Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

For the Free For All Blogathon: Edward G. Robinson in a Non-Gangster Role

I enjoy reading Theresa Brown’s blog about classic movies.  She decided to create a blogathon for today, March 3rd, where classic movie fans could write about any film topic that they wanted to write about.  The more I see of Edward G. Robinson’s work in films, the more I can see what a wealth of acting talent he owned.  Primarily thought of as a gangster due to his early movie roles, he was able to move away from that persona and play a variety of characters.  I  decided to focus on one of his non-gangster roles, a role as far away from a gangster as one could get: the role of a loving, understanding father to a young girl.  Be sure to visit Theresa’s blog, Cinemaven’s Essays From the Couch to read all of the other bloggers’ interesting posts!    

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, was a novel written in 1930 by George Victor Martin.  He based his novel on his wife, Selma’s, recollections from  her childhood of growing up in Benson Corners, WI.  Selma grew up in a community founded by Norwegian immigrants who kept some of their cultural ways and language while also working hard to succeed in America.  The book was extremely popular with the reading public so it was a no-brainer that MGM would come calling and buy the rights to Martin’s book and make it into a movie.  1945 was when the movie arrived at America’s box offices and it did a lot of business.  It even received a medal for “The Most Wholesome Family Movie” of 1945 from Parents magazine( I didn’t realize that that magazine had been around back then!)  Edward G., in  a wholesome family movie? It may be hard to believe but he’s cast as the young girl, Selma’s father, Martinius Jacobson, and he gives the role his all.  Selma was played by Margaret O’Brien, in a very touching part, and Jackie “Butch” Jenkins played her cousin, Arnold.  The always wonderful Agnes Moorehead played Bruna, Selma’s mother.  There’s a side story involving a new teacher in town, played by Frances Gifford and the community’s newspaper editor who has a crush on the new teacher  played by James Craig.  Others in the cast: Sara Haden, Dorothy Morris, Morris Carnovsky, Elizabeth Russell(she of Cat People fame), Arthur Space, Charles B. Middleton( he of Ming the Merciless fame), Louis Jean Heydt,Greta Granstedt, and Francis Pierlot.  The cast was ably directed by Roy Rowland.  Producer was Robert Sisk.  Screenplay was by Dalton Trumbo and this was his last screenplay before being blacklisted in the US government’s infamous hunt for communists in Hollywood.

Selma and her cousin, Arnold

Ingeborg tries to befriend Selma and Arnold

The editor loves the teacher but she hates rural life and yearns to go back to the city

The film is mainly told to us by 3 persons, Selma, her father, and her mother.  Not that they verbally break the fourth wall and talk to the camera/audience, but we see the actions and events of the story through their eyes.  Selma, and to a lesser extent Arnold, are always together either getting into mischief, meeting people, and they have one adventure that becomes very dangerous.  We see and hear these two children discuss WWII as best as two children could understand a war, discuss a young woman in town who they label “crazy” but we soon learn was born with intellectual and developmental disabilites, we learn of their admiration for “the editor” for that’s what they call the town’s newspaper owner, and their love of egg pancakes with honey, which Selma’s mother makes for them for supper.    Through Bruna, we learn of the worry she has for debt.  A neighboring elderly farmer, Bjorn Bjornson(Carnovsky) has built a glorious, new barn, through saving up his money.  Bruna thinks this is a waste of money since the Bjornson’s still have no indoor plumbing and shouldn’t Bjornson have thought of his wife’s comforts first? When Martinius(Robinson) begins to discuss the taking out of a loan to build himself a new barn, he is met with Bruna’s dissenting opinion, given in a polite yet firm manner.  It is a gentle and  sweet moment  to see his change of mind when he begins to talk aloud that he has enough money saved to improve the farmhouse for her and Selma and that a new barn can wait indefinitely.  Bruna is truly shocked by his announcement and can only express herself in tears of gratitude; there are a lot of tears in this film-from Selma, Bruna, and Martinius!

