Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day to all my readers!
Joan Crawford sporting a felt heart-shaped hat.
Frances Drake
Wife Vs Secretary --- Lana Turner
Rita Hayworth, with what looks like the lid to a box of chocolates on her head as a hat.
Esther Williams --- Debbie Reynolds
Leslie Caron
Natalie and Lana Wood
See more great Valentine's themed photos here!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Rose Marie (1936)


Rose Marie (1936), starring Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, was the second of three film adaptations by MGM (1928-lost & 1954) based on the 1924 Broadway play of the same name about an opera singer and a Canadian Mountie. The 1936 film, which was the second pairing of Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy after the wild success of their first film Naughty Marietta (1935), retained some of the original songs - most notably the "Indian Love Call" - changed much of the story:
The musical feast comes about this way: Rose Marie, in the new version, is an operatic star whose brother escapes from a Canadian penitentiary. Learning he is wounded and in hiding in the north woods, she attempts to find him. During her journey she encounters Sergeant Bruce of the Mounties (Mr. Eddy), who has been assigned to get his man—the same brother, obviously. Miss MacDonald would prefer to seek out the fugitive without the assistance of the sergeant—both working at cross motives as it were—but, what with the desertion of her guide and the discovery that she and Mr. Eddy sing together quite well, she is compelled to accept his escort. It leads, all very naturally, to romance, to complications and to an extremely pleasant concert against the magnificent backgrounds of mountain trails, shimmering lakes and cloud-flecked skies.

The Lake Tahoe area in Northern Californian stood in for Canada, a revolutionary decision at the time when everything was shot on soundstages. Rose Marie was also "one of the first musicals to use a naturalistic setting. A special train of seventeen box cars carted the equipment to the location. Movie crews built several 40-foot totem poles in state parkland at Emerald Bay for the Indian totem pole dance" (source).

It is the lovely on-location scenery that makes the film a delight to watch. The chemistry between the two leads is evident from the moment of their meeting and MacDonald shows off her comedic side when she stubbornly refuses Eddy's help after her guide runs off with all her things and ends up running into his arms at her first scare. Another highlight is a brief appearance at the end of young James Stewart as MacDonald's no-good brother.

This post is part of The Singing Sweethearts Blogathon hosted by Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Be sure to check out the rest of the posts celebrating this famous film couple!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Corvette K-225 (1943)

Out in the trackless sea-lanes where the roving U-boats wait to catch our wallowing transports carrying materials of war overseas, a tremendous heroic service has been done by the fabulous fleet of tiny escort warships of the British and Canadian navies known as corvettes. These rakish deep-sea terriers, 900 tons of fire-power and caprice, shepherd the slow-moving convoys and guard them from lurking perils. It is the story of one of these vessels and her sturdy Canadian crew on an eastward Atlantic crossing from Halifax to the British Isles which is told with tremendous excitement and a pounding sense of the sea in Universal's latest war film, "Corvette K-225," which came to Loew's Criterion yesterday.

Set in 1943, the year of it's release, and starring Randolph Scott as Lieut. Commander MacClain, James Brown as Lt. Paul Cartwright, and Ella Raines (in her very first film) as his sister Joyce, the film follows Corvette K-225, christened the HMCS DONNACONA, as she crosses the Atlantic as part of an escort in a convey to England. During her jouney the crew experience rough seas, Jerries (German planes), and U-boats lurking beneath the dark waters. There is also tension between MacClain "Mac" and some of his officers, particularly Lt. Cartwright. More from the Times Review:
In a virtually documentary treatment of life aboard the K-225, Producer Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson, director of the film, have realized the physical strain and torment of work in a rampant corvette. They have pictured with indubitable fidelity the discomforts of an escort vessel's crew—the eternal tossing and rolling of the ship in a moderate sea; her plunging and gyrating in the grip of a North Atlantic gale, with tons of sea water pouring over her, battering and soaking every man.
Also, they have caught the terrible tension of men ever on the alert for the sudden attack of the enemy—either a screaming rain of bombs from the sky or the dark and more deadly torpedo of a submarine prowling beneath the sea. They have whipped up some bristling excitement when attacks of both natures come, especially when the corvette is blasting the insides of the ocean with "ash cans." And they have evidenced the courage and tenacity, the unspoken magnificence, of the men who endure such service. They have turned out a tough, manly film.

While the film runs over 90 minutes, it spends most of it's time focusing on the Donnacona, her readying for sea, her christening, the boarding of the crew, the planning of the voyage, and the charting of her coarse, with lots of nautical talk thrown in. Under a different director or editor the film might have been tighter and focused more on the relations between the members of the crew and their relationship with their commander. As it is these are merely touched on, focusing rather on the role of the Corvette's in the war.

