Irving Rapper, who directed Hollywood legend Bette Davis in four of the nearly two dozen films he made during a career spanning four decades, died Dec. 20 at the Motion Picture and Television Fund home in suburban Los Angeles, where he had been a resident since 1995. He was 101.
Rapper was the man behind the camera for one of Hollywood’s most memorable scenes, when leading man Paul Henreid simultaneously lit two cigarettes and handed one to Davis in the 1942 romantic classic “Now, Voyager.”
Known as a director of romantic melodramas referred to as “women’s pictures,” Rapper worked with such performers as Fredric March, Kirk Douglas, Claude Rains and Ronald Reagan.
“Now, Voyager,” in which Davis plays a sheltered, shy spinster who is transformed by her psychiatrist into an elegant, independent lady and then falls in love with a married man, was Rapper’s most famous film. The famed dual cigarette scene became one of the most memorable of the silver screen.
He also directed Davis in “The Corn is Green” (1945), “Deception” (1946) and “Another Man’s Poison” (1952). She died in 1989 at the age of 81.
Body of work
Overall, the London-born filmmaker’s most successful body of work is comprised of the nine films Rapper made while under contract with Warner Bros., where he started out in 1936 as a dialogue coach.
He made his directing debut with the 1941 film “Shining Victory,” and gained popular and critical success with his next film the same year, “One Foot in Heaven,” which earned an Oscar nomination for best picture.
The last movie he made for Warner Bros. was “The Voice of the Turtle” (1947), starring Eleanor Parker and a young Reagan.
The 1945 biographical film “Rhapsody in Blue” is widely regarded as having suffered from the miscasting of Robert Alda — father of “MASH” star Alan Alda — as composer George Gershwin, a studio decision that purportedly led Rapper to leave Warner Bros.
Helmed Trumbo pic
Perhaps his best film after leaving Warner Bros. was “The Brave One” (1956), which earned then-blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo an Academy Award for his original screenplay about a Mexican boy and a bull. The Oscar was awarded under Trumbo’s pseudonym, Robert Rich.
Other biopics directed by Rapper included “The Adventures of Mark Twain” (1944), “Pontius Pilate” (1962) — one of two biblical films he directed in Italy during the 1960s — and his very last film, the 1978 “Born Again,” about convicted Watergate conspirator and former Nixon aide Charles Colson.