Posts Tagged ‘Ginger Rogers’

What a Character Blogathon: Eric Blore

Why does a balding, short Englishman always make me chuckle in classic, comedic films?  Eric Blore, an excellent character actor,  usually portrayed kind yet fussy  butlers who  had a way with a smarmy, sarcastic answer that sailed  over the heads of the rude people asking him questions.   The audiences who viewed Blore in the movies were able to  catch his polite barbs, eye rolls,  and the laughs would  ensue.

Eric Blore, in his most common role, as butler.

Eric Blore, in his most common role, as butler.

When I learned of  the What a Character Blogathon being hosted Nov. 9th-11th by three great classic movie bloggers I had to sign up and participate.  Be sure to visit these sites for more great posts about wonderful character actresses and actors: Outspoken and Freckled, Once Upon a Screen,  and Paula’s Cinema Club.  Eric blore What a character

Blore was born in 1887 in England.  At the age of 18, he began a career as an insurance agent, but the acting bug bit when he had the opportunity to tour Australia and joined a theatre troup there.  WWI happened, and Blore enlisted with the Artists Rifles, commissioned to serve with the South Wales Borderers.  After the war was over, he toured England in several shows and musical revues.  In 1923 he sailed for the United States and successfully played character roles on Broadway.  In 1926 he appeared in the silent movie version of The Great Gatsby, which starred Warner Baxter.    His first movie role as the butler was  in the first Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers teaming, 1933’s Flying Down to Rio.   Also in 1933,  Blore was cast as a butler in the Broadway production of The Gay Divorcee and he was asked to reprise that  same role in the movie version, which starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  From that role, Blore went on to appear in over 80 movies.  There were a few dramatic roles, 1937’s The Soldier and The Lady, and 1939’s Island of Lost Men, but on the whole, Blore played his characters in comedic films.  With his expressive face, excellent timing with lines, and his crisp, uppercrust English accent, he was the perfect butler in many comedies.  

Blore getting ready to sneer at some cad or oaf!

Blore getting ready to sneer at some cad or oaf!

After appearing in Flying Down to Rio and The Gay Divorcee, Blore went on to appear in 5 of the 9 Astaire and Rogers movies.  Two of his best apperances were in  Top Hat and Shall We Dance?, sparring verbally and bringing up the laughs with Edward Everett Horton.

Blore in a cast shot from The Gay Divorcee

Blore in a cast shot from The Gay Divorcee

Blore and his foil, Edward Everett Horton

Blore and his foil, Edward Everett Horton

In the 1940s, Blore again appeared as a butler, namely Jamison, the butler for Warren William’s character in the Lone Wolf mystery movies series, which was 11 movies in all.  Famed writer/director Preston Sturges tagged Blore to be in two of his comedic films, Sullivan’s Travels and The Lady Eve, both made in 1941.  In Sullivan’s Travels, Blore is Joel McCrea’s butler, but his role for Sturges’s in The Lady Eve is funny and different.  Blore is a conman, Pearly, working with a father/daughter team of conmen, Charles Coburn and Barbara Stanwyck.  They are teaming to outsmart and get money from Henry Fonda.  Blore pretends to be Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith and he is to try and convince Fonda that Stanwyck is a twin daughter, born from the lady of the manor’s dalliance with a coachman.  It’s a hilarious scene, and Turner Classics will be airing The Lady Eve on November 29th, at 8:00 pm/eastern, 7:00 pm /central.

As McCrea's butler in Sullivan's Travels

As McCrea’s butler in Sullivan’s Travels

With Stanwyck in The Lady Eve

With Stanwyck in The Lady Eve

Nearing his retirement from acting, Blore appeared in the second Bing Crosby/Bob Hope Road movie, 1941’s  The Road to Zanzibar.    One more notable stint was in 1949, when Blore did  the voice of Mr. Toad for Walt Disney Studio’s animated classic The Wind in the Willows.  To end my post on Eric Blore, I’ll just share various pictures I found of him on the internet, and please visit his site at IMDB to see his filmography.