The relationship that is touched on the most is that between MacClain and Paul. The film opens with MacClain receiving shore leave after a difficult mission that started out with 65 men and returned with only 12. However, he asks to have another ship as soon as possible and is given a Corvette, a new type of vessel. "They ain't pretty ships maybe," one of the dock workers comments, "but brother they got an awful lot of guts." MacClain chooses the K-225 and then goes to visit the sister of one of the young men he lost.

Joyce Cartwright is working in the Canteen kitchen when MacClain visits her. He tells her how her brother died when he boarded a U-boat, under MacClain's orders, that blew up. She gets angry that he sent such a kid but later comes to the dock to apologize for her behavior. The two walk to nearby Kings College where they meet her other brother Paul, who is soon to graduate.

Charting the course of the convoy. I want that map table!

When the Donnacona  is ready for sea, a mostly greenhorn crew is assigned to her, including Paul Cartwright. MacClain is tougher on him then the other men which angers Paul but which MacClain does to toughen him up and ready him for the hardships ahead.

Ella Raines disappears from the film once the ships sail, but not before kissing MacClain. There's lots of close-up of their course being charted as they make their way across the mid-Atlantic, change course to pick up a raft and lifeboat (no survivors), rejoin the convoy, and get lost during a storm.

The climax of the film is when they see a torpedo trail from a U-boat and engage in open fire, sinking first one sub, and then another. As they limp toward their final destination, they catch up with the rest of the convoy and arrive triumphantly in England where the other boats go past and dip their flags in salute to the crew of the Donnacona. MacClain and Cartwright are now friends after Paul showed great courage and leadership in battle and everyone is happy.

Highlights of the film for me were Ella Raines, Barry Fitzgerald as the only real "old salt" in the crew, and young Robert Mitchum, who shows up in a few scenes and even has some lines (in Cry 'Havoc' (1943), Ella Raines second film which I watched recently, he shows up just long enough to die in her arms).

The Times praises Scott's "beautiful performance as the skipper of the corvette—a restrained and authoritative master, you can tell by the cut of his jib," and also the authentic footage of actual Corvette's and battle footage:
Much of the flavor of the picture may be thankfully credited to the fact that most of its backgrounds and some action were photographed aboard corvettes. Director Rosson and a camera crew spent several months at sea, combing the North Atlantic with the little ships on convoy patrol, and the lash of salt spray and howling sea winds fairly beat in the audience's face. The experience obviously tempered Mr. Rosson's regard for his film, and he has kept the whole thing within a pattern which is impressive and credible.

The HMCS Kitchener (K225) stood in for the Donnacona (background of above photo). It was very active in the war and was the only Canadian Corvette to take part in D-Day. She was scrapped in 1949. It was honored in October of last year.

More photos from the set.

Excerpt from Article on the Canadian Navy in Film:
By far the best of an often mediocre lot when it comes to films portraying the action, adventure and real-life drama of sailors in wartime was Corvette K225. The film, made in 1943, stars Randolph Scott, who turned in a strong performance. But the movie also drew strength from real action footage of actual WWII convoys during the Battle of the Atlantic, which the Royal Canadian Navy is often credited with winning.
Ella Raines with director Richard Rossen

I found a neat little booklet published in 1943, the same year as the film, with sketches by Robert W. Chambers of Halifax in Wartime. The last picture in the booklet shows Kings College.

This post is for the O Canada! Blogathon hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. Be sure to check out all of the other posts honoring Canada and Film!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Countdown to the Oscars: Bringing the Series Back After Three Years

During the second year of my blog I started a Countdown to the Oscars series for the month of February. I wrote several posts covering the very first Academy Awards ceremony up through 1945. I've linked them below:

Announcing the Countdown to the Oscars

The First Academy Awards, 1927-28

2nd to 6th Academy Awards


1935 - 1938


The War Years, 1940-1945

Throw an Oscars Viewing Party

The following year, 2016, I intended to continue my series. I hosted a Costume Awards for the years before it became an official category but not many people participated. I also participated in a couple of Oscar-themed blogathons:

Timeline of Academy Award-Winning Costumes: 1949-1960

The William Powell Oscar Snubs

Last Year I wrote up a post for the Post-War period but never finished adding photos to it. My only Oscar contributions was a part 2 to my Costume Timeline for the same annual blogathon.

