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  • A family friend obtained an invitation for my mother and me to visit Ann Blyth on the set during the making of this film. She was very gracious and I can recall being amazed at the mask-like makeup required for the lights and black-and-white cameras of the day. I couldn't see how she could move one of her facial muscles! The scene being shot involved Marjorie Rambeau coming to the door of the Martin family residence to, if I recall correctly, apologize for her son's depredations upon the career and reputation of Mr. Martin, played by Van Johnson. When I saw the completed film in a theater, I was surprised at how much emotional distress Ann was able to convey through that thick layer of William Tuttle's makeup. Miss Rambeau, by the way, was quite enjoying her return to the spotlight and, between takes, vastly amused the crew with her exclamations of appreciation for the little hand-held battery-operated fan that had been given her. Van Johnson was on the soundstage that day but was schmoozing in his dressing room/trailer with a production executive and didn't emerge once during that long afternoon. Both he and his co-star, Miss Blyth, were often underrated by critics and reviewers in their day, although TIME magazine gave this modestly budgeted production a good review, with praise for all the performers in the cast.
  • Though Van Johnson is the subject of the Slander, the driving force behind this film is Steve Cochran as the cynical publisher of a supermarket tabloid magazine. He's one scary dude who has no feelings and no one can reach him, not even his mother Marjorie Rambeau.

    Back in 1957 Confidential Magazine which was the prototype of things like the National Enquirer of today was publishing all kinds of exposes on celebrities. Cochran's rag is also looking to do an expose on Van Johnson who is a newly popular host of a kid's show. Back during the Depression he committed a holdup and did his time and Cochran wants an to expose him. Cochran though will back off if he will give him some dirt on another girl who grew up on his block who became a big movie star.

    Cochran is such a rat that he approaches Johnson through his wife Ann Blyth. This raises all kinds of issues in their marriage.

    Slander also makes some subtle references to the tactics of the House Un American Activities Committee and how they would 'trade up' with immunity if someone would give them a bigger prize.

    Johnson and Blyth turn in some good performances, but it's really Cochran you have to watch. He will thoroughly creep you out.
  • abooboo-215 December 2000
    I heartily concur with the first posted comment. Far from being "superficial" as Leonard Maltin's review describes it; "Slander" is a smart, straightforward drama, well acted by all the leads and expertly crafted by veteran director Roy Rowland.

    Steve Cochran, generally an inarticulate brute in films, here plays the slick, debonair owner of a notorious gossip magazine who is anxious to break a big scandal to reverse a recent decline in sales. He zeroes in on children's entertainer Van Johnson, a decent, stand-up guy who nonetheless has a secret in his past which would most likely end his suddenly flourishing television career if found out. Johnson can save himself and his family from disrepute if he "trades" Cochran damaging information he has about a popular movie actress he knew while growing up in a tough neighborhood years ago.

    The movie chronicles this moral dilemma in a balanced, intelligent way, methodically laying the emotional and intellectual groundwork for the difficult choices the major characters end up making. It's one of those nifty little flicks that reminds one of some efficient piece of machinery - no wasted motion.

    Cochran once again is excellent. His technique is exceptional, unerring. He's got this guy, a bullying, insecure poser, down. Watch the scene in the restaurant where he finds out that he's being bumped from a TV talk show due to a fellow guest's refusal to appear on the same program with him. Just before the steely resignation and the business-like thirst for payback, he's hurt, like a little boy who finds out he hasn't made first team. Johnson and Blyth are appealing as the devoted husband and wife, as is the child actor Richard Eyer, who plays their son.

