Sunday, March 11, 2018

Cinema Wedding Gowns: Wuthering Heights (1939)

Last month I watched Wuthering Heights (1939) for the first time (it was a tragic gothic romance kind of day) and was delighted to find that there was a wedding gown involved. Merle Oberon, who plays Cathy in the film, is getting married to Edgar Linton, played by David Niven. It's a doomed marriage as she really loves the penniless Heathcliff, played by the brooding Laurence Olivier. If it's one thing I've learned from the movies, it's to never marry for money if you love someone else. It usually ends in death.


Cathy's wedding dress has a full gathered skirt made of heavy satin. The short sleeve bodice has a soft v-neckline with a short attached shawl of lace, creating butterfly sleeves. A large bow adorns the front of the neckline.

A tulle veil is attached to a circlet of baby's breath. Short gloves and a small cross necklace complete the look.

In the promo shot on the right, Oberon is holding Calla lilies instead of the small bouquet shown in the film.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

New Photos of 101 Year Old Olivia de Havilland

At 101, Olivia de Havilland is the oldest Oscar-winning actress still living. And, at 101, she still isn't afraid to fight for her rights.

After the airing of the mini-series Feud: Bette and Joan last year, Olivia began a lawsuit against FX for using her name without consent and portraying her character in a negative light and potentially damaging her public image.
When ‘Feud’ was first being publicized, but before it went on the air, I was interested to see how it would portray my dear friend Bette Davis. Then friends and family started getting in touch with me, informing me that my identity was actually being represented on the program. No one from Fox had contacted me about this to ask my permission, to request my input, or to see how I felt about it. When I then learned that the Olivia de Havilland character called my sister Joan ‘a bitch’ and gossiped about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford’s personal and private relationship, I was deeply offended.
Olivia explains her reasons for initiating the lawsuit:
A large part of the reason I decided to move forward with my action against Fox is that I realize that at this stage of my life and career I am in a unique position to stand up and speak truth to power — an action that would be very difficult for a young actor to undertake. I believe in the right to free speech, but it certainly must not be abused by using it to protect published falsehoods or to improperly benefit from the use of someone’s name and reputation without their consent. Fox crossed both of these lines with ‘Feud,’ and if it is allowed to do this without any consequences, then the use of lies about well-known public figures masquerading as the truth will become more and more common. This is not moral and it should not be permitted.
Both of these quotes and more about the lawsuit can be read in this article published yesterday in the New York Times. The most exciting part about the article however, was the inclusion of two new photographs of our beloved Olivia that were taken at her home in Paris last month. She is absolutely stunning! I just had to share them ♥♥♥

Friday, March 2, 2018

Robert Ryan: His Early Life and Career

When the name Robert Ryan is mentioned, the first image that comes to mind is a man with a hard glint in his eye and a menacing tone in his voice. But the man behind the oftentimes villainous character was a kind and quiet man at heart, content spending time with his wife and children and avoiding the Hollywood party scene.

My re-introduction to Robert Ryan was as a teacher at an all boys school in Her Twelve Men (the first film I saw with him in it was Flying Leathernecks but all I remembered about that movie is that his character and John Wayne's character did not get along. My second was Men in War which I watched for Aldo Ray...). I thought to myself, "Oh look, he plays a good guy in this movie." Even though I had hardly seen any of his films, I knew he was usually a bad guy.

I followed this film some months later with Tender Comrade (1943) in which he is the romantic lead in Ginger Roger's flashbacks. I fell in love with his character. And then Ryan. And then I started watching any film of his that showed up on TCM. And then I had to read his biography.

I was happy to learn that Ryan's personal life was quiet and scandal-free. Born Robert Bushnell Ryan on Nov. 11, 1909, Bob lived a happy childhood in Uptown, Illinois until the death of his younger brother at the age of six of lobar pneumonia. His life was lonely after that and he spent much of his time reading. His father signed him up for boxing lessons to help draw him out, which Bob loved. "Athletic prowess did a lot for my ego and my acceptance in school. The ability to defend yourself lessens the chance you'll ever have to use it."

