Hitchcock: Under “Suspicion” (1941) The Hitchcock Blogathon

It must have been an unusual life for Mrs. Hitchcock being married to a creative Filmmaker like “Hitch.”  If you can judge by her reaction in this picture, she never had a dull moment; but, perhaps, she had a lot of fun surprises.  Even in the best of marriages, there must be moments of doubt concerning the subject of trust. How can you tell if someone is telling you the truth or lying to you?  What if your intellect tells you they are lying, especially if the evidence points to them lying; yet, they vehemently deny it.

It is a is an extremely difficult situation on any level but more so when you love the lying suspect with your whole heart and soul. God help those who possess an analytical mind and put it in practice with something akin to an old Irish idiom: Don’t believe anything you hear and only half what you see!  The Master Director of mystery films and thrillers, Alfred Hitchcock, provides these questions and situations to ponder as we watch his 1941 film, Suspicion.

In this Hitchcock film, the person possibly lying is none other than the debonair, charismatic Cary Grant (Johnnie Aysgarth).  The person desperately wanting to believe his lies is the lovely, slightly naive Joan Fontaine (Lina Mclaidlaw Aysgarth), his wife.

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Lina, who lacks confidence in herself as an attractive woman along with being painfully shy, accidentally meets a man too good to be true. She finds herself falling madly in love. This begins as handsome Johnnie shows up in her first class train compartment with his third class train ticket. She never met anyone like him before.

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This is the first film out of three Hitchcock films that Grant plays the lead. According to Grant, it was going to be the last movie too.  He didn’t like how his character was handled; and, he thought Hitch gave more attention to Fontaine.  She won an academy award for her performance.  This picture was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture too.

 

I love the way this movie starts with a pitch black screen. Then, you hear a train whistle.  Then, the audience hears Grant’s voice apologizing for kicking a leg.  You hear him say, I didn’t mean to hurt you.  Nothing like a bit of foreshadowing by Hitchcock.  It is dark because the train is going through a tunnel; but, once the train is through it, the light reveals a bookish, nerdy kind of young lady wearing glasses (Lina) sitting alone in a compartment. She is staring, in amazement, at the uncouthness of Cary Grant (Johnnie). This sets the mood for this entire movie…The audience is in the dark and never sure what to believe.

 

This is their first meeting.  The porter checks the tickets and discovers Johnnie (Grant) has a third class ticket; yet, he is in a first class compartment.  He didn’t have enough money to upgrade his ticket.  He asks book girl if she has any extra change.  Again, her jaw drops.  As she fumbles for some money, he sees a postage stamp in her hand.  He takes it and gives it to the porter and says to him: it is legal tender. Now, go and mail a letter.

Later, he sees Lina atop a nervous horse at an equestrian event.  When her horse rears up on its hind legs, she skillfully reins him in; and, he settles down. She is clearly enjoying her ride upon this spirited horse. Johnnie can hardly believe it is the same girl on the train.  He asks his lady companions who she is. They know her and are a bit negative in their comments of her.  You know how jealous some women can be. The ladies decides to introduce Johnnie to her with a visit.  They ask her to join them for Sunday church services.

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Lina meets Johnnie and his groupies for church.  As she is about to go in, Johnnie holds her back.  He asks, You really don’t want to go to Church service? Do you?  Lina tries to pull away, Johnnie is stronger. He tells her they will toss a coin and decide whether to go inside with the others. He tosses a coin.  Head or tails, you just know that he will win. When the rest of the group notices the two missing, they look back but see nothing.

Next, we see another Hitchcock foreshadowing. There is a couple, in the distance, on a hill. They are physically struggling against one another. At first, I thought he was going to toss her over a cliff.  As the camera comes closer, we can see it is Johnnie and Lina. Lina can’t shake him off her. Then, Johnnie says, Why are you fighting me?  Did you think I was going to kiss you?  Lina replies: Yes! Why else would you try to put your arms around me.  Johnnie said he was trying to fix her hair. You know this is total nonsense.  Then, he plays with her hair and puts it in the most ridiculous styles. Which is actually pretty funny.

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Later, when they reach her house, they overhear through an open window, Lina’s mother and father talking about her being a spinster and how her father must leave her a fortune to live on. You can see the hurt in Lina’s face. As she turns away to leave, she sees Johnnie looking over her shoulder. She does not hesitate.  She wraps her arms around his neck and  passionately kisses him, full mouth. Then, she runs into the house.

Of course she cannot help herself. He has given her more attention, in the space of an hour, than she had ever had in her whole life from the opposite sex.  Besides, he is charming, witty, and so visually pleasing to the eyes. He convinces her that he has noted her peculiarities, and what’s more, he really likes how her uniqueness is packaged.  Really, what’s not to love? But, is he telling the truth?

