A Rap Sheet on Wendell Corey

Wendell Corey early in his Hollywood career

The acerbic American writer Paul Theroux once observed that “Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us.” Maybe movies–that particularly compelling and seductive form of fiction–gives us that chance too, especially if we look at an actor’s many roles, rather than their best known portrayals. Some actors leave you cold, though once in a while you’re able to look at someone in a new way.

MorlockJeff‘s recent article on that ’50s movie fixture, George Nader, found here, made me question my attitudes toward certain actors. I thought that Nader was a negligible, pompadoured presence in laughable movies such as Carnival Story (1954), or the outrageously campy The Female Animal (1958). The best that I could say about the guy was that he looked good in navy blue in an unpretentious, if sometimes overly ponderous “victory at sea” story from Universal, called Away All Boats (1956), directed by Joseph Pevney. However, Jeff’s lively description of this upcoming noirish feature on TCM, Nowhere to Go (1958), with Nader acting opposite a very young, doe-like Maggie Smith, makes me want to see the movie. It also made me think about an actor whose work I’ve dismissed in the past, but have recently grown to see a bit differently. Maybe I threw Wendell Corey on my personal pile of rejects too soon.

Wendell_Corey_in_The_Search_trailerWendell Corey was the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1961 to 1963, (as well as serving on the SAG Board of Directors).  The actor, who was a regular fixture at the increasingly frantic televised ceremonies in the late ’50s and early ’60s, seemed to have the ill luck to constantly be trying to interview people arriving and leaving the Oscars. At one ceremony during which he and Robert Ryan were supposed to be interviewing attendees, the madhouse atmosphere reportedly led to the disconnection of the television cables, only allowing Ryan and Corey a brief greeting before being cut off. At the 1961 fete, Corey, accompanied by a gushing Mitzi Gaynor in the pressroom, wound up hunting for something to say live on camera. “I’m so glad Shirley Jones won, she looked so lovely”, opined Gaynor about Jones‘ Best Supporting Actress nod for Elmer Gantry (1960). Feeling fatigued by it all, Corey sighed heavily, on coast-to-coast hookup, “I’m glad they all won.” Hunting for someone–anyone–to interview in the crush, Mitzi asked her companion, “Do you see any winners?”

Wendell, perhaps wondering why he was there at all, simply replied as the credits rolled, “I don’t see any.”

In 1962, in a masterstroke of unlucky timing, (just one year before Sidney Poitier’s pioneering win as Best Actor for Lilies of the Field (1963), Wendell had the misfortune to preside over the Oscar night when pickets for a group called the Hollywood Race Relations Bureau, (which had been publicly disavowed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), marched outside the ceremony with signs reading “Film Equality for Negroes” and “All Negroes Want a Break.” Twelve of the protestors were taken into custody for disturbing the peace; especially after one person was said to have aggressively sought to buttonhole singer Johnny Mathis as he entered the theater. A harassed Corey, who allegedly had made the decision to call the police to remove the picketers, introduced the broadcast’s host, Bob Hope, as an “anchorman” explaining that “while we hope you’ll be entertained, this is essentially a news event.” No wonder songwriter Johnny Mercer urged “Martinis for everyone!” during the Oscar party. Not surprisingly, none of this did Corey‘s career a great deal of good since negative publicity surrounded the protesters’ arrests. Corey, who appeared in several television shows over the years as well as in increasingly smaller budgeted feature films, remained active in the movie community and continued to run for Santa Monica municipal office until his death in 1968.
This tragi-comedy of errors and near misses on screen and off seemed to begin from Wendell Corey‘s first role on screen, as John Hodiak’s jealous henchman in Desert Fury (1947). With John Hodiak in Wendell Corey's first movie, Desert Fury (1947)

Nice guy parts such as the one he played in Fred Zinnemann’s The Search (1947) as Montgomery Clift‘s pragmatic sounding board gave way to blander roles, such as the nice guy cop who eventually believes Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window (1954). Still, the brass ring really eluded Corey, and I suspect that he may have been a character actor who wanted to be a leading man. That was a shame, because, as I’ve recently realized, his talent bloomed in character roles.

Some actors seem anathema to me due to visceral reactions I’d had to their bread and butter  work, their physical appearance or mannerisms when first encountering them in some prominent roles. One example of this was Wendell Corey, who seemed to play an anodyne human tranquilizer more times than George Brent.  His character work in Rear Window and Harriet Craig may be examples of the cipher-like kind of roles played by Corey when he was “phoning it in.”

