Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

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

 

Beyond the Cover: Books to Film Blogathon: Kings Row

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

Kings Row sign

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

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

Cassandra and Parris

Cassandra and Parris

Randy and Drake

Randy and Drake

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

Mysterious Dr. Tower

Mysterious Dr. Tower

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

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

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

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

Where's the rest of me??!!

Where’s the rest of me??!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Cover

For the Bette Davis Blogathon: A Stolen Life

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

blogathon-bette

 

 

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

A Stolen Life

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

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

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

Bette Davis as Kate and Pat Bosworth

Bette Davis as Kate and Pat Bosworth

Kate and Bill getting to know one another.

Kate and Bill getting to know one another.

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

The conniving Pat working her magic on Bill

The conniving Pat working her magic on Bill

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

Kate with fellow artist, Karnock.

Kate with fellow artist, Karnock.

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

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

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

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

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

My Classic Movie Pick: Love Letters

British Officer Alan Quinton has a big problem.  It’s World War 2, he’s in Italy, and he has been writing love letters to a girl back in England for his war buddy, Officer Roger Morland.  Roger was granted a leave in London a few months back and while there, he met a beautiful girl, Victoria Remington, at a ball.  He danced with her a lot and made her laugh.  He decided to keep the lines of communication open with her despite his return to the war and despite his lackadaisical attitude to writing letters, so he asks, begs, and badgers his friend Alan to write love letters to Victoria for him.   Alan, even though he’s engaged to Helen Wentworth and has never met Victoria, begins to fall for her due to the responding letters she writes back.

Love Letters

Alan writing a love letter for Roger

Alan writing a love letter for Roger

 

The plot thickens when Roger gets another leave to London and marries Victoria on a whim.  Alan gets wounded in a battle and is sent home to England to finish his recovery.  While at the hospital for recovering veterans, Alan and Helen know that their earlier promise to one another to marry has been weakened somehow.  Alan then learns that  Roger has died in an accident and Alan also finds out he has inherited an elderly aunt’s country home, still employing her caretaker, Mack.  Alan decides to move from London to live in this inherited home, hoping to  clear the cobwebs from his mind and decide what he now wants to do with his life.  Prior to going to the home, his brother, Derek, takes him to a party and it is there that Alan meets Dilly and a young woman who goes by the name Singleton.  At the party, Alan has too much to drink and goes on and on to Dilly about how he wrote love letters during the war for his officer buddy who he has recently learned was killed in an accident.  Dilly, startled by Alan’s confession, urges him that after he’s settled in at the country home, he should focus on the story about an “old murder” that happened near his aunt’s home.

Alan recovering at the Veteran's Hospital

Alan recovering at the Veteran’s Hospital

Dilly's suggestion to a now sober Alan about investigating an old murder

Dilly’s suggestion to a now sober Alan about investigating an old murder

Alan recalls Dilly’s advice, breaks off his engagement to Helen, and decides that since he has fallen in love with Victoria, he must meet her, especially now that Roger has died.  He travels back to London to visit a  library in order to try and find out about Roger’s death.   Alan finds out that Victoria was found guilty of murdering Roger!  Now Alan feels terrible, as he blames himself for writing those letters that brought Roger and Victoria together.

As I watched this romance/mystery film, I thought two things: one, I know that TCM is focusing on films that were either nominated for Academy Awards or winners of the award, showing such films as a lead up to the Oscars, but why not put Love Letters on the air on Valentine’s Day??  Second, this film is screaming for a remake, maybe Hallmark Channel needs to do this??

The plot continues to thicken: Alan is told Victoria is dead, he remeets Singleton and they fall in love.   He learns that Singleton has amnesia and can’t remember who she really is.  Dilly has information for him about Singleton.  Dilly shares with him her fears of the negative consequences that could happen when Alan tells her that he and Singleton wish to marry.  An elderly lady appears in the story, a Miss Beatrice Remington and she seems somewhat menacing towards Alan and Singleton and their wedding plans; she eventually relents and reveals that she is a key connection to Victoria and Roger Morland.  Singleton is driving herself crazy with memories suddenly popping up in her mind, memories that are confusing and scary for her.  She is also worried that Alan married her out of pity and that he really is in love with Victoria Morland, perhaps Singleton should just go away and give Alan up so he can find Victoria and be truly happy?

Alan and Singleton have fallen in love

Alan and Singleton have fallen in love

Mack and Alan helping Singleton when she has one of her hysterical episodes due to memories re-emerging

Mack and Alan helping Singleton when she has one of her hysterical episodes due to memories re-emerging

Love Letters arrived at the US movie theaters in 1945 and it did really well with American audiences.  The film was produced by Hal B. Wallis, based upon the novel, Pity My Simplicity, by Christopher Massie.  The screenplay was written by Ayn Rand.  William Dieterle was selected as the director.  Producer, movie mogul David O. Selznick agreed to let two of his actors, Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones play the two leads, Alan and Singleton, but he sent constant memos to Wallis with suggestions and essentially commands as to what he wanted for Jones’s contract; Selznick soon after married Jones.   The rest of the cast: Roger Morland-Robert Sully, Helen Wentworth-Anita Louise, Dilly-Ann Richards, Mack-Cecil Kellaway, Beatrice Remington-Gladys Cooper.

What I liked about this film was the acting and the score.  Sure, the plot was a bit  convoluted, hence my Hallmark remake suggestion, but all of the cast works well together to tell the story and make it believable and Dieterle’s direction with Rand’s screenplay give it all a fitting ending.  The score, by Victor Young, was nominated for an Academy Award as was Jones, for Best Actress.   Where can one find this film?  TCM will be airing it again on Sunday, March 13, at 10:00 am est/9:00 am cst.  The film is available on dvd via Amazon,  and at TCM’s Shop.

Here is a lovely clip of Nat King Cole’s rendition of Love Letters,  Victor Young’s Academy  Award nominated song for the film.  Here is the link to the trailer that audiences in 1945 would have seen to advertise the film.   http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/154197/Love-Letters-Original-Trailer-.html

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 737 other followers