My Classic Movie Pick: Sergeant Rutledge

Today’s post is for the  John Ford Blogathon.  If you aren’t too familiar with John Ford, he was a film director and considered one of the best in his field.  This blogathon is being hosted by Krell Laboratories  and Bemused and Nonplussed.  Be sure to visit those two blogs to read more great posts about director John Ford and about his movies.

 

JF Blogathon

Ford directed many movies and he began his career during the silent movie era and continued to direct until 1976.  I’ve included his info from IMDB if you want to read more about his rich movie-making  career.

In 1960 he directed a simple film, simple that it wasn’t one of his storied long films.  Simple in that the plot was very straightforward.  Simple in that the lead actors weren’t his usual well-knowns, such as John Wayne, Henry Fonda, or Maureen O’Hara.  The film I chose to write about is Sergeant Rutledge.  Its main stars were Woody Strode, Jeffrey Hunter, and Constance Towers.  Sgt. Rutledge poster 1

Sergeant Rutledge is set in the west of the 1880s and it  tells its tale mostly through a series of flashbacks.  Sergeant Braxton  Rutledge( Woody Strode)  is a member of the 9th Calvary, which was also nicknamed the Buffalo soldiers; made up entirely of black men serving their country.   The movie opens  in a courtroom because Sergeant Rutledge is on trial.  The trial is a court-martial for  Sergeant Rutledge and he   has been accused of two horrific crimes: the murder of his Commanding Officer, Major Dabney, and  the rape and murder of Dabney’s teen daughter.

There is a lot of circumstantial evidence to link Sergeant Rutledge to the crimes but as we see through the flashbacks, he is an upright and innocent man.  Lieutenant Tom Cantrell(Jeffrey Hunter) is the officer in charge of the 9th Calvary and it is his duty to arrest Sergeant Rutledge and take him to the fort’s prison to await the trial.  As members of the 9th Calvary and Lt. Cantrell are about to take in Sergeant Rutledge, he is able to escape on his horse   which forces  the 9th Calvary to go after him.

Sergeant Rutledge finds a train depot to hide out at;it’s in the middle of a dry, nowhere place.  Here he meets by accident a lady traveler, Mary Beecher(Constance Towers).  She has arrived at the depot to await her father but when she finds the station agent, she is horrified to discover that he’s dead!   Wandering outside the station, it’s now  nighttime, wondering what she should do,  she is grabbed by the Sergeant in order to keep her quiet-she doesn’t realize that the depot is surrounded by Apaches and that she and the Sergeant will have to use their wits in order to get away from the depot without being killed.  Part of that scene is available to watch here.

Sergeant Rutledge  and Mary are able to get away safely and meet up with Lt. Cantrell and the rest of the 9th Calvary.  The sergeant is able to warn them about a possible Apache attack  and towards the end of that scene, as a fellow calvary comrade, Moffat, lies dying from his wound in Sergeant Rutledge’s arms, is a moving discussion between the two men as to why they should keep on fighting for the US Calvary.  That scene is here.

As the trial begins, we see that Lt. Cantrell will be Sergeant Rutledge’s defense attorney.  Despite Mary Beecher’s testimony in favor of the Sergeant’s character, and the same from Sergeant Skidmore, Rutledge’s worst fears are realized by the work of  a hostile prosecutor and from  the community that lives in the town closest to the fort; already stirred up and convinced of the black sergeant’s guilt.  Despite these serious issues, the trial doesn’t turn out as Sergeant Rutledge thinks it will.

Woody Strode was a native of Los Angeles and a star football player on 1939′s UCLA team.   He was also one of two black men to first ever play in the NFL, joining the Los Angleles Rams in 1946.   Acting came easily to him and with his commanding presence and athletic build, he was a natural for the camera’s eye.  He is strong, stoic, courageous, and cautious as Sergeant Rutledge.  It was his first role to be the lead and he handled it excellently.

Jeffrey Hunter, who had appeared in John Ford’s more famous film, The Searchers, is good as Lt. Cantrell.  He is sincere in his beliefs that his 9th Calvary men are just as equal to serve in the US Calvary as white men are.   He is sure that Sergeant Rutledge is innocent of the horrific crimes he is accused of and is determined to defend him to the best of his abilities.  Lt. Cantrell also can’t help falling in love with Mary Beecher, so there is a touch of romance in the film, too.

