Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Above Suspicion-For the Joan Crawford Blogathon

Above Suspicion, the 1943 film, was a nice surprise to me when I watched it a couple years ago.  I saw it on my TCM schedule, saw that the cast wasn’t shabby: Fred MacMurray, Joan Crawford, Conrad Veidt, Basil Rathbone, Reginald Owen, Felix Bressart.  Musing over it, I set the dvr to record it and I was glad that I did.   Poster - Above Suspicion (1943)_01

MacMurray and Crawford are newlyweds Richard and Frances Myles.  Richard is an American, a professor at Oxford University in England, and Frances is also an American.  As they are about to embark on their honeymoon to southern Germany-the movie is set before WWII has erupted-an old friend of Richard’s finds them at an English country inn where they are staying.  Peter, the old friend,  works for the Foreign Office, and the British Government has sent him to ask a huge favor of the Myles’s: find a missing scientist who is “friends” with the Foreign Office and has information about how to disable a magnetic ocean mine that the Germans have developed.  Peter points out that since the Myles’s are Americans, they’ll be assumed to be regular tourists and hence, “Above Suspicion”.

Annex - MacMurray, Fred (Above Suspicion)_01

Arriving first in Paris, Frances is given a hat with a red rose on it and this hat is the signal to their first contact in trying to locate the scientist.  From Paris, the newlyweds will also travel to Salzburg, Pertisau,Innsbruck, and finally, Italy.  They travel at such a fast-pace to these spots that I don’t think PBS’s travel guru Rick Steves could keep up!

What I noticed in this movie was that MacMurray and Crawford had great chemistry together.  Their characters are comfortable and cosy with one another, showing one another mutual respect and genuine care.  Joan doesn’t act the diva, Fred treats her as an equal, and both are very calm under pressure  on this spy adventure.

43above11dec1

The supporting cast is wonderful! There’s Basil Rathbone( Count Sig von Aschenhausen, a Gestapo Chief), an old friend of Richard’s from their undergrad days at Oxford.  He is kind and helpful to the couple, but can they trust him?  Then there is Conrad Veidt(Count Hassel Seidel, museum curator) also helpful and kind, can they trust him?Thornley, another English tourist(Bruce Lester) gets involved in the mix, and Reginald Owen(Dr. Mespelbrunn), could he be the scientist they are seeking?  Can he be trusted??

Can the Myles's trust Basil??

Can the Myles’s trust Basil??

Can the Myles's trust Conrad??

Can the Myles’s trust Conrad??

Besides the red rose on the hat, there’s the song, “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose”, chess pieces, Franz Liszt music and a concert, a travel book with markings in it-all combined to help this couple on their secret mission as they try to stay several steps ahead of the Nazis.   I also found it interesting to note that this film was based upon the book Above Suspicion by Helen MacInnis, which was based upon experiences of MacInnis and her husband, Gilbert Highet.  I now want to find that book!

One can find Above Suspicion at TCM as they air it from time to time and it’s available to buy at TCM’s shop.   It’s available to buy or watch on instant rent via Amazon.

Above Suspicion

For a chance to see Joan shine in a picture where she’s using her brains, is a loving wife, and she’s outwitting the Nazis, give Above Suspicion a look-see!   This post is my contribution to the Joan Crawford Blogathon, hosted by the wonderful Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.  Be sure to visit her site to read more great blogs’ articles about Joan Crawford.

joan-banner

 

The Sword & Sandal Blogathon: 1949’s Samson and Delilah

My post today is for The Sword & Sandal Blogathon, hosted by  Debbie at Moon in Gemini.  Be sure to check out her blog to read other writers’  posts about films set in ancient times.

Sword and Sandal Blogathon

From time to time, Hollywood turns to the Bible for film plots, and due to the supernatural elements in many of the bible’s stories, movies depicting such stories are usually considered epics and/or blockbusters; containing spectacular special effects and casts of thousands.   Some Hollywood versions of famous biblical stories I have enjoyed and some I haven’t.   A year or two ago, Turner Classic aired one I had never seen before so I set my dvr and settled in to watch Cecil B. Demille’s 1949 biblical epic: Samson and Delilah.  I witnessed a pretty good film and it exceeded my expectations, for the most part.  The film was released in late December of 1949, cost around $3,000,000 to make and did boffo at the box office, earning Paramount Studios a bit over $25,000,000 in profits.  The film also won Academy Awards for Best Color  Costume Design and Best Color Art Direction.

Samson_and_Delilah_original_1949_poster

Samson’s story, is found in the Old Testament book of Judges, chapters 13-16.  I’ve included this link if you want to read the actual story of Samson and Delilah.  Highlights are his parents promising to raise their long awaited child as a Nazirite meaning Samson will never eat or drink anything made from grapes, he’ll never have a haircut, and he’ll not touch dead bodies or gravesites.  That haircut part will eventually cause Samson’s downfall, but some say his real downfall was his wanting to be with pagan gals and not marrying a nice Israelite girl as his parents urged him to do.    In telling Samson’s story for the big screen, the screenplay was based upon Russian writer Vladimer Jabotinsky’s novel, published in 1927:  Samson Nazorei(Samson the Nazirite).

Of course, using the novel for the screenplay added story elements not found in the Book of Judges: Delilah was Samson’s sister-in-law, that the Saran of Gaza plots to have the Israeli tribe Samson hails from to turn him in due to high taxes imposed upon them, i.e. if you give us Samson, your taxes will be reduced, a bit of information about Dagon, the false god whom the Philistines worship, and Delilah sad at what happens to Samson after she betrays him and how she comes to his aid.   Samson

Victor Mature, an actor whose films I  haven’t seen much of, is very good as Samson.   He gives an earnest performance, as a strong man who is charming and stubborn,  who wants right to succeed over injustice, and who is humbled when in his weakened state, he turns back to God to sustain him in his time of tribulation.    I felt sorry for him, even when he didn’t listen to his parents and decided to hang out with pagan gals!  My only complaint, and it’s certainly not Mature’s fault, is that the fight he has with a lion is obviously not done with a real lion.  If you throw popcorn at your tv when this part of the film happens, I can nod my head in agreement with your actions!

