Where Would We Be Without Villains? The Great Villain Blogaton 2017

Seriously, why would Billionaire Bruce Wayne ever need to put on the Batman suit if it wasn’t for the flavor of the week, villain?  Of course, he could wear it for Halloween or to attend a ComicCon convention, or even if he is a bit kinky in the bedroom.  But let’s face it, without a villain, a big part of who Wayne is would fade away.  The Batman would retire and not be needed anymore. He would probably end up as a CEO of various corporations worrying about profit margins and his trophy wife’s spending budget. The fact is that day agendas of the superrich is not as exciting as stopping a maniac from destroying the world.  The spice of life is making the world a better place for everyone and all living creatures. Simply, in the world of the arts, we need villains; so, men and women can become heroes.

One of my favorite Batman (1966 -1968) villains is Vincent Price as the Egghead.  To me, Price is the ultimate Villain.  He has great screen present with that low menacing voice and an evil laugh to die for. According to many actors, playing a villain is a lot of fun.  On the Batman set, Price actually started an egg fight with the other actors and crew.  He must have been a lot of fun to work with.  I often wondered if they cast him as Egghead because he was a was an actual gourmet chef, besides being an remarkable actor. Sometimes, villains can resemble other villains too.  Don’t you think Tom Hardy’s Bad boy Bronson looks a little like Egghead in these pictures?

Now that I have discussed the need for villains, on to the next questions which are: How is a villain defined; and, what is an example of a great villain? To find a working definition, I used the meaning of the word, nemesis.  In Greek mythology, Nemesis is the Greek goddess of indignation against undeserved good fortune. She is the goddess of fairness and a balanced proportion of reward.  In other words, she is the goddess of “sour grapes” and “that’s not fair” emotions.  This is the basic ingredient to the making of a villain.  It is also something that all humans have experienced, to some degree.

So, I believe it is safe to say that there must be a little villain in all of us.  You probably heard the Native American story of two dogs fighting within the soul of every man.  One is evil and the other is good. The kind of man you are depends on which dog wins the fight: one is a hero and the other is a villain.

Maybe this is why we have such guilty pleasure while watching our favorite villain on film.  The elements of a great villain is purely conjecture. However, I believe they must share similar characteristics with the hero.  Usually, they have:

  1. A Brilliant Mind
  2. Are Wealthy (at some point)
  3. Obsessive
  4. Have Unique Personality Traits
  5. Ingenious Plans and Strategies
  6. Some Minions or A Sidekick
  7. A Public or Secret Identity
  8. A Strong sense of a Wrong that must be Righted
  9. A Willingness To Sacrifice All In Order To Win

My favorite film villains are on a long list.  However, as I mentioned before, Vincent Price is at the top.  Price appeared in over 100 movies and has over 200 film credits to his name. They range from documentaries to voice overs. His voice overs include Saturday Morning cartoons, Scooby-Doo and the Thirteen Ghosts (1985);  animated Disney movie, The Great Mouse Detective (1986) and Tim Burton’s short Vincent (1982). This also includes work in the music industry.  For instance, his voice was recorded on rocker Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare album and in pop star Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982).

When it comes to film acting,  he is in superb company with the likes of Sir Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.  As a matter of fact, all three of them appeared in two horror movies together: Scream and Scream Again (1970) and House of Long Shadows (1983). Lee and Price were in a total of 4 films together and shared the same birthday, May 27th.  Price is ten years senior to Lee. Crushing’s birthday was May 26th and was 2 years younger than Price.

With a film career that spanned over 50 years, there are many great movies starring the villainous Price. To choose only one as a favorite is near impossible. However, there is one movie that I thought went beyond the pale in regards to horror movies. I first saw it in the 80s even though it came out in 1971: The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

This movie is described as a comedy-horror movie.  I did laugh quite often watching it, as well as being shocked and “grossed out…”   Yes, it truly was a lot of fun. The movie begins with a hooded dark figure who is playing a console organ on a platform with a red curtain background.  After all the credits roll by, the hooded figure finishes his song and steps off the platform onto a ballroom floor.

There are some doll-like figures with various musical instruments in their hands.  He (Phibes) places coin in a slot and turns a crank. They start to play their instruments while he begins to lead the small orchestra into playing a beautiful melody.  Then, a door opens and a gorgeous exotic women (Virginia North) sauntered down the steps. She approaches the conductor (Price); and, they begin to waltz around the room as the orchestra of robot dolls continues to play.

Once this new tune stops, the lady leaves.  The hooded figure lowers a covered bird-cage through a hole in the ballroom floor.  On the lower level is a car garage.  We see a fashionably dress lady receiving the cage.  As she places it in a car, the dark hooded man takes a seat in the back of the car.

In the next scene, an elderly gentleman is reading a newspaper in bed. His apartment is lavishly furnished.  Once he is asleep, we see a ceiling skylight window being slowly opened.  Gloved hands are gently lowering the covered bird-cage into his room. A few minutes later, the empty cage and its cover is pulled up by the same rope that lowered it into the room. The sleeping gentleman is awaken by an odd scratchy, sucky noise.  Soon, we see him being attacked by bats. The man is bitten to death by hundreds of bats in his London flat.

When Scotland Yard shows up, they are completely shocked and puzzled by the bats in his room and with the manner of his death. As inspector Trout (Peter Jeffery) says it: He was shredded to death.  Right here in the heart of London. Tom, the other inspector, remarks that it is the second strange death of a doctor in a week.  The other doctor/victim was discovered with boils all over his body made from Bee stings.  Inspector Trout asks: Bees in his Library?

So, 34 minutes into the movie, we have 4 doctors murdered in bizarre ways; and, Dr. Phibes has not uttered the first word; but, his music is great.  During another murder, a clue is found by the inspectors.  A necklace with a Hebrew symbol  attached to an emblem was accidentally dropped at one of the crime scenes. It symbolized one of the ten curses/ plagues that God delivered to a pharaoh of ancient Egypt.  Which is kind of funny because Vincent Price played a baddie working for the same pharaoh in The Ten Commandments (1956) with Charlton Heston.

The inspectors are told by Dr. Vesalius, Joseph Cotton, that he found the connection to all murdered doctors, which included himself.  We learn that nine doctors had the same patient; Victoria Phibes; and, she died six minutes into surgery. Her husband, Dr. Phibes, raced to the hospital to be by her side; but, had a car accident.  His car plummets over a cliff, catches fire and blows up. Vesailus was the head surgeon.

Did he really die in that accident? Was that Dr. Phibes body in the coffin?  Or, was it someone else? It has been suggested that this is a spoof about avenging oneself against the medical industry.  In light of the medical profession today, I can understand the analogy.  Just a note, this is not the first time Price and Cotton were in the same movie. Cotton starred in Laura (1944) along with costar Price.

Without spoiling the ending for those who have not seen this film, I really urge you to watch this 70s movie classic.  Yes, it is dated; and, yes, the graphics may look silly compared to today’s films made with CGI and green screens; however, it is still a fun experience to watch and when it is all said and done, that is all that matters anyway.

This post is part of The Great Villain Blogathon 2017.   Please read about more film Villains using the following links.  Many thanks to the three blog sites who hosted The Great Villain  Blogathan 2017: Shadows and Satin, Sliver Screenings and Speakeasy.

https://hqofk.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/the-great-villain-blogathon-2017-day-2-recap/

https://shadowsandsatin.wordpress.com

The Great Villain Blogathon 2017 – Day 2 Recap

Villains 2017

I do not own any of these images

References

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villain

 

Goin’ South with Jack Nicholson

There are only a few Western comedies that I like:  I enjoy Mel Brooks Blazzing  Saddles (1987) with Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little and Paleface (1955) with Bob Hope and Jane Russell.

However, neither of these have an authentic Western feel to them. Which is one of the reasons why Goin’ South (1988) with Jack Nicholson and Mary Steenburgen has been added to my personal Best List.  This movie has all the standard elements that is in a Western Hollywood movie: cowboys, outlaws, a posse, bar room fights,  saloon gals, shoot outs, rail road building, bank foreclosures, Mexicans and Indians, romance, jealous suitors, love for a horse ( named Speed), etc…. Even with all the Hollywood fanfare, Goin’ South has more.

This movie has  some historical content within its sense of time and place.  The time is during the late 1860s – 1870s and the place is a Texan town, near Mexican border. One of the reasons that it seems so realistic is due to the filming location.  Along with some film history, the location used was in  Durango, Mexico.  This was John Wayne’s favorite filming location. The town is basically the same  set Wayne used for the movie Chisum (1970). They only changed some colors and signs.

Another aspect of the authenticity of this film is the historical background of the character, Henry Moon.  He once rode with the infamous Quantrill’s Raiders who became an embarrassment to the Confederate government during the Civil War (1861 – 1865).  The Raiders followed the command of William Quantrill who basically did what ever he wanted to do.  Under his command, they perfected the use of guerilla warfare successfully against Northern Union troops. However, when Quantrill led a retaliation raid against Northern sympathizers, and massacred 180 civilian men and boys, the Confederate government decommissioned Quantrill (1863).  Eventually, Quantrill loses control of his men (known as Bushwhackers); and, they  split up into smaller bands of outlaws.

From one of these groups, a smaller group of outlaw gangs emerges. It is the infamous gang is known as the  James – Younger Gang (Jesse and Frank James’ gang).  To many Southern people, these outlaws were heroes still fighting the war against the corrupted North and their carpetbaggers ( unscrupulous opportunists). This is one of the reasons they were able to elude the law.  Many southern home welcomed these outlaws and hid them too.

Henry Moon wanted to ride with the Younger Gang; but they didn’t think Moon was cunning enough to keep up with their criminal standards. They were probably right.  Henry decided to  start his own outlaw gang of thieves, the Moon Gang.  Hollywood has given these Raiders much attention over the years.  Here are just a few, who rode with Quantrill on film.

 

Another historical bit of authenticity in this movie, is the town ordinance.  It is now estimated that over 750,000 men were killed during the Civil War. In the 11 Southern states that fought the war, it created a shortage of eligible marrying men. To help the womenfolks and the procreation of the Southern population, some towns had a special ordinance to save a man (not for a murder) from execution. Some people might have preferred the rope when compared to the idea of marrying. Henry Moon was not one of those people.

Nicholson Directs and Stars

This is Jack Nicholson’s second film as Director and his first, of two films, with him as a leading man and director. This project was not planned this way.  Nicholson only wanted to Direct this film. Fortunately, things didn’t work out as planned.  I cannot imagine anyone else playing the role of Henry Lloyd Moon (horse thief) as brilliantly as Nicholson.  This performance is pure Jack, TNT.  There is a lot of manic energy and fun when Moon makes himself act a fool just for the fun of it.  He can also be crass and appalling while at the same time make you laugh so hard that tears appear in the corner of your eyes.  Nicholson’s performance comes across like a shot of whisky: a bit strong at first, then soothes to a delightful perfection.

One the best decisions Nicholson made as a director is making sure that Mary Steenburgen received the female lead in his film.  As a working waitress and trying to break into show business, she auditioned for the part of Julia Tate.  While waiting in the casting office, she briefly met Nicholson.  He  gave her one page to read.  That page grew to many pages of reading; until, three hours later, she was hired.  This film is her debut appearance in a major motion picture.

The Plot

Henry Moon is a criminal about to be hanged as a horse thief.  In the old west, there was nothing as low as a horse thief.  As a matter of fact, some people thought hanging was too good for them.  However, after the Civil War (1860 – 1864), there is shortage of men.  In some western towns, there was a town Ordinance that allowed a property-owning woman to save a man from being hanged provided they got married.  Once married, the redeemed man was required to stay on probation for the rest of his natural life.  Meaning, he must never break the law.  This includes no alcohol consumption, no beating his wife, no gambling, or running away. For some, this would probably be a true test to their character. For Henry Moon, this was “down right” impossible.

The movie begins with a posse chasing Moon on his trusty steed, Speed.  They race over a dusty Texan terrain.  Moon is trying to reach the Rio Grande; so, he can cross over into Mexico. Texan law men cannot arrest him there.  Moon is barely ahead of them as he and Speed continue to swim/walk/run across a small section of the river. Once on the other side, Speed exhaustively falls down. Moon is excitedly jumps around and screams like a maniac: We made it. You can’t touch me.  The law men continue their pursuit and ride through the river.  They promptly rope the running Henry Moon to the ground and arrest him and his horse.

While awaiting his execution, Moon isn’t aware of the town ordnance for saving a condemned man (as long as he is not a murderer). So, when groups of ladies come in to “get a gander” of him, Moon is verbally abusive to them.  He said he felt like a caged animal on display.  Besides being on exhibit, Henry only visitors is his outlaw gang.  He was hoping for them to break him out of jail.  Sadly, they were not up to saving poor old Moon.  They just came to say goodbye and  see if he had anything that he wanted to give to them before he left this earth.  Moon’s gang is composed of one woman, Hermine, (Victoria Cartwright) and three men: Hog (Danny DeVito), Big Abe (Jeff Morris) and Coogan (Tracey Walter).  DeVito would later direct Nicholson in Hoffa (1992).

Sheriff Andrew Kyle (Richard Bradford), lets Moon know it is time for him to go and proceeds to explain the town ordinance to him too.  Moon realizes too late that is the reason all those women coming in to have a look at him.  After all the insults the town’s women endured by Moon, most of them wanted to see him hang.

The first time Julia Tate (Mary Steenburgen) sees Henry Moon, he is standing on a Scaffold with a thick rope around his neck and his hands tied behind his back.  He is begging for any women to take him and save his life.  Two saloon girls, sitting in chairs are watching the hanging event from the end of the street. One remarks to the other one:  This one is pretty stupid.  He is sure to hang.

There is one fragile, elderly widow, Frances, who is moved by Henry’s pleas. She claims him for her own. The Sheriff reminds her that she is a “mite elderly” to be a bride. Frances does care because “he was a veteran of the war; and, he deserved a second chance.” Henry is so elated that after the rope is removed from around his neck, he jumps down and gives her a cuddle.  She is so overwhelmed; her heart stops beating; and, she kneels over dead.

Video clip of elderly Florence savings Moon from a hanging

As they are dragging poor old disappointed Moon back up to the scaffold, soft-spoken, Julia claims him for marriage. Everyone is in shock.  The Sheriff asks her several times if she drunk.  Deputy Sheriff Towfield (Christopher Lloyd) is in unbelief because he has begged Julia to go out with him for a date; and she refuses. Don’t worry about Lloyd getting the girl because he does later in the film Back to the Future III  (1990) as the Professor falls in love with the schoolmarm (Steenburgen).

Mary Steenburgen’s  is totally convincing as the shy, refined and secretive Julia.  Julia Tate is a young lady who sees her marriage to Moon as a marriage of convenience for a business transaction, only.  She is no more attracted to Moon than she was to the Deputy Sheriff Towfield. In other words, the marriage is a sham, not real.

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The wedding ceremony
south
The Newlyweds and their neighbors

Once the couple is married, Julia wastes no time in letting Henry know why she married him.  She needed him as a laborer to work her secret mine.  They only had 30 days before the bank foreclosed on her property.  At the same time, the government was taking her land under Eminent Domain law; since, they needed to build a railroad through the property too.  So, she had to put up with a noisy land surveyor from the railroads while she was trying to keep her gold mine a secret.

