For the Umpteenth Time Blogathon, Stagecoach

When fellow classic film fan and blogger, Cinemaven, announced she would be hosting a blogathon and also mentioned how she herself hadn’t been blogging in a while, I decided that yes, I’d love to join in her blogathon as I, too, hadn’t been blogging in several years! Life just got really busy with working full-time again, so blogging went on the back burner, way back!!

Cinemaven decided that her blogathon topic would be “For the Umpteenth Time”. What film is one that classic film fans can watch over and over and over again, for the umpteenth time, and not get tired of the film? For me, it’s the 1939 classic western, Stagecoach, directed by John Ford. The film that finally turned journeyman actor John Wayne into a star.

About 5 months back, my youngest, 18 years old, told me that since he was going to be going to community college and living at home, he wanted to start watching classic films with me, to get to know the genre. He said he would really like to see classic westerns. Oh, I was so happy to hear this info! Friday nights became our “Classic Movie Night” and the first film we viewed was Stagecoach. Another one of my son’s happened to be visiting and he also agreed to watch the film with us. “Man, John Wayne was young!” My older son’s reaction made me chuckle. Director Ford’s intro to Wayne’s character in the movie is great. The audience hears Wayne’s Ringo Kid call out, “Hey!”, for the stagecoach to stop, as the camera zooms in fast to show The Ringo Kid holding his saddle with one hand and doing a fast move with his rifle with his other hand. Quite the genius way to introduce the main character of a film!

Ford’s introduction of Wayne’s Ringo Kid is just one of the umpteenth reasons I’ll watch Stagecoach over and over again. The passengers on this 1880 road trip are all very interesting. Several of them have something to hide about themselves. Mr. Peacock is perhaps the most normal of the passengers, a whiskey salesman with a wife and a passel of kids back in Kansas City. Doc Boone, the man with medical ability but he loves liquor too much; it’s funny when he sits next to Mr. Peacock and discovers the man has whiskey samples in his big case! Mrs. Lucy Mallory, the genteel Southern lady on her way west to meet up with her husband who is in the calvary and she is pregnant; the other passengers don’t know that fact. Hatfield, also a Southerner and a professional gambler, who recalls serving with Mrs. Mallory’s father in the Confederate Army and decides to keep a protective eye on her for the duration of the arduous trip. Dallas, the prostitute, freshly kicked out of town by a group of upright women. Mr. Gatewood, the pompous banker who has embezzled money from the bank he was in charge of and is trying to get out of town. The Ringo Kid, a young prisoner who has broken out of the territorial prison to get revenge on Luke Plummer as word has reached Ringo that Plummer has killed Ringo’s father and brother. Driving this stagecoach is Buck and Marshall Curley Wilcox has decided to ride shotgun, seated next to Buck, just in case Ringo tries to catch a ride to Lordsburg, NM, where Plummer is reported to be living.

The cast is an excellent one, and all gave such wonderful performances in their roles: character actors Donald Meek(Peacock), Thomas Mitchell(Doc Boone), Andy Devine(Buck), George Bancroft(Marshall Wilcox), Burton Churchill(banker Gatewood), and John Carradine(Hatfield). Louise Platt as Mrs. Mallory and Claire Trevor as Dallas, bring the right notes to their portrayals of the moral woman and the immoral woman.

Monument Valley, on the Arizona/ Utah border, was filmed for much of the background scenes for Stagecoach and it was the first time Ford had used the valley as a film location and it wouldn’t be his last choice for a western’s location. Cinematographer Bert Glennon did a marvelous job capturing the outdoor beauties of the valley. His efforts garnered him a nomination at the 1940 Academy Awards for Best Black and White Cinematography. Stagecoach was also nominated for: Art Direction, Best Director, Film Editing, and Outstanding Production. Stagecoach did win Best Supporting Actor, Thomas Mitchell as Doc Boone, and Music-Scoring for Richard Hageman, Frank Harling, John Leipold, and Leo Shuken.

The next time I see that Stagecoach is airing I will tune in to watch the intreprid travelers from Tonto, AZ Territory, make their way to Lordsburg, NM, despite the dreaded news that Geronimo and his Apache warriors are on the warpath. I will also watch for the umpteenth time to study the bits of morality play revealed in the plot: how the immoral woman deserves mercy and grace from her fellow travelers, the comeuppance that the banker deserves, Ringo Kid’s true character shining through as he treats all around him politely and fair. I especially like the message that starting over with new chances can happen. Stagecoach was one of director John Ford’s masterpieces, and one I will watch for the umpteenth time!

Be sure to visit Cinemaven’s site via this link, in order to read other great posts written by fellow classic film fans.


1947’s The Unsuspected for the 2nd Annual Claude Rains Blogathon

A couple years ago, a lot of Americans were talking about a Netflix documentary following the life of a Wisconsin prisoner and whether or not he was guilty or innocent of a murder.  History does repeat itself, and back in 1947, a lot of Americans were hooked on their favorite radio shows, several that focused on stories of the macabre, stories about murder.  The film I wanted to focus on for the Claude Rains blogathon, and which starred the talented British actor, is  The Unsuspected.  The film has strong ties to such radio shows and implies that such shows were a popular part of America’s pop culture.   

Rains plays Victor Grandison, the wealthy host of a popular radio show that features him narrating   true crime tales.  With his smooth as silk, melodious and at turns basso voice, Rains was the perfect choice to be cast as Grandison.  His characterization shows us a man who is at the top of his game-the advertisers and the creators of the radio show bow and scrape to him, so do his friends and his only  blood relatives: two nieces, Althea(Audrey Totter) and Matilda(Joan Caulfield.)  Victor is a complex man-he can be warm and charming and ultra polite, yet he can also be demanding and controlling.