Samson and Delilah-HedyHedy Lamar  is gorgeous as Delilah and no wonder Samson falls for her.  Delilah is at first angry and sad about her older sister’s murder by Samson’s Philistine enemies.  If it weren’t for him, her sister(ably played by Angela Lansbury, looking equally gorgeous) would still be alive.  The Saran(coolly played by the always excellent George Sanders) of Gaza knows Delilah is the type of beauty that Samson can’t resist, and he knows she is wanting revenge, so he asks her what can the Philistines do to capture Samson? Without missing a beat, Delilah comes up with a plan to seduce Samson, find out what makes him so strong and thus how to weaken him so that he can be captured.    There is a turning point in Delilah, though, and Hedy conveys it well.  She is sorry for her part in helping Samson to be taken prisoner, realizes she really loves him, and helps him with his ultimate victory over the Philistines.

Look for Russ Tamblyn(before he was in 7 Brides for 7 Brothers and West Side Story) as Israelite teen Saul, Olive Deering as Miriam-both friends of Samson’s.  Fay Holden as Hazelelponit, Samson’s mom, and Charles Evans as Manoah, Samson’s Dad.  Mike Mazurki is the leader  of the Philistine soldiers, and Henry Wilcoxen as Prince Ahtur, who wants Samson’s first wife, Semadar(Angela Lansbury).  Director Cecil B. Demille also makes an appearance, or rather his voice does, as he narrates the film’s beginning.

Samson and Delilah is available to watch via Amazon’s Instant Rent, and it is also available to purchase at TCM’s Shop.  Also, on Youtube, a kind soul has posted the entire movie, in 13 parts.  I’ll sign off with some more pictures from the film.

Semadar, Delilah's big sister, who first catches Samson's eye

Semadar, Delilah’s big sister, who first catches Samson’s eye

 

The Saran of Gaza discussing Samson with Delilah

The Saran of Gaza discussing Samson with Delilah

 

Samson hanging out with Delilah

Samson hanging out with Delilah

Delilah's plan works and Samson is captured

Delilah’s plan works and Samson is captured

Remorseful Delilah, leading Samson to the columns at Dagon's temple

Remorseful Delilah, leading Samson to the columns at Dagon’s temple

Samson, ready to destroy the Philistines for the last time

Samson, ready to destroy the Philistines for the last time

:

 

The Olivia De Havilland Centenary Blogathon: Dodge City

Friday, July 1, 2016 one of the last actresses from Hollywood’s Golden Age of Movie Making celebrated her 100th birthday! Olivia De Havilland, best known as Melanie in Gone With the Wind, reached that majestic milestone and with that in mind, two wonderful classic film fan bloggers decided to host a blogathon, looking at Olivia’s acting roles.  Be sure to visit Crystal at In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies to read other bloggers’ posts about Olivia De Havilland’s films.

olivia-5

Warner Brothers Studio had made a wonderful discovery when their 1935 film, Captain Blood, yielded a big box office profit.  The discovery was that the two young leads, Olivia De Havilland and Errol Flynn, were a popular duo in action/romance films and the studio kept the pair busy, co-starring them in 7 more films.  I decided to review their 5th film, 1939’s Dodge City, and some say the Western that later inspired Mel Brook’s comedic spoof, Blazing Saddles!  220px-Dodge_City_1939_Poster

Dodge City begins in 1866, with a proud Col. Dodge arriving for the celebration to honor him and the fact that  the railway has now built its way to Dodge City.  Amongst the happy crowd are 3 cowboys who helped keep the rail workers fed with their skills at hunting buffalo: Wade Hatton, Rusty Hart, and Tex Baird.  Shortly before the celebration began, these 3 helped the U. S. Marshall catch baddie Jeff Surrett and his gang for illegally killing buffalo, just for their hides, and leaving the remains to rot on the prairie.  This first encounter of the 3 good guys with the baddie will become a major thread throughout the film.

Tex, Wade, and Rusty, the 3 cowboy-heroes

Tex, Wade, and Rusty, the 3 cowboy-heroes

Time marches forward and now there’s a screenshot explaining it is 1872, and that Dodge City is rolling in the dough due to cattle drives arriving there, the cattle then being sold, and tired cowboys, with pay in their pockets, looking for relaxation and fun.  Another screenshot shows a number of saloons that pepper the town, and one, The Gay Lady, is owned by the baddie we met earlier in the film, Jeff Surrett.  Surrett is wealthy and dishonest.  How does he do it? By bidding on cattle, paying part of what he owes for the cattle he buys, and weasling out of paying for the rest of his bill;sometimes the men he owes are shot and die, thus they don’t need to be repaid, others are run out of town and too scared to challenge Surrett for what he owes them.  Surrett’s wealth is also supported by the gambling that happens at his saloon as “the house” never loses much.  Yancey is the head of Surrett’s henchmen, and these henchmen are Surrett’s eyes, ears, and evil force.  Sheriffs for Dodge City have been weak and ineffective at stopping Surrett which means there is no law in the town, just anarchy.  I did have to smile as many scenes show the men in town suddenly pointing their guns in the air and just firing away-reminded me of a couple scenes from Blazing Saddles.  

