Archive for August, 2013

My Classic Movie Pick: Mr. Mom

1983 is the year I graduated from Defiance Senior High School, in Defiance, OH.  My husband did too, and yes, we were highschool sweethearts(awww!)  Our 30th Class Reunion was held last weekend and unfortunately we couldn’t attend.  I have enjoyed looking at all the photos posted on facebook by classmates, and as I’ve been  looking  back on my memories of 1983, I started to wonder what were the Top 10 movies for that year?  With the help of the internet I found the Top 10 box office hits of 1983:  1. Star Wars-Return of the Jedi  2. Terms of Endearment  3. Flashdance  4. Trading Places  5. War Games  6.  Octopusssy  7. Sudden Impact  8. Staying Alive 9. Mr. Mom and 10. Risky Business.http://www.imdb.com/list/nYQNBmxb434/ Most of these movies I’ve seen( but not Staying Alive or Sudden Impact) and my definition of a Classic Movie is usually any movie made prior to 1965 so for today, with a fond look back at my graduation year of 1983, I decided to pick one of these films as My Classic Pick and Mr. Mom it is.Mr_Mom  poster 1 Mr. Mom is a very funny, comedy-drama about an engineer with the Ford Motor Company, who lives in a lovely suburb of Detroit  with his wife and 3 kids.  One sunshiny day, the engineer and 2 of his co-workers are told they are being let go from their jobs.  With this abrupt change in his life plans, the engineer decides he can be a stay at home dad while his wife goes out with her dusted off college degree and lands a job working for an advertising firm.  It sounds like a plot that has been explored before, even in a folk tale http://www.amazon.com/Gone-Is-Story-Wanted-Housework/dp/0816642435.  But there are many factors with the making of Mr. Mom that lifts it above a plot that’s been explored before: First, it was written by John Hughes, before he became well-known for his own movies that he created about teens and their families(16 Candles, Ferris Buehler’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, to name a few),  the talented cast of Michael Keaton, Teri Garr, Martin Mull, Jeffrey Tambor, Ann Jillian, Christopher Lloyd, all elevate this movie to Classic status.  Directed by Stan Dragoti, produced by Aaron Spelling, and released by 20th Century Fox, the movie did excellently at the box office, earning $60,000,000.

Michael Keaton is Jack Butler, hard-working engineer, loving husband to Caroline(Teri Garr), and a great dad to his 3 kids, Alex, Kenny, and Megan(played by Fred Koehler, Taliesin Jaffe, and twins Courtney and Brittany White.)  Jack is devastated and in shock when his boss, Jinx Latham(Jeffrey Tambor) calls him to his office to inform Jack that he is being let go from the Ford Motor Company.  Jack’s two work pals, Larry(Christopher Lloyd) and Stan(Tom Leopold) also get the axe at the same meeting.  Jack heads home and gives Caroline the news.  She is sad for her husband but tells him that she can dust off her college degree and go out there and get a job to support the family.  Jack agrees to this, saying he’ll be a stay at home husband and care for the house and kids until he finds another engineering job.

Caroline telling Jack not to worry, that she'll go out and get a job

Caroline telling Jack not to worry, that she’ll go out and get a job

At first, Jack is enthused about caring for the house and the kids.  Funny scenes ensue as he discovers he doesn’t do things like Mommy does, drives the wrong way into the elementary school parking lot when dropping Alex off for school-“You’re doing it wrong!” has become a catchphrase around our house, trying to mimic the grating voice of the PTA mom in charge of the parking lot entrance and exit at the school!  Another hilarious scene is poor Jack, trying to grocery shop with the other 2 children in tow, knocking over displays, causing a long line at the deli of frustrated housewives to grow behind him as he is so indecisive at making his purchase choices, and his embarrassment at having to buy feminine products for his wife and putting them on the conveyor belt for the cashier to enter their price into her register only to discover  that they need a price check, which the cashier loudly proclaims on her microphone for all the store to hear.

Jack embarrassed about purchasing feminine products

Jack embarrassed about purchasing feminine products

Jack's first day on the  homefront

Jack’s first day on the homefront

After these funny scenes of Jack settling into life as a househusband, he becomes depressed.  He stops shaving and grows a beard and he discovers soap operas, specifically The Young and The Restless.  The scenes where he is caught up in the soap opera’s plot and yells at Victor to watch out for Nikki always make me laugh because in 1983, I also watched that same soap opera, and it had a crazy story line going on about Victor and Nikki!  Jack also begins to befriend the other ladies in the neighborhood, all stay at home moms, and he teaches them to play coupon poker.  One of the moms, Joan(Ann Jillian) is attracted to Jack and she drops a lot of hints that she’d like them to have an affair! Meanwhile, Caroline is wowing her new co-workers at the advertsing agency where she now works.  Only she came up with an ad campaign for a tuna company that the president of the company liked.  Caroline’s new boss Ron Richardson(Martin Mull) is attracted to Caroline and we know that he is going to try and steal her away from her husband.  There is a picnic with Olympic style games held at Richardson’s home for all of his employees and their families and despite being younger and in better athletic shape than Richardson, Jack has to curtail his abilities at the Olympic games and let Carolyn’s boss win the events.  Jack can also see that Richardson is interested in his wife and this leads to some funny day dreams on Jack’s part, set to a Young and the Restless plot line of Joan trying to seduce Jack, Caroline walking in on them, Joan confronting Caroline about Jack, Caroline melodramitically arguing with  Jack and pulling a gun on him, and  Richardson popping in on the scene.  There is also another hilarious moment when Jack learns that Richardson is coming to his house to pick up Caroline and chauffer her to work, so Jack quickly dons a “macho” outfit, grabs a chainsaw, and spouts all kind of manly activities he’ll be doing while Caroline is at work and for Richardson to overhear! The tuna company wants the new ad filmed in Los Angeles and Richardson informs Caroline that she must accompany him there to help supervise the commerical’s look.  Caroline reluctantly goes with him, feeling down as it is Halloween and she won’t get to help take the kids to the houses for trick or treating.   Jack feels down, too, as he is a bit worried about  his wife going to LA with Richardson around.

