Posts Tagged ‘Loretta Young’

My Classic Movie Pick: The Bishop’s Wife, for the Christmas Movie Blogathon

I was honored when Family Friendly Reviews asked me to participate in their first blogathon, focusing on Christmas Movies.  Immediately I knew I’d write about one of my favorites, The Bishop’s Wife.   Produced by Samuel Goldwyn, directed by Henry Koster,  and made in 1947, the film resonated so much with audiences that besides doing extremely well at the box office it was a Best Picture nominee at that year’s Academy Awards.   The talented cast included  Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Gladys Cooper, Monty Woolley, James Gleason, Elsa Lanchester, and Karolyn Grimes.  CM Blogathon

David Niven portrays Bishop Henry Brougham and Loretta Young is his wife, Julia.  They have an 8 year old daughter, Debbie(Karolyn Grimes, who also played  Zuzu in It’s a Wonderful Life) and they live in a huge house with a cook and a maid, Matilda(Elsa Lanchester),  and the Bishop also has a secretary, Miss Cassaway(Sara Haden.)    Life would appear to be simple and easy for the Bishop and his wife, but that isn’t the case at all.

It’s Christmas time as the film opens and we see a winter’s evening settling in over a large city.  The city isn’t identified but as large as it is in the opening flyover shot, I assumed it to be New York City.  We see excited and smiling children admiring the department store windows decorated with moveable characters, acting out little scenes of elves building toys in Santa’s workshop.  Watching all of this happiness is one lone man, smartly dressed, who quietly assumes a watchful eye.  He helps a blind man cross a busy street, cars suddenly braking to a stop as if an unseen force caused the braking.  We see this same man stop a runaway baby buggy and then hand the infant over to her grateful mother.  Then as this man is about to stroll away, he notices Julia, the Bishop’ s wife, looking longingly at a hat in a store window.

Julia wants that hat!

Julia wants that hat!

Julia moves on from the store window and runs into Professor Wutheridge(Monty Woolley) at the florist’s store where she is going to buy the Christmas tree for the Bishop’s house.  ( She orders a huge tree, to be delivered, for $1.85!!!!  Oh those 1947 prices!!)  The Professor admits that he misses seeing Julia and Henry since Henry’s  promotion from being the head minister at St. Timothy’s, which is now in danger of being shuttered.  Julia agrees that she misses the Professor, the old  neighborhood, and she is sad about St. Timothy’s.  The Professor knows about Henry needing to raise money for the building of a  cathedral and despite being a non-religious man, he gives Julia an old Roman coin, and asks her to give it to Henry, to put it towards the cathedral.  This offering touches Julia and she tears up in spite of herself.

When Julia arrives home, she has just missed another meeting  with Mrs. Hamilton(Gladys Cooper) and the cathedral committee.  What she missed was Mrs. Hamilton scolding  Henry about his “fuzzy-thinking” and the doubts Mrs. Hamiton has that Henry is the right man for the job.  Mrs. Hamilton’s bossy,  irritable mood has rubbed off on Henry and he chastises Julia for missing the meeting and he scoffs at the coin from the Professor.  Julia and Henry sit down to an unhappy,  tense dinner and Henry tries to make amends with the suggestion that he and Julia actually have a date for lunch the next day.  Julia’s face lights up at this plan, only to have their date shattered with a phone call from Mr. Travers, to remind Henry about a  meeting that will conflict with the date and cannot be gotten out of.  With the date cancelled, Julia goes  upstairs and  Henry goes back to his study and looks intently at the painting of a cathdral that is above the fireplace mantle.  He prays aloud to God for guidance and hears the door to his study open and close.  He turns to see who is there and no one is there.   As he looks back at the painting, it seems to be lit up and a man is suddenly in the room with him.  It is the smartly dressed man we saw in the film’s opening, the good samaritan who was helping people.  The man introduces himself as Dudley(Cary Grant), and he tells Henry that he is an angel, sent by God, to give Henry the help he’s prayed for!  Henry is at first, very skeptical that this man is an angel and he demands that Dudley perform a miracle right then and there, perhaps to build the cathedral with the wave of his hand.  Dudley chuckles at Henry’s challenge and informs Henry that he will help Henry reach his goals until Henry utters a prayer saying he doesn’t need Dudley’s help anymore and Dudley will then leave and no one will remember him having been among them.

Dudley being introduced to Julia

Dudley being introduced to Julia

Dudley, himself, has a conflict.  He is falling in love with Julia, and Henry has an inkling that this is happening.  All the ladies in the Bishop’s household: daughter Debbie, Miss Cassaway, Matilda, and Julia, are all charmed by Dudley, much to Henry’s consternation.  There are many great scenes where Dudley steps in and weaves his “angel magic”: helping Debbie get accepted into a  snowball fight, keeping the Professor’s sherry bottle filled, dictating the Bishop’s sermon to an unmanned typewriter,  helping Julia and taxi driver Sylvester(James Gleason) ice skate like Olympic athletes, playing the harp to melt Mrs. Hamilton’s icy heart, getting the boys to show up for choir practice at St. Timothy’s, keeping Henry away from the choir practice and literally stuck at Mrs. Hamilton’s home,  and my favorite: the decorating of the Bishop’s Christmas tree.