Constance Towers is beautiful and gives  a terrific performance as Mary Beecher.  She conveys so much with her eyes.  She is the main female in this world inhabited mostly by men and she is strong, not willing to hide behind her femininity or to use it for her own betterment, disregarding the other people in this world she didn’t purposely enter.

Look for wonderful supporting actors Juano Hernandez as Sergeant Skidmore and a scene-stealing Billie Burke(Glenda the Good Witch herself!) as Cordelia Fosgate.

Sergeant Rutledge is available through Turner Classic Movies Shop in a 5 dvd set of some of John Ford’s films.   It is also available to purchase through Amazon or to watch it through their instant rent program.   The OV Guide also has the film available to watch online, for free.

Filmed in the spare yet beautiul Monument Valley area of Utah, see Sergeant Rutledge for a John Ford film that doesn’t get as much attention as it should.  I’ll close this blog out with some more photos from the film.

Woody Strode as Sergeant Braxton Rutledge

Woody Strode as Sergeant Braxton Rutledge

Jeffrey Hunter, on the left, as Lt. Cantrell

Jeffrey Hunter, on the left, as Lt. Cantrell

 

Constance Towers as Mary Beecher

Constance Towers as Mary Beecher

 

 

 

 

 

Early Childhood Classes for Rolla Public Schools?

RHS Bulldog 2During this past Spring, I was sent an email from the Rolla School District’s  Superintendent’s office.  My email address was included in a longish list, and I was asked to consider participating in a review of the school district’s CSIP.  Comprehensive School Improvement Plan is a way for a school district to go over goals that the district wants to improve upon and/or to implement.  How I got on this list, I don’t have any idea and a CSIP?  I had to actually google what that meant.  I got my teaching degree in the dark ages of 1987 and haven’t been in a classroom since the spring of 1991 when motherhood called me away,  so this terminology was new to me.  I was curious about the topics that this CSIP would cover so  away I went to the meeting.

As soon as I entered the district’s building, I was ushered to the room where the school board holds its meetings.   I was one of 7 ladies, and we simply went around the room, giving our opinions on the different items that were part of the district’s CSIP.  Two gentleman from the KC area presented the CSIP to us, and they marked down our comments.  They explained that they worked for a company that traveled all over the state of Missouri, conducting discussions and gathering data for school districts and their specific CSIPs.   This meeting took about an hour and when all was said and done, I was glad that I gave my input.  After all, how many moms who have homeschooled their children for preschool and grades K-7th for  part of their educations were on these CSIP opinion-seeking missions?

Fast forward to July 3rd and I received another email from the Superintendent’s office.  This new message thanked me for participating in the CSIP .  The email went on to inform me that several times now, throughout the Rolla School District and community,  a process has been presented to bring Early Childhood programming into the district.  It’s not up and running for this coming school year, but the district would like to have a community-wide approved issue on the April 2015 ballot.  Hopefully, by the beginning of the 2017 school year, Early Childhood will be offered.  The email included some video clips for me to view pertaining to community input about Early Childhood Education that has been discussed and planned for  since 2007.  An online survey was also included for me to give my opinions.

Winslow Homer's Crack the Whip

There are two plans being looked at to bring this about.  1.  Build a new building that will house all of the Early Childhood Education classes, from 4 year olds to kindergarten.  2.  Turn one of the existing elementary schools into the Early Childhood building.  Then the other two elementary schools will house grades 1-3.  The 4th graders will be moved to Rolla Middle School, and will be there with the 5th and 6th graders.  The 7th graders will be moved to Rolla Junior High to join the 8th graders.  The 9th graders will then move to Rolla High.    Both of these plans will cost money and will involve voters input.

While I appreciate the effort to look at Early Childhood Education,  the fact remains that it is not a mandatory part of education for a child.  One can design and build a fabulous building but that doesn’t mean that all of the families in the Rolla School District with preschool children will sign them up.  I looked into preschool classes for our oldest child  when we lived in St. Louis County, and paying $80-$90 a month was an outrageous fee for our family’s budget.  I therefore did preschool activities on my own with our child, and also with his siblings, when they were in that preschool age.   You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, is a saying that comes to mind when I read about an entity, here a school district, attempting to get involved in spending a lot of money for something that may not be as successful as they imagine it will be.

