Posts Tagged ‘Dana Andrews’

For Sex!(Now that I have your attention) Blogathon: 1941’s Ball of Fire

A couple months ago, fellow classic movie fan and blogger, Steve, at Movie, Movie, Blog, Blog  posted that he was hosting an upcoming blogathon, entitled Sex!(Now that I have your attention), a look at classic movies that tastefully, skillfully, without being graphic or vulgar, hinted at that something that causes a man to seek his mate, so to speak.  I saw Steve’s announcement for the blogathon, I blushed, and decided that I wouldn’t be able to participate.  Then, 3 weeks ago, I received a personal invite to participate in this blogathon!  The first day of this blogathon, June 19th, happens to be  my birthday, and not just any birthday; I was born in 1965, so I’ll let you do the math.  I decided, oh let’s have some fun and I contacted Steve and told him I was in.  Be sure to visit his site to read about the other films getting the treatment this weekend.  Sex!(Now that I have your attention!) Blogathon

I decided to take a look at  1941’s screwball, rom-com, Ball of Fire.   This film is shown on Turner Classic Movies quite regularily, and I always ignored it!  This past winter, I finally gave in and tivoed it and viewed it.  The film is a gem!  Well-directed by the late, great Howard Hawks(here is a list of his award winning films courtesy of imdb), well-written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, two gentlemen who excelled at getting those double entendres into their scripts, and well-acted by the two leads, Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck.  The supporting players are also great, but  more about them in a moment!  Ball of Fire poster 1  Barbara Stanwyck plays  Katharine  “Sugarpuss” O’Shea, a nightclub singer and dancer.  Sugarpuss loves her work but her problem is her gangster boyfriend, Joe Lilac(Dana Andrews in an early role).  Joe may have committed a murder and the District Attorney wants to question Sugarpuss about Joe, his whereabouts when the murder happened, etc.  Joe wants to marry Sugarpuss because then she can’t testify against him; it’s known as testimonial privilege in the US judicial system.

She loves her job!

She loves her job!  The sparkly outfit was designed by none other than Edith Head.

Enter the movie’s hero, Professor Bertram Potts, played by handsome Gary Cooper.  He is a nerd, a very serious linguistics professor.  He and his 6 professor friends, all bachelors, live in the same house near their college.  They are all working together on an encyclopedia of knowledge, and Professor Potts has taken it upon himself to learn about American slang amd then he’ll write that section for the encyclopedia.  He decides to go out daily to walk the streets of NYC and listen to the slang that is all around him.  One evening, he stumbles upon the nightclub where Sugarpuss works, and is fascinated with her language usuage.  Here are two clips, courtesy of Youtube, that show Sugarpuss entertaining the audience.  The legendary Gene Krupa has an excellent drum solo, as do other musicians in the band.  Cooper’s Professor Potts is writing down slang terms he hears Sugarpuss use in her song.  The second clip is fun, as Sugarpuss and Gene Krupa are called upon for an encore.  Note how Cooper, as the Professor, tries to use a new word, “Boogie”.   Fun scenes!

Professor Potts asks Sugarpuss to join in a roundtable at his home, so he can study slang in depth.  Sugarpuss turns down the invitation as she thinks the Professor is a bit of a nut and too dull. Sitting in her dressing room after the show, Sugarpuss gets a visit from her boyfriend Joe’s two henchmen, Joe Pastrami(the ever great Dan Duryea- a family man in real life, an expert at playing sleazy, no-good baddies in the movies!), and Asthma Anderson(Ralph Peters).   The two henchmen tell Sugarpuss that she needs to make herself scarce as the DA is looking for her.  She agrees to hide out and quickly finds Professor Potts.  She says she’ll be a part of his study, but that she needs a place to stay and before he can blink, she has it planned that she’ll stay at his house!

Some movie critics have compared Ball of Fire with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and I can see a tiny bit of that fairy tale in Ball of Fire.  When Sugarpuss arrives to live at the house, in her showgirl costume and her slang speech, with her very feminine charms on display, it shocks the old professors right on their keesters!  They awaken to how nice it is to have such a pretty lady in their midst.  They begin to spruce themselves up a bit, to remember old girlfriends, their courtship days; a few remember with sweet fondness their late wives.  Sugarpuss does have to contend with the grouchy housekeeper, Miss Bragg, who is appalled that a showgirl is living in the house with 7 men, so more modest clothing is worn; the flashy showgirl number is packed away.   Sugarpuss even teaches the professors  how to do a Conga line!   It is reminiscent of how the 7 dwarfs start to warm up to Snow White and grow to love her.   The professors are wonderfully acted by: Oskar Homolka, Henry Travers, Leonid Kinskey, S.Z. Sakall, Richard Haydn, and Tully Marshall.  Here is a clip of the Conga lesson.

