O Canada Blogathon: Leslie Nielsen and Forbidden Planet

Before Canadian actor Leslie Nielsen hit his stride playing serious characters in broad comedies, such as Airplane!, and the Naked Gun series, earlier in his film career Hollywood studios  often cast him as the super-serious hero type.  That’s what I discovered in 1956’s Forbidden Planet, which I just watched again for the third time, giving it a  more critical eye than I had done in past viewings.Forbidden Planet

I applaud the special effects team of Forbidden Planet: A.Arnold Gillespie, Warren Newcombe, and Irving G. Ries. My 12 year old happened to watch the opening scenes with me of the spaceship from Earth, flying around in outer space, it’s red light pulsating as it glides through a dark sky brilliantly lit with multitudes of stars.  He didn’t once scoff at the scene or make any comment about “fake” sets.  The fact that a youth of today can’t pick apart the special effects in a film made in 1956 is a testament to the work of that special effects team.   I also applaud the Art Directors: Cedric Gibbons and Arthur Lonergan.  What creativity those two men had!   They had to imagine a future world, future interiors of a spaceship, a home on another planet, the possible nature around it, an inner zone  depicted as huge that provides the energy to run another planet, a robot that could move and his fast moving planet rover, I really enjoyed seeing the sets again.  I can’t leave out two more behind the scenes skills that really made this movie so good: sound effects and animation.  A husband and wife team, Louis and Bebe Barron, were listed in the credits for creating the “Electronic Tonalities”, cool sounding electronically made beeps and whirs, and whizzes and bops, and so much, much more to add to the feeling of what it could sound like in Outer Space(I know, another sci fi film has told us that in space no one can hear one scream but I want it to sound like the Barron’s work!)  Disney lent out Joshua Meador to create the animation that helps to depict the outlines of the film’s monster. “SPOILER”-there is an invisible monster terrorizing the crew that has landed on the planet of the title.  When the monster tries to crash into the spaceship’s force field, we get a bit of a visual outline of the malevelant killer, and Meador created those animated outlines.

Nielsen plays Commander JJ Adams, leader of the space ship C57D, who with his crew of 18 men, have been sent on a mission, to find the distant planet Altair-4 and the crew of the space ship Bellerophon, which had landed there 20 years earlier.  On board the C57D is the capable communications man, Quinn(Richard Anderson), Dr. Ostrow(Warren Stevens), Lt. Farman(Jack Kelly), Cook(Earl Holliman), and bosun(George Wallace.)  James Drury of tv western The Virginian  and James Best, best known as Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazard also play crewmen on the ship, but you really have to be looking for them, they’re a bit hard to find.

Giving out some orders inside the C57D

Giving out some orders inside the C57D

 As they are about to land on Altair-4 they make vocal contact with a Dr. Morbious(Walter Pidgeon, another Canadian!), one of the survivors from the Bellerophon ship.  He tells the men to turn around and go back to where they had come from, he doesn’t need their help, and there is danger on the planet.  This causes Commander Adams to get his back up, so to speak, and he tells Morbious that ready or not, they’re going to land!

Landing on Altair-4 despite the warning not to!

Landing on Altair-4 despite the warning not to!

After the landing, as all of the crew are outside their ship observing the planet’s surface and sky, a distant dust cloud appears and grows closer to them.  With laser guns ready, the crew discovers that it’s a vehicle of some type, driven by a robot!  The robot introduces himself as Robby, and he asks the Commander to get in the vehicle as he, Robby, has been sent by Dr. Morbious to bring the Commander to the doctor.  Lt. Farman and Dr. Ostrow join Commander Adams and off they go.

After chit chat, and scientific thoughts, philosophies, a meal made by that fabulous Robby, and Dr. Morbious’s history about the Bellerophon have been digested, in strolls Altaira, Dr. Morbious’s gorgeous 18 year old daughter(Anne Francis)-oops!  Dr. Moribious forgot to mention that he has a daughter and our 3 crew members from C57D are suddenly sitting a lot taller in their chairs, and paying a lot of attention to this female.  Altaira is delighted to meet them as she’s never met real, live men before!!  There are some funny moments when Lt. Farman decides to introduce kissing to her-it helps with stimulation, he tells her!!!  Of course, this leads to Altaira visiting the men at their space ship, and she gets a royal scolding from Commander Adams for stirring up his crew, especially in her very short-hemmed dresses.  This causes Altaira to “hate” the Commander, but we know that by the film’s end, they’ll be in love.

Dr. Morbious explains he's made the Robot incapable of killing

Dr. Morbious explains he’s made the Robot incapable of killing

Publicity shot of Anne Francis with Robby the Robot

Publicity shot of Anne Francis with Robby the Robot

Dr. Morbious and Altaira vist the men at their landing site.

Dr. Morbious and Altaira vist the men at their landing site.

Altaira asking Lt. Farler just what is kissing??

Altaira asking Lt. Farman just what is kissing??

There’s more to the plot as an invisible monster begins to wreak havoc on the space ship and the crew.  Commander Adams blames Dr. Morbious for all of this evil and with psychiatric jargon and definitions, the evil is finally exposed and explained.

