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A I 1 Daily News, Saturday, January 27, 1940 0 By Fcrher Raves and raps -MINES Dram Editor .1. GENE LOCKHART, who faifed only by. a hair to get an academy award for his performance in Algiers last year, is sure to be nominated in next monthfs voting, for the wheedling villain he played in Blackmail! And though its early in 1940 to predict what supporting players will be up for awards next February, its saf enter say tha Lock characterization of Stephen Douglas in Abe Lincoln in Illinois will be considered. It-was year ago that. Max sniveling rene- Gordon, the producer, put a sort oh can "see him as snl f-' gade ih.
and as- the boasting sheriff oi Girl Friday." rllS versatility of Lockhart-goes deeper than' acting. He was a dancer with the Kilties band in Canada at the age of 6. After schooling in Canada and England he turned to the com-mercial world, and became a salesman' with an office supply company. his. imitations of the customers lost him his job and landed him, eventually, on Ei a' tii s'- ft 'k.
gfr! "t' ft- ft A frik- it' rx k- 1 Qt i Qi 'i Sr ft 4. t. AH.4? fa aV MW t-4 i-iA- sjp of hold Lockhart for this part Basing 'his judgment on the actors previous work with the Theater guild, Gordon couldnt see anyone else in the foie. When it was time to make tests for the Lockhart was given a few paragraphs learn. But he preferred to mem-, orize the whole rebuttal, speech of -the debate which, was to be used in the picture.
The test was successful, hes pretty sure, but Gordon didnt even bother to look at it. He the same thin Scotch lip line. Other resemblances the leonine head, and the nose are creations of the makeup department. (Lockhart wore out 150 rubber noses playing the. part.) S'S-fi'EWih life, of Douglas aroused in him an 'enormous respect for the man and a conviction that in his career (especially in his western expansion program) lies the material for a great screen biography.
If it ever should be made, and if there's any such thing as consistency in this business, Lockhart would be the logical choice for the title role. In Abe Lincoln in Illinois," which opens February 1 at the Four Star, the peak of his performance is in the debate with Raymond Massey (as Lincoln). Lockhart's rebuttal speech runs seVeh minutes without a cut, the longest speech he has had in pictures. Douglas had -no- moral antipathy to slavery, but he was an eloquent speaker (as Lock-hart- shows him to have been) and he won the campaign for senator away from Lincoln, though the picture doesn't indicate it. IN THIS picture Lockhart is billed second to Raymond Massey.
A free lance player doesn't ordinarily have such luck. Its the custom of studios to take care of their own first, but in this case the picture is only released through RKO, ro outside players can be billed in the order of their importance. The -problem of billing is the only drawback to free lancing, according to Gene Lockhart, and thats a minor one considering the many benefits. Except for three months under contract to MGM, which brought him to to play his original 'Theater guild role in Ah, Wil- demess," Lockhart has avoided contracts. MGM "didn't take up his option, and he never made a Picture for them in those first three months.
(The script of Ah, Wilderness" wasn't ready until a year later, and he didnt play it then.) As a free lance player Lockhart has averaged seven pictures a year, and enjoyed the pleasure of turning down a good many more. He Is one of the few players who can turn with ease from comedy to villainy; or one of the few. at least, who has been able to make casting -directors see him in that double -light. Next week, in fact, aside from his straight performance as Stephen Douglas at the Four Star, you ASK George Brent to describe himself and he'll reply without hesitation: Black Irish." His friends never know what sort of mood theyre going to find Mm in. He can be gay and lighthearted one moment, and grimly sour the next.
1 Cnee, a month Brent enjoys a cqfrirerea-jtional wake with an old friend; Then hell laugh at his troubles while mentioning them. Few can be more friendly than Brent. And few can be more jdiff icult-to If be -likes-, you, there isnt anything he won't do fpr Through the years the actor hasnt changed. Whea Jhia writer Brat met him, it was before his marriage to Ruth Chatterton, before his contract at Warner Bros. and before any particular good fortune, beyond an occasional at Universal "had come, his, way.
Then his ambition was for fi-' nanclal Independence. It still is, and the day isnt far off. when Brent' will be able to stop work, if he, cares to, and enjoy himself. He's saved his money, Investing it in annuities which will soon start paying dividend) Brent is among the yery'few to really claim his private life as his own. public has twice claimed it when bis divorce from Miss Chatterton and Constance Worth bepame front page news.
There also was the, gossip columnists' reports of bis friendship for Garbo. Right jiow there are occasional tricklings of type devoted to his dinings out with either Bette. Davis or Ann Sheridan. But actually George Brent la a lone wolf with whom only the smallest minority can claiiq ac-quaintance on more than sur- face He minds his business, but doesn't hesitate to peak his, mind if asked for an opinion. 1 PROFESSIONALLY, Brent has progressed steadily, without the usual blare of trumpets.
