There are few performers around that exude the instant recognizability that compresses multiple generations of movie lovers into a solitary entity of affection and respect as does Robert Loggia. I must confess that I immediately succumbed as well. When Bob and his wife Audrey drove up to the parking lot in the rear of the Egyptian Theatre where I was waiting to greet them on Wednesday night, I experienced a film buff’s psychological voltage spike: “Holy Cow, it really is Robert Loggia – what a guy!”
Loggia started out in the mid 1950’s and as he remarked following the screening of The Garment Jungle that after finishing college, the Army and then studying acting with Stella Adler ( I may have the order wrong…), he immediately went to work as an actor. Bob readily admitted that, “I never had to ‘pay my dues’ waiting tables and the like.” He studied hard at his craft, but his grace as an athlete (a scholarship to University of Missouri was arranged by N.Y. Giants football coach Jim Lee Howell) and inner confidence never made him take pause. Bob recalled his first time treading the boards during a college production at Mizzou: “I wasn’t nervous at all. I was completely comfortable on stage.”
The Garment Jungle was Robert Loggia’s second movie and it remains a superbly acted, taut film. The writing by Harry Kleiner is dramatically terse and the cast is excellent: a svelt-looking Lee J. Cobb, Kerwin Mathews, Gia Scala, the always-ominous Richard Boone, Valerie French, Joe Wiseman, Robert Ellenstein, Celia Lovsky, Wesley Addy, the late Adam Williams; a veritiable character actor’s Hall of Fame.
Envisioned as a hybrid On the Waterfront N.Y.C. location picture by the respected Robert Aldrich, the formidable director immediately clashed with the ferocious Columbia mogul Harry Cohn who wanted the film shot on his soundstages. There were also reports that Aldrich additionally bumped heads with writer-producer Harry Kleiner. By whatever circumstances, Robert Loggia recalled that Vincent Sherman briefly sat in the director’s chair for Aldrich who pulled up ill and was off the set for one day. The following morning came a terse studio announcement was that Sherman was in as director of The Garment Jungle and Aldrich was out. Thank you very much, Harry Cohn.
“Aldrich bulled his way past the studio guards and addressed the cast and crew , thanking them and letting everyone know what a raw deal he got”, remembered Loggia. “He was a hell of a guy”.
Sherman ended up reshooting nearly all of the existing footage and got a sole directorial credit for The Garment Jungle which Aldrich vainly protested. The rough treatment accorded Robert Aldrich by Harry Cohn appeared to be tinged with personal emnity (Rod Steiger’s portrayal of ruthless studio chief “Stanley Hoff” in Aldrich’s The Big Knife a year earlier might have cut too close to the bone for the mercurial Cohn). Robert Loggia experienced a milder version of the mogul’s retribution towards people he could not bend to his will. The actor recalled, “I didn’t sign a long term contract with Columbia and so my billing on the credits was knocked down to a secondary level.” Despite the snub, Loggia’s performance in the movie remains seminally powerful.
All in all, Robert Loggia enjoyed the roguish Harry Cohn and added, “I’d really like to play him, but I am probably too old now.” No way.
After a half hour Q&A with the actor that barely scraped the surface on a distinguished career that encompasses over 200 shows and films ranging from Disneyland, T.H.E. Cat, his return to movies after “my mid-life crisis” in An Officer and a Gentleman, to The Sopranos, Robert Loggia still has the magical presence as a natural force on screen.
When it comes to acting, Robert Loggia reminds me of a quote by Ty Power’s “Rick Carlisle”in Nightmare Alley (1947) concerning all-together different profession:
“Mister, I was born for it…”
Many of us hope for many more shows by Bob Loggia.
L.A. Film Noir Festival postscript:
The second feature on Wednesday night, Abandoned (1949) was the finale feature for a terrific festival.
In my concluding remarks during which I publicly recognized the copious contributions of The Film Noir Foundation, the dedicated asset managers and archivists at Warner Bros., Sony-Columbia, Universal, Paramount, The Motion Picture Academy, UCLA Film & Television Archive and M*G*M repertory who provided the unparalleled, excellent prints, all of the special screening guests as well as the generous American Cinematheque team, it dawned on me to comment that it was darkly appropriate for this festival to conclude with yet another masterfully scripted Bill Bowers film noir!
Noir City’s next festival road stop is in Seattle, Washington in July. Can’t wait till next year in L.A. though.