Home Art Class

Home Art Class

I happened to watch the school board candidates on the local cable access channel when they were running for reelection.  One of the incumbent’s mentioned this new program and that in pursuing it, children who get to experience preschool turn out better than those who don’t.  I would like to remind this gentleman that my kids, who never stepped foot into a preschool, have all done very well in the Rolla district, and the oldest three are now pursuing higher education at various colleges.  To insinuate that children who don’t go to preschool are doomed, I find that reasoning faulty.

I admit, I am looking at this issue through my homeschooling lenses.  I think one of the reasons homeschooling works is the low student to teacher ratio.  A teacher with only 10-15 students in a class can probably get a lot more teaching of a new concept done than a teacher with 25-30 students.  I propose, that instead of focusing on Early Childhood Education that the Rolla School District make a bolder move.  Add more classrooms  at the elementary schools and the middle school.  Add more teachers to grades K-7 and  lower the student to teacher ratios in these grades.  I would expect that the district would see an increase of students in those grades achieving more  in content and understanding of important concepts in core subjects.  Those students would have a better ability to begin navigating their way through Junior High, High School, career paths, and then on to Higher Education, if that is the student’s goal.  I would much rather have my tax dollars go to supporting a plan like that, where the majority of school-aged children in the district will be attending these schools, than putting my tax money into a new Early Childhood Education plan that cannot possibly cause all of the preschoolers of Rolla, MO to attend.

Get to Know a Home School: Jenni of Portraits by Jenni

jennifromrollamo:

I was so happy to be contacted by nerdinthebrain.com to be a part of an ongoing series about homeschooling. Here’s my answers to her questions. :)

Originally posted on Nerd in the Brain:

I’m ever-so-pleased to welcome Jenni from Portraits by Jenni to the “Get to Know a Home School” feature! She has a lot of great and interesting information to share with us about her views and methods of homeschooling. Check it out…

Why did your family choose to home school?

We chose to homeschool for two reasons.  One, we met two homeschooling  families at our  church who had the most delightful, yet well-behaved kids.  That impressed my husband and I and made  us think about homeschooling.  Two, the school district we lived in decided to make kindergarten an all day class instead of a half-day program.  That was the year our oldest would have begun school.  I had taught kindergarten one year as a teacher and I know a full day program is a long day for 5 year olds and I didn’t agree with this change.  So, we decided to…

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My Classic Movie Pick: Kisses for my President

With the possibility that former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may run for President in 2016, there is a classic movie that will run on June 30th on Turner Classics that already tackled that topic, a woman President for the United States.

In 1964, Kisses for my President, opened at theatres around the country.  Made by Warner Brothers and starring Polly Bergen as the President and  Fred MacMurray as the First Gentleman.  It’ s a fun exercise about the what ifs of a woman sitting in the Oval Office and the perplexities her husband runs into as the first, First Gentleman of the land.

kisses for my president poster

Leslie McCloud(Bergen) has just been sworn in as President and her husband, Thad(MacMurray), and their two children, Gloria(Anna Capri) and Peter(Ronnie Dapo) are being ushered  into the First family’s  Living Room.  There is a humorous moment when the first couple discover that the President has a very masculine decorated bedroom and the First Gentleman has a very feminine bedroom.    That scene can be viewed here.

As the plot continues, Leslie is extremely busy dealing with issues and doesn’t have as much time for her husband or her children.  There is also a Senator Walsh(Edward Andrews) who covets the White House for himself and  he doesn’t like the fact that there is a woman President.  He’s out to foil Leslie’s Presidency.  There is also a South American dictator( Eli Wallach), Valdez, who arrives in Washington to ask for money.  Leslie asks Thad to show the dictator around town which turns into a misunderstood news story about a bored First Gentleman whooping it up with Valdez.  Senator Walsh is only too happy to use this event as a way to get at Leslie and chip away at her power.  The two children who feel ignored by their parents  begin to get into trouble and then there is Doris Reid(Arlene Dahl).  Doris is a wealthy businesswoman who lives in Washington and just so happens to be Thad’s first love!  She slinks her way into the White House, putting 2 and 2 together: wife is too busy, Thad is lonely and doesn’t know what his role is, so Doris makes a plan to get Thad alone and to try and reignite their past romance, which she reminds Thad  that Leslie stole him from her.

