30 Days of Noir #15: The Man With My Face (dir by Edward Montagne)


The 1951 film, The Man With My Face, tells the story of Chick Graham (Barry Nelson).

Chick’s a nice guy.  He might be a little bit bland but, at the same time, he’s also never been in any real trouble.  He’s the type of person who you would trust to look after your money but, at the same time, you would probably also forget to wish him a happy birthday on Facebook.  He’s just one of those decent but forgettable human beings.

After serving his country in World War II, Chick moved to Puerto Rico and opened up a business with his best friend from the army, Buster Cox (John Harvey).  Not only that but he also married Buster’s sister, Cora (Lynn Ainley).  Of course, when he fell in love with Cora, he also abandoned his then-girlfriend, Mary (Carole Mathews).  Mary’s still a little bit upset about that but you know who is really bitter about it?  Mary’s brother, Walt (Jack Warden).  Walt says that Chick’s no good and there’s no way that he would ever help Chick out if Chick ever got in any trouble.

But no matter!  Chick’s got a nice house.  He’s got a loving wife.  He’s got a loyal best friend.  And he’s got a dog!  It’s a perfect life!

Or is it?

One day, Chick is shocked when his wife doesn’t pick him up after dropping him off in the city.  When she calls his house and asks her what’s going on, she replies that she doesn’t have the slightest idea who he is.  When Chick finally makes it home, both Cora and Buster continue to insist that they don’t know who he is.  His own dog doesn’t even seem to know him!

However, what’s really strange is that, in Chick’s house, there’s a man who looks exactly like him.  Cora, Buster, and the man all claim that he’s the real Chick Graham and that the original Chick is just a double. Fleeing his house, Chick soon discovers that his picture is on the front page of every newspaper!

Except, of course, it’s not his picture.  Instead, it’s a picture of Bert Rand!  Bert is a notorious criminal who recently robbed a bank in Miami.  It’s rumored that he’s fled to Puerto Rico!  It doesn’t take long for Chick to figure out that Bert has stolen his identity and moved into his house.  But how can Chick prove it?  (Remember this film was made in 1951, back when most people didn’t even know what DNA was.)  Making things even worse for Chick is that he now has a crazed dog handler (Jim Boles) and a doberman chasing him all over San Juan….

As far as stolen identity films are concerned, The Man With My Face isn’t bad, though it is kind of predictable.  It’s not a spoiler to say that people are conspiring against Chick but, as you watch the film, you have to wonder why these criminals would pursue such a needlessly complicated scheme.  You have to admire their dedication but, at the same time, it’s seems like they could have gotten the same results with a much simpler plan.  On the plus side, Barry Nelson (who you might recognize as Mr. Ullman from Kubrick’s The Shining) is a sympathetic hero and character actor Jack Warden has a nice supporting role as Mary’s world weary brother.  Though Puerto Rico may seem like a strange place to set a film noir, the film’s final chase scene makes good and atmospheric use of the Fort San Cristobal.  All in all, The Man With My Face is an entertaining little time waster.

Celebrate National Trivia Day With The Actors Who Could Have Been James Bond!


 

Today is National Trivia Day so I thought why not share some trivia?  I love film trivia.  I especially love trivia about who was considered for certain films.  Hell, one of my most popular posts on the Shattered Lens dealt with all of the actors who were considered for the Godfather!

(I even came up with an alternative cast for The Godfather, even though I consider the actual film to be the best cast film in history.)

I also happen to love the James Bond films.  (Well, not so much the recent Bond films.  I’ve made my feelings on SPECTRE clear.)  As a franchise, I absolutely love them.  So, with all that in mind, here is a look at the actors who could have been Bond.  I’ve compiled this article from many sources.  And yes, you could probably just find a lot of the information on Wikipedia but then you’d miss out on my editorial commentary.

Hoagy Carmichael

Ian Fleming himself always said that his pick for Bond would have been the musician, Hoagy Carmichael.  He even made a point, in Casino Royale, of having Vesper Lynd exclaim that Bond looked like Hoagy Carmichael.  Of course, the first actor to actually play Bond was Barry Nelson in a 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale.  Nelson is probably best remembered for playing Mr. Ullman in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Barry Nelson, the first James Bond

When Dr. No went into production in 1961, many actors were considered for the role before Sean Connery was eventually cast.  Many of them were very well-known actors and, had they been cast, Dr. No would not have been remembered as a Bond movie.  Instead, it would be remembered as a star vehicle for … well, let’s take a look at some of the better-known possibilities:

Among the famous actors who were mentioned for Bond in 1961: Cary Grant, Richard Burton, James Mason, Trevor Howard, Stanley Baker, George Baker, Jimmy Stewart, Rex Harrison, and David Niven.  (Of that list, I think Burton would have made for an interesting Bond.  If the Bond films had been made in the 1940s, Grant would have been my first choice.  Trying to imagine Jimmy Stewart as a British secret agent is … interesting.)

