Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

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

O Canada Blogathon: Leslie Nielsen and Forbidden Planet

Before Canadian actor Leslie Nielsen hit his stride playing serious characters in broad comedies, such as Airplane!, and the Naked Gun series, earlier in his film career Hollywood studios  often cast him as the super-serious hero type.  That’s what I discovered in 1956’s Forbidden Planet, which I just watched again for the third time, giving it a  more critical eye than I had done in past viewings.Forbidden Planet

I applaud the special effects team of Forbidden Planet: A.Arnold Gillespie, Warren Newcombe, and Irving G. Ries. My 12 year old happened to watch the opening scenes with me of the spaceship from Earth, flying around in outer space, it’s red light pulsating as it glides through a dark sky brilliantly lit with multitudes of stars.  He didn’t once scoff at the scene or make any comment about “fake” sets.  The fact that a youth of today can’t pick apart the special effects in a film made in 1956 is a testament to the work of that special effects team.   I also applaud the Art Directors: Cedric Gibbons and Arthur Lonergan.  What creativity those two men had!   They had to imagine a future world, future interiors of a spaceship, a home on another planet, the possible nature around it, an inner zone  depicted as huge that provides the energy to run another planet, a robot that could move and his fast moving planet rover, I really enjoyed seeing the sets again.  I can’t leave out two more behind the scenes skills that really made this movie so good: sound effects and animation.  A husband and wife team, Louis and Bebe Barron, were listed in the credits for creating the “Electronic Tonalities”, cool sounding electronically made beeps and whirs, and whizzes and bops, and so much, much more to add to the feeling of what it could sound like in Outer Space(I know, another sci fi film has told us that in space no one can hear one scream but I want it to sound like the Barron’s work!)  Disney lent out Joshua Meador to create the animation that helps to depict the outlines of the film’s monster. “SPOILER”-there is an invisible monster terrorizing the crew that has landed on the planet of the title.  When the monster tries to crash into the spaceship’s force field, we get a bit of a visual outline of the malevelant killer, and Meador created those animated outlines.

Nielsen plays Commander JJ Adams, leader of the space ship C57D, who with his crew of 18 men, have been sent on a mission, to find the distant planet Altair-4 and the crew of the space ship Bellerophon, which had landed there 20 years earlier.  On board the C57D is the capable communications man, Quinn(Richard Anderson), Dr. Ostrow(Warren Stevens), Lt. Farman(Jack Kelly), Cook(Earl Holliman), and bosun(George Wallace.)  James Drury of tv western The Virginian  and James Best, best known as Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazard also play crewmen on the ship, but you really have to be looking for them, they’re a bit hard to find.

Giving out some orders inside the C57D

Giving out some orders inside the C57D

 As they are about to land on Altair-4 they make vocal contact with a Dr. Morbious(Walter Pidgeon, another Canadian!), one of the survivors from the Bellerophon ship.  He tells the men to turn around and go back to where they had come from, he doesn’t need their help, and there is danger on the planet.  This causes Commander Adams to get his back up, so to speak, and he tells Morbious that ready or not, they’re going to land!

Landing on Altair-4 despite the warning not to!

Landing on Altair-4 despite the warning not to!

After the landing, as all of the crew are outside their ship observing the planet’s surface and sky, a distant dust cloud appears and grows closer to them.  With laser guns ready, the crew discovers that it’s a vehicle of some type, driven by a robot!  The robot introduces himself as Robby, and he asks the Commander to get in the vehicle as he, Robby, has been sent by Dr. Morbious to bring the Commander to the doctor.  Lt. Farman and Dr. Ostrow join Commander Adams and off they go.

After chit chat, and scientific thoughts, philosophies, a meal made by that fabulous Robby, and Dr. Morbious’s history about the Bellerophon have been digested, in strolls Altaira, Dr. Morbious’s gorgeous 18 year old daughter(Anne Francis)-oops!  Dr. Moribious forgot to mention that he has a daughter and our 3 crew members from C57D are suddenly sitting a lot taller in their chairs, and paying a lot of attention to this female.  Altaira is delighted to meet them as she’s never met real, live men before!!  There are some funny moments when Lt. Farman decides to introduce kissing to her-it helps with stimulation, he tells her!!!  Of course, this leads to Altaira visiting the men at their space ship, and she gets a royal scolding from Commander Adams for stirring up his crew, especially in her very short-hemmed dresses.  This causes Altaira to “hate” the Commander, but we know that by the film’s end, they’ll be in love.

Dr. Morbious explains he's made the Robot incapable of killing

Dr. Morbious explains he’s made the Robot incapable of killing

Publicity shot of Anne Francis with Robby the Robot

Publicity shot of Anne Francis with Robby the Robot

Dr. Morbious and Altaira vist the men at their landing site.

Dr. Morbious and Altaira vist the men at their landing site.

Altaira asking Lt. Farler just what is kissing??

Altaira asking Lt. Farman just what is kissing??

There’s more to the plot as an invisible monster begins to wreak havoc on the space ship and the crew.  Commander Adams blames Dr. Morbious for all of this evil and with psychiatric jargon and definitions, the evil is finally exposed and explained.

Why do I like this film?  For the good story, the visual look and sounds of this film, and the acting.  Leslie Nielsen, OC(means he received the Order of Canada in 2002) native of Regina, Saskatchewan decided as a youth that he wanted to try acting for a career, due to the success of his half-Uncle, actor Jean Hersholt.  He noticed the respect his half-Uncle drew for his career and thought that it wouldn’t be such a bad way to make one’s way in the world.  Nielsen is good as the take charge leader, and despite his scolding of Altaira, it’s easy to see why she falls for him later in the film.  Nielsen also gets to chew the scenery when he yells at Dr. Morbious, who needs someone to yell at him!  Walter Pidgeon is good, in a sort of obtuse, “I’m the smartest person in the room” attitude.  Anne Francis is lovely as Altaira, not realizing that her presence is a hindrance to the men.  Earl Holliman has a smallish, comedic part as the cook always looking for booze.  Richard Anderson, Warren Stevens, and Jack Kelly bring the right amount of seriousness to their roles, too.