The film opens with Victor’s voice heard coming from a radio in a darkened office while a young woman is working late at a typewriter.  A man approaches her with a hangman’s noose in his hand and we see the startled and distressed woman scream.  We soon realize that this  woman is about to be murdered but the death will be made to look like a suicide.  We will learn that the dead woman is Roslyn Wright, secretary to none other than Victor Grandison, the true crimes radio show host! All who know Victor and who also knew Roslyn are very sad that a seemingly good secretary and person, would have been compelled to end her own life.  It’s a sad event and a puzzlement.  Life goes on and niece Althea decides to throw her Uncle Victor a surprise birthday party.  She believes that there needs to be a happy event in her and her uncle’s lives, as shortly after Roslyn’s suicide, the other niece and Althea’s sister, Matilda, has been lost at sea!  Will the terrible events stop befalling this family?

A murderer has entered the office!!!

At the birthday party, as all seem to be enjoying themselves, a stranger arrives.  He is Steven Howard(Ted North) and he has a shocking announcement:  he is Matilda’s secret husband!!!! This news is very bothersome to Victor because if this Howard guy is telling the truth, it will mess up the dispersal of Matilda’s share of the family estate.  Victor secretly asks police lieutenant Donovan(Fred Clark) to dig up all he can on Steven Howard.  Victor also invites Steven to stay at his home while he is in town.

Oliver and Althea

Matilda and Steven

As the weeks go by, Althea takes several chances to flirt with Steven since her husband, Oliver, (Hurd Hatfield) is a lousy drunk.  Then the shocker of all shockers breaks: Matilda is alive!!!  The Grandisons are notified that Matilda didn’t die at sea but survived the ocean liner’s sinking and was taken to a hospital in Brazil where she had been suffering from amnesia.  She recovered enough to recall her name and family and where they live, but she has no memory of Steven or having married him!!

The plot of this film continues to twist and turn and several characters have hidden agendas to achieve.  Steven is out to convince Matilda that they are married, but is he really telling all of them the truth?  Althea and her husband have a failing marriage and her obvious attempts to lure Steven into an affair are part of her agenda.  Why doesn’t she just go ahead and divorce Oliver?  Althea also has begun some investigating of her own as she doesn’t believe that her uncle’s secretary, Roslyn, committed suicide.  Will Althea find the truth and at what cost?  Looming over all is Victor Grandison.  Why is he so controlling over Matilda and her life?  Can she break free from his overly paternalistic ways or will she always answer to him with every decision she makes in her life?  What connection did Victor have with his secretary? Was it merely a working relationship or something that turned more sinister?  I don’t want to give away the film’s plot as I want you, dear reader, to seek it for yourself to view.

Althea pouring it on to entice Steven to have an affair!

Victor detailing to the hit man about a job!

Uncle Victor and niece Matilda

Even though the plot does sound like a soap opera,  I did find that the cast gave a fairly entertaining effort that I liked.  Look for Constance Bennett-early film star from the 1930s-as Victor’s radio show producer, Fred Clark as a “hop right to it” police lieutenant, and Jack Lambert as a creepy hired hit man.  I wasn’t as familiar with Joan Caulfield or Ted North, who played Matilda and Steven; this was the first film I ever saw either of them act in.  They do an ok job.  Production notes I read mentioned that director Michael Curtiz-The Unsuspected was the first movie made by  his own production company- had wanted Dana Andrews to play the part of Steve and Virginia Mayo to play the part of Matilda.  However,  during the pre-production phase,  Andrews kept demanding that his part be made larger and Curtiz  became so irritated that he fired him!  Warner Brothers had an agreement to release the film and as Andrews was one of their stars, and he was a package deal with Virginia, his firing took Mayo off the picture too.  I do think if they had remained in the film, their acting would have enhanced this film.

Where can you see The Unsuspected?  It sometimes is on Turner Classic Movies, so keep an eye on their schedule.  It is available to purchase through TCM and Amazon-on a dvd.  Here is the opening scene in an advertisement for the film, which moviegoers in 1947 would have seen at the theaters.  Incidentally, in the link from Youtube, Ted North-Steven-is credited as Michael North, and I don’t know why because he later went by Ted in the rest of his filmwork.

Be sure to visit the site at the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, or PEPS, to read others contributions to the blogathon, honoring the late, always great, British actor Claude Rains, on what would have been his birthday, November 10th, 1889.

A French poster advertising the film

Brian Donlevy for 2019 TCM’s Summer Under the Stars Blogathon

Every August, Turner Classic Movies takes each day in that month and focuses on one star.  Today, Tuesday, August 13th, the featured star is actor Brian Donlevy.  Donlevy had a long acting career in Hollywood.  Beginning as a model for the men’s dress shirt company Arrow and their detachable collars, Donlevy got to Broadway, then Silent movies and finally the talkies.  He was often cast as the main bad guy that the hero would ultimately have to defeat.  In 1939, he co-starred as Sgt. Markoff in Beau Geste and received an Acadamy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

The film in his repertoire that I’d like to take a closer look at is 1940’s Drama/Comedy The Great McGinty.  Released by Paramount Pictures, directed and written by Preston Sturges, the topic of the film seems so appropriate with our nation facing elections in 2020.  Preston’s story(which won him the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay) follows a bum, who is handpicked by a political machine to rise in the ranks of a political party and eventually become the governor of a state.  The machine thinks they have found a puppet to manipulate to do what they want in running this state’s government, but the lowly bum rises to his role and begins to turn the tables on his political benefactors.

THE GREAT MCGINTY (aka DOWN WITH MCGINTY), US poster, from left: Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus on window card, 1940

The movie begins with a bank clerk, distraught at a very foolish thing he’s done and about to take his life in a south of the border bar.  The bartender realizes this and stops the clerk, and through a flashback, explains how he saying yes to a wacky plan changed his life.  The movie then shows us the bartender, Dan McGinty(Brian Donlevy) in his former life as a homeless man, at a soup kitchen.  Entering the soup kitchen is the politician(William Demarest) who convinces McGinty to vote under the  names of deceased people.  McGinty does as he’s been told, voting 37 times for the Mayoral candidate chosen to win by the local political machine.  His actions impress the political machine’s boss(Akim Tamiroff) and McGinty is soon put forward to run as an Alderman, and then as Mayor.  To give him a greater chance to win as mayor, the political boss tells McGinty that he has to get married, so McGinty does just that, marrying his secretary, widowed Catherine(Muriel Angelus) who conveniently has two children.

