Monday, September 11, 2006

Movie: High Wall (1947)

A solid enough film with a standard ‘40s plot: ex-war hero suffering from amnesia wakes up next to his dead wife. I watched it because it stars one of the first ladies of noir, Audrey Totter, she of the wickedly charismatic eyebrows and the hair like meringue. As a psychiatrist, Audrey often has to act directly to the camera. Factor in Robert Montgomery’s “first person” Lady in the Lake and she’s probably logged more of those scenes than anyone in movie history.

The war hero is played by Robert Taylor. Taylor, “The Man With The Perfect Profile,” was a big star in his day, but his appeal remains elusive for me. He seems an affable but stolid presence, the guy you get when your first choice has been loaned out to Paramount. In the films I’ve seen, there’s always a sense that Taylor’s scenes would be scrapped if a bigger name became available. Maybe I haven’t caught him in the right movies.

My favorite thing about Taylor? His real name.

Spangler Arlington Brugh.

Now that is a mouthful. Possibly the greatest name ever.

Let’s leave the Arlington out of it. As we all know, only assassins, serial killers and character actors need their middle names. With a handle like Spangler Brugh, you’re not cut out to be a line cook or a night watchman.

Spangler Brugh is the high school quarterback/homecoming king/Phi Beta Kappa/youngest sheriff in the state/junior senator/running mate/man who whose political career ends in disgrace in an Allen Drury novel. That’s Spangler Brugh.

So you’d think Spangler Brugh could be one of the biggest box office draws of the 1930s, marry Barbara Stanwyck, appear as a “friendly witness” before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and star in a TV series that bore his name. But no, he had to be Robert Taylor to do that.