Audrey Totter


Actor
Audrey Totter

About

Birth Place
Joliet, Illinois, USA
Born
December 20, 1918
Died
December 12, 2013

Biography

Although largely forgotten by the general public, Audrey Totter lived on in the hearts of film noir fans for her vivid performances and striking screen presence in some of that sub-genre's most notable efforts. Lovely, but also possessing a degree of intensity in her gaze that seemed to have largely precluded her from standard-issue girl-next-door characters, Totter found her niche in da...

Photos & Videos

Tension - Lobby Card Set
The Set-Up - Lobby Card Set
The Set-Up - Movie Poster

Biography

Although largely forgotten by the general public, Audrey Totter lived on in the hearts of film noir fans for her vivid performances and striking screen presence in some of that sub-genre's most notable efforts. Lovely, but also possessing a degree of intensity in her gaze that seemed to have largely precluded her from standard-issue girl-next-door characters, Totter found her niche in darker fare. In productions like "Lady in the Lake" (1946), "The Unsuspected" (1947), "Alias Nick Beal" (1949), and "Tension" (1949), Totter portrayed a series of ambitious and duplicitous femme fatales out to take what they want through whatever means necessary. When that type of picture went out of style in the early 1950s, Totter mostly found herself relegated to supporting parts and television assignments. While she never received the breakout role that would have made her a top flight star, few actresses were so inextricably associated with the film noir thriller and even fewer could so effectively command the screen using Totter's potent combination of beauty and cunning. She died, aged 95, in December 2013.

A native of Joliet, IL, Audrey Mary Totter was born on Dec. 20, 1918. She gained some early acting experience via stage and radio work before landing a movie contract with MGM. The company started Totter out with supporting roles in minor efforts like "Main Street After Dark" (1945) and "Dangerous Partners" (1945), and she was also featured briefly in the Grade A film noir "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1946), starring Lana Turner and John Garfield. She soon graduated to leading lady status with the fantasy-comedy "The Cockeyed Miracle" (1946), but as it turned out, that brand of light entertainment would not be where Totter fit best.

It was a trip back to the crime genre in "Lady in the Lake" (1946) that really put Totter on the fast track and demonstrated just how perfect her looks and tough demeanor were for this sub-genre. Shot in the first-person view of director-star Robert Montgomery, the film's unusual approach required Totter to often emote directly to the camera, a situation that left her and the other performers the complete center of the viewer's attention. Having to deal with the audience almost literally face to face from start to finish in scene after scene would intimidate some, but Totter rose to the challenge and delivered a bold and memorable turn that was arguably the highlight of a middling production.

MGM recognized her obvious value in movies of this ilk and Totter was quickly cast in "The Unsuspected" (1947) and "High Wall" (1947), and was borrowed by other studios for "Alias Nick Beal" (1949), a unique combination of familiar noir types and tropes with elements of horror, and "The Set-Up" (1949). The latter, set in the boxing world under the direction of up-and-comer Robert Wise, gave her a somewhat different sort of part as the concerned wife of aging boxer Robert Ryan. Totter did well by the role, but fans treasured her more colorful characterizations and she was memorably evil in "Tension" (1949) as a brazenly unfaithful wife whose duplicity leads to murder.

Once her association with MGM had come to its end, Totter worked freelance for Universal in yet another noir effort, "Under the Gun" (1951). Unfortunately, that type of picture started to fall out of favor with audiences, so she alternated between leads and supporting assignments in other genres. This included relatively interesting fare like the Western "Woman They Almost Lynched" (1953), where she played the wife of notorious Confederate raider William Quantrill, and the 3-D thriller "Man in the Dark" (1953). However, the quality of the movies soon dropped, culminating in the cheap World War II effort "Jet Attack" (1958), later remembered solely for its inclusion in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time (1978). While she continued to do quality work more often than not, Totter was rapidly approaching middle-age and her association with hard-boiled noir seemed to have further limited her casting possibilities in the eyes of some Hollywood producers.