I realize that he was often asked to offer a masculine shoulder to support a dazzling female presence (such as Joan Crawford or Barbara Stanwyck) on screen, but sometimes it seemed more than a bit unlikely. Other times Wendell seemed to be offered to the female audience as an ersatz brand of catnip, which was really stretching it for me.  Lindfors and Corey exchanging meaningful glances as Sullavan sleeps in No Sad Songs for Me (1950)I kept wondering while watching No Sad Songs For Me (1950) how likely was it that two women as attractive as Margaret Sullavan and Viveca Lindfors would both find him so appealing?

Was it his flat delivery of lines in monotone or his thousand-yard stare with those light baby blues that struck me as off, somehow? I’m not sure, but having since learned that the poor guy struggled with alcoholism for many years, (dying from complications of that disease at only 54), I’ve discovered that he tried to make a contribution to his industry behind the scenes as well as an actor. I”ve also come across several recent stories, from Christopher Plummer to Frances Sternhagen, recalling him as a warm, funny and relaxed co-worker,  leading me to try to look at him a bit more generously. I even caught up with some of his lesser-known films in recent viewings. My impressions of Wendell Corey have changed a bit, the more I’ve seen the guy and learned about his off-screen activities.

As I’ve gotten a bit older, the scales have fallen from my near-sighted eyes–at least a little. I now understand that there are qualities and opportunities that never seem to come to light on screen for some talented people from the studio era.  A few good roles only seem to have come along once or twice in a career.

As I’ve become more familiar with more movies, (yes, it is an addiction, but not one I plan on correcting!), my judgment in the lower court of this moviegoer has started to get a bit less harsh. I thought I’d take a midsummer-tour-once-over-lightly through the mental files I’ve compiled on some (former) public enemies of cinema.  Some of these actors have done work  that in retrospect seems quite a bit more interesting to me than it once did. File this one under “r” for reconsideration. Since you might have some “guilty until proven innocent” shadows from the silver screen to add to these few, I hope that you’ll chime in with some people who deserve a second look.

Btw, there may be spoilers below, so if you’re fanatically opposed to learning details about movies you may not have seen yet, you might as well move on to another entry before reading further.

Wendell Corey:

Indicted for the Following Film Crimes:
Terminal blandness
Clueless in the first degree
Little Evidence of a Sense of Humor
Impersonating a Leading Man
Attempting to Be a Romantic Figure
Delivering Lines in a Flat Monotone

Evidence of Malfeasance:

The Rainmaker (1956):
If there is one role that sealed Wendell Corey‘s fate for me in the past, it was his  part as the lonely, divorced sheriff in The Rainmaker (1956) listlessly courting a local old maid (Katharine Hepburn) in the middle of a drought in the Southwest. At the end of the film, this cranky, passive, fellow says two words in his largely monosyllabic monotone to Katharine Hepburn‘s character: “Don’t go.” I guess since this is the ’50s, this is regarded as a manly commitment and evidence of an unspoken depth of feeling that will lead to the marriage and a family that they both crave. Up to that moment, Corey has spent the movie in the shadow of Burt Lancaster as that actor gave one of his most magnetic bravura performances as “Starbuck”, the flamboyant rainmaker of the title who can literally make the heavens weep at the sight of his optimistic valor. Corey was also asked to play against Hepburn in full sail in this movie.  Kate‘s mannered but ultimately beguiling performance as Lizzie/Melisande made me wonder even more why she would stay in that arid burg. With Sheriff Wendell, yet. No, I still don’t get it really, though I’ve friends who understand her choice better than I do.

Barbara Stanwyck does not quite find her equal in Wendell Corey in The Furies (1950)The Furies (1950):
Well, if you remember my paean to this movie in my Gilbert Roland post on this blog several weeks ago, this Anthony Mann Western, with more than a few nods to Greek tragedies, still packs quite a punch for those of us who find Barbara Stanwyck vs. Judith Anderson a pretty dynamic sight. Gallant, fatalistic rogue Gilbert Roland, the character of the father, played flamboyantly by Walter Huston in his last role on screen, and the stepmom, played by Anderson (who looks hauntingly like an older Stanwyck) all meet tragic ends. Well, maybe that latter demise wasn’t too tragic from Babs’ point of view. The operatic scale of this drama is all undercut for me by two things: the increased weirdness of the vibe between gambling man, Wendell Corey, and Stanwyck‘s character, who takes a fancy to him early on in this movie. There is one scene when you have hints that our “heroine” likes it when her clever boy toy Corey gets rough, which is just so strange though fitting for her admittedly squirrelly character. This pairing of Corey and Stanwyck, who were both under contract to Hal Wallis at the time, was repeated in Robert Siodmak’s The File on Thelma Jordon (1950) that same year.

