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Welcome, Lisa Ryan
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 7:12 am
Good morning Lisa and thanks for visiting with us. I hope that you'll let us know if there's anything we can do to help you manage the task of addressing our questions while you're here.
To get us started, I'd like to ask why, other than the monetary compensation, you think that your father, Robert Ryan, who always struck me as a shy person (despite his large frame and formidable talent), chose to be an actor? Perhaps I"ve misinterpreted this aspect of his screen persona, but thought that it was present in many of his characterizations. Thank you in advance for your answer.
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 7:42 am
Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your time, experiences, thoughts, and memories of your father with us.
Even though your father had liberal beliefs and acted upon them, he portrayed some of the most memorable and despicable unrepentant bigots in movie history (CROSSFIRE, BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW). Did your father approach his performances in those roles as he did any other role, or did he bring something additional because those characters were diametrically opposed to his beliefs? Did he have any inner conflict about such portrayals or fear that the audience would identify those characters with him?
Your father appeared in a host of my favorite films noir and my two favorite Westerns (THE NAKED SPUR and DAY OF THE OUTLAW) that are films noir dressed up as Westerns. Was he drawn to film noir, or did his Black Irish nature (as labeled by Franklin Jarlett) just make him extraordinarily powerful in that type of film and role?
Your father was in two movies with Timothy Carey, ALASKA SEAS (1954) and THE OUTFIT (1973). When Carey was asked whether actors accepted his behavior when shooting, he said, “A few [actors] didn't like what I was doing, yeah. I did a show with Bob Ryan once - he was great, but he wouldn't allow a lot of takes. ‘This is it,’ he'd say.” (Film Comment Jan./Feb. 2004). Did your father ever talk about his experience with Timothy Carey?
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 10:35 am
Thank you Lisa for joining us. Here's my twopennyworth.
What are your favorites of your father's movies? Are they the same as his favorites? and Did you visit any of his movie sets and do you have any special memories?
Thanks for taking the time to answer
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 11:22 am
Lisa, welcome to the Silver Screen Oasis! We feel most privileged to have you as a guest this week, and hope you might decide to keep on visiting us after this week speeds by!
Right at the outset, I find myself wondering if that unique film performer who was your Dad maintained any ongoing personal friendships with any of his co-stars, and whom those lucky individuals were? Could you shed some light on that for us?
Allow me to close of the moment by contributing another tiny little anecdote to the mosaic of Robert Ryan's life: my sister's late father-in-law, a 1st-gen Polish-American named Stanley Michael Jablonski, always enjoyed bragging that Robert Ryan was a frequent classmate of his in the thirties at Dartmouth University [the road to his future returned him to central Massachusetts and a life of labor in a textile mill]; he would usually add to that boast that he could never understand why his old alumnus couldn't "get better roles"; perplexed by that remark, I once asked him why he felt that way; "Bobby Ryan was one of the nicest guys I ever met at College," he explained "Smart, kind, funny, quick, good-lookin' . . . so why do they always make him play the bad guy?!"; I pointed out that he didn't always play the heavy - "Too much he does, though!," opined old Stan; "He's as good as Mitchum, or that Heston fella, he deserves more of what they're doin'!"
And you know, despite my very differing viewpoint, I have to say that, in essence, I agree!
Greetings from Ryan's sleep-deprived Daughter
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 11:42 am
Hi Moira - and everyone else in Silver Screen Oasis Land!
I've been feeling a bit technically-challenged this morning, not to mention somewhat addled from staying up too late watching the end of the Olympics on TV. Anyway, I'm finally feeling awake enough to jump in and start replying (or at least attempting to reply) to some questions!
My Dad was an EXTREMELY shy person, and only seemed to "come out of himself" when he was acting, and when he was engaged in making a movie or involved in theater work. I can only guess that this was a huge factor in his love of acting. After jumping from one odd job to another when he got out of college (which coincided with the worst years of the Great Depression) I think acting was one more thing he decided to try.
He looked good, had been a star athlete at Dartmouth, so acting must have seemed like a logical path to follow (after determining that selling cemetery plots, among other things, might NOT be his ultimate calling in life!)He was fortunate enough to start experiencing some success pretty quickly, and he must have also had the giddy experience early on of being able to come out of his introverted shell when he was acting.
I loved to spend time with him when he was rehearsing for a play or on a movie set - he was a lot of fun, really upbeat and lighthearted ... which was in stark contrast to the shy guy he tended to be at home.
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 12:45 pm
Hi Lisa - Thanks for (finally!) joining us here! I'd like to expand a little on a question Klondike posed: were there any specific roles that your dad felt that he could have or should have gotten--but didn't--during his career in Hollywood? And how did that ultimately affect his personal demeanor?
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 12:57 pm
Hi Lisa, and welcome.
I know the focus this week will be on your Dad, but let me ask: How did his fame affect your life? Did you grow up thinking all dads were famous? (which I think they are, in the eyes of their daughters) Did it cause trouble for you with your peers, or was it just another fact of your life.
Thanks in advance for sharing your Dad with all of us. We all look forward to sharing a fun week with you.
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 2:01 pm
Hi Lisa and welcome, Did your father have a favorite Director with whom he worked with? I know he had issues with Sam Peckinpah during the filming of “The Wild Bunch”.
Also did he feel slighted because never received a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame? In which I think he deeply deserves. Thank you in advance.
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 3:32 pm
Thanks for verifying my sense of your father's shyness. I think it was one of the qualities that originally drew me to his acting. Since you touched on his misadventures trying to find a job during the depths of the Depression, I wonder if I could ask a bit about the lasting impact of that period on him:
1.) As Franklin Jarlett mentions in his biography of your Dad, he had hoped to be a playwright at one time, but found it was more necessary to take any work he could get once he graduated from college. Do you think that your father wished to write later in his career? Did his writing skills enable him to re-write dialogue or help him in his acting?
