Posts Tagged ‘Glenn Ford’

My Classic Movie Pick: 1955 Western, The Violent Men

During Turner Classic Movies’s Summer Under the Stars in August of 2017, I dvred several movies starring Glenn Ford.  Ford was one of the 31 stars featured that month.  Ford made several westerns in his career and a new one to me was released  in 1955, The Violent Men.   The film is  dramatic with a capital D, set in the rugged west of New Mexico, with a lot of action and plot twists.

 

Columbia Pictures bought the rights of the novel, Smoky Valley, by Donald Hamilton and hired Harry Keiner to write the  screenplay.   Direction was by Rudolph Mate and the  producer was Lewis J.  Rachmil.  The soaring music was by Max Steiner and the film was made with cinemascope for a better look via the widescreen with the added splash of  technicolor.  This film sounds and looks great.   The cast is large, and there are two actresses in it I was not familiar with.  Glenn Ford, obviously the protagonist, plays John Parrish, a former Yankee soldier turned cattle rancher who after a 3 year try, has decided to take his fiancee Caroline(May Wynn-one of the actresses I wasn’t familiar with) back east with him, where they’ll marry and he’ll find something else to do for a living.

Moving east will take money and John tells Caroline, her father, and John’s ranch hands that he plans on selling his cattle ranch to area cattle baron Lew Wilkison(played by Edward G. Robinson-yes! the actor most associated with playing gangsters, is in a western!).  John does add a warning to his announcement, if Wilkison doesn’t offer him what his ranch is really worth, he’ll turn down the offer.  Caroline isn’t happy to hear this, as she wants to get east and urges John to take whatever offer he receives.  The ranch hands are outraged, and tell John that Wilkison has sent his henchmen out and about to harass the smaller ranchers in order to drive them away and they thought John was a better boss, a better man who wouldn’t cut and run.  John is left between a rock and a hard place, and goes off to see Wilkison.

Wilkison has an impressive spread, a small man in size but not in ego. Despite being crippled due to a range war that happened 12 years in the past, Lew Wilkison still inspires a sort of fear amongst the local folks.  Lew vowed to buy up all the land in a large area to please his wife, Martha,(Barbara Stanwyck) so that they would be the leading family in the New Mexico territory.  One would think if one were pursuing a family dynasty one would have a passel of heirs, but no, there is only one daughter, Judith(Dianne Foster-the other actress I wasn’t familiar with.)  Lew worships the ground Martha walks on yet daughter Judith hates her mother-that plot point isn’t given much explanation, but as the story moves forward, we’ll see reasons as to why Judith is right to be wary of her mother.  Lew’s younger brother, Cole(Brian Keith, with dark hair and mustache, not looking like Uncle Bill from Family Affair at all!) helps with running the ranch and reason one for Judith to hate mama: Martha and Cole are carrying on a torrid affair under Lew’s nose!!!  Cole, not a great guy, is two-timing Martha with a Mexican girl Elena(Lita Milan); the phrase that there is no honor among thieves comes to my mind.  A shout out to a young Richard Jaeckel is in order too, as he is his smarmy, snarling best as henchman #1 Wade Matlock, murdering the sheriff in cold blood, under orders from someone at Wilkison’s ranch, but Lew denies giving out any such order when John confronts him about this event.  John, refusing to be charmed by Martha, also refuses Lew’s weak offer for his ranch, and the Wilkison’s new motto(not Judith’s) is to drive John Parrish from the territory and all the rest of the small ranchers trying to hold on to their properties.

Lew and Martha Wilkison, power couple of New Mexico territory

Judith, who hates her mother, Martha

Martha with her lover, Cole

 

John casually confronting Matlock in the saloon.

Edward G. Robinson, the more I explore the films he was in, the more I am impressed with his acting abilities and his talent.  He wasn’t only good at playing an underworld gangster, he played a gentle father in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, a spoof of his gangster self in Larceny, Inc., a wise insurance inspector in Double Indemnity, and now as ranch baron Lew in The Violent Men.  If you aren’t familiar with all of his films, make that a goal for yourself in 2018!  I will give a tiny spoiler, at the film’s end, Lew accepts  a giant dose of mea culpa and it’s good to see that happen.

Barbara Stanwyck is good in this film, too.  I mentally noted that her character is sort of a western version of Lady Macbeth.  She is power behind her husband’s throne, yet conniving for her own power in several ways, leaving her husband oblivious to her machinations.  She will receive a shock in the film and her just desserts, two more tiny spoilers.

