Spring Trivia – Audrey Totter, Joseph Cotten, Jane Russell, Vincent Price and Marie Windsor
There are not many things I love in life more than classic movie trivia. In celebration of spring, this month’s Noir Nook is serving up some trivial tidbits on some of my favorite noir actors and actresses and some of their iconic noir films. Enjoy!
Audrey Totter starred with Robert Montgomery in Lady in the Lake (1946), a unique MGM feature that is shot from the point of view of the main character. Totter stated that MGM chief Louis B. Mayer was overly aware of the “MGM look,” and while watching the daily rushes for Lady in the Lake, Mayer noticed that Totter’s hair was disheveled in a scene where she’s awakened from her bed. Mayer insisted that the scene be reshot, with Totter’s hair carefully coiffed and her makeup in place. “He said, ‘A Metro star must look her best, even asleep,’” Totter recalled. “He was peddling dreams. Reality never interested him.”
The director of The Third Man (1949), Carol Reed, originally wanted James Stewart to play the part of pulp novelist Holly Martins. The film’s producer, David O. Selznick, insisted on Joseph Cotten, who was under contract at the time to Selznick’s production company. According to Cotten, Reed started shooting the film’s final scene without an ending. It’s the scene where Cotten’s character is waiting for Alida Valli and she walks right past him like he’s not there. “He made that up on the spot and it’s wonderful,” Cotten said. “I’m in the foreground waiting patiently for her to walk into my arms and it never happens.”
One of Jane Russell’s three noirs was The Las Vegas Story (1952), co-starring Victor Mature and Vincent Price. Russell said that Mature “didn’t give a damn” about the film. “Sleepwalked through it and then ran for lunch when the commissary bell sounded,” she said. Russell also recalled that at the premiere of the film, she had a swollen face – the result of being hit by her then-husband Bob Waterfield. “In those days gals were supposed to grin and bear it,” Russell said. “And the PR staff said I’d been hit by a car door. But everybody knew the truth.”
Price said that his “best-ever” film may have been the 1944 noir Laura, where he played Shelby Carpenter, a ne’er-do-well who is one of several suspects in the “murder” of the title character. Price said that he found the script’s dialogue to be “brittle and clever.” He also recalled that the film’s original director – Rouben Mamoulian – wanted Laird Cregar for the part of Waldo Lydecker. Mamoulian was later replaced by the film’s producer, Otto Preminger, who chose Clifton Webb for the part. “Laird was personally devastated and that rejection began a downward personal spiral,” Price said. “But Otto was right. I think the casting was near perfect.”
Windsor described her character in The Killing (1956) as a “horrible woman.” In this Stanley Kubrick-directed feature, Windsor played the wife of mousy racetrack cashier Elisha Cook, Jr., who’s stepping out on her devoted spouse with the younger and infinitely more attractive Vince Edwards. Windsor had been cast in what she termed a “terrible” Roger Corman film – Swamp Women (1956) – that overlapped the shooting schedule for The Killing. “But I loved the script of The Killing and didn’t want to lose it.” Luckily, Kubrick started his picture two days late and Corman let Windsor out of Swamp Women two days early. (Swamp Women, incidentally, got a great send-up on Mystery Science Theater 3000!)
Stay tuned to the Noir Nook for more trivia in future months!
– Karen Burroughs Hannsberry for Classic Movie Hub
Karen Burroughs Hannsberry is the author of the Shadows and Satin blog, which focuses on movies and performers from the film noir and pre-Code eras, and the editor-in-chief of The Dark Pages, a bimonthly newsletter devoted to all things film noir. Karen is also the author of two books on film noir – Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of Film and Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. You can follow Karen on Twitter at @TheDarkPages.
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