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Temporarily at least, Clift and Douglas have run away from such other promising newcomers as Arthur Kennedy, Richard Basehart, Robert Ryan, John Lund, Farley Granger, Louis Jourdan, Ricardo Montalban and Christopher Kent. One who has not been left behind is Melchor Ferrer (no kin to Broadway's Jose), an experienced actor. His performance in Lost Boundaries, as the Negro doctor who secretly crosses the color line, is one of the year's best. Scarcely a newcomer, but definitely a comer, is Richard Widmark. It took two years and three pictures for 20th Century-Fox to dilute the Widmark venom into the milk of human kindness; in Down to the Sea in Ships, the public lapped the milk up eagerly. Slattery's Hurricane, Widmark's latest picture, will feed them some more.
Knees & Yeast. What all the most promising new cinemactors have in common is acting ability. "What these new girl starlets have in common," cracked one Hollywood whip last week, "is that they all bend their legs at the knee as they walk." Few of Hollywood's young actresses seem to have the yeast it takes to rise into the big dough. That yeast, says MGM's Casting Director Billy Grady, is a compound of "beauty and bitchiness." A pinch of acting ability can help, too.
Ava Gardner, 26-year-old ex-student of stenography who married & divorced Mickey Rooney and Artie Shaw on the way up, has a B-and-B quality that makes M-G-M hope she will become a screaming siren by the time Lana Turner begins to run down.
RKO's Jane Greer projects the sort of high-frequency sex that can shatter a glass eye at 50 paces, but she seems to be more interested in home and family than in becoming a big star. Audrey Totter, on the other hand, is burning with ambition, and has some acting talent too.
Ruth Roman and Shelley Winters are among the few starlets recently dredged who are suspected of harboring real ability. Ruth first showed her stuff in The Window, an RKO sleeper, and in Champion scored a smash to go with Kirk Douglas' haymaker. Warner signed her along with Douglas, is rumored to be grooming her as Bette Davis' successor.
Another good bet is Shelley Winters, the tidiest little actress to come Hollywood's way in years. In A Double Life, Larceny and The Great Gatsby she played the kind of chippie-off-the-block whom men inevitably fall for and (in the movies) just as inevitably murder. She brought to her few short scenes a cheap-cologne breath of real life that lingers on. However, at present Shelley's charms, encased in her typecast, do not appear to the best advantage.
School & Sodas. Eye-filling Elizabeth Taylor is no such problem. In fact, she is no problem at all. Elizabeth has only a little temperament and almost no side; she pretends to no more learning than she needs, reads little besides movie magazines, hates school, loves ice-cream sodas, convertibles and swimming pools, and admires big strong men.
Elizabeth's womanly beauty usually makes strangers forget that she is, after all, only a youngster, but her behavior quickly reminds them of it. Beneath her breath-taking façade there is scarcely a symptom of sophistication. But Elizabeth, for all her youngish ways, is a purposeful girl in a way that Hollywood admires: she is feverishly ambitious to make a success in pictures.