Archive for April, 2016

Number 4 Child Will be Flying Away Too Soon!

May 27th, 2016, will be an exciting and monumental day for our family.  Baby #4, our 3rd son, will be graduating from Rolla High School.  The maroon graduation robe is hanging in his room, hooked on top of the curtain rod, and every time I walk by his open bedroom door I am startled, as it looks like a figure is standing there, from what my

peripheral vision is seeing!   HS Graduation

Memories of this son’s childhood come flooding back to me a lot lately.  Without getting too personal, he was the easiest delivery, he potty-trained himself, and taught himself to read at age 4!  He just picked up our collection of Dr. Seuss books, and while I was homeschooling his 3 older siblings, he’d sit with those books on his lap and just figured out reading.   I also remember how this child liked to be a contrarian.  If the sun was shining and I said, “What a nice day out,”  he’d be quick to retort that it was a cloudy and stormy day!  When his siblings couldn’t wait to get out into the snow and sled or make a snowman, he was content to stay in the warm house.  I’ve always told him it won’t surprise me at all if he chooses to live in the Southern U.S. where snow and frost and ice are rare.

Truman State

Truman State University is his future spot for higher learning.  He wants to be a doctor and with the hard work he has put in at school to earn all A’s, plus all of the extra curricular activities where he has helped lead, the scholarships have been a wonderful reward.  He has mentioned wanting to work in the future with Doctors Without Borders, but for a pre-med student, that goal is a long ways off.

Fox and the HOund

This is my son who loved to watch Disney’s animated movie, The Fox and The Hound.  Over and over and over again, he’d ask to watch this dvd.  Of course, I’d let him as it meant a chance for me to tackle household chores uninterrupted, but I did get a bit tired of hearing it play on the tv.  I think a few days before he departs for college, I will have to pop this dvd in and watch it with him, and add in a big bowl of popcorn, and I might need the kleenax box nearby, too.

Before the final good-byes as he departs for this next chapter of his life, I hope he will know how proud of him his father and I are, how much we love him, and how rich our lives have been from God blessing our lives with him 18 years ago.

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Beyond the Cover: Books to Film Blogathon: Kings Row

I live in Rolla, Missouri, which is in the south-central part of the state.  1 and 1/2 hours northeast of Rolla is the city of Fulton, Missouri.   Fulton has two  claims to fame, as fame goes.  It’s the place where Winston Churchill, on March 5th, 1946, made his famous “Iron Curtain” speech at Westminster College.  Fulton’s second claim is that in 1940, former hometown boy, Henry Bellamann, published a novel titled Kings Row, which readers in Fulton soon figured out was based upon their town.   The novel angered the community because despite Bellamann’s disclaimer that Kings Row was a fictional place, and all of the characters were fictional, Fulton readers could depict their town from Bellamann’s descriptions, and also the citizens he described.  Bellamann’s novel was about a midwestern town, near the turn of the century, where outsiders perceive it as an idyllic place to live and raise one’s family, but in reality, the town contains evil people, hiding their evil secrets, and where the wealthy families mistreat the poorer ones.

Kings Row sign

After the anger lessened on Fulton’s part, Hollywood announced that Warner Brothers studio had bought the  film rights to Kings Row and in 1942 the movie reached America’s box offices.  Despite the lurid tale, Kings Row was a smash hit, and some film buffs say it contains the best role President Ronald Reagan ever played when he was an actor.  The film was also nominated in 1943 for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography, Black and White. Let’s dive into the film’s plot, shall we?    kings-row-ann-sheridan-ronald-reagan-everett

The film concerns itself mostly with a group of children, ages 10-11, who are occupied with most things 10 and 11 year olds would be occupied with: having fun, playing with their friends, school, and trying to please their parents and/or guardians(two of the boys are being raised by relatives, since both are orphans.)  There is Parris(Robert Cummings), Drake(Ronald Reagan), Cassandra(Betty Field), Randy(Ann Sheridan), and Louise(Nancy Coleman.)  We only see the children for half an hour into the film, and then it jumps ahead to their young adult years, when they’re in their late teens.  When we meet the children we learn that Parris is polite. sensitive, and curious.  Drake is a jokester and thinks he’s a lady’s man.  Randy is a tomboy.  Louise is obedient to authority.  Cassandra is weird and moody.  The change to late teen years brings about the fact that all five are good looking people with varying degrees of wondering what to do with their lives.

