Skip to main content

Jeff Morrow An Icon of 1950's Science Fiction

Sometimes an actor's presence on screen just holds your attention. So it was with Jeff Morrow in even the smallest role he portrayed. Although he is remembered fondly by fans of 1950's Science Fiction with the features mentioned in this article's title. His acting career was more complex and covered several genres.




Irving Morrow was born on January 13, 1907 in New York City. He was educated at the Pratt Institute considered one of the top 25 percent of all United States Colleges. Irving would graduate as a commercial artist, but had been taking acting lessons as well. By 1927 he was appearing on stage in Pennsylvania.

After Irving completed his army service during the Second World War. He returned to the stage and began to appear on radio with his distinctive voice. I could not exactly locate when Irving became Jeff, but it appears it started with his first role after returning from the army.

It has been misreported that Jeff Morrow got the title role of radio's "Dick Tracy" in the late 1940's. How this story started I don't know for sure. However, I found several different Internet Websites that have the exact same copied word for word biography of the actor stating that as fact. Possibly proving what you write on the Worldwide Web becomes truth.

As for "Dick Tracy" on radio. The character was first played by Bob Burlen starting in 1934 and after he left Barry Thompson took over. Thompson was followed by Ned Wever and Matt Crowley. Crowley took the role of "Dick Tracy" to the programs end in 1948. Looking at all the listed "Dick Tracy" radio shows between 1945 and 1948. I found the name of Jeff Morrow as the narrator on one episode "The Case of the Crooked Finger" July 14, 1947. It is possible, but I could not locate documentation, that Morrow may have had at times had to substitute for Crowley, if the actor been ill. More probable though is that he narrated more than the one show in July 1947 and biographers mixed up Jeff Morrow's role in the radio program with Crowley.

Morrow also appeared on Broadway in many productions after the Second World War. Among them where two major Shakespearean plays. "MacBeth" was directed by Maurice Evans, the original Dr. Zaius in the "Planet of the Apes" series and Samantha Stevens' father on "Bewitched" and "Romeo and Juliet" directed by and starring "the First Lady of the Theater" Katharine Cornell. Both prestigious productions to be associated with.

During his radio and stage period in 1947 Jeff Morrow married actress Ann Karen. The two would have one daughter Lissa and stay married through the actor's death.

Running on very early television starting October 3, 1948 was "The Philco Television Playhouse". This anthology series picked up a second sponsor besides the electronics and television maker in the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. So by 1950 the Peabody winning show was now called "The Philco-Goodyear Playhouse". It was at this time on March 5, 1950 that Jeff Morrow appeared in his first televised role in "The Life of Vincent Van Gogh". Of the six cast members only actor Everett Sloane, who played Van Gogh, is listed beside the part they played.

17 days later on March 22, 1950 Jeff Morrow was seen in an episode of the television anthology series "The Clock" entitled "The Hypnotist". Once more this was a six actor cast and this one included an actor named Charlton Heston. What the story was about, or the role's they played I could not locate.

One of the best radio horror shows ever was "Lights Out". The radio program was created by Wyllis Cooper and Arch Obler took over after he left. Obler would take the program to the televised air waves and on May 15, 1950 Jeff Morrow appeared in an episode entitled "The House That Time Forgot". I could give you the entire cast, but the names of their roles is another matter. The story was about a young couple who purchase a long abandoned house and discover why nobody wants to stay there. The house's occupants from 1939 still reside as ghosts.

Jeff Morrow's fourth television appearance was on a mystery anthology series entitled "Sure As Fate". The title of his episode was "The Vanishing Lady" first shown October 17, 1950. All we know of this episode is that it starred Jeff Morrow and actress Kim Stanley.

Morrow returned to the stage for the next two years and appeared in productions of Herman Melville's "Billy Budd" and a musical "Three Wishes for Jamie" The 1952 musical production starred  Anne Jeffreys, John Ratt and Bert Wheeler. It featured comedian Charlotte Rae.

On August 24, 1952 Jeff Morrow appeared in the first episode of Season 2 of "The Hallmark Hall of Fame". Today we considered the show's product as "made for television" motion pictures, but there was no such category back in the 1950's. The program was entitled "The Crabapple Saint" and told the story of Johnny Appleseed. It is possible this was either a live broadcast, or a kinescope recording. Either way it appears lost. "The Hallmark Hall of Fame" had first aired the previous year, 1951, and it's still running as of this writing in 2016.

I now come to 20th Century Fox's biblical epic "The Robe" based upon author Lloyd C. Douglas' novel about what happened to the robe worn by Jesus at his crucifixion. The World Premiere was September 16, 1953.