Surrett, the villain of Dodge City

Surrett, the villain of Dodge City

Yancey, lead henchman for Surrett

Yancey, lead henchman for Surrett

Ruby, bad guy Surrett's star entertainer and girlfriend

Ruby, bad guy Surrett’s star entertainer and girlfriend

20-25 minutes pass before we meet a beautiful lady , Abbie Irving, who will figure prominently in the plot of trying to bring down Surrett and  his gang.  Abbie will also become the main love interest for Wade, of course, as he is the man Dodge City turns to  in a last-ditch attempt to rid themselves of the lawlessness that has gripped their community for too long.  Abbie and her younger brother, Lee, are moving to Dodge City from TX, as their father has died, and he had arranged for his two children(actually young adults) to move in with their aunt and uncle, Dr. and Mrs. Irving.  The two siblings sign up to travel with a cattle drive which just happens to be led by Wade and his 2 pals.  However, Lee is a hazard to the entire group as he is constantly drunk and then carelessly shoots his gun at targets, eventually causing a stampede which ends in his death.  Abbie is heartbroken with this event, and she blames Wade for her brother’s death: Lee, angered at being told to put his gun away, aims at Wade to shoot him and Wade fires back at Lee in self-defense, then the stampede begins.  It looks as if any future romance between Wade and Abbie is doomed.  We can tell Wade is attracted to Abbie as he gallantly offers to carry her heavy bucket of water.  Abbie is feisty, insisting she can carry her own water, but when Wade isn’t looking, she smiles to herself in a knowing way.  Despite her independent air, she is also attracted to Wade.

Lovely Abbie Irving on the cattle drive

Lovely Abbie Irving on the cattle drive

Wade trying to carefully explain to Abbie that perhaps she should stop acting cold towards him!

Wade trying to carefully explain to Abbie that perhaps she should stop acting cold towards him!

Reacting to Lee's death by stampeding cattle

Reacting to Lee’s death by stampeding cattle

Wade, with pal Rusty as his deputy, begins the immense task of cleaning up Dodge City.  Tex, the third amigo in this group of pals, isn’t quite ready to become a deputy as he is having too good of a time at The Gay Lady saloon.  He loves to watch Ruby’s song and dance numbers and he is the cause for one of the best saloon brawls ever filmed by Hollywood!  After being forced to cool his heels in jail, where Wade has locked up at least 60 lawbreakers(the cells are incredibly full), Tex becomes a deputy, too.   Wade imposes several laws: no guns allowed north of First Street-have to turn them in at the sheriff’s office and gunowners can have them back as they leave town, gambling has to stop by 2 am, taxes will be collected.  The laws work wonderfully well, and Dodge City gains a new reputation for being dullsville!  The laws also lead Surrett and his henchmen to plan how they will take out Wade and his deputies, and end the rule of law that has cramped their style.

Will Surrett and his gang succeed in ridding themselves and Dodge City of Wade, Rusty, and Tex?  Will Wade successfully woo and win Abbie?  Will Abbie and her boss, newspaperman Joe Clemens, be able to provide vital evidence through articles as to the corruption and crimes Surrett is behind so that a trial can happen to send Surrett and his henchmen off to prison and probably off to the death penalty? Will Dodge City fully embrace their new “dull” reputation or go back to lawlessness?  Find a copy of this film to find out the answers to these questions!  It is available to watch via Amazon’s instant rent, and Friday, July 8th, it will air on Turner Classic Movies at 2:15 am EST/1:15 am CST, and again on October 1st, at 2:00 pm EST/1:00 pm CST.

What else is there to like about this film,  Dodge City? Well, it was made in 1939, which is often called Hollywood’s best year as so many award winning movies were made then.  It’s in technicolor, theres the stirring musical score by Max Steiner, excellent direction by Michael Curtiz, who could handle action sequences as well as quiet scenes,  and of course the entire cast,  the leads as well as supporting players.  Errol Flynn is perfect as the handsome hero, and gives an intelligent read of Wade.  He doesn’t hide his accent, the plot explains that he is a transplanted Irishman who’s come to the Western US.  Olivia De Havilland is beautiful Abbie, and plays her as a strong woman, not a wilting, weak of heart lady.  It was refreshing to me to see an independent woman in 1872, one who works at the newspaper, and who scoffs when Wade questions her as to why she isn’t at home doing needlework?  Sidekicks Alan Hale Sr. and Guinn Williams are superb as Wade’s pals.  They’re big men, good humored, often with smiles on their faces.  Tex is obviously having a blast during that barroom brawl, and Rusty gets a fun side plot as he’s tired of the bar scene and accidentally wanders into a “Pure Praire League” temperance meeting, and the ladies there all think him quite a catch!  Bruce Cabot, who had played the hero in 1933’s King Kong gives a strong performance as the evil kingpin Surrett.  He squints his eyes, calmly barks out his orders, and they’re carried out.  He tries to make a deal with Wade, but of course, that won’t go anywhere.  Victor Jory plays Yancey, the dark and slimey head henchman.  1939 was Jory’s year to play baddies as he was also the slimey overseer Jonas Wilkerson in Gone With the Wind.   Gorgeous Ann Sheridan, despite her prominence on some of the movie posters, is a minor character in this film.  Her song and dance numbers are good, and she aquits herself well in those scenes.  Only one scene of her and Flynn, when he barges into the saloon and asks if she’s seen Surrett.

The supporting cast is a who’s who of some of the best character actors and actresses: Henry Travers(Dr. Irving), Frank McHugh(Joe Clemens), John Litel(Matt Cole, cattle buyer not afraid of Surrett and dies for trying to get all of his fee), Gloria Holden(Cole’s widow), Bobs Watson(Cole’s son, and can that kid cry!), Ward Bond( a minor henchman who later gets a good scene with Flynn, trying get information about Clemens murderer), William Lundigan(drunk as a skunk Lee,) Clem Bevins as the town’s barber, and Henry O’Neill as Col. Dodge, founder of the town.

For a great Western, glorious and large, with lots of action and a romance that only Flynn and De Havilland could deliver, see Dodge City!  I’ll close out this post with a clip from Youtube of that infamous barroom brawl.

 

 

 

Reel Infatuation Blogathon: Randolph Scott in The Tall T

This is my contribution for the Reel Infatuation Blogathon.  Be sure to visit classic movie bloggers Font and Frock and Silverscreenings, to read other wonderful pieces about classic movie “crushes”.

