Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy birthday, Howard Duff!


On radio, he played “the greatest private detective of them all’—Dashiell Hammett’s legendary gumshoe Sam Spade—but he can also be heard on thousand of Armed Forces Radio Services Broadcasts as an announcer…so if you’re an OTR fan you’re never really more than a program away from the legendary Howard Green Duff, born ninety-seven years ago on this date in Charleston (now Bremerton), WA.  Howard’s flair for the buskin only came to the fore when he started trying out for plays in high school after being cut from the basketball team of Roosevelt High School in Seattle.

Duff’s popularity as Spade gave him the opportunity to get a foot in the door in Hollywood; his film debut (and it was a goody) in 1947’s Brute Force even had him billed as “Radio’s Sam Spade.”  The movie roles increased after that: The Naked City, All My Sons, Calamity Jane and Sam Bass, Johnny Stool Pigeon, Private Hell 36, Women’s Prison, While the City Sleeps and Boys’ Night Out are just a few of the flicks I’ve caught him in, and he never disappointed.  I think my personal favorite might be the brief bit he does in one of my favorite mystery comedies, The Late Show—he plays the former partner of Art Carney whose murder prompts Art to investigate with the help of flaky kidnapped cat victim Lily Tomlin.

Duff’s fifteen-year marriage to actress-director Ida Lupino resulted in the couple coming to TV in the short-lived sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve—but that gave Duff the opportunity to display his thespic talents on the small screen when the movie parts began to dry up.  He played the titular nightclub owner in the tongue-in-cheek adventure series Dante from 1960-61, villainous lawman Titus Semple on Flamingo Road (1981-92) and unscrupulous tycoon Paul Galveston in the 1984-85 season of Knots Landing.  But his best remembered television role is probably that of Det. Sgt. Sam Stone on Felony Squad (1966-69), a cop drama that co-starred another OTR veteran, Ben Alexander.

Howard left this world for a better one on July 8, 1990—but his radio, film and television legacy still soldiers on here at TDOY, so happy birthday to one of the true greats…and also to these individuals (I do hope they don’t feel left out):

Zachary Taylor (1784-1850) – 12th President of the United States

Carlo Collodi (1826-1890) – Author of Pinocchio

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) – Post-Impressionist painter who hung out a lot at the Moulin Rouge

Al Christie (1881-1951) – Motion picture director-producer-writer who operated a successful film studio that chiefly cranked out one- and two-reel comedies during the silent and sound movie era

Cathleen Nesbitt (1888-1982) – English stage, screen and television actress best known as Agatha Morley on the TV sitcom The Farmer’s Daughter

Rudolf Klein-Rogge (1888-1955) – German stage and screen actor whose vehicles include The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, Spies and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) – The guy who taught my father how to win friends and influence people

Lucky Luciano (1897-1962) – Mobster considered to be the father of organized crime in America

Norbert Schiller (1899-1988) – German stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include Escape to Glory, Thieves’ Highway, The Girl in the Kremlin and The Man in the Glass Booth

Ireene Wicker (1905-1987) – The Singing Lady

Harry Kememan (1908-1996) – Mystery novelist who created the legendary sleuth Rabbi David Small

Kirby Grant (1911-1985) – Film, television and radio actor-singer whose best known role was as TV’s Sky King—one of Pam’s personal heroes

Theodore “Teddy” Wilson (1912-1986) – Legendary jazz pianist

Joan Sanderson (1912-1992) – Formidable Britcom icon known for her roles on such shows as All Gas and Gaiters, Please Sir, Me and My Girl, After Henry…and that Fawlty Towers episode where she plays the frustratingly deaf Mrs. Richards

Garson Kanin (1912-1999) – Playwright and motion picture director-screenwriter who often wrote in tandem with his actress wife Ruth Gordon; his oeuvre includes A Man to Remember, The Great Man Votes, Bachelor Mother and My Favorite Wife

Geraldine Fitzgerald (1913-2005) – TDOY actress fave whose vehicles include The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry, Three Strangers, Nobody Lives Forever, So Evil My Love and The Pawnbroker

Forrest J Ackerman (1916-2008) – Science fiction-horror fan and collector of memorabilia who also edited the legendary Famous Monsters of Filmland—if there is a God, “Uncle Forry” is somewhere off in The Great Beyond having tea every afternoon with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi

Eileen Barton (1924-2006) – Singer-actress who if she’d known you were comin’ she’d have baked a cake

William F(uh) Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008) – Conservative author and commentator who founded the magazine National Review; also hosted PBS’ Firing Line from 1966-99

René Enríquez (1933-1990) - Stage, screen and television character actor best remembered as Lt. Ray Calletano on TV's Hill Street Blues

Charles Starkweather (1938-1959) – Serial killer

Donald “Duck” Dunn (1941-     ) – Legendary rock ‘n’ soul/R&B bassist-songwriter who played as a member of the Mar-Keys and Booker T. and the MG’s; later became the session bassist for those great tunes on the Stax Records label


Pete Best (1941-     ) – Original Beatles drummer who was given his walking papers in favor of Ringo Starr—he never did learn the real reason why

Billy Connolly (1942-     ) – Scottish actor/standup comedian whose vehicles include Muppet Treasure Island, Mrs. Brown and TV’s Head of the Class and Billy

Lee Michaels (1945-     ) – Pop music singer/songwriter


Ted Bundy (1946-1989) – Another mass-murderin’ mutt

Dwight Schultz (1947-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor best known as the colorful “Howling Mad” Murdock on TV’s The A-Team—but he can be a real rat bastard in movies like The Long Walk Home and that Perry Mason telefilm I watched the other night

Damon Evans (1949-     ) – Actor-singer who played Lionel Jefferson on The Jeffersons for a short while until the original actor (Mike Evans, no relation) returned

Stanley Livingston (1950-     ) – Film and television actor/Facebook chum best known as Richard “Chip” Douglas on the long-running sitcom My Three Sons

Denise Crosby (1957-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress best known to Star Trek: The Next Generation fans as Tasha Yar; granddaughter of Bing (she’s Dennis’ daughter)

Amanda Wyss (1960-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include A Nightmare on Elm Street, Silverado, Better Off Dead… and Powwow Highway

Shae D’Lyn (1962-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress whom I liked a lot as Jane on the sitcom Dharma & Greg


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7 comments:

hobbyfan said...

The only other time that I can think of where Howard Duff & Ida Lupino appeared together on television was a 1-shot episode of Batman. It's hard enough thinking of it without thinking of Duff talking in hippie-speak for much of the show. Clearly, they had fun working on this particular ep.

quizshowbob said...

Duff is the best!

Concerning Geraldine Fitzgerald, "The Pawnbroker" was the first movie that I ever remember seeing.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

"The Pawnbroker" was the first movie that I ever remember seeing.

I revisited this film not too long ago when it was playing on Flix on Demand and while it doesn't have the same effect on me as it once did I still think it's a top-notch film.

Brent McKee said...

Luciano had a streamlined version of Carnegie's method. He just influenced people and didn't worry about making friends

Brent McKee said...

Oh, and Rene Enriquez from Hill Street Blues passed away in 1990 (pancreatic cancer).

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Oh, and Rene Enriquez from Hill Street Blues passed away in 1990 (pancreatic cancer).

Which I did know--what happened was that I left him off my original draft and when I realized my mistake penciled him back in but neglecting to include the year of his demise. Thanks for keeping me honest.

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