Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A00330 - Lizabeth Scott, Sultry Leading Lady of Film Noir

Lizabeth Scott dies at 92; sultry leading woman of film noir

Lizabeth Scott, noted film noir actress of 1940s and '50s, dies at 92
Actress Lizabeth Scott, whose sultry looks and smoky voice led many a man astray in 1940s and '50s film noir, died Jan. 31 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was 92.
The cause was congestive heart failure, said her longtime friend Mary Goodstein.
Scott aspired to be a stage actress but was stereotyped as the femme fatale in the hard-boiled, film noir world of crime, tough talk and dark secrets.


Lizabeth Scott: In the Feb. 8 California section, the obituary of actress Lizabeth Scott included a portion of a quote from another article that was inserted during final production. The correct quote, from a 1996 interview of Scott about her work in film noir, should have read: "It was a new realm, and it was very exciting, because suddenly you were coming closer and closer to reality." —
"She had the smoldering look, the blond hair, the voice," Alan Rode, a film historian who produces annual film noir festivals, said Friday. "She was someone you would see in a nightclub through a haze of cigarette smoke, with a voice made husky by a couple of highballs and an unfiltered Pall Mall."

Scott starred in numerous films in the genre, mostly as the bad girl — or in a variation, the good girl gone bad — with evocative titles such as "Dead Reckoning," "I Walk Alone," "Pitfall" and "Too Late for Tears."
She inspired lines such as "What a fall guy I am, thinking just because you're good to look at you'd be good all the way through." Burt Lancaster said that to her in the 1948 drama "I Walk Alone," which also starred Kirk Douglas.
But her characters could snap back too. "Who said I was an honest citizen, and where would it get me if I was?" she asked Robert Mitchum in "The Racket" (1951).

And she described herself to Dick Powell in the 1948 film "Pitfall" as "a girl whose first engagement ring was bought by a man stupid enough to embezzle and stupid enough to get caught."
She also played opposite Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin.
In a 1996 interview with documentary filmmaker Carole Langer, Scott said she didn't lament the fact that she wasn't cast in studio blockbusters. She liked the grittiness of film noir.
"The films that I had seen growing up were always, boy meets girl, boy ends up marrying girl, they go off into the sunset," Scott said. After the war, films got more in touch with "the psychological, emotional things that people feel and people do."

"It was a new realm, and it was very exciting, because suddenly you were coming closer and closer to reality."
She was born Emma Matzo on Sept. 29, 1922, in Scranton, Pa., where her father had a grocery store. In her late teens, she left to study acting in New York, landing a role in a touring company of the hit stage comedy "Hellzapoppin'." In 1942, she got a small part in the original Broadway production of Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth."

Scott also understudied the lead role, and then got to play it in Boston, turning down interest from Hollywood to further her stage career. At that point, her stage name was Elizabeth Scott — she later removed the "E" to be more distinctive.
When she finally came west, she was signed by prominent producer Hal Wallis.
After several years of making one film noir after another — sometimes at a pace of two or three in a year — Scott was ready for a change. She got it in the 1953 comedy "Scared Stiff," starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
"I'd done so many heavy things that it was such a pleasure when this was offered me," she said in the Langer interview. "I thought, 'God, I'd like to shed my past and have some fun with these guys.' "
There were other varied roles — Scott played a publicity woman in the 1957 Elvis Presley vehicle "Loving You."
But as noir faded, so did her career. She had a few TV roles in the 1960s. Her last credited movie appearance was in "Pulp," a 1972 sendup of film noir.
Scott lived quietly in Hollywood, sometimes accepting invitations to attend film festivals and other events.
"I loved making films," she said in the Langer interview. "There was something about that lens that I adored, and it adored me back. So we were a great combination."
Scott's survivors include her brother Gus Matzo of Plymouth, Mich.; and sister Justine Birdsall of Middletown, N.Y.


Lizabeth Scott, who played an aloof and alluring femme fatale in such film noir classics as I Walk AlonePitfall and Dark City, has died. She was 92.
Scott, who also starred as a gangster's wife opposite Humphrey Bogart in Dead Reckoning (1947), died Jan. 31 of congestive heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, her friendMary Goodstein told the Los Angeles Times.
Scott, a sultry blonde with a smoky voice in the mold of Lauren Bacall, played nightclub singers in 1947's I Walk Alone opposite Burt Lancaster and in William Dieterle's Dark City, a 1950 release that marked Charlton Heston's first major Hollywood role.
In Pitfall (1948), she was a fashion model that married man and insurance investigator Dick Powell could not resist. And in Too Late for Tears (1949), also starring Dan Duryea, Scott killed not one but two husbands. (The poster for that movie proclaims, "She got what she wanted … with lies … with kisses … with murder!")
Scott displayed a rarely seen comic touch when she appeared opposite Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in Scared Stiff (1953), and she played a press agent who discovers a young country singer (Elvis Presley) in 1957's Loving You.
Her last movie appearance came in Pulp (1972), revolving around a writer (Michael Caine) of sleazy pulp novels. One of her ex-husbands in the film is played by Mickey Rooney.
Born Emma Matzo in Scranton, Pa., Scott, who was of Russian Heritage, attended the Alvienne School of Drama in New York. She worked as a model for Harper’s Bazaar and in 1942 landed a role as the understudy for Tallulah Bankhead in Thornton Wilder’s Broadway production of The Skin of Our Teeth — though the tempestuous Bankhead, who did not get along with Scott, stubbornly never missed a performance.
A bit later, with backing from producer Hal Wallis, Scott was signed to a contract at Paramount Pictures. She made her film debut in You Came Along (1945) opposite Robert Cummings — Ayn Rand was a co-writer of the screenplay — followed by The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), with Barbara StanwyckKirk Douglas and Van Heflin.
Her other films included Desert Fury (1947) with John HodiakEasy Living (1949), Paid in Full(1950), The Company She Keeps (1951) — as an ex-convict — The Racket (1951) with Robert MitchumStolen Face (1952), Bad for Each Other (1953) and The Weapon (1956).
In 1957, the sensuous star released an album of torch songs and romantic ballads titled Lizabeth.
Asked in a 1996 interview why film noir had become so popular, Scott said: “The films that I had seen growing up were always, ‘Boy meets girl, boy ends up marrying girl, and they go off into the sunset,’ ” she said. “And suddenly [in the 1940s], psychology was taking a grasp on society in America.
"That’s when they got into these psychological, emotional things that people feel. That was the feeling of film noir. … It was a new realm, something very exiting, because you were coming closer and closer to reality.”

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