Dan McGinty, homeless man at a soup kitchen

The politician explaining the voting plan to McGinty

McGinty reacting to the plan to run for Alderman.

McGinty and Catherine

The entire cast works so well together in this film.  Akim Tamiroff is ruthless as the political boss.  He thinks he’s picked the perfect puppet in Dan McGinty who has a natural charisma that enables him to get elected.  It’s natural to keep moving McGinty up the political ladder and when McGinty turns the tables on this political boss, the hatred is evident and murder will be the solution that the boss thinks will work.

Brian Donlevy gives a wonderful portrayal of a down on his luck man, who is willing to do as he’s ordered to better his circumstances.  Donlevy is able to portray McGinty as a cynical man who starts to have a softened heart and wants to become a better man, a sincere man.  Despite an arranged marriage, McGinty and Catherine warm to each other and do fall in love.  Muriel Angelus is outstanding as Catherine.  She loves McGinty and is willing to stand by him come what may, in good times and in bad.

This movie isn’t the typical, screwball comedic film from Sturges.  It is  more of a study of politicians, human nature, and all of the cynicism and quirks that seem to hang on to the edges of the world of politics.  The Great McGinty will air on TCM tonight at 8:00 p.m. est/7:00 p.m.  cst.  Be sure to check it out to see Brian Donlevy do what he always seemed to do best, act as a tough man who has goodness in him, wanting to burst out.

Be sure to visit the blogathon’s hosts, Journeys in Classic Film and Musings of a Classic Film Addict to read other posts for this month long blogathon, featuring an article a day about the day’s selected actor or actress.

1953’s Pick Up on South Street for the Noirathon

I like Richard Widmark’s acting.  Whenever I view one of his films, I recognize that he was a good actor who didn’t hit a wrong note in any role he was playing.   A few years ago, I recorded one of his films off of TCM, Pick Up on South Street, and wow! That film mesmerized me and after I had viewed it I was so impressed by all of it: the acting, the plot, the direction, the sets, the music; ranks as one of the best film noirs that I have ever seen.  When I saw that Maddy at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films was hosting a “Noirathon” a look at film noir selections by other classic film fans, I knew I wanted to participate.  Be sure to check out Maddy’s blog and read about  other bloggers’ film noir choices.   By the way, in case you don’t know, film noir was a term coined by the French to describe specific American films that depicted a crime story with style, an often conflicted male protagonist, and a femme fatale who adds to the conflict.  1940-1959 was the time frame for many classic film noirs to have been made. 

Richard Widmark plays Skip McCoy, a NYC pickpocket and small-time hustler who isn’t trying to stay on the straight and narrow, even though he’s been arrested and been sent to prison 3 times.  New York state must have had a 3 strikes and you’re out rule in the 1950s as it’s mentioned that if Skip is arrested a 4th time, he’ll serve the rest of his life in Sing-Sing or some other New York state penitentiary.  Candy(Jean Peters playing the femme fatale) was dating a guy named Joey(Richard Kiley) who would ask her to make deliveries for him. taking rolls of microfilm to higher-ups in some organization.  Joey explained to Candy that the microfilms were pictures of company secrets.  What Candy doesn’t realize is that Joey is a commie, and the microfilm he’s been having her deliver is to higher up commies and the film is pictures of government secrets.  Skip’s latest pickpocket target was Candy and he stole her wallet that contained the latest microfilm delivery for Joey’s commie bosses.  Unknown to Candy and Joey is that for the past 6 months, two FBI agents have been following her, hoping she’d lead them to  the commie ring.

Skip moving his way down the passenger line to Candy and her wallet.

The missing microfilm is the lynch pin that brings all the films characters together.  There’s Skip who has it, was seen by the FBI agents tailing Candy to have been the pickpocket who stole it, and even when he ‘s offered a no charge deal if he brings the film in to Police Captain Tiger(Murvyn Vye), it’s no dice.  Skip won’t comply with the cops or the feds.  Candy is ordered by her ex, Joey, to get that microfilm back.  She turns to street peddler Moe(Thelma Ritter) who has coincidentally  helped the FBI agents identify Skip as the pickpocket they’re looking for.  Moe gives Candy Skip’s address and it is in his shack by the Atlantic Ocean where he confronts Candy rifling through his stuff looking for her wallet and the microfilm.  After a scuffle, and a long kiss, we know that these two are in love/lust with one another and that this is going to complicate their lives quite a lot.  Will the microfilm get to the FBI? Will the FBI capture the commies? Will Joey get away with a savage beating of Candy, and worse, to Moe??  Will Skip end up complying and turn over the microfilm or will he try to get out of town? Will he and Candy have a future together?

Moe being confronted by slimy Joey for info on Skip

Skip(Widmark) beating the snot out of Joey(Kiley)

I’m not answering the rest of those questions as I am urging you, dear reader, to find this film and view it!!  Widmark is great as Skip.  A very cynical guy, shiftless but full of common sense that one needs to live and survive on the mean streets of NYC.  Jean Peters was a surprise to me as I’d only previously seen her in another film noir, Niagara, and in that film she is not the femme fatale.  I guess I didn’t know she had it in her to play such a tough woman and she really delivers in her role in this film.  Richard Kiley, years before starring on Broadway in The Man from LaMancha, is also quite good in this film as the slimy Joey, willing to commit espionage for money against his own country, using Candy to help him, and willing to kill those weaker than himself in order to get his money.  Thelma Ritter is just outstanding as Moe, the street peddler, who gives info to cops and the street folks.  She was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress for this role.  Directed by Sam Fuller, the cast does excellently and Fuller wrote the screenplay himself, basing the story on his work as a crime reporter in NYC.  Incidentally, Betty Grable was one of the possible actresses for the part of Candy but she requested a dance number be added for her in the film.  I’m glad that Ms. Grable didn’t get the part!


