Mugshot: Veronica Lake

Mugshot: Veronica Lake

Veronica Lake was one of the most recognized and iconic actresses of the 1940s. The petite blond was known for her long blond hair that she usually wore in a distinctive peak a boo style. She was also known for a series of famous film noir classics with her frequent co-star Alan Ladd.

 

Early Life

 

Veronica Lake was born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman in Brooklyn NY in 1922. After the death of her father Harry Ockelman in an industrial accident in Philadelphia. Her mother remarried to Anthony Keane a newspaper illustrator. The family later moved to Florida where the future Veronica Lake attended Miami High School. By her own account in her biography her childhood was a stressful one with a great deal of tensions in the family, especially between her and mother Constance.

 

In 1938 her family moved to Beverly Hills, CA and she enrolled in the Bliss-Hayden School of Acting and within a year was appearing as an extra in films.

 

Her first major professional credit was in the military drama, I Wanted Wings. While not the lead, her performance as the doomed Sally got the attention of the critics and the public. Her appearance in the Preston Sturges Dramedy, Sullivan’s Travels only increased the attention.

 

Big Break

 

Her breakout film would hit the theaters the next year, in 1942. This Gun For Hire is considered to be a film noir classic for good reason. While there are some bugs in the script and motivations of the characters; the performances by Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake and Lair Cregar are iconic. Especially notable was the icy intensity between Lake’s character and Ladd’s professional killer.

 

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Hollywood Career

 

The chemistry between the Ladd and Lake combo did not go unnoticed by their bosses and they were quickly paired up in hits such as film noir classics, The Glass Key and The Blue Dahlia. Another consideration of the studio was the petite, 4′ 11″ Lake, was perfectly proportioned to cast opposite the 5′ 6″ (maybe) Alan Ladd, who sometimes had to appear on a platform when cast against taller leading ladies.

 

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The Glass Key established both of them as A-List actors and Veronica Lake worked steadily through the 1940s. She appeared in a variety of genres from, mystery and drama, to comedies such as Hold That Blond and even a turn as a tough, widowed ranch owner in the western Ramrod.

 

She also found the time to marry and have a family. After her first marriage failed, she married film director Andre DeToth. She also became a licensed pilot and was known for flying cross country, no small feat in that era, especially in a small aircraft.

 

While talented, beautiful and very popular with the public, Veronica Lake had developed a reputation within Hollywood for being a difficult personality to work with. Several prominent actors and directors refused to work with her.

 

At the time, a “difficult” reputation tag being placed on an actress could mean anything from screaming tantrums on set, to refusing to sleep with the director or producer. Often the true source and cause of the “difficulties” was never disclosed. Regardless, even a hint of it, could often end an actresses career and by the late 1940s, starring roles had largely dried up for Lake and she was released from her Paramount contract in 1948.

 

Bankruptcy and the failure of her marriage to director Andre DeToth in 1951 also contributed to her departure from Hollywood. She relocate to New York that year and appeared in television and on the stage during the 1950s, appearing in many “Theater” format television shows such as Tales of Tomorrow, Goodyear Playhouse and Broadway Television Theater.

 

In her autobiography, Lake stated that she did not consider herself a serious actress she wrote: “You could put all the talent I had into your left eye and still not suffer from impaired vision.” While her fans would disagree with her, it does show that her heart was not in her work.

 

According to some biographies, both Veronica and her mother may have suffered from Schizophrenia, but that has never been confirmed. It has long been suspected that problems with alcohol may have contributed to Lake’s reputation for difficulty in Hollywood. It is known that she battled alcohol addiction throughout the latter part of her life, chalking up multiple arrests and fines for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.

 

By the late 1960s, she was almost forgotten, her only appearance on film was in 1966s Footsteps In The Snow. There were rumors, (that she angrily denied) that she was destitute. Sales from her autobiography, Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake, funded her last film appearance in the 1970 low budget horror/Sci-fi film Flesh Feast. After the failure of the film she relocated to Ipswich England.

 

Veronica Lake passed away in 1972 at the age of 50 from complications of renal failure and hepatitis. While she only had 38 acting credits, most from 1940 to 1948, many were high quality performances in successful films. She is also remembered as one of the defining ladies of film noir and her films are still appreciated by fans to this day.

