End Credits #77: Cinema's 2018 Lost Treasures Jean Porter
Jean Porter (December 8, 1922 - January 13, 2018) the bubbly actress who typically lit up the screen with her customarily personable characterisations, has died at age 95.
Guest contributor Bob DiMucci has provided this tribute to her motion picture acting career:
The Film Appearances of Jean Porter
Jean Porter had a bit part in 1940's ONE MILLION B.C. as a "Shell Person." She plays the sister of "Loana" (Carole Landis). The film was co-directed by Hal Roach and his son, Hal Roach, Jr. Werner R. Heyman provided the unreleased score.
Said Jean: "“I loved it! I was Carole Landis’ little sister. She was wonderful and Victor Mature delightful. D. W. Griffith was already a legend, and this was his last film. I don’t know if he was supposed to direct it or not, but Hal Roach Jr. did the actual directing. Griffith received producer credit but all he did was sit by the door. He was on the set every day, with an overcoat and a hat, sitting by the truck door—where they bring in the backdrops and large props. He always kept the door open a foot.”
According to news items in the Hollywood Reporter and the New York Times, D. W. Griffith worked as producer on this film but asked that his name be removed because of a disagreement with Hal Roach.
Porter had a "walk through" part as a passerby in the W.C. Fields comedy NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK. Edward Cline directed the 1941 film, which had an unreleased score by Frank Skinner.
Porter played a chorus girl in the Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney musical BABES ON BROADWAY. Busby Berkeley directed the 1941 film. Rhino released the film's songs and score in 1995 as part of a four-disc set "Mickey & Judy: The Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney Collection."
Jean Porter played college coed "Jean Allenwood" (and received a poster credit) in the Red Skelton - Esther Williams musical comedy BATHING BEAUTY. At the time of its release, this was MGM's third-highest grossing film, after BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST (1925) and GONE WITH THE WIND (1939). George Sidney directed the 1944 film. Johnny Green supervised the music. Six numbers from the film have been released, spread over two different 1997 Rhino compilation CDs.
Porter only had a bit part in the next Esther Williams musical, THRILL OF A ROMANCE. She played a "Ga-Ga Bride." Richard Thorpe directed the 1945 film. This time George Stoll adapted and directed the music. Eight musical selections from the film, with Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra, were released by Rhino in 1997 and 1998 on two different compilation CDs.
Jean Porter had a supporting role in 1945's ABBOTT AND COSTELLO IN HOLLYWOOD. The comedy is set in the movie capital of the world, at Mammoth Studios, where "'Buzz' Kurtis" (Bud Abbott) and his pal,"Abercrombie" (Lou Costello), are employees at the Hollywood Shop, "Barber to the Stars," with "Ruthie" (Jean Porter), Abercrombie's girlfriend and roommate of their closest friend, "Claire Warren" (Frances Rafferty), taking reservations over the telephone.
Jean recalls: “I was only the manicurist girlfriend to Lou, running in and out of the picture. The only thing I hated was that Lou, Frances Rafferty, Bob Haymes [billed in the film as Bob Stanton] and I had a lavish musical number, ‘Coca Bola Tree’, which was to end the film. We shot it on the Esther Williams set which was built into an amusement park setting. There was a singing group and a big band. It was the best part I had in the picture—and they cut it out! They thought the picture ran too long. It was heartbreaking! I later did a lot of TV shows with Bud and Lou. They liked me from this picture, and they used me over and over again.”
S. Sylvan Simon directed the film, which had musical direction by George Bassman. Four musical numbers from the film (including "The Cocobola Tree") were released in 2003, as a bonus on the Rhino Handmade CD of the score for BEST FOOT FORWARD. After the disappointing performance of the film at the box office, MGM dropped its option to produce more Abbott & Costello films.
Porter had another small role (as "Frances") in the 1946 Esther Williams musical EASY TO WED. Edward Buzzell directed. Two songs from the film appeared on the 1997 Rhino compilation CD "Maracas, Marimbas, And Mambos: Latin Classics At M-G-M."
Jean Porter moved into dramatic roles with her part in the 1946 post-war drama TILL THE END OF TIME. MGM loaned Porter to RKO to replace Shirley Temple in the picture. In the film, after he is discharged from the Marines, twenty-one-year-old "Cliff Harper" (Tom Tully) returns to his home in Los Angeles. At his parents' empty house, Cliff meets his new neighbor, "Helen Ingersoll" (Porter), a vivacious college freshman, who is immediately starstruck by the decorated hero. The film was directed by Edward Dmytryk, whom Porter would marry in 1948. They would remain together until his death in 1999. Leigh Harline provided the unreleased score for the film.
Jean: “It was a good job but I felt I was going backwards, being cast as a teenager again. But I did meet my future husband, Edward Dmytryk—it was around October, 1945.”
Shirley Temple co-starred with Ronald Reagan in her last film of 1947, THAT HAGEN GIRL. Released on November 1, the film was Temple's first for Warner Bros. Jean Porter played "Sharon Bailey," the friend of Temple's "Mary Hagen."
The melodrama also marked the motion picture debut of Canadian-born actress Lois Maxwell (1927--2007), who was best known for her portrayal of "Miss Moneypenny" in the James Bond films, beginning in 1962 with DR. NO. Franz Waxman scored the film, which was directed by Peter Godfrey.
In 1951's CRY DANGER, ex-con "Rocky Mulloy" (Dick Powell) seeks the real culprit in the crime he was framed for--in a night world of deceptive dames and double crosses. Richard Erdman plays "Delong," the decorated, disabled Marine who provided Rocky with the alibi that finally freed him. And Jean Porter is "Darlene," Delong's girl friend. CRY DANGER marked the first feature-film directing credit for Robert Parrish, a former editor and actor. Emil Newman and Paul Dunlap provided the unreleased score.
Jean Porter co-starred with Jerry Colonna and former Hopalong Cassidy sidekick James Ellison in the 1951 musical KENTUCKY JUBILEE. Ellison played "Jeff Benson," a reporter assigned to cover the Jubilee, who is smitten with pretty singer "Sally Shannon" (Porter). Ron Ormond directed the film, which was shot while Jean's husband was in jail. Walter Greene was musical director.
Jean Porter's final feature film appearance was in a film directed by her husband Edward Dmytryk, THE LEFT HAND OF GOD. The 1955 film is set at a Catholic mission in China, where long-awaited "Father O'Shea" (Humphrey Bogart) proves to be a tough guy, disturbingly attractive to mission nurse "Anne Scott" (Gene Tierney). Porter plays "Mary Yin." Victor Young's score was released by Varese Sarabande in 2005.
The perky 5-foot-tall, 98-pound Porter was signed to her first Hollywood contract at MGM.