Tribute By Monica Sullivan
The other night I watched "Jagged Edge" to see how the years had treated that so-called neo-noir of 1985. It was even more mediocre than I remember it being: Joe Eszterhas screenplays tend to date badly & I suspect that his 1992 "Basic Instinct" script looked like something out of an antigue time capsule by 1993. I enjoyed the Oscar-nominated performance of Robert Loggia as Sam Ransom, though, & wished that he could have been in every frame so his tremendous vitality could have camouflaged the rest of the mothball-ridden movie. Robert Loggia, now 70, trained with Stella Adler at the beginning of his long, if not always high-profile, career. The role of Frankie Peppo in MGM's "Somebody Up There Likes Me" gave him his start at the age of 26, followed by the part of Tulio Renata in the 1957 film noir "The Garment Jungle" at Columbia.
In 1958 and 1959, Loggia was as slender & charismatic as a flamenco dancer when he played a different sort of Western hero for Walt Disney: a lawyer named Elfego Baca. Elfego Baca believed in resolving conflicts within the law by peaceful means. He could be a tough physical opponent if he so chose, but most of the time he just didn't feel like it. Loggia reined in his boundless energy but made sure that audiences always knew it was there. After the series, Loggia played Dr. David Loring in "The Lost Missile" & Detective Steve Carelli in "Cop Hater," both independently produced for United Artists. He returned to the Western genre in 1963 as Johnny Quatro in MGM's "Cattle King" & played Joseph in George Stevens' 1965 Biblical epic "The Greatest Story Ever Told." Then, according to film historians who deplore the invention of anything created during their own lifetimes (that would be television! Folks), Robert Loggia was missing in action for the next twelve years.
Only he wasn't. He starred in the fondly remembered "T.H.E. Cat" series, made telefeatures, appeared in daytime dramas & was a guest star on dozens of weekly shows before he "suddenly" turned up as John March in the 1977 theatrical feature, "First Love," directed by Joan Darling. After that, Loggia was constantly in demand as a character actor on the big screen, including three Pink Panther flicks & "S.O.B." for Blake Edwards, "Prizzi's Honor" for John Huston, "The Believers" for John Schlesinger, "Wild Palms" for Oliver Stone, & "Big" for Penny Marshal. Film reviewers of 1988 especially liked the dance routine Tom Hanks did in "Big," citing the fact that it gave them the same warm & fuzzy feelings that classic Hollywood musicals once had. If you look at the sequence closely, you'll notice that Loggia's joyful reactions to Hanks' child-like character make the dance far more magical than it would have been had Hanks danced alone. The secret of Loggia's endurance since 1956 is that not only does he make his co-stars look great, but he makes his own characters linger in viewers' minds well after the credits. Robert Loggia's characters invariably seem far more colorful & real than they probably were in the shooting script. The sizzling Elfego Baca of the 1950's is every bit as intriguing to watch today & definitely deserves another shot at an Oscar before he calls it a career.
© 2000 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 5/10/00
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