Posts Tagged ‘Claude Rains’

1947’s The Unsuspected for the 2nd Annual Claude Rains Blogathon

A couple years ago, a lot of Americans were talking about a Netflix documentary following the life of a Wisconsin prisoner and whether or not he was guilty or innocent of a murder.  History does repeat itself, and back in 1947, a lot of Americans were hooked on their favorite radio shows, several that focused on stories of the macabre, stories about murder.  The film I wanted to focus on for the Claude Rains blogathon, and which starred the talented British actor, is  The Unsuspected.  The film has strong ties to such radio shows and implies that such shows were a popular part of America’s pop culture.   

Rains plays Victor Grandison, the wealthy host of a popular radio show that features him narrating   true crime tales.  With his smooth as silk, melodious and at turns basso voice, Rains was the perfect choice to be cast as Grandison.  His characterization shows us a man who is at the top of his game-the advertisers and the creators of the radio show bow and scrape to him, so do his friends and his only  blood relatives: two nieces, Althea(Audrey Totter) and Matilda(Joan Caulfield.)  Victor is a complex man-he can be warm and charming and ultra polite, yet he can also be demanding and controlling.

The film opens with Victor’s voice heard coming from a radio in a darkened office while a young woman is working late at a typewriter.  A man approaches her with a hangman’s noose in his hand and we see the startled and distressed woman scream.  We soon realize that this  woman is about to be murdered but the death will be made to look like a suicide.  We will learn that the dead woman is Roslyn Wright, secretary to none other than Victor Grandison, the true crimes radio show host! All who know Victor and who also knew Roslyn are very sad that a seemingly good secretary and person, would have been compelled to end her own life.  It’s a sad event and a puzzlement.  Life goes on and niece Althea decides to throw her Uncle Victor a surprise birthday party.  She believes that there needs to be a happy event in her and her uncle’s lives, as shortly after Roslyn’s suicide, the other niece and Althea’s sister, Matilda, has been lost at sea!  Will the terrible events stop befalling this family?

A murderer has entered the office!!!

At the birthday party, as all seem to be enjoying themselves, a stranger arrives.  He is Steven Howard(Ted North) and he has a shocking announcement:  he is Matilda’s secret husband!!!! This news is very bothersome to Victor because if this Howard guy is telling the truth, it will mess up the dispersal of Matilda’s share of the family estate.  Victor secretly asks police lieutenant Donovan(Fred Clark) to dig up all he can on Steven Howard.  Victor also invites Steven to stay at his home while he is in town.

Oliver and Althea

Matilda and Steven

As the weeks go by, Althea takes several chances to flirt with Steven since her husband, Oliver, (Hurd Hatfield) is a lousy drunk.  Then the shocker of all shockers breaks: Matilda is alive!!!  The Grandisons are notified that Matilda didn’t die at sea but survived the ocean liner’s sinking and was taken to a hospital in Brazil where she had been suffering from amnesia.  She recovered enough to recall her name and family and where they live, but she has no memory of Steven or having married him!!

The plot of this film continues to twist and turn and several characters have hidden agendas to achieve.  Steven is out to convince Matilda that they are married, but is he really telling all of them the truth?  Althea and her husband have a failing marriage and her obvious attempts to lure Steven into an affair are part of her agenda.  Why doesn’t she just go ahead and divorce Oliver?  Althea also has begun some investigating of her own as she doesn’t believe that her uncle’s secretary, Roslyn, committed suicide.  Will Althea find the truth and at what cost?  Looming over all is Victor Grandison.  Why is he so controlling over Matilda and her life?  Can she break free from his overly paternalistic ways or will she always answer to him with every decision she makes in her life?  What connection did Victor have with his secretary? Was it merely a working relationship or something that turned more sinister?  I don’t want to give away the film’s plot as I want you, dear reader, to seek it for yourself to view.

Althea pouring it on to entice Steven to have an affair!

Victor detailing to the hit man about a job!

Uncle Victor and niece Matilda

Even though the plot does sound like a soap opera,  I did find that the cast gave a fairly entertaining effort that I liked.  Look for Constance Bennett-early film star from the 1930s-as Victor’s radio show producer, Fred Clark as a “hop right to it” police lieutenant, and Jack Lambert as a creepy hired hit man.  I wasn’t as familiar with Joan Caulfield or Ted North, who played Matilda and Steven; this was the first film I ever saw either of them act in.  They do an ok job.  Production notes I read mentioned that director Michael Curtiz-The Unsuspected was the first movie made by  his own production company- had wanted Dana Andrews to play the part of Steve and Virginia Mayo to play the part of Matilda.  However,  during the pre-production phase,  Andrews kept demanding that his part be made larger and Curtiz  became so irritated that he fired him!  Warner Brothers had an agreement to release the film and as Andrews was one of their stars, and he was a package deal with Virginia, his firing took Mayo off the picture too.  I do think if they had remained in the film, their acting would have enhanced this film.