Perhaps it is just me, but frankly, I didn’t really buy them as a romantic couple either time, especially when compared to the warmth in the scenes between Roland and Stanwyck in The Furies. We’re told several times that Corey is clever, and he puts up a good front in a few scenes, but he seems like a stick figure next to all the other robust if tortured characters here. Perhaps it’s the writing here, or a lack of sympathy between Mann and the actor, but Corey doesn’t seem to have an inner life the way that the others seem to have.

The second aspect of this movie that really made me wonder came at the ending, when Stanwyck and Corey ride forth to their ranch, where they glow with anticipation over the family life to come. Sorry, but I’m just not buying it. Wendell is just asking for it. Inside of a year, Stanwyck‘s character will be bored with him, and looking for big trouble or worse, a pair of scissors left lying around. Not to mention what any kids will go through with Stanwyck as their Mom.

The Man-Eater of Kumaon (1948):
The Maneater of KumaonThis film is a favorite of my local public access channel. It concerns the fictionalized adventures of a real life adventurer, naturalist and conservationist Jim Corbett, (Wendell Corey, who is called Dr. John Collins here). Humorlessly pursuing spiritual awakening in India by shooting man-eating tigers, (yeah, don’t ask about the inherent contradictions in that premise), our hero bumps into the requisite native beauty (Joy Page, best remembered as the Romanian refugee in little movie called Casablanca). Other cast members include Sabu and Morris Carnovsky, who labor manfully to bring credibility to stock footage of charging wild animals and a very dusty looking backlot jungle set. You’d think that there would be lots of opportunities to camp this one up. Look at your average Jungle Jim movie. The recycled script and the production values consisting of rubber plants, recorded bird calls and anthropological mumbo-jumbo never seemed to discourage Johnny Weissmuller from having a bit of fun playing a man people are likely to call “B’wana”. Yet, Wendell looks not so much spiritually starved, as vexed and, frankly, stunned to find himself in such a movie. Btw, after seeing Corey on Broadway in the mid-forties, producer Hal Wallis persuaded him to give up the stage to sign a contract with Paramount under his aegis. During this time, Corey, who felt increasingly typecast in colorless supporting roles, refused several scripts offered by Wallis. After periods of suspension, however, and faced with the reality of trying to support a wife and children in these circumstances, Corey began to take what was offered more often. (Is it any wonder that Corey gave such an icily accurate portrayal in his rather small but highly effective role of a studio functionary in the behind the scenes Hollywood drama, The Big Knife?).
This may have been one of the reasons for the actor’s appearance in this jungle epic. It also may have been when he began to despair. I can’t entirely be sure. However, when given half a chance in the future, he found some roles that allowed him to develop some nuances of character, even though his best known parts would be ultimately be his blandest. Btw, the only distinction associated with this movie, which I believe may now be in the public domain, is that it is mentioned in a satirical short story by Donald Barthelme called “City Life”, in which the author playfully suggests that an entire movie-going city might be transfixed by the briefly heroic sight of  ” only Wendell Corey [standing] between the village and the tiger”.

Redemptive Acts that Changed My View of Wendell:
The following are movies that I’ve watched—largely at the behest of more perceptive (and forgiving friends) who saw something in Wendell Corey that eluded me completely. I can’t say that he’s ever going to appear among my hopeless school girl crushes, but these are worth a second look:

Holiday Affair (1947)Holiday Affair (1949):
Becoming a staple of Christmas fare in recent years, this movie, directed by Don Hartman and written by  Isobel Lennart and John D. Weaver for RKO, seemed to offer Wendell Corey very little opportunity, other than playing a stick in the mud. Corey would be expected to be completely overwhelmed by the sloth-like hipster star power of Robert Mitchum and the beauty and charm of a very young Janet Leigh. But that would be wrong. Sure, Corey is the steady-eddie boyfriend of Leigh‘s rather immature war widow, whose concern for her young son (Gordon Gebert) has led her to believe that Wendell the Straight Arrow Attorney is the logical choice for a new mate for her. She thinks he has no surprises in store for her, but promises security. Corey‘s character seems infinitely older than Leigh, and is lugubrious in comparison with Mitchum‘s generous, dreamy boat designer, who meets the heroine in a busy toy department where he’s working for his train fare west during the holiday rush. Yet, in a triangular relationship that would usually be played strictly for cliches, Wendell emerges as a man with his feet on the ground, who’s not afraid to confront the choices facing him and his fiancée without bluster or malice. Maybe that’s because he’s a divorce lawyer and doesn’t want this experience first hand. There is one scene between Leigh and Corey in a car, in which he applies logic to her choices that is quietly charming and more adult than most films of that or any other year in the character’s approach to competition.

the file on thelma jordonThe File on Thelma Jordon (1950):
As mentioned above, I did not really buy into the chemistry between Barbara Stanwyck’s possible murderess and Corey‘s unhappily married assistant district attorney in this fairly well done Robert Siodmak film. However, there are several scenes when Wendell Corey reveals how complex and good an actor he can be. The first is when he and Stanwyck first meet awkwardly in his office after hours, where he is quietly getting stiff rather than going home on the night of his wedding anniversary. Perversely, since he loves his wife, (Joan Tetzel) but chafes under the prosaic intimacies of marriage, and the looming presence of his father-in-law, Cleve Wallace (Corey) goes to a bar with Stanwyck, carrying on a frank flirtation with her prickly character as he becomes increasingly blotto.

