Ya Big Lug

A somewhat backhanded “under-appreciation” of Chester Morris over at The Chiseler today. Say what you like about Chester — charmless, dull, stiff and funny-looking — he’s always there for you.

Meanwhile, at Limerwrecks, Vincent Price’s birthday gets a nod via a TINGLERIMERICK, and Tony Curtis’s early appearance in CRISS CROSS gets the lyrical treatment it always warranted.

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17 Responses to “Ya Big Lug”

  1. La Faustin Says:

    I hope a FEW people don’t know this story, because I can’t resist:

    Tony Curtis (ESQUIRE interview): When I left the Navy, I used the GI Bill to get into the Dramatic Workshop, which was located at the President Theatre on Forty-eighth Street. Walter Matthau and Harry Belafonte were students there, too. We were all just trying to make it. Later on, I went out to California, and good things started happening for me. When I came back to New York to do a promotion for City Across the River, they gave me a suite at the Sherry-Netherland and a huge black limo. I took it around to show my buddies in the Bronx and then went by the Dramatic Workshop. It was a terrible, rainy afternoon, and who do I see out in front? Walter Matthau. He’s got a long, heavy coat on with a Racing Form sticking out of the pocket, and he’s looking down at the gutter. Here I am in this nice, warm limo. And there he is, this grumpy guy surrounded by a cold, miserable world. The look on his face says, “What’s ever going to happen for me? Nothin’!” So I tell the driver to pull alongside him and stop. Now Walter’s watching the limo. I roll the window down, look at him, and say, “I fucked Yvonne De Carlo!” Then I roll the window back up in a hurry and tell the driver to get the hell out of there.

    No, no, no, he wasn’t mad! For years, Walter loved to tell that story at parties. He’d make it last twenty minutes.

  2. That’s one of the All-Time Great Hollywood stories.

  3. I find that when Chester Morris has a character to play, he overdoes it and pegs the meter with whatever character traits he can find. Most recently I had the doubtful pleasure of watching Morris in a B comedy called They Met In A Taxi, and besides having to see Fay Wray in comedy, something she’s never great in, there’s Morris as a slow-witted cabbie making Lionel Stander look like a genius in comparison.

  4. I love the Curtis-Matthau story. He makes it sound like such a warm, friendly thing to do.

    Interesting seeing Morris and Bogart cast as interchangeable creeps in Big City Blues. Bogie underplays and is cool and ironic, Morris is surly and bolshy and on-the-nose. I think that lack of subtlety is the very quality he turns into a bonus in The Bat Whispers, by pushing it to its uppermost limits.

  5. La Faustin Says:

    You introduced me to BIG CITY BLUES and I will always love you for it. But that isn’t Chester Morris, it’s Lyle Talbot — another round face/pointy features combo platter. And I adore how he indignantly wipes off the back of a bimbo that Bogie patted.

  6. Jesus! How many times have I confused those two? Or, to put it another way — There are TWO of him???

  7. There are! I thought Chester Morris was just Lyle Talbot with a bigger CV. I have to point out I like Talbot as a crook, but not really as anything else.

  8. Yeah, as long as Talbot wasn’t supposed to be charming, he worked OK. I think in that case I made a mistake in mentioning Jack Warner’s desire to stick a moustache on Morris: it was probably Talbot he thought could be improved by decoration.

  9. For me Chester Morris is all about Roland West

  10. Dig those sets!

    Yes, Alibi has incredible design pleasures, and Morris is more interesting than usual in it, though the pace is off. And The Bat Whispers, despite some longeurs, is an impressive piece of visual art whether in MagnaScope or academy ratio.

  11. In Magnascope it’s overwhelming. I saw it at the Academy theater several years back and I still can’t get over it. Best use of sets and scale minatures until Spielberg’s 1941.

  12. And clearly an influence, along with West’s original The Bat, on the Tim Burton Batman, as well as the Batman character in general.

  13. I really think Chester Morris’ most iconic performance is as Dr. Carlo Lombardi (just the name itself tells you something) in the 1956 schlock horror classic ‘The She-Creature.’ Morris recites every line in that film as if he’s afraid he’ll never be allowed to speak again.

  14. They really went out of their way to get the old-timers in that one: it also features El Brendel’s long-feared return to the screen.

    I’m rather fond of the MST3K treatment of that one. Hypnotist Morris: “You will find neck-wattles attractive!”

  15. Hey Mr. Ehrenstein … thanks for the compliment on the miniatures from Spielberg’s 1941 !

  16. They ARE terrific!

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