Throughout this movie, we ask ourselves these questions, just like the heroine, Lina.  We really want Johnnie to be honest with her because they are both so likable and sweetly flawed. Does she see warning signs along the way that Johnnie may not be totally honest with her? Is he a pure selfish cad? Or is he a newbie with this whole “trust thing” and he’s just bumbling along?  Of course, she sees the signs. Like many people in love, she believes her mate, Cary Johnnie; even though, he has no job (most playboys/players do not have a job); and, he has acquired massive gambling debits. However, he appears to be so in love with Lina; that he promises to stop gambling and to get a job.

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Besides, Johnnie thinks Lina’s rich Daddy, General Mclaidlaw (Cecil Hardwicke) will give them an expensive wedding gift…Maybe a house or a lump sum of money?  With this in mind, they go on an expensive honeymoon. Since his investments seem to be going no where, Johnnie gets a job from his cousin, Melbeck  However, money turns up missing.  He tells Johnnie if he replaces the money, he will not call the police.  Desperate, Johnnie takes the wedding gift (two antique, heirloom chairs) from his father-in-law and sells them. Lina finds out and is so upset that Johnnie brings the chairs back.

 

When the General dies, the only inheritance he left Lina was his portrait.  Johnnie’s finances are drying up. Then, Johnnie’s best mate, dear amicable, Beaky (Nigel Bruce) shows up to invest in Johnnie’s failed financial adventure in land development.  Lina likes Beaky; and, she tries to talk him out of investing.  When Johnnie finds out she tries to talk Beaky out of investing, he warns her to stay out of his business. Later, he tells her he called off the deal with Beaky.  Instead, he travels with Beaky to London and from there Beaky travels alone to Paris for a business deal.

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However, during these series of unlucky financial events, Lina begins to feel ill most of the time.  A neighbor who writes murder mysteries told her that Johnnie was asking her questions about which poisons are undetectable. Johnnie insists on bringing her a glass of milk before bedtime. Hitchcock brilliantly films Grant carrying the glass of milk up the stairs, in the shadows, with web like shapes running throughout the scene…Oh! What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive (Sir Walter Scott).

Then tragedy strikes. Beaky turns up dead in Paris, and no one can find the money he bought with him for the business deal. Lina begins to do more than suspect her lovely, charming husband. She now fears him. With everyone around her is telling her not to trust him, Johnnie vehemently claims his love for her and he is telling her the truth. He demands that she should believe him. He is ready to leave if she wishes it; but, he will be heartbroken for the rest of his life if he isn’t loved by her anymore. Lina wants to leave and visit her mother.  Johnnie angrily insists that he drive her. This isn’t good.

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Of course, I  not going to tell you how it ends.  You have to enjoy it for yourself. However, I will tell you that in the book, Before The Fact (1932), the author, Frances Ike, made Johnnie’s character much more sinister.  He even had a baby with the maid. In the British version of this movie, Lina is indeed murdered by Johnnie. Luckily, for us, this film is in the capable hands of Hitchcock. The creative Mr Hitchcock has a surprise for his audience in this version.  Also, like Stan Lee in the Marvel comics, he always does a cameo.  Look for him in the scene. It’s about 45 minutes into the movie.  He is mailing a letter at the village post office.   Also, people claims he pulled a horse in front of the camera just before Grant is seen at the equestrian event. I hope you watch it or watch it again.  It truly is a great classic.

This is an entry for The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon hosted by Maddie Loves Classic Films.  You can read other posts on Hitchcock film using the following link:

https://maddylovesherclassicfilms.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/the-alfred-hitchcock-blogathon-day-2/#like-6815

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En Pointe: Blogathon of Ballet: Rimky-Koravok’s Scheheazade

Before the days of DVRs, Wifi, Fire sticks, Hulu and Netflix, and so on…movie choices on television were based on the decisions of big networks or a local broadcasting affiliates.  If you said “Binge watching” in the 60s, most people would have thought you meant that you somehow medically cared for an alcoholic. In other words, watching your favorite movie or show was not as easy as a pushing a few keys on your remote control.

Back in the late 60s, to find my favorite movie, I scanned the TV guide or the Marquee supplement of the Sunday newspaper. Every week, I would skim the television listings looking for one long word: Scheherazade. If I found it, I usually circled it and noted the time and channel.  If that movie came on at 1:00 am, the last show of night, I would wake up out of a dead sleep in order to sneak into the living room to watch it.  I turned the volume dial down so low that I had to almost put my ear on the TV speaker to hear it.  If my mother heard me out of bed, there would be hell to pay.  This is as close to binge watching as you could get in the 1960s.

