At The End
I'm having a Salute to Val Lewton in my family room. Watched the The Seventh Victim for the 343 time then The Cat People then I Walked With A Zombie. Somewhere in the middle of this I read a review of Night Creatures, a terrible B movie, over on Mystery-File and that started me thinking about Tom Conway.
As the older brother of George Sanders, he was bound to be the lesser actor in the family. He wasn't as good as his brother and his love for the bottle probably diminished chances for moving up. But he certainly had a respectable B career in the Forties. He was in all three of the movies I mentioned above and at the same time he took over the role of The Saint from brother George. Leslie Charteris, good writer and crazed self-promoter, insisted that RKO get Cary Grant (then huge star) to play the Saint if the series was to continue. Yeah, right.
RKO bought a book about The Falcon and plunked Conway into the role. They're fun Bs and Conway's just as cool as he needs to be except when he's throwing a punch. He's a little casual about it.
Booze eventually took over his life. By the late Fifties it was rehab, divorce, no work. George wouldn't have anything to do with him; Zsa Zsa Gabor (George's ex) felt so sorry for him she brought him $200 cash in the hospital so he could bribe the nurses into being nice to him. He took the money and fled the hospital to his girl's friend pad where he died. I don't know for a fact but wouldn't be surprised if he hit a liquor store on the way to her place.
So he's in Night Creatures. And when I saw that I thought of all the established actors who decide at the very end of their runs to take literally anything they're offered.
While I was never a fan of John Carradine, he was a major character actor for a long time. And to see in in all those godawful D-movies he did ("The New Hampshire Chain Saw Massacre") was pretty sad. I mean Ray Milland major major star in The Incredible Two-Headed Man? Wow. I caught that one at the drive-in and was so stoned and drunk I could barely walk--and still couldn't stop wondering how he'd ended up in this monstrosity. Gambling debts? Blackmail payments? When I was a kid Yvonne DeCarlo was one of the Sultry and Sassy beauties of The Cinema. a true babe and good actress. Big star on TV, too. I know she did at least one and maybe two or three of those D-movies ("The Iowa Chain Saw Massacre"). And many more of them. John Ireland, Aldo Ray, Karen Black. And poor Lon Chaney, Jr. God Almighty, that poor sad bastard.
Maybe it's simple. Maybe it's just that they like to work. Maybe it doesn't have anything to do with money (which couldn't have been much anyway).
That's one advantage writers have. We can work under pen-names.