Cast & Crew
In New Orleans in the 1930s, mild-mannered reporter Burke Devlin stops young Jack Shumann from fighting with an older man who has questioned Jack's parentage, cruelly suggesting that instead of famed World War I pilot and current plane racer Roger Shumann, mechanic Jiggs might be Jack's real father. Burke, hoping for a scoop, brings Jack to the airstrip to Roger and his wife LaVerne, a parachuter, and there overhears Roger harshly chastising Jiggs, who idolizes him, for buying an expensive pair of boots. Fascinated by the "gypsies of the air" who travel from place to place entertaining the crowds, Burke offers the family lodging in his apartment. Wealthy plane owner Matt Ord, who has earned Roger's enmity by propositioning LaVerne, calls Burke over to show off his new plane and to introduce his young hothead pilot, Frank Burnham. That night, Burke returns home to find LaVerne still awake, and in response to his prompting, she recounts how she fell in love with Roger when she was a sixteen-year-old in Iowa, and followed him out of town. Ignoring Jiggs's clear adoration, LaVerne lied to Roger that she wanted to be a parachuter. She then recalls her wedding: in 1923, LaVerne announces to Jiggs and Roger that she is pregnant and must quit the show. When Roger does not respond, Jiggs asks LaVerne to marry him, but Roger demands that they roll a die for her. Although LaVerne is humiliated and Jiggs disgusted, he rolls. Jiggs rolls low, and Roger declares himself the winner and marries LaVerne soon after. In the present, Roger wakes up and abruptly interrupts the conversation. The next morning, Burke's editor cancels the air-show story, prompting Burke, who has already started drinking despite the early hour, to rail heatedly about the poetry inherent in the story. Burke is fired, but nonetheless attends the air show, where LaVerne thrills the crowd with aerial stunts. The plane race begins, and Roger soon pulls ahead of Frank by flying dangerously close to the pylons that mark the courseway. When Frank's plane hits Roger's, Frank is killed, and Roger's plane is ruined. That night, Roger and Jiggs secretly check out another plane of Matt's, and upon discovering that the engine is malfunctioning, Roger orders Jiggs to have in working condition by morning. Knowing Matt will not sell the craft to him, Roger asks LaVerne to visit Matt at his hotel room and "convince" him to let Roger fly the plane. Although Jiggs and Burke are horrified, LaVerne agrees, but later, when she is getting ready to leave, Burke stops her and offers to go in her stead. She initially refuses, but after Burke kisses her, she decides to let him go. At the hotel, Burke appeals to Matt's business sense and eventually convinces him to allow Roger to use the plane. Burke returns to the apartment, where a boisterous Mardi Gras party is being held next door, and tells LaVerne about his youthful dream of becoming a war correspondent. A drunken LaVerne, struggling with her simultaneous love of and deep resentment for Roger, falls into Burke's arms, but their kiss is interrupted when a reveler wearing a death's mask enters the room. Meanwhile, in the hangar, Roger pushes Jiggs to fix the plane and worries about what is keeping LaVerne. When she and Burke show up, she allows Roger to believe that she went to Matt, and after she leaves, Roger admits to Burke that he has never known how to accept LaVerne's love, but cannot live without her. In the morning, Matt hears that Burke has been fired and comes to the hangar, where Roger immediately insults him, forcing Burke to smooth things over. One hour before the show, the plane is still not repaired and the air-show manager tries to ground it, but Roger begs him for another chance. Jiggs then admits that he has kept the plane from running on purpose, believing it is too dangerous to fly, but in response to Roger's pleas, Jiggs starts the engine. As Roger boards the plane, he confesses to LaVerne that he loves her and wants to take the prize money and start a new life. Roger is winning the race with ease when his engine suddenly catches on fire, and in order to avoid hurting anyone on the field, he steers the plane toward the ocean and crash-lands, dying instantly. Later, Jiggs apologizes to LaVerne for never putting a stop to the rumors about Jack's parentage, prompting a grieving LaVerne to throw his new boots out the window. Although LaVerne feels guilty for kissing Burke and wants nothing to do with him, she agrees to attend Roger's memorial with him. There, LaVerne, seeing no other choice, accepts Matt's offer to send Jack to school in exchange for her companionship. Burke commiserates with a miserable Jiggs, and later stumbles to his office, where he spins a drunken but mesmerizing tale about a boy with a passion for the skies who was willing to give up everything for glory, but eventually died a hero. After his editor offers him his job back, Burke goes to Matt's house and informs LaVerne that he is sending her and Jack to Iowa. Although she at first resists him, Burke asks LaVerne what her dream is, and realizing that she does not have to give up her desire to lead a decent life, she accompanies him to the airport. There, he lends her a book she has admired and asks her to return it in person.