The Jacobsen’s: Selma, Bruna, and Martinius

No dry eyes when Selma recites the Nativity story at church

I was very, very impressed with Edward G. Robinson’s portrayal of Martinius.  He is so good as the wise and gentle father to Selma, and as the loving husband of Bruna.   There were a couple of key scenes that dealt with having to discipline a child and they were so true to any parent watching this movie, I could really relate to Martinius’s hesitations and actions.  The first was due to Selma and Arnold arguing about letting him have a turn using Selma’s new roller skates.  Bruna ordered Selma to give Arnold a turn and when she doesn’t, Arnold calls her a pig.  Selma becomes angry and pushes Arnold to the ground.  Martinius, tired and approaching the kitchen for a break from his labors, is asked by Bruna to take his turn at disciplining Selma for being selfish.  We can see the weariness cross his face and feel that load that he has agreed to take on. Disciplining a child is a task that a loving parent dreads to do, but has to do from time to time in order to keep one’s child from growing up to be a burden on society.  Martinius decides not to spank Selma, but tells her to give Arnold a turn with the skates.  When she boldly says, “No!” I was even shocked! Of course, we know Arnold lies to his Uncle Martinius about calling Selma a name, and that causes her to talk back to her father.  Martinius then gives her one more chance, let Arnold have a turn or no supper and immediate bedtime.  To that threat, Selma defiantly takes her skates off, and is about to carry them to the house when her father stops her, and orders her to give her skates to Arnold, and then she can turn in for the night.  Stung by her father’s discipline plan, Selma calmly hands the skates to Arnold and goes to bed.  Later in the evening, as Martinius is reading the newspaper, and we feel his unease at dishing out that discipline to Selma, she asks him through a heating vent that is in her bedroom floor yet opens to the living room ceiling, if won’t he come up to kiss her goodnight? More unease registers across Martinius’s face but he again sticks to his plan and tells Selma, no, and scolds her to get back to bed.  Bruna saves the skate debacle by reminding Martinius that the circus will be passing through their town at 4:00 a.m.  in order to get hay for the animals at a local feed store, why doesn’t he wake Selma up and take her there to see the animals? Martinius does just that and the bond between dad and daughter is made stronger and renewed.  The other key scene right out of Parenting 101 is due to Selma and Arnold’s reckless idea to take an old, metal tub(not an actual bathroom tub) and put it in a stream and play “boat”, with two large sticks as oars.  The area snow had melted, Spring has arrived, and there are small streams everywhere for kids to play in.  The danger is that the stream they are playing in quickly takes them into the river which is roaring with new water sources, and rising.  Word quickly gets out that the two children can’t be found, but someone saw them playing in an old tub.  The two children’s fathers, fellow farmers, and the editor rush to the bridge in order to be at the ready to catch the tub and rescue the children before it can pass under the bridge.  It is a very intense scene and I was relieved when the children were saved.  Robinson’s reaction is so on the spot.  He grabs his daughter, squeezes her hard, with tears flowing down his face, and then gives her one, hard swat, for doing such a dumb and dangerous thing.  Then he kisses her and carries her home as fast as he can to Bruna.

Martinius and Selma on their way to see the circus animals

I was able to view this film via Amazon’s Instant Rent.   It does appear from time to time on TCM so watch their schedule for it, and they also sell it in their online shop.  So check out Our Vines Have Tender Grapes for a chance to see Edward G. Robinson in a non-gangster role.   


For the Elizabeth Taylor Blogathon: 1948’s A Date With Judy

My daughters humor my love of classic films and will actually sit down from time to time and watch some with me.  Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a favorite musical at our house, and from watching it, the girls wanted to see another film that featured Jane Powell.  One afternoon last year, TCM aired a musical comedy, A Date With Judy, and my daughters and I watched it.  What we didn’t know until we began the film was that Elizabeth Taylor was in it, as one of Powell’s co-stars.  Taylor began making films in 1942, had her first “starring” role in 1944’s National Velvet, and continued to hone her acting craft through her teen years in the later 1940s and early 1950s.  When I was asked to participate for this blogathon, to commemorate Taylor’s birthday-February 27th, I decided to write about A Date With Judy.  To read other bloggers’ pieces about Elizabeth Taylor and her films, visit Crystal’s site at In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.


ADWJ is an MGM romance comedy, filmed in technicolor gorgeousness.  There is music, dance, and singing(Powell, Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra, and Carmen Miranda.) There are gorgeous gowns-mainly made for Elizabeth Taylor’s character.  There is the handsome hero, whom both Jane and Elizabeth have aimed to catch, Robert Stack.  Leon Ames and Wallace Beery provide two father roles.  Rounding out the cast: Scotty Beckett, Selena Royle, Clinton Sundberg, George Cleveland, Lloyd Corrigan, Stuart Whitman(uncredited role as a guest at a dance), Jerry Hunter, and Jean McLaren.  The film was directed by Richard Thorpe and was based upon a popular radio show of the day, with the same title.   

The plot is pretty straightforward.  Santa Barbara High School is getting ready to host a big dance and Senior Carol Pringle(Taylor) has managed to snag bandleader Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra to play for the dance.  Carol’s bff, Judy Foster(Powell), has been helping Carol with the dance preparations and is mad at her boyfriend Oogie(Beckett) because he said he’s not going to take her to the dance!  At the local candy/ice cream soda shop, owner Pop Scully(Corrigan) introduces Judy to his nephew Stephen(Stack.)  Judy is immediately smitten and delighted when Stephen, although a college man, agrees to escort Judy to the high school dance.  All seems to be going well for Judy until Stephen meets Carol, and he falls for her!!

