Posts Tagged ‘Mary Philips’

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: Leave Her to Heaven

In 1944, author Ben Ames Williams saw his novel, Leave Her to Heaven fly off the bookstore shelves.  The popular book soon caught the attention of Daryl Zanuck, the head of 20th Century Fox movie studio and in 1945 they released a technicolor treat, Leave Her to Heaven.  The film starred Gene Tierney(who would receive a Best Actress nomination for her role), Cornell Wilde, Jeanne Crain, Vincent Price, Mary Philips, Ray Collins, Chill Wills, and Darryl Hickman.  The title of the book was taken from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet; Act 1, Scene 5, the ghost of Hamlet’s father urges Hamlet to not take out any revenge on Queen Gertrude, but to “…leave her to heaven, and to those thorns that in her bosom lodge to prick and sting her.”Leave her to heaven The film begins at a beautiful lake in Maine.  Glen Robie is at the dock, ready to welcome Richard Harland(Cornell Wilde) back from a 2 year prison sentence.  After the greeting between the two friends, Richard gets into a row boat and heads off across the lake to his family’s cabin, which is fondly called Back of the Moon, due to a crater-shaped lake nearby.  Glen walks away from the dock and proceeds to sit at an outdoor cafe near the docking area, and has some coffee while sharing with another friend the sad, strange story that caused Richard Harland to spend 2 years in prison. Richard Harland is a writer, a successful one.  He is on a train  to New Mexico to visit his good friend Glen Robie.  Glen owns a ranch house in the New Mexico mountains and it is a gorgeous retreat-I want to visit New Mexico after seeing its beauty displayed in this film!   In the train car is a beautiful woman, Ellen Berent(Gene Tierney.)   She just happens to be reading Richard’s latest book.  After a bit of bumbling hello’s on Richard’s part, he is in awe of such a beautiful woman, Ellen just stares at Richard until a feeling of awkwardness permeates that train car.   Ellen finally apologizes and purrs to Richard that she stared at him because he reminds her of her father in every way!  At this point, Richard should have gotten up from that train car and insisted on riding up front with the engineers!  Guys, if a woman ever tells you that you remind her of her father, I don’t care how beautiful she is, run for the hills!!!

Richard and Ellen getting to know one another on the train.

Richard and Ellen getting to know one another on the train.

After the train arrives in New Mexico, Richard exits the train and so does Ellen, and her traveling companions, her mother(Mary Philips), and her cousin, Ruth(Jeanne Crain.)  Glenn Robie arrives to take all four of them to his ranch.  It turns out that Ellen and her father were also friends of Glen’s and often vacationed at his ranch.  During dinner that evening, Richard unknowingly asks about Ellen’s father,  wondering if he’ll ever get to meet him and learns that Ellen’s father had recently died and that they are there to scatter his ashes among the New Mexico mountains.  The next day there is a remarkably dramatic scene of Ellen on a horse, riding over the hills, scattering the ashes of her father, while Richard watches from afar.

Ellen scattering her father's ashes.

Ellen scattering her father’s ashes.

Days go by, and Richard and Ellen fall in love, despite the fact that Ellen is wearing a diamond engagement ring!  Her fiance is an up and coming lawyer back home in Bar Harbor, Maine, Russell Quinton(Vincent Price.)  One morning as Ellen challenges a swimming race with Glen’s children-and Glen subtly warns Richard that Ellen will win the race as she always has to be first-Ellen lets Richard know that she has taken off her engagement ring, taken it off forever!  A couple of evenings later, during a rainstorm, there is a knock at the door, and it is Russell Quinton!  He has come to confront Ellen about ending their engagement.  It is always interesting to see Vincent Price play a non-horror part.  He comes off as an austere intellectual, hurt by Ellen’s ending their engagement, and vows that he’ll always love her, then departs.   Richard goes to see Ellen after Quinton’s exit, to see if she is all right and she immediately embraces Richard and suggests that they marry immediately and they do.

Falling in Love with Ellen.

Falling in Love with Ellen.

Russell confronting Ellen about their broken engagement.

Russell confronting Ellen about their broken engagement.

Ellen tells Richard that she's not engaged anymore!Ellen tells Richard that she’s not engaged anymore!The newlyweds seem happy, and the film turns to focus on Richard’s only living relative, his teenage brother, who is a polio victim and lives at Warm Springs, Georgia, the treatment facility made famous by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s visits.   Danny Harland(Darryl Hickman) is a neat kid, never complaining about his affliction, loves and looks up to his big brother Richard, and with Ellen’s daily visits and encouragement, begins to practice walking with crutches instead of being confined to a wheelchair.  All seems quite blissful until Richard lets Ellen know that he’ll soon want to move them from Warm Springs to the family cabin, Back of the Moon, in Maine.  Richard wants Danny to come with them.  Ellen seems to agree to this, but she is secretly sick of Danny and tries to get his doctor to agree with her that taking “that cripple” away from Warm Springs and its care would be a bad idea.  Ellen’s way of spitting out the word “cripple” is a shock to the doctor because of her seeming warm and loving visits with Danny and her negativity is disturbing and shocking to the doctor.  Seeing that the doctor is now wary of her, Ellen tells Richard in the doctor’s presence that Danny should come with them to the cabin!

"But he's just a cripple!"

