Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

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

The Star: John Wayne, The Director: John Ford for the Classic Symbiotic Collaborations Blogathon

When Theresa Brown, the wonderful blogger behind CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch announced that she’d be hosting a blogathon looking at famous actors or actresses and the influential directors that they worked with to make movie magic, I knew I wanted to participate.  As I scanned the Star/Director pairs classic movie bloggers were submitting, I noticed that one pair was missing,  so I decided to sign up and write about those two:

   symbiotic-collaborations-ford-ii

John Wayne and John Ford

These two men, powerhouses in their chosen careers, had a  complicated relationship that I believe stems from their childhoods.   Digging first into Wayne’s, most film buffs know that Wayne was named at birth Marion Robert Morrison, in Winterset, Iowa, 1909.  His father, Clyde, was a kind man with a reputation of being extremely nice to all he met.  Contrasted with a gentle father was Wayne’s mother, Mary-nicknamed Molly- who was harsh. Harsh, in that she wanted perfection, openly doted on her younger son, Robert-she actually took away Marion’s middle name in order to name her second son Robert.   Who does that???  Anyhow, she was not a loving or kind person and didn’t hesitate to disparage her husband in front of their two sons.  Clyde was a pharmacist but wasn’t good at keeping any kind of steady job.  Employment failures in Iowa led to a farming venture in California.  Clyde’s father owned some land in Palmdale and he asked Clyde to move there and farm it.  The Morrison’s went and  lived in poverty while trying to make the farm work.  After that venture proved disastrous, the family moved to Glendale.  Young Marion excelled at school academically and athletically.  His parents’ eventually divorced with Molly taking Robert to live with her in Long Beach.  Marion chose to remain in Glendale with Clyde.  Interesting family dynamics ensued as the two Morrison boys grew into adulthood, Marion was a lot more driven to succeed, which he inherited from his mother, Molly.  Younger brother Robert was a lot more laidback and lacked ambition, which he inherited from his father, Clyde.  Years later, Marion, now known as John Wayne, allowed that his father was, “…the kindest, most patient man I ever knew.” 1       The conflicting emotions, of not feeling loved by the mother, never being able to please her, and being distressed by the father’s lack of provision for the family stayed with John Wayne all of his life and I believe caused him to look for a “Father Figure” as he shaped and pursued his acting career.

Enter John Ford.   I read a biograpy on John Ford over a year ago-the man was an enigma to me.  He grew up in Portland, Maine, his parents were Irish immigrants to the U.S., and Ford was 1 of 11 children.  He did fine in school but excelled on the highschool football team-a common factor he and Wayne shared.  His older brother, Francis, a vaudvillian, made it to Hollywood and was a successful silent film actor.  Younger brother John decided to follow Francis and ultimately became an excellent director, beginning in the movie business as a stuntman, propman, handyman, stand-in for his brother, assistant, and finally, director.  I found Ford an enigma as he could be harsh and cold to those he worked with, with his wife and kids, and yet create such tender-hearted moments in his films.

Football, as it turns out, is how Wayne and Ford first met.  Young Marion Morrison won a football scholarship to attend University of Southern California-USC.  The coach at USC, Howard Jones, knew some of his players needed money to survive on as the scholarship didn’t pay for all that a college education would cost in 1925.  One of Coach Jones’s friends worked at the Fox Studio and the friend agreed to ask silent film actor, Tom Mix, to get part-time jobs at the studio lot for the USC football players.  In 1926, Marion was hired to be a goose shepherd on John Ford’s silent film, Mother Machree.  The film had several scenes where geese were shown walking around a farm.  Morrison’s job was to keep the geese in a penned area so they’d be ready for their scenes.  One day, according to Morrison, he heard a voice yell at him, “Hey, gooseherder!”  It was John Ford.  Ford continued, “You’re one of Howard Jones’s bright boys?”  Morrison replied, “Yes.”  Ford went on, “And you call yourself a football player?”  Morrison got tongue-tied, “I don’t…mean…well…”   Ford,”You’re a guard, eh?  Let’s see you get down in position.”  With Ford and his assistants watching, Morrison got into the 3 point stance and then Ford kicked Morrison’s hand out from under him causing the 19 year old to fall on his face.  “And you call yourself a guard.  I’ll bet you couldn’t even take me out.”  Morrison got up and said, “I’d like to try.”  Ford agreed and trotted out 20 yards away, then ran at Morrison who stuck his leg straight out, hitting Ford in the chest and knocking him down.  Ford took it well, landing on the ground and laughing, which was a signal for his assistants to laugh, and Morrison joined in too.  That began Wayne and Ford’s  association and friendship. 2

