Jeff Chandler (actor)

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Jeff Chandler
Jeff Chandler - 1958.jpg
Chandler in 1958
Born Ira Grossel
(1918-12-15)December 15, 1918
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died June 17, 1961(1961-06-17) (aged 42)
Culver City, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Surgical complications
Resting place
Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery
Years active 1945–1961
Spouse(s) Marjorie Hoshelle (m. 1946–54)

Jeff Chandler (December 15, 1918 – June 17, 1961) was an American film actor and singer in the 1950s, best remembered for playing Cochise in Broken Arrow (1950), and for being one of Universal International's most popular male stars of the decade.

Early life[edit]

Chandler was born Ira Grossel to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, the only child of Anna (née Herman) and Phillip Grossel.[1] He was raised by his mother after his parents separated when he was a child.

He attended Erasmus Hall High School, the alma mater of many stage and film personalities. His father was connected with the restaurant business and got his son a job as a restaurant cashier. Chandler said he always wanted to act, but courses for commercial art were cheaper, so he studied art for a year and worked as a layout artist for a mail order catalogue.[2]

Chandler eventually saved up enough money to take a drama course at the Feagin School of Dramatic Art in New York. He worked briefly in radio, then got a job in a stock company on Long Island as an actor and stage manager. He worked for two years in stock companies, acting in a performance of The Trojan Horse with Gordon MacRae and his wife.[3]

Chandler formed his own company, the Shady Lane Playhouse, in Illinois in 1941. This toured the Midwest with some success before the war came along.[4]

He served in World War II for four years, mostly in the Aleutians, finishing with the rank of lieutenant.[5] His enlistment record for the Cavalry on November 18, 1941 gave his height as six foot four inches and his weight as 210 pounds.

Radio[edit]

After being discharged from the military, Chandler moved to Los Angeles with $3,000 he had saved and soon found work as a radio actor. He appeared in episodes of anthology drama series such as Escape and Academy Award Theater, and became well known for playing the lead in Michael Shayne and bashful biology teacher Phillip Boynton on Our Miss Brooks. Chandler was the first actor to portray Chad Remington in Frontier Town. In 1945 he was involved in a serious car accident on the way to a screen test which resulted in a large scar on his forehead.[6]

Chandler had acted on radio in Rogue's Gallery with Dick Powell, who was impressed enough to give the actor his first film role, a one-line part as a gangster in Johnny O'Clock (1947).[7]

His performance as Boynton in Our Miss Brooks brought him to the attention of executives at Universal, who were looking for someone to play an Israeli leader in Sword in the Desert (1948).[8] Chandler was cast and impressed the studio so much he ended up being signed to Universal for a seven-year contract.

Jeff Chandler at Capernaum during a visit to Israel in 1959

Stardom[edit]

Chandler's first movie for Universal under his new contract was Abandoned (1949), then he was borrowed by 20th Century Fox to play Cochise in Broken Arrow (1950). This film was a considerable hit, earning Chandler an Oscar nomination and establishing him as a star. He later reprised the role as the legendary Apache chief in The Battle at Apache Pass (1952) and in a cameo in Taza, Son of Cochise (1954). He was the first actor nominated for an Academy Award for portraying an American Indian.

Chandler's success in Broken Arrow led to him being cast as a variety of nationalities from different historical periods, such as an Arab chief in Flame of Araby (1951) and a Polynesian in Bird of Paradise (1951). He also played an embittered Union cavalryman in Two Flags West (1950).[9] In 1952 exhibitors voted him the 22nd most popular star in the US[10] and he signed a fresh contract with Universal.[11]

20th Century-Fox was keen to use Chandler again and put forward roles in such films as The Day the Earth Stood Still, Lydia Bailey, Les Miserables and The Secret of Convict Lake.[2] However, Universal had an exclusive contract and they kept him working at the studio.

During the latter part of the decade and into the early 1960s, Chandler became a top leading man. His sex appeal, prematurely gray hair, and ruggedly handsome tanned features put him into drama and costume movies. Among the movies of this period are Female on the Beach (1955), Foxfire (1955), Away All Boats (1956), Toy Tiger (1956), Drango (1957), The Tattered Dress (1957), Man in the Shadow (1957), A Stranger in My Arms (1959), The Jayhawkers! (1959), Thunder in the Sun (1959), and Return to Peyton Place (1961).[7] His leading ladies included June Allyson, Joan Crawford, Rhonda Fleming, Maureen O'Hara, Kim Novak, Jane Russell, Esther Williams, and his Brooklyn friend Susan Hayward. His agent was Doovid Barskin of The Barskin Agency in the late 50s.

