Thursday, February 17, 2011

Broadway to Hollywood with Allyn Joslyn

Allyn Joslyn
1901 - 1981

It's been a while since a Broadway to Hollywood trivia has been spotlighted on this blog. Today let's highlight one or two featuring Allyn Joslyn, one of my favourite guys who pops up in classic film. He shouldn't be as he generally portrays loud-mouth and pushy boors. However, he plays those roles with such excellence and ease that he becomes irresistible.

Mr. Joslyn was born in Pennsylvania and although his father was a mining engineer, it would seem that young Allyn considered himself born in a trunk. He made his Broadway debut in the ensemble of a musical piece called Fiddlers Three at the age of 17 and he continued in his chosen profession the rest of his days.


Joslyn points out how the press will mold public opinion
They Won't Forget

Allyn's big screen debut was in the based on a true story courtroom drama 1937s They Won't Forget. He played a brash and unprincipled newspaper reporter whose actions help foster a miscarriage of justice. A most unlikeable fellow and a most auspicious debut alongside Claude Rains.


Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Allyn Joslyn, Sig Rumon
Only Angels Have Wings

In 1939 Joslyn had a swell part as one of the pilots in Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings and here we come to the first part of our Broadway to Hollywood trivia. The star of the picture (if actors can be counted as stars of Hawks pictures) is Cary Grant. What role do Cary and Allyn have in common? If they ever compared notes, both would probably agree that it's a heck of a part for amount of lines, impossibility of situation and effort it takes to nail it properly, however audiences love it. In 1941 Allyn Joslyn created the role of Mortimer Brewster in Joseph Kesselring's (apparently with copious input from producers Lindsay and Crouse) Arsenic and Old Lace. When Frank Capra directed the screen version, theatre players Josephine Hull as Abby, Jean Adair as Martha and John Alexander as Teddy made the trek westward while box office guarantor Boris Karloff as Jonathan and reliable lead Allyn Joslyn stayed home.



Jean Adair, Josephine Hull and Boris Karloff
as they appeared in the 1941 Broadway hit
Arsenic and Old Lace



Fans of Mr. Benny oft-times heard him speak disparagingly of 1945s The Horn Blows at Midnight. A joke is a joke, but in this case the joke should have found another target. Directed by Raoul Walsh, The Horn Blows at Midnight is an adorably funny fantasy. Musician Benny dreams he is on a Heavenly mission that is constantly being thwarted by a pair of Fallen Angels.


John Alexander aka Teddy Brewster
"Charge!!!"

The Fallen Angels are played by Broadway's original Brewster cousins Allyn Joslyn and John Alexander. Thus, the second link in our Broadway to Hollywood trivia for today. For theatre and Arsenic and Old Lace buffs (I believe there to be a secret society), it is great fun to see the boys together again even if we haven't seen them together before.



Allyn Joslyn enjoyed a lengthy career which included such favourite movies as 1941s I Wake Up Screaming, 1942s My Sister Eileen, 1943s Heaven Can Wait, 1950s Harriet Craig, 1953s Titanic and Island in the Sky. A particularly special role for Allyn was as Sheriff Clem Otis in Frank Borzage's 1948 noirish melodrama Moonrise.


Tom Fadden, Dane Clark, Houseley Stevenson, Allyn Joslyn
Moonrise

Sheriff Otis is a complete departure from the overbearing creatures Joslyn was usually called upon to bring to life. The sheriff was kind, decent and smart with a strong, yet pliable life philosophy. The movie is mesmerizing and Joslyn especially memorable.

I imagine both sides of Allyn Joslyn's screen persona came into play in real life. You must be both brash and philosophical to spend a life in the show business, and also to have a successful family life. Allyn and his wife Dorothy were married for 43 years and raised a daughter. Such accomplishments do not come easy, but are worthwhile.

23 comments:

  1. What a great character actor! I had forgotten about him. I believe he made a movie with our pal Bing too.

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  2. Thanks for another look at a wonderful character actor. Another one of those faces you know, who are familiar the moment you see them. I never knew anything about him, though, until now.

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  3. Yes indeedy, Lobosco, that would be "If I Had My Way". How silly of me not to mention it in the blog. Allyn is the nasty rich uncle to Gloria Jean, if I remember correctly. Anyway, he was up to no good.

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  4. The way things go, Jacqueline, you probably won't be able to watch a movie for the next month without running across Allyn Joslyn!