This being a film noir, it seems that fate has brought this pair together. Cleve’s conflicted nature and craving for a destructive passion that cannot be confined by domesticity lead his foolish but likable character to increasing involvement with the seemingly duplicitous (and equally self-destructive) Stanwyck as he attempts to help her cover up a murder of her aunt. Mid-way through his unwitting circling down the drain away from respectability, there is one brief, quiet scene between Joan Tetzel and Corey in their bedroom that seems more realistic than the heavy breathing going on between the leads. As Cleve hurries to leave the married couple’s weekend home by the water, and not eager to greet Joan‘s overbearing Dad as he arrives, Tetzel tries to confront him. She knows that there is someone else, and her uncharacteristic honesty and vulnerability, as well as her sweetly rumpled appearance in beach wear touches her wandering husband unexpectedly. For a moment, the film pauses, as Corey‘s character suddenly acknowledges aloud that he loves his wife, despite the fact that  he’s entangled emotionally (and ethically) with Stanwyck from then on. Corey‘s character becomes increasingly icy toward his mistress as the plot unfurls further, though his complicity in her actions becomes increasingly obvious to all, including his wife and his boss, the perceptive DA (Paul Kelly). By the end of the film, which I won’t spoil for you, Siodmak shows Cleve walking away from the shambles of his life, uncertain about his destination, but clearly still in the thrall of the emotional upheaval that he’s just been released from—or so it seems.

Wendell Corey and Claire Trevor as unhappily married couple in My Man and I (1952)My Man and I (1952):
This William Wellman movie would appear, on the surface, to belong to Ricardo Montalban, Shelley Winters and Claire Trevor. The somewhat tentatively written story, which has moments of real emotion, is careful to avoid offending its audience with too much controversy over racism. From a script by the talented John Fante and Jack Leonard, the movie is largely concerned with the travails of a sincere, if naïve and hardworking new United States citizen originally from Mexico, (played by Ricardo Montalban, who is very winning),  after he takes a job clearing land for Wendell Corey’s sour-faced rancher for one month. Corey, whose character would rather caress his gun collection lovingly rather than his wife, (played by Claire Trevor, who’s excellent as a racist attracted to Montalban), stiffs the immigrant laborer, and eventually winds up in a spiral of increasing violence, lies and tension. What makes this little known film so interesting is that the rancher and his emotionally starved wife evoked by Corey and Trevor are credibly transformed by their experiences, as are the very human hero and heroine, Montalban and Winters. Wendell Corey is particularly effective in those scenes when his arrogant façade and his assumptions about the world begin to come undone, a process that is conveyed very well by his hiding behind increasingly thin barriers, such as a screen door and a jerry-rigged wire fence, as well as his refusal to face his wife in daylight, meeting her eye.

The subtlety of  Corey‘s acting in this well written movie opposite good actors went largely unnoticed in the film industry at the time of its release.

The Killer is Loose (1956)The Killer is Loose (1956):
This “B” movie, directed by Budd Boetticher, who is usually associated with some fine Randolph Scott Westerns, may seem outlandish now, and probably seemed really lurid in the mid-fifties. It asks us to believe that a rather stodgy Joseph Cotten, (light years away from the characters he played in numerous Selznick productions a decade before), might be a LA cop and might be married to gorgeous if acting-challenged Rhonda Fleming. Okay, I’ll try to get my head around that premise, but one of the things that really startled me when watching this was the flat-out brilliant work of Wendell Corey, who steals the movie.
You can see a sample of the film’s bleakly effective “target for a day” in this clip about Wendell’s “Darwinian extensions” found here.

