|Hugo Haas in Pickup.|
|Beverly Michaels pouting as the femme fatale.|
A minor hit, Pickup earned a nomination from the Writers Guild of America for "Best Low-Budget Screenplay" (it lost to Samuel Fuller's The Steel Helmet). Alas, Pickup would be the high point of Haas's career as a film auteur. Several of his follow-ups featured similar plots with a middle-aged gentleman (played by Haas) getting involved with a younger, beautiful woman. One of his best efforts, Bait (1954) is a clever variation in which an old prospector (Haas, of course) pushes his younger, beautiful wife ("B" film goddess Cleo Moore) into the arms of his partner (John Agar). Why? So the old man can gain sole control of their gold mine!
|Sultry Cleo Moore appeared in|
seven Haas pictures.
Not all of Haas's films featured "B" movie casts. Lizzie (1957), based on a novel by Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House), starred Eleanor Parker, Richard Boone, and Joan Blondell. It also marked the only big screen acting appearance of Johnny Mathis, who plays a piano singer. One of Mathis's biggest pop hits, "It's Not for Me to Say," originated in this film (as did "Warm and Tender" written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David).
Hugo Haas directed his last film, Paradise Alley, in 1958, although it wasn't released until four years later. He made a few guest appearances in TV series such as Bonanza and Adventures in Paradise. His filmography seems to end there; he died in Austria in 1968 at the age of 67. Hugo Haas's legacy can be viewed as a series of average low-budget potboilers or as a testament to the spirit of independent filmmaking. I prefer the latter.