    But special mention has to go to the great Marjorie Rambeau, sort of a Susan Sarandon type in her younger days, here she plays Cochran's weary, alcoholic, deeply ashamed mother. Her impossibly large, sad, soulful eyes aptly foreshadow the tragedies that follow.
  • Saw this on TCM yesterday (thank you TCM for unearthing so many great little unknown movies) and was riveted from beginning to end, all the more so, because it's suddenly so relevant with the whole News o/t World debacle going on at present. I liked the fact that the suspense hinged on an ethical dilemma and was excellently acted by all, even Van Johnson, who is one of my least favorite actors, was convincing. Impressive was Steve Cochran, whom so far I have only seen in "pretty boy" roles and proves to be an actor of a lot more depth and gravitas. I agree with some of the statements that the ending was rather melodramatic and for me rather unsatisfying the way it played out. I wanted to see our villain suffer much more for his misdeeds (or I would have given it a 10 out 10). Particularly noticeable was the very natural acting of the young actor, who played Van Johnson's & Ann Blyth's son, whereas most young actors of the old Hollywood days relied mostly on cute posturing and almost rote delivery of their lines. Catch it when it plays again on TCM
  • The scenes involving Steve Cochrane (speaking with MGM's exaggeratedly elegant diction) and his mother (Marjorie Rambeau, brilliant, as he is, in her role) are creepy. The atmosphere is fetid. This is indeed an insider's look at what could make someone invent and edit a Hollywood scandal rag along the lines of Confidential.

    His office, with a scared secretary, works, too; and the story surrounding his frail mother's being snubbed by head waiters because of her son's sleaziness is shocking.

    We're really in Tennessee Williams country with these people.

    If only the man he sets out to ruin had been played by someone other than wholesome Van Johnson. Yes, Johnson gives it his best; but he isn't, through no fault of his own, convincing as someone who's spent four years in jail.

    Then there is his wife, Ann Blyth. It's not so much that we think of her in her greatest role, Veda in "Mildred Pierce," as that she seemed ideally cast in that and doesn't -- for me, at least -- work in sympathetic roles.

    She has a cold, mean look, which is accented by the heavy eye makeup she wears here.

    It turns sanctimonious when they and their son are in the spotlight.

    Nevertheless, Cochrane paints an indelible picture as the society-hating, mother-loving Park Avenue monster. And Rambeau is poignant, even with the Grand Guignol ending.
  • A curious period piece not without interest, Slander was made in the heyday of guttersnipe periodicals like "Confidential," that ruined show-biz careers and blackmailed victims into spilling dirt on bigger prey. Steve Cochran portrays the oily gossip publisher, a bachelor with a strangely solicitous relationship with his alcoholic mother (Marjorie Rambeau). In trying to dig up the goods on a beloved Broadway star, he zeros in on Van Johnson as a boyhood pal, a third-rate puppeteer who has finally got his big break in the new medium of television. Alas, the puppeteer once served four years in the hoosegow for armed robbery, despite the fact that he's now a devoted family man with wife (Ann Blyth) and son (Richard Eyer) in tow. Van Johnson refuses to knuckle under to the blackmail demands, and much melodrama ensues. Today, with a no-holds-barred press with almost non-existent restraints when it comes to public figures, Slander looks a bit quaint. But in the 50s, these tactics -- which probably wouldn't have been tolerated except for the parallel phenomenon of McCarthyism -- were seen as a deadly threat to the studios and their stars. Scandal, made at MGM under Dory Schary, is Hollywood's overwrought (and none too good) response. The following year, Alexander Mackendrick's chillingly dark Sweet Smell of Success (with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis)trod much the same ground in a far more memorable way.
  • The excesses of '50s tabloid journalism, embodied by the Confidential-like magazine portrayed herein, get a solid shellacking in this minor MGM production. It's written by the often-interesting Jerome Weidman and directed by the often-boilerplate Roy Rowland, and it was made at just the right moment to capture the public's love-hate relationship with scandal sheets. A couple of details don't ring true: Would the puppeteer (Van Johnson, quite OK) really become a major TV personality from these tired kiddie sketches, and are we really to blame the reptilian editor (Steve Cochran, excellent) for what happens to Johnson's son? And the climax involving Cochran's mother (Marjorie Rambeau) I don't believe for an instant. But it's worth a look as a portrait of the glam life at the time, with posh two-bloody-Mary lunches and Park Avenue apartments and big, big cars.
  • A tabloid magazine threatens to ruin a television performer's career in "Slander," a 1956 film starring Van Johnson, Steve Cochran, Ann Blyth and Marjorie Rambeau.

