Archive for September, 2013

My Classic Movie Pick: Magnificent Obsession

Sometimes when wanting to view a classic old movie, I just want to see one that is heavy on the drama and romance.  A movie  that most guys just want to avoid, but a movie  most women would enjoy.  My pick is that type of movie, 1954’s Magnificent Obsession.   Based upon Lloyd C. Douglas’s hugely successful 1929 novel, it was made into a film in 1935 and again in 1954.  I saw the ’54 version not that long ago and decided to make it my pick for today.   This version was directed by Douglas Sirk, a well-known director in the 1950s.  Sirk  skillfully directed  overly dramatic material without it becoming too over the top and hammy.  His films  especially appealed to women and were very popular.   1954’s Magnificent Obsession stars Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson(his first role to put him on the map, so to speak), Barbara Rush, Agnes Moorehead,  Otto Kruger, Richard Cutting, Gregg Palmer, Paul Cavanaugh, Rudolph Anders,Fred Nurney, and Judy Nugent.

MO poster 1

The movie opens at a lake( much of the outdoor scenes were filmed at Lake Arrowhead and Lake Tahoe in California) where rich playboy Robert Merrick(Rock Hudson) is racing  his newest purchase, a speedboat.  He foolishly pushes the boat to race at faster and faster speeds which lead  to a horrible crash.  Emergency personnel save him from the wreckage and by using a new device, a resuscitator, his life is saved.  Merrick  is driven via ambulance to the hospital.

Merrick racing in that speedboat!

Merrick racing in that speedboat!

Merrick's newest toy

Merrick’s newest toy

The movie then  cuts to  Mrs. Helen Phillips(Jane Wyman), wife of Dr. Wayne Phillips, the most well thought of man in town.  Helen is driving home from a shopping spree with her stepdaughter, Joyce(Barbara Rush).  Dr. Phillips was a longtime widower when he met Helen and after a whirlwind courtship, they married.  Helen is happily telling Joyce about the dinner party she is about to host to celebrate her 6 month wedding anniversary to Dr. Phillips.  Before their car arrives home, a state patrol car speeds past them,  rushing the resuscitator machine to Dr. Phillips house.  Nurse Nancy Ashford (Agnes Moorehead) rushes out of the house urging the patrolmen to get the machine inside quickly!  After the patrolman leave, we see them sadly shake their heads as Helen and Joyce arrive at the house.  As Helen and Joyce enter the house, Nancy and Dr. Dodge(Richard Cutting) sadly inform them that Dr. Phillips had a massive heart attack and has just passed away!  Joyce, after her initial shock, asks why wasn’t the resuscitator used on her father as he kept one at the house due to his heart problems.  Nancy informs her that a boating accident victim needed it and right after it was taken to aid that victim, Dr. Phillips had his attack.  Joyce asks about the boating accident victim and is it  is Robert Merrick.  She immediately scowls, as Robert Merrick is known in the town as the spoiled rich brat who does whatever he wants and doesn’t care who he hurts.

Merrick is having to recover from his injuries at the very hospital that Dr. Phillips started and was in charge of.  He is rude to all of the staff there, but puzzled as to why they are treating him so coldly.  Finally, Nancy the nurse tells him of Dr. Phillips death, and that if Merrick hadn’t had that boat accident, Dr. Phillips might very well still be alive.  Merrick, going against the hospital’s advice, sneaks out and decides to walk home to his bachelor mansion.  Meanwhile, Helen and Joyce have had a meeting with the late Dr. Phillips lawyer who informs them that there is almost no money for either of them and that the hospital may be in danger of having to shut down.  Helen and Joyce are puzzled by the tons of mail that Dr. Phillips received, thanking him for monetary donations.  One lady does show up to give  a check to repay a debt for a large sum of money that the doctor had given her and her family years earlier.  Dr. Phillips always refused debts being paid back to him, so Helen decides to also refuse the debt payment and tells the lady just to pass that money on to someone else who could benefit from it.   Helen then drives herself home and she finds Merrick standing dazed in the road.  She doesn’t know who he is, he doesn’t know who she is, but she gives him a lift just the same.  Merrick, finding Helen pretty, decides to flirt with her, which makes Helen increasingly uncomfortable.  She finally tells him that she is a recent widow, and who her late husband was.  Merrick immediately apologizes to Helen and tells her to let him out of the car.  He is feeling very guilty realizing that his being saved by the machine kept Helen’s husband from being saved.  After Merrick gets out of her car, he faints!  Helen manages to return him to the hospital and finds out that this young man in her car is Robert Merrick!

Helen giving this stranger a lift

Helen giving this stranger a lift

Helen finding out who that guy in her car is!

Helen finding out who that guy in her car is!

