Posts Tagged ‘Humphrey Bogart’
Elisha Cook, Jr. was an American character actor whose acting career spanned more than 60 years with roles in films such as “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), “The Big Sleep” (1946) and “Shane” (1953).
Elisha Cook was born December 26, 1903 in San Francisco, California. He grew up in Chicago and started out in vaudeville by the age of fourteen. Cook made his first big screen role at the age of seventeen in “The Unborn Child” in 1930. Cook spent his next few years as a traveling actor in the East Coast and the Midwest before arriving in New York City where Eugene O’Neill cast him in his play “Ah, Wilderness!”, which ran on Broadway for two years (1933-35). After his Broadway run Cook settled in Hollywood where he began a movie career of playing weaklings, sadistic losers, and small time gangsters, quickly becoming one of Hollywood’s most notable fall guys. Although short and slight of frame his ability to play these type of roles, many times with such passion and ferocity, he was often referred to as the movie industry’s lightest ‘heavy’.
Elisha Cook’s most memorable Hollywood film role was as the “gunsel” Wilmer Cook who tries to intimidate Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon” (1941). It was to Cook whom Bogart spat, “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter”. Cook is also remembered for the sexual innuendo in his scene as the mysterious drummer Cliff March after encountering Ella Raines in “Phantom Lady” (1944). Other notable roles included the doomed informant Harry Jones in “The Big Sleep” (1946), a henchman of the murderous title character in “Born to Kill” (1947), the pugnacious ex-Confederate soldier ‘Stonewall’ Torrey in “Shane” (1953), and George Peatty, the shady, cuckolded husband in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing” (1956).
Cook also had roles in movies such as “Ball of Fire’ (1941), “Dark Waters” (1944), “House on Haunted Hill” (1959) and “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968). He also made a couple rare appearances in slapstick comedy as the cameo role of The Screenwriter in “Hellzapoppin'” (1941) and in “A-Haunting We Will Go” (1942) with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
During his career Cook appeared in many television series including “Adventures of Superman”, “The Real McCoys”, “The Wild Wild West”, “The Fugitive”, “Perry Mason”, “Star Trek”, “Batman” and had a long-term recurring role as Honolulu crime lord ‘Ice Pick’ on CBS’s hit series “Magnum, P.I.”.
Cook lived most of his adult life California, typically summering on Lake Sabrina in the Sierra Nevada. According to the legendary director John Huston, who directed him in The Maltese Falcon: “[Cook] lived alone up in the High Sierra, tied flies and caught golden trout between films. When he was wanted in Hollywood, they sent word up to his mountain cabin by courier. He would come down, do a picture, and then withdraw again to his retreat.”
Cook was married twice, to Mary Lou Cook in 1929 (divorced in 1942) and Peggy McKenna Cook in 1943, a union which lasted until his death. He had no children.
Elisha Cook Jr. died of a stroke on May 18, 1995 in Big Pine, California, aged 91. At the time of his death Cook was the last surviving member of the main cast of “The Maltese Falcon”.
“I have absolutely no interest in who gets the girl. I don’t care. I don’t see any reason to spend two hours to see who gets the girl especially since you know who’s going to get her from the beginning, usually the actor who gets the most money.” ~ Humphrey Bogart
“She’s a real Joe. You’ll fall in love with her like everybody else.” ~ Humphrey Bogart on Lauren Bacall
“I didn’t do anything I’ve never done before, but when the camera moves in on that Bergman face, and she’s saying she loves you, it would make anybody feel romantic.” ~ Humphrey Bogart on Ingrid Bergman
“Even when I was carrying a gun, she scared the bejesus out of me.” ~ Humphrey Bogart on Bette Davis
“She talks at you as though you were a microphone. She lectured the hell out of me on temperance and the evils of drink. She doesn’t give a damn how she looks. I don’t think she tries to be a character. I think she is one.” ~ Humphrey Bogart on Katharine Hepburn
“You could argue with her, but she was tough. When Jack (cinematographer Jack Cardiff) saw her striding into the jungle alone one morning, he thought, ‘God help the jungle’.” ~ Humphrey Bogart on Katharine Hepburn during the filming of “The African Queen” (1951)
ZaSu Pitts was an American actress who starred in many silent dramas and comedies, transitioning to comedy sound films. She was a classic comedienne with timid, forlorn blue eyes and a trademark woebegone vocal pattern with fidgety hands. Not a classic beauty as many of the contemporary actresses of her day, but Pitts made a very successful career out of her ‘unglamorous looks’ and wallflower tendencies in dozens of screwball comedies. Said Pitts of her career, “I was what they called a feature player, never a star. They say I was in 500 films, everything but the newsreels.”
