Friday, March 28, 2014

A Birthday Tribute to Frank Lovejoy

Actor Frank Lovejoy was born in the Bronx on this date 102 years ago, on March 28, 1912.

Prior to three or four years ago, I'm not sure I could have picked out Frank Lovejoy's photo, as up to that point he was someone whose work simply hadn't come up much in my viewing. In recent years he's become a real favorite, the kind of actor whose name causes me to smile when it turns up in the opening credits.

Lovejoy started out working on Broadway and in radio. Jake Hinson wrote about Lovejoy's radio career last year for the Noir City e-magazine, and has also posted the article at The Night Editor. One of my goals is to catch up with Lovejoy's radio show NIGHT BEAT, which you can read all about here and listen to an episode here.

Lovejoy's film career began in 1948, and by his third film he was costarring with Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in IN A LONELY PLACE (1950). I love the way his wife in the film, played by Jeff Donnell, describes him as "attractive and average." That "Joe Everyman" quality was part of Lovejoy's appeal, yet there was a compelling edge to his performances which made him stand out.

Lovejoy was quite a fine actor, as anyone who's seen him in another early film, TRY AND GET ME (1950), can attest. He makes it completely believable that his "regular guy" character is led along by psychotic criminal Lloyd Bridges into the very worst possible behavior, yet his tormented anguish is such that he continues to draw viewer sympathy. Since the film was beautifully restored a few years ago, hopefully even more people will have the chance to admire his superb performance in a disturbing film.

On a lighter note, SHACK OUT ON 101 (1955), released on DVD last year by Olive Films, is pure fun, with Lovejoy playing a mild-mannered professor who's actually working to ferret out Commies in a shabby roadside diner.

Frank Lovejoy was just 50 years old when he passed on from a heart attack in 1962. He was survived by his wife, actress Joan Banks, and two children.

I regret the many performances we were never able to experience due to his early passing, but he left behind a wonderful body of work which continues to entertain film viewers -- and radio listeners! -- today.

For more information on Frank Lovejoy, please visit the birthday tribute posted by Ivan last year at Radio Spirits.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing Frank Lovejoy starring with Edmond O'Brien and William Talman in Ida Lupino's THE HITCH-HIKER (1953) on the closing night of this year's Noir City Film Festival.

He was in many more good films, and review links for some of them are below. I'd encourage anyone who -- like me just a few years ago -- isn't familiar with Lovejoy's work to seek out some of his films.

Previously reviewed Frank Lovejoy films: IN A LONELY PLACE (1950), TRY AND GET ME (1950) (also here), GOODBYE, MY FANCY (1951), BEACHHEAD (1954), STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND (1955), TOP OF THE WORLD (1955), THE CROOKED WEB (1955), SHACK OUT ON 101 (1955), THREE BRAVE MEN (1956), and JULIE (1956).

2015 Update: Here are reviews of additional Frank Lovejoy films reviewed in the past year: BLACK BART (1948), FORCE OF ARMS (1951), THE HITCH-HIKER (1953), SHE'S BACK ON BROADWAY (1953), and MEN OF THE FIGHTING LADY (1954).

2016 Update: Here's a new review of STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND (1955) on Blu-ray. Additionally, I visited Frank Lovejoy's burial site at Holy Cross Cemetery.


Blogger la peregrina said...

I haven't left a comment in awhile but I also am a fan of Frank Lovejoy so I could not just read and run this time. My introduction to him came by way of his television series, Meet Mcgraw. My mother was a fan of his and I remember watching the show when it was in syndication during the early sixties. YouTube has the pilot episode of the show from the anthology series Four Star Playhouse. It also stars Audrey Totter. Grandma Walton, and the late, great,character actor Peter Whitney. You can watch it here:

6:20 PM  
Blogger Lee R said...

I was an old time radio fan back in the '70's so I have heard all of Lovejoy's series "Nightbeat". I always liked best the way Frank would pronounce "ChiCARgo" in the opening of each show.

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely tribute,Laura.i like your description of him - a regular guy.
A fine actor.

