Thursday, April 20, 2017

Random thoughts on Ron Randell

Heard of him? He was an Australian actor who leapt to national fame when cast in the title role of the biopic Smithy (1946), about Charles Kingsford Smith. The film was financed by Columbia Pictures who signed Randell to a long term contract and whisked him off to Hollywood.

He started well, given the role of Bulldog Drummond in two quickies (low budget, to be sure, but that's how Ray Milland got started) and support roles in some A productions like It Had to be You and The Loves of Carmen. But then they lost enthusiasm. Randell's career never really recovered - as a star prospect, that is. As an actor he had an entirely decent career, and he worked for the rest of his life.

It's a CV not exactly littered with gems but there was solid work - including stage appearances in Bent and The World of Suzie Wong, lots of compere gigs, impressing in King of Kings, turning up in films like Kiss Me Kate and I am Camera, as well as a lot of B pictures.

He was handsome, confident and could act. How come he didn't become a bigger name? If not Errol Flynn proportions then why not say Rod Taylor?  A couple of reasons, I think (this is all wisdom in hindsight of course)... he lacked a certain spark on screen. He wasn't terribly memorable - there were plenty of handsome men floating around, then as now. Despite extensive radio experience, he didn't have an imposing speaking voice, an under-rated quality when it comes to actors. It's possible he was distracted by his private life - he was married and divorced a number of times. He may have been a whinger - he publicly complained about the Bulldog Drummond films, which feels ungrateful. Maybe he just didn't get the breaks - a good role in a hit, in particular.

Ken Hall always seemed to feel a bit awkward he picked Randell to play Smithy over Peter Finch. But it's easy to see why - Randell had the looks; and in A Son is Born he steals the film from Finch in a dynamic performance. Finch didn't grow into his looks for another decade. You can't help but wonder if Ron Randell was a star that got away...

No comments: