Friday, December 14, 2018

WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON: The Villainy of Jack Lambert


It's time for the 7th annual What a Character! blogathon hosted by Paula's Cinema Club, Outspoken and Freckled and Once Upon a Screen. Thank you Paula, Kellee, and Aurora! Look for the contributions posted on December 14, 15 and 16. DAY ONE / DAY TWO / DAY THREE

Jack Lambert
April 13, 1920 - February 18, 2002

When someone decides to pursue a career as an actor, as did Yonkers-born Jack Lambert when he abandoned his original plan to become an English Professor, you prepare yourself by becoming adept at playing any role in the vast repertoire of the theatre. You also prepare yourself in the knowledge that the powers-that-be will not see you for any role. Unless a casting director was in a particularly whimsical mood, Lambert would not be cast as a kindly professor. His craggy face and intimidating physique made Lambert a tough guy walking.

Jack Lambert had two brief runs on Broadway in 1940/41 and his first movie work was an uncredited bit in Stage Door Canteen in 1943. You can't miss him! He's Jack Lambert! The work that piled up in the next few years was still mostly uncredited. Look for Jack Lambert in The Hidden EyeThe Harvey Girls, and The Killers. Better roles of the villain type were coming his way and the following are a few of my favourites.


ABILENE TOWN 1946


Randolph Scott has to tangle with a lot of trouble in this entertaining western, from a lazy sheriff played by Edgar Buchanan, gal pals Ann Dvorak and Rhonda Fleming, sneaky businessmen, and the murderous Jet Younger played by Jack Lambert. What's a hero to do?


DICK TRACY'S DILEMMA 1947

Jack Lambert, Ralph Byrd

John Rawlins directed this movie I refer to as the Citizen Kane of Dick Tracy flicks. Ralph Byrd's stalwart detective is up against a single-minded maniac in Steve Michel aka "The Claw" played by Jack Lambert. The Claw has been betrayed by criminal cohorts and he stops at nothing, including wanton murder to exact his revenge and make the big payday he feels he is owed. Noirish cinematography by Tracy series regular Frank Redman adds much to the value of this movie. Lambert is truly frightening.


THE UNSUSPECTED 1947

Claude Rains, Jack Lambert

No one would suspect Claude Rains of being a murderer, or would they? Michael Curtiz directed this interesting film-noir wherein a noted radio host blithely believes he is smarter than those who would ferret out his deadly secrets. Lambert is the dupe whose brawn is useful but becomes dangerous in more ways than one when he tries to use his brain.


STARS IN MY CROWN 1950

Based on Joe David Brown's episodic novel of nostalgia and coming-of-age, Lambert plays town bully Perry Lokey in Stars in My Crown. Typical of his ilk, Lokey delights in tormenting those weaker than himself. He's happiest when he can use his whip. Joel McCrea as Reverand Gray turns the tables, and the whip on Lokey. In a moving climax, Gray even reminds Lokey that he has a soul, or at least he is smart enough to understand which way the wind is blowing. An excellent movie well worth many viewings. Read more about the movie here.


BEND OF THE RIVER 1952

Harry Morgan, Rock Hudson, Royal Dano, Arthur Kennedy, Jack Lambert

This second of many excellent Anthony Mann and James Stewart collaborations was filmed on location in Oregon. It is an exciting outdoor adventure with Lambert part of a gang of ne'er do wells pressed into transporting goods for farmers. The stake offered for their unwilling service looks like peanuts next to the fortune offered by starving miners. Lambert as the bluff leader of this ragtag group, and sporting a credible French-Canadian accent, leads his gang in a mutiny. No sooner does he reach that goal then he is usurped by the smarter and more cunning Arthur Kennedy. Exciting stuff.


DAY OF THE OUTLAW 1959

Jack Lambert

Jack Lambert plays "Tex" in this Andre De Toth picture. He is the toughest in a gang of very tough men; thieves and robbers under the leadership of a former military man played by Burl Ives. Tex chafes when Ives declares there must be no molestation of the people of Bitters, the town they have taken over while Ives receives medical treatment. At every turn, Tex attempts to push the boundaries until his ironic and gruesome end. A most worthwhile entry in the western-noir subgenre. Read more about the movie here.


CLASSIC TV

Jack Lambert as Joshua Walcek, Riverboat

Jack Lambert has 57 television credits according to the IMDb. These include Jane Wyman Theatre, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Burke's Law and, as you might expect, Have Gun Will Travel, Bonanza, Wagon Train, Death Valley Days, Bat Masterson, Daniel Boone, and a recurring role on Riverboat.


Jack Lambert, Leonard Nimoy, Don Adams

My favourite Lambert pop up was on a 1966 episode of Get Smart as "Shark" in the episode The Dead Spy Scrawls. KAOS is headquartered in a pool room. Max is fooling no one going undercover.