Merrick is finally released a week later and as he is feeling terrible about Dr. Phillips and all, he writes Helen a check for $24,000 for her to use for the hospital.  Helen is cold to Merrick and refuses the check, angrily accusing him of wanting to assuage his guilt away.  After a night of drinking, Merrick crashes his car in a yard.  He goes to the homeowner to apologize for what he’s done, and is greeted by artist Edward Randolph(Otto Kruger).  Randolph doesn’t get mad at Merrick, treats him with respect, and suggests that Merrick sleep off the alchohol on his couch.  In the morning, over a nice breakfast he’s made for Merrick, Randolph reveals that he was a great friend of Dr. Phillips and explains to Merrick the late doctor’s way of living: from Matthew 6: 1-4: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  So when you give to the needy, don’t announce it with trumpets as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.    This scripture hits Merrick like a two-by four and he begins to change his ways.  We see him help out a taxi driver he knows with a monetary gift, then urges the man not to tell anybody where the money came from.  Merrick also keeps running into Helen Phillips, and tries to explain to her his new way of living, that it came from her husband’s example.  Helen, irritated that Robert Merrick yet again won’t leave her alone, tries to avoid him by clamboring out of a taxi and into the street, not seeing an oncoming car.  The car bumps Helen, down she goes, and is left blind!!!  Robert Merrick is overcome with more guilt and tries to see Helen at the hospital as she recovers but Joyce informs him that he is no longer wanted.

Merrick about to learn about Matthew 6:1-4

Merrick about to learn about Matthew 6:1-4

We next see Helen learning to maneuver her way around her home and down to the beach by the lake to enjoy the afternoon sun.  A neighbor girl, Judy, likes to come by and read the newspaper aloud to Helen.  During one of these daily excursions, Judy notices a man nearby and tells Helen that a man is close by and introduces him to Helen.  Robert Merrick is that man, and he doesn’t want Helen to know it’s him so he lies, and says he is Robbie Robinson.  Weeks go by and Robbie, Helen, and Judy continue to meet each afternoon.  Helen has become very fond of Robbie, and he of her.  She informs him that she will soon be visiting 3 famous doctors in Switzerland and they might be able to perform an operation that will save her sight.   What Helen doesn’t know is that Merrick(Robbie) has been secretly funding the hospital so it can stay open, has paid off her home so she won’t have that financial worry, and has researched and found these 3 Swiss doctors!

Nancy and Randolph marveling at Helen's recovery

Nancy and Randolph marveling at Helen’s recovery

Falling in love during the lake visits

Falling in love during the lake visits

Telling Robbie about her upcoming trip

Telling Robbie about her upcoming trip

Helen, with Nancy and Joyce, travels abroad to meet the doctors:  Dr.  Fuss, Dr. Giraud, and Dr. Laradetti( Anders, Nurney, and Cavanaugh.)  After much testing, they determine that restoring Helen’s sight won’t happen.  Back at her rented villa,  Helen is about to cry herself to sleep, when  Merrick bursts in the front door!  Helen, thinking it is Robbie, is overjoyed.  Joyce is at first horrified, as she can see it’s really Merrick, but then she relents when she realizes that they love each other.  After a whirlwind evening of dinner and dancing, Merrick reveals who he really is to Helen, she says she already knew and has fallen in love with him.  Merrick  proposes and  the next morning he arrives  to marry Helen  only to  find out she and Nancy have disappeared!   Merrick searches endlessly for Helen unsuccessfully.  He then decides to become a doctor, for in that career,  he can continue to help people financially and secretly, the same way Dr. Phillips did.  Years go by, and he finds out from artist Randolph that Helen is living in New Mexico, but that she is in a coma!   Merrick rushes there to be with her, and after reviewing her medical charts, he decides it is the blood clot that caused her blindness now causing the coma.  None of the doctors at the hospital in New Mexico can do the operation, but Merrick just might be able to.  Will he operate on Helen and save her life?  Will he operate and she dies anyway?  Will her sight come back? Will she survive and they marry?  I am not revealing anymore of this movie as it will be on Turner Classic Movies on Monday, Sept. 30th at 6:00 pm (EST)/5:00 pm (CST).  Magnificent Obsession is also out on dvd, it’s on Netflix, and the trailers for the film are up on Youtube.

Merrick finding Helen in a coma!

Merrick finding Helen in a coma!

