The Great Ones, Part 2: More On & Off the Set Photographs

Johnny Weissmuller strikes a Vanity Fair-like pose in this second series of candid on-the-set snapshots, oddball publicity stills and off-the-set photographs.          

The winner of five Olympic gold medals in freestyle swimming, Weissmuller might have been a limited actor – he only played two characters his entire movie career (Tarzan & Jungle Jim) – but he was a unique kind of Hollywood star; his talent was his animal beauty, physical grace and athletic prowess. And he was the screen’s greatest ape man. A few things I didn’t know or forgot about Weissmuller: he took up swimming as a child to overcome a case of polio. In later life, he worked as a greeter at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas in the early seventies. At his funeral, as his coffin was lowered into the ground, a recording of his famous Tarzan yell was played three times as his final request.

Playwright/screenwriter Arthur Miller and his wife Marilyn Monroe on the set of THE MISFITS (1961). He looks perplexed or analytical (as if studying her as a subject for a play or novel), she looks oblivious and exhausted. Their marriage was rapidly deteriorating at the time and they would be divorced before the John Huston film was released to theatres. It was on the set of THE MISFITS that Miller met his third wife, Inge Morath. She was one of nine photographers (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eve Arnold and Bruce Davidson were among them) from the world-famous Magnum photographic agency assigned to document the film. A collection of their work entitled The Misfits: Story of a Shoot was published by Phaidon in 2000 and it is the most tender, evocative and intimate portrait of this troubled film, a profound modern tragedy both on and off the screen.

Italian director Sergio Leone shows Claudia Cardinale how to hold a rifle on the set of the 1968 Western epic, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.

One of the most inventive behind the scenes photos is this atmospheric and artful portrait of Lon Chaney, Harry Earles and director Tod Browning as shadows on the set of the 1925 crime thriller THE UNHOLY THREE; it was remade in 1930 by director Jack Conway with Chaney and Earles repeating their original roles.

Francis Farmer in makeup for COME AND GET IT (1936), her fourth feature film and a career high water mark. She was already beginning to chafe under the regimented structure of the studio system and her unhappiness is almost palpable in this photo. It was all downhill from here (alcoholism, tabloid headlines, a police record) and by 1943, she would be declared mentally incompetent and committed by her parents to a mental institution. In David Thomson’s essay on COME AND GET IT in his book Have You Seen…?, he wrote, “There is a frankness and a humor in Francis Farmer that is stunning: she was like Carole Lombard with Katharine Hepburn’s intelligence….as far and away Farmer’s best film, it furnished the tragedy of her decline.”

John Wayne and longtime friend and fellow co-star Ward Bond enjoying a smoke on the set of John Ford’s THE SEARCHERS (1956). The two actors had been fellow football teammates during their college days at the University of Southern California. When they were hired as extras along with the entire USC football team for the film Salute (1929), they became friendly with the director John Ford, marking a lifelong association with him. Wayne and Bond would go on to appear together in sixteen films.

The great W.C. Fields and co-star Una Merkel on the set of THE BANK DICK (1940). There appears to be real affection between the two co-stars who play father and daughter in this quintessential Fields comedy (note Bill’s hand on Una’s hip).

Despite Marlon Brando’s reputation as a difficult actor who could be a formidable challenge for any director, he was also a well known practical joker with a silly and irreverent sense of humor. I love this shot of him on the set of APOCALYPSE NOW (1979), making fun of his Colonel Kurtz character.

The dazzlingly beautiful and sexy Dorothy Dandridge taking a break with co-star Brock Peters on the set of CARMEN JONES (1954), directed by Otto Preminger. Dandridge would garner an Oscar nomination for her performance, making her the first African-American to compete in the Best Actress category (she lost to Grace Kelly in The Country Girl).

Cinematographer James Wong Howe (far left) filming a scene with Clark Gable and Nat Pendleton (center) for MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (1934). One of the most accomplished and celebrated cinematographers in the history of Hollywood, Howe worked in films from 1923 to 1975 (Funny Lady was his final movie). He was a ten time Oscar nominee for Best Cinematography, winning the award for The Rose Tattoo (1955) and Hud (1966). Reputedly, The Molly Maguires (1970), directed by Martin Ritt, was one of his favorite projects but my favorite Howe films (on a purely visual level) would have to include Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928), Kings Row (1942), Picnic (1955), Sweet Smell of Success (1957) and Seconds (1966).

