Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Fond Farewell: Dorothy Malone 1924-2018

Do not ask me where I've been that I only found out yesterday about Dorothy Malone's passing, which occurred on January 19th, 2018. It could be because I steadfastly refuse to watch the news (if the event even made the news) and don't keep my hat very far into the ring of current entertainment programming. In any case, Ms. Malone was the subject of a tribute here eight years ago (!), but when one of our cherished stars moves on to the next realm, we like to give them a proper send-off nonetheless with a picture essay.
A pretty young brunette (and beauty pageant winner) from Dallas, Texas, she made her first film appearance in 1940 at only age sixteen. Countless bit roles as models, friends, showgirls and other assorted parts continued through the middle of the decade.
The powers that be began to take notice of Ms. Malone when she played the part of a bookshop proprietress in The Big Sleep (1946), opposite Humphrey Bogart, who may have more on her mind than it appears on the surface.
A very busy career as a leading lady followed, many times in (often) dreary westerns, which were hugely popular at the time. She worked opposite a gallery of actors from Joel McCrea to Ronald Reagan (shown here) and from Randolph Scott to Fred MacMurray to Glenn Ford and more. (Bottom right is Mark Stevens.)
A shift from brunette to a light, golden blonde seemed to unleash a sassier, sexier side to her than she had previously displayed. In color films in particular, her tan complexion paired with huge, liquid eyes and a prominent mouth and the flaxen hair made a striking visual impression.
Occasionally, if a role warranted it, she would return to darker locks, such as in Battle Cry (1955) opposite humpy Tab Hunter
Many more westerns were to come, though she also strove for versatility in lighter fare such as the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedy Artists and Models (1955) as well as romances (though in the case of 1955's Sincerely Yours, opposite Liberace, it was closer to science fiction!) But bigger and better opportunities were on the horizon...
After toiling away in scads of rather unimportant films, Malone was at last on the crest of a career high.
In 1956, she was cast as the promiscuous, shameless Marylee Hadley in the colorful Douglas Sirk soap opera Written on the Wind. All about the romantic entanglements of a wealthy brother and sister and the objects of their affection, she rose to the occasion like never before, lusting after Rock Hudson, belittling her alcoholic brother Robert Stack, snidely cutting down her sister-in-law Lauren Bacall and, in a vivid sequence, violently dancing around in a sheer negligee while her father lies dying on the stairs outside her room.
Lauren Bacall's husband told her before his death that he didn't want her to make any more films like Written on the Wind, but for Malone it was a watershed. She took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her outrageous role.
Having already portrayed a multitude of worried wives, attractive diversions and sultry sirens, she next portrayed the troubled first wife of Lon Chaney in the (fictionalized) biopic Man of a Thousand Faces (1957.) So filled with hate towards her husband in the film (James Cagney), she marches on stage during a performance of his (which did happen in real life) and swallowed a vial of acid, permanently damaging her voice.
Director Douglas Sirk utilized her again (along with Robert Stack and, as shown here, Rock Hudson) for The Tarnished Angels (1957), a lesser-known film whose reputation (like that of its director) has grown over the years. She also costarred with Robert Taylor in Tip on a Dead Jockey (1957.)
At last Malone was ready to carry a film on her own without having to rely on a name-brand leading man opposite her.  For this, she reverted to dark hair once more for the last time.
Too Much, Too Soon (1958) was based upon the autobiography of Diana Barrymore, another in the long line of (troubled) actors from that famous family. A fast-dissipating Errol Flynn was cast as her father John Barrymore, from whom she inherited several issues. The melodramatic movie was hampered by sanitization of the material as well as the presence of the real-life actress as consultant, obscuring some of the harder facts.
After appearing in Warlock (1959) opposite Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda and her fellow Oscar-winner Anthony Quinn, Malone was reunited with Robert Stack for The Last Voyage (1960), a shipwreck drama in which Malone is buried under debris with water rising while her loving, frantic husband and petrified young daughter struggle to free her. It's a gutsy, gut-wrenching performance in a movie that demonstrates some seriously realistic submersion effects.
The ensuing years brought one last teaming with Rock Hudson (and Kirk Douglas) in The Last Sunset (1960) and the first Beach Party (1963) movie as well as a few TV guest roles. Then in 1964 she was selected (with top-billing) to portray the long-suffering Constance Mackenzie in the television version of Peyton Place. The part had first been played in the movies by Lana Turner (earning that actress her only Oscar nomination) and Eleanor Parker. The "widowed" Malone bore the secret that she'd never actually been married and her eighteen year-old daughter (Mia Farrow) was in fact born out of wedlock, her father locked away in prison! Her occupation in the series was as a bookstore owner, a possible nod to her role in The Big Sleep, though not much other than conversation or rearranging ever took place inside. Previous Constances had owned dress shops. Perhaps the bookstore allowed for more men to come and go.
The prime-time soap was a smashing success, airing twice, then three times a week as viewers followed the sometimes daring storylines. Her character eventually reunited with her long-departed love and they wed, having another child together. She was twice nominated for Golden Globes as Best TV Star-Female, but lost to Mary Tyler Moore of The Dick Van Dyke Show and Ann Francis of Honey West. Some significant health issues involving her heart and lungs drove her off the show for a time and eventually she left altogether when her story arc grew stale. (A tiff with 20th Century Fox over her dissatisfaction in the scripts versus her active contract led to a hefty out of court settlement.)
Malone did have better fish to fry as it were. She was mother to two lovely daughters (no, that isn't a young Celine Dion!), Mimi and Diane, from her 1959-1964 marriage to handsome devil Jacques Bergerac. Their bitter divorce and custody battle had occurred just when Peyton Place was beginning. Fearing for her girls' adjustment, she eventually moved back home to Dallas, TX and raised them away from Hollywood, occasionally taking a job on TV or in a movie. (In 1984, she was approached about taking over for ailing Barbara Bel Geddes on Dallas, but declined.) She had two more reasonably brief marriages, one annulled after a few months and one lasting almost two years.
After sporadic TV and low-budget movie appearances (including some Peyton Place reunion telefilms), Malone made one last sojourn onto the big screen in 1992 with a cameo role in Basic Instinct. She played an enigmatic murderess on parole who may or may not have something to do with a recent rash of killings. This part came fifty-two years after her initial endeavor on the big screen.
Despite her long career of appealing and/or sultry roles in the cinema and the fact that she WON an Oscar for Written on the Wind, the current people in charge felt that she wasn't significant enough to be represented in the annual "In Memorium" montage at this year's ceremony held a few days ago. (She share's this appalling distinction with John Gavin and Dina Merrill, among others.) But in Poseidon's Underworld, we would never dream of omitting these people and revel in the fact that we can keep their names alive to whoever may delve below the surface here.
Dorothy Malone was ninety-three when she passed away of natural causes, having cheated death at least once in the 1960s and having provided the world with more than a few memorable performances which will live on long past her demise. We hope that wherever she may be now that she knows she brought pleasure to millions of viewers on the big and small screen.

