Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

The Lost Weekend for 31 Days of Oscars Blogathon

Today’s post is a contribution to the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by three great gals, dedicated  fans of classic movies.  Please visit their sites to read other great posts covering all things Academy Awards: Once Upon a Screen,  Outspoken and Freckled, and  Paula’s Cinema Club.

When I learned about the annual Oscar Blogathon, I knew I wanted to participate again.  This time I decided to write about a specific Best Picture winner and I chose 1945’s The Lost Weekend.  I scoured for an online source in order to re-watch it, but struck out with that source.  I checked our Netflix and Amazon sites, via our Roku box, and again, struck out!  The local Family Video store didn’t have it.  I finally went to Rolla’s Public Library and bless them-they had the newest dvd of it!!  I settled into our comfy tv room, popped that movie into the dvd and became mesmerized again by this bleakest of  dramatic offerings.  If you are not familiar with The Lost Weekend, it is a realistic look at an alchoholic and his horrific weekend, seeking out alchohol, and the broken relationships and self-harm he leaves in his wake.     The Lost Weekend poster 1

Hollywood, from early silent films  until 1944, usually depicted an alchoholic character as a comedic, bumbling joke.  However, in  1944, writer Charles Jackson wrote his first best-selling novel, The Lost Weekend, an autobiographical, unflinching look at the horrors of being an alchoholic.   Jackson’s novel was published in early 1944 and that spring, director Billy Wilder was on a train trip from LA to NYC and while on a layover in Chicago, he bought  Jackson’s novel.  Wilder was so enthalled with the book that he stayed up all night reading the book, re-reading it, and taking notes.  When Wilder arrived in NYC, he quickly contacted Paramount Production Head Buddy De Sylva, and told him that The Lost Weekend was to be Wilder’s next movie, so please quickly buy the rights!  De Sylva had heard about the book and he had a lot of doubts that any movie about an alchoholic could be a financial success, but lucky for Wilder, the rights were purchased.

Wilder set to work.  His friend and collaborator Charles Brackett agreed to help write the screenplay and agreed to be the film’ s producer.  Now to find the lead actor.  Wilder was interested in having Jose Ferrer, currently getting raves on Broadway, to play the lead role of Don Birnum.  De Sylva nixed that idea as Ferrer wasn’t that well-known.  The  scuttlebut in Hollywood was that any actor who agreed to play the lead would be committing career suicide.  Wilder knew that that wouldn’t be the case and even said, “Not only did I know it was going to make a good picture, I also knew that the guy who was going to play the drunk was going to get the Academy Award!”  In 1942, Wilder had been allowed to direct his first movie, a romance comedy, The Major and the Minor.  The lead actor in that film, Ray Milland, had worked well with Wilder and so he was asked to consider the lead in The Lost Weekend.  Milland gladly accepted the challenge that this role would provide his career.

One tiny production problem popped up: Milland didn’t drink alchohol!  He didn’t know what it was to be drunk or to be craving a drink.  The actor turned to the author, Charles Jackson, for advice on the inner mind of the alchoholic, how to act drunk, and Milland also decided to stay for 24 hours at Bellevue Hospital, in NYC, in the drunk ward.  He went incognito as a patient, and during the night, a new patient was ushered into the drunk ward.  The patient was  agitated and began howling and since he wouldn’t settle down, the staff had to come and try to restrain him. Milland decided he had had enough so he left the hospital during this commotion but forgot about grabbing his street clothes.  A cop saw him as he exited Bellevue, still wearing the robe patients were given at that time to wear, and the cop nabbed Milland and took him back inside the hospital!  It took Milland a good chunk of his time to finally convince the officer and the hospital that he was really there just to do research for an upcoming movie role!  Also, a few weeks prior to the film’s start date, Milland decided to go on a crash diet.  He figured that an alcoholic probably doesn’t concern him or herself with eating 3 nutritious meals a day, so he lived on hard-boiled eggs, dry toast, grapefruit juice, and black coffee.   Milland went from his normal weight of 168 lbs. down to 160 lbs.

Katherine Hepburn was shown the script to possibly sign her on as Helen St. James,  Don Birnum’s long-suffering girlfriend.  Hepburn was intrigued by the script but was already preparing  to shoot another movie and wasn’t going to be available to work on The Lost Weekend.  Jean Arthur was then offered the role but she turned it down.  That led to discussions, of hiring an ingenue, and Brackett contacted Jack Warner, head of Warner Brothers, about letting them borrow Jane Wyman.  Warner agreed and Wyman got her chance to have her name above the title, and to also play in a more dramatic part then she had ever done before.

Publicity still of Milland and Wyman.

Publicity still of Milland and Wyman.

Rounding out the cast were the very capable Phillip Terry, as Wick Burnham, Don’s long-suffering brother, Howard Da Silva as Nat, the owner and bartender of Nat’s, Don’s favorite bar, Doris Dowling as Gloria, a flirt who hangs out at Nat’s and has a huge crush on Don, Frank Faylen as Bim, the male nurse who explains the reality of being an alcoholic to Don when he is at Bellevue.  Lilian Fontaine(mom of Olivia de Haviland and Joan Fontaine) has a small part as Helen’s mom and Lewis L. Russell plays her father.  William Newell also has a bit part as a liquor store owner whom Don robs for a quart of rye.  Gordon Jennings is good as the opera house’s coat room clerk who won’t let Don search for his coat when he is handed Helen’s by mistake, and Douglas Spencer-better known as reporter Scotty in The Thing From Another World, is quite good as an alchoholic with a horrible case of the dt’s,  sharing the drunk ward with Don.