In 1957 Chandler left Universal and signed a contract with United Artists. Having long desired to be an executive[12] he formed his own company, Earlmar Productions, with agent Meyer Mishkin. Together they produced the film Drango (1957), which Chandler also directed for a few weeks.

Chandler was due to star in Operation Petticoat (1959) but fell ill and had to pull out.[6] He later formed another production company, August, for which he made The Plunderers, at Allied Artists.

Singing[edit]

Chandler had a concurrent career as a singer and recording artist, releasing several albums and playing nightclubs. In 1955 he became only the second star to play at the Riviera, after Liberace was the featured headliner. In her autobiography Hold the Roses (2002), Rose Marie wrote that “Jeff Chandler was a great guy, but he was no singer. He put together an act and we opened at the Riviera. He came with a conductor, piano player, light man, press agent, and manager. None of it helped”. And “Everybody raved about Jeff’s singing, but let’s face it: He really didn’t sing very well. He definitely had guts to open in Vegas”. He left to work on a movie after three and a half weeks.

Personal life[edit]

Chandler married actress Marjorie Hoshelle (1918–1989) in 1946. The couple had two daughters, Jamie Tucker (1947–2003) and Dana Grossel (1949–2002), before separating in 1954.[13] They reconciled but his wife applied for divorce again in 1957.

Both of Chandler's daughters died of cancer, as did his mother, maternal aunt, uncle and grandfather.

When his friend Sammy Davis, Jr. lost an eye in an accident and was in danger of losing the other, Chandler offered to give Davis one of his own eyes.[14] Chandler himself had nearly lost an eye and had been visibly scarred in an auto accident years earlier.

He was romantically linked with Esther Williams, who claimed in her 1999 autobiography Chandler was a cross dresser and she broke off the relationship. According to the Los Angeles Times, many friends and colleagues of Chandler's refuted Williams' claims. Jane Russell commented, "I've never heard of such a thing. Cross-dressing is the last thing I would expect of Jeff. He was a sweet guy, definitely all man."[15]

His public support for Israel prompted the United Arab Republic to ban his films in Arab countries in 1960.[4]

Death[edit]

Shortly after completing his role in Merrill's Marauders in 1961, Chandler injured his back while playing baseball with U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers who served as extras in the movie. He entered a Culver City hospital and had surgery for a spinal disc herniation, on May 13, 1961. There were severe complications; an artery was damaged and Chandler hemorrhaged. In a seven-and-a-half-hour emergency operation over-and-above the original surgery, he was given 55 pints of blood. Another operation followed, date unknown, where he received an additional 20 pints of blood. He died on June 17, 1961. His death was deemed malpractice and resulted in a large lawsuit and settlement for his children.[7][16]

At the time he was romantically involved with British actress Barbara Shelley. Tony Curtis and Gerald Mohr were among the pallbearers at Chandler's funeral. He was interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, in Culver City, California.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Chandler has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1770 Vine Street.

Critical appraisal[edit]

Film historian David Shipman once wrote this analysis of Chandler:

Jeff Chandler looked as though he had been dreamed up by one of those artists who specialise in male physique studies or, a mite further up the artistic scale, he might have been plucked bodily from some modern mural on a biblical subject. For that he had the requisite Jewishness (of which he was very proud) – and he was not quite real. Above all, he was impossibly handsome. He would never have been lost in a crowd, with that big, square, sculpted 20th-century face and his prematurely grey wavy hair. If the movies had not found him the advertising agencies would have done – and in fact, whenever you saw a still of him you looked at his wrist-watch or pipe before realising that he wasn't promoting something. In the coloured stills and on posters his studio always showed his hair as blue, heightening the unreality. His real name was Ira Grossel and his film-name was exactly right.[5]

An obituary of Chandler stated

Known for his careful attention to detail in making pictures, Chandler was often described as introverted. But colleagues who worked with him closely said he had an easy, light-hearted approach on the set that helped ease some of the strain of production.[4]

Influence[edit]

The famed animated action-adventure series Jonny Quest's handsome, white-haired, veteran special agent bodyguard Race Bannon's design was modeled after Jeff Chandler.