The film may pop up again on TCM this year, and it is available via the TCM Shop and at Amazon.  I’ll end the post with two great posters that advertised the film in Italy, back in 1955.  I find these two posters very artistic.  I also found a great shot of Ford and Robinson on the set, making me hope that there was a great sense of fun and camaraderie despite the film being  a dark drama.

 

Robinson and Ford on set

 

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For the Bette Davis Blogathon: A Stolen Life

Actress Bette Davis, if she were still alive, would be turning 108 today, Tuesday, April 5th.  To honor her memory, blogger and classic film fan Crystal at  In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood created a blogathon for this purpose. Be sure to visit Crystal’s blog to read all of the other great posts by other classic film fans about Bette Davis and her outstanding career.

blogathon-bette

 

 

I decided to focus on one of Bette’s lesser known films, 1946’s A Stolen Life, a film that Bette actually produced as well as starred in for Warner Brothers.  It’s a film that is intriguing to me as Bette gets to play identical twins, and as a mom of twins, I am always interested in seeing how Hollywood handles the concept of twins, and how  did the scenes look where the actor or actress  in dual roles are in the same scenes at the same time?!

A Stolen Life

In A Stolen Life, we get the “good” twin and the “bad” twin plot.  It may seem stale but in the hands of director Curtis Bernhardt and actress Bette Davis, the concept of the dual twins with wildly varied personalities turned out well.  Davis had been wanting a better contract with Warner Brothers, and studio head Jack Warner was not going to let his leading female star go, so the studio agreed in 1944, that Bette could make 5 pictures for them and get to be the producer too.  A Stolen Life was Davis’s first time as a producer.   Producing was a big task and Davis ably carried it out.  A Stolen Life was based on the best selling novel Stolen Life by Czechoslovakian writer Karel J. Benes.  His novel had been made into a movie in England in 1939 and Davis wanted to make a new version of the film in America.  Catherine Turney and Margaret B. Wilder wrote the screenplay and I think it was a great idea of Davis’s to get women to write this film’s screenplay, since the two main characters are sisters, and the story revolves around love, and what one wants out of life.  Davis had seen Barbara Stanwyck’s 1946 film, My Reputation, and had enjoyed it immensely.  She decided she wanted that director for her picture and that is how Curtis Bernhardt came on board.

Bernhardt, along with cinematographer Sol Polito, devised the intricate shots needed to really show Bette as twin sisters.  Using matte shots, a double for Davis, and then reshooting with Davis’s head or face on another matte shot, a scene such as one sister lighting the other sister’s cigarette could be done.  The film did receive one nomination at the 1947 Academy Awards for Special Effects.   The always great Max Steiner composed the music for the film, and Orry-Kelly designed the costumes.  For the leading man of the film, Warner Brothers wanted Davis to consider Dennis Morgan, but she said no to that choice.  She then agreed to sign Robert Alda, but actor Glenn Ford caught her attention.  He had just gotten out of the Marines, where he’d been serving during the war.  Jack Warner didn’t want to hire Ford, as he was at Columbia Pictures and that meant Warner Brothers would have to pay Columbia a loan out fee.  Davis wanted to see if Ford could do the role, so she had him secretly brought on to the Warner Brothers lot and do a screen test.  Ford did so well, that Davis gave him the part and Jack Warner grumblingly complied.  Ford impressed Columbia Pictures so much in this Davis vehicle that they cast him in Gilda, for his next role, and that really got his acting career moving forward.

Bette Davis plays identical twin sisters Kathryn and Patrica Bosworth.  Independently wealthy women, due to inheriting their family’s wealth, and being that their parents are deceased, the only family the two has is each other and one cousin, Freddie(Charlie Ruggles.)  Kathryn, or Kate, is the quiet twin.  She is an artist, lives in NYC, and is introspective and thoughtful.  Patricia, or Pat, is loud, flamboyant, and a flirt.  As the film opens, Kate is rushing to catch a steamer that is to sail out to an island off the coast of Massachusetts-she’s spending the weekend there with her sister and their cousin, Freddie.  Kate misses the boat, but luckily finds a man with his boat who agrees to take her out to the island.  The man is Bill Emerson(Glenn Ford), an engineer, and he and Kate hit it off as they sail to the island.  Bill does tell Kate that he has to stop at another smaller island on their way, to pick up the old lighthouse keeper, Eben Folger(Walter Brennan.)  Kate decides that she wants to get to know Bill better, so she asks Eben if he’d agree to sit for his portrait to be drawn and painted, which means Bill would be the one to sail her out to Eben’s lighthouse.  Eben agrees, and Bill and Kate get to know one another better through the portrait sittings.