Fortunately, Totter's prospects proved somewhat brighter on television, where she made appearances on several live dramatic programs, was a regular on the western "Cimarron City" (NBC, 1958-59), and had a chance to display comedic skills in episodes of "The Red Skelton Show" (NBC/CBS, 1951-1971). She also starred on the sitcom "Our Man Higgins" (ABC, 1962-63), but like "Cimarron City," it only lasted one season. Totter returned briefly to movies via small parts in productions like "The Carpetbaggers" (1964) and the Carol Lynley version of "Harlow" (1965), and also enjoyed a recurring role on the hit drama "Medical Center" (CBS, 1969-76) from 1974 through 1976. Totter retired after guest starring in a 1987 episode of "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS, 1984-96) and spent part of her senior years as a resident of the Hollywood Motion Picture and Television Hospital. Audrey Totter, who had been battling congestive heart failure, died in Woodland Hills, CA on December 12, 2013.

By John Charles

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

City Killer (1984)
The Great Cash Giveaway Getaway (1980)
The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979)
The Nativity (1978)
Operation Heartbeat (1969)
Chubasco (1968)
Theresa
Harlow (1965)
Marilyn
The Carpetbaggers (1964)
Prostitute
Jet Attack (1958)
Tanya Nikova
Man or Gun (1958)
Fran Dare
Ghost Diver (1957)
Anne Stevens
The Vanishing American (1955)
Marian Warner
A Bullet for Joey (1955)
Joyce Geary
Women's Prison (1955)
Joan Burton
Massacre Canyon (1954)
Flaxy
Cruisin' Down the River (1953)
Sally Jane Jackson
Woman They Almost Lynched (1953)
Kate Quantrill
Man in the Dark (1953)
Peg Benedict
Champ for a Day (1953)
Miss Peggy Gormley
Mission over Korea (1953)
Kate
The Sellout (1952)
Cleo Bethel
My Pal Gus (1952)
Joyce Jennings
The Blue Veil (1951)
Helen Williams Hall
Under the Gun (1951)
Ruth Williams
F.B.I. Girl (1951)
Shirley Wayne
Alias Nick Beal (1949)
Donna Allen
The Set-Up (1949)
Julie [Thompson]
Tension (1949)
Claire Quimby
Any Number Can Play (1949)
Alice Elcott
High Wall (1948)
Dr. Ann Lorrison
The Saxon Charm (1948)
Alma Wragg
High Barbaree (1947)
Voice of "Tokyo Rose"
Lady in the Lake (1947)
Adrienne Fromsett
The Unsuspected (1947)
Althea Keane
The Beginning or the End (1947)
Jean O'Leary
Adventure (1946)
Ethel
The Secret Heart (1946)
Brittle woman's voice
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
Madge Gorland
The Sailor Takes a Wife (1946)
Lisa [Borescu]
The Cockeyed Miracle (1946)
Jennifer Griggs
Ziegfeld Follies (1946)
Voice of telephone operator in "Number Please"
Bewitched (1945)
Voice of "Karen"
Dangerous Partners (1945)
Lili Roegan
Main Street After Dark (1945)
Jessie Belle [Dibson]
Her Highness and the Bellboy (1945)
Mildred
The Hidden Eye (1945)
Salesgirl

Cast (Special)

My Darling Judge (1961)
Betsy Dunn; Cyprus' Wife
Confidentially Yours (1960)
Olga Lemaire
Meet McGraw (1954)
Woman
Operation Entertainment (1954)

Life Events

Photo Collections

Tension - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from MGM's Tension (1949), starring Audrey Totter, Richard Basehart, and Cyd Charisse. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Set-Up - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from RKO's The Set-Up (1949), starring Robert Ryan and directed by Robert Wise. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Set-Up - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for RKO's The Set-Up (1949), starring Robert Ryan. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Audrey Totter - Publicity Stills
Here is a series of publicity stills taken of Audrey Totter, to publicize The Cockeyed Miracle (1946). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Videos