As Julia is explaining all of this to Henry, he knows all too well how all of this is going to work out.  He asks her if her recently deceased father believed there was gold in this secret mine.  Julia tells him that her father did not “believe enough.”  Henry says, “Sounds like he was the brains in the family.”

As if the two don’t have enough problems, the neighbors come over to welcome Henry and to advise the newly weds on what married people do best. Little do they know that this newlywed couple have no plans to consummate their marriage.  One lady even goes as far as telling Julia if she is uncomfortable during copulation: Just think of canning peaches. Moon is very disappointed when he finds out Julia does not want to can peaches with him.  To add more stress to Henry’s unfulfilled desires about his bride, he discovers that she was a virgin too.  Not since the African Queen (1951), has there been such an unlikely romantic pairing as Henry Moon and Julia Tate.

So, as they work the mine, hating each other and sometimes, really liking each other, they discover gold.  Now, this is a business partnership Moon can really get behind.  They work as fast as they can and decide to take some of the gold to town to lock up in a box at the bank.  Just like vultures who smell dead meat so does Moon’s old gang smell gold.  They make a surprise visit bringing gifts of alcohol.  Non-drinking Julia gets drunk and lets it slip about the gold.  Henry, being Henry, makes a deal to betray Julia behind her back.  But, he soon realizes he has fallen in love.  The question is does she love him? And for that, I hope you watch the movie for yourself to find out.

Christopher Lloyd is his usual quirky, funny self.  Unfortunately, John Belushi is not. I hate to say it because I really like Belushi’ s work.; but, his talents were wasted in this movie.  His character was underdeveloped; and, he used a  stereotypical Mexican accent which is not funny to me.  He had just completed Animal House the same year as this movie.  Although he was a well-known comedian on television’s Saturday Night Live (1975) he was not a film star yet. Goin’ South was he second movie; and, it was released after Animal House was released.

lloyd-and-belushi-in-south

Some Behind the Scenes Drama

Apparently, Nicholson and Belushi constantly clash on set.  It must have been difficult for both of them.  When Belushi was asked how he liked working with Nicholson the Director, he said: In the end, Jack treated me like shit on Goin’ South.  I hate him. When Nicholson was asked what he thought of the director, he said: The Director of this film is one selfish demanding egomaniac.  And the leading man isn’t much better. 

In truth, Nicolson treated his cast as extended family on set.  According to the producers of the movie, Belushi had a “short fuse” and was constantly fighting with them. When they did not give in to his petty demands, he sulked.  The more his sulked; the less his role became.  This is unfortunate because it would have been interesting to see what his totally engaged talents would have done in the final outcome of this movie.

When Christopher Lloyd was attended a Back to The Future Convention in 2016, he was asked which movie did he have the most fun making.  He said, Goin’ South; and, he wished more people knew about it.  That is “one fun little movie.” I couldn’t agree more Mr. Lloyd.

Happy 80th Birthday Mr. Nicholson, this  April 22, 2017.  This is part of a Jack’s 80th Birthday Blogathon hosed by Gill at Realweegiemidget.  Thank you Gill for such a lovely invite to your Blogathon.  I hope you, the reader,  will want to read more posts about  other Nicholson films.  I almost did this blog on “The Last Detail” (1973) which is my number one Nicholson movie.  So, I am really looking forward to reading  the blogs at this site. Just click on the link below to find more about this amazingly, gifted actor and Director and his work.

https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/

jack42

References:

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/4597/Goin-South/articles.html

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077621/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2

http://www.binghamton.edu/history/docs/Hacker-Hilde-Jones_Civil%20War.pdf

 

Second Golden Boy Blogathon: William Holden in Born Yesterday (1950)

William Holden (1918 – 1981) was an unknown in Hollywood in 1938; yet, he was given the desperately sought after lead in boxing movie, Golden Boy (1939).  Upon its released, it became an instant success, and so did Holden. This was his screen debut; and, much of his success he gallantly attributed to his co-star Barbara Stanwyck, who took the 20-year-old under her wing. From 1939 to the year of his his death, on April 1st, he sent her flowers as a reminder that he will always be thankful for her friendship and support. This speaks volumes about the character of William Holden.

Unfortunately, my appreciation of Holden came much later in my life.  Part of the reason why I didn’t get caught up in the awe-inspiring Holden might be because of my mother.  They belonged to the same generation.  She was born in March; and, he was born in April of the same year. I avoided most of his movies because I didn’t understand my Mom’s enthusiasm over his work.  As a typical teenager in angst, I wanted to distance myself from my mother’s tastes and opinions. During the 60s and 70s, there truly was a generation gap.

To my mother, Holden always appeared young, talented, and engaging

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She also saw him as the romantic, handsome actor in a leading role.

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I tried to watch one of his movies on television when I was ten years old.  I watched Stalag 17 (1953). Realistically, I was too young to understand this WWII war movie.  As a kid, I heard so much about him that it was like watching a family member suffering at the hands of his “friends.”  When he received a brutal beating for being an assumed traitor, it traumatized me. Now, it sounds silly; but at that time, it was painful.  After that experience,  I didn’t want to watch any of his movies again.  That is, until 35 years later.

When my mother passed away in 2002,  I stayed home from work, sick. Needing a distraction from feeling miserable, I turned on the television and began watching Turner Movie Classics (TMC).  It was airing Born Yesterday (1950).  As I watched it, I thought about my mom and what her reaction might have been as she had watched it.  Then, I started to laugh. Eventually, I enjoyed the movie for its own merits.

Like most people, as I have matured, so has my tastes and perceptions. For me, William Holden’s work became an acquired taste.  Now, each time when I watch one of his movies, I marvel at how wonderful he is on the screen.  Born Yesterday (1950) was the first movie that I truly enjoyed watching. Then, came Sabrina (1954) followed by Stalag 17 (1953), again! He won his only Oscar for his role in this movie. But, the best movie, for me was Sunset Boulevard (1950). However, for this post, I decided to write about the movie that begun my appreciation of all Holden movies: Born Yesterday.

Link for Movie Trailer for Born Yesterday

Born Yesterday (1950) and some kudos too

Judy Holiday was a successful stage actress who played Billie Dawn on stage.  She was a newcomer by Hollywood’s standards.  It was quite shocking to many people when she won an Oscar for her performance. Holiday’s Oscar completion that year was Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in All About Eve, Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, and Eleanor Parker in Caged, not too shabby to say the least.  Holden was also nominated as Best Actor in Sunset Boulevard.

Many of Holden films were acclaimed; but, when it came to winning an Oscar, he described it like this to film critic, Roger Ebert:

Apart from winning for “Stalag 17,”  I’ve been the bird in a lot of badminton games where other people won.

holdenbwoscar

As you watch Holiday’s Oscar winning performance, let me assure you that Holiday, herself, is not a “dumb Blonde.”  There have been reports that her IQ was 171.  I tell you this just in case you confuse the actress with her part in this movie.

 

Born Yesterday Movie Summary

Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford) is a self-made tycoon who has more money than he can ever spend with an insatiable appetite for power.  His business is in steel junk. Like all filthy rich men, he has come to Washington D.C. to buy a senator.  He brings with him his girlfriend of seven years, Billie Dawn (Judy Holiday).  Billie is an ex showgirl who is barely literate.  Harry and his 100,000 lawyer use Billie to sign most the business transactions to give Harry protection from his illegal practices

To help smooth out Harry’s reputation in D.C., his lawyer hires a free-lance journalist, Paul Verrall (William Holden), to write a glowing interview about the millionaire.  As the lawyer explains, Paul is one of the reporters to watch out for. If Harry “takes him in” then, he has nothing to worry about later.

However, during an initial meeting with the senator and his wife, Billie embarrasses Harry with her lack of social graces and general knowledge about the nation’s capitol. The lawyer asks Harry why not send her home. Harry says he thinks he is in love with the “dumb broad” and wants to keep her around: They enjoy playing Gin Rummy.

 

Then, his lawyer suggests that Harry hires Paul Verrall to not only write an interview about him but to also tutor Billie about Washington and its politics. Unbeknownst to Harry, Paul had briefly spoke to Billie just before as he met Harry for the first time.  Harry offers him $200.00 a week and Paul agrees.  When Harry asks Paul why he agreed to tutor Billie, Paul says he  loves to educate voters about their government.  He then admits that he would have done it for nothing (He does not add because he had already met Billie).

 

Paul later explains to Billie, A world full of ignorant people is too dangerous to live in. He explains further that a democracy is only as good as the people in it; and all the bad in the world is bred by selfishness. Surprisingly, Billie is a quick learner. She and Paul develop a mutual respect for each other while falling in love too.

You naturally feel sorry for Billie because Harry degrades her at every turn.  He constantly yells at her to shut up!  When Harry wants to prove how “stupid” she is to Paul, he asks her “What is a peninsula?” Billie says, “it is some  kind of medicine.”

Later, Paul asked Billie if she knew what Democracy was.  She answers, “yeah, that means not Republican.”  Later, when Billie begins to question Harry’s intelligence and his illegal practices, he begins to suspect what it is she is actually learning. Billie asks Harry who was Thomas Paine (Common Sense, 1776).  Harry does not have a clue.  He becomes angry and yells at Paul that he is not paying him to teach Billie about dead people: I am paying you to teach her how to act with live people.

While things heat up between Paul and Billie, things go sour for Harry and Billie.  The lawyer persuades Harry to propose marriage to Billie since she owns more of the company, on paper, than he does. Besides, the lawyer warns, a wife cannot testify against her husband in a court of law. This would further protect Harry in his illegal dealings.

Meanwhile, Paul gives Billie books, newspapers, and visits to historical monuments, museums, and government buildings. During it all, they discuss political ideas and the ideas behind the concepts of liberty and equality. Charming Paul is kind and patient as he strives to help her realize there so much more to life and to learn. I really enjoyed the scenes filmed in the D.C. area as Billie is learning about the struggle for freedom. It is in these scenes that we see her begin to discover her own individual power too.

I don’t want to give away spoilers, at least not any more than I have already. I hope you have the opportunity to watch this classic.  It is interesting to compare how much has changed and evolved in U.S. politics and in our civil rights since the making of this film in 1950.

Some Closing Thoughts About William Holden

Holden’s movie career span was over 40 years and included over 75 movies.  However, not all was Golden, in his life. Despite a few professional setbacks, I also learned that he had some very sad days in his personal life. He and his youngest brother, Bobbie, served in the military during WWII.   Robert was a Navy fighter pilot and was killed in action (1944).  Much later, in 1966, he was in a car accident where alcohol was involved and a person died. To have experienced these two horrific tragedies would have caused an enormously amount of sadness in anyone’s life. It is not too surprising that he battled with alcoholism for years.

Holden died four months after the release of his last movie, Blake Edwards’ S.O.B. (1981). Sadly, many people remember his death first before they recall his movies.  They recall the tragic circumstances that surrounded it: it was accidental, he was alone, and he was not discovered for days.

Fortunately, there is an overabundance of wonderful things to say about his work and his life.  For those who were lucky enough to have known him, he was described as a gentleman who was kind and honest.  To his peers, he was fun to work with and was the calming force for many on set.  To his fans, he will always be one of Hollywood’s finest actors.  To my personal delight, I also learned he managed/ partnered a wildlife preserve in Africa: A man after my own heart.

William Holden always played the worldly, intelligent cynic. A witty hero who was slightly tainted as to not to be confused with a generic Prince Charming or Golden Boy. The characterization of his roles were complex with layers upon layers of good and not so good personal traits. His portrayals were believable enough to convince you that you might have met this person or someone like him, in real life. One of his gifts as an actor was to convey a sense of realism in all of his roles.

I hope you will read more Blog posts about William Holden and his movies.  With that,  I would like to thank Virginie Pronovost at The Wonderful World of Cinema for hosting The Second William Holden Blogathon.

Use the following link to read more blogging tributes to a great actor and his work.

https://thewonderfulworldofcinema.wordpress.com/

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I do not own any of these images

REFERENCES:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042276/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Born_Yesterday_(1950_film)

http://www.rogerebert.com/interviews/william-holden-at-supersonic-speed

http://williamholden.20m.com/biopage.html

 

April Showers in The Movies Blogathon: Pride And Prejudice (2005)

Many thanks to Movie, Movie, Blog, Blog for hosting April Showers Blogathon 2017.  I enthusiastically urge you check the link below for more posts on other movies that use rain to enhance its movie experience:

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https://moviemovieblogblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/announcing-the-april-showers-blogathon/

After a particularly harsh Winter, it feels natural to welcome Spring with some sort of celebration.  Being able to stay outside for long periods of time, you are able to see nature bursting with new life as it graces us with images and scents of  blooming flowers, fresh air and wet green grass. As it rains, you can feel the growth of new beginnings. As true with most things in life, there is an upside and a downside.  The negative reactions to change could also include degrees of fear, uncertainty, and apprehension.  As a result, people tend to be a bit anxious about changes, especially when it affects their future, like a new love.

Nothing affects the future like a budding romance in the Spring. It is one of nature’s strongest forces. However, no matter how glorious it feels to be in love, there is a stark reality. There is no guarantee that it will last, forever. In the United States,  50% of all marriages end in divorce and many, who don’t divorce, wish they could have chosen a different spouse.  The positives and negatives of Spring romances are a reality that affect life on this planet, for better and worst.

No one understood these Spring Romances better than Jane Austen in her novel, Pride and Prejudice (1813). She presents rules, obstacles and warnings of how to, and not to, fall in love with the wrong person. The main  characters, Elizabeth Bennett (Lizzy) and William Fitzgerald Darcy, represents a couple who struggle with these rules. They approach each other with as much honor and passion as any knight on a battlefield. The emotional duel between these two head strong, intelligent people is like nothing ever written before; even  when compared to Shakespeare‘s standards of fearsome love battles: Beatrice and Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing or  Katherine and Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew.  Austen’s Lizzy and Darcy tangle with the Forces of Nature too; and no amount of reason or strong will can stop them from hating the fact that they are falling in love, despite their best efforts not to do so.

Of course, the real test of this classic tale is to transfer their love battle to the Hollywood screen, with all its explosively charged passions still in tact within the confines of polite society.  How does a film maker translate this magical and sensual tale to the screen and still be true to the book?  How do you take people from another time in multi-layered clothes, who are not allowed to touch each other, let alone talk openly or privately without a chaperone, appear sexy and passionately in love for a modern audience?

In my humble opinion, Director Joe Wright‘s film, Pride and Prejudice (2005), had accomplished just that. It is the most beautiful and sensual retelling of any romantic classic that I have ever seen.  It is so beautifully made,  I believe it is visual poetry. And poetry, as we all know, is the language of love.

How does Wright make a classic love story into poetry on film?  It is accomplished with careful and artistic use of the movie making elements of cinematography, filming in lush locations, employing the right melodic music,  having a great story, with wonderful actors set in lavish sets and costumes. And perhaps, and even more importantly, the use of the Seasons with its natural elements. Much of this film’s imagery, is a product of an artistic utilization of the natural landscape and weather. Since April Showers is the theme of this post, and romance is the background, I want to focus on one a scene in this movie that uses rain, in particular, in conveying the emotional tone and the movement of the story..