Bette Davis as Kate and Pat Bosworth

Bette Davis as Kate and Pat Bosworth

Kate and Bill getting to know one another.

Kate and Bill getting to know one another.

As we know, since this film is a drama, Bill meets Pat by accident one day at the dock, and he assumes she is Kate.  Pat decides to let him think she is Kate, takes him to lunch, and bedazzles him with her personality.  Kate does appear and the trick Pat played on Bill is revealed.  Bill tells Kate he has to go to Boston for his work for a few weeks, and Pat overhears this info, and hops the same train to Boston for a shopping trip.  She continues to charm Bill on the train, and in Boston, and when Bill returns to the island where Kate is, he admits that he and Pat are in love and will be married soon.  Kate sadly resigns herself to this fact, and soon her sister and Bill are wed.

The conniving Pat working her magic on Bill

The conniving Pat working her magic on Bill

Kate returns to NYC to resume her art career.  She meets an intense artist, Karnock(Dane Clark) who criticizes her work as too stiff, too boring.  He encourages her to be more expressive with her art, and then tells her he loves her.  She realizes that she still loves Bill, and tells Karnock that her heart belongs to another man.  Still despondent, Kate returns to the island for some self-examination and planning for her future.  Pat arrives, telling Kate that the marriage to Bill was a huge mistake.  Bill is in Chile working on some project, so Pat decided to come to the island and stay there while he’s away.  One day Kate and Pat decide to sail in their boat, and a storm erupts, crashing their boat onto a reef.  When Kate comes too, she sees Pat is drowning and tries to save her sister.  Conveniently as Pat sinks under the waves, her wedding ring pops off and Kate grabs it.  At that moment, Kate decides to put on the wedding ring, pretend to be Pat, and try to save the marriage to Bill.

Kate with fellow artist, Karnock.

Kate with fellow artist, Karnock.

Bill arrives back in Boston, where he and Pat live, and Kate is waiting for him trying to pretend she is Pat.  Bill coldly tells her that he’s going to file soon for a divorce.  It is then that Kate learns that Pat was a very unfaithful wife to Bill, having numerous affairs with quite a few men, one who even divorced his wife for her!

Will Kate be able to convince Bill that she, pretending to be Pat, can become a new, and better Pat?  A Pat who loves him unconditionally and one who will now honor their wedding vows?  Will Bill believe this new Pat?  Cousin Freddie starts to have his doubts that this is really Pat.  Will he spill the beans?

Luckily, Turner Classic Movies will be airing A Stolen Life on Sunday, May 1, at 10:00 pm est/9:00 pm cst so be sure to set that dvr and watch it.  If you don’t have access to TCM, you can watch it via Amazon for a fee.

Lastly, here is the scene expertly filmed showing one twin lighting a match and handing it to her twin sister, courtesy of Youtube.

An article on TCM’s website, written by Margarita Landazwi was immensely helpful in my research for this blog post.

My Classic Movie Pick: 1947’s Framed

My sweet mother-in-law loves all things techy and loves gadgets.  I really think my husband and his brother inherited their engineering skills from her!  A couple years ago, when ipads were brand new products on the American market, she bought one.  Jumping ahead to a year ago, she had decided that she didn’t really use the ipad much and gave it to our family, as we didn’t have one, and she knew our 5 kids still at home would use it.  Jump ahead to 4 months ago, and the ipad is mostly used by me, as a tv.  When I am cleaning up the kitchen, I grab the ipad and tune in to Youtube and watch episodes of Have Gun Will Travel-all 6 seasons have been nicely posted there and the family has grown accustomed to the show’s opening music and the ending song, about Paladin, where will you roam?

A week ago, one of my twin daughter’s was chastizing me about all of the movies I placed on our  dvr list via TCM.  She suggested I look for some of them on Youtube and watch them on the ipad.  I thought about her suggestion and decided to do that, cleaning up the dvr list in the process.  One classic film on Youtube that I stumbled upon by accident, was a tight little film noir, with a good cast, 1947’s Framed.

