The Strange Love of Martha Ivers stars Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott and Kirk Douglas, in his very first film.
The movie is based on the short story by John Patrick, using the pseudonym Jack Patrick, and was produced by Hal B. Wallis.
In 1954, Patrick won the 1954 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his adaptation of the novel The Teahouse of the August Moon.
He also wrote the screenplays for such classics as 3 Coins in the Fountain, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, High Society, The World of Suzie Wong, Some Came Running and even a Leave It To Beaver TV episode. Patrick was nominated for an Oscar for this film.
In 1995, at the age of 90, he was found dead in his room with a plastic bag over his head. His death was ruled a suicide.
The film was directed by Lewis Milestone, who won the Best Comedy Director Oscar, at the very first Academy Awards in 1929. That was the only time an Oscar was ever given for a separate Comedy Director category; the next year it was simply awarded for Best Director.
Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch Demsky, was called Izzy as a child. Coming from a poor family, Douglas claims to have worked at more than forty jobs before becoming an actor.
He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and one of his classmates there was Betty Joan Perske, later known as Lauren Bacall. And it was Lauren Bacall who suggested to producer Hal B.Wallis that he look at her old drama school classmate, Izzy Demsky. Wallis liked Douglas and signed him for the role in this film.
In 1960, Douglas played an important role in breaking the Hollywood blacklist, as star and executive producer Spartacus. Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who had been blacklisted during the McCarthy "Red Scare" hysteria of the 1950s, wrote the screen playfor Spartacus.
And despite widespread criticism from many in Hollywood, Douglas insisted that Trumbo receive a screen credit under his own name and that was the beginning of end of the infamous blacklisting policies.
Douglas is also one of the few personalities (along with James Stewart, Gregory Peck, and Gene Autry) whose star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame has been stolen and later replaced.
Although Douglas appeared in almost 90 films and was nominated three times for Best Actor Academy Awards, he never won any competitive Oscars. But in 1996, he did receive an Honorary Academy Award for "50 years as a moral and creative force in the motion picture community."
Van Heflin was born in Oklahoma and made his screen debut in1936, opposite Katherine Hepburn. He won a Best Supporting Oscar for his role in Johnny Eager in 1942, and appeared in more than 60 movies & TV shows in his 40-year career.
But his best-known film is the 1953 classic western Shane, in which he co-starred with Alan Ladd.
Martha Ivers was only the 2nd film for Lizabeth Scott, who was born Emma Matzo. She said dropped the first "e" in Elizabeth "just to be different".
In addition to Kirk Douglas, Scott was also discovered by producer Hal B. Wallis. She was very similar to Lauren Bacall and Veronica Lake and, with her sensuality and husky voice, seemed made for film-noirs. And in fact, no other actress appeared in more noir films, with more than 3/4 of her 22 films falling in that category.
Scott never married or had children and rumors were that she was a lesbian. In 1955, she sued Confidential magazine for stating that she spent her off-work hours with "Hollywood's weird society of baritone babes" (a euphemism for a lesbian) but the suit was thrown out on a technicality.
One of her last film roles was in Elvis Presley's second movie, Loving You in 1957.
Dame Judith Anderson, playing Martha’s aunt, was born in Australia and made her career as a supporting character actress in dozens of films, including Hitchcock's Rebecca, for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
Living in Santa Barbara in her later years, she also had a successful role on the soap opera, Santa Barbara, and was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award in1984. Also in 1984, at age 87, she appeared as the High Priestess in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
Roman Bohnen, playing the elder Mr. O’Neill, was another actor who was caught up in the Red Scare of the ‘50s and ran into trouble for his political views.
He co-founded the politically active Actors LaboratoryTheatre and, during World War II, the Actors Lab performed for over a million soldiers. But, like many of the members of the Lab theater, Bohnen was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and was blacklisted. He died of a heart attack a few years later that was attributed to the stress of his blacklisting.
Gino Corrado, playing a nightclub waiter tonight, appeared in almost 400 films, under 7 different stage names. He had also played a waiter in 2 legendary films: Citizen Kane and Casablanca…..and he was the only actor to appear in both films.
He also had roles in three other great films: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Gone with the Wind and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
Early in the movie, notice the sailor who hitches a ride with Sam, and, strangely, sleeps through a car wreck…….that’s a young Blake Edwards.
Writer, director and producer, Edwards would later become famous for the Pink Panther movies, as well as films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 10 and Victor Victoria.
He was also the creator of the TV series with one of the great musical themes, Peter Gunn.
Young Sam Masterson is played by Darryl Hickman, brother of Dwayne Hickman, of TV’s Dobie Gillis fame. A prolific child actor, Darryl had appeared in over 100 movies before he was 21.
And after spending his entire childhood as an actor, Hickman retired from entertainment to enter a monastery in 1951, only to return to Hollywood just over a year later. He later became a studio executive and acting coach.
So….get ready for a hard drinking, chain-smoking,over-acting, scheming, murderous 2 hours.