|Joseph Cheshire Cotten, Jr.
Radio, Television, Film and Stage Actor
Birthplace: Petersburg, Virginia, U.S.A.
1936 Columbia Workshop
1938 Mercury Theatre
1939 Campbell Playhouse
1941 Lux Radio Theatre
1941 Orsen Welles Theatre
1942 Silver Theatre
1942 Ceiling Unlimited
1943 Cavalcade Of America
1943 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theatre
1944 The Harold Lloyd Comedy Theatre
1945 A Date With Judy
1945 Weapon For Tomorrow
1945 Theatre Of Romance
1945 Birds Eye Open House
1946 Radio Reader's Digest
1946 Academy Award
1946 Cresta Blanca Hollywood Players
1947 March Of Dimes Campaign
1947 The Eagle's Brood
1947 Hollywood Fights Back
1948 The Eternal Light
1948 Camel Screen Guild Theatre
1949 Prudential Family Hour Of Stars
1949 Screen Director's Playhouse
1950 Family Theatre
1950 Guest Star
1950 Hollywood Star Playhouse
1950 Hedda Hopper's Hollywood
1951 Theatre Guild On the Air
1951 Hallmark Playhouse
1952 The Private Files of Matthew Bell
1952 Stars In the Air
1952 Philip Morris Playhouse
1953 Bakers' Theatre Of Stars
1953 The Martin and Lewis Show
Yarns For Yanks
Joseph Cotten circa 1941
Young Joseph Cotten circa 1911
Aviator Joseph Cotten circa 1925
Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins in The Third Man circa 1949
Joseph Cotten for The United Nations circa 1952
|Joseph Cotten was born into a well-heeled Southern family, the eldest of three sons born to Sally Bartlett and Joseph Cotten, Sr. 'Jo' and his brothers Whit and Sam spent their summers at their aunt and uncle's home near Virginia Beach. It was during those summer vacations that young 'Jo' developed his gifts for story-telling, reciting, and performing for family.
Cotten formally studied acting at the Hickman School of Expression in Washington, D.C. working as an advertising agent soon after. By 1924 Joseph Cotten tried to break into acting in New York. After a year of trying to make ends meet on a shipping clerk's pay, Cotten suspended his run at the New York stage to travel to Miami.
In Florida, Cotten worked as a lifeguard, salesman, entrepreneur--'Tip Top Potato Salad', and as a drama critic for the Miami Herald. Cotten also continued to pursue stage appearances of his own, soon appearning in plays at the Miami Civic Theater. His newspaper connections then lead to a position as an assistant stage manager back in New York.
1929 brought a one-season engagement at the Copley Theatre in Boston. It was there that he was finally given the chance to expand his acting experience, appearing in 30 productions in a wide variety of characterizations. Cotten returned to Broadway in 1930 for his debut.
In 1931 Cotten married Lenore La Mont ('Kipp'), a pianist, previously divorced with a two-year-old daughter.
To augment his income as an actor in the mid-30s, Cotten began appearing on Radio in addition to his theatre work. At one memorable audition he met an equally ambitious, budding actor on a mission to make his name-Orson Welles. Though almost ten years Welles' senior, the two found the other a kindred spirit.
For Cotten more than Welles, the association would completely redefine his acting ambitions. Though viewed as two of the Performing Arts most serious dramatic actors, their initial joint efforts belied that characterization. Indeed, one apocryphal tale has them at a rehearsal for CBS radio, with the two of them destroying a scene taking place on a rubber tree plantation.
One--or the other-was supposed to speak the line: "Barrels and barrels of pith ... ." They apparently could not restrain their uncontrolled laughter at each abortive 'take'. The director reportedly berated them as acting like school-children and unprofessional. As a consequence, for some time thereafter, both actors were deemed unreliable.
It was Welles' raw ambition that put that frivolous incident quickly behind them. Welles formed the Mercury Theatre Players with John Houseman. Bringing together Film talent from the West coast and Stage talent from the East Coast, Welles' and Houseman's repertory ensemble began to take Radio and the New York Stage by storm. Cotten joined Everett Sloane, Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick and Ray Collins as the core of the ensemble.
