Reel Infatuation Blogathon: Randolph Scott in The Tall T

This is my contribution for the Reel Infatuation Blogathon.  Be sure to visit classic movie bloggers Font and Frock and Silverscreenings, to read other wonderful pieces about classic movie “crushes”.

 Reel Infatuation Banners

 

My birthday is getting close and as I was musing over the fact that I’m firmly in middle age,  who were some of my reel infatuations from classic movies who kept on giving good acting performances when they reached middle age?  I zeroed in on Randolph Scott in The Tall T.  Scott was 59 when  he starred in this excellent western,  rescuing a damsel in distress, or rather, a spinster-suddenly widowed, a 46  year old Maureen O’Sullivan from a trio of dastardly villians, one barely out of his 30s, one in his early 30s and one in his 20s.  Let’s give out a cheer for the middle aged in this film!!!!     The Tall T movie poster

Randolph Scott began his acting career in 1927 at the age of 29(WWI, college for a while, then accounting were all stepping stones on his life’s path to Hollywood) and he began with bit parts in silents, then moved into “B” westerns, and doing stage plays which caught the attention of Paramount, who signed him to a contract.  From there it was loan outs, working at his craft, to finally landing leading roles in “A” pictures.  In 1946, Scott once again put on his cowboy gear, got up on his horse, and from there on out, made the last third of his acting career in Westerns.

In The Tall T, (the trailer states that the T stands for terror and we learn it is also the name of a ranch where the hero has gone to buy some stock) we get the tall Scott riding in on his horse over mountainous rock groupings, as he rides in to the stage coach station to visit a bit with Hank(Frank E. Sherman), who runs the station, and his young son, Jeff(Chris Olsen.)  Scott’s character, Pat, is an old bachelor cowhand, who finally has saved up enough money to buy his own ranch.  Hank teases Pat about never having found a wife, and warns Pat that if he ever begins talking to his cattle out of loneliness, all hope is lost for him!!  Both men have a good laugh over that remark, and Pat promises to bring back some candy for Jeff.  Pat  is about to ride on to the nearest town to buy some more stock for his ranch.  I noticed that Scott, even at 59, was still ramrod straight with his posture-no stooped shoulders, no seeming to have arthritic issues with moving around or climbing up onto or getting off of his horse.  He’s tanned, a bit more weathered in his face, but he still has that wide, charming grin and that bit of his natural NC twang that never did leave his speech pattern when he talks. He’s adorable!!  He’s a rugged, handsome man and a comforting presence to Hank and his young son.  I noticed at this early part of the movie, the music is jaunty and fun.  It makes the audience feel good, and makes one feel that one is in for a fun film.

Pat visiting with Hank and Jeff at the Station

Pat visiting with Hank and Jeff at the Station

This feel good aspect to the film is short.  When Pat returns to the station with the stagecoach(he lost his horse in a bet and has had to hitch a ride back to Hank and Jeff) the happy music turns quickly to an ominous tone and the trio of pure evil, younger men emerge: Frank Usher(excellently portrayed by Richard Boone), Chink(Henry Silva), and Billy Jack(Skip Homeier).  After ordering Pat, the stagecoach driver Rintoon(Arthur Hunnicutt), and the passengers to throw down their guns, the trio orders them out of and off of the stagecoach.  Rintoon is gunned down as he attempts to shoot the villains with his hidden rifle.  In another day or so, Doretta Mims(Maureen O’Sullivan)  will be widowed before her honeymoon ever began as her cowardly husband is shot in the back by Frank.

Usher telling Pat that Hank and Jeff are dead

Usher telling Pat that Hank and Jeff are dead

Doretta is a truly sympathetic character in this hot mess of a situation.  She is the only child of a copper mine magnate.  She’s been a spinster until she met Willard Mims(ew, the name Willard would have been enough to make me run in the other direction!) and she convinced herself that he was her last chance, agreeing to marry him even though she knew he was only interested in her for her money.   Pat can see that the trio of villains need to be outwitted and that only he and Doretta can do this.  He is a hero to be commended because he takes into consideration Doretta’s hurt emotions, her feeling of abandonment, her feeling of foolishness for ever marrying Willard, and yet Pat is able to calm her nerves, her fears, her bad feelings, and gets her to work with him in defeating Usher, Chink, and Billy Jack.  Pat could have swaggered a bit, and bossed Doretta around, or treated her with contempt as another bit of baggage in his way of outwitting and destroying the baddies, but he doesn’t.  He treats Doretta with respect, as an equal in asking for her help, and ultimately as a new love in this latter part of his life in the rugged West.

Pat and Doretta, working together for the Win!

Pat and Doretta, working together for the Win!

Scott”s portrayal of Pat shows a strong man, one who is warm, smart, who listens before he speaks, and acts wisely.  Pat is quick to notice the fault lines in the gang who has kidnapped he and Doretta.  Gang leader, Usher, is a loner.  A lonely loner who often calls out Pat to come and talk with him.  Pat is listening close to Usher, for information to ultimately use to help he and Doretta in outwitting the gang.  Pat also notices that Chink and Billy Jack have fears and weaknesses, and in remembering the old adage that there is no honor among thieves, Pat is able to conquer these 3 despicable characters.