Why do I like this film?  For the good story, the visual look and sounds of this film, and the acting.  Leslie Nielsen, OC(means he received the Order of Canada in 2002) native of Regina, Saskatchewan decided as a youth that he wanted to try acting for a career, due to the success of his half-Uncle, actor Jean Hersholt.  He noticed the respect his half-Uncle drew for his career and thought that it wouldn’t be such a bad way to make one’s way in the world.  Nielsen is good as the take charge leader, and despite his scolding of Altaira, it’s easy to see why she falls for him later in the film.  Nielsen also gets to chew the scenery when he yells at Dr. Morbious, who needs someone to yell at him!  Walter Pidgeon is good, in a sort of obtuse, “I’m the smartest person in the room” attitude.  Anne Francis is lovely as Altaira, not realizing that her presence is a hindrance to the men.  Earl Holliman has a smallish, comedic part as the cook always looking for booze.  Richard Anderson, Warren Stevens, and Jack Kelly bring the right amount of seriousness to their roles, too.

For a look at a sci fi rendering of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and for a film that some believe helped to inspire Star Trek, seek out Forbidden Planet!   It does air on TCM from time to time, so check for it there.  Also, a kind soul has put the movie on Youtube, in 20 segments.  I’ve included the link for the first segment here.

Behind the scenes camaraderie

Behind the scenes camaraderie

This post has been for the O Canada Blogathon.  Be sure to visit classic movie bloggers Kristina at Speakeasy, Ruth of Silver Screenings to read more wonderful posts about just how much Canadians have contributed to Classic Movies.   O Canada Blogathon

 

My Classic Movie Pick: 1947’s Framed

My sweet mother-in-law loves all things techy and loves gadgets.  I really think my husband and his brother inherited their engineering skills from her!  A couple years ago, when ipads were brand new products on the American market, she bought one.  Jumping ahead to a year ago, she had decided that she didn’t really use the ipad much and gave it to our family, as we didn’t have one, and she knew our 5 kids still at home would use it.  Jump ahead to 4 months ago, and the ipad is mostly used by me, as a tv.  When I am cleaning up the kitchen, I grab the ipad and tune in to Youtube and watch episodes of Have Gun Will Travel-all 6 seasons have been nicely posted there and the family has grown accustomed to the show’s opening music and the ending song, about Paladin, where will you roam?

A week ago, one of my twin daughter’s was chastizing me about all of the movies I placed on our  dvr list via TCM.  She suggested I look for some of them on Youtube and watch them on the ipad.  I thought about her suggestion and decided to do that, cleaning up the dvr list in the process.  One classic film on Youtube that I stumbled upon by accident, was a tight little film noir, with a good cast, 1947’s Framed.

Framed

Noir’s are usually set in dark cities, back alleys, and smoke-filled rooms.  Not Framed-it’s set in the post-WWII sundrenched Southwestern US.   Glenn Ford stars as Mike Lambert, a down on his luck GI, who has recently graduated with a degree in Mining Engineering, but hasn’t had success in finding that first engineering job.  He has been working as an over the road truck driver  and  when he’s got enough money saved up, he’ll begin searching for that engineering job.

When the truck Mike is driving brakes fail, he accidentally hits a car owned by Jeff Cunnignham(the always great Edgar Buchanan) a local miner  trying to find that mother lode.  The cops arrest Mike as he’s forgotten to have his driver’s license in his wallet or in the truck, and it’s off to jail he goes.  A very attractive barmaid, Paula Craig(Janis Carter) pays the fine to get Mike out of jail.  He wonders why, but we soon find out…she and her married banker boyfriend(Barry Sullivan) have a criminal plot lined up and all they needed was a foil to make the plan work.  Run, Mike, run!!!!!

Mike about to be arrested for the truck accident

Mike about to be arrested for the truck accident

Paula bails Mike out of jail

Paula bails Mike out of jail

Finding a friend in Miner Jeff Cunningham

Finding a friend in Miner Jeff Cunningham

I was very unfamiliar with Janis Carter.  A beautiful blonde, she is great in this role as the duplicitous Paula-a femme fatale up there with the best of them.  I could see her battle with Bette Davis’s femme fatale in The Letter, and Janis would probably win!  She is good at playing coy with Ford’s Mike, demanding with Sullivan’s Steve, the bank manager, managing to keep her affair with Steve on the downlow which if you’ve ever lived in a small town is pretty near impossible.  She’s also excellent at putting on the charm, which helps her get what she wants all the time. I could easily see her throwing both Steve and Mike off a cliff to get the money and just fly off into the sunset.

Going over their robbery plan one more time

Going over their robbery plan one more time

Framed's Paula and her married lover, Steve, bank manager

Framed’s Paula and her married lover, Steve, bank manager

Ford is good as the innocent Mike.  I don’t mean innocent in that his character is naive, but innocent as he doesn’t know about the crime Paula and Steve are plotting to commit.  He does start to figure something isn’t on the up and up with those two, especially when his new friend, miner Jeff, gets framed for a murder.  Mike knows Jeff is being framed and he sets out to find the real killer.

Barry Sullivan is really young in this movie-I mainly know him from his tv roles which he played when he was  a senior citizen.  He’s good in a smallish part, and I loved the scene where his wife, suspecting the affair, slaps him a good one across the face.  You rock, Mrs. Price!!!  (Mrs. Price was played by Karen Morley.)

