Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Dick Powell and Radiation Poisoning .. Whaaa?

So, I thought I was familiar with Dick Powell.  There are 2 Dick Powells in my brain.

He was first the "lead Juvenal" in the early Busby Berkeley musicals (Dames, 42nd St., Golddiggers, etc.).  He had to make moon-face at Ruby Keeler (who cannot act) or Joan Blondel (who could).  But he was always there with his, Hey Kids Let's Put On A Show enthusiasm.
Later, there was Philip Marlow Dick Powell.  His voice, still clear but lower pitcher solving crimes and constantly looking for Velma.
Turns out Dick Powell was also a director - and I just found this out (from TCM's discussion of Atomic Movies)...

Which brings us back to Split Second. Killer Sam Hurley (Stephen McNally) figures the best place to hide from the police dragnet is the abandoned ghost town of "Lost Hope City," destined to be obliterated the next morning. The tension of the film is all about how close to the last possible second--or split second--Hurley is going to cut his final escape. But outrunning the immediate effect of the shockwave is not the same as escaping the blast, a distinction the film chooses not to make. 

The cruel irony of that conclusion is what it implied for the production team: not long after making this film, director Dick Powell headed up the John Wayne vehicle The Conqueror (1956), shot in St. George, Utah, downwind from an above-ground atomic test like the one depicted in Split Second. Twenty five years later, 91 members of Powell's 220-member cast and crew from that film had died of cancer--a rate three times higher than the national average. The cancer deaths included Wayne himself--and Powell, who died of lymphoma just seven years after the shoot. 


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Anonymous said...

And Patrick Wayne had a bout with breast cancer, he survived. He was on the set of The Conquerer visiting his dad often. Scary. --svh

Mark T said...

I had, coincidentally, just heard about this Conqueror/cancer story for the first time a few days before you posted this. It was pretty interesting, but then I found this: