Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Happy Birthday, Audrey Totter!
December 20th is the 95th Birthday of actress Audrey Totter! I suppose that makes the timing of this post Audrey Totter-Day Eve.
Ms. Totter starred in a terrific run of films, and had one of her breakout appearances as a source of temptation for the always terrific John Garfield in The Postman Always Rings Twice. Ms. Totter's character caused a bit of jealousy in Lana Turner. People, if you can give Lana Turner a moment of pause, clearly you're a force to be reckoned with.
The first movie I saw in which Ms. Totter got top billing was The Set-Up, and it's an absolutely terrific bit of acting under the direction of Robert Wise, but I'd also point you toward Tension, which is a terrific example of noir (and also has Cyd Charisse and Richard Basehart!). In this one, Totter blows everyone else on screen right out of the frame. I'd also recommend The Unsuspected to see her alongside Claude Rains and playing a wide range in a single film.
That's sort of what I think of now when I consider Ms. Totter's films. She wasn't a character actor, and in all of her movies, she manages to do what better actors pull off - and that's too completely fill the character in a unique way and disappear into the role, but still retain the ability to make you notice them. Her roles in Man or Gun and Tension couldn't be more different, but she's terrific in both movies.
In the 50's, Ms. Totter began working in both film and television, she starred in series like Cimarron City and Medical Center, and retired from the screen with her final televised appearance in 1984 on Murder, She Wrote.
Today, Ms. Totter is still living in Southern California, and through a terrific series of internet blips by way of Jenifer, on Sunday morning I received a video in my email that made my year. The video is of Audrey Totter sending Jenifer and me best wishes. The video absolutely blew my mind. It's like someone you watch at the movies turning to the screen and saying, "Oh, hello, Ryan."
Special thanks to Ms. Totter's granddaughter, voice artist, Eden Totter. (Eden is super-great, by the way.)
Happy Birthday, Ms. Totter! We wish you the best on your birthday and will be spending the holiday break catching up on some of your movies we haven't yet seen.
PS. If you ever want to know what it would be like to be a detective in the presence of Audrey Totter, I highly recommend the experimental first-person movie, Lady in the Lake, based on the Raymond Chandler novel.