    Well, first of all, it should have been called "Libel" which refers to the printed word; slander refers to the spoken. You'd think after years of dealing with both, someone at MGM would have known the difference.

    Steve Cochran plays the head of this trash magazine, a type of periodical nowadays so common one doesn't even blink. In the film, his magazine was the pioneer, probably modeled after the real-life "Confidential." As in the film, a host of me-toos followed - in the '50s, this included "Whisper" and "Quick" magazines. These mags released Rory Calhoun's criminal record, accused Lisabeth Scott of using the services of call girls, that sort of thing. Something about the black and white format of the early tabloids made them even sleazier than "The Enquirer" types today, which deal mostly with gossip, hospital records sold to them by the hospital staff, and outing of celebrities. Eventually celebrities fought back by breaking their news first on talk shows.

    H.R. Manley (Cochran) believes that everybody has some dirt in their past, and he's after a huge female film star. He knows that a children's TV performer, Scott Martin (Johnson) grew up with her and knows about a problem in her past. He finds out that Martin himself spent four years in prison for armed robbery and intends to print that story and ruin his career if Martin doesn't tell him what happened to his childhood friend. Does he save himself and let her career be sacrificed? His decision leads to tragedy.

    Cochran is cold as ice as Manley and handsome in a George Clooney-Tyrone Power kind of way. His facial expression never changes, nor does his smooth voice. He's a man with a dead soul. His mother, played by Marjorie Rambeau, is against what he does to make a living. Rambeau, a favorite actress of mine, is excellent. Van Johnson and Ann Blyth are the Martins; Blyth is really more suited for society women - she's very pretty and also not the warmest person to stand before a camera. But she does a good job, as does Johnson, who is very well cast as a family man and children's entertainer.

    The story is dramatized in a somewhat extreme way. It will definitely hold your interest, though the ending could have been better.
  • Not without interest and surely applicable Today, this expose of Tabloid Journalism and what used to be called "Scandal Sheets/Rags" is cold and overly sentimental at the same time. It never seems to find its groove and what is left is a noble, cheap looking misfire.

    Van Johnson's Character is sugary sweet, His Wife is barely memorable, and the Son is used for a most overwrought and ludicrous ending. There is some edge to the Movie but it wavers sometimes, with some stiff situations and the look of a TV Production.

    Worth a view for its B-Movie effort done by a Major Studio that couldn't seem to go all the way with anything more than the weakest and predictable of conclusions. It is Melodramatic when it should have been darkly cynical. The TV appearance by the Star, unintentional or not, is eerily reminiscent of Nixon's Checkers Speech.

    By the way, Slander is Spoken...Libel is Written.
  • rbrb18 August 2006
    Well done Turner Classic Movies for showing this gem!

    50 years+ old this movie,yet the story as relevant today as ever.

    A magazine tycoon who loves his mother makes his success from sensational true stories which expose the truth about famous people.

    The tycoon is played by someone I have never heard of until now, called Steve Cochran. What a star! This individual dominates the screen with his presence like few can. A super performance from him and the story has an excellent script.

    The only problem for me is that the mother who is depicted in the film as disapproving her sons' journalistic methods; also the ending is unrealistic and over the top. Hence I have deducted one point. Otherwise a solid: 9/10.
  • Plot—Family man Scott is about to hit the TV big time with his engaging puppet show. Trouble is a scandal magazine run by the unscrupulous Manley threatens to publish a damaging article on Scott's past unless he spills the beans about the indiscretion of a celebrity much bigger than he that only he knows about. Thus Scott faces a moral dilemma—should he make the trade-off or not.