Studio publicity pic of Carter and Ford playing cards

Studio publicity pic of Carter and Ford playing cards

If you want to experience a fast-paced film noir, with a good plot, good acting, and not a bad video transfer onto Youtube, seek out 1947’s Framed.  Distributed by Columbia Pictures.  Directed by Richard Wallace.  Screenplay by Ben Maddow and John Patrick, from a story by John Patrick.  Cinematography by Burnett Guffey.  Interestingly, this film came out after Ford’s starring in Gilda, with Rita Hayworth.  So, Columbia, trying to cash in on Ford via Gilda, for Framed’s movie posters and ads, pretty much all show Ford gripping Carter to show he’s in control of this woman.  However, when one watches Framed, it’s pretty much Carter’s character controlling Ford’s character up to the midpoint of the film.  Movie posters can be very misleading!!

Here's an example of one of the misleading movie posters for Framed

Here’s an example of one of the misleading movie posters for Framed

The Star: John Wayne, The Director: John Ford for the Classic Symbiotic Collaborations Blogathon

When Theresa Brown, the wonderful blogger behind CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch announced that she’d be hosting a blogathon looking at famous actors or actresses and the influential directors that they worked with to make movie magic, I knew I wanted to participate.  As I scanned the Star/Director pairs classic movie bloggers were submitting, I noticed that one pair was missing,  so I decided to sign up and write about those two:

   symbiotic-collaborations-ford-ii

John Wayne and John Ford

These two men, powerhouses in their chosen careers, had a  complicated relationship that I believe stems from their childhoods.   Digging first into Wayne’s, most film buffs know that Wayne was named at birth Marion Robert Morrison, in Winterset, Iowa, 1909.  His father, Clyde, was a kind man with a reputation of being extremely nice to all he met.  Contrasted with a gentle father was Wayne’s mother, Mary-nicknamed Molly- who was harsh. Harsh, in that she wanted perfection, openly doted on her younger son, Robert-she actually took away Marion’s middle name in order to name her second son Robert.   Who does that???  Anyhow, she was not a loving or kind person and didn’t hesitate to disparage her husband in front of their two sons.  Clyde was a pharmacist but wasn’t good at keeping any kind of steady job.  Employment failures in Iowa led to a farming venture in California.  Clyde’s father owned some land in Palmdale and he asked Clyde to move there and farm it.  The Morrison’s went and  lived in poverty while trying to make the farm work.  After that venture proved disastrous, the family moved to Glendale.  Young Marion excelled at school academically and athletically.  His parents’ eventually divorced with Molly taking Robert to live with her in Long Beach.  Marion chose to remain in Glendale with Clyde.  Interesting family dynamics ensued as the two Morrison boys grew into adulthood, Marion was a lot more driven to succeed, which he inherited from his mother, Molly.  Younger brother Robert was a lot more laidback and lacked ambition, which he inherited from his father, Clyde.  Years later, Marion, now known as John Wayne, allowed that his father was, “…the kindest, most patient man I ever knew.” 1       The conflicting emotions, of not feeling loved by the mother, never being able to please her, and being distressed by the father’s lack of provision for the family stayed with John Wayne all of his life and I believe caused him to look for a “Father Figure” as he shaped and pursued his acting career.

Enter John Ford.   I read a biograpy on John Ford over a year ago-the man was an enigma to me.  He grew up in Portland, Maine, his parents were Irish immigrants to the U.S., and Ford was 1 of 11 children.  He did fine in school but excelled on the highschool football team-a common factor he and Wayne shared.  His older brother, Francis, a vaudvillian, made it to Hollywood and was a successful silent film actor.  Younger brother John decided to follow Francis and ultimately became an excellent director, beginning in the movie business as a stuntman, propman, handyman, stand-in for his brother, assistant, and finally, director.  I found Ford an enigma as he could be harsh and cold to those he worked with, with his wife and kids, and yet create such tender-hearted moments in his films.

Football, as it turns out, is how Wayne and Ford first met.  Young Marion Morrison won a football scholarship to attend University of Southern California-USC.  The coach at USC, Howard Jones, knew some of his players needed money to survive on as the scholarship didn’t pay for all that a college education would cost in 1925.  One of Coach Jones’s friends worked at the Fox Studio and the friend agreed to ask silent film actor, Tom Mix, to get part-time jobs at the studio lot for the USC football players.  In 1926, Marion was hired to be a goose shepherd on John Ford’s silent film, Mother Machree.  The film had several scenes where geese were shown walking around a farm.  Morrison’s job was to keep the geese in a penned area so they’d be ready for their scenes.  One day, according to Morrison, he heard a voice yell at him, “Hey, gooseherder!”  It was John Ford.  Ford continued, “You’re one of Howard Jones’s bright boys?”  Morrison replied, “Yes.”  Ford went on, “And you call yourself a football player?”  Morrison got tongue-tied, “I don’t…mean…well…”   Ford,”You’re a guard, eh?  Let’s see you get down in position.”  With Ford and his assistants watching, Morrison got into the 3 point stance and then Ford kicked Morrison’s hand out from under him causing the 19 year old to fall on his face.  “And you call yourself a guard.  I’ll bet you couldn’t even take me out.”  Morrison got up and said, “I’d like to try.”  Ford agreed and trotted out 20 yards away, then ran at Morrison who stuck his leg straight out, hitting Ford in the chest and knocking him down.  Ford took it well, landing on the ground and laughing, which was a signal for his assistants to laugh, and Morrison joined in too.  That began Wayne and Ford’s  association and friendship. 2

To young Morrison,who absorbed a lot when on a movie set,  Ford was a man  in complete command.  He made decisions, decisive ones,  and he didn’t back down from his decisions.  In effect being the father figure Morrison probably would have liked to have had, despite the niceness that was in Clyde Morrison.