Pat enduring one of Usher's talks

Pat enduring one of Usher’s talks

Chink and Billy Jack-these whippersnappers don't stand a chance against Pat

Chink and Billy Jack-these whippersnappers don’t stand a chance against Pat

 

TCM from time to time airs this film, so pay attention to their schedule as it may well air before 2016 is done.  I’ll close out with the trailer for The Tall T, courtesy of TCM’s website, and some more shots of the wonderful Randolph Scott!

Probably a publicity shot, Scott in his earlier acting days

Probably a publicity shot, Scott in his earlier acting days

Scott, probably early 1940s

Scott, probably early 1940s

The lines beginning to show on a middle-aged Scott, but still ruggedly handsome

The lines beginning to show on a middle-aged Scott, but still ruggedly handsome

 

 

 

 

 

 

ORDER IN THE COURT! NOW…

My link to this awesome blogathon didn’t go through, so here it is, reposted for your reading convenience. Enjoy the great write ups by other classic film fan afficionados and bloggers!!

CineMaven's ESSAYS from the COUCH

HEAR YE! HEAR YE!
This weekend, our “ORDER IN THE COURT! The Classic Courtroom Movies Blogathon” is now in session.

COURTROOM BLOGATHON IS HERE

Lesley of  SECOND SIGHT CINEMAand myself, here atCINEMAVEN’S ESSAYS FROM THE COUCHare proud to present you with blog posts on all things courtside. For our joint blogathon, we have many movies you know…and some you may not. I love it when we can all learn at the same time. Both Lesley and I look forward to sharing these entries with you. For DAY ONE…let’s head over to Second Sight Cinema and see the entries posted there for today. I’ll see you back here tomorrow, Saturday ~ June 11th ~ for DAY TWO. Lesley will host DAY THREE ( Sunday ~ June 12th ) and I will bring up the rear with DAY FOUR  ~
( June 13th. )

I urge you to stop by here on Tuesday…

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“Order in the Court!” The Classic Courtroom Movies Blogathon: Intruder in the Dust

Today’s post is for  “Order in the Court!” The Classic Courtroom Movies Blogathon.  This genius idea for a blogathon was created by wonderful classic film fans Theresa at Cinemaven’s Essays From the Couch and Lesley at Second Sight Cinema.  Be sure to visit their blogs to read the great pieces about classic films that involved courtroom scenes, law, justice, etc.

My son’s English teacher told me at Parent-Teacher conferences this year that he was tired of presenting the book To Kill A Mockingbird, and then showing the movie, to some of his English classes.   I told the teacher that he should consider having the classes read William Faulkner’s novel Intruder in the Dust and then  show them the 1950 film version.  I added that it’s  a Faulkner novel with a happy ending!  This intrigued him, especially to learn that there was a happy Faulkner novel.   I  also pointed out  that the movie was  filmed in Faulkner’s  hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, and that he helped to write the screenplay.   Similar to  To Kill A Mockingbird, the setting is a small southern town  and while there isn’t an actual courtroom scene, there is the threat of a looming trial, a lawyer agreeing to defend the underdog, and some intrepid teens and one old lady who help to save the day.

Intruder in the Dust-book cover

 

Dust-poster

MGM paid Faulkner $50,000 for the rights to make a movie from this novel, which was published in 1949.  Clarence Brown was chosen to direct.  Faulkner helped to write the screenplay along with Ben Maddow.  The outstanding cast: Claude Jarman Jr., Juano Hernandez, David Brian, Elizabeth Patterson, Porter Hall, Charles Kemper, Will Geer, and Elzie Emanuel.

There are a good number of characters in this film but here are the main ones: Lucas Beauchamp(Juano Hernandez) is a black man who has made a nice life for he and his wife along the river that runs near the small town of Jefferson, Mississippi.  He minds his own business, conducts his life on his terms, and doesn’t want to cause any trouble.   Chick Mallison(Claude Jarman Jr.) is a typical teen boy, tallish, thin, gawky, who goes to school, and likes to hunt when he has free time, with his buddy, Aleck(Elzie Emanuel), a black teen, who is also tallish, thin, and gawky.  Then there is Miss Eunice Habersham(Elizabeth Patterson) the respected old maid Sunday School teacher, who has a stubborn streak a mile wide.  She’s petite, yet a powerful presence against the evil that will appear in this sleepy town.  Rounding out the main characters is lawyer John Gavin Stevens(David Brian), who also happens to be Chick’s uncle.  He’ll be called upon to take up the defense case for a man the majority of the town thinks is 100% guilty of murder.

The movie opens with Lucas Beauchamp being herded to the County Courthouse and Jail, as he’s been charged for the murder of one Vinson Gowrie(David Clarke), co-owner of the lumberyard.  A huge crowd of onlookers presses in  around Lucas as Sheriff Hampton(Will Geer) tries to get Lucas into the jail.  Chick Mallison happens to be in that part of town and when Lucas sees Chick in the crowd, he tells him to please go and get his uncle, Lawyer Stevens.  Chick hustles away and finds his Uncle John, and tells him that Lucas Beauchamp needs his help.  With that, a  flashback ensues, to explain how Chick came to become friends with Lucas.