    Back in the mid-50's, a lot of folks were tired of Photoplay, Screen Stars, and their like. In short, they wanted insider stories, real low downs on the seamy side of the air-brushed celebs of show biz. Thus Confidential magazine hit the stands with a splash that shook up the whole industry. Hollywood, in particular, quaked in fear; after all, they had big money invested in their carefully molded stars, and any hint of scandal could mean ruin for their investment. Rumors circulated that lesser figures could be sacrificed to the scandal sheets to protect bigger ones, e.g. George Nader to protect Rock Hudson. Of course, public morals were much more stringent in those days. Homosexuality and infidelity, for example, were strictly forbidden, and, if exposed, could wreck a career.

    Clearly, Slander is a Hollywood attempt to strike back at the scandal purveyors. Just as clearly, the deck has been loaded by casting choices. Cochran's dark good looks usually translated into tough hoods. Here he still carries a dark appearance and a sinister reputation, but executes the oily slick Manley in expert non-thuggish fashion. It's the most tightly controlled turn I've seen from the fine actor. On the other hand, who embodied All-American virtue more solidly than sandy-haired freckle-faced Van Johnson. Add the sweet innocence of actress Blythe and the boyish appeal of moppet Eyer, and the deck is loaded from the outset.

    Nonetheless, the movie's first part setting up Scott's (Johnson) moral dilemma is quite well- done, tight and economical. The second half, however, descends into heavy-handed melodrama, contrived and far-fetched. I take the latter as MGM's effort at hyping the price the magazine and Manley (Cochran) must pay for their unscrupulous acts. Too bad that the screenplay over-hyped this second part since the trade-off's sleaze factor is enough to discredit the magazine's shady enterprise. At the same time, the contrivances not only overdo the worthy message, but work to remind us that this is only a movie, after all.

    Of course, changes in public morals have dated the movie. Nonetheless, with a less contrived second half, the film might succeed on its own merits, even now.
  • onepotato217 December 2012
    Warning: Spoilers
    It's 1957 and the moral ambiguity and artfulness of the Noir era has been almost completely eradicated in favor of Eisenhower-era conformity and blandness. The free-wheeling male identity of the post-war years is being neutered.

    This movie has an interesting character or two, and presents an interesting dilemma or two, only to founder with a feeble 2nd act. Slandering someone, it turns out, is wrong because it might cause little Timmy to get hit by a car (huh ?!). Yeah... that's crap - a tiresome trope of the 50s that all conflicts must be tied to a desexualized, reproductive imperative, and be embodied in the wholesomeness of some squeaky-clean pipsqueak.

    It feels like a Playhouse 90 production, but Van Johnson (frequently a miserable and/or cardboard actor) actually does a decent job, as does the actress playing his wife (Ann Blyth). They're both too good for the movie. Also good is Steve Cochrane as dashing scandal-hound Steve Manley. The resolution in which Mother Manley guns down her own son (in a brightly-lit drawing room - so un-Noir) for being too despicable is absurd. Viewers might have wanted more serious topics in movies indeed, as this producer posited, but heartfelt moral simplifications filmed cheaply just aren't nutritious enough. These events seem to be occurring in a Petri dish.

    I continually get 'Slander' confused with 'Libel' (Dirk Bogarde).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ****SPOILERS**** On target and at the same time shocking movie about how scandal sheets can destroy those whom they feed on and how a brave father Scott Martin, Van Johnson, who together with his wife Connie, Ann Blyth, refused to give into their blackmail were the victims of one of them. Just when puppeteer Scott Martin got a big brake in getting top billing on a nationally syndicated children's TV show the publisher of the popular yellow rag "Real Truth" Magazine H.R Manley, Steve Cochran, got hold of a ten year old police report that documenting that he served time behind bars for an armed robbery, with a switchblade, the put his victim into the hospital in critical condition. Given a choice by Manley to expose actress Mary Sawyer "America's Sweetheart" whom Scott grew up with on the mean streets of Brooklyn of getting an abortion with his mother preforming the operation Scott decided to take the hit and not reveal what he knew about her to Manley. What happened next was far worse then even Scott and his wife Connie could have ever imagined.

