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Forgotten Faces of Classic Hollywood (1 Viewer)

Emcee

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I always enjoyed her work, but her film persona and Marilyn's were worlds apart, and I could never have seen her as a replacement for Marilyn despite the studio's intentions.
She really ended up being like a girl-next-door-type version of Marilyn. I really enjoy THE LIEUTENANT WORE SKIRTS, which just happens to be one of my favorite comedies from the mid-1950s. Sheree's beautiful in it, and it proves how well she could've done had she gotten better directors.

Truthfully, though, Sheree got better pictures and directors than Jayne Mansfield got a few years later, even though Mansfield was North's "successor" and even if Mansfield was a "bigger" threat to Monroe.
 

Emcee

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Yesterday at work an older co-worker of mine mentioned the movie A SUMMER PLACE after hearing a song on our work radio that reminded her of that film. She asked me had I ever heard of it because she knows I like watching old movies. Naturally, I had seen A SUMMER PLACE before on Turner Classic Movies. She mentioned Sandra Dee during the discussion as being one of the movie's stars, and it got me to thinking that Sandra Dee is a Forgotten Face of Classic Hollywood.

Sure, there might be some people out there that draw the line between the song "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" from the musical GREASE, but there could also be some that think that song is referencing a fictional film star inside the GREASE universe (just like I did once upon a time). Either way, Sandra Dee isn't high on the radar these days.

Sandra Dee came to Hollywood in the late 1950s, at the end of the Golden Age, at a time when the gold was beginning to tarnish. She made her film debut in UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957), aged fifteen. She was in fine company as the film starred Jean Simmons, Joan Fontaine, and a young Paul Newman. It was a big success. She provided the voice for the animated film THE SNOW QUEEN (1957) and was given a top role in THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE (1958).

She signed with Universal in 1958. She was noticed by producer Ross Hunter, who gave her substantial roles in two of his films: THE RESTLESS YEARS (1958) and A STRANGER IN MY ARMS (1959). Hunter then cast her as Lana Turner's daughter in a remake of IMITATION OF LIFE (1959), which grossed over $50 million at the worldwide box office. It held the record for Universal's highest-grossing movie in history, and made Dee a household name. She was briefly loaned to Columbia where she made GIDGET (1959), although further contract obligations rendered her unable to return for the film's eventual sequels. Back at Universal, she appeared in THE WILD AND THE INNOCENT (1959), a western comedy starring Audie Murphy. A SUMMER PLACE (1959) was presented in the image of IMITATION OF LIFE and PEYTON PLACE, and placed Dee and Troy Donahue as love interests.

Dee again appeared opposite Lana Turner in PORTRAIT IN BLACK (1960), which was critically bashed despite achieving public acclaim. She starred in ROMANOFF AND JULIET (1960) opposite John Gavin. Universal cast Dee in TAMMY TELL ME TRUE in 1961, where the actress officially took over the "Tammy" role from Debbie Reynolds, who had originated the character in 1957. It was popular, even more so than her next film, COME SEPTEMBER (1961), co-starring singer Bobby Darrin, whom she married in December 1960. They couple also starred together in IF A MAN ANSWERS (1962) and THAT FUNNY FEELING (1965).

Her career stalled in the late 1960s. She rarely returned to acting following her divorce from Bobby Darrin in 1967. She died from kidney disease in 2005, aged sixty-two.

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Emcee

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For a time, Sandra Dee was a very big deal. Beginning in 1960, she was listed among the top ten box-office stars for four straight years.
She was more popular than many "adult" leading ladies of her time. The only lady more popular than Sandra Dee in the early 1960s was Doris Day, who was number one at the box office in 1960 and again from 1962 to 1964. There were a few years, I believe, where Sandra Dee and Doris Day were the only two women in the top ten.

It's odd, too. Sandra Dee was in her late teens/early twenties, whereas Doris Day was a woman in her late thirties/early forties at the time. There were other women dominating the box office, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Debbie Reynolds, and Sophia Loren, but not one of them reached Day and Dee's popularity in polls during this era.
 

Emcee

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Jean Peters was well-known throughout the 1950s for refusing to be turned into a sex symbol. She preferred playing series, less glamorous roles than many of her contemporaries. She was a contract player for 20th Century-Fox from 1947 to 1955.