For a great romantic film, tune in to see Magnificent Obsession!  If your husband does agree to watch it with you, you must agree to watch an NFL game with him, or go fishing with him, or make him his favorite meal!MO poster 3 spanish versionMO poster 2, french version

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I’ve Created a Monster! Or Maybe a Future Dietician

Three years ago, our oldest daughter was a junior in high school and she was taking a class on child development.  One of the topics covered in the class was a unit on nutrition.  She had to write a report for the class and since our family loves the library, off we drove to the Jamestown Branch of the St. Louis County Library.   As our daughter was perusing the stacks she found a unique book to use in her research towards her paper.  It wasn’t a large book, just a simple paperback in an exact square shape, probably 7 in. by 7 in.  The book was colorful, as it was filled with photos of foods and meals;  a guide to foods and their nutritional values.  The book depicted name brand foods found in grocery stores and foods ordered  in popular American  restaurants.  The book was Eat This, Not That! .    The younger siblings liked looking through the book,  to see if they’re favorite candy was “ok” to consume or if it was on the “Not That!” list.  Our youngest, 7 at the time, really loved this book and last year, at the tender age of 9, he requested it for a Christmas gift!  My husband, after scanning our kids’ wish lists, asked me if I was sure that youngest son wanted that book and I assured him that it was the child’s number 1 request!  On Christmas day, the youngest excitedly tore off the giftwrap and plunged his nose into that book and our Monster was born!

I’m pretty sure later that day, he wandered into the kitchen and quizzed me as to what I was going to serve the family for Christmas Dinner, for the book, you see, has a section analyzing typical American holiday meals.  For example, a baked potato would be a better choice to serve one’s guests than a mashed potato concoction.  Lean Roast Beef is a great choice for a Christmas main course, not Prime Rib, which has too much fat.  I smiled and thanked him for his advice and went on with the meal’s preparations.

Our son’s reading of this book has been entertaining but it’s begun to drive his siblngs crazy.  At the grocery store, he is apt to point out that Cheerios are better than Golden Grahams, that Thomas’s bagels are better than Sara Lee’s, that Oscar Mayer Center Cut Bacon is better than any other brand of bacon, if one must eat bacon at all.  I have always loved Yoplait Yogurt and was discouraged to learn that it is actually one of the worst yogurt brands out there to consume!  Ben and Jerry’s ice creams contain more fat  than a double cheeseburger meal at McDonalds!   Thomas's bagelsCheetosBen and Jerry's ice cream

Eat This, Not That! is an interesting book, but I have had to put my foot down and tell our son that I am still going to buy certain products and will sometimes  ignore what that book says.  I am a choosy mother, and have always preferred Jif peanut butter over any other brand on the market.  As you have probably already guessed, it’s not the brand recommended in Eat This, Not That!  Slowly, our son has been getting the point.  However, through his guidance, I have made some changes in what we buy, and while Cheetos haven’t been bought in a while, pita chips are a new buy that the family likes and the Cheetos haven’t been missed.   Jif

Our third child, a son, went on a college visit last week.  I also went on the visit and  took the youngest with us, as he is home schooled,    After the talk that the parents sat through was over, and our future college students were returned to us from their program, we were taken to another building for a meet and greet with all of the departments at the school and we were given time  to meet the professors.  As we milled around waiting to talk to certain departments, the youngest found the Dietetics Department.  He mentioned his favorite book to the ladies at that table and they smiled and said how they all knew that book quite well.  They also said they hoped he’d be one of their students in the future!!  I haven’t exactly explored the career path of a dietician, how much do they make, but I do have vague ideas where they are employed at.  Who knows?  Those ladies may be right and we might have a future dietician in our midst!

I would lastly add, that if one of your children is interested in a topic, let them explore it to learn more about it.  Let them seek out information, with your guidance of course.  As a pediatrician once told one of our daughters, reading is good for your brain, it makes you smart.  So let the reading and researching begin, and just be ready to defend your favorite food products, if the book Eat This, Not That! enters your home!

My Classic Movie Pick: Headline Shooter

Poor Ralph Bellamy!  For some reason, he almost was always cast as the guy who loses his fiancee or girlfriend to someone else in classic movies.  Long before he played the evil Dr. Sapirstein in Rosemary’s Baby, FDR in Sunrise at Campobello, or Randolph Duke in Trading Places, he was usually playing bland, good guy characters in films.  That was  his part in 1933’s Headline Shooter, and this post is for this weekend’s Journalism in Classic Film Blogathon, hosted by two great bloggers, Comet over Hollywood and Lindsay’s Movie Musings.   Be sure to visit their sites to read more great posts by other bloggers on this interesting film topic.HS-Journalism blogathon

Headline Shooter was made in 1933 by RKO Studios.  It’s a  fast moving film that comes in at 65 minutes!  Try finding a movie of today that is that length!  Directed by Otto Brower, screenplay by Agnes Christine Johnston and Allen Rivkin, music by the great Max Steiner,  the film features Bill Gargan, Frances Dee, Ralph Bellamy, Jack LaRue, Wallace Ford, Betty Furness, Robert Benchley, Franklin Pangborn, Henry B. Walthall, and Dorothy Burgess.  Headline Shooter movie poster 1

