Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Birthday Clint Eastwood!

If you aren't still kicking around at a BBQ or poolside, you can get your Eastwood on on TCM today and tonight with such greats as Where Eagles Dare (1969) and Kelly's Heroes (1970). I'll definitely be checking out the 2010 documentary, The Eastwood Factor!

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Happy Birthday John Wayne!

Today is the essential American, John Wayne's birthday. To celebrate, I have included a link to the entry I did on him in October.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Whole Town's Talking (1935)

Arthur Ferguson Jones (Edward G. Robinson) is a gentle man, conscientious, timely, caring, and slightly dull. Clearly the pushover type. He's in love with Wilhelmina Clark (Jean Arthur), a co-worker so completely mismatched to himself, she is consistently late to work and adores adventure. When she points out to the office the resemblance between Jones and a picture in the newspaper of the recently escaped convict "Killer" Manion, also played by Robinson, Jones has no idea how his life is about to change forever- much to Clark's delight and his dismay.
While Jones is lunching with Clark for the first time ever, a nearby patron Hoyt (Donald Meek) a calls the police, thinking he will get the reward for Manion's capture. Obviously having a heck of a time convincing everyone who he really is, it's not until Manion commits another crime while Jones is at the station that the police are convinced of the mix up. Jones is then given a pass he can present anytime a cop stops him in the street ( they ever learn?)
Back at the office, Jones is now considered the top dog. All his co-workers pat him on the back and even his boss (who could not correctly identify him at the poice station) has an exciting proposition for him that will benefit both Jones and his own company. Jones will collaborate with the city paper and have his own article on his opinion of crime despite looking like "Killer" Manion.
When Jones arrives home later that night, he finds Manion waiting for him to share the "pass" so he will be safe at night to commit crime. When Manion learns of Jones' column he demands that Jones' it be turned into his reminiscences, which raises the suspicion of authorities. When the police question how Jones is getting the inside scoop, they decide he'd be safer in jail. Allowed to stop of and collect a few personal items, Manion decides to take his place now that he knows fellow gangster, "Slugs" Martin (Edward Brophy), who turned stool pigeon on him is in the same jail. Successfully killing Martin, Manion escapes jail again (the police aren't catching any breaks in this film) he sets about a series of events that will pit Jones and him against one another with only one victor in the end.

A fun and different kind of film than I am used to seeing from director John Ford, Robinson is also a surprise. He is delightfully hilarious as a humble coward who moons over a slightly crazy Jean Arthur. Having him play against type was a stroke of genius and produced a good piece of work worth checking out.

Tonight on TCM!
Davy Crockett, Indian Scout (1950) One of Davy Crockett's descendants leads a wagon train through perilous territory. Cast: George Montgomery, Ellen Drew, Philip Reed, Noah Beery Jr. Dir: Lew Landers

Monday, May 17, 2010

Summertime (1955)

I had another post prepared for today but since Summertime will be on tonight and I strongly encourage anyone who reads this entry to see it if they have TCM, I have hastily put together...well...nothing. Suffice it to say that Summertime is my new favorite movie of Katharine Hepburn despite her making several of these faces throughout it.

From the moment the film begins you will be drawn in, first by Hepburn and then more so by Brazzi and their onscreen chemistry. Some may disagree, but I definitely see chemistry.

Anyway, that leaves me with a hastily put together entry that wouldn't touch a candle to the summary I read before seeing this film. A summary that encouraged me to see Summertime.
I am an avid fan of Cinema OCD (if you haven't read her blog, do so!) and she put together a wonderful Summertime redux, and I mean wonderful! If you don't mind spoilers, go here and read it. If you do, watch Summertime tonight and then go and read it. I was going to attempt my own summary but I really can't sum it up the way "Nipper" does. Though she is graciously allowed me to borrow some of her pics from her entry, I think it's best you just check out her summary and not be subjected to the Justin Beiberish crush I have on Rossano Brazzi. Seriously, I'm thinking of your best interests here.

Happy reading!