Ann Jillian as the flirty Joan

Ann Jillian as the flirty Joan

Jack getting hooked on The Young & The Restless

Jack getting hooked on The Young & The Restless

Coupon Poker!

Coupon Poker!

Jack showing Richardson how macho and tough he is!

Jack showing Richardson how macho and tough he is!

At the company picnic at Richardson's estate

At the company picnic at Richardson’s estate

I won’t give away the rest of the movie, but there is a huge misunderstanding coming due to major miscommunication,  Jack has another meeting with his old boss, repair men and repair ladies all show up at the same time as major appliances are breaking down, and despite the foibles and miscommunications going on among the main characters in the movie, it all works out wonderfully in the end. Mr. Mom is availble at Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Mr.+Mom, either to purchase or view on their instant rental method, it is on Netflix, and hilarious clips of the movie are up on Youtube. Not a black and white classic film, not a film made before 1965, but a classic comedy with heart and a very talented cast,  go and see one of 1983’s Top Ten movies, Mr. Mom.    Mr Mom the endMr mom poster 2

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A Book Review: Princess April Morning Glory

Imagine if you had an uncle who was a world-famous actor, a bona fide movie star.  This uncle was kind and helpful and loving to your family as you were growing up.  When he suddenly passed away, you were very sad, yet you wanted to somehow pay a tribute to him.  With your talents in art and writing, you decide to create a book to honor this beloved uncle.  That is how the picture book Princess April Morning Glory came to exist.Princess April Morning Glory book jacket Letitia Fairbanks was the niece of famous silent film star Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.  As a child, Letitia’s Uncle Douglas was a huge movie star, probably the first “Action Hero” of the movies.  He was the first Thief of Bagdad, the first Zorro, and the first Robin Hood.  His films were box office hits, and Letitia probably had the opportunity to see her uncle in these movies.  When he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1939 at the age of 56, Letitia decided to honor her Uncle with a picture book, based upon a fairytale of her own creation and imagination.  She created and wrote the story, drew the delicate watercolor  illustrations, and  wrote the caligraphy for the text of the story.

Letitia Fairbanks, the niece who honored her late Uncle's memory with her book.

Letitia Fairbanks, the niece who honored her late Uncle’s memory with her book.

Douglas Fairbanks Sr., as The Thief of Bagdad, 1922 silent movie box office hit

Douglas Fairbanks Sr., as The Thief of Bagdad, 1922 silent movie box office hit

When Letitia’s book was complete and ready for the publisher, it was 1941.  Due to her composing the art work with watercolors, and silver and gold leaf, the printing technology of the day couldn’t reproduce the delicate illustrations without a substantial financial cost, so the book was printed in pamphlet form without the illustrations. Moving ahead to 2012 and Princess April Morning Glory was resurrected into a lovely picture book through the efforts and hard work of three individuals: Kelly Smoot Garrett, Danny Garrett, and Amanda Letitia Millner-Fairbanks.  Kelly Smoot Garrett was Letitia’s stepdaughter, and with the aide of Amanda Letitia Millner-Fairbanks, she being Letitia Fairbanks granddaughter, the two ladies got the manuscript ready for publishing.  Danny Garrett, Kelly’s husband, an accomplished artist in his own right, used digital technology to reproduce the delicate watercolor illustrations that Letitia had created so that this time, the illustrations would be alongside the manuscript in the proper picture book format.

An example of the delicate and beautiful illustrations in the book.

An example of the delicate and beautiful illustrations in the book.

Princess April Morning Glory is a charming story.  A young fairy princess, April Morning Glory, is tempted as all are at times, to think that the grass is greener on the other side.  Ignoring the warning of her friend the Blue Butterfly, the princess crosses the magic boundary that separates the Enchanted Kingdom from The Great World.  Once she has crossed that boundary line, Princess April Morning Glory regrets her decision, but she has to go on a journey to find out how she can get back to her loving family in the Enchanted Kingdom.  A kindly wizard informs her that in order to return to her family, she must do 3 good deeds.  Princess April Morning Glory, with her trusted friend, the Blue Butterfly, sets out on her mission of doing 3 good deeds, but as in every fairytale, there is an evil presence, the wicked fairy Misery.  She will try to thwart the Princess in her quest to get back home.

An example of the illustrations added to the caligraphy text in the book.

An example of the illustrations added to the caligraphy text in the book.

