Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Private Humeston & Fearless Fagan by Loomis Dean, Life Magazine 1951

When Floyd Humeston was drafted into the Korean Conflict, he had a very LIFE Magazine-worthy dilemma -- What to do with his pet lion, Fagan, while he was off fighting Communism. It wasn't long after Fagan & Humeston's story appeared in the revered magazine that Hollywood caught wind of the tale & began courting the young PFC & his exotic pet. MGM, already a lion-friendly studio, wooed with slightly more vigor than the rest of the Big Five & LIFE (in the person of the great Loomis Dean) obligingly followed the story of Fagan's Big Hollywood Break, photographing with boundless whimsy the lion's meetings with illustrious movie folk like Louis B. Mayer (shown cautiously eyeing the beast & Humeston above), director Stanley Donen, MGM producer Sidney Franklin & star Esther Williams (with whom he seems more than a trifle bored). The resulting film, Fearless Fagan (1952), starred songwriter, dancer & actor Carleton Carpenter as Humeston (changed to Floyd Hilston in the script), Janet Leigh as the one-dimensional love interest & Keenan Wynn as Hilston's beleaguered Sergeant. Carpenter is shown above (amid the lobby cards & other ephemera) laughing while the lion attempts to eat his head. Though the principal talent involved in the project, including Donen, Leigh & Carpenter had nothing nice to say about the movie in later interviews, it was a minor success & very popular at Kiddie Matinees throughout the next decade. 

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