Posts Tagged ‘Gladys Cooper’

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!





My Classic Movie Pick: Love Letters

British Officer Alan Quinton has a big problem.  It’s World War 2, he’s in Italy, and he has been writing love letters to a girl back in England for his war buddy, Officer Roger Morland.  Roger was granted a leave in London a few months back and while there, he met a beautiful girl, Victoria Remington, at a ball.  He danced with her a lot and made her laugh.  He decided to keep the lines of communication open with her despite his return to the war and despite his lackadaisical attitude to writing letters, so he asks, begs, and badgers his friend Alan to write love letters to Victoria for him.   Alan, even though he’s engaged to Helen Wentworth and has never met Victoria, begins to fall for her due to the responding letters she writes back.

Love Letters

Alan writing a love letter for Roger

Alan writing a love letter for Roger


The plot thickens when Roger gets another leave to London and marries Victoria on a whim.  Alan gets wounded in a battle and is sent home to England to finish his recovery.  While at the hospital for recovering veterans, Alan and Helen know that their earlier promise to one another to marry has been weakened somehow.  Alan then learns that  Roger has died in an accident and Alan also finds out he has inherited an elderly aunt’s country home, still employing her caretaker, Mack.  Alan decides to move from London to live in this inherited home, hoping to  clear the cobwebs from his mind and decide what he now wants to do with his life.  Prior to going to the home, his brother, Derek, takes him to a party and it is there that Alan meets Dilly and a young woman who goes by the name Singleton.  At the party, Alan has too much to drink and goes on and on to Dilly about how he wrote love letters during the war for his officer buddy who he has recently learned was killed in an accident.  Dilly, startled by Alan’s confession, urges him that after he’s settled in at the country home, he should focus on the story about an “old murder” that happened near his aunt’s home.

Alan recovering at the Veteran's Hospital

Alan recovering at the Veteran’s Hospital

Dilly's suggestion to a now sober Alan about investigating an old murder

Dilly’s suggestion to a now sober Alan about investigating an old murder

Alan recalls Dilly’s advice, breaks off his engagement to Helen, and decides that since he has fallen in love with Victoria, he must meet her, especially now that Roger has died.  He travels back to London to visit a  library in order to try and find out about Roger’s death.   Alan finds out that Victoria was found guilty of murdering Roger!  Now Alan feels terrible, as he blames himself for writing those letters that brought Roger and Victoria together.

As I watched this romance/mystery film, I thought two things: one, I know that TCM is focusing on films that were either nominated for Academy Awards or winners of the award, showing such films as a lead up to the Oscars, but why not put Love Letters on the air on Valentine’s Day??  Second, this film is screaming for a remake, maybe Hallmark Channel needs to do this??

The plot continues to thicken: Alan is told Victoria is dead, he remeets Singleton and they fall in love.   He learns that Singleton has amnesia and can’t remember who she really is.  Dilly has information for him about Singleton.  Dilly shares with him her fears of the negative consequences that could happen when Alan tells her that he and Singleton wish to marry.  An elderly lady appears in the story, a Miss Beatrice Remington and she seems somewhat menacing towards Alan and Singleton and their wedding plans; she eventually relents and reveals that she is a key connection to Victoria and Roger Morland.  Singleton is driving herself crazy with memories suddenly popping up in her mind, memories that are confusing and scary for her.  She is also worried that Alan married her out of pity and that he really is in love with Victoria Morland, perhaps Singleton should just go away and give Alan up so he can find Victoria and be truly happy?

Alan and Singleton have fallen in love

Alan and Singleton have fallen in love

Mack and Alan helping Singleton when she has one of her hysterical episodes due to memories re-emerging

Mack and Alan helping Singleton when she has one of her hysterical episodes due to memories re-emerging

Love Letters arrived at the US movie theaters in 1945 and it did really well with American audiences.  The film was produced by Hal B. Wallis, based upon the novel, Pity My Simplicity, by Christopher Massie.  The screenplay was written by Ayn Rand.  William Dieterle was selected as the director.  Producer, movie mogul David O. Selznick agreed to let two of his actors, Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones play the two leads, Alan and Singleton, but he sent constant memos to Wallis with suggestions and essentially commands as to what he wanted for Jones’s contract; Selznick soon after married Jones.   The rest of the cast: Roger Morland-Robert Sully, Helen Wentworth-Anita Louise, Dilly-Ann Richards, Mack-Cecil Kellaway, Beatrice Remington-Gladys Cooper.

