End Credits #29: Cinema's 2015 Lost Treasures Lizabeth Scott
I asked guest blogger Bob DiMucci if he would be so kind as to provide another of his informative and entertaining tributes to Lizabeth Scott and her cinematic accomplishments and he's come through like a champ. My sincerest thanks. (A.G.)
Born Emma Matzo in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Scott attended the Alvienne School of the Theatre. There she studied for 18 months, where she resisted attempts by the teachers to pitch her voice higher. During this time, Scott read Maxwell Anderson's "Mary of Scotland," a play about Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, from which she derived the stage name "Elizabeth Scott." She would later drop the "E" from Elizabeth.
Scott appeared in road companies of several productions before, in 1942, landing the position of understudy for Tallulah Bankhead in Thornton Wilder's then new play, "The Skin of Our Teeth." A rivalry developed between Bankhead and Scott, and Scott left the production when Miriam Hopkins was signed to replace Bankhead.
The Films of Lizabeth Scott
Lizabeth Scott made her film debut in the 1945 wartime romance YOU CAME ALONG, co-starring opposite Robert Cummings. Producer Hal B. Wallis had met Scott when she was on Broadway, and when Wallis left Warner Bros. to join Paramount, he cast her in this film. During the shooting, Hal Wallis showed Scott's screen test to Hollywood columnist Bob Thomas. Wallis told Thomas: "Notice how her eyes are alive and sparkling ... Once in a while she reads a line too fast, but direction will cure that. That voice makes her intriguing." The Hollywood Reporter called Scott "a blonde girl with a low-pitched and vibrant voice and a fire-beneath-ice personality."
Scott did not get along with director John Farrow. Farrow had lobbied for Teresa Wright for the part, and when he did not get her, he made his displeasure known to Scott throughout the shoot. Nevertheless, YOU CAME ALONG remained Scott's favorite of all the films she made. Victor Young scored the film. Scott and Don DeFore reprised their film roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on 7 January 1946, co-starring Van Johnson.
In the 1946 film noir THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS, Scott plays a woman who is let out on parole on a theft charge of which she is innocent. Kirk Douglas made his film debut in the picture, and Miklos Rozsa provided one of his brooding scores. After the film's opening, director Lewis Milestone said that he would never make another picture with producer Hal Wallis because Wallis wanted to reshoot scenes in this film for more close-ups of Lizabeth Scott. Milestone reportedly told Wallis to shoot them himself--which he did. Wallis ended up adding extra footage of Scott at the expense of Stanwyck's footage, which later led to an argument between Stanwyck and Wallis.
Columbia Pictures borrowed Lizabeth Scott from Hal Wallis's company, and Humphrey Bogart was on loan from Warner Bros., for 1947's DEAD RECKONING. In this film noir, Scott plays a cabaret singer and widow of a paratrooper buddy of Bogart's character. Scott's role of "Coral Chandler" was originally intended for Rita Hayworth, but she had already been cast by her estranged husband, Orson Welles, for the role of "Elsa" in THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI. In DEAD RECKONING, Scott's singing was dubbed by Trudy Stevens. The film was one of the bigger productions scored by Marlin Skiles. The long-term effect of DEAD RECKONING would be to typecast Scott, a former stage comedienne, for her entire career.
Hall Wallis borrowed John Hodiak from MGM for 1947's DESERT FURY. While Hodiak was top billed onscreen, it was Lizabeth Scott who took the top position on the film's poster. Twenty-four-year-old Scott played the 19-year-old daughter of gambling parlor owner Mary Astor. Miklos Rozsa scored the drama, Scott's first Technicolor film. "The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on January 12, 1948 with Lizabeth Scott, Wendell Corey, Mary Astor, and Burt Lancaster reprising their film roles.
Just about every star on the Paramount lot made a cameo appearance in 1947's VARIETY GIRL. The musical told the story of Variety Clubs International, a show business-supported charity that helps underprivileged children. In the film, Scott appeared with Burt Lancaster in a spoof William Tell sketch.