Who wouldn't want Cary Grant over to decorate their Christmas tree??

Who wouldn’t want Cary Grant over to decorate their Christmas tree??

Ice skating with Julia

Ice skating with Julia

Telling Debbie a story about David, the shepherd boy

Telling Debbie a story about David, the shepherd boy

What I enjoy about this movie is it’s depiction of faith, of a marriage in trouble, and of relationships developing and relationships healing.  The characters are very realistic, even the depiction of an angel!  Who wouldn’t want Cary Grant as their angel??  There is charm, comedy, and a wistfulness in this film.  When it was first in production, Samuel Goldwyn didn’t like the way the first director, William A.  Seiter had handled  the film, so he fired Seiter and had him replaced with Henry Koster.   He also had Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett make some uncredited rewrites of the screenplay.  Gregg Toland’s cinematography was top-notch.     Based upon Robert Nathan’s  1928 novel by the same title, I am glad Goldwyn stepped in and ordered those changes which yielded such a rich film.

Will the cathedral get built?  Will Mrs. Hamilton win and get Henry demoted?  Will St. Timothy’s be closed for good?  Will Henry and Julia’s marriage be saved?  Will Dudley resolve his feelings for Julia? Will he reveal who he really is to her?  The only way to find out the answers to these questions is to seek out The Bishop’s Wife for oneself.   It is available at Amazon and at TCM, and it will air on TCM on Christmas Eve at 12:15 am EST, so set that dvr machine!

At the film’s end, we get to hear a portion of  Bishop Henry’s Christmas Eve sermon:…”all the stockings are filled except one, the stocking for the child in the manger…Let us ask ourselves what would He wish for most?  Let each put in his share.  Lovingkindness, warm  hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance.  All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.”  I would add that for the next Christmas season, if you or your family are looking for an opportunity to serve others check out Operation Christmas Child, part of an outreach with The Samaritan’s Purse Ministry.  It allows one to give gifts that will be picked up and delivered to children in third world countries.  The ministry supplies a guided list of gifts to send and the costs for mailing the packages oversees.  For more information, click on this link.

For a lovely Christmas movie, one the entire family can watch and enjoy together, please seek out The Bishop’s Wife!  TBW movie poster 1

When Rosalind was Robbed!

                                                                                                                             

Instead of my usual Friday Classic Movie Pick I am submitting my blog post for the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon which is being hosted by 3 wonderful classic film fans.  You can visit their blogs via wordpress: Once Upon a Screen, Outspoken & Freckled, and Paula’s Cinema Club.  At these blogs you will find interesting and fun articles about the Academy Awards through the years, from 1928 to the present.   Read about the backstage stuff, who won, who was snubbed, Oscar fashions of the past, it is all there.

31 Days of Oscar Blogathon  My post for the blogathon  is  about  the 1948 Academy Awards and  the shock that awaited actress Rosalind Russell.    She was the hands-down expected winner for Best Actress that year and she didn’t win!  How did this happen?  Several theories are out there, but I will be focusing on only one as the most likely reason for her to have  lost the coveted Oscar statuette.

Joan Crawford 1948 Susan Hayward 1948 OscarsDorothy McGuire 1948Rosalind Russell 1948Loretta Young 1948

Variety, the entertainment newspaper, decided to publish a poll, showing who most people thought would win the awards in the major categories at the Academy Awards that year.  The nominees for Best Actress were: Joan Crawford, Susan Hayward, Dorothy McGuire, Rosalind Russell, and Loretta Young. Crawford was nominated for the film Possessed, playing a woman driven to madness over an unrequited love for a man.  Susan Hayward was nominated for the film Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman, playing a woman who turns to alchohol to solve her problems.  Dorothy McGuire was nominated for the film Gentleman’s Agreement, playing a woman who has to confront her bigoted attitude towards those of the Jewish religion.  Rosalind Russell was nominated for the film Mourning becomes Electra, playing a woman who discovers shocking family secrets and decides to rain down justice and revenge on her mother.  Loretta Young was nominated for the film The Farmer’s Daughter, playing a nursing student who  takes a job as a maid for a political powerhouse family and changes their attitudes for the better.  Variety began to trumpet the poll’s picks and Rosalind Russell was their announced winner for best actress for 1948.

