Posts Tagged ‘Irene Dunne’

My Classic Movie Pick: Life With Father

I must have been 11 0r 12 years old the first time I saw the 1947 film Life With Father.   I remember enjoying this old movie that I stumbled upon one afternoon.  The movie was funny, it was shot in gorgeous technicolor and  the side-plot of whether or not Father would ever get baptized was amusing to me.

Life With Father

 

When I next rewatched the movie, as a college student, I realized that a young Elizabeth Taylor was in this film and a very young Martin Milner, pre- Route 66 and Adam-12 days.  I knew by this point that the parents were played by William Powell, who was pitch perfect as the bombastic father, Clarence Day Sr. and the lovely Irene Dunne was  excellent as the  loving, but fiscally- challenged  wife, Vinnie.  I also learned  that Life With Father actually had its beginning as a book, written by Clarence Day Jr.  From this book came a Broadway play and then the hit film.  When I learned that blogs The Rosebud Cinema and Rachel’s Theatre Reviews were hosting a blogathon devoted to stage plays that were turned into films, I decided to participate with Life With Father.  Be sure to visit the two sites in order to read about more movies that began life on the stage!

 

Stage to screen blogathon

Owning my late grandmother’s encyclopedia set from 1957 I was able to find a bit more info on  the real Clarence Day Jr.  Born in 1874, he grew up in  New York City, his father, Clarence Day Sr., nicknamed Clare, was a stockbroker.  Day’s grandfather, Benjamin H. Day founded the New York Sun newspaper.  Clarence Jr. grew up in an upper middle class family, graduated from Yale, and went into the same brokerage firm where his father worked.  Clarence Jr. joined the US Navy to fight in the Spanish-American War, but afterwards he became afflicted with crippling arthritis and had to live the rest of his life as a semi-invalid.  During this time, Clarence Jr. began writing and his first major literary success was a book, God and My Father.  Next came the book, Life With Father, a humorous look at life in 1890s New York City with his domineering, loud, but lovable father and the rest of the Day family.    Clarence Jr. died in 1935, and several more of his books were published posthumously.  The 1937 book, Life With Mother, was also successful and in 1939, Howard Lindsey and Russel Crouse wrote a play based upon God and My Father, Life With Father, and Life With Mother.  What was astounding is that this new play, Life With Father, was such a hit with audiences that it ran for over seven years to become the longest-running non-musical play on Broadway.

Warner Brothers brought the rights to the play in order to turn it into a film and Donald Ogden Stewart wrote the screenplay.  Michael Curtiz directed, and in addition to William Powell and Irene Dunne, as Clarence Sr. and Vinnie, they were joined by: Jimmy Lydon as Clarence Jr., Martin Milner as John, Johnny Calkins as Whitney, and Derek Scott as the youngest son, Harlan.  Zasu Pitts portrays Vinnie’s cousin, Cora, visiting from Ohio, and Elizabeth Taylor plays Mary Skinner, a  traveling companion of cousin Cora’s.  Edmund Gwenn is Reverend Dr. Lloyd, who has to carefully deal with an unbaptized Clarence Sr., and maids for the family are played by Emma Dunn, Heather Wilde, Mary Field, Queenie Leonard, and Nancy Evans.

The Day Family. front row: Whitney, Father, Harlan.  Back row: John, Clarence Jr., Mother.

The Day Family. front row: Whitney, Father, Harlan. Back row: John, Clarence Jr., Mother.

The film is fast-moving, with various plots woven throughout it, all leading to the climax: will father get baptized or not?  While this might not seem funny, and may seem downright boring, it is told with humor and wit.  William Powell’s performance is the glue that holds this story together and he was so good in the part that he was a Best Actor nominee at the Academy Awards in 1948.

Powell getting some direction advice from Curtiz.

Powell getting some direction advice from Curtiz.