Jack Lambert's last acting credit was on Gunsmoke in 1970 after which he and his second wife Marjorie moved to Carmel and ran a boutique. Tough old guy roles were few and far between and that whimsical casting director had yet to make his or her mark.

Jack Lambert's presence in many of my favourite older movies and television shows makes me smile at the thought of the supreme villainy I am about to enjoy from the comfort and safety of my living room couch.


Postscript: When you are enjoying your classic television keep an eye peeled for Lee J. Lambert (sometimes Lee Jay Lambert), Jack's son from his first marriage, who has a number of credits on series ranging from Daniel Boone to I Dream of Jeannie to Adam-12 to Hawaii Five-O between 1968 to 1979.












48 comments:

  1. A face you don’t forget! He is other favourites - Kiss Me Deadly, 99 River Street and The Enforcer.

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    1. Those are dandies! My dad was particularly fond of The Enforcer. I was about 12 when he "made" us watch it. He always made us watch Bogie movies. (I may have to consider a Lambert Part 2!)

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  2. How in the world have I never seen The Unsuspected?!? I have failed at Jack Lambert! I'm so grateful you have included such an extensive list of his movies (and some classic TV too!) to visit and revisit in this post. This is gonna be fun!

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    1. Thank you so much. I predict The Unsuspected will sneak up on you and become a go-to flick.

      I have plans for Nat Pendleton to be my Saturday afternoon companion. It will be a grand day.

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  3. I'm just writing about The Killers for the Ava Gardner blogathon and lo and behold Jack is in it. Doing his usual bad guy thing. He always looked as if he'd do odd jobs for the mob. Nice writeup on a guy whose face only a mother could love.

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    1. Indeed. When Jack shows up in a flick, you know somebody is in trouble.

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  4. Wonderful post. I originally knew Jack Lambert from watching The Andy Griffith episode "The Big House" and then retroactively saw him in a handful of the pictures you mentioned. It's always a pleasure to watch him fill out a movie.

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    1. Those classic TV shows are great for introducing us to folks with long careers we can enjoy catching up on through the years. We're livin' the dream.

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  5. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't know his name, but having seen the images I certainly know that face. Thanks for giving me a few more films and performances to check out too!

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    1. I'm glad it took until now for you to attach a name to that face. I feel like I've finally fulfilled the mandate of the What a Character! blogathon.

      PS: You'll never forget Jack now. He'll probably populate your nightmares.

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  6. Hard to imagine that menacing character as my English professor... but then again, maybe not. Great post (as usual) about a familiar face that I now can put a name to.

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    1. Thanks. I shouldn't be at all surprised if suddenly every second movie you watch will have the name Jack Lambert in the credits.

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  7. Isn't it fun to watch a film and suddenly recognize that bit part, thug, bully or villain? Even when (or sometimes more so) they are such a distasteful character, we delight in recognizing that oh-so familiar face. And thanks for adding that info about his son- I will look out for him, too! Great piece always, Paddy! It just wouldn't be What A Character! without you!

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    1. Thanks so much.

      Growing up with a movie buff dad, he passed one special rule onto his daughters, and that was to never call an actor "whats-his/her-name". Maybe there are more important lessons to be learned, but I'm happy with that one.

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  8. Interesting article on a character actor I recognized, but didn’t know much about. I remember him best as one of the thugs in BEND OF THE RIVER.

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    1. Everything about Bend of the River is memorable, and Jack's a big part of that.

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  9. Thanks for this excellent post on Jack Lambert. I really like him in The Unsuspected and Dick Tracy's Dilemma, but he's got a plethora of great performances to choose from. And I'm glad you mentioned his role on Get Smart!

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    1. Thank you for the compliment. We are of a like mind when it comes to Jack Lambert, and to Get Smart.

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  10. "He's that guy! I know him!" I recognize this actor not so much from his movie roles but as a familiar face on TV. It's nice to see him get the attention he's due.

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    1. I hear you. It is from all those TV westerns that I first started recognizing "that guy", and then having those "aha" moments watching movies on the late show.

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  11. I admit to not knowing Jack Lambert’s name before this, but I do recognize him! Thanks for highlighting many films that I’ll add to my growing watch list. From the photos you included it seems like his face could take on many varied dimensions, rather like (for me) Rod Steiger.

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    1. Lambert certainly has a memorable visage and I like that comparison to Steiger. Stories need a strong antagonist and this actor gave plenty of characters someone to struggle against.

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  12. Along with Dan Duryea, Jack Lambert played the sort of characters I would never want to meet in a dark alley! He was just so very good playing at bad guys. I remember he played a gunslinger in Have Gun--Will Travel. Even with his shooting arm wounded, one had to wonder if he wouldn't prove more than a match for Paladin!

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    1. Yes, indeed. It's Lambert's confident menace that made his villain characters work so well, and remain so memorable.

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  13. I loved this post. Wasn't familiar with Lambert—sounds like he mostly made westerns, one of my less viewed genres, but I'm very interested in Anthony Mann, and I keep hearing great things about Stars in My Crown, which I keep managing not to record. But next time, for sure....