"The Robe" was the first motion picture released in the widescreen process known as CinemaScope using 60mm film stock. The process under it's original name of "Grandeur", part of this blogs title, was first used in 1930 for the Western "The Big Trail". Grandeur was 10mm's larger using 70mm film stock. Below is a link to my article on "Grandeur" and the motion picture that first saw the name John Wayne on the marquee.

http://kinescopedreams.blogspot.com/2015_10_01_archive.html

"The Robe" starred relatively unknown Welsh actor Richard Burton as Marcellus Gallo. He would become a major star as a result of the picture. Playing Diana the Christian women Burton's Roman Centurion falls in love with was Jean Simmons. She had only just portrayed Queen Elizabeth the First as a young women in "Young Bess" and would appear later with Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in the musical "Guys and Dolls". Playing the Greek slave Demetrius was Victor Mature. Mature had been seen in such varied movies as 1940's "One Million B.C." and as Doc Holliday in John Ford's "My Darling Clementine". He would reprise his role of Demetrius in the sequel to "The Robe" entitled "Demetrius and the Gladiators". Michael Rennie so imposing as Klaatu in Robert Wise's 1951 original "The Day the Earth Stood Still" portrayed Jesus' disciple Peter in both movies.

In the tenth position of on screen credited roles was Jeff Morrow as the Centurion Paulus. Other screen credited acting roles included Dean Jagger, Ernest Thesiger (Dr. Pretorius in "The Bride of Frankenstein) and Richard Boone as Pontius Pilate.

After the crucifixion several Roman's gamble for "The Robe" worn by Jesus. Marcellus Gallo wins it and there starts his story meeting both Peter and Diana. Diana is secretly a Christian and the story will end in the arena as both stand side by side to die for his new found faith.

 



Below Jeff Morrow as Paulus





"The Robe" was part of a series of motion pictures Hollywood was turning out with Biblical themes brought on from the hearings of "The House Committee on Un-American Activities" and "The Black Listings" of members of the motion picture community for being either in the Communist Party, or a sympathizer. The idea was to show that anyone associate with a "Biblical" motion picture couldn't possibly be a Communist.

The following link is to my blog article on the history of Hollywood and the Bible. It covers from Cecil B. DeMilles' 1925 "The Ten Commandments" to Ridley Scott's 2014 "Exodus: Gods and Kings".

http://kinescopedreams.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-bible-according-to-hollywood-from.html

Next Jeff Morrow was seen as Col. C.W. Wier in "Flight to Tangier" released November 21, 1953. The motion picture starred Joan Fontaine, Jack Palance, Corinne Calvet and Robert Douglas. Morrow was billed sixth as the Chief Police Inspector attempting to solve the mystery of a plane crash with no one on it and missing money.

Flight to Tangier.jpg


May 1, 1954 saw Van Johnson and Joanne Dru starring in "The Siege at Red River". Johnson plays a Confederate officer traveling through Ohio with a hidden Gatling Gun. He is smuggling the weapon into the South. Milburn Stone (Doc on "Gunsmoke) is his Sergeant accompanying him. Fifth billed Jeff Morrow played Pinkerton Detective Frank Kelso.

Image result for images of movie the siege at red river

"Tanganyika" was released on July 3, 1954 and found Jeff Morrow billed fourth as a murderer being tracked by Colonist/Safari guide Van Heffin in East Africa. In the group tracking Morrow's Abel MacCraken is his brother played by Howard Duff and a former teacher played by Ruth Roman.





The next motion picture featuring Jeff Morrow is one of my favorites. Jack Palance portrays Attila the Hun in " Sign of the Pagan" released December 18, 1954 and filmed on the back lot of Universal Studios in North Hollywood.



The movie is great Hollywood, but it also does a very good job with its story. Although we have Jeff Chandler's Roman Centurion Marcian at the center of a love triangle with two women. One of them Attila's daughter and the other a Princess. The real Marcian would become Roman Emperor and fight Attila after Theodosius the Second died. Marcian reversed Theodosius' agreements with the Hun leader turning him once more into an enemy of Rome.

Jeff Morrow in fifth billing played Roman General Paulinus.

Image result for images of movie sign of the pagan

However, it the actress whose name does not appear on any posters for the film that is of interest to fans of 1950's Science Fiction. Portraying the killer of Attila the Hun, see still with a knife in Jack Palance's chest, was a one time ballerina name Allison Hayes. Hayes would become a low budget Sicence Fiction/Horror 1950's icon in "The Attack of the 50 Foot Women" and other features such as "The Disembodied" and "The Undead". For my readers interested in her story. Along with those of Peggie Castle and Gloria Talbot. The following link takes you to my blog article on the "Three Sisters of 1950's Science Fiction and Horror":

http://kinescopedreams.blogspot.com/2015/04/three-sisters-of-1950s-science-fiction.html



Jeff Morrow's next five roles included four on television where he played among other roles Chief Supreme Court Justice William Marshall and Edward Teach aka: "Blackbeard the Pirate". The one non-television role was third billing after Rock Hudson and Barbara Rush in the motion picture "Captain Lightfoot". A minor swashbuckler about two Irish rebels in 1815 Ireland.