Oh, and for all you A Christmas Story fans--check out the young Darren McGavin!

Tonight on TCM!
Summertime (1955) A schoolteacher is surprised to find love on a Venetian vacation. Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Rossano Brazzi, Isa Miranda, Darren McGavin Dir: David Lean

Friday, May 14, 2010

Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman (1940)

Kitty (Ginger Rogers) is a woman torn between two men that will bring her two different types of lifestyles. There's Dr. Eisen (James Craig), a humble doctor who enjoys administering to the poor. Though his work will not be profitable, he loves Kitty and will be able to provide her his name, protection, and the family she craves. Then there is Wynnewood "Wynn" Stafford VI, Kitty's true love. He loves her but cannot marry her.
Told in retrospect, we learn of Kitty's upbringing, how she was raised on the wrong side of the tracks by her loving father who strove to keep Kitty from heartbreak with her tendency to daydream and wish to be like the socialites of their town. When she meets Wynn, her father soon sees he's failed at making her realize how different Wynn's people think she is.
When Kitty and Wynn meet, it's love at first sight. Finding out she has no job, Wynn immediately hires her as his secretary. He has decided to strike out on his own and start a magazine. An endeavor that Kitty encourages as she sees Wynn detests the idea of going into the family business. When the magazine fails, she encourages him to move to the city and try his luck there instead of heading home in defeat. They secretly marry and though his family accepts the marriage, they want to groom Kitty to become one of their own and bring Wynn back into the family business. When Kitty puts her foot down she learns where Wynn's loyalty lies and divorces him. Months later, a pregnant Kitty is determined to raise her child to be made of sterner stuff, unfortunately, the child is stillborn. Worse yet, Wynn has remarried to someone in his own social class and eventually has a son of his own.
When Wynn's wife unsuspectingly stops into the shop Kitty works for and brings her son along, Kitty gives the child the engagement ring Wynn gave her with directions for him to give it to his father as a birthday gift. This is how Wynn finds her after so many years and proposes that she run away with him the same night that Dr. Eisen proposed marriage to her.
Now kitty must decide, live lavishly but with no pride as a married man's mistress or as the wife of a humble doctor that will provide her the family she wants.

Kitty Foyle would have been another delightfully paced movie with a typical moral message but stands out due to the spice Rogers gives it with her natural allure, sass and seriousness. The more I watch Rogers,the more fascinated I become with her. She had the ability to be annoying (Professional Sweetheart), hep (Once Upon a Honeymoon), hilarious (Vivacious Lady), sarcastic (Finishing School, Stage Door), romantic (The Gay Divorcee), and childlike (The Major and the Minor), all with the extra talent of singing and dancing (Goldiggers of 1933, Roberta) to boot. She was a multi-faceted, shining talent and I think it's important to note (as I have only seen her in one film with Astaire) that she's talented enough to stand alone without need of ever mentioning Astaire's name.

Red, Hot And Blue (1949) An actress's rising career is threatened when she finds a dead gangster in her apartment. Cast: Betty Hutton, Victor Mature, William Demarest, June Havoc Dir: John Farrow

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Lena Horne: 1917-2010

"I'm not alone, I'm free. I no longer have to be a credit, I don't have to be a symbol to anybody; I don't have to be a first to anybody."

S&G: Genevieve Tobin's kissing experiment of 1933

Genevieve Tobin claims all leading men kiss differently, and that she could be blindfolded and could tell one technique from the other. In order to prove her assertion, Genevieve submitted to the kisses of five movie heroes in Los Angeles, but didn't make out so well as she picked two right and three wrong. This photo shows the start of the interesting experiment, as the eager contestants lined up. Left to right: Roland Young, El Brendel, Ralph Forbes, Raoul Roulin, and Victor Jory.