Judy also becomes upset with her father(Wallace Beery).  Melvin Foster(Beery) wants to surprise his wife at their upcoming Wedding Anniversary party with his improved dancing skills so he secretly takes dancing lessons from Miss Rosita Cochellas(Carmen Miranda) who also happens to be Xavier Cugat’s girlfriend in the film.  Judy thinks her father is having an affair with Miss Cochellas!

Jane Powell and Elizabeth Taylor play well together, as pretty teens who are friends yet clash over the same guy.  The misunderstandings are funny, done in good taste, and at the end of the film, all is right with the world for all the characters involved.  For a funny film, with a great look at 1940s teen pop culture, tune in to A Date With Judy.  TCM will be airing it at March 12th, at 6:00 pm eastern time/5:00 pm central.  Here is the link to the movie’s trailer that MGM used to advertise it back in 1948.


For the Singing Sweethearts Blogathon: The Girl of the Golden West

As a classic film fan, I know who Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy were, but I have to admit that I had never seen any of their films.  I had seen snippets of them singing on tv before, probably in some documentary or tribute to MGM movie musicals, so when the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society invited me to participate in their blogathon honoring MacDonald and Eddy, I agreed to participate.   Please visit the blog’s site in order to read other posts about these two Singing Sweethearts!

Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald sang in 8 MGM musicals together, 1935-1942.  I wasn’t sure which ones were going to be available to view so I did a bit of research via our family’s Amazon Prime account and decided to rent and watch The Girl of the Golden West  as it was based upon the famous opera by Giacomo Puccini and I figured an opera type of  musical would showcase the couples’ singing voices nicely.   When I told my incredulous husband that some Italian opera writer had taken an American play(written by American David Belasco in 1905) and made an opera out of it, he wondered if this qualified as the first “spaghetti western”?!  My apologies to Mr. Eastwood.   


The plot of TGOTGW was a fun one with twists and turns.  The bad guys and the good guys weren’t cut and dried, they had nuanced characters and all of the cast did a very good job in their respective roles.  The movie opens with a group of Kentuckians, relaxing in their camp for the night in the new to them territory of California.  As the stars twinkle in the sky and the campfires burn, a ten year old girl sweetly sings along to her uncle’s guitar and all who hear her sing are enthralled.  One of the listeners, who is some yards away hiding in the brush, is a boy of 10, called Gringo by his adopted Mexican guardian, the bandit Ramirez.  Gringo memorizes the girl’s song and as an adult, hums and sings it a lot, despite growing up to become a bandit himself.  There are often posters about the area declaring the reward money for anyone who can capture Ramirez and turn him in.

The girl who sang so sweetly, Mary, grows up to inherit her Uncle Davey’s saloon, The Polka.  She also provides a holding station for area miners’ gold until it can be delivered via stagecoach to the assayer’s office in Monterey.    The miners all love Mary, as does Sheriff Jack Rance.  Several times he has showered Mary with gifts and the question of marriage and each time she has told him that she’s not sure yet if she’s ready to marry anyone.  There is also the town of Cloudy Mountain’s blacksmith, Alabama, who has an enormous crush on Mary, but is too shy to ask for her to marry him.  In Monterey is Father Sienna and his mission church.  He befriended Mary and her Uncle Davey when they first arrived in California and the old Father often invites Mary to come and sing Ave Maria for Sunday Mass.  Mary travels by stagecoach one Saturday morning so that she can sing for the church service when Ramirez and his gang rob the stage.  Ramirez takes one look at Mary and he’s in love with her.  He loves her sassiness and her looks.  We, the audience, know that Gringo-the blonde boy has grown up to be the bandit Ramirez, adopting his guardian’s last name.  To hide the  fact that he is not Hispanic, he wears his sombrero low on his head to hide his hair and wears a bandana pulled all the way up to his eyes.  He also speaks with an exaggerated accent.  As he accosts Mary, she has nothing but ire for Ramirez and hopes one day he will be caught and turned over to the law.   Mary makes it to Father Sienna’s church and sings Ave Maria so beautifully that the governor, who happens to be in town, insists that this young lady be invited to sing at his “Rancho” the next evening.  Ramirez happened to be at the church and heard Mary sing which makes him love her all the more.  He happens to hear about the governor’s invite to Mary and the plan to have one of the lieutenant’s on the governor’s staff escort Mary to the Rancho.  Ramirez manages to steal a Lt. Johnson’s uniform and escorts Mary, but not before a side trip in the moonlight near Monterey Bay where he sings to her and steals a kiss.  Mary isn’t happy about the stolen kiss, but Lt. Johnson is now in her heart too, and when she returns to Cloudy Mountain, Sheriff Jack can tell that she must have met another man while in Monterey.