 Image result for images of movie captain lightfoot

The poster proclaimed "2 1/2 YEARS IN THE MAKING!". The motion picture was "This Island Earth" and Jeff Morrow would create a role he would forever be connected with.
Image result for movie this island earth



















Released June 1, 1955 Morrow finally had top billing, even for a little while, with his performance as the Alien "Exeter".

"This Island Earth" was loosely based upon Science Fiction writer Raymond F. Jones' story of the same name. The movie is still considered one of the best examples of Science Fiction film making from the decade of the 1950's.

The feature received critical praise. The New York Times wrote at the time of the picture's release:

"The technical effects of This Island Earth, Universal's first science-fiction excursion in color, are  
so superlatively bizarre and beautiful that some serious shortcomings can be excused, if not overlooked."

While according to "Variety":

"Special effects of the most realistic type rival the story and characterizations in capturing the interest in this exciting science-fiction chiller, one of the most imaginative, fantastic and cleverly-conceived entries to date in the outer-space film field. "

The story opens as Dr. Cal Meacham's, Rex Reason not to be confused with his brother Rhodes Reason, jet develops a problem causing it to loose power. Meacham is heading for a crash when the plane suddenly turns green and the controls work on there on resulting in a safe landing.



Meacham's assistant ads to the mystery when he presents him with tiny beads instead of the large and cumbersome condensers he ordered. After being amazed by the power of the beads he receives a catalogue made of some unknown alloy that speaks of several variations of something called an "Interocitor". His curiosity peaked he orders one.

Several crates of parts arrive with only a schematic without instructions. There is also a warning that no part of the "Interocitor" can be replaced. Somehow he succeeds in building the machine and then hears a voice speaking out of it: "Please clear the screen". Then the voice instructs Dr. Meacham to place a disk in a certain spot and suddenly Jeff Morrow's "Exeter" is looking at him and his assistant.







Meacham is congratulated upon completing his test by building the machine. Exeter tells him that he represents a group of scientists working together for "Peace" and would like Dr. Meacham to join their group. A plane will be waiting at the local airfield for only a certain amount of time and if Cal Meacham is not on it. The plane will leave. Next Dr. Meacham and his assistant are told to step back and suddenly the machine starts to make weird sounds and color changes. Cal pulls the power cord and the machine implodes on itself leaving a lump of hot metal.

The morning at the airfield is foggy and there is no way a plane can land there to pick Dr. Meacham up. His assistant is concerned over the secrecy of Exeter's group and the advance tech being used by them. Next the sounds of airplane engines are heard and a plane with blackout windows lands. Dr. Meacham enters the passenger section to find a single seat and ahead of him a pilotless control panel. Exeter's voice is heard telling him to buckle his seatbelt. The door closes automatically and the controls start to work by themselves.

When Dr. Meacham arrives in Georgia waiting for him are two other scientists. One is Dr. Ruth Adams, portrayed by Faith Domergue. The other is Dr. Steve Carlson played by Russell Johnson. Cal Meacham immediately says a friendly hello to Ruth whom he has met before, but she says he must be mistaken. Then Ruth and Steve drive Cal to a Civil War style colonial home where there are other scientists from around the world he recognizes.

Dr. Meacham meets with Exeter and his assistant Brack portrayed by actor Lance Fuller.



Meacham is shown to his room and after diner with all the scientists. Ruth and Steve ask him to accompany them to his new laboratory. There is a large thick lead plate hanging in this lab. The other two scientists move it in front of another "Interocitor" and a cat is placed on top of the lead plate to drink some milk.




Ruth admits to being the girl Cal met before. Then she explains the strange events that have been occurring and that she and Steve believe Brack has been spying upon the scientists. Both Steve and Ruth asked Cal what he thinks about the large foreheads on both Exeter and Brack? The cat suddenly reacts to something and the three know they are being spied upon.

Becoming aware that there is a strange purpose behind Exeter whose seems very outgoing and friendly. Maybe a little too much of both. Cal, Ruth and Steve decide to leave. The three take one of the cars and as they go toward the small airport Cal originally landed at. The car is attacked by some form of ray. The three get out of the car, but suddenly Steve gets back in and heads away from the other two. The car is hit and destroyed, but Steve's action has saved Cal and Ruth.

The remaining two scientists make it to the airport and find a plane Meacham can pilot. They take off and head away. Near the home being used by Exeter and Brack is a lovely rolling hill. Suddenly the secret of the hill is revealed as it contains a giant flying saucer which lifts off. The saucer next destroys the house with the other scientist in it and starts to pursue Cal and Ruth.

Their plane becomes surrounded by the same green light that save Meacham before, but this time the plane and the two scientists are taken inside the craft. Escorted by Brack to Exeter. Ruth and Cal are astonished to see the Earth below them.





It is explained that they are leaving their solar system for Exeter and Brack's planet "Metaluna". Both Earth scientists start to feel very hot and are taken to tubes that will adjust their bodies to deep space and the planet they are heading for.

