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James Craig

Discussion of the actors, directors and film-makers who 'made it all happen'

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ken123
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James Craig

Postby ken123 » February 7th, 2010, 12:16 pm

Was he too Gablesques ?

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moira finnie
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Re: James Craig

Postby moira finnie » February 7th, 2010, 1:30 pm

Oh, I dunno, Ken. I like the guy, even if James Craig wasn't going to make anyone in their right mind forget Clark Gable. I've no idea why he wasn't eligible for the draft during WWII, though perhaps he had a family to support by the time of the war.

I suspect that his best leading lady may have been Margaret O'Brien, btw. He was very gentle and believable in scenes with kids whenever they occurred. He also had a beautiful speaking voice, with a Southern softness in it that was easy on the ear, just as the rest of him was easy on the eye.
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I liked these movies in which he appeared:
Kitty Foyle, The Devil and Daniel Webster, Gentle Annie, Side Street, Valley of the Sun, Swing Shift Maisie, Lost Angel, Our Vines Have Tender Grapes and The Human Comedy

One movie that is sort of a guilty pleasure:
The Strip (1951), which is sort of a noir-jazz-swing proto-MTV video cobbled together with Mickey Rooney (during his long, dark years), Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden and even a fish out of water performance from Vic Damone, who had zilch screen presence. (What did Pier Angeli see in this guy?).

Rooney plays a GI who has just been sprung from the loony bin after a crack-up, so naturally he heads for the peace and quiet of the Sunset Strip to get his chops back. The story, told in flashback, involves Mick, who is a jazz drummer, with James Craig as Sonny Johnson, gambling playboy. Rooney also sings "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" in an impressive, if odd duet with William Demarest, of all people. Then, of course, being Mickey, he plays it about four more times...but I digress. James Craig shows up in all of the comings and goings, but this movie probably didn't do his prospects--or anyone else's--any good at all.

I thought that Alan Curtis and John Carroll were also supposed to be "threats" to Gable as well, but frankly, Craig had a better screen presence and the benefit of being the fair-haired boy at MGM during the war years. That often meant that he was surrounded with the cream of supporting crop of players on screen, which made him look even better. I suspect that James Craig may have been a "threat" to bobbysoxers's darling, Van Johnson, in some arcane MGM corporate scheme to keep Van from getting "uppity".

Btw, I believe that James Craig had a rather "hectic" private life for a long period of time, including several marriages. He had the brains to invest his movie dough in real estate, and is said to have made a pile that way.
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Re: James Craig

Postby Ollie » February 7th, 2010, 2:16 pm

He's one of those pencil-thin mustache guys. The Boston Blackie kind, as Jimmy Buffett once sang (although I don't think Chester Morris sported one, and he played BB more often than any other performer. Hmmm...)

Robert Taylor. John Hodiak. James Craig. Warner Baxter (Crime Doctor). Warren William (Perry Mason-Lone Wolf). I doubt that Ronald Colman was solely responsible for dark mustaches on actors, but there was a spate of them - and I've often mused that studios must have had a department of mustaches that they could call on and interchangeably replace any of these with the others. Or so they thought.

Their intense stares were all different, and their voices, too. I'm not sure I'd say LOST ANGEL is James Craig's best performance, but it is my favorite movie with him in it. Marsha Hunt and Margaret O'Brien are such darlin's in that film.

I myself have never tried a pencil-thin mustache. Too much work, too much room for error. Now, if I had my sister's mustache, maybe I'd have tried - every hour, it grew back, thicker and darker than before. Well, it wasn't just that... I was jealous of her sideburns, too. Sigh.

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Re: James Craig

Postby moira finnie » February 7th, 2010, 3:03 pm

Ollie, I think your sister must be long-suffering, for several reasons.

You're right. Most of the guys you mentioned looked better without those mustaches, (including Gable and Colman, imho). I don't know if they had a Department of Mustaches* at studios, but you might enjoy reading the Memo from David O. Selznick edited by Rudy Behlmer sometime if you haven't perused it already. DOS used to toss and turn and dictate memos about mustaches on his male stars, particularly the aforementioned.