This is a lovely picture book, especially to cuddle up with one’s children and read to them before their bedtime.  The illustrations are beautiful and so is the caligraphy.  Letitia Fairbanks even drew delicate, tiny illustrations to help add to the beauty of the  caligraphy that she used for the text of the story.  With her knowledge of Hollywood and her Uncle Douglas’s career, it is fun to look at the illustrations of the characters and note some of their similiarites with actual classic movie stars.  Fairbanks did admit that she based the character of  Prince Chivalry on her cousin, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.   The Wicked King in the story resembles actor John Barrymore, grandfather of actress Drew Barrymore.   To me, the evil fairy Misery sort of resembles Marlene Dietrich, with those sharp cheekbones.  The wise wizard looks like Claude Rains, and at the end of the book, we have an illustration of Princess April Morning Glory all grown up, and that reminded me of Lana Turner!  Of course, it could also be conjectured that it was inspired by Mary Pickford, the author’s late Uncle’s second wife, and an early contender for the title America’s Sweetheart, for her successes in silent and early talking films.

Letitia's cousin, actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr., her inspiration for Prince Chivalry in the book.

Letitia’s cousin, actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr., her inspiration for Prince Chivalry in the book.

For more information about this delightful picture book, please visit PrincessApril.com.  Information is also available about the book at Amazon.com.  With the holidays approaching, this would make a great gift, especially for the child who loves to read and/or loves to be read to.  It would also make a sweet gift for that Classic Movie fan in your life!  To also learn more about Letitia’s Do Good 3 Deeds, visit www.Do3GoodDeeds.com

My Classic Movie Pick: Penny Serenade

Penny Serenade is one of my favorite classic films and it contains the only  role for which Cary Grant was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award.  (He lost to Gary Cooper in Sergeant York.)   This movie has comedic moments, romance, heartbreak, and hope.  If you do see it, have a box of kleenaxes with you!Penny Serenade poster 1

Penny Serenade was released in 1941 by Columbia Pictures.  The film was directed by George Stevens, screenplay by Martha Cheavens and Morrie Ryskind, and the film stars Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Edgar Buchanan, Beulah Bondi, Ann Doran, Leonard Willey, Wallis Clark,Walter Soderling, Edmund Elton, 1 year old twins Jane and Joan Biffle, and Eva Lee Kuney.

The film opens with Julie Adams(Irene Dunne) asking her friend Applejack Carney(Edgar Buchanan) to turn off the record he had just put on the record player.  Julie and Applejack are standing in an apartment which is  all in disarray as many items have been packed up for an obvious move.  The song that had begun to play was “You Were Meant for Me” and Julie explains to Applejack that she is leaving Roger(Cary Grant) and that she doesn’t want to listen to that song.  After a few moments of quiet reflection, Julie turns the record back on and we then  see the movie from a series of flashbacks, all set to  recorded songs that meant a lot to Roger and Julie in the  earlier, happier times of their relationship.

Julie listening to the song and recalling happier times.

Julie listening to the song and recalling happier times.

We see how Julie and Roger met, at a record shop where Julie worked.  We see them on dates and falling in love.  Roger had told Julie he was going to always be a confirmed bachelor but we see him relenting when the newspaper he works for wants him to work for 3 years in their Japanese news bureau.  Roger realizes that he can’t live without Julie in his life and so they marry.  When Julie arrives in Japan some months later, she gladly tells Roger that they are expecting a baby.  Unfortunately, an earthquake strikes one day and Julie is trapped in their destroyed home, with debris lying on top of her.  She is rescued, but the accident has caused her to lose the baby and the doctor also informs she and Roger that future pregnancies won’t be happening for them.  Depressed and despondent, the couple re-settle in California(the movie opens in San Francisco) and Roger, with a small inheritance, has bought a small-town newspaper, the Rosalia Courier-Press, where he and Julie can live in the small apartment above the newspaper’s office.  Their good friend, Applejack Carney, agrees to come on board and work for the newspaper.

An early date at the beach-teasing Roger about his fortune cookie message, which contradicts his bachelor status.

An early date at the beach-teasing Roger about his fortune cookie message, which contradicts his bachelor status.

Roger welcoming Julie to  Japan.

Roger welcoming Julie to Japan.

Seeing the sites in Tokyo.

Seeing the sites in Tokyo.

Trying on Japanese style footwear.

Trying on Japanese style footwear.

Time goes by and the couple decides that they could adopt a child.  After mailing  a letter requesting to be adoptive parents, the director of the local orphanage, Mrs. Oliver(Beulah Bondi) comes by for a visit.  Mrs. Oliver is at first dismayed by Julie’s cluttered approach to housekeeping but she is glad to see that the apartment has an adorable room set up as a nursery.  Julie and Roger inform Mrs. Oliver that they would like to adopt a 2 year old boy because that would be the age of their baby that they lost due to the earthquake and accident.  Mrs. Oliver tells the couple that at that moment a 5 week old baby girl is available for adoption, and after they go to the hospital and see the baby,  Julie and Roger relent and are permitted to be the baby’s parents on a 1 year probationary period. There are many ups and downs in that year of parenting.  Julie is very nervous about giving the baby, whom they’ve named Trina, a bath and in a moving and tender scene, good old Applejack takes charge and teaches the two nervous parents how to bathe a baby.