 Reel Infatuation Banners

 

My birthday is getting close and as I was musing over the fact that I’m firmly in middle age,  who were some of my reel infatuations from classic movies who kept on giving good acting performances when they reached middle age?  I zeroed in on Randolph Scott in The Tall T.  Scott was 59 when  he starred in this excellent western,  rescuing a damsel in distress, or rather, a spinster-suddenly widowed, a 46  year old Maureen O’Sullivan from a trio of dastardly villians, one barely out of his 30s, one in his early 30s and one in his 20s.  Let’s give out a cheer for the middle aged in this film!!!!     The Tall T movie poster

Randolph Scott began his acting career in 1927 at the age of 29(WWI, college for a while, then accounting were all stepping stones on his life’s path to Hollywood) and he began with bit parts in silents, then moved into “B” westerns, and doing stage plays which caught the attention of Paramount, who signed him to a contract.  From there it was loan outs, working at his craft, to finally landing leading roles in “A” pictures.  In 1946, Scott once again put on his cowboy gear, got up on his horse, and from there on out, made the last third of his acting career in Westerns.

In The Tall T, (the trailer states that the T stands for terror and we learn it is also the name of a ranch where the hero has gone to buy some stock) we get the tall Scott riding in on his horse over mountainous rock groupings, as he rides in to the stage coach station to visit a bit with Hank(Frank E. Sherman), who runs the station, and his young son, Jeff(Chris Olsen.)  Scott’s character, Pat, is an old bachelor cowhand, who finally has saved up enough money to buy his own ranch.  Hank teases Pat about never having found a wife, and warns Pat that if he ever begins talking to his cattle out of loneliness, all hope is lost for him!!  Both men have a good laugh over that remark, and Pat promises to bring back some candy for Jeff.  Pat  is about to ride on to the nearest town to buy some more stock for his ranch.  I noticed that Scott, even at 59, was still ramrod straight with his posture-no stooped shoulders, no seeming to have arthritic issues with moving around or climbing up onto or getting off of his horse.  He’s tanned, a bit more weathered in his face, but he still has that wide, charming grin and that bit of his natural NC twang that never did leave his speech pattern when he talks. He’s adorable!!  He’s a rugged, handsome man and a comforting presence to Hank and his young son.  I noticed at this early part of the movie, the music is jaunty and fun.  It makes the audience feel good, and makes one feel that one is in for a fun film.

Pat visiting with Hank and Jeff at the Station

Pat visiting with Hank and Jeff at the Station

This feel good aspect to the film is short.  When Pat returns to the station with the stagecoach(he lost his horse in a bet and has had to hitch a ride back to Hank and Jeff) the happy music turns quickly to an ominous tone and the trio of pure evil, younger men emerge: Frank Usher(excellently portrayed by Richard Boone), Chink(Henry Silva), and Billy Jack(Skip Homeier).  After ordering Pat, the stagecoach driver Rintoon(Arthur Hunnicutt), and the passengers to throw down their guns, the trio orders them out of and off of the stagecoach.  Rintoon is gunned down as he attempts to shoot the villains with his hidden rifle.  In another day or so, Doretta Mims(Maureen O’Sullivan)  will be widowed before her honeymoon ever began as her cowardly husband is shot in the back by Frank.

Usher telling Pat that Hank and Jeff are dead

Usher telling Pat that Hank and Jeff are dead

Doretta is a truly sympathetic character in this hot mess of a situation.  She is the only child of a copper mine magnate.  She’s been a spinster until she met Willard Mims(ew, the name Willard would have been enough to make me run in the other direction!) and she convinced herself that he was her last chance, agreeing to marry him even though she knew he was only interested in her for her money.   Pat can see that the trio of villains need to be outwitted and that only he and Doretta can do this.  He is a hero to be commended because he takes into consideration Doretta’s hurt emotions, her feeling of abandonment, her feeling of foolishness for ever marrying Willard, and yet Pat is able to calm her nerves, her fears, her bad feelings, and gets her to work with him in defeating Usher, Chink, and Billy Jack.  Pat could have swaggered a bit, and bossed Doretta around, or treated her with contempt as another bit of baggage in his way of outwitting and destroying the baddies, but he doesn’t.  He treats Doretta with respect, as an equal in asking for her help, and ultimately as a new love in this latter part of his life in the rugged West.

Pat and Doretta, working together for the Win!

Pat and Doretta, working together for the Win!

Scott”s portrayal of Pat shows a strong man, one who is warm, smart, who listens before he speaks, and acts wisely.  Pat is quick to notice the fault lines in the gang who has kidnapped he and Doretta.  Gang leader, Usher, is a loner.  A lonely loner who often calls out Pat to come and talk with him.  Pat is listening close to Usher, for information to ultimately use to help he and Doretta in outwitting the gang.  Pat also notices that Chink and Billy Jack have fears and weaknesses, and in remembering the old adage that there is no honor among thieves, Pat is able to conquer these 3 despicable characters.

Pat enduring one of Usher's talks

Pat enduring one of Usher’s talks

Chink and Billy Jack-these whippersnappers don't stand a chance against Pat

Chink and Billy Jack-these whippersnappers don’t stand a chance against Pat

 

TCM from time to time airs this film, so pay attention to their schedule as it may well air before 2016 is done.  I’ll close out with the trailer for The Tall T, courtesy of TCM’s website, and some more shots of the wonderful Randolph Scott!

Probably a publicity shot, Scott in his earlier acting days

Probably a publicity shot, Scott in his earlier acting days

Scott, probably early 1940s

Scott, probably early 1940s

The lines beginning to show on a middle-aged Scott, but still ruggedly handsome

The lines beginning to show on a middle-aged Scott, but still ruggedly handsome

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Order in the Court!” The Classic Courtroom Movies Blogathon: Intruder in the Dust

Today’s post is for  “Order in the Court!” The Classic Courtroom Movies Blogathon.  This genius idea for a blogathon was created by wonderful classic film fans Theresa at Cinemaven’s Essays From the Couch and Lesley at Second Sight Cinema.  Be sure to visit their blogs to read the great pieces about classic films that involved courtroom scenes, law, justice, etc.