Was that movie worth all that work plotting and sneaking around? Yes, Song of Scheherazade (1947) was absolutely worth it.  It was my first exposure to classical music and the world of ballet. It will always have a special place in my heart because it was one of my personal gateways to wonderful, exotic worlds. This film is based on an experience of one of the greatest Russian composers of all time Nickolai Rimsky-Korvakov.  He wrote a symphony based on one of the greatest storytellers of all time, Scheherazade.  Twenty four-year old Nikolai (Nicki) travelled around the world on a Russian clipper ship for three years (1863-1866).  When he was not working and off duty for the Imperial Russian Navy, he would compose music. His compositions were influenced by the diverse music and customs of the foreign countries he visited on this long voyage. This is only thing that is true in the Hollywood movie, Song of Scheherazade, concerning any aspect of Korvakov’s life in the navy.

 

The story of Scheherazade is worth mentioning, especially if you are not familiar with her tale. She was one of the many brides of a Sultan. Because, one of his wives, who he dearly loved, betrayed him and ran away with another, he decided to protect himself from heartbreak and disloyalty. Each night, he would consummate his marriage with one of his wives; and then, he would have her executed the following morning.

When it was Scheherazade’s turn to consummate their marriage, she devised a plan to not only save herself but all the other wives too. She held the Sultan spellbound with these fantastic stories about a thief named Aladdin, a heroic sailor named Sinbad and many others who had their own adventures and loves.  She would draw these stories out so when the morning came, her story was not finished.  The Sultan was so captivated by the story, he had to know how it would end. So each morning, he would tell the executioner to come back tomorrow morning. This continued for 1001 nights.  Until, the Sultan realized how much he loved Scheherazade and stopped all executions of his wives.

 

 

The Song of Scheherazade (1947): Summary

It was during a heat wave (116 degrees with no wind or breeze) in 1865, that a Russian clipper ship asked for a tow into the Spanish port of Morocco; as a result, the sailors were given two-day shore leave. Before they could be “cut loose” on the town, they had to undergo an inspection and lecture by their stern, cigar smoking and shirtless Captain Vladimir Grigorovich (Brian Donlevy).  We learn one of the sailors is a spoiled Prince (Phillip Reed).  He loves to carry an illegal bull whip on his person.  Another sailor is “Nicki” Korvakov ( Jean Pierre Aumont).  He is an aristocrat who is in the constant mode of composing operas. French actor, Aumont is perfect as the wide-eyed, innocent Russian musical genius.  His accent is definitely French but not too thick. You soon forget it is supposed to be a Russian accent. The English he speaks just gives his words an exotic European sound.

 

When the sailors are released to start their shore leave, Nicki locates his friend: the ship’s doctor, Dovctor Klim (Charles Kullmann: an Metropolitan opera singer).  Together they search the town looking for a piano for Nicki to play.  They wanted to hear how his newest composition sounded on an instrument.  Looking through the windows of upscale homes, they find a Piano.

I guess the plan is since Nicki is an aristocrat and a musician, the homeowner would allow these two sailors in their home to pound away on their expensive piano. Once they spy a piano through a window, they excitedly bang on the door. As they push pass the servants, they assure them that they come to only check out the piano, nearly knocking them down.  They relax as soon as Nicki begins to play. It is a beautiful melody that is heard by the mistress of the house, Madame de Talavera (Eve Arden). The Madame is a noble Spanish colonists living in Morocco.  She comes into to parlor from the outside to find two strange Russian sailors: one is playing the piano and the another one is studying the music sheets. She instantly enjoys the music. However, she wants to know who these young men are and interrupts the music.   When Nicki introduces himself, she says, “What a long name. Important people have long names.”  Arden supplies much of the comic relief in this film. She is very funny as the confused, gambling, exaggerating, widowed mother with one daughter. Arden is charming, and, her comedic timing is perfect.

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During the making of this movie, the codes of decency were strictly enforced. It required that all costumes be approved three days before filming.  Strangely, they had no problem with any garments; but, they had a lot to say about Arden’s blunging necklines.  De Tralavera’s daughter, Cara (Yvonne De Carlo), is not home to be introduced to these gentlemen. Finally, Doctor Klim uses his operatic voice to sing Nicki’s new song. This is the first song of the film.  The household enthusiastically applauds when the song ends.It is a success. Madame de Travers invites the young men to come back in hopes she can introduce them to her daughter, Cara.  Nicki and his friend are so happy with the song, they rush back to the ship to work the  on the opera some more.  However, their Captain stops them and orders them off the ship.  He wants them to enjoy their two-day leave.  Who knows when another would be feasible? He orders them to find a club for some drinks, some music and hopefully some women.