Summary for Essential Scene

During 19th century Merry England, the Industrial Revolution was soon to begin as the war with Napoleon was nearing its end.  On the home front, life was routine.  Women, for centuries, were needed to help increase their family’s fortunes by marrying wealthy men.  They were not allowed to inherit the family fortune if there was a male relative about who could inherit instead.  These woman faced eviction if these male relatives so chose (Entailment in Property law).

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The Bennett Family consisted of a Mother, Father and five daughters. With no sons to inherit, an estrange male cousin, Mr. Collins, will inherit the Bennett estate, Longboure, once the Father passes away.  So being a good mother, Mama Bennett (Brenda Blethyn), who has a complete lack of any tack or finesse,  finds it imperative to hunt and capture good husbands for her young daughters.

This is made very difficult, because the money that should have been saved to add to their dowry (to attract suitors) was foolishly overspent on new dresses and frills to lavish on her favorite daughters and the home. Father Bennett (Donald Sutherland) basically lets Mother Bennett have her way in most cases to avoid listening to her nagging.  Elizabeth loves and admires her father’s witty intellect. She finds solace in her father’s company when they discuss and debate concepts introduced by the books they have read.  Thanks to her parent’s unhappy marriage, Elizabeth is determined to marry for love, only.  Poor Elizabeth, due to  the family’s unfortunate circumstances, Mama Bennett is near manic and extremely manipulative in her matching making efforts. You know the philosophy: The ends justified the means.

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At every opportunity, she would “present” her daughter’s before men of wealth, usually at local dances.  Jane (Rosamund Pike) is the eldest and prettiest daughter. She is a very sweet natured young Lady; but, she is also extremely shy. Jane and Elizabeth are each others confidante.  The family relies on Jane to find the wealthiest husband in order to save them from poverty. Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) is the second daughter and also very pretty. She is very intelligent with an independent spirit. She doesn’t always filter her words when she speaks her mind. Which is a huge turn off for most men.

When Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) and Elizabeth eyes first connect, they both like what they see. This is why Elizabeth asks Mr. Darcy if he likes to dance.  His response is: Not if I can help it. It is too crowded and loud to continue the conversation.  It is at this same dance that Jane attracts the attention of a new wealthy neighbor, Charles Bingley (Simon Woods).  He walks up and introduces himself, his two sisters, a brother-in-law and his best friend, Mr. Darcy.  He asks Jane for a dance. Mama Bennett is pleased to be sure; but, she sees the wealthier, Mr. Darcy, standing behind his friend.  Without missing an opportunity, Mama Bennett begs Darcy to dance with one of her daughters; then, she nearly pushes Lizzy ( Elizabeth) on Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth is naturally embarrassed.  Darcy who is completely disgusted by Mama Bennett’s obviously crass attempt at  “head hunting” turns his back on them all and stalks off.  Shocked by his rudeness, Lizzy is equally disgusted by his snub.

Elizabeth soothes her mothers hurt feelings and her own by agreeing that Mr. Darcy is “ill-favored” despite his wealth. He does appear arrogant and haughty; but, in his defense, he is overly shy and inept at social function.  So much so, that when he gets nervous, he tends to stutter.  Of course, Mother Bennett agrees with Lizzy; and, advises her never to dance with “the man” even if he asked her too.  Elizabeth promises never to dance with Mr. Darcy.

Later, Elizabeth hears Charles Bingley trying to urge his friend into dancing. He compliments Jane, “She looks like an Angel” and says that Lizzy is quite handsome too.  At this, Darcy went to a place, no man in his right mind, should ever go.  Miss Austen, please excuse my paraphrasing.

He says: She is not handsome enough to tempt me.  I didn’t come here to give “consequence” (boobie prize) to girls who have been rejected by other men.

Oh yeah, Darcy went there.  Guess who over heard it? Yep, Elizabeth. The War is on!  So, what does a young, powerless women do to get back at someone who has insulted her very core? You heard the expression: A best defense, is a great offence.  Lizzy perseveres and pretends, it did not bother her.  Then, she smiles the most dazzling smile she has ever smiled before, and looks straight into the eyes of Mr. Darcy, as she sides pass him on the crowded dance floor. She then finds her closet friend to whisper what Darcy had said.  He is still watching (bewitching?) sees both woman look back at him and laugh.

The lines are drawn; yet, we know both Darcy and Lizzy cannot continue this confusing entanglement for too long. She believes the horrible lies and gossip about Darcy.  He constantly reminds himself of her common breeding.  At every opportunity she tries to avoid him; and, if she cannot avoid him, she sarcastically teases him about his pride. He interprets this as a coy flirtation.

When Darcy hears that someone said Elizabeth was the Local Beauty, he not only says that it must have her mother who said it; but, he also adds that her mother must have been a “wit” or joking.  All awhile, Darcy continues to fall helplessly in love with her; until, he cannot take it anymore.  He decides to degrade himself and declare his love.  He knows that Lizzy must agree that she is very fortunate to have him propose since he is her superior.   He understands that he has much to lose, his reputation, family respect and his own self respect…”but it cannot be helped.”   Elizabeth has everything to gain.  How could she refuse him?

Just before he proposes to Elizabeth, they attend Church service.  She is told by Darcy’s cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, that Darcy bragged about helping his friend Bingley dodge the marriage bullet with an “unsuitable” young lady.  Lizzy knew that the unsuitable young lady was her dear sister Jane.  Elizabeth also understood that Darcy destroyed her sister’s happiness and possibly her family’s as well.  This truth, along with the many lies told to her from Mr. Wickham (Darcy’s enemy), is overwhelming. Elizabeth runs from the Church just as a thunder storm is about to break loose.  Darcy runs after her, and finds her under a stone pavilion, sheltering herself from the storm. This is the climax of the movie.  Here,  Director Wright creates a vividly visual poem .  I have included a link below to watch this magnificent scene. Confrontation and open truth, can be brutally painful; but, it can also cleanse the spirit for change. The rain, music, and emotions are one. Their sounds are as vital as any lover’s heartbeat.

Even with the Academy Award winning music by Dario Marianelli , the lush locations, brilliant cinematography by Roman Osin , and the incredible performances under Wright’s direction, this scene is unforgettable as a result of implementing the thunder storm as a leading character.  It is one of the most passionate and powerful scenes in movie history. Enjoy!

The Darcy’s Proposal in the following link:

https://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=1R-Zg5es7mg

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Breaking The Mold: Bette Davis

Bette Davis is America’s greatest actress. Although, if you were to have said this to her, she would have probably told you it is Katherine Hepburn.  This could have been a typical Davis response.  There is no humble attempt to say thank you or to say there are many great actresses.  No, the irony is in the subtle acknowledgement of the term “greatest” and with that, her honest opinion. Fans of Davis expected no less of her. She possessed a cutting wit and remarkable intelligence. No one knew what she would say; but, what they did know is that their reaction to it would be either laughter or complete awe. Bette Davis was a lot of things to a lot of people, good and bad.  However, she was constantly true in her performances and strived for perfection, in every role.  She understood that if the public accepted her, everything else concerning her work was trivial.

What is not trivial is that I able to pay homage to such an Icon of the Silver Screen through the Second Annual Bette Davis Blogathon hosted by Crystal from In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.  Please check out more blogs written about Davis and her work from other bloggers paying her tribute too by using the link below:

https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/the-second-annual-bette-davis-blogathon-has-now-arrived/

During the span of her career (1929 – 1989), she starred in 124 movies. She was  nominated 11 times for an Oscar and won 2 for Jezebel (1939) and Dangerous (1936).  Davis was always proud of the fact that her work as an actress was a priority. It was only seconded by her first priority, her audience.  She presented each character she played with realistic honesty.  It did not matter if that honesty or realism left her looking less than stellar or glamorous.  She put it this way: It was all just a matter of learning not to subdue or conceal the person who was really me.   Honesty in her work by bearing a part of her soul on screen makes her work an authentic Art form. Bette Davis is the definition of a true artist. There was no one like her then; and, there is no one like her since.  She courageously accepted unlikable roles that other actresses turned down and refused to do.  They believed portraying such unpleasant characters would typecast them and limit future roles.

Presently, I can think of only two other actresses who had the similar chutzpah and impact to that of a Davis performance: Charlize Theron’s portrayal of serial killer, Aileen Wu0rnos, in Monster (2003), and Meryl Streep’s portrayal of manipulative and mean Violet Weston in August Osage County(2013).  One of the main differences between their superb characterizations and that of Davis’ portrayal of Mildred Rogers in Of Human Bondage (1934) is that Davis’s portrayal is more powerful and a “hell’va” lot more chilling.  Davis devoured her roles of an evil shrew and bought the idea of a powerful women to new heights. To most audiences of the 30s and 40s, this was shocking.  All this happened at a time when most people still seen women as powerless beings in need of a strong man to make their decisions and protect them.

It All Began With “Of Human Bondage” (1934)

In 1929, the studio bosses didn’t know what to do with Davis.  She didn’t fit the beautiful, silver screen actress mold.  This small-framed, shy, attractive (not beautiful) blonde, with pop eyes came to Hollywood from the New York stage at age 22.  Sexy is not an adjective they used to describe her. What they did describe was her distinctive New England accent. Remember, in 1929, talkies were new to the movie industry.

So, they put her in movies, that did not distinguish her or utilized her talents.  She went from Universal Studios to Warners Brothers in the space of two years.  Davis described her early work as “Dumb Dame” roles.  Months before RKO considered borrowing her from Warners to play Mildred, Davis walked off a Warners set in protest of being assigned a secretary role with 12 lines.

RKO Studios was looking for an actress for the movie adaption of a novel by British author, W. Somerset Maugham, Of a Human Bondage. The male lead in the project was British actor Leslie Howard.  Many actresses turned down the female leading part because the character, Mildred Rogers, was so loathsome that they were afraid it would destroy their careers.  Since Davis felt her own talents were wasted at Warners, she felt she needed the part and hassled lamented campaigned Jack Warner for it.  Luckily, Warners wanted one of RKO’s actresses, Irene Dunne, for their movie, Sweet Adeline (1934); so, they loaned Davis to RKO in order to get Dunne for their movie.  Warners also made Davis a promise: After she completed Of Human Bondage, she would to do a movie, Housewife (1934) for Warners.  They promised to give her better parts in quality movies once she finished filming in Housewife. However, while Davis was making Housewife, Warners also refused to loan her to Columbia Pictures for the lead in the Academy Award winning film, It Happened One Night (1934) with Clark Gable.

*Davis learned quickly: it doesn’t matter how well you are liked.  What is most important is to be memorable.

Bette Davis Breaks the Hollywood Mold in “Of Human Bondage”

Davis gave a tour de force performance in Of Human Bondage.  She tackled that role of Mildred Rogers with unrelenting raw emotion.  Pretty Mildred became the best “Bitch” the silver screen has ever seen. She was as mean and cruel as any powerful, cruel man ever dared to be. She was not the child like Victorian lady before World War I; indeed, Mildred was a by product of that war.  She was a women of the Jazz Age with the mindset of a flapper, a vamp, a gold-digger, a Tomato, and  an “It Girl.” She was obsessed with wealth and all that it could give her.  She symbolized the times with her outward beauty; but, inwardly she was ugly and shallow with a complete lack of compassion (psychopath or sociopath, maybe?).

A Summary

A timid and shy, young British artist, Philip Carey, (Leslie Howard), has been painting in Paris for four years when he finally asks his art teacher to honestly tell him if he is wasting his time in becoming successful artist. His instructor honestly answers him: His paintings are nice but quite mediocre. Disheartened, he returns to London to begin studies in medicine.  His father was a doctor; so, he could carry on with a family tradition and could be in service to help people.

Although, he is ultra sensitive and painfully self conscious of his deformed club foot, he makes some friends with the other medical students.  Boys being boys, they particularly enjoy looking at his nude paintings of  Paris models.  One of his friends, impressed with Philip’s experience with the ladies, persuades him to speak for him to a pretty teahouse waitress that he is infatuated with but too nervous to talk too.

Philip first sees Mildred Rodgers (Bette Davis) laughing and flirting with an older patron, Emil Miller (Alan Hale)  at his table. His friend asks him if he thought she was marvelous.  Philip said no.  She is anemic. Then he asks Philip if he thought she might be in love with the gentleman.  Philip replies, “of course she is.” This is the “thinking” Philip’s reaction.

When she comes to wait on their table, Philip teases her to try to get her to smile and laugh with them.  Instead of being charmed, she takes offense and rudely turns her back on them.  Philip does not leave with his insulted friend; instead, he stays and tries once more to charm the abrasive cockney speaking waitress. He stays until Mildred reluctantly returns to wait on his table again.  He tries to be polite, charming, and complimentary.  He asks her for another chance to make her smile.  Her reply: Maybe I will or maybe I won’t. Then, she turns her back on him again.  Since she seems unattainable, and at least two men want her, how could Philip possibly refuse the challenge. You can see that he is enamored with her.  As he gets up from the table to leave, he passes in front of Mildred. She notices his limp. She makes a distasteful sound and looks away with disgust.

When he returns the following day, he sees her flirting with Miller again.  He decides to sketch her face while he waits. When he is through with the drawing, he taps on his glass to get her attention.  She reluctantly  leaves Miller’s table.  Philip flips the drawing over to get her attention.  She smiles and leans over him to get a better look. She asks if that is her face.  Teasingly, Philip relies,  it looks like you, doesn’t?  She becomes offended again. And Philip is even more intrigued by her response.   He asks if she would dine with him and go to the theater. She agrees to meet him at Victoria station. After their strange, mixed signals, first date, Philip literally dreams the impossible: As they are elegantly dancing, she looks into his eyes; and, he sees in her eyes her love for him. Once awake and back in medical school, he struggles through his studies. While in class, he begins to daydream of her too. Then, he skips his studies to go  see her.

When Mildred breaks a later date with him, she lies and tells him she has to go stay with an ill aunt. He must have sensed that she was lying because he becomes frustrated and tears up the recently purchased theater tickets.  He decides to meet up with her after her shift to try once more to get her to go out with him.  She coldly rejects him.  He confronts her and asks if she is going out with Miller. She doesn’t deny it.  Philip finally realizes that she is waiting for Miller in the same manner he is waiting for her.  He tells her if she doesn’t go out with him that night, she will never see him again.   Mildred relies, Good riddance to bad rubbish.

As Philip sadly goes back to his flat, he runs into his partying friend, Henry Griffith,(Reginald Denny) with a lovely young woman on his arm, Nora Nesbitt, (Kay Frances).  Philip eyes light up at seeing the lovely young woman.  His friend invites him for a drink.  Philip refuses. Harry then, looks at Nora, and suggests to Philip if not a drink, maybe “desire?”   Again, Philip refuses and goes into his room.  He can hear the lively party through his flat’s walls which makes it even more difficult for him to study.  His mind wanders; and, again he begins to daydreams of Mildred.

Once back at school, we find Philip daydreaming of Mildred while taking his midterm exams.  Not surprisingly, he fails his exams.  When his friends try to persuade him to go out drinking in order to cheer him up, he refuses. When Harry asks him what would help,  Philip can only think of seeing Mildred again. So, we next see them both together on another date.  Before their following date, Philip decides to ask Mildred to be his wife. Instead, of accepting, she lets him know she is engage to marry someone else, with money.  She also informs him that she hates to eat and run; but, she must meet her fiancé at the theater. Later that evening, he sees her leaving the theater with Miller.