Bill Allen(Bill Gargan), is a newsreel cameraman.   He is brusque, always on the go, ready at a moment’s notice to rush to the scene of a disaster to film it.  He thinks he is the best at his chosen career, and his ego is enormous.   Fellow cameraman, Mike(Wallace Ford) is his compatriot in the newsreel business.  Early in the film, we see Bill filming the disastrous effects of an earthquake and  meeting  Jane Mallory(Francis Dee), a reporter on the scene  writing about the earthquake.  Bill and Jane immediately irritate each other and then they  get wind of a story about a baby being delivered in an emergency room at a nearby hospital with no electricity available and they  jointly rush to cover that news story.   After the night’s news has been covered, Jane and Bill have softened up their opinions of one another and we can tell they are interested in each other, but Jane confesses to Bill that she is engaged to Hal Caldwell(Ralph Bellamy), a banker in Riverport, Mississippi and that soon she’ll be marrying Hal and giving up her journalistic career for one of domestic life in a sleepy, southern town.    After a few more “meet cutes” with Jane, Bill starts telling her that she should marry him and dump Hal and during one of these discussions, news of a brewery fire is sent to Bill and he rushes off to film that event, leaving Jane behind.

Ralph Bellamy as Hal Caldwell

Ralph Bellamy as Hal Caldwell

Bill Gargan and Francis Dee as Bill Allen and Jane Mallory

Bill Gargan and Francis Dee as Bill Allen and Jane Mallory

Three  events occur that  drastically affect Bill’s life.  First, his good pal,  Mike, is killed while filming the brewery fire, second, Jane has moved to Riverport in order to marry Hal, and third, Riverport just happens to get hit with a huge flood and Bill is sent there to film it for the newsreel company.  Hal agrees to drive Bill around the area in order for him to get some good shots of the flood, and Jane accompanies the both of them.  When examining a local levee, Bill and Jane discover the levee was poorly built and if it had not suffered from such poor construction, it might have held back the raging flood waters.  There is a prominent family in town, the Beacons, and Judge Beacon(Henry B. Walthall) begs Bill to not reveal anything about the levee.  The Judge’s son-in-law built it and the news would devastate the family’s reputation in Riverport.  Bill refuses to keep quiet about the levee and the Judge, so disgraced about that news getting out to the public, commits suicide!  All of this angers Jane, who was starting to have doubts about marrying Hal and giving up journalism, but she is  so mad at Bill, she recommits to marrying Hal and tells Bill to get out of her life!   The day before her wedding, Jane is contacted by a notorious gangster’s moll(Dorothy Burgess).  The moll is dying and she wants to make a deathbed confession to Jane, so that Jane will write a story about it for the newspapers.   The confession is about the gangster, Burnett, being a part of an unsolved murder.  To keep Jane quiet, she is kidnapped by cohorts of Burnett’s.  Bill gets information as to where Jane is being held by confronting Ricci(Jack LaRue), a gangster pal of Burnett’s.  After a shootout with gangsters, Bill rescues Jane and she admits  that she loves him and wants to marry him, not Hal(poor Ralph Bellamy!)

Bill and Jane, an immediate dislike!

Bill and Jane, an immediate dislike!

Bill confronting Ricci as to where Jane is being held

Bill confronting Ricci as to where Jane is being held

As I pointed out earlier, this is a 65 minute film so it goes by very quickly.  Scenes from a real earthquake,  factory fire, and flood were used in this film to good effect.  Bill Allen, the protagonist of this piece, is the hard-nosed news man;out to cover a story at all cost, this is his life.  However, when his friend dies covering that brewery fire, it gives Bill a bit of pause.  It forces him to slow down a bit and evaluate his life.  He realizes he doesn’t enjoy being alone and that he loves Jane.  He realizes he’d have to alter his life if he had a wife and eventually a family, that rushing off to cover the news and ignoring those closest to him in his personal life wouldn’t be allowed to continue.   Jane Mallory is a good reporter, capable and also wanting to cover the news well.  She enjoys her career a lot so when she announces her goal is to now marry a banker and retire from her career, it just doesn’t ring true to her character’s persona.  At the end, when we know she’ll marry Bill, we can happily imagine her keeping her career and being quite content as a working, married woman.

Headline Shooter is an obscure film.  It’s not been released on any dvds or even on VHS!   I only saw it a year ago because it aired on Turner Classic Movies.  Two scenes from the movie are on their page about the film and you can view them by clicking on this link:  http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/2906/Headline-Shooter/videos.html.   William Gargan, who seemed to have been heading for leading man status in the 1930s, inexplicably wound up playing second leads in the 1940s and was the lead on a  detective tv show in the 1950s, Martin Kane.   I admired  his portrayal of Sam Peters in Cheers for Miss Bishop, the lovelorn best friend of spinster teacher Ella Bishop,  and he was also praised by critics for his portrayal of Patsy’s father in  The Bells of St. Mary’s.  Gargan was also a nominee for Best Supporting Actor in 1940’s They Knew What They Wanted, which co-starred Charles Laughton and Carole Lombard.