Hes a dependable actor, one -who can keep going through the years, content in the feeling that hes escaped being one of those tragic Hollywood shooting stars. One good picture will do more for an actor than anything else he might do, such as entertaining the socalled right people lavishly, he said one day. At the moment he is playing opposite Merle Oberon in Edmund Gouldings production of We Shall Again. Neat he steps into the lead in The Constant Nymph. First, however, he will take quick holiday to Cuba.
Thats another thing he enjoys to the utmost travel He likes anywhere until fans start recognizing him. Then he bolts for borne. Going to a show In New York makes him happy. But generally he has to bids out In the smoking room during to steer clear of the autograph fans who'll raise a clamor for Ids signature long after the second or third act curtain has gone up and the actors ire attempting to speak' their lines against the din of babble in the auditorium occasioned by his presence. WHEN you Bret encounter Brent in person," the quietly dressed man, wearing hornrimmed spectacles, looks more like a doctor than a denizen of the greasepaint world.
Dont think by this be doesnt enjoy the publics ittentlon. lie does. But not at the expense of his and other persons peace of mind. One of his most characteristic remarks la You cant eat electric lights. 11s said this again recently when someone asked him.
why he allowed his star rating to momentarily fade by accepting a small role In The Old Maid." I liked the part even though It was brief." he replied. Billing doesnt bother me too much. Ill never complain' about my name not being up on theater marquees so long as It Is on a studio payrheck each week. And I can beat krep it on a paycheck by concentrating on my acting job, not my billing. Not so long ago he sold the home In the hills upon which he had beatowed so much )er-aonal attention, lie declared he would never own another one.
For a single man It was a ridiculous luxury, In. working his way up the professional ladder, George Brent had no easy hours. You ought to hear Ma stories about try--ntg to get along between Job lq Nrw York. He doesnt wart lyrics to The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise" are his. Lockhart wrote them fojr a show he put on diiring the war in Toronto.
He directed The Warriors Husband," directed and appeared in productions, with Kathleen Lockhart, his wife. In an indirect sort of way it was Thomas Edison, who introduced the Lockharts. They both went on a tour exploiting the Edisqp phonograph. It was the most pretentious commercial venture of its day, and played the best houses throughout the country. Metropolitan singers who had made records for Edison started the program off, and it ended with a little three act play about salesmanship.
Lockhart was the salesman who learned the right way to sell Edison phonographs, and Kathleen Lockhart was the customer. Two years after the tour they were married. And now that their daughter, June, is 14 she steps into an important role as Charles Boyers daughter in All This and Heaven, Too," in which Bette Davis is starred, with Barbara ONeil as the duchess and Jeffrey Lynn as the minister. In addition to all his other activities, which once included radio writing and teaching, Gene Lockhart has been a frequent contributor to Stage magazine, and in todays issue of Rob Wagners Script youll find a little piece titled Little Orson nic" which carries his byline. It's an apt satirical thrust, written in his best James Whitcomb Riley manner.
Even Welles will have to admit it's good, 1'Iancs to solute 'Fighting C9lh A squad of airplanes representing the California National Guard, 40th aviation division, is slated to salute the opening today of The Fighting 69th" by flying in formation over the Hollywood and downtown sectors at noon. -t The planes will go through aerial maneuvers over both the Hollywood and Downtown theaters. Tonight at 7:30 the drum and bugle corps of the American Legion post No. 8, Los Angeles county mother post, will parade to Warners Downtown theater, where they wil! be the guests of the management at a showing of the picture. STOP THE PRESSI Its Hildy (Scoop) Johnson busting through the headlines with a hot one.
Rosalind Russell portrays the demon reporter and Cary Grant is her costar and managing editor His Girl Friday," currently screening et the Hillstreet end Pantages theaters. Another hit for IUcc By CREIGHTON FEET NEW YORK, Jan. 27. (Exclusive) The piece of land In Two On An Island, Elmer Rices new play. Is none other than4 Manhattan, and the couple who fight so desperately for a foothold on Its steely surface are two simple young people from out of town.
He comes from the midwest end wants to be a playwright, while she comes from New England-and wants to be an actress. In 11 pungent and well directed scenes, Rice follows his boy and girl touchingly played by Betty Field and John Craven as they find out why New Yorkers are brusque and weary and tough. Making no headway in tbs theater, she poses for an illustrator, while he allngs hash In a Broadway coffee pot. Important In both their Uvea is a cynical and. fishy eyed theatrical producer played with perfection by Luther Adler.