Robert J. Wilke
Leslie I. Carey
Russell A. Gausman
Russell F. Schoengarth
The Tarnished Angels
For years, various Hollywood studios toyed with the idea of making a film of Pylon but it was producer Albert Zugsmith who finally convinced Universal-International to buy the rights, even though the studio brass were unfamiliar with the Faulkner novel and thought the title referred to a snake. Allegedly, the author was paid $50,000 for the screen rights and Zugsmith asked Douglas Sirk to direct; they had just collaborated on Written on the Wind (1957). According to the director in Sirk on Sirk, Zugsmith "was doing some lively work at the time, and we got on just great: for instance, he also produced Welles's Touch of Evil, which Orson was shooting on the next stage at Universal when I was doing The Tarnished Angels. And Zugsmith was the first person in Hollywood who was willing to take on the Faulkner book, Pylon, this old project and favourite of mine. Zug was also the only producer I could persuade to reject a happy end." Of course, the first thing to change was the problematic title. Zugsmith wanted to call it Sex in the Air but was overruled by the studio who came up with a more appropriate title, The Tarnished Angels.
In order to appease the censorship board, Zugsmith had to make some changes to the story before it could be approved, mainly eliminating the menage a trois that is so central to the book. As a result, the Jack Holmes character, who was having an affair with Shumann's wife in the novel, becomes Jiggs, Holmes's loyal mechanic. Interestingly enough, The Tarnished Angels reunites three of the four cast members from Sirk's previous Written on the Wind - Rock Hudson, Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone. Sirk later stated "..in a way, The Tarnished Angels grew out of Written. You had the same pair of characters seeking their identity in the follow-up picture; the same mood of desperation, drinking, and doubting the values of life, and at the same time almost hysterically trying to grasp them, grasping the wind. Both pictures are studies of failure. Of people who can't make a success of their lives."
Rock Hudson was at the peak of his career when he made The Tarnished Angels; he had recently been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar® for his work in Giant (1956) and he was just a year away from Pillow Talk (1959), the smash hit that firmly established him as a major leading man in romantic comedies. Despite the starring role, however, Hudson's character, reporter Burke Devlin (he was unnamed in the novel), is not the focus of The Tarnished Angels. "'You are not the prince in this movie,' I told him - 'that's Stack.' To my surprise, he understood, although he knew that this meant in a way he would have to play second fiddle," Sirk recalled. The director saw Devlin as "a neatly polished looking-glass held up to the crazy world of the flyers, these Indians of the air...At first he is wide-eyed, rather innocent, just reflecting events...But then his consciousness grows, it widens from a lame curiosity to fascination...And eventually he recognizes the gypsies of the air as having more solid ground under their feet than his own solid shoes are treading."
For the film, Sirk uses the Roger Schumann character (played by Robert Stack) to express some of the thematic concerns of Faulkner's novel. Quoting from the book, Sirk said, 'They have nothing but their plane...part of civilization has rooted them out of their soils...Their escape is in violence, in drinking, in fighting and praying.' I think this sums up very well the world of Pylon." To help Stack understand his part, Sirk read him passages from T. S. Eliot's poem, "The Waste Land," with its many references to death by water, an image that takes on greater significance in the film. In fact, Eliot's poetry figures prominently throughout Pylon, particularly his poem, "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock," in which Prufrock, like Roger Schumann, is unable to find real meaning in his existence. Sirk also wanted to convey another idea from Faulkner's book as well - the irony of heroism.
