Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

The Great Villain Blogathon 2017


I succeeded in getting one of my twin daughters to watch a classic film with me, Now Voyager.  I had filled her in as to what some of the plot was about.  I didn’t reveal much of the film’s love story, but I certainly did tell my daughter, “Just wait until you meet the mother in this movie! With a mom like this, who’d need enemies!!!”  My daughter did like the film, and agreed that the mother was awful.  That is why the villainess I am focusing on for The Great Villain Blogathon 2017 is Mrs. Henry Vale, deliciously played by British character actress, Gladys Cooper. 

Cooper, in her  native England, was a child actress on the stage, a model noted for her beauty. As  an adult, she continued as a  stage actress, and eventually made it into the movies, often playing rich women who were extremely cranky about something that their children were doing, or cranky at the adults around her not doing her bidding because, after all, she’s the richest woman in town;that’s her character’s m.o. in another great film, The Bishop’s Wife, but she doesn’t stay villainous in that film.

Gladys Cooper in her modeling days in England.

In Now Voyager, we only know a bit about her character.  She is Helen Vale, 70-something(80, perhaps?) matriarch of the Vales of Boston, living in a fab house on Beacon Hill.  She has 3 adult sons, all married and prosperous in their own careers, and they dote on her.  Then there is a daughter, Charlotte, her youngest child and a “surprise” baby, or as my mom would say, a “change of life” baby.  Charlotte is at least 15 years younger than her brothers and was a baby when her  father died.  This death of her husband has turned Helen bitter.  She is bitter that her husband is gone, and it’s as if she had decided that Charlotte’s only purpose in life was to be her constant companion.  We  see a flashback of a 20-something Charlotte(wonderfully played by Bette Davis) on a cruise ship falling in love with a young officer, who stands up to Helen and declares he is going to marry Charlotte.  We see Helen severly scolding Charlotte for being caught making out with the officer and Charlotte trying to act as if she doesn’t care that she was caught.   The film then jumps to present day, and Charlotte, now in her thirties and still living at home with Helen.  Charlotte is very plain, wears old-fashioned dresses, sensible shoes, glasses, no make-up, and a dull, dowdy hairdo.  Helen approves of Charlotte’s looks.  Charlotte tries to rebel by secretly smoking!

Poor, plain Charlotte!

One of Helen’s daughter in law’s, Lisa,(Ilka Chase) knows that Charlotte could be facing a nervous breakdown and that something must be done to help her.  Lisa has a friend, a psychiatrist, Dr. Jaquith(Wonderful Claude Rains) who agrees to come to the Vale home to meet Charlotte and give her an evaluation, to see if she should come to his sanitarium in Vermont for a rest and for help.  Lisa is honest with Helen, and tells her why Dr. Jaquith has come, and all Helen can care about is the fact that no Vale has EVER needed to seek out mental help! That one should feel shame for seeking out such help!

Fortunately, Charlotte has a nervous breakdown in front of her mother, sister-in-law Lisa, Dr. Jaquith, and her niece, June(Bonita Granville).  It is a fortunate event because it forces Charlotte to admit she needs help, and she goes to Dr. Jaquith’s sanitarium for that help, despite her nasty mother’s unending grumblings!

I won’t give away anymore of the plot, but in her way, Charlotte is able to kick Helen’s will to the curb and develop her own! Yeah, Charlotte!

Gladys Cooper is so good at playing this horrid mother.  She is wrapped up in her own self, her own will as to how her family should function, and anyone who defies her had better be ready to run for the hills!  We don’t learn much about her husband, other than he was from the honorable Bostonian family, the Vales.  He was obviously wise at money-management as Helen and their daughter, Charlotte,  don’t want for anything materially.  Helen’s sons, we only see in the movie once,  are very polite to their mother and seem to fear her.  Lisa seems to be the only in-law who knows how to deal with Helen without a hint of fear; granddaughter June, Lisa’s daughter, also seems to have no fear of her grandmother.  The key to Helen is when she recites to Dr. Jaquith how put upon she has been with Charlotte being born to her later in life, her husband dying when Charlotte was a baby, and one expects her to lash out at the doctor that Charlotte has a life of ease, that it is “Me, me, me!” who should be pitied!  Dr. Jaquith disdainfully lets Helen know that she is entirely at fault for turning her daughter into a scared frump of a woman! Go, Dr. Jaquith, go!!

The imperious Helen Vale, giving an unwanted opinion, no doubt!

