Tinseltown Talks: Hollywood legend Terry Moore returns to the screen
Editor’s note: Tinseltown Talks is a column by Nick Thomas of Alabama, featuring interviews with stars from Hollywood’s Golden Era.
Since her first film role in 1940, Terry Moore has appeared on the big screen in each of the subsequent eight decades. Recently celebrating her 90th birthday, the actress plays a lead role in the Vladislav Kozlov-directed period drama about silent film superstar Rudolph Valentino—Hollywood’s first male sex symbol.
“The film’s called ‘Silent Life’ and I had 90 pages of dialog to learn,” said Moore from her home in Santa Monica. “I feel it’s one of the best roles I’ve ever had.”
Following Valentino’s passing in 1926, a veiled woman who became known as “The Lady in Black” visited the actor’s grave each year, depositing a red rose. Over the years, the ritual was copied by other women and Moore’s character is an amalgamation of these mysterious crypt callers.
To prepare for the role, Moore said she and the director visited Sequoia National Park to rehearse.
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“Going to Sequoia and working among those wonderful old trees was a brilliant idea,” Moore said. “The peaceful, quiet environment was perfect to bring out the range of emotions I had to develop and deliver in the film.”
Director Kozlov was quite impressed with the veteran actress.
“It was not easy to do the casting for this part because I wanted someone who really was in the industry from Hollywood’s Golden Era,” Kozlov said. “When I met Terry, I knew she was the one. She plays the lead part in the film as the protagonist and her character holds the arc of the story.”
Despite tough working conditions including three brutally hot summer weeks during filming, Kozlov says Moore was “a trooper.”
“She was doing everything—dancing, crying, laughing, getting angry, telling jokes and stories and didn’t complain once,” said Kozlov. “She has an incredible will, stamina, and a very sharp mind. When Terry wasn’t filming she would come on the set just to cheer me up and was very attentive to my needs as a director, helping me shape her character.”
Moore says working with Kozlov reminded her of another film, some 60 years earlier.
“When I worked with (director) Elia Kazan in (1953’s) ‘Man on a Tightrope’ I felt I could do anything—if Kazan had told me to jump off a roof and wouldn’t get hurt, I would have done it,” Moore said. “That’s how much I trusted him. I felt the same about Vlad in ‘Silent Life’ because he brought out that same level of confidence in me.”
Scenes depicting Valentino’s mausoleum were filmed at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, at the star’s actual tomb, which sparked another film flashback for Moore from the same period.
“In one of the scenes, I’m talking to Valentino in my mind and from the corner of my eye I could see Tyrone Power’s grave,” Moore said. She and Power starred in 1953’s “King of the Khyber Rifles.”
“Ty was the kindest actor I ever knew and one of the easiest actors I ever worked with,” Moore said. “It gave me chills to see it while filming because I remembered he once told me ‘if I die tomorrow, I want two things: to die on set and to have a son.’ He did both.”
Produced by Yuri Ponomarev along with writer-director Kozlov, “Silent Life” is currently in the final post-production stages. Moore and the director (who also plays Valentino) hope their film will have its world premiere at this year’s Venice Film Festival followed by possible Oscar consideration next year.
Moore is no stranger to the Academy Awards and was a best supporting actress nominee for 1952’s “Come Back, Little Sheba.”
“I went to the ceremony with Robert Wagner, who’s still one of my best friends from the old days,” Moore said. “I had no expectation of winning, so can honestly say I was not disappointed when my darling friend Gloria Grahame won. If I get another (nomination) I’ve promised to take Bob with me again.”
Moore began her career in radio and later became a prolific actress on stage, screen and television and was thrilled when her agent approached her about the role in “Silent Life.”
“It was a challenging part, full of emotions, but I had to do it,” Moore said. “I started acting when I was 10 years old. It’s so marvelous to think I’m still working.”
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Alabama, and has written features, columns and interviews for over 700 magazines and newspapers. See http://www.tinseltowntalks.com.