Once it became obvious that a star was not going to play Bond, the role was offered to Patrick McGoohan and Rod Taylor.  McGoohan had moral objections to the character.  Rod Taylor reportedly felt that the film would flop.  Steve Reeves, the American body builder who became famous for playing Hercules in Italy, was reportedly strongly considered.  At one point, director Terrence Young wanted to offer the role to Richard Johnson, who later played Dr. Menard in Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2.

Of course, the role went to Sean Connery and made Connery a huge star.  In 1967, after Connery announced that he would no longer play the world’s most famous secret agent, there was a huge and widely publicized search for his replacement.  Some of the names that were considered are intriguing.  Others are just bizarre.

Oliver Reed

To me, perhaps the most intriguing name mentioned was that of Oliver Reed.  Reed definitely would have brought a rougher edge of the role than some of the other actors considered.  However, that’s one reason why Reed wasn’t picked.  Apparently, it was felt that he did not have the right public image to play the suave Mr. Bond.

Somewhat inevitably, Michael Caine was sought out for the role.  Caine, however, refused to consider it because he had already starred in three back-to-back spy thrillers and didn’t want to get typecast.  Caine’s former roommate, Terrence Stamp, was another possibility but wanted too much control over the future direction of the Bond films.  Future Bond Timothy Dalton was considered to be too young.  Another future Bond, Roger Moore, didn’t want to give up his television career.  Eric Braeden has the right look for Bond but was German.  Rumor has it that producer Cubby Broccoli even considered Dick Van Dyke for the role, though I find that hard to believe.  An even more surprising possibility was the nobleman Lord Lucan, who was offered a screen test in 1967 and who, ten years later, would vanish after being accused of murdering his children’s nanny.

Lord Lucan

Among the actors who auditioned before George Lazenby was cast in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Michael Billington, Jeremy Brett, Peter Purves, Robert Campbell, Patrick Mower, Daniel Pilon, John Richardson, Anthony Rogers, Hans De Vries, and Peter Snow.

After the mixed reception of both Lazenby’s performance and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby was soon out as James Bond.  Even today, there’s a lot of controversy about what led to Lazenby being dismissed from the role.  Some say Lazenby demanded too much money.  Some say that Lazenby was merely used a pawn to try to get Sean Connery to return to the role.  Regardless, Lazenby only made one film as Bond.  (Of course, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has retroactively been recognized as being one of the best of the series.)

With Connery still claiming that he would never return to the role, the film’s producers went through the motions of looking for a new Bond.  Once again, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton were considered.  Connery suggested that a talk show host named Simon Dee should play the role.  An actor named Roger Green auditioned.  So did Michael Gambon, though he later said he was turned down because, in his own words, he “had tits like a woman.”  Interestingly, several Americans were mentioned.  Clint Eastwood as James Bond?  Burt Reynolds?  Adam “Batman” West? The mind boggles but their names were mentioned.

John Gavin

And interestingly enough, an American was cast.  John Gavin is best known for playing Sam Loomis in Psycho but he was also, briefly, James Bond.  After Gavin accepted he role and signed a contract, Sean Connery announced that he would be willing to return to the role.  Gavin was paid off and Connery went on to star in Diamonds are Forever.

After Diamonds, Connery left the role for a second time and, once again, Bond was recast.  This time, Roger Moore would finally accept the role.  However, before Moore was cast, several other actors were considered.  Some of the regular possibilities were mentioned again: John Gavin, Simon Oates, Timothy Dalton, and Michael Billington.  Others considered included Jon Finch, Ranulph Fiennes, Peter Laughton, and Guy Peters.  Some of those names are probably as unknown to you as they are to me but it’s intriguing to think that Guy Peters may not be a well-known name but, at one time, there was a possibility that he could suddenly become one of the biggest stars in the world.

