Cast & Crew
While vacationing in Mexico City, Broadway producer and sportsman Johnny Regan goes to a bullfight at the Plaza Mexico with his friends, Barney and Lisbeth Flood. As they watch, the great Manolo Estrada conquers an aggressive bull while carrying out difficult passes, including one in which he kneels near the animal. That evening in a nightclub, Johnny introduces himself to Manolo and shows extra attention to a young woman in Manolo's party, Anita de la Vega. Anita is preoccupied with worry for her friend, Antonio Gomez, who was wounded during the bullfight that day and resists his attention. When Manolo realizes Johnny is a champion skeet shooter, he asks for lessons, explaining that he needs a hobby for when he retires from the ring, a promise he made to his pregnant wife Chelo. Johnny agrees but, hoping to impress Anita, asks to be taught bullfighting in return. The next day Manolo and Johnny watch toreros practice and Manolo mysteriously refers to one, Pepe Mora, as a "tragic case." To help Johnny learn basic passes, a young boy, Panchito, plays the charging bull. Later, Johnny and Manolo visit Antonio at the hospital, and Anita finally warms to Johnny's overtures of friendship. During the following days, Johnny continues his lessons. His prankish enthusiasm concerns Barney, who does not understand his interest in the dangerous sport. Anita invites everyone to her ranch for a tienta , during which breeding cows are tested for "bravery." As Manolo has sprained his right hand, he cannot personally participate, but he encourages Johnny to try basic "Veronica" passes with the cows. The over-enthusiastic Johnny tries more difficult stunts and barely escapes injury. Despite his recent wounds, Antonio also participates. When rowdy spectators accuse Manolo of cowardice for not joining in, Manolo enters the ring and to the delight of all, manages left-hand passes with a "fresh" bull, and even works in his kneeling trick. He walks off with dignity, but Chelo confronts the challengers with an impassioned speech. Johnny is impressed, and Anita tells him that in Mexico they say "she has stature." Anita also admits she is proud of Johnny, but when he sees her telling her long-time friend Antonio that she loves Johnny, he assumes they are ridiculing him. Enraged, he hits Antonio and Anita tells him to leave. Advised by Manolo to give Anita time, Johnny asks to continue his lessons with Manolo. His apology to Antonio is accepted and he is graciously invited to be in next month's corrida . Johnny also learns that the "tragic" Pepe Mora accidentally caused the death of his brother during a bullfight. On the day of the bullfight in which Johnny is to participate, Johnny gets nervous. Manolo understands, but foresees trouble. When Johnny gets the opportunity to work with a bull, the crowd taunts him at first. He does well, however, and wins their acceptance. His confidence soars and he attempts Manolo's kneeling trick. The bull charges, and Manolo jumps in to assist, but is fatally gored. When Anita finds him much later, Johnny is pacing the Plaza in the rain. She urges him to flee Mexico before irate fans try to kill him. Instead Johnny petitions Dr. Sierra, the promotor of the bullfights, to be included the following Sunday. Fearing that Johnny will be killed by the crowd, Dr. Sierra refuses, but later relents. Barney tries to dissuade Johnny, but Lisbeth understands Johnny's need to face the situation and mentions that the proceeds will go to Chelo. On Sunday, just before the corrida , Chelo gives Manolo's cape to Johnny, and says that Manolo will guide him. When it is Johnny's turn, the audience pelts him with objects. In spite of this, his performance goes well, and he kills the bull. While it is dragged away, he thanks the crowd for allowing this last appearance, noting that the man with his bull today was Manolo Estrada. Watching from the stands, Anita is told that her "man has stature." Johnny leaves with the toreros and gives Panchito his hat. When Anita catches up with him, they kiss and leave the Plaza together.
Luis Castro "el Soldado"
Alfonso Ramírez "calesero"
Arturo álvarez "vizcaino"
Manuel Jiménez "chicuelin"
Armillita "el Papa"
A. O. Calero
Leonardo Castro H.