Philip Terry as Wick, with Jane Wyman as Helen

Phillip Terry as Wick, with Jane Wyman as Helen

Howard Da Silva as Nat

Howard Da Silva as Nat

Doris Dowling as Gloria

Doris Dowling as Gloria

Frank Faylen, as Bim

Frank Faylen, as Bim

The Lost Weekend begins on a Thursday afternoon, with a wonderful opening shot of New York City, a long view of the tall buildings as they sweep by our eyes.  It must be spring or fall, as we see apartment buildings with opened windows, curtains billowing in the breeze.  We meet the characters that tell us the story of this weekend, which begins on a Thursday afternoon and ends on a Monday morning.  There is Wick Burnham. the sensible brother, but he’s getting so very tired of trying to help his brother Don dry out.  He lets Don share his apartment, but pays all of the rent, the utilities, pays for their food, because Don, who aspires to be a writer, has no job.   Don’s girlfriend is Helen St. James.  A sweet lady, who left behind a loving home in Toledo, Ohio to make her way in the exciting environs of NYC.  Helen works at Time magazine and often is given tickets to the theatre or opera.  We see in a flashback that the opera is where she met Don, over a mixing up of their coat check tickets.  Helen is sweet, honest, tough, and not willing to give up on Don or the possible future they could have together.

At Nat’s bar, we meet Nat.  He’s a good-natured guy, but not one to push around.  He sees the downward spiral Don is in and tries to counsel him to get help, especially since Don has that nice St. James lady who loves him.  Also at Nat’s is Gloria.  A very pretty gal, who is very attracted to Don and lets him know it.  She doesn’t seem to understand that he is an alchoholic, and is ready to loan him some cash when he visits her apartment, desperate for money.  It is here that Don has a horrible fall down a flight of stairs that lands him at Bellevue.

Then there is Don, the main character of this story.  Milland really gave a tour de force performance.  We can see glimpses of the jovial and charming man that Don Birnum could be.  We see the huge frustrations and desperation in his eyes when he can’t find anymore hidden bottles of liquor in the apartment, or when there isn’t anymore money to buy that quart of rye.  We see his fear at waking up in Bellevue’s drunk ward, not knowing where he is at first and then being caustically lectured by Bim, the head male nurse, as to what he sees all the time in dealing with alcoholics.  Echoing those horrors is Don’s own experience of the dt’s or delirious tremens, when he thinks he sees a mouse that has chewed a hole in the wall of the apartment, only to be attacked by a bat and blood running down the wall!  Milland looks hagard, ill, is unshaven and sweats profusely.  He staggers around NYC and in one scene, he practically cries out to some businessmen why are the pawn shops closed???  Don’t they realize he has to pawn his typewriter for money???  When he is told it’s because of Yom Kippur that the stores are closed, he looks devasted, like he’s lost his last friend and there won’t be anymore in his lifetime.

The delirious tremens

The delirious tremens

Threatening a liquor store owner

Threatening a liquor store owner

About to have a drink he begged Nat for

About to have a drink he begged Nat for

"Why aren't the pawn stores open??"

“Why aren’t the pawn stores open??”

Don calls the rings from his glasses of rye his "vicious circles"

Don calls the rings from his glasses of rye his “vicious circles”

At Nat's Bar

At Nat’s Bar

Miklos Rozsa needs to also be mentioned due to his musical contributions to the score.  When test audiences saw the film in California, they didn’t like it.  Rozsa noticed that a jazzy, George Gershwin type of tone was being used in different scenes and he told Wilder that he thought musically that that was the wrong approach.  Wilder told him to come up with another musical score and Rozsa did.  He used the instrument, the theremin, whenever Don was having one of his alcoholic crises.  That sound immediately gave the movie an other worldly feel, to symbolize that the alcoholic’s world isn’t normal.  You can hear that sound for yourself in this clip from Youtube, the movie’s trailer.  The theremin is apparent at the 23 second mark.

After The Lost Weekend was seen by the American movie going public, and the movie viewers abroad, it cleaned up nicely in the awards categories for 1945.  Billy Wilder and Ray Milland won Best Director and Best Actor, and the movie won Best Picture from the New York Film Critics Circle.  Milland won Best Actor from the National Board of Review.  At Cannes, Milland won Best Actor and Wilder won the Grand Prize.  The Lost Weekend won the Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Film, Milland for Best Actor, and Wilder for Best Director.  For the Academy Awards, The Lost Weekend had garnered 7 nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Writing(screenplay), Cinematography, Music, and Editing.  It won 4 Oscars: Best Actor, Best Director, Best Writing, and Best Picture.  Since Wilder had also co-written the screenplay, he actually won two Oscars for The Lost Weekend.  As Milland took the stage to accept his award, emcee Bob Hope joked that Milland’s Oscar was hidden away in a ceiling light, as that was one place Don Birnum had hidden a liquor bottle in the film!

Producer and screenwriter Charles Brackett with co-screenwriter and director Billy Wilder, on the set of The Lost Weekend

Producer and screenwriter Charles Brackett with co-screenwriter and director Billy Wilder, on the set of The Lost Weekend

Milland with his Oscar

Milland with his Oscar

If you  have never seen The Lost Weekend, do find it and view it.  It really is a remarkable feat in the motion picture arts and was added in 2011 to the National Film Preservation Board.