Cassandra and Parris

Cassandra and Parris

Randy and Drake

Randy and Drake

Parris has been raised by a wealthy grandmother(Maria Ouspenskaya) who immigrated from the Lorraine area of France.  Her husband began a successful nursery business outside of Kings Row, and she, Madame Von Eln, carried on with the business after she was widowed.  Owing to her ancestry, she has made sure Parris can speak and read and write in French and German, and she’s also raised him with excellent manners.  She has also insisted on his taking piano lessons.  When Parris is a teen, he begins to grow infatuated with Dr. Tower’s (Claude Rains) daughter, Cassandra.  Cassandra is pretty, and seems to be able to only open up and really talk when she’s with Parris.  However, her father is very strict with her and always keeps her at home, even pulling her out of school and homeschooling her when she turns 12.  Due to his actions, Cassandra really has no friends in Kings Row, other than Parris.   Cassandra’s mother(Eden Gray) is considered very odd by the townsfolk, as she never leaves the house, and can be seen in the living room sitting in a chair, or peeking out at passerby’s from curtained windows.  Parris cares deeply for Cassandra, even declaring he loves her.  He and Cassandra begin to secretly see one another under Dr. Tower’s nose; Parris had gone away to Europe for medical school, and came back to Kings Row, to study psychiatry with Dr. Tower’s help.

Mysterious Dr. Tower

Mysterious Dr. Tower

Drake, always the merry prankster looking for love, raised by an aged aunt and uncle, is very wealthy when they pass away and leave him the full of their estate.  Drake wants to marry Louise, but her father, Dr. Gordon(Charles Coburn) a severe man, doesn’t like Drake, thinks Drake is immoral, and tells Louise she can’t marry him.  Louise is too weak to stand up to her father, so Drake breaks off his engagement to Louise and after a while, begins to date Randy, the girl descended from Irish immigrant railroad workers, who lives on the wrong side of the tracks, literally.

Drake telling Dr. Gordon what he really thinks of him.

Drake telling Dr. Gordon what he really thinks of him.

Randy is very likeable, and very pretty.  She is full of common sense, has a good sense of humor, and is a hard worker; Drake couldn’t do better to date  and woo her.  Tragedy hits Drake twice: he finds out an unscrupulous banker has swindled him of his inheritance, and having to work for a living and getting a job in the rail yard, he is accidentally crushed by a boxcar.  SPOILER!!!   When Dr. Gordon, Louise’s father, is called in to treat Drake, he decides to punish Drake for all of his past moral failings and needlessly amputates Drake’s legs!  It is as Drake awakes from his surgery, feels for his legs, and realizes they’re gone, that Reagan’s most famous line was uttered, “Where’s the rest of me??!!”  (Reagan felt he owed so much to Kings Row and that line that he used it as the title to his autobiography.)

Where's the rest of me??!!

Where’s the rest of me??!!

Robert Cummings is winning as Parris, the fresh-faced naive boy turned the same, even as a young adult; naive until he discovers what Dr. Tower did to his wife and to his daughter.  The naivete is gone and  Parris decides to study psychiatry, which at the turn of the century, was a new medical field.

Ronald Reagan is great as Drake.  One can tell by watching Reagan that he was enjoying the fun of the character and that he was probably having the time of his life playing Drake.  A lot of credit has been given to director Sam Wood, for working with Reagan on his part, but once again, Reagan was also from a midwestern state, Illinois, and a small town, so I am sure he could see some of the same points of distinction or similarities the screenplay was bringing out about life in a small midwestern town.

Ann Sheridan is superb as Randy.  Her efforts to display Randy’s character come shining through.

Betty Field is eerie as Cassandra.  She goes about with her eyes wide-open, as though she is expecting a ghost around every corner.  One can feel that Cassandra is living under a large amount of stress, but one doesn’t know why.  It will be revealed later in the plot of the film.

The adults in the film are some of the greatest character actors and actresses to ever grace a film: Claude Rains as the strange Dr. Tower, Charles Coburn as the stern Dr. Gordon, Dame Judith Anderson as Mrs. Gordon, Harry Davenport as Colonel Skeffington, Maria Ouspenskaya as Parris’s grandmother, and, I must confess an unknown to me actress, Eden Gray portrays the reclusive Mrs. Tower.