Sugarpuss meets the Professors!  Look at those legs!

Sugarpuss meets the Professors! Look at those legs!

The Conga Line!

The Conga Line!

 

Professor Potts and Sugarpuss are thrown together due to his work studying her grammar and  her slang, but she also uses those  times to study him, and to find out what makes him tick.   There grows a chemistry of attraction between the two, and it explodes in the scene where Sugarpuss decides to give the Professor some “Yum-Yum”, er, kisses.  Here’s a great clip of that scene via Youtube.

Preparing for some Yum-yum!  Books are handy when the guy is so tall!

Preparing for some Yum-yum! Books are handy when the guy is so tall!

Professor Potts loves Sugarpuss and wants to marry her.  Joe Lilac, gangster on the lam in New Jersey, wants to marry Sugarpuss, too. What’s a girl to do?  You’ll have to find Ball of Fire to find out how all of the love and romance plays out, with good dashes of comedy strewn over all the happenings.  Turner Classics will be airing Ball of Fire on Sunday, July 12th, at 4:00 pm eastern/3:00 pm central.   It’s available to buy via Amazon and at TCM’s Shop.    To close out my post, here are some more stills from the film, the film’s trailer,  and a fun video tribute I found made by a fan of the movie, set to Jerry Lee Lewis’s hit song, Great Balls of Fire.

Publicity Still for the film

Publicity Still for the film

Professor Potts does fight for Sugarpuss

Professor Potts does fight for Sugarpuss

Dana Andrews as Joe Lilac

Dana Andrews as Joe Lilac

 

 

 

My Classic Movie Pick: The Best Years of our Lives

My husband is a chemical engineer.  Logic-driven, analytical thinker, understands all math with ease.  He isn’t as knowledgeable about Classic Movies as I am, but he knows who James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and Claude Rains are.  If he were to select a favorite classic film that he truly enjoys, he’d pick 1946’s The Best Years of Our Lives.  Directed by William Wyler, it won Best Picture, Best Actor(Frederic March), Best Supporting Actor(Harold Russell), Best Director(Wyler) and Best Screenplay(Robert E. Sherman) at the 1947 Academy Awards.  The Best Years of Our Lives poster 1

The Best Years of Our Lives is about 3 returning WWII veterans, coming back to their lives in a mid-sized American city, coming back to their loved ones, their friends, and hopefully, to their former jobs or careers.  The oldest veteran in our trio is Army Sergeant Al Stephenson(March), a man with a loving wife, two kids, a nice home, and a nice job waiting for him at the bank.  The second veteran is Army Air Corps Captain Fred Derry(Dana Andrews), a former soda jerk for a large drugstore.  Fred has an elderly father, stepmother, and a vivacious wife.  It’s pretty clear that after we see Al’s homecoming and then Fred’s, that Fred lives on the poorer side of town.  The third veteran is sailor Homer Parrish(Russell) who will be coming home to his parents, younger siblings, and the neighbor girl next door, but due to a horrific war injury, he is coming home without his hands, just hooks that he has skillfully learned to use.  We see Homer’s unease and nervousness about seeing his family for the first time with the prosthetic hooks.

The three veterans meet

The three veterans meet

When the three veterans meet, it is evident they didn’t know one another prior to leaving for the War but now they become good friends through their shared experiences of having served their country, having given up part of their former lives in order to fight, and the commonality of trying to adjust to their former lives.  Each goes through a personal battle to regain a foothold in American post-war society.  Al is older, his kids grew up while he was away.  His daughter, Peggy(Teresa Wright) is a college student now and his son, Rob(Michael Hall) is in high school.  He feels distant from them and from his wife, Milly(the outstanding Myrna Loy).  He also has to deal with his wanting to use alcohol too much in  numbing his pain, and clashing at the bank with his boss, Mr. Milton(Ray Collins) over  attempts to ease up on loan regulations for returning veterans.

