really meant it. We gave our all. We were serious, good actors and we played it seriously.”-Beverly Garland
“Maybe I do come on strong, and people sense in me a strength and a positiveness . . . It’s really the way I look and act, not the way I am . . . Once you cut through the protective coating, I’m strictly molasses.”-Beverly Garland
Audrey Dalton– “I noticed you wrote a bit about Beverly Garland. She was such a dear friend of mine. She was in Pretty Poison with Noel Black who just passed away last year. Bev died years ago and even though she remained active in the Scarecrow and Mrs King for so long, she loved acting in “B” films the most.”
Waitress Nola Mason in The Neanderthal Man 1954, Ludine in The Rocket Man 1954, Vera in Swamp Women 1956, Claire Anderson in It Conquered the World 1956, Dr. Andrea Romar in Curucu the Beast of the Amazon, Nadine Storey in Not of this Earth 1957, Joyce Webster in The Alligator People 1959, Ellen Winslow in Stark Fear 1962, as Alice Pyncheon in Twice-Told Tales (1963) Mrs. Stepanek in Pretty Poison 1968, Mrs. Racine in The Mad Room 1969, Science Fiction Theatre (TV Series) Katherine Kerston / Sally Torens– The Other Side of the Moon (1956) … Katherine Kerston– The Negative Man (1955) … Sally Torens, The Twilight Zone (TV Series) Maggie- The Four of Us Are Dying (1960), Thriller (TV Series) Ruth Kenton– Knock Three-One-Two (1960)
Tom Weaver – “In your Corman movies you yourself generally played plucky, strong willed, sometimes two-fisted types.”
Beverly Garland- “I think that was really what the scripts called for. In most all the movies I did for Roger my character was kind of a tough person. Allison Hayes always played the beautiful, sophisticated “heavy” and I played the gutsy girl who wanted to manage it all, take things into her own hands. I never considered myself much of a passive kind of actress-I never was very comfortable in love scenes, never comfortable playing a sweet, lovable lady. Maybe if the script wasn’t written that way, then probably a lot of it I brought to the role myself. I felt I did that better than playing a passive part.”
Swamp Women (1956) An undercover policewoman helps three female convicts escape from prison so that they can lead her to a stash of stolen diamonds hidden in a swamp. Co-stars Marie Windsor, Carole Mathews, Mike Connors, Susan Cummings and Ed Nelson!
Also in Swamp Women 1956, Garland was expected to do her own stunts, even dropping out of a 20 foot tree. Roger Corman told her “When you’re killed you have to drop” Roger planted three guys underneath the tree to catch Beverly when she let’s go. “And when they killed me I just fell-dead weight on these three poor guys!” Roger told her “You’re really one of the best stuntwomen I have ever worked with.”
Even after breaking her ankle in Gunslinger 1956, Beverly was a trooper, she did all her fight scenes and worked to finish the film for Roger Corman, even though she couldn’t walk for weeks after that!
As Ellen Winslow, Garland takes a courageous role as a non-victim of abuse and assault, she pushes back head on against the grain instead of wilting from the trauma she prevails. The film showcases the gutsy quality Garland herself tried to portray in all her performances. in the darkly psychological Stark Fear (1962)A sadistic husband mentally tortures his wife, while eventually planning to murder her. Although no one believes her, she gets help from an unexpected source.
Beverly Garland recalls making Swamp Women co-starring Marie Windsor with Tom Weaver-“Swamp Women! Ooh that was a terrible thing! Roger put us up in this old abandoned hotel while we were on location in Louisiana- I mean it was really abandoned! Roger certainly had a way of doing things back in those days-I’m surprised the hotel had running water! I remember that we each had a room with an iron bed. Our first night there, I went to bed and I heard this tremendous crash! I went screaming into Marie Windsor’s room, and there she was with the bed on top of her-the whole bed had collapsed! Well, we started laughing because everything was so awful in this hotel. just incredibly terrible, and we became good friends.”
Carole Mathews, Marie Windsor and Beverly Garland in Swamp Women
Beverly Garland not only exuded a gutsy streak in every role she took, but she also shared the notable distinction of starring in one of Boris Karloff’s THRILLER episodes called Knock-Three-One-Two co-starring with the wonderful character actor Joe Maross who has a gambling problem and will be beaten to a pulp if he doesn’t pay his bookie. So he enlists the help of a psychopathic lady killer to murder his wife Beverly for her tightly held purse and large savings account!
Tom Weaver asks Beverly Garland if she enjoyed working on Twice-Told Tales (1963) — “Oh, I love it because I loved Vincent Price. He is the most wonderful sweet, adorable man! I don’t remember much about the movie, I just remember working with Vinnie and how wonderful he was.”
Tom Drake, Bill Elliott, and Beverly Garland in Sudden Danger (1955).
On working with Roger Corman on Gunslinger (1956) after Allison Hayes another seasoned actress and a bloomin’ trooper who broke her arm during filming. The working conditions were dismal but Beverly Garland isn’t a woman you can keep down. “I always wondered if Allison broke her arm just to get off the picture and out of the rain. It poured constantly. But what I adored about Roger was he never said, ‘This can’t be done.’ Pouring rain, trudging through the mud and heat, getting ptomaine poisoning, sick as a dog–didn’t matter. Never say die. Never say can’t Never say quit. I learned to be a trooper with Roger. I could kid him sarcastically about these conditions and laugh. That’s why we got along so well. On Gunslinger, I was supposed to run down the saloon stairs, jump on my horse and ride out of town. Now we never had stunt people in low-budget films. Riding, stunts, fights–we all did it ourselves and we all expected it, and we all just said it was marvelously grand. I told myself just to think tall. So my first take I thought tall and sailed right over the saddle and landed on the other side of the horse. The second take I twisted my ankle running down the stairs– a bad twist.”
About working with Roy del Ruth on The Alligator People–“He was sweetheart of a guy and a good director. The Alligator People was a fast picture, but he really tried to do something good with it. And I think that shows in the film. It’s not something that was just slapped together. It as such a ridiculous. story…).. I felt when I read the script and when I saw the film, which was a long time ago, that it ended very abruptly. It all happened too fast; it was kind of a cop out. But there really was no way to end it. What were they going to do-were they going to have us live happily ever after and raise baby alligators?”
On first seeing the cucumber creature that Paul Blaisdell designed for It Conquered the World–“I remember the first time I saw the It Conquered the World Monster. I went out to the caves where we’d be shooting and got my first look at the thing. I said to Roger, ‘That isn’t the monster…! That little thing over there is not the monster, is it?’ He smiled back at me , “Yeah, Looks pretty good, doesn’t it?’ I said, ‘Roger! I could bop that monster over the head with my handbag!’ This thing is no monster, it was a terrible ornament!’ He said, ‘Well don’t worry about it because we’re gonna show you, and then we’ll show the monster, back and forth.’ ‘Well, don’t ever show us together, because if you do everybody’ll know that I could step on this little creature! Eventually I think they did do some extra work on the monster: I think they resprayed it so it would look a little scarier, and made it a good bit taller. When we actually filmed, they shot it in shadow and never showed the two of us together.”
Beverly Garland as Clair talking on the radio to IT– “I hate your living guts for what you‘ve done to my husband and my world, and I’m going to kill you! Do you hear that? I’m going to kill you!”…) “So that’s what you look like, you’re ugly…) You think you’re gonna make a slave of the world… I’ll see you in hell first!“
Tom Weaver asks —“Do you ever look back on your B movies and feel that maybe you were too closely associated with them? That they might have kept you from bigger and better things?
Beverly Garland —“No, I really don’t think so. I think that it was my getting into television; Decoy represented a big turn in my life. Everybody did B movies, but at least they were movies, so it was okay. In the early days, we who did TV weren’t considered actors; we were just horrible people that were doing this ‘television’ which was so sickening, so awful, and which was certainly going to disappear off the face of the earth. Now, without TV, nobody would be working. No-bod-y. But I think that was where my black eye came from; I don’t think it came from the B movies at all.”
