Posts Tagged ‘Jerome Cowan’

My Classic Movie Pick: My Reputation

My blog today is for the Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon, being hosted by a great classic movie blogger, The Girl With the White Parasol.  July 16th would have been Ms. Stanwyck’s 106th birthday and in her honor the Blogathon was created.  If you click on the link The Girl With the White Parasol, you will be able to read other blog tributes to the late actress.stanwyckblogathon3

My Reputation, a 1946 Warner Brothers film,  happened to air on Turner Classic Movies this past winter and I recorded it with our family’s dvr system.  I have always enjoyed Barbara  Stanwyck’s work as an actress.  Whether the film be a  drama or a  comedy, Stanwyck could deliver her roles with intelligence and energy.  Since I had also recently viewed her in Sturges’s comedy  The Lady Eve, I decided to see her in a drama and My Reputation fit the bill.  Mr poster 3

Barbara plays Jessica Drummond, recently widowed with two sons: 14 year old Kim and 12 year old Keith.  They live in a rich suburb of Chicago( I loved the exteriors  of her  ranch style home!) Jessica’s husband died from a long illness and he was her high school sweetheart.  Fortunately for her and her sons, her late husband’s will was set up well, and the family will not want for anything monetarily.  The only other  thorn in Jessica’s side is her mother, imperiously played by Lucille Watson, who seemed to specialize in either playing irritating mothers or aunts or wise and kindly mothers and aunts.  Jessica also has a faithful housekeeper and cook in Anna, played by Esther Dale, with a dash of common sense and spunk.

Esther Dale, as dedicated servant Anna.

Esther Dale, as dedicated servant Anna.

Jessica with her two sons.

Jessica with her two sons.

Jessica dwelling on her new life as a widow.

Jessica dwelling on her new life as a widow.

It isn’t explained too well as to why Jessica’s mother is so bossy, but when she demands that Jessica must continue to wear black the rest of her life because she is now a widow, one can’t help but cheer for  Jessica when she politely but firmly tells her mother that no, she’ll wear other colors when she wants to.

Lucille Watson, as Jessica's bossy mother!

Lucille Watson, as Jessica’s bossy mother!

Jessica has a new would-be suitor, the family friend and  lawyer, Frank Everett(Warner Anderson) who lets it be known that when she is ready to date again, he’d like to be the one to court her.  Jessica’s mother approves of Frank heartily, which will not help his cause in Jessica’s eyes.  Frank is nice and a gentleman, but so boring!!!

As Jessica begins her new life without her husband,  she busies  herself with volunteer work; her sons are back east at their boarding school.  One evening, she reluctantly agrees to go out on the town with other couples, couples that she and her late husband were socially connected with.  One husband, George Van Orman(Jerome Cowan), drives Jessica back to her house after he has dropped off his wife,  and he promptly grabs Jessica in the car and  makes a pass at her!!!!

Jerome Cowan, as Van Orman, not ashamed of his antics!

Jerome Cowan, as Van Orman, not ashamed of his antics!

Jessica is so upset by Van Orman’s behaviour that she calls her good friend, Ginna Abbott played by Eve Arden,  her wit and candor shining through in her small part.  Ginna and her husband Cary,(John Ridgely) invite Jessica to leave with them in the morning and  spend a week-long vacation with them at Lake Tahoe, in a cozy cabin they’re renting.   Jessica hesitates but at Ginna’s urging, she does go with them for a nice break from her routines.

Of course, out skiing one afternoon, Jessica has a “meet cute” with a tall, handsome fellow, one Army Major Scott Landis, played by George Brent.  Major Landis is also skiiing solo, and sees Jessica with her broken ski, and after he falls into the snow, she helps him up.  As it is getting late, he convinces her to get on the back of his skis, and together they swoop down the hills to the cabin where Ginna and Cary are waiting.

Ginna and Cary, Major Landis and Jessica, at Lake Tahoe.

Ginna and Cary, Major Landis and Jessica, at Lake Tahoe.

The skiing rescue scene.

The skiing rescue scene.

George Brent plays Lt. Major Scott Landis

George Brent plays Lt. Major Scott Landis

Skiing mishap results in meeting a handsome guy!

Skiing mishap results in meeting a handsome guy!

As the week goes on, Major Landis is obviously attracted to Jessica and she is  also attracted to him, but she isn’t sure if she wants to start dating another man yet.  She definitely likes him a lot more than  Frank!   When the end of the week at Tahoe is up, Jessica and the Major say good-bye and wish each other well.  Some weeks go by and one evening at home, when Jessica is having dinner with Frank,  a phone call comes from Ginna.  She tells Jessica  that she and  Cary are at a Chicago hotel bar/ball room and Major Landis has just walked in!   Jessica rushes off to dress and gets poor Frank to drive her to that hotel, not telling him that a certain Army Major is there.  Frank figures it all out and Jessica and Major Landis begin seeing one another as he has been assigned to a duty post in Chicago for several months.

One of bossy mother's friends sees Jessica enter the Major's apartment, thus the rumors begin!

