Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ride the Wild Surf (1964)

Yesterday I watched Ride the Wild Surf (1964) starring Fabian, Tab Hunter, Barbara Eden, and Shelley Fabares - among others. I was pleasantly surprised to find a surfing movie that, though it had its clichés, was not corny and actually had a story-line, not unlike my beloved Gidget (1959).

The film tells the story of three college age guys (though only one's actually in college) - Jody Wallis (Fabian), Steamer Lane (Tab Hunter), and Chase Colton (Peter Brown) - who love to surf and are spending the Christmas holiday on the Hawaiian island of Oahu at Waimea Bay, where the waves are at their biggest.

Shirts on...

Shirts off ;)

Once the boys land in Hawaii they learn of a competition that is held every year where the last surfer to successfully ride the mammoth waves becomes "King of Wiamea" and gets his name on a surf board. Last years champ was Eskimo (James Mitchum) and he's back to retain his title.

When their not surfing however, the boys also find love on the island and the film traces their individual relationships in between the magnificent surfing scenes that spend more time on showing actual surfing than the actors faces.
Fun Fact: From late 1962 to March of 1963, the waves in Hawaii were especially large due to certain weather conditions. Jo and Art Napoleon shot footage of actual surfers and then wrote a script to go with it.

Jody is the beach bum of the group, who gave up on the idea of being an oceanographer when college proved too hard. He meets the (surprisingly sexy) Brie Matthews (Shelley Fabares of The Donna Reed Show). At first she thinks he's reckless, but then she discovers another side. She helps him see that he shouldn't give up on his dreams when he hits a snag.

Chase is the college student, and according to Augie Poole (Barbara Eden), a square. She tries to get him to loosen up, then worries when he actually does. Their meeting is the most memorable, as tomboy Augie challenges Chase to wrestle and quickly throws him on his back (she's a black belt).

Steamer is the hardworking orphan who falls in love with the lovely Hawaiian native Lily Kilua (Susan Hart). Their troubles stem from her mother's hatred of surfers - Lily's father ran out on them to chase the waves in Bora Bora ten years earlier and hasn't been heard from since. Love triumphs however when Mrs. Kilua realizes she had a hand in driving away her husband with her strong views against too much fun.

Eskimo (James Mitchum)

The surfing competition at the end is exciting to watch and made credible by the extensive use of surfing shots. Altogether, this was a delightful movie and I definitely plan on purchasing it on dvd one day. The cast, storyline, and authentic setting make for a fun summer film that can be watched year after year.


Ride the Wild Surf will be airing again on TCM again on September 1st at 4am ET.
It is also currently available on Watch TCM until June 30th.

This post is part of the Summer Movie Blogathon hosted by Blog of the Darned. Be sure to check out all of the other posts!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Cinema Wedding Gowns: How To Marry a Millionaire (1953)

Today's wedding dress is probably on of the better known ones in cinema. It is the lace dress worn by Lauren Bacall in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953).

Crafted of embroidered ecru lace in a floral pattern with iridescent sequins and a heavy satin lining, this exquisite mermaid style, off the shoulder gown was designed by Travilla.

The dress is fitted to just below the hip where a semi-circle piece is added to make it floor length and giving the dress movement. Three-quarter length sleeves and lace trim along the top complete the gown.

Rather than a veil, the dress is paired with a hat crafted of white sinamay and with piping swirled on the crown and hanging down the back. A small pearl necklace and bracelet are the perfect accessories.