Frances Dee, aka Mrs. Joel McCrea in real life, was also an actress who had lead potential in the 1930s but in the 1940s and 1950s,  mainly played secondary roles.  She too appeared on television shows from time to time.  She is best known as playing Meg in 1933’s Little Women, co-starring with Katherine Hepburn, and having the lead in the  Jacques Tourneur directed I Walked With a Zombie; sort of a modern take on Jane Eyre, but set in the West Indies with voodoo and eerie goings on.  Crazy title, I know, but actually a pretty good film!

For a fast-paced look at journalism and love, circa 1933, you’ll have to search hard to find it, but  look for Headline Shooter.   HS  movie poster 2

Publicity Still for Headline Shooter

Publicity Still for Headline Shooter

My Classic Movie Pick: The Best Years of our Lives

My husband is a chemical engineer.  Logic-driven, analytical thinker, understands all math with ease.  He isn’t as knowledgeable about Classic Movies as I am, but he knows who James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and Claude Rains are.  If he were to select a favorite classic film that he truly enjoys, he’d pick 1946’s The Best Years of Our Lives.  Directed by William Wyler, it won Best Picture, Best Actor(Frederic March), Best Supporting Actor(Harold Russell), Best Director(Wyler) and Best Screenplay(Robert E. Sherman) at the 1947 Academy Awards.  The Best Years of Our Lives poster 1

The Best Years of Our Lives is about 3 returning WWII veterans, coming back to their lives in a mid-sized American city, coming back to their loved ones, their friends, and hopefully, to their former jobs or careers.  The oldest veteran in our trio is Army Sergeant Al Stephenson(March), a man with a loving wife, two kids, a nice home, and a nice job waiting for him at the bank.  The second veteran is Army Air Corps Captain Fred Derry(Dana Andrews), a former soda jerk for a large drugstore.  Fred has an elderly father, stepmother, and a vivacious wife.  It’s pretty clear that after we see Al’s homecoming and then Fred’s, that Fred lives on the poorer side of town.  The third veteran is sailor Homer Parrish(Russell) who will be coming home to his parents, younger siblings, and the neighbor girl next door, but due to a horrific war injury, he is coming home without his hands, just hooks that he has skillfully learned to use.  We see Homer’s unease and nervousness about seeing his family for the first time with the prosthetic hooks.

The three veterans meet

The three veterans meet

When the three veterans meet, it is evident they didn’t know one another prior to leaving for the War but now they become good friends through their shared experiences of having served their country, having given up part of their former lives in order to fight, and the commonality of trying to adjust to their former lives.  Each goes through a personal battle to regain a foothold in American post-war society.  Al is older, his kids grew up while he was away.  His daughter, Peggy(Teresa Wright) is a college student now and his son, Rob(Michael Hall) is in high school.  He feels distant from them and from his wife, Milly(the outstanding Myrna Loy).  He also has to deal with his wanting to use alcohol too much in  numbing his pain, and clashing at the bank with his boss, Mr. Milton(Ray Collins) over  attempts to ease up on loan regulations for returning veterans.

A neat scene, all is too quiet and Milly leaves the kitchen to see Al standing there!

A neat scene, all is too quiet and Milly leaves the kitchen to see Al standing there!

Al embracing Milly

Al embracing Milly

Al reunited with Milly, and their kids, Peggy and Rob

Al reunited with Milly, and their kids, Peggy and Rob

Fred is warmly greeted by his father, Pat(Roman Bohnen) and his stepmother Hortense(Gladys George), but he notices that his wife, Marie(Virginia Mayo) is not at his father’s house to also greet him.  Pat informs his son that Marie moved out some time ago, that she decided to get her own place.  This news surprises and bothers Fred, as Marie never wrote him about her decision.  He gets the address for Marie’s new place and goes there to greet her, but she isn’t home. Through the course of the movie, we learn that Marie is quite the club hopping gal, that she isn’t happy with Fred’s job as a soda jerk as she wants him to earn more money, and Fred begins to have doubts about his quick, war-time marriage to Marie.

Fred's dad, Pat, and stepmom, Hortense

Fred’s dad, Pat, and stepmom, Hortense

At first, Marie is glad Fred is home

At first, Marie is glad Fred is home

Fred and Marie about to have one of their many arguments

Fred and Marie about to have one of their many arguments

Homer arrives at his home and his family eagerly rushes out the front door to greet him.  The neighbor girl, Wilma(Cathy O’Donnell) and her family are also there to greet Homer.  All are uneasy when they see Homer’s hooks, and his mother breaks down despite trying not to.  After unloading his gear in his boyhood bedroom, Homer decides he needs to get away for a bit and he heads down to his cousin Butch’s (Hoagy Carmichael) bar.  When he arrives, he meets Fred again, who has gone there to mull about he and Marie’s poor marriage.  Pretty soon, they are joined by Al, Milly, and Peggy.  The 5 of them have an enjoyable evening.  Homer catches a cab ride home.  Al and Milly offer to drive Fred over to Marie’s new place, but when Fred passes out due to too much alcohol, the 3 Stephenson’s decide to let him sleep it off in their guest bedroom.  During the night, Fred has a very bad dream and Peggy rushes to his side to help him.  It is then that Peggy and Fred start to develop feelings for one another, but both are cautious due to Fred being a married man.

