Friday, December 4, 2020

Poseidon Quickies: Go "Big" or Go Home

All but forgotten now except by historical literature enthusiasts, A.B. Guthrie Jr's 1947 novel "The Big Sky" (one of a series of books about The Oregon Trail and the settling of Montana) was made into a 1952 feature starring Kirk Douglas. Douglas was already emerging as a key Hollywood actor despite having only begun making movies half a dozen years prior. He had been Oscar-nominated for 1949's Champion (losing to Broderick Crawford in All the King's Men) and would be nominated once more for another of his 1952 films, The Bad and the Beautiful (this time losing to Gary Cooper in High Noon.) Ironically, his third 1952 film was called The Big Trees and, like in The Big Sky, his character was also named Jim. A third nomination for Lust for Life (the one he really felt might bring the little gold man home for him) was lost to Yul Brynner for The King and I. That would have to suffice until his 1996 Honorary Oscar.

Director Howard Hawks settled on Douglas for his leading man after attempting to get the too expensive Marlon Brando. I have no recollection of any scene such as the one depicted on the poster (with a shirtless Douglas brandishing a tomahawk) though perhaps it has just faded from my memory. Virile Douglas does, however, seem to have trouble keeping his shirt closed.

Also on board was Underworld favorite Dewey Martin (in a role first offered to Montgomery Clift, who'd made an impact in director Hawks' Red River, 1948.) See Dewey dreamily looking out at... the big sky? Ha ha! We've always thought that Martin was cuter in live action rather than in posed publicity shots such as the ones here.

You can see and read a lot more about Martin right here.


There is a love triangle in the film, involving Douglas, Martin and Elizabeth Threatt. Now based on her glamour girl makeup on the film's poster, many may think this was just another case of a Caucasian actress being decked out to look like a Native American, but it actuality, Threatt was half Cherokee. Hawks came across her during her career as a model and cast her, with plans to utilize her further. Unfortunately, she declared Hollywood full of fakes and promptly left after this single movie.

This is a rather rare color publicity portrait of Martin and Threatt. One can see that the poster art was derived from this session. Reportedly, Threatt and Douglas became involved in a romance during the film shoot, though I don't know if he was one of the "fakes" she was referring to in her parting comments on Tinseltown.

Douglas and Martin, seen here with their guns out, looked to have the better chemistry if we are going by the still photos and shots from the actual film...
Don't believe me? How 'bout now? (I love Dewey's plunging neckline...)

Kirk was at his blondest during this one, I think. Love Dewey's expression.

Here's a "nip slip" from Douglas in the wake of a bar fight. I truly think this was all the shirtlessness he provided in the film. However, he did manage to give us a glimpse of some other physical characteristics of his.

You know, ol' Kirk was no stranger to showing off his physique. In pics like Spartacus (1960) as seen here, he could strip down to basically briefs. Other movies of his provide scanty clothing such as Ulysses (1954) and There Was a Crooked Man (1970), in which he briefly flashed his rear. But he tended to be packed in snugly and rarely revealed any discernible bumps or bulges. So that's why The Big Sky was a bit of a surprise at times (one particular time especially.)

But even in these tight-panted shots, you still can't really make anything out. Thus, I give you further evidence.

In this final sequence of shots, Douglas is seen with Arthur Hunnicut, who was Oscar-nominated for the film (losing to Anthony Quinn for Viva Zapata!) The cinematography was also nominated, but the award went to The Bad and the Beautiful, also starring Douglas.

As you're doubtless aware, I tend to keep an eye out for things like this, even as I am enjoying a vintage piece of cinema. I don't recall another Douglas film (although I am now old an failing! LOL) being this demonstrably bulgy. (Even The Story of Three Loves, 1953, in which he was a trapeze artist!)

Lastly, this was one of the films that Ted Turner hideously "colorized" back in the 1980s (some VHS packages back then contain a disclaimer about it), but this is an actual color photo of how he actually looked at the time on set.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Poseidon Quickies: Guess Who!

More unusual TV viewing these stay-at-home days brought about the ensuing post. Chances are you'll find this a toughie. I don't think I could possibly have figured out the identity of our young lady were it not for a glimpse at the credits. Maybe some of you are familiar enough to know who she is or perhaps you'll land a lucky guess? The man in the photo is prolific movie and TV actor Warren Stevens. 

The lass in question has chiefly one scene in a hotel room (in a black, full slip.) Though she protests that her dress is off because of a spilled drink, Stevens is skeptical, as is the viewer, especially since her character has already been described as a good time gal by another character.

The man she's been canoodling with is John Crawford, who had a nice, rugged look about him in his younger days. But can you name her?

This particular moment is not shown in the 1958 film, whose title is seen here - Intent to Kill. It was the directorial debut of famed cinematographer Jack Cardiff. (Cardiff shot Black Narcissus, 1947, and The African Queen, 1951, among others.)

If Crawford seems familiar, it's because he seemed to be in every 1970s movie! He was the irate engineer in The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and a concerned system supervisor in The Towering Inferno (1974) among countless other roles in film and TV.

Interestingly, the actress we are focusing on had her scantily-clad personage depicted on many of the posters for Intent to Kill even though she has only the one scene and a very little snippet prior to that (and no on-poster billing at all.) The star of the film was Richard Todd, though he shared no scenes with the girl.

I even find it hard to identify her in this studio head shot. She acted for about a decade, mostly in minor movies and episodic TV. Eventually, though, trying a different tack, she would rise to success and become a household name (at least in most of the houses I am familiar with!)