The Fuller Brush Girl (1950)

A prime example of the future queen of comedy she would become, The Fuller Brush Girl showcases Lucille Ball's talents wonderfully! Complete with blowing up a switchboard via facial powder, slathering ladies hair with balding creme, performing her own version of burlesque, and drunkenly saving the day, this movie is a gem full of laugh out loud moments. Along for the ride is Eddie Albert, devoted fiancé and cohort, who finds himself wrapped up in a smuggling racket that results in murder. Between the two of them, they manage to dodge the police and find the zaniest ways to solve the case while thwarting the bad guys.

Tonight on TCM! Race and Hollywood features
Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) A young couple fights off Indian attacks to start a farm in the Mohawk Valley.Cast: Claudette Colbert, Henry Fonda, Edna May Oliver, Eddie Collins Dir: John Ford

Northwest Passage (1940) True story of Rogers' Rangers and their fight to open up new frontiers for Colonial America. Cast: Spencer Tracy, Robert Young, Walter Brennan, Ruth Hussey Dir: King Vidor

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Speakeasy: Bogie and Lombard

Vigil in the Night (1940) **Spoiler**

This wonderful film contains three great elements: Brian Aherne, a good plot, and a dramatic Carole Lombard. Having seen Lombard in comedies only, I was thrilled when I realized this was a dramatic piece. Better yet, I wasn't at all disappointed with it!
Anne Lee (Lombard), a quiet dependable and devoted nurse sacrifices her reputation and career when she takes the blame for her sister's negligence at nursing which results in the death of a child. Lee moves to the next town, Hepperton, after she elicits a promise from her sister to finish her her nurses train and gain her certificate as she has done. They can both then move on to London for better work. At the new hospital, Lee instantly wins over the staff as well as Mr. Bowley (Julien Mitchell), the hospital's main source of funds. All goes well until a nurse from her former position shows up to apply for a job. Lee was set to visit her sister that day to see her receive her certificate. While Lee is on the bus with Matron East (Ethel Griffies), this nurse tries to reveal what Lee did at her former job. However, before she can say anything damning, the bus suddenly crashes and Lee takes charge of getting all injured passengers- including the vindictive nurse- the proper care which includes calling upon Dr. Prescott (Aherne). Already impressed with Lee's ability and her quiet control in the face of danger, a friendship develops between the two. Prescott reveals his frustration with Bowley who denies the hospital much needed funds especially in face of a small pox epidemic that's bound to break out soon.
The next day Lee's sister Lucy (Anne Shirley) shows up at the hospital with a husband in tow. Joe Shand (Peter Cushing) was once in love with Lee but she refused his proposal due to her dedication to nursing. Joe and Lucy are headed to London without Lee. Reeling from that disappointment Lee then must deal with Bowley's when his attentions become more ardent. He tries to woo Lee with lavish gifts which she denies, imploring him instead to look to Prescott's cause and donate money to the hospital. When Mrs. Bowley catches her husband mid-woo, she demands Lee's dismissal and accuses Prescott of sending her to pester her husband.
Forced to leave, Prescott, who's aware of what really happened, begins to write her a recommendation but also reprimands her for saying anything to Bowley which he considered he told her in confidence. Humiliated, Lee leaves without the recommendation.
When she reaches London, she finds Lucy's husband Joe alone and drunk in their apartment and her sister being charged with negligence once again in conjunction with a nursing home. At Lucy's trial, Dr. Prescott comes to the rescue, revealing the scam that the nursing home has been run under and clearing Lucy's name from any involvement, stating she was following a crooked doctor's orders.
Meanwhile, the small pox epidemic has broken out and the Lee sisters go back to Hepperton to volunteer in the quarantined area. Their courage encourages other nurses who before, refused to volunteer- this includes the vindictive nurse who benefited from Lee's care after the bus accident. Needing a more sanitary set up, Lee takes charge and orders the supplies and has the bills sent to Bowley. Enraged, he confronts her only to find the whole staff is backing her and now his own son has succumb to the pox and is quarantined. Now seeing the error of his ways he promises Prescott that he will be more cooperative in the future.
That problem solved, Lucy is given the responsibility of sitting with Bowley's son through the night. After resuscitating him with mouth to mouth, the boys fever breaks and he's through the worse. However, Lucy's devotion comes at the cost of her own life- a sacrifice she is glad to make. Lee barely has time to mourn as a mine accident causes the next series of chaos at the hospital. Before she and Prescott rush off to save lives, he admits his love for her.

