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 even a few horror andfantasy films. However, his most enduring image is that of the tall-in-the-saddle Western hero. Out of his more than 100 film appearances more than 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, and Sam Peckinpah. He also worked on multiple occasions with prominent directors: Henry Hathaway (eight times), Ray Enright (seven), Edwin R. 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 2.5 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.
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, eighth in 1951, and again 10th in 1952. Scott also appeared in the Quigley's Top Ten Money Makers Poll from 1950 to 1953.
George Randolph Scott was born in Orange County, Virginia, but reared in Charlotte, North Carolina, the second of six children born to parents of Scottish-American descent. His father was George Grant Scott, born in Franklin, Virginia, an administrative engineer in a textile firm. His mother was Lucille Crane Scott, born in Luray, Virginia, a member of a wealthy North Carolina family. The Scott children in order of birth were: Margaret, Randolph, Katherine, Virginia, Joseph and Barbara, most born in North Carolina.
Because of his family's financial status, young Randolph was able to attend private schools such as Woodberry Forest School. From an early age, Scott developed and displayed an athletic trait, excelling in football, baseball, horse racing, and swimming.
World War I
In April 1917, the United States entered World War I and shortly afterwards, Scott, then 19 years old, joined the United States Army. He served in France as an artillery observer with the 2nd Trench Mortar Battalion, 19th Field Artillery. His wartime experience would give him training that would be put to use in his later film career, including the use offirearms and horsemanship.
Post World War I career
After the Armistice brought World War I, to an end, Scott stayed in France and enrolled in an artillery officers' school. Although he eventually received a commission, Scott decided to return to America and thus journeyed home around 1919.
With his military career over, Scott continued his education at Georgia Tech where he set his sights on becoming an all-American football player. However a back injury prevented him from achieving this goal. Scott then transferred to the University of North Carolina, where he majored in textile engineering and manufacturing. As with his military career, however, he eventually dropped out of college and went to work as an accountant in the textile firm where his father was employed.
Stage and early film appearances
Around 1927, Scott developed an interest in acting and decided to make his way to Los Angeles and seek a career in the motion picture industry. Fortunately, Scott's father had become acquainted with Howard Hughes and provided a letter of introduction for his son to present to the eccentric millionaire filmmaker. Hughes responded by getting Scott a small part in a George O'Brien film called Sharp Shooters (1928). Despite its title and the presence of O'Brien, Sharp Shooters is not a western, as some film historians claimed. Rather, it's a romantic comedy. A print of the film survives in the UCLA Film and Television Archive.
In the next few years, Scott continued working as an extra and bit player in several films, including Weary River (1929) with Richard Barthelmess and The Virginian (1929) with Gary Cooper. Reputedly, Scott also served as Cooper's dialect coach in this latter film.
On the advice of director Cecil B. DeMille, Scott also gained much-needed acting experience by performing in stage plays with the Pasadena Playhouse. Scott's stage roles during this period include:
- A minister in Gentlemen Be Seated
- A butler in Nellie, the Beautiful Model
- Metellus Cimber in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar
- Hector Malone in George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman
In 1931 Scott played his first leading role (with Sally Blane) in Women Men Marry, a film, now apparently lost, that was made by a Poverty Row studio called Headline Pictures. He followed that movie with a supporting part in a Warner Bros. production starring George Arliss, A Successful Calamity. In 1932 Scott appeared in a play at the Vine Street Theatre in Hollywood entitled Under a Virginia Moon. His performance in this play resulted in several offers for screen tests by the major movie studios. Scott eventually signed a seven-year contract with Paramount Pictures at a salary of US$400 per week (adjusted for inflation, US$400 in 1932 is the equivalent of approximately US$4800 in 2006).
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. Reputedly the couple spent little time together and the marriage ended in divorce three years later. Prior to and between his first and second marriages Scott was romantically linked with several prominent film actresses, including Lupe Vélez, Sally Blane, Claire Trevor, and Dorothy Lamour. In 1944, Scott married Patricia Stillman, with whom he adopted two children. The marriage lasted until Scott's death in 1987.
Randolph Scott and Cary Grant
"Bachelor Hall" photo
Although Scott achieved fame as a motion picture actor, he managed to keep a fairly low profile with his private life. Off-screen he was good friends with Fred Astaire and Cary Grant. He met Grant on the set of Hot Saturday (1932) where they share only one scene together and shortly afterwards they began rooming together in a beach house in Malibu that became known as "Bachelor Hall." According to biographer Robert Nott, "They lived together on and off for about ten years, because they were friends and wanted to save on living expenses (they were both considered to be notorious tightwads)."
In his book, Cary Grant: Grant's Secret Sixth Marriage (2004), Marc Eliot claims Grant had a sexual relationship with Scott after they met on the set of Hot Saturday (1932). He also claimed that while they may have saved money by rooming together, they also lost career opportunities after Paramount decided not to pair them together in the film Spawn of the North because of the rumors regarding the duo's sexual orientation. They didn't work together until the hit film My Favorite Wife (1940), at which time, Eliot claimed Grant used his clout and star power to get Scott cast in a supporting role in the film. A series of publicity photographs taken in 1933 of the two actors in their home and on the beach fanned the rumors, along with Scott's decision to continue living with Grant, even after Grant's bride, actress Virginia Cherrill, moved in with them. In Hollywood Gays (1996), Boze Hadleigh, author of numerous books purporting to "out" the sexual orientation of celebrities, makes various claims for Scott's homosexuality. He cites homosexual director George Cukor who said about the homosexual relationship between the two: "Oh, Cary won't talk about it. At most, he'll say they did some wonderful pictures together. But Randolph will admit it – to a friend." There is considerable disagreement over the veracity of Hadleigh's claims about alleged homosexuals in Hollywood. According to William J. Mann's book, Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910–1969, photographer Jerome Zerbe spent "three gay months" in the movie colony taking many photographs of Grant and Scott, "attesting to their involvement in the gay scene." In 1995, Richard Blackwell published his autobiography From Rags to Bitches, where he declared he was a lover of both Grant and Scott. In 2012, Scotty Bowers wrote a memoir "Full Service," where he also claimed that he was a lover of both Grant and Scott.
In 1944, Scott and Grant stopped living together but remained close friends throughout their lives. Grant's insistence that he had "nothing against gays, I'm just not one myself", is treated at length in Peter Bogdanovich's book of essays about actors, Who the Hell's in It. Scott's adopted son, Christopher, also challenged the rumors. Following Scott's death, Christopher wrote a book entitled, Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?, in which he rebuts rumors of his father's alleged homosexuality. Budd Boetticher, the director most often linked with Scott's work, had this to say about the rumors: "Bullshit."