Homer greeting his family and friends

Homer’s family uneasy about his prosthetic hooks

Explaining how the hooks work to Wilma

Explaining how the hooks work to Wilma

Everyone at Butch's Bar

Everyone at Butch’s Bar

 

As the movie advances from Butch’s Bar, the three veterans have their own personal mountains to overcome.  Peggy decides to inform her parents how she feels about Fred despite he being in a bad marriage.  Her parents try to counsel her that she really cannot know how a marriage really is between two other people and that she should give Fred space to work this out on his own.  Fred needs to decide what he wants to do career -wise, and what to do about Marie.  Homer needs to realize that Wilma loves him, whole-bodied or not.

Hoagy Carmichael doing what he did best!

Hoagy Carmichael doing what he did best!

Peggy listening to her parents advice about Fred

Peggy listening to her parents advice about Fred

The Wedding-very emotional scene!

The Wedding-very emotional scene!

The Best Years of Our Lives will be airing on Turner Classic Movies on Sept. 30th at 1:30 am(EST)/ 12:30 am(CST) so set that dvr machine!  It is also available to view via Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/The-Best-Years-Our-Lives/dp/0792846133 to either buy or see it on their instant viewing, it is available to rent through Netflix http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/The_Best_Years_of_Our_Lives/299970?locale=en-US,  and many clips of famous scenes are up on Youtube.  For an evening in the company of a very true to life tale of returning veterans, don’t miss seeing The Best Years of Our Lives!

One interesting  side note, Harold Russell was not a professional actor.  He was in the US Army during WWII and lost his hands during a training exercise at Camp Mackell, in North Carolina.  A defective fuse detonated on an explosive he was handling, and that is how he lost his hands.  After his recovery and rehabilitation, he was a student at Boston University and had appeared in a film made by the US Army, called Diary of a Sergeant, about the rehabilitation of injured soldiers.  Director William Wyler happened to see that film and cast Russell to play the part of Homer.

Cell Phones on my Mind

About a month ago, our oldest daughter, child number 2, was home for a weekend visit and wanted to upgrade her cell phone.  She was entitled to a free upgrade so off we went to the AT&T store in town, taking a number at the store, and  we waited.   (Note to self, avoid cell phone stores on Saturday afternoons!)  The salesman was nice, did his best to convince our daughter to upgrade to the new “5” which would mean not a free upgrade, and our daughter politely held firm, telling him no, she just wanted her free upgrade to a “4”.   While we were waiting, a mom near us was completing her transaction, getting a new phone for her son, who keeps on ruining his cell phones by dropping them into water, or throwing them around the house, packed away in his backpack  where the crashing into walls has damaged them.  She was agreeable to purchasing an insurance policy, of sorts, to go towards a future cell phone replacement for her careless son.  I wonder if her son would take better care of that cell phone if he knew that Mom wasn’t go to spend extra on an  insurance plan to help provide him with a new one?cell phones

My husband and I  have a different cell phone policy.  No youth in our home has a cell phone unless they pay for  one themselves, pay for their share of the cell phone  bill, and if they damage their cell phone and it won’t work, they’ll just have to save up their money and buy a new one.  That was the plan we came up with when our oldest reached his teens, and so far, we’ve stuck to that policy.  The first 3 children all found part-time jobs when they were 16, saved up their paychecks, and bought themselves their cell phones.   I know that our cell phone policy is not the “norm” as a statistic by the Pew Research Group that  I heard on ABC News last week stated that only 20% of American youth don’t have cell phones.  My 4 younger kids would say its them and the Amish!

I know of so many kids not even in their teens who have cell phones.  I don’t look at it as a  necessity for anyone who can’t pay for one themselves.  If my non-cell phone owning kids are staying after school for a club meeting and they forgot to tell me about it, they have been able to call me from the school’s office.   We have a pretty good communication system set up at home with a large family calendar and my planner book, so it is pretty rare when their Dad or I don’t know where each child is at any given time of the day and when they need to be picked up from an event.    I wonder how much American families’ phone bills would be lowered if the only people who owned the cell phones were the parents and the teens who bought their own phones?  Cut loose the elementary and middle school cell phone holders and free up some money that could be better used in paying down credit card debt or paying more on the mortgage.  The only people who would “suffer”, despite the whining from the under 16 age group, would be the cell phone companies.

