Archive for September, 2017

My Classic Movie Pick: 1968’s Blackbeard’s Ghost

Turner Classic Movies cable channel decided that during the month of September they would show films from the “Disney Vault”, so to speak.  Not the animated films Disney is most famous for but the films the studio made with human actors and actresses, and a lot of special effects.  A couple weeks ago, I watched one that was new to me.  I decided to see it due to it’s cast: Peter Ustinov(Yes! The oscar winning british actor was in a Disney film!!), Dean Jones, Suzanne Pleshette, and Elsa Lanchester.  From 1968, in living color, Blackbeard’s Ghost  is a fun movie to view.

 

Dean Jones, as he often was cast, is the hapless hero of the film.  He plays Steve Walker, newly hired track coach for small Godolphin College, on the Carolina coast. ( Having lived in SC myself, there is a bit of historical lore that Blackbeard did hang out in  Charleston, SC but since I heard no southern accents in this film, I assumed Godolphin was in NC; the film doesn’t clearly specify the geographic location.)  The college booked Steve a room at an old inn, Blackbeard’s Inn, and the place is run by a group of little old ladies(Elsa Lanchester being the main owner) who are all descended from Blackbeard, who evidently got around-ahem,  he had a lot of wives, but wasn’t a polygamist!

When Steve arrives at the inn, there is a festival occurring, as a fundraiser for the little old ladies to be able to buy off the rest of the mortgage and get a local gambler off of their backs.  Gambler Silky Seymour(Joby Baker) wants to buy out the mortgage for the inn, take it away from the old bags(as he calls them) and turn the place into a casino.  Since the inn sits on a small island off shore, the state government can’t tax this casino.  Suzanne Pleshette(Prof. Jo Ann Baker) is at the festival running a Kissing Booth.  Steve can’t help but notice her and hands over a dollar for a kiss.  It’s s fun “meet cute” moment for the two characters.  Steve soon learns that the football coach at Godolphin, Pinetop Purvis(Michael Conrad of Hill Street Blues fame) is very interested in Jo Ann, and has a lot of distain for the track team. We soon learn that the track team members are a bunch of non-athletic bumblers, nice guys, but horrible at track.  An auction is announced, and to impress Jo Ann, Steve decides to bid on an antique bed warmer.  He is also showing local gambling kingpin Silky that he’s not afraid to financially donate to the little old ladies so they can save their inn.  Coach Purvis sees that Steve is bidding, realizes it may impress Jo Ann, so he joins in the bidding war to also impress her.  Steve wins the bed warmer, impresses Jo Ann, makes Purvis irritated, as well as Silky.  When Steve retires for the evening, he accidentally breaks off the handle on the bedwarmer and finds in it a scroll, with spells written on it.  He laughs at his find, and feeling silly, he reads a spell outloud.  With lightening flashes, thunder rumblings, and the camera panning over to a portrait of a creepy looking gal with huge eyes, Blackbeard’s ghost appears, and only Steve can see and hear him.

The Kissing Booth part 1

The Kissing Booth part 2

 

Bidding against Purvis at the auction.

Steve meets Blackbird’s Ghost for the first time.

Blackbird scolding the ex-wife who put a curse on him.

Blackbeard(Peter Ustinov, having a lot of fun) tells Steve that one of his ex-wives, who he accused of witchcraft, was being burned at the stake and she put a curse on him.  Until he conducts an act of human kindness, he will remain in “Limbo”.   I won’t delve into the plot anymore, but I will leave you with questions! Can the little old ladies save their inn from the clutches of the greedy gambler, Silky?  Can Steve turn the track team around into winners?  Can Steve win the heart of Jo Ann, and thwart Coach Purvis??  Will Blackbeard do a deed of human kindness and be able to exit Limbo?

Blackbeard suggesting how he can help Steve and the team.

Having fun with the cheerleaders!

Blackbeard meddling during the track meet.

Blackbeard trying to nab Jo Ann’s purse, but for a good reason.

Gambling kingpin Silky Seymore and his henchmen.

As I wrote earlier, Ustinov has a lot of fun playing the pirate.  He is feisty, crafty, but not outright evil, as the real Blackbeard probably was.  He and Jones have a good rapport in all of their scenes together, and with Jones’s Steve being the only one who can see the ghost, when he is yelling at Ustinov, and bystanders only see Steve yelling at the air, it makes for some funny moments of miscommunication.  Disney’s special effects team had a lot to do in this film, to show the ghost’s antics in his efforts to help Steve and the little old ladies, and the track team.  Pleshette and Jones make a cute couple, which they did in some other Disney films, and it’s great to see them together in this film too.

My only caveat is that this film is probably going to be boring to young kids, 5 and younger, and the scene where there is a volatile reaction to Steve reciting the spell may scare kids who are sensitive to such stuff on films.  For pre-teens, teens and adults, this is a fun film to view.  So get that popcorn popping, and as the weather turns colder, view this film-perhaps a good choice for Halloween weekend?  Some kind soul has put the entire film on Youtube!  Since the film was made in 1968, it possibly is still available at your local dvd renting store.  It is also available to buy or view through instant rent at Amazon.  

