Posts Tagged ‘Gary Cooper’

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

 

 

 

Advertisements

My Classic Movie Pick: A Farewell to Arms

My movie pick for today is part of  the World War I  in Classic Film  Blogathon.  Please visit Movies Silently  and silent ology to read all of the fantastic bloggers and their posts about  films that have WWI as a major backdrop.

WWI Blogathon

A Farewell to Arms is a very famous novel written by Ernest Hemingway.  Chances are you read it in high school or college, or just read it on your own since Hemingway was and still is considered to be one of modern America’s best writers.   I have read For Whom the Bell Tolls but Farewell hasn’t made it to my reading roster yet; I need to remedy that!

A Farewell to Arms, poster 1

The plot of this 1932  film  is pretty straightforward.  Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy loses girl, boy finds girl, and I won’t add anymore but suffice it to say that it’s a Hemingway novel and there won’t be a rainbows and pots of gold type of ending.

When I watched A Farewell to Arms a couple weeks ago I was impressed by the acting, the direction,and the cinematography.  The cast of this movie, at the top of their game, : Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes as the ambulance driver and nurse who fall deeply in love, Adolphe Menjou as an Italian doctor, a rival for the love of the nurse, Jack LaRue as a gentle priest, Mary Philips as another nurse who distrusts all men.

I like Gary Cooper’s roles in films but I usually would just associate him with playing the “Aw, schucks, Ma’am” kind of guy, who is a good man with a calm, laid-back manner in dealing with  others.  He played such men in Sergeant York(another WWI movie!), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Ball of Fire, and Meet John Doe.   In A Farewell to Arms, his  characterization was a revelation to me about  his acting abilities.  His Lt. Frederic Henry is an American who is tired of his life in the states,  he wants some adventure before settling down, so as WWI begins, he decides to serve as an ambulance driver for the Italian Army.  Frederic does his job well, works hard, and wants to play hard.  He finds a compatriot in searching out bars and women with a doctor, Major Rinaldi(Adolphe Menjou).  There is a fine scene illustrating this when the two men are seated at a table in a bar, examining a young lady’s leg  with no objections from her.

Rinaldi and Frederic checking out those legs!

Rinaldi and Frederic checking out those legs!

Cooper’s Frederic changes emotionally  when he meets Catherine Barkley(Helen Hayes).  He falls in love, and when they are separated he is desperate to find her, to be with her for the rest of his life.  He even deserts the army to find her, despite the consequence that could cost him if he’s found.  At the film’s end, when at last he’s reunited with Catherine, the tears flow and it is a bittersweet reunion that alternates between hope for the world and the new life Frederic must now live.

Frederic and Catherine know they love one another

Frederic and Catherine know they love one another

Getting back to Catherine's side

Getting back to Catherine’s side

Helen Haye’s, a petite woman when contrasted with Cooper’s height, seems very fragile.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons she was cast in the film.  She gives Catherine a heart of compassion which we see when she comforts  another nurse who has been  dismissed by the stern head nurse for becoming pregnant.  We see Catherine’s steely resolve to do her duty and to not get involved with another soldier after her fiance has been killed in another battle.  We then see that resolve melt away to nothing when she spends an evening with Frederic and love has claimed her heart once again.  We ache for her when she has left the nursing post, has moved to Switzerland to await the birth of her baby, and all of the letters she has written to Frederic have been returned, due to Major Rinaldi’s jealous meddling; she collapses under the stress and heartbreak at the town’s post office when she is handed back all of those letters.

All alone in Switzerland, writing all of those letters to Frederic!

All alone in Switzerland, writing all of those letters to Frederic!

Adolphe Menjou, is fine as the doctor turned Major.  He is an affable guy, but one we can boo and hiss at when due to his jealousy over Frederic and Catherine’s relationship, he arranges for all of the letters from Catherine to Frederic to be sent back and not forwarded.  Later, with remorse, his Major Rinaldi tries to convince the awol Frederic to come back into the army, and when the Major realizes that Frederic is desperate to find Catherine, Rinaldi reveals that she is in Switzerland.

Trying to convince Frederic to re-enlist before revealing where Catherine is.

Trying to convince Frederic to re-enlist before revealing where Catherine is.

Rinaldi is getting jealous!

Rinaldi is getting jealous!

Jack La Rue, who I had only previously seen play a mafia-type leader in the British film No Orchids for Miss Blandish, was a surprise to me, too.  He is a priest who recognizes the love that Frederic and Catherine have for one another.  Instead of trying to counsel them to just be friends and wait until the war is over to pursue a deeper commitment to one another, he movingly and sweetly performs a wedding for them in Frederic’s hospital room.  It’s a tender and moving scene, with the Priest intoning the Latin words of the Wedding Mass.

The Priest announces he'll marry them.

The Priest announces he’ll marry them.