Cotten first appeared in Mercury Theatre's productions of Julius Caesar and Shoemaker's Holiday. He made his film debut in the Welles-directed short Too Much Johnson (1938), a comedy based on an 1890 William Gillette play. The short film was occasionally screened immediately before or after Mercury productions. Cotten returned to Broadway in 1939, starring as C.K. Dexter Haven in the original production of Philip Barry's "The Philadelphia Story" opposite Katherine Hepburn.
Cotten's radiography both pre-dates his Mercury Theatre association and continues well beyond the Mercury Theatre of The Air productions of the late 1930s through the mid-1940s. Indeed, well beyond the influence of Mercury Theatre, Joseph Cotten continued well into the mid-1950s to leave his mark on Radio Drama. In a career spanning almost twenty years and 2,000 appearances in Radio, Joseph Cotten immeasurably contributed to the rich legacy of Radio's Golden Era.
In the wake of the panic over Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast, Orson Welles was offered an impressive contract from RKO Pictures. A two-picture deal promised full creative control for the young director, and Welles brought his Mercury players with him for feature roles in what he chose to bring to the screen.
By early 1940, Welles met and collaborated with writer Herman J. Mankiewicz. The result was a 'roman a clef' of William Randolph Hearst and his personal history that Welles titled Citizen Kane. Welles cast Joseph Cotten as Kane's college friend turned confidant and theater critic, Jed Leland. In contrast to the furor Welles' 1938 War of The Worlds broadcast had created, Citizen Kane's only notoriety at the time of its release was over the production's out of control budget and its quixotic--but brilliant--novice director.
For his part, much as depicted in Citizen Kane, William Randolph Hearst owned the majority of the country's press outlets and predictably forbad any promotional articles or advertisements for Citizen Kane. Despite the dearth of promotion, the film was nominated for nine Academy Awards in 1942--though largely ignored by the Academy. The film took home one Oscar--Best Screenplay for Welles and Mankiewicz.
The following year Cotten and Welles collaborated yet again in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), acclaimed but again ignored at Oscar time, and the following year, the Nazi thriller Journey Into Fear (1943) with Joseph Cotten writing the screenplay in collaboration with Welles.
Welles' notorious overrunning of budgets was more than sufficient cause for RKO to drop Welles thereafter. But it was in 1943 that Joseph Cotten met and became life-long friend to young producer David O. Selznick. The predictable result of that alliance was a long-term contract and the launch of Cotten's more conventional, successful--and mainstream--movie career as a romantic leading man.
Between 1942 and 1949 Joseph Cotten appeared with some of the most beautiful, talented and accomplished of Hollywood's leading ladies. His favorite was young Selznick's wife, Jennifer Jones, both Selznick and Jones becoming two of Cotten's most intimate personal friends.
Cotten portrayed a remarkable range of roles throughout the 1940s: from the film noir killer in Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Shadow of a Doubt (1943) with Teresa Wright, to 1949's Carol Reed film noir classic, The Third Man, reuniting him with Orson Welles. But they weren't all film noir roles. Indeed, it was only Shadow of a Doubt and The Third Man that were genuine film noir classics. Cotten's remaining film during the 1940s were a fascinating variety of roles and genre. He made four films with friend Jennifer Jones: Since You Went Away (1944), Love Letters (1945), Duel in The Sun (1946) and the 1948 Robert Nathan classic, Portrait of Jennie. Cotten also did The Farmer's Daughter (1947) with a vivacious Loretta Young.
Despite two of film noir's most memorable performances, Cotten failed to receive Adademy recognition for either Shadow of A Doubt or The Third Man--nor did his very believable and critically acclaimed performance in Portrait of Jennie. And though Joseph Cotten was kept in reasonable demand into his more mature acting years, by the 1950s the his movie roles were becoming more from the 'B'-list.
