Monday, August 24, 2015

A Birthday Tribute to Preston Foster

One of my favorite actors, Preston Foster, was born in New Jersey on August 24, 1900.

A multitalented man, Foster was a singer and composer in addition to being an actor with 117 film and TV credits between 1929 and 1967. In 1964 he also cofounded the El Camino Playhouse in Oceanside, California.

Foster loved sailing and fishing, and during World War II he served his country in the U.S. Coast Guard, becoming a Captain in the Temporary Reserve. He was later an honorary Commodore in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, in which he was active for many years. (I was interested to locate photos of Foster at Coast Guard Auxiliary events here, here, and here.) Foster was thus perfectly cast in the TV series WATERFRONT (1954-56) in which he played a tugboat captain in L.A. Harbor.

Another interesting note is that Preston Foster was one of the very first actors who received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as part of an initial demo project.

Foster did a bit of everything, including pre-Code melodramas, romantic comedies, Westerns, family films, war movies, and film noir. He was the charming leading man of both "A" and "B" pictures and also played many substantial supporting roles.

I must have first seen Preston Foster on screen in the MGM musical THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946), which I initially saw at a young age and have seen countless times since.

There's something about Foster's genial personality I find very appealing, especially when he had the chance to play romantic leads. My personal favorites from his long career include the most enjoyable "B" film DOUBLE DANGER (1938), in which he's a jewel thief reformed by love; TWICE BLESSED (1945), a forerunner of THE PARENT TRAP (1961) in which he and ex-wife Gail Patrick are the parents of identical twins Lyn and Lee Wilde; and THE HUNTED (1948), in which he's a lovelorn cop.

Foster also appeared in notable films such as I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG (1932), John Ford's THE INFORMER (1935) and SUBMARINE PATROL (1938), the excellent war film GUADALCANAL DIARY (1943), the classic "horse film" MY FRIEND FLICKA (1943) with Roddy McDowall (seen below, with Rita Johnson), Samuel Fuller's I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949), and the film noir classic KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL (1952).

With Carole Lombard in LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST (1936):

Facing off with Joel McCrea in RAMROD (1947):

Preston Foster passed away on July 14, 1970. He was buried at El Camino Memorial Park in San Diego, California.

There's more information on Foster's post-retirement life in the 2004 San Diego Union Tribune obituary of his widow, actress Sheila Darcy (UNION PACIFIC).

Foster had one child, Stephanie, from an earlier marriage. Stephanie passed away just a few weeks ago at the age of 76.

With Joan Fontaine in YOU CAN'T BEAT LOVE (1937):

Although I'm a fan, I was still a bit surprised to realize that to date I've reviewed over two dozen of Preston Foster's films! Happily there are still many ahead of me to enjoy for the first time.

Preston Foster review links: YOU SAID A MOUTHFUL (1932), LADIES THEY TALK ABOUT (1933) (also here), HEAT LIGHTNING (1934), WE'RE ONLY HUMAN (1935), LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST (1936) (also here), FIRST LADY (1937), YOU CAN'T BEAT LOVE (1937), DOUBLE DANGER (1938) (also here), SOCIETY SMUGGLERS (1939), NEWS IS MADE AT NIGHT (1939), THE ROUNDUP (1941), UNFINISHED BUSINESS (1941) (also here), THUNDER BIRDS (1942), SECRET AGENT OF JAPAN (1942), GUADALCANAL DIARY (1943), BERMUDA MYSTERY (1944), TWICE BLESSED (1945), RAMROD (1947) (also here), THE HUNTED (1948) (also here), I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949), TOMAHAWK (1951), THE BIG GUSHER (1951), I, THE JURY (1953), LAW AND ORDER (1953), and THE MAN FROM GALVESTON (1963).

Update: Here are additional reviews of Preston Foster films: DOCTOR X (1932), SLEEPERS EAST (1934), THE BAND PLAYS ON (1934), THE ARIZONIAN (1935), THE WESTLAND CASE (1937), THE LADY IN THE MORGUE (1938), ARMY GIRL (1938), CHASING DANGER (1939), 20,000 MEN A YEAR (1939), NIGHT IN NEW ORLEANS (1942), THE VALLEY OF DECISION (1945), THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946), THUNDERHOOF (1948), and THE BIG CAT (1949).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely tribute,Laura, to a fine actor who had a great career.
Love that French Jesse James poster.
And you have reviewed so many of Preston's films!

10:04 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I'm always happy to see Preston Foster in films, but didn't know much about his personal life. Thanks for changing that shameful admission.

11:01 AM  
Blogger KC said...

Very nice! I didn't know that about his star on the Walk of Fame. He sure was a cutie. I've enjoyed getting to know his work better over the past year.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all so much for the comments you left on my Preston Foster tribute while I was out of town. I'm delighted you all enjoy him so much! Let's spread the word on Preston Foster! :)

Best wishes,

11:17 AM  

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