Sheriff Jack Rance loves Mary but she’s not sure if she loves him as much

Mary singing a song with Alabama, the blacksmith

Silent movie actor who transitioned to sound films well, H.B. Warner as Father Sienna

Gringo alias Ramirez holding up Mary’s stagecoach

Gringo alias Ramirez alias Lt. Johnson singing to Mary by Monterey Bay

Eventually, Lt. Johnson/Ramirez makes it to Mary’s saloon, he meets Sheriff Jack who takes an immediate dislike to him, his true identity is revealed much to Mary’s shock and disappointment, and to thwart Sheriff Jack’s capture of Ramirez, a poker game is initiated, the best 2 out of 3 hands wins: either Ramirez will face the hangman’s noose or Mary will wed Sheriff Jack and he will let Ramirez ride away into exile.

Ramirez and Sheriff Jack-pure hatred for each other and both love Mary!

Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald truly had impressive singing voices.  Eddy’s voice was a rich, warm baritone and he could easily hit the high notes when he had to. MacDonald’s voice was a lovely soprano that doesn’t hit the high notes too sharply.  Eddy had done some operatic training in his late teens, early adult years, with various voice teachers while MacDonald began singing as a child with a group in Philadelphia and then on to the stage where her older sister was working in NYC.

If you are curious about the duo’s films, as I was, then seek out The Girl of the Golden West.  The film’s soundtrack includes many songs with music by Sigmund Romberg and lyrics by Gus Kahn: Seniorita, Mariache, Sun Up To Sun Down, Shadows On The Moon, Soldiers Of Fortune, The Wind In The Trees, The West Ain’t Wild Anymore, and Who Are We To Say.  Polly Wolly Doodle(composer unknown) and Camptown Races by Stephen Foster are background music in the saloon.  Jeanette sings Liebestraum(Dream of Love) by Franz Liszt and Ave Maria by Johann Sebastian Bach, and then The Wedding March by Felix Mendelssohn is used near the film’s end.

MGM publicity still for the film

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this film showcasing the talents of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.  Great supporting cast members include: Walter Pidgeon as Sheriff Jack, Buddy Ebsen as Alabama, H. B. Warner as Father Sienna, Leo Carillo as Mosquito, Brandon Tynan as The Professor, Noah Beery Sr. as Ramirez, Charley Grapewin as Uncle Davey, Jeanne Ellis as young Mary, Bill Cody Jr. as the child Gringo,  Billy Bevan as Nick, the bartender, and Monty Woolley as the governor.  The film was directed by Robert Z. Leonard and screenplay was written by Isabel Dawn and Boyce DeGaw, based upon David Belasco’s play.    

A Crazy Classic Movie: Death on the Diamond! AKA, Someone is Killing the St. Louis Cardinals!!!

I was looking over Turner Classic Movie’s monthly schedule for January when a film title caught my eye: Death on the Diamond.  The overview of the film’s plot read that someone was killing off the St. Louis Cardinals during a pennant race.  I had to laugh a bit and began to wonder if the culprits were the Cincinnati Reds or the hated Chicago Cubs-if  you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan, you’re not a fan of the Cubs.  I recorded the movie so buckle in for a review of this short, 69 minute film.   

The movie was made in 1934, and at that time the real St. Louis Cardinals were on top of the baseball world.  That year, they would go on to finish number one in the National League and win the World Series, defeating the Detroit Tigers in seven games.  In Death on the Diamond, the Cardinals are in a 3-way race for the pennant, battling it out with the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs.  The manager/owner Pop Clark, knows his team must win the pennant for him to be able to keep his ownership of the team.  A new potential owner, Mr. Ainsley is waiting in the wings, ready to swoop in and take the team from Clark if the Cardinals fail to win the pennant.

Several horrid events occur during this pennant race before the murders begin.    Two former players who got caught up in gambling are hanging around Sportsman’s Park, trying to get back on the team, greatly annoying Pop Clark.  Then,  St. Louis gambling kingpin Joseph Karnes has bribed the team’s new pitching ace, Larry Kelly.  Wise sports writer Jimmie Downey  warns Kelly not to associate himself with Karnes and the bribery attempt is foiled.  Soon after, someone shoots out the tire on a taxi that Larry is riding in, the taxi crashes into a street construction site,and Larry escapes with a badly injured foot and has to miss 2 weeks of games.  Then, someone was seen exiting the clubhouse by the batboy, Mickey.  While Mickey didn’t get a good look at this person, he did discover that this person messed around with all of the players gloves, as there was some kind of liquid inside of them.  The team’s doctor examines the gloves and discovers that the liquid would have caused severe skin-damage to the players.  Man! Someone doesn’t want the Cardinals to win this pennant race!

Larry meeting Pop Clark, team owner and manager.