Lizabeth Scott supported Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in their first screen teaming in 1948's I WALK ALONE. Scott played another night club singer, and Victor Young scored the film. "Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on May 24, 1948 with Lancaster and Scott reprising their film roles.
There was plenty of drama behind the scenes of the film. The role played by Scott was originally intended to be Kristine Miller's breakout role. But Scott, ever competitive with all actresses, grabbed role for herself. Miller later recalled, "(Hal Wallis) planned to star me in I WALK ALONE. He tested me with Burt; it was a wonderful test. But then Lizabeth Scott decided she wanted the role, and Lizabeth got whatever she wanted—from Hal Wallis! (Laughs) So, I got the second part instead." Douglas, while working with Lancaster on the film, noted: "Lizabeth Scott played the girl we were involved with in the movie. In real life she was involved with Hal Wallis. This was a problem. Very often, she'd be in his office for a long time, emerge teary-eyed, and be difficult to work with for the rest of the day."
Scott co-starred opposite Dick Powell in 1948's PITFALL. Scott played the girl friend of an embezzler. "Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on November 8, 1948 with Dick Powell, Jane Wyatt and Lizabeth Scott reprising their film roles.
Director André de Toth explained his reasons for casting the part of "Mona": "I wanted Lizabeth Scott. I didn't want some blonde with big tits. You had to believe that this girl was real. Even if I took one of these over-sexed types who could not act, it would change how the Powell character is drawn into the affair. Remember the point of the script was that he's just a middle-level insurance investigator. He's tired of his job, spending time in his little office with a drab secretary. So I could have made a different picture, with a prettier girl than Lizabeth Scott, and told the story of that girl, her problems; but that wasn't this movie. That would make it phony, if you cast it with Marilyn Monroe, a type like that. I needed somebody real."
Lizabeth Scott had her first lead role in a film in 1949's TOO LATE FOR TEARS. In the film, Scott plays a woman who gets involved with a gangster when she and her husband come into the possession of a suitcase full of money. Producer Hunt Stromberg borrowed Scott, Kristine Miller, Don Defore, and director Byron Haskin from independent producer Hal Wallis for the production. In an unusual move, Republic Pictures, itself a distributing company, produced the picture for release by United Artists.
This Hitchcock-like, black-and-white noir is widely considered Scott's best film and performance, eliciting praise even from the traditionally hostile New York Times. But the film was a box-office failure when it was released and the producer, Hunt Stromberg, was forced into bankruptcy. The then discredited screenwriter, Roy Huggins, denounced the director Byron Haskin and said the film "had all the suspense of a two-hour ride on a merry-go-round." Yet 66 years after the box office failure, a film historian has noted the film's staying power: "Too Late for Tears is a relatively 'unknown and unseen' noir and deserves this recognition, especially for its storyline, acting and the incredible performance of Lizabeth Scott in the femme fatale role." During the shooting of a scene where Scott screams at Dan Duryea, she accidentally broke a blood vessel in her throat.
(I doubt that the image on the poster could ever pass muster today.)
Although by its title and advertising it could be mistaken for a romantic comedy, 1949's EASY LIVING was a drama. RKO borrowed Victor Mature from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production and Lucille Ball and Lizabeth Scott from Hal Wallis' company. Scott played the wife of veteran pro quarterback Mature, who finds his career threatened after he starts suffering from dizzy spells. Roy Webb scored the film.
In May 1948, it was announced that Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum would star in a football-themed story by Irwin Shaw, originally titled "Interference." Afterward, Lucille Ball replaced Greer and Victor Mature replaced Mitchum. Scott was slated to play the club secretary. Then Scott replaced Ball as the quarterback's wife. The reason for the role switch is unknown, but the 37-year-old Ball was in a career slump at the time and had to take the role meant for Scott.
