Ida Lupino Centenary Blogathon: 1947’s Deep Valley

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is the blogging site for Maddy, a classic movie fan.  When I saw she was hosting a blogathon set for today, I asked to participate and she kindly accepted my request.  Maddy was wanting to honor an actress who also directed for tv shows and movies, Ida Lupino.  Be sure to visit Maddy’s blog site to read more excellent posts about Ida Lupino and her career.

I didn’t pay much attention to old movies when I was a kid.  Sure I enjoyed watching reruns of  The Three Stooges, The Little Rascals on tv afterschool,  and late on Saturday nights one of the tv stations I could access would air the old Flash Gordon serial.   When I was a college student, one summer, the PBS station out of Toledo, OH (Channel 30, I think?) would air old movies beginning at 1:00, M-F.  I began tuning in and that is where I first met Ida Lupino, in a drama that whet my appetite for more of these old movies.  I credit Lupino’s performance in this film with giving me a reason to begin to try and find more old movies, turning me into a classic film fan.   The Ida Lupino movie was Deep Valley made at Warner Brothers Studio hitting American movie theaters in 1947.

Deep Valley was based on a novel written by Dan Totheroh.  The novel sold well enough with the reading public for Warner Brothers to take notice and acquire the rights to turn the novel into a film.  Jean Negulescu was hired to direct, Salka Viertel, Stephen Morehouse Avery, and William Faulkner(yes, that William Faulkner!), were the screenwriters.  The soaring music was by none other than Max Steiner.  Cast: Ida Lupino, Dane Clark, Wayne Morris, Fay Bainter, Henry Hull, Willard Robertson.

Lupino plays Libby Saul, a young woman who lives with her parents north of Big Sur, California.  Libbie and her parents(Fay Bainter, Henry Hull) are pretty isolated, working their small farm to make a living.  We assume Libbie is a high school graduate but she doesn’t leave the farm for a job in any town that may be nearby, and she’s certainly not enrolled in any college.  She is the “wall” between her parents.  For some reason, her parents won’t communicate with each other and use Libbie as their communication method.  Married, but in name only, it’s a miserable home to live in and to get away from this choking, negative environment, Libbie often likes to roam the nearby woods and a deep valley with her dog.

Libbie dealing with her parents

Libbie seeking solace in the valley

A highway construction engineer and his crew of workers, prisoners from San Quentin, come to the area near the Saul’s farm, to continue working on a state road project.  Libbie can watch the men working from the woods, and she notices one convict, Barry Burnette(Dane Clark).  The engineer, Jed Barker(Wayne Morris) and the convicts come to the Saul’s farm one day to ask for water.  Libbie’s father, at first seeing a chance to make some money, agrees to sell the men water.  As Barker decides to walk away from this ridiculous offer, Saul changes his mind and lets them have the water for free.  Noticing how Barker notices Libbie, Saul invites the engineer to their home for dinner.  It is soon obvious that the Sauls want Libbie to strike up a relationship with Barker that will lead to  marriage.  Libbie is very shy, but does notice Barker’s kindness towards her.  However, at the dinner, she asks Barker questions about the convict Barry.  As the story picks up some speed, Libbie does meet Barry, they fall in love, and to find out the rest of this film, you’ll have to seek it out!

Engineer Barker is attracted to Libbie

Some questions for you to ponder though: Will Libbie and Barry be able to be together? Barry does escape from the work gang(spoiler) so will Libbie help him? What of Barker, will he be able to convince Libbie to give up on Barry?  Will the Saul’s find a way to renew their marriage? Will Libbie ever find a happier existance?

Libbie and Barry, the prisoner

Ida Lupino’s performance is what held me entranced as I watched this movie for the first time in the mid-1980s.  She absolutely makes one care about Libbie; sad, shy, simple Libbie.  You root for her in her search for love, search for a better life than the one she has on that farm.  Her performance touched me deeply and I still remember that aspect of her acting to this day.  I truly feel I owe it to Ida Lupino for my becoming a fan of classic films.

Publicity still of Lupino, the dog, and Clark from Deep Valley

Deep Valley is available to purchase via Amazon or TCM’s Shop.  If your local library offers dvds to rent, or if your community’s local movie rental store has a decent classic film area, it may be there. 