 

Exeter ever the good host explains everything to Ruth and Cal. There has been a war going on between Metaluna and Zagon. The people of Metaluna needed Earth scientists to help with certain problems their own  scientists face. The Ruth and Cal are to work alongside Metalunian's to restore peace to their planet.



However, when the saucer arrives on Metaluna. Exeter is ordered to take his "friends" to a machine that will enslave their minds. At the entrance to that facility is a Mutant creature that is part insect as a guard.



At that moment a bomb from a Zagon ship hits the facility killing the creature. Exeter uses the opportunity to take Ruth and Cal back to the flying saucer. He realizes his world is doomed and there is no hope. The three reach the saucer and as the hatch is closing another, but wounded Mutant is able to enter the craft.

When the three are in the tubes to adjust their bodies to Earth's atmosphere the Mutant appears, but Ruth's chamber is also almost completely open and the Mutant goes for her.



Cal and Exeter are freed and Exeter attempts to stop the Mutant who has been trained to obey Metalunian's.



In the process Exeter is injured, but just then the difference in the pressure effects the Mutant and it disintegrates. With Exeter at the controls the flying saucer enters the Earth's atmosphere and he tells Cal and Ruth to get back in their plane. After they object to leaving him. Exeter tells them he has no planet anymore, but will become a Space traveler. The plane is released from the craft and Exeter with his fatal wound dies as the saucer crashes into the Atlantic Ocean.




The movie was cut and parodied as the "Mystery Science 3000 Movie" released in theaters. The re-edit received large amounts of complaints over the editing of this classic 50's Science Fiction picture.

The screenplay for "This Island Earth" is very different than the original Raymond F. Jones short story "The Alien Machine". Which the author expanded into his novel "This Island Earth". My reader may be confused over what the title means as that is never explained in the motion picture. Without revealing the different story of the 1952 novel which I highly recommend. I will say that there is a certain allegory going on equating the war between the two outer space races with World War 2 America and Japan. "This Island Earth" is like the Philippine Islands and their importance as a defense against Japan reaching the United States.

After the release of "This Island Earth" Jeff Morrow was seen in five television appearances including one on the then popular children's series "My Friend Flicka" and another in a television production of "Billy Budd". He also appeared in a short and a boxing motion picture "World in My Corner" starring World War 2 Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy and Barbara Rush.



On April 26, 1956 Jeff Morrow starred in the third and final installment of Universal Studio's "The Creature from the Black Lagoon' trilogy. The first two installments had been in 3-D, but the craze was over and "The Creature Walks Among Us" wasn't in that process.

Image result for the creature walks among us

Once more Morrow was playing opposite Rex Reason.

Wealthy Dr. William Barton, Morrow, leads a group to the Florida everglades in search of the Gill Man who was last seen there at the end of "The Revenge of the Creature". Barton appears abusive to his wife Marcia, Leigh Snowden, and this is apparent to Dr. Thomas Morgan, Reason. As the hunt for the Gill Man proceeds Morgan becomes convinced Barton may also be mentally unstable.



The Gill Man is finally located, but during the creature's capture a fire erupts burning it.




As a result of the Gill Man's burns an operation is performed turning it into an air breathing humanoid.



The creature now is larger in body mass and his facial features have morphed as a result of the operation.



The new creature is taken back to Dr. Barton's compound and placed within an electrified fenced in area.



Being at Dr. Barton's compound is the only time the title "The Creature Walks Among Us" means anything and it certainly doesn't equate with the posters for the film of it rampaging in a city.




It is obvious that the humanoid Gill Man longs for the ocean which it can smell as Barton's home is on the beach. The creature may have been turned into an air breather by surgery, but it's instincts have not been altered.

Actor Gregg Palmer was cast as Jed Grant the guide for the everglade search. Grant has been making advances toward Dr. Barton's wife throughout the picture. However Marcia will have nothing to do with Jed, but Barton is thinking otherwise and won't believe her.

Image result for images of the creature walks among us

Dr. Barton sees Jed enter his wife's room and in a rage kills him. Becoming calm once more he realizes what has happened and takes Jed's body to the fenced area containing the humanoid creature. Barton turns off the power to the electric fence, enters the area to put the blame of Jed's death on the Gill Man, but the creature had observed the murder and that has become a stimulant for it. Dr. Barton is attacked by the humanoid and is killed.

The picture ends with the creature walking toward the ocean. The original release of "The Creature Walks Among Us" ended with a "Question Mark" on the movie screen not the normal words "The End". The purpose was twofold. The first to have the audience wonder if the changed Gill Man will now drown. The second, as there was talk of a fourth picture, using the new form of  "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" in a new series.



Jeff Morrow would next be seen in "The First Texan" playing Jim Bowie. The motion picture starred Joel McCrea as Sam Houston. Released June 19, 1956 the 82 minute motion picture covered Sam Houston's life from going to Texas, raising troops to "Remember the Alamo" and the battle of San Jacinto.