Where can this film be seen?  From time to time it does air on TCM.  It is available on a Criterion Collection dvd at TCM’s shop and at Amazon.  Amazingly, the entire film is on Youtube, however it opens with the pickpocket scene on the subway, with FBI agents watching Candy before Skip finds her wallet, no opening credits.

Again, I can’t recommend this movie enough as an excellent one to view and an excellent film noir.

1953’s The Man From the Alamo for The Favorite Code Film Blogathon


I recently watched a new-to-me film from the Western genre, 1953’s The Man From the Alamo.  I discovered another cable channel that I had largely been ignoring, INSP, and it almost exclusively shows tv westerns and films.  My kids have  asked why I enjoy a western tale so much and I think I like them for two reasons: the Western is truly an American form of entertainment, and I like the stark and simple tales of good vs evil, with good usually winning in the end. Maybe since I’m a firstborn, and I have been conditioned to follow the rules, see things in black and white-am I right, other firstborns out there?- I greatly enjoy a tale of good ultimately winning. 

INSP cable channel aired this movie 3 months ago; the channel  airs a lot of westerns and is currently airing John Wayne movies for the month of July.   The title of the film is what first drew me in to record it and watch it. The Man From the Alamo immediately tells the viewer that here was one man who didn’t die at The Alamo in San Antonio, TX in 1836.  I am vaguely aware of The Alamo’s history, of a mission in San Antonio, TX, where Davy Crockett, Lt. William Travis, Jim Bowie, and others fighting for Texas’s independence from Mexico were all wiped out in a battle with General Santa Ana and his army.  Since I saw the title, I immediately was saying to myself, “What?! A man came out of the Alamo and lived?  Was he a coward who snuck out as the battle began and avoided the 13 day siege? Was he a coward who found a really good hiding place in The Alamo and got away at the end of the siege? Was he a spy for Santa Ana and working against the territory of Texas?”  I decided I had to watch this film and find out the answers to my questions.

Glenn Ford is the film’s protagonist, John Stroud, a man who has grown up in  Texas so when the call goes out to help defend the land at The Alamo, Stroud knows that he will answer that call, come what may.  He willingly leaves behind his wife, son, ward Carlos(Mark Cavell), and his ranch.

We get to see a grim meeting at The Alamo with Lt. William Travis and the men there, that he has  asked for reinforcements but he doesn’t know if the reinforcements will arrive in time as General Santa Ana and his regiments will arrive sooner.  Travis makes an announcement that if any man feels the need to leave The Alamo now, to be back with his family and land/ranch/farm, that he would allow that man to leave with no ill will.  Travis then sends a Lt. Lamarr(Hugh O’Brien) to Franklin, TX to get to Sam Houston and the need for more men.  Stroud stands up and announces to Travis that he will be leaving The Alamo(my question got answered fast!) and he does so, with some of the men scowling at him.

Lt. Travis contemplating the announcement he’s going to make to the men inside The Alamo.

Stroud gets back to his ranch in Ox-Bow, TX to find his home, barns, everything has been burned.  He also finds Carlos, still alive, and learns from him that bad white men, dressed as Mexican soldiers, took to burning and looting area ranches and farms since the men were away to fight; these evil men also killed Stroud’s wife and son, and Carlos managed to dig them proper graves.  With revenge now front and center in Stroud’s mind, he takes Carlos to the nearest large town, Franklin,  with the aim of getting needed supplies and to then go in search of the men who destroyed all he owned and loved, and kill them.

Carlos and Stroud, arriving in Franklin.

Sounds simple, right? But once in Franklin, Lt. Lamarr  is there with new orders, to get the women, children, and the elderly away from Franklin and to safety.  Lt. Lamarr is in a good frame of mind to this task as it gives him days to spend with his wife, Kate(none other than Jeanne Cooper, aka Catherine Chancellor of The Young and The Restless! I watched TYATR all through my high school and college days-middle and late 1980s, and Catherine ruled the roost of Genoa City, WI on that soap opera so it was great to see her in this film, pre-TYATR days).  Then Lt. Lamarr sees Stroud and he bristles at seeing him, and lets the town leaders of Franklin know that Stroud is a coward and that he’s probably in town, up to no good!  Unfortunately for Stroud, the town leaders listen to Lt. Lamarr, and throw Stroud into jail where they are keeping all the suspicious guys in town until the women, children, and the elderly have gotten away.

Lt. Lamarr telling the folks of Franklin not to trust Stroud!

While in the jail, Stroud meets Dawes(Neville Brand), a drunk in the next jail cell.  Carlos is able to secretly talk to Stroud through a jail cell’s window, sees Dawes, and lets Stroud know that that drunk was one of the bad men who was a part of the gang that killed Stroud’s family.  Stroud decides to pretend he is on the side of the traitorous bandits and when the head of the gang, Jess Wade(Victor Jory) arrives to break Dawes out of jail, Stroud goes along and joins the gang in order to enact his plot of  revenge. In between the waiting of Wade’s arrival and his own arrest, Stroud is able to get one of the women leaving Franklin, Beth Anders(Julia Adams) to agree to take Carlos along with her.

Learning about Jess Wade and the gang from Dawes.

Joining up with Wade’s Gang.

As Stroud and the Wade Gang wait above a pass to attack, rob, and harm the wagon train of fleeing folks from Franklin, Stroud is able to fire a warning shot and the wagon train turns around and gets away safely.  This leaves Stroud open to a gun battle with Wade and his gang members and they shoot Stroud, thinking he’s dead and they leave him out in the open.  When the wagon train stops for a rest, Carlos leaves the wagon train to find Stroud and manages to get him back with help from some of the calvary traveling with the wagon train.  They take him to Beth Anders who is able to get Stroud back to reasonable health, all the while knowing he’s not a coward.

Beth caring for Stroud. Will love bloom here??