Tom Weaver-“Which of your many horror and science fiction roles did you consider your most challenging?”
Beverly Garland–“Pretty Poison. It was a small part, but it had so much to say that you understood why Tuesday Weld killed her mother. I worked hard to make that understood not a surface one, but tried to give you the lady above and beyond what you would see in a short time.”
The bewitchingly beautiful Audrey Dalton was born in Dublin, Ireland, and maintains the most delicately embroidered lilt of Gaelic tones became an American actress in film in the heyday of Hollywood and the Golden Age of television. Knowing from early on that she wanted to be an actress while studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts was discovered by a Paramount Studio executive in London, thus beginning her notable career starring in classic drama, comedy, film noir, science fiction, campy cult classic horror and dramatic television hits!
Since then I’ve had the incredible honor of chatting with this very special lady whom I consider not only one of THE most ethereal beauties of the silver screen, Audrey Dalton is a versatile actress and an extremely gracious and kind person.
Audrey Dalton made a monumental contribution to one of the biggest beloved 1950s ‘B’ Sci-Fi treasures and she deserves to be honored for her legacy as the heroine in distress, pursued by a giant bunny killing Mollusk “That monster was enormous!” –Audrey commented in her interview with USA Today.
Gail MacKenzie in The Monster that Challenged the World 1957, Baroness Maude Sardonicus in William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus 1961 Boris Karloff’s Thriller (1960-1962)- Norine Burton in The Prediction, Meg O’Danagh Wheeler in The Hollow Watcher and Nesta Roberts in Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook.
Barbara Rush appeared in director Martin Ritt’s turbulent suburban drama No Down Payment 1957 with ex-husband Jeffrey Hunter though they weren’t married to each other in the film.
Barbara Rush, Possesses a transcendent gracefulness. She moves with a poise like a dancer, a beautiful gazelle stirring in the gentle quiet spaces like silent woods. When I see Barbara Rush, I see beauty personified by elegance and decency. Barbara Rush will always remain in my eyes, one of the most gentle of souls on the screen, no matter what role she is inhabiting. She brings a certain kind of class that is not learned, it’s inherent.
She was born in Denver, Colorado in 1927 and began at the University of California. Then she joined the University Players, taking acting classes at the Pasadena Playhouse. Paramount scooped Barbara up and signed her to a contract in 1950. She debuted with The Goldbergs (1950) as Debby Sherman acting with Gertrude Berg as Molly Goldberg -a popular television program that follows the warm, human story of the famous Jewish Bronx radio & TV family the Goldbergs, and their everyday problems. Co-starring David Opatoshu and Eduard Franz.
Before joining the Goldbergs she met the strikingly handsome actor Jeffrey Hunter who eventually became a hot commodity at 20th Century Fox. Barbara Rush and Jeffrey Hunter fell in love and were married in December 1950. They became Hollywood’s most gorgeous couple, and the camera seemed to adore them. Their son Christopher was born in 1952.
During her time at Paramount, Barbara Rush appeared in the science fiction catastrophic end of the world thriller directed by Rudolph Maté —When World’s Collide 1951 co-starring Richard Derr, Peter Hansen, and John Hoyt.
As time went on Barbara Rush co-starred with some of the most desirable actors in Hollywood, James Mason, Monty Clift, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Richard Burton, and Kirk Douglas. Her roles ran the gamut from disenchanted wives, scheming other women or pretty socialites
Though Barbara Rush is capable of a range of acting, the one great role of a lifetime never seemed to surface for her, though whatever she appeared in was elevated to a higher level because of her presence.
Television became a wonderful avenue for Barbara Rush’s talent, she appeared in guest parts in many popular tv series of the 1960s and 1970s. She also co-starred in tv movies. One enjoyable character she played was a guest villain on the 1966 television series Batman as femme fatale ‘Nora Clavicle” Barbara Rush also played Marsha Russell on the popular television drama Peyton Place 1968-69
Barbara Rush also turned to work on the stage. She garnered the Sarah Siddons Award for her starring role in Forty Carats. Making her Broadway debut in the one-woman showcase, “A Woman of Independent Means” which also subsequently earned her the Los Angeles Drama Critics Award during its tour. Other showcases included “Private Lives”, “Same Time, Next Year”, “The Night of the Iguana” and “Steel Magnolias”.
Barbara Rush still possesses that transcendent beauty, poise, and grace. She will always be someone special someone memorable.
Joey Q: Did you ever imagine Jack Arnold’s “It Came from Outer Space” (1953) with you (in that black dress by Rosemary Odell) aiming that laser beam would become so iconic, and leave such a lasting impression on fans and film historians after all these years?
Barbara Rush: A: I’d never think that anybody who saw it needed to see it again, but if it left an impression, that’s fine. I loved the chiffon dress. It was too weird that these people that came from other space were too frightening to look at, so they took the form of regular humans. What I thought was interesting that these creatures didn’t actually want to be there and weren’t vicious at all. They were just trying to fix their ship and get it together. I remember thinking that with a lot of science fiction films; we were so afraid these creatures, but they were just trying to get away and weren’t threatening at all.
Joey Q: Is there a role you would have liked to play — let’s say in a Gothic thriller? Or was there ever a script for one that you turned down that you regret now? Were there any other high quality A-picture science fiction film scripts sent to you after “When Worlds Collide” (1951) and “It Came from Outer Space” (1953)?
Barbara Rush A: I don’t remember anything that was given to me to do other than those two pictures. That was all just orders from the studio. The science fiction film I admired the most was the picture E. T. – I just love that film and it is my favourite, but I never thought it was something I wanted to be in myself.
Joey Q: “The Outer Limits” is one of the most extraordinary anthology television shows of the 1960s. It was clearly ahead of its time, beautifully crafted and though-provoking. You star as the tortured Leonora in the episode “The Forms of Things Unknown” which is perhaps one of THE finest of the series written by Joseph Stefano, all due to the cinematography, lighting, and particularly the ensemble acting. Do you have any lasting impressions or thoughts about that role and/or working with Vera Miles, Cedric Hardwicke, David McCallum, and Scott Marlowe?
Barbara Rush A: I loved doing that show and loved Vera Miles. She was just the most wonderful person to work with. She was so funny. There was a scene where she had to run after me in the forest in the rain. After that miserable experience she told me:”Barbara, I promise you I’ll never chase after you in the rain, in the forest, ever again.” I thought the episode was very interesting, though.
Joey Q: In that same high calibre of dramatic television series, were you ever approached by William Frye, Doug Benton, or Maxwell Shane from Boris Karloff’s “Thriller” series or by Alfred Hitchcock for his anthology series? You would have been extraordinary in either television program! These shows were remarkably well-written and directed and I’m certain there would have been a perfect role for your wonderful acting style. Did you ever receive a script or were you ever interested in appearing on either of those shows?
Barbara Rush A: Unfortunately they didn’t really seem to want me. They never got in touch with me about anything. I would have loved to work for Hitchcock – I liked his films.
Joey Q: It seems that the early 70’s found you a niche in the macabre. Perhaps this is because you are such a consummate actress and the contrast of your gentility works well with the darker subject matter. In 1971 you co-starred with Henry Darrow in a short piece on Rod Serling’s “Night Gallery” – “Cool Air.” It was a Gothic romantic tale based on H.P. Lovecraft’s story about a woman who falls in love with a man who must remain in a refrigerated apartment dare something dreadful occur. Then, in 1972 you appeared in “The Eyes of Charles Sands” as Katherine Winslow co-starring Peter Haskell and Joan Bennett, a film about ESP and solving a murder. Then came “Moon of the Wolf” where you co-starred with David Janssen and Bradford Dillman, two very handsome leading men. Did you enjoy venturing into these uncanny story lines?
Barbara Rush A: I particularly enjoyed working with Bradford Dillman, who was a dear friend of mine. We more or less grew up together, in Santa Barbara. In one of these he played a werewolf and he’d have these hairy mittens as part of his costume and he’d come trampling in all the time – as a werewolf! I have a tendency to get very hysterical about how funny people can be, and he’d just make me crack up. We were shooting – I think in New Orleans or Mississippi, somewhere in the south – on location, so it was very hot. Poor Brad who had to walk around in those mittens.