On Tuesday, January 25, 1949, Scott collapsed and went into hysterics on the RKO set of THE BIG STEAL(1949). She immediately quit after three-days' production. According to Scott's replacement, Jane Greer, Scott quit because she was concerned about being associated with the leading man, Robert Mitchum, who at the time was incarcerated at the local honor farm for a marijuana conviction]—Mitchum had been convicted January 10, 1949. It was also later alleged that Hal Wallis was supposedly responsible for Scott's bowing out. Yet, Scott would star with Mitchum in a RKO film two years later. During this same period, the press would report rumors of Scott's stage fright, which Scott herself has admitted.
Lizabeth Scott reteamed with Robert Cummings for the first time since her motion picture debut in 1950's PAID IN FULL. Scott plays a woman about to give birth. The drama recounts the last few years of her life in flashback. Victor Young provided the film's score.
Scott co-starred with Charlton Heston in his theatrical film debut, 1950's DARK CITY. Heston played the part-owner of a bookie joint, and Scott played his girlfriend. DARK CITY was Scott's third and last film with Don DeFore. Franz Waxman scored the film.
Scott had the lead role in the 1951 drama THE COMPANY SHE KEEPS. Howard Hughes bought the film project from Hal Wallis, who reportedly intended it as a vehicle for Barbara Stanwyck. RKO then borrowed star Lizabeth Scott from Wallis' company for the production. In the film, Scott played a parole officer overseeing released prisoner Jane Greer.
In 1951's TWO OF A KIND, Scott played the socialite girlfriend of a Los Angeles attorney who assists him in investigating the background of a gambler. George Duning scored the film.
In 1951's THE RACKET, Scott played yet another nightclub singer. Shelley Winters was originally announced as the picture's female star in January 1951, but when shooting started in April, Scott had the part. This was Scott's third and last film for director John Cromwell.
Lizabeth Scott appeared in her first western in 1952's RED MOUNTAIN. Co-starring opposite Alan Ladd, Scott played the girlfriend of a former Rebel soldier (Arthur Kennedy). This was Scott's third and last film with director William Dieterle. Scott injured her knee during a stunt in which she jumped off a 12-foot ledge—she injured herself on the fourth try. She had to be flown out from the Gallup, NM location. Franz Waxman scored the film.
Lizabeth Scott co-starred in the 1952 STOLEN FACE for Hammer Films in Britain. Terence Fisher (HORROR OF DRACULA) directed, and Malcolm Arnold scored the film. Hal Wallis Productions loaned Lizabeth Scott to Lippert Pictures, the co-producer and distributor, for the picture. As might be surmised by the title, Scott played a dual role in the film.
Hal Wallis, by loaning out Scott, and Scott, by agreeing to appear with Paul Henreid as the leading man, were among the first to break the Hollywood blacklist. As a former member of the Committee for the First Amendment, Henreid was forced to seek work in Europe. Shooting took place late October–early December 1951 at Riverside Studios, London.
Lizabeth Scott appeared in the rare comedy when she played opposite Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in 1953's SCARED STIFF. Scott played a woman who inherits a castle from her grandfather and then runs afoul of gangsters.
Though Scott would recall fond memories of working on the set in later years, at the time of filming she found it trying. Scott found Lewis' impersonations of her offensive, while a jealous Hal Wallis instructed the director, George Marshall, not to let the romantic scenes between Scott and Martin get too steamy. Despite Scott's best efforts, including making excuses for Lewis' behavior to the press, most of her scenes ended up on the cutting-room floor.
By the end of October 1952, of the original 48 big name actors under contract to Paramount in 1947, only four were left—Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, William Holden and Lizabeth Scott. In April 1953, the 30-year-old Scott would do her last film as a Paramount contractee.