Mrs. Oliver, Orphanage Director

Mrs. Oliver, Orphanage Director

Meeting the 5 week old baby girl.

Meeting the 5 week old baby girl.

The very nervous, new parents.

The very nervous, new parents.

Applejack teaching how to give an infant a bath.

Applejack teaching how to give an infant a bath.

The newspaper is floundering financially and despite Roger’s efforts, the business may be lost and so might  the chance to be appointed Trina’s permanent parents.  It is in a scene with the judge presiding over the adoption that Grant performs his Best Actor nominated scene-grab those kleenaxes!!! 8 years fly by and Trina is preparing for her part as the star in the school’s Christmas program.  The newspaper is still in business, not rolling in buckets of money for Roger and Julie, but enough for their family of 3 to live on.

Roger confronting the judge about adopting Trina.

Roger confronting the judge about adopting Trina.

Julie receiving the news that Trina is their daughter for good!

Julie receiving the news that Trina is their daughter for good!

Trina as the star in the Christmas Pageant.

Trina as the star in the Christmas Pageant.

Behind the scenes of Penny Serenade: Edgar Buchanan and Eva Lee Kuney.

Behind the scenes of Penny Serenade: Edgar Buchanan and Eva Lee Kuney.

Tragedy soon strikes again, and I won’t reveal anymore about the movie’s plot because I want viewers to seek it out!  There is a happy ending, I can reassure you of that! Penny Serenade will be aired on September 30th at 6:00 a.m.(EST)/5:00 a..m.(CST) on Turner Classic Movies so set that dvr machine.  It is also available on Amazon.com  and it is also available to rent through Netflix.   For an excellent classic movie to view, especially to see Cary Grant’s award nominated performance, don’t hesitate to see Penny Serenade.

A tagline to advertise Penny Serenade

A tagline to advertise Penny Serenade

A French poster for the film.

A French poster for the film.

My Classic Movie Pick: The Tall T

I volunteered to write a blog for the Summer Under the Stars blogathon hosted by two great sites dedicated to classic films: Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence and Scribehard on Film.  The hosts of these two sites brilliantly decided to host a month-long blogathon that parallels the great actors and actresses featured each day for the month of August on  the Turner Classic Movies cable channel.  Be sure to click on the links to read other great posts by other bloggers who also love classic movies!   I volunteered to focus on actor Randolph Scott, and specifically the great action/Western The Tall T.  Summer Under the Stars Blogathon

The Tall T was  directed by Bud Boetticher, produced by Harry Joe Brown, and the  associate producer was the film’s star, Randolph Scott.  The idea for the film came from an Elmore Leonard story that he wrote in 1955 for Argosy magazine, titled The Captives.  Burt Kennedy wrote the screenplay adaptation of Leonard’s story and the film was distributed in 1957 by Columbia Pictures.  In  glorious technicolor, the movie was  filmed on location in the rugged locale of Lone Pine, California.  Besides Randolph Scott, the cast includes Maureen O’Sullivan, Richard Boone, Henry Silva, Skip Homeier, Arthur Hunnicutt, John Hubbard, Robert Burton, Christopher Olsen, and Fred Sherman.

Randolph Scott is Pat Brennan, a down-on-his luck ranch hand, who has decided to travel to the town of Contention in order to see his old boss, Mr. Tenvoorde, the owner of the Tall T ranch.  As he begins his journey,  Brennan stops by the stage coach relay station owned by Hank Parker(Fred Sherman).  After a  nice greeting and visit, Brennan promises Jeff, Parker’s son(Christopher Olson) that he’ll bring the boy a bag of candy on his way back from Contention.  Brennan is heading there because he  wants to buy a bull from Mr. Tenvoorde in order to start up his own ranch.  Tenvoorde likes to make bets and he bets Brennan that he can have the bull, a Brahma, only if he can break it first(ride it in a specific amount of time without falling off the bull).  If Brennan can do it, he gets the bull, but if he gets thrown off, he also has to give his horse to Tenvoorde.  Brennan takes the bet, rides the bull, but gets thrown off and lands in a watering trough!  Without his horse, Brennan begins the long walk back to the relay station.  Luckily, he meets up with Ed Rintoon(Arthur Hunnicutt), a stage coach driver he knows who has been hired to drive a private coach to Bixby for newlyweds Willard and Doretta Mims(John Hubbard and Maureen O’Sullivan).  Rintoon welcomes Brennan aboard the coach, to sit shotgun, of course, and agrees to take him to the relay station.

Landing in that water trough!

Landing in that water trough!

Without his horse, Brennan has to travel by foot.

Without his horse, Brennan has to travel by foot.

Arthur Hunnicutt, as Rintoon, stage coach driver.

Arthur Hunnicutt, as Rintoon, stage coach driver.

Hitching a ride to the relay station.

Hitching a ride to the relay station.