Timeline of Academy Award-Winning Costumes: 1961-1977

This year I am going to try to finish my series.  I also hope you'll check out some of my early posts, as I was quite proud of them but didn't have many followers back then.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Three Times Clark Gable Proved He Could Act

Clark Gable was known for his macho image in the movies, an image he carefully cultivated and protected. In much the same way how John Wayne always plays John Wayne in his films, so Clark Gable is always Clark Gable. That devil-may-care smile, those mirthful eyes, a man who takes on life as it comes and enjoys every minute of it, all trademarks of the "King."

But the King of Hollywood had another side to him. And it was this side of himself that he was terrified to show. Behind the scenes and away from the prying eyes of the camera, he was a voracious reader and a lover of poetry. Whenever he was called upon to touch on this other side of himself, to show emotion, he worried that he would be laughed at or seen as unmanly. Yet it is these precise scenes which allow Gable's true talent as an actor to shine through. In these moments he's no longer Clark Gable but really becomes his character. Below are three scenes from the films Gone With the Wind (1939), Adventure (1945), and San Francisco (1936) in which Gable proved he could act:


The most famous example of this comes from the most famous movie in all of film history: Gone With the Wind. It's not a scene that's widely quoted, but it is one of the most, if not the THE most, emotional scenes in the film. Bonnie Blue Butler, the daughter of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara, has just been killed in a horse riding accident. Bonnie was the joy of Rhett's life. He spoiled her, comforted her when she was scared, and loved her more than anyone else in the world. Her death leaves him inconsolable. Melanie, played by Olivia de Havilland, goes into the room where is sitting alone, drinking, and tries to comfort him. In the scene, director Victor Fleming wanted Gable to cry, which Gable refused to do. He wanted to stand with his back turned to the camera in heavy sorrow. De Havilland talked him into at least trying the scene the way Fleming wanted it, and Fleming promised that if Gable didn't like it they would do it his way.

I remember talking to Clark about the scene when he is supposed to cry, after the death of his daughter. He was worried: you see, he had never cried on the screen before. He thought it was not masculine to cry.  He was so worried about it. ‘I’m just going to have to quit,’ he told me. I remember I said, ‘Tears denote strength of character, not weakness. Crying makes you intensely human.’ He agreed, rehearsed it, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable scenes in the movie (source).

After viewing the two different versions, Gable agreed that Fleming's way was more effective and one of the most heartbreaking and poignant scenes in cinema was born.

The ending scene of Adventure (1945) starring Gable and Greer Garson, contains another powerful scene in which their newly born child nearly dies. Gable, a sea captain who married Garson and then went back out to sea, comes home and learns that his wife is about to have a baby. When he arrives at the house the situation is grave. Garson is very weak and the baby is struggling to live. Gable goes into the room where the doctors are working on the baby. As he watches, they give up. The baby has stopped breathing. Gable goes over the table and looks down on this tiny baby and begins yelling at it, telling it to live so he can give him back to his mother. And at the last moment, the baby begins to breathe. It's a dramatic and emotional scene, heightened for me by the fact that Gable died before the birth of his son in real life, and only met his daughter with Loretta Young once.

The only picture of the scene I could find.
If it comes on TCM again I will record it and post it here.

In another ending scene, this time after the Academy Award winning earthquake scene in San Francisco (1936), Gable is walking through the streets, frantically searching for Jeannette MacDonald and horrified by all the death and destruction going on around him. This was the only scene I was able to find on YouTube (in three parts below).

Start at 3:50

Look at the expressions on his face in this scene, as he searches for the woman he realizes he can't live without. Gable masterfully conveys what his character is going through without speaking and the audience fears the worst with him. And when he finds her, the audience feels the overwhelming rush of relief and thanksgiving that Gable feels.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the Three Times Gable Proved He Could Act. If you've seen these films do you agree with me? Are there any other scenes you would have included? I watched Parnell (1936) last week and it too had a powerful closing scene and an overall restrained performance from Gable that, at the time of it's release, hurt the picture but now serves to show that "The King" was capable of so much more than the studio system, and himself, was willing to let him be.

This post is for the Dear Mr. Gable: A Celebration of the King of Hollywood Blogathon hosted by Love Letters to Old Hollywood in honor of Clark Gable's birthday. Be sure to check out the other great posts on this legendary actor!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Movies I Watched in January

I think it’s safe to say Charles Boyer, TCM’s Star of the Month for January, will be one of my most watched stars of the year. I watched six movies and have one waiting on the dvr with 11 months in the year left to go.

While not really a Stewart Granger fan, I watched the three films he made with Deborah Kerr. Kerr is becoming a favorite and I look forward to watching more of her films throughout the year. I've also made a good start on more Robert Ryan films, my current obsession.

