Sunday, November 22, 2015

Allyn Joslyn - Pompous but Adorable

If you are not an unabashed Allyn Joslyn fan then the first thing you will be thinking as you look to the right at this profile would be "Oh yes, that guy. He always plays unscrupulous fellows or pompous bores." And d'you know what? It's true, he often did...so if you like you can stop reading here. But, mark my words, there will come a time when you will be watching a movie with Allyn Joslyn in it and you'll find yourself saying "I like this guy! ( bore or not )". And then you'll wish you read on....

There's something about Joslyn's style that makes him likable in spite of the crummy characters he often played during the fifteen years he spent working at 20th Century Fox. His characters were never outright villains, they were just disreputable people not even worthy of being hissed at - unscrupulous journalists, cowards, grinning two-timers, and ( he may not have played this part but he could have ) men that would welsh on a bet. 

Allyn Joslyn was born in Milford, Pennsylvania on July 21, 1901. Directly out of high school he embarked on a career in acting and was kept busy throughout the 1920s playing on Broadway at theatres such as the Morosco, Apollo, and Garrick. It was his performance as Robert Law in "Boy Meets Girl" ( which also featured another famous character actor, Jerome Cowan ) that led him to Hollywood where he got his first film role as a brash reporter in 1937's They Won't Forget starring Claude Rains. It was an unsavory role for ones debut but Joslyn did not care. He would take on many more roles like this in his future. That's what I like about Joslyn. He'd tackle anything and don't think he didn't. Remember the character Chic Clark in My Sister Eileen ( 1943 )? He was the reporter that made unwelcome advances towards Eileen. That was Joslyn's role, by gum. Striped suits and spats fitted him so well. 


He played another reporter in the film noir classic I Wake Up Screaming ( 1941 ) and who can forget Don Ameche's obnoxious cousin Albert in the Ernst Lubitsch comedy Heaven Can Wait? What a snob! 

Joslyn could play lily-livered characters with such excellence that he made them appealing, so it's no wonder that when he played good-hearted men he was twice as lovable. In Immortal Sergeant, he was Cassidy, one of the five soldiers stranded in the North African desert during WWII. Here he portrayed a very Robert Coote-ish English soldier character. The men were lost and had to endure hunger and thirst but who was the only soldier who didn't complain? Cassidy. He even had a broken leg to put up with. When Cottrel ( played by Morton Lowry ) suggested that they leave the body of their sergeant behind without a decent Christian burial, Cassidy gave him a good piece of his mind. 

Another beloved role - Mortimor Brewster. Yes, you read that right. He starred as Mortimor in the original stage production of "Arsenic and Old Lace" at the Fulton Theatre on Broadway which played for an impressive 1444 performances. He managed to squeeze in 3-4 films a year while "Arsenic" was in production too. Jean Adair, Josephine Hull and John Alexander would go on to reprise their roles in Hollywood while Boris Karloff and Allyn Joslyn were surprisingly left out. 

In 1943 he received star-billing in Dangerous Blondes, a light-hearted romp where he and Evelyn Keyes portrayed a husband and wife detective duo attempting to solve the murder of a fashion photographer. This film never earned itself a sequel, but for his next film Joslyn once again got a prominent part - Strange Confession ( 1944 ). This was a more serious WW2 role compared to the stuffy comic Nazi he played in The Wife Takes a Flyer several years earlier. 

In the comedy Junior Miss ( 1948 ) Joslyn played a loving father who had to endure the hijinks of his two teenage daughters. Joslyn was a family man in real life, too ( with one daughter, rather than two ) so this character probably came easy to him. In fact, he was one of the few Hollywood actors who married once and for keeps. 

During the late 1940s and early 1950s he had a number of roles in popular films such as Harriet Craig, The Jazz Singer, If You Knew Susie, and Island in the Sky where he played J.H Handy, one of the crew members of the Douglas C-47 that makes a forced landing in the uncharted wildlands of Labrador. 

Any part that came Joslyn's way he grabbed and because of that he had steady work and his mustached face could be seen in dramas, musicals, westerns and comedies. A particularly good part was that of Clem Otis in Moonrise ( 1948 ) the kind and philosophical sheriff who's on the trail of Danny ( Dane Clark ) a man who is haunted by his father's criminal past. 

Joslyn once again donned the striped suit in Titanic ( 1953 ) returning to the slimy depths to play the ultimate of degradable characters - Earl Meeker, the man who dressed himself as a woman in order to sneak onto a lifeboat. You gotta love this guy. Even Clifton Webb is giving him a shameful glance and Webb was no saint himself in this film. 


When television became a staple in American's homes Joslyn switched to the new medium and was seen in numerous anthology "theater" productions as well as sitcoms. He had a recurring role as George Howall in The Eve Arden Show ( 1957 ) and later a starring role in his own series McKeever and the Colonel ( 1963 ) which lasted only one season.

After a brief part in The Addams Family ( 1966 ) as truant officer Sam Hilliard, Joslyn decided to call it quits and retired, returning to films once last time as a sheriff in The Brothers O'Toole ( 1973 ).                                                                                                  
This post is our contribution the fabulous What a Character! blogathon celebrating all the actors who faces we know but not their names. Be sure to head on over to Once Upon a Screen, Paula's Cinema Club or Outspoken and Freckled to check out the complete line-up of posts. 

11 comments:

  1. As Aunt Abby told Jonathan, "We're very fond of Mortimer." A versatile performer whose talent is as appreciated by fans as it was by producers and directors.

    PS: My very first post after joining the CMBA was a piece on Allyn Joslyn back in 2011. My, how time flies!

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    1. You picked a great actor to write your CMBA debut post about! I'll head on over to your site to read your take on Joslyn.

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  2. Great character actor. Lovely tribute.

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    1. Thanks Vienna, we're glad you agree ( that Joslyn was a great character actor that is ).

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  3. Thanks for a great post on Joslyn, one of those so-familiar types who always delights us. I had not known of his couple starring or more prominent roles.

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    1. It's worth checking out Junior Miss, he's delightful in that movie.

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  4. It's always a treat to see Allyn Joslyn onscreen. He was always believable, and he didn't seem too protective of his onscreen image. He knew the type of man his character was and he seemed to immerse himself in it. Great bio of a very talented actor!

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    1. Thanks Ruth! That's one of the qualities I like most about all the character actors - they didn't really care about their screen image/persona and because of that they just gave their all in every role and oftentimes outshone the stars.

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  5. Versatile but so underrated! So glad someone covered Joslyn (and in such a terrific post), he's always been my favourite overlooked talent.

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  6. When I did Heaven Can Wait for the Criterion Blogathon, I was surprised to rewatch the film and notice how funny Joslyn was. His character may be a twerp, but he was fabulous. And I didn't remember Joslyn in The Addams Family until I read this. Great post!

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