Peters left college in the late 1940s to pursue her acting ambitions, although she would occasionally return to school to obtain degrees. She signed with Fox in 1947, who decided to make her their protege. She originally announced to have a small role in the film I WONDER WHO'S KISSING HER NOW (1947), but this never bore fruition. She was also touted for a minor part in SCUDDA HOO! SCUDDA HAY! (1948) as an "ugly duckling" with painted on freckles, but the producers eventually found her unsuitable. Her big break came when she was cast in CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE in 1947, essentially replacing Linda Darnell. The film co-starred handsome leading man Tyrone Power and was a box office hit. Film critic Leonard Maltin said that the success of the film had her playing "sexy spitfires, often in period dramas and westerns" over the next few years. She was slated for a similar role in YELLOW SKY (1948), but refused the part as "too sexy", and was replaced with Anne Baxter. Fox briefly placed her on suspension for refusing the role.

Her second film, DEEP WATERS (1948), was another success. In 1948, she was called one of the biggest "finds" of the year alongside Barbara Bel Geddes, Alida Valli, and Richard Widmark. She was apparently enthusiastic about appearing in MR. BELVEDERE GOES TO COLLEGE (1949), starring Clifton Webb, but Shirley Temple ended up replacing her. She was instead reassigned to play Ray Milland's love interest in IT HAPPENS EVERY SPRING (1949), and while the film was a hit, Peters' performance was mostly overlooked. She supported Paul Douglas in the period drama LOVE THAT BRUTE (1950), and was given a supporting role in TAKE CARE OF MY LITTLE GIRL (1951), starring Jeanne Crain.

Most critics generally point to the film ANNE OF THE INDIES (1951) as the film that finally brought Jean Peters her breakthrough as an mainstream actress. That same year, she had a supporting role in AS YOUNG AS YOU FEEL (1951), a B-movie comedy that offered Peters her first on-screen pairing opposite a young Marilyn Monroe. The following year, Peters was chosen by director Elia Kazan to star in VIVA ZAPATA! (1952), co-starring Marlon Brando. Her performance received rave reviews and the movie was a box office success. She appeared in O. HENRY'S FULL HOUSE (1952), an anthology drama featuring an ensemble cast, consisting of Jeanne Crain, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Laughton, Richard Widmark, Anne Baxter, and David Wayne among others.

In late 1952, she was cast in NIAGARA, essentially replacing Anne Baxter. The film was one of the first film noirs filmed in Technicolor. During production, the emphasis of the story was shifted towards Marilyn Monroe, who was, by that time, more successful than Jean Peters. NIAGARA was one of the biggest hits of 1953 when it was released. Shortly thereafter she was chosen over Monroe to play a femme fatale in PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET, a role that Monroe apparently helped her study for to understand the role of a siren. That same year, she starred in A BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER, co-starring Joseph Cotten, and the film noir VICKI, a remake of the drama I WAKE UP SCREAMING. She was chosen to replace Jeanne Crain in THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN in 1954, which was a big success. Warner Brothers borrowed her for APACHE (1954), and she was back at Fox for the western BROKEN LANCE (1954). She played a Presbyterian minister's wife in A MAN CALLED PETER (1955), which ended up being her final film.

Deciding she had enough, Peters allowed her Fox contract to expire. While it is debatable whether or not she initially intended to retire, she never again returned to the silver screen. She married billionaire Howard Hughes in 1957, and she gradually drifted away from the spotlight. Rumors that she had been touted for a top role in THE BEST OF EVERYTHING in 1959 proved unfounded. She had officially retired from screen acting. She later had acclaimed roles on television. She appeared in the made-for-television film WINESBURG, OHIO (1973) and the miniseries THE MONEYCHANGERS (1976). Her final acting role was in an episode of MURDER, SHE WROTE in 1988.

She died two days before her seventy-fourth birthday in 2000 due to leukemia complications.

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Matt Hough

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It's odd, too. Sandra Dee was in her late teens/early twenties, whereas Doris Day was a woman in her late thirties/early forties at the time. There were other women dominating the box office, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Debbie Reynolds, and Sophia Loren, but not one of them reached Day and Dee's popularity in polls during this era.
Julie Andrews was the only other one with those credentials in the 1960s: four years in the top ten with two years (1966-1967) at #1. As I recall, Natalie Wood and Shirley MacLaine had the odd year here or there in the top ten but not consistently appearing there, and Streisand came in at #10 in 1969 right behind Katharine Hepburn who made her only top ten appearance of her entire career in 1969.
 

