Posts Tagged ‘Robert Young’

A Crazy Classic Movie: Death on the Diamond! AKA, Someone is Killing the St. Louis Cardinals!!!

I was looking over Turner Classic Movie’s monthly schedule for January when a film title caught my eye: Death on the Diamond.  The overview of the film’s plot read that someone was killing off the St. Louis Cardinals during a pennant race.  I had to laugh a bit and began to wonder if the culprits were the Cincinnati Reds or the hated Chicago Cubs-if  you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan, you’re not a fan of the Cubs.  I recorded the movie so buckle in for a review of this short, 69 minute film.   

The movie was made in 1934, and at that time the real St. Louis Cardinals were on top of the baseball world.  That year, they would go on to finish number one in the National League and win the World Series, defeating the Detroit Tigers in seven games.  In Death on the Diamond, the Cardinals are in a 3-way race for the pennant, battling it out with the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs.  The manager/owner Pop Clark, knows his team must win the pennant for him to be able to keep his ownership of the team.  A new potential owner, Mr. Ainsley is waiting in the wings, ready to swoop in and take the team from Clark if the Cardinals fail to win the pennant.

Several horrid events occur during this pennant race before the murders begin.    Two former players who got caught up in gambling are hanging around Sportsman’s Park, trying to get back on the team, greatly annoying Pop Clark.  Then,  St. Louis gambling kingpin Joseph Karnes has bribed the team’s new pitching ace, Larry Kelly.  Wise sports writer Jimmie Downey  warns Kelly not to associate himself with Karnes and the bribery attempt is foiled.  Soon after, someone shoots out the tire on a taxi that Larry is riding in, the taxi crashes into a street construction site,and Larry escapes with a badly injured foot and has to miss 2 weeks of games.  Then, someone was seen exiting the clubhouse by the batboy, Mickey.  While Mickey didn’t get a good look at this person, he did discover that this person messed around with all of the players gloves, as there was some kind of liquid inside of them.  The team’s doctor examines the gloves and discovers that the liquid would have caused severe skin-damage to the players.  Man! Someone doesn’t want the Cardinals to win this pennant race!

Larry meeting Pop Clark, team owner and manager.

A bit of batting practice with Larry and Dunk.

Frances and Larry fall in love-awww!

Don’t eat that hot dog, Truck!!

 

Three murders occur in this film, one right after the other. First, slugger Dunk Spencer is shot dead by a sniper during an away game in Chicago, as he is rounding third base and heading to home. During the second game against the Cubs, pitcher Frank Higgins is summoned to the away team’s locker room to take a phone call. While there, he is attacked from behind and strangled. Lastly, back at Sportsman’s Park, in a game against the Cincinnati Reds, loveable catcher Truck Hogan unwittingly slathers his hot dog with poisoned mustard! He doesn’t linger long after consuming the hot dog.

The list of suspects: the two outcast former players, gambler Joseph Karnes, possible new owner Mr. Ainsley, and at one point, even the new pitcher Larry Kelly is thought to be the killer since he and Dunk Spencer were both heard arguing about which one of them was going to date Pop’s daughter, and secretary of the team, Frances.  I won’t give out the who the murderer is  but I was surprised as to who it was and that person puts on an over the top, chew up the scenery rant for the confession!

Death on the Diamond was fun for me to view since I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan and used to live in a suburb of that city for almost 20 years. There’s a banner advertising the now defunct newspaper the Globe-Democrat on the wall of Sportsman’s park. The still functioning St. Louis Post-Dispatch is the newspaper that the newsboy is selling on the street. Actual footage of the Cardinals from the 1930s are used for the baseball game scenes.  While no actual Cardinal players were cast in the film, one of the players speaks with a strong southern accent  with funny lines to quip, and I am pretty sure his character was based upon Cardinals pitching ace Dizzy Dean. Dean was an Arkansas native who was a fan favorite player of the Cardinals for most of the 1930s.