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Mugshot: George Raft

Mugshot: George Raft

Early Life

 

George Raft was born George Ranft on September 26, 1901. He was known for being a boyhood friend of future criminal superstars such as Owney Madden and Bugsy Siegel and later connections with Al Capone and Vito Genovese. These relationships would continue for many years and would prove to be both a help and hindrance through Raft’s career.

 

Raft’s ties to the mob were serious enough to merit a file by the FBI, available as a public record on Archive.org George Raft FBI file

 

He also supposedly worked as a wheelman for the mob and according to the man himself, he barely avoided being pulled into a life of crime.

 

An excellent and stylish dancer, Raft was able to avoid the seedier aspects of his early life by working as a dancer in New York dance halls and night clubs. At one point working at famous bootlegger Texas Guinan’s establishment.

 

This soon led to roles on Broadway and notice from notables such as Fred Astaire. Like many New York actors, Raft relocated to Hollywood after the 1929 crash and began acting in a number of small roles, usually as a dancer.

 

Big Break

 

In the 1930s Raft was mainly known for his dancing ability and dapper fashion sense. It is said apocryphally that his look was a major influence on and icon of gangsters in the 1930s. His breakout role would be as second lead in 1932’s Scarface, where he convincingly played a mob heavy named Rinaldo.

 

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Still from the diner shootout scene in Scarface

Hollywood Career

This role soon turned into a cottage industry of gangster roles and by the mid-1930s Raft was considered to be in the same rank as mobster icons Robinson and Cagney as one of the most popular actors of the 1930s.

 

One of the more memorable stories about George Raft and his underworld connections comes from friend James Cagney, who believes that Raft’s connections saved his life.

 

In 1942 friend James Cagney was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild. One of his major objectives was to wipe out a growing mob influence in the ranks of Hollywood’s trade unions. The mob treated this as a personal insult and began threatening Cagney. Some mobsters were apparently unable to separate Cagney the man from the characters he played. Cagney, a Broadway song and dance man, despised many of his gangster roles and often tried to break out of the narrow style he was typecast in. These mobsters treated his efforts against them as a personal betrayal and they soon escalated to menacing phone calls and direct threats against him.

 

According to Cagney, there was even a hit being planned that involved a hitman dropping a massive stage light on him. That plot was squashed by the personal intervention of Raft, who called some old friends and canceled the attempt.

 

Supposedly Raft had done the same thing for Gary Cooper some years earlier, after Cooper’s famously complicated love life landed him in hot water with another group of gangsters.

 

Successes in the 1930s and early 1940s included excellent the film noir They Drive by Night co-starring Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino.

 

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They Drive By Night, excellent film noir.

Gangster film Invisible Stripes with William Holden and Bogart.

 

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Invisible Stripes

Prison Break epic Each Dawn I Die with Cagney and working Joe drama Manpower in 1941 with Marlene Dietrich and Edward G Robinson.

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Cagney and Raft in the dark prison drama Each Dawn I Die.

 

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Raft and Robinson in Manpower.

Later in the 1940s Raft’s career began a gradual decline. He turned down several roles that would prove to be huge hits for other actors such as High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon, both of which turned Humphrey Bogart into a major star and competitor for roles.

 

Raft arranged to have his Warner Bros contract canceled after completing  Background to Danger  in 1943 and moved to RKO and then to his own production company, Star Films in 1946. Raft still worked steadily but in more supporting roles and B pictures. In 1953 he partially bankrolled and starred in television police drama, I’m The Law, one of the first major Hollywood stars to embrace the new medium.

 

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I’m The Law

He continued to appear in some memorable A list films, such as Some Like It Hot in 1959, where he played a parody of his gangster roles as “Spats” Colombo and had a bit part as a casino owner in the famous rat pack caper film Ocean’s Eleven in 1960. In semi-retirement by the mid 60’s and living mostly in Europe, he continued to appear in occasional roles in film and television, many of them in Europe. In 1967 he was denied entry into the UK due to his past ties to organized crime.

 

In poor health by the late 1970s, leukemia claimed George Raft’s life on November 24, 1980 at the age of 79. The dapper gangster had appeared in over 80 films and many TV episodes.