Bob Ryan as a child

Bob also spent a lot of time at the movies - he never missed a Douglas Fairbanks picture. Aside from his fascination with how movies were made, it was also a way to get away from the smothering affections of his parents. "You cannot know the difficulties that attend an only child. Two big grown-ups are beaming in on him all the time - even when he isn't there. It is a feeling of being watched that lingers throughout life."

Bob as a football player for Loyola Academy

An Irish-Catholic, Bob attended Loyola Academy, during which time played football, becoming an All-City tackle his senior year. He also joined the literary society and wrote for the school's magazine The Prep.
Truly, I may say that a man's best friends are his books. Your companions may desert you, but your books will remain with you always and will never cease to be that source of enjoyment that they were when you first received them.
Bob's favorite book was Hamlet, which he memorized and which made him consider becoming a playwright instead of joining the family construction business.

After graduation, Bob spent the summer working on a dude ranch in Montana before heading to New Hampshire for his first year at Dartmouth. While there he won the school their first heavyweight title in boxing. During the first semester of his second year he suffered a football injury which caused his already average grades to drop. He left at the end of the semester and headed back home where he held odd jobs before returning to Dartmouth the following autumn. He defended the heavyweight title for two years, retiring from boxing in his senior year to focus more on literature

"Rum, Rebellion, and Ryan."
That was Bob's slogan when he ran for class marshal during Prohibition.

The stock market crash and some scandals with his families business made Bob even more determined not to join after graduation. He lived with a friend and tried out playwriting, did a little modeling to make extra cash, and worked a s a sandhog on the Hudson River. He even went in with friends on a gold mine, but pulled out when he realized it wasn't going anywhere.

In 1936 his father died and Bob returned home to take care of his mother. He tried to work at the family business but became frustrated with the way his life was going. It wasn't until a friend persuaded him to try acting that his life would change.
I never even thought of acting until I was twenty-eight. The first minute I got on the stage, I thought, 'Bing! This is it!'
Bob immediately signed up for acting classes and set his sights on Hollywood. He made the move to Los Angeles in 1938 and joined the Reinhardt School where he met his future wife, Jessica Cadwalader, a Quaker. The head of the school, Max Reinhardt, saw something in Bob and became his personal teacher as well as an important figure in his life, teaching him many things that he would carry with him for the rest of his career.

In 1939, Bob and Jessica wed. At the beginning things were rough, but after being noticed in the play Too Many Husbands, Bob secured a contract with Paramount where he was given several small parts. He was let go after six months, after which the Ryan's packed up and went to New York. The couple played in several theaters before Tallulah Bankhead saw him perform and picked him out to play a small role in Clash By Night with her (he would later play a bigger role in the 1952 film version with Barbara Stanwyck).

At the Robin Hood Theatre in Delaware, 1941.

The play made it's Broadway debut shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, causing the paly to close after forty-nine performances. Bob got good reviews from the critics and soon had a contract with RKO, where he held small roles in Patriotic pictures, most notably as a boxer in Behind the Rising Sun (1943). His break came when he was given a role in Tender Comrade (1943) as Ginger Rogers husband (see the opening scene in the video at the top of this post).