Mary Philips plays Helen Ferguson in only a few scenes, but a key one is when Frederic confronts her as to why Catherine quit the nursing post and where is she?  Helen is strong in her resolve, keeps her dislike for Frederic alive, by refusing to tell him where Catherine is but gleefully adding to his worries by admitting that Catherine left due to her pregnancy with his child.

Frederic, Catherine, and Helen, who still hates men!

Frederic, Catherine, and Helen, who still hates men!

Director Frank Borzage, who I  assumed was from another country-wrong!   He was a former silent movie actor turned director, born in the USA!  His directing skill is evident in the way he got his actors to give such outstanding performances and his scenes of the war were appropriately chilling and unusual.  I found some scenes unusual in that the way they were framed and shot, at odd angles; one scene showing a soldier outstretching his arms as if copying the same position of Jesus’s arms outstretched  on the cross.  From my research, I discovered that after Borzage gave up acting to focus on directing, one of the directors he studied and did some work with was F.W. Murnau, famed German director who specialized in the Expressionist Movement in German Films, and then carried that with him to Hollywood.  That influence had to have given Borzage the ideas for these scenes.  Another interesting scene, Borzage aided greatly by his cinematographer, Charles Lang, is a point of view series of what Frederic is seeing as he is flat on his back, being wheeled into a hospital in Milan.  Charles Lang did win the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for this film.

A Farewell to Arms is available to see via streaming on Amazon, either through their instant rent program or through your Roku Box(that’s how I was able to call it up and watch it for free!)  One could buy it through Amazon or TCM’s Shop.  Netflix has A Farewell to Arms, but it is the 1957 version that starred Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones.  As much as I like Hudson and Jones’s bodies of work throughout their acting careers, I find the version they starred in  a bit draggy at times.  The 1932 version with Cooper and Hayes flowed much faster.

For a look at love during the midst of a horrific war, have your kleenaxes handy, get yourself a dvd of A Farewell to Arms!!

AFTA ending poster

 

 

My Classic Movie Pick: The Tall T

I volunteered to write a blog for the Summer Under the Stars blogathon hosted by two great sites dedicated to classic films: Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence and Scribehard on Film.  The hosts of these two sites brilliantly decided to host a month-long blogathon that parallels the great actors and actresses featured each day for the month of August on  the Turner Classic Movies cable channel.  Be sure to click on the links to read other great posts by other bloggers who also love classic movies!   I volunteered to focus on actor Randolph Scott, and specifically the great action/Western The Tall T.  Summer Under the Stars Blogathon

The Tall T was  directed by Bud Boetticher, produced by Harry Joe Brown, and the  associate producer was the film’s star, Randolph Scott.  The idea for the film came from an Elmore Leonard story that he wrote in 1955 for Argosy magazine, titled The Captives.  Burt Kennedy wrote the screenplay adaptation of Leonard’s story and the film was distributed in 1957 by Columbia Pictures.  In  glorious technicolor, the movie was  filmed on location in the rugged locale of Lone Pine, California.  Besides Randolph Scott, the cast includes Maureen O’Sullivan, Richard Boone, Henry Silva, Skip Homeier, Arthur Hunnicutt, John Hubbard, Robert Burton, Christopher Olsen, and Fred Sherman.

Randolph Scott is Pat Brennan, a down-on-his luck ranch hand, who has decided to travel to the town of Contention in order to see his old boss, Mr. Tenvoorde, the owner of the Tall T ranch.  As he begins his journey,  Brennan stops by the stage coach relay station owned by Hank Parker(Fred Sherman).  After a  nice greeting and visit, Brennan promises Jeff, Parker’s son(Christopher Olson) that he’ll bring the boy a bag of candy on his way back from Contention.  Brennan is heading there because he  wants to buy a bull from Mr. Tenvoorde in order to start up his own ranch.  Tenvoorde likes to make bets and he bets Brennan that he can have the bull, a Brahma, only if he can break it first(ride it in a specific amount of time without falling off the bull).  If Brennan can do it, he gets the bull, but if he gets thrown off, he also has to give his horse to Tenvoorde.  Brennan takes the bet, rides the bull, but gets thrown off and lands in a watering trough!  Without his horse, Brennan begins the long walk back to the relay station.  Luckily, he meets up with Ed Rintoon(Arthur Hunnicutt), a stage coach driver he knows who has been hired to drive a private coach to Bixby for newlyweds Willard and Doretta Mims(John Hubbard and Maureen O’Sullivan).  Rintoon welcomes Brennan aboard the coach, to sit shotgun, of course, and agrees to take him to the relay station.

Landing in that water trough!

Landing in that water trough!

Without his horse, Brennan has to travel by foot.

Without his horse, Brennan has to travel by foot.

Arthur Hunnicutt, as Rintoon, stage coach driver.

Arthur Hunnicutt, as Rintoon, stage coach driver.

Hitching a ride to the relay station.

Hitching a ride to the relay station.