While I think that Margaret O'Brien brought out the best in Craig, his one shot at the real big time was probably his role as Jabez Stone in The Devil and Daniel Webster. Too bad Jabez was such an annoying whuss and that the movie was produced independently by director William Dieterle, keeping vast parts of the American audience ignorant of the film's existence.
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*For a view of one of the worst mustaches in Hollywood History, please see He Was Her Man (1934), a film that has its moments, especially since it was the last time Jimmy Cagney was cast opposite the lovely Joan Blondell. For some dire reason, the actor appears with a dreadful mustache. I'm not sure if this was some attempt by Warner Bros to make Cagney appear more suave and continental or if it was a bored actor's response to his role. Cagney wrote in his autobiography that he also grew a mustache in protest against the tedious script in Torrid Zone (1940). Fortunately, Mr. C. and his castmates seemed to get around the script by delivering all their lines at a snappy clip in that one. No such luck with He Was Her Man, which had real pacing problems.
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Re: James Craig

Postby knitwit45 » February 7th, 2010, 4:23 pm

Ollie, I think your sister must be long-suffering, for several reasons.


amen, Moira, amen :roll: :roll: :roll:

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Re: James Craig

Postby Ollie » February 7th, 2010, 7:11 pm

James Craig's IMDB biog says "high blood pressure" kept him from the draft and his Age 41 death due to heart failure.

As for my sister, Godzilla, no, she's not suffering. Not compared to Tokyo and every other city she flattens. Actually, "Godzilla" is not her real name. And besides, the Japanese monster walks upright - that's the way most people can tell them apart.

I do think their shoe size would be approximately the same - my sister never bought shoes - she had them commissioned. "No sizes, just hull numbers..."

Of course, she's had the luxury of a loving little brother like me, to look after her. "Speak! Roll over! Sit! Sit!"

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Re: James Craig

Postby mrsl » February 7th, 2010, 8:51 pm

.
Recently in some other thread, I stated that I always thought James Craig was equally handsome as any of the other actors of his day, and couldn't understand why his career never took off, but I guess with medical problems as he had, he wouldn't have been around long enough to enjoy true fame. That is sad.
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Anne


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* * * * * * * * What is past is prologue. * * * * * * * *

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Re: James Craig

Postby jdb1 » February 8th, 2010, 1:20 pm

Moira said:

. . . and even a fish out of water performance from Vic Damone, who had zilch screen presence. (What did Pier Angeli see in this guy?)

I don't think Damone was ever an actor, except for when he was singing. Not a bad-looking man - in fact, a rather nice-looking man. I wouldn't care about whether or not he could act -- honest, as long as he sang for me at some point, I'd keep my eyes closed the whole time. :oops:

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Re: James Craig

Postby JackFavell » February 8th, 2010, 3:08 pm

Personally, I adore pencil thin mustaches. It's a real turn on for me. Ollie, do you think you might introduce me to your sister?

I really came into this discussion to stick up for John Carroll. I love him. He seems to have had no pretentions, and he could make fun of himself (closer to Gable in that sense). I like his voice much better than Craig's. It's smoother and less jerky. I am always disappointed that Carroll's role in Only Angels Have Wings isn't meatier. Pierre of the Plains (on TCM a few months ago) was a riot - a ridiculous movie made bearable by Carroll's zestfully silly performance.

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Re: James Craig

Postby ken123 » February 8th, 2010, 3:40 pm

James Craig 1912 - 1985

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Re: James Craig

Postby moira finnie » February 8th, 2010, 4:08 pm

Gee, JF, who knew those pencil thin mustaches were such a thrill for some girls? I apologize if I seemed dismissive of John Carroll, but whenever I see the guy, he reminds me of a Tex Avery wolf.

You're right, I should give the guy credit for not taking himself too seriously.

Separated at Birth?
ImageImage

Btw, on the plus side, I came across the following about an act of kindness that John Carroll and his wife performed for one of the most exploited creatures in Hollywood history:

In 1948, Marilyn moved into the house of John and Lucille Carroll. John Carroll was a well-established actor and his wife Lucille was a casting director at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). They helped support her emotionally and financially during her difficult transition period. Marilyn continued to model and interview at studios.
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Re: James Craig

Postby JackFavell » February 8th, 2010, 4:16 pm

It's uncanny!

I always did think that wolf was a cutie.....

http://www.texavery.com/sounds/steppn.wav

Thanks for the pic too- I could not find a good one anywhere.. and the info on Marilyn is nice to know....

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Re: James Craig

Postby Ollie » February 8th, 2010, 4:48 pm

Thanks for adding John Carroll into this - I keep forgetting him although I enjoy his performance in a lot of films. Like Craig, he does well in a rascal-ish role, and I didn't realize that Carroll was the lead actor in so many films. B-movies, yes, but still... another interesting actor that I've unfortunately forgotten from time to time, and probably has a lot of films I'd like.

(And stuff those "fix me up" comments - just forget it! We make a good living off of selling tickets for her exhibition. We NEED the eggs!)


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