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Scott O'Brien Q & A on George Brent

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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » October 26th, 2014, 4:21 pm

Thank you so much for joining us here at The Silver Screen Oasis, Scott! I have been enjoying all the wonderful questions and your responses continue to intrigue me. I can't wait to read your book!

Often authors working on a project make a surprising discovery, like Christina RIce's encounter with the scrapbook from Ann Dvorak's European honeymoon. Something like that is completely unexpected. Do you have any more moments like this concerning your research about George Brent that you haven't yet shared? Do you like Brent more now than when you started your research?

As a writer, I am always fascinated by what databases or websites you might consider your greatest online asset while conducting research into such a complex man. Any recommendations?

We appreciate your visit so much! :D
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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby moira finnie » October 26th, 2014, 5:58 pm

Great questions, gang~ keep 'em coming, won't you?

Scott, could you please talk a bit about a movie that is just a tad chauvinistic in its flouting of all things Irish and for using every possible member of the Warner Bros. Stock Company---The Fighting 69th (1940). I realize that this movie was celebrating real men, many of whom were sacrificed in WWI and was an indication of the growing militarism of America in '40, but did Brent have any fun in this movie appearing with so many scamps and scene stealers? You mentioned earlier that GB and James Cagney were friends. Did they bond over their shared love of the country and particularly, horses?
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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby oscotto » October 26th, 2014, 6:20 pm

Sue Sue Applegate – I appreciate your warm welcome.

I have always liked George Brent. I first noticed him in Stamboul Quest (1934) in which his buoyant personality and charm had ample opportunity to manifest itself. I learned that he enjoyed the time and care they took at MGM—even though Myrna Loy said he gave them some difficultly over numerous script changes (it was released a week prior to the new Production Code—and Loy’s spy character was using sex as a weapon to get information-a big no-no).

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Above: Edward Keane at a table with the elegant Myrna Loy balks at the presence of the rather distracting George Brent in Stamboul Quest (1934).

I next noticed Brent in The Rains Came (20th Century-Fox, 1939)—which I consider his best performance. Again, he was off the Warner lot and provided a spot on characterization of Tom Ransome, the dissipated ex-pat foundering in Colonial India. Having seen all but six of his 89 films, I should say that he should have stayed away from screwball comedy. With the exception of Out of the Blue (1947) he mugged his way through them. He was effective in comedy-drama (his work with Kay Francis in Keyhole, Goose and the Gander) where he displayed in infectious sense of humor and fun.

Unexpected Findings:

The logbook, from Brent’s 1947 yacht race to Hawaii, was a nice surprise. His grandnephew lent it to me. I also came across a letter (1930) and telegram (August 15, 1930) that Brent sent to his theatrical agent (Jane Broder) in New York.

Source material:

On-line sources that I have used include: The Library of Congress Media History Digital Library (excellent source of vintage film & trade magazines); fultonhistory.com (numerous New York newspapers, going way back); Genealogy Bank (for historical/immigration/newspapers/birth-death-marriage records); Google books archives; New York Times archives; AFI; TCM. All these sources proved invaluable.

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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby Brian McFadden » October 26th, 2014, 6:33 pm

Dear Scott,

Thanks so much for being with us and for the info on the fox fire and the Nat Levine film. I'm sorry to say I never did interview Sylvia Sidney, but I certainly look forward to your book.

Again, many thanks...

Brian

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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby oscotto » October 26th, 2014, 6:50 pm

Moira -
Re: The Fighting 69th" :P
Lordy! As Warner archivist Clive Hirschhorn stated, The Fighting 69th “could not be taken seriously for a moment.” Brent was pleased to sign on when he found that the film’s technical adviser was John T. Prout, who had been a training officer for the IRA (1919-1921). Brent played the decorated war hero Colonel “Wild Bill” Donovan, who loved Brent’s performance and happily promoted the film. The story was suggested from the stories of Father Duffy (Pat O’Brien’s character). Cagney played the film’s highly fictional, cocky thorn-in-the-flesh. His prolonged on-screen cowardice (for me) becomes tiresome. Cagney himself said that scenarists knew what the public wanted “no matter how derelict” the outcome. It was a big hit with audiences, but when it was re-released in 1948 – Brent was demoted to a supporting player, while Dennis Morgan (who had been billed seventh) joined Cagney and O’Brien above the title!

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Above: George Brent & James Cagney in The Fighting 69th (1940).

Brent had a bad case of influenza during the shoot. “I got real sick,” Brent later recalled. “Spots came out all over me; fingernails fell out with the fever—toenails came off. You’d just choke to death. But I got through the picture alright. This was my only picture with my good pal James Cagney.” Cagney said that the studio considered replacing Brent, but Cagney stood up for him, saying that Brent was an essential ingredient to the film. The two friends remained in contact until Brent’s demise in 1979.

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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby moira finnie » October 26th, 2014, 8:05 pm

Thanks for filling that part of the picture in, Scott.