When the coach gets to the relay station, Brennan calls out to Parker and Jeff but there is no answer.  Finding that odd, Brennan is standing up on the stage coach’s roof when he and Rintoon here a low, gravelly voice order them to throw down their guns.  Rintoon glances down at his rifle near his feet and he makes a grab for it only to be gunned down by a young man who suddenly appears from the relay station building.  Another man, the speaker, appears, as well as another younger gunman.  It is Frank Usher(Richard Boone) and his gang, Chink(Henry Silva) and Billy Jack(Skip Homeier).  They inform Brennan that they have killed Hank Parker and his son Jeff, and that they intend to rob the coach.  It is at this point that newlywed Willard Mims pokes his head out of the coach to inform the outlaws that his new bride is the daughter of the richest man in the state and that wouldn’t it be better to hold his wife hostage and he personally will deliver a ransom note to his father-in-law.

Usher telling Brennan that he killed Parker and Jeff.

Usher telling Brennan that he killed Parker and Jeff.

Usher and his gang telling Brennan their robbery plans.

Usher and his gang telling Brennan their robbery plans.

The Tall T baddies Chick and Billy Jack.

The Tall T baddies Chick and Billy Jack.

Mims doesn't stand a chance against Chick and his guns.

Mims doesn’t stand a chance against Chick and his guns.

The actors do a great job with their parts showing their characters to be people with deeper feelings and complexities than just the on the surface good folks vs.  bad folks.  With Mims’s  offer, we see him for what he is, a sniveling coward who only married his wife for her fortune.  The bride, Doretta, is plain and in her middle thirties so she jumped at the chance to marry instead of dying an old maid.  Usher is evil, pure and simple.  So is his gang, one sneaky and conniving and one trigger-happy and jumpy.  Boone plays Usher without giving the audience any reason to have sympathy for him.  Yet, his character always wants to talk to Brennan, as if Brennan is an example of what he, Usher, could have been, if he’d made better choices with his life.  Doretta and Brennan have to find ways to survive being held hostage by these three; luckily they camp near a cave that provides the two of them protection and a chance to make plans to outwit their captors.  Brennan, a confirmed bachelor, shows that chivalry still lives with his care of Doretta and deeper feelings grow between the two of them.

Brennan realizing he has deeper feelings for Doretta.

Brennan realizing he has deeper feelings for Doretta.

Usher, talking too much about his life, to Brennan.

Usher, talking too much about his life, to Brennan.

Randolph Scott lived a very interesting and somewhat charmed life.  Born on January 23, 1898 in Virginia but raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, he was the second of 6 children, born to George and Lucille Scott.  Randolph’s father was an administrative engineer at a textile mill.  Randolph and his siblings went to private schools and Scott excelled at sports.  When WWI arrived, Scott was 19 and he enlisted in the Army.  He was stationed in France as an artillery observer with the 2nd Trench Mortar Battalion, 19th Field Artillery.  After the war, Scott came back to the states and enrolled at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.  He aimed to play football there but a back injury ended his football career.  Next, Scott enrolled at University of North Carolina, to major in textile engineering, but ended up dropping out due to a lack of interest in that field.  His father helped Randolph land an accounting job at the mill where he worked.  In 1927, the acting bug bit Randolph Scott and he gave up the accounting job and moved to Hollywood to try and make it as an actor.  His father happened to know Howard Hughes through previous business dealings so with the introduction letter from his father to Hughes, Scott was able to snag a bit part in a movie, 1928’s Sharp Shooters.  After a couple more bit parts, and a part in The Virginian(rumor is that Scott helped star Gary Cooper speak with a  southern drawl), famed director Cecil B. Demille suggested to Scott that he get some stage work under his belt.  Scott listened and soon found parts to act on stage with The Pasadena Playhouse.

Scott’s earlier movies ran the gamut.  He was cast in dramatic movies, comedies, war movies, adventure movies, a fantasy/horror film, and even a couple of musicals-he was Fred Astaire’s buddy in those two films, not needed to dance or sing.  As Scott aged, he decided to focus his acting in Westerns, as he liked making that type of film and it was a wise decision.  He made many westerns in the 1950s and 1960s and most of them did quite well at the box office.  Scott excelled at portraying the quiet, strong man, willing to do the right thing, even if it was going to be the hardest thing to do.  For a full list of Scott’s films, check out the link on Imdb.  One other interesting fact I found out in researching Randolph Scott is that he was under consideration for the role of Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind!  Oh if only he had gotten the part!  Scarlett would have had a real dilemma in trying to choose between Scott and Gable!

For an excellent western to view, to see Randolph Scott excell in a role that he did best, tune in on Monday, August 19th at 8:00 ET/7:00 CT when Turner Classic Movies airs The Tall T, in tribute to Randolph Scott day, as part of their Summer Under the Stars.

Randolpoh Scott in his later acting years.

Randolpoh Scott in his later acting years.

Randolph Scott in the 1930s.

Randolph Scott in the 1930s.

My Classic Movie Pick: Bachelor Mother

For a light-hearted romance comedy, one couldn’t pick a better  movie than 1939’s Bachelor Mother, which stars Ginger Rogers, David Niven, and Charles Coburn.  The true subject matter, that of an abandoned baby, is a serious one but deftly handled in this film.  Bachelor Mother Rogers portrays Polly Parrish, a hard-working and clever shopgirl for the John B. Merlin and Son Department store in NYC.  The need for employees is great as the Christmas shopping season is right at hand, yet Polly has just learned that her position will be cut once the holiday is past.  On her lunch break, she sees an abandoned baby placed on the steps of an orphanage and she rushes to stop the baby as it is about to roll down the steps and land in the street.  At that moment, a worker at the orphanage opens the front door, and seeing Polly with the baby, assumes that  she is the mother.  Polly protests that she is not the mother and walks away after handing them the baby.  The workers decide to track down Polly and they find out she works at the department store.  While looking for her there, the “Son” in the store’s title, David Merlin(David Niven) is told about this unwed mother shopgirl and decides to find out how the store can help her out in her situation.  He arranges for Polly to keep her job.  Polly’s landlady gets involved when she offers to babysit the baby while Polly is at work, so being unable to convince anyone that she is not the baby’s mother, Polly decides to take the baby in and become his mother.

