Steve Hayes regales us each week with his dishy, funny, and informative classic movie recommendations as the Tired Old Queen at the Movies!
Every Monday, I drive myself crazy trying to decide whom I can talk about that will stir the imaginations of the hundreds of hunks who read Hunk du Jour each week. I inevitably end up resorting to the ones that, whenever I see them in one classic movie or another, always manage to "float my boat." This week, I went with three hot n' hunky brunettes. One of whom, John Hodiak, is featured prominently, sans shirt and deliciously tattooed, in this weeks episode of Tired Old Queen at the Movies - Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat. It also stars the remarkable and often hysterical, Miss Tallulah Bankhead.
During World War Two, there were several actors whose job it was to fill the bills and hold down the fort at 20th Century Fox and the other studios, while the majority of the leading men were off to war. This proved to be good for the careers of those on the home front, in fact many a few of them, like Dana Andrews, managed to continue their popularity long after the Clark Gables, Tyone Powers, and Robert Taylors had returned from the war. Those not as fortunate as Andrews had to find outlets in either "B" pictures or television in order to keep going.
Three of these were John Hodiak, John Payne and George Montgomery. All were devastatingly handsome and relatively talented, with Hodiak possibly edging out the other two by a nose. Two of the three actually appeared in a few classic films. Hodiak starred in the film version of John Hersey's A Bell For Adano with Gene Tierney and Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat, written by John Steinbeck. John Payne appeared in the film that welcomed Tyrone Power back from the war, Darryl F. Zanuck's hugely expensive mounting of Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge as well the Christmas classic, for which he is most recognized, Miracle On 34th Street with Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood and Oscar winner Edmund Gwen as Santa Claus. George Montgomery even got to play Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandlers' famous detective in the film version of The High Window known as The Brasher Doubloon. All three hunks married within the business, Hodiak to actress Anne Baxter, Payne to actress Anne Shirley and Montgomery to singer Dinah Shore and all three subsequently divorced their more famous spouses.
In the end, they were merely substitutes for the bigger box office stars. Payne and Montgomery were used, often in musicals, to lend able support to the leading ladies of the lot, Sonia Henie, Alice Faye, Bette Grable, Gene Tierney and Carole Landis. Hodiak was initially signed by MGM, where he was usually featured third or fourth down the list in support of big male stars like Gable and Tracy. He also got stuck in the occasional musical, but at least in The Harvey Girls he got to star with Judy Garland.
Hodiak came from an immigrant Polish background and worked hard on his career. He'd started in radio and was heard, seen and signed by an MGM talent scout. He had a sexy, dangerous side, a chip on his shoulder attitude that proved to be very popular with the female audience. He played characters that tended to walk the edge and he was never afraid to play someone who wasn't particularly appealing. He wanted to be a good actor and he could be strong, dynamic and tough. On loan out to FOX, he managed to get leads in "A" pictures. In Lifeboat, he more than managed to hold his own opposite the scene stealing Tallulah Bankhead. He scored another success in Joseph L. Mankiweicz' noir-ish Somewhere In the Night, as an amnesiac involved in a murder. Hired by Paramount for Desert Fury (1948), he played a psychopathic gangster romancing and menacing Lizabeth Scott, whose career was finished in the fifties when Confidential Magazine hinted at her possible bi-sexuality.
With the advent of "The Method" and a new crop of actors trained in the technique coming in from New York, the competition was suddenly a lot younger and tougher and Hodiak found less movie work in the fifties. He did some live television, then unexpectedly died in his early forties of a massive heart attack.
John Payne and George Montgomery were tall, dark, handsome and very, very sexy. Payne particularly had a naturally wry and sophisticated air that lent itself well to both comedies and dramas. Montgomery, being somewhat rougher around the edges and a bit more masculine, found his niche in westerns. Having found work in series television in the fifties, they each retired from show business relatively early and, through shrewd investments, lived comfortably into ripe old ages.
Though none of these men were the object of Hollywood scandal, they never the less provided audiences with a lot of entertainment and we're easy on the eyes to boot. Some times in Hollywood, to quote an old song, "a kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh" and a hunk is just a hunk.