When the coach gets to the relay station, Brennan calls out to Parker and Jeff but there is no answer.  Finding that odd, Brennan is standing up on the stage coach’s roof when he and Rintoon here a low, gravelly voice order them to throw down their guns.  Rintoon glances down at his rifle near his feet and he makes a grab for it only to be gunned down by a young man who suddenly appears from the relay station building.  Another man, the speaker, appears, as well as another younger gunman.  It is Frank Usher(Richard Boone) and his gang, Chink(Henry Silva) and Billy Jack(Skip Homeier).  They inform Brennan that they have killed Hank Parker and his son Jeff, and that they intend to rob the coach.  It is at this point that newlywed Willard Mims pokes his head out of the coach to inform the outlaws that his new bride is the daughter of the richest man in the state and that wouldn’t it be better to hold his wife hostage and he personally will deliver a ransom note to his father-in-law.

Usher telling Brennan that he killed Parker and Jeff.

Usher telling Brennan that he killed Parker and Jeff.

Usher and his gang telling Brennan their robbery plans.

Usher and his gang telling Brennan their robbery plans.

The Tall T baddies Chick and Billy Jack.

The Tall T baddies Chick and Billy Jack.

Mims doesn't stand a chance against Chick and his guns.

Mims doesn’t stand a chance against Chick and his guns.

The actors do a great job with their parts showing their characters to be people with deeper feelings and complexities than just the on the surface good folks vs.  bad folks.  With Mims’s  offer, we see him for what he is, a sniveling coward who only married his wife for her fortune.  The bride, Doretta, is plain and in her middle thirties so she jumped at the chance to marry instead of dying an old maid.  Usher is evil, pure and simple.  So is his gang, one sneaky and conniving and one trigger-happy and jumpy.  Boone plays Usher without giving the audience any reason to have sympathy for him.  Yet, his character always wants to talk to Brennan, as if Brennan is an example of what he, Usher, could have been, if he’d made better choices with his life.  Doretta and Brennan have to find ways to survive being held hostage by these three; luckily they camp near a cave that provides the two of them protection and a chance to make plans to outwit their captors.  Brennan, a confirmed bachelor, shows that chivalry still lives with his care of Doretta and deeper feelings grow between the two of them.

Brennan realizing he has deeper feelings for Doretta.

Brennan realizing he has deeper feelings for Doretta.

Usher, talking too much about his life, to Brennan.

Usher, talking too much about his life, to Brennan.

Randolph Scott lived a very interesting and somewhat charmed life.  Born on January 23, 1898 in Virginia but raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, he was the second of 6 children, born to George and Lucille Scott.  Randolph’s father was an administrative engineer at a textile mill.  Randolph and his siblings went to private schools and Scott excelled at sports.  When WWI arrived, Scott was 19 and he enlisted in the Army.  He was stationed in France as an artillery observer with the 2nd Trench Mortar Battalion, 19th Field Artillery.  After the war, Scott came back to the states and enrolled at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.  He aimed to play football there but a back injury ended his football career.  Next, Scott enrolled at University of North Carolina, to major in textile engineering, but ended up dropping out due to a lack of interest in that field.  His father helped Randolph land an accounting job at the mill where he worked.  In 1927, the acting bug bit Randolph Scott and he gave up the accounting job and moved to Hollywood to try and make it as an actor.  His father happened to know Howard Hughes through previous business dealings so with the introduction letter from his father to Hughes, Scott was able to snag a bit part in a movie, 1928’s Sharp Shooters.  After a couple more bit parts, and a part in The Virginian(rumor is that Scott helped star Gary Cooper speak with a  southern drawl), famed director Cecil B. Demille suggested to Scott that he get some stage work under his belt.  Scott listened and soon found parts to act on stage with The Pasadena Playhouse.

Scott’s earlier movies ran the gamut.  He was cast in dramatic movies, comedies, war movies, adventure movies, a fantasy/horror film, and even a couple of musicals-he was Fred Astaire’s buddy in those two films, not needed to dance or sing.  As Scott aged, he decided to focus his acting in Westerns, as he liked making that type of film and it was a wise decision.  He made many westerns in the 1950s and 1960s and most of them did quite well at the box office.  Scott excelled at portraying the quiet, strong man, willing to do the right thing, even if it was going to be the hardest thing to do.  For a full list of Scott’s films, check out the link on Imdb.  One other interesting fact I found out in researching Randolph Scott is that he was under consideration for the role of Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind!  Oh if only he had gotten the part!  Scarlett would have had a real dilemma in trying to choose between Scott and Gable!

For an excellent western to view, to see Randolph Scott excell in a role that he did best, tune in on Monday, August 19th at 8:00 ET/7:00 CT when Turner Classic Movies airs The Tall T, in tribute to Randolph Scott day, as part of their Summer Under the Stars.

Randolpoh Scott in his later acting years.

Randolpoh Scott in his later acting years.

Randolph Scott in the 1930s.

Randolph Scott in the 1930s.