2.) Also, as someone who came of age during the Depression, how did working in the boiler room of a merchant ship, coming in contact with unions, and scrambling to find work, influence his politics?
3.) Was your father's career directly affected by the Hollywood purge of the McCarthy period? I have the impression that his Catholic background and Marine Corps experience helped to deflect the HUAC types. Is that correct?
Thanks in advance!
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 3:34 pm
Welcom to SSO, Lisa, and thank you so much for joining us.
I'd like to begin by telling you that my first recollection of your father is part of one of my very earliest Broadway theater experiences, seeing him in Irving Berlin's Mr. President. I'm not sure I really understood everything that was going on, and I'm sure I didn't really know at that time who Robert Ryan was, or that I was seeing an important movie star, but I do remember, to this day, how he sang the song "It Gets Lonely in the White House," especially the last line "The White House is the loneliest place in town." I believed it with all my heart, because he said so.
My question is something of a variation on what has already been asked. Given that, as you have said, your father was an essentially shy man, and given also his interest in and very public activities for, social causes, what is your impression of what he thought of "Hollywood?" That is, the studio system, the public relations campaigns, the personal appearances, and all the other things that actors had to do in order to stay successful under that system?
Thanks, and best regards. Judith
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 5:08 pm
Hi Lisa, Like Charlie Chaplin Fan, I'd also like to know what are your personal favorites of your father's work and what makes them enjoyable for you.
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 5:27 pm
Lisa, welcome to the SSO boards. It is nice having the daughter of a movie star with us. Especially Robert Ryan.
I enjoyed many of the roles that your father played throughout the years, especially in "The Set-Up", "Crossfire", "Act of Violence", "The Racket", "The Naked Spur", and "Clash by Night",
which brings me to my first question.
Do you recollect how he liked working with Barbara Stanwyck in "Clash by Night"?
Is it true that when Ginger Rogers decided she wanted your dad for her leading man in "Tender Comrade" (1943) she wrote on a piece of paper 'I think this is the guy'? And that your brother Cheyney still has that note hanging on the wall over a desk in his study?
After your dad moved out of his apartment (number 72) at the Dakota in New York City, did he actually lease the apartment to John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
I appreciate any of the questions you could answer.
Again it's a pleasure having you here with us and if we could make your visit any more pleasurable, please let me know.
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 6:07 pm
The questions seem to be rapidly multiplying! I'll do my best to answer what I can, so bear with me. You guys are amazing ...
ChiO ... I've often wondered how and why my Dad ended playing so many bad guys, I wonder if he holds some world record?
Most On-Screen Bigots In A Single Career?
I had a truly excruciating experience some years back (Dewey has heard this story about 5 times now, I keep forgetting I've already told him about it) ... I was invited to be the special guest at a screening of "Crossfire" at a prominent San Francisco synagogue. It was part of an "Anti-Semitism In The Movies" series. I had to sit through the whole thing, scrunching down lower and lower in my seat, sort of trying to disappear, and then get up in front of the alarmingly large audience, feeling that I had to explain to everyone: "Hey - the guy was just acting!"
I don't think he actively sought out those roles, he just happened to
be really good at them, for whatever reason, and then sort of got typecast. I know he would have loved to have had the chance to play more good guys, more noble characters, maybe even a romantic lead (which I guess he got to do early on in his career a few times)
but he didn't get that opportunity too often.
He used to grumble about Gregory Peck a lot! "Greg" Peck always got parts my Dad would have loved to play ... especially Ahab (my Dad was a Melville fanatic, and made a point of reading Moby Dick every couple of years ) ... he also would have loved to have played Atticus Finch
(and maybe gotten that Best Actor award too!) ... but those roles weren't in the cards for him.
I think the parts he played have turned out, from the perspective
of 2008, to be a lot more interesting than the parts he wanted
back in the 1950's.
His characters seem to "wear well" ... they don't seem dated to me.
I just wish he'd lived long enough to enjoy some of the recognition he's getting now!
He would be amazed that Film Noir is such a big deal ... 60 years later ... I think he'd be totally baffled! My mother told me a hilarious story about being in Paris with my Dad in the early 70's ... and being approached by a group of kids who turned out to be film students. They got down on their
knees, on the sidewalk, in front of my Dad, bowing down to him as if he were some religious figure.
I don't know if there are rules about language here, so I'll just say that my Dad's comment reportedly was: "What the f---- is WRONG
with these French people? Are they all INSANE?"
I don't think he even knew what "Film Noir" was ... he took the parts that RKO wanted him to play ... and happily for us, some of them were pretty amazing!
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 6:33 pm
PS - unfortunately I can't remember my Dad ever mentioning working with Timothy Carey - sorry! What was Carey's behavior like?
I guess I don't know anything about him.
I do remember stories of Montgomery Clift's "odd" behavior
when they were filming Lonelyhearts.
Posted: August 25th, 2008, 6:56 pm
Replying in no particular order ...
Bill - re: the "Hollywood Walk of Fame" ...
I became incensed about 10 years ago, watching a news story about the unveiling of a new star on the Walk Of Fame (some former child actor I had never heard of, who had a supporting role in some 1970's TV sitcom I had also never heard of) ... wondering why on earth ROBERT RYAN doesn't have a star?
I called the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (I think that's who was in charge of such things) and learned that if I forked over something like
15 or 20 grand (it's probably a lot more now) they'd "review his eligibility"
(80 movies?) ... and he could "probably" get a star.