Yesterday morning, while listening to the radio, I heard an ad, by AT&T, of a woman’s voice waxing poetically about their cell phone buying program for the poor, called Lifeline.   Towards the end of the commercial, she added that it was backed by the Federal Government and that if you get one and really don’t qualify, you will be  open to large penalties.  Well, from an article I read in National Review online in August, I know that’s  not exactly true.  A reporter who lives in New York City decided to see how easy it would be to get one of these free cell phones.  You can click on this link http://www.nationalreview.com/article/354867/me-and-my-obamaphones-jillian-kay-melchior  and read about  this cell phone adventure by Jillian Kay Melchior.  A warning, it’s a shining example of government waste at its best and it will probably irritate you to no end.   Will the next President of the United States be pressured to keep the free cell phones coming?  Probably so, as the program initially began in 1984 and it was greatly expanded to what it is now by the FCC.   It’s not fair, as these cell phones have been dubbed “Obamaphones”, but since the expansion has happened under President Obama’s tenure, like it or not, his name has been stuck to these cell phones ever since.

I do confess that I  like my cell phone.  It is an iphone, a 3, and I am also due for the free upgrade.  However, when I saw my daughter’s new iphone 4, I didn’t like it’s bigger size and I also noticed that the iphone 5 is even larger.  Are we going to revert back to the huge cell phones that look so funny on old tv shows and movies from the early 1990s?  I can relate very much to the spate of ads featuring comedian/actor Bill Hader having trouble in getting his cell phone to respond to his touch as he needs to get an upgrade and keeps putting it off.  That is me!  I keep putting the upgrade off because I like the size of my iphone 3 and I feel like it’s a sneaky trick on the consumers that our current cell phones will only last about 2-3 years and then they’ll start to get obsolete.Upgrade that cell phone!

Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for his telephone in March of 1876.  The first transcontinental call was made by Bell in 1915, calling his assistant, Thomas Watson, who was in San Francisco.  I often wonder what Mr. Bell would think of how far his invention has come and has changed with the times.  It is a very handy invention and I am grateful that he invented it all those years ago.  I would sum up my musings on cell phones to the parents out there.  Really consider if your child, under the age of 16, really needs that gadget of convenience?  After all, you survived without a cell phone for years, until they were invented and marketed to us.

Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell

My Classic Movie Picks: The Scarlet Letter

My post today is about a silent film and is also a contribution for the Gish Sisters Blogathon, which is being hosted this weekend by two great blogs dedicated to classic films, Movies Silently and Motion Pictures.  Click on the posted links to read more wonderful blogs by other classic film fans to learn more about these two talented actresses and sisters, who got their start during the silent film era.Gish Sisters Blogathon

In 1925, Lillian Gish was at the top of her game in the movie world.  She was a popular leading lady in dramatic films, popular with the movie-going audiences in America, and she decided that she wanted to make a film about Nathanial Hawthorne’s classic novel , The Scarlet Letter.  She approached the head of MGM studios, Louis B. Mayer about getting this film made.  He pointed out to Miss Gish that the book was on a list of banned books that would not be allowed to have movie versions of them created.  With this answer not deterring her in the least, Miss Gish wrote a letter to MGM’s head of censure, Will Hayes, and then she wrote letters to the heads of church groups and ladies groups around the country, pleading her case that a tasteful and important film about Hawthorne’s book could be made.  Miss Gish must have had a way with the pen. Her letter writing campaign worked and her project was given the greenlight.  TSL movie poster 1

Since this was Lillian’s project, she had a say in who the director would be and who the leading man would be.  For a movie about Puritan settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, she made two very interesting choices for director and leading man: she picked Swedish director Victor Sjostrom and Swedish actor Lars Hanson.  In her memoirs, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me, Miss Gish said she felt that the Swedes were closer in feeling to the actual Puritans than the Americans of 1926.   Frances Marion wrote the adapted screenplay from Hawthorne’s novel, and the cast also included Henry B. Walthall, Karl Dane,William H. Tooker, Marcelle Corday, Fred Herzog, Jules Cowles, Mary Hawes, James A. Marcus, and Joyce Coad as Pearl.

I had read Hawthorne’s book about 5 years ago and as I like to do if a movie is based upon a book, I like to find that movie and watch it.  I knew there was a movie made in 1995 starring Demi Moore and Gary Oldman, but when I read some of it’s reviews, I decided that that version was not the one I wanted to see.  Over and over again, I kept running into commentaries that said the 1926 silent version, starring Lillian Gish, was the best version of Hawthorne’s book.  Turner Classic Movies came to my rescue when they aired the movie during their “Silent Sunday Nights”, which is when the channel shows silent films.  I set the dvr machine and voila!  I was able to view this silent classic.

