Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dust Be My Destiny (1939)

Dust Be My Destiny (1939). Cast: John Garfield and Priscilla Lane. The original ending of the film had Joe and Mabel shot to death, but the failure of the film, You Only Live Once, which had a tragic ending, prompted the Warner Bros. studio to want a happy ending. When writer Robert Rossen refused to write the new ending, Seton I. Miller was brought in to write it.

Joe Bell, is wrongly convicted of a crime he did not commit, but.. when the real culprit was caught and confessed, he is released. Later, he and his friends are picked up for vagrancy and sentenced to a county work farm. There, he meets Mabel Alden, the stepdaughter of the brutal and drunken prison foreman and the two fall in love.

When her step father catches them together, he slaps Mabel and in turn, Joe hits her stepfather, who dies of a heart attack because of his poor health caused by alcoholism. Running for their lives Joe and Mabel, leave the work farm and cross the state line and marry.

Mabel, wants to turn themselves in but, Joe does not think any one believe them refuses. They are given a job by kindly diner owner, Nick, who even helps them escape when Mabel is caught and Joe breaks her out of jail. 

Needing money, Joe.. is on the verge of pawning his camera, when he stumbles on a bank robbery and captures it on film. Impressed with the pictures, Mike the newspaper editor, offers Joe a job on the paper.

Later, when members of the gang threaten Mike unless he returns the negatives. Once again, he is threatened with being exposed as a wanted fugitive. As he is getting ready to flee once again, Mabel, not wanting to live a life on the run turns in her husband. Will Joe ever find justice and forgive Mabel for turning him in?

This film is worth seeing for Garfield's performance alone, but Henry Armetta and Alan Hale are both excellent too and there's an enjoyable Max Steiner score.

Priscilla Lane (June 12, 1915 – April 4, 1995), was the youngest of five daughters of Dr. Lorenzo A. Mullican, DDS, and his wife, Cora Bell Hicks. Dr. Mullican had a dental practice in Indianola.

Priscilla and one of her sisters, Rosemary, traveled to Des Moines every weekend to study dancing with Rose Lorenz. The girls made their first professional appearance September 30, 1930, at Des Moines' Paramount Theater. Priscilla, then 15, performed on stage as part of the entertainment accompanying the release of her sister Lola's Hollywood movie, Good News (1930).

After graduating from high school, Priscilla traveled to New York to visit a third sister, Leota, who was then appearing in a musical revue in Manhattan. Priscilla enrolled at the Fagen School of Dramatics.

At this time, talent agent Al Altman saw Priscilla( age 16) performing in one of Fagen's school plays and invited her to screen-test for MGM.

In 1932, Cora and Rosemary arrived in New York, where Cora immediately took her daughters to auditions for several Broadway productions, without success. During a tryout at a music publishing office, orchestra leader and radio personality Fred Waring heard them harmonizing, signed them to a radio contract.

Rosemary sang the ballads, while Priscilla performed the swing numbers and wisecracked with Waring and various guests.

Back in Iowa, Dr. Mullican  divorced his wife on the grounds of desertion and Rosemary and Priscilla remained with Fred Waring for almost five years.

In 1937, Waring was engaged by Warner Bros. and performed in the film, Varsity Show, a musical starring Dick Powell. Both Rosemary and Priscilla were tested and landed roles in the film. Rosemary was the romantic interest of Powell, while Priscilla was a high-spirited college girl.

Warner Bros. purchased Priscilla and Rosemary's contract from Fred Waring and signed them to seven-year contracts. Priscilla's next film was, Men Are Such Fools (1938), in which she starred with Wayne Morris. This was followed by, Love Honor and Behave (also 1938), another light romantic comedy with Morris, who, playing her husband, spanked her 47 times in a scene for which she declined a double, and Cowboy from Brooklyn, again teaming with Dick Powell.

Priscilla was next assigned the lead in Brother Rat, which had been a very successful Broadway play. Again she played opposite Wayne Morris and among the cast were newcomers Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman, Jane Bryan, and Eddie Albert.

After winning her raise, Priscilla returned to work, but the films assigned to her were no better than those she had turned down. Brother Rat and a Baby (aka, Baby Be Good, 1940) was an inferior sequel and Three Cheers For the Irish (also 1940) gave her little to do.

She appeared opposite Ronald Reagan in a light hearted comedy, Million Dollar Baby (1941) and as a night club singer in Blues in the Night (also 1941).

Frank Capra requested her for the lead opposite Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace. The comedy film was completed in early 1942, but was not released until 1944, it was held up by contractual agreement not to distribute the film until the play's long Broadway run was over. It was Priscilla's last Warner film. Her contract was terminated by mutual agreement after five years with the studio.

She freelanced, signing a one-picture deal with Universal Studios where she starred with Robert Cummings in Alfred Hitchcock's, Saboteur (1942). The director did not want either Cummings or Lane for their roles. Hitchcock felt Lane was too much the girl next door but, Universal insisted.

She had commitments for two more films: Silver Queen (1942) for producer Harry Sherman in which she co-starred with George Brent. She played the owner of a gambling house in 1870's San Francisco. The other film was a Jack Benny comedy, The Meanest Man in the World, released in January 1943. Lane then retired from films.

For the duration of the war, she followed her husband across America as he moved from one military base to another. She often performed at camp shows. While living in Van Nuys, she was offered and accepted the leading role in Fun on a Weekend (1947) for producer–director Andrew Stone, co-starring Eddie Bracken. Soon after, Lane returned to domestic life. Once again she and her husband moved, this time to Studio City.

Lane accepted the offer of the lead role opposite Lawrence Tierney in a film noir, Bodyguard (1948), starring as Doris Brewster.  Bodyguard would be her last picture.


  1. You know, I don't think I've ever read any biographical info on Priscilla Lane, and I found your post really interesting. Thanks for writing this lovely tribute.

  2. Great post and very interesting bio on Priscilla Lane. It makes me want to go a watch one of her movies.

  3. Love the new blog look, Dawn.

    As I told you on your FB, until "The Breaking Point," this was my favorite John Garfield film. I adore that man, and I really loved his character in this film.

    Priscilla Lane is a real sweetheart in every film I've ever seen her in. It was fun to learn a bit more about her. Thanks for sharing about her.


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