 

 

 

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For the 1961 Blogathon: The Hoodlum Priest

Classic Film Fan(and Jane Russell fan) Moviemovieblogblog celebrated his birthday yesterday, April 27th.  He decided that a fun way to celebrate this year was to host a blogathon entirely dedicated to movies made his birth year of 1961.  As it happened, on my dvr list was a movie made in 1961 , The Hoodlum Priest.  I contacted my blogathon host and he said yes, write about that film! So, here it is, and fascinatingly to me, it was filmed in St. Louis!!    

Actor Don Murray was in St. Louis in 1959 to help promote a film he had starred in with James Cagney, Shake Hands With the Devil, when a priest approached him at the film’s screening to tell him of another compelling story Murray may want to tell.  The priest, Father Charles Clark, met with Murray the next day and told the story of his life as a priest. Father Clark was a Jesuit who taught at St. Louis University High School, but his real calling was reaching out to ex-cons and trying to get them back into society as successful citizens.  Father Clark had a plan, and with the backing of a St. Louis criminal defense lawyer, a foundation had been formed and Father Clark had been able to bid on a former St. Louis elementary school that was vacant on Cole Street.  Father Clark’s vision was to fully rehab the school and turn it into a home for ex-cons to live at as they learned job skills, received counseling, meals, and clothing.  An office would also be there for state parole officers.  The cons could live there until they were able to live on their own and away from the lure of returning to a criminal life.  What we today would call a “Halfway House”, this was Father Clark’s vision and if it could happen, it would be the first in the nation.  Father Clark told Murray that if a television story could be made and shown about the cons and Dismas House(Clark’s name for the house) that it would help bring in needed donations for the cause.  Murray was so entranced by Father Clark’s story that he decided to make a movie about Father Clark’s story.   After getting his pal Walter Wood to sign on as producer, and getting United Artist’s promise to fund the film if they liked the screenplay, Joseph Landon was hired to write the screenplay.  Murray  rewrote  the first screenplay himself under the pseudonym Don Deer.  When UA gave the greenlight to make the film,  Murray and Wood hired Irvin Kirshner to direct and Haskell Wexler as cinematographer.  Murray decided to make the film in St. Louis and to also shoot some scenes in Jefferson City at the state prison.

The film opens with a young man, Billy Lee Jackson(Keir Dullea) exiting the state prison in Jefferson City, catching the train to St. Louis, and being greeted by  hoodlum buddy Pio(Don Joslyn) who jumps on the train as it departs the train station.  Back in the Lou, Pio introduces Billy to Father Clark.  Father Clark is able to befriend Billy, who at first wants nothing to do with the priest or the church.  Father Clark is able to get Billy a job with a produce wholesaler market owned by the Marziotti family.  Father Clark also speaks at a socialite’s garden party in an effort to raise funds for Dismas House and since Billy attends the event as an example of Father Clark’s work, Billy meets the hostess’s lovely daughter, Ellen(Cindi Wood), and they soon begin dating.  All looks right with Billy’s life as he begins to re-enter society until money turns up missing at the Marziotti’s business.  Billy is wrongly accused and fired from his job.  Angered, he and Pio decide to rob the business.  Spoilers: Billy and Pio are confronted by one of the Marziotti brothers, and as the man tries to attack them with a crowbar, Billy shoots him and kills him.  After a chase by the police and a stand-off in an abandoned house, Father Clark is able to convince Billy to give himself up.  Tried in court and found guilty of murder, Billy receives the death penalty.  Father Clark visits Billy in the prison and is there with him until the end of his life via the gas chamber.  Depressed, Father Clark returns to St. Louis and Dismas House, to find a drunken Pio, who trashes a room in the house before collapsing and weakly admitting he needs help.

Billy’s first meeting with Father Clark

Billy in the gas chamber

The real Father Clark helping Murray with his collar

Dismas House in 1961

A short film yet told in a powerful way, especially the last moments of Billy’s life, The Hoodlum Priest is an interesting film.  United Artists assumed they had bankrolled Murray enough money to make a B movie, but as the film went over its originally set schedule, and needed more money, and dealt with a typical hot and humid Missouri summer, and an accidentally injured Keir Dullea, and extra costs due to a St. Louis union muscling its way in for jobs  for more crew workers not really needed, Murray was despairing over his first time as a movie maker.  However, at the first full-screening only for UA executives in NYC, the little film brought tears to their eyes and they knew this was no longer a B movie but an A.  Indeed, in 1961, The Hoodlum Priest, was hailed by critics and made many top ten film lists for 1961.