Blore near the end of his acting career

Blore near the end of his acting career

Another displeased butler look from Blore

Another displeased butler look from Blore

Blore's alter ego, Mr. Toad

Blore’s alter ego, Mr. Toad

Blore, with hair(!), in a movie scene with Leslie Howard

Blore, with hair(!), in a movie scene with Leslie Howard

My Classic Movie Pick: Bachelor Mother

For a light-hearted romance comedy, one couldn’t pick a better  movie than 1939’s Bachelor Mother, which stars Ginger Rogers, David Niven, and Charles Coburn.  The true subject matter, that of an abandoned baby, is a serious one but deftly handled in this film.  Bachelor Mother Rogers portrays Polly Parrish, a hard-working and clever shopgirl for the John B. Merlin and Son Department store in NYC.  The need for employees is great as the Christmas shopping season is right at hand, yet Polly has just learned that her position will be cut once the holiday is past.  On her lunch break, she sees an abandoned baby placed on the steps of an orphanage and she rushes to stop the baby as it is about to roll down the steps and land in the street.  At that moment, a worker at the orphanage opens the front door, and seeing Polly with the baby, assumes that  she is the mother.  Polly protests that she is not the mother and walks away after handing them the baby.  The workers decide to track down Polly and they find out she works at the department store.  While looking for her there, the “Son” in the store’s title, David Merlin(David Niven) is told about this unwed mother shopgirl and decides to find out how the store can help her out in her situation.  He arranges for Polly to keep her job.  Polly’s landlady gets involved when she offers to babysit the baby while Polly is at work, so being unable to convince anyone that she is not the baby’s mother, Polly decides to take the baby in and become his mother.

Polly learning to care for and love the baby.

Polly learning to care for and love the baby.

Polly denying that she is the mother.

Polly denying that she is the mother.

The comedic part of the film is that the store’s owner, J. B. Merlin(Charles Coburn), is tired of his playboy son’s ways and wants him to settle down and get married and provide him with some grandchildren.  David’s character undergoes the most change as we see him in the film’s beginning content with his playboy lifestyle until he meets the wise and pretty Polly.  It is fun to see the impact her character has on his and how this starts the wheels in turning him away from his carefree existance.  There are mistaken identities, a disgruntled stock clerk who wants to use Polly’s predicament in order to blackmail David Merlin and all of these shenanigans add up to a fun movie viewing experience.

J. B. hoping that this baby is really his grandson!

J. B. hoping that this baby is really his grandson!

David checking in on Polly and the baby.

David checking in on Polly and the baby.

Bachelor Mother was distributed by RKO Studios.  It cost the studio $500,000 to make the film and it earned almost $2,000,000 in box office profits.  Directed by Garson Kanin, screenplay by Norman Krasna, which actually came from a 1935 Austrian-Hungarian movie, The Little Mother, written by Felix Jackson.  Bachelor Mother is available via Amazon.com, there are several scenes including a fine summing up of the movie’s plot by a fan on Youtube, and on Saturday, August 24th, Turner Classic Movies will air it at 4:30 pm(ET)/3:30 pm(CT).

A second Bachelor Mother publicity still.

A second Bachelor Mother publicity still.

Publicity still for Bachelor Mother

Publicity still for Bachelor Mother

My Classic Movie Pick: The Major and the Minor

Cover of "The Major and the Minor (Univer...

Cover via Amazon

1942’s hit movie, The Major and the Minor is one of my favorite romance/comedy films.  It was written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, based upon the play Connie Goes Home, by Edward Childs Carpenter.   Wilder also directed, and  this was  his first American movie to direct.  The film stars Ginger Rogers, as the Minor, and Ray Milland as the Major.   Supporting players in the cast are Robert Benchley, Rita Johnson, Diana Lynn, Norma Varden, Frankie Thomas and Lela Rogers, Ginger’s own mother, as Mrs. Applegate.

Ginger is Susan Applegate, an Iowa native, who has tried to live on her own in NYC.  She has given herself a term of 3 years to make it there, and if she can’t, she will take the train back to Iowa.  At her current job, as a scalp masseuse for the Revigorous System, her client for the evening(she has to make house calls) Mr.  Albert Osborne(Robert Benchley), makes a pass at her and that is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  Susan gets away from Mr. Osborne, quits her job, packs up her belongings and heads for Union Station and a ticket out of town.  Unbeknownst to her, train fares have gone up, and she doesn’t have enough money for an adult fare.  She overhears a mother buying train tickets for her two children, and after studying what some girls in the station are wearing, Susan heads to the nearest ladies room and transforms her adult outfit into a child’s ensemble.  She redoes her hair into two braids, and scrounges up some of her change to buy a balloon from a nearby vendor.  With the change made, Susan goes to the ticket agent and buys a child’s fare for a trip to Iowa.