Emcee

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Julie Andrews was the only other one with those credentials in the 1960s: four years in the top ten with two years (1966-1967) at #1. As I recall, Natalie Wood and Shirley MacLaine had the odd year here or there in the top ten but not consistently appearing there, and Streisand came in at #10 in 1969 right behind Katharine Hepburn who made her only top ten appearance of her entire career in 1969.
Yes, I recall those ladies being in the top ten, but that was after Sandra Dee and Doris Day's heyday at the box office. Dee and Day had both hit the skids career-wise by the late sixties. Dee was making films like DOCTOR, YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING (1967) and Day movies like CAPRICE (1967), both which pointed towards their decline in popularity.

Streisand and MacLaine made a few appearances throughout the 1960s, as did Ann-Margret.
 

Emcee

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Two-time Oscar winner Luise Rainer has all but faded into oblivion. She had been recruited by MGM in 1935 from her native Germany as a possible successor to Greta Garbo. "They felt I had similar possibilities [to Garbo]," said Rainer later in life, and she was given the star build up. Right away she was given a lead role in ESCAPADE (1935), co-starring William Powell. Her reviews were positive and Hollywood heralded her a new star.

She was then assigned to play Anna Held, the real-life common law wife of Broadway producer Florenz Ziegfeld, in the lavish production of THE GREAT ZIEGFELD in 1936. The film starred William Powell as Ziegfeld and Myrna Loy as his wife Billie Burke. Irving Thalberg, head of production at MGM, had felt Rainer was perfect to play Anna early into pre-production, but studio chief Louis B. Mayer felt the role was too small, and tried his best to detour her enthusiasm for the part. THE GREAT ZIEGFELD was a resounding critical and box office success, and Rainer won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1937 for her performance. The following year, she beat out Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong for the role of O-lan in MGM's movie version of THE GOOD EARTH (1937). Production censorship at the time rendered Wong unable to appear as O-lan because Paul Muni, a white actor, had been cast as the male lead. Classic Hollywood "yellow facing". THE GOOD EARTH was another popular success, and Rainer again won for Best Actress in 1938, this time beating Garbo for her work in CAMILLE (1936).

Rainer later commented that "nothing worse could have happened to her" after winning two Oscars consecutively in 1937 and 1938. The pressure to live up to her hype was tremendous, and it seems the general consensus was that everyone was expecting her to continue to make award-winning films. MGM had bought a property called MAIDEN VOYAGE in late 1936 specifically for Rainer to star, but the project was eventually scrapped. Another proposed 1936 project, entitled ADVENTURE FOR THREE, which was to co-star William Powell, died on the drawing board.

She played opposite William Powell for the third and final time in THE EMPEROR'S CANDLESTICKS (1937), a melodrama about spies in pre-revolutionary Russia. She then starred in BIG CITY (1937), in which she was given top billing over Spencer Tracy. Critics felt she had been miscast in this "modern role" and that she appeared "too exotic" to play Tracy's wife. However, many critics felt Rainer was at "her most appealing" in THE TOY WIFE, also released in 1938, which co-starred Melvyn Douglas and Robert Young. She starred in the musical drama THE GREAT WALTZ (1938), which was her last big hit. DRAMATIC SCHOOL (1938), which opened to poor reviews and disappointing ticket sales, was her final film at MGM. That year, her dwindling popularity had her labeled "box office poison" by American theater owners.

Rainer allowed her MGM contract to expire in 1938, and she abandoned the film industry after just three years in Hollywood. MGM had hoped that Rainer would be their successor to the temperamental Garbo, but what they found was that Rainer had far less patience for the Hollywood lifestyle than Garbo did. Rainer rebelled against the authority of her bosses by refusing roles and demanding higher salaries during her three-year tenure at the studio. It seems the studio was quite happy to let her go, and apparently Louis B. Mayer had her blackballed from working inside the movie industry. Rainer, however, didn't seem to mind. She began relationship with playwright Clifford Odets in 1940, and she appeared in a few of his plays throughout the 1940s. She did return to Hollywood for the low-budget film HOSTAGES in 1943, but she permanently put her show biz career behind her thereafter.

She lived the remainder of her life primarily out of the spotlight. She died in 2014 at the age of 104.

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Angelo Colombus

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Thanks to my dvd recorder i have on disc the TCM broadcast of Luise Rainer: Live From the TCM Film Festival (2011) hosted by Robert Osborne which he interviewed the 100 year old actress. Viewed The Good Earth on TCM a few weeks ago and what a great performance and one wishes she could have done more films.
 

Emcee

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Thanks to my dvd recorder i have on disc the TCM broadcast of Luise Rainer: Live From the TCM Film Festival (2011) hosted by Robert Osborne which he interviewed the 100 year old actress. Viewed The Good Earth on TCM a few weeks ago and what a great performance and one wishes she could have done more films.
I have seen pieces of THE EMPEROR'S CANDLESTICKS on TCM, but I don't think I've ever seen a movies of hers in its entirety. I know other classic movie buffs that do not find her appealing, and it's honestly pushed me away from diving headfirst into her work.

Strangely, though, I'd love to own a copy of DRAMATIC SCHOOL, her last mainstream film, because at look those group of aspiring actresses movies. STAGE DOOR (1937) is one of my favorite movies, and I feel like DRAMATIC SCHOOL is cut from the same cloth, and I know I'd like it.
 

Robin9

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She was more popular than many "adult" leading ladies of her time. The only lady more popular than Sandra Dee in the early 1960s was Doris Day, who was number one at the box office in 1960 and again from 1962 to 1964. There were a few years, I believe, where Sandra Dee and Doris Day were the only two women in the top ten.

It's odd, too. Sandra Dee was in her late teens/early twenties, whereas Doris Day was a woman in her late thirties/early forties at the time. There were other women dominating the box office, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Debbie Reynolds, and Sophia Loren, but not one of them reached Day and Dee's popularity in polls during this era.
It's possible - I don't know either way - that Sandra Dee scored more highly than Elizabeth Taylor in some polls, but she did not sell theater tickets in the way Elizabeth Taylor did. The very large audience for Imitation Of Life paid up at the box-office because of Lana Turner and the subject matter, not because Sandra Dee had a supporting role.

I believe only Doris Day outperformed Elizabeth Taylor at the box office in the '50s and early '60s. There was also a film star named Marilyn Monroe who sold a few tickets in that period.
 
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Emcee

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It's possible - I don't know either way - that Sandra Dee scored more highly than Elizabeth Taylor in some polls, but she did not sell theater tickets in the way Elizabeth Taylor did. The very large audience for Imitation Of Life paid up at the box-office because of Lana Turner and the subject matter, not because Sandra Dee had a supporting role.

I believe only Doris Day outperformed Elizabeth Taylor at the box office in the '50s and early '60s. There was also a film star named Marilyn Monroe who sold a few tickets in that period.
Well, she was not the celebrity Elizabeth Taylor was, either. "Liz and Dick", as Taylor and her fling and eventual husband Richard Burton was called, were probably this biggest stars of the 1960s and not solely for their films. They were major celebrities and their films were such hits that the industry went into a state of panic when they threatened to take a year off around 1968.

IMITATION OF LIFE (1959) probably wasn't a success solely because Sandra Dee was in it. In fact, I'm almost entirely positive that the movie was helped by the stature of its lead, Lana Turner, and the controversy surrounding her in 1959. However, I do think that Sandra Dee drew in a younger crowd that Turner probably wouldn't have reached, and it led to Dee having similar roles in movies like A SUMMER PLACE (1959).

Marilyn Monroe, one of the most identifiable faces in history, was one of the biggest box office stars of the 1950s. She started a whole new trend of blonde bombshells, and their were a host of women created "in her image", such as Mamie Van Doren, Sheree North, Jayne Mansfield, and others. Heck, even England ushered out Diana Dors, and France had Brigitte Bardot as comparable foreign Monroe-inspired beauties.
 

Emcee

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It's possible - I don't know either way - that Sandra Dee scored more highly than Elizabeth Taylor in some polls, but she did not sell theater tickets in the way Elizabeth Taylor did. The very large audience for Imitation Of Life paid up at the box-office because of Lana Turner and the subject matter, not because Sandra Dee had a supporting role.