In the summer of 1927, Morrison injured his shoulder during some horseplay in the Pacific Ocean.  The injury caused him to lose his scholarship, so dropping out of USC, the young man decided to get work at the movie studios, full time work.  Being a prop man was his first job and then he also got some bit parts to play in some films.

In 1929, Raoul Walsh, movie director, wanted to make a Western epic and found his chance in The Big Trail.  He had spied Morrison moving a table for a scene set-up on the studio lot and decided he wanted  to screen test the prop man to possibly play the male lead.  Morrison passed the screentest and got the part.  That’s when his name changed to John Wayne.  The Big Trail was hyped in a big way by Fox Studio, as was their new star, John Wayne.  Sadly, the film flopped and Wayne’s fledgling career ended up at poverty row studios, making a lot of B movie westerns.  Wayne would often go to “Pappy”, his  nickname for John Ford, and beg him to put him in one of Ford’s films.  Ford would reassure Wayne that one day, the right script would come along, and then he’d put Wayne in that film.  After 10 years, the right picture finally came along: Stagecoach.

stagecoach movie poster

Coincidentally, while researching for this blogathon, Turner Classic Movies came through like a champ and aired Stagecoach! I tivoed it and watched it again, recently.  I was struck by the amount of shots Ford put on just Wayne’s face.  That moment when we first meet Wayne’s character, Ringo Kid, has become a classic scene and rightly so.  With Ringo trudging across the desert carrying his saddle, standing there strong and twirling his rifle, as the Stagecoach approaches him, Ford zoomed the camera in right at Wayne’s figure then face-a star was born in that shot.  Katharine Hepburn said that George Cukor helped to make her a star in her first movie, A Bill of Divorcement, due to how her character was filmed in her introductory scenes.  I concur, that that was what Ford did with Wayne’s introductory shot in Stagecoach.  Here’s a link to that iconic movie, via Youtube; at the 18:35 minute mark, is Ringo’s entrance into the plot.  Also watch Wayne’s face as one minute he’s laughing with the doc at remembering how the doc helped his little brother’s broken arm and then the change to sorrow when he remembers that the little brother died when someone shot him.  Also  notice Wayne’s face as he watches Claire Trevor’s character hold a newborn baby.  Those ranges in emotions tell me that Ford knew what he wanted his actor to convey in those moments and Wayne delivered excellently.

John Wayne, in the famous shot that introduced him to a wider American audience

John Wayne, in the famous shot that introduced him to a wider American audience

Stagecoach was box office gold and it led to more Ford/Wayne collaborations through the years: 1940’s The Long Voyage Home, 1945’s They Were Expendable, 1948’s Fort Apache,  1948’s 3 Godfathers, 1949’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, 1950’s Rio Grande, 1952’s The Quiet Man, 1956’s The Searchers, 1957’s The Wings of Eagles, 1959’s The Horse Soldiers, 1962’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 1962’s How the West Was Won, and 1963’s Donovan’s Reef.

In the making of Stagecoach, Claire Trevor shared that one of the first scenes shot was when her character, Dallas, receives a marriage proposal from Wayne’s Ringo.  Ringo is a naive character as he doesn’t realize Dallas is a prostitute…he thinks he’s the one being shunned by the stagecoach passengers because he’s a prison escapee.  When they were shooting the scene, Ford kept yelling at Wayne.  He told Wayne to stop moving his mouth so much, that when one acts, one shows it in one’s eyes, not in one’s mouth!  Director Allan Dwan also said that,”Duke(Morrison’s childhood nickname that most people who worked with him in Hollywood called him)was just a stick of wood when he came away from USC…Jack(Ford) gave him character.” 3

Actor Tim Holt, who played the minor part of a young Calvary officer in Stagecoach, got mad at Ford for always picking on Duke during the filming.  He actually yelled at Ford to stop treating Duke in such a bad manner.  Actresses  Anna Lee, Maureen O’Hara, and actor Harry Carey Jr., all said pretty much the same thing, that on a Ford film, if Ford liked you, you got picked on and if Ford ignored you, that meant he didn’t like you.  Ford let Holt know that he had to be hard on Duke in order to “shock” him out of his complacent acting habits that he had picked up from making all of those poverty row B Westerns.  Ford also told actress Louise Platt, who played Mrs. Mallory in Stagecoach, that Wayne would be,”the biggest star ever…because he is the perfect Everyman.”4

What did Ford benefit from having John Wayne star is so many of his movies?  The obvious benefit was box office profits.  Having John Wayne star in one’s movie guaranteed audiences would pay money and see the films.  John Ford  helped create the John Wayne persona, I think modeling in his own mind the perfect man, and I think it was a character Ford wished he could really be, but  couldn’t attain.