Henry seeing Philip so brokenhearted advises him that the cure for getting over one woman is to find another one. So, a rebound relationship with Nora Nesbitt is exactly what the doctor ordered.   Happily for Philip his love life changes for the better; but, like most rebound relationships someone is going to get short changed and hurt.   As Nora’s lover, he learns that she is a romance writer who writes under a male pseudonym. She is kind and supportive of him in everyway, lovely girl, Nora Nesbitt (Kay Johnson). This was the lady on Henry’s arm the night of the party. She falls in love with Philip and encourages him to focus on his studies.  With Nora, Philip is moving on with his life in the right direction.

Then, it all falls apart when Mildred shows up in his apartment: penniless, distraught, and pregnant.  She tells him that her husband deserted her. Compassionate Philip sees her in such dire straits that he cannot stop himself from helping her. He gives her money and confronts Miller.  Miller refuses to help Mildred because he is already married with children.  Philip asks her why she didn’t tell him the truth about not marrying Miller. All she would say is that she couldn’t tell him.

Philip decides to marry her once the baby is born.  And the story continues, with Mildred increasingly being ungrateful, unfaithful, manipulative and controlling.  Mildred Rogers is the demonic harpy that haunts every person’s dreaded fear of being in the worst type of toxic relationship.   However, don’t lose all hope for sensitive, kind Philip because this is after all, a Hollywood movie. But, to learn how it ends for Philip and Mildred, I encourage you to see this unforgettable  movie.

A Link to yet another break up between Philip and Mildred.  And a peek at Davis and Howard brilliant performances.

https://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=8g-w5cuWI5o

Difficulties on Set

Like every beloved novel, adapting it to screen can be a bit tricky.  And, like most adaptations, it is the fans of the books who are its most supportive and  critical, especially when it comes to casting. When British actress, Vivian Leigh, was cast to play the part of Scarlett O’Hara in American movie, Gone With The Wind (1939), fans of the book began a protest.  Same thing happened when American Actress, Renee Zellweger, played Bridget Jones, in British made movie, Bridget Jones Dairy (1998).  So, it goes without saying, many people were not happy with the news that American Actress, Bette Davis, is going to play Cockney speaking Mildred.  Even British gentleman actor, Leslie Howard, was very upset that she was chosen.

 

In the beginning, Howard shut down.  He refused to interact with Davis during the down time between scenes while they prepared sets.  He went off to himself, with book in hand, and ignored his surroundings while he read and escaped.  In her close up shots, he refused to act his lines.  He just “threw them at her” while she was being filmed. According to Davis, one of the cameramen she befriended told her that he informed Howard that ” the kid, was running away with the film.”  Howard’s attitude soon changed; and, he began to respect Davis’s performance and professionalism.

During filming, both Howard and Davis became very sick.  Howard became sick  ironically with toxic poisoning.  It became a life or death situation. His doctor did emergency surgery to remove his tonsils.  With both stars in such a weaken state, the studio decided on a tactic to save on filming time and money. They build six small sets on a revolving stage. This had never been done before.  This saved on the wait time between the set changes.  Eventually, the film finished by deadline and within budget constraints.

A few Examples of Davis’s Professionalism

To prepare for the role, Davis needed to speak with a realistic and natural Cockney accent. Davis hired a British maid.  She never told the maid the real reason she hired her because she wanted to hear and emulate her natural Cockney accent without the maid unconsciously dressing it up.

As Mildred’s atrocious lifestyle catches up with her, she becomes a shell of the healthy and beautiful woman she was.  Davis wanted to make sure that she looked as realistic as she could.  She did not want to look like a glamorous beauty playing a part. So, Davis did her own make up for those later scenes. As Davis described it: consumption, poverty, and depression doesn’t look pretty, as you can see for yourself in the photos below. The top picture is of course when Mildred is very sick.  You can compare the differences in her appearance from the last two pictures.  I think Davis created an extremely convincing look.

What is Human Bondage?

I admit that I did not read W. Somerset Maugham’s masterpiece; so, when I first saw the title, Of Human Bondage (1915), I thought it was about slavery or some sort of burden forced upon a person.  After, I saw the movie, I thought it was about toxic relationships and obsession. Even Nora Nesbitt says this to Philip when he breaks off their relationship: I love you, you love her, and she loves Miller. All three of them are victims of unrequited love bondages. And, I would have been quite happy to leave it at that; but, the purpose of this blog is to find life lessons with their universal connections through the arts.

So, I did a little research and found that Maugham took his title from a philosophy book, Ethics (1883) written by Baruch Spinoza.  In the foreword of  his novel, there is a definition of Human Bondage which is a quote from Ethics:

The importance of man to govern or restrain the emotions I call bondage,  for a man who is under their control is not his own master…so that he is often forced to follow the worst, although he sees the better before him.

Human Bondage is not really about a relationship with another person.  Instead, it about how you make decisions and the way you, yourself, reacts to them.  Perhaps knowing the full title or titles of this section may help: Of Human Bondage OR Strength of Emotions.

Men are prey to their emotions, according to Spinoza. He explains that men are conscious of their actions and desires but are ignorant to their causes.  Making the best choices should be based on the final end or an actual goal. If every decision you make is based on how you feel, you are setting yourself up for a potential fall.  You are not really in control of your life because you relinquished that control to your emotions (feelings).

This kind of bondage is generally how most people operate their lives, unless you are Mr Spock.  So, in the movie, Philip Carey is enslaved to his emotions about Mildred; and, Mildred is enslaved to her uncontrollable lust for wealth. Personally, I think you need a little of both in your life: we should have thoroughly “thought out” strategies or goals;  and, you should have moments of just letting it go, and embrace the moment.  A little of both is the key….moderation between the two.

I believe Bette Davis did both too. In her work and career, she was in control; but, in her personal life, her emotions became her master. Davis had four marriages. When it came to love, she gave up control to her emotions just like Philip Carey and Mildred Rogers.

According to Davis, the love in her life:

I have loved people who cared little or nothing for me and when people have loved me, I have been embarrassed…in order not to hurt their feelings, I have often acted a passion I didn’t feel. 

So, was she only attracted to people she knew didn’t love her?  If someone loved her, did she get embarrassed because she felt she didn’t deserve their love?  Love at best, is a slippery slope for most of us; but, knowing what qualities you want to see in your partner is at least a start to finding someone you think is good for you. If you put no thought into what your want, you could easily end up in a very toxic relationship. The continuous ups and downs of an overly emotional relationship can be very addictive; but, it seldom leads to long lasting happiness.

Movie Impact

Unbelievably, the Academy of Motion Pictures, snubbed Davis’s performance.  Many actors and actresses wrote in her name as a nominee on their ballots and then voted for her.  This is a first. So, the Academy allowed the “written in nominee” for that year only. The following year, they hired an accounting firm, Price Waterhouse, to take over the security of the ballots and the counting of the votes.  It still continues today and has worked out very well…except for the 2017 scandal of giving out the wrong envelope for Best Picture. We all remember, “it is not La La Land;” but, can most people honesty remember which movie did win?

One reason why the Academy snubbed Davis could be due to Warners Brothers Studio. Warners was a bit embarrassed by Davis’s performance in Of Human Bondage.  Here was their contract player delivering such a magnificent performance in another studio’s movie.  They tried to bury the publicity about the movie involving her name.  To say Warners might have influenced the Academy in not nominating her would not be a stretch of imagination.

Two years later in 1936, Davis wins her first Oscar for Dangerous. Davis claimed it was a “Consolation Prize” for not winning for Of Human Bondage. She also claims that she named the statuette, Oscar. She says the backside of the Statuette’s “posterior” resembled her husband’s squared one. His middle name was Oscar.

Davis set the bar high for future actresses in her breakout role as Mildred Rogers in Of Human Bondage. Bette Davis considered herself to be a actress first and  movie star second.  To  rest of the world and of course her fans, she is Bette Davis…Hollywood legend.

Don’t forget to check out the other posts about Davis during this special Blogathon.

Second Annual Bette Davis Blogthon

Click on the following link…

https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/the-second-annual-bette-davis-blogathon-has-now-arrived/

bette-blogathon-1

 

References

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Of_Human_Bondage_(1934_film)

Great Blog on Leslie Howard with many primary sources and documents about Howard’s work:

https://lesliehowardsteiner.blogspot.com/p/of-human-bondage.html

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/07/classic-hollywood-abortion

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=August+Osage+County+Dinner+Scene&&view=detail&mid=1C1585C9DFC072FE36921C1585C9DFC072FE3692&FORM=VRDGAR

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=monster+trailer+charlize+theron&view=detail&mid=D2079DF6CE02069E24E7D2079DF6CE02069E24E7&FORM=VIRE

Blogger Tags and Mentions

  • Dear Blogger,

You have been Tagged along with 7 other bloggers for recognition of your posts about the Entertainment Industry.

This is the 2017 Mentions and Tag Event


I too was Tagged by another Blogger, Realweegiemidget or Gill, as I know her.  She is a wonderful blogger and friend who has taken me under her wing as a newbie blogger.  Without her, I may have not have had the courage to blog. Like all of you, I love movies; so before I blogged, I followed Gill’s hilarious and informative posts on movies and T.V. shows. Most of her movie reviews are from the 1980s to the present. I have learn much from this “expat” from Scotland who lives in Finland with her Darlin’ husband and super cool Step-Dudes. I have to mention that she gave me an appreciation for the T.V. Show Dallas through her bloggings and Dallas Blogathon.

Now, that you know who Tagged me, most of you are probably wondering what this is all about.  Okay, in a nutshell, according to the forces of the universe in Social Media, getting your blog Mentioned and Tagged is a good thing. It could expose your site to more readers. Plus, it helps us to better network within our blogging community. In addition, it allows bloggers to say a friendly Hello and get to know some of their peers.   Either way, it is a fun way to recognize other bloggers wh you love to read.

I hope you join in the fun and write a post (copy and paste, if you like) and Tag 8 other bloggers. In your post please say who tagged you (me) and something kind about my blog or why you follow me. Below, I will share with you all, my category favorites.

Remember, the 8 Bloggers you Tag will Tag you back and share something about your blog in their post. Once you post your favorite films in the list provided, don’t forget to tag me too. I look forward to reading your lists!

Please copy and paste as much as you like of this post to help you organize your Tagging post for others, especially the questions template for the various categories. There is a “clean” one at the end of this post.

Here are My Movie Mentions/ Fravorites:

Note: The first 3 questions are Christmas/ Ho;iday Related..even though we are in 2017 ….movies can be of any genre or year.

  1. All I Want For Christmas is You/ Which DVD/Blu-Ray would you like to receive this year?

I love these old classic horror films. These two collections will come out in May of 2017 on Blue-Ray.  Both have 6 movies a piece. The last movie has Abbott and Costello meeting these monsters.

A) The Mummy Complete Legacy Collection (2017)  There are six Movies from 1932 – 1955. .

B) Dracula Complete Legacy Collection (2017)  There are six Movies from 1931 – 1938.

2) Jingle Bell Rock/ What is your Favorite soundtrack or song from a Christmas film?

A) Charlie Brown Christmas  (1965) I love the soundtrack to this television special; so, I had to include it. Guaraldi’s  music really sets the mood while you are wrapping presents.

B) Scrooge (1970) Great songs to compliment Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Strangely, my favorite tune is “Thank you Very Much.” It is sung in a possible future at Scrooge’s funeral…meaning, he done a nice thing by dying.  Horrible I Know; but, great song.

 

3) Let it Snow/ What are your 3 of your favorite Holiday Movies? 

A) Christmas Vacation (1989) Need I say more.  This one hit home about family gatherings over the Holidays. It humorously captured the stress of the Holiday.  When Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) frantically declares that his family was on “the threshold of Hell,” I knew that this was my number # 1 Christmas movie.

B) The Lost Christmas (2011) This is an unusual Holiday movie.  It is gritty, mysterious and magical at the same time. Eddie Izzard stars as a homeless man who wakes up without prior knowledge about himself; but, who understands and “knows things” about the perfect strangers around him.

C) Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Edmund Gwen’s portrayal of St. Nick is perfect. I used to believe that he was Santa Claus, moonlighting on a movie set.  This lovely story of a child’s need to believe in Santa Claus is just sublime.  Watching adorable Natalie Wood, and the beautiful Maureen O’Hara and handsome, John Payne only adds to the charm of this sweet Christmas movie.

4) Donald Trump/ List A film that divides opinion…

I picked Locke (2014) as my dividing movie. During the whole movie, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is driving his car on a journey that he is not sure he wants to take; but, he knows he must.  We listen in on his phone conversations for 90 minutes as he is pressured to meet several deadlines at the same time. We listen in as he solves problems and makes life altering decisions with people from every corner of his life, past and present.

I thought it was a brilliant piece film making; and, Tom Hardy’s performance is totally mesmerizing and believable as Locke. I admired Ivan Locke; and, more importantly, I cared for him. Hardy deserved at least a nod from the Academy for this performance.

Even though I loved the creative way this movie was made, not every one felt the same way.  Many thought it was boring and a total waste of time. Hence, a movie that divides us.

5) Brexit/ What is your Favorite British Film…

Shakespeare in Love (1998) has all the things I love to see in a movie: the Arts, romance, humor, history, great acting, lovely costumes, and gorgeous settings.  And as if that was not enough, Shakespeare’s sonnets and poetry 🙂

6) Fidel Castro | A film that divides opinion…/ Which film do consider as culturally significant?

The Big Lembowski (1998) is a comedy/crime drama by the Cohen Brothers.  It was a flop when it was first released.  It was ten years later before it became a cult movie. Now, this movie has a c following that the Rocky Horror Picture Show people would envy.  The Dude (Jeff Bridges) just wants to get his frickin’ rug back:  That’s all, mannnn. It’s all about the Dude and his friends who just want to bowl; but life keeps throwing unexpected bowling balls curve balls at their “just is” happy philosophy.  But, the “Dude Abides” after a decade and now, according to the Rolling Stone, The Big Lembowski is “the most most worshipped comedy of its generation.” That rocks!

7) Starbucks/ What is your Favorite Film Franchise?

th (48)

Yes, it is coming back for a 5th installment.  The action packed franchise will once again save the world. Too bad all the adventure is in the past.    Reports have confirmed the Older Indy (Harrison Ford) will be cracking his whip once more for his fans as he dodges snakes and crazy fascists.

8) McDonald’s Happy Meal/ Your Favorite Childhood Film?

Doctor Suess’ book is wonderful as it teaches children (and some adults) the true meaning of the Christmas spirit.  I adore the television version of How The Ginch Stole Christmas (1964) and Ron Howard’s movie The Ginch (2000) version with Funny man, Jim Carry.

9) ‘Cheeky Nandos’/ What is your Favorite Comedy?A

Mel Brooks is a comedic genius.  He spoofed two classic horror movies, Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) in this one movie. Due to this comedy, I still cannot listen to the song, Puttin’ on The Ritz, without busting out in laughter. RIP Peter Boyle, Gene Wilder, Marty Feldmen, Terri Garr, Madeline Kahn, and Kenneth Mars.

