Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Pictorial Tribute to Audrey Totter on Her 100th Birthday

It was 100 years ago today that Audrey Totter was born in Joliet, Illinois. Fans of films noir are familiar with Miss Totter, who appeared in some of the best known movies of the genre, usually, but not always, as a femme fatale. In the Fifties she began a career in television that continued into the Eighties.

Audrey Totter began acting while still young, appearing in various school plays while in high school. After graduating from high school she worked in radio on such soap operas as Painted Dreams, Ma Perkins, and Bright Horizon. She acted in both Chicago and New York City before moving to Los Angeles, where she signed a seven year contract with MGM. She made her film debut in Main Street After Dark in 1945.

Miss Totter's second film was Dangerous Partners (1945), in which she was the second highest billed actress. She played the singer Lili Roegan. Above is a publicity shot from the film.

Following Dangerous Partners, Audrey Totter played bit parts in various movies. She had a small, but very significant role in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). It was with Lady in the Lake (1947) that she was received top billing as an actress for the first time. She played a publishing executive who hires Philip Marlowe to locate her boss's wife.

Following Lady in the Lake, Audrey Totter would appear in several more films noirs. While she was best known for her "bad girl" roles in noir, she was not a femme fatale in every single movie in which she appeared., A perfect example of this is one of her best known films noirs, High Wall (1947). She played psychiatrist Dr. Ann Lorrison. Here she is pictured with Robert Taylor.

Miss Totter also played a sympathetic role in the boxing film noir The Set-Up (1949). She played Julie, the wife of boxer Bill "Stoker" Thompson. Here she is with star Robert Ryan.

While Audrey Totter did play sympathetic roles, it must be admitted she may be best known for her bad girls. In Tension (1949), she played one of the worst of her bad girls. Miss Totter's character in the film, Claire Quimby, is as selfish and self-serving as they come.

With film noir no longer in fashion, Audrey Totter was eventually released from her contract with MGM. The movies in which she appeared in the Fifties were not of the same quality as the classic films noirs she had made. She increasingly began appearing on television. Over the years she guest starred on such shows as Four Star Playhouse, Wagon Train, The Red Skelton Show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Virginian. During the 1958-1959 season she was a regular on the single season Western Cimarron City. Here she is in a photo from the set of that show, along with Hank Mann, Snub Pollard, and Matthew McCue, who played bit parts on the show.

In addition to Cimarron City, Audrey Totter had a recurring role on Dr. Kildare and was one of the leads on the sitcom Our Man Higgins. In the Seventies she was a regular on the show Medical Centre. Here she is is as head nurse Wilcox from that show. During this time she also guest starred on such shows as Hawaii Five-O and Police Story. Her last work was a guest appearance on Murder, She Wrote.

Audrey Totter died on December 12 2013, not long before her 96th birthday. She left behind a legacy of fine performances and remains one of the actresses best known in film noir. Born only a few days before Christmas, she was truly a present to movie lovers everywhere.


Unknown said...

Nice review. She was great! Glad to see this small tribute.

Classic Film Lover said...

Damn, I'm watching Lady in the Lake right now on 4/4/2019 and this woman has me hypnotized with her eyes. What a classic beauty. It's a Phillip Marlowe film starring the father of one of TV's most beautiful women: Elizabeth Montgomery: Bewitched.