To young Morrison,who absorbed a lot when on a movie set,  Ford was a man  in complete command.  He made decisions, decisive ones,  and he didn’t back down from his decisions.  In effect being the father figure Morrison probably would have liked to have had, despite the niceness that was in Clyde Morrison.

In the summer of 1927, Morrison injured his shoulder during some horseplay in the Pacific Ocean.  The injury caused him to lose his scholarship, so dropping out of USC, the young man decided to get work at the movie studios, full time work.  Being a prop man was his first job and then he also got some bit parts to play in some films.

In 1929, Raoul Walsh, movie director, wanted to make a Western epic and found his chance in The Big Trail.  He had spied Morrison moving a table for a scene set-up on the studio lot and decided he wanted  to screen test the prop man to possibly play the male lead.  Morrison passed the screentest and got the part.  That’s when his name changed to John Wayne.  The Big Trail was hyped in a big way by Fox Studio, as was their new star, John Wayne.  Sadly, the film flopped and Wayne’s fledgling career ended up at poverty row studios, making a lot of B movie westerns.  Wayne would often go to “Pappy”, his  nickname for John Ford, and beg him to put him in one of Ford’s films.  Ford would reassure Wayne that one day, the right script would come along, and then he’d put Wayne in that film.  After 10 years, the right picture finally came along: Stagecoach.

stagecoach movie poster

Coincidentally, while researching for this blogathon, Turner Classic Movies came through like a champ and aired Stagecoach! I tivoed it and watched it again, recently.  I was struck by the amount of shots Ford put on just Wayne’s face.  That moment when we first meet Wayne’s character, Ringo Kid, has become a classic scene and rightly so.  With Ringo trudging across the desert carrying his saddle, standing there strong and twirling his rifle, as the Stagecoach approaches him, Ford zoomed the camera in right at Wayne’s figure then face-a star was born in that shot.  Katharine Hepburn said that George Cukor helped to make her a star in her first movie, A Bill of Divorcement, due to how her character was filmed in her introductory scenes.  I concur, that that was what Ford did with Wayne’s introductory shot in Stagecoach.  Here’s a link to that iconic movie, via Youtube; at the 18:35 minute mark, is Ringo’s entrance into the plot.  Also watch Wayne’s face as one minute he’s laughing with the doc at remembering how the doc helped his little brother’s broken arm and then the change to sorrow when he remembers that the little brother died when someone shot him.  Also  notice Wayne’s face as he watches Claire Trevor’s character hold a newborn baby.  Those ranges in emotions tell me that Ford knew what he wanted his actor to convey in those moments and Wayne delivered excellently.

John Wayne, in the famous shot that introduced him to a wider American audience

John Wayne, in the famous shot that introduced him to a wider American audience

Stagecoach was box office gold and it led to more Ford/Wayne collaborations through the years: 1940’s The Long Voyage Home, 1945’s They Were Expendable, 1948’s Fort Apache,  1948’s 3 Godfathers, 1949’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, 1950’s Rio Grande, 1952’s The Quiet Man, 1956’s The Searchers, 1957’s The Wings of Eagles, 1959’s The Horse Soldiers, 1962’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 1962’s How the West Was Won, and 1963’s Donovan’s Reef.