Scott reteamed with Charlton Heston in 1953's BAD FOR EACH OTHER. In this medical drama, Scott played a vivacious two-time divorcée. In December 1950, producer Hal Wallis had purchased Horace McCoy's novel Scalpel prior to publication for $100,000, intending to cast Burt Lancaster and Patricia Neal in a Paramount production. But in January 1953, Wallis sold the package rights of Scalpel to Columbia. Charlton Heston replaced Lancaster, and Lizabeth Scott, who had been considered by Wallis to star opposite Lancaster, then co-starred with Heston.
Scott co-starred in her second western and second Technicolor film with 1954's SILVER LODE. Scott plays a woman about to marry a local rancher (John Payne) when four men ride into town looking for her fiancée.
Scott went to London for the filming of 1956's THE WEAPON. Scott played the mother of a young boy who accidentally shoots a friend.
Lizabeth Scott co-starred with Elvis Presley in his first Paramount film, 1957's LOVING YOU. Scott plays a former press agent who becomes manager for a band that hires singer Presley.
There had been rumors for years that Scott was a mistress of Hal Wallis, then married to actress Louise Fazenda. After Scott freelanced for a few years, Wallis made an effort to revive the relationship by making Scott the leading lady opposite Presley, as it might be his last chance to star Scott in anything. After shooting was completed, Scott walked away from film acting and the 14-year-relationship with Wallis came to an end. Scott herself knew the relationship was over—only Wallis remained in denial. After Louise's death in 1962, Wallis went into a depression and became a recluse before marrying Martha Hyer in 1966. In later life, he was reticent on the subject of Scott, despite an unjealous Hyer urging him to include Scott and his other mistresses in his autobiography. Though CASABLANCA was the film Wallis was most proud of, the ones he would repeatedly watch were those of Lizabeth Scott. Even during his second marriage, Wallis would continue to screen Scott at home, night after night.
Following LOVING YOU, in which Scott's singing voice was again dubbed, her career went into decline. She recorded an album with Henri René and his orchestra in Hollywood in October 1957. Simply titled "Lizabeth," the 12 tracks were a mixture of torch songs and playful romantic ballads.
During the 1960s, Scott guest-starred on television, including a notable 1960 episode of Adventures in Paradise, "The Amazon," opposite Gardner McKay. Scott played the titular character, derived from a boyfriend's dialog: "She is a sleek, well-groomed tigress, a man-eating shark—an Amazon! She chews men up and spits them out." In Burke's Law "Who Killed Cable Roberts?" (1963), she camps it up as the un-grieving widow of a celebrity big game hunter. But much of her private time was dedicated to classes at the University of Southern California.
Lizabeth Scott made her final film appearance in the comedy noir PULP (1972), a nostalgic pastiche of noir tropes starring Michael Caine and Mickey Rooney. Scott plays a man-eating cougar, Princess Betty Cippola, who lives with the Beautiful People on Malta. The director and screenwriter, Mike Hodges, spent a long time coaxing Scott out of retirement to fly to Malta for the shooting. Scott said that while she enjoyed the monochromic beauty of Malta, she was not pleased that most of her footage was cut out—eight scenes in all. Hodges for his part reported that Scott was challenging to work with while shooting. Scott "hadn't make a picture in 15 years and I had to really coax her into coming back." But Scott overcame her stage fright and Hodges was pleased with Scott's performance. Despite disagreements among the cast, crew and past critics, PULP is increasingly considered an artistic success by film historians.
In later years, Scott appeared on stage at an American Film Institute tribute to Hal Wallis in 1987. In 2003, film historian Bernard F. Dick interviewed Scott for his biography of Hal Wallis. The results was an entire chapter titled "Morning Star." In the chapter, the author observed that during the interview, Scott (then 80 or 81-years-old) was still able to recite her opening monologue from "The Skin of Our Teeth," which she had learned six decades earlier.
Lizabeth Scott died of congestive heart failure at the age of 92 on January 31, 2015. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to motion pictures at 1624 Vine Street in Hollywood.