The Killer (without his specs) on the looseAs Leon “Foggy” Poole, Corey plays a guy who may have had one too many tours of duty in the Army and definitely finds himself unhinged by his attempt to break out of his loserdom in civilian life. Now, he’s a bespectacled bank clerk implicated as an inside man in a niftily staged heist scene gone wrong. Corey gets a life-changing conk on the head by one of his co-conspirators during the robbery attempt. The ham-fisted cops raid a house where the robbers happen to have met previously, and, in the course of securing the area, Leon Poole’s wife is slaughtered. Poor Poole winds up with a thirty year sentence and only a grudge to keep him warm, as he focuses his beady eyes on Cotten and his wife Fleming as Corey is escorted from court. (This scene was one of the few that seemed unrealistic to me. For one thing, it was photographed in a flat manner that evoked one of the minor episodes of “Dragnet”. For another, what cop in his right mind would encourage an easily identified family member to come to court with him?). Leon, whose addled brain is now only able to focus on the need to extract “an eye for an eye” by planning the demise of Cotten‘s wife, proceeds to methodically escape from an honor prison farm.

As you can see in the video attached to this excellent take by “Curt” on this movie from the Noir of the Week site, Poole seems a bit like a mechanical tin man returned to life not in Oz, but in a rigidly sterile world defined by empty suburban streets and claustrophobic, kitsch-filled, cracker-box houses. Corey‘s flat verbal delivery of his lines and his thousand yard stare have never been more ominously effective than in this role as the brain damaged but determined stalker, who even resorts to a form of cross-dressing to succeed in his quest, (well before the far better known Psycho, I might add). Sadly, prominent critic of the time, Bosley Crowther, of The New York Times wrote at the time that “the only thing remarkable about this picture is that it could be so absolutely dull with Mr. Cotten and Mr. Corey in it” when this film was first released in 1956.  I wonder if Mr. Crowther ever changed his mind?

Please click here to see upcoming Wendell Corey films on TCM, which at one time or another, are likely to include most of those discussed in this article.

Corey in one of his many stolid roles, in the stylish Rear Window (1957)

Sources

Dick, Bernard F., Hal Wallis: Producer to the Stars, University of Kentucky Press, 2004.
Hannsberry, Karen Burroughs, Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir, McFarland, 2003.
Wiley, Mason, Bona, Damien, Inside Oscar: The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards, Ballantine Books, 1987.

30 Responses A Rap Sheet on Wendell Corey
Posted By suzidoll : July 10, 2009 4:59 pm

I know what you mean about poor Wendell Corey — so bland, dull, and unappealing. But, for some reason, he was memorable to me. When I was young and absorbing movies all hours of the day and night on television, I remembered him from movie to movie — he was always a solid presence even if he was unattractive. And, his unattractive dullness worked so well in certain stories — you knew he couldn’t possibly get the girl because he was . . . well, just so bland and dull. Yet, when he was pitted against high-energy or highly sensual actors like Robert Mitchum or Elvis Presley (LOVING YOU) or Burt Lancaster, he still held his place onscreen. His character lost the girl (most of the time) but Corey wasn’t blown off the screen by their presence. Dull yet unique; unappealing yet a solid presence. Strange, wasn’t he?

Anyway, interesting post.

Posted By suzidoll : July 10, 2009 4:59 pm

I know what you mean about poor Wendell Corey — so bland, dull, and unappealing. But, for some reason, he was memorable to me. When I was young and absorbing movies all hours of the day and night on television, I remembered him from movie to movie — he was always a solid presence even if he was unattractive. And, his unattractive dullness worked so well in certain stories — you knew he couldn’t possibly get the girl because he was . . . well, just so bland and dull. Yet, when he was pitted against high-energy or highly sensual actors like Robert Mitchum or Elvis Presley (LOVING YOU) or Burt Lancaster, he still held his place onscreen. His character lost the girl (most of the time) but Corey wasn’t blown off the screen by their presence. Dull yet unique; unappealing yet a solid presence. Strange, wasn’t he?

Anyway, interesting post.

Posted By Jenni : July 10, 2009 8:31 pm

I saw The Rainmaker, and despite Lancaster’s bright and energetic character, Hepburn chooses Corey’s stable, calm strength. I also saw Holiday Affair this past December. Yet again, Corey is the stable, calm guy, but he doesn’t stand a chance when compared to Robert Mitchum. Who could stand a chance against RM?!
Anyhow, I tivoed The Killer is Loose last week, and quit reading your post to spare myself any spoilers! I plan on watching it tonight. Thanks for some info on an actor I have wondered about;who he was, how did his career fare, etc. I would think of him as a supporting character actor, but definitely not the lead.

Posted By Jenni : July 10, 2009 8:31 pm

I saw The Rainmaker, and despite Lancaster’s bright and energetic character, Hepburn chooses Corey’s stable, calm strength. I also saw Holiday Affair this past December. Yet again, Corey is the stable, calm guy, but he doesn’t stand a chance when compared to Robert Mitchum. Who could stand a chance against RM?!
Anyhow, I tivoed The Killer is Loose last week, and quit reading your post to spare myself any spoilers! I plan on watching it tonight. Thanks for some info on an actor I have wondered about;who he was, how did his career fare, etc. I would think of him as a supporting character actor, but definitely not the lead.