For many, it is an obscure film but it shouldn’t be that way.  Seek it out and give it a view.  Having lived in St. Louis County, specifically Florissant, for almost 20 years, I was especially delighted that the majority of the movie had been shot in St. Louis.  Incidentally, I was curious about the name “Dismas” and according to church legend, he was the criminal crucified next to Jesus who scolded the other criminal who insulted Jesus, asking Jesus to remember him when he died; Jesus answering Dismas that he would be with him in paradise.

For more information about this film, and to give credit to it as a source for providing research for this blog post, please visit this article from The Riverfront Times.

For The Great Western Blogathon, 1953’s Hondo

portraitsbyjenni

Today’s blog post is for The Great Western Blogathon hosted by classic film fan and blogger Thoughts All Sorts.  Be sure to click on the link to read what other classic film fans have written!

I  remember many Saturday evenings as a kid, sitting with my parents and younger brother,  watching a Western on one of the three networks that at that time, in the 1970’s, were the dominant television channels an American could tune into.  My memories seem to tell me that it was NBC that usually aired these Westerns, and of course, the best ones starred John Wayne.   I have seen a lot of Wayne’s Western films over the years, but four years ago on Turner Classic Movies, they aired one I had never heard of before, 1953’s Hondo.   This technicolor movie was directed by John Farrow(father of actress Mia, husband to actress Maureen O’Sullivan), with…

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For the Bette Davis Blogathon, Bette’s Guest Starring Role on Perry Mason

The Perry Mason tv show, which aired on CBS from 1957-1966, was a top performing show.  The plot was straightforward, as defense lawyer Perry Mason would defend some unlucky fellow or gal who looked very guilty of murder and after nimbly battling with the prosecutor, Hamilton Burger, Perry would usually win the case, with the helpful confession of “I did it! I killed Sam!” emanating from another witness for the prosecution or witness in the courtroom.  With this show on the air, CBS had a ratings hit for a number of years, so when 1963 arrived, the producers and the network had a dilemma.  Star of the show, Raymond Burr, had to have a dental procedure done and was going to miss 4 episodes.  What a disaster! The network didn’t want to show reruns, so it was decided to cast special guest stars to take on a case for Perry, who was in the hospital; scenes with Perry checking in with his secretary, private investigator, or the guest stars, via the phone in his hospital room were filmed prior to Burr’s absence.

Bette, as lawyer Constant Doyle, arriving at the jail to meet her client.

Constant with her client, hoodlum Cal Leonard(Michael Parks)

The first guest star turn was done by none other than Academy Award winning actress Bette Davis.  For her role, Bette played lawyer Constant Doyle, a recent widow.  She takes the call from a potential client, a hoodlum, who was arrested after trying to steal goods from a factory.  He was stopped by the security guard but his two pals got away.  Somehow, this hoodlum knew of lawyer Joe Doyle and calls him for help.  What he doesn’t know is that Doyle died two months ago and his widow and fellow lawyer in the Doyle Law Firm, Constant, will be the lawyer who calls on him while he’s in jail.  Here’s a shot of that lawyer-client meeting, courtesy of YouTube.

Bette working with Della Street, Perry’s loyal secretary, played by Barbara Hale.

With the arrival of the medium of television, and a cadre of aging film actors and actresses, it was a logical next step for many in Hollywood who wanted to keep acting to accept roles in tv shows.  Davis, imho, did a great job on this episode of Perry Mason.  Even when Co-star Michael Parks, the young method actor playing the hoodlum got too loud or hammy, Davis stood her ground and brought the needed gravitas to the scenes.

Perry Mason cast: Barbara Hale as Della, William Hopper as PI Paul Drake, Raymond Burr as Perry Mason, William Talman as Prosecutor Hamilton Burger.