11 comments:

Gingerguy said...

Dreamy photos Poseidon. This was heaven for those of us stuck on earth, R.I.P. Dorothy. I think she is so sexy in The Big Sleep, that whole section of the movie is a rollercoaster. Before he encounters Dorothy in a bookstore Humphrey does a nance bit in an antique store and spars with an actress who is the real life Mother of Mason Reece! (I digress).
Lol on Liberace
The 1950's was the heyday of dreary westerns, I might have to watch some of hers, but will put it off for a bit, especially when I can watch and rewatch her as Marylee Hadley. The oil derrick in her hand at the end, and the mambo dance of death are for the ages.
She had gorgeous daughters, the dark haired one looks like Jennifer Connally.
I didn't get this years Oscar in memorium. So many montages and then in that one they left so many people out. Why not skip the schtick, like the hot dog cannon (though I would like one of those)? Thanks for sending one of my favorite glamourpusses out in style

chris prouty said...

Thanks, Poseidon, for a great tribute. Like Gingerguy, I was pretty mortified that the Oscar memorial reel neglected to include Dorothy (among many others like John Gavin!). She was sensual and so expressive - I loved her choice ability at verbal communication with her eyes.

joel65913 said...

Lovely tribute Poseidon of one of my faves.

She is one of the actresses whose filmography I have been attempting to complete, it's a personal project/hobby that I've been working on for a couple of years now, and have only one film of hers left. Ironically it's the first film she received onscreen credit for, Too Young to Know, which has proved maddeningly elusive. So having seen most of her work I've come away with the impression that very few directors understood how to use her properly. Sirk obviously did and her best work remains for him-Written on the Wind obviously but she is equally good in The Tarnished Angels-Raoul Walsh, Howard Hawks and Robert Aldrich (The Last Sunset is one strange wild ride) but not many others. It didn't help that Warners apparently considered her a utility actress who could be plugged in wherever the need arose. No matter the circumstances she always gave at least an appealing performance frequently being the best part of her films.

During her heyday she was always sleek and glamorous, so much so I was surprised to see her in her later appearances lean towards a frowziness that wasn't becoming. But that aside at least when she showed up she still LOOKED like Dorothy Malone and not the horrifying spectacle that has befallen some of looking like a wax figure-*cough* Faye Dunaway *cough*

I was mightily peeved that she was left out of the In Memoriam too. I'm not saying that the people included that were only known within the industry were less worthy than she I'm sure they weren't but if someone who WON in one of the top six categories and was a major star doesn't qualify you for inclusion what the hell does?! It's not just her either, I can understand people who had only cursory film careers but huge TV or music ones like Adam West, Rose Marie or Glen Campbell being left out but Tobe Hooper! Bill Paxton! John Mahoney! Come on that's just plain sloppiness.

But as the Oscars continues its descent from prestige event to carnival sideshow I guess such omissions are to be sadly expected.

On a happier note glad that you gave the fabulous Miss Malone the send off she deserved.

