Edmund Purdom had one of the greatest one-two drives toward stardom of any actor in film history. In 1954 he played the title role in 20th Century-Fox's biggest production of the year -- a lavish, indeed spectacular adaptation of Miki Waltari's worldwide best seller, "The Egyptian." Publicity departments made sure that his name and face wound up in virtually every major magazine in America. (This is the role for which Marlon Brando had been sought.) Purdom then followed in 1955 by playing the title role in MGM's biggest production of the year, the sumptuously mounted CinemaScope extravaganza "The Prodigal," also starring Lana Turner. Once again, publicity departments flooded America with hand-outs and press releases about that great new star, Edmund Purdom. And then ... nothing. Well, something a notch above nothing -- namely, a series of minor B-movies made in Europe. Despite having the muscle of two of Hollywood's biggest studios behind him, Purdom never became anything more than a passing curiosity. In one way this is unfortunate since Purdom was an attractive and talented actor often better than the material he was handed, but in another way, there's a comfort in knowing that stardom simply cannot be purchased through studio-generated publicity. (Many feel that Purdom failed to catch the public's fancy because of the nature of his two major roles. In "The Egyptian" he played a cold and somewhat arrogant character, more cerebral than emotional, and in "The Prodigal" he played a character notable for stubborness and selfish, unwise behavior. Neither role could be termed "audience-friendly.") Still, Purdom lives on in minor ways. In the 2004 book, "Lash: The Hundred Great Scenes of Men Being Whipped in the Movies," Purdom's flogging at the hands of Neville Brand in "The Prodigal" ranks a respectable #66.moreless
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