Mugshot: Humphrey Bogart

Mugshot: Humphrey Bogart

Introduction

 

Bogart, an actor so iconic that all you have to do is say his last name and it instantly defines a whole style and genre. The name conjures an image of a craggy, gravely voiced tough guy wearing a fedora and battered trench coat. Ever present cigarette filling the scene with an eerie haze.

It might surprise some who have only seen his later movies, that this quintessential tough guy got his start playing preppy college students and rich kids. He also had a long stretch playing 2nd banana villains, informants and general weasels in gangster films.

 

Early Life

 

Humphrey Bogart was born Christmas Day, December 25, 1899, into a fairly wealthy family in New York, New York. His father was a surgeon and his mother an artist and suffragette. Originally intended by his parents to follow in the footsteps of his father, he showed little interest in academics and was ultimately expelled from prep school, some sources say he pushed the headmaster into a pond, others say poor grades and drinking led to it.

 

Bogart ended up joining the US Navy in 1918 towards the end of the First World War. After the war he worked a variety of jobs and acted with growing success in plays, frequently acting in comedies as a preppy college kid. His first film appearance was in the now lost film The Dancing Town. The 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing depression sharply reduced funding for theater and Bogie headed west to Hollywood along with many other stage actors. He was signed by Fox as a bit player for $750 a week.

 

Now Bogie was splitting his time between Hollywood and New York and frequently out of work. This plus the death of his father in 1934 exacerbated a lifelong, recurring drinking problem.

 

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Still from early Bogart film Three on a Match.

Big Break

 

While acting in a play called Invitation to A Murder he caught the attention of a producer who gave him his major break. A role as escaped criminal Duke Mantee in the upcoming pay The Petrified Forest. The play continued for 192 performances and was a smash hit. A hit film starring Bogart and Bette Davis soon followed.

 

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Bogie in Petrified Forest.

Hollywood Career

 

Despite this success in an A list picture, Warner Bros continued to cast him in low level villain roles for a few more years.

 

Some of this professional shunning may have been due to Bogart’s famous dislike of pretentious phonies. Something Hollywood possessed in abundance even back then. The list of famous feathers he ruffled through his career would be an article by itself.

 

The final nudge to stardom came in 1941 when he was cast as tragic gangster Roy Earle alongside film noir great Ida Lupino.

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Bogart worked well in the film and impressed screenwriter John Huston enough that he cast him as Sam Spade in John Huston’s directorial debut, the legendary Maltese Falcon.

 

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The Maltese Falcon

This film defined Bogart’s career and the characters he would play for the rest of his life. The modern image of Humphrey Bogart was born. Gravelly voiced, leathery and tough with a constant cigarette dangling from his lip. Not quite a goody two shoes hero, but not a bad guy either. His characters tended to live on the margins of law and order. Basically good, but not afraid to defy authority if they felt it was right, or they could benefit from it. Today we call this character type, the anti-hero and Bogie along with other film noir leading men and women, went a long way towards defining it.

 

A string of classics followed The Maltese Falcon including Casablanca, Sahara and To Have and Have Not. On the set of the latter film he met the other half of the Bogie legend. Young model Lauren Bacall in her first film performance. The two of them fell in love almost immediately and  they married in 1945.

 

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Casablanca.

After To Have and Have Not, they were paired in the film noir classic The Big Sleep. Dark Passage and Key Largo were the other two films featuring the two together and all 4 films show the powerful chemistry between the two.

 

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To Have and Have Not. The start of Bogie and Bacall
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War flick, Sahara

Other notable roles include the psychologically damaged captain of a mine layer in the 1954 classic, The Caine Mutiny.

 

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Captain Queeg and the strawberry incident

A river boat captain shanghaied by Katherine Hepburn into attacking the Germans in The African Queen

 

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Bogart versus Hepburn in The African Queen.

A successful but oddball casting as the serious Linus Larrabee opposite Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina.

 

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Bogie versus a different Hepburn in Sabrina

One odd fact most people don’t know, is that Bogart and Bacall were the founding members of the famous Rat Pack, not Frank Sinatra. The way I’ve heard is that Sinatra and several other future Rat Pack members were frequent guests of the Bogarts and several epic parties resulted. After one especially memorable one in Las Vegas, Lauren Bacall observed the wreckage, human and otherwise and said: “You look like a goddamn rat pack.” And a Hollywood legend was born. After Bogie’s death the leadership passed to the Chairman of the Board himself.