The film is B&W, but here is a lobby card that would have advertised the film, and it's part of the mob scene where the sheriff is trying to get Lucas to the Courthouse and Jail.

The film is B&W, but here is a lobby card, in color,  that would have advertised the film, and it’s part of the mob scene where the sheriff is trying to get Lucas to the Courthouse and Jail.

Chick watching Lucas being taken away to the jail

Chick watching Lucas being taken away to the jail

It would be an unusual relationship, for a man of 6o to befriend a boy of 15, especially adding into the mix that they are of different races, and live in a time when the races were to be treated in a segregated environment.  Faulkner’s telling of this friendship is fairly simple: Chick and Aleck were out rabbit hunting one Saturday morning in November and Chick accidentally fell into the freezing cold river.  Aleck knew they were near Lucas Beauchamp’s home, so he ran there for help and Lucas rescued Chick.  Lucas then  took Chick to his home, put him to bed, made sure he had dry clothes to change into, made sure that the wet clothes were dried, and had his wife give Chick some food and drink after he woke.  Chick felt very awkward about thanking this black couple for their kindness, and awkward in telling Lucas thank you for saving his life, so when his clothes were dry, he put them on and just left!  Later, he does tell his mom about it and she admonishes him for not thanking the Beauchamps.  She insists they buy the couple some gifts and leave them at their doorstep as a way to say thank you.  In wanting to thank the Beauchamps anonymously, that action of supposed thanks only helps to illuminate the uncomfortable feelings the two races that make up the demographics of this town are consumed with.

Chick, sullen and unsure how to thank this man for saving his life

Chick, sullen and unsure how to thank this man for saving his life

Chick also tells his Uncle John one more anecdote about Lucas.  Lucas had been in the local hardware/general store one afternoon and Chick happened to be there too.  Some men in the store began taunting Lucas, who decided to stand his ground and ignore them.  This angered  Vinson Gowrie, and he tried to hit Lucas, but the men in the store stopped him.  Some of the townsfolk think that Lucas was mad enough at Vinson to shoot him. Chick tells his Uncle John that he knows Lucas wouldn’t kill anyone, and Uncle John agrees to take on the case.  He and Chick walk over to the jail to talk to Lucas.

The hardware store incident

The hardware store incident

 

Uncle John and Lucas meeting at the jail

Lucas and Uncle John  meeting in the jail cell

 

Lucas is adamant that he didn’t shoot Vinson Gowrie.  Lucas admits that he was visited and beaten by another white man, the other  lumber yard owner, as he  wanted Lucas to reveal who he had seen stealing lumber from the yard: Lucas had seen the murder victim, Vinson, stealing lumber.  Lucas won’t talk anymore about the incident, but after Uncle John makes his way out of the cell, Lucas hisses for Chick to come back.  He asks Chick and Aleck to go and dig up Vinson’s body, get the bullet out of it, because that bullet isn’t one from Lucas’s gun and will prove he’s not the killer.

Miss Habersham is also adamant that Lucas Beauchamp couldn’t be a killer, and she finds out what Chick and Aleck are planning to do, and with that matter of fact way of hers,  she announces to them that she’ll help them in their quest for that bullet!  As the trio finally unearth the coffin, they discover that Vinson’s body isn’t in it!

I’m not going to reveal anymore of this murder mystery by one of the South’s finest writers.  A kind soul has put the entire film on Youtube.  I will add, the scene where Miss Habersham alone defends Lucas from being lynched by a mob, is tense!

Juano Hernandez, listed 4th in the credits(I think he should have been listed 1st) is outstanding as Lucas.  He’s a wise man and it shows in his eyes, as do his other emotions.  He’s world-weary, and for every question and criticism he receives from Uncle John, his defense lawyer, he has a ready answer that counters the “whites” way of thinking about any sitution.  The other character that stands out to me is Elizabeth Patterson’s Miss Habersham.  She looks so prim and proper, but she is not one to fit into that cookie-cutter assumption as to how an old white lady from the South should act or think.   Carl Jarman Jr. is fine as Chick, at first wary to let anyone in his family know that he’s friends with Lucas, and then rising to his friend’s need in urging his Uncle John to take the man’s case.  I am not as familiar with actor David Brian’s other films, but he is good as Uncle John:stoic, practical, and it is he and the Sheriff(Will Geer, a small part but he’s great in it)who come up with the plot to catch the real murderer.

For an alternative to the film To Kill a Mockingbird and it’s book version, treat yourself to William Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust and it’s movie version!

Here is the trailer that movie goers in 1950 would have seen in advertising this film.

 

 

 

 

Lessons Learned on the Current

With our 4th child’s high school graduation looming on May 27th, hubby wanted our family of 9 to go on an outing, or on an adventure, if you will, as we were all gathering that week for the big event on Friday.  Since child #3 recently began his chef career, and only has Mondays off,  hubby chose Monday, May 23rd as the day for our family to canoe and kayak down part of the Current River.   Ozark National Scenic Riverways

We live in South-Central Missouri, at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains.  The Ozarks are filled with a lot of spring-fed rivers and streams, which are popular for canoe, kayak, and float trips; a float trip is just that, normally done in the height of a hot, humid Missouri summer, one gets into a large inner tube, and just floats down a river. The Current River, which we traveled on, is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, part of the National Park Service.