One of bossy mother’s friends sees Jessica enter the Major’s apartment, thus the rumors begin!

Jessica and the Major have a chance meeting in Chicago.

Jessica and the Major have a chance meeting in Chicago.

Tongues start wagging, rumors start flying, Jessica’s mother is quite unhappy with Jessica, and then more vicious rumors start to swirl about Jessica and the Major and those are overheard by Jessica’s two sons, who are home for Christmas break.  Jessica finds out who her true friends are, confronts the rumor mongers, deals with her mother, and finally has a long heart-to-heart talk with her sons.  After all of this  happens, we still don’t know if a future for Jessica and Major Landis will occur.  I’m also not going to tell so potential viewers will have to find this out for themselves!

Christmas Eve and not wanting to say good-bye!

Christmas Eve and not wanting to say good-bye!

I only have a few bones to pick with My Reputation, but none of them are with Barbara Stanwyck.  She is great as Jessica.  She is  shell-shocked in the movie’s beginning, like she is in a mental fog, and that makes sense as her husband has died, and now this new life has to begin, one which she didn’t ask for or want.  She is a warm and loving mother to her two sons.  There is a genuine camadarie between the three of them in all of their scenes. She also has that same relationship with her maid, and with her dear friend Ginna.  Her mother is a pill, and Jessica, at first, looks like she’ll let mother call the shots with her life, but Jessica stands up to her, in small bits at first and then in larger amounts as her relationship with Major Landis grows.   My bones of contention?  Eve Arden should have been in the movie more, and the movie posters.  I don’t know who makes the advertising decisions for a movie, but most of the posters depict Jessica as a  tawdry  woman with tag lines  telling folks to get off her back about her reputation.  The posters make one think the movie is about a loose woman and all of her man problems, instead of portraying Jessica as a widow with two sons.  If the  movie going public in 1946 went to see this movie based on what the posters were advertising, they were in for a surprise!

Here's one of the "trampy" My Reputation movie posters, Spanish version.

Here’s one of the “trampy” My Reputation movie posters, Spanish version.

Wishing Eve Arden had had a bigger role in this film.

Wishing Eve Arden had had a bigger role in this film.

Here's the French poster, with some extra men thrown in for good measure, I guess.

Here’s the French poster, with some extra men thrown in for good measure, I guess.

My Reputation has great music by Max Steiner, was lensed by James Wong Howe, and the screenplay was adapted by Catharine Turney from Clare Janes 1942 book, Instruct My Sorrows. Its  available to purchase through Amazon, appears from time to time on Turner Classic Movies, and is also available to rent throught Netflix.  My Reputation is a woman’s picture, with Stanwyck giving  it her all and for her fans, a movie not to miss.

My Classic Movie Pick and for the Mary Astor Blogathon: The Hurricane

In 1936, writers Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall published their 7th adventure novel, The Hurricane.  Their 4th novel, Mutiny on the Bounty, published in 1932, had been  such a literary sensation that MGM turned it into a film in 1935 starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton.   This time around, studio mogul Samuel Goldwyn wanted to make a movie based on a Nordhoff and Hall novel  and he hired John Ford to direct this tale of wrong-doing, injustice, and  love, amidst the onslaught of a South Pacific hurricane.book cover for The Hurricane

Goldwyn made a promise to Ford, that he could make the film in the actual South Pacific and even wait for a real hurricane to come along and use footage of it in the film!  With Ford’s love of the sea and his penchant for realism in his films, he jumped at this chance.  Unfortunately,  only a few weeks after agreeing to make the film, Goldwyn contacted Ford and said he’d changed his mind about filming on location.  He told Ford to just put wind machines on a back lot at the studio and film it there.  That  caused Ford to lose interest in the film but thanks to a strong cast, script improvements by Ben Hecht,  and outstanding special effects by James Basevi, The Hurricane was a hit  and it still holds up to today’s audiences.

The two main characters are Dorothy Lamour as Marama, this being only her second film, and Jon Hall as Terangi.  Coincidentally, Hall was the nephew of James Norman Hall, one of the novel’s authors.  Mary Astor is Madame De Laage, the govenor’s wife and Raymond Massey plays the govenor.  C. Aubrey Smith is Father Paul and Thomas Mitchell plays Dr. Kersaint.  John Carradine plays a sadistic jailer and Jerome Cowan plays Captain Nagle.The_Hurricane_Trailer_screenshot_Mary_Astor