 

Nicki  finds himself in such a club, sitting alone at a table, working hard on his music.  None of his fellow crew members are there. Finally, the music changes and a beautiful Moroccan woman begins her dance on a small stage.  All activities stops and all eyes, including Nicki’s, is on this enchantress. He is bewitched by the dance and beauty of this woman (Yvonne De Carlo). Nicki does not know this is the daughter of Madame de Tralavera, Cara.  Most people remember De Carlo as TV character, Lillie, the wife of Hermann Munster on a hit show called The Munsters.  She had a long movie career before television.

 

As her performance ends, she walks through the crowd for donations. When she reaches Nicki, he sees a group of sailors loudly making their entrance into the club behind her.  Nicki tugs on her hand to sit next to him as he begs her to please play along.  He didn’t want any of his peers to report to his Captain or tease him in front of their captain about being alone while working on his music in a crowded club. The Prince sees him and is curious about the lovely woman with him. He walks over to investigate.

Nicki says they were just leaving for one of the rooms upstairs (a place to become more intimate with a working girl). Nicki leaves to pay for their accommodations. Cara walks ahead and enters one of the rooms.  She is surprised when she sees the Prince waiting for her.  He assures her that she would rather his company than Nicki’s. Then, he boldly removes her face scarf. He realizes that she is not oriental. Everything on her face is makeup.  She angrily replaces her covering as Nicki enters the room.  The two men come to near blows. Finally, Nicki asks Cara to choose.  Before she chooses, the Prince concedes to leave; since, he did not want the humiliation of her choosing Nicki over him.  As the Prince leaves, Cara tells him she would have chosen Nicki.

Once the Prince left, Nicki tells Cara to eat; and, she could leave whenever she wished to. He immediately starts working on his music. Cara looks confused; but, persuades him to not let her eat alone.  He joins her; and, they talk.  He jokes with her about how a lovely girl like her could end up in a place like this. He guesses that she was born with a silver spoon and all the wealth of her family was lost.  Now, she works here to survive.  She agrees that “his story” is true.  He is curious how she manages to keep her virtue and keep the company with men she “dates.” She explains that it depends on the type of man she is with.  She orders the right liquor and tells him fascinating stories to keep him entertained; until, they grow tired and fall asleep or leave.

Nicki realized that her story reminded him of the story of Scheherazade.  He asks her if she remembered the story.  As she recounts the tale, Nicki becomes inspired to write the storytelling music. Cara has quickly becomes his personal muse. Nicki is furiously back to work on the music; and, Cara is ignored and forgotten.  She quietly leaves with a hopelessly besotted look on her face.  The next day, Nicki will learn Cara’s true identity.  At this point, I hope you see this whole movie.  There is so much to see including De Carlo disguised as a Russian sailor, Donlevy doing the best cigarette trick ever seen on film, and the sad good-bye to Nicki.  Don’t fret, this is the golden age of Hollywood.  There will be happy faces and warm fuzzy feelings to go around at the end.

Besides, the ballet and the music, there is a lovely romance story and a sub plot of the Prince completely destroying what little wealth the Tralavera family has left.  The are various dances besides the ballet at the end.  There are waltzes and Russian folk dancing too. The mix of dance and music are a hypnotic enough on their own; but, to add visual adventures of a fun storyline transforms this film into pure aesthetic joy.

 

This post was written as part of an entry for the En Pointe: The Ballet Blogathon hosted by Christina Wehner and Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

Please use the links below to read more entries in this Blogathon:

https://christinawehner.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/en-pointe-the-ballet-blogathon-begins-today/

OR

https://loveletterstooldhollywood.blogspot.com/2017/07/en-pointe-ballet-blogathon-is-coming-up.html

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References:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_compositions_by_Nikolai_Rimsky-Korsakov

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0039852/fullcredits

A Sexy Ghost? The Third Annual Sex Blogathon

Is there anything sexy about a ghost? Can ghosts have sex?  How can anyone fall in love with a ghost? I mean a stranger-ghost. Not like Patrick Swayze, who haunts his wife to protect her. Besides, they were married and in love before he was murdered and became a ghost. So, getting back to the subject, is it possible a stranger-ghost could hook up with the living?  Is it possible, that eHarmony or PlentyofFish missed a possible cash market? Yes, I am teasing!

