Dorothy Malone, 1925–2018

On Film / The Daily — Jan 21, 2018

“Although the Hollywood star Dorothy Malone, who has died aged ninety-three, appeared in only a handful of works of distinction in a fairly lengthy career, they were good enough to secure her place in film history,” writes Ronald Bergan for the Guardian. “On those occasions when the role permitted, most notably in two flamboyant melodramas directed by Douglas Sirk, Written on the Wind (1956) and The Tarnished Angels (1957), Malone revealed what a talented performer she could be, one capable of projecting a potent blend of cynicism, sexuality, and intelligence. However, she was probably most familiar to the general public as Constance MacKenzie in Peyton Place (1964–68), one of the first primetime TV soap operas.”

Writing for the New York Times, Anita Gates notes that “she was first noticed, by audiences and the film industry alike, in The Big Sleep (1946), in which she played a seductive bookstore clerk who took off her glasses, loosened her brown hair (Ms. Malone’s natural hair color) and invited Humphrey Bogart to stay awhile.”

Writing about that scene for the Chiseler, David Cairns notes that director Howard Hawks “loves indirect, coded dialogue, blending slang, jargon, innuendo, metaphor and heavily accented subtext, but beneath that he likes the blatant come-on, the frank challenge. I don’t think he ever found a more nakedly lustful avatar of straightforwardness than Dorothy Malone. . . . The whole thing is probably the most sex-positive scene in classic Hollywood, with no romance, no tut-tutting, just desire aroused and sated, respectfully. Malone might know she’s naughty, but she’s shameless, and Hawks and Bogart and the audience agree they like her that way. ‘So long, pal,’ says Marlowe as he leaves.”

Update, 1/25: “More than fifty years ago, the 1964-1965 season, Grace Metalious’s scandalous best-selling novel, Peyton Place, came to ABC television, showing off an unusually classy cast of newcomers led by Mia Farrow, Ryan O’Neal, and Barbara Parkins,” writes Gerald Peary for the Arts Fuse. “But it was the glamorous Dorothy Malone, who died last week at age 92, who was the featured performer.” And she “received top billing for playing the tight-skirted, bouffant-coiffured mother of Farrow’s love-struck teenager. ‘I was the first movie star to plunge into night-time soap opera,’ Malone, then 60, told me when we met in 1985 at her choice of a place for an interview, the Dallas Country Club.” Peary looks back on the interview he conducted more than thirty years ago now.

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