Tribute today to Hollywood character actor Zachary Scott (1914-1965). Scott was discovered as a professional actor in his native Texas by Alfred Lunt and encouraged to move to New York, where he got Broadway roles, enabling his entree to Hollywood in 1944. I particularly want to celebrate three of his performances today:
1. His performance as the shifty, weaselly wastrel Monte Beragon is the best thing about the 1945 Joan Crawford vehicle Mildred Pierce. Scott’s oily and twitchy gold-digger is such a low-life that he “borrows” funds from his estranged wife, a self-made businesswoman, to finance his outings at the racetrack, even as he is seducing her underage daughter. Any time this movie is playing I will watch it just to see his outrageous performance as one of the all-time great villains.
2. In the 1950 Randolph Scott western Colt .45, Zachary Scott (no relation) is hilariously miscast as a roughneck “Black Bart” style villain. Though he is a real-life Texan, the latter Scott is sort of scrawny, pencil-necked and chinless — and very nervous. He is indeed well-cast as villains, but only the kind who rob you with a fountain pen, or sneak in and shoot you in the back. In this film, he desperately tries to butch up, lowering his voice an octave and swaggering around to little avail. He is the mouse that roared!
3. In the 1962 Frank Tashlin–Jerry Lewis comedy It’s Only Money, Scott is perfectly cast as a sleazy lawyer who has murdered his millionaire client and is now trying to keep the rightful heir (a tv repairman played by Lewis) from knowing the truth. Scott’s serious-as-cancer deadpan as he deals with the spastic Lewis is one of the principal joys of the film.