Attended and graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara (1948). She graduated from the Pasadena Playhouse School for Performing Arts in Pasadena, California.
Is mentioned in the movie Shampoo (1975), when hairdresser Warren Beatty says “I do Barbara Rush’s hair”.
Was separated from second husband Warren Cowan in 1969 at the time she learned of first husband Jeffrey Hunter’s sudden death following brain surgery after falling down a flight of stairs.
Appears in No Down Payment (1957) with ex-husband Jeffrey Hunter, they both portraying married characters, but not married to each other.
She is one of five actors to have played “Special Guest Villains” on Batman (1966) who are still alive, the others being Julie Newmar, John Astin, Joan Collins and Glynis Johns.
“I can safely say that every movie role I was ever offered that had any real quality went to someone else.”-Barbara Rush
As Joyce Hendron in When Worlds Collide 1951, Ellen Fields in It Came from Outer Space 1953 Night Gallery episode as Agatha Howard in ‘Cool Air’ released on December 8, 1971, based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft and in The Outer Limits as Leonora Edmond in the episode The Form of Things Unknown written by Joseph Stefano released on May 4, 1964, as Karen Lownes in Kraft Suspense Theatre tv series ‘In Darkness, Waiting (1965), as Nora Clavicle and The Ladies’ Crime Club Batman Series 1966, Moon of the Wolf (TV Movie) 1972 as Louise Rodanthe, as Katherine Winslow in The Eyes of Charles Sand (1972), The Bionic Woman (TV Series) – Jaime’s Mother (1976) … Ann Sommers / Chris Stuart, 1979 Death Car on the Freeway (TV Movie) as Rosemary
It’s great to once again be contributing to this wonderful blogathon. It’s become my favorite event each year. And I’m grateful to all three marvelous bloggers who put this bash together! It’s a fantastic line up so stick around for the next few days and enjoy the tribute being paid to those wonderful character actors and supportive players who made the movies full of… well CHARACTER!!!
This year I’m focusing on one of my all time favorites, one of those great familiar faces–Martin Balsam!
“I think the average guy has always identified with me.“-Martin Balsam
“The supporting role is always potentially the most interesting in a film.”
“I’ll tell you, I still don’t feel whatever change you’re supposed to feel when your name goes up above the title. I think that’s because this star thing has never been the first consideration with me. Never. The work has always come first.”
Martin Henry Balsam nicknamed “The Bronx Barrymore” by columnist Earl Wilson, was born November 4, 1919, in the Bronx to Lillian and Albert Balsam. His mother was born in New York City to Russian Jewish parents, and his father was a Russian Jewish immigrant. Martin Balsam is like a comfortable friend, he could even be my father.
Martin participated in the Drama Club at DeWitt Clinton High School in New York. After high school, he attended the New School for Acting. But when WWII started, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force. After WWII, Martin worked as an usher at Radio City Music Hall and was selected by Elia Kazan and Lee Strasburg to join the Actors Studio. A struggling actor living in Greenwich Village, Balsam started acting on Broadway in the late 1940s,” I ate a lot of mashed potatoes in those days. It was 1950 and I was 30 years old… I thought I had better learn to do something with my hands before it was too late.”He finally established himself as an actor in 1951 in Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo.” He won a Tony for “You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running” and an Obie for “In Cold Storage.”
After his success on Broadway, Balsam began working in television, becoming known for regular parts on shows like the United States Steel Hour, The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, Studio One in Hollywood, and the Goodyear Playhouse. In 1955 he starred in episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone, and as a result, was offered the supporting role of Detective Milton Arbogast in Psycho (1960). After Psycho, he played strong parts in films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Cape Fear (1962), and The Carpetbaggers (1964). In 1965, he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for “A Thousand Clowns.” His later television appearances included a regular role as Archie Bunker’s Jewish business partner Murray in “Archie Bunker’s Place.”
During his 50-year film career, he worked with top film directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Elia Kazan, Martin Scorsese, John Frankenheimer, and Sidney Lumet. After his success in the U.S., he accepted roles in European films, spending much of his later years in Italy.
Balsam was married 3 times. Actress Talia Balsam is his daughter, with his second wife, actress Joyce Van Patten. He died while in Rome from a heart attack on Feb. 13th, 1996 at age 76. He was survived by his third wife Irene Miller and three children, Adam, Zoe, and Talia.
Balsam could play anything: a vengeful mob boss, a blustering pompous politico, a Mexican stagecoach driver, an Italian train line director, a flaming antiques dealer/caper crew member, a disgruntled subway motorman turned lukewarm hijacker with a tale-tell head cold.
Balsam could either play at being the old school seasoned good cop, or the jaded bad cop, a humble talent agent scraping by to make a living but comfortable with who he is, an average Joe, he was perfect as a nonconfrontational jury foreman, an over-eager opportunistic Colonel, or a quirky snake oil salesman in the wild west who keeps losing parts of his body. Several times he played the old Hollywood studio mogul and a private investigator who gets more than he bargains for when he meets a psychotic old lady wielding a very large knife at the Bates Motel. And many more supportive parts that helped the sum total of whatever he was performing in to become even better because of his presence.
For over 55 years Balsam entertained us on the theatrical stage, in feature films, television plays, and tv series as well as serious made for tv movies. His roles run a wide range from his first appearance in the 1949’s tv show Suspense, to later on appearing in several Italian crime thrillers in the 70s.
Martin Balsam is an everyman. His familiar comfortable face and voice are easy for us to make a connection with because he appears to be one of us. My father was raised in the Bronx and also worked in the garment district like Martin’s father -til the mid-70s- I myself am a Russian Jew. Whenever I see him in something I think to myself, now we have the whole mishpocha, he’s like kin!
Every performance of Martin Balsam seems to be seasoned with a dash of significant flavor -his presence always makes whatever he’s appearing in more potent, salient, and that much more comprehensible.
He more often in his roles exudes an authentic and, likable personality. Balsam is a ubiquitous guy, his performances always manage to deliver an extra special bit of realism or something familiar that makes it feel special. He exudes true accessibility as an ordinary 5’7 guy. But he also has the ability to transcend that average guy persona we can relate to and adopt a quirky either lovable or despicable character. Yet- he is not only the everyman. He’s also one of the most versatile actors, never playing the same character or role twice. Sometimes mild-mannered, sometimes bombastic, at times a face of still waters, at times a volatile geyser of emotions!
While he does epitomize the ordinary guy, Balsam stretched his range that included Italian crime films, serious teleplays, made for tv movies, feature classic films as well as a few quirky offbeat films
It may seem easy to be an ‘everyman’, to portray an ordinary fella whose personality is based on conformity and quiet acquiescence. But to be a regular guy who possesses many layers and dimensions, who isn’t just a flat cut-out figure to fill out the plot… that takes talent, that is acting magic!
Martin Balsam draws you in and makes the experience memorable. That’s what makes him one of the most versatile and recognizable actors. I wish I had been able to see him on stage in the theater, but I regret that I was too young to experience that great time in our culture when the New York City theatre was thriving with Strasberg-trained actors.
Martin Balsam has been imprinted on our collective consciousness with his legendary death scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho 1960 as Detective Arbogast who gets up close and personal with Norman’s knife-wielding rage-filled mother only to stumble backward (wonderful bit of camerawork by John L. Russell) down the staircase at the Bates Motel—the quintessential cinematic scene still remains a shocker today!
While Jason Robards delivers a superb portrayal of an iconoclast living outside of society, railing against conformity, trying to raise his wonderfully compassionate nephew in search of a name, played by Barry Gordon (who also did the character on stage) in the film version adapted from the stage play of 1962, A Thousand Clowns 1965, Balsam’s performance as his brother Arnold is the quintessential downtrodden man who has risen above the grind to find inner peace and satisfaction with who he is: Balsam plays Arnold without a hint of artifice.
