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Reviews, Rants and All That Other Good Stuff

Stars of the Week: Gloria Grahame & Ward Bond April 24, 2007

Filed under: Film Reviews — meganclose @ 11:54 am

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Best known for her portrayals of sultry ladies of the silver screen, Gloria Grahame was born Gloria Hallward in Los Angeles, California.  From her birth in 1923, Grahame was groomed to become an actress by her former stage star mother, Jean Grahame. 

Grahame so loved the craft that she quit Hollywood High just sort of graduation and made her way to New York.  There she appeared in a couple of Broadway plays, and was spotted by MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer.  He signed her to a contract with his studio for $250 a week.  Her first real public recognition came from her appearance in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (see below), on loan-out from MGM. 

After a short period longer, her contract was sold to RKO, and it was here that she would shoot to stardom.  She was nominated for an Oscar 1947 (“Crossfire”) and 1952 (“The Bad and the Beautiful”).  It was also during this time period that she would marry and divorce the director Nicolas Ray. 

Her career began to slow down in the late 1950s.  On-set, she began to get the reputation for being “difficult.”  Off-set, she became scandalized after marrying her former stepson, Anthony Ray, her fourth (and final) marriage.

Grahame returned to the New York stage, and died of cancer in October 1981.  She was survived by her four children, and her sister Joy, who was also an actress.

 

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“The Big Heat”: I haven’t seen this one in years and years, but “The Big Heat” is one of Gloria Grahame’s best-known performances.  Glenn Ford stars as Dave Bannion, a police detective investigating a fellow officer’s suicide.  It all seems routine, until someone claiming to have evidence is murdered and he is ordered off the case.  When a bomb meant for Bannion kills his wife (Jocelyn Brando), Bannion starts off on a path of vengeance, getting involved along the way with Debby (Grahame), the disfigured ex-mistress of mobster Vince Stone (Lee Marvin).  Directed by Fritz Lang, the film is based on a Saturday Evening Post serial.

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“The Bad and the Beautiful”: Though a bit dated, The Bad and the Beautiful is an interesting look into the mean world of Hollywood.  Told mostly through flashback, a director (Walter Pidgeon), an actress (Lana Turner), and a writer (Dick Powell) remember how uber-producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) did them wrong.  While it is predominantly Douglas’ film, each story gets an equal amount of time devoted to it.  Grahame shines as the writer’s wife, Rosemary, whose brief screentime give the film a good part of its poignancy.  This is a nice departure for the actress, as her character is much more of the girl next door type.  It won five Oscars in 1953, including a Best Supporting Actress award for Grahame.

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“In a Lonely Place”:  This is another dated film taking place in Hollywood.  Humphrey Bogart stars as a troubled screenwriter who may or may not have murdered a young woman.  Grahame co-stars as Laurel, his neighbor and alibi.  The two soon begin an ill-fated love affair.  As the police investigation continues, Laurel begins to be more and more conflicted over her boyfriend’s supposed innocence.  Bogart’s acting is cheesy, but it allows Grahame the chance to steal every scene she’s in. 

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Charmingly gruff actor Ward Bond made 271 film and television appearances in his thirty-one year career, averaging 10 to twenty films a year (30 in 1935 alone).  Quite the illustrious life for the former Benkelman, Nebraska boy.  While a student at the University of Southern California, he was a roommate and football teammate of John Wayne, who got him work as an extra.  When director John Ford upped Bond from extra to supporting player in Salute, the two became fast friends and would go on to work together 26 more times.

Things got a little complicated when this “ardent but intellectual patriot” became president of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals in the 1940s.  The ultra right-wing group’s main platform was the opposition to Communists in the United States, and became a major proponent in the blacklisting of the 1950s.  Because of this, many liberal directors worked to keep Bond unemployed.  For years he mostly appeared in movies with his buddy John Wayne or other similarly politically-motivated artists.  Bond made his comeback, though, in 1957 as Seth Adams in the television show “Wagon Train.”  He died in 1960 in a Dallas hotel room while in town to attend a football game.

His friendship with John Wayne was a life-long one.  Legend has it that Bond was hit by a car on the way to Wayne’s wedding, got some crutches and performed his best man duties anywayWayne read the eulogy at Bond’s funeral, and was left a shotgun that Bond had accidentally shot him with on a hunting trip many years earlier.

Inducted posthumously into the Western Performers Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Wardell E. Bond is survived by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a memorial park in his old hometown.

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“The Searchers”:  This is one of my favorite films of all time.  Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returns from the Civil War, only to find his family massacred by Indians and his beloved niece, Debbie, kidnapped.  He vows to find her and bring her home, aided by his “half-breed” adopted nephew, Martin  (Jeffrey Hunter).  Their quest takes years, and Martin begins to worry that Ethan may not bring his niece home after all.  Common thought at the time was that once a white woman lived with the Indians too long, she was more like them (and therefore was greeted with the same fate as all of the other Indians).  While all of the great western elements are there, it is the relationships between the characters that bring the most depth to the film.  Ward Bond appears as Reverand Captain Samuel Johnston Clayton, who helps in their effort.

 

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“My Darling Clementine”: In John Ford’s re-telling of the events leading up to the showdown at the OK Corral, Henry Fonda stars as Wyatt Earp, who moves to Tombstone in an effort to avenge his brother’s murder.  He takes on the job as town marshal and deputizes his brothers, Virgil (Tim Holt) and Morgan (Bond) as deputies.  He has an embittered friendship with Doc Holliday (Victor Mature) and falls for Clementine (Cathy Downs), an old flame of Holliday’s.  The film reaches a tense climax during the Earp/Clanton brothers showdown.

 

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“Maltese Falcon”:  One of the best film noirs of all time, “Maltese Falcon” stars Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, the private eye of all private eyes.  After his partner is murdered while tailing a man, he learns that the woman who hired them, Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor), is not who she says she is.  He becomes entangled in a dangerous hunt for a priceless statue.  Ward Bond plays Spade’s policeman friend, Tom.

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“It’s a Wonderful Life”:  It’s highly unlikely that you’ve never seen or heard of this 1946 classic.  While quite the box office disappointment upon it’s initial release, “It’s a Wonderful Life” has become a Christmas classic.  James Stewart stars as George Bailey, a devoted son/brother/husband/father/friend, who has always put everyone else’s needs and desires before his own.  One Christmas Eve, his Uncle Billy (Capra regular Thomas Mitchell) misplaces an $8,000 loan.  Knowing that he will more than likely be arrested and the savings and loan office he’s struggled to keep afloat for years will crumble, George becomes despondent.  After lashing out at his family, he gets drunk and decides to commit suicide.  Before he can do so, Clarence (Henry Travers) appears, identifying himself as George’s guardian angel.  He decides to show George what the world would be like if he hadn’t been born.  Gloria Grahame stars as Violet, a saucy local who has always had her eye on George (much to the chagrin of Mary Bailey, played beautifully by Donna Reed).  Ward Bond appears as Officer Bert, a loyal friend of George’s.  The acting is phenomenal, and you can’t help but loving life a little more after every viewing.

 

Photos courtesy of imdb.com

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