The film was based on mystery writer Cortland Fitzsimmon’s novel of the same title.  MGM purchased the rights to the novel in order to turn the tale into a movie.  Author Fitzsimmons wrote the screenplay, along with Harvey Thew, Joseph Sherman, and Ralph Spence.  The film was directed by Edward Sedgewick and produced by Lucien Hubbard. Cast: Robert Young as Larry Kelly, Madge Evans as Frances Clark, David Landau as Pop Clark, Nat Pendleton as Truck Hogan, Paul Kelly as Jimmy Downey, Joe Sawyer as Dunk Spencer, Robert Livingston as Frank Higgins, Ted Healy as umpire Crawfish O’Toole, C. Henry Gordon as Joseph Karnes, Edward Brophy(later the voice of Timothy the mouse in Dumbo) as Police Sgt. Grogan, DeWitt Jennings as Patterson, and Willard Robertson as Police Lt. Cato.  The young batboy, Mickey, is played by Mickey Rooney and that was fun to see.  Also, playing a bit part as a police guard for the team is Ward Bond.  Also in a bit part is great character actor Walter Brennan, with no lines, as an excited radio sports announcer during a game.    

Death on the Diamond is a wacky bit of film, fast-paced, with the requisite happy ending.  If you’re a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, I’d say it’s a must-see.  If you’re a Cubs fan, it may just be a fun fantasy to see! Here’s a link to one of the trailers for the movie that MGM had made to be shown in movie theaters.   The movie is available for purchase at Amazon and at TCM’s Shop.

 

 

For the 1947 Blogathon: They Won’t Believe Me!

If  cable tv had existed in 1947,  then the movie I chose to review for this blogathon, RKO Studio’s They Won’t Believe Me!  would have appeared on the Lifetime Channel!   Instead of a woman in danger film, we have a man who is the  protagonist/antagonist all at the same time.   He is really a jerk, incapable of making good choices as to  who to love, marry, and even how to work at a job! The  3 female characters  are either blind to his numerous faults or they think they can change him-3 pretty ladies who are hooked on this idiot!  Ah well, c’est la vie in Lifetime movie plots and in They Won’t Believe Me!   They Won't Believe Me poster

They Won’t Believe Me was based on a story idea by Gordon McDonell and the screenplay was written by Jonathon Latimer.  The film’s producer was Joan Harrison, Alfred Hitchcock’s reliable assistant on many of his films and his television series.  Former actor, voice actor, Irving Pichel helmed the film as director.  The film has a noir feel to it, but despite some movie critics calling it a top notch noir, I felt it was a bit weak in a true noir description.  More on that issue later in the post.

Wife Greta, ably played by Rita Johnson

Wife Greta, ably played by Rita Johnson

Robert Young, who usually played nice guys in film, and was most well-known in his later years on television as the all-knowing, loving Jim Anderson in Father Knows Best and as the wise and caring Dr. Welby in Marcus Welby, M.D. is this film’s stinker!  Young’s Larry Ballantine  is a jerk,  a weakling sort of a man.  A weakling because he married wife #1, Greta(ably played by Rita Johnson) because she’s wealthy.   He wants to divorce Greta when he falls in love with her friend, Janice (Jane Greer, a  news magazine writer) and even has  plans to meet Janice in Montreal, her new home office assignment.  The clever Greta finds out and deals her trump card: you can run off to Montreal with Janice, but the money flow will dry up, dear Larry.  Rita plays Greta as an understated, quiet, and very patient woman. Greta’s not a shrieking harpy, and she calmly informs Larry that if he chooses her over Janice, there is a job lined up for him in LA, at a prestigious brokerage firm, and that she, Greta, has a fabulous house with tennis court and pool in Benedict Canyon,  all ready for them to live in.  Janice goes alone to Montreal.  ( A side note-Greer got to wear the most outstanding hats I’ve ever seen in a movie-just gorgeous creations!)

Love #2: Jane Greer as Janice

Love #2: Jane Greer as Janice

Time goes by and at the brokerage firm, we can tell that Larry isn’t a good employee.  He tries for a bit, but one day his boss chews him out for not having a requested report ready for a prospective, rich investor.   As Larry is about to voice some lame excuse as to his awful work ethic, in pops a sexy and smart secretary, Verna(Susan Hayward) who hands Larry the report with a, “Is this the report that’s needed, Mr. Ballentine?”  Before Larry and his boss know what’s hit them, Verna sashays her way to the secretarial area of the office.  Larry finds her to thank her and offers to buy her perfume!  Verna has a better idea, why not have Larry give her a ride home some evening.  Verna, of the three women, is the closest to a femme fatale in this noir wannabe.  She admits she’s a gold digger, she correctly accuses Larry of being no more mature than a child,  but she thinks Larry is her only ticket to a life of luxury.  They begin an affair in earnest until Greta finds out and once again she calmly plays her trump card.  This time, her suggestion is to move to a ranch house out in the middle of a valley, no phone, mail delivery will be at a general store, horses to ride every day, a pool to swim in, and they can just while away their days by relaxing and enjoying the beauty of the valley and the nearby mountains.  Larry looks queasy at her offer, but he agrees.  I wanted to cheer when Verna lashes out at him and calls him a rat when he delivered his breaking up speech to her.  Run, Verna, as fast as you can!!!!