Credited articles that helped in the writing of this blog topic: “Weekend in the Sun”, Bailey, Blake.  March, 2013, Vanity Fair.

“Why The Lost Weekend is Essential”, McGee, Scott.  Turner Classic Movies website.

 

My Classic Movie Pick: Kitty Foyle

Ginger Rogers had enjoyed a successful film career that began in 1929, but it really took off in 1933, when she teamed up with dancer Fred Astaire.  Ginger and Fred made 9 musical films together, from 1933-39, and all proved to be box office hits.  By 1940, Astaire and Rogers wanted to make other movies, so the partnership broke up(though they did reunite for 1949’s The Barkley’s of Broadway) and Ginger moved on, starring in various comedic and dramatic roles.  In 1940, she starred in the film, Kitty Foyle, and for her performance, won the Best Actress Oscar at 1941’s Academy Awards.  Her award-winning role is my classic movie pick for today.

Kitty Foyle poster 1

Kitty Foyle began as a book, written by Christopher Morley, in 1939.  It was a best-seller, and so often happens with best-selling books, Hollywood came calling.  RKO Studios bought the rights to Morley’s book and made the movie version.  Sam Wood was chosen to direct and  Millard Kaufman wrote the screenplay.  Ginger was chosen to play Kitty, and the two leading men for the film were Dennis Morgan and James Craig.  Supporting cast included: Eduardo Cianelli, Ernest Cossart, Gladys Cooper, and Odette Myrtil.

Ginger(who let her natural reddish-brown hair color come through for the role) is outstanding as Kitty.  As the film opens,  we meet Kitty Foyle, a pretty, smart businesswoman who is an executive at Delphine Detaille’s Fashion House.  Kitty is deep in thought as she has to make a choice.  Marry Dr. Mark Eisen or stay unattached so that her former love and husband, the wealthy  Wyn Strafford, can sweep into her life yet again.

We then see Kitty’s life in a flashback.   Kitty is a poor girl, growing up in Philadelphia, raised by her widower father(Cossart).  She is always daydreaming about living a life of wealth, more of a Cinderella-type dream where a rich, handsome, young man will swoop in and be her Prince Charming. Her dad, whom she affectionately calls Pops, warns her to stop the daydreaming and wake up to reality.  One day, however, she does meet her Prince Charming, Wynnewood Strafford VI played charmingly by Dennis Morgan.  It’s love at first sight!

Kitty & Pops

Kitty & Pops

Wyn wants to be a businessman in his own right and doesn’t want to join in the family’s banking business. He has begun a magazine and after he meets Kitty, he hires her to be the secretary for his new venture.  Love blooms between Wyn and Kitty.  When the magazine fails, Wyn’s weak side shines through as he goes back to his family and enters the banking business, and refuses to ask Kitty to marry him because he’s afraid of what his family will say about his wanting to marry a girl not from their same social standing.

Kitty, Wyn's new secretary

Kitty, Wyn’s new secretary

Kitty & Wyn-it's love!!

Kitty & Wyn-it’s love!!

Kitty’s father passes away and she is off to New York to seek a new life.  She gets a job at Delphine’s (Odette Myrtil) fashionable shop for ladies.  While at the shop one day, Kitty accidentally sets off the store’s burglar alarm and pretends to faint to hide her error.  A doctor is summoned and he has a “meet cute” moment with Kitty.  He is Dr. Mark Eisen(James Craig) who teases Kitty into going out on a date with him and she agrees to the date.  After seeing Mark quite a lot, Kitty begins to have fond feelings for him, but then Wyn reappears, in NYC!  He finds Kitty and begs her to marry him, that he is desperately in love with her!  What’s a girl to do?

Kitty going on a case with Dr. Mark!

Kitty going on a case with Dr. Mark!

Kitty holding the new baby Mark has delivered

Kitty holding the new baby Mark has delivered

Kitty with Mark

Kitty with Mark

Wedding bells ring, and Wyn and Kitty marry, agreeing that the only way their marriage will last is if they don’t live in Philadelphia.  They decide to settle in NYC.  Wyn also decides that he needs to introduce Kitty to his family.  During their visit to the family estate, Kitty is treated very coldly, especially by Wyn’s mother(wonderful British actress Gladys Cooper, who was often called upon to play imperious mothers or mother-in-laws!) and Kitty learns that unless Wyn joins in the banking business in Philadelphia, he will be disinherited and will be left penniless.   Kitty can see that Wyn won’t be able to stand up to the threat of losing all his money, so she quietly goes back to NYC alone and files for an annullment.

Kitty meeting Mrs. Strafford, Wyn's mother

Kitty meeting Mrs. Strafford, Wyn’s mother

Back in NYC, Kitty is back at her job with Delphine and life is going on when Kitty discovers that she is pregnant!  Before Kitty can tell Wyn about their baby, she finds out in a society section of the NY Times that Wyn is engaged to a girl from a prominent Philadelphia family!  More troubles come Kitty’s way, but she does have her steady work at Delphine’s, and that brings the audience back to Kitty at the film’s beginning.  Whom will she choose?  Wyn or Dr. Mark?  I don’t want to reveal the movie’s ending as I want you, the readers of this blog, to seek it out!