This is what I watched, almost all of them via WatchTCM:
  1. Mata Hari (1932) - Greta Garbo & Ramon Navarro, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone
  2. Secrets of the French Police (1932) - Gwili Andre, Frank Morgan (I was pretty horrified/nauseated with one scene - it's easy to spot)
  3. Rockabye (1932) - Constance Bennett & Joel McCrea
  4. Break of Hearts (1934) - Charles Boyer & Katharine Hepburn 
  5. Parnell (1937) - Clark Gable & Myrna Loy
  6. Algiers (1938) - Charles Boyer & Hedy Lamarr
  7. Comrade X (1940) - Clark Gable & Hedy Lamarr 
  8. *It’s a Date (1940) - Deanna Durbin, Kay Francis, Walter Pidgeon
  9. Nine Lives are Not Enough (1941) - Ronald Reagan 
  10. Army Surgeon (1942) - Jane Wyatt 
  11. Rings On Her Fingers (1942) - Gene Tierney & Henry Fonda
  12. The Human Comedy (1943) - Mickey Rooney, Frank Morgan, Van Johnson, James Craig, Marsha Hunt, Fay Bainter, Donna Reed
  13. *Laura (1944) - Gene Tierney & Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, Judith Anderson
  14. Kismet (1944) - Ronald Colman & Marlene Dietrich 
  15. Together Again (1944) - Irene Dunne & Charles Boyer, Charles Coburn
  16. The Hidden Eye (1945) - Edward Arnold
  17. Cluny Brown (1946) - Jennifer Jones & Charles Boyer
  18. The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) - Robert Alda, Peter Lorre
  19. The Woman on the Beach (1947) - Robert Ryan & Joan Bennett, Charles Bickford
  20. The Romance of Rosy Ridge (1947) - Van Johnson & Janet Leigh, Thomas Mitchell
  21. The Adventures of Don Juan (1948) - Errol Flynn & Viveca, Alan Hale
  22. The Boy with Green Hair (1948) - Robert Ryan, Pat O'Brien, Dean Stockwell
  23. *Act of Violence (1949) - Van Heflin & Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Mary Astor, Phyllis Thaxter
  24. *Father is a Bachelor (1950) - William Holden & Coleen Gray
  25. King Solomon’s Mines (1950) - Stewart Granger & Deborah Kerr
  26. In a Lonely Place (1950) - Humphrey Bogart & Gloria Grahame
  27. Payment on Demand (1951) - Bette Davis (missed second half)
  28. This Woman is Dangerous (1952) - Joan Crawford & Dennis Morgan
  29. The Happy Time (1952) - Charles Boyer, Louis Jourdan, Marsha Hunt, Bobby Driscoll
  30. The Prisoner of Zenda (1952) - Stewart Granger & Deborah Kerr, James Mason
  31. Young Bess (1953) - Jean Simmons, Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Charles Laughton
  32. Inferno (1953) - Robert Ryan, Rhonda Fleming
  33. The Earrings of Madame De... (1953) - Charles Boyer & Danielle Darrieux (French)
  34. Back From Eternity (1956) - Robert Ryan, Anita Ekberg (remake of Five Came Back)
  35. Oceans 11 (1960) - Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Angie Dickinson 
  36. Follow the Boys (1963) - Connie Francis, Paula Prentiss, Janis Paige, Richard Long
  37. I’ll Take Sweden (1965) - Bob Hope, Tuesday Weld, Dina Merrill, Frankie Avalon
  38. Triple Cross (1966) - Christopher Plummer & Romy Schneider 
  39. Christmas Encore (2017) - Maggie Lawson (from the TV show Psych)
  40. Wonder Woman (2017) - Gal Gadot & Chris Pine, Robin Wright
Least Favorite Film: Mata Hari and Algiers didn't really capture my interest but I feel like they are somewhat essentials to the serious Classic Movie Fan. You may recall I had watched the first half of Kismet a month or two ago but didn't finish it. It came on TCM again so I did. If you're interested in seeing Marlene Dietrich with gold painted legs than that's the movie for you.

Rings on Her Fingers. This gif is what made me want to watch the movie.

Favorite Film: Rings on Her Fingers is a must-see gem, as is Cluny Brown which EVERYBODY seemed to be recommending. I absolutely loved the ending - "I'll write a sequel!" The Human Comedy made me cry at the end and it was nice to see Mickey Rooney in a serious role. Together Again was pretty cute and had a lovely house set, not to mention the always funny Charles Coburn. And of course I greatly enjoyed Robert Ryan's performance in Inferno. I also ended up watching Act of Violence again, even though I just watched it last month, because it's so darn good!! I took a ton of screenshots, as one does when watching a Noir. You can see them all on my blog facebook page - I share mostly screenshots on there that will hopefully make their way into future posts.

Cluny Brown