Lyle Talbot, "The Entertainer"
The unique career of Lyle Talbot (1902-1996) mirrors the evolution of popular entertainment across the 20th century: he worked the carnival circuit, vaudeville stages and regional theater, beginning as a magician's assistant and working his way up to romantic leads. Hollywood beckoned and Talbot landed at Warner Bros., where he worked non-stop through the 1930s in a variety of supporting roles and the occasional male lead. Often saying he never turned down a job, Talbot's filmography bears evidence to that claim with roles in serials (including Commissioner Gordon in the BATMAN AND ROBIN serial and Perry White in SUPERMAN), scores of television programs (including a recurring role on THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE & HARRIET) and even Ed Wood films.
Now, his daughter Margaret Talbot tells her father's story in "The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father's Twentieth Century." Released in November, her captivating, impeccably researched narrative – a charmed combination of Hollywood history, social history and family memoir – conjures warmth and nostalgia for those earlier eras of the 1910s and 1920s small-town America, and 1930s and 1940s Hollywood.
Margaret Talbot has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 2003. Previously, she was a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and, from 1995 to 1999, an editor at The New Republic.
In connection with the release of this fascinating book, AFI Silver presents a selection of some of Talbot's most significant films, focusing in particular on his pre-Code films of the early 1930s, featuring Talbot alongside such screen legends as Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart.
AFI Member passes will be accepted at all screenings.
THREE ON A MATCH
In person: Margaret Talbot, author of "The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth Century"
Three young classmates, members of the 1920s' Lost Generation, come of age in 1930s New York and take divergent paths in life: bad girl Joan Blondell does a stint in reform school; studious Bette Davis graduates from secretarial school; and good girl Ann Dvorak attends finishing school and marries wealthy attorney Warren William. But fortune proves to be changeable after Dvorak meets high-living charmer Lyle Talbot, and abandons her comfortable home and child for a life of drinking, drugs and debauchery. The terrific cast of this fast-paced melodrama includes a young Humphrey Bogart, Edward Arnold and Glenda Farrell in supporting roles.
DIR Mervyn LeRoy; SCR Lucien Hubbard, from a story by Kubec Glasmon and John Bright; PROD Samuel Bischoff, Darryl F. Zanuck. US, 1932, b&w, 63 min. NOT RATED. Preservation print courtesy of the Library of Congress
THREE ON A MATCH followed by 20,000 YEARS IN SING SING
20,000 YEARS IN SING SING
Gangster Spencer Tracy gets sent up the river to the big house in Michael Curtiz's hard-hitting prison drama. Lyle Talbot impresses in a featured role as Tracy's pal Bud Saunders, the brains behind an ill-fated breakout attempt; Bette Davis shines as Tracy's loyal love interest.
DIR Michael Curtiz; SCR Wilson Mizner, Brown Holmes, from the book by Lewis E. Lawes; PROD Darryl F. Zanuck. US, 1932, b&w, 78 min. NOT RATED. Preservation print courtesy of the Library of Congress
Sisters Aline MacMahon and Ann Dvorak run a service station and motor court on a highway in the middle of the Mojave Desert, an oasis for weary travelers, as well as the desperate and dangerous. Events heat up when a man from Aline's past (Preston Foster) and his hoodlum pal (Lyle Talbot) show up, complicating matters not only for the sisters but two gold-digging grande dames (Glenda Farrell and Ruth Donnelly), heavily bejeweled and just back from Reno and their latest paperwork filing.
DIR Mervyn LeRoy; SCR Brown Holmes, Warren Duff, from the play by Leon Abrams, George Abbott; PROD Samuel Bischoff. US, 1934, b&w, 63 min. NOT RATED Preservation print courtesy of the Library of Congress
Dancing girls Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell, tired of long hours, lousy pay and indecent proposals, set sail for Havana where they hear the gold digging's good. Setting their sights on bumptious mark Guy Kibbee, their plot goes screwy – not surprisingly, as they're relying on the talents of numbskull gangster pal Allen Jenkins and drunken lawyer Frank McHugh. Plus, Blondell's got the hots for Kibbee's son Lyle Talbot. Blondell and Farrell's sassy, snappy patter makes this modestly budgeted programmer a fast and funny lark.