From time to time it airs on TCM(Turner’s Classic Movies cable channel) but it isn’t on the list for the remaining days of February.  The film is available in a dvd for sale at TCM’s Shop.  It is available to buy via Amazon or to watch it through their instant rent program.  Lastly, a kind soul put various trailers of it on Youtube.  By trailers, I mean an advertisement for the movie, that audiences in 1940 would have seen at movie theatres.

Kitty Foyle is a lovely film.  It’s charming, romantic, sad at times, with Ginger Rogers never hitting a wrong note in her portrayal of such a strong, sensible character.  It’s no wonder she won the Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal.

Ginger Rogers with her Oscar for Best Actress and Jimmy Stewart with his Oscar for Best Actor

Ginger Rogers with her Oscar for Best Actress and Jimmy Stewart with his Oscar for Best Actor

 

 

My Classic Movie Pick: Blackboard Jungle

As a former teacher, I am a complete and utter sucker/fan of movies that revolve around  a teacher trying to save the world by getting through to their unruly, bratty, world of crime-leaning students.  In 1954, writer Evan Hunter wrote a novel, The Blackboard Jungle, that got a lot of buzz from the reading public and it caught the attention of Hollywood.  Movie Studio MGM bought the rights of the novel and Richard Brooks, not only directed the film, The Blackboard Jungle, he also wrote the screenplay.   The movie did exceedingly well at the box office and it also was nominated in 4 categories at the 1956 Academy Awards: Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography.

Blackboard Jungle

The movie opens with that famous song that was used 20 some years later as the opener for the ABC sitcom Happy Days, Rock Around the Clock, performed by Bill Haley and His Comets.   We then meet our protagonist, Richard Dadier(Glenn Ford), a WWII veteran who went to college on the GI Bill and earned a degree to teach English.  He arrives at his very first teaching job, at North Manual High, an all-boys high school in inner city New York.  Dadier soon learns that there are a lot of discipline problems at this school and that many of the students are juvenile delinquints.  Still, he is optimistic that with his hard work and encouragement, his students will learn and will go on to success in life.

His students, which most of the focus of the film is on one of his classes, were portrayed by some of the best up and coming actors of the 1950s and 1960s: Sidney Poitier as Gregory Miller, Vic Morrow as Artie West, Dan Terranova as Belazi, Rafael Campos as Pete Morales, Jamie Farr(cast credits list him as Jameel Farah) as Santini, and Paul Mazursky as Emmanuel Stoker.

The faculty and staff of North Manuel: Louis Calhern as Mr. Murdock, Margaret Hayes as Miss Hammond, John Hoyt as Principal Warnecke,Richard Kiley as Mr. Edwards, and  Emile Meyer as Mr. Halloran.

Rounding out Didier’s life is his sweet wife, Anne, played by Anne Francis, and a former professor he seeks out for advice, Prof. A.R.Kraal, played by Basil Ruysdael.

Dadier soon realizes his work will be tough when an object is thrown at the blackboard while he writing his last name on the board and explaining to his students how to pronounce his name.  When Miss Hammond, who is a very stylish new teacher, is cornered after school in the library and about to be assaulted by a student, Dadier luckily happens to be walking by and hears her cries for help.  Dadier rushes in and saves Miss Hammond and rightly gets some punches thrown at the student before he runs away.  Later, Dadier and Mr. Edwards, a new math teacher who loves jazz, visit a bar after work one day, have a few drinks, and then on their walk to their apartments, a gang of hoodlums who attend North Manuel recognize their teachers and brutally mug them.  When Dadier’s wife sees his beaten face at his arrival home, she insists that he give up this job and teach at a different school, one in a much better neighborhood or community.  A side plot is that Anne is expecting and she’s worried about this pregnancy as she miscarried their first baby.  It doesn’t help Anne’s stress levels when she begins to get horrible phone calls implying that her husband is cheating on her!

Anne receiving one of those disturbing phone calls

Anne receiving one of those disturbing phone calls

Object thrown at the blackboard

Object thrown at the blackboard

Dadier coming home after being mugged

Dadier coming home after being mugged

Dadier hangs in there, and he is able to appeal to Greg Miller, to show Miller that he has natural leadership qualities.  When Miller states that because he’s black and that there’s not a lot he can do as many doors will be shut to him due to his race, but Dadier doesn’t accept that reasoning and tells Miller that blacks can succeed in the modern world and that there are teachers who care.  He encourages Miller not to drop out, which he had been considering.

Artie West, as Dadier discovers, is one of the main bullies of the school, and a gang leader.  Shortly after West destroys math teacher Edwards jazz record collection in the classroom, Dadier decides enough is enough and there is a climactic confrontation in Dadier’s English class between him and West.

Dadier starting to have success with his class

Dadier starting to have success with his class

A young Jamie Farr

A young Jamie Farr

West about to break Mr. Edwards Jazz records

West about to break Mr. Edwards Jazz records

The climactic fight scene between Dadier and West

The climactic fight scene between Dadier and West

See this film for the performances: Glenn Ford, always a capable and sincere actor, shines here as the new teacher who wants to impact his students for good.  Vic Morrow is excellent as the evil Artie and Sidney Poitier believable as Greg Miller, learning that he can succeed and that he does have leadership skills.  Great supporting performances by Louis Calhern, Anne Francis, and Richard Kiley.

