Mssrs. Howard Hughes, Jack L. Warner, Dore Schary, Louis B. Mayer
and Y. Frank Freeman.
Do yourself a favor. Sign up Gerald Mohr.
This young fellow is going to be one of the great star names of Hollywood - and that soon.
I know it's a flat statement for the old girl to go out on a limb with on a nice, sunny Sunday morning like this, and I've made guesses before and wound up with egg splattered all over this pretty face.
But this time I'll make book. This is a prediction and a promise. This guy, who only had a couple of scenes but almost bodily stole "Detective Story," will shortly be on the theatre marquees in the King Brothers "The Ring" and in "Invasion, U.S.A", and when the industry and the public see him in these two new pictures, he, I repeat, will be a star…"
- Public Relations Letter/Release from "Redoff," Gerald Mohr's agent, 1952Whether portraying characters as disparate as a newsman caught in the middle of World War III or an astronaut confronting a giant spider on Mars, B-movie actor extraordinaire Gerald Mohr never broke a sweat. He delivered every line like it was an afterthought and did as little as possible in whatever scene he happened to be appearing in. The cinematic vehicles may not have been of the highest caliber, but Mohr embodied the middle-aged casual cool of the 1950s and that's what we remember best about him today.
Unfairly labeled and promoted as a Humphrey Bogart clone, Mohr appeared mostly in crime pictures, westerns and the odd sci-fi and horror movie. Did Bogie ever go to Mars? Or battle ghosts? No. Mohr had the greater range of roles, but his approach never wavered. He was a B-movie actor and he knew it. While Bogart tended to act and act well, Mohr seemingly could care less about modulating his performances.
The Mohr magic radiates throughout all his work, but he will always be remembered here at CONELRAD for his definitive role as Vince Potter in INVASION USA. It is a performance that will speak to the ages.
From the moment Mohr strides into the bar at the beginning of the film to the moment his character dies at the hands of Russian goons, he literally owns every scene he's in. He plays a television newscaster whose delivery style is so detached one can easily imagine his audience missing the severity of what he is reporting.
The fact that Mohr manages to emerge from the destruction of New York City with his suit and tie intact best illustrates why Mohr is the King of Atomic Cool. What other actor could have pulled this feat off? His very lack of method, but abundance of charm enabled Mohr to glide effortlessly through any situation - even nuclear war. Indeed, he expends more energy slapping Mamie Van Doren around in 1959's GUNS, GIRLS, AND GANGSTERS, than he does dodging falling buildings in INVASION USA.
Just who was Gerald Mohr? Despite his being in more than 60 movies and numerous television and radio series, very little has been written about the man. That is, until now…
Mr. Mohr was born in New York City on June 11, 1914, the son of Gerald Mohr, Sr. and Henrietta Noustadt, a Viennese singer. Mohr's grandfather, who helped raise the boy upon Mohr, Sr.'s sudden death, was a psychologist and associate of Sigmund Freud. With the encouragement of his grandfather, the younger Mohr would become an avid student of the father of psychoanalysis.
As a child, Mohr attended the prestigious Dwight Preparatory School in New York where he learned to ride horses, play chess and speak French and German fluently. He also played his own piano compositions at school recitals. While still a high school student, the ambitious young man entered show business as a staff broadcaster for CBS radio. Three years later Mohr, who was then a premed student at Columbia University, found himself anchoring coverage of the burning of the ocean liner Morro Castle off the coast of Atlantic City. The show biz bug had bit and Dr. Mohr was not to be.
Broadcasting led Mohr to join Orson Welles' prestigious Mercury Theater group which in turn led to his Broadway debut as a gangster in the same hit play that had launched Bogart: "The Petrified Forrest." In 1939 the budding actor married his childhood sweetheart Rita Deneau. In 1947 Rita would give birth to their one son, Anthony. Throughout his early career the actor continued his presence in radio, starring in such series as "The Adventures of Phillip Marlowe," "Johnny Dollar," "The Whistler," and "Suspense." Later, he also narrated some of the State Department's Voice of America broadcasts.
Mohr's first major film role was the 1942 Barbara Stanwyck vehicle THE LADY OF BURLESQUE which he was offered after Orson Welles recommended him to director William Wellman. During World War II, Mohr enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Upon his return to civilian life, he managed to get cast in the classic Rita Hayworth film GILDA.
