R.I.P. Dorothy Malone, who passed away today at age 92.
I was surprised to note just how how many of her performances I had seen. In truth, Malone’s best known work was in the sort of melodramas my mother loved, things like Douglas Sirk’s Written on the Wind (1956) and the tv show Peyton Place (1964-68). Not my absolute favorite genre, although I’ve come to appreciate it. But especially among her earlier work there’s a bunch of her work I’ve seen. She was an extra in Gildersleeve on Broadway (1943) and Show Business (1944) with Eddie Cantor and George Murphy. She’s in the Cole Porter bio-pic Night and Day (1946) with Cary Grant. She’s in numerous westerns I’ve seen, including Colorado Territory (1949), The Nevadan (1950), The Bushwhackers (1951), and Tall Man Riding (1956). She’s the love interest in two Martin and Lewis comedies: Scared Stiff (1953) and Artists and Models (1955). She’s in the Lon Chaney bio-pic Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) with James Cagney. And dozens more film and tv performances right up through Basic Instinct (1992).
But I want to mention one particular favorite I first caught on TCM back in 2010.
The Last Voyage (1960)
The Last Voyage seems seminal to me, solving a lot of the technical and special effects problems that would later come into play on The Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno and Earthquake over a decade later. Furthermore it was shot on an actual ocean liner, the S.S. Ile de France, as opposed to studio sets, so it looks more realistic than the Poseidon Adventure.
The plot: a fire breaks out on an ocean liner. The stubborn and foolish captain (George Sanders) scoffs at certain safety measures (like stopping the ship so the crew can see to some things). Meanwhile some safety valves have fused shut, causing a boiler explosion that rips through several floors and puts a fatal hole in the hull. A woman (Dorothy Malone) is trapped under wreckage with water constantly rising, threatening to drown her. Much of the film concerns the efforts of her husband Robert Stack (her Written on the Wind costar) to free her, aided by stoker Woody Strode, and later an engineer played by Edmond O’Brien, who spends most of the film trying to save the ship itself. The girl who plays Malone and Stack’s daughter is an inexplicably creepy-devil child named Tammy Lea Marihugh (35 years later this actress, who’d become an exotic dancer in Las Vegas, made good on this creepiness by murdering her husband, a professional bodybuilder named Rodney Larson). There are many amazing scenes in the movie, filmed right on the ship. It was written, directed and produced by Andrew L. Stone, in collaboration with his wife, film editor and co-producer Virginia Stone). The Last Voyage is kind of like High Noon…the clock ticks, with Malone’s life in the balance. It must have been an ordeal to shoot, lying down for hours in cold water, covered by debris, with shmutz all over her. 57 years later, the clock ran out. Bon Voyage, Dorothy Malone!