To only give a bit of the plot away in order to showcase Helen at her most manipulative, Charlotte has indeed gotten a lot better under Dr. Jaquith’s care and with his help and Lisa’s, Charlotte departs the sanitarium to try her new life via a lovely cruise  vacation.  Charlotte returns  to Boston with a new look: new hairdo, makeup, clothes, gorgeous shoes, jewelry, perfumes….and Helen is not happy!  She is so shocked and horrified by this  new and improved Charlotte that she demands Charlotte put on one of her former dowdy dresses for the family dinner  being held to welcome Charlotte home.  Charlotte starts to quaver, then resolutely tells Helen, “No” and off she goes downstairs in a lovely gown to oversee the dinner preparations. Helen is incensed! She goes to the head of the stairs and throws herself down them in order to give herself an injury to draw the family’s attention to her!!!  Her plan doesn’t work, as she’s put to bed, seen by the doctor, and is sedated by the nurse’s hot toddies with the secret ingredient of rum.  It’s funny seeing Helen ranting about the lack of concern for her as she could hear the family’s laughter from downstairs and then she starts to mumble as the toddies take their affect!  Mary Wickes had a  fun role as the in home nurse the family has hired to care for Helen.

Our first glimpse of the new and improved Charlotte, no more sensible shoes!!!

A transformed Charlotte!

Charlotte politely refusing to change her dress for the family dinner.

For a great study in an evil mom character, check out Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Helen Vale in Now, Voyager, and don’t ever ask her for any fashion advice!!!!   Here is a great clip from the film, courtesy of TCM.  Now, Voyager will also be shown by TCM this weekend, April 28th at 4:15 a.m. Eastern time/3:15 a.m. Central time.

This post has been for The Great Villain Blogathon 2017, hosted by 3 wonderful classic movie bloggers: Kristina at Speakeasy, Karen of Shadows & Satin, and Ruth of Silver Screenings.  Please visit their blogs to read other great posts about movie villains!

 

 

 

31 Days of Oscar Blogathon: Best Songs Category

I was curious about the Oscar category, Best Song.  When did it begin? Were all of the winners of this category associated with great winning movies or were some attached to non-winning films? Was there a songwriting team that won this category more than others?  Why was this category begun?

The very first Academy Awards was held on May 16, 1929, and there was no category for Best Song.  Warner Brothers did receive an “honorary award” for making The Jazz Singer, the first motion picture with dialogue spoken by the actors that audiences could hear; silent films would thus be on their way out.

Moving forward in cinematic history the year 1934 brought the Best Song category to the Academy Awards.  The reason this category was added was to emphasize, or rather put a spotlight on, a film’s music. This focus would show the public and the critics the importance music was in the making of a film.   Rules were created for this award: the award was to be presented to the songwriter(s) and not to the song’s performer, unless the performer happened to also be a part of the team of musicians and lyricists that wrote the song.  Nominations had to be made by Academy members who were songwriters and composers.  1934’s first ever Best Song winner was “The Continental” from the film The Gay Divorcee, a wonderful Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film.  Music was by Con Conrad and lyrics by Herb Magidson.  Here is a link to a great clip of Astaire and Rogers dancing to the winning song.   Other notable winners for Best Song in the 1930s: “Thanks for the Memory” from 1938’s The Big Broadcast of  1938  and “Over the Rainbow” from 1939’s The Wizard of Oz.   

ginger-and-fred-dancing-to-the-continental

The 1940s arrived and a bit of Best Song controversy erupted during the 1941 Academy Awards.  American composer Jerome Kern was upset because a song he had written in 1940 with Oscar Hammerstein II,  “The Last Time I Saw Paris” won the award.  Kern was upset because he had written that song and it had been recorded before the film it was put in, Lady Be Good had even been made.  To prevent this from ever happening again, Kern got the Academy to create another rule:  only songs which are original and written specifically for a movie are eligible to win.  Of course, this new rule would now impact whenever any stage musicals were turned into movies.  None of the well-known tunes from a hit musical could be nominated so that’s the reason as to why when a hit stage musical becomes a movie, there is a new song to go with the movie version, in the hopes that the new song will be nominated in the Best Song category.  A lot of popular songs were in the crop of 1940s winners: “When You Wish Upon a Star” -1940, Pinnochio, “White Christmas”-1942 Holiday Inn, “Swinging on a Star”-1944 Going My Way, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, -1949’s Neptune’s Daughter.   Here’s a link to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and the original singers of that hit song, Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban, Red Skelton and Betty Garrett.

Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban singing in Neptune's Daughter

Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban singing in Neptune’s Daughter

pinnochio

The 1950s, no controversies with the Best Song category and here are some of that decades notable winners: “Mona Lisa”-1950 Captain Carey, U.S.A.. “The Ballad of High Noon”-1952 High Noon, “Secret Love”-1953 Calamity Jane, “Three Coins in the Fountain” 1954 Three Coins in the Fountain, “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” -1955 Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, and “Que Sera, Sera(Whatever Will Be, Will Be)”-1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much.  Here is a link of Doris Day singing “Secret Love”.

three-coins-in-the-fountain

Jennifer Jones and William Holden, Love is a Many-Splendored Thing

Jennifer Jones and William Holden, Love is a Many-Splendored Thing

 

Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, High Noon

Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, High Noon

 

 

1960’s -there were two songs that stood out to me in this grouping of winners. First was “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”-1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid because according to my mom, my 5 year-old self loved this song! I really can’t recall saying that, but I guess I must have.  The second song was Andy William’s version of “Born Free”, -1966 Born Free.  I was only a 1 year old when that song came out, but I did see the film when it aired on one of the big networks when I was older and that song stayed with me after I saw the film.  Of course, I can’t ignore “Chim Chim Cher-ee” -1964 Mary Poppins, which was a hit before I was born and was a favorite film of the nieces to view at my in-laws home over family get-togethers.

Born Free, Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers

Born Free, Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers

I won’t continue on with this look at Best Songs because in my opinion, films from the 1970s and forward aren’t exactly classics, in my mind.   If you are curious to discover the Best Song winners from the 1970s onward, then you may do so, on your own!  However, I will answer my last question that I had, and who has won the most Best Song Oscars?  It is a 4-way tie! Sammy Cahn, Alan Menken, Johnny Mercer, and Jimmy Van Heusen.

This post has been for the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by three wonderful classic film fans: Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club, and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen.  Please visit their sites to read all about the Oscars, with great posts written by other classic movie fans!

 

My Classic Movie Pick: 1948’s The Woman in White

Wilkie Collins, English novelist and some say the creator of the first modern detective novel, wrote an absorbing story, The Woman in White, in 1859.  Warner Brothers decided to made a film version of Collin’s novel in 1948.  Turner Classic Movies aired it this past week, so I tuned in and was not disappointed with this tale of mystery, romance, and murder! Beautiful ladies in distress, a handsome hero trying to unravel the strange goings on, and a trio of baddies.  Let’s dive in to this atmospheric and eerie film!

the-woman-in-white

 

Walter Hartright(Gig Young) has been hired to be the art tutor for heiress Laura Fairlie(Eleanor Parker).  He arrives in the English town of Limmeridge, late at night.  Since it’s a full moon and he learns the walk to the Fairlie estate is only 30 minutes from where the stagecoach has deposited him, he decides to walk to the estate.  On the way, a young woman dressed in a white dress and a white cape, startles him as she emerges from some nearby shrubbery.  She is Ann Catherick(Eleanor Parker, in a dual role) a very pretty woman with her long hair loose around her shoulders, but she also appears to be quite troubled.  Hartright, being a gentleman, asks how he can help her.  Ann replies that he is to tell no one that he saw her, and when a carriage begins to approach, she shudders and runs away.  In the carriage is  Count Fosco(Sydney Greenstreet) and Dr. Nevin(Matthew Boulton) who asks Hartright if he’s seen a young woman roaming about, that she’s escaped from the nearby asylum!!  Hartright remembers Ann’s request and he tells the two men that he hasn’t seen anyone.  Within these first 5 minutes of the movie, we have met the hero, Hartright, one of the ladies in distress, Ann,  and one of the main baddies, Count Fosco.

Ann Catherick, The Woman in White, meeting Hartright,

Ann Catherick, The Woman in White, meeting Hartright,

Hartright makes it to the Fairlie estate, and is greeted by Laura Fairlie’s first cousin, Marian(Alexis Smith) who warmly explains the household to him: various butlers, Laura’s retired nurse Mrs. Vesey(Emma Dunn),and Frederic Fairlie(John Abbott) the incredibly nervous, annoying invalid of an uncle to Marian and Laura.  Uncle Frederic goes on and on about how loud sounds upset his nerves; his lines reminded me of Vincent Price’s lines from Roger Corman’s The Fall of the House of Usher.   The next morning, Hartright sees Ann from the night before but he is greatly mistaken for this young woman is not Ann but is Laura Fairlie, his new student.   Laura has a bit of fun telling all at the breakfast table of Hartright’s encounter with the woman in white.  This immediately causes Count Fosco’s eyebrows to shoot up.  Why does he seem so startled and a bit irritated that Hartright had met this woman in white?  Why does this woman in white, Ann, look so similar to Laura?  We begin to wonder at these events as the movie continues.