Be sure to visit Theresa’s blog at CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch to read all of the wonderful blogs in this very interesting blogathon!!!

Resources:  John Wayne: The Life and Legend   by Scott Eyman   Simon and Schuster  Copyright April, 2014.  Footnotes: 1-P. 18.   2-Pp. 36-37.  3-P. 44.  4-P. 96.

Searching for John Ford: A Life by Joseph McBride   St. Martin’s Griffin  Copyright June 23rd, 2001.

I’ll close out this post with some pictures of Wayne and Ford and others, from the sets of some of their collaborative films.

Wayne, Ford, and James Stewart in a fun shot from the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Wayne, Ford, and James Stewart in a fun shot from the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Ford giving Wayne some direction in The Horse Soldiers

Ford giving Wayne some direction in The Horse Soldiers

Ford watching as Wayne drags Maureen O'Hara home in The Quiet Man

Ford watching as Wayne drags Maureen O’Hara home in The Quiet Man

Another iconic film shot, Ford centering Wayne's character Ethan Edwards at the end of The Searchers

Another iconic film shot, Ford centering Wayne’s character Ethan Edwards at the end of The Searchers, always on the outside, looking in.

 

Affluenza and Ways to Innoculate your Kids!

I had a wonderful Christmas break.  Time with my family, gift-giving, good food to eat, and getting to sleep in a bit each day.  Now that 2016 has arrived, it’s time for me to jump back onto my blogging site so here is my first post for this new year.

I enjoy watching the old tv show Perry Mason.  My family rolls their eyes, but I do catch them at times following along with the plot of the show.  The other day, even though the episode was from 1961, it could have been torn from today’s headlines: a rich, spoiled young man who behaved rudely to all, an insensitive jerk, was murdered.  Take out the murder in the Perry Mason plot, and it reminded me of the sad saga of the “Affluenza”  afflicted young man from Texas, Ethan Couch.

Perry Mason logo

Actors Bryan Grant and Torin Thatcher, as the spoiled rich kid and his enabling tycoon father, Season 5"s The Case of the Unwanted Bride

Actors Bryan Grant and Torin Thatcher, as the spoiled rich kid and his enabling tycoon father, Season 5″s The Case of the Unwanted Bride

I don’t know Ethan Couch.  I don’t know his parents.  What I do know about he and they is what I’ve heard and read in national news reports.  It was on June 15, 2013, in Texas,when Ethan Couch was driving while intoxicated.  He lost control of his vehicle.  Unfortunately,  a group of people happened to be standing on the side of the road with a disabled SUV.   Four people were killed when Couch plowed into them and crashed into the SUV.  Two people in Couch’s vehicle were badly injured.   In total, 9 people were injured in this crash.  The nation took notice when in December of 2013, the judge ruled that Couch would receive 10 years probation and ordered him to a place of long-term therapy.  Couch’s defense attorneys argued that the young man had “Affluenza”, meaning that since Couch had lived a life of luxury, that he wasn’t raised with any discipline and  really didn’t know right from wrong, that therefore he didn’t understand that his actions can have consequences.  Many people in the U.S., when they heard about this defense, shook their heads in disbelief.   Couch  made the news recently, along with  his mother Tonya, because they were both in Mexico, Ethan living it up with booze, drugs, dancing girls, and he missed a probation meeting.  Missing that meeting meant trouble for Couch; violating his parole agreement.  His mom, Tonya, is also in trouble for aiding her son in going to Mexico  and hindering the police in the apprehension of a felon, her son.   Here is a link from CNN that goes over all of this mess of a situation.

There are so many lessons to be learned here but I’ll try to keep it to just a few.  Parents, one has to raise ones kids with discipline!!!  Now, I’m not talking about punishments for clumsy accidents, like spilling a glass of milk or knocking over a potted plant or leaving the lights on in the kitchen after everyone else has gone to bed, but I am talking about discipline being needed when your child out and out sasses back at you, disrespects your parental authority, tells you NO!  That can’t be overlooked or ignored.  If your kids can’t show you respect, then that means they won’t show respect to any other adults they meet in their life.

Ethan Couch is from a wealthy family.  This fact made me think about another weatlhy  American family, the Rockefellers.  It was a couple years ago on American Experience, a show on PBS that I watch from time to time, and  the episode was  about the Rockefeller family.  What impressed me was that John D. Rockefeller Jr. had 6 kids with his wife Abby, and while they lived in a fabulous home in New York state, he insisted that his children be assigned daily chores to do and that they receive an allowance based on if they got their chores done or not.  This was a super wealthy family!  John Jr.’s father, John D. Rockefeller Sr., founder of Standard Oil, had a net worth of $336 billion dollars!!  Yet his son, was careful to raise his own 6 children to know how to work, and how to earn money, and how to give it away.  John Sr. was also known to have given $500 million dollars away through his lifetime to various philanthropic groups, colleges, etc.  I have a sad suspicion that the Couch’s probably didn’t assign their son many chores to do.  It is a good idea to train kids in helping with household chores and when they get to be teens, having them find a part-time job.  Our teens have worked part-time jobs and it has benefited them in money management, in making purchases for items that they have wanted, and in getting along with the public-be it customers, bosses, or co-workers.