Bob's performance garnered him a spread in the April 1944 Photoplay.
I've never felt so at-home in a role in my life. Y'know, a lot of those scenes are retakes of things that have happened between Jessica and myself.
Ginger Rogers was skeptical when Bob was first suggested for the role, thinking his deeply lined face "too mean looking" as well as the major height difference - he was 6'4" to her 5'4". But after doing some scenes together she slipped a note to producer David Hempstead "I think this is the guy." Bob kept that note the rest of his life.
After completing one more picture, Marine Raiders (1943), Bob himself was finally called into service, with a promise that he would still have a job at RKO after the war. He joined the Marines and escaped the ragging that was typical of movie stars in the armed forces because, as a bunkmate said, "Most of these guys saw you beat that Jap in Behind the Rising Sun."
After completing basic training, Bob was frustrated to learn he would be recreation assistant and later a combat conditioner, teaching boxing, judo, and swimming. Jessica, who had quit acting and was writing for magazines at the time, was relieved. She moved near the San Diego base where Bob was stationed and started work on her first mystery, The Man Who Asked Why. In 1945, shortly before the end of the war, she found out she was pregnant.
Bob was honorably discharged on October 30, 1945 and was immediately put into his next picture, The Woman on the Beach (1947), directed by Jean Renoir. Bob played Scott, a Coast Guard suffering from shell-shock whose job is to patrol the foggy Pacific coast. He meets a woman (Joan Bennett) who is married to a blind artist (Charles Bickford) and they start an affair. Scott becomes convinced that Bickford is just pretending to be blind and takes him for a walk near the cliffs. Bickford falls off the cliff but escapes with only minor injuries. Scott then realizes what he's doing is wrong and breaks things off. In the end, Bennett goes back to her husband. Unfortunately the picture was cut and re-edited and so the final product did not do well at the box-office and it is evident that, while the film starts off strongly, it could have been a masterpiece.
Working with him [Renoir] opened my eyes to aspects of character that were subtler than those I was accustomed to.
On April 13, 1946, Jessica gave birth to Timothy. Bob was in between pictures and spent many happy days with his little son and wife. The couple preferred to stay away from the Hollywood scene and when they did entertain it was family and close friends only.
Bob with his son Timothy. 

While in the Marines, Bob had read a book titled The Brick Foxhole that featured a racist, homophobic character who, as a cop, enjoyed beating up and killing blacks and Jews. As a man who would later fight for equal rights and the end of prejudice, he was interested in the book as a film and met with the author, Richard Brooks, to tell him that if it was ever made into a movie, he wanted to play that character. In 1946, RKO purchased the rights and Bob begged for the part. The film, Crossfire, would also star Robert Young as the policeman investigating the murder of a Jewish man and Robert Mitchum as a fellow soldier who is brought in by the police to help find the murderer.
Mr. Dmytryk has handled most excellently a superlative cast which plays the drama. Robert Ryan is frighteningly real as the hard, sinewy, loud-mouthed, intolerant and vicious murderer (NY Times).
I like how Ryan plays the bad guy yet he's the only one smiling in this cast picture.
Crossfire is a frank spotlight on anti-Semitism. Producer Dore Schary, in association with Adrian Scott, has pulled no punches. There is no skirting such relative fol-de-rol as intermarriage or clubs that exclude Jews. Here is a hard-hitting film whose whodunit aspects are fundamentally incidental to the overall thesis of bigotry and race prejudice (Variety).
The role could have meant the end of Bob's career, yet while he was in Berlin shooting his next picture, Berlin Express (1948) with Merle Oberon, the film had broken box-office records (it beat Gentleman's Agreement, another film that addressed anti-Semitism, to release by a few months). Bob was nominated for an Best Supporting Actor Oscar but lost to Edmund Gwenn for his role as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Despite not winning, the role was just what his career needed.

Bob's next big role, and maybe my favorite film of his, was as an embittered ex-soldier in Act of Violence (1948) co-starring Van Heflin, Janet Leigh, Mary Astor, and Phyllis Thaxter. I watched it twice in the span of a couple of months and it was just as captivating the second time as it was the first. Frank Enley (Heflin) is known as a war hero in his town and to his wife, Edith (Leigh). But he's hiding a dark secret that only Joe Parkson (Ryan) knows: he ratted out his friends while being held prisoners in a Nazi POW camp in exchange for food, leading to the death of all but Joe. Now Joe is out for revenge, following Frank across the country with the plan to kill him. You can read about the making of the film here.

TCM Tribute to Robert Ryan

Well, this post is turning out a lot longer than I anticipated so I am going to divide it into two parts. Look out for the next part in two weeks on the 17th!
Also to look forward to: keep an eye out for my post on On Dangerous Ground for The Good Cop, Bad Cop Blogathon at the end of the month and "The Westerns of Robert Ryan" on April 14 for The Great Western Blogathon (I'm pretty much using any excuse I can to write about Ryan). You can also read my post on Her Twelve Men (1954).