James Edward Grant
B. B. Monterde
Richard L. Van Enger
Herbert J. Yates
Best Original Screenplay
Bullfighter and the Lady on Blu-ray
This semi-autobiographical tale was clearly made by someone in love with Mexico. Visiting Broadway producer Johnny Regan (Robert Stack) forces an invite to the table of Manolo Estrada, Mexico's most beloved matador (Gilbert Roland). He wangles a bullfighting lesson for himself and soon becomes Manolo's protégé. Johnny also falls in love with Estrada family friend Anita de la Vega (Joy Page of Casablanca). Manolo's loving wife Chelo (Katy Jurado) tries to guide Johnny and his friends Lisbeth and Barney Flood (Virginia Grey & John Hubbard) through the peculiar formalities of Mexican society, but the impulsive Johnny keeps making errors. Johnny takes Manolo's training well but can't restrain his egotism. His pig-headedness leads to a faux pas that almost destroys his budding relationship with Anita. And despite being warned that showing off in the arena could get others hurt as well as himself, Johnny continues to take foolish chances.
The highly romantic Bullfighter and the Lady offers breathtaking bullfighting scenes superior to anything ever in a Hollywood production. Even more important is the film's sense of cultural authenticity: it transports us to an insider's view of Mexico as it really was in 1950. The movie gets things right from the start. Manolo Estrada is more than a celebrity; he's respected and loved almost as a God. One would have to be as notable as a big Broadway producer (Regan) or a stage star (Lisbeth) to be accepted in his queue. Unlike most Gringo films, there's absolutely no condescension here -- Regan is the outsider who must adapt to new customs. At this level of Mexican society, among Toreros and their families, the polite rules are observed. Note that Anita does not reveal her feelings to Johnny right away. When asks her out she carefully steers him away from private meetings. What Johnny thinks will be a romantic dinner ends up a visit with an American aficionado of the arena (Paul Fix). Johnny asks for a date, and Anita invites him to a clan gathering. Anita is careful with her emotions. Johnny needs to be taught to properly respect a lady. If he doesn't like it, that's his problem.
Johnny Regan is tolerated mainly because Manolo takes a liking to him. The movie depicts a Mexican culture based on set notions of faith, ritual and gender roles. It's not progressive but it has its own logic, and when Johnny gives offense, no excuses will suffice. This makes Bullfighter and the Lady an needed antidote for a hundred years of American movies that treat any woman from South of the border as more or less an easy conquest. Misreading a conversation between Anita and another bullfighter, Johnny throws a macho, John Wayne-style punch. He learns later that he was not only dead wrong about what he saw, but that he's lucky to be alive. You don't sucker-punch a man whose very existence puts honor before anything else.
Johnny makes the grade as a Torero, but the film's satisfaction is seeing him grow as a man with real connections to other people. When his Mexican friends learn to respect and love him, Johnny becomes something bigger than he was.
Critics uninterested in the film's dramatics and cultural context often ridicule Robert Stack's blonde hair, which reportedly was a fallback choice after a botched dye job. In real life Stack was a champion skeet shooter and served as a firearms specialist in WW2; Boetticher smartly uses the actor's skill as a way that Johnny Regan wins his entree into Manolo's inner circle. Stack doesn't overdo Regan's enthusiasm and is remarkably sensitive in the romantic scenes with the soulful Joy Page. As icing on the cake, Robert Stack does some of his own bullfighting. Even a bit seems too dangerous, frankly.
Gilbert Roland played romantic Latin lovers for at least five decades, and this may be his most impressive performance. Manolo Estrada oozes integrity and authority; he's dedicated to his wife Chelo as well as his profession. Even those of us that would like to see bullfighting become extinct, can appreciate the sport's romantic-philosophical aspect. It's a fully defined way of life & death.