1 Although their paths cross often they do not meet until the third act, in the crown of. the Statue of Liberty where they have come to get a last look at the city before admitting defeat and going back home. But they have a tonic effect on each other, and return to the city, and Rice leaves them still swimming hard but without any very. promising future. Two On An Island" is hardly a play it is a sort of illustrated lecture tour at once realistic and bitter and sentimental.
Rices young people follow a pretty IIILDY CHANGES SEX By VIRGINIA WRIGHT hardly news by now that The Front Page has changed Its sex, but the outcome of the operation Is even more successful than its anxious friends dared to hope. Emerging as "His Girl Friday at the Hillstreet and Fantages, the old Hecht and MacArthur play Is as fast and funny as it was before Hildy Johnson became a girl Rosalind Russell is the ra-. porter determined to quit the newspaper game and marry an Insurance salesman (Ralph Bellamy). Cary Grant as her former husband and managing editor is determined shell do neither. Miss Russell has all the qualifications of a good reporter and rise gives the role of' Hildy (HUdegarde) a vitality and logic that proves Hawks Insistence on a change of sex was inspirational.
The language of the play has well beaten path and be draws no particular conclusion from his cam histories. In past years critics have belabored Rice because all bis characters were violently class conscious and used his stage as a soapbox. Today they are after him again because Two On An Island" la simply a pleasant, amiable evening in the theater" without any social Implications whatsoever. Jo Mlelzlners impressionistic sets suggest the New York panorama brilliantly and accurately. Barry Fitzgerald and 'Sara Allgood are being cheered pretty 1 roundly these days for their fine Krformancea in Juno and the been toned down a bit, but the Implications are still- there, and the press atmosphere and the calloused reporters are as authentic as they were In the original.
The pace of the film Is furious from the moment Grant tricks his former reporter Into getting a final Interview with a man and throws her fiance in jail on a trumped up charge to stall their departure for Niagara Falla Bellamy, a single day, goes to jail on every charge from mashing passing counterfeit money. and dialog are hut the scene U' the press room, with tho escaped prisoner den In the rolltop desk, is still the high point of frenzy. All hell breaks loom In there when the condemned man. who has escaped from a reenactment of the crime In an alienists office, Is hidden to give Grants paper a scoop. The prisoner's girl commits suicide; the mayor becomes Involved In a bribery scandal; the insurance man gets thrown in jail again and an gagement is broken; his mother gets battered up by a thug, and a pardon from the governor i rut Jl con- -dexnned In to hid- en-.
almost gets lost In the shuffle. Rosalind Russell -and Cary Grant are perfectly paired. Their comedy performances set a new speed record on the screen. And Ralph Bellamys portrait of the bewildered Insurance salesman is Bellamy st 'his most confused. Gens Lockhart as the publicity minded sheriff turns In an excellent bit.
Tho same brutal set of reporters havt their moments In the press room. Among them are Uoscoe Kara. Porter Hall Ernes Truex, Itegis Toomey and Cliff Edwards. Then theres John Qualen, the frightened prisoner; Helen Mack, his girl frleiid, who does her brat emotional bit to date; Clarence Kolb as the unscrupulous mayor, and Billy Gilbert, an honest messenger. With an all around excellent east and a superior screenplay, by Charles Lederer," Howard Hawks has managed to Improve on tha best newspaper play ever written.
I vm vtmvuit 1 lycock, a revival of which has brought out all the Irish theater fanatics. Them fans have all the noisy enthusiasm of an afternoon baseball crowd and all the reverence of the Hamlet" followers. The Man Who Killed Lincoln, mads from the book by rtilllp Van Doren Stern, had a good many strikes against It before it opened, although It bad a pretty fair production. In the first place the neurotic John Wilkes Booth can hardly become a sympathetic character and. In the second place, any actor portraying a phenomenally ham actor of the golden age of hamminem is bound to be pretty appalling.
Richard Waring rolled his eyes and tore his hair and waved hia arms ami beat bis chest until you were sure this was the very worst performance you had ever seen anywhere. And then you remember he was playing John Wilkes Booth and thought maybe he was Just bring refllsUc. Anyway, the script was wretchedly written. i. 7 frt a Bocond feature on this weeks those days to ever rome bill is Cafs Hostess," with That's why hes noM-Ulnj Id inhesion Foster and' Ann Dvorak, self in for willful waste.
THIS MAGICIANS NIGHTMARE wet inspired by artist Bob Moors preview glimpse of Inter-lutional Magicians which openi Sunday sftsrnogn st Cepitan theater, with 12 legerdemain artists on hand to baffle and entertain..
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