I know that the Perry Mason episodes are out there for the public to buy.  If you have access to ME-TV, FETV, or possibly some other cable or Dish or Direct tv channels, there’s a good chance one of those channels may be airing Perry Mason, it’s still that popular of a show!  So try to find season 6, episode 16, for a treat: Oscar winning actress Bette Davis guest starring on Perry Mason.   This post has been for the 3rd Annual Bette Davis Blogathon.  Be sure to read more wonderful posts about Bette and her fantastic acting career, at In The Good Old Days of Hollywood.

 

Bette was a huge fan of the tv show, Perry Mason., and was quite happy to fill in as the guest lawyer.

 

For the End of the World Blogathon: 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers

I hadn’t seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers in a long time, last time having viewed it as a high school student.  When I saw the post about this blogathon, hosted by MovieMovieBlogBlog and Midnite Drive-In, I decided to participate  with a look at the 1956 film.  Be sure to visit either of the two hosting blogs to read more interesting  entries about the End of the World in films.

The plot of the film is simple, yet pretty fantastical to try and believe it could happen.  In fact, that is the main problem of the protagonist, Dr. Miles Bennell.  At the film’s opening scenes, we discover a frantic, hysterical Dr. Bennell, trying to explain what has happened in the town of Santa Mira, CA.   He is trying to explain the strange happenings to the police who have called in a psychiatrist and no one will believe what Dr. Bennell is trying to explain to them.  If they won’t believe him, it could prove to be the end of all humankind!

Dr. Bennell trying to get the psychiatrists to believe him.

The film then jumps to a long flashback to show us what Dr. Bennell has witnessed and  has caused him to become so hysterical.   Dr. Bennell was away at a medical convention and is greeted by his practice’s nurse,Sally, who picks him up at the train station and drives him back to his office.  On the drive, a young boy runs out in front of the car, crying and yelling at the adult woman who is giving chase.  Dr. Bennell stops the car and he and Sally get out to ask the woman what is going on?  The woman explains that her son has been acting hysterical saying that she is not his mother and refusing to go to school or to stay in the house with her.  Dr. Bennell finds this very odd and advises the mother to bring her son by the office when she gets a chance.  After getting to the office, Dr. Bennell finds a lot of the appointments made for that day have all been cancelled by the potential patients, and then his old girlfriend, Becky, arrives.  She tells him that her cousin Wilma is insisting that the uncle she lives with,Uncle Ira, is an imposter! Dr. Bennell agrees to make a housecall to talk with Wilma.  A bit of a side plot: Becky lets Dr. Bennell know that she has just returned from Reno and a fast divorce.  Dr. Bennell reacts with surprise and gladness and welcomes Becky to the club, he himself recently divorced.   Becky agrees to a dinner date with the good doctor and we can tell that they have a lot of “chemistry” with one another.

Glad that Becky is back in town.

Giving the distraught Jimmy a sedative, as he keeps insisting his mom isn’t his mom.

Wilma is close to becoming hysterical when she explains to Dr. Bennell and Becky why she doesn’t believe Uncle Ira isn’t Uncle Ira.  Dr. Bennell sees Uncle Ira in action, mowing the front yard and doubts what Wilma is telling him.  At the restaurant for dinner with Becky, Dr. Bennell runs into Dr. Dan Kaufman who says the same: he has had a rash of patients cancel appointments, and there has been an “outbreak” of patients claiming family members aren’t really their family members.  Dr. Kaufman shrugs it all off and sums it up as a  “mass hysteria”.  As Becky and Dr. Bennell are about to sip their martinis, there’s a phone call summoning Dr. Bennell to his friends’ home.  Off he and Becky go, to discover a hysterical Teddy(Theodora) and a worried Jack.  On the pool table is a human body, covered with a sheet.  Teddy and Jack don’t know who this person is but found it lying on their property.  The unknown person appears to be dead and  the body has no finger prints.  With assurances that Dr. Bennell will think of something before the police are to be called, he and Becky leave.  Teddy and Jack decide to keep watch over the body and sometime during the night they discover that the body  has turned into an exact copy of Jack!  This is just to much to stand so the two of them flee for Dr. Bennell’s house.