It was this impassioned performance in A Thousand Clowns that won Balsam’s Best Supporting Actor Academy Award.
A few of my favorite performances are his flamboyant decorator/ in on the caper Tommy Haskins in director Sidney Lumet’s The Anderson Tapes 1971. And of course, I particularly love his Harold Longman aka ”Mr. Green”, the reluctant subway train hijacker with that pesky head cold, which ultimately gets him pinched because of an ironic ill-fated “atchoo” just as the dauntless Walter Matthau’s police Lt. Zachary Garberin is leaving his NYC apartment checking up on Longman as a suspect in the original 1974 classic version of director Joseph Sargent’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974). I loved his portrayal of the wise Mendez in director Martin Ritt’s Hombre 1967, And then there’s Bianchi who is quick to pin the murder on everyone Poirot interrogates in director Sidney Lumet’s wonderful Murder on the Orient Express 1974. One of his most heartbreaking roles is that of Dr. Harry Walden, an eye doctor who is beaten down and haunted by the ghosts of war, married to Joanne Woodward an ice queen in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973). Professor Ruzinsky the dotty academic who translates the portion of Paradise Lost Balsam’s characterization of an eccentric adds humor to Michael Winner’s frightening 70s horror masterpiece The Sentinel (1977). And in Contract on Cherry Street (tv movie) 1977 Balsam plays the hardened and world-weary Capt. Ernie Weinberg is beaten down and beleaguered and just can’t deal with the reality of fighting against the system that allows criminals to reign over his beloved New York City.
Balsam started out as part of the Method Actors led by Lee Strasberg along with actor and friend Shelley Winters who shared the stage with him in the 1950s.
Shelley wanted to return to the theater after feeling strangled by her 7-year contract with Universal Studios. At that time, she was friends with Method actors like Elaine Stritch, Ben Gazzara Kim Stanley Virginia Vincent Tony Franciosa (her then-husband) Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and our wonderful Martin Balsam. Shelley wanted to do a Summerstock tour of her play Wedding Breakfast. Shelley and Marty met with a hot new director Sidney Lumet hoping at the end of the play they could shoot it as a film script. Unfortunately, Shelley didn’t have faith in her erratic husband Tony Franciosa and so she canceled the project, which made Lumet angry.
The two would come together again on television in 1964 for Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre’s “Two is the Number” Later once again they both co-starred in The Delta Force 1986.
At the Actor’s Studio Balsam was in great company with friends and co-stars the likes of Geraldine Page, Rip Torn, Ben Gazzara, Julie Harris, Barbara Harris, Anne Bancroft, Maureen Stapleton, Jane Fonda, Anne Jackson, Eli Wallach, Burgess Meredith, Walter Matthau, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Estelle Parsons, Marilyn Monroe and Franchot Tone. Working with writers, Arthur Penn, Arthur Miller, William Inge, and Clifford Odets.
You can see a full list of his work at IMDb but here is a list of some of my favorite Martin Balsam filmography stopping at the mid-1980s:
Television shows such as: Suspense 1949, Inner Sanctum 1954, Goodyear Playhouse (TV Series) 1954-1956, Kraft Theatre tv series 1958, Studio One in Hollywood (TV Series) 1957-1958, Decoy tv series 1958, Playhouse 90 (TV Series) 1958-1959, Have Gun – Will Travel (TV Series) 1958-1960, Roald Dahl’s Way Out (TV Series) 1961, Alfred Hitchcock Presents (TV Series) 1958-1961, The New Breed (TV Series) 1961, Naked City (TV Series) 1959-1962, The Untouchables (TV Series) 1961-1962, Route 66 (TV Series),The Twilight Zone (TV Series) 1959-1963, The Defenders tv series 1961-1964, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. tv series 1965, Dr. Kildare tv series 1926-1966, The Fugitive tv series 1967, The Name of the Game 1968-1970, The Six Million Dollar Man 1973, Police Story tv series 1973, Kojak 1974 tv series, Maude 1976 tv series, Quincy M.E. 1982 (Tv Series), Archie Bunker’s Place (tv series 45 episodes) as Murray Klein–Previously they had performed together in the The Sacco-Vanzetti Story on Sunday Showcase (1959)
Television Movies: The Old Man Who Cried Wolf (1970), Night of Terror (1972), Trapped Beneath the Sea (1974), Death Among Friends (1975), The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case (1976), Raid on Entebbe (1976), Contract on Cherry Street (1977), The House on Garibaldi Street (1979), The People vs. Jean Harris (1981), I Want to Live (1983) remake
Feature Films: On the Waterfront 1954 uncredited as Gillette, 12 Angry Men 1957 as the Foreman Juror 1, Time Limit 1957 as Sgt. Baker, Marjorie Morningstar 1958 as Dr. David Harris, Middle of the Night 1959 as Jack, Psycho 1960 as Detective Milton Arbogast, Ada 1961 as Steve Jackson, Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961 as O.J. Berman, Cape Fear 1962 as Police Chief Mark Dutton, Seven Days in May 1964 as Paul Girard, The Carpetbaggers 1964, Come Back Little Sheba 1965 as Doc Delaney, Harlow 1965 as Everett Redman, The Bedford Incident 1965 as Lt. Cmdr.
Chester Potter, M.D., U.S.N., A Thousand Clowns 1965 as Arnold, Hombre 1967 as Henry Mendez, The Good Guys and the Bad Guys 1969 as Mayor Wilker, Catch-22 1970 as Colonel Cathcart, Tora! Tora! Tora! 1970 as Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Little Big Man 1970 as Mr. Merriweather, The Anderson Tapes 1971 as Tommy Haskins, The Stone Killer 1973 as mob boss Al Vescari, Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams 1973 as Harry Walden, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three 1974 as Harold Longman aka Mr. Green, Murder on the Orient Express 1974 as Bianchi, Mitchell 1975 as James Arthur Cummings, All the President’s Men 1976 as Howard Simons, Two-Minute Warning 1976 as Sam McKeever, The Sentinel 1977 as Professor Ruzinsky, Silver Bears 1977 as Joe Flore, The Delta Force 1986 as Ben Kaplan, St. Elmo’s Fire 1985 as Mr. Beamish alongside real ex-wife Joyce Van Patten.
A special note of Balsam’s Italian Crime films:Confessions of a Police Captain 1971 as Commissario Bonavia, Chronicle of a Homicide 1972 as Giudice Aldo Sola, Counselor at Crime 1973 as Don Antonio Macaluso, Smiling Maniacs 1975 as Carlo Goja, Season for Assassins 1975 as Commissioner Katroni, Meet Him and Die 1976 as Giulianelli, The Warning 1980 as Quester Martorana
HERE ARE SOME MEMORABLE SCENES FROM BALSAM’S IMPRESSIVE CAREER
A Thousand Clowns 1965″I have a talent for surrender” Directed by Fred Coe Famous broadway play comes to the screen with memorable performances by all the principles in standout jobs by Jason Robards as a talented nonconformist and Barry Gordon as his precocious ward. They struggle against welfare bureaucracy in order to stay together. Funny and poignant throughout. Martin Balsam’s performance as Brother Arnold lends the axel of normalcy to the entire shenanigans with his fresh fruit and common sense-filled equilibrium.
12 Angry Men 1957
Directed by Sidney Lumet. Martin Balsam plays the unassuming jury foreman who tries to keep the proceedings run by the rules but soon finds out that many of the jurors are racist, filled with rage, apathetic, and just in a rush to get the ballgame even when a young man’s accused of murder’s life hangs in the balance.