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1947 Johnny O'Clock Turk Uncredited (film debut)
1947 The Invisible Wall Al Conway, henchman
1947 Roses Are Red Knuckles
1949 Mr. Belvedere Goes to College Police Officer #66 Uncredited
1949 Sword in the Desert Kurta Led to Chandler signing a long-term contract with Universal
1949 Abandoned Chief MacRae Alternative title: Abandoned Woman
1950 Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion Narrator Uncredited
1950 Broken Arrow Cochise Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor
1950 Deported Vic Smith
1950 The Desert Hawk Opening Off-Screen Narrator Uncredited
1950 Two Flags West Major Henry Kenniston
1951 Double Crossbones Narrator Uncredited
1951 Bird of Paradise Tenga
1951 Smuggler's Island Steve Kent
1951 Iron Man Coke Mason
1951 Flame of Araby Tamerlane Alternative title: Flame of the Desert
1952 The Battle at Apache Pass Cochise
1952 Red Ball Express Lt. Chick Campbell
1952 Son of Ali Baba Opening Narrator Uncredited
1952 Yankee Buccaneer Cmdr. David Porter
1952 Because of You Steve Kimberly
1953 Girls in the Night Off-Screen Narrator at Finish Uncredited
Alternative title: Life After Dark
1953 The Great Sioux Uprising Jonathan Westgate
1953 East of Sumatra Duke Mullane
1953 War Arrow Major Howell Brady
1954 Taza, Son of Cochise Cochise Uncredited
1954 Yankee Pasha Jason Starbuck
1954 Sign of the Pagan Marcian
1955 Foxfire Jonathan Dartland
1955 Female on the Beach Drummond Hall
1955 The Spoilers Roy Glennister
1956 The Toy Tiger Rick Todd
1956 Away All Boats Captain Jebediah S. Hawks
1956 Pillars of the Sky First Sergeant Emmett Bell Alternative title: The Tomahawk and the Cross
1957 The Tattered Dress James Gordon Blane
1957 Jeanne Eagels Sal Satori
1957 Drango Major Clint Drango Also produced
1957 Man in the Shadow Ben Sadler Alternative titles: Pay the Devil
Seeds of Wrath
1958 The Lady Takes a Flyer Mike Dandridge Alternative titles: A Game Called Love
Lion in the Sky
Wild and Wonderful
1958 Raw Wind in Eden Mark Moore/Scott Moorehouse
1959 A Stranger in My Arms Major Pike Yarnell Alternative title: And Ride a Tiger
1959 Thunder in the Sun Lon Bennett
1959 Ten Seconds to Hell Karl Wirtz Alternative title: The Phoenix
1959 The Jayhawkers! Luke Darcy
1960 A Story of David King David Alternative title: A Story of David: The Hunted
1960 The Plunderers Sam Christy Also producer
1961 Return to Peyton Place Lewis Jackman
1962 Merrill's Marauders Brig. Gen. Frank D. Merrill

Unfilmed projects[edit]

Chandler was announced for the following projects which were not made:

  • The Last Count (1949)[17]
  • Vermillion O'Toole (1952)[18]
  • Young Moses (1954)[19]
  • The Islander (1957) with Esther Williams[20]
  • Lincoln McEever (1957) – for his own production company[21]

Award nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Title of work Result
1951 Academy Awards Best Actor in a Supporting Role Broken Arrow Nominated
1958 Laurel Awards Top Male Star
-
14th Place
1959 Laurel Awards Top Male Star
-
15th Place

Box office rankings[edit]

For a number of years, film exhibitors voted Chandler among the top stars at the box office.

  • 1952 – 22nd (USA)[22]
  • 1955 – 7th (UK)[23]

Select radio credits[edit]

Regular role[edit]

Guest appearances[edit]

  • "Young Mr. Lincoln" — Academy Award Theatre (July 10, 1946)
  • "Photo Finish" — Suspense (July 1946)
  • "With Cradle and Clock" — Cavalcade of America (February 2, 1946)
  • "Gregory Hood, Suspect" — Casebook of Gregory Hood (September 30, 1946)
  • "Blood On Sun" — Academy Award Theatre (October 16, 1946)
  • "The Black Curtain" — Suspense (January 3, 1948)
  • "Snake Doctor" — Escape (February 8, 1948)
  • "Blond Mink", "Leopard's Spots", "Social Error", "Palm Beach Santa Claus" — Damon Runyon Theatre (1949)
  • "Steel River Prison Break" — Suspense (September 3, 1951)
  • "The Woodsman" — The Woodsman (July 20, 1952)
  • "My True Love's Heir" — Suspense (October 19, 1953)
  • "A Good Neighbor" — Suspense (March 31, 1957)

Discography[edit]

  • "I Should Care"
  • "More Than Anyone"

Further reading[edit]