Here are two more clips from the film: MacMurray, in his pjs,  accidentally gets lost looking for the dining room and he encounters tour groups.  Clip One.      The second clip is Arlene Dahl starting to zero in on MacMurray.  Clip Two.

Kisses for my President is pure comedy.  It’s not a serious drama and perhaps audiences in 1964 wouldn’t want to see the topic of a woman president presented in any other way?  The film was conceived by Robert G. Kane and he also wrote the screenplay with Claude Binyon.  Curtis Bernhardt produced and directed the film.    As I mentioned in the first paragraph, the film will air June 30th at 9:00 am EST/8:00 am CST, so be sure to set your dvr to record it.  It is available to buy from TCM’s Shop, and  it is available through Amazon and their instant rent.  Youtube has two clips from the film that can be viewed here and here.

kfmp poster 2

My Classic Movie Pick: In Like Flint, for the 1967 Movies Blogathon

When I learned  that classic film bloggers Silver Screenings and The Rosebud Cinema  declared June 20-22 as 1967 in Film Blogathon, I jumped at the chance to write about a film from that year.    Be sure to visit these wonderful blog sites to read about more films that premiered in 1967.   1967 in Film Blogathon I have always enjoyed a spy caper movie.  When the first James Bond flick  Dr. No hit the movie screens in 1962, it was a huge,smashing success.  It only cost $1,000,000 to make the film but it raked in much more in profits.  Hollywood took notice and more spy movies went into production to capitalize on this new movie genre. 1966, two screenwriters, Hal Fimberg and Ben Starr, wrote a film plot centering on a new American  super spy named Derek Flint.   20th Century Fox loved the idea and asked Daniel Mann to direct.  Lee J. Cobb was signed to play the super spy’s boss, Lloyd Cramden and James Coburn was hired to play the super spy, Flint.   This first film, Our Man Flint, did great at the box office and that led to 20th Century Fox making a sequel, 1967′s In Like Flint, with the change of Gordon Douglas for director, and only Fimberg wrote this second film’s screenplay.

1565in_like_flint In the first film, Flint takes some fun jabs at 007 and  his gadgets,  shows he is cooler than cool, a master of disguise, a karate master, and a charmer of the ladies.  He has a trio of scientists to deal with as the main baddies.  In 1967′s sequel, the times were changing and this was reflected in the plot, pitting our super spy against a group of feminists who want to take over the running of the world!

These ladies are using their make up corporation Fabulous Face as a front for their plans, and using their spa resort in the Virgin Islands as their secret base.   The ladies have successfully kidnapped the US President(Andrew Duggan), replaced him with an actor who has had  plastic surgery to make him look like the President, made Flint’s boss Cramden look like a scandal swamped idiot who has to be put on administrative leave, and have sent two Russian lady cosmosnauts into space in order to gain control of a new space platform.   Their last goal, to replace male world leaders with strong females, is in the works when Flint has to infiltrate their HQ’s and stop them.    It was fun to see Anna Lee, British actress and one who usually played such polite, gentle characters get to play the leader of these feminist baddies!

Lee J. Cobb is good as the spy boss, head of Z.O.W.I.E., which stands for Zonal World Organization Intelligence Espionage.  He admires Flint’s skills but also is frustrated with him because Flint often goes it alone on missions, refusing the gadgets offered to him.  Flint doesn’t use a gun, he relies on his karate skills, and at times, he reminded me of a proto-type for MacGyver, without all the girls! Flint has a cool jet, a fab apartment with the latest 1967 home furnishings, and 3 ladies who take care of him at home.  In the first film, he had 4 ladies caring for him and as Flint meets with Cramden(Cobb) in the second film, Cramden asks about those 4 ladies and is told that they all got married!

Flint’s new ladies, a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead all get tricked into going to the spa run by Fabulous Face in the Virgin Islands.  The spokeslady for Fabulous Face, Lisa(Jean Hale) has a plan to brainwash Flint’s 3 ladies into believing that women should run the world, that men are worthless.  However, Flint’s 3 gal pals are immune to the brainwashing so into cryogenic shower stalls  they go for future efforts.

