Happy Birthday to Bradford Dillman April 14

Bradford Dillman in a scene from the film ‘Circle Of Deception’, 1960. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)

Untroubled good looks, faraway poise & self-control, with a sartyrial smile and brushed-aside sophistication  – that’s Bradford Dillman

Bradford Dillman is one of those ubiquitous & versatile actors who you find popping up just about everywhere, and whenever I either see him in the credits or think about some of his performances, I am immediately happified by his presence in my mind and on screen.  It’s this familiarity that signposts for me whatever upcoming diversion I’m in store for, will be something memorable indeed.

He’s been cast as a saint, a psychopath, elite ivy league intellectuals with an edge, unconventional scientists, military figures, droll and prickly individualists, clueless bureaucrats, or drunken malcontents and he’s got a sort of cool that is wholly appealing.

Bradford Dillman was omni-present starting out on the stage, and major motion pictures at the end of the 50s and by the 1960s he began his foray into popular episodic television series and appeared in a slew of unique made for television movies throughout the 1970s and 80s, with the addition of major motion picture releases through to the 90s. His work, intersecting many different genres from melodramas,historical dramas, thrillers, science fiction and horror.

There are a few actors of the 1960s & 70s decades that cause that same sense of blissed out flutters in my heart — that is of course if you’re as nostalgic about those days of classic cinema and television as I am. I get that feeling when I see actors like Stuart Whitman, Dean Stockwell, Roy Thinnes, Warren Oates, James Coburn, David Janssen, Michael Parks, Barbara Parkins, Joanna Pettet ,Joan Hackett , Sheree North,  Diana Sands, Piper Laurie, Susan Oliver and Diane Baker.  I have a fanciful worship for the actors who were busy working in those decades, who weren’t Hollywood starlets or male heart throbs yet they possessed a realness, likability, a certain individual knack and raw sex-appeal.

Bradford Dillman was born in San Francisco in 1930 to a prominent local family. During the war he was sent to The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut. At Hotchkiss, senior year he played Hamlet. At Yale he studied English Literature and performed in amateur theatrical productions and worked at the Playhouse in Connecticut. Dillman served in the US Marines in Korea (1951-1953) and made a pact that he’d give himself five years to succeed as an actor before he called it quits. Lucky for us, he didn’t wind up in finance the way he father wanted him to.

Actor Bradford Dillman (Photo by  John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Dillman enrolled and studied at the Actors Studio, he spent several seasons apprenticing with the Sharon Connecticut Playhouse before making his professional acting debut in an adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarecrow” in 1953 with fellow Studio students Eli Wallach and James Dean. Dillman referred to Dean as ‘a wacky kid’ but ‘very gifted’.

He only appeared in two shows in October 1962 of The Fun Couple in 1957 with Dyan Cannon and Jane Fonda before the play closed in New York only after two days.

We lost Bradford Dillman last year in January 2018. I was so saddened to hear the news. And I missed the chance to tribute his work then, but now that his birthday is here, I feel like celebrating his life rather than mourning his death, so it’s just as well.

Bradford Dillman wrote an autobiography called Are You Anybody? An Actor’s Life, published in 1997 with a (foreword by Suzy Parker) in which he downplays the prolific contribution he made to film and television and acting in general. Though Dillman didn’t always hold a high opinion of some of the work he was involved in, appearing in such a vast assortment of projects, he always came across as upbeat and invested in the role.

“Bradford Dillman sounded like a distinguished, phony, theatrical name, so I kept it.”

[about his career] “I’m not bitter, though. I’ve had a wonderful life. I married the most beautiful woman in the world. Together we raised six children, each remarkable in his or her own way and every one a responsible citizen. I was fortunate to work in a profession where I looked forward to going to work every day. I was rewarded with modest success. The work sent me to places all over the world I’d never been able to afford visiting otherwise. I keep busy and I’m happy. And there are a few good films out there that I might be remembered for.”

