Hollywood's Sophisticated Cad
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
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Title Page, Copyright
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As a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin, I learned that actorZachary Scott was a native and favorite son of the city. On one of my intro-ductory 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 thestately Scott residence when they visited me during my college years, little...
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The film’s titles, successively washed away by an ebbing tide and backed byMax Steiner’s searing score, have no more than run on the screen when anestablishing night shot of a swanky beach house appears. From inside thecottage six shots ring out. A sudden cut to the interior reveals a stylish mandressed in a tuxedo clutching his chest after receiving a blast from the...
Born into Wealthand Privilege
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Zachary Scott not only grew up with money, but he came from Americanaristocracy on both sides of his family. Dr. Zachary Thomson Scott, theactor’s father, for nearly half a century was a prominent Texas physicianand surgeon—a member of the consulting staff of Johns Hopkins MedicalCenter, president of the National Tuberculosis Association, and one of the...
Early College andEngland
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During his adolescent years Zach never considered going to any collegeother than the University of Texas. He enjoyed his hometown and loved hisfamily far too much to think of leaving Austin. Dr. Scott still held hopes thathis son would ultimately decide to prepare himself for medical school, butZach said he couldn’t bear to watch people suffer. When he entered the...
Marriage, Graduation,and Summer Stock
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Zach returned to Austin in December 1934 to find that friends viewed himas the hometown boy made good. Frequent articles had appeared in theAustin Statesman touting his success on the British stage. His performancein Death Takes a Holiday was reported by the local press to have been “anartistic and sympathetic interpretation of a difficult role.” From England,...
Broadway and FirstFilms
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Shortly before Mary Lewis’s wedding, Elaine played a small role in Suzannaand the Elders on Broadway. The critics gave the show bad reviews, and bythe end of the first week audiences had dwindled so sharply that thesmaller parts in the play were written out to cut expenses and one wholescene was omitted to reduce the crew needed. Elaine was among those...
Warner Bros.Contract Player
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Zach returned to Warner Bros. in late 1944 with high hopes, for he hadbeen cast in Mildred Pierce, an A picture that would return Joan Crawford tothe 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 JamesCain’s 1941 novel, planning to make the picture as a vehicle for Bette Davis....
Changing Partnersand Directions
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A few months after his parents returned to Texas from their visit toCalifornia in January 1949, Zach started work on Guilty Bystander for FilmClassics, his fourth and final film with Faye Emerson. Scott had a financialinvestment in the movie, but Warner Bros. was not pleased that he plannedto make the outside picture and considered it “an improper” request when...
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In March 1956 Zach undertook a project vastly different from anything hehad done before. He agreed to play the king in a New York City Centerrevival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s landmark musical The King and I. Itwas 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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In the summer of 1964 Zach enjoyed his last hurrah in the theater whenhe undertook a fourteen-week tour of the Alan Jay Lerner–FrederickLoewe musical My Fair Lady. In preparation for the challenging show,based on Shaw’s Pygmalion, the actor intensified his voice lessons, studyingwith Howard Ross and Keith Davis, and searched for ways to make the role...
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Zachary Scott in a typically sophisticated pose. Courtesy of the Academy of Zachary Scott at the height of his movie career. Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Zachary Scott and Faye Emerson in Warner Bros.’s Danger Signal.Zachary Scott in a scene from Treasure of Ruby Hills. Author’s Collection.Zachary Scott and Dick Foran in Treasure of Ruby Hills. Author’s Collection....
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The Zachary Scott papers, housed in the Humanities Research Center at the University ofTexas 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 theactor’s library, and a log from his voyage to England in 1934. Miscellaneous data in the Scott...
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Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2006
Series Title: Hollywood Legends Series