Calling Dr. Death

1943

In "Calling Dr. Death," the first of six films he made for Universal based on the popular "Inner Sanctum" suspense radio program, Lon Chaney, Jr. plays a respected neurologist who can't remember if he's responsible for his unfaithful wife's murder.

Cast:
Lon Chaney Jr. .... Dr. Mark Steel
Patricia Morison .... Stella Madden
J. Carrol Naish .... Inspector Gregg
David Bruce .... Robert Duval
Ramsay Ames .... Maria Steele
Fay Helm .... Mrs. Duval
Holmes Herbert .... Bryant
Alec Craig .... Bill
Frederick Giermann .... Marion's Father
Lisa Golm .... Marion's Mother
Charles Wagenheim .... Coroner
Mary Hale .... Marion
George Eldredge .... District Attorney
John Elliott .... Priest

 

Patricia Morison

New York-born Ursula Eileen Patricia Augustus Fraser Morison was once described by the Hollywood press as a "blond brunette," that is, a brunette with the vivacity of a blonde. She also had what, at 39 inches, was considered the longest hair in Hollywood. The daughter of a playwright/actor and a theatrical agent, Patricia Morison studied at the Art Students League in New York and also trained in dance with Martha Graham. At 19, she was working as a dress designer and thinking of a career in either art or dance, but was roped into an audition by a friend, and suddenly found herself with a stage career. Morison understudied for Helen Hayes in Victoria Regina and appeared in The Two Bouquets before being offered a screen test and a contract with Paramount in 1938, at the age of 24. Her stay in Hollywood was not a happy one, as the studio tried to alter her image and generally put her into less-than-stellar films, such as Persons in Hiding, Rangers of Fortune, and Tarzan and the Huntress. Among the few major films she did were The Fallen Sparrow starring John Garfield, Song of Bernadette, the Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn romantic comedy Without Love, and Dressed to Kill, the last of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies.

Fortunately, she had done some singing on USO tours during the war and had taken the trouble to train her voice under the instruction of Richard Borchert. Among those who heard her sing in Hollywood was Cole Porter, who -- after being satisfied that Morison had the vivacity required for the role -- pushed her for the part of Lili Vanessi in the musical Kiss Me, Kate, over the objections of the producer and director. With further training from Constance Collier, Morison became a star in the biggest hit of Porter's career, as the shrewish actress who is tamed by Alfred Drake. Morison appeared in over 1000 performances of the show, on Broadway and later in the British production, and also reunited with Drake to do it on television on the Hallmark Hall of Fame anthology series. Since the early '50s, she has also appeared in stage productions of The King And I, Kismet, The Merry Widow, and Song of Norway. She has appeared in two movies since, one in the 1970s and one in the 1980s, and done occasional television work (most visibly an episode of Cheers in which she plays the corporate wife who engages Woody to entertain as a clown at her grandchild's birthday party), and pursued her early aspirations as a painter, her work enjoying numerous showings in Los Angeles. In 1999, Morison, along with the rest of the surviving original cast, were saluted by the cast of the successful Broadway revival of Kiss Me, Kate. ~ Bruce Eder, All Movie Guide

Ramsey Ames