I awoke early that Monday morning, getting up at 5:00 am, and as I do when worried about something, I prayed that morning,  that we’d be able to successfully do this activity, that no one would drown, that we would all have great memories from this event.  With our older kids approaching their mid -20s, and our youngest 13, who knows how many vacations we can actually all gather together for in the future?

We left at 8:00 am and got to the canoe/kayak rental business-Jadwins-by 8:40.  Soon, we were all fitted with life jackets, handed our paddles, and climbed into our watercraft,  Hubby and I in a canoe, each of our 7 kids in their own kayaks.  When I say kayak, I don’t mean the traditional type where there is a “lid” or cover over one’s legs.  These kayaks were made of a heavy plastic, and our kids sat down in their kayaks, with a preformed chair back that they could rest their backs against.  We left the shore of the Current River at 9:00 am.  By 9:05, the first of many capsizes happened.   Current River rapids

We had brought a Rubbermaid tote box and lid with us, and it held the picnic lunch, and some other items we didn’t want to get wet.  We also brought another waterproof backpack to hold sunscreens, and a package of bottled waters.  Luckily we were always able to save these items whenever the capsizes happened.  The water that day was ice cold-it took my breath away and I couldn’t speak!  Our trip soon took on a pattern.  We’d be paddling along fine where the river was deep, with calm waters, and a gently curving channel.  However, when the rapids appeared, with shallower, clear waters, and lots of logs jutting part way into the channel, or large brush piles, one of us would get stuck, in these water “hazards” and then capsize.  We’d all work together and grab gear as it was being swept downriver, help the capsized person(s), get to a sandbank, and rest for a few minutes.  Then we’d get set up again, and off we’d go.

We did manage to eat the picnic lunch around noon on another sandbank.  At this point, I let out a few tears and complained to my hubby how this event was stressing me out tremendously and not at all fun and relaxing like I thought it would be.  Watching one’s kids capsize, get trapped by logs and brush, is not a fun sight to see.  We were all getting very tired, and realized that some of the kids belongings did manage to get swept away to never be seen again by us: an extra t-shirt, a water bottle, various slip-on sandals, and hubby’s prescription sunglasses.  I recalled that the canoe rental worker who had driven our family to our launch site had said that as we approached a bridge downriver, to get out at that area, 4oo ft. from this bridge, as there were culverts closer to the bridge and one didn’t want to get sucked into one.  I began a mental mantra,”Get me to that bridge!”  I think some of our kids began the same mantra.  After we got back on the river,  the paddling did go better, the river seemed to lose some of it’s hazards, and by 2:30, we saw the bridge.  A “Hurrah!” broke from our ranks as we saw the bridge and we made a beeline to the shore.  There were some picnic tables at that spot on the shore, and we could see a wide path that had been made in the surrounding woods to a roadway.   We had been advised by Jadwins to portage our equipment near the bridge in order to get to the other side of the river.  With only hubby wanting to go on, the rest of us informed him that we were tired and ready to stop for the day.  We agreed that if none of us could get a cell signal and call Jadwins to pick us up at the point where we were, then we’d go on down the river.  Luckily, oldest daughter was able to get a signal, and we were picked up 20 minutes later, after portaging our equipment to the roadway and the awaiting Jadwins bus and trailer.

After hearing about our troubles on the river, the canoe rental employee did mention that the river was 6 in. higher than normal due to all of the recent rains.  He also added that it’s not for the faint of heart or novice canoers/kayakers.  After we got back to civilization-aka Salem, MO, we went to the local Wal Mart for new slip-on sandals.  Then we went to the Pizza Hut for dinner-sitting in that restaurant and eating that pizza had never been so appreciated by me, before!  We then went to my hubby’s co-worker’s hunting cabin that we had signed up for to spend the night at.  With a thunderstorm ushering in the night, we all turned in.

Looking back now at our adventure, I can say I am proud of my family.  During our time on the river, whenever someone paddled into difficulties, the rest gathered round and helped.  No one yelled at anyone, or belittled those who kept having troubles manuevering.  Many hugs were given and at the restaurant, all agreed that memories had been made this day.  Psalms 127: 3-4 mentions what a blessing children are to a family.  From the NIV translation: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”  Re-reading that verse and with how our children reacted to one another and to their parents during our Current River trip cheered me as to our family’s love and loyalty for one another.  Looking back, a stressful day for me, yielded a wonderful view of my family in action.

Dunstan Checks In: The Animals in Film Blogathon

I received a kind invitation to write a post for The Animals in Film Blogathon, by Crystal at In The Good Old Days of Hollywood.  Please be sure to visit Crystal’s blog to read other wonderful posts by classic movie bloggers, about all of the many animals that have appeared in films.

 

Animals in film blogathon

When I started to think about  animals in classic film,  I immediately thought of Lassie, Trigger, Toto, and Cheetah.  I figured that since I was not as quick as the other invited bloggers to join and announce the animal that they’d be writing about, I decided to pick a film that my own children had greatly enjoyed,  a film probably not considered a “classic”, which featured an ape as the star of the show, 1996’s Dunston Checks In.   Based upon a story by John Hopkins, screenplay by Hopkins and Bruce Graham. Directed by Ken Kwapis.  Released by 20th Century Fox.

