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Gloria Grahame: Queen of Film Noir

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Message Bill Hare

What is a crowning achievement of star status?

Stardom in the eyes of the directors who know more about the subject than anyone else equate the rare phenomenon with the ability to generate interest. They explain that while studying one's craft will make one a better performer that this is a different element than stardom.

There are those with inferior diction and emphasis who have electrified screen audiences. On the other hand, many who have mastered the basic elements of the acting craft were unable to generate the level of excitement that enthralled cinema audiences.

Hollywood born and bred Gloria Grahame was a combination of both, someone who had that indefinable electricity that prompted fans to buy tickets to her films while at the same time delivering her lines in the most professional fashion, her emphasis on consistent perfection.

Grahame attended Hollywood High, as did some of the greatest performers in the history of film, such as Lana Turner and Mickey Rooney to name two of many. She starred in school dramas with someone who made headlines on the world scene, but not in movies.

One of Grahame's leading men at Hollywood High was Warren Christopher, who would one day become America's secretary of state. Years later each was unable to remember appearing with the other.

Gloria Grahame possessed an impressive quality that many stars did not possess. She was able to electrify audiences and leave them begging for more after being on screen for but brief periods of time.

In the 1952 MGM release "The Bad and the Beautiful," one of the few successful films about the motion picture industry, Grahame secured a "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar for what was then the briefest period of time on screen for anyone achieving that award.

Grahame's character was pivotal and she made her role of Dick Powell's wife unforgettable. Grahame donned a perfect southern accent as she played a seductive belle who demanded virtually all of her literature professor-writer husband's life. Movie producer Kirk Douglas, seeking to work with Powell in adapting his best selling novel to the screen, concludes that it is impossible for the writer to concentrate as long as Grahame is around.

In hopes of completing the script, Douglas arranges for Grahame to spend a romantic weekend away from Powell with Gilbert Roland, a popular film actor known for his ability to charm women.

The fates intervene as Grahame and Roland die in a plane crash. This cements the actress in the eyes of audience members since she remains in their minds and hearts long after her screen character dies.

An early triumph for Grahame came in the 1947 masterpiece "Crossfire" made at the RKO film noir factory and directed by Edward Dmytryk. Grahame plays taxi dancer Ginny Tremayne, who meets a lonely soldier played by George Cooper in a D.C. nightclub.

Grahame's role is pivotal in that her corroboration on the time she spent with Cooper can clear him of suspicion in the vicious killing of Sam Levene.

The homicidal beating was actually perpetrated in an act of anti-Semitic rage by crazed Army sergeant and former St. Louis policeman Robert Ryan. The film relates not to solving a murder, but the fascinating process of ultimately implicating Ryan, who does his best to throw the finger of suspicion in the direction of Mitchell.

Not even the best efforts of the innocent soldier's wife, played by Jacqueline White, along with Paul Kelly, an eccentric who alternately says he is and is not Grahame's husband, can convince her to assist the soldier. She is intransigent in the role of a tough loner who will come to the aid of no one.

On the subject of loners, perhaps Grahame's most enduring high visibility role of her career came starring opposite Humphrey Bogart in "In a Lonely Place," a 1950 classic produced by Bogart's Santana Productions.

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Began in the journalism field in hometown of Los Angeles. Started as Sports Editor and Movie Writer at Inglewood Daily News chain after working in sportswriting of high school events at the Los Angeles Examiner.

Received a bachelor's in (more...)
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