Angie Dickinson Day
Today we’re participating in another "Blog-a-Thon", this one called by Dennis Cozzalio at his website (HERE) and dedicated to Angie Dickinson. Now, first off, I never saw a single episode of Police Woman, and while I do recall Big Bad Mama and Dressed To Kill, two of Angie’s major cult favorites, I would have to say that these two came a little late for Greenbriar bookings. Besides, I’m sure other contributors to the Angie-A-Thon will provide better illumination where these titles are concerned. My greater fascination with this actress revolves around those first films in which she was featured --- valiant efforts to launch a new star, but at a time when the studio machinery was in such decline and disrepair as to make it near impossible to introduce, let alone sustain, a new big-screen personality. The boneyard of distaff discards reads like the guest list at a 2006 Collector’s Autograph Show --- Pamela Tiffen, Carol Lynley, Paula Prentiss, Stella Stevens --- the lucky ones got a vid series --- the rest got a one way passage back to anonymity. Angie was one of the lucky ones, but only marginally so. Most would say she never got the career she deserved. I say she was planted right behind the eight ball from the moment Howard Hawks sold her contract to Warner Bros., not long after Rio Bravo. How could anyone get an even break at WB in the early sixties?
She’d done buckets of TV before Hawks "discovered" her for Rio Bravo. A lot of people think she’s really bitchin’ in that western. Candor forces me to admit that I fast-forwarded through some of her stuff the last time I watched it. No doubt H.H. considered her hot stuff, and heaven knows there wasn’t a better director in the business than Howard, but he does let Angie go on … and on … in her scenes with an indulgent John Wayne. A blue pencil to some of her dialogue might have helped. For that matter, a little more scissor application to Rio Bravo would have been a welcome thing as well (am I alone in thinking El Dorado the better show?). Angie was quite the starlet trophy on an otherwise all-male project, so you can’t really blame them for wanting to show her off. Wayne seems attentive here as they chat between set-ups (always that damned cigarette in his hand --- why didn’t somebody make him quit?), and old Howard looks like the cat that swallowed the canary at this cocktail reception --- Angie says he snubbed her royally a few years later when she sought work in another of his pics. She was a fish flung back to the sea when Hawks peddled her to Jack L. Warner, where she’d henceforth ply her trade in support of major talent (Frank and Dean!) and minor fads (Troy Donahue).
Ocean’s 11 was a good one --- I personally think it’s very underrated --- but am also willing to concede Angie’s having had such a thankless role in it. That it could have been a better picture is obvious enough --- Peter Lawford actually had a hand in setting up the project --- he made an honest effort to develop the story and make something worthwhile of it, but cool cat Frank saw the whole thing as a slumming party, telling Lawford to order another drink and forget about it. There’s not much Hollywood embellishment on those cramped and seedy casino locations --- that authenticity may have been purely inadvertent, but it's there, and I for one like it --- and isn’t Caesar Romero the coolest thing ever in this? His style and presence makes the Rat Pack look like pikers much of the time. Rome Adventure is a movie we never hear about anymore, let alone have an opportunity to see, but there are those of a certain age group who remember it fondly, and not a few of them rushed out to buy that soundtrack album of Max Steiner’s romantic score. This was another of director Delmer Dave’s plush vehicles for the Warner youth, which now (1962) counted Angie Dickinson among its membership. Those clinches with Troy (one of them shown here) were benign enough, but things got considerably rougher when steely Lee Marvin took over leading man duties in The Killers and Point Blank, two for which Angie’s fondly remembered. We watched The Killers not long ago and really liked it --- a modest little Universal crime thriller that looks as though it escaped from television into the theatres (in fact, I understand that’s exactly what happened). Ronald Reagan slaps Angie silly in it. Come to think of it, Angie took a lot of punishment as a hangover from the Code-compliant fifties gave way to the baser elements of late sixties filmmaking. I wonder if she regarded that as progress.