  • Hoffmann, Henryk. "A" Western Filmmakers. McFarland & Co., 2000.
  • Kirk, Marilyn. Jeff Chandler'. 1st Books Library/AuthorHouse, 2003.
  • Marie, Rose. Hold the Roses. University Press of Kentucky, 2002.
  • Wells, Jeff. Jeff Chandler: Film, Record, Radio, Television and Theater Performances. McFarland & Co., 2005.
  • Williams, Esther. The Million Dollar Mermaid. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wells, Jeff (2005). Jeff Chandler: film, record, radio, television and theater performances. McFarland & Co. p. 5. ISBN 0-7864-2001-4. 
  2. ^ a b Fame Has Its Fee For Jeff Chandler By Richard L. Coe. The Washington Post and Times Herald (1954–1959) [Washington, D.C] 31 Mar 1954: 22.
  3. ^ Big Chief!: As an Indian, Jeff Chandler caused countless feminine hearts to flutter; now, in straight dramatic roles, he's a box office smash. Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) [Chicago, Ill] 09 November 1952: i9.
  4. ^ a b c 'Jeff Chandler Is Dead; Blame Blood Poison: Jeff Chandler', Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 18 June 1961: f1.
  5. ^ a b David Shipman, The Great Movie Stars: The International Years, London:Macdonald, 1989, p.97
  6. ^ a b Jeff Chandler overview at TCM
  7. ^ a b c Jeff Wells. Jeff Chandler: Film, Record, Radio, Television and Theater Performances. McFarland, 2005.
  8. ^ WELLMAN DIRECTOR OF 'BATTLEGROUND': METRO NAMES HIM TO HANDLE FILM OF BATTLE OF THE BULGE – CRAIG IN 'SIDE STREET' By THOMAS F. BRADYSpecial to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923–Current file) [New York, N.Y] 25 Feb 1949: 28.
  9. ^ Hedda Hopper, 'Jeff Chandler Man of Many Faces: He Can Play Any Kind Of Character Role, and is a Glamor Guy, Too Hedda Hopper Writes of Jeff Chandler', Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) [Chicago, Ill] 06 May 1951: c8.
  10. ^ "Martin And Lewis Top U.S. Film Poll.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842–1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 27 December 1952. p. 3. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  11. ^ Film Unit Opposes Foreign Ventures: A.F.L. Council Opens Campaign to Halt Cheaper Production Abroad by U. S. Studios Special to The New York Times. New York Times (1923–Current file) [New York, N.Y] 10 July 1952: 27.
  12. ^ FAME ISN'T ENOUGH!: OUTSPOKEN STAR WOULD LIKE TO FORSAKE THE FILMS AND BECOME AN EXECUTIVE Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) [Chicago, Ill] 26 Dec 1954: e11.
  13. ^ "Jeff Chandler.". The Australian Women's Weekly (1933–1982) (1933–1982: National Library of Australia). 21 July 1954. p. 35. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  14. ^ Davis Jr., Sammy: Yes I Can, The Story of Sammy Davis Jr., New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (1965) ISBN 0-374-52268-5
  15. ^ Lovell, Glenn (1999-10-27). "Esther Williams Is All Wet, Say Friends of the Late Jeff Chandler". latimes.com. Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  16. ^ Jeff Chandler Heirs Settle for $233,358 Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 21 Feb 1962: A1. Turn on hit highlighting for speaking browsers
  17. ^ Lancaster, Hecht Buy Mailer Novel: Actor to Play Lieut. Hearn Role in 'The Naked and the Dead' for Norma Productions By Thomas F. Brady, Special to The New York Times. New York Times (1923–Current file) [New York, N.Y] 17 Aug 1949: 18.
  18. ^ Looking at Hollywood: Ann Sheridan, Jeff Chandler to Star in 'Vermilion O'Toole' Hedda Hopper'S Staff. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) [Chicago, Ill] 17 Mar 1952: b3.
  19. ^ Looking at Hollywood: Jeff Chandler Visualizes Self in Movie Role of Young Moses Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) [Chicago, Ill] 13 July 1954: a5.
  20. ^ Jeff Chandler Will Costar in 'Islander' Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 02 May 1957: C8.
  21. ^ 'McKeever' Ready Soon for Jeff Chandler; New Drug Feature Planned Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 02 Feb 1957: B3.
  22. ^ "Martin And Lewis Top U.S. Film Poll.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842–1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 27 December 1952. p. 3. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  23. ^ 'Dirk Bogarde favorite film actor', The Irish Times (1921–Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 29 Dec 1955: 9.

External links[edit]