Looking over the history of the Bond franchise, it’s interesting to see the number of times that Moore tried to leave the role, just to be talked into returning.  Every time that Moore considered quitting, a new group of actors would be considered for the role of Bond.  In 1979, when Moore said he might not return after Moonraker, Timothy Dalton, Michael Jayston, Patrick Mower (who was also considered for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), and Michael Billington were all considered as replacements.  So was Julian Glover.  Ironically, when Moore did agree to return to the role, Glover was cast as the villain in For Your Eyes Only.

David Warbeck

To me, the most intriguing actor mentioned as a replacement for Roger Moore was David Warbeck.  Warbeck was a television actor and model who subsequently had a nearly legendary film career in Italy.  Not only did he play a key role in Sergio Leone’s Duck You Sucker!, but he also starred in Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat and The Beyond.  He also appeared in the best of Italian Apocalypse Now rip-offs, The Last Hunter.  In interviews, Warbeck claimed that he was under contract to Cubby Broccoli to step into the role in case Roger Moore ever walked off the set.  The likable and rugged Warbeck would have been an interesting Bond.

In 1983, when Moore again said he might not return to the role, Michael Billington (who actually did appear in a Bond film when he played a KGB agent killed at the start of The Spy Who Loved Me) would be once more considered as a replacement.  British TV actors Lewis Collins and Ian Ogilvy were also considered for the role.  In a repeat of what happened with John Gavin in Diamonds are Forever, American actor James Brolin was actually put under contract until Moore agreed to play the role in Octopussy.

James Brolin, in a screen test for Octopussy

After A View To A Kill, Moore left the role for the final time.  Famously, future Bond Pierce Brosnan was actually cast as his replacement until the surge of interest created by his casting led to the renewal of Remington Steele, the American television show in which Brosnan was starring.  Once the show was renewed, Brosnan could no longer work the Bond films into his schedule.

Among the other names mentioned: Sean Bean, Simon MacCorkindale, Andrew Clarke, Finlay Light, Mark Greenstreet, Neil Dickson, Christopher Lambert, Mel Gibson, and Antony Hamilton.  Sam Neill was another possibility and reportedly came very close to getting the role.  Watch any of the films that Neill made when he was younger and you can definitely see hints of Bond.

Sam Neill

In the end, Timothy Dalton finally accepted the role.  Ironically, for an actor who spent 20 years being courted for the role, Dalton turned out to be a bit of a flop as Bond.  He made two movies (both of which were considered to be disappointing when compared to the previous Bond films) and then left the role.

Looking over the contemporary reviews of Dalton as Bond, one thing that comes through clearly is that a lot of people resented him for taking a role that they felt should have gone to Pierce Brosnan.  When the Bond films resumed production with Goldeneye in 1994, Brosnan finally stepped into the role.  Reportedly, if Brosnan had turned down the role, the second choice was Sean Bean.  Much like Julian Glover, Bean may have lost out on 007 but he did end up playing the villain.

Sean Bean

Among the other actors who were reportedly considered before Brosnan accepted the role: Mark Frankel, Paul McGann, Liam Neeson, Russell Crowe, and Lambert Wilson.  Ralph Fiennes, who has been M since Skyfall, was also considered.

As opposed to his predecessors, Brosnan seemed to be very comfortable with the idea of playing Bond and never threatened to leave the role.  Looking over the Bond-related articles that were published from 1995 to 2004, I found the occasional speculation about whether Rupert Everett would be the first gay James Bond or if Sharon Stone would be the first female James Bond but I found very little speculation about Brosnan actually leaving the role.  Indeed, when Brosnan officially retired as Bond in 2004, it was less his decision and more at the prodding of the franchise’s producers, who felt that the series needed to be rejuvenated with a new (and younger) actor.  After Brosnan left, the series was rebooted and Daniel Craig played the role in Casino Royale.

In the past, I’ve made it clear that Daniel Craig is hardly my favorite Bond.  I loved Skyfall (and I consider it to the 2nd best Bond film, after From Russia With Love) but, even in that case, I felt that the film succeeded despite Craig instead of because of him.  With Casino Royale, we were supposed to be seeing a young and inexperienced Bond.  That’s never come through to me, probably because Craig looked like he was nearly 50 years old when he made Casino Royale.

Among the actors who were mentioned for the role before Craig received the role: Ralph Fiennes (again), Colin Salmon, Ewan McGregor, Henry Cavill, Rupert Friend, Julian McMahon, Alex O’Laughlin, Clive Owen, Dougray Scott, and Goran Visjnic.  Dominic West, who I think would have been great in the role, reportedly ruled himself out because he heard a rumor that Brosnan would be returning to the role.