Little Big Man 1970
Directed by Arthur Penn, Dustin Hoffman plays Jack Crabbe who recalls 121 of his adventurous years ending with General Custer’s Last Stand. Told in flashback it tells of numerous encounters in the Old West. One of the most touching relationships is with his chosen Grandfather Old Lodge Skins played by Chief Dan George. Martin Balsam is perfect as the irascible Mr. Merriweather a snake oil salesman who with each town he gets chased out of, winds up losing an eye, an ear, then a hand then a leg. And after all that getting tarred and feathered to boot! But he still has a mouth to crack wise with and ponder life’s deep questions
The Carpetbaggers 1964
Directed by Edward Dymtryk. Howard Hughe’s like millionaire George Peppard Jonas Cord is a rude and unfeeling rich young tycoon who makes movies about love and enemies in the Hollywood of the 1920 & 30s. Alan Ladd as a Tom Mix clone helps in this his last picture. Carroll Baker is steamy and very tame compared to the porno-edged Harold Robbins novel. Martin Balsam plays studio Mogal Bernard B. Norman.
Murder on the Orient Express 1974
Directed by Sidney Lumet. Albert Finny is astonishing as Agatha Christies Belgian detective
Hercule Poirot is stranded on the train by snow and a murderer where nothing is as it seems. With an extraordinary cast of characters Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, and Jacqueline Bisset. Jean-Pierre Cassel, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Anthony Perkins, Wendy Hiller, Vanessa Redgrave, Rachel Roberts, Richard Widmark, Michael York, Colin Blakely, and of course, Martin Balsam is animated and hilariously radiant as the Italian Bianchi -head of the train line, who suspects everyone!
Contract on Cherry Street 1977
Directed by William A. Graham
When Frank Sinatra’s partner is killed, NYC detective Frank Hovannes and his organized-crime squad go against the mob run by Martin Gabel, despite strong objections from his superiors and the legal-departmental restrictions that hinder him. Martin Balsam plays Capt. Ernie Weinberg a career cop who is just worn down by all the bureaucracy. The chemistry between Sinatra and Balsam is terrific. Very well done for a made for tv film. Good supporting performances by Harry Guardino and Henry Silva.
Directed by Mike Nichols. This black comedy about the absurdity of war stars Alan Arkin as a soldier during World War II. The dilemma of trying to avoid insanity or to embrace it in order to get out of duty. Orson Welles plays a rabid general who keeps scheduling more and more bombing missions, and Martin Balsam as the blustering opportunistic Colonel Cathcart adds an extra edge of preposterous folly and audacity
Directed by Martin Ritt
Henry Mendez (Martin Balsam) plays a sage Mexican who himself has been treated less than by the white man because of his heritage. Mendez tells John Russell (Paul Newman -Hombre) the stagecoach line is shutting down because of the railroad and urges John Russell to return to his White Man’s roots and take over a boarding house left to John by his deceased stepfather.
Henry Mendez is the stagecoach driver paid by Alexander Favor to transport him and his family. Mendez decides to take the back road to Bisbee Arizona because of a suspicious group of men (led by outlaw Richard Boone), in the area. Alexander Favor (Fredric March) makes Henry do his dirty work and tell John Russell that he has to ride on top with Mendez when Alexander finds out that John Russell is a White Man raised as an Apache. Mendez doesn’t see the point in fighting this because he has seen how it isn’t worth making trouble. Co-stars Barbara Rush as Alexander Favor’s wife Audra.
Cape Fear 1962
Directed by J. Lee Thompson Cape Fear is a taut thriller about a lawyer (Gregory Peck) and his family being menaced by a vengeful psychopathic ex-con Max Cady played with authentic relish causing real chills by Robert Mitchum. CADY blames Sam Bowden (Peck) for sending him up the river and now that he is out. he’s got disturbing plans for his family. Martin Balsam plays Sam’s friend Police Chief Mark Dutton who tries to help him protect himself though it seems Cady has ways of getting around the law.
The Sentinel 1977
Directed by Michael Winner. This is a simple nightmarish adult fairy tale about a young model Alison Parker (Christina Raines) who has been picked by a secret cult of catholic priests to become the next sentinel to watch over the gates of hell, which happens to be a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. (the building is still there) While renting this lovely furnished apartment she meets a host of weird characters that may or may not exist. When odd occurrences begin to drive Alison mad, her boyfriend lawyer Michael (Chris Sarandon) looks for help from various criminal elements locks pickers, private eyes, and our man Martin Balsam as Professor Ruzinsky to help translate a passage in Latin. Balsam is hilarious as the forgetful & nutty old professor. Co-stars Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith
Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “The Equalizer” aired February 9, 1958
Marty plays a mild-mannered accountant Eldon Marsh who is called “little man” too often after the new company hot shot who is much bigger and stronger Wayne Phillips (Leif Erickson) humiliates him and steals his wife (Norma Crane). Eldon gets punched a lot but still defends his honor by challenging Phillips (Erickson) to a fight to the death
Naked City episode “Beyond Truth” aired July 7 1959
Directed by John Brahm
Martin Balsam plays Arnold Fleischmann who is haunted by a reoccurring nightmare. Arnold has served time in jail for manslaughter when driving drunk he hits and kills a little girl. Now his wife seeks out the help of Det. James ‘Jimmy’ Halloran (James Fransiscus) of the 65th Precinct to re-investigate the case, as she has never believed that Arnold was driving that night. But Arnold refuses to cooperate with the police and just wants to leave it in the past. But the evidence does look like Arnold’s been framed for the killing and that the wrong man has been convicted. Balsam plays a sobering and sad guy who has come to accept the hand he’s been dealt.
The Twilight Zone episode “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine” aired October 23, 1959
Written by Rod Serling. Ida Lupino plays Barbara Jean Trenton a faded film star who lives in the past, constantly re-watching her old movies and shunning the outside world. Martin Balsam plays her agent, Danny Weiss who tries to get her to come out of isolation, even getting her a part in a new film, though it’s not a lead nor a glamorous role. Danny tries so hard to get Barbara to see that it’s no good living in the past, and though she refuses to embrace what’s new, Danny stands by her loyally ultimately with frightening and uncanny results.
Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams 1973 “I have to stand someplace, someplace that I’ve stood before!”
Directed by Gilbert Cates the story follows the journey of depression experienced by housewife Rita Walden. At the opening of the film, Rita loses her overbearing mother played by Sylvia Sidney. Martin Balsam does an incredible job of stoically navigating around Rita’s ice-water emotions, though he has ghosts of his own that he quietly battles. Somehow through all the harsh words and bitter detachments, the couple seems to find each other again at the end. Balsam was nominated for the 1974 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor as Dr. Henry Walden unloved by his unemotional wife finally articulates his feelings and confronts his pain head-on while on a trip to France revisiting Bastogne where he was stationed during the war. It’s an outstanding performance that shows Balsam’s acting range, as he shakes off the average guy persona and reaches deep inside and bares his soul.
Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams 1973
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock After Marion Crane steals money from her employer and runs off into the night staying at the Bates Motel run by the gentle young man Norman -which leads to her terrifying demise, her sister and lover Lila Crane (Vera Miles) and Sam Loomis ( John Gavin) hires a private detective Det. Milton Arbogast to find Marion. Balsam plays the edgy Arbogast who isn’t buying sweet and humble Norman’s story that he’s never seen, Marion Crane. Arbogast is not one to be put off, he suspects Norman’s mother knows something and secretly goes up tot he house on the hill to investigate. to his ‘downfall’ Sorry for that cheap pun!
The Anderson Tapes 1971
Director Sidney Lumet’s taut action thriller about an ex-con (Sean Connery) under surveillance who wants to pull off The Big Heist, consisting of loot and treasures from the affluent tenants of a high-rise apartment where his lover/call girl (Diane Cannon) lives. Martin Balsam plays the wonderfully exuberant interior designer Tommy who helps out with the caper.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three 1974
Directed by Joseph Sargent -Walter Matthau plays the belly-aching gum chewing Police Lt. Zachary Garber chief of security on the New York City subway. A band of clever thugs led by Robert Shaw as Bernard Ryder aka Mr. Blue has hijacked a commuter train, demanding a ransom of $1 million dollars or they will start killing the passengers one by one. Martin Balsam plays Harold Longman aka Mr. Green plagued by a really bad head cold, and sneezes throughout the film so much so that Lt. Garber recognizes it, even replying “Gesundheit”. Green is also a bit reluctant throughout the caper, but he’s disgruntled for having lost his job as a transit worker.