In his autobiography, Straight Shooting, Robert Stack wrote "my warmest memory of location shooting took place in a less-than-exotic location: sunny San Diego, California..we were shooting The Tarnished Angels...My head may have been devoted to the script, but my heart was really back home where Rosemarie was about to make me a papa for the first time. We were in the middle of a tense scene in which I gave Dorothy Malone away to a dirty old man (played with glee by Bob Middleton). Suddenly, the sound men began hollering. Out of nowhere an old plane was diving straight for the cameras; behind a tatty old banner proclaiming in letters four feet tall: It's a Girl! Rock Hudson had arranged with the hospital to send word immediately when the baby was born. He had then hired a stunt pilot and gave him instructions to tow the appropriate message behind the plane. It's a moment I've never forgotten. Anybody who tells me that Rock Hudson isn't a first-class gent Had better put up his dukes."
When The Tarnished Angels opened at theatres, it received the same mixed reactions as Faulkner's Pylon did upon publication. Variety complained of "a generally inconsequential plot reaching no particular climax," while The New York Times wrote "..the bulging picture bursts at the seams. The hot air pours from it in loud hisses, and it collapses like the empty thing it is." Today, however, the film's reputation is considerably better; renown directors like Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Peter Bogdanovich have praised it as an influential work. Critic David Thomson wrote in The New Biographical Dictionary of Film that The Tarnished Angels is "Sirk's finest film, partly because he has resolved the novel's tension between poetry and hokum." The director must have agreed because he once stated in an interview, "Perhaps, after all, Tarnished Angels is my best film."
Producer: Albert Zugsmith
Director: Douglas Sirk
Screenplay: George Zuckerman, William Faulkner (novel)
Cinematography: Irving Glassberg
Film Editing: Russell F. Schoengarth
Art Direction: Alexander Golitzen, Alfred Sweeney
Music: Frank Skinner, Henry Mancini, Herman Stein
Cast: Rock Hudson (Burke Devlin), Robert Stack (Roger Shumann), Dorothy Malone (LaVerne Shumann), Jack Carson (Jiggs), Robert Middleton (Matt Ord), Alan Reed (Colonel Fineman).
BW-91m. Closed captioning. Letterboxed.
by Jeff Stafford
The Tarnished Angels
TCM Remembers - Pauline Kael/Troy Donahue
Pauline Kael, who died September 3rd at the age of 82, was one of the handful of film critics who made a noticable impact on the way we view movies. Her mix of personal feelings with more abstract aesthetics inspired numerous other critics (sometimes called "Paulettes") and in a few cases even made big hits of movies like Bonnie and Clyde (1967). She claimed to never see a movie more than once or to change her mind about it later. Several collections of her work are available, most with mildly risque titles like I Lost It at the Movies, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Going Steady.
Kael was born June 19, 1919 in Petaluma, California but moved with her family to San Francisco during her teens. There she majored in philosophy at University of California at Berkeley though she didn't graduate (the school later gave her an honorary degree). That's when she started to develop a serious interest in movies. In addition to the usual writer's assortment of jobs (seamstress, cook, retail clerk) she started writing about film in 1953; her first review was of Charlie Chaplin's Limelight which she disliked. She wrote for several small publications and did a radio show on the groundbreaking network KPFA before finally landing a job at the high-profile McCall's only to be fired shortly after she panned The Sound of Music (1965) (which she called The Sound of Money). During this period she was also managing and programming Berkeley Cinema Guild Theatres (one of the country's earliest repertoire cinemas despite being basically small rooms above a laundry), and was briefly married to avant-garde filmmaker James Broughton.
The turning point came in 1965 when I Lost It at the Movies not only attracted major critical attention but became a strong seller in book stores. Two years later legendary editor William Shawn hired Kael as film critic for The New Yorker, completing her jump into the limelight. Kael never shied away from controversy as two other events proved. In the early Sixties she engaged in an infamous and surprisingly bitter debate with critic Andrew Sarris among others about the merits of auteurism, the French-born philosophy that believes the director is the chief creative person behind any film. Kael's anti-intellectual streak came forward but since auteurism wasn't meant to be a genuinely rigorous theory (such attempts came later in the 70s) this was a sort of Brer Rabbit vs. tar baby fight that Kael could never win. The other notorious controversy occured in 1971 with her essay "Raising Kane" which was intended to show that screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz deserved as much if not more credit for Citizen Kane (1941) than Orson Welles. While Mankiewicz's contribution had clearly been underappreciated, most of Kael's conclusions and even some of her factual basis have been disproven though she never bothered to revise the essay.