In the making of Stagecoach, Claire Trevor shared that one of the first scenes shot was when her character, Dallas, receives a marriage proposal from Wayne’s Ringo.  Ringo is a naive character as he doesn’t realize Dallas is a prostitute…he thinks he’s the one being shunned by the stagecoach passengers because he’s a prison escapee.  When they were shooting the scene, Ford kept yelling at Wayne.  He told Wayne to stop moving his mouth so much, that when one acts, one shows it in one’s eyes, not in one’s mouth!  Director Allan Dwan also said that,”Duke(Morrison’s childhood nickname that most people who worked with him in Hollywood called him)was just a stick of wood when he came away from USC…Jack(Ford) gave him character.” 3

Actor Tim Holt, who played the minor part of a young Calvary officer in Stagecoach, got mad at Ford for always picking on Duke during the filming.  He actually yelled at Ford to stop treating Duke in such a bad manner.  Actresses  Anna Lee, Maureen O’Hara, and actor Harry Carey Jr., all said pretty much the same thing, that on a Ford film, if Ford liked you, you got picked on and if Ford ignored you, that meant he didn’t like you.  Ford let Holt know that he had to be hard on Duke in order to “shock” him out of his complacent acting habits that he had picked up from making all of those poverty row B Westerns.  Ford also told actress Louise Platt, who played Mrs. Mallory in Stagecoach, that Wayne would be,”the biggest star ever…because he is the perfect Everyman.”4

What did Ford benefit from having John Wayne star is so many of his movies?  The obvious benefit was box office profits.  Having John Wayne star in one’s movie guaranteed audiences would pay money and see the films.  John Ford  helped create the John Wayne persona, I think modeling in his own mind the perfect man, and I think it was a character Ford wished he could really be, but  couldn’t attain.

Be sure to visit Theresa’s blog at CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch to read all of the wonderful blogs in this very interesting blogathon!!!

Resources:  John Wayne: The Life and Legend   by Scott Eyman   Simon and Schuster  Copyright April, 2014.  Footnotes: 1-P. 18.   2-Pp. 36-37.  3-P. 44.  4-P. 96.

Searching for John Ford: A Life by Joseph McBride   St. Martin’s Griffin  Copyright June 23rd, 2001.

I’ll close out this post with some pictures of Wayne and Ford and others, from the sets of some of their collaborative films.

Wayne, Ford, and James Stewart in a fun shot from the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Wayne, Ford, and James Stewart in a fun shot from the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Ford giving Wayne some direction in The Horse Soldiers

Ford giving Wayne some direction in The Horse Soldiers

Ford watching as Wayne drags Maureen O'Hara home in The Quiet Man

Ford watching as Wayne drags Maureen O’Hara home in The Quiet Man

Another iconic film shot, Ford centering Wayne's character Ethan Edwards at the end of The Searchers

Another iconic film shot, Ford centering Wayne’s character Ethan Edwards at the end of The Searchers, always on the outside, looking in.

 

For the Sinatra Centennial Blogaton: 1955’s The Tender Trap

Frank Sinatra, if he were still on earth today, would be celebrating his 100th birthday.  With that in mind, classic film fans and fellow bloggers Judy, at Movie classics, and Emily at The Vintage Cameo decided to host a blogathon celebrating Sinatra’s work in films.  My film choice is 1955’s rom/com The Tender Trap.  Be sure to visit Movie classics and The Vintage Cameo to read about more films Sinatra starred in.  He was really a lot more talented than just his singing voice!

Do you recall Aesop’s Fable about The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse?  The mouse who lives in the slower paced life in the country visits his cousin who lives in the fast paced big city?  Playwrights Max Shulman and Robert Paul Smith took Aesop’s story and made some changes: the mice become men, in the city there are fabulous looking gals all over the place, and two strong females with definite ideas as to what they want out of life.  It was a year-long hit on Broadway in 1954 and in 1955, MGM decided to take the hit play, turn it into a film and have it star Frank Sinatra.