Verna(Susan Hayward) catches Larry's eye!

Verna(Susan Hayward) catches Larry’s eye!

"But Verna, you don't understand! Greta is loaded with money!"

“But Verna, you don’t understand! Greta is loaded with money!”

The plot of the movie, up to this point, was easy to follow, but it was a bit  frustrating to me.  Larry’s character, while conflicted, was not a hard-boiled noirish hero.  The 3 women characters weren’t femme fatales in the true noir definition, although Hayward’s came the closest.  What frustrated me the most was  how could these 3 seemingly intelligent and attractive women, fall for this guy, Larry?  I kept thinking that if the part of Larry had been recast with Burt Lancaster, Cary Grant, Tyrone Power, Victor Mature, Ray Milland, or Robert Mitchum, Alan Ladd, Kirk Douglas, or even Joel McCrea,  then I could possibly see why these women would all fall for Larry.  I like Robert Young, but to me, he was miscast as Larry.  I’m sure he didn’t mind too much as he got to have some kissing scenes with Greer and Hayward!

The  last third of the film  the plot became trickier.  Sir Walter Scott wrote, “Oh what tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” (I thought Shakespeare wrote that but I was wrong!)  Larry and Verna reunite and come up with a tangled web.   Larry  decides to spurn Greta and take some of  her money.  He’s going to go to Reno and get a quickie divorce, Verna will go with him, and then they’ll get married and move away to begin a new  life.    He tells Verna that he’ll write a letter to Greta telling her he’s divorcing her, and since he’s on a joint checking account with Greta, he’ll write out a check to Verna and she can cash it at the brokerage house.  Then she can bring that money with her when she and Larry meet at a tiny burg,  Thomson’s Corner.  They’ll then drive to Reno together.  To redeem the two for a teensy bit, Verna reveals that she didn’t cash the check and Larry tears it up into little bits.  Aw, they’re not going to gouge Rita’s checking account!   All seems to go according to plan until on the drive to Reno they have a horrific crash at night with a delivery truck.

Yes, when running off to Reno to get that divorce filed fast, let's delay our trip by taking a swim!

Yes, when running off to Reno to get that divorce filed fast, let’s delay our trip by taking a swim!

To reveal anymore of this film is to give away too many spoilers, but I will add that the film is told from a courtroom flashback: Larry is the defendent in a murder trial and he gives his side of the story to the jury: he shares with them how he is a jerk, how he trashed his marriage vows to Greta, how he only cared about her money, how he dumped Janice, how Verna dumped him, how they reunited, planned to get to Reno, the horrific car accident, his meeting Janice again by accident(or is it by accident?), and how Larry came to be put on trial.

Larry on trial...he thinks the jury won't believe him.

Larry on trial…he thinks the jury won’t believe him.

To see the surpise ending of this romance/crime/drama noirish film, seek out They Won’t Believe Me!  TCM is going to air this film again on September 4th at 6:45 am Eastern/5:45 Central.   The films is also at Amazon but mainly as a VHS tape(!) or on dvd through third-party sellers.  It does deserve to be re-released on a proper dvd format, in my opinion.

Publicity still for the film

Publicity still for the film

This post is part of the 1947 Blogathon hosted by classic film fans Speakeasy and Shadows and Satin.  Please visit their sites by clicking on the links and read about other films that came to the movie going public in 1947.

 

1947b

My Classic Movie Pick: The Enchanted Cottage

The Enchanted Cottage is not a fairytale film for children.  There are no princesses needing rescued by a prince, no evil fairies or witches out to spoil all the fun.  No cute, talking animals.  This 1945 film, made by RKO Studios, is a fairytale for adults, set in the real-time of 1945.   Featuring the skills of Robert Young, Dorothy McGuire, and Herbert Marshall, who serves as the film’s narrator.

The Enchanted Cottage poster 1

 

WWII  has ended and John Hillgrove(Herbert Marshall), who was blinded while fighting in the war, is playing the piano for a party that he is hosting for newlyweds Oliver and Laura Bradford.    As the film opens with this scene, Hillgrove tells his guests the love story of Oliver and Laura, via a long flashback.