    It was the Martin's 10 year old son Joey, Richard Eyer, who ended up getting taunted by his school mates, in calling his dad a jailbird, so badly and unmercifully that in trying to run away from them ran into the street and got hit by a car killing him. Despite the damage that Manley and his magazine caused he took that tragic event as a gift from heaven,it should have been a gift from hell, to capitalize on the Martin's family tragedy and make big bucks out of it. As it turned out it was Manley's sweet kind and elderly mom, Marjorie Ramboau, who ended up doing the right thing even though it didn't bring Joey back. But in the end it ended up putting an end to H.R Manley and his magazine for good. And also educated the public in how by them supporting Manley's rag by plunking down .25 for it every week they were as guilty as Manley was in Joey's death.

    Van Johnson was never better as Scott Martin the grieved father of his son Joey who in trying to protect Mary Sawyer's career ended up exposing himself as an ex-convict and destroying his career instead. It was that noble action on Scott's part that did far worse to him and his wife Connie then what would have happened to Mary Sawyer. And it was Scott's appearance on a national TV news discussion show that exposed that greedy and unscrupulous low life H.R Manley for what he really was. But with Manley more then willing to go the extra yard or dollar in making more blood money out of Joey Martin's tragic death instead of putting it behind him was more then his mom Mrs. Manley could take. Who ended up doing the right thing even though it would end up costing Mrs. Manley her freedom.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Though dated, I think this is a very powerful movie.

    A puppeteer (Van Johnson)is about to hit the big time as a television personality, sponsored by a cereal company which caters to kids...until it is discovered that when he was 19 he was an convict for a felony. The secret is dredged up by a scandal magazine, and Johnson finds himself about to lose his new t.v. contract and, perhaps, his family...which includes a young son. Can it get much worse? Yes, when the son is in a school yard fight, resulting in him being hit and killed by a car.

    Johnson is the key to the plot here, and this film is a reminder that occasionally he went beyond the light roles for which he was so well known. This is a remarkably good performance, and he was just right for the role. I was less impressed with his wife in the film -- Ann Blyth. She's okay. Period. The son -- Richard Eyer -- you'll recognize him -- was an excellent young actor, and his film death here is a shocker. The publisher of the scandal sheet is played by Steve Cochran seems a bit too polished, but I thought that he intentionally nuanced his role, and as a result he was rather effective. Marjorie Rambeau -- with whom I was not familiar -- played Cochran's elderly mother here, and she was excellent.

    As I said, this is dated -- puppeteers...but it was taking place in the 1950s. That makes the film lose some of its punch, but this is an under-appreciated film, and well worth a watch. Van Johnson will probably surprise you!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    VIEWER'S GUIDE: Borderline.

    COMMENT: There would seem to be some promising dramatic material in an expose of a Confidential-style magazine, but this film does precious little to provide it. The screenwriters have chosen to present their arguments from a small domestic view-point rather than to deal with the issues on a large and broad scale. This small-scale treatment makes the contrived and melodramatic plot seem even more gross and unconvincing.

    Roy Rowland's B-grade direction doesn't help either. Nor do the unsound performances by Miss Blythe and young Master Eyer. Van Johnson struggles nobly as usual. The support cast is definitely second-rate (at least they are made to seem so in Roy Rowland's unambitious hands).

    The dialogue is often crudely contrived. In fact, some of it is nauseous and banal enough to make even an undemanding audience whine.

    Production values are distinctly minor.

    OTHER VIEWS: The subject matter is now very dated and a modern audience will find the plot mechanics even less convincing - not that the film had much appeal on its original release. I doubt if it recovered even its modest negative costs. - G.A.