After an appearance on the television series "Climax". Released on August 1, 1956 Jeff Morrow found himself in the comedy western "Pardners" starring the team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

Image result for movie pardners

The two stars played double roles. First as the owners of a ranch where they are murdered by masked men lead by another rancher Sam Hollis. The two before being killed vow their son's will avenge them. Enter Martin and Lewis once more as the sons.



Jeff Morrow portrayed the cowboy henchman "Rio" working for the son of Sam Hollis and a foil for Jerry Lewis' antics.



"Pardners" also features Lee Van Cleef, Bob Steele and Jack Elam. Along with Lon Chaney, Jr.



Next for the actor were eight television appearances going into 1957. These included his third appearance every year on the television series "You Are There" from 1954 to 1956. The program recreated famous events in American history. In all three of those episodes Jeff Morrow had been cast as Abraham Lincoln at different stages of his life.

Sometimes you appear in a motion picture that have the critics at odds with each other. Such were the reviews of "KRONOS" aka: "KRONOS: Conqueror of the Universe" aka: "KRONOS: Destroyer of the Universe".

According to Variety: "Kronos is a well-made, moderate budget science-fictioner which boasts quality special effects that would do credit to a much higher-budgeted film ... John Emery is convincing as the lab head forced by the outer-space intelligence to direct the monster. Barbara Lawrence is in strictly for distaff interest, but pretty".
While film critic Dennis Schwartz took that opposite point of view writing: "German emigre to Hollywood, Kurt Neumann, directs this b/w shot, dull, so-so sci-fi film, that's played straight-forward, is humorless and all the thespians are wooden. It's based on the story by Irving Block and the weak script is written by Lawrence Louis Goldman".


Nine year old Lloyd enjoyed the science fiction feature and 69 year old Lloyd still does. One objection to Variety's "quality special effects" some people have is that when "KRONOS" moves it's done with animation. I would remind my reader that "The monster from the ID" in "Forbidden Planet" the year before "KRONOS" was also animated.





Jeff Morrow portrayed Dr. Leslie Gaskell, the above mentioned Barbara Lawrence was his girl friend and photographer Vera Hunter and John Emery, lower picture, was project manager Dr. Hubbell Eliot. Emery was not new to Science Fiction and starred in 1950's "Rocketship X-M". Playing Gaskell's assistant was character actor George O'Hanlon as Dr. Arnold Culver on the left side of top picture. O'Hanlon although not seen his voice would become well known to viewers of Hanna-Barbera's prime time cartoon programing as "George Jetson".





"KRONOS" also featured two well known faces in 1950's Science Fiction. The first was Morris Ankrum  as Dr. Albert Stern. Among his film credits are "Flight To Mars", "Invaders from Mars", "Earth vs the Flying Saucers" and another I will mention shortly. For those interested in this actors career. The following link will take you to my blog biography of Ankrum.

http://kinescopedreams.blogspot.com/2016_02_01_archive.html




The second well known face that my reader may not be able to connect with an actor's name belonged to Robert Shayne. Shayne had the title role of  "The Neanderthal Man" in 1953, played Inspector Henderson on "The Adventures of Superman", the mad scientist in "The Indestructible Man" with Lon Chaney, Jr., was in Rodger Corman's "Teenage Cave Man" and AIP's "How to Make a Monster" and appeared in that same motion picture with Morris Ankrum I have yet to name. In "KRONOS" Robert Shayne played an Air Force General. seen on the left of the picture below.



The movie opens up with what is supposed to have been an asteroid heading for Earth. The "asteroid" is under observation by Jeff Morrow and his team at a top secret government project. Of course the object makes a sudden change in trajectory which defies logic. It is in reality a space vehicle from which an unobserved small object detaches itself and heads for the Earth ahead of the larger craft.



The object lands as a glowing mass of electricity that enters a passing truck driver through his eyes. The driver proceeds to the project and dies, but not before passing the electrical mass to the head of the project Dr. Eliot. While the thought to be "asteroid" crashes into the Pacific Ocean off of Mexico.

Dr. Gaskell, Vera  and Dr. Culver are at a Mexican village which is at the exact spot of the asteroid's crash. However, there is nothing to be seen and the three spend the night as the guests of a local family. The next morning standing in the ocean is a robotic device that will be dubbed "KRONOS".



While the three stare in amazement at "KRONOS". At the project Dr. Eliot's  eyes start to glow and as he opens a report containing the list of all the major energy producers on the West Coast from Mexico into Canada. He then reads aloud the name and location of the closes one in the robot.

Return to Mexico as the three American's are discussing "KRONOS" it begins to move.



So what is "KRONOS"? The robotic device is actually a gigantic storage battery sent to drain the Earth of energy. While it moves from location to another Dr. Eliot has short lucid moments. In one of these he explains what the robotic device is to Doctor's Gaskell and Culver. Dr. Eliot is put under the care of psychiatrist Dr.Stern, but he comes back under the alien control and kills Stern.

Meanwhile taking a helicopter the two scientists and Vera actually land on top of "KRONOS" in the hope of discovering a way to stop it. The robot opens and the three see it's inner workings.



