June Duprez is in the middle of what proves a very brief return to high-production-value film making, when she takes the lead in tonight’s Suspense, after her move to Hollywood from England nearly destroyed her career.
Born during an air raid in the final months of World War I, Duprez has been an actress since her teenage years, paying dues with the Coventry Repertory Company and in film extra work before she was cast in The Crimson Circle and The Cardinal in 1936. Her fourth film, The Spy in Black, a 1939 adaptation of A.E.W. Mason’s The Four Feathers, made her a British film star; her performance in The Thief of Baghdad a year later seemed to cement it.
Separated from her first husband, a wealthy physician unsettled by her film success, Duprez allowed Alexander Korda of London Films to take charge of her career. He brought Duprez to Hollywood . . . and set her asking price at $50,000 per film, an intolerable price for a Briton who had yet to make a wide impression with American film audiences, leaving Duprez to languish while roles she might have played well went to other performers.
She wasn’t free of Korda’s contract until 1942, but she struggled in low-budget works such as They Raid By Night, Little Tokyo U.S.A., and Tiger Fangs. She seems to have struggled, period, thanks to a few misunderstandings involving David O. Selznick (whose brother had been her agent at one point), Harry Cohn (whose possible advances she turned away from her apartment door after a party) and others in the Hollywood power circles.
Later in life she will credit Nigel Bruce (co-star of the Sherlock Holmes film and radio series) and his wife with standing by her and keeping her active socially, if not professionally. Not until 1944 does Duprez have the chance to work with higher production values, when Clifford Odets casts her as a gangster’s duplicitous former wife in None But the Lonely Heart, which stars Cary Grant and Ethel Barrymore and earns Duprez the National Board of Review award as best actress.
Her performance in that film will lead to another well-produced effort, this time navigating well amidst a top ensemble (including Barry Fitzgerald and Walter Huston) in a 1945 film version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. She will also appeared in The Brighton Strangler and Calcutta, among other films, before moving to New York for a try at the stage, remarrying in the interim and having two children.
That second marriage will end in 1965. Duprez’s acting career for all intent and purpose will end before that, with only two appearances of major note—a performance of “The Last Tycoon” on television’s Robert Montgomery Presents; and, a small role in One Plus One, a 1961 film.
After living in Italy for a number of years, Duprez will return to London, living in the affluent Knightsbridge area, enjoying what’s described as “a close relationship” with an English nobleman, and otherwise living as a forgotten should-have-been major star. Still a beautiful woman, Duprez will plan a trip to America to visit her grandson when she dies at 66, in 1984.
TUNE IN TONIGHT:
Suspense: A Thing of Beauty (CBS, 1944)
With scheduled lead Ida Lupino taking ill, Duprez stands in to perform in an installmentSuspense fans might think belongs in any survey of the landmark thriller’s should-have-been masterpieces.
Duprez plays once-renowned British stage actress Madelyn Tremaine, living nine years in seclusion following ten years of institutional isolation. Visited on a heavily rainy night by her priest and his protégé, Madelyn finally,unexpectedly, reveals the true cause of her breakdown, which she traces back to her first major speaking role; a row with the production’s lead actress; the actress’s murder; and, a shaky marriage to a fading actor—who knows more than he’s revealed about the earlier crime—that becomes deadly when she’s offered a Shakespearean lead.
The two clergy also know Madelyn believes none but a man of God will help her find the peace without which she refuses to re-engage the world, but only one knows there’s more to the woman than meets a blind man’s eye.
There’s an odd spot or two of over-acting, but those are mercifully brief, even if they may keep this one from going from good to absolutely great. But it’s worth staying the course, anyway. Somehow, the lacings of legendary gossip/hostess Elsa Maxwell promoting sponsor Roma Wines manage not to break the grip very much.
Additional cast: Herbert Rawlinson, John McIntire, unidentified players. Announcer (The Man in Black): Possibly Joseph Kearns. Music: Bernard Herrmann. Director: William Spier. Writer: Robert L. Richards, based on a story by Elizabeth Hiestand.
Further Channel Surfing . . .
The Inner Sanctum Mysteries: Death Has Claws (horror; NBC Blue, 1941)
The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny: Jack Talks About His Christmas Party (comedy; NBC, 1941)
Fibber McGee & Molly: A Fresh Start for the New Year (comedy; NBC, 1943)
Duffy’s Tavern: Balancing the Books (comedy; NBC, 1945)
The Fred Allen Show:Suing to Return Fred’s Cuckoo Clock (comedy; NBC, 28 December 1947)
Fibber McGee & Molly: The Country Club Dance (comedy; NBC, 1948)
Matinee with Bob & Ray: Mary McGoon’s New Year’s Eve Ideas (comedy; WHDH, 1949)
Richard Diamond, Private Detective: The Plaid Overcoat Case (crime drama; ABC, 1951)
Dragnet: The Big Mask, Part One (crime drama; NBC, 1952)