I’ll not say anymore about the film, as I want you to be able to find it and see how it ends for yourself.  In technicolor, well-directed by Budd Boetticher-he directed many fine westerns in the 1950s-it’s a fast film, that tells a good story. The story was created by Niven Busch and Oliver Crawford; screenplay by Steve Fisher and D.D. Beauchamp.  Look for character actor Chill Wills, as one of the leaders of Franklin who is against Stroud in the beginning and the  middle of the story.  Also, Guy Williams(Dr. John Robinson, the dad from the tv show Lost in Space) has a small military role in the movie.  Via TCM’s website, film critic Leonard Maltin called this film  a bit “offbeat, well-acted, and exciting.”  The film isn’t listed as being shown on TCM anytime soon. It aired on INSP channel back in April and it isn’t listed there to be re-shown anytime soon.  The film is available to purchase on dvd thru Amazon and TCM’s shop.  It used to be available to watch on Amazon streaming/renting but isn’t as of today.  However, Youtube has come through and the film is there for viewing!!!!

So watch a good western tale of good vs evil, of good being mistaken for evil, and good triumphing in the end.  Also, in researching a bit about the film’s beginning battle, there’s a cool website to see,

This blog post today is for The Favorite Code Film Blogathon, hosted by Peeps, or the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.  Be sure to visit their site for more posts about good films made under the Breen Code.

A Woman of Distinction, for The Rosalind Russell Blogathon

June 4th would have been actress Rosalind Russell’s 112th birthday.  In her honor, classic movie fan and blogger, Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood decided to host a blogathon beginning on June 4th and running through June 6th.  Be sure to visit her blog to read other great pieces about Rosalind Russell and her career.

I’ve seen quite a few of Russell’s films.  She was adept at dramatic roles and excelled in comedic ones and I liked her in comedic roles the best.  For this blogathon, I decided to write about one of her romantic comedy roles, from 1950, A Woman of Distinction.  For this film, Columbia Pictures brought in Rosalind Russell as the female lead and Ray Milland as the male lead.  Good support for the leads came in the form of Edmund Gwenn, Janis Carter, Francis Lederer, Mary Jane Saunders.  Direction was by Edward Buzzell and screenplay was by Charles Hoffman and Frank Tashlin.


Russell is Dean Susan Manning Middlecott, of Bennington College, in New England.  She lives with her father, Mark(Edmund Gwenn) and her adopted daughter, Louise(Mary Jane Saunders).  Susan loves her family but she is absolutely devoted to her work for Bennington College and finding a good man to marry has not ever been on her agenda.  Her father would love for her to find a good man to marry, but he keeps that opinion to himself, sometimes.

Enter Dr. Alec Stevenson(Ray Milland),  an Astronomy professor from Great Britain,  who is soon departing for Boston to give a lecture for the Pomeroy Lecture Bureau.  He tells the publicist for the Bureau, Teddy Evans(Janis Carter) about a locket he was given  by a Mr.  Benoit, whom he met in a concentration camp.  Mr. Benoit begged Dr. Stevenson to deliver the locket  to  Dean Susan Middlecott, so Alec intends to do that after he gives his lecture.  Sensing a sensational way to advertise the Bureau and its lecturers’ series, Teddy concocts a story that Alec is delivering the locket to Susan because they are having a secret, passionate romance.  Teddy gives that story to the British and US press.

When the locket/secret romance story spreads fast through the public, Susan is outraged! The board of Trustees of Bennington are not amused and Susan decides to take the train to Boston to confront this Dr. Alec Stevenson and demand a retraction.  Susan doesn’t realize that Alec has just left her campus in an unsuccessful attempt to give her the locket, and he’s back on the same train she is on to Boston.  They both disembark the train at the same time, and when Susan learns who that man next to her is, she is so mad she whacks him with her purse.  Of course, Teddy is nearby and makes sure that moment is caught on film, and gets that picture into the papers with more news of the secret romance and is it on the rocks?

From that moment on this film becomes a screwball comedy of miscommunications, Alec and Susan getting to know one another better at the family cabin through dad Mark’s matchmaking skills, a college dance, an arrest, and that pesky board of Trustees raising up their solemn heads.  Will the two academics find love? Will Susan lose her position at Bennington? Will the locket get delivered?Will the rumors about Alec, Susan, and Susan’s adopted daughter get squelched?  I won’t be revealing the answers as I want you, the reader, to seek out this film and view it for yourself.  From time to time, TCM does air it so you’ll just have to keep checking their monthly schedules;it’s not set for a June showing, that I do know.  I did a search of the film on Amazon and all that came up was a VHS copy so that gave me the feeling that the film hasn’t been issued on a dvd yet?  I’m not sure, but that’s my inkling.  An article at tvguide said it is available for streaming, but which service it didn’t say.

So, good luck in your hunt for this fun rom-com, and watch Russell and Milland and Gwenn at their acting  best.

I’ve included a fun clip via TCM showcasing the humorous meeting of the two leads and what happens after they find out who the other one is.


1939’s Lady of the Tropics and Mr. Breen’s Influence

A couple weeks ago I decided to watch a new to me film that I had recorded off of TCM.  The film was MGM’s 1939 production, Lady of the Tropics, featuring two of the most photogenic stars at that time, Hedy Lamarr and Robert Taylor.  I decided to watch this film looking for plot points that a censor probably would voice concerns about in this film.  Mr. Joseph Breen, in 1939, was the main enforcer of the Hays Production Code, which until 1934, the Code was used by movie studios in a haphazard fashion.  When Mr. Breen took over monitoring the Code, Hollywood studios had to adhere to the Code or face large fines.  I was honored to be asked by the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society to write a post about the “Breening” of a film and this is my humble effort.

Lady of the Tropics, screenplay by Ben Hecht, is a romantic drama that loosely follows the plot of a Puccini opera, Manon Lescaut. In the film, Hedy Lamarr is the beautiful and exotic Manon De Vargnes.  Saigon is her home, and she is a half-caste,born to a French father and a Vietnamese mother; both parents deceased.  Manon longs to live in Paris and to travel the world but due to her status in Vietnamese society, she has never been able to obtain a passport.  Two local men want to marry her: a rich Asian nobleman and Pierre Delaroch(Joseph Schildkraut), who is also a half-caste like Manon.  Delaroch is obsessed with Manon and as he has great political power in Saigon, she is wary of him and doesn’t want to anger him, yet she doesn’t love him and is doing her level best to keep him at arms length, never giving him cause to think she would ever agree to marry him.

