So, I was watching Union Pacific (1939), with Joel McCrea and Barbara Stanwyck not too long ago. Fun solid movie. I knew most of the actors in it but one. This guy:
I did not recognize him at all. He played a rather rougish gambler, not quite on the right side of the law. His smooth-talking charm was a nice foil for Joel McCrea's honest law-abiding character, and their scenes together were really good. Now, I'd even watched and read the credits in the beginning of the movie, seen his name go by... and I still couldn't put name to face. About 3/4ths through, I'd had it. He was driving me crazy. I had to know who it was. So, paused the film, looked it up on IMDb... it was Robert Preston.
Now, really, I actually wouldn't expect me to recognize him. I'm not familiar with him as much more than a name. I think the first thing I ever saw him in was The Last Starfighter, which I saw in the theater in 1984. No, I've never seen more than a few random musical numbers from The Music Man. I may love musicals, but never could get into that one. One of these days someone might force me to sit through the whole darned thing. So really, knowing him only in one of the last movies he ever made, how would I recognize him when he's 21 and quite the handsome young hunk?
Interestingly, his voice (if I'd paid attention) is very recognizable.
Since watching Union Pacific, Robert Preston has started popping up in all sorts of movies I've been watching. (So weird how that happens.) He showed up as the smooth-talking, ratfink bad guy in Best of the Badmen (1951) with Robert Ryan and Claire Trevor. He popped up in Wake Island (1942), in which, even knowing this time he was in it... I didn't recognize him in his first few scenes yet again. What is he, a chameleon?? Or is it just me? I had the Union Pacific and Best of the Bad Men curly-haired and moustached Robert Preston in my mind, and couldn't make the jump to clean-cut, burly marine. What finally gave him away in Wake Island was his voice.
And I notice he's also in Blood on the Moon (1948), with Robert Mitchum, which I'm due to watch next. Wonder what he'll be like in that one?