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Widespread Panic 

Some little-known trivia of Panic in the Streets:

• The film features two actors who were later blacklisted by Hollywood, and one who survived the blacklist in a controversial move. Zero Mostel and Barbara Bel Geddes couldn't find work in Hollywood for the better part of the 1950s after refusing to "name names" in their appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Kazan, by contrast, named names, damaging his relationship with Mostel and, to some degree, his own reputation despite earning an honorary Oscar in 1999. Bel Geddes' first movie after being blacklisted was Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1958 film, Vertigo. Mostel would later play a blacklisted performer in Woody Allen's The Front in 1976, just a year before Mostel's death.

In the '50s, Mostel bumped into Kazan on the street in New York City, and the two reminisced. Kazan said Mostel chided him for putting Mostel through the paces in Panic, forcing him to run more than he ever had. But as the drinks set in, legend has it, Mostel kept muttering, in reference to Kazan's HUAC testimony, "Ya shouldn't a done that. Ya shouldn't a done that."

• Jack Palance wasn't the only actor to make his screen debut in this film. It also featured the debut of 9-year-old Tommy Rettig, who played the son of Richard Widmark's character. Four years later, Rettig beat out 500 other child actors to land the role of Jeff Miller in what became the hit TV show Lassie. Rettig had the role for four years. But he later suffered through a series of problems including drug addiction, became a staunch advocate for the legalization of marijuana, and for the last decade of his life was a successful software engineer, according to the Internet Movie Database (

• Jack Palance wasn't the only "brute" cast in the film. Tiger Joe Marsh was a world-champion professional wrestler. He plays a sailor who tries to prevent the crew of the Nile Queen from mutinying after Richard Widmark's character warns them the ship might be carrying pneumonic plague. Marsh made his screen debut in Kazan's previous film, Pinky, and appeared in bit parts in future Elia Kazan films Viva Zapata! and On the Waterfront. Marsh was also credited as the model for the original Mr. Clean advertising campaign.

• The production company's "invasion" of New Orleans included setting up shop at several local venues, including the home of New Orleanian Evelyn Reid Griffith, who lent Kazan the house to shoot the domestic scenes between Richard Widmark and Barbara Bel Geddes. Griffith wrote a first-person account of the shoot for The Times-Picayune for the movie's premiere, noting that Widmark inadvertently left a souvenir: "The next morning we found Dick Widmark's shorts hanging in the bathroom!"

• Perhaps the most successful New Orleans-born actor in Panic in the Streets was Emile Meyer, who made his screen debut in the film and went on to appear in several films, including the film noir classics The Big Night and Sweet Smell of Success. Meyer, who plays the captain of the Nile Queen, reunited with Jack Palance two years later in Shane. Meyer died in 1987 in Covington.

• Panic in the Streets wasn't the only movie with New Orleans as a subject that was a player at the Academy Awards. "By My Love," a tune from the musical The Toast of New Orleans (starring Mario Lanza and Kathryn Grayson), was nominated for Best Song -- losing out to "Mona Lisa" from Captain Carey. Also, legendary film composer Alfred Newman (Randy Newman's uncle), who scored Panic, was nominated for his work on another film, All About Eve. Finally, Panic in the Streets was the fourth Oscar contender with a film noir theme: 1950 was also the year of film noir classics Sunset Blvd. , The Asphalt Jungle and The Third Man

• Not long before being cast as the sailor Charlie in Panic, New Orleanian Wilson C. Bourg Jr. met his future wife on the stage of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux CarrÈ. The production? Laura, which later became a classic film noir and was released by Fox along with Panic and Call Northside 777.

click to enlarge Wilson C. Bourg Jr. shown here holding a Twentieth - Century Fox ad campaign flyer, was one of several New - Orleanians cast in Panic. Bourg, now 85, played - a sailor who munches on a po-boy while receiving an - inoculation.
  • Wilson C. Bourg Jr. shown here holding a Twentieth Century Fox ad campaign flyer, was one of several New Orleanians cast in Panic. Bourg, now 85, played a sailor who munches on a po-boy while receiving an inoculation.


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