Monday, July 27, 2009
The Elusive Jeff Richards
You would think, judging by the photo above, that the divinely square-jawed, all American Jeff Richards would have become Metro's reigning male star of the 1950's. You would also think that Dore Schary would have had the good sense to keep Richards shirtless most of the time. Instead, MGM miscast him in musicals both fair (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, 1954) and foul (The Opposite Sex, 1956).
In the latter, he at least got to be sandwiched between Dolores Gray and Joan Collins - which would be heaven for certain homosexuals, but all wrong for a strapping ex-baseball player like our Jeff. MGM continued to flail around, casting him in other unsuitable vehicles like the grim Western The Marauders and the silly comedy, It's a Dog's Life (both 1955). Paired with Jeff in both instances was the exotically-monikered Jarma Jarvis, who displayed, alternately, hostility and a lack of interest in her co-star which we find rather unfathomable.
Don't Go Near the Water (1957), a Naval comedy in which Jeff found himself ninth-billed below Eva Gabor and Russ Tamblyn, ignominiously closed out his MGM career. A switch to Warner Bros. landed him first- and second billing in his two films there; unfortunately, these amounted to the Mamie Van Doren rodeo musical (!) Born Reckless (1958) and the self-explanatory Island of Lost Women (1959).
Surprisingly, none of Jeff's films ever fully capitalized on his initial promise as a prime slab of beefcake; and, truly, his rangy frame always looked uncomfortable and surprisingly stumpy in the 1950's-style sack suits the B-unit wardrobe departments stuck him in. Memo to Dore Schary: you shoulda kept him in a bathing suit.