The dress was later modified with the sleeves and ruffle across the front removed and straps added. It sold at Debbie Reynold's auction in 2011 for $8000, which was the start price. On another site it said that the modified dress was worn in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) but, while the design is nearly identical, the lace is different.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Rio Bravo (1959)

Wednesday, June 7th, was the 100th birthday of the legendary crooner Dean Martin. Rio Bravo (1959), starring John Wayne, Ricky Nelson, and Walter Brennan, was one of Martin's first films after his split with long-time film partner Jerry Lewis (they began appearing in nightclub acts together in 1946 and made 16 movies between 1949 and 1956). And it is also one of my favorite of his roles.
In 2005 my uncle brought some recorded VHS tapes to give us when he came to visit. One had Rio Bravo and North to Alaska on it. My brothers and I watched those two films on a loop for over a month, whenever we had a moment (aka mom was gone and we were left to our own devices). They may not be Oscar-worthy films, but they are pure entertainment.
Rio Bravo, the film I am reviewing today, was based on a short story by B.H. McCampbell of the same name. Howard Hawks, who had been on a four year break from directing after a flop, took on this film supposedly as a response to High Noon (1952), which portrayed a sheriff who goes around the town asking for help against a gang of killers. In Rio Bravo, the sheriff, played by the one and only John Wayne, goes up against Nathan Burdette (John Russell), a man who pays others to do his dirty work, with just a drunk and an old man.
Are you calling me a drunk?
John Wayne plays John T. Chance (the "T." stands for Trouble). Dean Martin plays Dude, his drunk deputy who used to be good... real good. Now he's a town joke called Borochón, which means "drunk" in Spanish. Walter Brennan is the lovable Stumpy who walks with a limp. Other characters include Ward Bond as Pat Wheeler, who offers to help Chance and is killed for it, Ricky Nelson as Colorado, a young gunslinger who was in Wheeler's employ and now wants to get the man who shot his boss, and Angie Dickinson as Feathers, a woman who fits a lot of descriptions of a known card cheater's girlfriend. And of course the film wouldn't be complete without Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez, who plays Carlos. He owns the hotel/bar and is another loyal friend to Chance.
Mr. Martin, who combines a lethargic and casual manner to perfection, and Mr. Brennan, who can do more with a cackle or a horse laugh than most, give "Rio Bravo" the added notches that raise it above the average Western.
When you really, really want that iced coffee, I mean... beer ;)
After arresting Joe Burdette (Claude Akins) for murder, Chance has to hole up at the jail to wait for the Marshall to arrive. Nathan Burdette, Joe's brother, is a powerful man who will do anything to get him out of jail.
You're a rich man, Burdette... big ranch, pay a lot of people to do what you want 'em to do. And you got a brother. He's no good but he's your brother. He committed twenty murders you'd try and see he didn't hang for 'em.
Let's get this straight. I don't like a lot of things. I don't like your men sittin' on the road bottling up this town. I don't like your men watching us, trying to catch us with our backs turned. And I don't like it when a friend of mine offers to help and twenty minutes later he's dead! And I don't like you, Burdette, because you set it up.
While their holed up, Dude decides to give up drinking. Chance gives him his old duds and pearl-handled pistols he bought after Dude had pawned them for liquor money.

There is a brief period of quiet before the action goes down and, since a Dean Martin movie wouldn't be complete without him singing a song AND you have Ricky Nelson in the cast, what better time for a duet?

If the tune sounds familiar, that's because it's the theme from Red River (1948) also starring John Wayne and directed by Howard Hawks. You can here the original theme here. The lyrics are in the comments.

Dean Martin also recorded another song titled "Rio Bravo" that, except for the last two lines, is not sung in the film. It was released as a single at the same time as the movie.

By the memory of a song,
While the river Rio Bravo rolls along.

Only the last two lines of the song are sung in the movie as Dude and Stumpy walk "into the sunset" at the end.

Before the end of the movie however, there is a rousing gunfight involving explosives and fist fights. And throughout the film Chance and Feathers argue and make up, ending with him finally saying he loves her.

Angie Dickinson on set with director Howard Hawks.

Here's a great TCM article on the film and how Dean Martin prepared for the role.