A bit of batting practice with Larry and Dunk.

Frances and Larry fall in love-awww!

Don’t eat that hot dog, Truck!!


Three murders occur in this film, one right after the other. First, slugger Dunk Spencer is shot dead by a sniper during an away game in Chicago, as he is rounding third base and heading to home. During the second game against the Cubs, pitcher Frank Higgins is summoned to the away team’s locker room to take a phone call. While there, he is attacked from behind and strangled. Lastly, back at Sportsman’s Park, in a game against the Cincinnati Reds, loveable catcher Truck Hogan unwittingly slathers his hot dog with poisoned mustard! He doesn’t linger long after consuming the hot dog.

The list of suspects: the two outcast former players, gambler Joseph Karnes, possible new owner Mr. Ainsley, and at one point, even the new pitcher Larry Kelly is thought to be the killer since he and Dunk Spencer were both heard arguing about which one of them was going to date Pop’s daughter, and secretary of the team, Frances.  I won’t give out the who the murderer is  but I was surprised as to who it was and that person puts on an over the top, chew up the scenery rant for the confession!

Death on the Diamond was fun for me to view since I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan and used to live in a suburb of that city for almost 20 years. There’s a banner advertising the now defunct newspaper the Globe-Democrat on the wall of Sportsman’s park. The still functioning St. Louis Post-Dispatch is the newspaper that the newsboy is selling on the street. Actual footage of the Cardinals from the 1930s are used for the baseball game scenes.  While no actual Cardinal players were cast in the film, one of the players speaks with a strong southern accent  with funny lines to quip, and I am pretty sure his character was based upon Cardinals pitching ace Dizzy Dean. Dean was an Arkansas native who was a fan favorite player of the Cardinals for most of the 1930s.

The film was based on mystery writer Cortland Fitzsimmon’s novel of the same title.  MGM purchased the rights to the novel in order to turn the tale into a movie.  Author Fitzsimmons wrote the screenplay, along with Harvey Thew, Joseph Sherman, and Ralph Spence.  The film was directed by Edward Sedgewick and produced by Lucien Hubbard. Cast: Robert Young as Larry Kelly, Madge Evans as Frances Clark, David Landau as Pop Clark, Nat Pendleton as Truck Hogan, Paul Kelly as Jimmy Downey, Joe Sawyer as Dunk Spencer, Robert Livingston as Frank Higgins, Ted Healy as umpire Crawfish O’Toole, C. Henry Gordon as Joseph Karnes, Edward Brophy(later the voice of Timothy the mouse in Dumbo) as Police Sgt. Grogan, DeWitt Jennings as Patterson, and Willard Robertson as Police Lt. Cato.  The young batboy, Mickey, is played by Mickey Rooney and that was fun to see.  Also, playing a bit part as a police guard for the team is Ward Bond.  Also in a bit part is great character actor Walter Brennan, with no lines, as an excited radio sports announcer during a game.    

Death on the Diamond is a wacky bit of film, fast-paced, with the requisite happy ending.  If you’re a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, I’d say it’s a must-see.  If you’re a Cubs fan, it may just be a fun fantasy to see! Here’s a link to one of the trailers for the movie that MGM had made to be shown in movie theaters.   The movie is available for purchase at Amazon and at TCM’s Shop.



My Classic Movie Pick: 1946’s Deception

In 1942, Warner Brothers scored a huge hit with the tear-jerking, bittersweet romance Now, Voyager, which starred Bette Davis, Claude Rains, and Paul Henreid.  In 1946, the studio decided to put this triumvirate together for another picture and this go round resulted in the film, Deception.  Did any other actresses in Hollywood know how to wield a gun as well as Bette? Sorry for that spoiler, but not really!   

Bette plays Christine Radcliffe, a promising pianist who happens to have been a student of the famous conductor and composer Alexander Hollenius(Claude Rains, having a great time with this role.)  Christine is sitting high up in a concert hall, tears in her eyes, as she listens to the guest cellist playing his piece with an orchestra accompanying him.  After the concert, she rushes backstage to see the cellist, Karol Novak(Paul Henreid). She is desperate to see him because before WWII struck, they had both been music students in Europe and had fallen in love.  Christine got back to the USA before the War got worse but poor Karol spent the war in a concentration camp.  He survived, but Christine thought he had been killed.  She is joyful and deliriously happy to be reunited with Karol again and they soon make plans to marry.

Christine has one big secret and she decides to not tell Karol about it until after they are married, when she finds the right time to tell him.  Big mistake! However, that would take away from movie’s plot if Christine did the sensible and honest thing.  During the wedding reception Christine realizes her decision to wait for the big secret reveal is a mistake when Alexander Holenius crash’s the party at Christina’s apartment.  He saunters in, clearly realizing that his expectation to be alone with Christine was a mistake as he sees all the people and the wedding cake.  It’s pretty easy to figure out that Holenius and Christine had “something” going on and her marriage to Karol feels like a slap in the face to Holenius.

