Bob was signed by MGM in January, 1929, one of many Broadway actors signed in a rush by the studios to appear in the new "talkies." They had him, but apparently were not sure what to do with him, letting him sit idle. Having been advised that he needed to get himself in a better position to get the attention of the MGM brass, Bob went looking for and found a role in a Joseph M. Schenck production which was distributed by United Artists. It worked. MGM immediately cast him in So This is College and it would be some years before he was allowed any more idle moments by the studio. Three Live Ghosts was released in September 15, 1929. Bob would be co-starred in four films by MGM that were filmed before the end of the year.
Three Live Ghosts has become a ghost itself, no prints of the movie having survived the years. We are left with a couple dozen stills, a herald and a lobby card (that I know of!). Wouldn't it be fascinating to see Bob appear on screen for the first time?! (And, yes, I know. He was an extra in The Single Standard. Whereas it is enjoyable to watch the young Bob dancing across the screen, it is his voice that makes the man for me.)
I've blown up Bob from the photo so you can see him without a magnifying glass. Note how they have a scarf around that rather long neck. And, whereas the hat is rather nifty, the rest of his attire is old and scruffy. The first and last time you will see a scruffy Bob!
Robert Benchley (Sept. 15, 1889 - Nov. 21, 1945) ** (And a Happy Birthday to my bro David, who looks nothing like Mr. Benchley and rarely drinks, but is an American humorist in his own right, at least in the mind of his baby sis!)
Can you imagine anything more 50s than Audrey Totter, in this dress, in a Cold War film noir co-starring Dana Andrews as a reporter sent behind the Iron Curtain (Budapest) to investigate a political conspiracy? Nah... By the way, in the movie Audrey has her sights on Dana's boss, George Sanders. Now that's an interesting couple.
For the longest time I have wondered what it was about Jack Holt's face that seemed so familiar. I was rather sure it wasn't another actor. I searched through images of family in my mind, but did not see any Jack Holt lookalikes. A former teacher, perhaps? No such luck. There was just something about that profile, besides being so distinctive. Something from my long ago past.
Voila!! Recently ran across an article that states the cartoonist Chester Gould patterned Dick Tracy's jut-jawed countenance and stoic demeanor on his favorite film star, Jack Holt! That's why he seemed so familiar, a pleasant remembrance from my childhood. One of my Sunday heroes!
These two photos were taken in the same photo session by Lazlo Willinger. Taken in late 1939, they were used to promote The Earl of Chicago, released on January 5, 1940. Bob is 35 at this time, beginning the transition from youthful beauty to middle-aged handsome.
It is always interesting to me how a photographer can change the look of a subject with lighting, positioning of the subject, or a little touching up of the final picture. In the above photo, Bob's face appears more angular. His eyebrows are slightly arched, causing his forehead lines to be more prominent. It is a stronger, more competent Bob. More the serious man he had become, much less the movie star.
In the photo below, Bob's face is softer. The eyebrows are lowered, the forehead lines are barely visible. There is the hint of a smile in his eyes, he is not as formidable. It is a friendlier Bob, still the movie star.
Or to put it all more succinctly, Bob was one handsome man.