Flint's gal pals under the brainwashing hairdryers.

Flint’s gal pals under the brainwashing hairdryers.

Meanwhile, Flint is in Moscow trying to find out about the cosmonauts and the new space platform.  He gets to be in a Moscow Ballet number with their star ballerina, Natasha(Yvonne Craig-tv’s future Batgirl) and then back at her place, in between kisses, tries to discover what the Russians are up to.  He realizes he has to get to the Virgin Islands, to that spa where his 3 ladies are being kept prisoner.  Fabulous Face holds the key.  The closest a Russian plane can fly to the Virgin Islands, in 1967, was Cuba, so in a jab at communists, he dons a Fidel Castro outfit, with beard and dark sunglasses and boards a plane to Cuba.  I caught the jab as all the passengers on the plane looked like Castro,  the stewardess was a plain, sturdy woman, and they had to share their seating area with crates of chickens!

Flint's time with Natasha is interrupted by the KGB.

Flint’s time with Natasha is interrupted by the KGB.

Cramden, in Washington D.C., with the help of  young  Lieutenant Avery(Thomas Hasson), has discovered that the Z.O.W.I.E. office has been bugged, that the President is a fake, that Cramden’s own forced scandal was part of a larger plot, and it all points to Fabulous Face.  Cramden declares that Flint’s not the only master of disguise and comes up with one to help him get into the spa.  It was interesting to see Cobb play in a film that was a campy take on spy films.  Usually Cobb acted in serious, dramatic works.  He did fine and I like to think that he enjoyed himself, even when he had to don make up, wig, and heels!

Flint learning about the Feminists plans of taking over the world.

Flint learning about the Feminists plans of taking over the world.

Flint, Cramden, and Avery get to Fabulous Face and so does the double-crosser, General Carter(Steve Ihnat).  Carter was working for the US Government as a liason for them and Z.O.W.I.E.  He was actually working with Fabulous Face on their plans, but decided to double-cross the ladies and take over the world for himself.  This turn of events causes Flint and his side to work with the lovely ladies on an Operation Smooch, to bring down General Carter and his minions.

Coming up with a plan to stop General Carter

Coming up with a plan to stop General Carter

Operation Smooch!

Operation Smooch!

In Like Flint is a fun, silly romp into the world of super spies, super villains, and 1967.  The opening shots of the film are close ups of ladies getting massaged and bathed at that spa, filmed in  the color red with  gauzy swaths of fabrics obscuring things a bit, an obvious nod of how James Bond movies open.   James Coburn is great as Flint.  He exudes cool and while he may not have had drop dead handsome looks, his voice is one to reckon with!  I could just sit and listen to him read a phone book!

Here is the link from TCM of a trailer for the movie, and it is available to buy through the TCM Shop.   In Like Flint is available to buy via Amazon or to watch on their instant rent.  Also, a kind soul has put the entire film up on Youtube.   So kick back on your groovy couch and plan to watch this coolest of cool spies in action!

Tearjerkers, 1939 vs 2014

** This post contains spoilers**

My college student daughter, who is home for part of the summer, suggested on Friday morning that she, her twin sisters, 14 year olds,  and I,  go and see the  new tearjerker  movie, The Fault in Our Stars.  I inwardly groaned at this suggestion.  I really didn’t want to spend my evening watching a movie in a theatre full of teen girls sniffling and crying.  I also didn’t want to get caught up in the plot and find myself sniffling and crying!  However, college daughter’s idea prevailed, so after supper, with tissues in our purses, we traveled to Waynesville Cinema 8.  (I don’t understand why Rolla’s Forum Theatre can’t seem to get the newest movies thus, losing our movie going dollars to Waynesville.  That may have to be a blog topic for another day!)

The Fault in our Stars

I settled in my seat as  the movie began.   The plot was pretty simple.  Hazel Grace Lancaster is 18  years old and has been battling cancer since she was a child.  First she had thyroid cancer but then it metastasized into her lungs.  There is no cure but she has been on an experimental drug and so far, no new tumors and the tumors she has aren’t growing.  She lives with a portable oxygen tank and a breathing tube under her nose.   Her parents worry that she is depressed so they urge her to attend a support group for teens living with cancer that meets at a local church.  Reluctantly, Hazel Grace attends where she meets her future love, Augustus Waters.  He, having beaten osteosarcoma  in his leg and wears  a prosthetic leg,  attends the support group to be there for his  friend, Isaac, who is living with retinoblastoma which will leave him blind.