51746X37BFL._SY300_Dunston Checks In

This film has a simple main plot, and a simple subplot, due to the main audience of this film was children, and then their parents; a confusing film with intricate plots wouldn’t work for this audience demographic.  The main plot is about a hotel manager gearing up for a huge social event, The Crystal Ball, to be held at the hotel he manages.  The hotel owner is demanding that they impress a hotel critic who will be a guest at this event; hotel owner has a 5-star hotel, she wants to earn a 6th star.  The hotel manager, a single dad, works hard at his job, but his two sons are rambunctious boys and  get into mischievious adventures at the hotel, that threaten to ruin their Dad’s efforts to run a wonderful, classy hotel.

Hotel manager Robert and his two sons.

Hotel manager Robert and his two sons.

Faye Dunaway as hotel owner Elena Dubrow

Faye Dunaway as hotel owner Elena Dubrow

 

The subplot involves a suave jewel thief, posing as a “Lord” from England.  In his employ helping him steal jewels is an orangutan, Dunston, whom this thief  raised from infancy but isn’t a good caregiver.  The hotel owner, awed by this thief’s manners and charm, thinks he is the hotel critic, so she  demands he be treated well by the manager and staff.

Lord Rutledge noticing a guest's jewels.

Lord Rutledge noticing a guest’s jewels.

Of course, the two boys find the orangutan, rescuing him from the jewel thief, and inform their father about who this Lord really is.  This Lord discovers that the boys have taken his orangutan from him and he is determined to get him back, and nab some of the Crystal Ball guests fabulous jewels.  Hotel manager Dad is determined that Dunston be found by  the animal control officer he has called, all the while not letting his boss, the hotel owner, know about this creature in her hotel.

Telling Dad that they have to help Dunston!

Telling Dad that they have to help Dunston!

The animal control officer Dad has hired to find Dunston before the Crystal Ball begins.

The animal control officer Dad has hired to find Dunston before the Crystal Ball begins.

There is a lot of slapstick humor, of course, which appeals to a broad audience.  The cast of humans in this film  are great in their presentations of their characters:  Jason Alexander as Robert Grant, the dedicated hotel manager.  Eric Lloyd and Graham Sack are his adorable sons, Kyle and Brian.  Faye Dunaway is superb as the haughty hotel owner, Elena Dubrow.  Rupert Everett is the charming and sneaky jewel thief, Lord Rutledge.  Paul Reubens(PeeWee Herman!) as Buck LaFarge, animal control expert and officer, and Glenn Shadix as Lionel Spaulding, the real hotel critic.

The boys often put Dunston in disguises as they sneak him around the hotel.

The boys often put Dunston in disguises as they sneak him around the hotel.

Dunston, from what I could gather, was played by one orangutan, named Sam.  He had a lot to do in this film, and I cannot fathom how many people it takes to film an animal required to do one thing, let alone several things in a scene!  In trying to find out a bit more about Sam, to see if he had been in other films, tv shows, commercials, etc.  I stumbled upon a piece written by Zach Sokol, who decided to find out about some of the beloved animals he loved to see on tv or in films when he was a kid.  If you click on his highlighted name, the article is there.  Spoiler, it’s a downer, but sort of tongue in cheek, too.

When Dunston Checks In hit theatres, some film critics were hard on the film and some were not.  I recall watching it with my kids, we rented it probably in 1999, and we all enjoyed it very much.  The kids laughed at the antics of the two boys and Dunston.  I was glad to see the tale reveal that in the end, the good folks are rewarded and the bad people get their just desserts.  For a fun, family movie seek out Dunston Checks In.  Since it came out in 1996, it probably won’t be too difficult to rent, and perhaps it is being streamed somewhere.

The Great Villain Blogathon: George Macready

Rhode Island’s own native son, actor George Macready, didn’t set out to be an actor.  After graduating from Brown University, in 1921, he worked in the banking industry and then moved to NYC to work for a newspaper. The acting bug must have been lurking and while in NYC he decided to give acting a try.  It didn’t hurt that Macready spoke with excellent diction all the time, and that he had a nasty scar on the right side of his face.  Due to a car accident,  crashing through a Model T’s windshield, Macready’s right cheek suffered a nasty gash that began an inch below his right eye, and then ran across the middle of his cheek and down below his jaw line.  That scar gave him the look of a villain, which he was often cast as, so I decided that for this blogathon I would  focus on Macready’s 3 most famous villain roles in classic films.