In the late forties Mohr entered into a long-term contract to star in the THE LONE WOLF series of B-grade mystery films. He inherited the title role from Warren William. After starring in several of these pictures, Mohr felt he was becoming too identified with the character. As his agent colorfully put it: "Once a player is typed in one of the "B" whodunit series, the public won't permit him to play Charley's aunt in an amateur dramatic festival at Pismo Beach."
When Mohr asked the studio to be released from his LONE WOLF contract, they refused citing the box office for the series was still strong. But later, when the studio neglected to renew an option by just one day, Mohr managed to extricate himself and promptly got himself cast in the Kirk Douglas film DETECTIVE STORY (1951).
It was on the strength of his small performance in DETECTIVE STORY that led Mohr to be cast in INVASION USA. As Mohr's agent recounted in her press release: IUSA producer Albert Zugsmith was at Elinor Parker's (the female lead in DETECTIVE STORY) house one evening in 1952. The flamboyant Zugsmith was complaining that he had already tested four actors for the part of Vince Potter, the lead role in his upcoming World War III picture. "Elinor," wrote Mohr's agent, "so raved about him that the next day he was signed without a (screen) test…"
Mohr's career from this point forward wasn't exactly a skyrocket. It was more of a steady stream of genre pictures and television guest spots and leads (he played Christopher Storm on the syndicated "Foreign Intrigue" series for from 1954-1955). He also distinguished himself as America's preeminent "Psychorama" actor by starring in the only two movies that featured the gimmicky subliminal effect: MY WORLD DIES SCREAMING (AKA TERROR IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE) (1958) and DATE WITH DEATH. In the trailers for the latter film, Mohr warns that "Psychorama" (a "revolutionary new process through which images are subliminally impressed on the brain") is "controversial" and was "banned on television for being too powerful."
If the actor's career wasn't red hot during this period, his personal life had started to make headlines:
WIFE SUES ACTOR FOR DIVORCE"Actor Gerald Mohr was sued for divorce yesterday by his wife of 18 years, Mrs. Rita Mohr. Mrs. Mohr charged in the complaint filed in Santa Monica Superior Court that her husband had caused her great and grievous mental suffering and anguish…"
- Los Angeles Times, June 21, 1957
MOHR FAMILY HOME WON BY CHILDHOOD SWEETHEART
-Los Angeles Times, July 2, 1957Incredibly, less than a month after filing for divorce, Rita won custody of their son Anthony and their property at 4179 Hazeltine Ave. in Sherman Oaks, California.
GERALD MOHR WEDS FORMER SCRIPT GIRL"Actor Gerald Mohr, 44, and former script girl Mai Dietrich, 37, were married in Beverly Hills last night. The ceremony was performed by actress Gloria Winters, who is an ordained minister, at the home of attorney Sidney Fischgrand."
- Hollywood Citizen News, July 8, 1958
MOHR'S EX ASKS $$ HIKE-GETS CUT"What Mrs. Rita Mohr wanted when she entered Santa Monica Superior Court today was an increase in child support payments by her ex-husband, actor Gerald Mohr. What she got was a $10 per week reduction…"
- Los Angeles Examiner, May 21, 1959The article goes on to reveal that Mohr's income in 1958 was $18,000.00.
Film roles were few and far between in the 1960's and Mohr retreated to the small screen for much of the rest of his career. One of his low points was playing a wife-beater who is hit in the head with a lead pipe by fed-up spouse Carolyn Jones (Morticia Addams) in a 1962 installment of The Dick Powell Show anthology series entitled "The Sea Witch." Mohr was in Stockholm, Sweden producing and starring in a new TV series when he succumbed to heart failure on November 9, 1968. Ironically, his most prestigious film appearance was his last, that of Tom Branca in Barbra Streisand's FUNNY GIRL (1968).
Though Mohr's agent's prediction as quoted in the introduction to this appreciation never fully panned out, it might gratify "the old girl" to know that her long-deceased client is now the subject of a sincere effort by a nationally recognized website to spark a Mohr revival. To date the actor's progression to icon status has been a slow, uncertain one (few of his films are even available on legitimate video). It is CONELRAD's fervent hope that this albeit brief tribute will grease the fickle tumblers of pop culture so that, perhaps, someday, Mohr will elevated to the stature he so richly deserves. Until such time, you are invited to seek out the films listed below and spread the word about the one, the only Gerald Mohr.
Special thanks to Linda C. Wood, a Gerald Mohr fan without peer.
|© 1999-2005 CONELRAD.COM|
ATOMIC SECRETS | SOVIET AMERICA | CONELRAD 100 | ATOMIC MUSIC | YELLOW PAGES | ABOUT US