I felt that this early glimpse of her in the movie (far right) was closest to what we expect her to look like. Closer than most of the the prior photos reveal. Figured it out yet? About a decade after this 1958 film, she wrote a book that was a scorcher and a best-seller, but which was banned in some countries. A year later she penned another hot one. In time, she created a string of saucy books, many of them including things she picked up during her acting career and while witnessing close-up the career of her more famous sibling.

Miss Jackie Collins, best-selling novelist! I gave you a couple of very obscure hints in the opening paragraph when I used the words "chances" and "lucky." One of her big hits was "Chances," followed by a sequel, "Lucky."

The one-time starlet parlayed her adventures in Tinseltown and London into a highly successful writing career. "The World is Full of Married Men," "The Stud," "The Bitch," "Hollywood Wives" and "Lady Boss" are some of her well-known titles.

By the time two of her books were formed into the miniseries Lucky Chances, she was promoted right alongside the cast, though she was not in the program herself.

Her sultry, glitzy visage made its way onto the back of many of her books and could be found in advertising for the string of product she produced.  
She was constantly re-imagining herself in these portraits before ultimately settling in as a glamorous movieland maven who knew where all the bodies were buried.

The aforementioned sibling is, of course, Dame Joan Collins. Collins was a contract player with 20th Century Fox when her little sis came over from England to try her hand (not to mention having no small amount of fun along the way!)
The two remained close for most of their lives, even while sometimes separated by an ocean. Joan starred in movie adaptations of two of Jackie's books, The Stud (1978) and The Bitch (1979), though that last one allowed for a connotation that Joan sometimes found hard to live with when some journalists proceeded to apply it to her instead of to the character she played.

Becoming an international superstar as a result of her role as vixenish Alexis on Dynasty did little to allay the misguided label. Joan would often offer the axiom, "You can't BE a bitch and play one. It doesn't work." Indeed, her impish humor nearly always poked through Alexis' hyper-dramatic shenanigans. Meanwhile, Jackie was quite famous herself and often appeared on talk shows as a spicy guest when not working on her latest tome.

Despite a rather wild youth and her fount of zesty tales, Jackie Collins was the devoted wife of a husband, Oscar Lerman, who supported her career enthusiastically. Their nearly 30-year union ended with his death from cancer in 1992. After a subsequent 6-year relationship, she suffered another loss when the man also died of a brain tumor. Most shocking of all, especially to her sister who had not been forewarned until virtually the eleventh hour, Jackie herself passed away in 2015 at the age of 77. She'd been grappling with stage 4 breast cancer for six years and it eventually took her life.

Jackie Collins could not find sustaining work in Hollywood, but eventually she let Hollywood work for her as she penned juicy roman à clefs that tantalized her readers and gave her the incredible success she wasn't able to land as an actress.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Poseidon Quickies: Bathtub Hopper

Keeping the gears moving here at P.U. (I'll say!) with another brief post. This time, we look at a scene from the 1973 (though filmed in '71) revisionist western character study Kid Blue. The story concerns a young ne'er do well (Dennis Hopper) who winds up living in a town and attempting to go legit. He comes under the wing of a respectable couple (Warren Oates and Lee Purcell) who both grow fond of him.

Hopper (who was about 35 at the time of filming yet somehow retained a sort of baby face in the midst of copious drugs and alcohol!) takes on legitimate work in an attempt to go straight. He'd initially been involved in a robbery gone awry prior to arriving in town.

Oates is an upstanding citizen with a pretty young wife. Things ought to be hunky-dory with them, yet there seems to be a bit of a disconnect, principally in their marital relations. 

One night, Oates has Hopper over for a visit and is ecstatic to reveal a spanking new nickel-plated bathtub, costing $12.29 (not including freight!)

Then he begins quizzing Hopper on when the last time he had a bath. Determining that it's been about two weeks, Hopper senses that he may be about to partake in one whether he likes it or not. But Oates has an even better idea. Since the wonderful warm water is too good to "waste on just one person," he suggests that they "do like the old-time Greeks" did and take a bath together!

Hopper suggests that perhaps the Greeks had larger tubs than this one! Oates won't be put off, though... Purcell promises not to look as Hopper prepares for his warm (not to mention cozy!) bath.

Perhaps sensing something in the air, Hopper asks what the Greeks did "afterwards?" Oates explains that they sorta "laid around, drank wine... one thing or another."

Before that can truly sink in, Oates asks a bemused Purcell to wash his back some. He also indicates that Hopper will soon have his turn, which he swiftly declines, though - again - he's not going to get out of this that easily.

Just about then, Oates gets soap in his eyes and can't open them from the sting. (Lord knows it was probably lye soap back then!)

Purcell's motherly predilections soon seem more affectionate than expected.

Hopper, who is utterly unresponsive to Oates' thinly-veiled overtures (which are semi-subconscious on his part anyway), finds himself a skosh more intrigued by what Purcell has to offer.

Following bath time, the trio has no clue how to properly dispose of the water! Hopper slinks downstairs in his cowboy hat and a towel and scores an enema bag with tube, which seems to really delight Oates...! But really all Hopper intends to do is use the tube to siphon the water out the window. Both wear their towels in a Grecian toga fashion.

Perhaps two of the last actors imaginable one might find sharing a narrow 6' long bathtub together (they had nine wives between them in real life), this was a fun and intriguing sequence in an uneven film. Reportedly, Oates was creating concoctions with hallucinogenic mushrooms, Dexedrine and LSD after work while Hopper was in the middle of his own drug and alcohol scene at this time (fresh off a 9-day marriage to Michelle Phillips!) They both, however, deliver thoughtful, coherent performances nonetheless.