Fun Facts from IMDb:
This was the last film that John Wayne wore his hat from Stagecoach (1939). It was also his last of 22 films with Ward Bond and Bond's last feature film. Wayne also wore his belt buckle from Red River (1948).
There are only five close-ups in the movie: Joe firing his gun, Dude's hands trying to roll a cigarette, Dude pouring a shot of whiskey back into the bottle and a beer glass where a drop of blood falls in, and Chance's boots tapping together in Sheriff's office as he's sitting in a chair.
Feathers's dialogue was occasionally inspired by the character of "Slim" To Have and Have Not (1944), as when, after the first kiss, she says: "'s better when two people do it," recalling the phrase "it's even better when you help;" and again later when she says, "I'm hard to get - you're going to have to say you want me," recalling Slim's "I'm hard to get, Steve - all you have to do is ask me."
Angie Dickinson was only 26 at the time of filming. John Wayne was 51.
There are a ton of behind-the-scenes photos from this film. I shared a bunch of them during the 2015 Summer Under the Stars, which you can view here.

Rio Bravo will be airing on TCM on August 12 at 12:45am ET.
This post is part of The Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon hosted by Musings of a Classic Film Addict. Be sure to check out the other posts celebrating the life and career of this legendary crooner!

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cinema Wedding Gowns: Honeymoon (1947)

Honeymoon (1947), starring Franchot Tone, Shirley Temple, and Guy Madison, is a movie about a soldier on leave and his girl who have planned to meet in Mexico City to marry and spend their two day honeymoon there. As usual, nothing happens the way it's supposed to, with the groom's flight being cancelled and neither having a way to contact the other. That's were Franchot Tone comes in, as the American Consul who tries to get them married before Madison's leave is over, or rather, as the poor guy Temple keeps coming to with her problems and creating problems for him in return.
The couple never is actually seen on their honeymoon, as the film ends with them finally getting married in the back yard of Tone's fiancé's house. The entire gown is never shown either. The only "full" glimpse is what is featured on the posters for the film. I did however find this photo that someone uploaded on Pinterest, saying it was their grandmother wearing the "Shirley Temple dress from Honeymoon." My guess is the dress was either sold in stores or perhaps even released as a pattern.
As you can see, the dress is crafted entirely of lace, with a sweetheart neckline, fitted bodice, long tapered sleeves that are gathered at the shoulder, and a full gathered skirt with peplum. The promotional photos below show the dress on Temple.
The fingertip length veil is scalloped tulle with appliqued flowers and leaves attached to a head piece covered in small flowers. The bouquet is comprised of small flowers and roses with ribbons hanging from it.
A good look at the sleeves.
Here are some screenshots from the actual movie:

As you can see, Franchot Tone is very happy that they are finally married.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Movies I Watched in May

I love the packaging of this set (except for the fact that there's a picture of Carole and Clark Gable on the back and on the menu for Hands Across the Table when it's supposed to be Fred MacMurray).

This month I finally pulled out my Carole Lombard Glamour Collection dvd set and watched the four films on it that I hadn't yet seen. I've had it for over two years but kept putting off watching any of the films because I felt that if I did I would have to write a blog post on it. Believe me, I put off watching movies I really want to see for this reason all the time. But I was in the mood for some Carole so I just went ahead and watched it.

I also caught quite a bit of Clark Gable, who is TCM's Star of the Month, as well as his frequent co-star Joan Crawford. I definitely got a little misty eyed watching the documentary Clark Gable: Tall, Dark, and Handsome.