As I sat there and watched these teen characters dealing with cancer, life, and death, I kept comparing it to another tearjerker movie made in 1939 that also dealt with love, cancer, life, and death.  That film was  Dark Victory, which starred Bette Davis in a tour de force performance.  Davis was nominated for Best Actress at that year’s Academy Awards and Dark Victory was also nominated for Best Picture, but being that the year was 1939, they didn’t stand a chance due to a film about a tough southern belle fighting for her land and trying to figure out who she really loves as the Yankees invade the South during the Civil War.

Dark Victory

In Dark Victory, Bette is Judith Traherne,  a rich party girl.  She loves to watch her  horses compete at the races, she loves to spend her money on parties, and she has a lot of friends in this monied set.  She has also left a trail of broken hearts around her.  (Ronald Reagan plays one of her pals,  a lovable drunk!)  Judith begins to have chronic headaches so she  sees her doctor who recommends that she see a Dr. Steele, who is young and brilliant about brain problems.  It doesn’t hurt that he is quite handsome, too.  Dr. Steele determines that Judith has a tumor and needs brain surgery to treat it.  During the surgery, he discovers that the tumor is malignant and nothing can be done for Judith, that she has 10 months left to live.  The doctors decide not to tell Judith, but Dr. Steele does admit the truth to Judith’s friend, Ann.   Judith  accidentally gets a look at her medical file and finds out the truth.  She is angry that Dr. Steele hadn’t told her but did tell Ann.  Judith decides to follow the bad advice of eat, drink, and be merry for who knows what tomorrow will bring.   One evening she runs into Dr. Steele, who gets her alone and scolds her for this type of living.  He advises her to find peace with the diagnosis so that she can face death with dignity.  She realizes he is right.  Judith and Dr. Steele also realize that they love each other and wed, deciding to live each day as it comes,  knowing that death will take Judith sooner than later.  When Dr. Steele is invited to speak at a medical convention about  new ways to treat brain diseases, Judith urges him to go.  She knows how hard he’s worked and been looking forward to speaking.  She  doesn’t reveal to him that her eyesight is failing her.  As he drives away in the taxi to the airport, Judith bravely takes to her bed to prepare to  die with dignity.

I compared and contrasted the two films in my mind.  Dark Victory has Judith for the main character: a strong, independent young woman. The Fault in our Stars has Hazel Grace for the main character, not yet in her twenties, with strong opinions, she is still  dependent on her parents for clothing, food, shelter, and paying the onerous medical bills.  In both of these plots, the main characters fall in love.  Only in Dark Victory  is a true commitment made with a marriage.   That one little point keeps me from liking the 2014 movie.

How refreshing it would have been for the author, John Green, to have Hazel Grace and Augustus  marry one another! To wait to consummate their love for one another!  They could have had a simple ceremony in front of a judge, and then  lived in the basement at the Water’s home, since Augustus had turned it into a “cool” apartment-like abode.  Teenage pregnancy rates don’t need anymore encouragement than they already get from the entertainment industry.  Sadly, a better plot point was thrown out the window to go with a perceived societal  idea that teens can’t wait to jump into bed with one another.

On the way home, my daughters and I were surprised that we didn’t sniffle and cry like we thought we would.  I said that I found the plight of the parents in the film more touching.  Watching these parents bravely be there for their dying kids, especially a flashback scene to when Hazel Grace almost died at the age of 11,  got to me.  The scene where Hazel Grace and Augustus shared a passionate series of kisses at the Anne Frank House struck my twin daughters as “awkward” and weird how the surprised bystanders visiting the Frank House started clapping.

Dark Victory was originally a play written by George Emerson Brewer, Jr. and Bertram Bloch.   As I mentioned earlier in my post, The Fault in our Stars was a book written by John Green.  Dark Victory was labeled as a Woman’s Picture when it came to the box office in 1939 and I’m pretty sure The Fault in our Stars was labeled as a vehicle to pull in the teenage girl audience.