Framed

Noir’s are usually set in dark cities, back alleys, and smoke-filled rooms.  Not Framed-it’s set in the post-WWII sundrenched Southwestern US.   Glenn Ford stars as Mike Lambert, a down on his luck GI, who has recently graduated with a degree in Mining Engineering, but hasn’t had success in finding that first engineering job.  He has been working as an over the road truck driver  and  when he’s got enough money saved up, he’ll begin searching for that engineering job.

When the truck Mike is driving brakes fail, he accidentally hits a car owned by Jeff Cunnignham(the always great Edgar Buchanan) a local miner  trying to find that mother lode.  The cops arrest Mike as he’s forgotten to have his driver’s license in his wallet or in the truck, and it’s off to jail he goes.  A very attractive barmaid, Paula Craig(Janis Carter) pays the fine to get Mike out of jail.  He wonders why, but we soon find out…she and her married banker boyfriend(Barry Sullivan) have a criminal plot lined up and all they needed was a foil to make the plan work.  Run, Mike, run!!!!!

Mike about to be arrested for the truck accident

Mike about to be arrested for the truck accident

Paula bails Mike out of jail

Paula bails Mike out of jail

Finding a friend in Miner Jeff Cunningham

Finding a friend in Miner Jeff Cunningham

I was very unfamiliar with Janis Carter.  A beautiful blonde, she is great in this role as the duplicitous Paula-a femme fatale up there with the best of them.  I could see her battle with Bette Davis’s femme fatale in The Letter, and Janis would probably win!  She is good at playing coy with Ford’s Mike, demanding with Sullivan’s Steve, the bank manager, managing to keep her affair with Steve on the downlow which if you’ve ever lived in a small town is pretty near impossible.  She’s also excellent at putting on the charm, which helps her get what she wants all the time. I could easily see her throwing both Steve and Mike off a cliff to get the money and just fly off into the sunset.

Going over their robbery plan one more time

Going over their robbery plan one more time

Framed's Paula and her married lover, Steve, bank manager

Framed’s Paula and her married lover, Steve, bank manager

Ford is good as the innocent Mike.  I don’t mean innocent in that his character is naive, but innocent as he doesn’t know about the crime Paula and Steve are plotting to commit.  He does start to figure something isn’t on the up and up with those two, especially when his new friend, miner Jeff, gets framed for a murder.  Mike knows Jeff is being framed and he sets out to find the real killer.

Barry Sullivan is really young in this movie-I mainly know him from his tv roles which he played when he was  a senior citizen.  He’s good in a smallish part, and I loved the scene where his wife, suspecting the affair, slaps him a good one across the face.  You rock, Mrs. Price!!!  (Mrs. Price was played by Karen Morley.)

Studio publicity pic of Carter and Ford playing cards

Studio publicity pic of Carter and Ford playing cards

If you want to experience a fast-paced film noir, with a good plot, good acting, and not a bad video transfer onto Youtube, seek out 1947’s Framed.  Distributed by Columbia Pictures.  Directed by Richard Wallace.  Screenplay by Ben Maddow and John Patrick, from a story by John Patrick.  Cinematography by Burnett Guffey.  Interestingly, this film came out after Ford’s starring in Gilda, with Rita Hayworth.  So, Columbia, trying to cash in on Ford via Gilda, for Framed’s movie posters and ads, pretty much all show Ford gripping Carter to show he’s in control of this woman.  However, when one watches Framed, it’s pretty much Carter’s character controlling Ford’s character up to the midpoint of the film.  Movie posters can be very misleading!!

Here's an example of one of the misleading movie posters for Framed

Here’s an example of one of the misleading movie posters for Framed

My Classic Movie Pick: Blackboard Jungle

As a former teacher, I am a complete and utter sucker/fan of movies that revolve around  a teacher trying to save the world by getting through to their unruly, bratty, world of crime-leaning students.  In 1954, writer Evan Hunter wrote a novel, The Blackboard Jungle, that got a lot of buzz from the reading public and it caught the attention of Hollywood.  Movie Studio MGM bought the rights of the novel and Richard Brooks, not only directed the film, The Blackboard Jungle, he also wrote the screenplay.   The movie did exceedingly well at the box office and it also was nominated in 4 categories at the 1956 Academy Awards: Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography.