Posted By Patricia : July 10, 2009 11:12 pm

I found Corey very appealing in “A Holiday Affair”. The poster leads you to expect a trite little treat, but I found the movie to have a surprisingly adult script.

If there is one movie that made me respect Wendell Corey, it is “The Big Knife”. While Jack Palance and Rod Steiger make me grind my teeth with their emoting, Corey is a towering presence of good taste and interpretation. The bland in that picture is apply supplied by Wesley Addy.

Posted By Patricia : July 10, 2009 11:12 pm

I found Corey very appealing in “A Holiday Affair”. The poster leads you to expect a trite little treat, but I found the movie to have a surprisingly adult script.

If there is one movie that made me respect Wendell Corey, it is “The Big Knife”. While Jack Palance and Rod Steiger make me grind my teeth with their emoting, Corey is a towering presence of good taste and interpretation. The bland in that picture is apply supplied by Wesley Addy.

Posted By ralph : July 11, 2009 10:31 am

somebody had to play the bland roles he did; wendell did a memorable job – but a redford he’s not.

Posted By ralph : July 11, 2009 10:31 am

somebody had to play the bland roles he did; wendell did a memorable job – but a redford he’s not.

Posted By Al Lowe : July 11, 2009 12:22 pm

I wish Wendell Corey had written an autobiography. I’ll bet he had many interesting stories to tell. Unfortunately, noone probably would have purchased the book.

In Lana Turner’s autobiography she tells of getting Corey fired from A Life of Her Own and replaced by Ray Milland. He made a wisecrack that she didn’t appreciate and she flexed her STAR muscle.

As has been previously mentioned, someone had to play the parts Corey was assigned. I think he generally did roles that actors probably would have preferred not to play. He usually did a credible job.
In Any Number Can Play he is a weakling again. He’s Clark Gable’s brother-in-law. Gable’s wife, Alexis Smith, and Corey’s wife, Audrey Totter, are smitten with Gable and Totter really seems to really detest her husband. I like this movie for its great supporting cast, including Edgar Buchanan, William Conrad and Mary Astor (She appears in scenes with Gable 17 years after Red Dust. She, of course, is smitten with him too.).
I recently watched my VHS tape of Rainmaker. It seems to me that Corey did what Keenan Wynn used to do. He made the plot seem believable. Wynn also occasionally snagged a romantic interest like Corey did in this film and noone really wanted it to happen.
He did play opposite some great talents – Hepburn, Montgomery Clift, Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly – and generally held his own.
Like Ronald Reagan, he may have made a bad career choice by opting for a thespian career. He should perhaps have tried politics first and left acting behind.

Posted By Al Lowe : July 11, 2009 12:22 pm

I wish Wendell Corey had written an autobiography. I’ll bet he had many interesting stories to tell. Unfortunately, noone probably would have purchased the book.

In Lana Turner’s autobiography she tells of getting Corey fired from A Life of Her Own and replaced by Ray Milland. He made a wisecrack that she didn’t appreciate and she flexed her STAR muscle.

As has been previously mentioned, someone had to play the parts Corey was assigned. I think he generally did roles that actors probably would have preferred not to play. He usually did a credible job.
In Any Number Can Play he is a weakling again. He’s Clark Gable’s brother-in-law. Gable’s wife, Alexis Smith, and Corey’s wife, Audrey Totter, are smitten with Gable and Totter really seems to really detest her husband. I like this movie for its great supporting cast, including Edgar Buchanan, William Conrad and Mary Astor (She appears in scenes with Gable 17 years after Red Dust. She, of course, is smitten with him too.).
I recently watched my VHS tape of Rainmaker. It seems to me that Corey did what Keenan Wynn used to do. He made the plot seem believable. Wynn also occasionally snagged a romantic interest like Corey did in this film and noone really wanted it to happen.
He did play opposite some great talents – Hepburn, Montgomery Clift, Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly – and generally held his own.
Like Ronald Reagan, he may have made a bad career choice by opting for a thespian career. He should perhaps have tried politics first and left acting behind.

Posted By Gord Jackson : July 12, 2009 12:04 pm

I never liked nor disliked Wendell Corey. I always found him to be a mostly stabalizing force, which I readily accepted.

Posted By Gord Jackson : July 12, 2009 12:04 pm

I never liked nor disliked Wendell Corey. I always found him to be a mostly stabalizing force, which I readily accepted.

Posted By Willie Sutton : July 12, 2009 2:06 pm

I had long suspected that Corey had drinking problems by the way he appeared in later films (and TV), aging very badly. He looks years older than 54 in his last film Astro-Zombies.