In 1979, Kael made a detour to Hollywood by the urging of Warren Beatty. She was meant to be an "executive consultant" at Paramount but actually making movies is quite a different matter than writing about them so Kael lasted only five months. She went back to The New Yorker, eventually retiring in 1991 partly as a result of Parkinson's Syndrome. She still kept up with movies though, loving such smaller films as Vanya on 42nd Street and actors like Jim Carrey (who "has practically kept movies alive the past few years" she said in 1998).
By Lang Thompson
Troy Donahue 1936-2001
Troy Donahue died September 2nd at the age of 65. He was a fixture in movies during the 1950s, playing an assortment of heartthrobs and borderline tough guys. Donahue was actually Merle Johnson Jr, born in New York City on Jan 27, 1936. He went to Columbia University and started acting in small theatrical roles which eventually led to film appearances, the earliest ones uncredited. His first was Man Afraid (1957) but Donahue also made brief TV appearances at the time on shows like Wagon Train. He signed with Warner Brothers in 1959 and immediately jumped to stardom in films like A Summer Place and Imitation of Life (both 1959). He was busy in a variety of films during this periods - notably Parrish (1961) and Rome Adventure (1962) - but also starred in the TV series Surfside 6 (1960) and Hawaiian Eye (1962 and predating Hawaii Five-O by several years). Donahue's career declined as the Sixties became more turbulent but he still made notable appearances in The Godfather Part II (1974), playing a character with Donahue's own real name, and Monte Hellman's Cockfighter (1974). Most of Donahue's later films were direct-to-video efforts like Nudity Required and Omega Cop but trash aesthete John Waters, a huge fan, used him for Cry-Baby (1990).
By Lang Thompson
TCM REMEMBERS CARROLL O'CONNOR 1924-2001
Carroll O'Connor - who died June 21st at the age of 76 - will be best remembered for portraying Archie Bunker on TV's All in the Family but his career actually was much more extensive. Born in New York on August 2nd, 1924, O'Connor served in the merchant marine during World War II before attending the University of Montana where he worked on the school newspaper. Before graduating, he followed his brother to another college in Ireland (he would later get a Masters in speech from Montana). It was in Ireland that O'Connor started acting in several local productions. He returned to the U.S. for his Broadway debut in 1958 and shortly after started to appear on numerous TV shows like The Untouchables and Naked City. His first film was Parrish (1961) though he eventually acted in over a dozen films during the Sixties including Cleopatra (1963), Marlowe (1969), Hawaii (1966) and Point Blank (1967). O'Connor even auditioned for the part of the Skipper in the TV series, Gilligan's Island, but it was his role as Archie Bunker in a 1971 sitcom that made him a star. All in the Family was an American version of the British sitcom Till Death Do Us Part that met some initial resistance (ABC rejected the first two pilots) but quickly captivated American audiences and became the country's top-rated TV show. Archie became such an icon that his chair is now preserved in the Smithsonian. The series lasted until 1979 and brought O'Connor four Emmys, even leading to a four-year spinoff Archie Bunker's Place starring O'Connor. (It also produced one of TV's oddest spinoffs in1994's 704 Hauser about a multi-racial family living in Archie Bunker's old house. It had no cast members from the earlier series and only lasted six episodes.) In 1988, O'Connor took the role of a Southern sheriff in a TV series based on the movie In the Heat of the Night and found himself in another hit, this one lasting until 1995. He also occasionally played Helen Hunt's father on Mad About You. By all accounts, O'Connor was nothing like Archie Bunker; in fact, O'Connor was an active anti-drug crusader, partly the result of his son's drug-related suicide.
By Lang Thompson
TCM REMEMBERS JACK LEMMON 1925-2001
Whether playing a cross-dressing jazz bassist or a bickering roommate, Lemmon has kept his fans in stitches for fifty years. But beneath that comedian's facade, the actor had a very serious side, which occasionally surfaced in such films as Days of Wine and Roses (1962) or Costa-Gavras' political thriller Missing (1982). Lemmon was truly a one-of-a-kind actor and his track record for acclaimed performances is truly remarkable: 8 Oscar nominations (he won Best Supporting Actor for Mister Roberts (1955) and Best Actor for Save the Tiger (1973), a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute, 8 British Academy Award nominations, 4 Emmy Award nominations, numerous Golden Globe nominations, a two-time Best Actor winner at the Cannes Film Festival, the list goes on and on.
