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Zachary Scott

Hollywood's Sophisticated Cad

Ronald L. Davis

Publication Year: 2006

Throughout the 1940s, Zachary Scott (1914-1965) was the model for sophisticated, debonair villains in American film. His best-known roles include a mysterious criminal in The Mask of Dimitrios and the indolent husband in Mildred Pierce. He garnered further acclaim for his portrayal of villains in Her Kind of Man, Danger Signal, and South of St. Louis. Although he earned critical praise for his performance as a heroic tenant farmer in Jean Renoir's The Southerner, Scott never quite escaped typecasting.

In Zachary Scott: Hollywood's Sophisticated Cad, Ronald L. Davis writes an appealing biography of the film star. Scott grew up in privileged circumstances--his father was a distinguished physician; his grandfather was a pioneer cattle baron--and was expected to follow his father into medical practice. Instead, Scott began to pursue a career in theater while studying at the University of Texas and subsequently worked his way on a ship to England to pursue acting. Upon his return to America, he began to look for work in New York.

Excelling on stage and screen throughout the 1940s, Scott seemed destined for stardom. By the end of 1950, however, he had suffered through a turbulent divorce. A rafting accident left him badly shaken and clinically depressed. His frustration over his roles mounted, and he began to drink heavily. He remarried and spent the rest of his career concentrating on stage and television work. Although Scott continued to perform occasionally in films, he never reclaimed the level of stardom that he had in the mid-1940s.

To reconstruct Scott's life, Davis uses interviews with Scott and colleagues and reviews, articles, and archival correspondence from the Scott papers at the University of Texas and from the Warner Brothers Archives. The result is a portrait of a talented actor who was rarely allowed to show his versatility on the screen.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-7

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pp. vii-13

As a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin, I learned that actor Zachary Scott was a native and favorite son of the city. On one of my introductory tours, my uncle pointed out to me where the actor’s parents lived. Movie fan that I am, I frequently drove my parents and friends by the stately Scott residence when they visited me during my college years, little...

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pp. 3-7

The film’s titles, successively washed away by an ebbing tide and backed by Max Steiner’s searing score, have no more than run on the screen when an establishing night shot of a swanky beach house appears. From inside the cottage six shots ring out. A sudden cut to the interior reveals a stylish man dressed in a tuxedo clutching his chest after receiving a blast from the...

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Born into Wealthand Privilege

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pp. 8-26

Zachary Scott not only grew up with money, but he came from American aristocracy on both sides of his family. Dr. Zachary Thomson Scott, the actor’s father, for nearly half a century was a prominent Texas physician and surgeon—a member of the consulting staff of Johns Hopkins Medical Center, president of the National Tuberculosis Association, and one of the...

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Early College and England

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pp. 27-49

During his adolescent years Zach never considered going to any college other than the University of Texas. He enjoyed his hometown and loved his family far too much to think of leaving Austin. Dr. Scott still held hopes that his son would ultimately decide to prepare himself for medical school, but Zach said he couldn’t bear to watch people suffer. When he entered the...

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Marriage, Graduation,and Summer Stock

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pp. 50-68

Zach returned to Austin in December 1934 to find that friends viewed him as the hometown boy made good. Frequent articles had appeared in the Austin Statesman touting his success on the British stage. His performance in Death Takes a Holiday was reported by the local press to have been “anartistic and sympathetic interpretation of a difficult role.” From England,...

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Broadway and First Films

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pp. 69-94

Shortly before Mary Lewis’s wedding, Elaine played a small role in Suzanna and the Elders on Broadway. The critics gave the show bad reviews, and by the end of the first week audiences had dwindled so sharply that the smaller parts in the play were written out to cut expenses and one whole scene was omitted to reduce the crew needed. Elaine was among those...

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Warner Bros.Contract Player

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pp. 95-132

Zach returned to Warner Bros. in late 1944 with high hopes, for he had been cast in Mildred Pierce, an A picture that would return Joan Crawford to the screen after a two-year absence and win the actress an Academy Award. The studio had paid fifteen thousand dollars for the rights to film James Cain’s 1941 novel, planning to make the picture as a vehicle for Bette Davis....

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Changing Partnersand Directions

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pp. 133-165

A few months after his parents returned to Texas from their visit to California in January 1949, Zach started work on Guilty Bystander for Film Classics, his fourth and final film with Faye Emerson. Scott had a financial investment in the movie, but Warner Bros. was not pleased that he planned to make the outside picture and considered it “an improper” request when...

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Gentleman Actor

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pp. 166-191

In March 1956 Zach undertook a project vastly different from anything he had done before. He agreed to play the king in a New York City Center revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s landmark musical The King and I. It was a daring move, since Yul Brynner’s powerful interpretation of the role, both on Broadway and during a national tour, was still riveted in the pub-...

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Early Death

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pp. 192-202

In the summer of 1964 Zach enjoyed his last hurrah in the theater when he undertook a fourteen-week tour of the Alan Jay Lerner–Frederick Loewe musical My Fair Lady. In preparation for the challenging show,based on Shaw’s Pygmalion, the actor intensified his voice lessons, studying with Howard Ross and Keith Davis, and searched for ways to make the role...


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pp. 214-229

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pp. 203-220

The Zachary Scott papers, housed in the Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, offer a wealth of information on the actor’s life and career. Consisting of seventy-eight boxes, the collection includes family and professional correspondence, reviews of Scott’s films and plays, contracts and business records, photographs, most of the actor’s library, and a log from his voyage to England in 1934. Miscellaneous data in the Scott...


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pp. 221-224


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pp. 225-238

E-ISBN-13: 9781621039129
E-ISBN-10: 1621039129
Print-ISBN-13: 9781578068371

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2006