I don’t want to reveal too many more spoilers for Kings Row, but I will say that after all the evil deeds are exposed and the topic of mental illness is discussed,  there is a happy ending, or at least a hopeful ending!!  Turner Classic Movies will be airing Kings Row next week on Tuesday, April 12, at 8:00 est/7:00 cst.   The film is also available to view on Amazon’s instant rent and there are various clips on Youtube, but not the entire film.

I decided to read Kings Row prior to writing this blog, and went to Rolla’s library 3 weeks ago to get the book.  Alas, it wasn’t available so I ordered it through their interlibrary loan program, and 2 weeks later, Kings Row arrived for me, coming in from Sedalia, Missouri’s library.   I have read 1/3 of  the book and it is a good read.  Bellamann wrote a very descriptive picture to give the reader a mental image of Fulton, er Kings Row.  There are a lot of characters and good character development in the book, but as is so often when a book is turned into a film, many of the characters in the book were cut from the film’s screenplay.  Some of the  taboo topics in the book didn’t make the screenplay either due to the Hays Code: premarital sex, homosexuality, and incest.  The topics of mental illness, sadistic malpractice, murder, and suicide were acceptable for the screenplay.

Many have speculated as to why Henry Bellamann would have written such a negative novel about his hometown.  There are several theories, but at last, Fulton seems to have accepted it’s place in literary and film history.  Here’s a link to an interesting piece I read about the book and the film from a 1987 article in the  LA Times.

My post today is for the Beyond the Cover: Books to Film Blogathon, hosted by two excellent bloggers who know their classic movies: Ruth at Now Voyaging and Kristina at Speakeasy.  Be sure to visit their blogs to read about other bloggers contributions in the world of literary art being turned into visual art via film.

Beyond the Cover

For the Bette Davis Blogathon: A Stolen Life

Actress Bette Davis, if she were still alive, would be turning 108 today, Tuesday, April 5th.  To honor her memory, blogger and classic film fan Crystal at  In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood created a blogathon for this purpose. Be sure to visit Crystal’s blog to read all of the other great posts by other classic film fans about Bette Davis and her outstanding career.

blogathon-bette

 

 

I decided to focus on one of Bette’s lesser known films, 1946’s A Stolen Life, a film that Bette actually produced as well as starred in for Warner Brothers.  It’s a film that is intriguing to me as Bette gets to play identical twins, and as a mom of twins, I am always interested in seeing how Hollywood handles the concept of twins, and how  did the scenes look where the actor or actress  in dual roles are in the same scenes at the same time?!

A Stolen Life

In A Stolen Life, we get the “good” twin and the “bad” twin plot.  It may seem stale but in the hands of director Curtis Bernhardt and actress Bette Davis, the concept of the dual twins with wildly varied personalities turned out well.  Davis had been wanting a better contract with Warner Brothers, and studio head Jack Warner was not going to let his leading female star go, so the studio agreed in 1944, that Bette could make 5 pictures for them and get to be the producer too.  A Stolen Life was Davis’s first time as a producer.   Producing was a big task and Davis ably carried it out.  A Stolen Life was based on the best selling novel Stolen Life by Czechoslovakian writer Karel J. Benes.  His novel had been made into a movie in England in 1939 and Davis wanted to make a new version of the film in America.  Catherine Turney and Margaret B. Wilder wrote the screenplay and I think it was a great idea of Davis’s to get women to write this film’s screenplay, since the two main characters are sisters, and the story revolves around love, and what one wants out of life.  Davis had seen Barbara Stanwyck’s 1946 film, My Reputation, and had enjoyed it immensely.  She decided she wanted that director for her picture and that is how Curtis Bernhardt came on board.

Bernhardt, along with cinematographer Sol Polito, devised the intricate shots needed to really show Bette as twin sisters.  Using matte shots, a double for Davis, and then reshooting with Davis’s head or face on another matte shot, a scene such as one sister lighting the other sister’s cigarette could be done.  The film did receive one nomination at the 1947 Academy Awards for Special Effects.   The always great Max Steiner composed the music for the film, and Orry-Kelly designed the costumes.  For the leading man of the film, Warner Brothers wanted Davis to consider Dennis Morgan, but she said no to that choice.  She then agreed to sign Robert Alda, but actor Glenn Ford caught her attention.  He had just gotten out of the Marines, where he’d been serving during the war.  Jack Warner didn’t want to hire Ford, as he was at Columbia Pictures and that meant Warner Brothers would have to pay Columbia a loan out fee.  Davis wanted to see if Ford could do the role, so she had him secretly brought on to the Warner Brothers lot and do a screen test.  Ford did so well, that Davis gave him the part and Jack Warner grumblingly complied.  Ford impressed Columbia Pictures so much in this Davis vehicle that they cast him in Gilda, for his next role, and that really got his acting career moving forward.

