A policeman, drawn in the manner of a vintage pulp-noir paperback cover illustration, stands in a doorway, his left hand holding the door, and his right aiming a pistol straight at you. This is Don Murray as rogue New York City cop Officer Lacy, the protagonist of the delightfully sleazy 1976 thriller Deadly Hero—just one of six works featuring Murray that will be presented over the course of this weekend (Aug. 6-7) at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.) and at Center Stage Theater (751 Paseo Nuevo). Saturday’s programs include a special reception with Murray costar (in A Hatful of Rain) Eva Marie Saint and an interview with Murray about his career, conducted by film scholar Foster Hirsch. Sunday night’s finale is a double feature at Center Stage of Bus Stop (7pm), which earned Murray an Oscar nomination and also stars a young and wild Marilyn Monroe, and Breathe (9:15pm), an underwater thriller directed by Murray that includes several members of his Santa Barbara family.
With Don Murray: A Weekend Tribute to a Great American Actor, Mid-Century Productions has crafted something that S.B. film buffs have long been craving: a mini-festival celebrating the achievements of an interesting, underrated star from Hollywood’s Golden Years. For tickets and information, visit midcenturyproductions.com. Below are three reasons why Don Murray deserves the praise.
1. His Groundbreaking, Edgy Roles: In Advise & Consent, Murray plays Utah senator Brigham Anderson, who is outed by his colleagues and driven to suicide on the basis of an early homosexual affair. In A Hatful of Rain, Murray again plays a character who pushes the envelope as Johnny Pope, the family man whose life after serving in the Korean War is decimated by a secret morphine addiction.
2. His Fabulous Costars: Whether we are talking Marilyn Monroe in Bus Stop, Henry Fonda and Charles Laughton in Advise & Consent, Eva Marie Saint in A Hatful of Rain, or Dennis Hopper, who played the nemesis in the pacifist western From Hell to Texas, Murray always worked with the best.
3. His Range: From comedy (Bus Stop) to melodrama (Advise & Consent) to the pulp fiction of Deadly Hero, Murray consistently delivers nuanced, forward-looking performances no matter what the genre.