1:32 AM  
Blogger john k said...

Hi Laura,
I am off to London tomorrow for a couple of weeks but I
will be checking in to your blog from time to time.
Regarding Mr Lovejoy one title worth checking out that I
have mentioned before is FINGER MAN also starring Forrest
Tucker,Peggie Castle and Timothy Carey.
Directed by underrated Harold Schuster this is an excellent
crime picture. Lovejoy is the gangster hired by the cops
to go undercover.I must say Lovejoy is VERY hard-boiled
and unlikable in this film.We are more drawn to Tucker's
charming but brutal mobster. It is a cracking crime film and
sadly is one of those Allied-Artists films not owned by
Warner Archive.
The same year (1955) Lovejoy appeared in the rarely seen
early vigilante picture MAD AT THE WORLD. Have not seen this
one but would really like to although the subject matter
sounds really grim and unpleasant.Film was the last picture
produced by Ida Lupino and Collier Young's Filmakers
imprint. It has a rare foray into direction by noted and
prolific screenwriter Harry Essex. Film also stars Keefe
Brasselle and Cathy O Donnell.Lovejoy is the cop on the case
when Brasselle goes on the rampage after a gang injure his
child.One thing about Frank Lovejoy;he was equally adept
at playing cops or gangsters.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

Yes, Frank Lovejoy was tops. Nice to seem him remembered this way.

A few movies not mentioned in your piece or the comments, THREE SECRETS, mostly about three women, Eleanor Parker, Patricia Neal, Ruth Roman, one of whom is the mother of an imperiled child but it's not certain which one and each of their stories is told in flashbacks before an unexpected, satisfying resolution. Lovejoy has the best male role in the film as the love interest in Neal's story. Directed by Robert Wise, who of course made one of your three favorite movies.

And, despite its title, I WAS A COMMUNIST FOR THE F.B.I. is a terrific movie. In the title role, Lovejoy has one of his best parts and creates a dimensional, believable character who transcends anything simplistic in the script, though really, it's never too simplistic and surprisingly intelligent, given the period. Gordon Douglas, much admired these days, does his usual fine job as director.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Hi Laura,
I also have only fairly recently had the light shone on frank Lovejoy's talents, for some reason.

I recently watched "Finger Man" (1955), which I see John K has also mentioned, and he was quite a presence in it. Now I have got hold of a copy of "Cole Younger, Gunfighter" (1958) and look forward to seeing it.

It appears that film was his last feature (for little Allied Artists) though he was much on TV. Seems maybe his movie career had dipped. What a waste. Fine talent.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just seen ( on YouTube) a TV drama Frank did 'Meet McGraw' with Audrey Totter as his costar. A great little mini-noir lasting 30 minutes .

12:19 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm really delighted that Frank Lovejoy has so many fans! What a wonderful celebration of his work this turned out to be -- thank you all for joining in!

La Peregrina, it's wonderful to hear from you, thank you for leaving a note and for the YouTube link, I'll be sure to check it out!

Lee, I'm looking forward to hearing NIGHTBEAT!

Vienna, thank you for your comment and your feedback on MEET MCGRAW, I'm unfamiliar with it but sure like that cast.

John K, you know I'd love to see FINGER MAN since it has Lovejoy *and* Peggie Castle, LOL. MAD AT THE WORLD sounds interesting too, especially as I've seen a few Cathy O'Donnell films in the last year.

Blake, thanks for those tips as well! I happen to have those two films on hand and look forward to checking them out. I WAS A out from Warner Archive and THREE SECRETS from Olive, for anyone else who may be interested.

Jerry, it's interesting you're also a recent fan of Lovejoy's. Thanks for sharing your feedback on FINGER MAN. I recorded COLE YOUNGER from TV not long ago but haven't seen it yet.

Thanks again for all the wonderful enthusiasm for Frank Lovejoy!

Best wishes,

12:26 AM  
Blogger HarlowGold said...

Great tribute!

9:11 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks very much! :)

Best wishes,

2:07 PM  

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