Dominic West

Daniel Craig, of course, has been talking about leaving the role ever since he was first cast.  I think Skyfall would have been a perfect movie for him to leave on.  (It would have saved the world from SPECTRE.)  However, Craig has apparently agreed to do at least one more Bond film.  Maybe two.

When Craig does leave, who will replace him?  Idris Elba, of course, is probably the most widely discussed possibility.  James Norton has also been named as a possibility.  Others that I’ve seen mentioned: Tom Hardy, Jack Huston, Aidan Turner, Tom Hiddleston, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, and Henry Cavill (again).

My personal choice?  Dominic Cooper.  He’d be an off-center Bond but I think it would still be an intriguing pick.

Dominic Cooper

Who knows what the future may hold for 007?  All I know is that I look forward to the speculation.

Happy National Trivia Day, everyone!

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: The Human Comedy (dir by Clarence Brown)


The-human-comedy-1943Thanks to TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar, I now have several movies on my DVR that I need to watch over the upcoming month.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m not complaining.  I’m always happy to have any reason to discover (or perhaps even rediscover) a movie.  And, being an Oscar junkie, I especially enjoy the opportunity to watch the movies that were nominated in the past and compare them to the movies that have been nominated more recently.

For instance, tonight, I watched The Human Comedy, a film from 1943.  Along with being a considerable box office success, The Human Comedy won on Oscar (for Best Story) and was nominated for four others: picture, director (Clarence Brown), actor (Mickey Rooney), and black-and-white cinematography.  The Human Comedy was quite a success in 1943 but I imagine that, if it were released today, it would probably be dismissed as being too sentimental.  Watching The Human Comedy today is something of a strange experience because it is a film without a hint of cynicism.  It deals with serious issues but it does so in such a positive and optimistic manner that, for those of us who are used to films like The Big Short and Spotlight, a bit of an attitude adjustment is necessary before watching.

And yet that doesn’t mean that The Human Comedy is a bad film.  In fact, I quite enjoyed it.  The Human Comedy is a time capsule, a chance to look into the past.  It also features a great central performance, one that was quite rightfully nominated for an Oscar.  As I watched Mickey Rooney in this film, I started to feel guilty for some of the comments I made when I reviewed Mickey in The Manipulator last October.

2Mickey Rooney in The Human Comedy

The Human Comedy opens with an overhead shot of the small town of Ithaca, California.  The face of Mr. McCauley (Ray Collins, who you’ll recognize immediately as Boss Jim Gettys from Citizen Kane) suddenly appears in the clouds.  Mr. McCauley explains that he’s dead and he’s been dead for quite some time.  But he loves Ithaca so much that his spirit still hangs around the town and keeps an eye on his family.  Somehow, the use of dead Mr. McCauley as the film’s narrator comes across as being both creepy and silly.

Matthew-clouds-400-387x300

But no sooner has Mr. McCauley stopped extolling the virtues of small town life than we see his youngest song, 7 year-old Ulysseus (Jack Jenkins), standing beside a railroad track and watching a train as it rumbles by.  Sitting on the cars are a combination of soldiers and hobos.  Ulysseus waves at some of the soldiers but none of them wave back.  Finally, one man waves back at Ulysseus and calls out, “Going home, I’m going home!”  It’s a beautifully shot scene, one that verges on the surreal.

That opening pretty much epitomizes the experience of watching The Human Comedy.  For every overly sentimental moment, there will be an effective one that will take you by surprise.  The end result may be uneven but it’s still undeniably effective.

The majority of the film deals with Homer McCauley (Mickey Rooney).  Homer may still be in high school but, with his older brother, Marcus (Van Johnson), serving overseas and his father dead, Homer is also the man of the house.  Homer not only serves as a role model for Ulysseus but he’s also protector for his sister, Bess (Donna Reed).   (At one point in the film, she gets hit on by three soldiers on leave.  One of them is played by none other than Robert Mitchum.)  In order to bring in extra money for the household, Homer gets a job delivering telegrams.