    But it was with your reference to "the Citizen Kane of Dick Tracy movies" that you really got me.

    So much fun, Patty, and edumacashunal, too!

    Here's wishing you and yours a luminous holiday season, and a fantastic New Year!

    Lesley / secondsightcinema.com

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    1. Thank you so much. We strive to be edumacashunal. You can do no better than catch up with Stars in My Crown the next time it comes around.

      Anthony Mann brought his noirish sensibility to westerns so you should find them of more interest than most.

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  14. Amazed at what a prolific career this man had and he worked in a great deal of television as well. A very recognisable face that I've seen in so many films and TV shows yet never paid enough attention to who he was. Thanks for a fantastic post - I will be more wary the next time I see him on the screen!

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    1. Thanks so much for reading. I'm sure you'll have fun spotting Lambert from now on. Be wary indeed. You never know when he might turn nasty just on general principle.

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  15. Sometimes you don't realize what a prolific career actors like Lambert had. Bend of the River, Day of the Outlaw and The Unsupected are all great films. Wishing you and yours a happy holiday season!

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    1. I imagine those three were looked upon by Lambert with pride. I also have hopes that Dick Tracy's Dilemma would make his honourable mention roll call.

      Happy Holidays to you my friend. Looking forward to your new story collection.

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  16. I love this - "Growing up with a movie buff dad, he passed one special rule onto his daughters, and that was to never call an actor "whats-his/her-name". Maybe there are more important lessons to be learned, but I'm happy with that one." Isn't it great how many of the actors, especially character actors, we can link to television? When it comes to TV, the character actors who extended their careers are often more memorable than the stars.

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    1. I so agree with your TV outlook. There are so many memorable characters among the guest actors whose names reach back to classic film.

      We did a similar thing with the kids watching classic Disney. He used so many favourite character actors from Walter Catlett and Ed Brophy to Verna Felton and J. Pat O'Malley. When a movie featuring any one of those familiar voices was on we'd say "Do you want to see Timothy Mouse?" or whoever, and started building up their knowledge.

      Gavin likes to play a casting game where he will make a list of the actors in a certain movie and throw in a ringer waiting for us to find it. How about Martin Short as a monkey in The Jungle Book? Angela Lansbury as Vixie in The Fox and the Hound?

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  17. So that's his name! Yes, such a memorable face...but I never knew his name. I just saw him in "Bend in the River" and now I'll have to hunt down "Day of the Outlaw" in order to see him as Tex.

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    1. What a Christmas you're having with Bend of the River and Day of the Outlaw! "Tex" is thoroughly irredeemable. I think you'll be impressed with the performance.

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  18. Paddy Lee, a wonderful write-up of one of my favorite movie and TV villains of all-time, Jack Lambert. Yes, I've known his name for over forty-five years. Like your father, I don't think we should call an actor "whats-his/her-name," if we can help it. A good lesson.

    You can't get any better than Sugar Smallhouse(Jack Lambert), Charlie Max(Jack Elam), and Cheesecake(Leigh Snowden) in KISS ME DEADLY(1955).

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    1. Walter, I should have spoken to you before writing the article. Kiss Me Deadly should have been included and I don't know how it slipped my mind. Possibly due to the number of small but great appearances in the movie by actors I love to watch.

      A very Merry Christmas to you!

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    2. Paddy Lee, to you and your family a MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR! Take care and have good health.

      Walter Severs

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    3. Thank you. All good wishes being sent your way.

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  19. It's nice putting a name to a familiar face. I remember Jack Lambert from Bend of the River and, in special, Get Smart - I think I like Get Smart a little too much!
    Thanks for the kind comment!
    Kisses!

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    1. It makes me so happy that we're both "Get Smart" girls! You would think my favourite would be one of Jack's TV western appearances, but the Get Smart episode was such a treat I couldn't resist mentioning it here.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Merry Christmas!

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  20. Jack Lambert is a perfect villain. He has the look of a villain, coupled with Talent. I always get a little more excited when I see his name in the opening credits.

    Happy Holidays to you and yours! :)

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    1. Indeed. If Jack were cast in a holiday flick we'd be waiting by the chimney with a baseball bat!

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  21. Jack Lambert seems to be one of that select group of character actors, like Dan Duryea, Henry Brandon, Janis Carter, and Neville Brand, who had a certain look, and a prolific career based on that look, no matter how sterling a person the actor was in private life! But Lambert always did a great job, he was always believable, and never phoned it in. That's professionalism for you. (BTW, I liked your description: "the Citizen Kane of Dick Tracy flicks" - very apt!)

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    1. You made my day! Not everybody gets that about Dick Tracy's Dilemma.

      Lambert is definitely one of those folks who draws us into classic movies. It was fun for me to revisit a lot of these movies.

      Merry Christmas!

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