Rondo Hatton Investigates

RondoHatton (2)

I was excited to read a description of Rondo Hatton, disfigured horror movie star of the 40s, as a “former reporter.” In fact, he’s usually described as a sports writer (he was a high school football star before the acromegaly kicked in) but the idea of investigative journalism resonated.

I’d like to put Hatton in a crime/espionage drama. Make it the early forties — the unhealthy B-movie star tracks a clue leading him to a gang of fifth columnists — maybe the guys who, according to Orson Welles, shot Carole Lombard out of the skies. This is the trouble with most of my movie ideas — I live in a mental space where a movie about a disfigured B-movie star snapping Nazis’ spines sounds like a Major Motion Picture that could actually happen (maybe with Ron Perlman?). At any rate, while in poor taste, it might partially make up for THE ROCKETEER, in which an actor made-up to look like Rondo played a fifth columnist.


18 Responses to “Rondo Hatton Investigates”

  1. Hmmm…”Headline Hatton” sounds like a comic strip, a B movie, or serial.

  2. Maybe I should write this as a comic book? “The Creeper” is a good comic book title… subtitled “A Rondo Hatton Mystery”…

  3. You may have something there.

  4. “The Creeper” is also the name of an unrelated Steve Ditko superhero.

  5. That could pose a problem, trademark-wise. The Strangler could work just as well though — is that one taken?

  6. Rondo Hatton, Reprorter: “He has a nose for news.”

  7. With a rare gift for breaking stories and spinal columns.

  8. Breaking news and noses since 1947.

  9. The movie was based mainly (albeit loosely) on the first Rocketeer story, borrowing the Rondo Hatton lookalike from the second story. In that, he was not a professional killer or fifth columnist but a former carnival performer avenging the death of a girl.

    Artist/writer Dave Stevens also made the hero’s girlfriend a clone of Betty Page and included a character strongly implied to be Lamont Cranston, aka The Shadow. I understand there are some Doc Savage sidekicks as well. Disney steered clear of most of these pop references, probably because of trademarks. The makeup specialist who decided to recreate Hatton’s face had to deal with some nervous Disney lawyers.

  10. Yeah, I wonder what the legality of using his face would be. Common sense says he’s dead and has no further use for it, but some stars seem to have their likenesses licensed for generations to come…

  11. I like it, but I’d want to see parts for Vera Vague and Isabel Jewell, just because.

  12. Vera Vague already has a comic book name, with Isabell Jewell not far behind!

  13. jiminholland Says:

    Speaking of acromegaly:

    According to IMDB, The actor playing the gargantuan, explosively jealous baseball player who is Jerry Lewis’ romantic rival in Tashlin’s The Geisha Boy is the same actor who plays the gargantuan, mallet-brandishing gang-member dispatched by Mifune Toshiro in Kurosawa’s Yojimbo: namely, Namigoro Rashomon, in his only film appearances, at least as registered by IMDB (this name does not appear in the credits of The Geisha Boy, and if it does in Yojimbo, it’s in Japanese, which I can’t read).

    Can anyone confirm that this is in fact the same actor?

    Or is this a case of all Japanese acromegalics looking alike (at least to IMDB’s amateur information providers)?

    And speaking of amateur information providers:

    Here’s the last line in the “differences from the novel” section of Wiki’s article on Rene Clair’s And Then There Were None (which I saw last night for the first time [embarrassing to admit!] – Clair’s fleet-footed self-reflexive visuals unable to conquer Dudely Nichols’ torpid script):

    “Along with Joseph Conrad’s The Nigger of the Narcissus, the [original] title [of Christie’s novel, Ten Little Niggers] stands as an indicator of the casual acceptance in the late 1890s through the 1930s of a word people find racist, but really isn’t.”



  14. jiminholland Says:

    I want to emphasize that we should not hold against Dudley Nichols, whose screenwriting credits include Stagecoach, Scarlet Street, and This Land is Mine, the efforts of his preening poser of a brother, Dudely.

  15. Heh!

    I rather like that Clair film — in fact I like most of his Hollywood films better than his French ones (It Happened Tomorrow and I Married a Witch best of all). Fun with Walter and Barry and Louis!

    “But really isn’t” is indeed a head-scratcher. I guess entymologically the word just means “black”, but the origin of a word is no measure of its capacity to give offense: surely the intent behind it is more important, and nobody today uses the word without knowing its history and impact. Even Tarantino perhaps has an inkling.

    I can’t help with the Japanese heavy, though I think the effects of acromegaly are so consistent that saying “they all look alike” in such a case is not racist but an accurate summation of the clinical effects of the illness.

  16. Hey, Benson–
    I’ve been toying with a similar premise. Be fun to match them. Contact me at

  17. oeconomist Says:

    I think that the way to get your script idea off the ground is first to execute it as a graphic novel. If you love your protagonists, then the story should almost “write itself”. Your biggest challenge would be in compensating an artist of sufficient talent (unless you are that artist).

    As to the ownership of an actor’s likeness after his-or-her death, on an interstate level that’s an issue of trademark law, but various constituent states have given further rights, within their jurisdictions, to the estates of actors.

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