10) A Must See MovieWhich  film would you want all of your followers to watch?

Any movie with John Garfield.  No great actor should ever be forgotten.

And The Tagged Bloggers Are:

  1. Ruth at Silver Screenings
  2. Mike at Mike’s Take on The Movies
  3. Crystal at In Old Days of Classic Hollywood
  4. Auroras at Once Upon a Screen
  5. Kristina at Speakeasy
  6. Kgothatjo at KG’s Movie Rants
  7. Charlene at Charlene’s Mostly Classic Movie Reviews
  8. Fritzi at Movies Silently

So looking forward to reading your replies… now you’ve been tagged!!!!

And the template…. Cut and Paste (or write in your time)

All I Want For Christmas is You | Which DVD/Blu-Ray would you like to receive this year?

Jingle Bell Rock | Favorite soundtrack or song from a Christmas film?

Let it Snow | 3 of your favorite Christmas films…

Donald Trump | A film that divides opinion…

Brexit | Favorite British Film…

Fidel Castro | A film that divides opinion… A film considered culturally significant

Starbucks | Favorite Film Franchise…

McDonald’s Happy Meal | Favorite Childhood Film…

‘Cheeky Nandos’ | Favorite Comedy

One film you want all of your followers to watch…

John Garfield: Hollywood’s Forgotten Hero

When most people think of a hero, they think of a combat soldier, or an ancient mythological Greek or Roman god, or even a DC or Marvel Comic strip superhero.  Very few people think of an actor as a hero. This post is a tribute to John Garfield: An actor, artist, Hollywood star and hero. Even though he did not win an Oscar, he was nominated twice, once for Best Supporting Actor (Four Daughters, 1938) and once for Best Actor (Body and Soul, 1948).

Was he robbed or stubbed? I don’t think so. I think he just ran out of time and had too many obstacles in his way. However, this tribute goes beyond praising his work and contributions to the Arts.  It is also a tribute to him as a great human being who stood strong when most of those around him faltered, failed, and at times betrayed him and others. In life, Garfield performed heroic deeds.

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I am so happy that KG at KG’s Movie Rants is hosting the Unsung Hero Blogathon. It  celebrates various actors who should at least be praised for their contribution to their craft and Art, especially if they did not win an Oscar. You can read more about other deserving actors using the following link:

Announcement: The Unsung Hero Blogathon

I think of Garfield Even Though 

His name and image is unrecognizable by most audiences today and very little credit is given to him for much of his work.  Despite this,  John Garfield’s contributions to movie making and acting are still felt around the world today.  He was one of the trail blazers for removing the rigid controls of the old Hollywood studio system. On screen, he introduced new acting techniques that are still practiced by actors and appreciated by audiences today.  Possibly, and more importantly, his life emphasized the importance that all artists should be  “citizens of the world.” They should not be silent when confronted with inhumane or immoral actions by people or governments. Especially, those who disregard Constitutional rights or even the human rights of others. An example of how relevant this is today, think of Meryl Streep’s moving speech at the 2017 Golden Globe awards.  In case you missed it, I put the link of the video in the References.

I thought of Garfield After Streep’s Golden Globes Message

There were conflicting opinions about her message. Some praised her for her courage to speak out; and, there were others who complained that her job is to entertain and keep quiet. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc…, you will find artists and actors exercising their freedom of speech. While at the same time you will still find people, under the delusion, that they own these outspoken celebrities and can control them because they are fans and buy tickets to see them. Some even go so far as to personally threaten them or a love one if they continue to speak out. Unfortunately, actors, from the 1920s though 1960s,  were controlled and silenced by the old studio system using tactics similar to these.

What Does This Have to do With Garfield?  Like One of His Noir Films, Let’s Start at The End

On May 21, 1952, Garfield passed away in a two room apartment while sleeping in a friend’s bed. A robust, charismatic mega-star in the prime of his life. He was 39 years old.  Ironically, he once said, that an actor doesn’t mature until they reach the age of 40.  Thanks to the HUAC (House of Un-American Activities Committee), he was blacklisted and not permitted to work in Hollywood for over a year.  Yet, the fates smiled on him; and, he landed a lead part in Broadway play. This is a part that he had badly wanted, even before he became a Hollywood star.

His friend, Clifton Odets, who came from the same Jewish neighborhood, wrote a play “The Golden Boy,” for him.  This happened years ago, when Garfinkle was still a struggling actor in New York City.  Odets’ play was centered on a talented violinist and boxer, Joe Bonaparte, who must make a fateful decision between money or integrity. This decision will alter his life forever. Tragically, in 1951, John Garfield  will also make a decision that will irreversibly change the course of his life.

Although, Odets pushed for Garfinkle to play the lead, he failed to secure that part for his friend, Julie (Julius Garfinkle). Many believe that the disappointment of not getting the lead part in Golden Boy is what drove Julie to sign a contract with a major Hollywood studio.  When Garfinkle signs a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers, they will change his name from Jacob Julius Garfinkle to John Garfield.  The studio thought Garfinkle sounded too Jewish.  Considering his parents are Jewish; and, they immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine to escape the Russian pogroms, it is safe to say; his name sounded Jewish. By the time Julie (Jack Or Dutch were his other nicknames) reached his 20s, the world was struggling through the Great Depression, The Great Dust Bowl, Hitler’s rise to power, segregation, and anti-Semitism (which was the norm of the day, even in America).

What was Garfield really like?

The contract that Garfield signed with the studio had a surprising and extremely rare option added to it.  The option allowed Garfield time off from making movies to do stage work.  Garfield believed that work in the theater is creating Art; while work in Hollywood was simply making money. The studio did not want to add this option; but, Garfield proved to be a strong negotiator.

Maybe, this skill developed while he was still on the debate team in a special school: He came in 2nd in the City Wide Debate Completion sponsored by the New York Times. While growing up in poverty and living from house to house, he also developed a stammer; but, that didn’t stop him from taking drama and speech classes at this special school (P.S. 45). Nor did the stammer, keep him from becoming a Leader of a street gang.   As Garfield explained: Growing up in a place where there is a gang on every street, you learn that safety is in numbers.

When Julie was seven years old, his mother passed away  from complications of a childbirth, two years earlier. This is when his only sibling, Max, was born.  They were basically raised by relatives in three different city Burroughs: Lower east side of Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn. Their father was indifferent to the boys when they were little. He did remarry and fortunately, they placed Julie in a school for troubled teenagers.  Before these classes, his only positive outlet for his frustrations was in a boxing gym. He was quite good at it and even boxed professionally for a short awhile.  Eventually, he will replace boxing with a new and different kind of excitement. An experimental acting class. This class used unique techniques which later became known as The Method.

How did he seem to others?

He was  a friend, a husband, a father, a son, an athlete, and a wonderful story-teller.  To some people, he could be abrasive at times; yet, for others they remember his soft, soothing voice, and his completely disarming smile. Some, who knew him better, would describe him as funny, adventurous and definitely loyal. Many would say he was  passionate about anyone or anything that he cared about. Others would say he had a wonderful imagination and a creative mind. Regardless of his skills in negotiating deals or charming people, his passion was in acting; and, with the spirit of a true artist, he found himself at odds with the poorly written scripts and/or produced movies that the studio would forced upon him.

Hollywood And So Much More

Before he left the New York stage to go to Hollywood, he took a year off to ride the rails as a hobo and working his way across America doing various jobs.  He met all kinds of people and learned about their lives and surviving the Great Depression.  Many of his tales of that adventurous time would later be depicted in a movie by a friend, Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1940).

In Garfield’s first movie, Four Daughters (1938), movie goers had a new experience.  They seen something they had never seen on-screen before.  They did not see an actor pretending to be a character; but, an artist who was the character. For the first time on screen “The Method” is explored and successfully utilized on film.  His craft and his skill as an actor did not go unnoticed. He received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor from the Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Movie clip of Garfield’s break out movie: Four Daughters

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/458114/Four-Daughters-Movie-Clip-Mickey-Something.html

In a similar way that Garfield was influenced by James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, many actors will be influenced by his performances. Actors like James Dean, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Cliff, Harvey Keitel, Robert Di Nero, Al Pacino, Sean Penn and many more followed his lead and learn The Method. If it were possible to combine all their faces together into one face; I imagine that I would still see John Garfield’s face.

john_kindlephoto-150126951

A Dream Deferred, Again

Later, as a Hollywood star, John Garfield, had the opportunity again to play the part that he knew he was born to play, Joe Bonaparte.  This opportunity came not on stage; but, as a movie based on the play. Again, the fates refused to smile upon his desire to play his dream role.  Warner Brothers refused to loan him to Columbia Pictures to make the movie. Due to artistic disagreements, Garfield refused to make movies that he deemed as crap.  So, he cheerfully endured 11 suspensions. Warner Brothers found a way to add salt to the wounds of his suspension by not allowing him to have his dream role. In fact, it went to newcomer William Holden.  It became his break out picture which  earned him the nicknames of Golden Boy or Golden Holden.  Eventually, the studio won out and forced Garfield to make some “B” movies that turned out to be much better than they were intended, thanks to his talents; but still, they were “B” movies.

Patriotism And WWII

When WWII began, Garfield tried to enlist.  He was turned down because it was discovered that he had a damaged heart. As a child, he became ill with Scarlet fever which was not diagnosed at that time. Disappointed but still not giving up, he wanted to help in the war effort. So, he, fellow film star Bette Davis and Jules Stein (president of the Music Corporation of America) opened the Hollywood Canteen. It fed and offered entertainment for all Allied soldiers (women and men). It had signed up over 3000 Hollywood volunteers who waited tables, worked the kitchen, danced with or just performed a little show for the servicemen and women.  Most military personnel stopped by just before they “shipped out.”  He also toured with the USO to entertain troops overseas and promoted the buying of War Bonds to support the war effort.  In addition, he also made some very impressive war movies that praised the American soldier during the war.

After The War: A New Independence

In 1946, just after WWII ended and the Cold War begun, Garfield’s contract with Warner Brothers ended.  Instead of signing another contract with another Studio, he decided to go independent and start his own production Company called Enterprise Studio.  He was one of the first actors to do this.  Maybe not so ironically, the first film project was a boxing movie, Body and Soul (1947).

Many critics and Garfield fans hail this movie as a masterpiece.  It is considered by some critics as the best boxing movie ever made.  Garfield portrays a boxer, Charley Davis, who battles to the top while losing his values, principles, and integrity. This is a classic Noir film.  It begins with Charley reminiscing about his past and the his regretful decisions.  This film will influence future movie makers of boxing movies like Martin Scorsese of Raging Bull and Sylvester Stallone of Rocky.

To make the gritty, in your face, realistic boxing sequences, James Wong Howe, cinematographer, used a hand-held camera and moved around the actors on roller skates. It is no wonder why Francis Lyon and Robert Parrish won the Oscar for Best Cinematography, Editing. The movie was also nominated for two other Academy Awards: Best Screenplay (Abraham Polonsky – later blacklisted) and Best Actor (John Garfield). This will be Garfield’s second Academy nomination.

For the casting of this movie, Garfield pushed and demanded that a black actor, Canada Lee, portrayed Ben Chaplin. Lee added authenticity to his role as a boxer; since, he used to professionally Box and had 13 KOs (Knock Outs) to his credit. Hiring Lee was a bold and controversial move at a time when segregation was still Law and the cultural norm; and, the Civil Rights Movement will not begin for another eight years.

Modern Day Witch-hunt, HUAC: A Bit of History.  For those of you, who know all about this part of American History, please feel free to scroll pass

Although this was the beginning of the Cold War, before and during World War II, many Americans and intellectuals were bedazzled by the ideology of socialism.  Socialist Russia was our ally who fought with us against Fascism. In defense of these people, socialism does sound attractive, in theory. So, if someone offered an open-minded individual a Socialistic petition to sign, during the war years, which promised some working class equality: Most artist and college students would sign it; however, this does not make them a communist.

Once WWII is over and the fear of Fascism is defeated, another fear will take its place, the Red Scare. This Cold War with the Soviet Union will mostly be fought overseas and with spy hunts everywhere. Fear does very weird things to people who otherwise would never dream of lying or hurting another human being.

Even Shakespeare would be shocked by the “Web of Lies” that were weaved in order to deceive and protect oneself from the accusations of “Being Red!”

There were over 300 names Blacklisted from the Entertainment Industry.  Of those names listed as having communist connections, only one, used to be, a communist party member.  It is interesting to note, most of them were in fact, Jewish (70%).

If there had been a real threat, they should have been arrested as spies. The only people arrested and sent to prison were the few who refuse to lie or who refuse to “cooperate.” For this, they were, ironically, charged with contempt of the law Congress.

The Hollywood Ten: a bit more History

The Hollywood Ten (9 writers and 1 director/producer) were convicted and sent to Federal prison for not being spies; but, because they did not admit to it.  They refuse to name names and cut a deal like Chambers, a real spy.  To protest this miscarriage of justice by Congress, an action group, Commitment For The First Amendment, was formed by Hollywood’s A- listers.  The membership for this group was around 300 people. Garfield was one of those people. They flew to D.C. and protested the HUAC hearings.  It only backfired on them.  It was found out that one of their members used to be in the Communist party, Stanley Hayden. As a result, all members came under suspicion. Then, it was found out, 3 of the Hollywood 10 used to be members of the Communist party. None of the members of the Committee For The First Amendment were communists.  Nearly all were New Deal, Liberal Democrats.

Why did President Truman allow this travesty against the law and to the American people happen? According to a television bio-movie, Truman (1995), he didn’t think the America people would be so stupid to buy into HUAC’s brand of patriotism (This must have happened during an election year).

In reality, a 1946 poll, I snicker, claimed 78% of the American people believed Soviet agents infiltrated the United States Government.  As a matter of fact, the United States Justice Department was investigating the Senior Editor of Time Magazine, Whittaker Chambers. Chambers had been a spy for the Soviets. He would testify to HUAC that an underground Communist Network had been working within our government since the 1930s. Then, he started naming names in order to cut a deal.  One of those he named was Alger Hiss. He was an official in the State Department. Truman claimed Hiss was not a spy but a “Red Herring” to protect Chambers.

I am going out on a limb, and suggest, that Hollywood was perhaps a “Red Herring” too. It is like a magic show, distract them here while the trick is played there. This would take the focus off the United States Government. If it could have been proven true, it would have shaken the very foundation of this country, especially after suffering the effects of two World Wars. It is interesting to note that no spies were actually found in the government. As a matter of fact, the hearings tapered off after Senator McCarthy accused the United States Army of being communists. As a result, it is only in Hollywood that the accusations of “Being Red” still continued.

The Fateful Decision

When Garfield was asked to testify before the HUAC on April 23, 1951, he refused to give names or cut a deal like most of the “cooperating” Hollywood witnesses.

Here is Garfield’s final words to the HUAC:

When I was originally requested to appear before the committee, I said that I would answer all questions, fully and without any reservations, and that is what I have done. I have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide. My life is an open book. I was glad to appear before you and talk with you. I am no Red. I am no pink. I am no fellow traveler. I am a Democrat by politics, a liberal by inclination, and a loyal citizen of this country by every act of my life.