ZaSu Pitts was born on January 3, 1894 in Parsons, Kansas, to Rulandus and Nellie Pitts. Her father, who had lost a leg while serving in the 76th New York Infantry Regiment in the Civil War, had settled the family in Kansas by the time ZaSu was born. In 1903, when she was nine years old, the family moved to Santa Cruz, California, seeking a warmer climate and better job opportunities. Her childhood home at 208 Lincoln Street still stands. She attended Santa Cruz High School, where despite her excessively shy demeanor she participated in school theatricals and made her stage debut in 1914–15 doing school and local community theater in Santa Cruz, California. In 1916 Pitts moved to Los Angeles spent many months asking studio casting offices for work as a film extra. In 1917, Pioneer screenwriter Frances Marion cast Pitts in a substantial role as an orphaned slavey (child of work) in the silent film, “The Little Princess”, starring Mary Pickford. Pitts grew in popularity following a series of Universal one-reeler comedies and earned her first feature-length lead in King Vidor’s “Better Times” (1919). The following year she met and married actor Tom Gallery. The couple paired in several films, including “Bright Eyes” (1921), “Heart of Twenty” (1920), “Patsy” (1921) and “A Daughter of Luxury” (1922). In 1924, already known as a comedy farceuse, Pitts was given the greatest tragic role of her career in Erich von Stroheim’s epic masterpiece “Greed” (1924). The surprise casting initially shocked Hollywood, but showed that Pitts could draw tears with her doleful demeanor as well as laughs. Based on her performance, von Stroheim labeled Pitts “the greatest dramatic actress”. The original film was 9 1/2 hours in length but was extensively edited prior to release, with the final theatrical cut at just over two hours. “Greed” failed initially at the box office. The film has since been restored to over four hours and has grown tremendously in reputation over time and is considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever made.
Throughout the mid to late 20’s Pitts continued to star in comedy shorts and features such as “Monte Carlo” (1926), “Casey at the Bat” (1927), “The Dummy” (1929) and “No, No, Nanette” (1930), but also earned good reviews in heavy dramas such as “Sins of the Fathers” (1928), “The Wedding March” (1928), and “War Nurse” (1930). One bitter and huge disappointment for Pitts was when she was replaced in the classic war drama “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930) after her initial appearance in previews drew unintentional laughs, despite the intensity of her acting. She was replaced by Beryl Mercer and all her scenes were cut from the final production. Overcoming her disappointment Pitts continued to shine in many comedies. Her stock persona as a fretful, flustered, worrisome spinster made her instantly recognizable and was often imitated in cartoons and other films. She had viewers rolling in the aisles in “Finn and Hattie” (1931), “The Guardsman” (1931), “Blondie of the Follies” (1932), “Sing and Like It” (1934) and “Ruggles of Red Gap” (1935). She also excelled in her comedy partnerships with the stunning blonde comedienne Thelma Todd in short films and with the gangly comedian ‘Slim Summerville’ in features. Pitts also played secondary comedic roles in many films. Also among Pitts many roles of note during this time were “The Affair of Susan” (1935), “Mad Holiday” (1936), “Sing Me A Song” (1936), “Wanted” (1937), “Forty Naughty Girls” (1937), “Naughty But Nice” (1939), and in the same role she had ten years earlier as Pauline Hastings in a 1940 remake of “No, No, Nanatte”.