DIR Ray Enright; SCR Earl Baldwin. US, 1933, b&w, 62 min. NOT RATED
THE PURCHASE PRICE
Sun, Dec 2, 1:00; Mon, Dec 3, 6:30
Fed up with the fast life, nightclub singer Barbara Stanwyck quits Manhattan first for Montreal, then a North Dakota wheat farm, impulsively taking another woman's place in a mail-order bride arrangement. Stanwyck and stubborn farmer George Brent don't hit it off right away – she locks him out on their wedding night – but the two grow fonder of each other over time, sharing in the chores and enduring a hard winter together. But their arranged marriage is put to the ultimate test when Stanwyck's wiseguy ex Lyle Talbot blows in to town.
DIR William A. Wellman; SCR Robert Lord, based on the novel "The Mud Lark" by Arthur Stringer. US, 1932, b&w, 68 min. NOT RATED. Preservation print courtesy of the Library of Congress
LADIES THEY TALK ABOUT
Bank robber Barbara Stanwyck takes a rap for accessory while her accomplices Lyle Talbot and Harold Huber get away with the loot. It's a jungle in the women's ward, but Stanwyck's a cool cat who can hold her turf while her pals plan how to spring her. Meanwhile, childhood friend turned radio preacher Preston Foster has his own ideas for how to save Stanwyck. This lively pre-Code women-in-prison film offers many surprises and comical characterizations, with the charismatic Stanwyck shining as the star of the show.
DIR Howard Bretherton, William Keighley; SCR Brown Holmes, William McGrath, Sidney Sutherland, from a play by Dorothy Mackaye, Carlton Miles; PROD Raymond Griffith. US, 1933, b&w, 69 min. NOT RATED
Sun, Dec 9, 3:20: Mon, Dec 10, 6:30
Desperate for revenue, Calvert College hires mercenary football coach Pat O'Brien away from a rival program. And with O'Brien running his football program like a racketeer, with paid recruits, fixed grades and dirty tactics on the field, soon the team is winning big. Director William Wellman keeps both the jokes and the action crackling in this gleefully amoral farce – arguably, one not too far from the facts. Lyle Talbot is the glory- hound halfback with eyes for the coach's wife, Ann Dvorak; straight arrow Dick Powell is a student-athlete pressured to give up the studying part. Watch for a cameo early on by one-time USC Trojan, John Wayne.
DIR William A. Wellman; SCR Niven Busch, Manuel Seff. US, 1933, b&w, 76 min. NOT RATED
FOG OVER FRISCO
Delirious fun! High-living, low-life-loving socialite Bette Davis gets in over her head with gangster Irving Pichel, with whom she's been two-timing nice guy bank exec Lyle Talbot. After a dizzying turn of events and plot twists – kidnappings, murders, imposters, secret codes – zip by at breakneck speed (with the nifty use of wipes pushing the scenes forward), the mystery comes to a satisfyingly explosive conclusion.
DIR William Dieterle; SCR Robert N. Lee, Eugene Solow, based on the story "The Five Fragments" by George Dyer. US, 1934, b&w, 68 min. NOT RATED
NO MORE ORCHIDS
Sat, Dec 15, 1:05; Wed, Dec 19, 6:30
On a continental tour, racy rich girl Carole Lombard meets a wealthy prince who asks for her hand in marriage. Just what her banker father Walter Connolly needs to keep from going under, and just what her snobby grandfather C. Aubrey Smith wants for the family name, a title. But on the ship back to America, Lombard meets and falls in love with idealistic young lawyer Lyle Talbot. Will love or money win out? Rising star Lombard cracks wise and looks luminous, photographed by the great Joseph August.
DIR Walter Lang; SCR Gertrude Purcell, Keene Thompson, from the novel by Grace Perkins. US, 1932, b&w, 71 min. NOT RATED
MARY STEVENS, M.D.
Kay Francis and Lyle Talbot graduate medical school and open a practice together, with wisecracking Glenda Farrell as their no-nonsense nurse. While Francis struggles to land patients – many won't trust a lady doctor – Talbot makes connections fast, especially after he begins dating, then marrying, heiress Thelma Todd. But it's a bad match, and Talbot realizes Francis is the one he really loves. This unique pre-Code melodrama piles on the twists and turns, but its treatment of the hot-button issues – pre-marital sex, illegitimacy, alcoholism, political corruption – is refreshingly matter-of-fact, as is its depiction of a professional woman fighting prejudice and sexism.
DIR Lloyd Bacon; SCR Rian James, Robert Lord, from a story by Virginia Kellogg. US, 1933, b&w, 72 min. NOT RATED
Sun, Dec 16, 3:45: Mon, Dec 17, 6:30