John D. Rockefeller Sr. with his son, John D. Jr., daughter-in-law, and 6 grandchildren.

John D. Rockefeller Sr. with his son, John D. Jr., daughter-in-law, and 6 grandchildren.

Discipline, respect for one’s elders, knowing the value of a dollar, knowing the value of doing good work, knowing the value of giving of one’s funds cheerfully-these are great ways to innoculate your kids from developing “Affluenza”.

 

For the Sinatra Centennial Blogaton: 1955’s The Tender Trap

Frank Sinatra, if he were still on earth today, would be celebrating his 100th birthday.  With that in mind, classic film fans and fellow bloggers Judy, at Movie classics, and Emily at The Vintage Cameo decided to host a blogathon celebrating Sinatra’s work in films.  My film choice is 1955’s rom/com The Tender Trap.  Be sure to visit Movie classics and The Vintage Cameo to read about more films Sinatra starred in.  He was really a lot more talented than just his singing voice!

Do you recall Aesop’s Fable about The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse?  The mouse who lives in the slower paced life in the country visits his cousin who lives in the fast paced big city?  Playwrights Max Shulman and Robert Paul Smith took Aesop’s story and made some changes: the mice become men, in the city there are fabulous looking gals all over the place, and two strong females with definite ideas as to what they want out of life.  It was a year-long hit on Broadway in 1954 and in 1955, MGM decided to take the hit play, turn it into a film and have it star Frank Sinatra.

The Tender Trap poster 2

Frank Sinatra plays  Charlie Reader, a New York theatrical agent.  One evening, unannounced, his best buddy since kindergarten, Joe McCall(David Wayne) appears at Charlie’s apartment door, suitcases in hand.  Joe, a pharmacist from Indianapolis, has decided his life-white picket fence, house, wife, 3 kids, a dog-is dullsville.  He’s decided a new life in NYC is just the ticket.  Charlie tells Joe he’s nuts!  He tells Joe he’d love that kind of life, as 3 different lovely gals enter and leave Charlie’s apartment in a span of 30 minutes, which leads Joe to start calling Charlie, “Sultan”!

Charlie and Joe, drinking to dames and friendship

Charlie and Joe, drinking to dames and friendship

Charlie is a bachelor and he thinks he’s a happy one.  He has the gorgeous Poppy(Lola Albright) kissing him on his couch right before Joe’s arrival, telling Charlie about the dinner she’s going to cook for them the next night.  After Poppy leaves, in sashays Southern honey Jessica(Jarma Lewis) who announces what a mess the apartment is in and proceeds to clean it up, slowly swaying her hips in the process.  Joe has to grab a drink of whiskey at this point!  After Jessica leaves, it’s Helen’s turn to shine.  A very strident Carolyn Jones as Helen, marches in to walk Charlie’s dog.  She faithfully walks him several times a day, able to ignore Charlie’s small talk.  Joe is agog at the end of meeting these 3 ladies and tells Charlie he’s never going back home!  One last female in Charlies’s life is about to appear via the tv, it’s Sylvia(Celeste Holme), a concert violinist who’s appearance is on the tv that evening with the NY Symphony.

Charlie and Poppy

Charlie and Poppy

Charlie and Southern honey Jessica

Charlie and Southern honey Jessica

"Ahem! I've come to walk your dog!"

“Ahem! I’ve come to walk your dog!”

Charlie and Sylvia

Charlie and Sylvia

Soon, Charlie meets his match in Broadway newcomer, Julie(Debbie Reynolds).  She can sing, dance, is so sweet and really wants to be a wife and mother.  She also manages to catch Charlie’s heart, but does he realize this?

Charlie intrigued by Julie and her audition

Charlie intrigued by Julie and her audition

As I sat watching this film, our 19 year old son-a commuter college student-was doing some homework and ended up watching the movie with me.  He laughed at all of the jokes, especially when Julie invites Charlie to her parents’ apartment for the evening;parents are in NJ for the weekend.  Charlie has kissing and other activities on  his mind, but Julie is trying to keep him at arm’s length.  Her idea to turn on the tv doesn’t help at all as all of the channels she changes the dial to are showing couples kissing!

What Frank Sinatra movie wouldn’t be quite complete with Frank singing?  Well, maybe not in a serious drama he probably didn’t sing much, but in this rom/com there is one song, (Love is) The Tender Trap and it was nominated for best song at 1955’s Academy Awards but lost to Love is a Many Splendored Thing. The song was written by Sammy Cahn and composed by Jimmy Van Heusen.  The Tender Trap opens with Sinatra far away from the audience, singing the first verses of the song and the chorus.  As he sings, he just slowly keeps walking forward, hands in his pockets, ever so cool and casual.  At the film’s end, the 4 main leads: Sinatra, Reynolds, Holme, and Wayne(he has a good voice!) all take a new verse of the song and sing it well, hands linked with one another.  A nice way to showcase the leads and end the film.  Kudos must also go to The Tender Trap’s director, Charles Walters.  There was a lot of talent in this cast, probably a lot of egos too, but he kept the film fast-paced, the comedic timing is perfect, and not a wrong note from anyone in this film.