Well, this is Joey giving you all the Bronx Cheer for me and Marty!!! But I mean it in the nicest way!
Here’s to one of my all-time favorite episodes! Nick of Time aired November 18th, 1960-starring William Shatner, Patricia Breslin & that Jointy little Devil with the diamond eye!
Don and Pat are fresh scrubbed Midwestern newlyweds who wander into a stuffy little off the street sandwich shop, where the wheat toast is stale and the water tastes like swamp!
On their way to New York to find out if Don is going to be the next Office Manager/Accountant in his firm, the couples car breaks down and so does Don’s superstitious will when he can’t seem to move, after getting too many eerie answers from the Mystic Seer napkin holder…
Only a penny to learn your fate! It’s a tense and well thought out philosophical dilemma that only William Shatner could play to the hilt!
Got a penny, try your hand at fate!
You’re EverLovin’ MonsterGirl saying — Whether the answer is Yes or No.. Make up your own mind, it’ll see you free!
A simple and wholesome beginning… Agnes Robertson Moorehead was born on December 6th, 1900 in Clinton, Massachusetts. Her mother was a mezzo-soprano and her father was a Presbyterian minister whose work eventually moved the family to St. Louis, Missouri. She started her acting career on stage at the age of 3, and by the time she was 12, she was active in the St. Louis Municipal Opera as a dancer and singer. She went to college for biology at Muskingum College in Ohio but remained active in acting. After college, she moved to Wisconsin (her family was now in Reedsburg, Wisconsin), and taught drama and English at local schools. She earned a Masters in English at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Agnes eventually would earn a doctorate from Bradley University.
My partner Wendy and I happened to have lived in Madison for a wonderful 8 years while she was in grad school at the University of Wisconsin. I wrote my favorite album Fools & Orphans while living on Starkweather Creek on the East side of town. So Agnes’ presence there is all the sweeter to me…
To earn the money she would need, not only to eat but to build toward her dream of heading to New York City and acting school, she taught English, Speech, and Ancient History at Centralized High School in Soldiers Grove. Teaching was something she maintained a strong affection for.
When she eventually saved enough money to get to New York City she audition for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in the summer of 1926- she was accepted. I’m reading Charles Tranberg’s wonderful book, she talks about starving herself, being grateful for enough loose change to buy a buttered roll from the Automat …
Afterward, she moved to New York City and enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Agnes studied with Charles Jehlinger at The (AADA) American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he taught people that ‘imagination’ is the key!
Not making it on Broadway during the 30s, she used her marvelous voice to make a name for herself in the media of radio. She began performing as many as six shows each day. During her radio performances, she met Orson Welles, and Joseph Cotton and the three formed the famous Mercury Players Theatre. Agnes made her film debut in 1941 in Orson Welles’ ‘Citizen Kane’. She went on to play vital, high-spirited saucy & strong female roles in film and television eventually landing the iconic role as “Endora”on the popular & timelessly beloved television show “Bewitched” (1964-1972). She was married twice but eventually lived alone, enjoying solitude. She died quietly away from friends and the public, from lung cancer that had spread from her Uterus, she succumbed in 1974 in Rochester Minnesota. With Agnes’ work ethic, she had maintained a busy schedule though drained and tired from the illness, performing hours on the stage and doing television appearances until she could no longer manage.
IMDb tidbit- Agnes’ death from cancer is often linked to other actors and crew members who worked on The Conqueror (1956). Including Susan Hayward, John Wayne and director Dick Powell, to name a few. The conspiracy theory behind the strong beliefs are that they were exposed while on location at the site which received heavy fallout from nuclear testing at the (then) Nevada Proving Grounds.
Fiercely private. Considered not beautiful because of her ‘hawk-like’ face. I would boldly beg to disagree. Agnes Moorehead has a beauty that transcends the quaint and lovely upturned nose. She has a regal beauty as if royalty runs in her veins, with a sage otherworldliness and a voice like a chameleon that can change its tone and tenor to fit her myriad characterizations. I wish she and hope she knew that although she was THE consummate character actress for the ages, she too was as beautiful as any other leading star with a deep & fiery magnetism that draws you in ~
Agnes had that spark in her since she was a very little Agnes, embodying, manifesting & emoting like the characters from the books she read and from the theater. Her adoring father or mother would find her re-enacting scenes in her room!
Here’s a beautifully written snapshot of Agnes Moorehead by The Red List– data base by Romuald Leblond & Jessica Vaillat
“Wanting to become a comedian from a young age – her mother had become accustomed to discovering her daughter in her imaginary world and often asked her: ‘Who are you today, Agnes?’ – Agnes Moorehead appeared regularly on Broadway stages during the late 1920s. She rapidly became a celebrated radio actress and joined Orson Welles’s Mercury Theater on the Air from 1940. In 1941, Orson Welles offered the ‘Fabulous Redhead’ her first film role in Citizen Kane as the cruel and bitter mother of the lead role. The part soon shaped the other roles Agnes Moorehead would be offered while they privileged heartless authoritarian or neurotic women such as the menacing aunt of Johnny Belinda, in 1948. In 1943, on the radio, the American comedian delivered one of her most legendary performances in Sorry, Wrong Number for which she created an exhausting and dynamic presentation – ‘radiant and terrifying’. In 1964, she was cast as Samantha Steven’s sarcastic and buoyant mother, in Bewitched and, although she disliked the rapid pace of television series, the show helped install the actress in the pantheon of American pop culture icons. Quite an irony for a woman who didn’t ‘particularly want to be identified as a witch.”
Agnes Moorehead went on from her imaginative childhood musings to play some of the most colorful characters on stage, radio, film, and television- perhaps her persona had been ‘shaped by Citizen Kane’but Agnes obviously had a range of emotions and archetypes she could readily tap into as she is a natural, authentic artist… making her a cultural icon recognized by so many people & an even a new generation of avid fans!
Tranberg’s book is a wonderful read, he discusses from the beginning, the wealth of material he found at the historical society at the University of Wisconsin’s Historical Society. It is a marvelous place with marble floors worn down by years and the warm & musty smell of bygone years, the building holds the archives of so many historical documents and films. For Agnes Moorehead, 159 boxes of material to be precise. He was not just a fan of Endora but her performances on old-time radio in which she really shined. His book hints that her fire and brimstone Rev. John Moorehead with his sermons had a bit of the frustrated actor in the man, and why Aggie felt drawn to theater in the first place. He also read Shakespeare to the children. Her mother Molly was the boisterous outgoing flamboyant one who lived to be 106 and died in 1990… always saying what was on her mind, unless it was a strictly personal subject… sound familiar?
He also writes about Agnes’ spirituality and religious devoutness. That is ‘wasn’t a gimmick or publicity stunt’she really was a devoted Christian. It might cause heads to tilt, how such a fundamentalist woman would pick a career where she would be surrounded by creative types, often gay people that would become her friends. And though she was not thrilled with the idea of playing a witch, she certainly conjured the most iconic embodiment of the vexing & colorful Endora.
“Lavender is just pink trying to be purple” she paraphrased Proust… by Quint Benedetti from his book- (My Travels with) Agnes Moorehead: The Lavender Lady: (more BEWITCHING than Endora)– he goes onto to say, “And now I can see all the hues of her personality in that statement: the royalty, the naivete, the selfhishness, the piercing intuition and sometimes the astonishing lack of it (her two marriages), the phoniness and the irrepressible humanity it contained, the coldness and the longing to be warm and sometimes the warmth, the insecurity and the yearning to be loved, the human simplicity touching greatness. Agnes Moorehead in a way did what so many actor and actresses never did. She left her mark on society both as an actress and as a person.” Benedetti knew Agnes Moorehead for ten years and was her personal assistant for five of those years.
In her long & unforgettable career – Agnes Moorehead’s film debut as Charles Foster Kane’s picture of stoic motherhood, the bitter and icy cold Mary Kane.