Joy Page has the kind of eyes one falls in love with instantly. The stepdaughter of Jack Warner, she made few movies. This may be the alluring Katy Jurado's first American picture. She became an international star with the follow-up High Noon. Jurado's Chelo represents an ideal of Mexican womanhood: her patience and passivity have definite limits. A drunken onlooker (Rudolfo Acosta) challenges Manolo's bravery, forcing him to perform in the arena with an injury to his hand. Afterwards Chelo holds the drunk at sword's point while she tells him off in a flood of fiery Spanish. The scene establishes that a Matador is not a common daredevil, and that Mexicans don't hold life cheaply. Ms. Jurado is outstanding.
Bullfighter and the Lady is a rare Hollywood picture that takes a sensible attitude toward the problem of foreign language. The movie doesn't try to teach us Spanish and it doesn't make us read subtitles. Plenty of speeches are in Spanish, and some are not repeated in English for our benefit. Everything essential is translated, of course. This style affords more respect to the foreign culture - there are no jokes with Gringos speaking Pig Latin and expecting to be understood. We instead are transported to a different cultural situation. More often than not context tells us what is being said, as when Chelo lays into that drunk. We also see what happens when Johnny foolishly jumps to conclusions and makes an ass of himself. We are the outsiders that must pay attention.
Put plainly, Bullfighter and the Lady is a powerful emotional experience. The completely authentic bullfighting scenes use at least ten pro Matadors, all credited. Boetticher shows one fight all the way to its brutal end, so the movie cannot be accused of whitewashing what is essentially a barbaric sport. But it would be a shame if viewers shied away from such a rewarding picture on a narrow definition of political correctness.
Bullfighter and the Lady turned out to be too lengthy for Republic Pictures, and producer John Wayne was probably trying too hard to get the studio head Herbert J. Yates to bankroll his "Alamo" project to defend Boetticher's cut. The unhappy solution was for John Ford to come in and edit 37 minutes from the picture, a full third of its length. With that much footage gone Boetticher's achievement must have been totally ruined; I'm happy that I've never seen it. As much as one respects Ford, one can imagine him more interested in lobbying Yates on behalf of his own expensive film projects. The Fox mogul Zanuck messed around with Ford's pictures for twenty years, so who cared what happens to a movie by some guy named Budd? Luckily for director Boetticher, his long version impressed studio insiders. Back then, superior directing skill might actually attract career-advancing attention, and Boetticher was soon working at Universal.
The U.C.L.A. Film Archive restored Bullfighter and the Lady in 2001. It's one of their most appreciated achievements.
Olive Films' Blu-ray of Bullfighter and the Lady is a beauty. The quality of the transfer changes as the image shifts from prime negative elements to the uncut sections that expand the film to the full 124-minute Boetticher version. U.C.L.A. must have located more original materials beyond the 87-minute version, as I'd estimate the 'restored' footage to be less than twenty minutes.
The prime footage is perfect, while the restored sections have less contrast and look lighter -- but are by no means unattractive. Some of the film shot in the bullring during fights is scratched, and probably was always scratched. But some of it is truly thrilling. At least two Toreros are knocked off their feet. In one shot a bull is seen lifting an entire horse with its head and horns, pushing it up the side of the arena.
The audio is as clear as a bell at all times, leading me to guess that a master recording for the entire film was retained even after Republic's drastic cuts.
By Glenn Erickson
Bullfighter and the Lady on Blu-ray
Bullfighter and the Lady
Wayne went to bat for the director by setting up and producing the film for Republic Pictures, where Wayne had a long-standing professional relationship. To secure financing, the Duke arranged a meeting with Republic chief Herb Yates. When Yates declared he did not want to produce Boetticher's story, Wayne reminded him that he was still owed about $1 million of the combined grosses of two earlier Republic features, Wake of the Red Witch (1948) and Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). "Just write me a check and I'll finance Budd's show," said Wayne. Panicked, Yates capitulated, offering $200,000 to finance the film. After some back-and-forth haggling, the final budget was set at $350,000 and Boetticher was good to go.
