Posts Tagged ‘Susan Hayward’

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

When Rosalind was Robbed!

                                                                                                                             

Instead of my usual Friday Classic Movie Pick I am submitting my blog post for the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon which is being hosted by 3 wonderful classic film fans.  You can visit their blogs via wordpress: Once Upon a Screen, Outspoken & Freckled, and Paula’s Cinema Club.  At these blogs you will find interesting and fun articles about the Academy Awards through the years, from 1928 to the present.   Read about the backstage stuff, who won, who was snubbed, Oscar fashions of the past, it is all there.

31 Days of Oscar Blogathon  My post for the blogathon  is  about  the 1948 Academy Awards and  the shock that awaited actress Rosalind Russell.    She was the hands-down expected winner for Best Actress that year and she didn’t win!  How did this happen?  Several theories are out there, but I will be focusing on only one as the most likely reason for her to have  lost the coveted Oscar statuette.

Joan Crawford 1948 Susan Hayward 1948 OscarsDorothy McGuire 1948Rosalind Russell 1948Loretta Young 1948

Variety, the entertainment newspaper, decided to publish a poll, showing who most people thought would win the awards in the major categories at the Academy Awards that year.  The nominees for Best Actress were: Joan Crawford, Susan Hayward, Dorothy McGuire, Rosalind Russell, and Loretta Young. Crawford was nominated for the film Possessed, playing a woman driven to madness over an unrequited love for a man.  Susan Hayward was nominated for the film Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman, playing a woman who turns to alchohol to solve her problems.  Dorothy McGuire was nominated for the film Gentleman’s Agreement, playing a woman who has to confront her bigoted attitude towards those of the Jewish religion.  Rosalind Russell was nominated for the film Mourning becomes Electra, playing a woman who discovers shocking family secrets and decides to rain down justice and revenge on her mother.  Loretta Young was nominated for the film The Farmer’s Daughter, playing a nursing student who  takes a job as a maid for a political powerhouse family and changes their attitudes for the better.  Variety began to trumpet the poll’s picks and Rosalind Russell was their announced winner for best actress for 1948.

How did that happen?  Well, Henry Rogers, a publicist who had helped Joan Crawford and Olivia de Havilland win their best actress Oscars two years prior, contacted Russell’s husband to inform him that he could help put Russell out there into the public eye, and that that would help her to win the Oscar.  Russell and her husband agreed to Roger’s plans.  First, he got a casino in Las Vegas to post their betting odds on the Academy Awards, showing that Rosalind Russell had 6-5 odds .  Second, he had local Los Angeles groups give out their own “awards” or endorsements to Russell:  Los Angeles PTA said she was the Actress of the Year, a UCLA sorority said Russell was Hollywood’s Best Actress, and a USC fraternity hailed Russell the Outstanding Actress of the 20th Century!  Third, Russell did win the Golden Globe for best actress and Rogers made sure that was announced a lot, and fourth, Rogers made sure that newspapers printed remarks by movie critics across the country hailing Russell’s performance in Mourning becomes Electra .                                                                                                                              

                                                     mourningbecomeselectra (1)

The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles  was the site that  evening of March 20th for the Academy Awards.   The show was to begin at 8:15 p.m.,  and the fans had lined up for hours before to see their favorite stars emerge from their limousines and take their walk on the red carpet.  It was a cold night that March, with high winds and a temperature of 30 degrees.  The actresses appeared, many in strapless gowns and fur wraps, smiling and seeming unaffected by the cold.  Joan Crawford wore a white crepe dress covered in silver bugle beads.  Susan Hayward was wearing a very expensive dress with a long train that her husband had to protect all evening from others shoes!  I couldn’t find out what Dorothy McGuire wore, but Loretta Young chose an emerald green silk taffeta dress.  Rosalind Russell had hired Paramount Pictures Studio Costume Designer Travis Banton to make her gown of white with shocking pink highlights.  ABC  broadcast the show via radio, with an estimated audience of  45 million listeners.

The order of the awards was mixed-up from their usual order on purpose to make each award seem more  special.  Variety wrote that this was done “so that there won’t be a rush for the exits when the big awards are made.”  The last award of the night was finally  presented and it was for Best Actress.  So far, Variety’s polls had been dead-on, with all of their projected predictions coming true.  Many in the audience decided that Russell was probably the winner and some began to vacate their seats in order to head to their limos and get a head start on all of the after parties.  Actor Fredric March approached the microphone, envelope in hand, to make the big announcement.   As he began to read the name on the card, Russell began to get up from her seat.  March suddenly did a double-take and announced in a surprised voice that the winner was Loretta Young for The Farmer’s Daughter!  There was an audible gasp in the auditorium and Young went on stage, in shock herself, to accept her Oscar.   As Variety wrote,”…the gasp that arose from the audience when Miss Young’s name was read by Fredric March just about matched the heaviest gust whipping around the Shrine Auditorium!”

Loretta Young with her OscarFor Oscar Blogathon

Rosalind put on a good face about it all, telling her husband that they would indeed hit all of the after parties.  She spent quite a bit of time consoling her dress designer, Travis Banton, who was crushed that she didn’t win and that the dress wouldn’t be getting as much publicity.  Russell and her husband went to the party that Darryl Zanuck, studio head at 20th Century Fox was hosting at Mocambo and there the press had a field day with photographing Russell hugging Young for her win.  The next morning, Young spoke to the press about her win and she added in her statement,” My only regret is Rosalind Russell.  And don’t say ‘poor Roz’ because she will go on to win an Academy Award and then some.  But it was cruel for the polls to come out and say that she was going to win.”   No hard feelings between the two actresses existed and later when Young had her popular television show airing in the 1950s,  she twice needed a guest host and she chose Rosalind Russell, who agreed to do so both times.

Rosalind hugging Loretta at the Oscars, 1948

I have seen both movies, The Farmer’s Daughter and Mourning becomes Electra.  Both Young and Russell gave outstanding perfomances in their roles.  I think that the reason Young won over Russell was due to the content of the films.  The Farmer’s Daugther is a charming little movie, about a Swedish-American young lady, on her way to the Capital City to enroll at a college for nurses.  Her name is Katrin Holstrom and she is the only girl in a family of boys.  She  is a hard worker and despite being robbed of her savings enroute to the college, she diligently finds another job as a maid for a family whose  matriarch is a political boss of sorts, and whose  son is a  congressman.  Katrin is smart, full of common sense, good will, and very pretty to boot, which doesn’t escape the congressman.  It is a drama, comedy and a romance all rolled up into one movie and audiences loved it.   Mourning becomes Electra was a play  penned by Eugene O’Neill,  and it appeared on Broadway in 1931.  O’Neill took the Greek tragedy of Orestes and set it in Post-Civil War New England.  Russell played Lavinia Mannon, who adores her father and brother, who are both now home after fighting in the war.  She tolerates her mother who dotes on her son, Orin(Michael Redgrave in another outstanding performance and he was nominated for Best Actor that same year), to the point of smothering him with her mother- love.  Since it is a Greek tragedy, there is murder, adultery, that mother-son complex, and revenge.  It is a serious drama, nothing light, funny or bright.  I think that audiences appreciated the lighter fare of The Farmer’s Daughter and that that is why Young ultimately won the award and not the expected Rosalind Russell.

For further reading about all of the Academy Awards, from the beginning up to the mid-80’s, check out the book Inside Oscar: The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards, by Mason Wiley and Damien Bona, published by Ballentine Books, 1986.  I found it a fascinating read and it was wonderful for the research of this blog post.

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