Despite his patriotic efforts during the war, he was still Blacklisted for not lying. Congress expected him to lie and admit he was guilty of being a member of the communist party. Then, ask for mercy because he was duped by the “Reds.”  He was supposed to denounce them and cut a deal. He was suppose to lie again on his peers, friends and even on his own family (Roberta, his wife, had an expired Communist party card).  For readers, who are completely at lost about this time in American History, I highly recommend the movie, The Way We Were (1973).  I know it is sappy; but, it helps to understand the mindset of people during this turbulent time; plus, the movie is wonderful to watch.

A Dream, Not Deferred And What Could Have Been

Despite the blacklisting, Garfield fulfilled his dream.  “Golden Boy” was revived on Broadway between March 12, 1952 and April 6, 1952.  He had completed  55 performances. Actor Jack Klugman played his brother, Frank Bonaparte in the play.  In an interview, Klugman describe Garfield’s excitement of doing a future project with his old friend Elia Kazan (another blacklister).  He was going to partly base the story on Garfield.  Klugman later learned the name of that project was On the Waterfront (1954).  The plot included a story of a boxer who made the decision to take a dive and ruin his life. I can only imagine how the iconic Brando scenes could have been done by Garfield. It would have been his “mature” moment as an actor. If only, he could have been permitted to do it. If only, he had lived long enough.  It would have been awesome.

His Last Stressful Days

Ten days before Garfield died, his friend and colleague, Canada Lee (Blacklisted) had died of a heat attack at the age of 45.  Weeks before Garfield died, he was informed, during one of his stage performances, that Federal charges were being bought against him in contempt of court (not naming names) and possibly perjury under oath.  Variety magazine claims Garfield was going to recant his denial under oath to the HUAC in an upcoming interview because he wanted to cut a deal with the government.

If Garfield had went back to court, there would be no deals; and, if found guilty, he would spend time in a Federal prison.  A couple of days before he died, he found out that CBS cancelled a show he had performed before a live television audience. It was a scene from Golden Boy.  Kim Stanley (aka female Brando) performed it with him.  Again the HUAC had intervened and prevented his work. In addition to all these stress factors that week, it was rumored that he separated from his wife, Roberta, of 21 years.  This was not unusual in their long marriage.  The night he died, Roberta was expecting him to come home.

So, on May 2o, 1952, he played a rigorous game of tennis. Then, he and a friend ate a heavy dinner. Later, he complained of not feeling well and just needed to rest. His friend, insisted that he take the bed; and, she would rest on the couch. Why didn’t he call his doctor? He was under a doctor’s care since he had a heart attack the year before.  I can only assume that growing up in poverty creates some life long habits, like not going to the doctor when you feel ill.  Besides, he just didn’t play tough guys in the movies, he was a tough guy.

The following morning she decided to let him sleep in. When she went to wake him, she bought him a glass of orange juice.  When he did not respond, she called his doctor. He died on May 21, 1952, just within a few miles of where he was born on March 4, 1913 and a few hours before his friend, Clifford Odets, would cut a deal with HUAC.

John Garfield deserves a Posthumous Honorary Academy Award. His life and work had a positive, historical impact on Hollywood, the stage, and even on the American political system. By giving him this award, he would be given credit for his achievements and his family and friends could finally receive some justice to his memory. John Garfield is what America is all about: Courageous, creative, hard-working, tenacious, honorable, and defending those who can’t defend themselves. If the Academy honors Garfield’s memory in this way, perhaps, he might finally rest in peace because he will always be remembered.

If you would like to know more about Garfield and his work, check out another Garfield Blogathon that has great reviews of his movies. The link is below:

http://phyllislovesclassicmovies.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-john-garfield-original-rebel.html

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Link to the cancelled television show.  The quality is pretty bad; but, you can still see some of the Garfield Charisma that audiences loved.

REFERENCES

History on the HUAC

http://spartacus-educational.com/USAgarfieldJ2.htm

A very Brief Bio on Garfield on Facebook

https://m.facebook.com/tragichollywood/posts/1235439816469230:0

Interview with Jack Klugman about John Garfield

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-david-jaffee/witness-to-a-persecution-_b_2735083.html

Information about the Committee for the First Amendment

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Committee_for_the_First_Amendment

Meryl Streep’s Speech at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards:  Garfield would have been very proud to call her his friend

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=meryl+streep+speech&view=detail&mid=6616F7764A047B721E9F6616F7764A047B721E9F&FORM=VIRE

A Funny Thing Happen: Buster Keaton

 

Why Do We Still Remember Buster Keaton?

Even though it has been 100 years since Buster Keaton started making movies, his film shorts and movies keep collecting new fans every year. They have a timeless appeal to the human heart and funny bone.  It is with great honor, that I can contribute this post  to the celebration of one of the greatest film makers of all time.  If you love movies, Keaton movies are a must to watch. To learn more about him and his movies there are several posts to  read  thanks to Lea S from Silent-ology. She is hosting this Keaton Tribute.  You can find these posts on Keaton using the link below:

https://silentology.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/blogathon-update-the-third-annual-busterthon-is-almost-here/#more-27136

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Buster Keaton helped pioneer the movie and Television industry; however, he did so much more.  Besides acting,writing, directing, producing, choreographing and doing his own stunts,  he mentored and continues to influence comedians and film makers today. He started making movie shorts (around 22 gag minutes) at a time when most film was thought to be a collection of pictures, flickering quickly across a reel of film. Moving pictures or Flickers, as they were called at the turn of the 20th century, were a novelty past time for potential trill seekers, vaudeville gags or even a bit of pornography.

To explore and celebrate Keaton’s stage and film work, I wanted to look at some elements of his Genius, some historical basics about theater, his movement from one performing art to another, and finally his to his last movie: Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum.

Elements of Genius

Comedians like Keaton, Chaplin, and “Fatty” Arbuckle took the everyman (underdog) and bought him to heroic heights using their own brand of comedy.  While Chaplin made a homeless man heroic, Keaton made the working man a hero.  Keaton’s hero was a regular guy trying to do the right thing, personally and professionally; but, life kept throwing obstacles in his way which forced him to become extraordinary.  Keaton’s dead pan or stoic expression when facing these obstacles became part of his trademark. How philosophically Greek of him!  Stoicism is a Greek/Roman world view or belief: Regardless of what life throws at you, it is your fate; so, no whining or complaining allowed. Just accept it and move on with your life.  Keaton’s stoic expression earned him the title, Mr. Stone face.

While the muscles in his face may have been set to stone acceptance, his expressive and soulful eyes screamed a myriad of emotions. If the eyes are the Windows to the Soul, Keaton’s eyes gave his audiences a grand tour.  Revered actor, Spencer Tracey, claimed the best performance is found in no performance, just quite, subtle, pauses.  This is definitely one of the many elements to Keaton’s genius: timing, soulful eyes and stoicism. His signature look also included a “pork pie” hat that he would eventually have to make himself. Keaton said a comedian does funny things; a good comedian makes “things” funny.  That hat is one of those things.

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Some Art (stage comedy) 

Keaton was more than just an actor/comedian; he was a performer who understood the depth and history of his Art.  Just as philosophy (Stoicism) flourished in Ancient Greece and Rome; so did theater. According to the classics, there are two basic types of the human condition. These are considered divine or god-like: Sadness (includes ranges of loneliness, grief, loss, crying, and Tragedy), and Joy (includes ranges of elation, happiness, redemption, laughter, and Comedy). There is a rule for these two types; you cannot not have one without the other.  Remember the symbol for theater: the connected masks of two opposite expressions: One is laughter and the other is sorrow.  Some comedians have tried to define and explain comedy by using the expression, Tragedy Plus.  Comedian Sid Caesar explained it this way:

If you have no tragedy, you have no comedy.  Crying and laughing are the same emotion.  If you laugh too hard, you cry.  And vice versa.

The movie Forrest Grump is a perfect example of this: It is tragic story of a mentally challenged and physically disabled orphan boy  who is raised by a single mother who is willing do anything to help her son, and does.  His best friend  grows up being sexually abused by her father. She loves him too; but, as an adult cannot see pass his limitations.  He goes to college to play football and soon after is drafted in the Vietnam war where he finds himself, in jungle combat, holding  his only real friend in his arms as he dies of his wounds. Laughing yet?

Born and Nurtured in the Performing Arts

Buster Keaton parents worked the Vaudeville circuit.  They were literally “on the road” doing a show in Piqua, Kansas when Joseph Frank Keaton was born on October 4, 1895.

Vaudeville is a multi-act (usually around 12 different acts) variety stage show that was popular in the USA and Canada during the late 1890s and early 1900s.  Since it started with an all-male audience, it had an element of the obscenely comical. Many Vaudeville performers eventually migrated to the flickers/movies. Some were successful and many were not.

Keaton’s father had a business partner: The great magician, Harry Houdini.  They owned a traveling show: Mohawk Indian Medicine Show.  They performed their acts and sold a “medicine” on the side.  It was Houdini who witnessed 18 month old baby Keaton tumbled down a long flight of stairs; after the fall, the toddler stood up as if nothing happened.  Houdini said, referring to the fall, “that’s a Buster.”  Keaton loved to tell that story; so, the nickname stayed with him for the rest of his life.

 

Keaton’s Dad understood the power of a pratfall in physical comedy.  Besides, he must have believed that a family that clowns together, stays together.  It did not take long for the toddler to became part of the act at the age of 3 years old.  While being thrown into the stage screen or elsewhere, in a skit about a child being disciplined, Keaton’s Dad soon realized that a laughing baby was not as funny as a straight-faced baby.  So, Keaton learned to control the urge to smile or laugh while performing the “toss about.”

From Vaudeville To Silent Movies and Life

Due to his father’s alcoholism affecting their act, Keaton’s mother took him and left Vaudeville for New York City.   Keaton meets and befriends  “Fatty” Arbuckle who is under contract to Joseph M. Schenck. Keaton is hired as his gag man (comedy writer) and eventually co-star. His first movie was The Butcher Boy.  By 1920, he had starred in 14 movie shorts with Arbuckle.

It is in silent movies that Keaton will precisely execute his hilarious stunts and surprising gags.  According to Keaton landing on his feet like a cat came natural to him.  He said you have to stay limp and break a fall with a hand or foot, if not, he would have been killed years ago. I have included a video link that highlight some of his most popular stunts. Any stunt he did with trains or grabbing and holding onto a moving vehicle mesmerize me.  Just remember, those stunts are done as you see them; so,  there were bruises and fractures involved.  He even broke his neck in a scene where tons of water fall on his head from a water tower.

Similar to one of Keaton’s movie plots, an obstacle interrupts the Young 22 year old’s life: World War I – The Great War. The last war to be fought by civilized man.  Or, so they believed.  Keaton served in the 40th Division in France.  Luckily the “Sunshine” Division delivered supplies to the troops.  It was a bit safer than fighting in ” No Man’s Land” between enemy trenches.  Nonetheless, it was still seriously dangerous work.  Keaton suffered an ear infection that left him with permanent partial hearing.

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Keaton’s Impact on Silent Movies  

So, Keaton is born in Vaudeville, eventually makes history in silent films, and goes on to influence early television and finally perform in “talkies” movies.  To understand what I mean by making history in Silent movies, I’ll use the words of two experts.  One is by Orsen Wells. Many film historians believe Wells made the greatest movie in film history: Citizen Kane.  Wells said, The General (1926), which Keaton directed and starred, was cinema’s highest achievement in comedy and perhaps the greatest film ever made.  This is high praise indeed; but, he isn’t the only one singing Keaton’s praises. Film Critic Roger Ebert went even further with his praise: Keaton is the “greatest actor-director in the history of Film.”  I totally agree with both gentleman.  By influence in television, I mean he done things like write gags for people like Red Skelton and the Marx Brothers or tutored and influenced people like Lucille Ball in comedic basics and timing.  Most film experts agree that out of all the films he made the following three are Keaton masterpieces. If you only watch three Keaton’s films, make sure you don’t miss these three: Sherlock Jr. (1925) / The General (1926) / The Cameraman (1928)

A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum (1966)

Keaton’s career spanned from 1898 and ended in 1966. Just a few months before his death (February 1, 1966), he was working on  Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum in Spain from September to November in 1965. It is based on a book by Bert Shevelove and Larry Gelbart.  Their book is based on a collection of Roman plays by Plautus.  However most of the book uses one play in particular, Pseudolus (192 A.D). The book evolved into a criticality acclaimed and long running Broadway musical.

It is important to note that many elements of an ancient Roman play evolved into the elements of a successful Vaudeville stage show.  Music is one of the main attractions for both types of stages.  As a matter of fact, Greek/Roman plays kept a chorus of singers on stage that sang  the actions or emotions throughout the play. Not surprisingly, the movie begins with the main character singing the praises of the show to the movie audience. The song, A Comedy Tonight, expresses the fun and surprises of people popping up in disguise, puns galore, mistaken identities, uniting lovers, outwitting adversaries, courtesans, music, some dancing, slamming doors, some transgender, and basically a giddy romp of daffiness. The music in the Broadway play and movie were brilliantly composed by Steven Sondheim. The movie is a combination of a Classic plot, vaudeville format, and  1960s views on equality and love.

Keaton’s character (Erronius) is a elder Roman senator.  Who is not only a bit blind and hard of hearing but also senile.  He has been away looking for his children who were kidnapped by pirates.  In the house next door, lives Michael Hordern (Senex) who is wealthy (Patrician) Roman citizen with a domineering wife, Patricia Jessel (Domina).  They have a horny 18 year old son (Hero) who is helplessly in love with the girl (Philia) from another house next to theirs.  Hero is played by a very young Michael Crawford (Phantom of the Opera).  Hero has never spoken but a few words to Philia.  He fell in love while watching her from his window.  It makes no difference because their love is ill fated since she is of lower birth (slave-courtesan [Virgin]. Philia lives in a brothel managed by the greedy, Pimp master, Phil Silvers (Marcus Lycus).

The star of this musical comedy is Pseudolus (Zero Montel) who is Hero’s personal slave. Since the  hero is an underdog (slave), it already sounds like a  Keaton movie.  Pseudolus is a quick witted and resourceful slave who is always looking for money in any way he can; usually by conniving, lying and trickery.  What he wants most is to be freed in this 1966 musical.  Pseudolus agrees “to get the girl” if Hero agrees to free him.  Of course in the original play, the idea of freeing a slave would never be part of their agreement. In 192 A.D., the Roman audience would have rioted and mobbed the festival Temple at such a suggestion.  Besides, if they had starting freeing slaves, which would have created Roman jobs, the Roman Empire may have not Fell as it did.

The plan is to get the girl; Hero will convince her to love him; then, they will runaway and live happily ever. However, they need a love portion to convince Philia she loves him. Remember, they haven’t actually spent time getting to know each other yet. This is a crazy, bold scheme that  Psuedolus is more than ready to implement in order to be free.

While Hero’s parents are away to visit the Mother-in-Law, Pseudolus and Hero pay a visit to the brothel House of Marcus Lycus to find the Philia.  Of course, they have to look at all the merchandise (ladies) that the House of Lycus has to offer.  None of them are Philia since she is not up for sell. They discover she is promised to a Roman Captain, Miles Gloriosus.   In the Broadway play, the Captain introduces himself to the audience in song, I am Parade.  Even Carly Simon’s song, You’re So Vain doesn’t hold a candle to this insufferable Captain’s view of himself. Later in the movie, he sings some of this in another song, Bring me My Bride.

