Sorry, Wrong Number

From 1948, Sorry, Wrong Number, stars Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, with Ann Richards, William Conrad and Ed Begley.

 

It was originally a half-hour radio scriptwritten by Lucille Fletcher and was a huge hit.


Agnes Moorehead, later seen as Endora, Samantha’s mother on TV’s Bewitched, performed the drama to radio audiences seven times from 1943 to1948.


The story had such a strong following, Fletcher turned it into a best-selling novel and later the script for this classic.


The original script was initially rejected by the censors because of its focus on illegal drug traffic. So it was altered so that all sorts of products were being stolen, not just drugs, and the script was approved.

 

The bed-ridden Leona is played by Barbara Stanwyck, who was born Ruby Stevens in Brooklyn. When Ruby was four years old, her mother was killed when a drunken stranger accidentally pushed her off a moving streetcar.


Two weeks after the funeral, her father joined a work crew digging the Panama canal and was never seen again and she was raised by her oldersister Ruth.


Her first screen appearance was in a silent film in 1927 and she had a 60-year career on stage, film and TV. She starred in almost 100 movies and when her film career declined in the ‘60s, she moved to television.  You may remember The Barbara Stanwyck Show and the Western series The Big Valley, for which she won an Emmy.


Stanwyck was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her dramatic performance in this film. She was nominated for four Academy Awards, and though she never won, in 1982 she was awarded an honorary Oscar.


But her later years were marred by trauma. In 1981, she was robbed and badly beaten in a brutal home invasion and in 1985, her house burned down, along with all her possessions and a lifetime of memorabilia.


She died in 1990, and did not want a funeral. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered in Lone Pine, California, the location where many of her movies and television scenes were filmed.


She has no grave or headstone.


Burt Lancaster, the shady husband, was a tough street kid from East Harlem who took an early interest in gymnastics. He joined the circus as an acrobat and traveled with the Kay Brothers circus until he was injured in 1939.


He found his way to Hollywood where he was known for his athletic physique and distinctive smile, and jokingly referred to as "Mr. Muscles and Teeth".


His first film, The Killers from1946, made him a star and he went on to appear in classic films like From Here To Eternity, Airport, Judgment at Nuremburg, Birdman of Alcatraz and many more.


His only Oscar came from his role as Elmer Gantry. A self-described atheist, Lancaster agreed to play the corrupt evangelist because he wanted to make an anti-Billy Graham statement.


Also known for his liberal political sympathies, he participated in Martin Luther King's March on Washington in August 1963.


Lancaster’s son, Bill, wrote the screenplay for The Bad News Bears (1976) which was based on his experience being coached by his father. The coach, played by Walter Matthau, was based on Burt Lancaster, who was known for his grumpiness.


Lancaster appeared in almost 100 movies & TV shows andwas nominated for four Oscars.

 

William Conrad, playing Morano the gangster, was an actor and director whose first credited role was in the same film that was Burt Lancaster’s first, The Killers.


His deep gravelly voice was very distinctive and he was the voice of the original "Matt Dillon' character in the radio version of Gunsmoke in the 1950s. He also narrated The Fugitive TV show and the animated Rockyand Bullwinkle series.


And do you remember Hai Karate?  in the ‘70s, he did the voice-over for those men’s cologne TV ads.


As a director, his credits include episodes of The Rifleman, Bat Masterson, Route 66, Have Gun –Will Travel, and 77 Sunset Strip, and others. In the ‘70s & ‘80s, he starred in 3 TV detective shows, Cannon, Nero Wolfe and Jake & The Fat Man.


His weight at that time was close to 300 lbs., and he joked that people on Weight Watchers were banned from watching him on TV. 

 

Ed Begley, playing Barbara Stanwyck’s father, began his career on radio as a teenager before moving to the stage and later, movies. With over 100 film & TV roles to his credit, he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Sweet Bird of Youth in1962.


Some of his other films include 12 Angry Men, The UnsinkableMolly Brown and Hang ‘Em High. He was the father of Ed Begley, Jr., actor & environmental activist. 

 

Hal Wallis, the producer, had a career that spanned more than fifty years and was involved with the production of more than 400 movies. He received 16 Academy Award nominations for Best Picture,and won for Casablanca in 1943.


Wallis' last picture was the John Wayne western Rooster Cogburn.

 

The costumes tonight are by Edith Head, who was nominated for an amazing 35 Academy Awards and won 8 Oscars. She was a Spanish language teacher at a local college and, while taking some evening art classes, she interviewed for a job at Paramount Pictures.


She got hired as a sketch artist in the costume department because her drawings were so good. Much later she admitted that she had used another student's sketches for the job interview.


She worked at Paramount for 44 years before moving to Universal, where she stayed until her death. She rarely did her own sketching because of her time schedule  almost all sketches of "hers" that you see today were actually done by a devoted staff of sketch artists.


During the late 1970s, Head was asked to design a woman's uniform for the United States Coast Guard and she called the assignment a highlight in her career.


Her last film was the 1982 black and white comedy, Dead MenDon't Wear Plaid, starring Steve Martin and Carl Reiner, where she accurately re-created fashions of the 1940s to match the extensive use of film clips from classic film noir motion pictures. It was released shortly after her death and dedicated to her memory. 

 

So, enjoy this classic - the flashbacks are a little overdone and there’s some really over-the-top acting, but you’re in for a film-noir treat, with suspense that builds to a twist ending that was shocking in its day.