She went on to play the emotionally tortured Aunt Fanny in what Charles Transberg rightly refers to Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons as ‘a mangled masterpiece’ I would give anything to see the footage that RKO hacked to pieces… and the ending that should have been, where Fanny is playing cards in the boarding house with the other old maids. The more nihilistic coda that RKO feared would turn the public off in the midst of WWII.
Agnes Moorehead as the heartless & cruel Mrs. Reed who sends young Jane away to Thornfield in Jane Eyre-aside from mothers, aunts spinsters & old maids, Moorehead performs her first evil character! in director Robert Stevenson’s adaptation of Jane Eyre (1943).
Stage: Agnes began touring in George Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell (1951) & revival 1973, Gigi 1973 co-starring with Alfred Drake.
Selected Radio:– Mercury Theater founded with Orson Welles- Mysteries in Paris, The Gumps, The New Penny, The March of Time (1967-38), The Shadow (1937-39), The Mercury Theater of the Air (ensemble) The Campbell Playhouse, The Cavalcade of America (1938-41), Mayor of the Town
(1942-49), Suspense (1942-1960.) And of course, in 1945 she played the women-in-peril-(in bed) Mrs. Stevenson in the CBS radio mystery program Suspense- Sorry, Wrong Number, which became “radio’s most famous play.”
According to Charles Tranberg, Agnes was offered a supportive role in the film version starring Barbara Stanwyck, saying that she wisely turned it down, coming to understand that she would always be considered a ‘character actress’ and not a leading lady. This would influence her decision to focus more on the stage, beginning with her affiliation with the acclaimed Don Juan in Hell and later her very popular one-woman show.
On December 10, 2008 Celebrating Moorehead’s 108th anniversary on Turner Classic Movies- Moira Finnie writing for Movie Morlocks published a wonderful interview with Tranberg when asked if Agnes enjoyed both the mediums of radio and stage, he answered “I think she liked the challenges offered by all he mediums she worked on. The stage because it’s proximity in front of an audience. Radio because she had to create a complex characterization without being seen and could use her voice in many different ways. Film because it offered her the opportunity to visualize a characterization. Television because of its intimacy.”
Moira Finnie’s piece is wonderfully insightful and witty. While watching David O Selznick’s Since You Went Away (1945) “It struck me for the hundredth time that the presence of Agnes Moorehead in many classic and not so classic films was often what gave a movie a spine.”
“She proved her versatility throughout her career. She arranged her aquiline features accordingly to convey a believable briskness, sometimes comforting, sometimes disapproving. She most often appeared as a pragmatic presence in many films that have etched themselves on our collective memory.”
Moira Finnie aptly says it perfectly, honing in on the essence of what truly makes Agnes Moorehead such a powerful performer, “The actress could shift her characterizations easily from vinegary disapproval to warmly compassionate to richly detailed portraits of good and evil women.”
Selected Films– Citizen Kane 1941 (Mary Kane), The Magnificent Ambersons 1942 (Fanny), The Big Street 1942 (Violet Shumberg), Journey into Fear 1943 (Mrs. Mathews), Jane Eyre 1944 (Mrs.Reed), Since You Went Away 1944 (Mrs. Emily Hawkins), Dragon Seed 1944 (Third Cousin’s Wife), The Seventh Cross 1944 (Mme. Morelli), Mrs Parkington 1944 (Baroness Aspasia Conti), Our Vines Have Tender Grapes 1945 (Bruna Jacobson) Dark Passage 1947 (Madge Rapf) The Lost Moment 1947 (Juliana Borderau), Summer Holiday 1948 (Cousin Lily), The Woman in White 1948 (Countess Fosco), Johnny Belinda 1948 (Aggie MacDonald-nominated best supporting actress) The Great Sinner 1949 (Emma Getzel), Caged 1950 (Ruth Benton progressive Prison Warden), Captain Blackjack 1950 (Mrs. Emily Birk), Fourteen Hours 1951 (Christine Hill Cosick) , Showboat 1951 (Parthy Hawks), Magnificent Obsession 1954 (Nancy Ashford), All That Heaven Allows 1955 (Sara Warren), The Left Hand of God 1955 (Beryl Sigman), The Revolt of Mamie Stover 1956 (Bertha Parchman), Jeanne Eagels 1957 (Nellie Neilson), Raintree County 1957 (Ellen Shawnessy), The Story of Mankind 1957 (Queen Elizabeth I), Night of the Quarter Moon 1959 (Cornelia Nelson), The Bat 1959 (Cornelia van Gorder) Pollyanna 1960 (Mrs. Snow), Twenty Plus Two 1961 (Mrs. Eleanor Delaney) How the West Was Won 1962-(Rebecca Prescott), Who’s Minding the Store? 1963 (Mrs. Phoebe Tuttle), The Singing Nun 1966 (Sister Cluny)
Nominated four times for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Mrs. Parkington (1944),Johnny Belinda (1948), and of course as Velma in director Robert Aldrich’s Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
It is the vitriolic, cantankerous yet loyal & righteous companion Velma to Bette Davis’ tragic Southern Gothic has- been belle Charlotte that won my heart. Moorehead brought to life a raw and rugged plain quality of humanness that touched me so deeply, as did Davis’ incredible performance.
How impressed I was with her pantomime in The Invaders credited as ‘The Woman’ in Rod Serling’s sociological anthology fantasy series Twilight Zone… Moorehead had no dialogue in the episode yet she demonstrated so much art and emotion from her ‘primal woman’s body language.
She did win a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress -Laurel Award 2nd place for Top Supporting Performance for Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte 1964.
For many people, she will be remembered as Endora, Samantha, and Darrin Steven’s (the fabulous Dick York) caustic ill-provoking mother-in-law from the netherworld. who hands down the legacy of being Bewitched… from 1964-1972. Initially, Moorehead had turned down the role of Endora, and it wasn’t until Elizabeth Montgomery herself asked the actress to join the cast, never expecting it to last more than one season!
Moorehead did her string of horror films in the 70s that featured many fine actresses who had played fine ladies in their day, only to find Grand Dame Guignol roles waiting for them on the other side of fabulous fame…
What’s The Matter With Helen 1971 Curtis Harrington’s wonderful horror of personality psycho-drama where Aggie plays an Aimee Semple McPherson-type character called Sister Alma co-starring with friend Debbie Reynolds and the incomparable Shelley Winters!
And then there’s always the campy & gruesome Dear Dead Delilah 1972 she plays Delilah Charles, and appeared in Night of Terror 1972 a tv movie of the week… & Frankenstein: The True Story 1973.
Some very special clips of the immortal Aggie!
The much talked about ‘boiler scene’ Agnes as Aunt Fanny from The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Mary Kane the picture of stoic motherhood in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941)
Agnes as Baroness Conti in Mrs. Parkington (1944)
Agnes as Aggie MacDonald in Johnny Belinda (1948)
Agnes as Warden Bond with poor Eleanor Parker in prison noir classic Caged (1950)
Agnes as mystery writer Cornelia Van Gorder in The Bat (1959)
Agnes as Madame Bertha Parchman in The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956)
Agnes as Mme. Morelli in The Seventh Cross (1944)
Agnes as the indomitable Velma Cruthers in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
Agnes as The Primal ‘Woman’ in a short clip -The Invaders ep. of The Twilight Zone 1961
Agnes as the vexing but always colorful Endora in television’s popular series Bewitched
With all my love & admiration, Agnes Moorhead… You are one of a kind! -Love, Joey
“I was born a character actor. I was never really a leading man type.” –Burgess Meredith
WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON 2014
It’s here again! The most fabulous blogathon honoring those unsung stars that add that certain singular glimmer to either the cinematic sphere or the small screen sky–The character actors we’ve grown to love and follow adoringly. Thanks so much to Aurora at Once Upon A Screen, Outspoken & Freckled, and Paula’s Cinema Club for hosting such a marvelous tribute once again!
This post’s title comes from the opening narrative for Rod Serling’s favorite Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough At Last.” ‘Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers’ From Season 1 episode 8 which aired on November 20th, 1959.