Psuedolus lies to Lycus and insists he must buy her for Senex; or, he will be beaten or worst. He cannot tell Lycus that it is Hero really wants to buy the girl.   Since Hero is only 18 years old, he cannot buy a slave. Again, ideas from the 1960s change the original storyline. This movie was made during the Vietnam war when 18 became the average age for a soldier serving overseas.  Many 18 year olds were drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam while at the same time they not allowed to vote or buy alcohol in the states.

Lycus explains to Pseudolus that he is very frighten of the Captain because a few years ago he sold him a “dud virgin.” So, it is very important that virginal Philia is perfect for this flesh transaction.  Besides, Lycus doesn’t trust Pseudolus. He doubts that he has the money to buy Philia.  He is correct. Psuedolus lies and tells him he came into money from his uncle who was recently killed. Here is one of many gags straight out of Vaudeville:  Psuedolus’ uncle was an elephant trainer who was killed during the mating season.

However, when Lycus revels to  Psuedolus that Philia is from Thrace, quick witted Psuedolus lies and tells Lycus that  Thrace is in the droves of a terrible plague. So, if the Captain would be angry enough to kill him over a “dud virgin” what might he do to him for inflicting the plague on his House?  Lycus rightfully becomes even more frightful and being a greedy businessman realizes His House of the Courtesan are also exposed to this horrendous disease. Cunning Psuedolus offers to take the “infected”girl from House of Lycus to the House of Senex (Hero’s Dad). And as an added a favor, he will pretend to be Lycus and face the Fearsome Captain, himself. Lycus believes he has manipulated Psuedolus to his advantage. Of course, we know Psuedolus out maneuvered Lycus.

So, Hero and Psuedolus bring Philia home. To calm her, they lie by telling her the Captain will come for her there.  In the meantime, Hero is running around Rome looking for the ingredients for a love portion.  However, the head slave, Hysterium  (Jack Gilford), who is the best groveling, obedient slave in Rome, discovers Philia and knows Psuedolus must be behind this confused girl’s presence. He threatens to tell the master and expose the whole sham. Psuedolus uses some good old fashion blackmail to convince Hysterium to help the lovers runaway before their master (Senex) returns and finds out.

Senex (Hero’s Dad) is ordered to go back home early; since, he broke a gift for his Mother-in-law. When he returns, he finds Philia, who thinks he is her Captain.  She offers herself to him.  Luckily they don’t get very far before they are discovered. To explain her presence, Senex is told she is the new maid. This is when the guys sing a very sexest song, Everyone Ought to have a Maid while posing throughout Roman ruins.  Psuedolus needing to get Senex out of the house before the Captain shows up uses his master’s desire for the new maid (Philia) to convince him to bathe in the empty House of Erronius, just next door; so, he could have more privacy with Philia later.

While in the House of Erronius,  Senex is singing and cooing about his future conquest. It is at that moment, Erronius (Keaton) returns home after 20 years of searching for his children.  I love the fact that Keaton worn a Roman hat that reminds his fans of his signature pork pie one.

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In one of the funniest scenes in the movie, Erronius  (half blind and deaf) is stopped from entering his house by Hysterium who just left his singing master in the bath. Erronius tells  Hysterium  of his kidnapped children by pirates. He explains that he has traveled the world to find them.  Even though twenty years has passed, he will know that they are his children because they both worn a ring like his: The rings have a gaggle (at least seven) of geese carved into each of them. Hysterium is desperately trying to keep the old senator from entering his house. Senex is singing so loudly that even near deaf Erronius says it sounds like his house is haunted. Hysterium  immediately repeats to him that he cannot enter that house because his house is haunted. At that moment, Pseudolus overhears them. He hears Erronius say he needed a soothsayer. Psuedolus disguising himself as a soothsayer tells the senator to run around the seven hills of Rome seven times in order to get rid of the haunting.  Here is a clip  of that scene.

Keaton’s First Scene in Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

Keaton was very ill while making this movie.  Most of his stunts were done by others.  However, that is not how Keaton “rolled.” There is a scene where Keaton runs into a branch of a tree and falls hard to the ground.  It is typical Keaton stunt because you don’t see it coming; and, it is hilarious. Keaton did that stunt himself without warning to the director or anyone else. I think Keaton knew that this movie was his swansong.  He passed away a few months after the movie wrapped in November of 1965. He passed away from  lung cancer on February 1, 1966.  The movie was released in October of 1966. His third wife of twenty six years, was with him at home. People said he was restless and played cards the night before he died.   He had come full circle in his life.  He started in Vaudeville in 1898 and ended his career making a movie that is as vaudeville as you can get in 1965. Comedy and Tragedy coming together and making perfectly divine laughter and sadness.

 

He deserves Paradise who makes his companions laugh Koran

None of the images are owned by me

References:

Links:

SONG LYRICS BY STEVEN SONDHEIM: Comedy Tonight (Prologue)

http://www.lyricsfreak.com/s/stephen+sondheim/comedy+tonight_20170416.html

SUMMARY OF ORIGINAL PLAY: PSUEDOLUS BY PLAUTUS (ancient Roman playwright, April of 192 B.C. [Third Day of Feastival])

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudolus

The Art of A Gag: by Every Frame A Painting         https://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=UWEjxkkB8Xs

Biography link

http://www.biography.com/people/buster-keaton-9361442

 

 

Norman Jewison: Canada’s Beloved Director

O Canada! A vast country that shares its southern border with the United States. A country that has such unusual weather that some describe it as 9 months of Winter and 3 months of Fall. A country that tries to explain to the rest of the world why the sport of curling is fascinating.  While at the same time, their National sport, hockey, symbolizes their struggles in the below zero freeze.  A country with a strong world leader that is sexy too, Justin Trudeau.  A country so far off the controversial radar that William Shatner has to remind people that he is a Canadian.  A country that is so laid back that even peace loving U2 front man, Bono claims: The world needs more Canada!  So, here it is!  A blogathon that celebrates many Canadian artists who have contributed enormous amounts of work to the Arts and entertainment industries and ultimately and happily, to us.

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Thank you Kristina of  Speakeasy (https://hqofk.wordpress.com) and Ruth of Sliver Screenings (https://silverscreenings.org/tag/ocanada-blogathon/ ) for hosting this #OCanadaBlogathon. This truly is a celebration of those Canadians who helped shaped cinema and television.  The main focus of my blog, Life Daily Lessons, is to examine the arts in its various forms in order to learn more about our human journey and connectedness. With this in mind, I chose director, Norman Jewison from a long list of Canadians.  I recognized his name because I have collected many of his movies. Even though I know very little about him personally, a great deal of his work has touched my life and made that cosmic connection to me as an individual.

Jewison’s Early Work

Jewison was born in Toronto, Ontario on July 21, 1926. After earning his B.A. from Victoria College at the University of Toronto, his first job in show business started in 1952 working with various television projects for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). That eventually led to a job in New York City working on a television show, Hit Parade, at the old Ed Sullivan Theater. His first movie as a director was in 1962, 40 pounds of Trouble with Tony Curtis and Suzanne Pleshette.  The following year, he directed Doris Day, James Garner and Arlene Francis in The Thrill of It All (1963).  The following year he again directed Doris Day  in Send Me No Flowers (1964) with Rock Hudson and Tony Randall (The last film for all three together). In 1965, he directed yet another romantic comedy, The Art of Love, starring Dick Van Dike, James Garner, Elke Sommer and Angie Dickinson.

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Jewison’s life as a director was about to drastically change in 1965 with the released another movie that same year. Only, this was very different movie than his romantic comedies.  Jewison was asked to replace director Sam Peckinpah on a project called The Cincinnati Kid.  The story line involves a poker player, Steve McQueen, who wants to prove he is the best by challenging the reputable best, Edward  G. Robinson.  Although Jewison referred to this film as his “Ugly Duckling” this drama was his golden opportunity to begin working on films with much more serious themes.

But, before he started to work on one the best dramatic movies ever made in the 60s, he directed one of my all-time favorite comedies.  It was based on a true story that ended up in Nathaniel Benchley’s book, The Off-Islanders.  The movie The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1965) is based on his book.  It stars a wonderful character actor, Alan Arkin as the Russian Submarine Officer, Lt. Yuri Rozanov. Oh yes, I confess.  I am still crushing on Adam Arkin today.  This was his debut appearance on film. He was so good in this comedy that he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor. It also stars comic legend Carl Reiner along with a long list of accomplished and gifted performers such as Eva Marie Saint, Brian Keith, Jonathan Winters, Paul Ford and many others.

 

Three Movies that are close to his heart and his humanity

There are few movies that made an impact on movie goers concerning racial tensions of the 60s,70s, and 90s like Jewison movies.  For me, the question is how did a Canadian acutely depict the disturbing prejudices and Jim Crow laws of the Old South, USA (In The Heat of The Night and A Soldier’s Story).  Jewison tells his story of a hitchhiking trip to New Orleans while going through other Southern states.   While on his trek through the state of Missouri, near the end of WWII (1945), an impressionable, 18 year old Jewison got a ride from a man in a red pick up truck. What he discovered on this ride would leave its mark on his psyche forever.

In case you didn’t know, Jewison is not Jewish.  His mother is a British immigrant to Canada and his Canadian father is of the Scotch-Irish heritage.  The “kind” driver of the red truck bragged that his truck was used in a recent lynching earlier that day. It was used to dragged the victim through the streets.  Jewison was shocked and sicken not only for the atrocity of the acts but also by the man’s obvious pride in participating in such brutality. I would love to hear Jewison’s response to the following question: What if the truck driver discovered his name and did not believe that he was not Jewish? I wonder how this story would have changed? I am  sure Jewison may have thought of that too.

This tragic injustice haunted his later work, if it did not actually inspired it.  He made three movies that addressed racial injustice in the United States. The first movie he made based on this theme was, In The Heat of The Night (1967). It is a murder mystery that stars Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, and Warren Oats. Not surprisingly, Jewison is not the only person on this film that had a harrowing experience in the South.  Poitier agreed to do this film if it was not filmed in the South.  In 1964 on a visit to Greenville Mississippi, he and Harry Belafonte delivered $70,000 in donations to Civil Rights workers.  At one point, the KKK followed them and nearly ran them off the road. Poitier also demanded that in the scene where the haughty Philadelphian police detective Virgil Tibbs (Poitier) is slapped by a bigoted cotton plantation owner, Tibbs slaps back, hard.  It is a another memorable scene in movie history. In The Heat of The Night won an Oscar for Best Movie and Rod Steiger won an Oscar for Best Actor.

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The second movie, A Soldier’s Story (1984), stars Howard E. Rollins, Jr.  and  Adolph Caesar. Near the end of WWII, a black officer is sent to Louisiana to investigate the murder of a black sergeant. A black officer is “unheard of” in the Jim Crow South. Prejudices and racism are explored through the bitter and hostile white reaction to the investigating officer.  It was nominated for three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Adolph Caesar), and Best Screenplay Adaptation.

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The third movie, The Hurricane (1999), stars Denzel Washinton, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Deborah Kara Unger and Liev Schreiber.  This movie depicts the true story of middleweight boxer, Rubin Carter, who is falsely accused and sent to prison for 3 life sentences for 3 murders committed in a New Jersey bar.  Unlike the first two movies this one is not set in the South.  It is based on Carter’s autobiography, The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender to 45472 and a book by authors Sam Chaiton and Terry Swinton: Lazarus and the Hurricane.  This movie touches on the politics of racism in America too. Although Denzel Washington was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor, he did not win; but, he did win the Golden Globe for Best Actor.  Jewison and the movie was also nominated for Golden Globe awards.

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Jewison’s own words best sums up these three movies.  Jewison: So, I make a lot of movies.  I love them all; but, the ones dearest to me are the ones that address Civil Rights and social injustice.  Since Director Jewison’s movie list contains 44 movies,  I obviously cannot post about each one of them in this blog.  But, I have posted a link in the References if you choose to look them over and possibly watch some you might have missed.

Five More Personal Favorites of Mine:

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1) Moonstruck (1987) A romantic comedy that stars Cher, Nicholas Cage, Vincent Gardenia, Olympia Durkakis, and Danny Aiello. Jewison said Cher had infallible comic timing. She believes all Directors are mad and crazy; and, Jewison agrees with her. Three Oscars were won for this movie: Cher (Best Actress in Leading Role), Olympia Dukakis (Best Actress in Supporting Role) and John Patrick Stanley (Best Writing). It is rare to see a comedy receive a Best Picture award from the Oscars. This was the first year that all nomintees for Best Director did not come from the United States. Jewison lost to Director, Bernardo Bertolucci, for The Last Emperor.

2) Fiddler On The Roof (1971) A musical drama based on a Russian Jewish family during the time of the Pogroms (offical persecutions). It stars Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Molly Picon, and Paul Mann. Tevye (Topol) has five daughters that he must find husbands.  The three eldest daughters wish to pick their own husbands for love.  Tevyve  must face the challenging changes happening to his family while trying to hold to his valued traditions and customs. I know everyone is buzzing about a recent musical, La La Land; so, maybe more neo-musicals are coming back to big screen. If they are even half as good as Fiddler on The Roof, they should be very successful.  There is another musical Jewison directed, Jesus Christ Superstar.  This not one of my personal favorites although the music is awesome.  For Fiddler on the Roof,  John Williams won an Oscar for the Best Music. It also won Oscars for Best Sound and Best Cinematography. It was nominated for 5 more Oscar categories  including Best Picture, Best actor, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Director, and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.

3) The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) A romantic heist thriller that stars Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway.  If it wasn’t for the superbly charged chemistry between the two lead actors this may have not have made my Jewison favorite list.  Let’s just say, I have never looked at a game of chess the same way again. Jewison said Steve McQueen was the most difficult actor he had ever worked with.  McQueen is suppose to have told a writer on another film, Cincinnati Kid, that he is better at walking than he is at talking. That could be interpreted with a double meaning.

4) And Justice For All (1979) Courtroom drama staring Al Pacino, Jack Warden, Lee Strasberg, John Forsythe, Jeffery Tambor, and Christine Lahti.  This film has one of Pacino’s most memorable performances. It is nearly the last scene in the movie.  Oddly enough, it is also was the first scene to be filmed.  He is a lawyer who defends innocent clients and not so innocent clients, even guilty ones too.  This is an intense and smartly written movie about the justice system itself.. Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson were nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay and Pacino for Best Actor in a Leading role. If you are a Pacino fan or wanted to know why he has so many critics loving his performances, you have to see this movie.

5) Agnes Of God (1985)  It stars Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft, and Meg Tilly. This is a murder mystery that pits Faith against Facts.  A young, other worldly nun (Meg Tilly) is found in her room with a dead baby. She has no memory of how the baby died. However, she will later claim an angel impregnated her; so, a psychiatrist (Jane Fonda) is called in to investigate. The young nun is protected by the Mother Superior (Anne Bancroft) who wants her left alone. Is Mother Superior trying to cover up something? The movie did not win any Oscars; but, it was nominated in 3 categories:  Meg Tilly for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Anne Bancroft for Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Music.  The whole time I watched this movie I was constantly wondering if it miraculously happened as the young nun had believed it or would an alternative  truth finally be discovered.