Polly learning to care for and love the baby.

Polly learning to care for and love the baby.

Polly denying that she is the mother.

Polly denying that she is the mother.

The comedic part of the film is that the store’s owner, J. B. Merlin(Charles Coburn), is tired of his playboy son’s ways and wants him to settle down and get married and provide him with some grandchildren.  David’s character undergoes the most change as we see him in the film’s beginning content with his playboy lifestyle until he meets the wise and pretty Polly.  It is fun to see the impact her character has on his and how this starts the wheels in turning him away from his carefree existance.  There are mistaken identities, a disgruntled stock clerk who wants to use Polly’s predicament in order to blackmail David Merlin and all of these shenanigans add up to a fun movie viewing experience.

J. B. hoping that this baby is really his grandson!

J. B. hoping that this baby is really his grandson!

David checking in on Polly and the baby.

David checking in on Polly and the baby.

Bachelor Mother was distributed by RKO Studios.  It cost the studio $500,000 to make the film and it earned almost $2,000,000 in box office profits.  Directed by Garson Kanin, screenplay by Norman Krasna, which actually came from a 1935 Austrian-Hungarian movie, The Little Mother, written by Felix Jackson.  Bachelor Mother is available via Amazon.com, there are several scenes including a fine summing up of the movie’s plot by a fan on Youtube, and on Saturday, August 24th, Turner Classic Movies will air it at 4:30 pm(ET)/3:30 pm(CT).

A second Bachelor Mother publicity still.

A second Bachelor Mother publicity still.

Publicity still for Bachelor Mother

Publicity still for Bachelor Mother

Straddling that Education Fence

In 1996 when our oldest was going to be a kindergartner, the Ferguson-Florissant School District decided to begin all-day kindergarten.  That was a disappointment to me.  My first teaching job was teaching kindergartners  and I knew from first hand experience that a half-day of school was better physically and mentally for a 5 year old child.  I saw this new move to have all-day schooling for 5 year olds in a cynical light-my tax dollars would be paying for someone else’s daycare.  Meaning, that parents putting their babies in daycare could now expect to only have to pay for before and after school care for their new 5 year olds, instead of paying for all- day day care, which would lighten up their family budgets a bit.  With that announcement made, and a request for an option to allow parents to only send their children to 1/2 day if they still wanted that option shot down, we decided to take the plunge and homeschool our son.

Homeschoolers at work.

Homeschoolers at work.

Telling the grandparents was the next step and for the most part, they were accepting of our decision.  We told them we would homeschool one year at a time, evaluating as we went.  With a degree in Education, the teaching part didn’t daunt me.  Perusing the awesome Rainbow Resource Catalog did as it was(and still is) chock full of so many curriculums for teaching the three R’s, art, music, pe, and educational games.  Figuring out a new family schedule was a bit of a challenge, but we soon fell into a rhythm of working on lessons after breakfast and morning chores were done,  a break for lunch and time to play, and then just a couple more lessons in the afternoon, when the preschooler, the toddler, and the baby would be napping.  Through those early homeschooling years, I reviewed lessons I had learned as a student myself, learned new things along with my children, and it was always rewarding  to see them learn to read.  It was also fun to get the question from each of my children when they turned 4 years old, “When do I get to do school?”  We also found fellow homeschooling families to go on field trips with and  found an amazing homeschooling support group in the North St. Louis County area to join.  When out running errands during a weekday with all of my kids in tow, we would always be asked by the clerks, “Oh, is this a day-off from school?”  I would reply that we homeschool and just about everytime, the clerks would tell me that their niece, aunt, sister, friend, homeschools their children.  That information told me that homeschooling had been growing since my journey began in 1996 and that it wasn’t just a fad.

Jumping ahead several years, our oldest informed us that he wanted to attend school.  With high school just around the corner, my husband and I decided to let him attend the local public school.  There were several excellent private schools in our area, but the tuitions were outside of our family’s budget.   Over time we have finessed our oldest’s request into letting our children enter public schooling for the 8th grade, then continuing on for high school.  I know this decision has shocked some of our homeschooling friends, and just surprised others.  We wanted our kids to be able to deal with other instructors’ schedules, work in group settings, learn to continue to do their best in a school setting, and not have all of that thrust on them for the first time when they entered a college classroom.  So far, our 4 who have been in public junior high and high school have done quite well,  The oldest son graduated from Hazelwood Central in 2010, the next, a daughter, graduated from Rolla High School in 2012. Son # 2 will graduate this coming May from Rolla High and son # 3 will be a 10th grader there.  Daughters 2 and 3(twins) will be 8th graders this year at Rolla Junior High,  their first venture into public school.  That leaves the baby, son # 4, my sole homeschooler, and he’ll be in 5th grade. ( In case any of you are skeptical, our oldest is a Marine and will be attending college via the GI Bill in 2014-15, our daughter is in college, an education major,  and son #2  is doing the college searches now.)