My son’s English teacher told me at Parent-Teacher conferences this year that he was tired of presenting the book To Kill A Mockingbird, and then showing the movie, to some of his English classes.   I told the teacher that he should consider having the classes read William Faulkner’s novel Intruder in the Dust and then  show them the 1950 film version.  I added that it’s  a Faulkner novel with a happy ending!  This intrigued him, especially to learn that there was a happy Faulkner novel.   I  also pointed out  that the movie was  filmed in Faulkner’s  hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, and that he helped to write the screenplay.   Similar to  To Kill A Mockingbird, the setting is a small southern town  and while there isn’t an actual courtroom scene, there is the threat of a looming trial, a lawyer agreeing to defend the underdog, and some intrepid teens and one old lady who help to save the day.

Intruder in the Dust-book cover

 

Dust-poster

MGM paid Faulkner $50,000 for the rights to make a movie from this novel, which was published in 1949.  Clarence Brown was chosen to direct.  Faulkner helped to write the screenplay along with Ben Maddow.  The outstanding cast: Claude Jarman Jr., Juano Hernandez, David Brian, Elizabeth Patterson, Porter Hall, Charles Kemper, Will Geer, and Elzie Emanuel.

There are a good number of characters in this film but here are the main ones: Lucas Beauchamp(Juano Hernandez) is a black man who has made a nice life for he and his wife along the river that runs near the small town of Jefferson, Mississippi.  He minds his own business, conducts his life on his terms, and doesn’t want to cause any trouble.   Chick Mallison(Claude Jarman Jr.) is a typical teen boy, tallish, thin, gawky, who goes to school, and likes to hunt when he has free time, with his buddy, Aleck(Elzie Emanuel), a black teen, who is also tallish, thin, and gawky.  Then there is Miss Eunice Habersham(Elizabeth Patterson) the respected old maid Sunday School teacher, who has a stubborn streak a mile wide.  She’s petite, yet a powerful presence against the evil that will appear in this sleepy town.  Rounding out the main characters is lawyer John Gavin Stevens(David Brian), who also happens to be Chick’s uncle.  He’ll be called upon to take up the defense case for a man the majority of the town thinks is 100% guilty of murder.

The movie opens with Lucas Beauchamp being herded to the County Courthouse and Jail, as he’s been charged for the murder of one Vinson Gowrie(David Clarke), co-owner of the lumberyard.  A huge crowd of onlookers presses in  around Lucas as Sheriff Hampton(Will Geer) tries to get Lucas into the jail.  Chick Mallison happens to be in that part of town and when Lucas sees Chick in the crowd, he tells him to please go and get his uncle, Lawyer Stevens.  Chick hustles away and finds his Uncle John, and tells him that Lucas Beauchamp needs his help.  With that, a  flashback ensues, to explain how Chick came to become friends with Lucas.

The film is B&W, but here is a lobby card that would have advertised the film, and it's part of the mob scene where the sheriff is trying to get Lucas to the Courthouse and Jail.

The film is B&W, but here is a lobby card, in color,  that would have advertised the film, and it’s part of the mob scene where the sheriff is trying to get Lucas to the Courthouse and Jail.

Chick watching Lucas being taken away to the jail

Chick watching Lucas being taken away to the jail

It would be an unusual relationship, for a man of 6o to befriend a boy of 15, especially adding into the mix that they are of different races, and live in a time when the races were to be treated in a segregated environment.  Faulkner’s telling of this friendship is fairly simple: Chick and Aleck were out rabbit hunting one Saturday morning in November and Chick accidentally fell into the freezing cold river.  Aleck knew they were near Lucas Beauchamp’s home, so he ran there for help and Lucas rescued Chick.  Lucas then  took Chick to his home, put him to bed, made sure he had dry clothes to change into, made sure that the wet clothes were dried, and had his wife give Chick some food and drink after he woke.  Chick felt very awkward about thanking this black couple for their kindness, and awkward in telling Lucas thank you for saving his life, so when his clothes were dry, he put them on and just left!  Later, he does tell his mom about it and she admonishes him for not thanking the Beauchamps.  She insists they buy the couple some gifts and leave them at their doorstep as a way to say thank you.  In wanting to thank the Beauchamps anonymously, that action of supposed thanks only helps to illuminate the uncomfortable feelings the two races that make up the demographics of this town are consumed with.

Chick, sullen and unsure how to thank this man for saving his life

Chick, sullen and unsure how to thank this man for saving his life

Chick also tells his Uncle John one more anecdote about Lucas.  Lucas had been in the local hardware/general store one afternoon and Chick happened to be there too.  Some men in the store began taunting Lucas, who decided to stand his ground and ignore them.  This angered  Vinson Gowrie, and he tried to hit Lucas, but the men in the store stopped him.  Some of the townsfolk think that Lucas was mad enough at Vinson to shoot him. Chick tells his Uncle John that he knows Lucas wouldn’t kill anyone, and Uncle John agrees to take on the case.  He and Chick walk over to the jail to talk to Lucas.

The hardware store incident

The hardware store incident

 

Uncle John and Lucas meeting at the jail

Lucas and Uncle John  meeting in the jail cell

 

Lucas is adamant that he didn’t shoot Vinson Gowrie.  Lucas admits that he was visited and beaten by another white man, the other  lumber yard owner, as he  wanted Lucas to reveal who he had seen stealing lumber from the yard: Lucas had seen the murder victim, Vinson, stealing lumber.  Lucas won’t talk anymore about the incident, but after Uncle John makes his way out of the cell, Lucas hisses for Chick to come back.  He asks Chick and Aleck to go and dig up Vinson’s body, get the bullet out of it, because that bullet isn’t one from Lucas’s gun and will prove he’s not the killer.