As I said before, this movie had great elements, but I was most impressed with Lombard's dramatic turn. Her quiet way of speaking while portraying a resilient inner strength is borderline eerie. Having been cast in comedies due to her innate ability to cause laughter, Lombard desperately wanted to show her serious side. Vigil in the Night is evidence that she could be just as serious as she was funny. Imagine the possibilities of what she could have brought to the screen if her life hadn't been tragically cut short.

The Lion In Winter (1968) England's Henry II and his estranged queen battle over the choice of an heir. Cast: Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Jane Merrow, John Castle Dir: Anthony Harvey

Friday, May 7, 2010

S&G: Constance Bennett on beauty

Taking a page from Dr. Lamar's book, Constance Bennett wants you to remember that "to be beautiful and natural is the birthright of every woman."

Double Dose of Cary Grant

I finally had a chance to sit down and watch two films Cary Grant made in 1934 and of course, prior to his bigger successes in the film business. I began with Thirty Day Princess. While visiting Taronia, Richard Gresham (Edward Arnold) runs into King Anatol XII (Henry Stephenson), who laments that he does not have the funds to provide his peasants a better way of life, like in America. Seeing an opportunity to get back on his feet during the Depression, Gresham offers King Anatol a loan for the amount of fifty million. All he needs to do is come to America to perform the much needed public relations. However, King Anatol cannot leave the country so, it’s decided that his daughter Princess "Zizzi" Catterina (Sylvia Sydney) will go in his stead. Unfortunately Zizzi comes down with the mumps upon her arrival and must be quarantined for a month. Rather than risk losing the loan, Gresham hires an out-of-work actress Nancy Lane also played by Sydney to impersonate the Princess. Complications arise when she falls in love with Porter Madison, owner of the city paper and the man Gresham is paying her extra to divert from investigating the legitimacy of the loans.

Very little of Cary’s natural charm shows in Thirty Day Princess and the end result is a rather dull movie with some comic relief provided by Vince Barnett who plays Count Nicholeus. However, it should be noted that despite suspending your imagination on how easy it was to find a Princess Zizzi’s lookalike, the viewer is treated to a much overlooked detail in earlier American cinema (or any current film involving Tom Cruise)- the accent. Sydney rarely slips out of it and does a great job being both a princess and a regular American girl.

In Kiss and Make Up, a pseudo musical about a doctor devoted to women’s beauty, we see the stirrings of what will soon be a charmingly hilarious actor who will provide viewers with his great comedic timing and distinct deliverance of dialogue.

Dr. Maurice Lamar (Cary Grant) believes that all women have a right to beauty and has built an entire empire in Paris around it. When he creates his most perfect piece in Eve Caron (Genevieve Tobin), he does so at the expense of her marriage. Marcel Caron (Edward Everett Horton) used to love his wife when she was just pretty enough, and plump. Now he has to deal with men ogling and wooing his wife as well as her strict regiment (courtesy of Dr. Lamar) in order to keep herself slim and beautiful. When Eve and Marcel divorce she immediately marries Lamar much to Anne’s (Helen Mack) dismay. Anne has been Lamar’s devoted secretary for years. She doesn’t go in for all the beauty mumbo jumbo and encourages Lamar to use his education for something more beneficial. However, she needn’t worry, soon Lamar sees the monster he has created in Eve and decides to quit the beauty business altogether. Thinking to find solace in Anne, Lamar learns that she is now engaged to Marcel (so convenient) and a hilarious chase ensues.
The most interesting aspect about this film is Grant singing. He wasn’t too shabby but it seemed out of place and unnecessary to have him or the other characters singing at all. However, I loved “Corn Beef and Cabbage I Love You”.