“But he’s just a cripple!”

Life at the cabin is cozy at first.  There is Thome(Chill Wills), family friend of Richard and Danny’s and the cabin’s caretaker.  But Ellen is growing increasingly grumpy as she wants to be alone with Richard at the cabin and not have Danny and Thome there at all. She is fit to be tied when her mother and cousin, Ruth, arrive at the cabin, a surprise for her planned by Richard and Danny.  It is soon evident to all that Ellen is not a nice person and that she  resents all of the people that might enter  her and Richard’s life.  Mom and Ruth get the hints and soon depart for their home in Bar Harbor, and Thome decides to seek out  some new  work in town.  That just leaves Danny for Ellen to deal with.   Before her departure, Ruth tells Richard that she and her mom would be glad to have Danny stay with them in Bar Harbor and attend a school there for kids with special needs; if only Richard had agreed to their offer!   I won’t go into anymore details of Ellen’s plan, but Tierney plays it absolutely chillingly, and in  bright sunshine, not hiding her crime under the cover of darkness.

Oh, poor Danny!  He shouldn't have ever gotten into that boat!!!

Oh, poor Danny! He shouldn’t have ever gotten into that boat!!!

Her evil plan against Danny is now in motion!

Her evil plan against Danny is now in motion!

By this point in the movie, we know Ellen is evil, and crazy.  A bad combination!  Richard is growing very disillusioned with the marriage, he is very depressed about his brother, when Ellen announces that she is pregnant!   Disillusionment and grief turn to hope as all are getting ready for the baby’s birth, all except for Ellen.  She is not happy and even blurts out to a shocked Ruth that she is tired of carrying “the little beast”!  Ellen comes up with another evil plan to deal with the unborn baby.

Ellen plotting about what to do to stop the baby from being born!!

Ellen plotting about what to do to stop the baby from being born!!

Ellen’s delusions grow and she is convinced that Ruth is trying to steal Richard from her.  In a last, desperate act, she writes a letter to her old fiance, Russell, now a prosecuting attorney.   Her letter accuses Ruth and Richard of plotting to run away together, that she has told Ruth that she won’t divorce Richard, and that Ruth has threatened to kill her.   Ellen’s plan is full of schemes  and lies to paint Ruth as a murderess and Richard as a cheating scum of a husband.  Price is great as the prosecuting attorney, grilling the witnesses at the trial.  Back at the lakeside cafe, Glen sums up why Richard had to serve a 2 year prison term, and says that Richard should have reached Back of the Moon cabin by now.  The film cuts away to Richard  climbing out of the boat and getting to the dock, with Ruth there to embrace him and  a lovely Maine sunset surrounding them.

The lovely Jeanne Crain as Ruth.

The lovely Jeanne Crain as Ruth.

Why is this movie  so good?  A movie about a beautiful woman who turns out to be evil and mentally unstable?  The acting is great, especially Gene Tierney  in the main role, the “Her” of the title.  She is so beautiful in the technicolor medium, her wardrobe is great, and she is able to convey the complexity of Ellen so thoroughly with just her eyes, with just a purse of her lips.  A lesser actress would be tempted to portray Ellen’s problems with histionics: shouting, flailing around arms, stomping out of rooms, but Tierney plays Ellen with a quiet, icy menace.  I am not surprised that she earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination.  Cornell Wilde is great as Richard.  Besotted with a beautiful wife, showing his growing worry over her negative attitudes to everyone in their life together, confusion as to why his wife would do the things she has done.  Jeanne Crain, as Ruth, is a warm and good character, the antidote to Ellen.    Crain doesn’t throw her Ruth at Richard, but she does show her character’s growing love for Richard in small ways.  Mary Philip’s, a veteran stage actress in New York City, plays Ellen’s mom as  cold and distant towards Ellen.  We aren’t given a lot of detail about their relationship, but we get an inkling that mom had tried to be loving to Ellen, but due to years of Ellen looking down on her mom and blatently favoring her dad,  mom is cold to Ellen  to keep a  protective wall around herself from all of Ellen’s bitter slings and arrows.  Vincent Price is very good as the jilted fiance and later as the prosecuting attorney.  He gets to be over the top in the courtroom scenes, but he does that so well and it works nicely.  Chill Wills and Ray Collins provide their usual strengths as dependable character actors.  Darryl Hickman, the teenaged Danny in the movie, plays his part with sincerity.  When he has to roll out of a rowboat, to practice his swimming, he moves like a person with  paralysis would do it and I wondered if he did any research with actual polio victims in how to conduct his movements.  I purposely didn’t reveal  all of the movie’s plot points as I want it to be a surprise to viewers who haven’t seen Leave Her to Heaven before.   John Stahl directed this classic, Jo Swerling wrote the screenplay, Leon Shamroy was the cinematographer(and won the Oscar for his work-the technicolor is really stunning in this 1945 film,) and Alfred Newman composed the music.  I noticed while watching the film that there are many  scenes where no music plays but  Newman came up with a dramatic theme for the film that plays over and over at key times for great dramatic effect.

Leave Her to Heaven is available to buy from Amazon or Turner Classic Movies and it is available on Netflix.  Clips have been put on Youtube.  I just watched it on Turner Classic Movies last week, so check out their schedule for the summer months as it may be re-aired then.Another shot of LHTH