Posts Tagged ‘Willard Robertson’

Ida Lupino Centenary Blogathon: 1947’s Deep Valley

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is the blogging site for Maddy, a classic movie fan.  When I saw she was hosting a blogathon set for today, I asked to participate and she kindly accepted my request.  Maddy was wanting to honor an actress who also directed for tv shows and movies, Ida Lupino.  Be sure to visit Maddy’s blog site to read more excellent posts about Ida Lupino and her career.

I didn’t pay much attention to old movies when I was a kid.  Sure I enjoyed watching reruns of  The Three Stooges, The Little Rascals on tv afterschool,  and late on Saturday nights one of the tv stations I could access would air the old Flash Gordon serial.   When I was a college student, one summer, the PBS station out of Toledo, OH (Channel 30, I think?) would air old movies beginning at 1:00, M-F.  I began tuning in and that is where I first met Ida Lupino, in a drama that whet my appetite for more of these old movies.  I credit Lupino’s performance in this film with giving me a reason to begin to try and find more old movies, turning me into a classic film fan.   The Ida Lupino movie was Deep Valley made at Warner Brothers Studio hitting American movie theaters in 1947.

Deep Valley was based on a novel written by Dan Totheroh.  The novel sold well enough with the reading public for Warner Brothers to take notice and acquire the rights to turn the novel into a film.  Jean Negulescu was hired to direct, Salka Viertel, Stephen Morehouse Avery, and William Faulkner(yes, that William Faulkner!), were the screenwriters.  The soaring music was by none other than Max Steiner.  Cast: Ida Lupino, Dane Clark, Wayne Morris, Fay Bainter, Henry Hull, Willard Robertson.

Lupino plays Libby Saul, a young woman who lives with her parents north of Big Sur, California.  Libbie and her parents(Fay Bainter, Henry Hull) are pretty isolated, working their small farm to make a living.  We assume Libbie is a high school graduate but she doesn’t leave the farm for a job in any town that may be nearby, and she’s certainly not enrolled in any college.  She is the “wall” between her parents.  For some reason, her parents won’t communicate with each other and use Libbie as their communication method.  Married, but in name only, it’s a miserable home to live in and to get away from this choking, negative environment, Libbie often likes to roam the nearby woods and a deep valley with her dog.

Libbie dealing with her parents

Libbie seeking solace in the valley

A highway construction engineer and his crew of workers, prisoners from San Quentin, come to the area near the Saul’s farm, to continue working on a state road project.  Libbie can watch the men working from the woods, and she notices one convict, Barry Burnette(Dane Clark).  The engineer, Jed Barker(Wayne Morris) and the convicts come to the Saul’s farm one day to ask for water.  Libbie’s father, at first seeing a chance to make some money, agrees to sell the men water.  As Barker decides to walk away from this ridiculous offer, Saul changes his mind and lets them have the water for free.  Noticing how Barker notices Libbie, Saul invites the engineer to their home for dinner.  It is soon obvious that the Sauls want Libbie to strike up a relationship with Barker that will lead to  marriage.  Libbie is very shy, but does notice Barker’s kindness towards her.  However, at the dinner, she asks Barker questions about the convict Barry.  As the story picks up some speed, Libbie does meet Barry, they fall in love, and to find out the rest of this film, you’ll have to seek it out!

Engineer Barker is attracted to Libbie

Some questions for you to ponder though: Will Libbie and Barry be able to be together? Barry does escape from the work gang(spoiler) so will Libbie help him? What of Barker, will he be able to convince Libbie to give up on Barry?  Will the Saul’s find a way to renew their marriage? Will Libbie ever find a happier existance?

Libbie and Barry, the prisoner

Ida Lupino’s performance is what held me entranced as I watched this movie for the first time in the mid-1980s.  She absolutely makes one care about Libbie; sad, shy, simple Libbie.  You root for her in her search for love, search for a better life than the one she has on that farm.  Her performance touched me deeply and I still remember that aspect of her acting to this day.  I truly feel I owe it to Ida Lupino for my becoming a fan of classic films.

Publicity still of Lupino, the dog, and Clark from Deep Valley

Deep Valley is available to purchase via Amazon or TCM’s Shop.  If your local library offers dvds to rent, or if your community’s local movie rental store has a decent classic film area, it may be there. 

 

 

 

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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.