Movie Clip

Any Number Can Play (1949) - Out In The Rain With My Secret Lover Joining the first scene in the household of leading man Clark Gable, who plays high-end underground casino owner Charlie, we meet Audrey Totter as Alice, the live-in sister of his wife Lon (Alexis Smith), and her husband, Wendell Corey as Robbin, who works for Charlie, with two goons (Richard Rober, William Conrad) appearing, in director Mervyn LeRoy’s Any Number Can Play, 1949.
Lady In The Lake (1947) - Imagine You Needing Ice Cubes! Audrey Totter (as editor "Adrienne Fromset") is the subject of director-star Robert Montgomery's camera, who, as Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, appears in a mirror, in this early scene from Lady In The Lake, 1947.
Lady In The Lake (1947) - My Name Is Marlowe Director and star Robert Montgomery in his introduction of himself, as Raymond Chandler's detective, and "you," as the first-hand viewer, beginning the subjective-camera feature Lady In The Lake, 1947.
Lady In The Lake (1947) - Opening Credits Give director and star Robert Montgomery credit right off the bat, going full-Christmas with the opening credits, then hitting the sour note, in the subjective-camera experiment Lady In The Lake, 1947, from Raymond Chandler's novel.
Any Number Can Play (1949) - What Are You Gonna Give Up Next? Wendell Corey as dissolute card-dealer Robbie admits Clark Gable as Charlie, his employer, brother-in-law and casino owner, who arrives unexpectedly at home enthusing about fishing, for Audrey Totter as sister-in-law Alice, and Alexis Smith as Lon, lady of the house, in MGM’s Any Number Can Play, 1949.
Postman Always Rings Twice, The (1946) - Get That Blonde Out Of My System The brief entire brilliant performance by Audrey Totter, herself usually the blonde, as Madge (the Anjelica Huston part in the 1982 Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange and Bob Rafelson remake), just the gal to distract John Garfield (as Frank) from wife Lana Turner (in her landmark performance as waitress, wife and murderous adulteress Cora), who’s left on the train to visit her ailing mother, Hume Cronyn their friendly lawyer, in The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1946.
Unsuspected, The (1947) - Attractive Young Secretary The opening, in which Claude Rains, as radio star Grandison, might be the guy upside-down in the reflection, as we briefly meet his secretary (Barbara Woodell), his niece (Audrey Totter) and his over-dressed producer (Constance Bennett), Michael Curtiz directing in high Noir style, in The Unsuspected, 1947.
Unsuspected, The (1947) - We Could All Be Murderers Probably the first appearance of Claude Raines as radio sleuth Grandison, on the air as we meet various characters, Michael North, Jack Lambert in a famous shot from director Michael Curtiz, then Fred Clark, Hurd Hatfield and Audrey Totter, early in The Unsuspected, 1947.
Alias Nick Beal (1949) - Wearing Sapphires And Silk Audrey Totter arresting in her first scene, making trouble, then rescued by the title character, Ray Milland, once again at the seedy waterfront bar where he first appeared, his motives for helping the crusading local D-A still unexplained, John Farrow directing, in Alias Nick Beal, 1949.
Alias Nick Beal (1949) - Where'd You Come From Ray Milland as the title character makes his first appearance at a harbor gin joint, the bartender (James Burke) asking a question more pertinent than he realizes, and principled D-A Foster (Thomas Mitchell) arrives, following a dubious offer of evidence, early in Alias Nick Beal, 1949.
High Wall (1947) - You'll Escape Reality Brain trauma patient, war vet and dad Kenet (Robert Taylor), institutionalized for killing his wife and believing he's guilty, with guard Delaney (Ray Mayer) then doctor Ann Lorrison (Audrey Totter), complex tensions in director Curtis Bernhardt's High Wall, 1947.
High Wall (1947) - Youre Not Getting Out After successful brain surgery which he long resisted, war vet and father Kenet (Robert Taylor), still believing he killed his wife, seeks release, doctors Lorrison (Audrey Totter), Poward (Warner Anderson) and especially Dunlap (Moroni Olsen) evaluating, in High Wall, 1947.

Bibliography