 

A habitual smoker, Bogart developed a severe cough and difficulty swallowing. The diagnosis was cancer of the esophagus. Multiple surgeries and chemotherapy did not halt the cancer and he passed away in 1957. His legacy includes 87 film credits, an Academy Award and starring roles in some of the most iconic films of Hollywood’s golden age. Humphrey Bogart, truly a film legend.

Mugshot: James Cagney

Mugshot: James Cagney

Top of the world Ma! One of the all-time iconic movie tough guys. He appeared in some of the most violent and edgy films of his day. His wise-cracking staccato urban accent is instantly recognizable even today. Always controversial, many parents refused to allow their children to see films like White Heat. Paradoxically he was an accomplished song and dance man before he was a tough guy. Even after he found success he frequently appeared in light comedies like The Strawberry Blonde.

 

Early Life

 

James Francis Cagney, Jr. was born July 17, 1899  on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City. The 2nd of 7 children, 5 of whom lived to adulthood. He was frequently ill, probably due to the family’s extreme poverty. Graduating from high school in 1918, he enrolled in college expecting to major in art. These plans were dashed by the death of his father during the Spanish Flu pandemic that same year.

 

As a young adult, he held a variety of jobs from newspaper copy boy to night watchman. His introduction to films was mostly by accident. An accomplished tap dancer from youth, he began to work at bit parts in amateur productions and local plays. Sometimes subbing in for his brother Harry.

 

His mother, while admiring his talent, felt that he should give up performing and seek a “real” career. Cagney continued his vaudeville work, performing as a dancer, singer and comedian and met his future wife Frances Willard “Billie” Vernon in one of these shows. He married her in 1922 and they stayed together until his death.

 

Eventually performances in several plays and a successful turn as a dance instructor led to a regular gig in films with Warner Brothers. Appearing as a tough guy in a dramatic play called Penny Arcade with future star Joan Blondell. Critics loved their performances but panned the rest of the play. Sensing a possible hit, Al Jolson, now  a producer, bought the film rights to the play with the stipulation that Cagney and Blondell reprise their roles.

 

Audiences reacted positively and Cagney’s film career was launched.

 

Film Career

 

The timing couldn’t have been better for Cagney or Warned. Buoyed by the success of their gangster films, Warner decided to cast Cagney in a string of gangster pictures starting with 1930s The Doorway To Hell. The most famous being the villainous Tom Powers in 1931s The Public Enemy. This role effectively cemented the publics opinion of Cagney. Far from being a vaudeville hoofer, he would forever be seen as either a sneering psychopath or a hard case anti-hero.

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A scene so infamous for it’s cruelty it’s still referred to as THE grapefruit scene.

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Charming psychopath.

 

Subsequent films like Angels With Dirty Faces, Each Dawn I Die, The Roaring Twenties and White Heat only added to this persona. The public couldn’t get enough of new tough guy Cagney. While he played a variety of other styles, even appearing in the Shakespearean comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the public was lukewarm at best to these attempts to broaden his performances.

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Raging killer.

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and dancer?!?!

Feeling like he was being restricted by the menacing roles he played. Cagney frequently attempted to break the tough guy mold and tried his hand at the comedies and musicals he had excelled in while on the vaudeville circuit. Some such as The Strawberry Blonde and Yankee Doodle Dandy are fine performances and excellent films. He actually preferred making comedies and musicals. He also felt like he was being type-cast as a tough guy and villain. Unfortunately for Mr. Cagney, the audiences generally preferred him shooting and wisecracking to dancing and singing.

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Cagney singing at the end of Yankee Doodle Dandy.

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Scene from The Strawberry Blonde.

Even to this day, many people have trouble separating Cagney from his more iconic villainous characters. There are rumors that many underworld tough guys modeled their persona after him. This mimicry almost proved fatal later in his career.

 

When he became President of the Screen Actors Guild, he actually became a target of organized crime figures. Cagney had enacted several measures restricting the mob’s control in Hollywood. Several underworld figures seemed to take this very personally and considered Cagney to be as much of a rat and a traitor as if he had actually been a real mobster. A plot to drop a 400 lb Klieg light on him was averted by friend and fellow actor, George Raft, who had numerous ties to the underworld and was able to pull some strings and call off the hit.

