Tuesday, October 24, 2006

THE HORN SECTION SALUTES: Forrest Tucker (1919-1986)

It was twenty years ago today: on October 25, 1986, he entire nation mourned a tragic event: Forrest Tucker, the greatest actor who ever lived, passed away from lung cancer at the young age of 67.

Tuck's full obituary from the Los Angeles Times can be viewed here. Of interest: Milton Berle is quoted, but the article makes no mention of their legendary "contest" to determine, once and for all, Hollywood's most, er, gifted actor.

Taking Fort Courage to Reno in April 1967
I've previously reviewed some of Tuck's work here: a two-parter on F Troop: The Complete First Season on DVD, as well as two of his hidden treasures still, for some strange reason, unavailable on DVD (why the Hell not???): the quintessential 1980's action/cheese classic THUNDER RUN and one of his finest character roles, co-starring with fellow Western legends Lee Van Cleef and Warren Oates in the ultraviolent, yet sadly neglected BARQUERO (pictured at the top, with John Davis Chandler).

HELLFIRE (1949) with Jim "Jock Ewing"Davis
There's more hidden Tuck Classics to come here at The Horn Section, but I should take time to recommend some of his films that are available on DVD: SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949) and CHISUM (1970) which feature Tuck going toe-to-toe with John Wayne;

THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN (1957) in which he and Peter Cushing lead an expedition searching for the legendary title creature;

THE CRAWLING EYE (1958), perhaps his most fondly remembered 1950's sci-fi flick (he was an icon in the genre across the pond);

AUNTIE MAME (1958), as Beauregard Burnside, the role that finally made everyone stand up and take notice of his comedic talents; and the fun, melodramatic drive-in sleeper THE WILD McCULLOCHS (1975), Max Baer Jr.'s follow-up to MACON COUNTY LINE in which Tuck shows his dramatic chops as the two-fisted Jock Ewing-esque patriarch of a wealthy Texas family. This film is also noted for a ten minute brawl between Tuck and Baer that inspires dozens of wagers, much collateral damage, and a little old lady imploring Tuck to "kick him in the balls, Mac".

Always underrated during his career, Forrest Tucker wasn't a "one hit wonder" who picked up an Oscar that had people scratching their heads (a la Broderick Crawford) nor did he receive one of those late-in-life Oscar nominations that was largely a lifetime achievement award (a la Jack Palance, James Coburn). He was, however, one of the original recipients of the Golden Boot award in 1983 for his contributions to the western genre.

Starring in CALIFORNIA PASSAGE (1950)
He may not have won an Oscar, an Emmy or a Tony, but Forrest Tucker simply gave one excellent performance after another for 46 years.  Whether he was on stage (did you know he played Professor Harold Hill in THE MUSIC MAN an astounding 2,038 times?), on television, or especially on screen in one of his more than one hundred feature films, Tuck could be counted on to deliver the goods.

Tuck, with Eva Bartok in BREAK IN THE CIRCLE (1957)

R. I. P, Forrest Meredith Tucker.  More reviews forthcoming!

with Allison Hayes (yowza!) in COUNTERPLOT (1959)


Gordon said...

You neglected his sublime, yet assertive performance in COLUMBO: BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER

(I've also added you to my blogroll, BTW)

Hal said...

Thanks for the add, Gordon, and welcome!

Also available, on COLUMBO: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON at that! That's an interesting episode also for the great behind the scenes stories...it was Falk's debut as director (also, I believe his only directing credit for the 1970's run) thanks to his power play with the studio. Levinson and Link had some great info on this in their book STAY TUNED.

It's a shame Tucker was never a COLUMBO murderer, but you're right, he had that Texas millionaire thing down perfectly.

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grandoldmovies said...

Thanks for your post on this fine, underrated actor. I liked Tucker not only in 'F Troop' (always very funny!) but in his Westerns, such as 'Rage at Dawn' with the great Randolph Scott.