Laura, Hartright, and Marian listen to Mrs. Vesey as she recalls Ann Catherick

Laura, Hartright, and Marian listen to Mrs. Vesey as she recalls Ann Catherick

Love begins to bloom and blossom between Laura and Hartright, and we can also tell that Marian is in love with Hartright  but she’s trying to fight that emotion.  One afternoon during an art lesson outdoors, Laura becomes upset with her efforts at painting and runs away from Hartright, crying.  Marian is able to pull Hartright aside and give him the news that Laura hadn’t and should have, that Laura is engaged to marry Sir Percival Glyde(John Emery) and that Sir Glyde is due at the estate that very day!  Hartright decides to do the honorable thing and pack up and leave the estate.  He doesn’t know that  Count Fosco was spying on he and Laura during a passionate kiss.  Hartright also doesn’t know that a letter that gives information about another little girl who used to live at the estate and play with Laura, an Ann Catherick, was stolen by the Count.   Ann, all grown up, who has been forcibly placed in the asylum by Count Fosco, as part of his evil plan to have Sir Glyde marry Laura, then have Laura slowly poisoned, so Glyde will receive the inheritance, and he’ll split it with Count Fosco!  Ann knows of this evil plan, and keeps escaping from the asylum  to try to get to Laura to warn her!

Laura shares her fears about Fosco and Sir Glyde with Marian

Laura shares her fears about Fosco and Sir Glyde with Marian

Evil Count Fosco

Evil Count Fosco

Will Laura marry Sir Glyde? How does Count Fosco have the legal power to force Ann into an asylum?  Will Hartright come back to the estate to stop the wedding?  Will Count Fosco and Sir Glyde’s plan be foiled?  What will happen to Marian and her love for Hartright? It sounds like a crazy plot but by the film’s end, all questions will be answered.   Also,  pay attention to the great Agnes Moorehead as Count Fosco’s long-suffering wife. She enters into the movie at the halfway point, but her character is a key that will unlock the shenanigans that belong to Count Fosco and Sir Glyde.  For an intriguing story acted by a great cast, seek out 1948’s The Woman in White.

Agness Moorhead as Countess Fosco

Agness Moorhead as Countess Fosco

The mystery is starting to be solved

The mystery is starting to be solved

Above Suspicion-For the Joan Crawford Blogathon

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

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

Annex - MacMurray, Fred (Above Suspicion)_01

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

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

43above11dec1

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

Can the Myles's trust Basil??

Can the Myles’s trust Basil??

Can the Myles's trust Conrad??

Can the Myles’s trust Conrad??

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

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

Above Suspicion

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

joan-banner

 

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

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

Sword and Sandal Blogathon

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

Samson_and_Delilah_original_1949_poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Saran of Gaza discussing Samson with Delilah

The Saran of Gaza discussing Samson with Delilah

 

Samson hanging out with Delilah

Samson hanging out with Delilah

Delilah's plan works and Samson is captured

Delilah’s plan works and Samson is captured

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

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

Samson, ready to destroy the Philistines for the last time

Samson, ready to destroy the Philistines for the last time

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The Olivia De Havilland Centenary Blogathon: Dodge City

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

olivia-5

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

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

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

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

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

Surrett, the villain of Dodge City

Surrett, the villain of Dodge City

Yancey, lead henchman for Surrett

Yancey, lead henchman for Surrett

Ruby, bad guy Surrett's star entertainer and girlfriend

Ruby, bad guy Surrett’s star entertainer and girlfriend

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

Lovely Abbie Irving on the cattle drive

Lovely Abbie Irving on the cattle drive

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

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

Reacting to Lee's death by stampeding cattle

Reacting to Lee’s death by stampeding cattle

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Reel Infatuation Blogathon: Randolph Scott in The Tall T

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

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

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

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

Pat visiting with Hank and Jeff at the Station

Pat visiting with Hank and Jeff at the Station

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

Usher telling Pat that Hank and Jeff are dead

Usher telling Pat that Hank and Jeff are dead

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

Pat and Doretta, working together for the Win!

Pat and Doretta, working together for the Win!

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

Pat enduring one of Usher's talks

Pat enduring one of Usher’s talks

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

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

 

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

Probably a publicity shot, Scott in his earlier acting days

Probably a publicity shot, Scott in his earlier acting days

Scott, probably early 1940s

Scott, probably early 1940s

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

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