Are Today’s Comets Tomorrow’s Stars? (Motion Picture, November 1957)

This post is a part of the Historical Context series, where I share excerpts from my vintage magazine collection.

It’s also a landmark post: TMP’s 1,000th article!

In the November 1957 issue, Motion Picture magazine selected 12 burgeoning stars to feature in the magazine. Seven of those talents were featured in full profiles, the “comets” who had a good chance of becoming “stars” — actors who had begun to establish a strong presence in the world of film. The others, “6 for Tomorrow,” were Motion Picture‘s second-string picks for the all-star casts of the future.

(Photographed by Lindsey for TMP)
(Photographed by Lindsey for TMP)

The Comets

Anthony Franciosa is the first “comet” to be featured. Motion Picture hilariously describes him as “a volcano — locked in the middle of a man.” His Hollywood story is quite spectacular: he used $25 received after giving blood to buy a ticket to Los Angeles in 1952, only to return to his birthplace of New York, where he began acting on Broadway. This brought him back to Hollywood eventually, and 1957 was his breakout year. Having appeared in a couple of small television roles in 1955 and 1956, he made the move to film with This Could be the Night, A Face in the Crowd, A Hatful of Rain and Wild is the Wind in 1957. Motion Picture’s star radar hit the mark with this one. He continued acting in film and television roles through the 1990s.

Natalie Trundy was 17 years old when she landed the second spot on Motion Picture‘s list of “comets,” where she is described as bubbly and cheerful. Like Franciosa, Trundy got her Hollywood start in TV, scoring her first role in 1953. Her first film role was in The Montecarlo Story. “I couldn’t eat for a week when I heard I was going to make my first movie and in Europe!,” Motion Picture quotes. Though name recognition for this actress is low with modern audiences, she did find some success, appearing in various roles in the Planet of the Apes series in the 1970s. After her husband passed away in 1973, she took her career behind the scenes, assuming control of his production company.

Gia Scala (Image via Doctor Macro)
Gia Scala (Image via Doctor Macro)

John Saxon’s profile contains some of the best unintentionally funny midcentury description in the feature. His section of the feature is titled “Sexy Saxon: A fascinating figure emerges from the mist of obscurity.” Saxon was plucked from that obscurity after his photo was published in a confession magazine. His screen career began with uncredited roles in It Should Happen to You and A Star is Born (both released in 1954). By the time this list was published, he had four more credited roles to his name.

Gia Scala is the next star to be featured, under the headline “Mamma mia! Looka’ Gia!” (This magazine could not be any more corny, and I love it.) Scala made five films in 1957, and according to Motion Picture was “vibrant and alive, with a joi de vivre which comes from deep inside her” on screen. She is possibly best known for her 1961 performance as Anna in The Guns of Navarone. Over the next decade she continued to take on a variety of roles, but her promising career was cut short in 1972 when she died of an accidental overdose in her home.

Next up, Motion Picture profiles the best-known star on their list: Joanne Woodward. They’ve, for some reason, nicknamed her the “passionate pilgrim.” Woodward has appeared in a number of memorable films (ten co-starring with her husband, Paul Newman), had one of Hollywood’s most successful two-star marriages, and as recently as 2013 has worked as a voice actress. Her career has had remarkable longevity, and her talent endures to this day.

The sixth and final “comet” is Dean Stockwell, who’d had his start as a child actor in the 1940s with films like The Valley of Decision, Anchors Aweigh and The Green Years. Motion picture says that he “beat the jinx” by taking a few years away from Hollywood and returning to break out of the child star mold in which he had been so well-established.  Stockwell continues to act today, matching Joanne Woodward for career longevity.

Sidney Poitier (Image via Doctor Macro)
Sidney Poitier (Image via Doctor Macro)

6 for Tomorrow

  • James Darren: Motion Picture praises Darren’s “sultry good looks” and says that Rumble on the Docks “shot him to fame.”
  • Inger Stevens:  The mag praises Inger for her success in assimilating to American culture and ridding herself of her Swedish accent after moving to the U.S. at the age of 13. Her Hollywood success came when she was cast in Man on Fire alongside Bing Crosby.
  • Sidney Poitier: Motion Picture calls Poitier “one of the finest new talents in the business,” with “no place to go but up, up, up!” And up he went, starring in some of his greatest roles (A Raisin in the Sun, To Sir with Love, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner to name a few) after 1957.
  • Dolores Michaels: Motion Picture says that Dolores “stole the show” in The Wayward Bus, but that they’d like to see her take on musical roles, since she studied dancing for most of her life. The blurb on Michaels also mentions that she was the first graduate of the 20th Century Fox Talent School. Unfortunately, Dolores quit acting in 1963.
  • Earl Holliman: According to Motion Picture, it took one failed attempt to crack Hollywood as a teen and 13 later roles for Earl Holliman to finally become a star, which he did after taking on a supporting role in The Rainmaker starring Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster. Holliman continued to act until 2000, and also at one time owned a dinner theater in Texas.
  • Heather Sears: Heather Sears impressed Motion Picture with her performance as Esther Costello in The Golden Virgin with Joan Crawford. And Joan Crawford allegedly promised the mag that Heather would be one of the great stars of the future. Sears only racked up 23 total roles by the end of her career, but those roles included The Phantom of the Opera (1962) and a 16-episode stint on The Informer (which ran for 21 episodes in 1966-67).

 

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