Another thing I accomplished was to finally watch the entire Back to the Future trilogy. Before this month I had only seen the end of the first one and the entire third one (three times). I am now working my way through the hours of special features included on the 40th anniversary Blu-ray set.
  1. Laughing Sinners (1931) - Clark Gable & Joan Crawford
  2. Possessed (1931) - Clark Gable & Joan Crawford
  3. Chained (1934) - Clark Gable & Joan Crawford
  4. We're Not Dressing (1934) - Carole Lombard & Bing Crosby, George Burns & Gracie Allen
  5. Hands Across the Table (1935) - Carole Lombard & Fred MacMurray, Ralph Bellamy
  6. After Office Hours (1935) - Clark Gable & Constance Bennett, Billie Burke
  7. The Girl from 10th Avenue (1935) - Bette Davis & Ian Hunter
  8. The Golden Arrow (1936) - Bette Davis & George Brent
  9. The Princess Comes Across (1936) - Carole Lombard & Fred MacMurray, William Frawley 
  10. Love Before Breakfast (1936) - Carole Lombard, Cesar Romero
  11. And So They Were Married (1936) - Melvyn Douglas & Mary Astor
  12. Cain and Mabel (1936) - Clark Gable & Marion Davies (my first of her films)
  13. Varsity Show (1937) - Dick Powell, Priscilla & Rosemary Lane
  14. Lucky Night (1939) - Myrna Loy & Robert Taylor
  15. Strange Cargo (1940) - Clark Gable & Joan Crawford, Ian Hunter, Peter Lorre
  16. Happy Land (1943) - Don Ameche, Harry Carey, Frances Dee
  17. Adventure (1945) - Clark Gable & Greer Garson, Thomas Mitchell, Joan Blondell
  18. Miranda (1948) - Glynis Johns, Margaret Rutherford
  19. Pinky (1949) - Jeanne Crain, Ethel Waters, Ethel Barrymore 
  20. Above and Beyond (1952) - Robert Taylor & Eleanor Parker
  21. Mad About Men (1954) - Glynis Johns, Margaret Rutherford
  22. *Smokey and the Bandit (1977) - Burt Reynolds & Sally Fields, Jackie Gleason (in theaters!!)
  23. Back to the Future (1985) - Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd
  24. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) - Rick Moranis
  25. Back to the Future Part II (1989) - Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd
  26. *Back to the Future Part III (1990) - Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd
  27. *Sleepless in Seattle (1993) - Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks, Rosie O'Donnell
  28. Ransom (1996) - Mel Gibson, Gary Sinise
  29. Just My Luck (2006) - Lindsey Lohan & Chris Pine
  30. *This Means War (2012) - Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy 
  31. Hell or High Water (2016) - Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster
Favorite Film of the month: I watched a lot of great films this month but I have to say seeing Smokey and the Bandit on the big screen was a blast. I also really enjoyed Hands Across the Table.

Least favorite film: Although I love Carole Lombard, I'm going to have to say Love Before Breakfast. The Carole I know would not have put up with Preston Foster, whose character in the movie is a huge jerk. I'm pretty sure I had a look of disgust on my face whenever he showed up. Carole is gorgeous though and the Pekinese he gives her is absolutely the cutest thing ever (according to Carole and Co. it was Carole's best-known pet, Pushface).

Monday, May 29, 2017

Frank Capra & Robert Riskin

When one thinks of famous Hollywood collaborations, the first thing to come to mind is a famous actor/actress team like William Powell and Myrna Loy or a director/actor pair like John Ford and John Wayne. A director/writer isn't something that springs to mind but if it does, then it is probably the directing and writing team of Frank Capra and Robert Riskin.

When you interview Capra, all he will talk about is Riskin, and when you interview Riskin, all he wants to talk about is Capra.
- 1936 feature by Dudly Early (McBride, 298)

The films of Frank Capra are instantly recognizable with their common themes of the common man from a small town with high ideals who meets and overcomes corruption out in the big world, whether it's politicians, business tycoons, or mean old men who own the town. It's a Wonderful Life, Meet John Doe, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: all of these share these themes (as well as a mostly familiar cast with either Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper at the helm). While these films have been called "Capra-corn" by some, they did and still do inspire the people of the world to fight evil and hope for a better future for mankind. They instill hope and patriotism and truly embody the spirit upon which America was founded.