Bill Casey(Robert Taylor) is a handsome, happy-go-lucky playboy, on his last dime.  He has agreed to travel the tropics with his latest girlfriend, Dolly Harrison(Mary Taylor) and her  wealthy parents on their yacht.  When they arrive in Saigon and Bill meets Manon, all thoughts of Dolly fly out of Bill’s head and it is Manon that he is entranced by, attracted to, and wants to give up bachelorhood for.  He has some work to do in convincing Manon to marry him as she has seen it before all too often: foreign men coming to Saigon, falling in love with local women, marrying the local women and having to travel away to their home countries, and leaving their Vietnamese wives behind forever.

Aw, you just want to root for these two to fall in love and marry!!

Hedy got to wear some gorgeous hats in this movie.

In order to explore how this film was probably “breened”, I will have to reveal spoilers so if you want to see this film without knowing how it ends, stop reading!

When Bill meets Manon, he asks her what does she do for a living. She tells him, with little explanation, that she is a temple dancer.  In doing a bit of research about Vietnam, it is a predominately Buddhist country and it has a lot of Buddhist temples.  Some women would be at the temples offering foods to the monks that lived at the temples, and others would dance at the temples for various religious ceremonies.  We never see Hedy Lamarr dance but we see stock footage of Vietnamese dancers at Buddhist temples, and Hedy in a gorgeous outfit with a very fancy headdress, as she sits at a temple in one scene.  Also tied in with Bill’s question is a hint about prostitution. Manon has a lot of people whispering about her behind her back and this gives her an aura of mystery and it does make the audience wonder how she supports herself.  When Vietnam became a French protectorate, and even before that event happened, it wasn’t uncommon for European men to have been in Vietnam for their businesses(shipping) and to then take on Vietnamese women for wives.  The families of these women encouraged such marriages as the European husbands were usually more financially stable than the Vietnamese families.  The marriages usually only lasted for a few years and then the European husbands would go back to their home countries, marry again, and not look back at their Vietnamese wives and children, if any had been born to the unions. Often, the Vietnamese wives of  European men would move on and marry Vietnamese men.  When Christianity arrived in the country, with active missions’ groups, these marriages were frowned upon and declared not much better than prostitution.  This new view caused conflicts among the Vietnamese as they had previously viewed such marriages from a purely pragmatic point of view.  In the film, it is revealed that Manon had a French father and a Vietnamese mother, but it isn’t dwelt on too much, no implication that her mother was a prostitute or Manon is illegitimite.  More is made of her being a “half-caste”, or an Euro-Asian.  Also with the Delaroch character being half-caste too, it adds to the plot points of him being interested in possessing Manon for himself, and to Manon’s problem of not being able to obtain a passport.  I think that in going over this film, Mr. Breen probably suggested that the plot revolve around the half-caste point and not dwell too much on the dubious marriages between French men and Vietnamese women.

Lamarr in her Buddhist temple garb and headdress.

Bill succeeds in wooing and winning Manon into marrying him.  He vows that he’ll help her obtain a passport and then they will travel to Paris for a honeymoon, and visit some other European cities before settling in the good old USA.  Manon is truly optimistic that this time, she will get a passport and be free of Saigon, and the half-caste issue forever.  What she and Bill don’t count on is Delaroch’s ruthlessness in keeping a passport out of Manon’s hands.  Bill tries and tries for weeks to obtain Manon a passport, and then the problem of having no more money to live on enters the scene.  Without Bill’s knowledge, Manon goes to Delaroch to beg him to let Bill find good work to which Delaroch agrees, arranging for Bill to hire on with a rubber tree plantation that he owns.  He agrees if Manon will become his mistress and desperate to help Bill, Manon agrees to this arrangement.  When Bill returns for a visit from the plantation, he is deliberately set-up to find clues that reveal to him what Manon and Delaroch have been doing while he was away.  Delaroch has finally let Manon gain a passport as a “thank you” for her services.  Angry with Manon, Bill denounces her, threatens to find Delaroch to kill him, and tells Manon to get lost.  He doesn’t care that she has a passport now.  Manon sorrowfully begs Bill’s forgiveness, but he won’t give it to her.  So, Manon gets a gun, finds Delaroch at a dinner party at his fancy house, lures him to the garden, and kills him.  Then she returns to the apartment she and Bill shared, and shoots herself in the stomach.  Bill has time to return to Manon, not knowing she has shot herself, he professes his love for her and forgives her, and urges her to hang on  that they can make it to a ship he has tickets for, and he’ll get her medical care on the ship.  Sadly, Manon won’t be able to make it to the ship, and as she smiles knowing Bill does love her and has forgiven her, she dies in his arms, as the passport slips a bit from her hand.

There is a lot to unravel here: deceit, adultery, anger, bitterness, murder, suicide, confession, forgiveness, and death.  In 1939, characters in films couldn’t get away with murder unless it was self-defense.  Adultery was certainly going to see guilty characters getting a punishment.  Suicide was also not going to be celebrated.  One of the film’s characters, a Catholic priest, Father Antoine(Ernest Cossart) has a line about Manon, that is foreshadowing as to what will happen to her eventually.  Father Antoine utters the line to Bill, as a way of trying to warn him that marrying Manon may bring about troubles.  He tells Bill that Manon may seem beautiful and happy on the outside but deep inside of her is darkness and turmoil.  When Manon is dying of her gunshot wound, Father Antoine arrives to try and give her the last rites, and he tells Bill that now Manon is free from all the turmoil she has known in her life.  Delaroch receives his comeuppance at the end of a gun for pressuring Manon into being his mistress.  Manon dies for her consequences of adultery and murdering Delaroch.  Part of me wanted to see her and Bill manage to get to the ship and a doctor and to sail away happily ever after, but since I knew this film probably had had Mr. Breen go over it with a fine-toothed comb, a happy ending was not to be.  I also thought poor Robert Taylor! Greta Garbo had died in his arms at the end of Camille and now Hedy Lamarr at this film’s end!!