The Silver Screen classic, The Ghost And Mrs. Muir (1947), and the subject of sex is the focus of this post. It is inspired by The Third Annual Sex Blogathon hosted by Steve at Movie, Movie Blog, Blog.  Thank you Steve for the invitation.  The link below with take you to other posts based on this theme in this blogathon:

https://moviemovieblogblog.wordpress.com/

As we all know, sex is a basic human behavior much like the feelings of love. However, love and sex are two separate things.  You can express your love through the act of sex; but, love is not needed to have enjoyable sex.  Nor, do you have to have sex in order to love someone.  So, when a film is based on a romance, it doesn’t need to include explicit sex scenes to convey the emotions of love. However, it does need the sexual tension and the belief that a sexual union might take place. This subconscious implication of sex is what some people describe as “sexy.”  In other words, implied sex is the part of the sexual tension needed to make a film truly sexy.  When it comes to implied sex and sexual tension,  the film, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, superbly utilizes both.

This gorgeous film is based on a book by an Irish writer, R. A. Dick (1945). If there ever was an explicit sexual pseudonym, this is it. The only other pseudonym that may surpass this one is, Seymour Butts. Forgive me, I digress. Her real name was Josephine Leslie.  Luckily when the book was adapted to screen, it was done by one of the best writers in Hollywood: Philip Dunne (The Last of the Mohicans (1992); How Green was My Valley (1942); The Robe (1953)….) When the movie rights were purchased by Twentieth Century Fox in 1946,  there were strong  “decency” codes in place for studios to follow.  Not a problem, because nothing in this film is sexually explicit.  However, it is loaded with implicit sexual or sexy innuendoes.  Take a look at the movie trailer to get an idea of some of those sexual implications.

This film has a wonderful cast of talented actors: Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders, Edna Best, and little Natalie Wood. Along with the great love story, script, and actors.  I have to mention how beautifully this black and white film was shot. The cinematographer, Charles Lang, was nominated for an Academy Award for the stunning visuals .  For instance, this was filmed in California; but, you would never guess it because it really looks like London and the White Cliffs of Dover in England.  Joseph Mankiewicz admirably directs and Bernard Herrmann (Psycho, North By Northwest, Citizen Cane, Twilight Zone) wrote a haunting, melodic, score to make this a near perfect movie.  Herrmann said, he believed this was the best movie score that he had ever written.   Twentieth Century Fox must have thought so too; since, the film begins with his music instead of the blasting of trumpets that is done in most of their film’s opening.

The Beginning 

Lucy (Gene Tierney) is a young, beautiful British mother who has been  widowed for a year. Unfortunately, Lucy’s deceased husband, Edwin, was an unsuccessful architect and did not leave much money behind for his family, except for a few dividends from an old gold mine. As a result, there was very little money for his wife and child to survive on. Being a proper British woman in Victoria times (1900), she is forced to live with her mother-in-Law and  sister-in-law, Eva.   Since these two repressive in-laws have had little control or no control in their own lives (typical in that time period for women), they decide to micro-manage Lucy and her young daughter (Natalie Wood). Thank goodness Lucy was able to keep her loyal, personal maid, Martha (Edna Best), with her during this trying time.

The film opens with Lucy explaining to her in laws that she has decided to take her daughter and maid and move to another town, near the sea.

As  Lucy says it: I don’t mean to sound ungrateful.  You both have been kind: but, I am not really part of the family now that Edwin is gone. I never had a life of my own.  It’s been Edwin’s life, yours and Eva’s, never my own.

Of course, they think she is mad and ungrateful for all they have done for her.  Behind the door, we see little Anna and Martha, gleefully listening. They (Lucy, Anna and Martha) are a small crew of strong and supportive women.

To Gene Tierney’s credit, she realized very quickly that Lucy’s character, which was originally written as a ditzy, screwball type of gal, was not believable or true to the character.  It took a very strong willed woman who was determined to change the course of her life to leave the “comforts” of being cared for and wing it alone, especially, one that was near destitute as Lucy. So, they rewrote the script and reshot a few days of filming, to put the film on the right track.

Lucy meets with a rental agent, Mr Coombes, who keeps presenting overpriced homes for her to rent by the sea.  She sees a much cheaper one at 52£, a month.  He nervously tries to dissuade her; but, Lucy is determined to be shown Gull Cottage. Almost as soon as they arrive, Lucy senses it is haunted.  Nearly, every step they take through the house, he tries to convince her that it is not a good choice.  Yet, every step she takes, she knows that she belongs there.  Eventually, they hear an disembodied laugh and run out of the home. Coombe explains that no one has stayed in that house overnight.  The Sea captain, Daniel Gregg, who own the house, died there four years ago.  He committed suicide and has haunted the place since. Far from being afraid, Lucy finds it all exciting and she wants the house even more.

