Friday, October 22, 2010

Richard Denning

I remember when I was a kid in the 1950s that my father would always warn me to avoid movies with Richard Denning (1914 - 1998).  Let's take a look at Denning's career.

Denning started acting in community theater in the 1930s and his first movie was Hold 'Em Navy in 1937 starring Lew Ayres (1908 - 1996).  He was in The Big Broadcast of 1938 with an all star cast.  The next year he was in Some Like it Hot, but the one with Bob Hope, not Marilyn who was only 13 years old at the time.

I saw an interesting title of a short film he made in 1939 called Television Spy, a fiction about the development of TV that was released the same year that TV was introduced to the public at the World's Fair.

Most of his films were not big hits, but he worked with some great stars, including Dorothy Lamour (1914 - 1996), William Holden (1918 - 1981), Buster Crabbe (1908 - 1983), and Barbara Stanwick (1907 - 1990), while starring in a few B-movies of his own.  But, movies with titles like Insurance Investigator (1951) are never going to be big hits.

Denning gets a few WWII movies in and then the sci-fi craze hits, bringing us Creature from the Black Lagoon and Target Earth in 1954.  There were other sci-fis in his filmography, but I won't go there!  I think those were the films my father was talking about.

A big hit was An Affair to Remember (1957) with Cary Grant (1904 - 1986) and Deborah Kerr (1921 - 2007).  Denning also did a lot of regular television work starting in the early 1950s with "Mr. and Mrs. North" also starring Barbara Britton (1919 - 1980).  He was in a series called "The Flying Doctor" (inspired by "The Flying Nun"?) that I have never seen.

Dunning's last film was I Sailed to Tahiti with an All Girl Crew in 1968, but not an all star cast.  He ended his acting career on a high note, as the governor on "Hawaii Five-0" after he basically had retired to Hawaii.  He was there anyway...why not work a little?

Never a big star, even by his own admission, Richard Denning is not an actor to avoid as my father suggested.  His movies can be campy or hokey, and perhaps some of them are dull, but they are a good way to pass a lazy afternoon.  In his own words, "I'm very grateful for a career that wasn't spectacular, but always made a good living or filled in 'in-between'..."

How about a Richard Denning Weekend on TCM?


  1. I've been watching the original Hawaii Five-o lately. Saying "he was there anyway" kind of sums up his role on the show too. Everyone on that show seems to be a prop for Jack Lord, including Denning.

  2. I agree. After finding his quote that summed up his career, I can't help but wonder how well he would have done if he put some effort into it!


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