For a look at a sci fi rendering of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and for a film that some believe helped to inspire Star Trek, seek out Forbidden Planet!   It does air on TCM from time to time, so check for it there.  Also, a kind soul has put the movie on Youtube, in 20 segments.  I’ve included the link for the first segment here.

Behind the scenes camaraderie

Behind the scenes camaraderie

This post has been for the O Canada Blogathon.  Be sure to visit classic movie bloggers Kristina at Speakeasy, Ruth of Silver Screenings to read more wonderful posts about just how much Canadians have contributed to Classic Movies.   O Canada Blogathon

 

My Classic Movie Pick: 1947’s Framed

My sweet mother-in-law loves all things techy and loves gadgets.  I really think my husband and his brother inherited their engineering skills from her!  A couple years ago, when ipads were brand new products on the American market, she bought one.  Jumping ahead to a year ago, she had decided that she didn’t really use the ipad much and gave it to our family, as we didn’t have one, and she knew our 5 kids still at home would use it.  Jump ahead to 4 months ago, and the ipad is mostly used by me, as a tv.  When I am cleaning up the kitchen, I grab the ipad and tune in to Youtube and watch episodes of Have Gun Will Travel-all 6 seasons have been nicely posted there and the family has grown accustomed to the show’s opening music and the ending song, about Paladin, where will you roam?

A week ago, one of my twin daughter’s was chastizing me about all of the movies I placed on our  dvr list via TCM.  She suggested I look for some of them on Youtube and watch them on the ipad.  I thought about her suggestion and decided to do that, cleaning up the dvr list in the process.  One classic film on Youtube that I stumbled upon by accident, was a tight little film noir, with a good cast, 1947’s Framed.

Framed

Noir’s are usually set in dark cities, back alleys, and smoke-filled rooms.  Not Framed-it’s set in the post-WWII sundrenched Southwestern US.   Glenn Ford stars as Mike Lambert, a down on his luck GI, who has recently graduated with a degree in Mining Engineering, but hasn’t had success in finding that first engineering job.  He has been working as an over the road truck driver  and  when he’s got enough money saved up, he’ll begin searching for that engineering job.

When the truck Mike is driving brakes fail, he accidentally hits a car owned by Jeff Cunnignham(the always great Edgar Buchanan) a local miner  trying to find that mother lode.  The cops arrest Mike as he’s forgotten to have his driver’s license in his wallet or in the truck, and it’s off to jail he goes.  A very attractive barmaid, Paula Craig(Janis Carter) pays the fine to get Mike out of jail.  He wonders why, but we soon find out…she and her married banker boyfriend(Barry Sullivan) have a criminal plot lined up and all they needed was a foil to make the plan work.  Run, Mike, run!!!!!

Mike about to be arrested for the truck accident

Mike about to be arrested for the truck accident

Paula bails Mike out of jail

Paula bails Mike out of jail

Finding a friend in Miner Jeff Cunningham

Finding a friend in Miner Jeff Cunningham

I was very unfamiliar with Janis Carter.  A beautiful blonde, she is great in this role as the duplicitous Paula-a femme fatale up there with the best of them.  I could see her battle with Bette Davis’s femme fatale in The Letter, and Janis would probably win!  She is good at playing coy with Ford’s Mike, demanding with Sullivan’s Steve, the bank manager, managing to keep her affair with Steve on the downlow which if you’ve ever lived in a small town is pretty near impossible.  She’s also excellent at putting on the charm, which helps her get what she wants all the time. I could easily see her throwing both Steve and Mike off a cliff to get the money and just fly off into the sunset.

Going over their robbery plan one more time

Going over their robbery plan one more time

Framed's Paula and her married lover, Steve, bank manager

Framed’s Paula and her married lover, Steve, bank manager

Ford is good as the innocent Mike.  I don’t mean innocent in that his character is naive, but innocent as he doesn’t know about the crime Paula and Steve are plotting to commit.  He does start to figure something isn’t on the up and up with those two, especially when his new friend, miner Jeff, gets framed for a murder.  Mike knows Jeff is being framed and he sets out to find the real killer.

Barry Sullivan is really young in this movie-I mainly know him from his tv roles which he played when he was  a senior citizen.  He’s good in a smallish part, and I loved the scene where his wife, suspecting the affair, slaps him a good one across the face.  You rock, Mrs. Price!!!  (Mrs. Price was played by Karen Morley.)

Studio publicity pic of Carter and Ford playing cards

Studio publicity pic of Carter and Ford playing cards

If you want to experience a fast-paced film noir, with a good plot, good acting, and not a bad video transfer onto Youtube, seek out 1947’s Framed.  Distributed by Columbia Pictures.  Directed by Richard Wallace.  Screenplay by Ben Maddow and John Patrick, from a story by John Patrick.  Cinematography by Burnett Guffey.  Interestingly, this film came out after Ford’s starring in Gilda, with Rita Hayworth.  So, Columbia, trying to cash in on Ford via Gilda, for Framed’s movie posters and ads, pretty much all show Ford gripping Carter to show he’s in control of this woman.  However, when one watches Framed, it’s pretty much Carter’s character controlling Ford’s character up to the midpoint of the film.  Movie posters can be very misleading!!

Here's an example of one of the misleading movie posters for Framed

Here’s an example of one of the misleading movie posters for Framed

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