TCM will  air this movie again this summer, on July 19th at 7:30 am Eastern time/6:30 am Central time.  So tune in or record it to see two beautiful people trying to create a marriage in a sea of problems.


This was my post as a guest blogger at the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society and their series about films, Mr. Breen, and censorship in the movies.  Be sure to visit their site and read more interesting articles about classic films!




The Jean Harlow Blogathon: 1932’s Pre-Code Three Wise Girls

Tomorrow, March 3rd, is the late actress Jean Harlow’s birthday.  In honor of her short-lived career and stardom(she’s often referred to as Hollywood’s first blonde bombshell) Virginie at The Wonderful World of Cinema and Samantha at Musings of a Classic Film Addict  are hosting a Jean Harlow Blogathon.  Be sure to visit it and read more about Jean Harlow, and her rise to stardom in the 1930s, and about her life.

Jean was born in 1911 in Kansas City, MO to a well-to do family; her dad was a dentist and mom stayed at home to care for Jean.  When Jean was a kid, her family moved to CA, and Jean began to try and make it in the movie industry.  If one peruses IMDB as I did, it’s pretty evident that young Harlow began to be in a lot of silent movies as an extra in 1929, even using her birth name, Harlean Carpenter.  1930 changed her career course for the better when as Jean Harlow, she was cast in Hell’s Angels.  Cast often in roles  to better show off her curves and allure, when 1932 came, Jean asked to be cast in a film as “the good girl”.  She got her wish in the film I viewed recently, Three Wise Girls.

Jean’s co-stars were Mae Clark, Marie Prevost, Walter Byron, Andy Devine, and Jameson Thomas.  Directed by William Beaudine and released by Columbia Pictures, this bit of a frothy film was directly aimed at women with a morality tale, of sorts, thrown in the mix for good measure; Agnes Christine Johnson adapted the story for the screen.

Cassie(Jean Harlow) lives in her hometown, Chillicothe(MO, OH, IL, IA, or TX? I couldn’t find out) and works at the drugstore as a soda jerk.  She lives with her mom, dad is deceased, and there seem to be no other siblings around, as none are mentioned.  Cassie seems to be a popular town cutie and decides to make the move to NYC to get a better paying job so she can buy her deserving mother some luxuries; mom is seen drooling over some lady in town’s brand new car.

Cassie contemplating a move to NYC

Cassie lands in NYC, is sharing an apartment with a friend, Dot(Marie Prevost), who types for a living, working out of the apartment.  Dot just wants to find an honest guy to fall in love with and settle down.  Cassie is still wanting a better paying job as all she’s done in NYC is work as a soda jerk, leaving three such positions fighting off her bosses’ passes.  She decides to look up another Chillicothe girl, Gladys Kane(Mae Clark), who has made good as a model for the fashionable House of Andre.  Gladys is thrilled to see Cassie again, helps her to  get a modeling job at Andre’s, and then introduces Cassie to her married lover, Arthur Phelps(Jameson Thomas).  After meeting Cassie for the first time, and with Gladys in another room getting dressed for dinner, Phelps has the gall to make a pass at Cassie!  Instead of telling Gladys, Cassie just does her best to get out of  a dinner invitation with Gladys and Phelps, and vows to not get involved with married men.

Wowing Andre with a lingerie number!

Phelps sneaking a glance at Cassie while Gladys is oblivious!


Cassie does meet a gentleman of means, Jerry Dexter(Walter Byron, who does a great job of hiding his British accent).  When he is recovering from a hangover and wanders into the pharmacy where Cassie is working as a soda jerk, Jerry witnesses her fighting off a crude pass from an oaf of a boss.  As she prepares to stomp out of the shop and is  giving her notice, the boss snidely tells her she won’t be paid for that final week.  Jerry gallantly steps in and makes the boss pay her.  Cassie and Jerry meet again and there is an immediate attraction and love is in the air, until Cassie’s dreams are crushed when she discovers Jerry is also married!!!!!  A side plot involves Dot finding her  man, Jerry’s chauffeur(Andy Devine).

Studio publicity still with Byron and Harlow.

Cassie and Jerry, falling in love!

I won’t give away any more of the  plot as this film is available in its entirety on Youtube and one can view it there.

While not a great film, it does give Mae Clark and Jean Harlow some beautiful costumes to model.  The film is a good example of a pre-code picture as there are several scenes of Harlow undressing or standing around in her undergarments(no nudity) and the discussions of being another man’s mistress aren’t shied away from.  So if you want to view the lovely Jean Harlow in a “good girl” role, view Three Wise Girls.


1938’s The Lady Vanishes for the Hitchcock Blogathon

My post today is for the Third Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films.  Please visit Maddy’s site and read other great posts written by Hitchcock fans and classic movie fans! I love a mystery movie with a good, suspenseful plot, great acting, and at the end of it all, glad that I spent the time given to watching it.  About 5 years ago while perusing TCM’s monthly schedule, I noticed an Alfred Hitchcock film that I had never heard of before, 1938’s The Lady Vanishes, so I recorded it and viewed it and it fit into my category of movies that I absolutely love.This film was director Alfred Hitchcock’s last film to make in his native England before he sailed across the pond to begin making films in Hollywood.  Set in 1938 Europe, mainly aboard a train, with a bit of some eccentric travelers, the story’s heroine sets out to prove herself right about another passenger who mysteriously vanishes.