Robert Ryan movies airing on TCM:

March 7 - Return of the Bad Men (1948) & Trail Street (1947)
March 9 - The Dirty Dozen (1967
March 17 - Crossfire (1947)

There are also a handful of his films on YouTube that can be found by searching "Robert Ryan Full Movies."

The Lives of Robert Ryan. Jones, J.R. Wesleyan University Press, Middleton, CT. 2015.

This post is part of the Free for All Blogathon hosted by CineMaven's Essays From the Couch. Be sure to check out what everyone else wrote about for this fun and unique blogathon!

As always, CineMaven made cool personal banners for everyone ♥

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Movies I Watched in February

Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938)

This month I watched my first Anna May Wong film, my second Astaire/Rogers film (I liked this one MUCH better than Top Hat) and saw Wuthering Heights (1939) for the first time. I was excited that several Jean Simmons films were aired on TCM for her birthday.

Here's what I watched this month (* means I've seen it before):
  1. Shanghai Express (1932) - Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong
  2. Swing Time (1936) - Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers
  3. Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938) - Gary Cooper & Claudette Colbert, David Niven
  4. Wuthering Heights (1939) - Laurence Olivier & Merle Oberon, David Niven, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Flora Robson
  5. Skylark (1941) - Claudette Colbert, Ray Milland, Brian Aherne 
  6. The Little Foxes (1941) - Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, Teresa Wright, Dan Duryea
  7. Corvette K-225 (1943) - Randolph Scott, James Brown, Ella Raines, Barry Fitzgerald 
  8. Cry ‘Havoc’ (1943) - Maureen Sullavan, Ann Sothern, Joan Blondell, Marsha Hunt, Ella Raines
  9. Action in the North Atlantic (1943) - Raymond Massey, Humphrey Bogart, Dane Clark, Alan Hale
  10. Confidential Agent (1945) - Charles Boyer & Lauren Bacall
  11. Roughly Speaking (1945) - Rosalind Russell & Jack Carson
  12. The Beginning or the End (1947) - Brian Dunlevy, Hume Cronyn, Robert Walker, Tom Drake, Audrey Totter
  13. Crossfire (1947) - Robert Ryan, Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Gloria Grahame
  14. Neptune’s Daughter (1949) - Esther Williams, Red Skelton, Ricardo Montalbon, Betty Garrett
  15. The Green Promise (1949) - Walter Brennan, Natalie Wood
  16. Battleground (1949) - Van Johnson, John Hodiak, George Murphy, Ricardo Montalbon
  17. Mystery Street (1950) - Ricardo Montalbon
  18. *Flying Leathernecks (1951) - John Wayne, Robert Ryan
  19. On Dangerous Ground (1953) - Robert Ryan & Ida Lupino, Ward Bond
  20. Affair with a Stranger (1953) - Victor Mature & Jean Simmons
  21. *We’re No Angels (1955) - Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, Aldo Ray
  22. Interrupted Melody (1955) - Eleanor Parker & Glenn Ford, Roger Moore 
  23. This Could Be the Night (1957) - Jean Simmons, Paul Douglas, Anthony Franciosa
  24. Home Before Dark (1958) - Jean Simmons, Rhonda Fleming
  25. Mon Oncle (1958 - French) - Jacques Tati 
  26. The Prize (1963) - Paul Newman, Edward G. Robinson
  27. Gambit (1967) - Michael Caine & Shirley MacLaine
  28. *27 Dresses (2008) - Katharine Heigl & James Marsden 
  29. My Cousin Rachel (2017) - Rachel Weisz 
Least Favorite Movies: Cry 'Havoc' and Confidential Agent were dark and depressing (and Lauren Bacall's acting was terrible in the latter).

Favorite Movies: Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife was a delight from start to finish, Battleground was breathtaking in it's cinematography and emotional in it's portrayal of average men preforming above average duties, Roughly Speaking was touching and made me fall in love with Jack Carson, Home Before Dark was a psychological masterpiece I couldn't stop watching, and Mystery Street was fascinating in it's portrayal of what police procedure and forensics looked like at the start of the 50s.

Battleground (1949)