Holenius not too happy at the wedding reception!

Karol is no dummy.  He has an inkling that Christine and Holenius weren’t just a student and a teacher. How did Christine afford her apartment and her fur coats, fancy dresses, pieces of art and jewelry? Christine tells him at first that Holenius just likes to give his favorite friends gifts.  Then she finally tells him the truth and assures him that it is all over between her and Holenius.  Karol is on the brink of classical music stardom and Holenius offers to let him audition to play the cello solo for an upcoming concert series.  Christine makes some visits to Holenius to try and explain that she loves Karol and not him, that Holenius should respect that, and he better not do anything to destroy Karol’s career.  With that threat from Christine, there’s a gleam in Holenius’s eye to make it a difficult experience for Karol in the world of classical music in NYC.

Christine warning Holenius not to mess with Karol!

Bette Davis is great as Christine. Passionate in her love for Karol, weary in spirit when she is dwelling on her relationship with Holenius. Paul Henreid is the strong, silent, handsome type but he does let a flicker of Karol’s anger appear at times and it’s scary.  Henreid didn’t actually know how to play the cello but mastered the hand movements and is very convincing in his musical scenes.  For St. Louis Symphony fans, a bit of trivia: former conductor Leonard Slatkin’s mother, Eleanor Aller,  was the cellist for this movie, playing the parts that Henreid pretended to play.  Of course it goes without saying that Claude Rains has a field day as the former teacher/lover of Christine, roiled with jealousy at Karol, and knowing he has the power to control this couple’s future in the classical music world.

Paul Henreid in one of his excellent cello playing scenes.

If you love classical music, this film has a lot of great pieces in it, arranged by the wonderful Erich W. Korngold.  A musical prodigy in his youth in Austria, he began to help Hollywood movies with beautiful and rich musical scores, beginning with A Midsummer’s Night Dream in 1935.  In 1938, Hollywood called again asking him to return from Austria to create the score for a new film, The Adventures of Robin Hood.  While Korngold was working on this film score, the Nazis were marching all over Europe and brutally establishing their regime.  This caused Korngold to decide to stay in the US during the war, and he often said later that The Adventures of Robin Hood saved his life.

For a good drama, to see three actors performing their roles very well, and despite telling yourself as you watch, “Christine shouldn’t have kept that secret from Karol…,” tune in to Deception.  It is available on Amazon via their instant rent.  TCM may show it again before this new year is over, so keep your eye out for it via their monthly schedules at their website.

Deception: Warner Brothers film, directed by Irving Rapper, produced by Henry Blanke, screenplay by John Collier and Joseph Than, based on a play Monsieur Lamberthier by Louis Verneuil.  Good supporting cast members include John Abbott as Mr. Gribble, a competing cellist, and Benson Fong, as Jimmy, Holenius’s servant.  Fong, when in  his senior citizen years, was often cast on the tv show, Kung-Fu.

My Classic Movie Pick: 1955 Western, The Violent Men

During Turner Classic Movies’s Summer Under the Stars in August of 2017, I dvred several movies starring Glenn Ford.  Ford was one of the 31 stars featured that month.  Ford made several westerns in his career and a new one to me was released  in 1955, The Violent Men.   The film is  dramatic with a capital D, set in the rugged west of New Mexico, with a lot of action and plot twists.


Columbia Pictures bought the rights of the novel, Smoky Valley, by Donald Hamilton and hired Harry Keiner to write the  screenplay.   Direction was by Rudolph Mate and the  producer was Lewis J.  Rachmil.  The soaring music was by Max Steiner and the film was made with cinemascope for a better look via the widescreen with the added splash of  technicolor.  This film sounds and looks great.   The cast is large, and there are two actresses in it I was not familiar with.  Glenn Ford, obviously the protagonist, plays John Parrish, a former Yankee soldier turned cattle rancher who after a 3 year try, has decided to take his fiancee Caroline(May Wynn-one of the actresses I wasn’t familiar with) back east with him, where they’ll marry and he’ll find something else to do for a living.

Moving east will take money and John tells Caroline, her father, and John’s ranch hands that he plans on selling his cattle ranch to area cattle baron Lew Wilkison(played by Edward G. Robinson-yes! the actor most associated with playing gangsters, is in a western!).  John does add a warning to his announcement, if Wilkison doesn’t offer him what his ranch is really worth, he’ll turn down the offer.  Caroline isn’t happy to hear this, as she wants to get east and urges John to take whatever offer he receives.  The ranch hands are outraged, and tell John that Wilkison has sent his henchmen out and about to harass the smaller ranchers in order to drive them away and they thought John was a better boss, a better man who wouldn’t cut and run.  John is left between a rock and a hard place, and goes off to see Wilkison.

