Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Birthday Tribute to Richard Carlson

Multitalented actor-director-writer Richard Carlson was born in Minnesota on April 29, 1912.

Carlson had a diverse and interesting career which spanned appearing in William Wyler's classic THE LITTLE FOXES (1941), playing a leading role in the searing TRY AND GET ME (1950), starring as Deborah Kerr's brother in the adventure classic KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1950), and appearing in Douglas Sirk's ALL I DESIRE (1953). Along the way he was the male lead in numerous very enjoyable minor films for studios such as MGM and RKO.

More notably he became an iconic star of '50s sci-fi, appearing in films such as THE MAGNETIC MONSTER (1953), IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953), CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954), and RIDERS TO THE STARS (1954). Simultaneously he starred on TV in I LED THREE LIVES from 1953 to 1956. He's seen above with Julie Adams in CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.

And if nothing else, Carlson would be beloved to countless former schoolchildren for his appearances in Frank Capra's Bell Science movies HEMO THE MAGNIFICENT (1957), THE STRANGE CASE OF THE COSMIC RAYS (1957), and THE UNCHAINED GODDESS (1958); he also took over directing from Capra for THE UNCHAINED GODDESS. How many of us were happy to see those big film reels pulled out of storage on rainy schooldays so we could visit again with Carlson as "The Writer" and his friend Dr. Frank Baxter? (I wonder if those movies would even be allowed in some schools now...Carlson's writer smokes!)

As the years went by Carlson worked behind the camera as a writer and director of both films and TV shows, with the lesser-known but very fine Universal Western FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER (1954) a terrific example of his directing talent. He's seen at the left directing Rory Calhoun and Colleen Miller.

Carlson and his wife Mona had two sons; if I'm correct in making the connections, his son Richard Henry became an attorney in Northern California.

Richard Carlson died on November 24, 1977. Having served as a Navy pilot during WWII -- which kept him off screen for four years -- he was buried at Los Angeles National Cemetery; Mona, who passed on in 1990, is buried alongside him. (2019 Update: I had the opportunity to pay my respects at Mr. Carlson's gravesite.)

Richard Carlson films previously reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: THE YOUNG IN HEART (1938) (also here), THESE GLAMOUR GIRLS (1939), DANCING CO-ED (1939), BEYOND TOMORROW (1940), THE GHOST BREAKERS (1940) (also here), WEST POINT WIDOW (1941), THE LITTLE FOXES (1941), FLY-BY-NIGHT (1942), HIGHWAYS BY NIGHT (1942), THE AFFAIRS OF MARTHA (1942), YOUNG IDEAS (1943), BEHIND LOCKED DOORS (1948), TRY AND GET ME (1950), A MILLIONAIRE FOR CHRISTY (1951), FLAT TOP (1952), ALL I DESIRE (1953) (also here), THE MAGNETIC MONSTER (1953), IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953), SEMINOLE (1953) (also here), CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954), and RIDERS TO THE STARS (1954).

Films directed by Richard Carlson which have been reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: RIDERS TO THE STARS (1954), FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER (1954), and APPOINTMENT WITH A SHADOW (1957).

Other notable Richard Carlson films include THE HOWARDS OF VIRGINIA (1940), BACK STREET (1941), PRESENTING LILY MARS (1943), SO WELL REMEMBERED (1947), THE AMAZING MR. X (1948), THE BLUE VEIL (1951), RETREAT, HELL! (1952), and THE HELEN MORGAN STORY (1957), to name just a few.

2017 Update: Here are additional reviews of WINTER CARNIVAL (1939) and WHITE CARGO (1942), as well as new reviews of the DVD releases of DANCING CO-ED (1939) and TRY AND GET ME (1950).


Blogger Jerry E said...

One of those good, solid second-string leading men that I enjoy so much often. But as you say in your nice tribute, Laura, multi-talented.

Does anyone today remember his long-running TV series "I LED THREE LIVES" or would it be considered politically unfashionable, I wonder? I never see it mentioned.

2:56 PM  
Blogger James Corry said...

It was also nice to see Carlson show up in his twilight years as a wildwest show barker-cowboy in Ray Harryhausen's "The Valley Of Gwangi"


3:19 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jerry, thanks so much for sharing your appreciative words for Richard Carlson. I would sure enjoying catching I LED THREE LIVES sometime.

Brad, that's a Carlson appearance I didn't know about, thanks so much for adding that memory of his work to this tribute.

Best wishes,

3:34 PM  

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