The Blackboard Jungle will air on Turner Classic Movies on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14th, at 2:45 am est/1:45 am cst, so set that dvr!  The film is available to buy or instantly rent through Amazon.    Over on Youtube, someone has put the main scenes of Blackboard Jungle together in a montage set to the film’s iconic opening song, Rock Around the Clock. Here’s that cool montage.  Also on Youtube, is this  charming interview with actor Jamie Farr, more famously known as Cpl. Klinger on the hit tv series Mash, about being in the movie Blackboard Jungle.

My Classic Movie Pick: Far From the Madding Crowd

I have read several of British author Thomas Hardy’s (1840-1928) novels.  I wasn’t forced to read them for a class, I read them of my own free will.  Several of Hardy’s  novels have been turned into movies, notably Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure.  While those novels are well written and interesting tales, they have downer endings.  I wanted to focus my classic movie pick on a Hardy novel turned movie, that doesn’t have that sad ending, so I chose 1967’s Far From the Madding Crowd.  The film was directed by John Schlesinger who has been credited with helping actress Julie Christie’s career to get off the ground when he cast her in the film, Billy Liar, and then he  directed Christie in her Academy Award winning Best Actress role, in the film, Darling.

Far From the Madding Crowd poster 1

If Far From the Madding Crowd were transported to that silly U.S. Game show, The Dating Game, then the beautiful bachelorette would be Bathsheba Everdene(Julie Christie).  Bathsheba is now wealthy, as she’s inherited her late Uncle’s profitable farm. She’s a very  Modern Miss for the 1870s Victorian England and she has announced that she’ll manage the farm herself!  This news shocks many in the  rural community of Weatherbury, where the tale is set, and earns her some negative views.

 

Bathsheba Everdene (Julie Christie)

Bathsheba Everdene (Julie Christie)

On to the Bachelors!  Bachelor #1 is Frank Troy(Terrence Stamp), a dashing Calvary Officer in Her Majesty’s army.  Troy is a rogue; he loves the ladies and the gambling tables.  Bachelor #2 is Mr. William Boldwood(Peter Finch), a neighboring, wealthy farmer who has never married.  He is at least 20 years older than Bathsheba.  A quiet. polite gentleman, but a possible new passion could turn him a bit crazed! Bachelor #3, Gabriel Oak(Alan Bates) is a shepherd by trade.  Strong and ruggedly handsome, he has a  lot of common sense and knows how to run a farm.  All three of these men are interested in the single, beautiful Bathsheba.  Which one should she choose for a husband??

Calvary Officer Frank Troy(Terrence Stamp)

Calvary Officer Frank Troy(Terrence Stamp)-Bachelor #1!

 

Gentleman Farmer, Mr. Boldwood(Peter Finch)

Gentleman Farmer, Mr. Boldwood(Peter Finch) Bachelor #2!

b

Shepherd Gabriel Oak(Alan Bates)

Shepherd Gabriel Oak(Alan Bates)Bachelor #3!

Bathsheba, who knew Gabriel Oak from her childhood, succeeds in hiring him to be her head shepherd.  He notices that she  is an impetuous sort of girl when she sends a Valentine to the neighbor, Mr. Boldwood.  Boldwood is surprised and  touched by the missive, so much so that he seeks Bathsheba out and proposes to her!  She agrees to think about his offer of marriage, but during the allotted time that she has asked for in contemplating Boldwood’s proposal, she meets Calvary Officer Troy.  He is so handsome in that red uniform, he marvels Bathsheba with his sword handling skills, and he knows she is rich.  Bathsheba and Troy soon marry, much to Boldwood’s great sorrow.

Married life begins for the couple and sadly,  Bathsheba is at first blind to her new husband’s faults and he has a bundle of them.  He antagonizes the farm’s field hands with his pestering, he gambles away a lot of Bathsheba’s money, and he also has another woman from his past that will soon enter into the plot and drive Troy to disappear.

After waiting the prescribed amount of time to have Troy declared legally dead, Bathsheba agrees to marry Mr. Boldwood.   A huge engagement party is planned by Boldwood and all of Weatherbury are invited.  When all are gathered and enjoying the party, an unexpected guest arrives and it drives Boldwood to act out in a crazy and violent manner.

While all of the drama, passion, and turmoil roil around Bathsheba, Gabriel has managed to be the calm observer and when asked, gives wise, honest answers.  Will Bathsheba wake up and realize that Gabriel is the man for her?  Is she doomed to remain single after these disastrous first two tries at gaining a husband?  One must seek out this film and find out the answers to those questions.

Luckily, it will air on TCM on Tuesday, March 3 at 7:45 am est/6:45 am cst.  Set your dvrs!  Far From the Madding Crowd is also avaible to buy via TCM’s Shop in a dvd or a blu-ray dvd.  It is also available to purchase at Amazon.

While the film isn’t on You Tube, some kind soul did post it’s trailer, one audiences would have seen in 1967 to

promote the film.    FFTMC poster 2

 

 

 

My Classic Movie Pick: Colorado Territory

Joel McCrea was one of my grandma’s favorite actors.  She told me that years ago when I was probably 12 or 13 years old.  At age 12 or 13, I had no idea who Joel McCrea was, but when I began to watch classic movies in my high school days, I did find out who he was.  A tall, good-looking actor, often playing in comedies or dramas in the 1930s and 1940s; I could see why he was one of my grandma’s favorites!  In the late 1940s and heading into the 1950s, McCrea was aging and he turned increasingly to roles in Western films.  Colorado Territory was just such a career changing role and it fit McCrea’s persona to a T.