During the 1940’s, Pitts continued play comedic roles in such fare as “Mexican Spitfire’s Baby” (1941) and “Mexican Spitfire at Sea” (1942) which starred Lupe Valez and were part of the very successful ‘Mexican Spitfire’ film series. Pitts also had a secondary role in the Oscar nominated “Life with Father” (1947) with William Powel, Irene Dunne, and Elizabeth Taylor. Pitts also found work in vaudeville and on radio, trading quivery banter with Bing Crosby, Al Jolson, and Rudy Vallee, among others. She appeared several times on the earliest Fibber McGee and Molly show, playing a dizzy dame constantly looking for a husband. In 1944 Pitts tackled Broadway, making her debut in the mystery, “Ramshackle Inn”. The play, written expressly for her, fared well, and she took the show on the road in later years. In the 1950’s Pitts started focusing more on TV. This resulted in her best known series role, playing second banana to Gale Storm on “The Gale Storm Show” (1956) as Elvira Nugent (“Nugie”), the shipboard beautician. She also appeared in the 1962 Perry Mason episode “The Case of the Absent Artist”. Her last film role was as a switchboard operator in the Stanley Kramer comedy “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963).
ZaSu Pitts was married twice. The first marriage was to Thomas Sarsfield Gallery in 1920. The couple had one child together, a girl named ZaSu Ann Gallery in 1922. The couple later adopted a boy who was the son of Pitts best friend Barbara La Marr, an ill-fated actress who died in 1926 at the age of 29 from tuberculosis and nephritis. Pitts and La Marr had worked together in three films in 1923 and had become close friends. The boy’s birth name was Marvin Carville La Marr which they changed to Donald Michael “Sonny” Gallery after the adoption. He grew up to become an actor and a sometime boyfriend of Elizabeth Taylor. He now lives in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Pitts and Gallery divorced in 1933.
Her second marriage was in 1933 to John Edward “Eddie” Woodall with whom she remained until her death.
Declining health dominated Pitts’ later years, particularly after she was diagnosed with cancer in the mid-1950s. The beloved commedienne died on June 7, 1963, aged 69, leaving behind scores of scene stealing roles unmatched but by only a few. She was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.
Pitts unique and remarkable first name, “ZaSu”, came about because her mother’s two sisters, Eliza and Susan, both wanted her named after them. Her mother didn’t want to disappoint either of them, so she formed the name from the last two letters of Eliza and the first two letters of Susan. Incorrectly spelled as Zazu Pitts in many film credits and often mispronounced, in her 1963 book “Candy Hits” (pg 15), Pitts herself gives the correct pronunciation as “Say Zoo”.
Pitts was also known as an excellent cook and a collector of candy recipes, which culminated into the aforementioned cook book entitled “Candy Hits by ZaSu Pitts”, which was published posthumously in 1963.
ZaSu Pitts was chosen to be pictured on one of ten 29¢ US commemorative postage stamps celebrating stars of the silent screen, issued 27 April 1994. Designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, this set of stamps also honored Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, Charles Chaplin, Lon Chaney, John Gilbert, Harold Lloyd, Theda Bara, Buster Keaton, and the Keystone Kops.
When the “Thimble Theatre” comic strip became the “Popeye” animated cartoon series, the producers used ZaSu’s hand-wringing and nervous speech pattern to characterize the on-screen persona of “Olive Oyl.”
“Casablanca” is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid, and featuring Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Dooley Wilson. Set during World War II, it focuses on a man torn between, in the words of one character, love and virtue. He must choose between his love for a woman and helping her and her Czech Resistance leader husband escape from the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis. “Casablanca” won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Its characters, dialogue, and music have become iconic, and the film has grown in popularity to the point that it now consistently ranks near the top of lists of the greatest films of all time.
“Sabrina” is a 1954 comedy-romance film directed by Billy Wilder, adapted for the screen by Wilder, Samuel A. Taylor, and Ernest Lehman from Taylor’s play Sabrina Fair. The movie stars Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden. “Sabrina” was Wilder’s last film released by Paramount Pictures, ending a 12-year relation between Wilder and Paramount.
“Sabrina” won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design (Edith Head) and was nominated for five more Academy Awards; Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Actress (Audrey Hepburn), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White (Hal Pereira, Walter H. Tyler, Sam Comer, Ray Moyer), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (Charles Lang), and Best Writing, Screenplay (Billy Wilder, Samuel A. Taylor, Ernest Lehman).