Dark Victory will be airing tonight on Turner Classic Movies at 1:30 am CST, so if you are able, set up your dvr machine to record it.  That’s what I plan on doing and I’ll let my daughters watch it with me, popcorn to eat  in a giant bowl, and let them see a similar plot and how Hollywood and the social mores of 1939 handled it.

 

My Classic Movie Pick: The Woman in the Window

Poor Edward G. Robinson.  He reached stardom playing evil gangsters, mob bosses, when in reality, he was a good stage actor who could play drama, comedy, and tried at various times in his Hollywood career to break out from the “gangster” label.  Fritz Lang, an Austrian-German director who had arrived in Hollywood in the 1930s to get away from the Nazi’s, who had banned one of his films in 1932, gave Robinson a chance to play a role that wasn’t a gangster part.  The film was 1944′s The Woman in the Window. The Woman in the Window Robinson plays middle-aged  Professor Richard Wanley, a professor of Psychology.  His wife and kids have recently gone on a vacation and he is alone at home.  He decides to hang out at his club one evening, spending time with some good friends at their Men’s Club: District Attorney Frank Lalor(Raymond Massey) and Dr. Barkstane(Edmond Breon).  As Professor Wanley walks to the club, he notices a painting of a beautiful, young woman in the window of a nearby shop.  He stops to admire the painting and when he meets his friends, they spend some time discussing the beautiful woman in the painting.   On his way home, Wanley again, stops to admire the painting and the subject of it appears hauntingly, her reflection in the window, catching Wanley off guard.

Prof. Wanley noticing the painting.

Prof. Wanley noticing the painting.

Prof. Wanley having fun with his pals at their  Club.

Prof. Wanley having fun with his pals at their Club.

The beautiful Alice Reed's reflection in the window.

The beautiful Alice Reed’s reflection in the window.

The beautiful, young woman is Alice Reed(Joan Bennett) and she knows that this middle-aged man is entranced by her beauty.  She decides to demurly take adavantage of Professor Wanly.  She invites him to have a drink with her at a local bar.  Then she invites him to her apartment for more drinks.  As Wanley admires more works of art in Alice’s apartment, an angry man bursts in accusing Alice of cheating on him and he tries to attack her.  Alice grabs a pair of scissors and tosses them to Wanley, who the angry man has turned his attack on and Wanley stabs the man in the back, killing him!  So much for a quiet evening of drinks, art, and talking!

Looking at paintings with Alice at her place.

Looking at paintings with Alice at her place.

Prof. Wanley being attacked by a very angry friend of Alice's!

Prof. Wanley being attacked by a very angry friend of Alice’s!

In shock after murdering a man.

In shock after murdering a man.

The mild-mannered professor is in a state of shock.  What should he do?  Here, he thought he’d just enjoy a nice evening with the beautiful woman in the painting and now a murder has happened, a murder he committed in self-defense, but a murder none-the less.  Robinson does a wonderful job portraying a middle-aged man, who despite having a wife and two children, a satisfying job, and good friends, is just a tad bit lonely.  He feels a tad bit vulnerable due to the fact that he is aging.

Joan Bennett is good as the femme fatale of this piece.  She is beautiful, she knows it, and she’s more than ready to make Professor Wanley her fall guy.  What her hard-boiled, hidden persona doesn’t expect is to develop true feelings for the professor.  I wouldn’t call it love, but she does care about him and starts to feel guilty for how she is manipulating him when the mastermind behind the money-making plot via blackmail, Heidt(Dan Duryea) enters the scene, demanding that they get more  money from the professor.

Heidt and Alice discussing getting $5000 from the Professor.

Heidt and Alice discussing getting $5000 from the Professor.

Duryea is so excellent as the real baddie of this film.  In real life, Dan Duryea was a very nice guy.   A married man with kids, acting was his talent and he supported his family with his skills.  For some reason, he made his mark as playing bad guys but instead of not taking those roles, he took them and ran with them.

Behind the scenes shot of Duryea and Robinson.

Behind the scenes shot of Duryea and Robinson.

The Woman in the Window airs from time to time on Turner Classic Movies and I’ve put the movie’s trailer here for viewing.  The film is available to buy through Amazon.  It was also available at one time on Netflix and may still be available.  Lastly, some kind soul has put the entire movie up on Youtube! For a great film noir with a twist of an ending, seek out The Woman in the Window.

TWITW ending hint

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