Posted By Willie Sutton : July 12, 2009 2:06 pm

I had long suspected that Corey had drinking problems by the way he appeared in later films (and TV), aging very badly. He looks years older than 54 in his last film Astro-Zombies.

Posted By Alan K. Rode : July 13, 2009 12:37 am

Nice post, Moira. Despite his vanilla resume, Wendell Corey could do decent work when given something that wasn’t a “phone-in” part. Besides DESERT FURY (Corey’s ardent competitiveness versus Liz Scott for homme trophy,John Hodiak is a hoot), my favorite Corey role is THE ACCUSED. He is a lanquid D.A. unraveling the case of a deceased Lothario involved with virginal psych teacher Wilma Tuttle (Loretta Young). Corey gets to clip off some world-weary one-liners as Robert Cummings gets stuck with the thankless role of wannabee boyfriend to Miss Young. He was also interesting in I WALK ALONE, a pretty lousy Wallis effort after he went to Paramount; Corey’s character as a weakling was the only one in the entire script that wasn’t hewn from cardboard. As for Wendell Corey’s predilection for booze, Evelyn Keyes remarked that the only time he didn’t have a drink in his hand while on location for HELLS HALF ACRE was when he was in front of the camera!

Posted By Alan K. Rode : July 13, 2009 12:37 am

Nice post, Moira. Despite his vanilla resume, Wendell Corey could do decent work when given something that wasn’t a “phone-in” part. Besides DESERT FURY (Corey’s ardent competitiveness versus Liz Scott for homme trophy,John Hodiak is a hoot), my favorite Corey role is THE ACCUSED. He is a lanquid D.A. unraveling the case of a deceased Lothario involved with virginal psych teacher Wilma Tuttle (Loretta Young). Corey gets to clip off some world-weary one-liners as Robert Cummings gets stuck with the thankless role of wannabee boyfriend to Miss Young. He was also interesting in I WALK ALONE, a pretty lousy Wallis effort after he went to Paramount; Corey’s character as a weakling was the only one in the entire script that wasn’t hewn from cardboard. As for Wendell Corey’s predilection for booze, Evelyn Keyes remarked that the only time he didn’t have a drink in his hand while on location for HELLS HALF ACRE was when he was in front of the camera!

Posted By Joe aka Mongo : July 14, 2009 5:23 pm

Moira, thanks for remembering Wendell Corey. I have always found him to be a dependable, if somewhat lackadaisical actor.
Other than some of his films mentioned above he was perfect as Joan Crawford’s husband in “Harriet Craig”.

Posted By Joe aka Mongo : July 14, 2009 5:23 pm

Moira, thanks for remembering Wendell Corey. I have always found him to be a dependable, if somewhat lackadaisical actor.
Other than some of his films mentioned above he was perfect as Joan Crawford’s husband in “Harriet Craig”.

Posted By Karen Hannsberry : July 15, 2009 1:07 pm

I’ve always been quite fond of Wendell Corey – I find him dependable and solid, with an underlying sensitivity and a natural acting style. I especially enjoyed his performances in The Rainmaker, where he seemed to house a passion banked down beneath a veneer of complacent conformity, and The Big Knife, where he was simply outstanding — not to mention frightening — as the oily lackey of a movie studio chief (with the great name of Smiley Coy). He was first-rate in Harriet Craig, where he made you cheer when he, at long last, stood up to his anal-retentive spouse; he more than held his own against Stanwyck as the gullible defense attorney in The File on Thelma Jordon; he earned both sympathy and contempt as Burt Lancaster’s weak-willed brother in I Walk Alone; and he was so good as the mentally ill criminal in The Killer is Loose that he was barely recognizable.

I look forward to checking out some of the Corey films you mentioned that I’ve never seen — especially My Man and I, which sounds particularly interesting. In the meantime, all this Corey talk has inspired me — I think I’ll watch The Big Knife tonight!

Posted By Karen Hannsberry : July 15, 2009 1:07 pm

I’ve always been quite fond of Wendell Corey – I find him dependable and solid, with an underlying sensitivity and a natural acting style. I especially enjoyed his performances in The Rainmaker, where he seemed to house a passion banked down beneath a veneer of complacent conformity, and The Big Knife, where he was simply outstanding — not to mention frightening — as the oily lackey of a movie studio chief (with the great name of Smiley Coy). He was first-rate in Harriet Craig, where he made you cheer when he, at long last, stood up to his anal-retentive spouse; he more than held his own against Stanwyck as the gullible defense attorney in The File on Thelma Jordon; he earned both sympathy and contempt as Burt Lancaster’s weak-willed brother in I Walk Alone; and he was so good as the mentally ill criminal in The Killer is Loose that he was barely recognizable.