Public school class in action.

Public school class in action.

That is where I straddle the fence.  I have personally seen the benefits of homeschooling.  Having parents and siblings and then other relatives and friends be the main peer group for children is a great benefit.   Cuddling with one’s child on the comfortable sofa for reading and history lessons is a precious time.  Yes, there are tears at times, if the kids got into an “I can’t do this!” or an “I don’t understand this!” mode, so taking a break for a bit, or shelving that lesson to the next day, is a great option that homeschooling has over corporate lesson learning in a classroom of 22 students.

But at the same time, I am saddened when I read some articles supporting homeschooling that bash the hard working public school teacher and what they’re trying to accomplish.  Yes, in certain parts of the country, some public schools have adopted ridiculous rules and have decided to take on some radical ideas and have tried to teach them to their students.  Now and then one knows of a teacher who isn’t doing a very good job- my next  teaching post after kindergarten and a move to South Carolina was at a middle school, teaching 7th graders math and one of my co-workers, every Friday, just showed  his classes a movie for the day!  Never an educational movie, none that ever had anything to do with the subject he was to teach.  Why that was allowed, I’ll never know!  I would say  that his teaching method for Friday was the exception rather than the rule.  The majority of teachers I have worked with and know are very hard working individuals who love kids and want to help them gain the knowledge that has been decreed that they need to know in a specific grade or subject.

I think homeschooling works mainly because of the one-on-one teaching/learning experience.  Homeschooling parents can take their time getting through a new concept if their child doesn’t “get it” the first time.  A homeschooling mom can toss out a curriculum that isn’t working and try another one.    A public school teacher, having to stay on course due to testing schedules, doesn’t have that luxury of stopping and re-teaching a concept days on end until every student understands it. A public school teacher doesn’t have the authority to toss a curriculum that the students and she find unworkable.    I have often wished it could be this way, if public school teachers could have smaller classes to work with, say 10 students, and that way they would have an easier time of making sure all the students understand that new lesson before moving on,  but smaller class sizes would mean more classrooms, more teachers, and most school districts don’t have the resources or buildings to accomodate that idea.  Another idea I read about that is currently practiced in Japan, Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden is that   from Kindergarten through 6th grade the students have the same teacher.  That teacher receives the new group of students when they are 5 and is their teacher for all of those following years.  The teacher really gets to know each student’s strenghs and weaknesses, formulates plans to help each reach the needed academic goals each school year and I think that idea is one American public education should look into.

Straddling that Education Fence, I want to tell my homeschooling friends to keep up the good work that they are doing for and with their children, but please stop criticizing the public school teachers and what they are trying to do.  It is not an easy job, it is tiring but can be rewarding.  Not every public school is a den of evil with teachers out to get the kids and perform mind-control on them to turn them away from their parents’ values system.   I want to equally tell my school teaching friends that homeschooled children do get out of the house!  Socialization does happen, a lot, just not always with another group of 22 peers, but it happens on field trips, on the sports fields(lots of homeschoolers take part in youth league sports), in the scout troops, at dance class, music class, and out running errands;homeschooled kids learn to socialize with all folks from all age groups in a multiple amount of different settings.Public school funnyHomeschooling funny

I would sum this post up with the fact that the most successful students, whether homeschooled or attending a school, are the students with loving, attentive parents.    Children need to know that Mom and Dad value a good education, that they expect their children to work to attain one to the best of their abilities.  Parents who slack at the educating of their children unfortunately, ususally also slack at parenting skills period, and we have all seen the negative impact that this has on a society.

With the 2013-14 school year about to begin, I pray that all who I know with school-aged children, whether homeschooling parents or school sending parents, that this will be a wonderful, fun, yet hard-working school year.  May the kids be safe on all field trips, the travels around town in the family van or in the busses, and that all of us parents would stay alert and ready to aid our children in their educational endeavors, but to also let them do the work, and to grow in wisdom, discernment, and maturity.

My Classic Movie Pick: The Thief of Bagdad

Two years ago I saw that The Thief of Bagdad was to air on Turner Classic Movies, so I thought I’d view it as I had never seen that movie before.  When it was over, all I could say was Wow!  In doing more research about this 1940 Technicolor wonder from Great Britain, I wasn’t too surprised to read that both Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola agreed to do  voice commentary about the movie  on the dvd that was released by Criterion Collection in 2008.  The late film critic Roger Ebert was also a huge fan of this film.   As I watched, I also noticed that some of the characters looked like their animated counterparts in Disney’s Aladdin.  I would hazard a guess  that Disney had their animators study this movie prior to beginning their work on Aladdin.
Distributed by London Films, under the guidance of producer Alexander Korda, directed by Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, and Tim Whelan,  The Thief of Bagdad stars Sabu(teen actor from India) as Abu, Conrad Veidt(great German actor) as the villain, Jaffar, John Justin as Prince Ahmad,  June Duprez as the Princess, and Rex Ingram as the Genie of the Lamp.   The Thief of Bagdad movie poster 1