Cotten reunited with Welles in his The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1952). There were a few more film noir opportunities, along with the requisite fare of the maturing actor with fewer roles. But it was Television and its television playhouse format that brought Cotten the most fame and dramatic challenges for the remainder of his acting career.
Television's On Trial--later called The Joseph Cotten Show--was a short-lived showcase of sorts. He had several memorable roles in Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, among them, Dead Weight, during which he's limited to voice over and facial expression alone to project his character's portrayal. His last project with Welles was as the uncredited coroner cameo in Welles' 1958 film noir, Touch of Evil. Cotten reportedly observed of his long association with Welles, that it was:
"Exasperating, yes. Sometimes eruptive, unreasonable, ferocious, yes. Eloquent, penetrating, exciting, and always - never failingly even at the sacrifice of accuracy and at times his own vanity - witty. Never, never, never dull."
With the passing of his first wife in 1960, Joseph Cotten met and married British actress Patricia Medina. The 1960s found both of them equally busy in Television and Film. Cotten routinely appeared in the most popular of Television's detective and cowboy formats of the period--as did Ms. Medina.
By 1964 Cotten returned to film with the popular thriller hit Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) reuniting him with other vintage Hollywood legends Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, and Agnes Moorehead. The remainder of his 1960s appearances were a combination of Television Drama staples, entertaining but otherwise unremarkable Film productions, and several guest appearances on the many Quiz, Talk, Morning Show, and Sunday night variety formats, such as the long-running Ed Sullivan Show. Cotten, now officially one of Hollywood's 'senior statesmen' leant his perceived dramatic gravitas to any number of brief, dramatic cameos or short supporting appearances in Film and made-for-Television movies.
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), though not a particularly huge box office success--at the time--nevertheless showcased Cotten in just such a senior statesman type of role. Cotten also appeared in the campy The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) with Vincent Price. Cotten joined another great Golden Age of Film actor, Edward G. Robinson--another senior statesman actor--in the Universal sci-fi cult favorite, Soylent Green (1973). Cotten also further burnished the gigantic, all-star cast of Airport '77 (1977).
Cotten wrapped up his 1980 appearances with several Universal Television outings, among them, Fantasy Island. One of Hollywood's greats, Cotten wore his own double-breasted blue blazer and tan slacks in several roles--no need for wardrobe--and his reported pride and joy was a ultra-rare blue 1939 Jaguar SS, which became something of a fixture on the Universal lot.
Joseph Cotten was still starring in Film during the 1980s with Heaven's Gate (1980). After a final Love Boat episode (1981), Cotten retired with his wife to gardening and entertaining friends. Cotten penned his autobiography Vanity Will Get You Somewhere in 1987. Joseph Cotten's matter-of-fact delivery and somewhat gruff acting voice served him well in most roles. He clearly demonstrated a command of any number of widely varied roles over his career, and yet just missed attaining an Academy Award in the process. But with the passing of time, his characterizations in Citizen Kane, Shadow of a Doubt, The Third Man and Portrait of Jennie have considerably elevated his stature in the minds of both modern critics and modern audiences alike.
|Himan Brown [Hyman Brown]
Stage, Radio, Television and Actor, Film and Radio Writer, Director and Producer; Philanthropist
Birthplace: Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.
