Elisha Cook Jr. dies of a stroke in Big Pine, California, 1995. He was called Hollywood’s lightest heavy, a career character actor largely defined by the neurotic, cowardly criminal types he played throughout the ‘40s and ‘50s. Cook was at his best in The Phantom Lady (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Shane (1953), The Killing (1956)—his personal favorite—and Rosemary’s Baby (1968). But it is his turn as runty gunsel Wilmer opposite Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941) for which audiences perhaps best remember him. "[Cook] lived alone up in the High Sierra, tied flies and caught golden trout between films,” said his Maltese Falcon director John Huston. “When he was wanted in Hollywood, they sent word up to his mountain cabin by courier. He would come down, do a picture, and then withdraw again to his retreat." The five-foot-five-inch actor appeared in a total of 106 pictures, beginning in 1930 with Her Unborn Child through to 1984 with Treasure: In Search of the Golden Horse.
Entries in humphrey bogart (9)
By the time The African Queen was released in 1951, star Humphrey Bogart had been making movies for 23 years and had been Oscar nominated just once, for Casablanca (1942). “He had never felt people in the town liked him much,” wife Lauren Bacall wrote years later. That was not the case with his characterization of scrappy, hard-drinking riverboat captain Charlie Allnut, which earned Bogart great reviews, healthy box office and enthusiastic acclaim from the Academy. During filming in the Congo, Bogart and director John Huston famously chose liquor over drinking water, thus avoiding the dysentery that plagued costar Katharine Hepburn. "All I ate was baked beans, canned asparagus, and Scotch whisky,” Bogart said of his time in Africa. “Whenever a fly bit Huston or me, it dropped dead." On the night of the awards, Greer Garson called Bogart up to the podium to accept his Best Actor trophy. “My wife let out a scream when my name was called,” the actor said. “She jumped four feet and almost had a miscarriage.”
An American in Paris
George Stevens, A Place in the Sun
Humphrey Bogart, The African Queen
Vivien Leigh, A Streetcar Named Desire
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Karl Malden, A Streetcar Named Desire
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Kim Hunter, A Streetcar Named Desire
Humphrey Bogart sends a telegram to Hal B. Wallis strongly conveying his wish to play Roy Earle, a robber on the run, in High Sierra, 1940. It was not the first telegram he sent, nor would it be the last, and both Wallis and studio head Jack L. Warner were subjected to many of Bogart’s pleading missives. Paul Muni was originally intended for the part and turned it down after reading the script. George Raft's name was mentioned next, though word on the street was that the actor was trying to get away from playing such criminal types. Bogart used this information to his advantage, telling Raft that the studio wanted him for yet another gangster role. Raft, incensed, went to Wallis and turned down the part cold. Warner at last gave the role to Bogart, provided he cease sending him telegrams.
Alec Guinness is born in London, 1914. When it came time to adapt Pierre Boulle’s novel The Bridge on the River Kwai for the screen, producer Sam Spiegel envisioned Humphrey Bogart in the role of Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson, with Nicholas Ray directing. That was just one of several director/star scenarios before David Lean was selected to helm the picture. With Lean on board, Spiegel turned to Laurence Olivier to play the lead; Olivier was busy preparing to direct and star in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) and declined the offer. Guinness was an early choice as well, but turned it down after reading the screenplay. More names entered the fray—Cary Grant, Ronald Colman and James Mason, to name a few—before a rewrite made Guinness change his mind.
“The original script was ridiculous,” the actor contended, “with elephant charges and girls screaming round in the jungle. When David Lean arrived with a new screenwriter, it became a very different thing. I saw Nicholson as an effective part, without ever really believing in the character.” Part of the problem was that Nicholson, as written, was a bit of a bore. Guinness attempted to bring a little humor to the dull figure, against the wishes of Lean, who wanted Guinness to play it straight. "I can't imagine anyone wanting to watch a stiff-upper-lip British colonel for two and a half hours,” the actor remarked.
The film proved to be a hit and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1957. For his portrayal of the delusional officer and POW who oversees the construction of a bridge, Guinness was named Best Actor, his only Oscar.
A script had been written by a husband and wife team by the time I arrived at the studio. I read it and then studied the book carefully. I thought they were spoiling the book. So they asked, “What do you suggest?” I said, “Why not get Ayn Rand?” They said she didn’t know anything about screenplays, but I said I would work with her and take care of the screenplay continuity and technique—sort of guide her. I spent a couple of weeks going through the chapter headings and marking out what the film should keep and what it shouldn’t. By the time she came in I had a pretty good skeleton of what the screenplay was.
I got along great with her. They didn’t even have to pay her because she was so anxious to get the book on the screen. She said she’d do it under one condition—if they changed any lines, she wanted the possibility to be telephoned and called to the studio. That was a great help to me because actors always want to change lines. So I used that as a prop. I’d say to Gary Cooper, “Okay, you’ll have to phone Ayn Rand.” And he’d say, “How long will it take her to get here?” “Oh, it’ll be about an hour.” And he’d say, “Oh God, let’s go, I’ll read the line.” Many actors, out of nervousness or fear, will say, “I can’t read that line.” But if they try hard they can.
For The Fountainhead I always thought that either Humphrey Bogart or James Cagney was the ideal casting, not Gary Cooper, because he’s such a nice and quiet guy. But when I saw the picture a few years later I thought Cooper was ideal because he’s very quiet and he just says, “No, that’s not the way I want it.” Very quiet, like the strong guy of High Noon, and I thought it was much better than having a guy losing his temper and being arrogant and yelling.