Meeting A Ghost

So Mrs Muir and crew, move into to house and b gin the cleaning task. As Martha scrubbed the floors, Lucy does the ironing. She hears Martha using nautical terms and phases she had never use before. Martha says it must be bought on by the sea air.  As Martha encourages Lucy to take a nap, Lucy reveals a regret or fear she has about herself.

Don’t say I am not strong enough. I feel useless, halfway through my life and what have I done?

Martha leds her up the stairs to take a short nap before tea.  As Lucy shuts the French doors, she scratches her finger. She settles in a nice leather easy chair as the ship’s clock chimes in at 4:00 pm. The door opens. Rummy, the pet doggie, begins a low growl. Then a manly shadow appears looming near a sleeping Lucy.

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As the clock chimes at 5:00 pm, Lucy awakes at the sound of the door banging against its frame. The very door that she scratched her finger closing. There is a strong wind and a ominous storm about to cut loose. As Martha comes back to fetch her for tea, Lucy asks her if she remembered her shutting the door. Of course, Martha does remember. Lucy is mystified at how the door opened in its own, or is she?

During the terrible storm, she tucks Anna in for bed and then says her good nights to Martha.  She goes to the kitchen to boil water for her hot water bottle. The gaslight goes out. She has to relight it. Then, it goes out again. Then, the candle she was using to light her way into the kitchen goes out. Finally, she is not only frightened, she is angry. Instead of running away, she demands the ghost to show himself, even calling him a coward. She hears a voice: light the candle. Lucy answers: How can I when you keep blowing it out? The voice shouts: LIGHT THE BLASTED CANDLE! Then, he appears from the shadows in a corner in the kitchen.

Upon materializing, Lucy is more amazed than scared. She asks: Are you Captain Gregg? He answers: Aye.

Meeting A Ghost Continues 

The discussion between the Captain and Mrs Muir is very funny and brilliantly written. Here are some of that discussion. I have highlighted the sexy bits from their discussion:

Mrs. Muir apologizes for calling him a coward because it must have embarrassed him.

Mrs Muir: Forgive me for calling you names. I really didn’t believe you…or I wouldn’t have ….it must have been embarrassing to you

The Captain is puzzled: Why?

Muir: Because of the way you died

Captain: The way I died, madam?

Muir: I mean because you committed suicide

Captain: What made you think I committed suicide?

Muir: Mr Coombe said…

Captain interrupts: Coombe is a fool. They are all fools. I went to sleep in front of that confounded gas heater in my bedroom. I must have kicked the gas on with my foot in my sleep.  It was a stormy night like this with a Gale wind blowing into my Windows (doors).  Like any sensible man would, I shut them.  The charwoman testified I always sleep with my windows (doors) open.  How the devil should she know how I slept?

Muir: I am so glad

Captain: You have a strange sense of humour Madame.

Muir: I mean that you you didn’t commit suicide.  Then, why do you haunt?

Captain: I still have plans for me house which doesn’t include a pack of strangers barging in and making themselves at home.

Muir: Then, you were trying to frighten me away!

Captain: You call that trying? I have barely started.

Muir: I think it is very mean of you to frighten people and childish too

Captain: In Your case, I am prepared to admit I charted the course with regret.  You are not a bad looking woman, especially when you are asleep.

Muir indignantly: So, you were in my room this afternoon.

Captain: My room madam

Muir: I thought I dream it. Did you open the widow (door) to frighten me?

Captain: I opened the window because I didn’t want another accident with the blasted gas.  Women are such fools.

Muir: You of all people should not have bought that up!

Captain: I wouldn’t call that remark in the best of taste.

Muir: Well, I’m sure it was very kind of you.  But, I am quite capable of taking care of myself.  Now, if you don’t mind.

Muir lights the stove to boil the water: Are you still there?

Captain: Of course, I am still here.  Long after you have packed up and gone.

Muir: I am not going.  The house suits me perfectly

Captain: My dear woman, it is not your house…and I want it turned into a home for retired Seamen

Muir: Then you should have said so in your Will

Captain: I didn’t leave a Will

Muir: Why not?

Captain: BECAUSE I DIDN’T EXPECT TO KICK THE BLASTED GAS ON WITH ME BLASTED FOOT!

Muir: I won’t be shouted at! Everyone shouts at me and orders me about and I’m sick of it.  DO YOU HEAR? BLAST! BLAST! BLAST!

Captain bursts out laughing.

Muir: I won’t be laughed at either. I won’t leave this house. You can’t make me leave it. I WONT!……I love this house. I thought I must stay here the moment I saw it. I can’t explain it. It was as if the house itself were welcoming me. Asking me to rescue it from being so empty. You can’t understand that, can you? I suppose you think I am a silly woman, but that is the way I feel.