Lemmon entered the world in a completely novel fashion; he was born prematurely in an elevator in Boston in 1925. The son of a doughnut manufacturer, Lemmon later attended Harvard University but was bitten by the acting bug and left the prestigious college for Broadway. Between theatrical gigs, he played piano accompaniment to silent films shown at the Knickerbocker Music Hall in New York. Later, Lemmon claimed that he learned more about comic technique by watching these Chaplin, Keaton and Harold Lloyd two-reelers than acting school could have ever taught him.
From Broadway and early TV appearances to Hollywood, Lemmon moved West to make his screen debut in It Should Happen to You (1954), opposite Judy Holliday in a variation of her 'dumb blonde' persona that had won her an Oscar for Born Yesterday (1952). In It Should Happen to You, Holliday plays a struggling actress who soon wins fast fame as the product of promotion. Lemmon plays her levelheaded boyfriend but finds himself on the sidelines when the suave and sophisticated Peter Lawford appears on the scene. It Should Happen to You, directed by George Cukor, was a popular success and Lemmon and Holliday were quickly teamed again in Phffft! (1954), another lightweight romantic comedy. A year later, Lemmon hit the major leagues when he supported Hollywood heavyweights Henry Fonda, James Cagney and William Powell in Mister Roberts (1955). As Ensign Pulver, a deckhand who avoids work whenever possible, Lemmon won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar®.
Onscreen, Lemmon's characters often found that they were the wrong men for their jobs. In Cowboy (1958), Lemmon plays a city slicker venturing out on the wild frontier. His romantic visions of the West are soon changed by the hard-living, hard-drinking reality. Cowboy is based on the autobiography of Frank Harris, and, like the author, Lemmon found himself adapting to the rough and tumble lifestyle on the trail.
Lemmon brought a new comic persona to Hollywood films. He combined elements of screwball and slapstick comedy with his own self-deprecating humor to create satiric portraits of the contemporary American male. The sometimes cynical comic sense of director Billy Wilder provided Lemmon with the perfect complement. Together they made seven films, but it was their first, Some Like It Hot (1959), that captured the sheer comic genius of their collaborations together.
From sexual antics to social critique, Lemmon and Wilder sharpened their comic knives on the hypocrisies they saw in American culture. The Apartment (1960) focused on a working stiff who lends his home to his supervisors for their extramarital affairs. Problems arise when Lemmon falls for his boss's paramour - it gets even more complicated when she tries to kill herself in his pad! Though The Apartment was a comic success, with each passing year the film's serious side seems even more dark and derisive. Illicit love and the corruption of big business might not seem to be the stuff of hit comedies, but Wilder and Lemmon found humor in the most unlikeliest of places. Director and comic star went on to make five more films: Irma la Douce (1963), The Fortune Cookie (1966), Avanti! (1972), The Front Page (1974) and Buddy Buddy (1981).
Billy Wilder and Lemmon's lifelong comic foil Walter Matthau (nine collaborations with Lemmon in 32 years, including their most popular film, The Odd Couple, 1968) brought some of the comedian's finest funny moments to the screen. But there was a serious side too. Lemmon waived his salary to act in Save the Tiger (1973), the 'great American tragedy' of a businessman at the end of his rope. Lemmon won his second Academy Award for the film. In Missing (1982), directed by the uncompromising Costa-Gavras, Lemmon played a patriotic father searching for his kidnapped son in Latin America. The closer he gets to his goal, the clearer it becomes that a government conspiracy is behind his son's disappearance. Missing was inspired by a true story - the production was condemned by the Reagan administration and awarded the Golden Palm at the Cannes film festival.
Very few actors today can match Lemmon's range on the screen. He has acted in everything from lightweight sex farces (How to Murder Your Wife, 1965) to musicals (My Sister Eileen, 1955) to social dramas (Days of Wine and Roses, 1962) to political thrillers (The China Syndrome, 1979). Turner Classic Movies cherishes the memory of this remarkable talent.
