Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Book Review: A Treasure from Dan Van Neste



Claire Dodd, Nancy Carroll, Gloria Stuart
Zachary Scott, Gloria Dickson, John Hodiak
Paula Raymond, Edward Norris, Karen Morley
Marian Marsh, Richard Greene, Jean Parker


Our friend Dan Van Neste, author of The Whistler: Stepping into the Shadows and The Magnificent Heel: The Life and Times of Ricardo Cortez, reviewed here, has been thinking of us this festive season.




If you have been wondering what to get the film aficionado in your life, be they burgeoning or fans of long-standing, wonder no longer! That unique and interesting book with a unique and interesting angle has just fallen into your lap. They Coulda Been Contenders: Twelve Actors Who Should Have Become Cinematic Superstars, published by Bear Manor Media also works as the answer when someone asks you what you would like for a gift.

The visions of a successful Hollywood career brought many talented people to the studios. The vagaries of luck, of timing, of "a break" kept many an actor spinning their wheels in the industry; of just coming short of their goal. Decent and respectable careers may have resulted, but they didn't become household names. Known, of course, to fans of the Golden Era of film, we would be hard-pressed to find anyone at the morning bus stop willing to engage in a conversation about Edward Norris or Claire Dodd.

Dan's extensive knowledge along with his respect and admiration for his fascinating subjects is on display in this fascinating page-turner. His thorough research which includes many interviews fills in the blanks and adds to our knowledge of these many actors who command our attention and our curiosity.

They Coulda Been Contenders focuses on the twelve actors pictured on the book cover with biographical details and features a second section with detailed filmographies for our ever-lengthening "must watch" lists. The only problem you will have is how to enjoy the book. Do you skip right to John Hodiak or start on page one and immerse yourself? All problems should be this difficult!


Note: My review copy was received from Bear Manor Media.
They Coulda Been Contenders is available in 3 formats: Kindle, Paperback and Hardcover

Happy shopping!












31 comments:

  1. I thought Gloria Stuart was good in THE OLD DARK HOUSE, but nothing about her performance made me think “future superstar”—but I assume this book makes that case for her. The only other thing I’ve seen her in is TITANIC and that was sixty-something years later. The only other person on this list I’ve heard of is Zachary Scott. Not that great looking, but then neither was Bogart. Good idea for a book.

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    1. Checking out these folks will lead to some very interesting movies.

      I agree about Gloria Stuart. It wasn't until she was interviewed by Elwy Yost for Saturday Night at the movies did I discover that perhaps as an actress she didn't light up the screen, but as a woman, she was very interesting. The right role would have made a difference.

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  2. I remember ZACHARY SCOTT from LETS MAKE IT LEGAL with CLAUDETTE COLBERT, MACDONALD CAREY, BARBARA BATES and ROBERT WAGNER. It also had MARILYN MONROE in a small part. I have never seen the movie FLAMINGO ROAD but I watched the TV show. MARK HARMON played the part that Zachary had in the movie. HOWARD DUFF was on FL as a sheriff. I really like his work and his voice. I mostly know him from his work beginning with FL. I did see BOYS NIGHT OUT that he did with JAMES GARNER and KIM NOVAK. I also saw the LUCY ep with him and his wife IDA LUPINO.

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    1. I meant FR short for FLAMINGO ROAD. I was obviously thinking FL because of the word FLAMINGO. Also the show was set in FLORIDA.

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    2. I didn't watch the Flamingo Road TV series, but remember the movie very well. I enjoy Zachary Scott in The Southerner, Mildred Pierce, The Mask of Dimitrios, and several other pictures.

      Howard Duff starred on radio in The Adventures of Sam Spade. Great stuff.

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  3. CLAIRE DODD and PAULA RAYMOND both have a connection to PERRY MASON. Claire played DELLA STREET in two of the old movies and Paula did 5 episodes of the TV show. So Paula RAYMOND worked with RAYMOND Burr.