The film's story was drawn from Boetticher's own experiences. As a young man traveling in Mexico, he had become enamored of bullfighting, befriended many of the top Mexican matadors and even trained in the sport himself, becoming a full-fledged bullfighter. Boetticher's treatment was essentially that tale, though it also injected a romantic subplot. A brash American (Robert Stack) falls for a beautiful Mexican woman (Joy Page) who is engaged to another man, and to impress her, he convinces a famous matador to give him bullfighting lessons in exchange for skeet shooting lessons. (Stack in real life was a champion skeet shooter.) Tragedy and redemption - both in and out of the bullring - follow. A strong Mexican flavor emanates from the finished film, which was shot entirely on location and utilized actual bullfighting venues. Actual matadors playing supporting roles and performing the stunts add much to the realism.
Also in the cast are the superb Mexican actress Katy Jurado - making her American film debut one year before her memorable turn in High Noon (1952) - and Gilbert Roland, the veteran star of silents and talkies, as the matador who trains Stack. While Boetticher was irritated to no end by Roland's colossal ego, he recognized that Roland nonetheless delivered an outstanding performance, infusing his character with bravery and vigor without overacting. "But," the director later wrote, "his personality on the screen didn't keep him from being a major pain in everyone's ass, most especially mine... His father had been a matador of some note and, from the actual signing of his contract to perform, he set about sort of 'condescending' to play one of my leads. He became so obnoxious that [assistant director] Andy McLaglen kept him on call most of the time so he could strut around in his bullfight suit and sign autographs, which placed him at a fair distance from me and my camera."
Wayne had hired his favorite screenwriter, James Edward Grant, to turn Boetticher's treatment into a finished script, but according to Boetticher, when "[Robert Stack] and I first read Grant's screenplay in Mexico City, we were shocked. It was supposed to be adapted from my original story, but what he had written certainly wasn't what either of us had planned to film. It was Jimmy's drunken version of what he thought bulls and bullfighters were like. However, I promised [Stack] we'd film the story, not the script, and we did. Well, when Grant saw the rough cut of the picture he threw a fit. He convinced Wayne that I had been completely disrespectful of his ability as a renowned screenwriter."
Panicked that his movie was going to be ignored or ruined (Wayne was now referring to it as "that Mexican hassle"), Boetticher called John Ford for help despite having never met him. Ford had an office at Republic, knew about the movie, and was anxious to see it. Upon screening it, Ford offered to recut it, even saying, "I'll win you an Academy Award." Boetticher signed a document readily accepting the great man's help, then heard this from Ford: "The only problem with your show, Budd, is that it's got about 40 minutes of chi-chi sh*t that's just gotta go." Out went footage of the real-life matadors, designed to lend Roland's character credibility and dignity. ("Mr. Ford claimed no one in the United States would know who they were anyway.") Out went sentimental scenes of Mexican children and domestic life designed to build atmosphere and warmth. "But most important," recounted Boetticher, "was the editing of the relationship between Stack and Roland...I have always believed that real men can love each other without concern that their honest affection might be misconstrued as something abnormal. 'Bullsh*t,' Mr. Ford said."
The result was 87 minutes long. Boetticher was devastated. He hated Ford for cutting his film down so drastically, but in the years that followed, the two became close friends. Decades later, when he was close to death, Ford explained to Boetticher the real reason he had shortened the film. It wasn't because Ford disliked the deleted footage - it was because Wayne believed the film would recoup its money only if released as a less-than-90-minute "B" feature. Screenwriter Grant went along with Wayne, and together they convinced Herb Yates. Ford got wind of all this, and knew that if he personally supervised the editing, Yates would leave him alone to at least do it in an acceptable way.
Ironically enough, Boetticher received an Oscar® nomination for Best Original Story. He shared the nomination with one Ray Nazarro, but that was because Nazarro, a former acquaintance, had registered Boetticher's synopsis for the film years earlier as a favor - and had signed his own name to it without permission. He'd had nothing whatsoever to do with its writing. Rather than fight him in court, Boetticher relented and gave him screen credit. Of course, that meant both wound up being nominated for an Oscar. "Lucky for him, we lost," wrote Boetticher. "So help me God, if we had won, little Ray Nazarro was going to end up in the orchestra pit."