Blackboard Jungle

The movie opens with that famous song that was used 20 some years later as the opener for the ABC sitcom Happy Days, Rock Around the Clock, performed by Bill Haley and His Comets.   We then meet our protagonist, Richard Dadier(Glenn Ford), a WWII veteran who went to college on the GI Bill and earned a degree to teach English.  He arrives at his very first teaching job, at North Manual High, an all-boys high school in inner city New York.  Dadier soon learns that there are a lot of discipline problems at this school and that many of the students are juvenile delinquints.  Still, he is optimistic that with his hard work and encouragement, his students will learn and will go on to success in life.

His students, which most of the focus of the film is on one of his classes, were portrayed by some of the best up and coming actors of the 1950s and 1960s: Sidney Poitier as Gregory Miller, Vic Morrow as Artie West, Dan Terranova as Belazi, Rafael Campos as Pete Morales, Jamie Farr(cast credits list him as Jameel Farah) as Santini, and Paul Mazursky as Emmanuel Stoker.

The faculty and staff of North Manuel: Louis Calhern as Mr. Murdock, Margaret Hayes as Miss Hammond, John Hoyt as Principal Warnecke,Richard Kiley as Mr. Edwards, and  Emile Meyer as Mr. Halloran.

Rounding out Didier’s life is his sweet wife, Anne, played by Anne Francis, and a former professor he seeks out for advice, Prof. A.R.Kraal, played by Basil Ruysdael.

Dadier soon realizes his work will be tough when an object is thrown at the blackboard while he writing his last name on the board and explaining to his students how to pronounce his name.  When Miss Hammond, who is a very stylish new teacher, is cornered after school in the library and about to be assaulted by a student, Dadier luckily happens to be walking by and hears her cries for help.  Dadier rushes in and saves Miss Hammond and rightly gets some punches thrown at the student before he runs away.  Later, Dadier and Mr. Edwards, a new math teacher who loves jazz, visit a bar after work one day, have a few drinks, and then on their walk to their apartments, a gang of hoodlums who attend North Manuel recognize their teachers and brutally mug them.  When Dadier’s wife sees his beaten face at his arrival home, she insists that he give up this job and teach at a different school, one in a much better neighborhood or community.  A side plot is that Anne is expecting and she’s worried about this pregnancy as she miscarried their first baby.  It doesn’t help Anne’s stress levels when she begins to get horrible phone calls implying that her husband is cheating on her!

Anne receiving one of those disturbing phone calls

Anne receiving one of those disturbing phone calls

Object thrown at the blackboard

Object thrown at the blackboard

Dadier coming home after being mugged

Dadier coming home after being mugged

Dadier hangs in there, and he is able to appeal to Greg Miller, to show Miller that he has natural leadership qualities.  When Miller states that because he’s black and that there’s not a lot he can do as many doors will be shut to him due to his race, but Dadier doesn’t accept that reasoning and tells Miller that blacks can succeed in the modern world and that there are teachers who care.  He encourages Miller not to drop out, which he had been considering.

Artie West, as Dadier discovers, is one of the main bullies of the school, and a gang leader.  Shortly after West destroys math teacher Edwards jazz record collection in the classroom, Dadier decides enough is enough and there is a climactic confrontation in Dadier’s English class between him and West.

Dadier starting to have success with his class

Dadier starting to have success with his class

A young Jamie Farr

A young Jamie Farr

West about to break Mr. Edwards Jazz records

West about to break Mr. Edwards Jazz records

The climactic fight scene between Dadier and West

The climactic fight scene between Dadier and West

See this film for the performances: Glenn Ford, always a capable and sincere actor, shines here as the new teacher who wants to impact his students for good.  Vic Morrow is excellent as the evil Artie and Sidney Poitier believable as Greg Miller, learning that he can succeed and that he does have leadership skills.  Great supporting performances by Louis Calhern, Anne Francis, and Richard Kiley.

The Blackboard Jungle will air on Turner Classic Movies on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14th, at 2:45 am est/1:45 am cst, so set that dvr!  The film is available to buy or instantly rent through Amazon.    Over on Youtube, someone has put the main scenes of Blackboard Jungle together in a montage set to the film’s iconic opening song, Rock Around the Clock. Here’s that cool montage.  Also on Youtube, is this  charming interview with actor Jamie Farr, more famously known as Cpl. Klinger on the hit tv series Mash, about being in the movie Blackboard Jungle.