Sunday, February 8, 2015

LIZABETH SCOTT (1922-2015) - A Tribute
And farewell to the Golden Lady of film noir. No offense to any other actress out there, or up there (or down there), but, for me, if there was one actress who represents the film noir ideal, it's almost certainly Lizabeth Scott.
Let the film titles speak for themselves, like a rogue's gallery roll call of noir themes and emotions...The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)...Dead Reckoning (1947)...Desert Fury (1947)...I Walk Alone (1948)...Pitfall (1948)...Too Late For Tears (1949)...Dark City (1950)...The Company She Keeps (1951)...Two of a Kind (1951)...The Racket (1951)...Stolen Face (1952)...Bad For Each Other (1953).

Oh sure, she did films in genres other than dark dramas, like Scared Stiff (1953) with Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Carmen Miranda, or Loving You (1957) with Elvis. But that touch of noir often crept in no matter the genre, as it did in the western Silver Lode (1954), in which she co-starred with those other frequent visitors to the Dark City, John Payne and Dan Duryea. You could take the girl out of the noir, but it was hard to take the noir entirely out of the girl.
Part of that was, to be sure, The Company She Keeps  - or kept, anyway. Lizabeth Scott hung out with a tough crowd, co-starring with actors like Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell, Dennis O'Keefe, Edmond O'Brien, Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum, Raymond Burr, and William Talman. She also did multiple stints with the aforementioned Dan Duryea, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster and Charlton Heston. In a short, compact career, Lizabeth Scott fought as a heavyweight.

Born in the decidedly unglamorous Scranton, Pennsylvania, and gifted with the less than marketable name of Emma Matzo, the woman who became Lizabeth Scott spent a more than solid decade blazing through Hollywood like a platinum comet. Then, for all intents and purposes, she walked away from it all, leaving behind a legacy that is as much a tribute to her as it is a treasure for film fans.
Scott was sometimes tagged as being nothing but a knockoff of Lauren Bacall, which, in my opinion, is a false premise. Were there some similarities between the two actresses? You bet. But, if anything, Scott proved herself to be even more distinctive than Bacall, if not as critically acclaimed. Those eyes, that voice - there's no mistaking them. Bacall may have known how to whistle, but Scott had her hands down when it came to whispering.

Two of my favorite Scott films put her in very different roles. In The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, she is not only sensitive, but also very sympathetic, leaving the villain's role to Barbara Stanwyck. But then, in Too Late For Tears (which I got to see in its restored glory on the big screen last year), she is every bit the money-hungry, heartless femme fatale, with a character so hard she makes her creepy co-star Dan Duryea look sympathetic.

Which is to say, she had range. She also clearly had guts, brains and ambition. Sprinkle on a little luck, and goodbye, Scranton!
And now it's the big and final goodbye. Hopefully her passing will inspire someone, somewhere to put together a Lizabeth Scott film festival. It would be one hell of a lineup.

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