Miss Habersham is also adamant that Lucas Beauchamp couldn’t be a killer, and she finds out what Chick and Aleck are planning to do, and with that matter of fact way of hers,  she announces to them that she’ll help them in their quest for that bullet!  As the trio finally unearth the coffin, they discover that Vinson’s body isn’t in it!

I’m not going to reveal anymore of this murder mystery by one of the South’s finest writers.  A kind soul has put the entire film on Youtube.  I will add, the scene where Miss Habersham alone defends Lucas from being lynched by a mob, is tense!

Juano Hernandez, listed 4th in the credits(I think he should have been listed 1st) is outstanding as Lucas.  He’s a wise man and it shows in his eyes, as do his other emotions.  He’s world-weary, and for every question and criticism he receives from Uncle John, his defense lawyer, he has a ready answer that counters the “whites” way of thinking about any sitution.  The other character that stands out to me is Elizabeth Patterson’s Miss Habersham.  She looks so prim and proper, but she is not one to fit into that cookie-cutter assumption as to how an old white lady from the South should act or think.   Carl Jarman Jr. is fine as Chick, at first wary to let anyone in his family know that he’s friends with Lucas, and then rising to his friend’s need in urging his Uncle John to take the man’s case.  I am not as familiar with actor David Brian’s other films, but he is good as Uncle John:stoic, practical, and it is he and the Sheriff(Will Geer, a small part but he’s great in it)who come up with the plot to catch the real murderer.

For an alternative to the film To Kill a Mockingbird and it’s book version, treat yourself to William Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust and it’s movie version!

Here is the trailer that movie goers in 1950 would have seen in advertising this film.

 

 

 

 

Dunstan Checks In: The Animals in Film Blogathon

I received a kind invitation to write a post for The Animals in Film Blogathon, by Crystal at In The Good Old Days of Hollywood.  Please be sure to visit Crystal’s blog to read other wonderful posts by classic movie bloggers, about all of the many animals that have appeared in films.

 

Animals in film blogathon

When I started to think about  animals in classic film,  I immediately thought of Lassie, Trigger, Toto, and Cheetah.  I figured that since I was not as quick as the other invited bloggers to join and announce the animal that they’d be writing about, I decided to pick a film that my own children had greatly enjoyed,  a film probably not considered a “classic”, which featured an ape as the star of the show, 1996’s Dunston Checks In.   Based upon a story by John Hopkins, screenplay by Hopkins and Bruce Graham. Directed by Ken Kwapis.  Released by 20th Century Fox.

51746X37BFL._SY300_Dunston Checks In

This film has a simple main plot, and a simple subplot, due to the main audience of this film was children, and then their parents; a confusing film with intricate plots wouldn’t work for this audience demographic.  The main plot is about a hotel manager gearing up for a huge social event, The Crystal Ball, to be held at the hotel he manages.  The hotel owner is demanding that they impress a hotel critic who will be a guest at this event; hotel owner has a 5-star hotel, she wants to earn a 6th star.  The hotel manager, a single dad, works hard at his job, but his two sons are rambunctious boys and  get into mischievious adventures at the hotel, that threaten to ruin their Dad’s efforts to run a wonderful, classy hotel.

Hotel manager Robert and his two sons.

Hotel manager Robert and his two sons.

Faye Dunaway as hotel owner Elena Dubrow

Faye Dunaway as hotel owner Elena Dubrow

 

The subplot involves a suave jewel thief, posing as a “Lord” from England.  In his employ helping him steal jewels is an orangutan, Dunston, whom this thief  raised from infancy but isn’t a good caregiver.  The hotel owner, awed by this thief’s manners and charm, thinks he is the hotel critic, so she  demands he be treated well by the manager and staff.

Lord Rutledge noticing a guest's jewels.

Lord Rutledge noticing a guest’s jewels.

Of course, the two boys find the orangutan, rescuing him from the jewel thief, and inform their father about who this Lord really is.  This Lord discovers that the boys have taken his orangutan from him and he is determined to get him back, and nab some of the Crystal Ball guests fabulous jewels.  Hotel manager Dad is determined that Dunston be found by  the animal control officer he has called, all the while not letting his boss, the hotel owner, know about this creature in her hotel.

Telling Dad that they have to help Dunston!

Telling Dad that they have to help Dunston!

The animal control officer Dad has hired to find Dunston before the Crystal Ball begins.

The animal control officer Dad has hired to find Dunston before the Crystal Ball begins.

There is a lot of slapstick humor, of course, which appeals to a broad audience.  The cast of humans in this film  are great in their presentations of their characters:  Jason Alexander as Robert Grant, the dedicated hotel manager.  Eric Lloyd and Graham Sack are his adorable sons, Kyle and Brian.  Faye Dunaway is superb as the haughty hotel owner, Elena Dubrow.  Rupert Everett is the charming and sneaky jewel thief, Lord Rutledge.  Paul Reubens(PeeWee Herman!) as Buck LaFarge, animal control expert and officer, and Glenn Shadix as Lionel Spaulding, the real hotel critic.

The boys often put Dunston in disguises as they sneak him around the hotel.

The boys often put Dunston in disguises as they sneak him around the hotel.

Dunston, from what I could gather, was played by one orangutan, named Sam.  He had a lot to do in this film, and I cannot fathom how many people it takes to film an animal required to do one thing, let alone several things in a scene!  In trying to find out a bit more about Sam, to see if he had been in other films, tv shows, commercials, etc.  I stumbled upon a piece written by Zach Sokol, who decided to find out about some of the beloved animals he loved to see on tv or in films when he was a kid.  If you click on his highlighted name, the article is there.  Spoiler, it’s a downer, but sort of tongue in cheek, too.