How did that happen?  Well, Henry Rogers, a publicist who had helped Joan Crawford and Olivia de Havilland win their best actress Oscars two years prior, contacted Russell’s husband to inform him that he could help put Russell out there into the public eye, and that that would help her to win the Oscar.  Russell and her husband agreed to Roger’s plans.  First, he got a casino in Las Vegas to post their betting odds on the Academy Awards, showing that Rosalind Russell had 6-5 odds .  Second, he had local Los Angeles groups give out their own “awards” or endorsements to Russell:  Los Angeles PTA said she was the Actress of the Year, a UCLA sorority said Russell was Hollywood’s Best Actress, and a USC fraternity hailed Russell the Outstanding Actress of the 20th Century!  Third, Russell did win the Golden Globe for best actress and Rogers made sure that was announced a lot, and fourth, Rogers made sure that newspapers printed remarks by movie critics across the country hailing Russell’s performance in Mourning becomes Electra .                                                                                                                              

                                                     mourningbecomeselectra (1)

The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles  was the site that  evening of March 20th for the Academy Awards.   The show was to begin at 8:15 p.m.,  and the fans had lined up for hours before to see their favorite stars emerge from their limousines and take their walk on the red carpet.  It was a cold night that March, with high winds and a temperature of 30 degrees.  The actresses appeared, many in strapless gowns and fur wraps, smiling and seeming unaffected by the cold.  Joan Crawford wore a white crepe dress covered in silver bugle beads.  Susan Hayward was wearing a very expensive dress with a long train that her husband had to protect all evening from others shoes!  I couldn’t find out what Dorothy McGuire wore, but Loretta Young chose an emerald green silk taffeta dress.  Rosalind Russell had hired Paramount Pictures Studio Costume Designer Travis Banton to make her gown of white with shocking pink highlights.  ABC  broadcast the show via radio, with an estimated audience of  45 million listeners.

The order of the awards was mixed-up from their usual order on purpose to make each award seem more  special.  Variety wrote that this was done “so that there won’t be a rush for the exits when the big awards are made.”  The last award of the night was finally  presented and it was for Best Actress.  So far, Variety’s polls had been dead-on, with all of their projected predictions coming true.  Many in the audience decided that Russell was probably the winner and some began to vacate their seats in order to head to their limos and get a head start on all of the after parties.  Actor Fredric March approached the microphone, envelope in hand, to make the big announcement.   As he began to read the name on the card, Russell began to get up from her seat.  March suddenly did a double-take and announced in a surprised voice that the winner was Loretta Young for The Farmer’s Daughter!  There was an audible gasp in the auditorium and Young went on stage, in shock herself, to accept her Oscar.   As Variety wrote,”…the gasp that arose from the audience when Miss Young’s name was read by Fredric March just about matched the heaviest gust whipping around the Shrine Auditorium!”

Loretta Young with her OscarFor Oscar Blogathon

Rosalind put on a good face about it all, telling her husband that they would indeed hit all of the after parties.  She spent quite a bit of time consoling her dress designer, Travis Banton, who was crushed that she didn’t win and that the dress wouldn’t be getting as much publicity.  Russell and her husband went to the party that Darryl Zanuck, studio head at 20th Century Fox was hosting at Mocambo and there the press had a field day with photographing Russell hugging Young for her win.  The next morning, Young spoke to the press about her win and she added in her statement,” My only regret is Rosalind Russell.  And don’t say ‘poor Roz’ because she will go on to win an Academy Award and then some.  But it was cruel for the polls to come out and say that she was going to win.”   No hard feelings between the two actresses existed and later when Young had her popular television show airing in the 1950s,  she twice needed a guest host and she chose Rosalind Russell, who agreed to do so both times.

Rosalind hugging Loretta at the Oscars, 1948

I have seen both movies, The Farmer’s Daughter and Mourning becomes Electra.  Both Young and Russell gave outstanding perfomances in their roles.  I think that the reason Young won over Russell was due to the content of the films.  The Farmer’s Daugther is a charming little movie, about a Swedish-American young lady, on her way to the Capital City to enroll at a college for nurses.  Her name is Katrin Holstrom and she is the only girl in a family of boys.  She  is a hard worker and despite being robbed of her savings enroute to the college, she diligently finds another job as a maid for a family whose  matriarch is a political boss of sorts, and whose  son is a  congressman.  Katrin is smart, full of common sense, good will, and very pretty to boot, which doesn’t escape the congressman.  It is a drama, comedy and a romance all rolled up into one movie and audiences loved it.   Mourning becomes Electra was a play  penned by Eugene O’Neill,  and it appeared on Broadway in 1931.  O’Neill took the Greek tragedy of Orestes and set it in Post-Civil War New England.  Russell played Lavinia Mannon, who adores her father and brother, who are both now home after fighting in the war.  She tolerates her mother who dotes on her son, Orin(Michael Redgrave in another outstanding performance and he was nominated for Best Actor that same year), to the point of smothering him with her mother- love.  Since it is a Greek tragedy, there is murder, adultery, that mother-son complex, and revenge.  It is a serious drama, nothing light, funny or bright.  I think that audiences appreciated the lighter fare of The Farmer’s Daughter and that that is why Young ultimately won the award and not the expected Rosalind Russell.

For further reading about all of the Academy Awards, from the beginning up to the mid-80’s, check out the book Inside Oscar: The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards, by Mason Wiley and Damien Bona, published by Ballentine Books, 1986.  I found it a fascinating read and it was wonderful for the research of this blog post.

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