Continue reading “Happy Birthday to Bradford Dillman April 14”

Saturday Nite Sublime: The Baby (1973)

THE BABY 1973

The Baby film poster

The poster for The Baby alone is disturbing in it’s ability to create an instant queasy feeling and queer flutter that hits your senses due to the inappropriate visual environment. A crib with a large pair of legs hanging over the edge. The hands holding an axe and a sexualized young female holding a teddy bear. So let’s just get these words out of the way for starters…

DISTURBING, repulsive, odd, subversive PERVERSE, TRANSGRESSIVE, unnatural, deviant provocative DEGENERATE immoral warped twisted wicked KINKY inflammatory abhorrent, repugnant offensive objectionable, vile, NASTY, sickening stomach turning, detestable, abominable, monstrous horrendous awful dreadful unsavory unpleasant, GROTESQUE ghastly horrid flagrant audacious unpalatable unwholesome baleful, improper immoral indecent DEPRAVED salacious iniquitous criminal nefarious REPREHENSIBLE scandalous disgraceful deplorable shameful morally corrupt, obscene unsettling disquieting dismaying alarming frightful sinister WEIRD menacing threatening freakish sensationalist, violating breach of decency straying from the norm, awkward unethical reactionary QUEASY inappropriate improper unorthodox taboo malapropos unseemly strange tawdry psycho-sexual lunatic madness sleazy bizarre peculiar, curious queer controversial offbeat outre abnormal outlandish shocking and sick…..?

Touching on so many taboos and cultural deviance is director Ted Post’s shocker The Baby 1973. starring the mighty Ruth Roman.

Ruth Roman
Look at that sensual face… what a beauty Ruth Roman
Strangers on a Train
Still of Ruth Roman and Robert Walker in Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951)

Day of the Animals 1977, Look in Any Window 1961, Bitter Victory 1957, Strangers on a Train noir thrillers Down Three Dark Streets 1954, The Window 1949, various television performances The Naked City’s ‘The Human Trap’ Climax!, Dr Kildare, The Outer Limits, Burke’s Law, The Name of the Game, I Spy, Marcus Welby M.D, Mannix, Ironside, Gunsmoke, The Sixth Sense, Mod Squad and more!

And I’ve got to mention that Anjanette Comer is an excellent rival to play the ‘outsider’ antagonist against Ruth Roman in this battle of wills.

Anjanette Comer Five Desperate Women
Anjanette Comer stars in the ABC movie of the week’s Women -in -Peril feature film FIVE DESPERATE WOMEN 1971…

Directed by Ted Post who gave us Beneath the Planet of the Apes 1970, perhaps my favorite of the ‘ape’ films after the original. Saw each of the series during their theatrical release. Sadly Ted Post passed away just this past August 2013.

beneath the planet of the apes
James Franciscus in Ted Post’s Beneath the Planet of the Apes 1970
Ted Post and Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood & Ted Post collaborating on the set of Magnum Force
He directed television for years beginning in the 50s.  I love the TV movie also starring Beneath the Planet of the Apes blond hunk James Franciscus… who co-starred with the fabulous Lee Grant in Night Slaves (1970) and Dr. Cook’s Garden 1971 with a murderous Bing Crosby. And hey while I”m touting made for TV movies how bout Five Desperate Women 1971 where he most likely met Anjanette Comer. He’s also responsible for several episodes of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), including “Mr. Garrity and the Graves” and “The Fear.”  Post also directed two episodes of the Boris Karloff horror anthology show that you know I truly love, Thriller (1961-1962), The Specialists & Papa Benjamin. And geez Columbo ’75-’76, A Matter of Honor and A Case of Immunity. Most people probably cite him for Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry vehicle Magnum Force 1973 or Good Guys Wear Black 1978. Ted Post knows how to put together a thriller!

The Baby’s screenplay was penned by Abe Polsky  (The Rebel Rousers 1970, The Gay Deceivers 1969)According to IMDb trivia, it took almost a year for Polsky to convince Post to direct the film because Post found the topic too ‘dark.’ While in retrospect the film must have ruffled many feathers, and the themes are truly disturbing, there isn’t anything in there that hasn’t been done in a contemporary film in some way, and ideas that force us to think are a good thing. Especially when it’s wearing 70s clothes, and showcasing groovy genre character actors.

The seventies was rife with psycho-sexual theatre that showcased really uncomfortable themes, but somehow managed to create an atmosphere of low-budget art. Consider this, haven’t you seen episodes of Law & Order SVU, Criminal Minds, & CSI where some of the most brutal acts of inhumanity and grotesque forms of torture and abuse are highlighted in graphic detail.  In the 70s it was more nuanced, bathed in muted lighting gels amidst experimental cinematic framing and absolutely moving musical scores.

So on one level refer to the litany of words above and assign your favorite one to The Baby, yet on another level, let’s look at this film and ‘react’ to it and recognize its power.

Baby's photo anthropological in the way it shows his captivity bars of crib
Baby’s photograph is lensed in an ‘anthropological’ way as it shows him in captivity-the bars of his crib symbolically like the bars of a prison

Continue reading “Saturday Nite Sublime: The Baby (1973)”