 

Cagney worked hard through the 1940s but began to slow his pace in the ’50s and was virtually retired by 1961, only appearing in a single film, the Billy Wilder directed comedy One, Two, Three. After that he made sporadic appearances through the ’70s and ’80s in retirement, splitting his time between Los Angeles and Martha’s Vineyard.

 

James Cagney passed away on March 30th 1986 from a heart attack with almost 70 acting credits. He is still regarded as one of the true, great actors of the 20th century.

Mugshot Ida Lupino

Mugshot Ida Lupino

Today’s mugshot will feature one of my favorite film performers, a unique and very talented woman. Ida Lupino was not just a great dramatic actress, she was also a director and producer in an era when that side of Hollywood was off limits to women.

Early life

Despite her exotic sounding name, Ida Lupino is actually from London, England. The Lupino family name comes from an Italian ancestor. Her family was already well established in the entertainment industry and she appeared in her first film at age 14.

Film Career

Discovered by Paramount when she appeared in the 1933 racing film Money For Speed. She played a dual role villain/hero part, but the Paramount execs had only seen the good girl part of the performance. Producers at Paramount brought her to Hollywood expecting a sweet girl next door type and got a Bette Davis caliber dramatic actress with a love of playing villain roles.

Little did they know that Ida Lupina had always wanted to do things differently. Earlier in her career, when a meddling manager tried to make her into an ingénue performer, she went out of her way to play villain roles. Not sure of what to make of their new actress, they still offered her a 5 year contract.

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Her first few years were fairly uneventful, mostly bit parts. Her first major role was in the Light That Failed. A role she got by storming into the director’s office unannounced and demanding an audition. Bold stuff in 1930s Hollywood.

This boldness paid off and she started to appear in superior productions from that point on.

One of the most interesting aspects of her performances is how her powerful personality and screen presence belie her delicate appearance. Films like High Sierra show her powerful acting range, going from wounded vulnerability to a raging fury that completely dominates many of her scenes or her chilling mental breakdown scene in They Drive By Night.

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High Sierra

Mugshot ida lupino breakdown robert odiernaThe breakdown scene

Working steadily through the 1940s, Ida never quite became a break out star, but was admired critically for her acting ability. Ever the rebel, she clashed frequently with studio executives, especially when they tried to cast her in parts she felt didn’t suit her. Suspended by Warner several times through the 1940s, she used the time to learn more about her other passion, directing.

Director and Producer

Her first directing credit came in 1949 when director Elmer Clifton fell ill on the set of Not Wanted. She stepped in to finish the film but declined credit out of respect for him. Her first official credit was the film Never Fear, about a woman’s struggle with polio.

Known as Mother to her crew, The Bulldozer to studio executives, she was a formidable personality. Her production company made a series of low budget, daring films that dealt with issues such as bigamy, violence against women and out of wedlock pregnancy from a woman’s perspective, a unique thing in the 1950s when those subjects were barely mentioned at all.

Since she was on limited budgets and frequently self funded Ida adapted to shooting on a shoe string budget. Ida quickly learned to reuse sets from other productions. She also shot on site whenever possible and used an early form of product placement to defray costs. She also tended to be very sparing with her takes, getting the best performances out of her actors as quickly as possible to save time and expensive stock.A far cry from future directors such as Coppola who are famous for shooting hundreds of thousands of feet of film to get just the right shot. This speed and frugality endeared her to the tighter budgeted TV studios and ensured her steady work there.

Her final feature film directing credit was in 1965, the Hayley Mills film, The Trouble With Angels. She kept busy through the 60s and 70s with many film and television credits both as an actress and director. Her credits include appearances in Bonanza, The Fugitive and The Twilight Zone. She is the only woman to direct and star in a Twilight Zone Episode. One of her final credits was a Charlie’s Angel’s episode in 1978.

Retired by the 1980s, Ida Lupino passed away from a stroke in 1995 at the age of 77. She has 105 professional credits as an actress and an additional 41 as director and 8 as screenwriter.

 

Mugshot: Edward G. Robinson

Mugshot: Edward G. Robinson

Gangster, snarling villain, but also cultured art collector, polyglot and refined gentleman. Most film fans remember the great Edward G. Robinson as an iconic movie villain and tough guy famous for his menacing gangster roles in the 1930s and 40s. But there was much more to this iconic, tough guy actor.