Thirty-five years later, the UCLA Film and Television Archive restored Bullfighter and the Lady to a 124-minute running time. Boetticher was at the premiere and enjoyed experiencing his richer, more satisfying cut with an audience for the first time.
Bullfighting was the subject of two more Boetticher movies: The Magnificent Matador (1955), starring Anthony Quinn and Maureen O'Hara (with another studio-imposed title he despised), and Arruza (1972), a years-in-the-making documentary about Mexican matador (and Boetticher's friend) Carlos Arruza. And like Ford, John Wayne would remain a love-hate presence in Boetticher's life and career; the Duke later produced Seven Men from Now (1956), arguably Boetticher's finest film and the first in a series of top-drawer westerns he directed starring Randolph Scott.
For Robert Stack, Bullfighter and the Lady was his first true leading role after a decade of supporting parts in a variety of genres. It would also prove to be one of his most memorable. He later wrote in his autobiography, "When I began preparing to play the part of a young American matador, I had no suspicion that this role would affect my life so deeply."
Despite some close-ups which show Stack in the bullring, the closest Stack got to actual bullfighting was performing a few passes with a young cow (still a somewhat intimidating animal) in a tienta sequence, wherein cows are tested for bravery. (If they pass, they are saved for breeding bulls.) Stack did so well he got a little too cocky, and paid the price with a modest hit which sent him scrambling from the ring. Boetticher saved the filming of this sequence for the last day of production "so that [Stack] wouldn't get himself killed before we finished the picture... He fought some good-sized animals."
For the picture's finale, shot in Mexico City at the renowned Plaza Mexico, Stack entered the bullring with the real matadors, but he did not do any actual bullfighting. Just walking into the ring, however, was a huge honor and thrill, he later recalled. Still, the boisterous crowd did not take too kindly to the sight of a blond gringo, and they jeered him. "Hey blondie," one yelled. "Throw us a kiss!" That, wrote Stack, "was the nicest thing anyone had to say to me all afternoon. The rest was unprintable, in English or Spanish." To ensure a full house for the sequence, the production had taken out newspaper ads announcing free admission to see half a dozen of the finest matadors in the country. For these matadors as well as the crowd, it was a real bullfight and not just a movie, and there were real pressures at stake. Luis Briones, Stack's double, felt he had a chance to redeem himself after falling out of favor with the public in recent years. He performed magnificently and indeed won them over.
Luis' brother Felix Briones didn't get the chance to appear in the finale. While doubling for Roland in an earlier sequence, he was gored. Stack wrote: "The bull came in head high, hooked, and caught him over the eye, laying his scalp wide open. When I finally found Felix, after the doctors finished working on him, he was sitting in a darkened room of the hacienda. He turned toward me and I saw great tears running slowly down his face. 'I have ruined the movie and disgraced Mexico,' he said. He spoke not one word about damn near having his head torn off. The Briones brothers seemed to be treating the movie as a test of bravery and honor instead of an entertaining motion picture."
On a more comic note, Stack's hair had to be bleached blond so that the contrast between him and the Latin toreros would be visually apparent on black-and-white filmstock. Stack wrote, "Poor Luis Briones also had to undergo the bleaching treatment. Unfortunately, they never managed to get his hair to turn blond, even after blistering the top of his head repeatedly. He was so ashamed of his newly acquired orange hair that he only went out at night, and then only with a beret."
Producer: John Wayne
Director: Budd Boetticher
Screenplay: James Edward Grant, Budd Boetticher and Ray Nazarro (story)
Cinematography: Jack Draper
Art Direction: Alfred Ybarra
Film Editing: Richard L. Van Enger
Cast: Robert Stack (Johnny Regan), Joy Page (Anita de la Vega), Gilbert Roland (Manolo Estrada), Virginia Grey (Lisbeth Flood), John Hubbard (Barney Flood).
by Jeremy Arnold
Bullfighter and the Lady
TCM Remembers - Budd Boetticher
When director Budd Boetticher died on November 29th, American film lost another master. Though not a household name, Boetticher made crisp, tightly wound movies with more substance and emotional depth than was apparent at first glance. Instead of a flashy style, Boetticher preferred one imaginatively simple and almost elegant at times. Because of this approach films like The Tall T (1957), Decision at Sundown (1957), The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951) and Ride Lonesome (1960) have withstood the test of time while more blatantly ambitious films now seem like period pieces.