CO Territory

In 1941, famed Hollywood director Raoul Walsh had a huge box office hit with a gangster movie, High Sierra, that starred Humphrey Bogart.   Jumping ahead to 1949, a similarly plotted film treatment landed on his desk, Colorado Territory, written by Edmund H. North and John Twist.  Their screenplay took High Sierra and pushed it back in time to the 1870s.  Walsh loved the story and  got the greenlight from Warner Brothers to make this “newish” version of his earlier film.

In Colorado Territory, we meet outlaw Wes McQueen(Joel McCrea) stuck in a jail in Clay County, Missouri.  He’s a notorious bank robber and train robber and known for being very fast with a gun.  A sweet, little old lady arrives at the jail with a cake and some handknit woolen socks for McQueen, telling the jailor and sheriff that she’s McQueen’s Aunt Georgina(Hallene Hill).  She is informed that she won’t be allowed to see McQueen, but that the basket of goodies will be delivered to him.  As the aunt leaves, she tells the sheriff to give McQueen a message, that his old white horse has been broken to drive buggies by his Uncle Pluthner.  The basket is given to McQueen with the message about his old white horse.  McQueen immediately perks up, because he realizes it’s a coded message and that Pluthner isn’t really his uncle but a former Pinkerton agent turned outlaw.  With an unraveling knitted sock, McQueen is able to escape from his jail cell in a way that would have made tv’s MacGuyver proud!

McQueen starting to unravel one of the socks.

McQueen starting to unravel one of the socks.

The next morning it is discovered that McQueen has escaped.  A bell is rung in the town, and a posse is rounded up.  The chase to catch McQueen is on!  Meanwhile, McQueen has met up with Pluthner(Harry Woods), who tells him that McQueen’s old robbing buddy, Dave Rickard(Basil Ruysdael) is living in Colorado territory and he wants McQueen to help him with one more train robbery, which will yield a large haul of cash, and that they can split it up with Pluthner, and then they can all scatter to do what they want with their lives.

McQueen makes a short stop at his family’s farm.  He sits on his horse, looking wistfully around as he remembers his boyhood there.  The new owner’s son appears, on his way to a fishing hole.  McQueen recognizes the boy and asks him how is his family doing?  The youth answers his questions but when McQueen asks about Martha, the boy’s face clouds up with sadness.  He motions to McQueen that Martha is over yonder, buried in the cemetery.  McQueen is very sad to learn of this news.  He goes alone to pay his respects to Martha and from McCrea’s somber acting, we can tell that Martha was a very important person in McQueen’s life and future plans.  This scene also allows the audience to feel empathy for this outlaw, who went from a mischievious youth to bad choices to now, wanting to just pull off one more robbery and then he’ll pursue a quiet, upright life.  We are rooting for McQueen, hoping he can make this change.

McQueen visiting Martha's grave

McQueen visiting Martha’s grave

To get to Colorado territory and avoid the posse, McQueen takes a stagecoach and meets  fellow passengers, Mr. Fred Winslow(Henry Hull) and his pretty daughter, Julie Ann(Dorothy Malone).  Winslow is a chatterer, and goes on and on about leaving Georgia behind for a rich ranch he has purchased, Rancho del Sol.  Julie Ann is exasperated with her father and several times tells him to stop telling about their personal affairs to this traveling stranger.  McQueen lies, and tells the Winslow’s that his name is Jeff Rogers and that one day he, too, would like to farm or ranch in the West.  When bandits are about to  attack the stagecoach, McQueen impresses all with his ability to defend and defeat the would-be robbers.  At the stagecoach depot, McQueen spies a wanted poster with his picture on it and he deftly tears if off the wall and discards it while accepting the award of a good horse that will help him get to the his next point -an abandoned mission town, Todos Santos, where the rest of the train robbing gang are waiting for him.

McQueen sees the bandits approach while on the stagecoach

McQueen sees the bandits approach while on the stagecoach

Winslow reveals he moved Julie Ann to Colorado to get her away from a scoundrel back in Georgia

Winslow reveals he moved Julie Ann to Colorado to get her away from a scoundrel back in Georgia

Dprpthy Malone as Julie Ann-can she take Martha's place in McQueen's heart?

Dorothy Malone as Julie Ann-can she take Martha’s place in McQueen’s heart?

 

McQueen arrives in Todos Santos and meets his robbery team.  What a bunch of misfits!  There’s the brute, Reno Blake(John Archer), who has brought along a dance hall gal, Colorado Carson(Virginia Mayo)-a half-breed, rough kind of woman.  Rounding out the trio is Duke Harris(James Mitchell) a smart-alecky, psychopathic guy.  James Mitchell is so good in his role-I had only really known him previously from his role as Curly in the dream ballet sequence of the movie version of Oklahoma! and his long-standing role on the soap opera All My Children.  I really think he should have been nominated for a best supporting actor, he does that well with the role of the twisted Duke!

