Posts Tagged ‘Ray Collins’

My Classic Movie Pick: The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer

With the recent passing of child star Shirley Temple, I decided that my classic movie pick would be one of her films, but one near the end of her acting career, not one from the beginning or the middle.

TBATBS screen opener

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer is a romance/comedy, made in 1947 by RKO Studios.  This delightful movie features an excellent cast: Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple, Rudy Vallee, Harry Davenport, Ray Collins, and Johnny Sands.  It was directed by Irving Reis, produced by Dore Schary, and the original screenplay was written by Sidney Sheldon.  Sheldon did win the Academy Award for best writing, original screenplay for this movie, in 1948.  

The plot is basically a romantic triangle, but only two sides of the triangle are really interested in one another.  The third side of the triangle can’t see that, and therein lies the comedic elements  of the plot.    Cary Grant is Dick Nugent, an artist and a playboy.  The movie opens with he and 3 girlfriends in a courtroom facing Judge Margaret Turner, who is of course, played with steely-eyed seriousness by Myrna Loy.  She is calm, yet is not in the mood to hear about all of the gory details as to why Mr. Nugent and his 3 friends were arrested for brawling in a Los Angeles nightclub.  She issues them a stern warning and then dismisses the case.

Getting his case dismissed

Getting his case dismissed

As the day moves on, Dick has to appear at a high school and give a speech  for a Career Day type of assembly.  As he gives his speech, one of the teen girls in the audience, Susan Turner(Shirley Temple) suddenly imagines that Dick is a knight in shining armor and she is at that minute struck with “love” for him.   She begins to plan a way to be with him and decides to corner him for an interview in the school newspaper.    When Susan gets home she tells her sister,  Judge Margaret,  who is her legal guardian, that she is in love and it’s  not with some juvenile youth like her current boyfriend, Jerry(Johnny Sands).  Margaret scoffs at Susan’s “love” and tells her to go to bed.  The wily Susan will not be deterred on her quest to find this new love so she  dresses herself to look older and then sneaks out to find Dick’s apartment.  She manages to get into his apartment but he’s not home, so as she waits for him to return, she falls asleep on his couch.    Big sister Margaret, as the evening progresses, realizes that Susan isn’t in her bed sleeping so she and her boyfriend, the assistant District Attorney Tommy Chamberlain (Rudy Vallee) figure out where Susan has gone and burst into Dick’s apartment just as he is finishing up a conversation with Susan.  He arrived home right before Margaret and Tommy ‘s arrival, and is confused by their entry.  Margaret is distraught at finding Susan in a man’s apartment, Tommy accuses Dick of nefarious doings and gets socked in the jaw.  This leads to Dick’s arrest and spending the rest of the night in a Los Angeles jail.   In the morning, Dr. Beemish(Ray Collins), a court psychologist, visits with Dick in jail and gets his side of the story.  He believes that Dick is innocent of trying to seduce a teenage girl and tells Margaret and Tommy that he has a plan that will cure Susan of her “love” for Dick.  Dick must “date” Susan, probably only a couple of dates, but these dates will cause Susan to give up her “love” for an older man.

The Knight in Shining Armor!

The Knight in Shining Armor!

Susan telling Margaret about her new love

Susan telling Margaret about her new love

Susan on Dick's couch

Susan on Dick’s couch

Hearing Dr. Beemish's Plan

Hearing Dr. Beemish’s Plan

The dating scheme, only known by Dick, Margaret, Tommy, and Dr.  Beemish(who is also Margaret and Susan’s Uncle Matt) is hilarious and it only adds to the screwball element of this comedy.  During one of the dates at a neighborhood picnic complete with sack races and other silly sporting events, Judge Margaret suddenly sees Dick in a suit of shining armor as he receives a trophy for winning one of the contests.  Enter the real love story of this romantic triangle!  Now it is up to Dick and Margaret to find  a way to begin their romance without hurting Susan or Tommy, and more laughs ensue.  The climax of the film happens at a fancy restaurant where Dick and Margaret are trying to enjoy their date, only to have Susan and Jerry, the 2 Uncles, Tommy, and the lady brawlers all converging  at the same restaurant!   There is a happy ending, of course, how could there not be?

Cary Grant is his charming self, great at playing comedy with his facial expressions hinting at the confusion his character feels and also adept at the physical comedy, especially apparent at the picnic scenes.   Myrna Loy is great as the cold, serious-minded judge who starts to soften and become human when she is around Grant’s character.   Shirley Temple is also wonderful, as the 18 year old high school girl who thinks boys her age are so immature and that she knows what real love is.  Rudy Vallee, Ray Collins, and Harry Davenport(as Judge Thaddeus Turner-another Uncle of Margaret and Susan’s), and Johnny Sands handle  their supporting roles with skill and aplomb.

For a very funny movie, with that sweet touch of romance  perfect for Valentine’s Day, seek out The Bachelor and The Bobby-Soxer.  Turner Classics will be airing it on Sunday, March 9th at 12:45 EST/11:45 pm CST as part of their 8 film tribute to the movie career of Shirley Temple, who passed away recently on February 10th.  Here is a link to TCM’s site about the  planned tribute to Shirley Temple and the other films that will be shown.

The Bachelor and The Bobby-Soxer is available to buy at TCM, at Amazon(which also has it out for instant rent), and it’s available on Netflix.  I’ll close this post out with some fun posed stills for the movie’s made by RKO’s publicity department.  TBATBS screen pose 1TBATBS screen pose 3TBATBS screen pose 4

My Classic Movie Pick: The Best Years of our Lives

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

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

The three veterans meet

The three veterans meet

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

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

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

Al embracing Milly

Al embracing Milly

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

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

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

Fred's dad, Pat, and stepmom, Hortense

Fred’s dad, Pat, and stepmom, Hortense

At first, Marie is glad Fred is home

At first, Marie is glad Fred is home

Fred and Marie about to have one of their many arguments

Fred and Marie about to have one of their many arguments

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

Homer greeting his family and friends

Homer’s family uneasy about his prosthetic hooks

Explaining how the hooks work to Wilma

Explaining how the hooks work to Wilma

Everyone at Butch's Bar

Everyone at Butch’s Bar

 

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

Hoagy Carmichael doing what he did best!

Hoagy Carmichael doing what he did best!

Peggy listening to her parents advice about Fred

Peggy listening to her parents advice about Fred

The Wedding-very emotional scene!

The Wedding-very emotional scene!

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

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

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

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