GV Blogathon 2016

1945: My Name is Julia Ross – a fast-paced film noir with a touch of gothic eerieness.  Made by Columbia Pictures, directed by Joseph H. Lewis.   Set in England, this film stars Nina Foch as the Julia of the title, Dame May Whitty as an alternating doting and demanding mother, Mrs. Hughes, and George Macready as Mrs. Hughes’s son, Ralph.  In this film, Julia is hired to be a secretary for Mrs. Hughes, who on first meeting with Julia, seems so sweet and her son Ralph is very polite and charming.  Julia agrees to take the job.  The Hughes’s are most anxious to hire a secretary who is female and who is an orphan, or with very few relatives, and no young man in the girl’s life, either.   Julia fits their wishlist nicely and  is whisked away to the Hughes’s country estate.  After a cup of  drug-laced tea which leads to a long sleep, Julia awakens to find the Hughes’s both insisting she is Ralph’s wife! While Julia was asleep, Mrs. Hughes ordered that Julia’s purse, papers, and clothes all be burned  to hide evidence as to who Julia really is.  We get our first inkling that all is not right with Ralph when we see him calmly and methodically, slashing through Julia’s silky nightgown with a knife!!  Mrs. Hughes yells at Ralph to stop that and takes his knife away from him, locking it in a desk drawer that contains various knives of all sorts.  She is momentarily distracted and doesn’t catch Ralph sneaking another knife out of that drawer!! Macready gives an excellent performance as the crazy and evil Ralph.  Seeming to be a man of utmost charm and politeness when in public, but alone in the house with mother and Julia,  the craziness begins to ooze out of him.  It’s an interesting power struggle to watch between he and Dame May Whitty as his mother.  A kind soul has put the entire movie on Youtube, and it’s there for the viewing.  I’ve also included the trailer for the film-note the crazed look in Macready’s eyes when Julia(Nina Foch) gives him a well-deserved slap across the face!

Gripping Julia's arm so she can't run away.

Gripping Julia’s arm so she can’t run away.

Ralph is caught cutting up Julia's nightgown!!

Ralph is caught cutting up Julia’s nightgown!!

My Name is Julia Ross

1946: One of Macready’s best known roles, as the evil entrepreneur and gambling casino owner, Ballin Mundson, in Gilda.  This film was also made by Columbia Pictures, directed by Charles Vidor.  Top-billing went to Rita Hayworth as Gilda, Glenn Ford as Johnny Farrell, and then to Macready.  The plot is a straight-forward love triangle, set in Buenos Aires, Argentina.   Mundson owns a casino and one evening as he is strolling the streets of Buenos Aires, he comes upon an American who has just won a bundle from gambling dice players.  Mundson steps in when it looks like the American is about to get mugged of his winnings.  With a flourish of his cane, he sends the muggers running.  The American, Johnny Farrell(Glenn Ford) is thankful to this stranger who saved him.  Mundson utters cryptically to Farrell, who makes a comment about the cane, “It’s silent when I wish to be silent.  It talks when I wish to talk. I make my own luck.  It’s a most obedient friend.” ( We later learn that this cane contains a hidden knife!) Mundson then hands Farrell one of his business cards and disappears into the night.  Farrell heads to Mundson’s casino the next night, and is hired to work at the casino, rising to second in command of the gambling floor.  Mundson reminds Farrell that women and gambling don’t mix and to work successfully for him, Farrell is to have no women in his life.  Then, weeks later and with no explanations other than “I’m mad about her, mad!”, Mundson summons Farrell to his mansion to introduce him to his new wife, Gilda!  Gilda is a knock-out, and we soon learn she is Farrell’s former lover!  While the film concerns itself mostly with Gilda and Johnny and their love/hate relationship, we do learn that Mundson had some shady business dealings with Nazis, having to do with tungsten, lots of money, and patents.  One man tries to kill him, and he tries to explain to Johnny that his business dealings have to do with his wanting to “control the world…it’s full of stupid little creatures!”  Mundson also begins to have his suspicions about Gilda and Johnny, and one evening, he grabs Gilda by the arm and with that perfect diction tells her in an ominous way, “Hate can be a very exciting emotion.  Very exciting!!  Hate is the only thing that has ever warmed me!!”  Once again, Macready excells at playing an aloof man, in charge of his world, with mental instabilities tucked neatly away and only peeking out when he lets them peek out.  He’s a narcissist in that he only cares about his business and his money.  He seems to only consider Gilda as a beautiful object to own and to show off to his customers.  His Mundson is not a sympathetic character and at the film’s end, we can’t help but be content with his fate.

Publicity still that is a nice summing up of the plot of Gilda

Publicity still that is a nice summing up of the plot of Gilda

gilda poster

1957: Paths of Glory, a film by United Artists, directed by Stanley Kubrick.  Kirk Douglas as the heroic, Col. Dax, George Macready as the self-serving and evil Gen. Mireau, Adolphe Menjou as Gen. Broulard, Ralph Meeker as Cpl. Paris, Joseph Turkel as Pvt. Arnaud,  Timothy Carey as Pvt. Ferol, and Richard Anderson as Maj. Saint-Auban.  A sad film and based upon an actual event that happened during WW I in France.   Paths of Glory was a book written in 1935 by Humphrey Cobb.  The book was  the account of 4 french soldiers chosen to be killed by a firing squad for cowardice after their division, pinned down in trenches, couldn’t advance upon a German strong hold.  Even after a higher up commander ordered shells to be dropped into his soldiers’ trenches(and thank goodness that order was ignored)to get them to move out of the trench, 4 soldiers were still put on trial and executed for cowardice, to be set as an example for the rest of the soldiers in their division.  Director Kubrick had read this book as a youth and wanted to make a film version of the book by Cobb.  After buying the film rights, which had been bought years earlier but shelved, Kubrick set about making his film.    Paths-of-Glory_poster_goldposter_com_17