Budd was born Oscar Boetticher in Chicago on July 29th, 1916. With a father who sold hardware, Boetticher didn't come from a particularly artistic background. In college he boxed and played football before graduating and heading to Mexico to follow what's surely one of the most unusual ways to enter the film industry: as a professional matador. That's what led an old friend to get Boetticher hired as a bullfighting advisor on the 1941 version of Blood and Sand. Boetticher quickly took other small jobs in Hollywood before becoming an assistant director for films like Cover Girl. In 1944, he directed his first film, the Boston Blackie entry One Mysterious Night. Boetticher made a series of other B-movies, like the underrated film noir Behind Locked Doors (1948), through the rest of the decade.
Boetticher really hit his stride in the 50s when he began to get higher profile assignments, including the semi-autobiographical The Bullfighter and the Lady in 1951 which resulted in Boetticher's only Oscar nomination, for Best Writing. Sam Peckinpah later said he saw the film ten times. Other highlights of this period include Seminole (1953) (one of the first Hollywood films sympathetic to American Indians), the stylishly tight thriller The Killer Is Loose (1956) and the minor classic Horizons West (1952). In the late 50s, Boetticher also started directing TV episodes of series like Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip.
In 1956, Boetticher started a string of films that really established his reputation. These six Westerns starring Randolph Scott are known as the Ranown films after the production company named after Randolph Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown. Actually the first, Seven Men from Now (1956), was produced by a different company but all of them fit together, pushing the idea of the lone cowboy seeking revenge into new territory. The sharp Decision at Sundown twists Western cliche into one of the bleakest endings to slip through the Hollywood gates. The Tall T examines the genre's violent tendencies while Ride Lonesome and Buchanan Rides Alone (1958) have titles appropriate to their Beckett-like stories. The final film, Comanche Station, appeared in 1960.
That was the same year Boetticher made one of the best gangster films, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, before watching everything fall apart. He and his wife decided to make a documentary about the famous matador Carlos Arruza and headed to Mexico. There Boetticher saw Arruza and much of the film crew die in an accident, almost died himself from an illness, separated from and divorced his wife (Debra Paget), and then spent time in various jails and even briefly a mental institution. This harrowing experience left him bankrupt but he still managed to complete the film, Arruza (1968), which gathered acclaim from the few who've been able to see it.
Boetticher managed to make just one more film, My Kingdom For... (1985), a self-reflexive documentary about raising Andalusian horses. He also made a cameo appearance in the Mel Gibson-Kurt Russell suspense thriller, Tequila Sunrise (1988). He died from complications from surgery at the age of 85.
By Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - Budd Boetticher
TCM Remembers - Katy Jurado
KATY JURADO, 1924 - 2002
Katy Jurado, an Oscar nominee and major actress in Westerns, died July 5th at the age of 78. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico on January 16th 1924 as Maria Cristina Estella Marcela Jurado Garcia, daughter of a cattle rancher and an opera singer. Jurado started to appear in Mexican films in 1943. After 15 films in her native country, director Budd Boetticher saw Jurado attending a bullfight (Jurado wrote about the subject for Mexican newspapers) and cast her in his Bullfighter and the Lady (1952), her Hollywood debut. For much of her career Jurado alternated between the two film industries. In the US, she was memorable for the sensual energy she brought to roles in High Noon (1952), One-Eyed Jacks (1961) which was directed by Marlon Brando, Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) and John Huston's Under the Volcano (1984). She was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for Broken Lance (1954). Jurado's Mexican films were in a broader range of genres and included Luis Bunuel's El Bruto (1952), Ismael Rodriguez's We the Poor and Miguel Littin's The Widow Montiel (1979). She won three Ariel Awards (Mexican equivalent to the Oscars) and one special award. She was married to Ernest Borgnine from the end of 1959 to summer 1963. One of her final films was The Hi-Lo Country (1998), a contemporary Western directed by Stephen Frears and co-starring Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup and Penelope Cruz.