Iris Henderson(Margaret Lockwood) has been on a European holiday but has to head back to England via a train, her fiance awaiting her there.  Due to an avalanche covering an area of the train tracks, the passengers have to disembark and spend the night at an Inn.  Among the fellow passengers is an elderly, retired governess, Miss Froy(Dame May Whitty), two rabid cricket enthusiasts Charters(Basil Radford) and Caldicott( Naunton Wayne), a music professor Gilbert Redman(Michael Redgrave), a businessman and his mistress, Mr. Todhunter(Cecil Parker) “Mrs.” Todhunter(Linden Travers), and a gentlemanly Dr. Hartz(Paul Lukas).  At the Inn, Iris befriends Miss Froy, is irritated by the music professor and his loud folk music, and is accidentally hit on the head by a falling flowerpot-ouch! Could that flowerpot have been meant for one of the other travelers?

Margaret Lockwood(Iris) looking over the script with director, Alfred Hitchcock.

Iris having a toast with her friends before her departure for England.

The next day dawns, the tracks are cleared, and it’s all aboard for the trip to England.  The first 30 minutes or so of this movie is more of a comedic tinged portrayal of mostly British travelers just wanting to get back to jolly old England and frustrated by the avalanche, by the Inn, etc.  However, once the journey really begins, so does the mystery and a sinister air.  Iris spends part of the trip having a lovely visit with Miss Froy and they share tea together. After Iris takes a nap, she can’t find Miss Froy and other passengers claim they haven’t seen an elderly lady aboard the train!  Did Iris dream Miss Froy up?  Could this be a reaction from the hard hit on the head?  Iris won’t accept the other passengers words and is determined to find Miss Froy.  She is able to convince the music professor, Gilbert, to help her in her quest and it doesn’t hurt that he’s pretty handsome, and that she is pretty beautiful-sorry fiance in England!  I can’t divulge too much more about the plot, but a nun(Catherine Lacey) will be involved, a musical tune, and the cricket obsessed travelers, the adulterous businessman and his mistress-all will join forces for the good with Iris and Gilbert.  Dr. Hartz? Not as gentlemanly as we first assume-watch out for him!

THE LADY VANISHES, Dame May Whitty, Margaret Lockwood, 1938, meeting on a train.

Iris asking other passengers if they have seen Miss Froy.

Gilbert and Iris need to be very wary of Dr. Hartz!

The intrepid British travelers, on the side of good.

Yes, Hitchcock makes his cameo in the film so be on the lookout for him.  The Lady Vanishes was based on the 1936 book The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White, and the screenplay was written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder.  It has been ranked as the 35th best British film by the British Film Institute.  TCM airs it from time to time and it will air on April 19th at 11:15 p.m. eastern time/10:15 p.m. central time.  Be sure to tune in for a great Hitchcock film, before he took his career West!

Made in 1938 Blogathon: The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse

As I’ve been wanting to jump back into blogging on a more regular basis, I decided that  signing up to participate in blogathons would be a good way to accomplish this goal of mine in 2019.  Hence, my post for the great blogathon looking at films made in 1938, hosted by Crystal and Robin, at their respective sites: In The Good Old Days of Hollywood and Pop Culture Reverie.  Be sure to visit their sites to read more great posts by other classic movie fans/bloggers!  

Turner Classic Movies often airs The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, and for quite a few years, I’d see it in the schedule and think, “meh”, passing it by and not tuning in to see it, nor recording it.  2018 rolled into view, and when I saw the movie was showing again I decided to finally watch it.  I am very glad that I did as it is a very good film and certainly didn’t deserve my “meh” attitude about it!

What a strong cast this film has! Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor, Humphrey Bogart(before he was a big name), Allen Jenkins, John Litel, Donald Crisp, Henry O’Neill, Gale Page, Maxie Rosenbloom, and a bit part for Ward Bond.  Directed by Anatole Litvak with a script helmed by John Wexley and John Huston(yes, that John Huston).  Warner Brothers crafted a fine film, originally based on a play that was a  hit in London, starring Sir Cedric Hardwicke(before he was a Sir.)

Edward G. is Dr. Clitterhouse, a doctor to the wealthy of NYC.  He has done well for himself financially, has a thriving practice, yet he has a fascination with criminals-what makes them tick? Why do they commit crimes? His fascination with these people is bordering on obsession.  In order to learn more about criminals, he decides to commit crimes himself(not too wise, but then there’d be no play or film if he stayed on the side of right!) specifically  jewelry robberies.  He records how he feels physically after each burglary-blood pressure, heart rate, etc.  but wishes to have a larger pool of criminals to study than just himself.

Through his friend, Inspector Lane(Donald Crisp) he finds out that the biggest dealer of stolen jewelry in NYC is one Joe Keller.  Dr. Clitterhouse make an appointment with Joe, not revealing who he really is at their meeting.  Dr. Clitterhouse is pleasantly surprised when he discovers that Joe is a “Jo”(Claire Trevor) and there is an instant attraction between the two.  The doctor tells Jo that he is a Professor who wants to be in on the gang’s activities, he has ideas how to run the jewel robbing enterprise so Jo agrees to letting him join the gang.  Dr. Clitterhouse tells his nurse(Gale Page) that he is taking a 6 weeks vacation to cover for his real activities with the gang.

Edward G. Robinson (Dr. T.S. Clitterhouse) is fascinated with the working of the criminal mind. He joins a gang of crooks headed by Humphrey Bogart (Rocks Valentine) for whom Clitterhouse masterminds a series of heists. With Maxie Rosenbloom (Butch) and Claire Trevor (Jo Keller).

The leader of the jewel robbers is Rocks Valentine(Humphrey Bogart) and he is immediately suspicious of the Professor, notices how Jo seems enamored with the Professor, which adds jealousy to Rock’s emotional mix, and he becomes resentful how the rest of the gang is ready to adopt the Professor’s new ideas.

Rocks has had it with the Professor!!!

This film has a great love triangle, subterfuge, double-crosses, and the ultimate crime, murder.  I am not going to reveal any more of the plot as I want you, dear reader, to find this film and view it for yourself.  It really is a good  crime tale with a twist ending, too.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, TCM does air this film quite a bit, so keep a check on their schedule and catch it then.  It was on Amazon Prime for instant view but is now only available there to purchase on dvd, and on Youtube there are several trailers for the film, and a recording of the film as a radio show.



Caption for image 2 of this post is credited to