Saturday, March 25, 2017

We Loved Lola Albright

She was one talented and under-utilized Hollywood actress.  If Anne Bancroft had not been available, Lola Albright would have made a great Mrs. Robinson in THE GRADUATE.  That's my opinion.   The entertainment news came that Lola Alright passed away peacefully in upscale Toluca Lake, California this week.  She was 92.
I picked up so much of love for classic films from Mom and Dad.  Not just Hollywood films but foreign ones too.  Mom worked as a registered nurse.  Dad worked at the main post office in downtown L.A.  On the rare times Mom had a weekday off from work, she was never one to watch daytime television unless to see a newscast or a special news presentation.  During a Christmas or summer vacation from school, I'd be the one watching a classic film on daytime TV.  Back then, long before cable and VHS tapes and DVDs and home entertainment hook-ups, independent local TV stations and the network affiliates went into their libraries and played old movies to fill up programming time.  If I was ever watching an old movie in the daytime and Mom stopped what she was doing to watch it with me or stopped and, said the name of the star and smiled, I knew the movie and/or the star was significant.  If NOW, VOYAGER was on, Mom would stand and look at the TV like she was under a hypnotic spell.  I loved those moments.  If I was watching an old movie and if Mom walked into the living room, saw the TV, paused and said "Oooh, Stanwyck" or "Oooh, Ingrid Bergman," "Brando" or "Mmmm, William Holden," I knew I should pay attention to the work of those actors.

I was especially fascinated at how much a fan Mom was of actresses who were not big stars in the Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn Hollywood sense, but they were women whose talent and work excited her.  Actresses like Simone Signoret, Lilli Palmer and Patricia Neal.  One such actress was Lola Albright.

Mom always said, "Hollywood should have given Lola Albright the kind of good scripts that usually went to Barbara Stanwyck."  As I got older and my passion for classic films deepened, I came to agree totally with my mother on that.  Look at Lola Albright as Kirk Douglas' leading lady in the boxing drama, CHAMPION (1949).
She's the long, cool, classy blonde we see cuddling and smooching Frank Sinatra in the opening scene of THE TENDER TRAP, a romantic comedy that always acts on me like a tasty tonic.  That is one of my favorite go-to feel-good films from the 1950s.
Mom loved watching her on the hit TV private detective series, PETER GUNN.  Blake Edwards created the series, Henry Mancini supplied the jazzy and very popular theme music that opened each episode.  Lola Albright played the private eye's girlfriend, a jazz club singer.
    
On TV, Lola Albright got to do what Hollywood films should have let her do -- she sang.  Here she is in a clip from PETER GUNN.  Craig Stevens played Peter Gunn.

Albright was such a good vocalist that she got a contract and cut record albums in the 1950s.
MGM let her sing for a few seconds.  In the open of EASTER PARADE (1948), she's one of the hat models who sings "Happy Easter" to Fred Astaire.

Watch the 1961 drama, A COLD WIND IN AUGUST, and you will see more of what a terrific actress she was.  She played the hip middle-aged stripper who falls for a guy who's almost 18.
For her performance in the 1966 satire of American teen culture, LORD LOVE A DUCK, Lola Albright won the Berlin International Film Festival for Best Actress.

She was married three times.  Her second husband was veteran film actor Jack Carson during his A STAR IS BORN (1954) and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958) period.

Mom and I loved Lola Albright.

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