Thursday, March 07, 2019

façade: aldo ray

The husky-voiced, thick-necked Aldo Ray, née Aldo DaRe, was one of the more atypical, fascinating leading men of the 1950s.

He had his only conventional leading-man role opposite Judy Holliday in his offical debut film, George Cukor's affecting "The Marrying Kind" (1952), in which he was introduced (oddly) as "Judy's life of love." 

Prior to Cukor's film, he acted as Aldo DeRa in two 1951 films, David Miller's "Saturday's Hero" and Mickey Rooney's "My True Story."

Although he starred in another Cukor film, 1952's "Pat and Mike," and in Alexander Hall's "Let's Do It Again" (1953), he never really caught on as a leading man or a light actor, despite his considerable talent.

Aldo Ray, who passed in 1991, was way too aggressively masculine, burly and no-nonsense - intimidating actually - for romantic comedies.

Or for romance in general.

Ray's career-defining roles were in perhaps two Raoul Walsh war epics, "Battle Cry" (1955) and "The Naked and the Dead" (1958), and in two by Anthony Mann, "Men in War" (1957) and "God's Little Acre" (1958). But, arguably, his best role was as the framed artist, set up for bank robbery and murder, in Jacques Tourneur's "Nightfall" (1956), co-starring Brian Keith and Anne Bancroft - a fine B-movie noir adapted by Stirling Silliphant from a David Goodis novel.

This limited but pleasing display of his work provides a rare opportunity to become familiar with a criminally neglected actor.

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(from top) 

~Aldo Ray, circa 1952
~photography: Columbia Pictures 1952©

~Poster art for "Nighfall"
 ~ Columbia Pictures 1956©


Anonymous said...

For me, Aldo Ray was one of the unsung heroes of the '50s, reliable in film after film and rarely getting his due. I love his voice and beefiness. What a man!

ralph said...

Wow! What a line-up!

Daryl Chin said...

You might think of Aldo Ray as the anti-Jack Lemmon; both got their big break in movies that starred Judy Holliday, were directed by George Cukor, and were written by Garson Kanin (THE MARRYING KIND for Ray, IT SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOU for Lemmon). But Ray never quite established himself as a leading man, though he had some good roles throughout the rest of the 1950s (as you mentioned, PAT AND MIKE, BATTLE CRY, THE NAKED AND THE DEAD, MEN IN WAR, GOD'S LITTLE ACRE, NIGHTFALL). Lemmon was cast in large-scale A movies in supporting parts (MISTER ROBERTS, FIRE DOWN BELOW) or he was cast as the leading man in smaller movies (PHFFT! MY SISTER EILEEN, OPERATION MAD BALL), but two things were different: Lemmon won an Oscar for MISTER ROBERTS, and he was third-billed but critically acclaimed (and Oscar-nominated) for SOME LIKE IT HOT (which introduced him to Billy Wilder, who would prove to be a crucial collaborator). After his start, Ray never quite got another big boost to his career. That's a shame, because he was a distinctive actor.

joe baltake said...

Thanks,, Daryl! Also, Lemmon and Ray had another connection. Both were originally Columbia contract players and at exactly the same time. Their respective debut films are both Columbia releases. -J

tom bennett said...

I've always called Aldo Ray "weirdly charismatic," particularly for his turn in "Men in War," one of the absolute best of its genre. "The Marrying Kind" is great as well. I have yet to see "Battle Cry," "The Naked and the Dead" or some of his other notable roles. Anyone remember "Nightmare in the Sun?" I barely do, but it popped up on afternoon TV a couple of times when I was a kid, and I liked it then (quite a cast: John Derek, who co-directed with character actor Marc Lawrence, Derek's then-wife Ursula Andress, Arthur O'Connell, Keenan Wynn, John Marley, Robert Duvall, Sammy Davis, Jr.!).

Ray's career really took a sad turn by the '70s (I'm guessing booze was a factor). I remember he got booted from the Screen Actors Guild for taking non-guild work in a porn film (in a non-explicit role -- ironically the only role for which he ever won an award -- Best Actor from the Adult Film Association of America!). Nonetheless, he managed to keep working right up until his death in 1991 from throat cancer (another irony, given that famous raspy voice).

His son Eric Da Re gained a measure of fame as Leo Johnson on "Twin Peaks," but his subsequent credits are sparse. He seems to have become a casting assistant, but imdb's got nothing for him past 2002.

joe baltake said...

Tom- Thanks for all the fabulous info about Aldo and his son. (I vaguely remember the notoriety surrounding the porno he did; thinking about it, Ray would have been perfect for a bit in "Boogie Nights." Too bad.) Only on Turner would one encounter a day devoted to Ray. -J