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George Randolph Scott (January 23, 1898 – March 2, 1987) was an American film actor whose career spanned from 1928 to 1962. As a leading man for all but the first three years of his cinematic career, Scott appeared in a variety of genres, including social dramas, crime dramas, comedies, musicals (albeit in non-singing and non-dancing roles), adventure tales, war films, and a few horror and fantasy films. However, his most enduring image is that of the tall-in-the-saddle Western hero. Out of his more than 100 film appearances over 60 were in Westerns; thus, "of all the major stars whose name was associated with the Western, Scott most closely identified with it."
Scott's more than 30 years as a motion picture actor resulted in his working with many acclaimed screen directors, including Henry King, Rouben Mamoulian, Michael Curtiz, John Cromwell, King Vidor, Allan Dwan, Fritz Lang, Sam Peckinpah, Henry Hathaway (eight times), Ray Enright (seven), Edwin L. Marin (seven), André de Toth (six), and most notably, his seven film collaborations with Budd Boetticher. Scott also worked with a diverse array of cinematic leading ladies, from Shirley Temple and Irene Dunne to Mae West and Marlene Dietrich.
Tall (6 ft 2½ in; 189 cm), lanky and handsome, Scott displayed an easygoing charm and courtly Southern drawl in his early films that helped offset his limitations as an actor, where he was frequently found to be stiff or "lumbering". As he matured, however, Scott's acting improved while his features became burnished and leathery, turning him into the ideal "strong, silent" type of stoic hero. The BFI Companion to the Western noted:
In his earlier Westerns ... the Scott persona is debonair, easy-going, graceful, though with the necessary hint of steel. As he matures into his fifties his roles change. Increasingly Scott becomes the man who has seen it all, who has suffered pain, loss, and hardship, and who has now achieved (but at what cost?) a stoic calm proof against vicissitude.
Although Scott achieved fame as a motion picture actor, he managed to keep a fairly low profile with his private life. Offscreen he was good friends with Fred Astaire and Cary Grant. He met Grant on the set of Hot Saturday (1932), and shortly afterwards, to save on living expenses, they shared a beach house for 12 years in Malibu that became known as "Bachelor Hall". In 1944, Scott and Grant stopped living together but remained close friends throughout their lives.
Grant was married five times. In 1934, just as the Hays Code was put solidly into place and the campaign against pansies both on- and off-screen had reached its peak, Grant left the home he shared with Randolph Scott and married actress Virginia Cherrill. From the start, their marriage was a disaster: the once-carefree Grant, as light and bubbly aas his on-screen portrayals, attempted suicide after only a few months. She divorced him on March 26, 1935, following charges that Grant had hit her. The two were involved in a bitter divorce case which was widely reported in the press, with Cherrill demanding $1000 a week from her husband in benefits from his Paramount earnings. Freed by his divorce, Grant'd go back to living with Scott.
The gay scene was documented in the 1930s by Jerome Zerbe, who spent "three gay months" (his words) in the movie colony. Fascinating are his many photos of Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, attesting to their involvement in the gay scene: Scott arriving at a party at Zerbe's apartment, several lovely poses of Grant in a bathing suit. Zerbe often stayed with Grant and Scott, finding them both warm, charming, and happy. He'd later confide to several friends that he had affairs with both of them. Zerbe's photographs of the Countess Dorothy di Frasso's party in the summer of 1935, however, remain the most intriguing. The writer Brendan Gill would recount a tale as told to him by Zerbe, in which the countess, known for her malicious sense of humor, secured recording devices to the undersides of all her garden benches. On the day of her party, the wily countess nailed some pretty incriminating tales from her unsuspecting guests. Zerbe's photographs documented the party, and reveal the guests to have all been part of the "sophisticated" clique. Although Cary Grant arrived with perennial date Betty Furness, he posed jauntily with William Haines, George Cukor, and Clifton Webb; Claudette Colbert mugged playfully next to Marlene Dietrich, refuting for posterity charges that they barely knew each other. In one shot, Zerbe captured Colbert taking home movie of Dietrich. A few weeks later, the countess invited the same group back for another party. Gill reported: "She played back for them the indiscreet conversations they had carried on in the supposed privacy of the garden. The prank was not well received." Indeed Photoplay's pseudonymous "Cal York" (perhaps at this point the gay writer Jerry Asher) reported that di Frasso received five urgent (York's emphasis) pleadings from unnamed persons to not play the recordings at her next party, or ever again.
Mr. Blackwell, still as Dick Ellis, spent a few months living with Grant and Scott, considering them "deeply, madly in love, their devotion complete... Behind closed doors they were warm, kind, loving and caring, and unembarrassed about showing it."
The Grant-Scott cohabitation would finally be severed permanently by new marriages for both of them, although they remained friends for the rest of their lives. Grant's biographer, Roy Moseley, interviewed the maitre d' at the Beverly Hillcrest Hotel who recalled seeing the two of them in the 1970s, now old and white-haired, sitting in the back of the restaurants, late at night, after all the other diners had left. They were holding hands.
Scott married twice. In 1936, he became the second husband of heiress Marion duPont, daughter of William Du Pont, Sr., and great-granddaughter of Éleuthère Irénée Du Pont de Nemours, the founder of the E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. Marion had previously married George Somerville, with Scott serving as best man at the wedding. The Scotts' marriage ended in divorce three years later, in 1939. The union produced no children. Though divorced, she kept his last name nearly five decades, until her death in 1983.
In 1944, Scott married the actress Patricia Stillman, who was 21 years his junior. In 1950, they adopted two children, Sandra and Christopher.
During the early 1950s, Scott was a consistent box-office draw. In the annual Motion Picture Herald Top Ten Polls, he ranked 10th in 1950, seventh in 1951, and 10th in both 1952 and 1953. Scott also appeared in the Quigley's Top Ten Money Makers Poll from 1950 to 1953.
While there had been some rumors that they were a romantic couple, Scott's adopted son, Christopher, said the rumors were untrue. Budd Boetticher, who directed Scott in seven films from 1956 to 1960, said the rumors were "Bullshit".
Following Ride the High Country, Scott retired from film at the age of 64. A wealthy man, Scott had managed shrewd investments throughout his life, eventually accumulating a fortune worth a reputed $100 million, with holdings in real estate, gas, oil wells, and securities.
He and his wife Patricia continued to live in his custom, mid-century modern, Burton A. Schutt-designed home at 156 Copley Place, Beverly Hills. During his retirement years he remained friends with Fred Astaire, with whom he attended Dodgers games. An avid golfer with a putting green in his yard, Scott was a member of the Bel Air Country Club, Los Angeles Country Club and Eldorado Country Clubs. Scott also became friends with the Reverend Billy Graham. Scott was described by his son Christopher as a deeply religious man. He was an Episcopalian and the Scott family were members of All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills, and St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Scott died of heart and lung ailments in 1987 at the age of 89 in Beverly Hills, California. He was interred at Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte, North Carolina. He and his wife Patricia had been married for 43 years. Patricia Stillman Scott died in 2004. The Scotts are buried together in the Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte NC. Their mid-century modern home was torn down in 2008.
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