The Air Force becomes involved in stopping the invader and decides to drop an Atomic Bomb to destroy it. Too late Dr. Gaskell hears about it and tells the General in charge that all they are doing is giving it a large boast of energy to store. Before the General can stop the bomb it is dropped and as predicted "KRONOS" absorbs the nuclear energy. The walking storage battery heads for Los Angeles.



From their visit to the top of "KRONOS" Dr. Gaskell speculates that if they can cause a reversal of the robotic battery's polarity it would feed on itself. This is accomplished in typical 1950's Science Fiction style and the Earth is saved for the time being.

Jeff Morrow's next motion picture is the forgotten "Hour of Decision" made in the U.K. The feature was released in April 1957 in the United States and May in the U.K. He played a journalist who clears his wife of a murder charge. Playing Morrow's wife was British actress Hazel Court. Court would become known first for playing Elizabeth in Hammer Films' "The Curse of Frankenstein" starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. The first color Frankenstein picture was released the same month as "Hour of Decision" in the U.K. and June, when I would see it, in the United States. Court would become a fixture in several of Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe features and appear on many American television series episodes.

"Hour of Decision" also featured Lionel Jeffries, Robert Shaw and Anthony Dawson.



Morrow was back on television in his fifth production of the religious series "Crosswords". Which he first appeared on the previous year.  The show was about the lives of different clergymen. That fifth appearance was immediately followed by the motion picture featuring both Morris Ankrum and Robert Shayne. Whom along with the other cast members all wanted to forget being associated with.

Columbia Pictures producer Sam Katzman was given the assignment of making "The Giant Claw".





Anyone who has ever seen this turkey, pun very much intended, knows the bird is not from "17,000 B.C.", but outer space. As extremely terrible as this feature turned out to be. It has obtained "Cult Status" probably because of how extemely terrible it is. Before I describe the story let Jeff Morrow speak:

"We shot the film before we ever got a look at this monster that was supposed to be so terrifying. The producers promised us that the special effects would be first class. The director - Fred F. Sears- just told us, "All right, now you see the bird up there, and you're scared to death! Use your imagination." But the first time we actually got to see it was the night of the premiere. The audience couldn't stop laughing. We were up there on screen looking like idiots, treating this silly buzzard like it was the scariest thing in the world. We felt cheated, that's for sure, but they told us afterward that they just ran out of money. They couldn't afford anything but this stupid puppet. But it was just terrible. I was never so embarrassed in my whole life."

Co-Starring with Morrow was Mara Corday. Fans of Science Fiction knew the actress from Universal Studio's excellent  "Tarantula" and would see her again in the Willis O'Brien special effects picture "The Black Scorpion" among her other roles.



The story starts at the North Pole were Civil Engineer Mitch MacAfee, Morrow, is flying a jet in a test of a new type of radar. He claims to have seen "something" strange flying near him, but even this new radar only shows MacAfee's jet. The Air Force per UFO procedure sends three jets to investigate and one is lost. Those in charge of the project and the Air Force base blame the Civil Engineer for a UFO hoax that caused the death of one pilot. At the test site conducting her own experiment is mathematician Sally Caldwell, Corday. She also does not believe the story MacAfee is telling.

Other sightings and incidents point to Mitch MacAfee having told the truth. Mitch and Sally join forces, while falling in love, with Lieutenant General Edward Considine, Ankrum, and General Van Buskirk, Shayne. The group must find a way to stop what is now known to be a giant bird from an anti-matter Universe.







Apparently the bird has a protective shield around itself so it is able to exist in our matter Universe without destroying it. The bird is on a rampage of destruction around the globe, but Mitch and Sally discover it's secret. This space turkey has come to the Earth to reproduce and has a nest. The two destroy it.



The film's climax comes over New York City involving attacks on both the Empire State building and the United Nations by the ant-matter "Buzzard".



Jeff Morrow's Mitch MacAfee finally discovers a way to drop the protective shield so that a missile can get to the bird. The bird is shot down and falls into the Atlantic. What is ignored in typical 1950's Science Fiction style is that with the shield down. The bird's anti-matter should have come in contact with the Earth positive matter and the world destroyed.



Executive producer Sam Katzman originally planned to have Stop Motion  Animator Ray Harryhausen create "The Giant Claw". Harryhausen had made preliminary sketches for the feature. Katzman had been  executive producer on both "It Came from Beneath the Sea" and "Earth vs the Flying Saucers" and knew Ray Harryhausen's work very well. However, Columbia Pictures was founded and owned by Harry "KING" Cohan and he ordered the budget cut. As a result Harryhausen was out and Katzman was forced to send the special effects work to a small studio in Mexico. Instead of quality Stop Motion Animation we had a Marionette with very visible strings.