What left me with that wow feeling after viewing this film was:  all of the action and adventure teamed with  great special effects, an intelligent plot for a pure fantasy story, lush technicolor, beautiful scenic designs, Conrad Veidt as Jaffar and Sabu as Abu.  Veidt is wonderfully conniving and creepy as the evil Grand Vizier, Jaffar.  He wants to steal Prince Ahmad’s kingdom for himself, and that also means taking away the Princess, Ahmad’s true love.  Sabu, ( an Indian actor discovered at the age of 13 and who went on to star in British and American films in the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s) has fun with the role of a plucky adventurer, only out for his own protection and betterment before he meets Prince Ahmad, and together, they plan to get the kingdom back and save the Princess from Jaffar.  I only had two minor criticisms with the film:  Prince Ahmad and the Princess(we don’t learn her first name, she’s just referred to as her title throughout the entire film!)  John Justin, as Prince Ahmad, does an ok job of it, he just seems a bit stiff at times.  I also hated his pencil-thin mustache! It looked like one a 14 year old boy would try to grow.  At the end of the movie, it had been shaved off and I kept wishing it would have never made an appearance to begin with!  June Duprez is beautiful and it’s easy to see why Ahmad falls in love with her and Jaffar desires her, but she doesn’t have a lot to do in the movie beyond looking beautiful and/or distressed.

The film takes us to ancient Bagdad and Prince Ahmad is bored.   His Grand Vizier, Jaffar, sees this as an opportunity to get Ahmad out of the palace and to just take the kingdom for himself, so he convinces the Prince to put on the clothes of a beggar and to go out and mingle with the commoners, to see what they think of the Prince’s recent rulings.  While the Prince wanders around the city, asking for people’s opinions of the Prince, Jaffar successfully has Prince Ahmad accused of stealing and has him arrested and thrown into the dungeon, to be executed at sunrise.  A young thief, Abu, has also been thrown into the dungeon, but he sneakily steals the guard’s key to the cell and he and Ahmad are able to escape and they make their way to Basra.

Ahmad and Abu getting ready to tour Basra.

Ahmad and Abu getting ready to tour Basra.

Jaffar suggesting Prince Ahmad go out and meet the citizens of Bagdad.

Jaffar suggesting Prince Ahmad go out and meet the citizens of Bagdad.

In Basra, Ahmad  meets the Sultan’s beautiful daughter, the Princess,  as she is strolling in her garden.  It is love at first sight and unfortunately, Jaffar has arrived in Basra to meet the Sultan(Miles Malleson) and arrange his own marriage to the Princess!  Jaffar knows that the Sultan is childish and he presents the Sultan with a mechanical horse that when one sits on it, it will turn into a real flying horse!  After taking the horse out for a spin, the Sultan agrees  that Jaffar can marry his daughter.   The Princess learns of her engagement to Jaffar and runs away.  Ahmad and Abu meet up with Jaffar, who casts a spell on them both: Ahmad is now blind and Abu is now a dog and the spell won’t be broken until Jaffar holds the Princess in his arms.

Jaffar is determined to steal the Princess from Ahmad!

Jaffar is determined to steal the Princess from Ahmad!

It's love at first sight for Ahmad and the Princess!

It’s love at first sight for Ahmad and the Princess!
The Flying Horse that seals Jaffar's marriage deal with the Sultan's daughter.

The Flying Horse that seals Jaffar’s marriage deal with the Sultan’s daughter.

The Princess, meanwhile has been caught to be sold as a slave in a local market and unbeknownst to her, she is bought by Jaffar.  Upon reaching his mansion, she falls into a deep sleep that even Jaffar can’t wake her from.  Ahmad and Abu find her with the help of Halima(Mary Morris), Jaffar’s servant, who is jealous of the Princess and she tricks Ahmad into waking her.  Ahmad and Abu flee when Jaffar appears and later, Halima tricks the Princess into going on Jaffar’s boat by telling her there is a doctor on board who can cure Ahmad’s blindness.  Jaffar is actually on the boat and he tells the Princess about the curse and she reluctantly lets Jaffar hold her in his arms and immediately, Ahmad can see and Abu is not a dog anymore.

Jaffar telling about his curse on Ahmad and how it can be lifted.

Jaffar telling about his curse on Ahmad and how it can be lifted.

The rest of the movie is Ahmad and Abu’s adventures in trying to rescue the Princess and deal with the treacherous Jaffar.  There will be an ancient temple statue with a”seeing eye” ruby gemstone that Abu must retrieve and he will also have to deal with a giant spider!  Abu  will meet a Genie(delightfully played by Rex Ingram), and there will be  a magic carpet, and Jaffar has a murderous statue to present to the Sultan.

Abu on a magic carpet ride.

Abu on a magic carpet ride.

Genie meets Abu, his new master.

Genie meets Abu, his new master.

The Thief of Bagdad is a wonder of a film and enjoyable for the entire family to watch.  As I mentioned earlier in my post, it is available to purchase through Criterion Collection on Amazon.com, Netflix added it to it’s list in 2012, and some kind soul has put the entire movie up on Youtube.  Turner Classic Movies also airs it from time to time.  Seek it out, and say “Open Sesame!” for a great family film to view.

We love happy endings!!

We love happy endings!!