Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Stars We Lost in 2017

As is usually the case at the end of the year, one's thoughts tend to look back at those who will not be joining us in the New Year. We lost some major Television and Movie Stars this year as well as the beloved Robert Osborne, everyone's favorite Film Historian and adopted uncle. Please join me in this small tribute to them all.
Jan. 25 - The year started with one of the two biggest blows to me personally of the year when we lost the trailblazing Mary Tyler Moore. I wrote about how she has impacted my life on my TV Blog.
Jan. 26 - The very next day Classic Television was dealt another blow with the passing of Barbara Hale, the ever faithful Della Street from Perry Mason.
March 6 - The death of Robert Osborne, beloved TCM Host and friend to all Classic Movie lovers, was an especially painful event that I had hoped wouldn't happen for many years to come. He's truly irreplaceable and I'm getting choked up just writing this.
 March 23 - Lola Albright found more success as a guest star on television than she did in movies. Her most notable film performance was opposite Kirk Douglas in Champion (1949). She appears as one of Frank Sinatra's many girlfriends in The Tender Trap (1955) and as Edie Hart, a nightclub singer, in Peter Gunn (1958-61). She was 92 when she died.

April 6 - Another memorable personality we lost this past year was Don Rickles, who wasn't afraid to poke fun at anything or anybody. Prolific in both film and television, he's made people laugh for years and years.

May 22 - The sophisticated Dina Merrill, who brought class to such films as Desk Set (1957), Operation Petticoat (1959), and The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963), was 93 when she died. She was the second wife of Cliff Robertson and was one of the founders of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation as well as a director of Project Orbis, a flying ophthalmological hospital that teaches advanced eye care and performs surgical techniques around the world.

May 23 - Sir Roger Moore, best known as the second James Bond (which he played successfully seven times), also had several famous television characters, most notably as the title character in The Saint (1962-69) and as Beau Maverick in Maverick.

June 9 - Everyone's favorite Batman (or at least mine) was another big loss when Adam West passed away at the age of 88. A few days later, the Bat-Signal was beamed onto City Hall in LA as a tribute.

July 15 - Martin Landau, famous for his role in Alfred Hitchcock's North By Northwest (1959), was 89 when he died. He guest starred in many television shows and played Rollin Hand in Mission: Impossible (1966-69).

July 16 - June Foray was best known for her voice work as both Rocky and Natasha Fatale in "Rocky & Bullwinkle," Granny in the Warner Bros. Cartoons, and Little Cindy Lou Who from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. She was 99.

July 31 - Jeanne Moreau, the face of the French New Wave and an icon, died at the age of 89 in Paris. She is most famous for Jules and Jim (1962).

Aug. 20 - Jerry Lewis, nicknamed "The King of Comedy" and the other half of the Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis duo, was known for his crazy facial expressions and slapstick roles, most famously The Nutty Professor (1963). Other famous films are At War with the Army (1950) and, my personal favorite, The Bellboy (1960). He was 91 and was still working.

Aug. 31 - Richard Anderson, best remembered for his role of Oscar Goldman in The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman television series, both which ran in the early to late 1970s. He also appeared in such films as Escape From Fort Bravo (1953), Forbidden Planet (1956) and The Long, Hot Summer (1958).

Oct. 17 - Another icon of French cinema, Danielle Darrieux, also passed away last year. She had just turned 100 and had one of the longest film careers in history spanning eight decades. She is best known for The Earrings of Madame De... (1953) and The Rage of Paris (1938).

Dec. 24 - Last year, Charmian Carr was the first of the on-screen Von Trapp family to pass away. This year Heather Menzies, who played the second daughter Louisa in The Sound of Music (1965), died at the age of 68 of brain cancer.
 Dec. 28 - The final blow of the year was the sudden death of Rose Marie, best known for her role as Sally on The Dick Van Dyke Show. A fun and diverting presence on Facebook and Twitter, her last tweet was a mere 40 minutes before her passing. This year was a big one for her as a documentary of her 94 year life, Wait For Your Laugh, was recently released to huge successes. It's still making it's way around the country and will soon be released on DVD with Special Features including one of the hour long Q&A sessions Rose Marie attended after one of the screenings. The biggest condolence is knowing that she is now in heaven with her beloved husband, whom she lost during The Dick Van Dyke Show years.

Dec. 29 - I spoke to soon. Peggy Cummins became the final loss of 2017 when she died at the age of 92 in London. With only 28 credits to her name, she is best remembered for her femme fatale role in Gun Crazy (1950). I have only seen her in The Late George Apley (1947).

May they rest in peace.

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!