The Tender Trap poster 2

Frank Sinatra plays  Charlie Reader, a New York theatrical agent.  One evening, unannounced, his best buddy since kindergarten, Joe McCall(David Wayne) appears at Charlie’s apartment door, suitcases in hand.  Joe, a pharmacist from Indianapolis, has decided his life-white picket fence, house, wife, 3 kids, a dog-is dullsville.  He’s decided a new life in NYC is just the ticket.  Charlie tells Joe he’s nuts!  He tells Joe he’d love that kind of life, as 3 different lovely gals enter and leave Charlie’s apartment in a span of 30 minutes, which leads Joe to start calling Charlie, “Sultan”!

Charlie and Joe, drinking to dames and friendship

Charlie and Joe, drinking to dames and friendship

Charlie is a bachelor and he thinks he’s a happy one.  He has the gorgeous Poppy(Lola Albright) kissing him on his couch right before Joe’s arrival, telling Charlie about the dinner she’s going to cook for them the next night.  After Poppy leaves, in sashays Southern honey Jessica(Jarma Lewis) who announces what a mess the apartment is in and proceeds to clean it up, slowly swaying her hips in the process.  Joe has to grab a drink of whiskey at this point!  After Jessica leaves, it’s Helen’s turn to shine.  A very strident Carolyn Jones as Helen, marches in to walk Charlie’s dog.  She faithfully walks him several times a day, able to ignore Charlie’s small talk.  Joe is agog at the end of meeting these 3 ladies and tells Charlie he’s never going back home!  One last female in Charlies’s life is about to appear via the tv, it’s Sylvia(Celeste Holme), a concert violinist who’s appearance is on the tv that evening with the NY Symphony.

Charlie and Poppy

Charlie and Poppy

Charlie and Southern honey Jessica

Charlie and Southern honey Jessica

"Ahem! I've come to walk your dog!"

“Ahem! I’ve come to walk your dog!”

Charlie and Sylvia

Charlie and Sylvia

Soon, Charlie meets his match in Broadway newcomer, Julie(Debbie Reynolds).  She can sing, dance, is so sweet and really wants to be a wife and mother.  She also manages to catch Charlie’s heart, but does he realize this?

Charlie intrigued by Julie and her audition

Charlie intrigued by Julie and her audition

As I sat watching this film, our 19 year old son-a commuter college student-was doing some homework and ended up watching the movie with me.  He laughed at all of the jokes, especially when Julie invites Charlie to her parents’ apartment for the evening;parents are in NJ for the weekend.  Charlie has kissing and other activities on  his mind, but Julie is trying to keep him at arm’s length.  Her idea to turn on the tv doesn’t help at all as all of the channels she changes the dial to are showing couples kissing!

What Frank Sinatra movie wouldn’t be quite complete with Frank singing?  Well, maybe not in a serious drama he probably didn’t sing much, but in this rom/com there is one song, (Love is) The Tender Trap and it was nominated for best song at 1955’s Academy Awards but lost to Love is a Many Splendored Thing. The song was written by Sammy Cahn and composed by Jimmy Van Heusen.  The Tender Trap opens with Sinatra far away from the audience, singing the first verses of the song and the chorus.  As he sings, he just slowly keeps walking forward, hands in his pockets, ever so cool and casual.  At the film’s end, the 4 main leads: Sinatra, Reynolds, Holme, and Wayne(he has a good voice!) all take a new verse of the song and sing it well, hands linked with one another.  A nice way to showcase the leads and end the film.  Kudos must also go to The Tender Trap’s director, Charles Walters.  There was a lot of talent in this cast, probably a lot of egos too, but he kept the film fast-paced, the comedic timing is perfect, and not a wrong note from anyone in this film.

The 4 leads, singing that song at film's end

The 4 leads, singing that song at film’s end

Seek out this romance-comedy where Sinatra shines with his comedic timing and singing and wooing of the ladies, Wayne is great as the somewhat sadsack buddy, Holme is good as the sadder but wiser gal who gets her happy ever after but in a surprise to her character, and Reynolds shines too, as the adorable and wise Julie.

The Tender Trap poster 1

The Tender Trap isn’t out on dvd at all!!!  That’s an outrage!!  However, on Christmas Eve Eve(that’s what my kids call December 23rd) Turner Classics will be airing this gem, at 3:15 am EST/2:15 am CST-set your dvrs!!!!

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