Bette Davis plays identical twin sisters Kathryn and Patrica Bosworth.  Independently wealthy women, due to inheriting their family’s wealth, and being that their parents are deceased, the only family the two has is each other and one cousin, Freddie(Charlie Ruggles.)  Kathryn, or Kate, is the quiet twin.  She is an artist, lives in NYC, and is introspective and thoughtful.  Patricia, or Pat, is loud, flamboyant, and a flirt.  As the film opens, Kate is rushing to catch a steamer that is to sail out to an island off the coast of Massachusetts-she’s spending the weekend there with her sister and their cousin, Freddie.  Kate misses the boat, but luckily finds a man with his boat who agrees to take her out to the island.  The man is Bill Emerson(Glenn Ford), an engineer, and he and Kate hit it off as they sail to the island.  Bill does tell Kate that he has to stop at another smaller island on their way, to pick up the old lighthouse keeper, Eben Folger(Walter Brennan.)  Kate decides that she wants to get to know Bill better, so she asks Eben if he’d agree to sit for his portrait to be drawn and painted, which means Bill would be the one to sail her out to Eben’s lighthouse.  Eben agrees, and Bill and Kate get to know one another better through the portrait sittings.

Bette Davis as Kate and Pat Bosworth

Bette Davis as Kate and Pat Bosworth

Kate and Bill getting to know one another.

Kate and Bill getting to know one another.

As we know, since this film is a drama, Bill meets Pat by accident one day at the dock, and he assumes she is Kate.  Pat decides to let him think she is Kate, takes him to lunch, and bedazzles him with her personality.  Kate does appear and the trick Pat played on Bill is revealed.  Bill tells Kate he has to go to Boston for his work for a few weeks, and Pat overhears this info, and hops the same train to Boston for a shopping trip.  She continues to charm Bill on the train, and in Boston, and when Bill returns to the island where Kate is, he admits that he and Pat are in love and will be married soon.  Kate sadly resigns herself to this fact, and soon her sister and Bill are wed.

The conniving Pat working her magic on Bill

The conniving Pat working her magic on Bill

Kate returns to NYC to resume her art career.  She meets an intense artist, Karnock(Dane Clark) who criticizes her work as too stiff, too boring.  He encourages her to be more expressive with her art, and then tells her he loves her.  She realizes that she still loves Bill, and tells Karnock that her heart belongs to another man.  Still despondent, Kate returns to the island for some self-examination and planning for her future.  Pat arrives, telling Kate that the marriage to Bill was a huge mistake.  Bill is in Chile working on some project, so Pat decided to come to the island and stay there while he’s away.  One day Kate and Pat decide to sail in their boat, and a storm erupts, crashing their boat onto a reef.  When Kate comes too, she sees Pat is drowning and tries to save her sister.  Conveniently as Pat sinks under the waves, her wedding ring pops off and Kate grabs it.  At that moment, Kate decides to put on the wedding ring, pretend to be Pat, and try to save the marriage to Bill.

Kate with fellow artist, Karnock.

Kate with fellow artist, Karnock.

Bill arrives back in Boston, where he and Pat live, and Kate is waiting for him trying to pretend she is Pat.  Bill coldly tells her that he’s going to file soon for a divorce.  It is then that Kate learns that Pat was a very unfaithful wife to Bill, having numerous affairs with quite a few men, one who even divorced his wife for her!

Will Kate be able to convince Bill that she, pretending to be Pat, can become a new, and better Pat?  A Pat who loves him unconditionally and one who will now honor their wedding vows?  Will Bill believe this new Pat?  Cousin Freddie starts to have his doubts that this is really Pat.  Will he spill the beans?

Luckily, Turner Classic Movies will be airing A Stolen Life on Sunday, May 1, at 10:00 pm est/9:00 pm cst so be sure to set that dvr and watch it.  If you don’t have access to TCM, you can watch it via Amazon for a fee.

Lastly, here is the scene expertly filmed showing one twin lighting a match and handing it to her twin sister, courtesy of Youtube.

An article on TCM’s website, written by Margarita Landazwi was immensely helpful in my research for this blog post.