Captain: Hmmm…Well, there might be some truth in it at that. I felt that way about a ship once…always swore she sailed twice as sweetly for me as she would any other master out of gratitude.

Well, you love the house. That counts for you. And you’ve spunk. You didn’t frighten like the others.  That counts for you too.  You may stay, on trial.

Muir rushes toward the Captain: Oh, thank you!

Captain: Keep your distance madam!

Muir: I am sorry.  You’ve made me so happy

Captain: I’ve no intention of making you happy. I am merely doing what is best for this house.

Muir: Then we’ll agreed.  And you will go right away and leave us alone.

Captain: I will not go right away! Why should I?

Muir: Because of my little girl Anna…..

Captain: Very well, I will make a bargain with you. Leave my bedroom as it is, and I promise not to go into any other room in the house. And your brat need never know anything about me.

Muir: But if you keep the best bedroom, where should I sleep?

Captain: In the best bedroom.

Mrs. Muir looks shocked.

Captain: I in heaven’s name madam, why not?  Why bless my soul, I am a spirit. I have no body. I haven’t had one for four years. Is that clear?

Muir: But, I can see you.

Captain: All you can see is an illusion. It’s like a blasted lantern slide

Muir: Well, it’s not very convincing, but I suppose….it’s alright.

Captain: Then, it is settled. I’m probably making a mistake. I was always a fool for a helpless woman.

Muir: I am not helpless

Captain: you’re kettle is about to boil over…one thing more.  I want me painting hung in the bedroom. The one that’s in the living room.

Muir: Must I? It’s a very poor painting.

Captain: It’s my painting. I didn’t invite your criticism. I make that a part of the bargain. I want you to put it there now, tonight. Good Night.

Muir: You might have turned on the light before you left.

The gaslight comes on.

Later, Mrs. Muir places the Captain’s painting in her room.  As she begins to unbutton the front of dress. She stops and buttons them back up.  She goes to the painting and covers it with a blanket. As she is a about to drift off to the land of nod, she hears the Captain’s voice:

My dear, never let anyone tell you to be ashamed of your figure.  The next morning, Lucy has Martha pack away all her mourning clothes.

Collaborating With A Ghost

So, the love story between Mrs. Muir and Captain Gregg continues and their bond is strengthen through their honesty and bravery.  From their first meeting, they overcome their fears of each other. Then, they confided in each other. Neither one, unrelenting for the sake of the other one until they bared their souls.  Then, a bit of flirting takes place during with their bargain. They find themselves in a strange, but nonetheless sexy predicament. The next morning the Captain reveals he built the house; and, it is based on a poem, The Nightingale, by Keats.

Soon, the in-laws show up to bring Lucy home because the gold mine petered out.  The Captain doesn’t tell her what to do, but he is very happy to support her decision to stay.  He (like the Invisible Man) escorts the ladies out the door. With no money left, and family jewels pawn, the Captain tells her to write a book on his adventurous Seaman life.  They will call it Blood and Swash by Captain X.  He tells her the stories as she writes it. He even tells her which publishers to give her manuscript too.

Captain: Since we are collaborators, call me Daniel. I shall call you Lucia.

Muir: My name is Lucy

Daniel: The name doesn’t do you justice, my dear.  Women named Lucy are always imposed upon; but, LUCIA, now there’s a name for an Amazon for a queen.

As Lucia writes this unvarnished biography of a Seaman, she must use words that have never left her mouth.  The Captain leaves nothing out, including his sexual escapades. As he explains his visit to a brothel in Marseilles, Lucy stops typing. Captain Gregg asks her why she stopped.

Looking affronted, Muir claims: I have never wrote that word before.

Captain: It is a perfectly good word

Muir: I think it is a horrid word

Captain: It means what it says, doesn’t it?

Muir:  All too clearly

Captain: What word do you use when you convey that meaning?

Muir: I don’t use any!

Captain: Hang it all, Lucia!  If you are going to be prudish, we will never get the book written. Now, put it down the way I give it to you.

She looks disgusted as she slowly types: Tick, Tick, Tick …Tick! Only four letters are typed.  Again, sex is implied; but, we can easily understand the sexual overtones.

Once the book is complete, Lucy realizes that her friendship with a ghost may not be in her future. She confides her misgivings to the Captain.

Mrs. Muir: When we were writing the book, I was happy. We were accomplishing something together. But now, when I think of the future, it’s all dark and confused, like trying to see into the fog.