Here is a fun publicity photo from the set of ATHENA, the 1954 MGM musical starring Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Vic Damone and Edmond Purdom. Here we see Debbie being supported by two bodybuilders. That’s none other than Steve Reeves on the right. Reeves, who won the title Mr. Universe of 1950, had a brief Hollywood career (including a role in 1954’s Jail Bait, directed by Ed Wood!) before relocating to Italy in 1958 where he reinvented himself as an international star in Italian sword and sandal epics like Hercules (1958) and Goliath and the Barbarians (1959).

Lana Turner and screenwriter/novelist James M. Cain at lunch in the MGM commissery (?) while discussing……what? Only two people know and they aren’t telling. Despite the fact that Cain wrote the novel , which became one of Turner’s most famous films and featured possibly her finest performance, he did not pen the screenplay (Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch got the credit for that). And even though Cain toiled in Hollywood as a screenwriter for many years while publishing such iconic noir novels as Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce and Serenade, he only received screen credit for three movies: – Algiers, Stand Up and Fight and Gypsy Wildcat – none of which are representative of the author’s hardboiled style of crime fiction.

Dirk Bogarde, with dyed blond hair, playing the piano on the set of LIBEL (1959), a courtroom drama directed by Anthony Asquith and co-starring Olivia de Havilland, Robert Morley and Wilfrid Hyde-White. Bogarde plays three roles in LIBEL, one of whom is a scarred cripple who is barely recognizable as the actor. Referring to the film in the authorized biography Dirk Bogarde by John Coldstream, the actor said, “It was certainly melodrama…we knew it was and we hammed it up to the elbows…I haven’t seen it but I think it was a load of sh*t.”

Barbara Stanwyck, director Frank Capra and Adolphe Menjou on the set of the Pre-Code melodrama FORBIDDEN (1932). Even though Stanwyck was still married to Frank Fay at the time, various biographies state she was having an affair with Capra during the filming.

Director Louis Malle (center) gives Brigitte Bardot that “wet” look in this playful behind-the-scenes still from the making of A VERY PRIVATE AFFAIR (1962). Partly autobiographical, the film was not a success (The French critics were particularly hostile to it) and Bardot and co-star Marcello Mastroianni did NOT like each other at all, which created enormous tension on the set. You wouldn’t know it from this photo though which captured a rare lighthearted moment.

A rather offbeat publicity photo of director D. W. Griffith with a sleeping lion cub. A seminal figure in the history of the motion picture, the director did the “most to free the cinema of its heritage as the poor relation of the theatre,” according to The Oxford Companion to Film. “He discovered that camera movement was a major means of expression, and that the cinema could rival the fluid narrative rhythm of a novel.” At the same, Griffith’s 1915 epic The Birth of a Nation, which Black film historian Donald Bogle deemed “a racist masterpiece,” was responsible for introducing “the mass movie audience to the black film stereotypes that were to linger in American films for the next 70-some years.” An amazingly prolific filmmaker of over 500 films (shorts and features), Griffith endures as a controversial director decades after his death in 1948.

Here is one of my favorite gag photos from the set of Roger Corman’s THE RAVEN (1963). Wouldn’t you like to toast marshmallows with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff? Co-star Jack Nicholson is probably lurking somewhere in the background during this shoot.

Links of interest:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00glw8t 
interview with Johnny Weissmuller Jr.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1122383/index.htm  Article on Weissmuller’s birthplace

http://www.drkrm.com/reeves.html    Steve Reeves interview

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2001/apr/13/features   
The Influence of James M. Cain’s novels on film noir

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/2246/Libel/articles.html    Article on LIBEL

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/28115/Forbidden/  Article on Forbidden

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/3195/A-Very-Private-Affair/articles.html  article on A VERY PRIVATE AFFAIR

http://acertaincinema.com/browse/person/dorothy-dandridge/?p1=6&p2=1&p3=1&p4=1   A Certain Cinema

0 Response The Great Ones, Part 2: More On & Off the Set Photographs
Posted By dukeroberts : April 1, 2012 11:01 am

I love the behind the shot of John Wayne and Ward Bond working on The Searchers, despite them just standing there. I wonder if they knew how great that movie would turn out.

The shot from The Unholy Three is an awesome, noirish shot and looks fit for framing.

The picture of Marilyn just makes me sad.

Posted By dukeroberts : April 1, 2012 11:01 am

I love the behind the shot of John Wayne and Ward Bond working on The Searchers, despite them just standing there. I wonder if they knew how great that movie would turn out.