Powell’s Clarence Day Sr. is in his late 40s, and he works at an efficient office.  He believes that his home should also be run in an efficient manner, and when it isn’t-which is quite often-he feels compelled to honestly let all in the house know how displeased he is with this inefficiency.  He is loud, curt, and a bit oblivious to the fact that his wife, Vinnie, is really running things at home the way she wants them run.  Powell’s Clarence adores his wife and even though she can frustrate him, especially when she doesn’t understand purchasing items on credit and keeping to the budget he has set up, he still worships the ground she walks on.  A running gag in the film is the Day family’s inability to keep housemaids.  The maids are all afraid of Mr. Day, especially when he makes a loud outburst about something that has displeased him.  One maid, a new Irish immigrant, takes it as a bad sign that the Day’s are all redheads and when Mr. Day let’s loose with a loud complaint, this new maid quits.  Vinnie scolds Clarence Sr. for scaring off yet another maid so she says he has to hire the next one.  When Clarence Sr. gets to the employment agency to hire a new maid, the employment agency representative tells him, “Sir, before I can let any girl go from this establishment, I must know the character of the home in which she will be employed.” To which Mr. Day replies, “Madam,  I am the character of my home!”

Whitney saying his catechism

Whitney saying his catechism

Cousin Cora’s visit, which Vinnie knew about but forgot to tell Clarence Sr., is an irritant to him.  He doesn’t like the fact that they are putting Cousin Cora up at their house for a week and he rails against it, as he isn’t running a hotel.  He isn’t also happy that Vinnie has told Cora that they are taking her and Mary, her traveling companion, to Delmonico’s for dinner, a meal that Clarence Sr. doesn’t want to have to pay for as he believes the restaurant is too expensive.

Tolerating Cousin Cora's visit

Tolerating Cousin Cora’s visit

Father with his sons

Father with his sons

The sons, especially the oldest two, Clarence Jr. and John, add to the swirling plots of the film.  Clarence Jr. hates wearing his father’s old suits and wants a new suit of his very own.  He is hit with the love bug when he meets Mary Skinner and feels awkward around her if he’s wearing one of father’s suits.  He gets the urge to act like father would act and this upsets poor Mary!  John, always looking for a way to earn money, hires Clarence Jr. to help him sell a new medicine door to door.  Then Clarence Jr. will earn enough money to buy himself a new suit.  Unfortunately, John decides to give his mother some of the medicine and it doesn’t help Vinnie at all, in fact she becomes very sick and the doctor has to be called.

The lovely Mary Skinner, no wonder Clarence Jr. gets a crush on her!

The lovely Mary Skinner, no wonder Clarence Jr. gets a crush on her!

"Get off my lap!"

“Get off my lap!”

Telling Father he needs a new suit

Telling Father he needs a new suit

Mother understands why he wants a suit of his own

Mother understands why he wants a suit of his own

Whitney, the third son, is practicing his catechism in order to be confirmed in the Episcopal church the family attends.  During one of his practice sessions, Clarence Sr. admits that he’s never been baptized.  This news horrifies Vinnie and she asks him to get baptized or they won’t be reunited in Heaven.  Clarence Sr. scoffs at this notion, stating that God wouldn’t be able to keep him out of Heaven!  This dilemma even leads Vinnie to wonder if their marriage is legal!

Since this film, though autobiographical in nature, is mainly a comedy, you can  rest assured, there are happy endings for all of the characters.

"This film is a delight!"

“This film is a delight!”

Life With Father is available to purchase or even watch on instant rent at Amazon.  It’s also available through TCM’s Shop and through Netflix.   Also, the entire film is available to see on Youtube!  For a funny, endearing movie the whole family can watch, and with one of William Powell’s best performances, seek out Life With Father!

LWF poster 2

 

My Classic Movie Pick: Penny Serenade

Penny Serenade is one of my favorite classic films and it contains the only  role for which Cary Grant was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award.  (He lost to Gary Cooper in Sergeant York.)   This movie has comedic moments, romance, heartbreak, and hope.  If you do see it, have a box of kleenaxes with you!Penny Serenade poster 1

Penny Serenade was released in 1941 by Columbia Pictures.  The film was directed by George Stevens, screenplay by Martha Cheavens and Morrie Ryskind, and the film stars Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Edgar Buchanan, Beulah Bondi, Ann Doran, Leonard Willey, Wallis Clark,Walter Soderling, Edmund Elton, 1 year old twins Jane and Joan Biffle, and Eva Lee Kuney.

The film opens with Julie Adams(Irene Dunne) asking her friend Applejack Carney(Edgar Buchanan) to turn off the record he had just put on the record player.  Julie and Applejack are standing in an apartment which is  all in disarray as many items have been packed up for an obvious move.  The song that had begun to play was “You Were Meant for Me” and Julie explains to Applejack that she is leaving Roger(Cary Grant) and that she doesn’t want to listen to that song.  After a few moments of quiet reflection, Julie turns the record back on and we then  see the movie from a series of flashbacks, all set to  recorded songs that meant a lot to Roger and Julie in the  earlier, happier times of their relationship.

