Lizabeth Scott (born September 29, 1922) is a retired American film and voice actress and singer.
She was born Emma Matzo in Scranton, Pennsylvania, one of six siblings born to Ruthenian parents who had emigrated from Slovakia, in what is present-day Uzhhorod, Ukraine, whose surname may originally have been "Motzas". She attended Central High School and Marywood College (nowMarywood University).
She later went to New York City and attended the Alvienne School of Drama. In late 1942, she was eking out a precarious living with a small Midtown Manhattan summer stock company when she got a job as understudy for Tallulah Bankhead in Thornton Wilder's play The Skin of Our Teeth. However, Scott never had an opportunity to substitute for Bankhead.
Rise to fame
Don DeFore and Lizabeth Scott in a promotional still from Too Late for Tears
When Miriam Hopkins was signed to replace Bankhead, Scott quit and returned to her drama studies and some fashion modeling. She then received a call that Gladys George, who was signed to replace Hopkins, was ill, and Scott was needed back at the theatre. She went on in the leading role of "Sabina", receiving a nod of approval from critics at the age of 20. The following night, George was out again and Scott went on in her place. Soon afterward, Scott was at the Stork Club when film producer Hal Wallis asked who she was, unaware that an aide had already arranged an interview with her for the following day. When Scott returned home, however, she found a telegram offering her the lead for the Boston run of The Skin of Our Teeth. She could not turn it down. She sent Wallis her apologies and went on the road. Though the Broadway production, in which she was credited as "Girl", christened her "Elizabeth", she dropped the "e" the day after the opening night in Boston, "just to be different".
A photograph of Scott in Harper's Bazaar magazine was seen by film agent Charles Feldman. He admired the fashion pose and took her on as a client. Scott made her first screen test at Warner Brothers, where she and Wallis finally met. Though the test was bad, the producer recognized her potential. As soon as Wallis set up shop at Paramount, she was signed to a contract. Her film debut was in You Came Along (1945) opposite Robert Cummings.
Paramount publicity dubbed Scott "The Threat," in order to create an onscreen persona for her similar to Lauren Bacall or Veronica Lake. Scott's smoky sensuality and husky voice lent itself to the film noir genre and, beginning with The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) starring Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin, the studio cast her in a series of noir thrillers. Film historian Eddie Muller has noted that no other actress has appeared in so many noir films, with more than three-quarters of her 20 films qualifying.
Lauren Bacall, with whom Scott was continuously compared.
The dark blonde actress was initially compared to Bacall because of a slight resemblance and a similar voice, even more so after she starred with Bacall's husband, Humphrey Bogart, in the 1947 noir thriller Dead Reckoning. At the age of 25, Scott's billing and portrait were equal to Bogart's on the film's lobby posters and in advertisements. The film was the first of many femme fatale roles for Scott. In 1946 exhibitors voted her the seventh-most promising "star of tomorrow".
She also starred in Desert Fury (1947), a noir filmed in Technicolor, with John Hodiak, Burt Lancaster, Wendell Corey and Mary Astor. In it, she played Paula Haller, who, on her return from college, falls for gangster Eddie Bendix (Hodiak), and faces a great deal of opposition from the others. Scott was paired with Lancaster, Corey and Kirk Douglas in Wallis' I Walk Alone (1948), a noirish story of betrayal and vengeance. In 1949, she starred as a vicious femme fatale in Too Late for Tears.
Having been known professionally as Lizabeth Scott for 4½ years, she appeared at the courthouse in Los Angeles, on October 20, 1949 and had her name legally changed. Another courtroom appearance came several years later, in 1955, when she sued Confidential magazine for stating that she spent her off-work hours with "Hollywood's weird society of baritone babes" (a euphemism for a lesbian) in an article which claimed Scott's name was found on the clients' list belonging to a call-girl agency. The suit was dismissed on a technicality. After completing Loving You in 1957, Elvis Presley's second film, Scott retired from the screen. Later that year, she recorded her album,Lizabeth. The next few years saw Scott occasionally guest-star on television, including a 1963 episode of Burke's Law.
After completing her final major film role, Scott signed a recording contract with Vik Records (a subsidiary of RCA Victor) and recorded an album with Henri Rene and his orchestra (in Hollywood on October 28, 29 and 30, 1957). Simply titled Lizabeth, the tracks are a mixture of torch songs and playful romantic ballads. The recordings were arranged by George Wyle and Henri Rene, while Herman Diaz, Jr. produced and directed.
Despite some rumored romances, no positive records of a relationship exist, and Scott is believed to have never married. She has no children. At least one book has claimed she was a mistress of married film producer Hal Wallis.
While she continued to make some guest appearances on various television shows throughout the 1960s, much of her private time was dedicated to classes at the University of Southern California. Scott made her final film appearance in Pulp (1972), an affectionate pastiche of noirs co-starring Michael Caine and Mickey Rooney. Since then she has kept away from public view and declined most interview requests.
She did, however, appear on stage at an American Film Institute tribute to Hal Wallis in 1987. In 2001, she was listed as one of the celebrity guests for the Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special, which screened in the USA on CBS. More recently, she was photographed next to an image of herself on the poster for The Strange Love of Martha Ivers at the AMPAS Centennial Celebration for Barbara Stanwyck on 16 May 2007. She recently attended another screening of the film on June 28, 2010 as part of AMPAS's "Oscar Noir" series at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
In 2003, Scott spoke substantially to Bernard F. Dick about her time in films for his biography of producer Hal Wallis. In the book, the author remarks that during his conversation with Scott in a restaurant, Scott (around 80 or 81) was still able to recite her opening monologue from The Skin of Our Teeth, which she had learned many decades earlier but never had the chance to perform on Broadway as Bankhead's understudy.
Lizabeth Scott has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to motion pictures at 1624 Vine Street in Hollywood.