Poseidon3 said...

Gingerguy, thanks! Glad you liked the photo choices (I do try...) If Dorothy had made no other movie (but she did!) thank "Written on the Wind," she deserved to be in the Oscar memorium montage. The daughters' father was darkly handsome and a bit notorious in that he married blonde Ginger Rogers and made his debut movie in a starring role with her, then blonde Dorothy Malone. Since Dot was pregnant twice, they didn't do a movie, but he appeared with her on a game show and was accused of being an opportunist. He lived to be 87!

Chris, it's so true that Dorothy could say volumes with her giant eyes. Words sometimes became superfluous. I think that's what made her so effective on "Peyton Place," for she was always cringing and fretting over her daughter Allison and "the secret."

Thank you much, Joel, for your compliments as well as your additional info. I hope you're able to come upon that one remaining movie of hers soon. Bill Paxton... costar of an Oscar-winning Best Picture and of many Hollywood successes. What the HELL are they thinking. I didn't watch the Oscars this year. I recorded them in case I later heard about something interesting happening (and, as it was, I was happy to see Eva Marie Saint and to a lesser extent Rita Moreno - it would have been nice to have George Chakiris join her, but men are on the outs at present...) I got through it all in under 45 minutes, what I could bear. I did like Armie Hammer & Gal Gadot together, Zendaya was fresh and flowy and I enjoyed Allison Janney's speech. My DVR ran out (how could it not with all the USELESS, IGNORANT filler?) before Faye and Warren came out for take-two, but I watched that online in a video. It's hard to say she looked good, but I have to also say she's looked worse previously. It kills me.

charles kelly said...

Thanks for the beautiful, informative tribute. Our family loved watching "Peyton Place" on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Little sis wasn'T allowed to watch because she was only 10...Mom made her watch "Petticoat Junction" down the cellar instead.
Not sure and don't know about the date of death of the others mentioned but I
believe those given tribute must have died between 1/1/17 and 12/31/17. Look for her to be remembered at next year's Oscarcast.
I love reading your articles (fave being "Whew O'Brian".)

Poseidon3 said...

I'm sorry to say in response to your assertion about the dates that this year's In Memoriam included Indian actress Sridevi, who died February 24th 2018. There just is no excuse at all for leaving Dorothy Malone out. The Academy's attempts at inclusion have led to "un-"inclusion in several key cases.

Over the years, it has been so disheartening to watch the In Memoriam presentation and see wonderfully talented people who built the industry have their names and faces go by without any reaction only to have the crowd go wild when someone younger who they might have known or worked with is on the screen after they died from drugs or were found face down in a hooker's lap or whatever... There really should be no applause of any kind for anybody until the whole thing is over, but no one there seems to understand how to acknowledge the passing respectfully. It should never devolve into an applause popularity contest. Just because the attendees don't happen to know or remember (or care) why a person was famous, doesn't mean they don't deserve the same level of accord when their time comes.

Poseidon3 said...

Charles, please forgive me if I came off as preaching directly to you. I had a very rough week and a kind of rough evening last night and was just plain cranky! I still stand by my feelings about the In Memoriam tribute, but I didn't mean to aim it in your direction in particular! Thank you for your comments about the site. I appreciate it very much.

charles kelly said...

No offence taken Poseidon...other places do much better "In Memoriams" than The Oscars (though not last week's Spirit Awards, which skipped the whole thing, implying no one important enough died.)
The TCM end of year tributes are always beautiful and I am sure Dorothy Malone will be remembered there!

Rick Gould said...

Poseidon,
Thanks for the lovely tribute to Dorothy Malone.
When I was a kid, her movies were on TV constantly.
And I vaguely remember what a big deal it was for my Mom to watch Peyton Place!

I realize that the new stars always get the spotlight on the Oscars, but in the last decade or so, the neglect and disrespect for the veteran stars has become too much. That and the fact that nobody listens to the criticism that show is TOO long. I haven't sat through the actual show in eons.

Maybe when the ratings fall low enough, somebody will get a clue!

Cheers,
Rick

VictorG said...

Who needs that screwy Academy when we have Poseidon to give us a fitting tribute to a wonderful actress and Academy Award winner, Miss Dorothy Malone! I remember vividly what a HUGE hit Peyton Place was back in the '60s and how terrible it was that our Dorothy had to leave production due to health issues. I was happy she recovered and lived a long life, looking very glamorous along the way. When I was doing drag back in the '90s I emulated her look: flaxen hair, tan skin and bright blue eyes. She was a knockout!

Poseidon3 said...

:-D Thanks, VictorG! It's interesting to me that there was the gargantuan hit movie "Peyton Place," then a sequel, which had the characters grown up to a degree, but then the TV show basically started at the beginning again (though branching out and elaborating far beyond the films.) Viewers had already seen Constance and Allison go through the ramifications of the out-of-wedlock birth, yet tuned in again for the series to watch it all unfold again! Anyway, I'm sure Dot was glad that her looks inspired your performances.