Who knew. I didn’t. Douglas Spencer, the breezy reporter from “The Thing from Another World” who warned the world to “watch the skies”, was Ray Milland’s stand-in for many years.
I enjoyed re-watching ALIAS NICK BEAL (1949) on blu-Ray, and later I watched it again with the audio commentary by Eddie Muller. (When Mr. Muller speaks, I listen!) Plus, Eddie has said this will be his last commentary.
The John Farrow film is basically the story of good versus evil, good in the form of Joseph Foster (Thomas Mitchell), a crusading District Attorney who wants to nail a gangster but can’t quite get enough evidence – until the mysterious Nick Beal (Ray Milland) appears and offers Foster exactly what he needs to get a conviction.
Foster is then persuaded to run for Governor and begins to lose some of his values, as Nick Beal provides an easy road to success. Audrey Totter is added to the cauldron mix as encouragement to take the wrong spike in the road.
Foster is well along the path of sacrificing integrity for political gain.
Thomas Mitchell is maybe just a little too old for the part – his character says he is 47 – Mitchell was 57 but looked a decade older. But a great actor.
Eddie Muller is obviously a big fan of Audrey Totter, having met her several times and interviewed her for his book, “Dark City Dames”. He describes her as completely unlike her screen characters – sweet,sensible and down to earth.
In the film there is a too sudden switch from a girl of the streets to a rich lady who donates time and money to Foster’s campaign for Governor. But I’m with Eddie, Audrey Totter can do no wrong.
A great part for Ray Milland who appears and disappears at will. And generally with a lot of fog around. He wants the soul of Foster, it’s almost a game to him.
Eddie made an interesting point that he could see Cary Grant in the role – definitely!
Apparently director John Farrow chose to do this film rather than THE GREAT GATSBY with Alan Ladd.
A surprise to see the suave villain ,George Macready,here playing a man of the cloth. Of course he does it well, but it is not a big part and I don’t know why Maccready would do it – unless he hoped it would stop his typecasting. But he was such a good bad guy!
Audrey begins to wonder who Nick Beal really is.
Audrey gets a good line after Beal offers her a swanky apartment and a wardrobe of furs –
“What do I gotta do, Murder?”
Beal’s reply: “Just the opposite, reform work in a boy’s club.” ( The Foster character helps out in a boy’s club .)
Also in the cast ,Fred Clark as a racketeer who likes to have politicians in his pocket, and Geraldine Wall, very well cast as Thomas Mitchell’s wife who realises Nick Beal is up to no good.
“Alias Nick Beal” became THE CONTACT MAN when released in the U.K. Have no idea why the change was necessary.
Last word about Douglas Spencer.(1910-1960)
As well as stand-in duties, Douglas appeared in several Ray Milland films – The Lost Weekend, Kitty, The Big Clock, It Happens Every Spring and A Man Alone.
He has some scenes with Milland in “Alias Nick Beal”, as a crooked bookkeeper.
He also appeared in many other films – Shane, This Island Earth and of course The Thing From Another World.
He was only 50 when he died from diabetes complications.
Eddie should know that Cary Grant would never play a villain. (Or a devil)
Hitchcock nearly succeeded in “Suspicion”! But the censors intervened.
Yes, Cary was happier playing an angel.
Ahh I love Ray Milland so I’ll have to see this! Thanks for this great review!
Thanks, Virginie. I’m sure you will like it.