I must admit I have a weakness for The Fighting 69th as entertainment, not history--and I always loved Joyce Kilmer--so even Jeffrey Lynn as the doomed poet couldn't wreck the movie for me. :oops:

I know that one of our members will be upset if I don't ask at least for some info about how GB felt about an actress he shared the screen with in four films--Margaret Lindsay, seen below with him in the nifty detective story, From Headquarters (1933-William Dieterle).

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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby oscotto » October 26th, 2014, 8:06 pm

Thanks for inserting the photos to my responses Moira. :D

I forgot to mention that Brent became a US Citizen in 1937. As WWII approached he wanted to do his part. Brent had his heart set on being an instructor at the Civil Aeronautics Institute in Oxnard. He negotiated with Warners to postpone his last film under contract (My Reputation one of his best films). Due to a previous spine injury in 1941(he had had surgery) he only lasted a few months in the Air Corps. He tried a similar stint with the Coast Guard. He found it difficult to sit for long periods of time. He received a medical discharge in May 1943. He wanted to film The Raft, based on the true experiences of three US Navy Fliers who survived thirty-four days in the Pacific without food or water. He dropped the project, but the film was finally made this year as Ghosts of the Pacific (due for a fall 2014 release).

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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby moira finnie » October 26th, 2014, 8:06 pm

FYI Members:

Please scroll back to the other pages of this thread to see the pictures of George Brent that Scott has now shared here. They are gems!
Thanks so much for sharing these last few days with us talking about George Brent, Scott.

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Too bad we didn't get to the topic of George Brent's eyelashes! :!:
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I am so glad to read that you have become interested in writing about an actress I have cherished since identifying keenly with her as Mary Burns, Fugitive (1935) when it was shown on WPIX when I was 8! You are really going to have your hands full documenting this little powerhouse's nearly 70 year career!

Was there ever such a combo of beauty, tremulous vulnerability, intelligence, and fierce toughness in one little package?
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Please consider yourself invited to come back anytime in the future!
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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » October 26th, 2014, 8:19 pm

Thanks, Moira! Scott, your comments are much appreciated! Thank you for visiting us here. :D
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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby oscotto » October 26th, 2014, 9:43 pm

Moira –
I too have a special fondness for From Headquarters—another overlooked gem. It had a visual flourish for the intricacies of forensics. Detective Brent is focused, and engaging as the love-torn detective. Brent commented that Dieterle was “a good man and easy to work with.” Brent said that it was Dieterle that was in charge of the screen test that got him is Warner contract in December 1931. Dieterle also directed the Chatterton-Brent film The Crash (1932).

I thought the Brent-Lindsay combination was worth a repeat. They were in some scenes together in Jezebel, but Gold is Where You Find It (1938) focused on Brent and de Havilland. I don’t recall any tandem scenes of Lindsay-Brent in Baby Face (1933). I made a point of getting every comment that Brent made about his co-stars and directors. Sadly, nothing (so far) on the excellent Margaret Lindsay. She always made a distinct impression on me from playing Kay Francis’ gambling addicted daughter in House on 56th Street (1933) through the hostess of a swank party in Doris Day’s Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960).
Last edited by oscotto on October 26th, 2014, 10:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby rerun » October 26th, 2014, 9:47 pm

The thoroughbred ranch I went to was called Royal Oaks Farm. The address was technically Camarillo but if memory serves me it was 1000 Oaks. Unless there was another. I think that, however, there is a fine line between 1000 Oaks and Camarillo. It was a long time ago. This was in the mid or early 70's.
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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby rerun » October 26th, 2014, 10:06 pm

P.S. I see it is not listed in the 1960 Racing Manual but is in the 1958. Could be that the ranch I am remembering was: "you know, George Brent's place!" It was called Royal Oaks and I do remember that for sure and Camarillo may have been the mailing address. I am sure it was 1000 Oaks. And, he may have still owned it then. Sigh . . . .
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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby oscotto » October 26th, 2014, 10:14 pm

Moira - Sylvia Sidney

Sylvia is certainly the most prolific of actresses. Her career spans from 1926-1999! Of course, she and George had to cross paths at one point (a 1955 TV Climax! presentation--a photo of them is in the Brent bio). The neat thing about Sylvia is that she offered so many candid, ballsy interviews in her 70's and 80's. She threw discretion to the wind ... delightfully so. I have all her films and a number of her TV performances. She had a way of immersing herself into her characters that was never actress-y or showy. She could care less how she looked and it always paid off. She considered Mary Burns, Fugitive, her personal favorite film.

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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby oscotto » October 26th, 2014, 10:39 pm

Rerun –
I should have mentioned that Brent and his wife (who was ailing from cancer) relocated from Rancho Sante Fe in 1973. They moved to Solona Beach—a short walk from the Pacific Ocean. It was reported that he sold his horses in order to take care of his wife. I'm not sure if he ever sold the ranch itself.

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Re: Scott O'Brien to Visit on 10/25 & 10/26

Postby rerun » October 26th, 2014, 10:57 pm

Thanks so much. It has been a real treat to have you here. Thanks again and best of look with the book.
Avatar: John Cantarini (Martha's husband) on future world record holder Crazy Kid. He won six in a row
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