When Dunston Checks In hit theatres, some film critics were hard on the film and some were not.  I recall watching it with my kids, we rented it probably in 1999, and we all enjoyed it very much.  The kids laughed at the antics of the two boys and Dunston.  I was glad to see the tale reveal that in the end, the good folks are rewarded and the bad people get their just desserts.  For a fun, family movie seek out Dunston Checks In.  Since it came out in 1996, it probably won’t be too difficult to rent, and perhaps it is being streamed somewhere.

The Great Villain Blogathon: George Macready

Rhode Island’s own native son, actor George Macready, didn’t set out to be an actor.  After graduating from Brown University, in 1921, he worked in the banking industry and then moved to NYC to work for a newspaper. The acting bug must have been lurking and while in NYC he decided to give acting a try.  It didn’t hurt that Macready spoke with excellent diction all the time, and that he had a nasty scar on the right side of his face.  Due to a car accident,  crashing through a Model T’s windshield, Macready’s right cheek suffered a nasty gash that began an inch below his right eye, and then ran across the middle of his cheek and down below his jaw line.  That scar gave him the look of a villain, which he was often cast as, so I decided that for this blogathon I would  focus on Macready’s 3 most famous villain roles in classic films.

GV Blogathon 2016

1945: My Name is Julia Ross – a fast-paced film noir with a touch of gothic eerieness.  Made by Columbia Pictures, directed by Joseph H. Lewis.   Set in England, this film stars Nina Foch as the Julia of the title, Dame May Whitty as an alternating doting and demanding mother, Mrs. Hughes, and George Macready as Mrs. Hughes’s son, Ralph.  In this film, Julia is hired to be a secretary for Mrs. Hughes, who on first meeting with Julia, seems so sweet and her son Ralph is very polite and charming.  Julia agrees to take the job.  The Hughes’s are most anxious to hire a secretary who is female and who is an orphan, or with very few relatives, and no young man in the girl’s life, either.   Julia fits their wishlist nicely and  is whisked away to the Hughes’s country estate.  After a cup of  drug-laced tea which leads to a long sleep, Julia awakens to find the Hughes’s both insisting she is Ralph’s wife! While Julia was asleep, Mrs. Hughes ordered that Julia’s purse, papers, and clothes all be burned  to hide evidence as to who Julia really is.  We get our first inkling that all is not right with Ralph when we see him calmly and methodically, slashing through Julia’s silky nightgown with a knife!!  Mrs. Hughes yells at Ralph to stop that and takes his knife away from him, locking it in a desk drawer that contains various knives of all sorts.  She is momentarily distracted and doesn’t catch Ralph sneaking another knife out of that drawer!! Macready gives an excellent performance as the crazy and evil Ralph.  Seeming to be a man of utmost charm and politeness when in public, but alone in the house with mother and Julia,  the craziness begins to ooze out of him.  It’s an interesting power struggle to watch between he and Dame May Whitty as his mother.  A kind soul has put the entire movie on Youtube, and it’s there for the viewing.  I’ve also included the trailer for the film-note the crazed look in Macready’s eyes when Julia(Nina Foch) gives him a well-deserved slap across the face!

Gripping Julia's arm so she can't run away.

Gripping Julia’s arm so she can’t run away.

Ralph is caught cutting up Julia's nightgown!!

Ralph is caught cutting up Julia’s nightgown!!

My Name is Julia Ross

1946: One of Macready’s best known roles, as the evil entrepreneur and gambling casino owner, Ballin Mundson, in Gilda.  This film was also made by Columbia Pictures, directed by Charles Vidor.  Top-billing went to Rita Hayworth as Gilda, Glenn Ford as Johnny Farrell, and then to Macready.  The plot is a straight-forward love triangle, set in Buenos Aires, Argentina.   Mundson owns a casino and one evening as he is strolling the streets of Buenos Aires, he comes upon an American who has just won a bundle from gambling dice players.  Mundson steps in when it looks like the American is about to get mugged of his winnings.  With a flourish of his cane, he sends the muggers running.  The American, Johnny Farrell(Glenn Ford) is thankful to this stranger who saved him.  Mundson utters cryptically to Farrell, who makes a comment about the cane, “It’s silent when I wish to be silent.  It talks when I wish to talk. I make my own luck.  It’s a most obedient friend.” ( We later learn that this cane contains a hidden knife!) Mundson then hands Farrell one of his business cards and disappears into the night.  Farrell heads to Mundson’s casino the next night, and is hired to work at the casino, rising to second in command of the gambling floor.  Mundson reminds Farrell that women and gambling don’t mix and to work successfully for him, Farrell is to have no women in his life.  Then, weeks later and with no explanations other than “I’m mad about her, mad!”, Mundson summons Farrell to his mansion to introduce him to his new wife, Gilda!  Gilda is a knock-out, and we soon learn she is Farrell’s former lover!  While the film concerns itself mostly with Gilda and Johnny and their love/hate relationship, we do learn that Mundson had some shady business dealings with Nazis, having to do with tungsten, lots of money, and patents.  One man tries to kill him, and he tries to explain to Johnny that his business dealings have to do with his wanting to “control the world…it’s full of stupid little creatures!”  Mundson also begins to have his suspicions about Gilda and Johnny, and one evening, he grabs Gilda by the arm and with that perfect diction tells her in an ominous way, “Hate can be a very exciting emotion.  Very exciting!!  Hate is the only thing that has ever warmed me!!”  Once again, Macready excells at playing an aloof man, in charge of his world, with mental instabilities tucked neatly away and only peeking out when he lets them peek out.  He’s a narcissist in that he only cares about his business and his money.  He seems to only consider Gilda as a beautiful object to own and to show off to his customers.  His Mundson is not a sympathetic character and at the film’s end, we can’t help but be content with his fate.