Meeting the robbery gang at Todos Santos: Reno, Colorado, and Duke

Meeting the robbery gang at Todos Santos: Reno, Colorado, and Duke

Duke giving McQueen some more information about the robbery

Duke giving McQueen some more information about the robbery

McQueen having to break up a fight between Duke and Reno

McQueen having to break up a fight between Duke and Reno

McQueen lets it be known that he is in charge of this robbery for Rickard and Pluthner.  Reno and Duke aren’t happy about this, but keep their complaints to one another.  Colorado can tell that McQueen is a better man than Reno or Duke could ever hope to be and she begins to flirt with McQueen.  One night she overhears him murmur Martha’s name in his sleep, and when he awakens, Colorado asks him about Martha, then throws herself into McQueen’s arms, essentially asking him to take her with him when the robbery is done.  McQueen gently refuses her, taking her arms down from his neck and explains that there is someone else he wants to plan his future with, Julie Ann.  He tells Colorado that he’ll make sure she gets a cut of the money and that he will expect her to go off on her own to start her new life.

Colorado realizing McQueen is a better man than Reno

Colorado realizing McQueen is a better man than Reno

Showing McQueen how well her broken leg has healed!

Showing McQueen how well her broken leg has healed!

Colorado begging McQueen to take her with him after the robbery

Colorado begging McQueen to take her with him after the robbery

 

The town’s station agent(Ian Wolfe) visits the gang.  He’s a nervous sort of fellow, and a weakling.  He has arrived to tell them the specifics of the train’s arrival and how much money it will be hauling in the safe.  What he doesn’t tell the gang is that he’s really working with the U.S. Marshall for the region.  The Marshall(Morris Ankrum) has gotten information about the attempted train robbery and he’s pretty sure McQueen’s behind it.  More double-dealings are revealed: Pluthner has arranged with Reno and Duke to keep the money for themselves and to kill McQueen and Rickard, and Reno and Duke have their own plan brewing, to keep the money for themselves, killing McQueen, Colorado, and Pluthner in the process.

The robbery happens but it doesn’t go according to anyone’s plans and McQueen discovers all of the double-crosses that were going to happen.  Unfortunately he is shot in the shoulder and while he and Colorado hide out at the Winslow’s ranch for a bit, McQueen sadly discovers that Julie Ann is not the girl he thought she was and he decides then and there to not plan a future with her as his wife.  Leaving the Winslow’s ranch to head back to Todos Santos with Colorado, he realizes that perhaps Colorado is the woman he really loves.

It's Colorado who McQueen really loves!

It’s Colorado who McQueen really loves!

 

Uh oh! Seeing those smoke signals!

Uh oh! Seeing those smoke signals!

With McQueen and Colorado now planning their new life together at the old mission, with money in their possession and just a short ride over a mountain ridge to Mexico, they suddenly are awakened from their plans by the sight of smoke signals-an Indian that the US Marshall had sent to search for them found them at Todos Santos and sent the signal to let the Marshall and his posse know where McQueen and Colorado are hiding.

One of the film's last images

One of the film’s last images

I won’t reveal the end of Colorado Territory as I want the potential viewers to seek this film out!  It’s a well-acted film, a storyline that doesn’t have any plot holes, and it touches on that philosophical question, can a person really change their life around?

Colorado Territory will be shown on TCM on Saturday, April 25th, at 4:30 pm EST/3:30 pm CST.  It is also available to view on Amazon’s instant rent or for purchase.  I’ll end my blog with a few more movie posters for Colorado Territory and I find them a bit amusing as they all focus on Virginia Mayo over Joel McCrea!

T.his poster I find quite well done

This poster I find quite well done

Two posters, comparing the two main characters of High Sierra and Colorado Territory

Two posters, comparing the two main characters of High Sierra and Colorado Territory

From my limited highschool French, this  movie isn't all about the girl of the desert!

From my limited high school French, this movie isn’t all about the girl of the desert!

CT poster 2

My Classic Movie Pick: Intruder in the Dust

My twin daughters, 14 years old, read the novel To Kill a Mockingbird last semester in their English class.  I recalled having to read that same book when I was in junior high and then getting to watch the movie in class, as we wrapped up that novel.   I was surprised, and pleasantly so, when a year ago I stumbled upon a movie airing on TCM that was a similar plot to Mockingbird and  was also written by a Southern US born and raised author, William Faulkner; my surprise was that here was a movie just as involving and good as To Kill a Mockingbird, but it was unknown to me.   That movie was 1950’s Intruder in the Dust, made by MGM 10 years before To Kill a Mockingbird was published and 12 years before its film version was released in theatres.

iitd poster 2

There are 4 main characters in this film: Lucas Beauchamp(played so well by Juano Hernandez), Chick Mallison(Claude Jarman Jr.), John Gavin Stevens(David Brian), and Miss Habersham(Elizabeth Patterson).  These 4 all live in the same small town in Mississippi.  Lucas is a black man who owns property.  He owns some acreage outside of town, with a modest home, and the river runs through his land.  Chick is a typical, gangly 15 year old teenager, who enjoys rambling around in the woods hunting.  He’s polite, quiet, and often deep in thought.  His Uncle John Stevens is a well-thought of lawyer in town.  Miss Habersham is a kind, polite elderly lady who proves that she isn’t one to just sit in her rocking chair and knit all day!

Lucas Beauchamp

Lucas Beauchamp

Chick

Chick

Uncle John

Uncle John

Miss Habersham

Miss Habersham

The plot is about a murder, a wrongly accused man, those trying to protect and prove that man’s innocence, and those who want to see the accused man dead.  At 87 minutes, it is a fast-paced film and hits all of the right notes in portraying Faulkner’s book, and it was filmed in Faulkner’s hometown of Oxford, Mississippi.