 

Edward G. Robinson was born Emanuel Goldenberg in Bucharest, Romania on December 12, 1893. His family settled in the New York area when he was 10. Abandoning plans to become a Rabbi, he took up community theater while in college and was a staple performer on Broadway plays. His first substancial film appearance was in the 1923 at the age of 30 in the silent film The Bright Shawl, starring Richard Barthelmess and Dorothy Gish. He appeared in several films through the silent film era, usually playing ethnic or villain roles.

 

His breakout performance came with the widespread adoption of sound films, in 1931 as Rico in the gangster epic, Little Caesar.

 

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Little Caesar

 

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“Is this the end of Rico?”

 

The film chronicles the Al Capone like rise of a small time crook to big time crime boss. Starting with misdemeanors and gas station stickup jobs and working his way up to leading a criminal empire and eventual downfall, his menacing performance as Rico, made Edward G. Robinson an overnight icon. His signature snarl and grimace parodied and imitated by a wide range of comedians and performers. Even Bugs Bunny got in on the act in the 1946 short Racketeer Rabbit.

 

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It’s Curtains for you Rocky!

 

By some accounts only 5’5″, his powerful stage presence and stocky build made him seem much larger on the screen and he often appeared to menace larger actors just by sheer force of personality.

 

Little Caesar was followed by a string of successful films through the 40s. Occasionally he would get a relished chance to play a hero, such as the dogged insurance investigator Barton Keyes in Double Indemnity.

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“…Something just doesn’t sit right.”

 

He was also known for being able to parody his own performances, such as in 1938s A Slight Case of Murder, where he plays a former bootlegger trying his best to go straight despite the best efforts of his family and friends. This versatility is surprising for those who have only seen his more villainous roles.

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Who knew obeying the law was so much work?

 

Another notable performance was a ferocious reprise of his famous gangster persona in 1948’s Key Largo. Playing crime boss Johnny Rocco opposite screen heavyweights Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Lionel Barrymore. This menacing performance is iconic Robinson and one of my favorite film performances.

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Johnny Rocco

 

A passionate anti-fascist, he was known for his outspoken criticism of Hitler and Nazism in the 1930s, long before many people recognized the threat Hitler’s Germany presented. Even calling for a boycott of all German products. Edward G. Robinson donated over $250,000, a fortune in those days, to charities and relief efforts. He was also a supporter of the growing civil rights movement and equality in the workplace.

 

These outspoken positions made him unpopular in some circles and in the 1950s he had a near miss with the ongoing red scare in Hollywood, called before the HUAC in 1950 and nearly blacklisted; his career was damaged by these events. He returned to the stage for a few years and his career rebounded when he was cast as the villainous Dathan in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1954 Biblical epic, The Ten Commandments. After this his career was bolstered by radio and television appearances and he worked steadily into the early 1970s.

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Biblical villain Dathan. Next time you see this movie, imagine him with Rico’s voice. “I’m gonna getcha, see?”

 

In addition to his busy Hollywood life, Edward G. Robinson was a quiet and refined gentleman, a noted philanthropist and art collector. A far cry from the thundering menace he frequently displayed on the big screen. He was also known for being able to speak 7 languages fluently including Yiddish, Romanian and German.

 

Edward G. Robinson passed away in 1973 at the age of 79 from bladder cancer. Hard at work right up to the end, his last film, Soylent Green with Charlton Heston, was released the same year.

 

Incredibly, this iconic actor never won an academy award, despite appearing in many famous films and defining roles. Shortly after his death, the Academy awarded him a special lifetime achievement. A belated tribute at best for such an iconic and long lived performer.

Mugshot: Steve McQueen

Mugshot: Steve McQueen

One of the Hollywood’s Kings of Cool. Steve McQueen is one of the most enduring symbols of modern movies.

Early life

Born in 1930 in Indiana to a single mother, Terence Steven McQueen grew up in a constantly shifting home environment. Raised by his grand-parents and uncle until the age of 8. He was taken back by his mother who had relocated to California. He soon had to deal with violent abuse by his step-father and ran away from home. Soon falling in with a juvenile gang and committing a variety of petty crimes and misdemeanors. Sent back to his grand-parents several times and finally being labeled incorrigible by the courts after encounters with the police and a violent fight with another stepfather. He was sent to a youth camp.