Indirect Life Lesson From Norman Jewison

Jewison gave excellent advice about being a good Director.  That same advice could easily be applied to a person’s life.  So,  in the following comments or paraphrasing of them, if you  switch out the words Director or Directing with the word life,  you will discover wisdom that could be applied to an individual’s life.

Directing movies (living life) is like being at war. Everybody is telling you something different.  There are always obstacles in the way.  You have to fight for what you believe in.  You have to defend yourself constantly. It is a matter of confidence.  With a lack of confidence and indecisiveness, everybody will take over…

Most important for a Director (life) is to keep working…

How else can you learn new things?  Which is the point. .

Thank you Norman Jewison for making all those movies.  Thank you for establishing The Canadian Centre for The Advanced Film Studies in Toronto in 1986. Thank you for The Norman and Margaret Jewison Charitable Foundation that continues to give millions to other charities.  Thank you Canada for honoring Jewison with two distinguished awards:  The O.C. (Officer of The Order of Canada) on December 14, 1998 and the C.C. (Companion of The Order of Canada) on November 1, 1991.  Finally, thank you Norman Jewison for making the world a better place through your artistic works and love.  Basically, thank you for being Canadian.  What would the world be without Canada and Canadians like you?  As Bono claimed: The world needs more Canada!

References

A list of Jewison’s movies, Biography and Images

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0422484/bio?ref_=nmmi_bio_sm

 

 

Swing High, Swing Low With Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray

 

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I love these Blogathons.  It gives me an opportunity to view a Hollywood classic that I might have missed. Swing High, Swing Low (1937) is an example of a delightful Lombard movie that I missed. Since, Carole Lombard’s work is always a joy to view, I really need to thank Laura from Phyllis Loves Classic Movies http://phyllislovesclassicmovies.blogspot.com/  and Crystal from In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/for hosting this blogathon which is a tribute to one of my favorite actresses, the Profane Carole Lombard.

This particular Lombard movie, Swing High, Swing Low (1937), is the third of four movies she made with another charming actor, Fred MacMurray.  Not only do these two incredible actors have superb screen presence and are very easy on the eye, they share that rare quality of lovely chemistry to boot.  This is a cinematic treat.

For me, Swing High, Swing Low is not your typical “screwball romantic comedy” where boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and boy finds girl again. This movie has some buried treasures in it that makes it even more fun to watch. One treasure is near the end. It has a darker twist that you would not expect in a movie of its genre.

The film begins with some terrific footage and set designs of the Panama Canal. Maggie King (Lombard) is excitedly looking out the port hole of a cruise ship that is going through the locks. This is impressive probably because director, Mitchell Liesen (Death Takes A Holiday, 1934) was a costume designer and set designer before becoming a director. When learning about Mr. Leisen as a director, two words come to mind, underrated and meticulous. His work was sadly ignored until the 70s which is why this film went into Public Domain in 1965. It astounds me that this director could be ignored who claims everything he knows about directing came from working with Cecil B. DeMille. Oh well, Hollywood politics.

Maggie encourages a customer, whose head is under a hair dryer, to join her while looking at the workings of the locks. The lady patron, with mud on her face, assures Maggie she has seen it all before. Maggie’s friend, Ella (Jean Dixon) comes in and reminds her to check the customer’s hair when the timer goes off. They both rush over to the Mrs Mudface and find a catastrophe. Her hair looks more like burnt spaghetti.  As a matter of fact, Maggie lifts one of the hair spirals cleanly off the patron’s head. When the manager comes in and sees the hair fiasco, he tells them that after they clean up their mess to see him, immediately.

This situation is what is referred to as a “screwball comedy.” As a matter of fact, Lombard worn the crown of Queen of Screwball Comedy with as much pride as Clark Gable did the title of King of  Hollywood. To be honest, I do not think this title does Lombard justice.  Screwball has a bit of negative to it. It says, it is funny because it so stupid…Lombard was many things but dumb was not one of them.  Her delivery of comical lines reminds people of classic Hollywood actresses like Jean Harlow and Mae West. For me, she is the female version of a Ryan Reynolds (Dead Pool, 2016).  They sarcastically deliver their lines in such a way that the other person is the butt of the joke. We, as an audience, laugh with them, not at them.

When Maggie was hanging out the edge of the ship’s port window and before Ella walks in, she hears someone calling out to her from the docks.  It is a patrolling American solider, Skid Johnson (Fred MacMurray).  Maggie says to the soldier: I hope you are not talking to me perchance? A very brass Johnson replies: No, on purpose! Maggie reminds him that he is on duty and not suppose to be talking to her.  He asks if the rest of her is as pretty as her face. She replies that she weighs 200 pounds and is barefoot. He laughs and tells her this is his last day in the Army. He wants her to celebrate with him and he begs her to meet him on the dock under the moon at Balboa.  He claims that he would be in his civvies and wearing a gardenia in his shirt pocket; so, she would know him. Maggie replies: Mister, I wouldn’t know you if you had a rose behind your ear!

During the meeting with the manager of the ship’s beauty salon, we learn Maggie is a hairdresser imposter, who is helped by her friend Ella. Why? She did not have enough money to buy a ticket to California.  Maggie worked at a night club, not as a singer, and did not make much money.  I keep thinking she might have been a cigarette girl who walks around trying to sell club patrons cigars or cigarettes. Maggie needed to go to California to do a background check on a wealthy cattle rancher who proposed to her.  She knew him for over three years; but, now he wants to marry her.  Perhaps, Maggie has been burned before or just a cynic or both, either way that is her reason for her deception.  Yes, the reason sounds a bit screwball.

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Next we see Ella and Maggie trying to find a taxi.  Ella says cabbies want $3.00 but if either one of them can find a cabbie for $2.00, “holler.” Yes, times has changed, one of the joys of watching classic Hollywood movies.  Ella is approached by Skid Johnson with a fake Spanish accent, he tells her: $1.00. Ella hollers for Maggie. Then, we see the girls sight seeing in the backseat of a convertible Rolls-Royce with Skid as their driver. He is pretending to be their guide.  The girls should have known something wasn’t right just from the expensive car being a cab. This is before, Uber.

Skid reads aloud from a guide-book hidden on the front seat. As Skid reads the wrong description to one of their stops which is a 15th century Cathedral, Maggie realizes he is actually reading the description of the President’s palace. She readily tells him, he is a liar and not a real guide. Skid readily tells her she is a liar for she does not weigh 200 pounds; and, she is wearing shoes. Besides, he tells her, he wore the rose behind his ear.

Charmer that he is, he tries to  convince the ladies to celebrate his last day in the Army. Skid explains that his friend Harry (Charles Butterworth) can join them as Ella’s date. He then hypes the advantages of Harry being a date. He tells them that they are riding in Harry’s car; he lives with Harry, and Harry is the hottest piano player, ever. Maggie tries to slow down Skid’s rhetoric when she asks: Hey, you talk awful fast. Have you ever tried to sell anything? Skid relies: Sure! me! Maggie replies: Well, if you had something good to sell, you would be really wonderful at it.  Ella tells Maggie that they are going to this celebration.

When Harry meets Ella, he is wearing a trench coat and suffering from a sickness. He then offers Ella a quinine pill. Ella asks him why he was offering her a quinine pill. Harry clumsily replies: you know, we are in the topics?  Ella, who is annoyed with Harry, says: N0, thanks. If you are my date, I already have my pill. I just have to say, I love Charles Butterworth’s laid back characterization of Harry. His performance reminds me of another Harry (Adrian Scarborough) on HBO’s Blunt Talk.  Both Harrys are very easy-going and extremely loyal to their friends. They are always supportive no matter how crazy the scheme. Both performers are incredible and wonderful to watch.

The first stop of their the date is for a bite to eat before they celebrate at a local club. While eating fresh seafood cooked on a dock near an open market, Harry discovers his oysters do not agree with him.  Even though this is a black and white film, I swear Harry looked green. Unfortunately, Ella and Harry have to leave Maggie and Skid on their own.

So Maggie and Skid end up at a swinging Jazz/Latino nightclub.  Maggie was not in a great mood.  She and Skid argue over the notion that a trumpet could sound romantic. Maggie argues she loves music; but, not impressed with the trumpet. So, Skid goes over to the band and picks up a trumpret. He masterfully plays the sweetest sounds  which wooes our cynical Maggie. This is a great scene and perfectly directed. However, I wondered why it was decided that Fred MacMurray should play a trumpet in the movie instead of a saxophone?  I mean MacMurray started in the business as a vocalist and saxophone player.  Why not the sax?  Hands down, the saxophone is dead to rights, sexy. MacMurray could have played the saxophone himself. Instead, two other musicians dubbed his playing the trumpet in this film. Then, I found another  treasure.

There are two playwrights for this movie: Virginia Vann Upp (Cover Girl, Gilda, Affair in Trinidad, Here Comes the Groom…)  and Oscar Hammerstein II (The King and I, South Pacific, Oklahoma, State Fair, Carmen Jones…) Well, if Hammerstein thought the trumpet is a sexy instrument for wooing a person’s heart, who am I to argue or disagree?  Having Hammerstein II working on this film might explain why the music is so good in this movie. For the sake of an argument, I wanted to see if I could find  another trumpet player who could play as sexy as I heard in this movie. It didn’t take me long to find one.  If you have the time or just curious, you can hear for yourself that the trumpet is definitely a sexy instrument. Check out  Chris Botti playing My Funny Valentine in the link under references at the end of the post. He is playing To Trudie Styler  (aka Mrs. Sting).  No question to the validity of a trumpet’s romantic sounds.  As they say, I stand corrected.

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While Skid is playing his heart out, and Maggie is getting all toasty warm, she removes her hat.  This catches the eye of a very handsome and suave looking Latino. His smooth Spanish voice is inebriating to Maggie; until, he tries to guide her away from the bar. She refuses to go; and, he becomes very angry.  Skid jumps in to her rescue.  Apparently, the misunderstanding  has something to do with local custom.  A lady who removes her hat at the bar means she is available.  A fight issues; police are called, and Maggie and Skid spend the night in jail while her ship sails away.

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Here is another treasure. That suave Latino is no other than a very young Anthony Quinn.  I don’t believe he spoke a word of English in this movie. Even though this was a very small part, you had to notice him.  He had worked on other Lombard films, so; Lombard even considered him a friend. There is a Hollywood story that Lombard needed an escort to a Hollywood event; and, she asked him to take her.  He never showed up.  Can you believe it? He stood up the most glamorous woman in Hollywood at the time.  When she ran into him later, she really let him have it, vagaries and all. He explained that he was very poor; and, he was too ashamed to tell her.  By the time, he finished his story, Lombard was in tears.  She made sure he had a raise from the studio and a tailored suit.

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So, here is Maggie with no money, no job, and no place to live. Skid has a solution. She could live with Harry and him.  She would possess the only key to her bedroom.  They would help her get a job at the club; until, she could save the money to buy a ticket to go home. This sounds so familiar. Maggie eventually convinces the club owner that Skid, Harry and she wrote a  great song.  It was so good that it should performed at her club. The owner agrees.

Another treasure, Carole Lombard debuts her singing voice in this movie.  She can really sing too.  Her voice sounds similar to Marlene Dietrich, especially on certain low notes.  Oddly enough, I found this old advertisement with Carole Lombard selling Lucky Stripe cigarettes.  Cigarettes do alter the voice into a raspy, lower octave. While singing at the nightclub, Maggie meets another singing act, Anita Alvarez (Dorothy Lamour). Another treasure,  this was only  Lamour’s second movie. She played the home wrecker type since she was Skid’s past lover.  Her motto might have been “if I can’t have him, neither can you!” There’s another Hollywood story about Lombard and Lamour. When Lamour showered up on set, Lombard marched her to a make up artist to fix those eyebrows.

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While living with the boys, Maggie discovers Skid’s more serious character defects like gambling, drinking, fighting, and lack of self-esteem. Despite this, she and he fall madly in love. Of course, this love must be tested. Skid asks her to marry him.  And on the day of their nuptials, her ex friend/fiance shows up.  He apologizes for taking so long to find her; but, he just found out a few days ago where she was. As soon as Ella got back, she told him everything.  Before Maggie can tell this poor fella that she is getting married to another guy, Skid happily waltzes in and invites Maggie’s guy friend to their wedding.  How do you spell, awkward? This sad cattle baron  actually goes to their wedding.

Eventually, a New York City agent catches their act and offers Skid a job in a Night Club in New York.  He only wanted Skid because female singers were “a dime a dozen.” After all, this was during the Great Depression. Many people were out of work and would do anything for a job. Skid with his low self-esteem, must be convinced by Maggie that this is his chance to make it big, be famous, get rich, and make his mark on the world.  Once he settled in, he would send for Maggie to be at his side.  That was the plan…

Remember that home wrecker, Anita Alvarez? She is now Skid’s singer in the New York night club.  Remember, his character defects, gambling, drinking, fighting, and low self-esteem? Well, all of this keeps him from communicating with Maggie. Meanwhile,the club owner in Panama, feels sorry for her and gives her the money to go find Skid.

She telegrams him to meet her at the docks.  He never received the message from her, thanks to the home wrecker, Anita. Maggie waits hours at the docks. Finally, she gives up and gets a room. She tries to get a hold of Skid. He is not in his room because he passed out in Anita’s room.  Frustrated, Maggie finally calls Anita to try to find her husband.  Hungover, Skid answers the phone.

This is where the film begin to have a very dark twist.  Lombard is so desolated by hearing Skid voice over the phone, she is speechless and hangs up. Her performance is so intense in this scene, you feel that your heart is ripped out with hers.  Maggie sends Skid a message that she was the voice over the phone. She wished him well and said good-bye.  She gets a divorce and marries again,and moves out of the country.  Skid completely falls apart.  He literally drinks away his life and career.

But, remember this is a movie made during the hardest economic times in United States history.  People paid good money, they don’t have, to feel good again.  So, the ending of this “screwball comedy”  will have the typical happy ending that they expect. But, it conveys a serious warning about what is truly valuable in life.

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A biblical reference sums it up nicely: What do you gain, if you have all the treasures in the world, but lose your soul?” Skid lost his soul when he had it all because he forgot what was truly valuable. The message is clear: no matter what hard times come your way, always remember to treasure those who truly love you, friend or family. See, I told you there was treasures to be found in this movie.

References:

Chris Botti: My Funny Valentine link

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=chris+botti+videos&&view=detail&mid=2AAFEB47ED8936247C1A2AAFEB47ED8936247C1A&rvsmid=70C0C46E76606742580A70C0C46E76606742580A&fsscr=-3809&FORM=VDFSRV

 

The whole movie Link

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=swing+high+swing+low+movie&view=detail&mid=5649B4326187F2E91FD65649B4326187F2E91FD6&FORM=VIRE

Some links used for reference

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001479/

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/person/115700%7C27807/Carole-Lombard/

Book:

Harris, Warren G. Gable and Lombard. Published by Greymalkin Media Las Angeles and New York, 1974