A businessman, Vinson Gowrie, has been found murdered.  It is assumed that Lucas Beauchamp is the murderer and he is arrested and charged with the crime.  As Lucas is being taken to jail, the townspeople form an angry mob leading to the jail’s front doors. In the crowd of onlookers is Chick.  Lucas makes eye contact with him and asks the boy to find his Uncle John, and to ask Uncle John to be his lawyer.  From this point, the movie becomes a flashback, with Chick urging his Uncle John to take up Lucas’s case.

Chick relays to his Uncle John that in November  when he, Chick, was out hunting with his friend Aleck, Chick accidentally fell into the frigid waters of the river and Lucas happened to hear his cries and rescued him, took him to his own home, put him by the fire, and got him some warm clothes to put on while waiting for Chick’s wet clothes to dry.  Chick tells his Uncle that he was ashamed that he never properly thanked Lucas for saving him, allowing it to the fact that he wasn’t raised to show respect to  black people.  From that point in the movie, Chick and Lucas do develop a friendship.   Chick also recalls for his Uncle John how one day when at the General Store, Vinson, the murdered victim, insulted Lucas and was about to hit him in the head before the other men in the store stopped him. Chick theorizes that that incident could be why Lucas has been wrongly accused.  Uncle John finally agrees to take Lucas’s case.

Chick, drying off at Lucas's home

Chick, drying off at Lucas’s home

With the flashback now over, the film goes forward to the present.  Uncle John visits Lucas in jail and learns from him that a white businessman, a lumberyard owner, had beaten Lucas to get him to confess that Vinson Gowries, the man’s business partner,was the culprit stealing lumber from the business.  Lucas refuses to divulge anymore information to Uncle John, but he does tell Chick to go and dig up Vinson’s body as he is positive that the bullet in the corpse is not a match to the bullets in Lucas’s gun.   Uncle John finds out about the plan to dig up the body and disagrees with it, but Chick and Aleck find a helpful soul in Miss Habersham, who is convinced of Lucas’s innocence.  Together, the 3 go on a mission to dig up that corpse.

Uncle John getting information from Lucas while an angry mob grows outside of the jail

Uncle John getting information from Lucas while an angry mob grows outside of the jail

I don’t want to divulge anymore of the plot but suffice it to say that it is a good mystery, well-acted, and worth seeking out for a viewing.  Intruder in the Dust can be found via Amazon either to buy or view on their “instant rent” and  it will be shown on TCM(Turner Classic Movies) Monday, January 19th, at 6:00 am EST/5:00 am CST, so set that dvr!

Publicity still for Intruder in the Dust

Publicity still for Intruder in the Dust

Claude Jarman Jr. (Chick) meeting Intruder in the Dust's author, William Faulkner.

Claude Jarman Jr. (Chick) meeting Intruder in the Dust’s author, William Faulkner.

Star in the Night, an Award Winning Holiday Short

With Christmas Day right around the corner, two meals to prep for, gifts to wrap, stockings to stuff,  and more goodies to bake, this will probably be my last post until January 2015.  I decided it would be right and fitting to write about a short film that I saw on Turner Classics last year in December, Warner Brothers 1945 Star in the Night.

Star in the NIght

Star in the Night, is a modern(1945 modern) re-telling of the Nativity story.  It was written by Robert Finch and Saul Elkins, produced by Gordon Hollingshead, and directed by Don Siegel.  It was Siegel’s first film to direct and it touched so many audiences and the Motion Picture Academy that it won the Oscar for Best Short Subject in 1946.  Siegel went on to direct more films, including the first Invasion of the Body Snatchers, several Clint Eastwood starring movies, such as Dirty Harry, and John Wayne’s last movie, The Shootist.

A Star in the Night is set on Christmas Eve, at a diner/motel in a small Southwestern US community.  Instead of 3 wise men who see a star in the sky and follow it, we meet 3 cowboys riding the range late at night who see the light from the motel’s”Star” sign and follow it to find hot coffee and a warm place to get away from  the night’s coldness.  The motel owner, Nick Catapoli, is a bit of a grump/scrooge.  He’s tired, wants to just close up for the night and go to bed.  He’s grumbling about how people treat each other nowadays, poorly in his opinion.  His wife, Rosa, is much more optimistic about life than Nick is, and she bustles about greeting all who enter the motel and doesn’t want to close up early.  Besides the 3 cowboys, there is a traveling salesman drinking coffee, a hitchhiker-who challenges Nick on his dire views of mankind, a lady complaining about the noise from a traveling singing group(whom we hear but don’t meet) who are next to her room, a traveling married couple, and then we meet a young couple who need a place to stay, Jose and  his very pregnant wife, Maria.

As soon as Jose receives some hot coffee and Maria is looked in on, it is quickly discovered by Rosa that the young woman is in labor!  The negative views, bickerings that were going on, complaints by motel guests-the negativity abruptly stops and all jump in to help  this young couple.   Alls well that ends well, and Nick gains  a much better outlook about his fellow man.

I was not familiar with any of the cast members other than J. Carroll Naish, who plays Nick.  Naish was one of Hollywood’s excellent character actors,  and despite being of Irish descent, he was often called upon to play Spanish or Italian characters due to his olive skin tone and black hair.

J. Carroll Naish as Nick, the motel owner

J. Carroll Naish as Nick, the motel owner

I have posted the link from Youtube, where a very kind soul  has put Star in the Night in order for it to be viewed. With this, I will sign off and wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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