Julie listening to the song and recalling happier times.

Julie listening to the song and recalling happier times.

We see how Julie and Roger met, at a record shop where Julie worked.  We see them on dates and falling in love.  Roger had told Julie he was going to always be a confirmed bachelor but we see him relenting when the newspaper he works for wants him to work for 3 years in their Japanese news bureau.  Roger realizes that he can’t live without Julie in his life and so they marry.  When Julie arrives in Japan some months later, she gladly tells Roger that they are expecting a baby.  Unfortunately, an earthquake strikes one day and Julie is trapped in their destroyed home, with debris lying on top of her.  She is rescued, but the accident has caused her to lose the baby and the doctor also informs she and Roger that future pregnancies won’t be happening for them.  Depressed and despondent, the couple re-settle in California(the movie opens in San Francisco) and Roger, with a small inheritance, has bought a small-town newspaper, the Rosalia Courier-Press, where he and Julie can live in the small apartment above the newspaper’s office.  Their good friend, Applejack Carney, agrees to come on board and work for the newspaper.

An early date at the beach-teasing Roger about his fortune cookie message, which contradicts his bachelor status.

An early date at the beach-teasing Roger about his fortune cookie message, which contradicts his bachelor status.

Roger welcoming Julie to  Japan.

Roger welcoming Julie to Japan.

Seeing the sites in Tokyo.

Seeing the sites in Tokyo.

Trying on Japanese style footwear.

Trying on Japanese style footwear.

Time goes by and the couple decides that they could adopt a child.  After mailing  a letter requesting to be adoptive parents, the director of the local orphanage, Mrs. Oliver(Beulah Bondi) comes by for a visit.  Mrs. Oliver is at first dismayed by Julie’s cluttered approach to housekeeping but she is glad to see that the apartment has an adorable room set up as a nursery.  Julie and Roger inform Mrs. Oliver that they would like to adopt a 2 year old boy because that would be the age of their baby that they lost due to the earthquake and accident.  Mrs. Oliver tells the couple that at that moment a 5 week old baby girl is available for adoption, and after they go to the hospital and see the baby,  Julie and Roger relent and are permitted to be the baby’s parents on a 1 year probationary period. There are many ups and downs in that year of parenting.  Julie is very nervous about giving the baby, whom they’ve named Trina, a bath and in a moving and tender scene, good old Applejack takes charge and teaches the two nervous parents how to bathe a baby.

Mrs. Oliver, Orphanage Director

Mrs. Oliver, Orphanage Director

Meeting the 5 week old baby girl.

Meeting the 5 week old baby girl.

The very nervous, new parents.

The very nervous, new parents.

Applejack teaching how to give an infant a bath.

Applejack teaching how to give an infant a bath.

The newspaper is floundering financially and despite Roger’s efforts, the business may be lost and so might  the chance to be appointed Trina’s permanent parents.  It is in a scene with the judge presiding over the adoption that Grant performs his Best Actor nominated scene-grab those kleenaxes!!! 8 years fly by and Trina is preparing for her part as the star in the school’s Christmas program.  The newspaper is still in business, not rolling in buckets of money for Roger and Julie, but enough for their family of 3 to live on.

Roger confronting the judge about adopting Trina.

Roger confronting the judge about adopting Trina.

Julie receiving the news that Trina is their daughter for good!

Julie receiving the news that Trina is their daughter for good!

Trina as the star in the Christmas Pageant.

Trina as the star in the Christmas Pageant.

Behind the scenes of Penny Serenade: Edgar Buchanan and Eva Lee Kuney.

Behind the scenes of Penny Serenade: Edgar Buchanan and Eva Lee Kuney.

Tragedy soon strikes again, and I won’t reveal anymore about the movie’s plot because I want viewers to seek it out!  There is a happy ending, I can reassure you of that! Penny Serenade will be aired on September 30th at 6:00 a.m.(EST)/5:00 a..m.(CST) on Turner Classic Movies so set that dvr machine.  It is also available on Amazon.com  and it is also available to rent through Netflix.   For an excellent classic movie to view, especially to see Cary Grant’s award nominated performance, don’t hesitate to see Penny Serenade.