by Lang Thompson
DOLORES GRAY, 1924 - 2002
Broadway and nightclub star Dolores Gray died June 26th at the age of 78. Her movie career was brief but consisted of high-profile MGM musicals which guaranteed her a place in film history. Gray was born in Chicago on June 7th, 1924 (and where, according to a common story, she was accidentally shot by a gangster as a child and had a bullet in her lung her entire life). As a teenager she began singing in California until Rudy Vallee featured her on his radio show. Gray moved to Broadway in 1944 and then to the London stage in 1947, solidifying her reputation as a singer/actress while constantly giving the gossip columnists plenty to write about. She had two small singing roles in Lady for a Night (1941) and Mr. Skeffington (1944) but didn't really light up the big screen until It's Always Fair Weather (1955) even though Gray reportedly didn't much care for the role. Her rendition of "Thanks a Lot, But No Thanks," which has her gunning down a slew of male dancers on-stage and kicking them through trap doors, is a genuine showstopper. Three more unforgettable musical roles quickly followed: Kismet (1955), The Opposite Sex (1956, which Gray turned down Funny Face to do) and Designing Women (1957). That was it for Gray's film career. She kept busy with TV appearances (mostly singing though she did one 1988 episode of the cult show Dr. Who) and a busy recording and nightclub schedule. In 1987, she appeared in a British production of Follies at Stephen Sondheim's request.
by Lang Thompson
ROD STEIGER, 1925 - 2002
From the docks of New York to the rural back roads of Mississippi to the war torn Russian steppes, Rod Steiger reveled in creating some of the most overpowering and difficult men on the screen. He could be a total scoundrel, embodying Machiavelli's idiom that "it's better to be feared than loved" in the movies. But as an actor he refused to be typecast and his wide range included characters who were secretly tormented (The Pawnbroker, 1965) or loners (Run of the Arrow, 1965) or eccentrics (The Loved One, 1965).
Along with Marlon Brando, Steiger helped bring the 'Method School' from the Group Theater and Actors Studio in New York to the screens of Hollywood. The Method technique, taught by Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, insisted on complete immersion into the character's psyche and resulted in intense, dramatic performances and performers. Steiger made his first significant screen appearance as Brando's older brother in On the Waterfront (1954). Their climatic scene together in a taxicab is one of the great moments in American cinema.
It was a short leap from playing a crooked lawyer in On the Waterfront to playing the shady boxing promoter in The Harder They Fall (1956). Based on the tragic tale of true-life fighter Primo Carnera, The Harder They Fall details the corruption behind the scenes of professional boxing bouts. Steiger is a fight manager named Nick Benko who enlists newspaperman Eddie Willis (Humphrey Bogart in his final screen appearance) to drum up publicity for a fixed prizefight. While the boxing scenes were often brutally realistic, the most powerful dramatic moments took place between Steiger and Bogart on the sidelines.
As mob boss Al Capone (1959), Steiger got to play another man you loved to hate. He vividly depicted the criminal from his swaggering early days to his pathetic demise from syphilis. In Doctor Zhivago (1965), Steiger was the only American in the international cast, playing the hateful and perverse Komarovsky. During the production of Dr. Zhivago, Steiger often found himself at odds with director David Lean. Schooled in the British tradition, Lean valued the integrity of the script and demanded that actors remain faithful to the script. Steiger, on the other hand, relied on improvisation and spontaneity. When kissing the lovely Lara (played by Julie Christie), Steiger jammed his tongue into Christie's mouth to produce the desired reaction - disgust. It worked! While it might not have been Lean's approach, it brought a grittier edge to the prestige production and made Komarovsky is a detestable but truly memorable figure.
