While we know much about the stars of Hollywood’s 40’s through 60’s there are many lesser known actors who are “below the title” of a film. These actors contributed just as much to Hollywood’s golden era as the big stars. Manny Pacheco touched on some of those stories against the backdrop of a time when the studios ran Hollywood and people were flocking to the movies.
Van Heflin is an example of a successful actor of this type with a long career in Hollywood. When a movie budget could not afford, or a script would not support a big name like William Holden, Van Heflin was contracted.
MGM, the big studio with “more stars than in the heavens” had Lionel Barrymore and Frank Morgan who did seven movies together. They were so liked by Louis B Mayer they had lifetime contracts, the only two in the history of Hollywood. When Lionel broke his leg and was found to have advanced arthritis requiring crutches at first and later a wheelchair, he demanded to be paid and to have roles. He continued to be successful including the TV show Dr. Kildare, all done from his wheelchair.
Helen Keller became aware that Lionel was successful as a handicapped actor and wrote to Roosevelt asking for more support of the diseased and handicapped. He had just formed March of Dimes so offered to conduct a fundraiser for Polio on his birthday. 25 years later, Rotary committed to Polio Plus.
Frank Morgan did seven movies with Lionel, but as a diminutive personality he was always a step behind. When Frank was asked to be the Wizard in Wizard of Oz, he accepted but only if he could play a role in “Shop Around the Corner’. He was proudest of that role even though the Wizard of Oz has become a classic.
As a side note, the most successful “actor” at MGM was Lassie!
Part of Manny’s presentation was to show the connections between Hollywood and how it weaves into daily life. For example the atomic bombs were each named after movie titles.
Manny has written Forgotten Hollywood and Son of Forgotten Hollywood with a TV show on the topic in the works. He has visited 67 Rotaries.