The film opens with Gen. Mireau(George Macready) at his headquarters, a gorgeous chateau.  It is 1916 and the war is pretty much at a stalemate; French troops in trenches, German troops in the other trenches, neither side doing a lot as far as battling is concerned.  Into the chateau marches Gen. Broulard(Adolphe Menjou), with a plan.  He urges Gen. Mireau to have the men in his division take the Ant Hill, a ridge where the German army has a stronghold.  If the Ant Hill can be broken by the French Army, it will be a huge victory and a huge boost in morale.  Gen. Mireau is very skeptical and points out that his men are tired and that they just finished up a long skirmish and need to rest.  The Ant Hill is to be attempted in 2 days time.  At this early juncture, we feel sorry for Gen. Mireau, and think he’ll stand up for his men and turn down this request, which he knows is a futile endeavor.  Gen. Broulard is wily and begins the flattery campaign, adding that Gen. Mireau is up for a promotion which will mean another star to add to his medals.   The promise of promotion clouds Gen. Mireau’s common sense, and he becomes obsessed with his men conquering the Ant Hill so that he can earn that promotion.  From this point on in the film, Mireau transforms into an evil leader.

Broulard flattering Mireau into taking the Ant Hill

Broulard flattering Mireau into taking the Ant Hill

Gen. Mireau is off to visit the men in his division, chatting with random soldiers as he marches down the wooden planks set into the bottoms of the long trenches that his men are huddled in.  One soldier can’t answer his question if he has a wife and another soldier tries to explain that the man who can’t answer has shell shock.  Gen. Mireau is outraged by this information and caustically announces that there is no such thing as shell shock and immediately slaps the soldier hard in the face and orders him to be removed from his division!  I am wondering if actor George C. Scott studied this scene in preparing for his moment as Patton, slapping a soldier who is recovering in a hospital?

Gen. Mireau visiting the division

Gen. Mireau visiting the division

Gen. Mireau then marches himself into Col. Dax’s quarters(Kirk Douglas) and informs him that the division is to take the Ant Hill.  Col. Dax tries to explain how tired the men are and how impossible that effort is to attempt.  The numbers of men who will probably die, given out in cold facts by Gen. Mireau causes a look of despair and defeat to cover Col. Dax’s face.  As predicted, the Ant Hill is an utter failure.  Gen. Mireau is incensed, and calls for a meeting with Col. Dax and Gen. Broulard.  It is at this meeting that the cruelty of Gen. Mireau is revealed in that he wants a large number of men from the division to be court martialed and executed for cowardice.  Gen. Broulard uses humor to calm Gen. Mireau down, and Col. Dax uses sarcasm to suggest why not executing the entire division or just him, since he failed at getting the men to leave the trench to take the Ant Hill.  Gen. Mireau finally agrees to letting 3 men from each part of the division be put on trial and he agrees to let Col. Dax act as their defense attorney.  He then tells Dax after the meeting that he intends to utterly crush him after the court martial trial is over!

Threatening Col. Dax

Threatening Col. Dax

The trial is an utter sham and despite Col. Dax’s spirited defense,  the men are found guilty(Timothy Carey, Ralph Meeker, and Joseph Turkel.)  The only just dessert at the film’s end is that it is discovered, and written testimonies are recorded, that Gen. Mireau had ordered his own men in the trenches to be shot at in order to get them to move out of the trenches and on to the Ant Hill.  Gen. Broulard suggests an inquiry be made about this but Gen. Mireau knows his promotion isn’t going to happen and he storms out, spouting that he cares about the army.  Good riddance!!

In the making of this film, Macready’s scar is deep and very visible, with the dark line hard to take one’s eyes off of.  I was left wondering if that is how his scar really looked, or if it was made to look more intense by the make up department?  Paths of Glory will be airing on Turner Classic Movies on July 3rd at 4:30 est/3:30 cst so set your dvr!!

The scar deeply emphasized in this shot

The scar deeply emphasized in this shot

Be sure to read about more classic movie villains at this blogathon’s hosts’ sites: Speakeasy, Shadows and Satin, and Silver Screenings.  You’ll find enjoyable reads, I promise!!!  Here are a few more pics of Macready from these films:

Oops! Ralph being scolded for cutting up a sofa!! My Name is Julia Ross

Oops! Ralph being scolded for cutting up a sofa!! My Name is Julia Ross

Mama Hughes calling the shots as Ralph meekly sits by

Mama Hughes calling the shots as Ralph meekly sits by: My Name is Julia Ross

Cementing a business deal with the cane/knife gadget-foreshadowing perhaps?

Cementing a business deal with the cane/knife gadget-foreshadowing perhaps? Gilda

As Ballin Mundson in Gilda

As Ballin Mundson in Gilda

Playing harmonicas together on the set: Macready and Foch

Playing harmonicas together on the set: Macready and Foch

 

Coming Full Circle with Special Education

After homeschooling our kids from kindergarten to grade 7, and with child #4 graduating high school and going off to college this year, my husband informed me that our budget needed for me to go back to work.  So I dusted off my teaching certificate, and have begun the process of securing a Missouri teaching certificate. In the meantime, I also began to substitute teacher for our local school district.