Where can you see The Unsuspected?  It sometimes is on Turner Classic Movies, so keep an eye on their schedule.  It is available to purchase through TCM and Amazon-on a dvd.  Here is the opening scene in an advertisement for the film, which moviegoers in 1947 would have seen at the theaters.  Incidentally, in the link from Youtube, Ted North-Steven-is credited as Michael North, and I don’t know why because he later went by Ted in the rest of his filmwork.

Be sure to visit the site at the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, or PEPS, to read others contributions to the blogathon, honoring the late, always great, British actor Claude Rains, on what would have been his birthday, November 10th, 1889.

A French poster advertising the film

For the Claude Rains Blogathon: 1947’s The Unsuspected

Claude Rains could do no wrong, in my opinion, as an actor.  Whether he was playing the lead or a supporting character, as soon as his presence appeared  on the screen, one could be sure they were going to see a quality performance.  To honor the actor, who began his career on the English stage in 1899 as a child of ten, running on stage to be in a  crowd scene,  The Pure Entertainment Preservation Society decided to honor Rains on his November 10th birthday with a three day blogathon. Be sure to visit their blog’s site and read the other great pieces about Claude Rains.  I am pleased to be a part of this tribute and have chosen to write about Rains’s performance in 1947’s

The Unsuspected.   

The cast, and a solid cast too, working with Rains in this film: Audrey Totter, Constance Bennett, Hurd Hatfield, Joan Caulfield, Ted North, Fred Clark, Harry Lewis, Jack Lambert, and Ray Walker.  Directed by Michael Curtiz, screenplay by Curtiz’s wife, Bess Meredyth and Ranald MacDougall.  The film was based on a novel written by Charlotte Armstrong.  Warner Brothers Studios earned a nice sum from the release of the film.  

Rains plays Victor Grandison, the popular radio host of a “true crimes” radio show.  One evening in Victor’s home, his secretary Roslyn’s body is found hanging from a chandelier.  Suicide is what the police suspect and all who knew Roslyn are in shock.  A couple weeks later, Victor’s niece Althea(Audrey Totter) is throwing him a birthday party and a new shock arrives at the party in the form of one Steven Howard(Ted North).  Howard claims to be the husband of niece Matilda, who is presumed dead!  Matilda was involved in a boating accident while on vacation and her body was never found.  The length of time for a possible deceased person to re-appear alive is waning and Matilda’s share of the estate was to go back to her Uncle Victor.  Now that this Howard fellow has appeared claiming to be Matilda’s husband, he could fight for her share of the estate!  What a way to ruin Victor’s birthday party!

Poor Roslyn! The secretary is about to be murdered!

Althea’s drunk husband Oliver, Steven, and Jane, Victor’s manager-good to see Constance Bennett in this film. She was a star in the early 1930s.

Can Matilda trust her Uncle Victor?

Is Matilda starting to remember who Steven is?

Victor asks police detective Donovan(Fred Clark) to investigate Howard, who frustratingly seems to know all about Victor, Althea, and the rest of Matilda’s family.  Huge plot twist when Matilda re-appears!  Unfortunately for Howard, she has no memory of who he is and no memory of marrying him!  Without giving away a lot of the film’s plot, I will say that Howard has a reason to appear when he does into the Grandison Family’s lives, Althea and her husband Oliver(Hurd Hatfield) aren’t the idyllic couple, and Victor Grandison has an evil heart and mind.

Rains is great in this role.  With his rich and distinct voice, he’s perfect as a radio show host.  With his two nieces, he is caring towards them one moment, but then cunning and scheming, an uncle they need to respect and be wary of all the time.  Rain’s Grandison is ultimately only concerned with himself but is so polite and mannerly, it is a character trait that he can use in order to get his way in a lot situations.

The Unsuspected  is available to purchase through TCM’s Shop.

From time to time TCM airs this film so keep your eyes on the lookout via the station’s monthly schedule.  Here is a great trailer that I found on Youtube, that would have been used to advertise it to the filmgoers in 1947.

This has been fun for me to re-enter my hobby of blogging about classic films.  I took a hiatus in order to re-enter my career field of teaching.  I taught school eons ago, 1987-1991, then took a number of years off to be a stay-at-home mom to a lot of kids, 7 specifically.  When the youngest turned 12, hubby gently suggested I go back to my career and I agreed, it was time to return to the classroom.  So, while substitute teaching and working one year as a para, I had to take a few college classes, a teacher’s exam, and apply for a Missouri state teaching certificate.  With my certificate in hand, in early August I was offered a teaching spot at an elementary school and it is wonderful to be teaching full-time once again.   Hopefully I will be able to balance work and blogging with ease!