When he first arrived he described himself as learning to pay his dues and went from being one of the worst inmates to a model prisoner.

After his release he briefly returned to his mother and quickly moved on to a variety of transient jobs on oil rigs, a merchant ship and as a lumber jack. Joining the Marine Corps in 1947, he reverted back to his previous rebelliousness and was a frequent guest in the brig. Later he mended his ways, even becoming a member of the honor guard tasked with protecting Harry Truman’s presidential yacht. He was honorably discharged in 1950.

In the movies

In 1952 McQueen used benefits from his GI bill to begin studying acting in New York at Sanford Meisner’s Neighborhood Playhouse. At the same time his other passion for racing led him to compete in motorcycle races for extra cash.

After several minor roles in theater he made his Broadway debut in 1955 in the play A Hatful of Rain. Later that year he headed west to try his luck in the movies. First appearing in a string of Television roles and B-pictures. His first leading role was in the memorable sci-fi thriller “The Blob” in 1958.

Robert Odierna Mugshot Criminal Movie Reviews Steve McQueenSteve McQueen on the set of The Blob

This plus a starring role as bounty hunter Josh Randall in the western series Wanted Dead or Alive starting the same year, catapulted the 28 year old McQueen into stardom.

Robert Odierna Mugshot Criminal Movie Reviews Steve McQueen wanted dead or aliveOn the set of Wanted Dead Or Alive

The anti-hero role of a bounty hunter became typical for McQueen in the 1960s and he became famous for his authority bucking characters. Hi signature squint and deep, gravelly voice added to an already formidable screen presence.

His first big role in the next decade was in 1960 with The Magnificent Seven. Following were hits such as ww2 POW epic The Great Escape, revenge western Nevada Smith and crime thriller Bullitt.

Robert Odierna Mugshot Criminal Movie Reviews Steve McQueen The Great EscapeStill from The Great Escape

You can see the development of his tough guy persona in this era. Dropping the last vestiges of his earlier youthful roles. Most of his roles are of the authority challenging tough guy type seen in The Sand Pebbles and Bullitt. A noteable exception is The Thomas Crowne affair where he plays a debonair criminal more akin to James Bond than Frank Bullitt. But even in this role you can see the steel underneath the expensive suits.

Robert Odierna Mugshot Criminal Movie Reviews Steve_McQueen Yul BrynnerSteve McQueen and Yul Brynner on set in The Magnificent Seven

McQueen entered the 1970s as one of the best paid and famous of the eras super-stars. Fame and other interests such as auto racing led to a much reduced output with only 7 releases starting with racing epic Le Mans, as bank robber Doc McCoy in The Getaway with then wife Ali MacGraw and disaster epic Towering Inferno.

Always an avid racer and adventurer, McQueen frequently performed his own stunts, much to the distress of the film crew and studio heads. This can be seen in the epic Bullitt chase scene. Some crews went to the extreme of filming dangerous scenes with stuntmen before he arrived on set. He personally owned a large collection of cars and airplanes. Some of this considerable collection can be seen at: http://www.mcqueenonline.com/carsandbikes.htm

His rebellious streak continued throughout his life and a resulted in more than a few brushes with the law including an arrest, mugshot and booking for drunk driving in Alaska. He was also known for a fairly serious drug habit around the same time.

Robert Odierna Mugshot Criminal Movie ReviewsSteve_McQueenSteve McQueen manages to make an arrest and mugshot look cool

Health issues began to plague him in the late ’70s, always a heavy smoker, he developed a persistent cough and shortness of breath that was diagnosed as cancer in 1979.

His decline can unfortunately be seen in his last film, The Hunter, released in 1980. While McQueen performs heroically in the role, as usual performing many of his own stunts. His physical decline is obvious and you can see him literally fighting for breath in most of the scenes.

Tragically this cancer resisted treatment and Steve McQueen died of pleural mesothelioma in 1980. Possibly as a result of exposure to asbestos during service in the Marine Corp or later during his racing career.

While only active in films and TV for 27 years, Steve McQueen leaves behind a formidable collection of performances that cement his reputation as the King of Cool.