Steve Hayes regales us each week with his dishy, funny, and informative classic movie recommendations as the Tired Old Queen at the Movies!
Producer David O' Selznick was a legendary creator of stars. Though he was more noted for his actresses, Ingrid Bergman, Jennifer Jones, Joan Fontaine and of course, Vivien Leigh, he did manage to make stars of two or three hunks that became important actors of the period and made lasting impressions on movie going audiences for years to come. None of these "Hunks" were prone to scandal. All three kept relatively low profiles had few marriages, and preferred staying with one or two wives for most of their careers.
Joseph Cotten came to Hollywood in the early 1940's as part of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre. His first role was In Citizen Kane (1941) and he went on to star in Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) and Journey Into Fear (1942). Selznick immediately saw the leading man potential in Cotten and cast him in his huge WWII tribute to the women on the home front, Since You Went Away, (1944) with Claudette Colbert and Selznick's personal paramour, Jennifer Jones. Audiences took to Cotten right away. He had a knowing sexiness that wasn't overt, but rather, emanated from an obviously self-confident man who'd had experience with women and wasn't afraid to show it. Selznick began building him as a romantic leading man. At his home studio he made I'll Be Seeing You (1945) with Ginger Rogers then Love Letters (1945) on loan out with Jennifer Jones. Over the next few years Cotten acted in four movies with Jones, including Duel in the Sun (1946) and the ghostly love story, Portrait Of Jennie (1948). He also appeared opposite Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Teresa Wright and eventually Marilyn Monroe. He was an easygoing fellow and eventually moved into character parts in movies and television in his later years.
Another romantic star in the Selznick line-up was handsome French actor Louis Jourdan, whom he brought over for his American debut in Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case (1947). Jourdan's debonair demeanor, continental flair and beautiful boy looks which never seemed to fade, made him a huge success with Gay lads and ladies everywhere. He scored huge successes in the Forties in such romantic vehicles as: Letter From An Unknown Woman (1948) with Joan Fontaine, Madame Bovary (1949) with Jennifer Jones, in the Fifties with Bird Of Paradise (1950) with Debra Paget, Gigi (1958) with Leslie Caron and eventually, the Sixties with the all star The V.I.P.s (1963) starring Liz Taylor and Richard Burton.
However, Selznick's biggest male star was undoubtedly Gregory Peck. He cast him opposite Ingrid Bergman in his second picture with Alfred Hitchcock, Spellbound (1945) and it made Peck a romantic sensation. Tall, dark and handsome, with a timber in his voice that set hearts murmuring, Peck was the ideal all-American leading man of the late 40's. The ""Hunk Personified". For his home studio, Selznick also cast him in Hitchcock's The Paradine Case with gorgeous, Alida Valli and the steamy western Duel In the Sun with Jennifer Jones. Their steamy love scenes raised the hackles of The Legion of Decency and the wrath of the Catholic Church, where it was "banned in Boston." Peck became the highest paid leading man in Hollywood and received four Oscar nominations in his first six years in Hollywood. Eventually, Peck's contract was sold to Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox to help Selznick get out of debt and it was there that he starred in the widescreen Cinemascope epics of the 1950's.
In the late '90's, I traveled to New Haven to see "An Evening With Gregory Peck", in which the actor, now in his seventies, sauntered on stage in the suit he wore in "To Kill A Mockingbird"(1962) and for the next two hours, simply and graciously, answered questions from the audience. It was an unforgettable evening. Beginning with a half hour of film clips that he'd assembled, the conclusion had him kissing his five favorite leading ladies: Ingrid Bergman, Jennifer Jones, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and my favorite actress, Susan Hayward. Sooner or later at these types of evenings, someone inevitably asks a stupid question. However, the stupid question of this particular evening, brought about a remarkable response which I've carried with me ever since. A woman stood up and asked Peck: "Why do you think you won the Oscar for To Kill A Mockingbird, when it was obvious that it should have gone to Peter O'Toole for Lawrence Of Arabia?" The audience guffawed in shock and a hush swept over the auditorium. After a moment, Peck giggled and said; "I honestly don't know. I thought Jack Lemmon would win it for Days Of Wine and Roses. The only way I can rationalize it is to say that sometimes in this business, it's just your turn. There's no other way to explain it. And there's no telling when it's going to happen. But I will say, the hardest thing to do in this business is to wait, be ready to grab it and make the most of it when it is your turn." These were wise words from a wonderful man. Despite being well past his prime, Peck still cut an impressive figure. A genuine "Hunk-A-Saurus Maximus", who made this TOQ's heart skip a beat or two.
Shadow Of A Doubt (1943) - IMDB - Netflix
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) - IMDB - Netflix
Gaslight (1944) - IMDB - Netflix
Love Letters (1945) - IMDB - Netflix
The Third Man (1948) - IMDB - Netflix
Niagara (1953) - IMDB - Netflix
GREGORY PECK :
The Yearling (1946) - IMDB - Netflix
Twelve O'Clock High (1949) - IMDB - Netflix
The Snows Of Kilimanjaro (1952) - IMDB - Netflix
Roman Holiday (1953) - IMDB - Netflix
Moby Dick (1957) - IMDB - Netflix
To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) - IMDB - Netflix