This week’s unusual mystery movie is “Once Too Often” and I chose it to promote film preservation. “Once Too Often” is otherwise known as …
… T.F. 20-1684 and it was restored by the National Archives this year because it was Jack Lemmon’s film debut. The film (which is online) is a cut above the typically campy driver’s ed movie we expect of training films, mostly because of Lemmon. He is very funny as a soldier who gets 10 days leave and takes stupid risks, always being saved by his guardian angels.
Unfortunately, because it is a training film, almost nothing is available about the movie. There are no credits. “One Too Often” isn’t even listed in IMDB, which I hope to rectify in the next week. Based on evidence in the film, it seems that it was shot in New York state in 1950, and it features a hotel and bar named the Pine Tree Inn.
So the work of the Brain Trust has been extremely valuable in trying to identify our mystery actors. And congrats to Anne Papineau for identifying “Once Too Often.”
My hunch about the cast is that they were chosen from the pool of New York stage and TV actors who were available in 1950. But let’s see.
In 1950, Lemmon was performing in the ABC-TV show “That Wonderful Guy” as the houseboy of a “sophisticated New York drama critic,” played by Neil Hamilton. Although IMDB says the show started in 1949, a New York item on Jan. 1, 1950, calls it a new series that debuted at on WJZ-TV at 9 p.m. on Jan. 4, 1950, with with Cynthia Stone and Jo Hurt.
On Feb. 20, 1950, Lemmon appeared on WCBS-TV at 10 p.m. in an episode of “Studio One” titled “The Wisdom Tooth” with Barbara Bolton.
On April 1, 1950, the New York Times announced that Lemmon would be master of ceremonies for “Toni Twin Time,” a variety show airing on CBS-TV on Wednesdays “to serve as a showcase for professional talent.” “Twin Time” doesn’t appear in Lemmon’s IMDB credits, but it seems to have continued through June 1950 and resumed in September.
Constance Ford (Thursday’s mystery woman), appeared as Miss Forsythe in the original Broadway run of “Death of a Salesman,” from Feb. 10, 1949, to Nov. 18, 1950. She doesn’t appear in the New York Times until Nov. 16, 1950, when she is listed as appearing in “The Tower Beyond Tragedy” with Robert S. Harrison and Judith Anderson. Also in November 1950, she is listed as appearing on the two-LP set of “Death of a Salesman,” with Thomas Mitchell as Willy Loman rather than Lee J. Cobb.
Aha! According to an Oct. 29, 1982, New York Times article, “Once Too Often” was made by the Signal Corps at the Army Pictorial Center in Astoria, Queens.
This week’s mystery movie is a bit unusual, even for the Daily Mirror archives du cinema. For Monday, we have a mystery gent.
Guesses on this chap were John Hoyt, Fritz Lieber, Everett Sloane and Powell Pressberger.
And for Tuesday, another mystery gent.
Guesses on this chap were Paul Douglas and William Windom.
Note: This mystery movie is unlike any film we have had before, so for now we will list members of the Brain Trust who have submitted answers without revealing what they were. The reason will become clear Saturday, so be patient.
Brain Trust roll call: Charles Kjelland, Mary Mallory, Arye Michael Bender and Gary Martin.
And for Wednesday, we have another mystery gent. His headgear is apparently the costume department’s attempt to fashion an ancient Greek eye shade, in case you are wondering.
The most popular guess for this fellow was Arnold Stang, but this was shot in 1950, when Stang was in his early 30s and this is a much old man. Plus our actor sounds nothing like Stang. Other guesses were Marvin Kaplan and Sir. Cedric Hardwicke
Brain Trust roll call: Dewey Webb.
And for Thursday, we have a mystery couple at the bar.
It seems fairly certain that our mystery woman is Constance Ford, but nobody tried to guess the fellow on the left (that is Lemmon with his back to the camera about to make a pass at Ford.
Brain Trust roll call: Gary Martin, Chrisbo, David Inman, Sarah, E. Yarber, Diane Ely and L.C.
And for Friday, we have the star of our especially mysterious film.
Finally, a very young Jack Lemmon.
Brain Trust roll call: Anne Papineau, Jenny M., Gary Martin, Benito, Sarah, Dan Nather, Howard Mandelbaum, Dewey Webb, and Lee Ann, Megan and Thom.