Directed by John Brahm, “Time Enough At Last” tells the story of a little bespectacled bibliophile bank teller named Henry Bemis, a bookworm, a slave to the iron-fisted hand of time and all its dreary inescapable obligatory scars and yearnings.
Browbeaten by his wife, boss, and even the public at large who see him as an outcast because of his ravenous appetite to read books! Henry can’t even sneak away to read a newspaper during work hours. He’s forced to resort to studying the labels on condiment bottles. She won’t even let him read the ketchup. His harpy of a wife Helen ( Jacqueline deWit) even blackens in the lines of his books at home, calling it “doggerel“– One day as fate would have it, he steals away to the basement vault of the bank to catch up on his beloved preoccupation, when –as many Twilight Zone episodes had been infused with a dose of Rod Serling’s nihilism (as much as there is his hopeful message), the feared 50’s bomb annihilates our vision of the world that was swarming just a few moments before. Suddenly poor Henry seems to be the last man on earth. But wait… perhaps not poor Henry.
As he stumbles through the debris and carefully placed set pieces– the remnants of man’s destructive force, Henry comes upon the city’s public library filled with BOOKS!!! Glorious books…
While he must struggle against the approaching loneliness of the bleak future ahead, he begins to see the possibility of a new world where he could dream, and wander through so many scrawled worlds. Already an outsider he could finally live a life free to be as his boss rebuked him, a “reader.’
Henry starts to amass various piles of selected readings. There was time now. Time enough, at last, to read every word on the written page without interruption, interference, or judgment.
Yet…fate once again waves her fickle finger via The Twilight Zone and leaves bewildered Henry without his much-needed glasses, now they have fallen on the great stone steps, crushed by Henry’s own feet. As with every role Meredith brings to life the character of Henry Bemis with so much mirth and pathos.
He’s always just a bit peculiar, idiosyncratic, eccentric, lyrical, salty, sometimes irascible, but always captivating and distinctive, His voice, his persona, his look, his style… Burgess Meredith could always play the Henry Bemises of the world and grab our hearts because he has that rare quality of being so damn genuine.
Let’s face it even when the prolific Burgess Meredithis playing a cackling penguin– nemesis to the caped crusader Batman or the devil himself (alias the dapper and eccentric Charles Chazen with Mortimer the canary and his black and white cat Jezebel in tow) in The Sentinel 1977 based on the novel by Jeffrey Konvitz and directed by Michael Winner–he’s lovable!
He always manages to just light me up. Ebullient, mischievous, and intellectually charming, a little impish, a dash of irresolute cynicism wavering between lyrical sentimentalism. He’s got this way of reaching in and grabbing the thinking person’s heart by the head and spinning it around in dazzling circles with his marvelously characteristic voice. A mellifluous tone was used often to narrate throughout his career. (I smile even at the simplest nostalgic memory like his work on television commercials, as a kid growing up in the 60s and early 70s I fondly remember his voice for Skippy Peanut Butter. Meredith has a solicitous tone and a whimsical, mirthful manner. Here’s a clip from a precious vintage commercial showcasing Meredith’s delightfully fleecy voice.
And his puckish demeanor hasn’t been missed considering he’s actually played Old Nick at least three times as I have counted. In The Sentinel 1977, The Twilight Zone and Torture Garden! While in FreddieFrancis’ production, he is the more carnivalesque Dr. Diabolo–a facsimile of the devil given the severely theatrical make-up, goatee, and surrounding flames… he is far more menacing in Michael Winner’s 70s gem as the spiffy Charles Chazin.
And while I resist even the notion of redoing Ira Levin/William Castle and Roman Polanski’s masterpiece Rosemary’s Baby if, and I’m only saying if… I could envision anyone else playing alongside Ruth Gordon as the quirky and roguish Roman Castevet it could only be Burgess Meredith who could pull that off!
Also being a HUGE fan of Peter Falk’s inimitableColumbo– I ask why why WHY?! Was Burgess Meredith never cast as a sympathetic murderer for that relentless and lovable detective in the rumpled raincoat to pursue? Could you imagine the chemistry between these two marvelous actors?
Burgess Meredith all of 5′ 5″ tall was born in Cleveland Ohio in 1907. His father was a doctor, and his mother a Methodist revivalist. We lost him in 1997 at the age of 89. That’s when he took his “dirt nap…”the line and that memorable scene from Grumpier Old Men 1993that still makes me burst out laughing from the outlandish joy of it all!… because as Grandpa Gustafson (Meredith) tells John Gustafson (Jack Lemmon) about how he’s managed to live so long eating bacon, smoking and drinking his dinner–what’s the point…? “I just like that story!”
Burgess Meredith said himself, that he wasn’t born to be a leading man, yet somehow he always managed to create a magnetic draw toward any performance of his. As if where ever his presence in the story was, it had the same effect as looking in a side view mirror of the car “Objects are closer than they appear”–What I mean by that is how I relate his contribution becoming larger than the part might have been, had it been a different actor. Like the illusion of the mirrored reflection, he always grew larger in significance within the story–because his charisma can’t help but consume the space.
He took over the landscape and planted himself there like a little metaphysical essence, animating the narrative to a higher level of reality.
Meredith started out working with the wonderful Eva Le Gallienne joining her stage company in New York City in 1933. His first film role was that of Mio Romagna in playwright Maxwell Anderson’sWinterset 1936 where Meredith plays the son of an immigrant wrongfully executed for a crime he did not commit. He also joined the ranks of those in Hollywood who were named as “unfriendly witnesses’ by the House Un-American Activities Committee finding no work, being blacklisted in the 1950s.
During the 1960s Meredith found his way back in various television roles that gave us all a chance to see and hear his incredible spectrum of performances. One of my personal favorites, dramatically potent and vigorously absorbing was his portrayal of Duncan Kleist in the Naked Citytelevision series episode directed by Walter Grauman (Lady in A Cage 1964) Hold For Gloria Christmas.
The groundbreaking crime and human interest series NAKED CITY– cast Meredith as a 60s beat poet & derelict Dunan Kleist who is literally dying to leave the legacy of his words to a kindred spirit.
A powerful performance told through flashback sequences that recollect his murder as he storms through the gritty streets and alleyways of New York City a volatile alcoholic Greenwich Village poet trying to get back his precious manuscript of poems that were stolen as he bartered them away bit by bit for booze -he has bequeathed his work to the anonymous Gloria Christmas. The chemistry between Burgess Meredith and Eileen Heckart who plays his estranged wife is magnificent exuding years of anguish and disappointment. Heckart is another character actor who deserves a spotlight.
BURNT OFFERINGS 1976–Dan Curtis’ priceless treasure of creepy camp featuring Karen Black, Oliver Reed, and once again uniting the incredible Eileen Heckart with our beloved Burgess Meredith as the ominous Roz and Arnold Allardyce.
Another memorable role for me is his spirited performance as Charles Chazin alias The Devil in one of my all-time favorite horror classics The Sentinel. “Friendships often blossom into bliss.” – Charles Chazin. Ooh, that line still gives me chills…
Many people will probably love him for his iconic character study of a crusty cantankerous washed-up boxing trainer named Mickey in the Rocky series of films. Or perhaps, for his colorful cackling or should I say quacking villain in the television series Batman -his iconic malefactor — The Penguin!
IMDb fact-His character, the Penguin, was so popular as a villain on the television series Batman (1966), the producers always had a Penguin script ready in case Meredith wanted to appear as a guest star.
Burgess Meredith will always remain one of the greatest, most versatile & prolific actors, a character in fact… beloved and eternal…
“Like the seasons of the year, life changes frequently and drastically. You enjoy it or endure it as it comes and goes, as it ebbs and flows.”- Burgess Meredith
“I’ll just take amusement at being a paradox.”- Burgess Meredith
[on his childhood] “All my life, to this day, the memory of my childhood remains grim and incoherent. If I close my eyes and think back, I see little except violence and fear. In those early years, I somehow came to understand I would have to draw from within myself whatever emotional resources I needed to go wherever I was headed. As a result, for years, I became a boy who lived almost totally within himself.”- Burgess Meredith
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