Side Note: Excerpt from Marlene Dietrich by Maria Riva
Speaking about a party she went to hosted by Carole Lombard at a fun house on the Venice pier in California: "...Who wants to look at themselves fat? I can have that right here in my bathroom and not look like I have been at war! Remember our shirts salesman? He got in all the pictures next to Lombard. He must have spent the whole evening watching where the photographers were going, and managed to get there before them. 'Ready and handsome,' in position!"
The "shirt salesman" she was referring to was Cary Grant whom she stated that on the set of Blonde Venus he would sell shirts to make more money and that he was so charming that people came from all over to buy them.
He must have been one of the few (and I mean few) men that came withing her sphere and escaped her... charms... as this was the worst she would say of him (she didn't have a lot of nice things to say about anyone according to her daughter). Also, in a conversation with Peter Bogdanovich later in life, Grant stated he saw what was going on between von Sternberg and Dietrich and he didn't want any part of that situation.

Tonight on TCM!
Something called Doctor Zhivago??? I guess maybe it was some sort of big deal at some point in time? ;)

Monday, May 3, 2010

BoomTown (1940)

Betsy Bartlett (Claudette Colbert) is the love of Square John Sand's (Spencer Tracy) life. He’s been “wildcatting” (prospecting for oil in an area supposed to be unproductive) for years, hoping to strike it big so he can provide for her. When Square John knows he has a prime spot, he has difficulty getting the oil equipment from Luther Aldrich (Frank Morgan) who has been swindled one too many times before. Enter Big John McMasters (Clark Gable) who Square John does not hit it off with until he assumes that Big John has the dough to front for the equipment and he tells him of his plan. However, Big John is more interested in boozing and womanizing at the moment and when the two start drinking, Square John realizes that Big John doesn’t have that much dough, that he’s just blowing some hard earned funds. Despite this, he helps Big John out of a scrap over a girl and Big John in turn promises to get the oil equipment so they can drill. After a failed first attempt where Square John admits they should have drilled near a spot that Big John indicated would produce, they have to beat feet out of town as Aldrich is on to their scam to use his equipment with plans to pay him off when the oil comes through. After months of working other fields, Big and Square John are able to scrape together enough money to get the equipment legitimately and go back to drill- this time in Big John's spot of choice. When it becomes clear they are going to hit oil, Square John sends for Betsy to come to town. When she does, she runs into Big John who is out for another night of boozing and womanizing. Having no idea who she really is, they spend the evening together and get hitched. Meanwhile, the oil has been struck and elated Square John comes to town to tell Big John the news. Betsy quickly admits who she is and together they tell Square John the news of their marriage. Though both men are upset, Square John is mostly concerned with Betsy's happiness and they work out their differences while building up their oil field and enjoying the spoils. Then one day Big John is caught by Square John and Betsy drunkenly carousing with a saloon waitress. The Johns butt heads and split up with Square John taking over the oil field and money having won the coin toss.
Years of struggling to get back on top strengthen the bond between Big John and Betsy, a bond that eventually produces a son. Despite years of refusing help from one another when both men were down and out, Big John decides to eventually extend the olive branch. When he gets into the oil refinery business he is determined to have Square John as his partner. Square John begrudgingly accepts but is then confronted with Big John's obvious affair with Karen Vanmeer (Hedy Lamarr) who is determined to win Big John for herself. Another battle ensues with Square John risking friendship and fortune to make sure that Betsy is not harmed by their affair.

An interesting film about the lengths one will go to when they truly love another person, Boom Town also has a surprising message delivered by Square John in defense of Big John. Something that we in America today are familiar with, the usage of America's natural resources in relation to the quanity of those resources. Square John makes a very convincing argument that compels viewers like me some seventy years later to ponder what America would be like today if we simply followed logical thinking instead of the almighty dollar.

Tonight on TCM!
Can't Help Singing (1944) A senator's daughter follows her boyfriend in the days of the California gold rush. Cast: Deanna Durbin, Robert Paige, Akim Tamiroff, David Bruce Dir: Frank Ryan