Wilkison has an impressive spread, a small man in size but not in ego. Despite being crippled due to a range war that happened 12 years in the past, Lew Wilkison still inspires a sort of fear amongst the local folks.  Lew vowed to buy up all the land in a large area to please his wife, Martha,(Barbara Stanwyck) so that they would be the leading family in the New Mexico territory.  One would think if one were pursuing a family dynasty one would have a passel of heirs, but no, there is only one daughter, Judith(Dianne Foster-the other actress I wasn’t familiar with.)  Lew worships the ground Martha walks on yet daughter Judith hates her mother-that plot point isn’t given much explanation, but as the story moves forward, we’ll see reasons as to why Judith is right to be wary of her mother.  Lew’s younger brother, Cole(Brian Keith, with dark hair and mustache, not looking like Uncle Bill from Family Affair at all!) helps with running the ranch and reason one for Judith to hate mama: Martha and Cole are carrying on a torrid affair under Lew’s nose!!!  Cole, not a great guy, is two-timing Martha with a Mexican girl Elena(Lita Milan); the phrase that there is no honor among thieves comes to my mind.  A shout out to a young Richard Jaeckel is in order too, as he is his smarmy, snarling best as henchman #1 Wade Matlock, murdering the sheriff in cold blood, under orders from someone at Wilkison’s ranch, but Lew denies giving out any such order when John confronts him about this event.  John, refusing to be charmed by Martha, also refuses Lew’s weak offer for his ranch, and the Wilkison’s new motto(not Judith’s) is to drive John Parrish from the territory and all the rest of the small ranchers trying to hold on to their properties.

Lew and Martha Wilkison, power couple of New Mexico territory

Judith, who hates her mother, Martha

Martha with her lover, Cole


John casually confronting Matlock in the saloon.

Edward G. Robinson, the more I explore the films he was in, the more I am impressed with his acting abilities and his talent.  He wasn’t only good at playing an underworld gangster, he played a gentle father in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, a spoof of his gangster self in Larceny, Inc., a wise insurance inspector in Double Indemnity, and now as ranch baron Lew in The Violent Men.  If you aren’t familiar with all of his films, make that a goal for yourself in 2018!  I will give a tiny spoiler, at the film’s end, Lew accepts  a giant dose of mea culpa and it’s good to see that happen.

Barbara Stanwyck is good in this film, too.  I mentally noted that her character is sort of a western version of Lady Macbeth.  She is power behind her husband’s throne, yet conniving for her own power in several ways, leaving her husband oblivious to her machinations.  She will receive a shock in the film and her just desserts, two more tiny spoilers.

The film may pop up again on TCM this year, and it is available via the TCM Shop and at Amazon.  I’ll end the post with two great posters that advertised the film in Italy, back in 1955.  I find these two posters very artistic.  I also found a great shot of Ford and Robinson on the set, making me hope that there was a great sense of fun and camaraderie despite the film being  a dark drama.


Robinson and Ford on set


The Joan Fontaine Centenary Blogathon: 1952’s Ivanhoe

Sir Walter Scott wrote thrilling action-adventure novels with intricate plots, often about his country when it was in it’s early days; Scotland.  He also wrote his best known novel about that neighboring country, and sometime foe of Scotland, England, set during the rule of King Richard I.  In the 1950s, using rich technicolor, the major movie studios were on a “historical” film fix, and MGM was no exception.  Wanting to make money with such a film, producer Pandro S. Berman got the greenlight to make a lavish film version of Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe.  Curious to me, that the majority of the cast was British or had ties to the UK, but for the lead, American actor Robert Taylor was selected to play Ivanhoe.  Two beautiful actresses were chosen to play the two women that love Ivanhoe, Elizabeth Taylor as Rebecca, and Joan Fontaine as Rowena.

Today, October 22nd, would have been Joan Fontaine’s 100th birthday.  She happened to be the younger sister of another great actress, Olivia de Haviland, who is still alive and kicking, at 101!  To celebrate this great actress’s life and career, be sure to visit Crystal’s blog site at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Virginie’s at The Wonderful World of Cinema to read all of the great posts from other classic film fans.  

Joan, I felt, lived an exotic type of life.  She was born in Tokyo, Japan, to British parents.  Sadly, her parents’ marriage failed, and she and her sister Olivia were taken to CA by their mother, who had herself been on the stage as a young woman, and I think had an idea to have her daughters also pursue acting as a career.  Olivia had successes first, and then Joan did, also.  Joan’s first film role was in 1935’s No More Ladies playing a very minor role, but by 1940, better parts were coming her way and in 1941, she won the Best Actress Oscar for her part as the wife convinced her husband was out to kill her in Suspicion.