Examining that weird body at Jack and Teddy’s

Santa Mira has become a secret hiding place for giant seed pods.  If a pod is examined closely, it will contain a human form that will end up looking exactly like a resident of Santa Mira.  The duplicate can’t take over for it’s human counterpart until the human is asleep.  Dr. Bennell and Becky decide they have to get out of town to a bigger city to warn the authorities and the rest of the film is suspenseful as the plot follows the couple’s frantic escape attempts as the alien pod people have overtaken Santa Mira.

Those horrible seed pods!!

Running for their lives!

I was going to try and compare this first version of “Body Snatchers” to the version made in 1978, but as preparing for an overseas trip took up more of my life, I had to put that other film version on hold and hope to view it when my jet lag is gone!

For a well-crafted and great sci fi classic film, with a type of end-of-the-world motif, seek out The Invasion of The Body Snatchers.  Cast: Dr. Bennell-Kevin McCarthy, Becky-Dana Wynter, Dr. Kauffman-Larry Gates, Jack-King Donovan, Teddy-Carolyn Jones, Sally-Jean Wiles, Wilma-Virginia Christine, Uncle Ira-Tom Fadden.  Directed by Don Siegal, screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring.  The actual story idea was written by Jack Finney, for a Collier’s magazine serial.

 

 

For the Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon: Rt. 66’s Legacy For Lucia



Terence at the great blog, A Shroud of Thoughts, is once again hosting his annual look at favorite episodes from Classic TV Shows.  I just had to participate with one of my favorite episodes, Legacy For Lucia, from the excellent tv show Route 66.

Route 66 was an hour- long drama that aired on CBS for 4 seasons, 1960-1964.  The show featured a cool, jazzy theme song by Nelson Riddle and his orchestra.  It also brought to the American public’s attention the Chevrolet Corvette Convertible, as that was the cooler than cool car the show’s two protagonists rode in as they drove across the country.

Todd Stiles, recent Yale grad, owner of that car, and recently orphaned, doesn’t know what he wants out of life yet.  He invites a family friend and former employee of his father’s, Buzz Murdoch, to travel around the country with him.  Their plan is to see the USA, in that cool Chevrolet, work odd jobs for the funds to buy food and shelter with, and just take life as it comes, preferably at an easy pace.  However, each episode sees the two young guys befriending someone,  in the town where they are currently working in, who has a dramatic problem that Todd and Buzz will help them solve.

season 1, episode 8, was a very moving episode.  I give the show’s writers and actors all he credit for a poignant episode that had me reaching for the tissues!

Stirling Siliphant(also the show’s creator) and Milton Levy wrote the story for this episode.  It revolves around a young Italian woman, Lucia Trapani, who has come to a small town in Oregon  that is devoted to the logging industry.  Alec Haymes, a young man from the town, had been stationed in Lucia’s town during WWII and despite helping Lucia and her family survive a bombing  and saving men in his platoon, the young man dies in Lucia’s village.  To keep Lucia from becoming hysterical with fear as the bombs dropped around the village, Alec  told Lucia about his country, his state and its fantastic forests and the lumber companies, and then he wrote out a will bequeathing to Lucia the legacy of all of Oregon!  Years go by, Lucia is now in her  20s, and her family and village has raised the funds for her to go to America and claim her legacy.  Lucia and her village have imagined the possible riches that she may get from selling her legacy, which Lucia wants to buy a new statue of Mother Mary for her village’s church from the proceeds of selling her legacy.  The main problem is Nathaniel Hobbs.  When Alec Haymes and Bill Morrison’s parents were killed leaving the two boys orphans, Hobbs took them in and raised both boys.  Bill became the lumber mill’s foreman.  Alec’s death hit Hobbs hard.   He doesn’t believe Lucia, never wants to talk about Alec,  and isn’t willing to part with any of his forested acres.  It’s going to be up to Todd, Buzz, and  Bill to help Lucia and Hobbs.

The cast is excellent, which was usually the case for  Route 66.  Todd, played by Martin Milner, brings the all-American boy grown to manhood, striving to do what’s right at all times, but never in an offensive, Mr. Know-It-All way.  Buzz, played by George Maharis, brings the tall, dark, and handsome element to the touring duo.  Buzz grew up an orphan in NYC.  He’s got street smarts that Todd never had to know while growing up and Buzz’s savvy comes in quite handy.  Buzz also loves Jazz and often talks in “jazz cool” idioms and slang, which gives a fun look into early 1960s pop culture.