The shot from The Unholy Three is an awesome, noirish shot and looks fit for framing.

The picture of Marilyn just makes me sad.

Posted By rwhyan : April 1, 2012 1:05 pm

These pictures were amazing, I love seeing old photos like these. It was such a different world back then, wish I could visit it! Really great post.

Posted By rwhyan : April 1, 2012 1:05 pm

These pictures were amazing, I love seeing old photos like these. It was such a different world back then, wish I could visit it! Really great post.

Posted By Susan Doll : April 1, 2012 4:00 pm

I could look at Johnny Weissmuller all day!

Too bad they don’t shoot publicity and promotional photos like this anymore — they are such great souvenirs of favorite movies and stars.

Posted By Susan Doll : April 1, 2012 4:00 pm

I could look at Johnny Weissmuller all day!

Too bad they don’t shoot publicity and promotional photos like this anymore — they are such great souvenirs of favorite movies and stars.

Posted By Juana Maria : April 1, 2012 8:41 pm

I love the photos and have seen most of the films represented in them. I love Claudia Cardinale’s acting in “Once Upon a Time in the West”, but then again I pretty much love everybody in that movie! It is one of those movies where I really couldn’t imagine a differnt cast. I’ve seen “Carmen Jones” too,I didn’t know they wore short shorts back in 1954!WOW!! All I remember about that movie is that Carmen Jones and lovely Harry Belafonte are living together and that I didn’t like Brock Peters very much. I also wondered how they movie people could get away with her dressing and undressing all the time in the movie!Hmm? The picture of Brigette Bardot reminds me of what I’ve been wanting to write since I watched “Viva Maria!” with Brigette Bardot & Jeanne Moreau. Doesn’t the singer Shakira with her blonde hair and happy attitude remind any of you of Brigette Bardot even a little? As for Tarzan, I mean Johnny Weissmuller, I agree with Susan Doll, I too could look at him for a long time!

Posted By Juana Maria : April 1, 2012 8:41 pm

I love the photos and have seen most of the films represented in them. I love Claudia Cardinale’s acting in “Once Upon a Time in the West”, but then again I pretty much love everybody in that movie! It is one of those movies where I really couldn’t imagine a differnt cast. I’ve seen “Carmen Jones” too,I didn’t know they wore short shorts back in 1954!WOW!! All I remember about that movie is that Carmen Jones and lovely Harry Belafonte are living together and that I didn’t like Brock Peters very much. I also wondered how they movie people could get away with her dressing and undressing all the time in the movie!Hmm? The picture of Brigette Bardot reminds me of what I’ve been wanting to write since I watched “Viva Maria!” with Brigette Bardot & Jeanne Moreau. Doesn’t the singer Shakira with her blonde hair and happy attitude remind any of you of Brigette Bardot even a little? As for Tarzan, I mean Johnny Weissmuller, I agree with Susan Doll, I too could look at him for a long time!

Posted By jennifromrollamo : April 2, 2012 9:11 am

Love that last pic-I bet it was fun to make that movie with Price, Karloff, and Lorre.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : April 2, 2012 9:11 am

Love that last pic-I bet it was fun to make that movie with Price, Karloff, and Lorre.

Posted By Juana Maria : April 2, 2012 1:55 pm

I was going to mention the picture with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff & Peter Lorre,however I got sidetracked with the picture of Tarzan..um,what can I say I’ve had a crush on him since I was younger. About the picture of the horror stars don’t you think they look like the Three Wise Men? Yes, they are the three wise men of Horror..oooh! HA HA! I got the biogragphy of Vincent Price at the library awhile back,and every time my mom would see the photo of Vincent Price she would get scared.It was hiliarous!

Posted By Juana Maria : April 2, 2012 1:55 pm

I was going to mention the picture with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff & Peter Lorre,however I got sidetracked with the picture of Tarzan..um,what can I say I’ve had a crush on him since I was younger. About the picture of the horror stars don’t you think they look like the Three Wise Men? Yes, they are the three wise men of Horror..oooh! HA HA! I got the biogragphy of Vincent Price at the library awhile back,and every time my mom would see the photo of Vincent Price she would get scared.It was hiliarous!

Posted By Emgee : April 2, 2012 3:21 pm

And to think Leone was actually scared to death of fire arms!
Mood spoiler alert: Wayne and Bond were also key members of the redbaiting Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. As such they wantonly ruined many a Hollywood career. Way off topic i know, but it does put a different slant on this chummy pic.