I believe only Doris Day outperformed Elizabeth Taylor at the box office in the '50s and early '60s. There was also a film star named Marilyn Monroe who sold a few tickets in that period.
And just a tidbit, Marilyn Monroe was the key to the door that opened me up to a world of classic film, television, and stars.

She continues to hold a place in my heart, and GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, SOME LIKE IT HOT, and THE MISFITS remain some of my favorite classic films.

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Emcee

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With a thread title like Forgotten Faces of Classic Hollywood I can't help but think of these two actors: Warren William and Marian Marsh.

View attachment 82068
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Look at how beautiful they are. Wonderfully attractive, and forever frozen in that era of glamorous, unattainable stars that are forever gone.
 
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Emcee

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With so much hoopla made over Shirley Temple and Judy Garland, oftentimes Deanna Durbin gets lost in the shuffle. She and Garland made their debut together in EVERY SUNDAY (1936), a musical short primarily viewed as an "audition" for both young hopefuls for Universal Pictures. Durbin eventually got the Universal contract, while Garland ended up at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

She was fourteen when she was given the lead in THREE SMART GIRLS (1936), a successful musical comedy also featuring a young Ray Milland. Shortly thereafter, she auditioned to provide the vocals for Snow White in the upcoming animated film, but Walt Disney felt that Durbin's voice was "too old" for the part. She had a string of successes with films like ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL (1937), THAT CERTAIN AGE (1938), and THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939), a sequel to her widely successful debut. She was a favorite of director Henry Koster, who used her in several of his films. Her operatic soprano was considered quite unusual for a young lady her age, and offered received praise from critics. She turned down an offer to audition for the Metropolitan Opera in the late 1930s because she felt her vocals weren't strong enough.

Her film success continued into the forties with hits like SPRING PARADE (1940) and IT STARTED WITH EVE (1941). Durbin's professional relationship with director Henry Koster ended when the director left Universal for MGM in 1941. Koster had been slated to direct THEY LIVED ALONE, in which Deanna was assigned to star, but after Koster's resignation, she refused the role. Universal placed her on suspension from October 1941 to February 1942 for declining work she had been assigned. Once her suspension was lifted, she returned to Universal to star in HERS TO HOLD (1943), the final film in the THREE SMART GIRLS trilogy. The title had been changed to feature Deanna as a solo performer.

As time lingered on, however, Durbin began longer for more substantial film roles. Although originally reluctant, the studio bowed to her demands out of fear for losing her as their star. She took on lead roles in CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY (1944) and LADY ON A TRAIN (1945), two gritty film noirs that were successful despite critical expectations that audiences wouldn't adjust to her maturing on-screen image. CAN'T HELP SINGING (1944) was her only film shot in Technicolor, and it also proved one of her greatest successes. Universal was quite vocal about Deanna's aid in saving them from bankruptcy during WWII, and they were willing to shift her image to maintain her celebrity.

Universal merged with another company to become Universal-International in 1946. The new regime discontinued the studio's usual film output and scheduled just a few musicals to go into production. That same year, she was named second-highest-paid actress in the business, right behind Bette Davis, and in 1947, she was called the world's top-salaried entertainer. Her films of this era, such as I'LL BE YOURS (1947) and UP IN CENTRAL PARK (1948), were successes, but their profits were significantly smaller than her earlier work. FOR THE LOVE OF MARY, released in 1948, proved to be her final feature film.

Deanna Durbin's box office popularity had tapered off in the late 1940s. The style of motion picture she had specialized in were also falling out of favor with American audiences. Universal, although once thankful for Durbin for almost single-handedly saving their studio from closing, was apparently pleased at her decision not to continue making films.

She spent the remainder of her life primarily out of the spotlight. She was living in France when she died in 2013, aged ninety-one.


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Matt Hough

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I read somewhere that Deanna was offered the leading movie roles in Kiss Me, Kate and The King & I and turned both down because she was through with movies forever.
 

Emcee

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I read somewhere that Deanna was offered the leading movie roles in Kiss Me, Kate and The King & I and turned both down because she was through with movies forever.
There was another movie that I've heard her tied to, but the name is escaping me.
 

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