 

My going back to work  meant the end of homeschooling our youngest child.  For various reasons, we chose to homeschool our kids for grades K-7, and then let them begin attending school in the 8th grade and continuing on until graduation.  Our youngest was going to begin public school for the first time in the 7th grade, and the Middle School requested he take some tests to establish his grade equivalencies.  We agreed and were a  bit downhearted when the testing showed our son was behind in one subject area.  It was recommended he repeat the 6th grade, which we didn’t want him to have to do.  We countered with we felt he could succeed in 7th grade with our help, and if the school felt he needed Special Education in that one subject, then we would agree to that plan.  Thus, our introduction to the world of Special Education began.

 special ed chalkboard

I discovered that the Special Education teachers and their assistants genuinely care for the students put into their charge.  The IEP(Indidualized Educational Program) created for our son  worked excellently for him.  At the last parent-teachers conference for the school year, I learned that having our son attend Special Education class was a nice “cushion” for him to fall back upon as he became acclimated to the ways of how a public school runs.  The program also proved beneficial in that our son aquired new skills in this subject and is now on grade level.  In fact, I was told that he probably doesn’t need the extra help when he enters 8th grade.

A couple weeks ago,  I received a phone call asking if I was available to substitute in  one of the elementary school’s Special Education classrooms.  I agreed as it meant now I would get to observe a Special Education class in action.

The classroom I was directed to was two classrooms; they were entered by two doors on two  connected hallways, and there was a doorway between the two classrooms.  The two classrooms also shared their own bathroom.   Instead of individual desks, students sat at tables with chairs around them.  Colorful posters decorated the walls, some with inspiring messages, and some reviewing the points of good manners.  There were colorful, cloth covered baskets containing picture books, grouped according to reading levels. There was a  bookcase containing chapter books of award-winning children literature books and  another containing all of the teacher textbooks and a student textbook for the main curriculum used at the school for each grade.   Ipads and headphones, were in evidence, to be used for rewards if assigned work was completed; since the majority of students coming to the Special Education room for help were boys, the popular ipad game was sending a motorized  vehicle into outer space, and then watching it land.

After helping with some lunch and recess duties, it was officially time to work with a Special Education student.  The boy walked in presently, probably of average size for his grade.  He walked stiffly, a bit slowly, I noticed.  I wondered if he had a slight case of cerebral palsy, which may have explained his stiff movements.  As he walked into the room, he introduced himself to me, and before I could tell him my name, he flung his arms around me and gave me a strong hug.  What a sweet child, I thought.  He selected a book from a basket and asked me to help him read through it.  The other Special Education aide reminded him that he had to read it mostly by himself, and then that when he finished it, one of us  would read it with him.  Then, if there was time, he could take his comprehension test on the book.  His  reading of the book was fine, and I only had to guide him on a few of the longer words; I told him what the unfamiliar words meant.  Soon it was time for this student to go back to his regular classroom.  I did get to see him once more as he had to get ready for an early bus pick up, and since part of my job was to get the early bus riders to the foyer of the school building, this student suddenly needed to visit the restroom and he immediately grabbed my hand and asked me to walk him to the bathroom in the Special Education classroom.  While he was in that bathroom, I got to observe the main Special Education teacher work with a kindergartner who was pacing the room and probably unwinding from his day, and watch her aid another student with a vocabulary worksheet.  It struck me that in the Special Education room, the teacher and the assistants work one on one with only a few students, which in a way is similar to a homeschooling lesson in that a homeschooling mom often is teaching her students one on one, or in a small grouping.

As I walked down the hall with the boy who had had to visit the bathroom, he once again reached for my hand.  He peppered me with questions, as we walked the halls back to the foyer to await his bus.  He mainly wanted to know if I’d be back at his school the next day, in the special education room.  I explained to him that since I was a substitute teacher, I went to a lot of different schools and that perhaps I’d be back another day, but I didn’t know if I’d be back as soon as the very next day.  As he waved good bye to all of us Special Education aides in the foyer, and walked stiffly to get onto the bus, I began to think about this  boy’s future.

Young girl wearing a dunce cap.

Young girl wearing a dunce cap.

When public education began in the United States (1821, in Boston, Massachusetts), students who struggled with learning were probably punished and/or ridiculed; teachers hitting students with rulers across the opened hand, or the dunce cap worn by the student as they were made to sit in the front of the classroom, facing their classmates.  My guess is that many of these students dropped out and their obtaining a full education didn’t happen.  Jumping to the mid-1960s, President Johnson(a former teacher himself) signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act which established the beginnings of Special Education, however it really didn’t begin to take off and expand until the 1970s.

So, on  one hand, this boy that I worked with, will have a stigma to battle at school.  That stigma placed upon him by his classmates of being one who has to leave the regular classroom daily and get special help.  However, on the whole, it means he is being given a chance to succeed, which many years ago, wouldn’t have been possible for him in a school setting.

With this week being known as National Teacher Appreciation Week in the United States, my hats are off to all teachers and especially to the Special Education teachers who with immense patience, diligence, and caring, are giving their all so students can succeed.   Special Education teacher

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