What I liked about this film was the acting and the score.  Sure, the plot was a bit  convoluted, hence my Hallmark remake suggestion, but all of the cast works well together to tell the story and make it believable and Dieterle’s direction with Rand’s screenplay give it all a fitting ending.  The score, by Victor Young, was nominated for an Academy Award as was Jones, for Best Actress.   Where can one find this film?  TCM will be airing it again on Sunday, March 13, at 10:00 am est/9:00 am cst.  The film is available on dvd via Amazon,  and at TCM’s Shop.

Here is a lovely clip of Nat King Cole’s rendition of Love Letters,  Victor Young’s Academy  Award nominated song for the film.  Here is the link to the trailer that audiences in 1945 would have seen to advertise the film.

My Classic Movie Pick: Kitty Foyle

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

Kitty Foyle poster 1

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

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

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

Kitty & Pops

Kitty & Pops

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

Kitty, Wyn's new secretary

Kitty, Wyn’s new secretary

Kitty & Wyn-it's love!!

Kitty & Wyn-it’s love!!

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

Kitty going on a case with Dr. Mark!

Kitty going on a case with Dr. Mark!

Kitty holding the new baby Mark has delivered

Kitty holding the new baby Mark has delivered

Kitty with Mark

Kitty with Mark

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

Kitty meeting Mrs. Strafford, Wyn's mother

Kitty meeting Mrs. Strafford, Wyn’s mother

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

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

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

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

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



My Classic Movie Pick: Mr. Lucky

I was discussing classic films with a friend this week and we both agreed, any movie that stars Cary Grant is an automatic favorite film and a  must-see.  That bit of discussion set my brain to thinking about Cary Grant films  and I  decided that  I should write about  one of his more obscure films, but one  that is still a good movie to view.  Plus it features  the hobby of knitting!  Yes, Cary has to learn to knit in this film!  It is 1943’s Mr. Lucky, produced by RKO studios and directed by H.C. Potter.  It was bought by RKO from Milton Holmes’s story, “Bundles for Freedom” and he,  along with Adrian Scott, wrote the screenplay.  Grant’s co-stars in the film are Laraine Day, Charles Bickford, Gladys Cooper, Alan Carney, Paul Stewart, Kay Johnson, and Florence Bates.Mr. Lucky

This comedy-romance-drama, is set in New York City as World War II is raging.    Grant plays Joe “The Greek” Adams, a gambler with a couple of problems.  He and his gambling partner, Zepp(Paul Stewart),  have received draft notices and neither of them wants to serve.  They have to come up with a plan to get out of the draft.  One of their gambling employees, Joe Bascopolous, has died and his draft  status was 4F.  Either Joe or Zepp can use Bascopolous’s identity so they decide to gamble for it.  Zepp cheats but Joe wins and decides to now go by the name of Joe Bascopolous.  The second problem for Joe is the lack of money to pay for his gambling ship.  He wants to raise enough dough to take his ship down to Cuba.  How will Joe find that bankroll of dough?

Joe(Grant) and Zepp(Paul Stewart) discussing their two problems.

Joe(Grant) and Zepp(Paul Stewart) discussing their two problems.

He finds it through a local War Relief organization, run by society ladies, and the head lady is Veronica Steadman, played by Gladys Cooper.   Joe has to gain Mrs. Steadman’s trust, the trust of the other ladies at the organization, and the trust of wealthy society lady Dorothy Bryant, played by Laraine Day.  Miss Bryant is beautiful, single, rich, and second-in-command at the War Relief organization, and Joe knows he has to have a positive influence on her if he is to gain Mrs. Steadman’s approval and money.  To prove his trustworthiness, after he has pledged that he wants to join the group of ladies, he agrees to learn to knit!  One of the daily tasks for the ladies  is to knit socks and scarves for the soldiers overseas, and it is a very comical scene as Mrs. Van Every(Florence Bates) takes on the task with joy and energy of teaching Joe how to knit one and purl two!  Seeing a handsome man in their midst is also quite an event for the ladies of the organization!