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    1. Paula always looked so fashionable on her Perry Mason guest spots. It reminds me of Claire Dodd's role in Roberta which had a fashion focus.

      My favourites of Paula's movies are The Tall Target and Devil's Doorway, both directed by Anthony Mann.

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  4. Well-known character actor MICHAEL J. POLLARD died Nov. 21 at the age of 80. I remember him from an ep of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW as VIRGIL, the visiting cousin of BARNEY. Also the movie THE STRIPPER with JOANNE WOODWARD. He was in the DISNEY movie SUMMER MAGIC with HAYLEY MILLS, DOROTHY MCGUIRE, DEBORAH WALLEY, UNA MERKLE, BURL IVES and PETER BROWN. What a cast! He did two eps of SUPERBOY. I know I saw one of them.

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  5. MICHAEL J. POLLARD did two eps of DOBIE GILLIS as JEROME KREBS, the cousin of MAYNARD G. KREBS(BOB DENVER). Bob was to go into the army and the cousin was to be a replacement. Bob was classified 4-F because of a long-standing neck injury so he, of course, got to stay on the show. Did you watch that series? I saw it in the early-mid 80s on what was then CBN Cable. Michael J. was once married to BETH HOWLAND who later played VERA on the series ALICE. I really liked Alice when FLO was on it. I still liked it when BELLE came on the show. I didn't like the show as well when JOLENE came on. It wasn't because I didn't like Jolene, it was mostly the show was getting older and wasn't as funny anymore. I really liked FLO, VERA and MEL. Did you watch ALICE?

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    1. I haven't seen Michael J. Pollard in ages, but he was certainly a memorable actor. Westerns and dramas are my memories. I caught some of Dobie Gillis on YouTube. It was a very clever show.

      I didn't watch Alice, but do recall that Beth Howland's second husband was Charles Kimbrough of Murphy Brown, a show I did watch.

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  6. I might buy it for John Hodiak. He was Gang-busters in "Life boat" and wonderful in "Battleground" but he never seems to have caught on, and died at 41.

    Not in the book, but someone who should have had a bigger career is Jean Hagan. She's hilarious in "Adams Rib" and "Singing in the Rain" and a standout in "Asphalt Jungle" and then BOOM she's on TV. I guess, like Gail Russell she had boozer problem. Too bad.

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    1. I'll watch John Hodiak in anything, anywhere, anytime. He was quietly fascinating and you mentioned two of his best chances. At least MGM kept him busy for a time.

      Jean Hagen had so much talent. Again, maybe too much for her or anyone else to handle properly.

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  7. I remember JOHN HODIAK in SUNDAY DINNER FOR A SOLDIER with ANNE BAXTER. Later he and Anne were married for less than seven years before divorcing. They had a daughter (born in 1951). I really like Anne in her movies and TV work. There were two movies that I get the titles mixed up. They both had DAN DAILEY. One had Anne Baxter and the other one had JEANNE CRAIN. One was YOURE MY EVERYTHING and the other one was YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME. I really liked both of them. The one with Anne was in color. Being you are a big fan of Dan Dailey, you probably saw them too.

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    1. My ideas of show business all stem from those 20th Century Fox musicals!

      I have yet to see Sunday Dinner for a Soldier. I probably should being a fan of both Anne Baxter and John Hodiak. I think of John in Lifeboat, Battleground, Ambush, Trial, Somewhere in the Night, Two Smart People, Desert Fury and The Harvey Girls. I think he was marvelous.

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  8. I remember most of these actors! It's always interesting to ponder why some actors became stars and others--just as talented--did not.

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    1. I always put it down to the breaks. Wonderful people that still draw fans, just not on the level of others.

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  9. DAN DAILEY and ANNE BAXTER were also in TICKET TO TOMAHAWK. MARILYN MONROE was also in it. Did you see all the COLUMBO eps? Anne was in a really good one with MEL FERRER. I have mentioned the JANET LEIGH one with JOHN PAYNE so that's two really good eps that were set in the show business world.