I, like a lot of movie viewers, had a distorted view of silent films.  They’re all about a damsel in distress, tied to railroad tracks by a villain in a black cape with a huge black moustache, and she’ll be saved by a handsome hero.  The acting will be hammy and over-demonstrative, and the music will be by either a piano or an organ.  I am now the first to admit that I have been wrong about silent films.  The acting isn’t hammy, the stories and plots are interesting, and many have been set to new orchestrations with various instruments that enhance the films quite a lot.

Gish’s The Scarlet Letter follows Hawthorne’s book well and the acting of it is superb.  Gish and her leading man, Hanson, do so much with their eyes as they depict their characters’ feelings.  Theirs is not an effort of histrionics but of subtle shifts, keyed in on their faces, and their eyes.  The sets looked very authentic, as did the costuming, and Sjostrom’s direction kept the telling of Hawthorne’s tale moving along at a good pace; it doesn’t get slow or draggy.

Lillian Gish as Hester Prynne

Lillian Gish as Hester Prynne

Swedish actor Lars Hanson as Rev. Dimmesdale

Swedish actor Lars Hanson as Rev. Dimmesdale

Gish portrays Hester Prynne, a beautiful Puritan woman who’s husband has been lost at sea.  She has had an affair with another man in the community, became pregnant, and has given birth to a daughter, Pearl.  The story opens with Hester being presented to the community, she standing on a platform holding her infant and refusing to name the father.  She is informed that she must stand there for 3 hours to suffer from her shame, and a huge, red letter A must be worn by her on the front of the bodice of her dress.  As Hester stands there, hearing the grumbling commentary from her neighbors, she notices her husband, Roger Prynne( Henry B. Walthall) in the crowd!  He’s not dead!  He, seeing his wife’s shaming, asks people near him in the crowd what has happened.  After he is informed as to why Hester is being punished, he vows to find the father of the child.

Hester being publicly shamed

Hester being publicly shamed

After the 3 hours are up, Hester is escorted from the platform back to the jail.  She has refused to name the father of her child to the one of the  local ministers of the community, Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, and after Dimmesdale leaves the jail, Hester’s long, lost husband Roger arrives to see her, saying  he is a doctor, who ‘d like to check on the health of the baby and the mother.  Once Roger is alone with Hester and has checked over Pearl, he tells Hester not to reveal who he really is, he’s taken a new name, Roger Chillingworth, and if she ever reveals who he is, he’ll cause the destruction of the child’s father.

Rev. Dimmesdale praying with Hester, after she refuses to reveal the father of her baby

Rev. Dimmesdale praying with Hester, after she refuses to reveal the father of her baby

The rest of the movie’s plot follows Hester and Pearl  and how their life evolves over time in the community, how some busybodies in the town think Hester is an unfit mother due to Pearl’s misbehavings and they seek to have Pearl taken away from Hester, Hester going to Rev. Dimmesdale for help in convincing those with authority not to take her child from her, and Prynne/Chillingworth, a diligent detective, figuring out the puzzle of who Pearl’s father is.  I don’t want to reveal all of the plot as I want the readers of this post to find the film and view it for themselves.  I cannot stress enough that this version of The Scarlet Letter, albeit a silent film, is the best version of the story ever made!

Asking Dimmesdale for help leads to deeper feelings being revealed!

Asking Dimmesdale for help leads to deeper feelings being revealed!

To add a bit more information about Lillian Gish, and her sister Dorothy, I thought I would mention the college that I attended, Bowling Green State University, in Bowling Green, Ohio.  The Gish sisters were natives of Ohio and BGSU(as the college is ususally referred to)decided in 1976 to dedicate a small theater in Hanna Hall after the two sisters.  Lillian was delighted with this effort and through the years that followed, she sent items from her and her sister’s careers to be put on display.  When Lillian passed away in 1993, many more items from Gish’s estate were sent to BGSU.  You can read all about the Gish Theatre here at this link.  I kick myself quite a lot that when I was a student there in the middle 1980s, that I didn’t take any advantage of visiting this on campus theatre nor did I take any advantage of expanding my limited viewings of classic movies, silent or talking.  I would like to visit the theatre the next time I am in Ohio, after I visit with my relatives first, of course!

Lillian Gish, probably at the time the theatre honoring her at BGSU was opened.

Lillian Gish, probably at the time the theatre honoring her at BGSU was opened.

Please seek out The Scarlet Letter, the 1926 version that Lillian Gish had the foresight, talent, and endurance to see that it was made.  It is a moving film, tenderly acted, a film made with real craftmanship.  The film did come out on a  dvd in 1997 so that would be one way to see it.  There have been some scenes from the film placed on Youtube, and  Turner Classic Movies  will also be airing the film on October 14th at noon est/11:00 cst.