The 4 leads, singing that song at film's end

The 4 leads, singing that song at film’s end

Seek out this romance-comedy where Sinatra shines with his comedic timing and singing and wooing of the ladies, Wayne is great as the somewhat sadsack buddy, Holme is good as the sadder but wiser gal who gets her happy ever after but in a surprise to her character, and Reynolds shines too, as the adorable and wise Julie.

The Tender Trap poster 1

The Tender Trap isn’t out on dvd at all!!!  That’s an outrage!!  However, on Christmas Eve Eve(that’s what my kids call December 23rd) Turner Classics will be airing this gem, at 3:15 am EST/2:15 am CST-set your dvrs!!!!

Just Drop the Blanket

I read this post yesterday, written by fellow blogger Jason Soroski and thought his points were excellent. Having been a loyal Charlie Brown Christmas viewer for many years, I had never noticed Linus dropping his ever present blanket! Read on for a great message, especially this Christmas season.

The Way I See It

419244_1280x720This week “A Charlie Brown Christmas” aired on national prime time television for the 50th time. In a world where the latest greatest technology is outdated in a matter of months, and social media trends come and go in a matter of days, 50 years of anything becomes quite meaningful.

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Criterion Blogathon: Babette’s Feast

In 1987 a gentle movie came out of Denmark and it happened to win the Best Foreign Language Film at that year’s Academy Awards.  It  won the BAFTA(British of Film and Television Arts) for Best Foreign Film, and it also won Best Film in Denmark, the Bodil and Robert Awards.  I watched it in the late 1980s when it came out on video and I enjoyed it immensely.  I’m referring to the film Babette’s Feast, and it’s my choice to write about for the Criterion Blogathon.  Be sure to visit the Blogathon’s link to read about other wonderful movies that have been featured via Criterion, the American video-distribution company.

Criterion Banner FINAL

Babette’s Feast began it’s creative life as a short story written by Danish author Karen Blixen, who is most famously known for her autobiographical novel, Out of Africa.  The film’s screenplay was written by Gabriel Axel,  the late Danish actor, film director, and producer.  Axel also directed the film, in a straightforward manner, with narration provided by actress Ghita Norby.  Axel’s vision gives us the tale of simple people, who create a life appropriate for themselves, and with connecting lives and coincidences, serve one another, and show one another respect and love.

Babette's Feast

Babette’s Feast is  set in the barren beauty of western Jutland.  Now I’m an American and had no idea  what Jutland meant, so when I recently re-watched the movie, I did an online search for Jutland.  I found that it’s a peninsula shared by Denmark and Germany.  The North Sea lies to its west, the Skagerrak to the north, the Kattegat and Baltic Sea lie to the east, and Germany on the south.  When one of the character’s in the film is banished there for 3 months, he groans out his disappointment, “Jutland?”  From what we are shown, it’s a flat land, with some hills, near the sea, no trees in sight, just lots of grasses and lots of wind.

It is to this geographic panorama we are sent, to a small village where everyone knows everyone.  Two sisters, Martine and Philippa, are maiden ladies,  senior citizens, who go about their lives in quiet routine.  They visit the infirm and bring them meals, they host a weekly bible study attended by fellow senior citizens, they pay homage to their deceased father, the minister of the village, who named his only children after Martin Luther and Luther’s friend, Philip Melanchthon.   To an outsider, their lives seem very dull.  But to these two ladies, their lives are very full and they don’t ponder very much as to  what their lives could have been.

Philippa and Martine with their father, the village's Minister

Philippa and Martine with their father, the village’s Minister

The narrator then sends us back in time, via two flashbacks, to show that Martine and Philippa’s lives could have turned out so very different, if they had only followed their hearts.  The first flashback is Martine’s: when she was a beautiful young woman she met by chance a handsome officer, Lorens Lowenhielm, who had been banished to Jutland for 3 months by his father due to many gambling debts.  Lorens accepts his punishment glumly but when he meets Martine, he is immediately drawn to her and wants to get to know her.  He attends her father’s church services, and the smaller bible study gatherings, that meet at Martine’s home.  Martine’s father is not an overbearing type of man, but he does have a quiet charisma about him, and he has impressed on his daughters that they are his “right and left” hands, and that he can’t do without them, so when Lorens makes his final farewell to Martine, it is with sadness as he hasn’t been able to break down that barrier that exists between Martine and any possible suitor.

Martine with Officer Lorens, who loves her so

Martine with Officer Lorens, who loves her so

The second flashback is Philippa’s .  Philippa is blessed with a beautiful singing voice and it is by coincidence that a French opera star, Achille Papin, needing a rest from his performances, agrees to a friend’s suggestion that he stay in Jutland, at the very village where Martine and Philippa live.  Achille happens to be out on a Sunday morning walk and he hears a gorgeous voice among the others, singing a hymn in the church and he enters the building.  He learns that the voice of the angel belongs to Philippa, and he contacts her father, offering to give Philippa voice lessons.  The voice lessons begin and it’s evident to Achille and Philippa that she has a wonderful talent, that she too, could go on the stage and probably become an opera star.  Achille is drawn to Philippa, especially when they sing a duet from a famous  operatic love song.  Alas, Philippa decides to stop the voice lessons and to stay in Jutland with her father and sister, and sadly, Achille goes back to Paris without his muse.