The setting is the beautiful island of Manakoora.  Terangi is first mate on Captain Nagle’s trading ship.  Terangi also marries Marama, the daughter of Mankoora’s chief.  There is an elaborate and beautiful wedding ceremony and feast sequence where Governor and Mrs. De Laage are honored guests, and lovely leis are placed upon Mary Astor.  Father Paul is there to pray a blessing of thanks for the trading ship’s safe arrival and to perform the wedding.   The newlyweds happiness is short-lived.  While on a trading ship excursion to Tahiti,  a white man who is bullying Terangi gets a deserved punch in the jaw.  Unfortunately, the bully is a man with influence and he gets a Tahitian official to sentence Terangi to 6 months in prison.  Terangi’s friends go to Governor De Laage, the French Governor of Mankoora.  He is a hard-nosed, no nonsense, follow the letter of the law kind of guy.  He refuses to have Terangi brought back to Mankoora to be pardoned.  Even when Madame De Laage pleads with him to relent and bring Terangi back because his wife is expecting a baby, the Governor won’t listen.  After many escape attempts, Terangi manages to do so, but accidentally kills a guard in the process. He arrives back in Mankoora as a terrible hurricane is heading towards the island and in a selfless act, he ties his wife and daughter to a tree, then he ties a rope from that tree to the church, where  Mrs. De Laage, Dr. Kersaint, and Father Paul are sheltering, along with a large group of islanders.  Governor De Laage is out on the ocean on a schooner, hunting for the escaped Terangi.  Dr. Kersaint manages to head out to a canoe where a woman is in labor and he delivers that baby during the hurricane!  Terangi leads Mrs.  De Laage to the tree and ties her to its upper branches as he has done for his wife and daughter.  Father Paul won’t leave the church behind and tells all of them not to worry about him.  After the hurricane has blown through and utterly destroyed the island, we learn that Terangi and his family have survived, as well as Mrs. De Laage, Dr. Kersaint, and his tiny patient and the mother.  Governor De Laage can see with binoculars that Terangi is still alive, and that he has also saved Mrs. De Laage.  She, in turn, urges Terangi to grab a canoe and sail away with his wife and daughter.  When the Governor arrives at his wife’s side, he sees the canoe in the distance and she tells him it is just a log.  He knows it is Terangi, but embraces his wife and agrees that it is just a log.

In reading about Mary Astor and her career, I learned that she began acting in silent films in the 1920s.  She easily made the transition to talkies and was adept at playing in comedies or dramas.  Her role in The Hurricane was not that of the lead, but one of the co-starring parts.  With her elegance, and calm demeanor, she was the perfect choice to play the warm-hearted wife to a hard-hearted governor, such as the one Raymond Massey portrayed.

Mary Astor as Madame De Laage with Raymond Massey as Governor De Laage.

Mary Astor as Madame De Laage with Raymond Massey as Governor De Laage.

Director John Ford was known to choose one actor or actress to be the one that got “picked” on during the entire production run of a movie.  For whatever reason, Mary “won” that title during the filming of The Hurricane.  She reportedly took his jabs and comments with good humor and later said, “I think ‘laconic’ is a good word for John Ford and for his technique of direction”,…”No big deal about communication with John.  Terse, pithy, to the point.  Very Irish, a dark personality, a sensitivity which he did everything to conceal.”1

For the actual hurricane scene, Special Effects director James Basevi was given a $400,000 budget.  He spent $150,000 to build a native village on a back lot and then spent $250,000 to destroy it! The planning of the scene, the production of it, and the filming took 4 months.   Usually Basevi didn’t like to discuss how he made his special effects magic on any film, but The Hurricane was one film where he was quite open as to how he got that great scene completed.  His village set was 600 feet long with wharves, huts, a church, and palm trees.  The beach ran into a lagoon, which was actually a 200 yard-long tank. Across this tank were put up airplane propellors, mounted on towers to create the fierce winds.  Water from 12 fire hoses streamed in front of the propellors’ blades to send water and spray over the actors and the set.  Wave machines churned up the waters of the lagoon.  To show a tidal wave, Basevi let loose 2000 gallons of water down chutes topped by big tanks.2

A very kind soul has put the hurricane scene up on Youtube and  I have watched it over and over.  Those are really all of the main actors in that scene.  Mary Astor is soaking wet and trying to grasp that rope to safely get from the church to that giant tree, with Terangi leading her to safety.  It is a very impressive scene, and I am delighted to report that Turner Classic Movies will be showing The Hurricane on Wednesday, May 29th, at 11:00 p.m. CST.

To see an exciting film directed by John Ford and one of Mary Astor’s subtle and warm-hearted performances, set your dvrs and  don’t miss The Hurricane!

Terangi attempting to save Madame De Laage!

Terangi attempting to save Madame De Laage!

Thomas Mitchell as Dr. Kersaint, delivering that baby!  Mitchell was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Hurricane.

Thomas Mitchell as Dr. Kersaint, delivering that baby! Mitchell was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Hurricane.

The De Laage's elegant dining room.The De Laage’s elegant dining room.

This blog was written in conjunction with The Mary Astor Blogathon, hosted by two great classic movie bloggers: Tales of the Easily Distracted and Silver Screenings.  If you visit their sites, you will read other wonderful blogs all about the wonderful Mary Astor.

Sources sited for this blog: 1 Davis, Ronald L., John Ford: Hollywood’s Old Master, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman and London, 1995. Page 88.

2Zinman, David, 50 Classic Motion Pictures:The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of: Vintage Films From Hollywood’s Golden Age, Limelight Editions, New York, 1992.  Pages 112-113.

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Father Paul(C. Aubrey Smith) and Madame De Laage

Father Paul(C. Aubrey Smith) and Madame De Laage

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