My Classic Movie Pick: 1946’s Deception

In 1942, Warner Brothers scored a huge hit with the tear-jerking, bittersweet romance Now, Voyager, which starred Bette Davis, Claude Rains, and Paul Henreid.  In 1946, the studio decided to put this triumvirate together for another picture and this go round resulted in the film, Deception.  Did any other actresses in Hollywood know how to wield a gun as well as Bette? Sorry for that spoiler, but not really!   

Bette plays Christine Radcliffe, a promising pianist who happens to have been a student of the famous conductor and composer Alexander Hollenius(Claude Rains, having a great time with this role.)  Christine is sitting high up in a concert hall, tears in her eyes, as she listens to the guest cellist playing his piece with an orchestra accompanying him.  After the concert, she rushes backstage to see the cellist, Karol Novak(Paul Henreid). She is desperate to see him because before WWII struck, they had both been music students in Europe and had fallen in love.  Christine got back to the USA before the War got worse but poor Karol spent the war in a concentration camp.  He survived, but Christine thought he had been killed.  She is joyful and deliriously happy to be reunited with Karol again and they soon make plans to marry.

Christine has one big secret and she decides to not tell Karol about it until after they are married, when she finds the right time to tell him.  Big mistake! However, that would take away from movie’s plot if Christine did the sensible and honest thing.  During the wedding reception Christine realizes her decision to wait for the big secret reveal is a mistake when Alexander Holenius crash’s the party at Christina’s apartment.  He saunters in, clearly realizing that his expectation to be alone with Christine was a mistake as he sees all the people and the wedding cake.  It’s pretty easy to figure out that Holenius and Christine had “something” going on and her marriage to Karol feels like a slap in the face to Holenius.

Holenius not too happy at the wedding reception!

Karol is no dummy.  He has an inkling that Christine and Holenius weren’t just a student and a teacher. How did Christine afford her apartment and her fur coats, fancy dresses, pieces of art and jewelry? Christine tells him at first that Holenius just likes to give his favorite friends gifts.  Then she finally tells him the truth and assures him that it is all over between her and Holenius.  Karol is on the brink of classical music stardom and Holenius offers to let him audition to play the cello solo for an upcoming concert series.  Christine makes some visits to Holenius to try and explain that she loves Karol and not him, that Holenius should respect that, and he better not do anything to destroy Karol’s career.  With that threat from Christine, there’s a gleam in Holenius’s eye to make it a difficult experience for Karol in the world of classical music in NYC.

Christine warning Holenius not to mess with Karol!

Bette Davis is great as Christine. Passionate in her love for Karol, weary in spirit when she is dwelling on her relationship with Holenius. Paul Henreid is the strong, silent, handsome type but he does let a flicker of Karol’s anger appear at times and it’s scary.  Henreid didn’t actually know how to play the cello but mastered the hand movements and is very convincing in his musical scenes.  For St. Louis Symphony fans, a bit of trivia: former conductor Leonard Slatkin’s mother, Eleanor Aller,  was the cellist for this movie, playing the parts that Henreid pretended to play.  Of course it goes without saying that Claude Rains has a field day as the former teacher/lover of Christine, roiled with jealousy at Karol, and knowing he has the power to control this couple’s future in the classical music world.

Paul Henreid in one of his excellent cello playing scenes.

If you love classical music, this film has a lot of great pieces in it, arranged by the wonderful Erich W. Korngold.  A musical prodigy in his youth in Austria, he began to help Hollywood movies with beautiful and rich musical scores, beginning with A Midsummer’s Night Dream in 1935.  In 1938, Hollywood called again asking him to return from Austria to create the score for a new film, The Adventures of Robin Hood.  While Korngold was working on this film score, the Nazis were marching all over Europe and brutally establishing their regime.  This caused Korngold to decide to stay in the US during the war, and he often said later that The Adventures of Robin Hood saved his life.

For a good drama, to see three actors performing their roles very well, and despite telling yourself as you watch, “Christine shouldn’t have kept that secret from Karol…,” tune in to Deception.  It is available on Amazon via their instant rent.  TCM may show it again before this new year is over, so keep your eye out for it via their monthly schedules at their website.

Deception: Warner Brothers film, directed by Irving Rapper, produced by Henry Blanke, screenplay by John Collier and Joseph Than, based on a play Monsieur Lamberthier by Louis Verneuil.  Good supporting cast members include John Abbott as Mr. Gribble, a competing cellist, and Benson Fong, as Jimmy, Holenius’s servant.  Fong, when in  his senior citizen years, was often cast on the tv show, Kung-Fu.

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!

 

 

 

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