But where did the words that inspire these feelings come from? Well, mostly from Robert Riskin.
If serendipity smiles, a writer may team up with a man who makes his own films. If the team-up is symbiotic and successful, the experience can be very rewarding: artistically, economically, and as lagniappe for the ego. Such was my long team-up with Robert Riskin (Capra, 147-148).
While Capra is all praise for Riskin, it appears there was an Edith Head situation: Capra would take credit for some of the writing and play down Riskin's part in the same way that Head would accept the Oscar for Best Costume in Sabrina (1954) and not mention Givenchy, who had provided the majority of the wardrobe.
We worked together on scripts (Capra, 148).
He [the writer] puts so much into it, blows up a slim idea into a finished product, and then is dismissed with the ignominious credit line - dialogue writer (Riskin in a 1937 interview).
Luckily for us, Riskin didn't let that get in the way of his collaborations with Capra, as they made nine movies together. Their first real collaboration was Platinum Blonde (1931), with Riskin credited with providing dialogue, even though the story came from a script Riskin had written earlier titled Gallagher (Loretta Young's character in the film. The title was changed to Platinum Blonde when the up-and-coming Jean Harlow was added to the cast).
The brilliance of Riskin's contribution and of Capra's direction elevated Platinum Blonde from a formulaic comedy into a first rate film (McBride, 233).
 The film also set the tone for their future films together. It brought together the "essential character and thematic elements that would be present in the Capra-Riskin classics...that established Capra's reputation as the most important American director of the 1930s." The character of Stew Smith (Robert Williams in his best and final screen role. He died four days after the premiere from appendicitis) has several qualities that would show up again in various Capra films, the "prototype of the common man protagonist thrust into a situation of great wealth and tempted to forget his true allegiances" (McBride, 233).

Their third film together was Lady for a Day Although Riskin had already written three scripts for Capra prior to this film, it was the first in which the relationship between the two really came out, with Riskin writing the script, Capra making minor changes, and then taking credit for doing more than he did. While it's unfortunate that Capra failed to give credit where it was due, it was also a fact that together these men created something amazing.
Riskin had the faculty of putting the words down on paper the way Capra wanted to see them. Capra couldn't keep it all in his head. His idea of a story line was excellent...but he would not always know how to get there. In the technical aspects of putting it on paper, Riskin was better than Capra.
- Chet Sticht (McBride, 297)
Riskin, Robson, Capra
Riskin brought to Capra a slangy, down-to-earth humor, almost a cracker-barrel philosophy, which worked well with Capra's style. But Bob was a soloist...he could not take the fact that Capra was boss. Bob finally wanted to get out and be a celebrity on his own.
- Sidney Buchman (McBride, 294) 

Starring May Robson in the title role, the film would bring Oscar nominations to both Capra and Riskin and seal Capra's status as a top director. This was followed with the five-time Oscar-winning It Happened One Night (1934) starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert (more on that here).

The story behind It Happened One Night is a story of a film that almost wasn't made and starred two people who didn't want to be in it. And it turned into one of the most beloved comedies of all time, setting the stage for the Screwball comedies that the 1930s were famous for.

However, Capra's Oscar win was a turning point in the relationship between Capra and those he worked with - mainly Riskin. In Joseph McBride's biography of Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success, he seeks to find the answer of what happened. Winning the Oscar "only deepened his [Capra's] self-doubt and insecurity...multiplied over his anxiety over the fact that he had to share his success with someone else." It was this fear of not knowing whether his success was his own or merely a fluke based off of someone else that led him to "appropriate credit belonging to his writers" (312).

It also affected his future decisions. "I chickened out. I didn't want to make any more pictures. Every story I thought of doing seemed very poor. How could I top this?" (313). Thankfully he did and some of his later films have topped It Happened One Night, notably It's a Wonderful Life (1946) will live forever.
One of the things I've noticed is that certain pictures will live forever, and they're beyond you. I look at 'em and they don't seem to be mine. It's difficult for me to understand (McBride, 312).
Capra and Riskin next made Broadway Bill (1934) followed by Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) starring Gary Cooper as Longfellow Deeds. The film told the story of a small town tuba player who inherits a lot of money and, after being brought to his senses by a farmer who reminds him about the poor, and tries to give it all away, only to be accused of insanity. It was Riskin's favorite film that he wrote for Capra and garnered him an Oscar nomination and another win for Capra.