Sam Katzman was a genius when it came to working with low budgets for Columbia Pictures. When he knew from the start how much it was going to be. For those unfamiliar with his Horror and Science Fiction films. I recommend this DVD set:





Not only does it have "The Giant Claw". There are three other excellent mid-1950's low budget horror entries. Richard Denning stars in "The Creature with the Atom Brain". Allison Hayes stars in an interesting Voodoo Zombie picture "The Zombies of Mora Tau" and Steven Rich stars as "The Werewolf". In an outstanding picture which was I originally saw on a double bill with "Earth vs the Flying Saucers" in 1956, but is forgotten by most movie buffs. Rich's performance rivals Lon Chaney, Jr's original Larry Talbott in 1940's "The Wolfman".

The very next feature for Jeff Morrow was the western "Cooper Sky" released in September 1957. Morrow played Hack Williams who comes into the town of Occidental for the first time. He see's an Indian shoot and kill another one. Hack shoots at the killer, but misses. However, this causes the towns people to come out and they won't believe his story and want to hang him. Williams in put in Jail where he convinces a deputy to get him a bottle of whiskey.

Image result for movie copper sky

When he awakes the next morning still drunk the entire town has been attacked and the people killed by the Indian tribe in revenge for the killing the previous night, because they didn't know the truth and blamed "the white man". Enter very proper "Boston" school teacher Nora Hayes played by Colleen Gray. Gray had just appeared in "The Vampire" an  interesting twist of the tale set in a small 1957 California community. Among her other features Gray had portrayed both the wife of Tyrone Power in the very dark movie "Nightmare Alley" and the wife of Victor Mature in the excellent film noir with a classic psychotic played by Richard Widmark "Kiss of Death". She was also John Wayne's love interest in Howard Hawks' "Red River".

Nora arrived on a wagon with a man named Charlie Martin who is immediately killed by an Indian before he dies. The schoolteacher is now alone in Occidental when from around the corner appears the drunken Hack Williams. He agrees to take her to a local settlement and the film is about the two getting their alive and also falling in love.



"Cooper Sky" is a very good little movie and was followed by three more television  appearances and a starring role on the television series "Union Pacific".




1957 and 1958 saw many westerns on television, again the result of "The House Committee on Un-American Activities" hearings, and "Union Pacific" was one of those trying to have the staying power of new entries "The Life and Times of Wyatt Earp" starring Hugh O'Brien, "Bat Masterson" starring Gene Barry and "The Rebel" starring Nick Adams. Like many the show only lasted one season and was cancelled. Back at the time that one season totaled 38 episodes.

Jeff Morrow portrayed Bart McClelland an ex-Union Officer charged with the task of connecting the Union Pacific railroad from Omaha, Nebraska to Promontory, located just east of Salt Lake City, Utah. The idea of the series came from  Cecil B. DeMille's 1939 western also named "Union Pacific" starring Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea.

The series was followed by two other television appearances including one of the classic "Twilight Zone" episodes called "Elegy" one February 19, 1960. Jeff Morrow played one of three astronauts that land on a planet to find all the people frozen until a strange man seems to spring to life played by Cecil Kellaway. Kellaway is known to fans of Ray Harryhausen as Professor Thurgood Elson in 1953's "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms".



In 1959 Charlton Heston starred in "Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ". The same year Yul Bryner and Gina Lollobrigida starred as "Solomon and Sheba". Orson Wells was Saul in 1960's  "David and Goliath" as the bible made a motion picture comeback. Even Joan  Collins starred in "Esther and the King" in 1960. So Jeff Morrow playing "Tob" in "The Story of Ruth" released June 17, 1960 was a logical choice for the actor at the time. The film deals almost literally with the Old Testament story as written. That was both a plus and a minus for the audience depending on what part of the country you were from.








Image result for images of 1960 movie the story of ruth


"The Story of Ruth" would be followed by another western "Five Bold Women" released August 1, 1960. Although some sites say the film came out in 1959. It may have been made that year, but kept on the shelf, as they say, until late 1960.

The story has Jeff Morrow's Marshall Kirk Reed escorting five murderesses to prison.

Image result for images of movie five bold women

I could only locate the above poster.

This was the fifth film made by Cinematographer Haskell Wexler. His future pictures would include "Medium Cool" that started out as a story about a television reporter in Chicago and ended up documenting the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention that became Wexler's backdrop, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", "American Graffiti" and "Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf".

The names of the women in this western are great "B" Hollywood. The five are "The Missouri Lady" Downs, "Big Pearl" Jackson, "Faro Kitty" Brewster, Maria "The Knife" Garcia and "Crazy Hannah" Gates. Morrow not only has to put up with these women, but Indians and Downs' husband known as "The Missouri Kid" naturally.

Jeff Morrow from the end of 1960 into 1963 appeared only on television programs in guest appearances. These included "Bonanza", "The Rifleman" and "Tales of Wells Fargo". The episode of "Bonanza" airing October 8, 1961 was entitled "The Honor of Cochise" with Morrow playing the Indian leader.



Shot in Puerto Rico was "Harbor Lights" without every having even one in the picture according to the New York Times reviewer.