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    1. I have seen all of the Columbo episodes. First when they originally aired and then a few years ago my husband gave me the DVDs. I haven't watched them in a while - just long enough that they will feel both new and familiar.

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  10. Paddy Lee, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! to you and your family.

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    1. Walter, so nice of you to send greetings. All the best to you and yours.

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  11. I'll be clicking on amazon.ca next, thanks to your review. I enjoy Dan van Neste's writing and considerable research skills. This looks like a Must.

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  12. Some of my favorite actors are the ones who never became legends...they light up some of my treasured films with unforgettable performances and the films would not be the same without them. Zachary Scott in Mildred Pierce comes to mind. And so lovely that Gloria Stuart finally got some cinema glory with her now iconic Oscar-nominated turn in Titanic!

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    1. I feel the same way. The "also rans" in the eyes of the world are what draw us to the movies of that era.

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  13. KATHERINE JUSTICE is an actress that I enjoy watching. She was in the first COLUMBO TV-Movie. Also I saw her in two westerns. FIVE CARD STUD with DEAN MARTIN. DENVER PYLE played her dad and RODDY MCDOWELL played her brother. ROBERT MITCHUM was also in it. The other western is THE WAY WEST with RICHARD WIDMARK, KIRK DOUGLAS, BOB MITCHUM(again) and LOLA ALBRIGHT. I didn't care too much for that movie. I liked WIDMARK and MISS ALBRIGHT the best. They played a married couple. I read a review of it on LAURAS MISCELLANEOUS MUSINGS. I remember you put a comment on that page. Also I remember KATHERINE JUSTICE from a few eps of FALCON CREST where she was paired up with ROY THINNES(a good actor) and also an ep of POLICE WOMAN with DAVID SELBY.

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    1. I associate Katherine Justice mainly with a 3-part episode of Gunsmoke, The Bullet. It was outstanding.

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  14. My two favorite TV moms are KAREN GRASSLE and MICHAEL LEARNED. Miss Learned won four Emmys out of 8 nominations. She is best known for THE WALTONS. She was popular in TV-Movies and later guest-star roles. She did an ep of MURDER, SHE WROTE with DON GALLOWAY and STEVE FORREST. Miss Grassle didn't receive any EMMY noms but is just as talented as Miss Learned. Karen guest-starred on GUNSMOKE as Michael also did. Karen also guest-starred on M.S.W. on two eps. I remember her second one very well. It had DEAN JONES, KATE MCNEIL(as CARRIE, a niece of JESSICAS) and MARCIA RODD. It also had STEVEN FORD, the son of former PRESIDENT GERALD FORD. Steven had been on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS as ANDY RICHARDS, a private detective.

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    1. Michael Learned and Karen Grassle are two actresses for whom I have great admiration.

      If I had to choose a favourite TV mom, it would be Jan Clayton as Ellen Miller on Lassie, the mom to Tommy Rettig as Jeff.

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  15. HOPE HOLIDAY is 86 today. I remember her from the movie THE ROUNDERS with GLENN FORD and HENRY FONDA. She and SUE ANE LANGDON played the women who went skinny-dipping with the guys. Did you see that movie? I also saw her in an ep of THE FARMERS DAUGHTER with INGER STEVENS and WILLIAM WINDOM. She was in THE LADIES MAN with JERRY LEWIS.

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  16. HOPE HOLIDAY was married to FRANK MARTH from 1967 until his passing in 2014. Im sure you will remember him from a lot of his guest-star roles. He did 5 eps of THE BIG VALLEY, sometimes as a lawman. He also did a couple of PERRY MASON eps.

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    1. The Rounders is a favourite of mine. I didn't know about Hope Holiday and Frank Marth's marriage. He was a welcome presence on many shows, and such a distinctive voice.

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