A neat scene, all is too quiet and Milly leaves the kitchen to see Al standing there!

A neat scene, all is too quiet and Milly leaves the kitchen to see Al standing there!

Al embracing Milly

Al embracing Milly

Al reunited with Milly, and their kids, Peggy and Rob

Al reunited with Milly, and their kids, Peggy and Rob

Fred is warmly greeted by his father, Pat(Roman Bohnen) and his stepmother Hortense(Gladys George), but he notices that his wife, Marie(Virginia Mayo) is not at his father’s house to also greet him.  Pat informs his son that Marie moved out some time ago, that she decided to get her own place.  This news surprises and bothers Fred, as Marie never wrote him about her decision.  He gets the address for Marie’s new place and goes there to greet her, but she isn’t home. Through the course of the movie, we learn that Marie is quite the club hopping gal, that she isn’t happy with Fred’s job as a soda jerk as she wants him to earn more money, and Fred begins to have doubts about his quick, war-time marriage to Marie.

Fred's dad, Pat, and stepmom, Hortense

Fred’s dad, Pat, and stepmom, Hortense

At first, Marie is glad Fred is home

At first, Marie is glad Fred is home

Fred and Marie about to have one of their many arguments

Fred and Marie about to have one of their many arguments

Homer arrives at his home and his family eagerly rushes out the front door to greet him.  The neighbor girl, Wilma(Cathy O’Donnell) and her family are also there to greet Homer.  All are uneasy when they see Homer’s hooks, and his mother breaks down despite trying not to.  After unloading his gear in his boyhood bedroom, Homer decides he needs to get away for a bit and he heads down to his cousin Butch’s (Hoagy Carmichael) bar.  When he arrives, he meets Fred again, who has gone there to mull about he and Marie’s poor marriage.  Pretty soon, they are joined by Al, Milly, and Peggy.  The 5 of them have an enjoyable evening.  Homer catches a cab ride home.  Al and Milly offer to drive Fred over to Marie’s new place, but when Fred passes out due to too much alcohol, the 3 Stephenson’s decide to let him sleep it off in their guest bedroom.  During the night, Fred has a very bad dream and Peggy rushes to his side to help him.  It is then that Peggy and Fred start to develop feelings for one another, but both are cautious due to Fred being a married man.

Homer greeting his family and friends

Homer’s family uneasy about his prosthetic hooks

Explaining how the hooks work to Wilma

Explaining how the hooks work to Wilma

Everyone at Butch's Bar

Everyone at Butch’s Bar

 

As the movie advances from Butch’s Bar, the three veterans have their own personal mountains to overcome.  Peggy decides to inform her parents how she feels about Fred despite he being in a bad marriage.  Her parents try to counsel her that she really cannot know how a marriage really is between two other people and that she should give Fred space to work this out on his own.  Fred needs to decide what he wants to do career -wise, and what to do about Marie.  Homer needs to realize that Wilma loves him, whole-bodied or not.

Hoagy Carmichael doing what he did best!

Hoagy Carmichael doing what he did best!

Peggy listening to her parents advice about Fred

Peggy listening to her parents advice about Fred

The Wedding-very emotional scene!

The Wedding-very emotional scene!

The Best Years of Our Lives will be airing on Turner Classic Movies on Sept. 30th at 1:30 am(EST)/ 12:30 am(CST) so set that dvr machine!  It is also available to view via Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/The-Best-Years-Our-Lives/dp/0792846133 to either buy or see it on their instant viewing, it is available to rent through Netflix http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/The_Best_Years_of_Our_Lives/299970?locale=en-US,  and many clips of famous scenes are up on Youtube.  For an evening in the company of a very true to life tale of returning veterans, don’t miss seeing The Best Years of Our Lives!

One interesting  side note, Harold Russell was not a professional actor.  He was in the US Army during WWII and lost his hands during a training exercise at Camp Mackell, in North Carolina.  A defective fuse detonated on an explosive he was handling, and that is how he lost his hands.  After his recovery and rehabilitation, he was a student at Boston University and had appeared in a film made by the US Army, called Diary of a Sergeant, about the rehabilitation of injured soldiers.  Director William Wyler happened to see that film and cast Russell to play the part of Homer.

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