John Larch played Bill.  Still grieving himself for Alec, he’s a practical guy and wants to help Lucia, even showing a gallant side as he’s a bit smitten with her.  Jay C. Flippen played Hobbs, full of bitterness, anger, and reclusiveness as a defense to not be close to anyone again. His wound over Alec’s death is still raw and he’s not grieved in any healthy way.  Arlene Martel played Lucia.  She is so earnest in her belief that Alec left her this legacy.  As she recites her story to Todd, Buzz, and Bill, her eyes are shining and she speaks with such sincerity, we can’t help rooting for her.

To see an excellent tv show and this episode, Route 66 is currently available via Amazon Prime and their streaming services.  So check it out, daddio!( Sorry, had to talk like Buzz for a moment!)

 

Lastly, I’m out of the country right now and typed my post up on my iPad, a new gadget to me, and I don’t know how to save an image of Route 66 to then put an image into my blog. 😔. So, non-pictures this week.

For the Free For All Blogathon: Edward G. Robinson in a Non-Gangster Role

I enjoy reading Theresa Brown’s blog about classic movies.  She decided to create a blogathon for today, March 3rd, where classic movie fans could write about any film topic that they wanted to write about.  The more I see of Edward G. Robinson’s work in films, the more I can see what a wealth of acting talent he owned.  Primarily thought of as a gangster due to his early movie roles, he was able to move away from that persona and play a variety of characters.  I  decided to focus on one of his non-gangster roles, a role as far away from a gangster as one could get: the role of a loving, understanding father to a young girl.  Be sure to visit Theresa’s blog, Cinemaven’s Essays From the Couch to read all of the other bloggers’ interesting posts!    

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, was a novel written in 1930 by George Victor Martin.  He based his novel on his wife, Selma’s, recollections from  her childhood of growing up in Benson Corners, WI.  Selma grew up in a community founded by Norwegian immigrants who kept some of their cultural ways and language while also working hard to succeed in America.  The book was extremely popular with the reading public so it was a no-brainer that MGM would come calling and buy the rights to Martin’s book and make it into a movie.  1945 was when the movie arrived at America’s box offices and it did a lot of business.  It even received a medal for “The Most Wholesome Family Movie” of 1945 from Parents magazine( I didn’t realize that that magazine had been around back then!)  Edward G., in  a wholesome family movie? It may be hard to believe but he’s cast as the young girl, Selma’s father, Martinius Jacobson, and he gives the role his all.  Selma was played by Margaret O’Brien, in a very touching part, and Jackie “Butch” Jenkins played her cousin, Arnold.  The always wonderful Agnes Moorehead played Bruna, Selma’s mother.  There’s a side story involving a new teacher in town, played by Frances Gifford and the community’s newspaper editor who has a crush on the new teacher  played by James Craig.  Others in the cast: Sara Haden, Dorothy Morris, Morris Carnovsky, Elizabeth Russell(she of Cat People fame), Arthur Space, Charles B. Middleton( he of Ming the Merciless fame), Louis Jean Heydt,Greta Granstedt, and Francis Pierlot.  The cast was ably directed by Roy Rowland.  Producer was Robert Sisk.  Screenplay was by Dalton Trumbo and this was his last screenplay before being blacklisted in the US government’s infamous hunt for communists in Hollywood.

Selma and her cousin, Arnold

Ingeborg tries to befriend Selma and Arnold

The editor loves the teacher but she hates rural life and yearns to go back to the city