I look forward to checking out some of the Corey films you mentioned that I’ve never seen — especially My Man and I, which sounds particularly interesting. In the meantime, all this Corey talk has inspired me — I think I’ll watch The Big Knife tonight!

Posted By Allen Round : July 25, 2009 2:48 am

Man-Eater of Kumaon (1948) — do you know if this movie is available anywhere in any format?
Thanks.

Posted By Allen Round : July 25, 2009 2:48 am

Man-Eater of Kumaon (1948) — do you know if this movie is available anywhere in any format?
Thanks.

Posted By Gord Jackson : July 27, 2009 9:31 pm

Allen, I am not aware of “Man-Eater” being available on VHS or DVD. I did however just recently watch “The Killer is Loose” and “The Big Knife” and found Corey to be chillingly good in them both. I also remember him from “Rear Window”, the Presley picture “Loving You” (again with the wonderful Lizabeth Scott) and Disney’s “The Light in the Forest”.

Posted By Gord Jackson : July 27, 2009 9:31 pm

Allen, I am not aware of “Man-Eater” being available on VHS or DVD. I did however just recently watch “The Killer is Loose” and “The Big Knife” and found Corey to be chillingly good in them both. I also remember him from “Rear Window”, the Presley picture “Loving You” (again with the wonderful Lizabeth Scott) and Disney’s “The Light in the Forest”.

Posted By Pamela Routt : June 9, 2010 6:14 pm

When I was 5 years old, my parents took me to the movies to see “loving You”. Instead of noticing Elvis, I fell in love with Wendell Corey. I thought he was so handsome, and he reminded me of my Dad. Tall, dark haired and deep voice. Now at age 58, I look back at his movies. I don’t think he was as handsome as I did at age 5. I think Wendell is an average looking man, attractive and appealing. I love his deep voice, very masculine, soothing, and calm. As the old saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Posted By Pamela Routt : June 9, 2010 6:14 pm

When I was 5 years old, my parents took me to the movies to see “loving You”. Instead of noticing Elvis, I fell in love with Wendell Corey. I thought he was so handsome, and he reminded me of my Dad. Tall, dark haired and deep voice. Now at age 58, I look back at his movies. I don’t think he was as handsome as I did at age 5. I think Wendell is an average looking man, attractive and appealing. I love his deep voice, very masculine, soothing, and calm. As the old saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Posted By Vienna : December 26, 2012 1:16 pm

Thanks for your excellent look at Wendell Corey. I always thought of him as ‘Mr Reliable’, with that deep voice and laid back demeanour.
You always knew he would play any part well.
Never saw him as a leading man,but always giving a solid performance.
Very impressive in THE KILLER IS LOOSE.
I hadn’t realised he only started in movies in 1947.
I think his best and most convincing roles were when he played cops – Rear Window, The Accused.
Would like to have seen him partnered with Mitchum or Robert Ryan.

Posted By Vienna : December 26, 2012 1:16 pm

Thanks for your excellent look at Wendell Corey. I always thought of him as ‘Mr Reliable’, with that deep voice and laid back demeanour.
You always knew he would play any part well.
Never saw him as a leading man,but always giving a solid performance.
Very impressive in THE KILLER IS LOOSE.
I hadn’t realised he only started in movies in 1947.
I think his best and most convincing roles were when he played cops – Rear Window, The Accused.
Would like to have seen him partnered with Mitchum or Robert Ryan.

Posted By Paula Citron : December 23, 2016 2:36 pm

I’ve always loved Wendell Corey. I found him sexy, particularly in The Furies, where he actually did get the girl. He was always memorable, no matter what movie he was in. He managed to be manly and mysterious at the same time. His contribution to every film he was in was solid.

Posted By John B. : February 17, 2018 5:29 am

I’ve always found Wendell Corey to be a reliable, intelligent, at times almost charismatic low key actor. There was that quietness to him. He never made waves. Bland as he often seemed I’ve got glimmers of intelligence in his work; and an eagle eye for nuance in complex dramatic scenes.

It appears that like so many (IMO) first rate actors of his generation,–Barry Sullivan is another name that comes to mind–Corey suffered from an apparent refusal to draw attention to himself, by which I mean his acting, which lent him an air of authenticity I greatly appreciate, in general. Corey’s playing always felt real.

Also worthy of very honorable mention: an absence of phoniness or falseness in anything I’ve ever seen Mr. Corey do as an actor. There was always something grounded about him. This limited him, made him a poor casting choice for adventurous parts in movies that might have endeared to a wider range of moviegoer.

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