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In between scenes of Homer in Ithaca, we get oddly dream-like scenes of Marcus and his army buddies hanging out.  Marcus spends all of his time talking about how much he loves Ithaca and how he can’t wait for the war to be over so he can return home.  One of his fellow soldiers says, “I almost feel like Ithaca is my hometown, too.”  Marcus promises him that they’ll all visit Ithaca.  As soon as the war is over…

With World War II raging, Homer’s job largely consists of delivering death notices (and the occasional singing telegram, as well).  Telegraph operator Willie Grogan (Frank Morgan) deals with the burden of having to transcribe bad news by drinking.  Homer, meanwhile, tries to do his job with compassion and dignity but one day, he has to deliver a telegram to his own house…

The Human Comedy is an episodic film, full of vignettes of life in Ithaca and Homer growing up.  There’s quite a few subplots (along with a lot of speeches about how America is the best country in the world) but, for the most part, the film works best when it concentrates on Homer and Mickey Rooney’s surprisingly subdued lead performance.  By today’s standards, it may seem a bit predictable and overly sentimental but it’s also so achingly sincere that you can’t help but appreciate it.

The Human Comedy was nominated for best picture but it lost to a somewhat more cynical film about life during World War II, Casablanca.

Horror On TV: Twilight Zone 5.30 “Stopover In A Quiet Town”


After having too much to drink at a party, Bob and Millie (played by Barry Nelson and Nancy Malone) wake up in a strange bed with no memory of how they got there.  Hey, who hasn’t had that happen once or twice, right?  However, Bob and Millie soon discover that not only is the house deserted, but so is the strange town outside.

This episode of the Twilight Zone was written by Earl Hamner, Jr. and directed by Ron Winston.  It was originally broadcast on  April 24th, 1964.

The Name’s Bond, Jimmy Bond: Casino Royale (1954)


Hi there!  On November 9th (which just happens to be my birthday, by the way), the latest James Bond film will opening here in the States.  The early reviews of Skyfall have been nothing sort of amazing, with several critics declaring it to be the best Bond film ever.  Well, time will tell.  The fact of the matter is that many of those same critics said the exact same thing about Quantum of Solace before it was actually released.

That said, the James Bond franchise seems to be one of the few things that everyone on this planet has in common.  It seems that everyone has seen (and loved) at least one Bond film.  There’s a reason why Skyfall is going to be the number one film in the world despite having a totally generic title.  For over 50 years, people have loved Bond.

Here at the Shattered Lens, we’re observing the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise by reviewing every single James Bond film that’s ever been made.  In the days leading up to the American release of Skyfall, we’ll be taking a look at every single adventure that the cinematic James Bond has had.  Everything from the good to the bad to the ugly.

Everyone knows that Sean Connery made his debut of James Bond in 1962’s Dr. No but what they may not know is that Sean Connery was not the first actor to play James Bond.  James Bond made his first appearance 8 years earlier when an American television show called Climax! presented a 48-minute adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, Casino Royale.

In this version of Climax!, James Bond was known as Jimmy Bond and he was about as American as you can get.  (Felix Leiter, meanwhile, was now English and named Clarence Leiter).  Jimmy Bond was played by Barry Nelson, an actor who is probably best known for playing the blandly friendly hotel manager in Stanley Kubrick’s The ShiningCasino Royale’s villain, Le Chiffre, was played by none other than Peter Lorre.

This version of Casino Royale was initially meant to serve as a pilot for a weekly television series but, perhaps fortunately, the Climax version of Casino Royale didn’t get much attention when it was originally aired.  According to Sinclair McKay’s authoritative Bond book, The Man With The Golden Touch, this version of Casino Royale was forgotten about until a copy of it was discovered in the 1980s.  By that time, of course, everyone knew that James Bond was English and that Felix Leiter was American.

Thanks to YouTube, I’ve seen the Climax! Casino Royale and it’s a curiosity.  If Dr. No hadn’t launched the James Bond film franchise, there would be little reason to watch this version of Casino Royale.  It moves a bit slowly, is way too stagey, and it reveals that, contrary to what we’ve all heard, live television was not always the greatest thing on the planet.  Not surprisingly, this adaptation contains none of the brutality or the moral ambiguity that makes Fleming’s novel such a fun read.  American television audiences would not see Jimmy Bond strapped naked to a chair and an American television show would never end with the hero saying, “The bitch is dead.”  The best you can say about this version of Casino Royale is that Peter Lorre makes for a good villain (in fact, of the three versions of Casino Royale, the television version is the only one to feature an effective Le Chiffre) and Barry Nelson would have made a good Felix Leiter.

That said, I still find the television version of Casino Royale to be fascinating from a historical point of view.  This is the type of show that you watch for curiosity value.  This is the type of show that you watch so that you can think about how different things could have been.

So, presented for your viewing pleasure, here’s the original version of Casino Royale:

Coming tomorrow: The James Bond film franchise gets off to its proper start with … Dr. No!