Publicity still that is a nice summing up of the plot of Gilda

Publicity still that is a nice summing up of the plot of Gilda

gilda poster

1957: Paths of Glory, a film by United Artists, directed by Stanley Kubrick.  Kirk Douglas as the heroic, Col. Dax, George Macready as the self-serving and evil Gen. Mireau, Adolphe Menjou as Gen. Broulard, Ralph Meeker as Cpl. Paris, Joseph Turkel as Pvt. Arnaud,  Timothy Carey as Pvt. Ferol, and Richard Anderson as Maj. Saint-Auban.  A sad film and based upon an actual event that happened during WW I in France.   Paths of Glory was a book written in 1935 by Humphrey Cobb.  The book was  the account of 4 french soldiers chosen to be killed by a firing squad for cowardice after their division, pinned down in trenches, couldn’t advance upon a German strong hold.  Even after a higher up commander ordered shells to be dropped into his soldiers’ trenches(and thank goodness that order was ignored)to get them to move out of the trench, 4 soldiers were still put on trial and executed for cowardice, to be set as an example for the rest of the soldiers in their division.  Director Kubrick had read this book as a youth and wanted to make a film version of the book by Cobb.  After buying the film rights, which had been bought years earlier but shelved, Kubrick set about making his film.    Paths-of-Glory_poster_goldposter_com_17

The film opens with Gen. Mireau(George Macready) at his headquarters, a gorgeous chateau.  It is 1916 and the war is pretty much at a stalemate; French troops in trenches, German troops in the other trenches, neither side doing a lot as far as battling is concerned.  Into the chateau marches Gen. Broulard(Adolphe Menjou), with a plan.  He urges Gen. Mireau to have the men in his division take the Ant Hill, a ridge where the German army has a stronghold.  If the Ant Hill can be broken by the French Army, it will be a huge victory and a huge boost in morale.  Gen. Mireau is very skeptical and points out that his men are tired and that they just finished up a long skirmish and need to rest.  The Ant Hill is to be attempted in 2 days time.  At this early juncture, we feel sorry for Gen. Mireau, and think he’ll stand up for his men and turn down this request, which he knows is a futile endeavor.  Gen. Broulard is wily and begins the flattery campaign, adding that Gen. Mireau is up for a promotion which will mean another star to add to his medals.   The promise of promotion clouds Gen. Mireau’s common sense, and he becomes obsessed with his men conquering the Ant Hill so that he can earn that promotion.  From this point on in the film, Mireau transforms into an evil leader.

Broulard flattering Mireau into taking the Ant Hill

Broulard flattering Mireau into taking the Ant Hill

Gen. Mireau is off to visit the men in his division, chatting with random soldiers as he marches down the wooden planks set into the bottoms of the long trenches that his men are huddled in.  One soldier can’t answer his question if he has a wife and another soldier tries to explain that the man who can’t answer has shell shock.  Gen. Mireau is outraged by this information and caustically announces that there is no such thing as shell shock and immediately slaps the soldier hard in the face and orders him to be removed from his division!  I am wondering if actor George C. Scott studied this scene in preparing for his moment as Patton, slapping a soldier who is recovering in a hospital?

Gen. Mireau visiting the division

Gen. Mireau visiting the division

Gen. Mireau then marches himself into Col. Dax’s quarters(Kirk Douglas) and informs him that the division is to take the Ant Hill.  Col. Dax tries to explain how tired the men are and how impossible that effort is to attempt.  The numbers of men who will probably die, given out in cold facts by Gen. Mireau causes a look of despair and defeat to cover Col. Dax’s face.  As predicted, the Ant Hill is an utter failure.  Gen. Mireau is incensed, and calls for a meeting with Col. Dax and Gen. Broulard.  It is at this meeting that the cruelty of Gen. Mireau is revealed in that he wants a large number of men from the division to be court martialed and executed for cowardice.  Gen. Broulard uses humor to calm Gen. Mireau down, and Col. Dax uses sarcasm to suggest why not executing the entire division or just him, since he failed at getting the men to leave the trench to take the Ant Hill.  Gen. Mireau finally agrees to letting 3 men from each part of the division be put on trial and he agrees to let Col. Dax act as their defense attorney.  He then tells Dax after the meeting that he intends to utterly crush him after the court martial trial is over!

Threatening Col. Dax

Threatening Col. Dax

The trial is an utter sham and despite Col. Dax’s spirited defense,  the men are found guilty(Timothy Carey, Ralph Meeker, and Joseph Turkel.)  The only just dessert at the film’s end is that it is discovered, and written testimonies are recorded, that Gen. Mireau had ordered his own men in the trenches to be shot at in order to get them to move out of the trenches and on to the Ant Hill.  Gen. Broulard suggests an inquiry be made about this but Gen. Mireau knows his promotion isn’t going to happen and he storms out, spouting that he cares about the army.  Good riddance!!

In the making of this film, Macready’s scar is deep and very visible, with the dark line hard to take one’s eyes off of.  I was left wondering if that is how his scar really looked, or if it was made to look more intense by the make up department?  Paths of Glory will be airing on Turner Classic Movies on July 3rd at 4:30 est/3:30 cst so set your dvr!!

The scar deeply emphasized in this shot

The scar deeply emphasized in this shot

Be sure to read about more classic movie villains at this blogathon’s hosts’ sites: Speakeasy, Shadows and Satin, and Silver Screenings.  You’ll find enjoyable reads, I promise!!!  Here are a few more pics of Macready from these films:

Oops! Ralph being scolded for cutting up a sofa!! My Name is Julia Ross

Oops! Ralph being scolded for cutting up a sofa!! My Name is Julia Ross

Mama Hughes calling the shots as Ralph meekly sits by

Mama Hughes calling the shots as Ralph meekly sits by: My Name is Julia Ross

Cementing a business deal with the cane/knife gadget-foreshadowing perhaps?

Cementing a business deal with the cane/knife gadget-foreshadowing perhaps? Gilda

As Ballin Mundson in Gilda

As Ballin Mundson in Gilda

Playing harmonicas together on the set: Macready and Foch

Playing harmonicas together on the set: Macready and Foch