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Good* The Mad* The Lonely* Movie Scientist Blogathon: 1944’s Madame Curie

MGM, in 1944, put forth their movie tribute to the life of one of the most famous female scientists to have ever lived, Marie Curie, or as she was known during her times, Madame Curie.  I saw that Turner Classic was going to feature this movie on their chosen day in August to celebrate the career of actress Greer Garson, so I was sure to dvr the film.  I had viewed the movie quite a while ago, so it was good to view it again, with my eye tuned in to new observations for this new blogathon, looking at Scientists in Classic Films.  My part is a contribution to the “good scientists.”

If you don’t know who Madame Curie was, here is a link to explain all of that, as well as her husband and co-scientist, Pierre, ably portrayed by Walter Pidgeon, who was often cast as Garson’s husband in quite a few movies.(Warning! The link contains spoilers about the Curies’ lives.)

 

In the beginning of the film,  we see Marie(Greer Garson) sitting in a lecture hall and it’s pretty obvious she is  the  only female in the class.  She is listening intently to the professor but faints due to hunger.  Her male classmates and the professor show genuine concern for her and the professor insists on treating her to lunch.  At the lunch we find out that Marie is from Poland, and once she has her degrees from the Sorbonne, she plans on returning to Poland to help her father with his teaching and probably becoming a mathematics or physics teacher herself.  The professor, Dr. Perot(Alfred Basserman) realizes Marie needs money to continue her studies so he asks if she would be willing to do some research for the French steel industry?  He had been approached recently by this group, asking that experiments be done on the magnetism of differing types of steel and he asks Marie if she’d be willing to do these experiments for a stipend?  Marie agrees and Dr. Perot tells her he will find a lab for her to conduct the experiments.  He invites her to his home for a tea party for the following Sunday afternoon.  It is at this tea party where she meets Pierre Curie, and it is at this tea party that Dr. Perot asks Pierre if a student can use space in his lab to conduct some experiments for the steel industry.  Pierre politely agrees to Dr. Perot’s request, but when he is then told that the student is a female? Pierre’s reaction is one of shock!

It is now Monday, and Pierre tells his lab assistant David(Robert Walker) that a calamity will soon be hitting their lab.  A woman scientist will be invading their territory to conduct experiments! Women and science don’t mix, protests Pierre loudly! Women scientists, David adds, are usually ugly!!  Let’s hope she’s not noisy, talkative, or whistles, declares Pierre!  You’d think a monster was about to enter their realm from all of their silly comments about women scientists!!   When Marie arrives, they are both struck speechless at her beauty, her politeness, and her quiet ways.  David almost knocks over some lab equipment in his eagerness to assist this new colleague and Pierre likes her presence so much, he begins to whistle as he works!

David and Pierre don’t think women and science can mix!

Pierre begins to think that maybe a woman scientist isn’t such a bad creature!

After several months of working in the same lab, David, Pierre, and Marie have become friends.  Pierre is truly horrified when Marie informs him that her experiments are finished, and that when she graduates in May, she will be returning to Poland to be a teacher, working with her father.  Pierre is adamant that Marie, with her keen scientific mind, must not be a teacher but stay on at the Sorbonne and work as a scientist.  Pidgeon does a wonderful job at conveying the complex mind and behavior of a man who had dedicated his life to science to suddenly discovering that he is in love.  We sense Pierre’s fears, sadness, and watch his weird way of proposing to Marie to be his bride, his lab partner for life, as it were!  Happily, Marie can overlook Pierre’s quirks and admits she loves him too and they are soon married.  Dame May Whitty has a small part as Pierre’s mother, but she does a lot with that part.  Henry Travers is loud and opinionated as Pierre’s father, not at all like Clarence the Angel, in It’s a Wonderful Life, his most famous role.  It is at the Curie’s home in the country where Pierre tells Marie he can’t live without her.  I must add that Van Johnson had his first role in a film, in a tiny part as a journalist trying to interview the famous Madame Curie.  Great character actor C. Aubrey Smith has a fun part as British scientist, Lord Kelvin, asking to meet the Curies while he is in Paris.

Mrs. Curie, intrigued by this young lady who has captured her son’s heart.

Partners in life and in the lab.

After the courtship and marriage have occurred, the film gets down to the nitty gritty of just what a great scientific discovery the Curies’ made, in isolating radium from pitchblende.  It took them several years for their discovery to happen and to prove their theory, that there was a new element in the pitchblende that exuded radioactivity.  They were able to find radium and another new element, polonium, both elements giving off radiation.   For this contribution to the world, they and Dr. Henri Becquerel(who first discovered radioactivity) were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903.

Pierre concerned about the burns on Marie’s fingertips, from the radiation that they were exposed to from all of their experiments.

I don’t want to go into anymore of the plot of this great film so let me say that Garson and Pidgeon give wonderful performances as two dedicated scientists who wanted to better mankind via their discoveries.  Their steadfastness, despite being so very tired at times, is awe-inspiring.

 

This post has been for the blogathon look at scientists in classic movies.  Be sure to visit the hostesses sites in order to read more posts by other bloggers on this topic: Ruth at Silver Screenings

and Christina.