The film is mainly told to us by 3 persons, Selma, her father, and her mother.  Not that they verbally break the fourth wall and talk to the camera/audience, but we see the actions and events of the story through their eyes.  Selma, and to a lesser extent Arnold, are always together either getting into mischief, meeting people, and they have one adventure that becomes very dangerous.  We see and hear these two children discuss WWII as best as two children could understand a war, discuss a young woman in town who they label “crazy” but we soon learn was born with intellectual and developmental disabilites, we learn of their admiration for “the editor” for that’s what they call the town’s newspaper owner, and their love of egg pancakes with honey, which Selma’s mother makes for them for supper.    Through Bruna, we learn of the worry she has for debt.  A neighboring elderly farmer, Bjorn Bjornson(Carnovsky) has built a glorious, new barn, through saving up his money.  Bruna thinks this is a waste of money since the Bjornson’s still have no indoor plumbing and shouldn’t Bjornson have thought of his wife’s comforts first? When Martinius(Robinson) begins to discuss the taking out of a loan to build himself a new barn, he is met with Bruna’s dissenting opinion, given in a polite yet firm manner.  It is a gentle and  sweet moment  to see his change of mind when he begins to talk aloud that he has enough money saved to improve the farmhouse for her and Selma and that a new barn can wait indefinitely.  Bruna is truly shocked by his announcement and can only express herself in tears of gratitude; there are a lot of tears in this film-from Selma, Bruna, and Martinius!

The Jacobsen’s: Selma, Bruna, and Martinius

No dry eyes when Selma recites the Nativity story at church

I was very, very impressed with Edward G. Robinson’s portrayal of Martinius.  He is so good as the wise and gentle father to Selma, and as the loving husband of Bruna.   There were a couple of key scenes that dealt with having to discipline a child and they were so true to any parent watching this movie, I could really relate to Martinius’s hesitations and actions.  The first was due to Selma and Arnold arguing about letting him have a turn using Selma’s new roller skates.  Bruna ordered Selma to give Arnold a turn and when she doesn’t, Arnold calls her a pig.  Selma becomes angry and pushes Arnold to the ground.  Martinius, tired and approaching the kitchen for a break from his labors, is asked by Bruna to take his turn at disciplining Selma for being selfish.  We can see the weariness cross his face and feel that load that he has agreed to take on. Disciplining a child is a task that a loving parent dreads to do, but has to do from time to time in order to keep one’s child from growing up to be a burden on society.  Martinius decides not to spank Selma, but tells her to give Arnold a turn with the skates.  When she boldly says, “No!” I was even shocked! Of course, we know Arnold lies to his Uncle Martinius about calling Selma a name, and that causes her to talk back to her father.  Martinius then gives her one more chance, let Arnold have a turn or no supper and immediate bedtime.  To that threat, Selma defiantly takes her skates off, and is about to carry them to the house when her father stops her, and orders her to give her skates to Arnold, and then she can turn in for the night.  Stung by her father’s discipline plan, Selma calmly hands the skates to Arnold and goes to bed.  Later in the evening, as Martinius is reading the newspaper, and we feel his unease at dishing out that discipline to Selma, she asks him through a heating vent that is in her bedroom floor yet opens to the living room ceiling, if won’t he come up to kiss her goodnight? More unease registers across Martinius’s face but he again sticks to his plan and tells Selma, no, and scolds her to get back to bed.  Bruna saves the skate debacle by reminding Martinius that the circus will be passing through their town at 4:00 a.m.  in order to get hay for the animals at a local feed store, why doesn’t he wake Selma up and take her there to see the animals? Martinius does just that and the bond between dad and daughter is made stronger and renewed.  The other key scene right out of Parenting 101 is due to Selma and Arnold’s reckless idea to take an old, metal tub(not an actual bathroom tub) and put it in a stream and play “boat”, with two large sticks as oars.  The area snow had melted, Spring has arrived, and there are small streams everywhere for kids to play in.  The danger is that the stream they are playing in quickly takes them into the river which is roaring with new water sources, and rising.  Word quickly gets out that the two children can’t be found, but someone saw them playing in an old tub.  The two children’s fathers, fellow farmers, and the editor rush to the bridge in order to be at the ready to catch the tub and rescue the children before it can pass under the bridge.  It is a very intense scene and I was relieved when the children were saved.  Robinson’s reaction is so on the spot.  He grabs his daughter, squeezes her hard, with tears flowing down his face, and then gives her one, hard swat, for doing such a dumb and dangerous thing.  Then he kisses her and carries her home as fast as he can to Bruna.

Martinius and Selma on their way to see the circus animals

I was able to view this film via Amazon’s Instant Rent.   It does appear from time to time on TCM so watch their schedule for it, and they also sell it in their online shop.  So check out Our Vines Have Tender Grapes for a chance to see Edward G. Robinson in a non-gangster role.