On board the train, Susan decides to venture out on the back platform of the train for a cigarette break.  A suspicious conductor follows her and sees her smoking.  Susan realizes she’s been caught but manages to evade the conductor  and jumps into the nearest compartment to hide in.  This compartment happens to belong to Major Philip Kirby(Ray Milland).  He is surprised and startled to have an unexpected visitor and Susan quickly thinks up a lie, that she is Susan, age 12, and everyone calls her Su-Su.  She explains she is very frightened  traveling by herself back to Iowa, and he agrees that she can stay in his compartment until he reaches his stop.  Major Kirby is an instructor at a military academy and he is engaged to Pamela Hill(Rita Johnson).  Pamela is beautiful and very ambitious about her future husband’s military career, but she doesn’t want him to be on active duty.  Major Kirby is frustrated at the academy, and wants nothing more than to be called into active duty.  This subplot will involve Su-Su to quite a degree.

As luck would have it, there is a terrible rain storm overnight,  the tracks flood, and the train has to stop.  Pamela and her father, the commanding officer at the academy, drive to meet the train where it is stopped to bring Major Kirby back to the academy.  Pamela is shocked to find Su-Su sleeping in the lower berth in the Major’s compartment.  She accuses him of being unfaithful to her and tells her father about this  outrage.  Major Kirby quickly explains that the girl in his compartment is 12 year old Su-Su, scared to travel alone, and that he simply let her share the compartment for the night.  Still worried about Su-Su with the train being unable to continue to its stops, Major Kirby insists on bringing her with them back to the academy and then they’ll call her parents to drive there to pick her up.  Pamela and her father, meeting Su-Su properly,  agree to let her stay at their house, sharing a bedroom with Pamela’s younger sister, Lucy(Diana Lynn).   Lucy is in high school, and she sees through Su-Su’s disguise.  She promises to keep Susan Applegate’s secret if Susan will help her ruin her older sister’s plan to keep Major Kirby out of active duty service.  Susan agrees, and pretending to be Pamela, calls a Washington D. C. connection of the Hill’s, and gets Major Kirby’s status changed.

There is another sub-plot, where 5 of the cadets are ordered by Major Kirby to spend an hour each with Su-Su, to give her a tour of the academy, and to help her enjoy her visit.  What Major Kirby doesn’t seem to realize is that these cadets, at seeing Su-Su, have one thing on their minds -to get her alone for some kissing!  It is quite funny seeing how each cadet tries to do this, and Su-Su, being in her twenties and not really 12, is quite wise to what they are up to.  There is also a ball planned for the weekend of Su-Su’s visit, which she has to go to, and a funny scene where all of the girls invited to the ball from a neighboring girl’s school are all imitating actress Veronica Lake’s iconic one-eye showing hairdo.   Cadets’  parents have also been invited to the ball and Su-Su is in for a surprise when Mr. Osborne attends, he being the older man who tried to make a pass at her when she was trying to massage his scalp!  Su-Su’s real identity is revealed to Pamela, who threatens to reveal Susan’s real identity to one and all and that that will hurt Major Kirby’s career.  At this point in the movie, we know Susan has fallen in love with Major Kirby, but she agrees to Pamela’s threat and quietly sneaks away from the ball, packs, and leaves the academy.  I won’t go on to reveal the ending, as I want the readers of this blog to seek out the film and see the ending for themselves!

Ginger Rogers shines in this movie, doing a pretty good job at acting like a 12 year old, yet having to hide her growing feelings of love for the Major.  Rogers had recently won the Best Actress Oscar for the drama Kitty Foyle, so appearing in this light-hearted comedy appealed to her, and in fact, when she was a struggling young dancer and singer, traveling with her mother and being low on train fare, Rogers had actually pretended to be 12 in order to get child-priced train fare.  Paramount Pictures originally wanted Cary Grant to play the Major, but director Billy Wilder, stopped in his car at a traffic light one day, saw actor Ray Milland in the next car over, and asked him if he’d like to be in the picture he was getting ready to direct.  Milland said,”Sure!” and that’s how he got the part over Grant.  Milland does a great job in his part too, acting mannerly and concerned about a 12 year old’s well-being, and he’s deft at handling the comedic timing necessary in a film such as this.  Wilder came to Hollywood in 1934, after directing his first film, the French film Mauvaise Graine.  He worked on 8 screenplays for  his first career efforts in Hollywood, but was really wanting to direct again.  Producer Arthur Hornblow Jr., agreed to give him that chance with The Major and The Minor.    The film proved to be a box office hit with audiences of 1942, and if you want to view a delightfully funny, touch of romance movie, then seek out The Major and The Minor.  It is available at Amazon, Turner Classic Movies airs it now and again, and some kind soul put up a video tribute to it on You Tube.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 73 other followers