While working on their next picture together, Lost Horizon (1937) starring Ronald Colman, Riskin decided it was time to split from Capra and direct his own films.
Within a year Riskin will be a better-known director than Capra and Capra will fade unless he hurries to discover another writing partner as smart as Bob Riskin.
- Columnist Cameron Shipp (McBride, 359) 

After a lot of fighting with Columbia, Riskin finally directed one film, When You're in Love (1937) starring Cary Grant. It "applied to the letter all the ideas which had made his comedies famous. It had everything except that little something - and the film was a failure" (Sidney Buchman, McBride, 360). Capra meanwhile got Sidney Buchman to rewrite Riskin's script for Lost Horizon (Buchman wasn't credited). He also wrote a script for a film about Chopin that Capra was unable to make.

Riskin's next two credited films (he contributed to H.C. Potter's The Cowboy and the Lady) were again with Capra. You Can't Take It With You (1938) brought Capra his third Oscar and Riskin yet another nomination (he would be nominated a total of five times with one being his win for It Happened One Night. All were for Capra films).


The next film would be  Meet John Doe (1941), but in the meantime, Riskin left Capra again to become Samuel Goldwyn's executive assistant, as well as "script-writer and script doctor."
From now on, nobody will need to wonder what Riskin wrote or didn't write. The 'Riskin Touch' is being publicized... As collaborators, Riskin [had] as much hand in the directing as Capra in the screen writing.
- Washington Daily News, Katherine Smith (McBride, 404)

During this time, Capra made Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and the 30 minute Cavalcade of the Academy Awards (1940).
Here is Capra, without the help of Riskin, back to his finest form - the form of Mr. Deeds. It has always been an interesting question, how much Capra owed to his faithful scenario writer. Now it is difficult to believe that Riskin's part was ever very important, for all the familiar qualities are here.
- Graham Greene (McBride, 409)

Less than a year after they had gone their separate ways, Riskin, dissatisfied with his contract with Goldwyn, accepted Capra's offer to become vice-president of the newly formed Frank Capra Productions, Inc. Their first film, Meet John Doe, was also the final film Riskin and Capra made before going their separate ways during WWII - Capra directing the famous "Why We Fight" series and "Know Your Enemy" documentaries (Capra also filmed Arsenic and Old Lace in 1941, which wasn't released until after the Broadway play's final run in 1944).

It took a war to break us up (Capra, 148).

Meet John Doe, like the post-war It's a Wonderful Life (1946), was not well received and the plans for a sequel were dropped. It also caused the Capra and Riskin to dissolve their newly-formed company. Riskin then left Hollywood to work on war propaganda films in London, which angered Capra (he felt abandoned) and ended the "friendship," though they would often see one another and keep up the pretense of being friends.
Even after they broke up, Bob never spoke critically to me about Frank. He wasn't that kind of guy.
- Tom Pryor (McBride, 441)
Although they had parted ways, each continued to impact the others career, both trying unsuccessfully to distance themselves from each other. Capra claimed that Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It's a Wonderful Life were both successes made without Riskin when in fact they both used the successful Capra-Riskin formula (McBride, 520). After the war, Capra made two films based on Riskin material - Riding High (1950), a remake of Broadway Bill, and Here Comes the Groom (1951) from a story Riskin had sold to Paramount. While the latter film was in production, Riskin suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair. He died in 1955 (shortly before his death, he was awarded the Writer's Guild's Laurel Award). To the end, despite their arguments, each man still claimed that the other was his best friend.
For the rest of the 1950s, Capra made education documentaries followed by two final films, A Hole in the Head (1959) written by Arnold Schulman and Pocketful of Miracles (1961), a remake of Lady for a Day. The rest of Capra's life was spent writing his autobiography and appearing in television specials. He died in 1991 at the age of 94.
Frank Capra's films stirred the moral and political conscience of American moviegoers, and his movies will forever be revered as American classics.

- Ronald Reagan

The following Capra-Riskin films are available on YouTube:

This post is part of The Favorite Director Blogathon hosted by myself and The Midnite Drive-In. Be sure to check out everyone else's favorite directors!

Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success. Joseph McBride. Simon & Schuster. 1992.
Frank Capra: The Name Above the Title. An autobiography. Frank Capra. MacMillan Co. 1971.