Steiger dared audiences to dislike him. As the smalltown southern Sheriff Gillespie in In The Heat of the Night (1967), Steiger embodied all the prejudices and suspicions of a racist. When a black northern lawyer, played by Sidney Poitier, arrives on the crime scene, Gillespie is forced to recognize his fellow man as an equal despite skin color. Here, Steiger's character started as a bigot and developed into a better man. He finally claimed a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Sheriff Gillespie.
Steiger was an actor's actor. A chameleon who didn't think twice about diving into challenging roles that others would shy away from. In the Private Screenings interview he did with host Robert Osborne he admitted that Paul Muni was one of his idols because of his total immersion into his roles. Steiger said, "I believe actors are supposed to create different human beings." And Steiger showed us a rich and diverse cross section of them.
by Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford
TCM Remembers - Katy Jurado
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 titles of the film were Torero and Death in the Sands. The film opened in Mexico City on June 7, 1951 as Tarde de Toros. The above credits and summary reflect the 87 minute, 1951 released version of the film. In 1986, the UCLA Film and Television Archive, with the assistance of director Oscar "Budd" Boetticher and actor Robert Stack, restored the film to the 127 minute length originally cut by Boetticher. Final onscreen credits, seen only in the restored print, note that the "sculptoric group" of statues that appear behind the credits and throughout the film was the property of Plaza Mexico.
Modern sources indicate that director John Ford admired Boetticher's work and edited forty minutes from the material to improve the film's commercial viability after Republic executives balked at its length. Scenes removed in 1951, but restored in 1986, included those of children, the bullfighters performing as themselves, and much of the love story. A character played by Paul Fix was also cut from the 1951 release. Modern sources note that Boetticher had never intended to include a shot of Stack running away from the bullring to be included in the final film, but it was in the restoration.
The story of Bullfighter and the Lady was partially based on Boetticher's personal experiences as an American novice bullfighter. According to a Los Angeles Daily News article, Boetticher hoped that the film would provide American audiences with a better understanding of the art of bullfighting. An April 1950 Los Angeles Times item stated that John Wayne, who produced the picture and who modern sources state urged Republic to film the story, considered playing the lead, but felt he was too husky to be a convincing bullfighter, so Stack was cast instead. Although Stack's character is listed in CBCS and reviews as "Chuck," he is called "Johnny" in the film.
The other male lead, Gilbert Roland, was the son of the matador, the "Great Paquilo." As noted by onscreen credits and a news item, eight of Mexico's famous matadors performed in the picture. According to an October 1950 New York Times new item, brothers Luis and Felix Briones doubled for Stack and Roland in the bullfight scenes. As late as February 1950, Pedro Armendáriz and Norma De Landa were mentioned in Los Angeles Times as the film's probable leads. Hollywood Reporter reported that another actress considered for a role as was Ariadne Christian, sister of Linda Christian, but her appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Eduardo Cansino, Jr., brother of Rita Hayworth, was signed on as a Spanish dancer, according to a May 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item, but he does not appear in the film. Mexican actress Katy Jurado made her American motion picture debut in the film.
The film was shot, cut and scored in and around Mexico City, mostly at Churubusco Studios. Modern sources indicate that filming took place in Querétaro, that the bullring scenes were filmed in the village of Xayai, and that during production, one man was killed and another wounded. The matador Armellita, who served as the film's technical advisor, was Boetticher's mentor, according to contemporary sources. Contemporary sources also mention that the skeet shooting scene was added to highlight Stack's real-life championship achievements. Victor Young used Latin tunes in his score, and the music heard over the opening credits is "La Virgen de la Macarena," the official arena tune traditionally played during the paseo. Although the film did not explicitly show the killing of bulls, an October 1951 Variety news item states that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other British organizations protested the film's release in Britain. Boetticher and Ray Nazarro won an Oscar nomination for their story. Bullfighter and the Lady marked the first film in which Boetticher was credited onscreen as "Budd."
Released in United States 1951
Released in United States April 1994
Shown at USA Film Festival in Dallas April 21-28, 1994.
Released in United States 1951
Released in United States April 1994 (Shown at USA Film Festival in Dallas April 21-28, 1994.)