It's a delight to find out that Cary Grant has joined your group!

It’s a delight to find out that Cary Grant has joined your group!

Mrs. Van Every(Florence Bates) who gets to teach Cary Grant how to knit!

Mrs. Van Every(Florence Bates) who gets to teach Cary Grant how to knit!

Learning to knit can be frustrating!

Learning to knit can be frustrating!

Mrs. Veronica Steadman(Gladys Cooper), head of the War Relief organization

Mrs. Veronica Steadman(Gladys Cooper), head of the War Relief organization

With all of the knitting going on, and Joe’s punctuality and  his well-dressed and polite persona, he  wins  Mrs. Steadman and Miss Bryant over and soon they agree to a fundraising idea he has for the organization: a charity gambling night.  Joe promises the ladies that they’ll raise enough money to outfit a relief ship.  What Joe is really planning to do is supply the charity gambling event with cashboxes with false bottoms in them so Joe and his gambling outfit can steal the winnings and with that money, he can take his gang and his ship south to Cuba.  However, a letter Joe receives that morning changes everything.  Joe  receives a letter from the real Joe Bascopolous’s mother in Greece.  The letter is written in Greek and Joe is curious about it’s contents so he visits a nearby Greek Orthodox Church and asks the priest there to translate it for him.  The letter informs Joe that the Nazis overran their village and how all of the Greek men died trying to protect their village.  Joe thanks the priest for translating the letter and then heads to the nearest park bench, to sit and think about his life, in comparison to the brave Greek men’s lives.

When Joe arrives at the War Relief organization for the start of the Charity Casino Night, he tells his co-hort, Crunk,(Alan Carney), that he has decided to put all of the winnings towards the ladies’ goal for  war relief.  Zepp overhears this change in plans and decides to stop this from happening.  At the end of the evening, Zepp pulls a gun on Joe and forces him to gather up the winnings.  Dorothy accidentally enters the room and sees Joe collecting the money and assumes the worst about Joe, that he is really just a no-good gambler and crook.  To protect Dorothy so she can’t be one of Zepp’s victims, Joe knocks her out,and  then Joe manages to attack Zepp and kills him in self-defense, but also gets shot in the altarcation.  Joe then  escapes from the War Relief organization’s building.

Some days go by and  Dorothy is feeling very low and stupid for having fallen for Joe and his offer to help the War Relief organization.   One day a man arrives at the War Relief’s building.  He introduces himself as Mr. Hard Swede, that he is a friend of Joe’s, and that Joe wanted him to give the ladies a packet.  In the packet is the money that the ladies rightly earned through their Charity Casino night!  Some more days go by and Dorothy is informed that Joe Bascopolous is dead.  She asks to see a picture of Joe and it isn’t the Joe that she fell in love with.  She learns that Bascopolous worked on a ship called the “Briny Marlin” and remembering some Australian slang phrases Joe had taught her one evening, she rushes to the docks, knowing that the ship and her Joe are probably there.   Dorothy reaches the dock and sees the ship and Joe and begs him to take her with him.  Joe has loaded his ship with war relief supplies and informs Dorothy that he is sailing to Europe and it will be too dangerous to take her with him.  He treats her rudely, as he doesn’t want her to know his real feelings for her.  A few weeks later, Dorothy finds out that the Briny Marlin was torpedoed on its return to New York City and sunk.  Despite this awful news, Dorothy is confident that Joe somehow survived  and she visits the dock each night waiting for his return.

The movie has a happy ending and I don’t want to reveal more to ruin it for the viewer.  Suffice it to say that the movie was a huge hit with the audiences of 1943 and it earned a profit of $1, 603,000 at the box office.  If you are a Cary Grant fan, or if you love knitting, if you want a film that has a bit of a deeper message than a typical romance-comedy, than seek out Mr. Lucky.  The movie is available through, clips of it are on Youtube, and Turner Classic Movies will be airing it this weekend, on March 30th, at 10:30 p.m. CST.

Cary and Laraine

Trying to work his charm on Miss Bryant(Laraine Day).

Trying to work his charm on Miss Bryant(Laraine Day).