Achille and Philippa during her voice lesson

Achille and Philippa during her voice lesson

After the two sisters’ flashbacks, we are brought back to the present, which is 1871 and a knock on the sisters’ front door during a rainstorm.  A stoic woman is standing on their threshhold, sopping wet.  Martine and Philippa immediately usher this stranger into their home, give her a cup of hot tea, start to mop the water off of  the woman’s face, when she hands them a letter.  The letter is from Achille Papin, now retired.  His letter is a plea for these ladies to take into their home, refugee from Paris, Babette Hersant.  France has been undergoing a civil war and Babette’s husband and son were shot and killed and she herself had to go into hiding.  Achille, an old family friend, remembered the two kind sisters in Jutland, would they take Babette into their home?  Martine and Philippa agree, but explain to Babette that they can’t afford to pay a housekeeper or cook, and Babette explains that that is fine with her.  Babette settles in to the Danish home, begins to learn the langugage, money rate exchange, and how to cook the meals the sisters prefer.  All is quiet and peaceful for many years until the day Babette receives a telegram.

Babette, settling in nicely as housekeeper and cook

Babette, settling in nicely as housekeeper and cook

The telegram states that Babette has won the French lottery-$10,000 francs!  Martine and Philippa are happy for Babette, who is happy and stunned by this win.  The two sisters assume Babette will soon take her leave of them but no, that is not Babette’s plan.  To show her servant’s heart, to show her thankfulness to the two sisters who took her in and gave her a home, to show that a true artist cannot live without doing their utmost to let their art shine, Babette uses her lottery winnings to make  a masterpiece of a meal.

Babette leading the parade of ingredients she ordered, into the village

Babette leading the parade of ingredients she ordered, into the village

It is soon to be the anniversary of Martine and Philippa’s father’s 100th birthday and they had been planning a small party, inviting their fellow senior citizen church members.  Babette begs them to let her make the meal for this party. With reluctance, and some worries when they see the rich and extravagant ingredients Babette has ordered from France(Wine!), the sisters warn their guests that they can’t be sure that what they eat and drink won’t be too decadent or sinful!  Each of the guests agrees that they won’t utter one word of enjoyment as they partake in the meal.  A last minute guest is added to the list, General Lorens Lowenhielm, Martine’s long ago suitor, who happens to be visiting his aged aunt  who is on the guest list, so she sends word that her nephew will be attending, too.

The guests digging into the feast

The guests digging into the feast

What I like so much about Babette’s Feast: the locale of Jutland-it’s barren, yet it has a simplistic beauty and the people who live there are resilient.  The romances of the two sisters, who turned down chances at love, which caused heartache for their two suitors.  The coincidental link of Achille Papin finding Babette refuge with the two sisters.  The silly stoicism of the dinner guests that they won’t comment on the fabulous meal;thank goodness for General Lorens, as he keeps praising each course and each wine selection.  The wine, in fact, gets the grumpy seniors to stop their bickerings with each other, and friendships are renewed.  I also like the fact that Pope Francis has said this is his favorite film!

The cast is outstanding, of course!  Babette is played by French actress Stephan Audran, Birgitte Federspiel is Martine, Bodil Kjer is Philippa, Young Martine is Vibeke Hastrup, Young Philippa is Hanne Stensgaard, their father, known just as The Minister, is Pouel Kern, Young Officer Lorens Lowenhielm is Gudmar Kloving, General Lowenhielm is Jarl Kulle, Achille Papin is Jean-Philippe Lafont.

Of course to view the wonderful film, seek it out at The Criterion Collection!

An afterthought: I have a son training to be a chef.  I called out to him the methods Babette used in creating her feast.  The ingredients, the wines, the courses-he kept nodding his head as he has had some coursework on French cooking and how a meal there would be served, the courses, etc.  As I watched the montages of Babette cooking, I kept marveling that this was all done without modern kitchen conveniences: no microwave oven, no convection oven, no double wall oven, no Kitchen Aid mixer, no blenders, no Cuisenart food choppers, no refrigerators or freezers!  We modern day cooks have it easy!!!

Babette busily cooking

Babette busily cooking

Lastly, here’s the feast that Babette fixed: 1st Course: Potage a la Tortue(Turtle Soup) served with Amontillado sherry.  2nd Course: Blinis Demidoff (Buckwheat cakes with caviar and sour cream) served with Veuve Cliquot Champagne.  3rd Course: Cailles en Sarcophage (Quails in puff pastry with foie gras and truffle sauce) served with Clos de Vougeot Pinot Noir. 5th Course: Endive Salade.  6th Course: Savarin au Rhum avec des Figues et Fruit Glacee( Rum Cake with figs and candied cherries) served with champagne.  7th Course: Assorted cheeses and fruits served with sauterne.   When the guests left the dinner table to congregate in the living room, Babette made sure they were served coffee and vieux marc Grand Champagne cognac.

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