By Cino Niles & Jeff Stafford
ANTHONY QUINN, 1915-2001
Not many actors can boast that they've inspired a Bob Dylan song but Anthony Quinn - who passed away June 3rd at the age of 86 - was one of the select few. But that's just one of many incidents in a life that can only be described as colorful. If a novelist had invented a character like Quinn, she would be accused of unbelievable invention. But in Quinn's case, it's all true.
Quinn was born April 21, 1915 in Mexico. His parents were involved in Pancho Villa's revolutionary struggle and must have made a striking couple since the father was half Irish and mother Mexican Indian. The couple were married on a train of rebel soldiers. After Quinn's birth, the family soon moved to East Los Angeles (after a quick Texas detour) where Quinn grew up in the shadow of Hollywood. (A branch of the Los Angeles County Public Library now occupies the site of Quinn's childhood home; in 1981 it was renamed in his honor.) At the age of 11 he won a sculpture award and shortly after began studying architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright. It was Wright in fact who suggested the possibility of acting to Quinn and even paid for an operation to cure a speech impediment. Along the way, Quinn also dabbled in professional boxing (he quit after his 17th match, the first he lost) and street-corner preaching. He continued to sculpt and paint for the rest of his life while also becoming a noted art collector.
Quinn's acting debut was in 1936 initially in a handful of barely noticable spots as an extra until he landed a speaking role in Cecil B. DeMille's The Plainsman, supposedly on the recommendation of the film's star, Gary Cooper. One unanticipated result was that Quinn married DeMille's daughter the following year; they appeared together in Phil Karlson's Black Gold (1947) and had five children. Quinn also appeared on stage in 1936 playing opposite Mae West. Quinn continued in film parts that gathered acclaim: Crazy Horse in They Died With Their Boots On (1941), a gambler in The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), a soldier in Guadalcanal Diary (1943).
But it was the 1950s when Quinn broke out. Viva Zapata!(1952) provided him a wonderful role which he used to win a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. Oddly enough, in Viva Zapata! Quinn worked with Marlon Brando who he had replaced in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire. (Director Elia Kazan tried to start a rivalry between the two actors but they were great admirers of each other.) Quinn again won Best Supporting Actor playing painter Paul Gauguin Lust for Life (1956) which at the time was the shortest on-screen time to win an acting Oscar. The following year came was a Best Actor nomination for George Cukor's Wild Is the Wind (1957). As he did throughout his career, Quinn rarely hesitated to take work whereever he found it, which resulted in dozens of potboilers like Seven Cities of Gold (1955) but also a few cult favorites like Budd Boetticher's The Magnificent Matador (1955). It was a trip to Italy that brought Quinn one of his most acclaimed roles: a simple-minded circus strongman in Federico Fellini's La Strada (1954). Quinn directed his only film in 1958, The Buccaneer, a commercial failure he later attributed to producer Cecil DeMille's interference. Towards the end of that decade he appeared in Nicholas Ray's The Savage Innocents (1959) as an Eskimo, inspiring Bob Dylan to write "Quinn the Eskimo" (a Top Ten hit for Manfred Mann in 1968). In 1965, his relationship with an Italian costumer created a minor scandal when it was revealed that the couple had two children. Quinn divorced DeMille's daughter and married the costumer.
He continued the same mix of classics and best-forgotten quickies throughout the 1960s and '70s. A key role in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) only confirmed his talents while he again earned a Best Actor nomination for the unforgettable lead role in Zorba the Greek (1964). The gritty crime drama Across 110th Street (1972) is one of the best American movies of its decade, enhanced by Quinn's turn as an embattled police captain. Quinn was a pope in The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968), an Islamic leader in The Message (1976), a thinly disguised Aristotle Onassis in The Greek Tycoon (1978) and an assortment of gangsters, con men, military leaders and what have you. The rest of his career might be summed up by the year 1991 when he gathered critical acclaim for his appearance in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever, was nominated for a Razzie as Worst Actor in Mobsters, co-starred with Bo Derek in Ghosts Can't Do It, worked beside John Candy and Macaulay Culkin in Chris Columbus' Only the Lonely and made a film so obscure it appears to have never appeared on video. Quinn married his third wife in 1997; they had one son. He had just completed the title role in Avenging Angelo (with Sylvester Stallone) at the time of his death.
By Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - Pauline Kael/Troy Donahue
Robert Stack, 1919-2003
Stack was born in Los Angeles on January 13, 1919 to a well-to-do family but his parents divorced when he was a year old. At age three, he moved with his mother to Paris, where she studied singing. They returned to Los Angeles when he was seven, by then French was his native language and was not taught English until he started schooling.
Naturally athletic, Stack was still in high school when he became a national skeet-shooting champion and top-flight polo player. He soon was giving lessons on shooting to such top Hollywood luminaries as Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, and found himself on the polo field with some notable movie moguls like Darryl Zanuck and Walter Wanger.
Stack enrolled in the University of Southern California, where he took some drama courses, and was on the Polo team, but it wasn't long before some influential people in the film industry took notice of his classic good looks, and lithe physique. Soon, his Hollywood connections got him on a film set at Paramount, a screen test, and eventually, his first lead in a picture, opposite Deanna Durbin in First Love (1939). Although he was only 20, Stack's natural delivery and boyish charm made him a natural for the screen.
His range grew with some meatier parts in the next few years, especially noteworthy were his roles as the young Nazi sympathizer in Frank Borzage's chilling The Mortal Storm (1940), with James Stewart, and as the Polish flier who woos a married Carole Lombard in Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be (1942).
After serving as a gunnery officer in the Navy during World War II, Stack returned to the screen, and found a few interesting roles over the next ten years: giving Elizabeth Taylor her first screen kiss in Robert Thorp's A Date With Judy (1948); the leading role as an American bullfighter in Budd Boetticher's The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951); and as a pilot in William Wellman's The High and the Mighty (1954), starring John Wayne. However, Stack saved his best dramatic performances for Douglas Sirk in two knockout films: as a self-destructive alcoholic in Douglas Sirk's Written on the Wind (1956), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for supporting actor; and sympathetically portraying a fallen World War I pilot ace who is forced to do barnstorming stunts for mere survival in Tarnished Angels (1958).
Despite proving his capabilities as a solid actor in these roles, front rank stardom oddly eluded Stack at this point. That all changed when Stack gave television a try. The result was the enormously popular series, The Untouchables (1959-63). This exciting crime show about the real-life Prohibition-era crime-fighter Eliot Ness and his G-men taking on the Chicago underworld was successful in its day for several reasons: its catchy theme music, florid violence (which caused quite a sensation in its day), taut narration by Walter Winchell, and of course, Stack's trademark staccato delivery and strong presence. It all proved so popular that the series ran for four years, earned an Emmy for Stack in 1960, and made him a household name.
Stack would return to television in the late '60s, with the The Name of the Game (1968-71), and a string of made-for-television movies throughout the '70s. His career perked up again when Steven Spielberg cast him in his big budget comedy 1941 (1979) as General Joe Stillwell. The film surprised many viewers as few realized Stack was willing to spoof his granite-faced stoicism, but it won him over many new fans, and his dead-pan intensity would be used to perfect comic effect the following year as Captain Rex Kramer (who can forget the sight of him beating up Hare Krishnas at the airport?) in David and Jerry Zucker's wonderful spoof of disaster flicks, Airplane! (1980).
Stack's activity would be sporadic throughout the remainder of his career, but he returned to television, as the host of enormously popular Unsolved Mysteries (1987-2002), and played himself in Lawrence Kasden's comedy-drama Mumford (1999). He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Rosemarie Bowe Stack, a former actress, and two children, Elizabeth and Charles, both of Los Angeles.
by Michael T. Toole
Robert Stack, 1919-2003
The working title for this film was Pylon. According to a February 25, 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, some scenes were shot on location in San Diego, CA. In a modern source, director Douglas Sirk asserted that he wanted to shoot the film in color, but Universal would not allow it because they did not "trust the story." The Tarnished Angels was the second film directed by Sirk that starred Rock Hudson, Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone, and was the seventh and final film collaboration between Sirk and Hudson for Universal. Hollywood Reporter news items add the following members to the cast: Helene Marshall, Jack LaRue, Diana Darrin and June McCall, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources add Tom Shaw (Production Manager) to the crew.
Released in United States July 1999
Released in United States on Video May 14, 1996
Released in United States Winter January 1958
Began shooting December 1956.
Completed shooting February 1957.
Released in United States Winter January 1958
Released in United States on Video May 14, 1996
Released in United States July 1999 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Universal Sirk" July 9-22, 1999.)