In fact I'll let the New York Times describe the 1963 picture at this link:

http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9406E2D6113AE13ABC4B52DFB466838F679EDE

Back to television with appearances on "Perry Mason", "Daniel Boone" and even "Gomer Pyle:USMC" among others. In 1969 Jeff Morrow appeared in a motion picture comedy made in Italy entitled "il giovanne normale (Normal Young Man)". The actor had seventh billing as "Professor Sid".  The movie is described as the escapades of a young Italian hitchhiker picked up by a group of American tourists.

Il giovane normale.jpg

The Italian comedy was a signal as to the direction Jeff Morrow's career was taking at this time. In fact he joined a group of 1950's movie and television stars in a 1971 quickie film originally entitled "Blood Legacy" aka: "Legacy of Blood" aka: "Will to Die". The film is described on the website "Rotton Tomatoes" this way:

"Legacy of Blood is also known as Blood Legacy, as if it matters. Yes, friends: in AD 1971 we still have the old saw about a family of greedy relatives gathered in a mysterious, possibly haunted house. Whoever survives the night will get the legacy. Dollars to donuts that many of them won't be around at sun-up. John Carradine is well accustomed to the tawdry surroundings of Legacy of Blood; Carradine's costars Faith Domergue, Merry Anders, John Russell wander aimlessly about, perhaps in search of their lost careers."

It is notable that in this review Jeff Morrow doesn't even receive mention.


Image result for images of movie legacy of blood

How does an actor follow such a classic? Why with another one "Octoman" released November 3, 1971. This is another film filled with actors looking for income. Besides Jeff Morrow "Octoman" had Kerwin Matthews, "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad", Pier Angeli, "Somebody Up There Likes Me" co-starring with Paul Newman and "Sodom and Gomorrah" directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Stewart Granger.

Image result for images of 1971 movie octoman


"Octoman" was followed by appearances on five more television shows and fittingly Jeff Morrow ended his career on April 11, 1986 in the new "Twilight Zone" television series episode "A Day in Beaumont". It was about a young couple who are out driving when they see a flying saucer land by the town of Beaumont. However, no resident of the town will believe them until they discover the residents are all aliens.

On December 26, 1993 Jeff Morrow passed away in Canoga Park, California. The actor was cremated and his ashes scattered across the Pacific Ocean on the Palos Verdes peninsula. Exeter had once more crashed into the ocean and will always be remembered by lovers of Science Fiction.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Walt Disney, Max Fleischer Animation Feud

When we think of Walt Disney we think of all those classic animated shorts, feature length films and of course going to Disneyland and Disney World. What most of us don't think about, or today may even know about are two incidents in his past. The first was very literally a Cartoon War with Max Fleischer and the other accusations of Walt Disney being a racist. The purpose of this article is not to take sides, but to attempt to fairly present the facts pertaining to these two events.

WALT AND MAX
.
Part One:The Two Main Combatants:
Max Fleischer born July 19, 1883 in Karkow, Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, Austria-Hungary. Walter Elias “Walt” Disney born December 5, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois. Their Seconds, Their Brothers: Dave Fleischer born July 14, 1894 in New York City, New York
Lou Fleischer born May 18, 1889 in New York City, New York Roy Oliver Disney born June 24, 1893 in Chicago, Illinois.


Part Two: A short Back Story: You will be reading about two Animation Studios locate…

Noble Johnson African-American Pioneer Actor:

Noble Johnson the Pioneer African-American Actor is buried five minutes from my home. He is just up the street from my Senior's community of "Friendly Valley" in another valley called "Eternal", His resting place is located in Newhall, California on Sierra Highway off of the 14 Freeway, Noble Johnson rests within the "Garden of Peace" in plot A-270.



The question is do you recognize his name?

Probably not, but if I said he portrayed the Chief of the natives of Skull Island in Merian C. Cooper's 1933 "King Kong". You would immediately recognize that character.



Noble Johnson the man and actor was anything, but that Chief spouting Hollywood Native Jibberish about turning Fay Wray into the Bride of Kong. This is the story of one of the finest early African-American actors in the motion picture industry. Who appeared in 145 films, wrote two early screen plays and produced one feature film among other accomplishments.

Noble Mark Johnson was bo…

I BOMBED PEARL HARBOR: December 7, 1941 in Motion Pictures

75 years ago today, December 7, 2016, the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into World War 2. One of my neighbors was a ten year old girl in Hawaii that day in 1941. She saw the attack as it happened.

Revisionist history tells us that the Japanese made two major mistakes that day after the attack was over. The first was Admiral Nagumo's decision not to search for the missing American aircraft carriers. The second was his decision not to continue to the West Coast and attack our military bases and ship building facilities there. That same revisionist history states had either been successful the United States probably could not have entered the war for months, or years.

However, this article is not about military history, or the history of World War 2 as it actually happened. This is a look at a few select motion pictures made about that attack as produced by both the United States and Japan. Films that have lost interest to many Millennial…