Thursday, February 17, 2011

Broadway to Hollywood with Allyn Joslyn

Allyn Joslyn
1901 - 1981

It's been a while since a Broadway to Hollywood trivia has been spotlighted on this blog. Today let's highlight one or two featuring Allyn Joslyn, one of my favourite guys who pops up in classic film. He shouldn't be as he generally portrays loud-mouth and pushy boors. However, he plays those roles with such excellence and ease that he becomes irresistible.

Mr. Joslyn was born in Pennsylvania and although his father was a mining engineer, it would seem that young Allyn considered himself born in a trunk. He made his Broadway debut in the ensemble of a musical piece called Fiddlers Three at the age of 17 and he continued in his chosen profession the rest of his days.

Joslyn points out how the press will mold public opinion
They Won't Forget

Allyn's big screen debut was in the based on a true story courtroom drama 1937s They Won't Forget. He played a brash and unprincipled newspaper reporter whose actions help foster a miscarriage of justice. A most unlikeable fellow and a most auspicious debut alongside Claude Rains.

Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Allyn Joslyn, Sig Rumon
Only Angels Have Wings

In 1939 Joslyn had a swell part as one of the pilots in Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings and here we come to the first part of our Broadway to Hollywood trivia. The star of the picture (if actors can be counted as stars of Hawks pictures) is Cary Grant. What role do Cary and Allyn have in common? If they ever compared notes, both would probably agree that it's a heck of a part for amount of lines, impossibility of situation and effort it takes to nail it properly, however audiences love it. In 1941 Allyn Joslyn created the role of Mortimer Brewster in Joseph Kesselring's (apparently with copious input from producers Lindsay and Crouse) Arsenic and Old Lace. When Frank Capra directed the screen version, theatre players Josephine Hull as Abby, Jean Adair as Martha and John Alexander as Teddy made the trek westward while box office guarantor Boris Karloff as Jonathan and reliable lead Allyn Joslyn stayed home.

Jean Adair, Josephine Hull and Boris Karloff
as they appeared in the 1941 Broadway hit
Arsenic and Old Lace

Fans of Mr. Benny oft-times heard him speak disparagingly of 1945s The Horn Blows at Midnight. A joke is a joke, but in this case the joke should have found another target. Directed by Raoul Walsh, The Horn Blows at Midnight is an adorably funny fantasy. Musician Benny dreams he is on a Heavenly mission that is constantly being thwarted by a pair of Fallen Angels.

John Alexander aka Teddy Brewster

The Fallen Angels are played by Broadway's original Brewster cousins Allyn Joslyn and John Alexander. Thus, the second link in our Broadway to Hollywood trivia for today. For theatre and Arsenic and Old Lace buffs (I believe there to be a secret society), it is great fun to see the boys together again even if we haven't seen them together before.

Allyn Joslyn enjoyed a lengthy career which included such favourite movies as 1941s I Wake Up Screaming, 1942s My Sister Eileen, 1943s Heaven Can Wait, 1950s Harriet Craig, 1953s Titanic and Island in the Sky. A particularly special role for Allyn was as Sheriff Clem Otis in Frank Borzage's 1948 noirish melodrama Moonrise.

Tom Fadden, Dane Clark, Houseley Stevenson, Allyn Joslyn

Sheriff Otis is a complete departure from the overbearing creatures Joslyn was usually called upon to bring to life. The sheriff was kind, decent and smart with a strong, yet pliable life philosophy. The movie is mesmerizing and Joslyn especially memorable.

I imagine both sides of Allyn Joslyn's screen persona came into play in real life. You must be both brash and philosophical to spend a life in the show business, and also to have a successful family life. Allyn and his wife Dorothy were married for 43 years and raised a daughter. Such accomplishments do not come easy, but are worthwhile.

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