There’s nothing lonelier than being in a crowded West Village bar in Manhattan full of music, alcohol and conversation, and finding out one of your favorite actresses from ‘those old movies’ has passed away.
LIZABETH SCOTT ( 9 / 29 / 1922 – 1 / 31 / 2015 )
That was my Friday night. What started off as an evening of gaiety waned to this shroud of sadness covering me. I look at my bar acquaintances knowing that I cannot share this sad news with them; not with…one…person…around me. You know what I’d get: “Whose that?” “92? Girl, she old.” Why set myself up for responses that would cut like daggers in my heart? I may be drinking, but I’m not crazy.
As I scroll through the internet on my iPHONE, I couldn’t resist showing my bartender a photo or two of Lizabeth Scott knowing that, at the very least, a pretty face would be appreciated. It was, and I took that appreciative crumb and went with it. When I look at the FaceBook movie groups I belong to, I find my people. With wild avatars, noms de plume, and friends I’ve come to know, THESE are the people who’ll know what I’m talking about; what I’m feeling. I know all classic film fans don’t like the same classic film stars. That’s cool, we’re not a monolithic group. But you can surely find the people who like what you like within the whole community. I’m still at the bar, steeling myself for the frigid temperature and cold wind that’ll come raging off the Hudson as soon as I open the door. As I stroll through my movie groups, ( yes, stroll ), I could see photos of Lizabeth Scott popping up, with short messages of admiration, sympathy and appreciation. I felt sad, but I felt good knowing that she had fans among the people I understand.
Don’t worry, I’m not blind. I’m aware of Scott’s limitations as an actress. I’m aware of the Confidential exposé back in the 50’s. I know she was supposed to be the “threat” to Bacall and was often saddled with that comparison. But I see the difference between the two. She was her own person…her own type. I’m a fan. Sometimes we like who we like because of, or in spite of those ‘things.’ I first saw her in her first movie, “You Came Along” waaaay back in my own way back, and wondered “Who’s that?” since I already knew all the movie stars there was to know …when I was a smart-ass teenager. “Hey…she’s different,” I thought. That was the start of my being on the look out for her in my movie travels.
I had a grand time last summer at NYC’s Film Forum’s “Femmes Noir” series and one of my best days was the Lizabeth Scott double double feature of “Dead Reckoning” paired with “Pitfall” and “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” paired with “Too Late for Tears.” I missed the first double feature, but was there for the second pairing, and relished her performances from my too-close-but-love-it-first-row-seat. ( If you’ve been to the Film Forum, you know how crazy close that is. And if you’re ever looking for me in a movie theatre, go down to the first row and work your way up the aisle. You’ll see me. ) I’ve seen about a dozen of her twenty-two feature films. Let me recommend a couple for you to check out. If you have any favorites, please let me know about ’em. You can get a detailed IMDB summary by clicking on the photos below:
“DESERT FURY” ( 1947 ) – she’s a pouty petulant young rich girl, who doesn’t fit in at school and comes back home to Nevada where her mother is a Casino queen. Scott does what every young girl does: she falls for the wrong older man. And if the man happens to have been an ex-lover of her mother’s, all the better for that sick twisted jolt noir fans enjoy. ( Veda, meet Paula… )
“THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS” ( 1946 ) – She’s a Victim, caught up in something that gets her thrown in the slammer. Noir guy picks her up, but he can’t let go of his past and she hangs on and hangs in there. She’s soft here and vulnerable belying that smoldering voice of hers. She faces off nicely opposite Stanwyck in one scene, though really Scranton, PA is no match for Brooklyn, NY. I wait for their scene every single time. Scott’s surrounded by a good strong cast headed by Stanwyck, Van Heflin and newcomer, Kirk Douglas. She holds her own in this dark drama.
“I WALK ALONE” ( 1948 ) – Some one wrote that this was a flat noir. Pish, posh! And ACK! I read all kinds of things on the interweb-machine. I think “I Walk Alone” is a good one. You know the plot: Lancaster does 17 years in prison after taking the fall for a heist. When he comes out and expects Kirk Douglas to play fair and split the profits of a successful nightclub, well, you know noir…THAT ain’t gonna happen. And if you know Noir, you know Lizabeth is the girl who is perfect for late 1940’s film. She’s a glamorous chanteuse with ( a dubbed voice ) – who finds love with underdog Lancaster. It screams 1940’s in a plot you’ve probably seen before. But that’s okay. I bathe in the look and sound of the film. Check it out.
“PITFALL” ( 1948 ) – Again, Lizabeth is the nice girl, who’s caught between a rock and a hard place; loving a married man (Dick Powell) but being loved (read: STALKED) by an obsessive and hulking Raymond Burr. When does it come to ANY good having Raymond Burr fixated on you? Again Scott is caught up in something beyond her control, which is a wonderful position to see her in. ( More on “Pitfall” when I talk of extra-marital affairs in the movies later this year ).
“THE COMPANY SHE KEEPS” (1951) – She’s got the boring nice girl part of parole officer. Jane Greer plays the ex-con struggling to go the straight and narrow. It’s a change of pace to see Scott not use her voice and persona to smoldering effect. And we get the female p.o.v. of what it’s like to get back into Society’s good graces after jail time. But what happens when a good, hard-working gal has to compete with a lying, semi-dangerous jailbird? See how THAT plays out, though for the life of me having Dennis O’Keefe as catnip for these two ladies to fight over, just does’t sit right with my fantasies. ( But there IS “RAW DEAL“. And I have to say, as a bad boy, he’s good ).
Seeing her in Westerns is a bit rough for me. She’ll be in the constraints of the 19th century, hair in a ponytail, long long skirt, only allowed to look adoringly at our hero. Not that anything’s wrong with that, but in the 40’s she gets to hold a gun, smoke cigarettes and double cross anyone. She moreso suits my tastes in “Too Late for Tears.” She so relentlessly pursues this money, she even scares Dan Duryea, who now wants to get away from her.
Of all those blondes in Hollywood, she wasn’t cotton candy, or feline. She wasn’t a waif or wisecracker. She didn’t sing or dance or ice-skate. She was a bombshell with just a little edge. She could be hard or soft, victim or vixen. She’d pull a gun on you if she had to. Her husky voice promised much. Lizabeth Scott is gone. And ever since I attended my first TCM Film Festival in 2011 I’ve been baying at the moon for someone at TCM to bring Scott to the festival to intro one of her films or to appear on TCM. Friends who know me have known that that was one of my biggest wishes for the festival. Perhaps that never was going to happen anyway. Now, it really never will.
Lizabeth Scott was a link back to the 40’s and to my favorite genre: Film Noir. At 92, she lived a very long life. At 92, I only hope she knew how many fans she had. At 92, I still have to say…too soon. Time to leave the bar and face the cold.
Lizabeth Scott’s home sold for $2.45 million dollars:
P.S. ~ Searching for Emma Matzo, read HERE.
( H O M E )