Years ago there had been an estate built by an English nobleman, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in  New England.   A fire had occurred, burning most of the great house except for one wing.   The nobleman has that wing rebuilt to be a new, cottage-styled home.  The nobleman decides to begin renting out that wing as a haven for honeymooners.  Years go by and now a widow, Mrs. Abigail Minnett(Mildred Natwick-excellent as always) runs the cottage for honeymooning couples.  It is to this cottage that Laura Pennington(Dorothy McGuire) applies to work as a housekeeper.  Laura is a very plain, shy young woman.  With the recent death of her mother, and having no other relations to fall upon for help, she decides to go out and seek her forturne.   Mrs. Minnett likes Laura and does hire her.    Mrs. Minnett  tells her that there is a legend attached to the cottage, that when honeymooners etch their names onto the glass of one window, their union will be especially blessed.

Laura being interviewed by Mrs. Minnett.

Laura being interviewed by Mrs. Minnett.

Oliver Bradford(Robert Young) soon arrives with his  fiancee, Beatrice(Hillary Brooke).  Oliver is from a wealthy family, and a pilot in the Army Air Corps.  He has rented the cottage and as soon as he and Hillary see the Justice of the Peace, the honeymoon will begin.  Hillary isn’t impressed with the cottage, thinking it too simple.  Laura overhears her and steps in to tell the couple about the cottage’s legend.  Oliver takes Hillary’s engagement ring to etch their names on the window’s pane and the diamond falls out of the setting!  Then, Oliver is contacted by his air group-he must fly out immediately, so no wedding yet.   Soon, Mrs. Minnett receives a telegram from Beatrice cancelling the couple’s  lease.

Oliver and Hillary arrive at the Enchanted Cottage

Oliver and Hillary arrive at the Enchanted Cottage

A year goes by and Mrs. Minnett receives a telegram from Oliver Bradford, asking to rent the cottage for himself for an indefinite period of time.  When Oliver arrives, Laura and Mrs. Minnett see that his face is disfigured and his arm is disabled, from a horrific plane crash he survived in the war. Oliver is bitter, his egagement to Hillary was broken.  He is mad at the world and has decided to live as a recluse.  Laura is heart-broken that he has become this way and with her common sense, gentleness, and compassion, Oliver begins to return to his old self.

Laura and Oliver, having one of many discussions about life

Laura and Oliver, having one of many discussions about life

Oliver befriends the narrator at this point in the film, Hillgrove, who happens by the cottage one day.  He encourages Oliver to learn to live again despite the disabilities.  He also tells Oliver that the war left him blinded but he has adapted and life has gone on.(An interesting side-note, Herbert Marshall who plays Hillgrove, was a soldier for the British during WWI and lost a leg, and yet resumed his acting career after the war.)

Giving Oliver advice on living with a disability

Giving Oliver advice on living with a disability

Conflict arrives in Oliver’s life in the form of his mother, Violet(Spring Byington).  Byington had a long career, often playing fun and understanding mothers so it was a surprise to see her play such a rotten mother in this film!  Violet and Hillary arrive to talk to Oliver but he refuses to see them.  3 weeks later, Violet sends her son an ultimatum: if he doesn’t return to the family home she will be moving to the cottage to live there with him!  Oliver doesn’t want that at all, so he quickly proposes marriage to Laura.  Laura, who really loves Oliver but hasn’t told him, agrees to marry him. When the couple returns to the cottage for their honeymoon the enchantment happens.  Laura sees Oliver without the disfiguring burn on his face and no disabled arm.  Oliver sees Laura as a beauty.  They etch their names onto the window’s pane.  Mrs. Minnett reassures them that their true love for each other lets them see each other as perfect, despite the meddling of Violet and her cruel words when she discovers they have married one another.

How love lets them really see each other

How love lets them really see each other

Then Enchanted Cottage was a 1922 stage play, written by Arthur Wing Pinero, a play about a returning WWI Vet with a disability.  It had been previously filmed as a silent film in 1924 that starred Richard Barthelmess and May McAvoy.   Harriet Parsons, a  producer at RKO, aquired the rights to the play to remake a newer film, set in WWII and in New England.  Parsons hired DeWitt Bodeen to write the screenplay and she chose John Cromwell to direct. For a lovely, romantic movie with a 91 minute running time, seek out The Enchanted Cottage.  It airs from time to time on Turner Classic Movies.  It is available to buy from Amazon,  and a kind soul put the trailer clip on Youtube.  The OV Guide has it listed as a a film to watch online for free.  Can’t beat that! .