Ivanhoe, was an ensemble film, in that there were quite a few characters  all revolving around the hero, Ivanhoe.  For those not familiar with the novel or the film, I’ll explain the plot, but it will contain spoilers. Wilfrid of  Ivanhoe(Robert Taylor)  is the son of a proud Anglo-Saxon man, Sir Cedric of Ivanhoe(Finlay Currie).  Sir Cedric is also an angry man, angry that the dastardly Normans have conquered England, have brought their way of government and laws and taxes to crush the Anglo-Saxons with, and he is also mad that his son, Wilfrid, has decided to run off on a wild goose chase to find King Richard(Norman Wooland) who, while traveling to fight in the current crusade,has disappeared.  Wilfrid does find King Richard, he is a prisoner of King Leopold of Austria, who is holding King Richard for a huge ransom.  King Richard’s slimy little brother, Prince John(Guy Rolfe), knows all about this but is enjoying ruling for his absent brother.  Prince John decides to do nothing  to spring his brother out of King Leopold’s dungeon.

Super serious Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe returns to his father’s home to ask his father for help in procuring the ransom money, but his father, Sir Cedric, refuses to raise any money to rescue a Norman King! Ivanhoe also takes time during his visit to woo his love, the fair Lady Rowena(Joan Fontaine), who is his father’s ward.  Several wayward travelers arrive at Sir Cedric’s door, asking for food and a place to sleep for the night: two Norman knights, Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert(George Sanders) and Sir Hugh de Bracy(Robert Douglas) and Isaac of York, a Jewish money-lender(Felix Aylmer).  During the meal, the Normans insult the Anglo-Saxons, they ogle Lady Rowena, and as word has spread that there’s a money-lender at Sir Cedric’s, several men attack Isaac when he is checking on his  horse at the stable. The evil men’s plan to steal Isaac’s money fails when Ivanhoe rescues Isaac.  Sir Cedric has ordered his son out of his sight by this time, so Ivanhoe offers to escort Isaac to his home.  Wamba(Emlyn Williams), Sir Cedric’s jester, asks to be Ivanhoe’s squire, and accompanies Ivanhoe on the trip to Isaac’s home.  Once there, Isaac, so moved by Ivanhoe’s rescue of him, gives him the money to pay for King Richard’s ransom. Isaac also asks Ivanhoe to beseech the King that Jews in England won’t be persecuted anymore.  Isaac’s beautiful daughter, Rebecca(Elizabeth Taylor), quietly gives  Ivanhoe her late mother’s jewels to add to the ransom amount. This is  her way of thanking Ivanhoe for saving her father’s life.  Ivanhoe and Rebecca immediately are attracted to one another, but neither will act on their feelings due to the strict rules of the day forbidding Jews from  marrying Gentiles.

Isaac thanking Ivanhoe for saving his life

Joan Fontaine as Lady Rowena

I won’t go into too many more plot points, but there is a great jousting scene, a castle siege scene, Rebecca, Rowena, and Sir Cedric all get kidnapped by the evil Norman Knights, Sir Brian and Sir Hugh, as the two men are lusting after Rebecca and Rowena.  The two knights also know that holding these three hostage will bring Ivanhoe to them and they can kill him.  Prince John gets a whiff of a rumor that his big brother has been sprung from that dungeon in Austria, and he’s becoming a nervous wreck.   Of course, it will be Ivanhoe to the rescue, with some help from Robin Hood and his Merry Men(but they go by different names in this film.)

Evil, whiny, Prince John

Baddie Sir Brian trying to explain to Rebecca his love for her.

Lady Rowena thanks Rebecca for all she had done to save Ivanhoe’s life

Robert Taylor, plays his role well; very stoic throughout.  He doesn’t laugh much  because he has a lot of heroic things to do! George Sanders is great as nasty Norman Sir Brian, but then as the film progresses, we see his inner struggle with falling in love with a Jewish woman who doesn’t love him.  Elizabeth Taylor is gorgeous in the film, and plays her character with sincerity and warmth and a quiet strength.  Felix Aylmer, Finlay Currie, and Emlynn Williams are superb in their supporting roles, as is Guy Rolfe as Prince John.  Joan Fontaine, while not billed before Elizabeth Taylor on the movie poster, plays Rowena as a calm, and wise woman, who just wants peace for England, and for peace to exist between the man she loves, Ivanhoe, and his father.

To see this rousing epic, that was one of the top 4 films in England in 1952, and earned MGM big box office profits, seek out Ivanhoe.  As luck would have it, TCM will be airing Ivanhoe this week, on Oct. 25th, at 4:00 pm eastern/3:00 pm central.  The film is also available via Amazon’s instant rent.  Here is the link to Youtube to see the British version of the film trailer.

Lovely Joan Fontaine