A tagline to advertise Penny Serenade

A tagline to advertise Penny Serenade

A French poster for the film.

A French poster for the film.

My Classic Movie Pick: My Favorite Wife

My Favorite Wife

My Favorite Wife (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What would you do if you were in this predicament?  Your lovely wife was on board a ship that was lost at sea.  Seven years pass and during that interim you’ve been working hard at your law career  and you’ve met a new woman to be a wife and mother to your children.  Seven years is the legal amount of time that has to pass before you can have someone missing declared legally dead, so you go to a judge you know and have your first wife declared legally dead.  Now you are free to marry your new lady love, and you do so.  On the afternoon of your wedding day, right before you and wife #2 are to leave for your honeymoon, guess what?  Wife #1 appears!  She’s alive and well, and was stuck on a deserted island for these past seven years!  What would you do?  This is the plot for a delightful comedy called My Favorite Wife, released in 1940, by RKO Studios.

Cary Grant plays Nick Arden, our hero-lawyer of the movie, and Irene Dunne is Ellen, wife #1.  Gail Patrick is Bianca, wife #2, and Randolph Scott portrays Stephen Burkett, a handsome man who also survived the same shipwreck as Ellen, and was on the deserted island with her.  A fact that Ellen humorously tries to keep Nick from finding out about.

Nick has a major problem on his hands; wife #1 isn’t dead, so legally they are still married, yet he has just married a second wife, who has no idea that Ellen has resurfaced.  He has to find  a way to break the news gently to Bianca, who is puzzled as to why they haven’t left for their honeymoon yet, so she calls in a psychiatrist, Dr. Kohlmar,  to come out to Nick’s house and try to talk with him about his reluctance to get on with the honeymoon!

Ellen, meanwhile, doesn’t want Nick to know about Stephen, her island buddy, so she recruits a mild-mannered, shy shoe salesman to pretend to be Stephen so Nick won’t feel jealous.  However, an insurance adjustor contacts  Nick and tells him that there is a rumor going around town that Ellen wasn’t alone on that deserted island and that she and her island buddy called each other, “Adam and Eve”.  Nick decides to track down this  island buddy and discovers for himself that Stephen Burkett is strong, athletic, and quite handsome!  Nick, while dealing with Bianca and Dr. Kohlmar, has a new problem crop up when the police arrive at his home to arrest him for bigamy!

This film is what is termed a “Screwball Comedy” as the situations that the characters find themselves in are so funny and utterly unbelievable.  The film was directed by Garson Kanin, produced by Leo McCarey, and written by Leo McCarey, Samuel Spewack and Bella Spewack.  It was loosely based upon a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Enoch Arden”, about a sailor lost at sea, who survives on a deserted island for seven years, only to be rescued, returns home to find his wife remarried to his best childhood friend, and with a new child by the new husband.  The poem has a sad, yet noble ending.  Fortunately for us  the movie has a better ending; the entire movie  is a delightful romp of comedy and romance.  It did earn a big box office profit  for RKO, and it was nominated for 3 Academy Awards: Best Story, Best Musical Score, and Best Art Direction.

Cary Grant displays his comedic timing to perfection in this film, trying to keep all the plates spinning, so to speak, before they all come crashing down.  Irene Dunne is  great as Ellen, trying to convince her husband that she still loves him, despite being stuck on a deserted island with the very handsome Stephen.  The supporting players all do really well with their parts, portraying their characters with sincerity, and believability.

The film was such a hit, that in 1962 Twentieth Century Fox began filming a remake, titled Something’s Got to Give, with Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe, and Cyd Charisse reprising  the roles.  Monroe was eventually fired for not showing up to film her scenes, Martin quit when the studio attempted to refill Monroe’s part, and the project was shelved.  After Monroe’s death, the studio recast the movie with Doris Day, James Garner, and Polly Bergen and retitled it Move Over, Darling, releasing it in 1963.  It is a funny movie too, in color,with songs by Doris Day  but for my taste, I prefer the original with Cary and Irene.

So pop up a big batch of popcorn, grab a soda and a comfy spot to sit.  My Favorite Wife is available for sale at Amazon, it will be  shown on Turner Classic Movies on February 12th, and it is available to rent from Netflix.

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