While i’m busy making myself popular: Francis Farmer?

Posted By Emgee : April 2, 2012 3:21 pm

And to think Leone was actually scared to death of fire arms!
Mood spoiler alert: Wayne and Bond were also key members of the redbaiting Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. As such they wantonly ruined many a Hollywood career. Way off topic i know, but it does put a different slant on this chummy pic.

While i’m busy making myself popular: Francis Farmer?

Posted By morlockjeff : April 2, 2012 4:35 pm

Yes Emgee, the Wayne-Bond photo would not be endearing if you weren’t on the right side of those guys. I think Bond might have been even more active in his anti-commie activities for HUAC than Wayne.

Posted By morlockjeff : April 2, 2012 4:35 pm

Yes Emgee, the Wayne-Bond photo would not be endearing if you weren’t on the right side of those guys. I think Bond might have been even more active in his anti-commie activities for HUAC than Wayne.

Posted By Juana Maria : April 2, 2012 5:46 pm

Morlock Jeff: Ward Bond is not someone I would’ve wanted to get on his bad side! He is bad guy in at least 2 movies:”Young Mr. Lincoln” and “The Fugitive”(1947). He kinda scary! but I love his singing in “3 Godfathers”(1948). I’m a quite a fan of John Wayne but don’t care for his singing. He’s usually drunk and off-key!”the Quiet Man” and “The Comancheros” come to mind.

Posted By Juana Maria : April 2, 2012 5:46 pm

Morlock Jeff: Ward Bond is not someone I would’ve wanted to get on his bad side! He is bad guy in at least 2 movies:”Young Mr. Lincoln” and “The Fugitive”(1947). He kinda scary! but I love his singing in “3 Godfathers”(1948). I’m a quite a fan of John Wayne but don’t care for his singing. He’s usually drunk and off-key!”the Quiet Man” and “The Comancheros” come to mind.

Posted By morlockjeff : April 2, 2012 5:51 pm

Yeah, Ward Bond could be a mean SOB and did play the villain or bully many times in movies. He’s particularly evil in YOUNG MR. LINCOLN.

Posted By morlockjeff : April 2, 2012 5:51 pm

Yeah, Ward Bond could be a mean SOB and did play the villain or bully many times in movies. He’s particularly evil in YOUNG MR. LINCOLN.

Posted By Susan Doll : April 2, 2012 6:28 pm

I like the idea that Price, Lorre, and Karloff are the “three wise men of horror.” Good phrase.

Posted By Susan Doll : April 2, 2012 6:28 pm

I like the idea that Price, Lorre, and Karloff are the “three wise men of horror.” Good phrase.

Posted By dukeroberts : April 3, 2012 1:40 am

I love John Wayne and Ward Bond, warts and all, whatever you might consider their warts to be.

Posted By dukeroberts : April 3, 2012 1:40 am

I love John Wayne and Ward Bond, warts and all, whatever you might consider their warts to be.

Posted By Juana Maria : April 6, 2012 2:44 pm

Duke Roberts:If those “warts” as you call them included ruining other peoples’ careers, the HUAC was terrible! On the hand, because of it we have “High Noon” and Howard Hawks’ answer in 3 very similiar movies:”Rio Bravo”,”El Dorado”, and “Rio Lobo”. And it made Charles Bronson chang his name from Buchinsky. He was of Lithuanian descent. I always thought he was a Russian when I was little because of the movie “Telefon”. Oooh,that movie is so scary! Anyway, I kinda cloe because Lithuania was part of the USSR and is close to Russia. It is right by Lativia too. One more thing, Bronson really could speak Russian! He was multi-lingual, most of the cast of “the Magnificent Seven” were.

Posted By Juana Maria : April 6, 2012 2:44 pm

Duke Roberts:If those “warts” as you call them included ruining other peoples’ careers, the HUAC was terrible! On the hand, because of it we have “High Noon” and Howard Hawks’ answer in 3 very similiar movies:”Rio Bravo”,”El Dorado”, and “Rio Lobo”. And it made Charles Bronson chang his name from Buchinsky. He was of Lithuanian descent. I always thought he was a Russian when I was little because of the movie “Telefon”. Oooh,that movie is so scary! Anyway, I kinda cloe because Lithuania was part of the USSR and is close to Russia. It is right by Lativia too. One more thing, Bronson really could speak Russian! He was multi-lingual, most of the cast of “the Magnificent Seven” were.

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