Education: New York City College; Broooklyn Law School
1930 The Goldbergs
1932 The Bronx Marriage Bureau
1933 Little Italy
1933 Jack Dempsey's Gymnasium
1935 David Harum
1935 The Gumps
1935 Dick Tracy
1935 The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon
1941 Inner Sanctum
1944 Green Valley U.S.A.
1947 The Right To Live
1948 Operation Nightmare
1948 The New Adventures Of the Thin Man
1951 The Private Files Of Rex Saunders
1951 Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator
1952 The Private Files of Matthew Bell
1956 This Is My Story
1958 Premier Playhouse
1959 NBC Radio Theatre
1974 CBS Radio Mystery Theatre
1984 Americans All
1998 CBS Radio Mystery Theatre
Himan Brown not only wrote, directed and produced Radio programs, but also acted in several of them as in this notice about the CBS Serial, Little Italy from 1934
Hi Brown circa 1945
Himan Brown circa 1941
Hi Brown at the ABC mike circa 1948
Hi Brown in the command booth circa 1952
Himan Brown directs CBS Radio Mystery Theatre circa 1975
Hi Brown promotes Cooper Union's Great Hall during the 1990s
Himan Brown in The Wall Street Journal circa 2005
|Hyman Brown was born in 1910 to a Yiddish family who'd immigrated from Odessa, Russia in the late 1890s. His parents were a tailor and seamstress eking out a meager living for a family of eight. A child prodigy, Hyman Brown was learning the violin at the age of seven and was fluent in Yiddish and Russian.
Hyman Brown changed the spelling of his hame to Himan Brown while in High School, preferring that everyone refer to him as 'Hi' Brown from that point forward.
He sold The Goldbergs to NBC at the age of 19 while still a law school student, but his involvement with the program was subsequently dropped by Gertrude Berg in a kind of "thanks, kid, but I don't need you anymore" end to the relationship.
Brown's first solo effort on the Air was The Bronx Marriage Bureau over WOR in 1932, directing, producing, acting in, and packaging and promoting the entire venture. Soon after, he was promoting Little Italy (1933) to Blue Coal as sponsors.
He married in 1933. 1933 also found him packaging Jack Dempsey's Gymnasium and by 1935 and 1936 he was packaging soaps for Anne Ashenhurst of The Hummerts. His first effort for The Hummerts was David Harum.
He also had the opportunity to help promote the budding theatrical careers of Van Heflin and Myron McCormick. He brought Flash Gordon to the air in 1935, packaging the deal with King Features. He followed that up with a nine-year package of Dick Tracy broadcasts. He did the same packaged promotion for Terry and The Pirates and Jungle Jim.
Brown also packaged and brought The Gumps to the air for four years beginning in 1935. He later brought Joyce Jordan, M.D. to the air in 19xx followed by Hilda Hope, M.D. (19xx) and Grand Central Station for Lambert.
His biggest break came through an offer from Carter Products to do three programs for them. Hi Brown took a disc of Bulldog Drummond to them, a disc of The Creaking Door, and a disc of Rehearsal Time. Of the three, Carter preferred The Creaking Door demo, but didn't care much for the name. Hi Brown offered 'Inner Sanctum Mysteries' as an alternative off the top of his head and Carter jumped at it. Inner Sanctum Mysteries ran for eleven years from 1941 to 1952.
Brown's largesse over his lifetime--both personal and philanthropic--are equally remarkable. Legendary American writer J.D. Salinger wrote Catcher in The Rye while a guest at Brown's Stamford, Connecticut home studio during the Winter of 1945.
Himan Brown's Radiography, if for nothing other than the 527 Inner Sanctum Mysteries and almost 3,000 original broadcasts and scheduled rebroadcasts of CBS Radio Mystery Theatre, would stand forever as a monumental record of accomplishment in the history of Radio. But indeed, his radiography stretches even further. All told, Hi Brown's involvement, in one capacity or another in Radio alone, encompasses some 10,000+ scripts over Radio, the vast majority of them during the Golden Age of Radio.
But Hi Brown's contributions to Radio didn't simply involve writing, producing and directing. As Brown is proud of emphasizing--and justifiably so--he was a widely acknowledged genius and innovator of packaging programming over an incredibly wide variety of Radio genres over an unparalleled seventy-five year career of active involvement in Radio. Indeed, the only other innovators to approach his equal throughout the Golden Age of Radio were The Hummerts.
Hi Brown remains a living legend in Radio History, whose contributions in perpetuating his talent and innovations continue to this day with innumberable personal endowments to educational institutions and performing arts organizations. One is also mindful of the fact that Hi Brown has remained effective well into his 90s.