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  5. OMG! I heart Allyn Joslyn. He was in the the Joel and Garda Sloan movie with Ann Sothern and Franchot Tone. I saw that last summer followed by They Won't Forget and The Horn Blows at Midnight. Then I think he was in a James Stewart, Rosalind Russell movie set in New York. What a real treat reading about his acting history. Mortimer, really...I heart Mortimer!

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  6. I very much enjoyed your overview of Allyn Joslyn! Too bad neither nor Boris Karloff were able to reprise their ARSENIC AND OLD LACE Broadway roles on the big screen. I also enjoyed Joslyn as Larry Evans in I WAKE UP SCREAMING and in the comedy-mysteries he made with Jane Wyman.

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  7. Sorry, I meant to say Evelyn Keyes, not Jane Wyman (that was a different series). Anyway, Allyn Joslyn was always fun to watch onscreen, especially in genre movies!

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  8. Novabreeze, I can feel your enthusiasm for Allyn Joslyn across the internet!

    PS: I think the Roz & Jimmy movie is probably "No Time for Comedy".

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  9. DorianTB, thanks for stopping by. I really enjoyed "Dangerous Blondes" with Allyn and Evelyn Keyes. They made a great team. I love those wacky crime solving couples!

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  10. Happy to drop by, and thank you for having me! :-) I'm a sucker for crime-solving movie couples myself, from Nick and Nora Charles, to Joel and Garda Sloan, to Dal Dalzell and Donna Mantin in STAR OF MIDNIGHT, to, of course, Allyn Joslyn and Evelyn Keyes as the Craigs and the Harrisons. Now THERE'S a theme month for TCM to work on: sleuthing couples! :-)

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  11. Hi Caftan Woman! I love articles about the wonderful character actors, and Joslyn stands out among them. I am one of the secret society of Arsenic and Old Lace fans. I've seen it a lot, but laugh every time.

    By the way, welcome to the CMBA from another member!

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  12. P.S. "Come on over and see me sometime." I bet you know who said that!
    www.classicbeckybrainfood.blogspot.com.

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  13. Thanks for a post on a real favorite of mine. Mr. Joslyn seems to be popular with others, if the many comments here are an indication! He's great in so many movies -- I got a particular kick out of him opposite Marsha Hunt in BRIDE BY MISTAKE (1944) which just came out from the Warner Archive.

    I often wish there were a time capsule so we could see old Broadway performances -- would have loved the chance to see him in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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  14. Hello, ClassicBecky! The Arsenic & Old Lace secret society is so secret it took until now for us to know each other.

    Thanks for the welcome to the CMBA. I feel like George Bailey joining the National Geographic Society.

    I'll be enjoying your blog for a long time to come - after the school holiday when my son let's me have more time on the computer.

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  15. Laura, I suppose our classic movies are the closest we have to a time machine, but how I'd like front row centre seats.

    I wonder what Allyn Joslyn would think of all this affection from movie fans.

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  16. Not familiar with him but I remember you. You're that nice friend out there who cares about me.

    That makes me smile. Thanks.

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  17. Brian, it does my heart good to hear from you.

    In most of his movies Allyn Joslyn would be the "Eddie Haskell" guy.

    Try and see "Moonrise". The guy Joslyn plays is the guy we want for a friend or the guy we want to be. Yes, even at our age, I think we can strive to be the guy we want to be. Smile.

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  18. Do you miss me? I miss me too. I shall return and you will be the first to know when I do.

    Thank you for liking me and caring about me.

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  19. I have been waiting patiently - well, mostly patiently with a bit of anxiety mixed in - for your return.

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  20. An informative review of a supporting actor I'm not very familiar with. Always nice to see HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT get some good press...it's a delightful movie!

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  21. Hi, Rick29. It's always a pleasure to meet another an of "The Horn Blows at Midnight". It practically makes you a member of the family.

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  22. Hello Caftan Woman from Allyn's daughter Linda in Kansas (hard to imagine I suspect). I am thrilled you have remembered my dad so artfully. Some of his 44 movies have not been archived and/or I have not seen. Perhaps you heard that in 2003 he was the focus of a special retrospective of his work at the Black Bear Film Festival where he was born in Milford Pennsylvania--a wonderful surprise for me. You cannot imagine how surprised I am again. My 29 year old daughter sent me your blog. Lets get in touch. Linda J-B.

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  23. Linda, I'm very pleased that you like my piece on your talented father.

    The retrospective at the Film Festival is a lovely tribute. What films did they screen?

    As you can see by the comments on this post, your Dad has a lot of fans.

    Have you considered starting a website dedicated to your father's career? That would certainly be a treat for all of us.

    Thank you so much for your kind words. I will treasure them.

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