The Captain offers her some advise: You need to get out in the world more, meeting people, meeting men.  Lucy says she doesn’t desire to meet men.  He reassures her that she should: You are a confoundedly attractive woman. Really, my dear, you owe it to yourself.

Going Out In The World And Meeting New People

When Lucy  visits the publisher, Mr Sproule, she also catches the roaming eye of another author.  Lucy meets Uncle Neddy (George Sanders).  He writes children books while at the same time, he “loathes” them.  His real name is Miles Fairley.  His is extremely experienced with the ladies and wastes no time letting Mrs. Muir that he wants to get to know her better.

He is charmingly caddish.  He gives his appointment with the publisher to Mrs Muir. Which was not a great sacrifice since we soon learn the publisher hates his little draft for a book. Once Lucy persuades Mr Sproule to read her manuscript, he laughs, almost immediately from the first page. Of course, he wants to publish her book; and, he wants to meet Captain X who wrote the book.  Mrs. Muir tells him that the Captain is on a long voyage.  Meanwhile, Mr Fairley has waited over three hours before Mrs. Muir emerges from her meeting with Mr Sproule.

After her meeting, Fairley who is trying to impress her, catches a cab; and, they both ride to the train station together. As she is about to leave, he grabs her hanky from her hand, as a memento. Lucy is flattered; but, The Captain is not impressed with Fairley and tells her so on the train.

Although the Captain does not feel Fairley is not good enough for Lucia, he knows he must leave her to live her life to the fullest with a man who is alive. Eventually, the Captain will visit Lucy in her dreams. He will tell her good bye and tell her she dream it all about hi. He never really existed.

Oh, I can’t help you now.  It will only confuse you more and destroy whatever chance you have left for happiness…what we have missed, Lucia.  What we both have missed. Good-bye, my darling.

Then, he fades away…

I have to praise the actors in this movie.  Each of them is perfect in their roles. Also, I now know why Rex Harrison was referred to as “Sexy Rexy!”

Even though the Captain went into the light, the movie does not end here.  It continues to show the passing years; until, Mrs Muir is old herself and near death. Anna grows up and marries a lovely man.  They name their daughter little Lucy.  Martha continues to be Lucy’s friend while taking care of her.  We even know what happens to Uncle Neddy as he became older too. It is a beautiful story with some surprises here and there.

So, is The Ghost and Mrs Muir sexy even though there isn’t the slightest kiss between them? Of course it is. Despite the fact that sex with a ghost is physically impossible; or, is it? He did physically throw out her in-laws.

If he can or cannot, the possibility is there.  Plus, there is sexual tension, at least on Lucy’s part.  Nearly, every time these two characters meet they make kind comments to each other; they are honest; they confide in one another; when they bicker, they always find their way back to each other; they laugh often together; and, they are true to themselves while bringing out the best in each other. For me, I think there is a lot of a sexy in this movie. As far Lucy falling in love with the Spirit of Captain Gregg and vice versa, I will leave you with the wise words of Oscar Wilde:

You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.

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The link below with take you to other posts based on this theme in this blogathon:

https://moviemovieblogblog.wordpress.com/

For those of you who would like to read more on the subject of ghosts and sex, here is a link to a Scottish newspaper with a very interesting “true story” about a ghost having sex with the living:

https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/fabulous/1932250/woman-who-claims-she-had-sex-with-a-ghost-says-it-was-the-best-shes-ever-had/

I do not own any of the images used in this post

 

Judy Garland loves The Pirate (1948): A Garland Blogathon

Anyone who personally knows me will tell you that I am a sucker for pirate movies. Obviously, it is the “romantic notion” of a pirate that I enjoy and not the criminal element of real piracy that still exists today. The idea of a noble pirate like Sir Frances Drake, who historically was “the greatest sea dog” of all time, sailing around the world on The Golden Hind to escape capture by Phillip II of Spain is an exciting tale.  Just think of it, Drake was the first Englishman to circumvent the globe in order to keep the gold “booty” he stole from the Spanish king…classically, awesome. Drake aka el Draque (The Dragon) was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I and participated in the naval battle to stop the invasion of the Spanish Armada.  To the English he was a hero; to the Spanish he was a criminal. This is history; however, in the world of the arts our “Bad Boys” can do and be anything we so choose, even being chased by a crocodile with a clock in its belly.

Russell-Brand-Captain-Hook

Basically, the romanticized idea of a  pirate or privateer is a talented captain who is much like a “James Bond,” but sailing the seas and not driving an Aston Martin. In reality, some of them secretly worked for a government or group of investors.  The fantastical captains were strategically brilliant, expert sword fighters, charmingly witty, loved music and the spirits (Ho, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum), had a lusty libido, and were fearless in face of danger.

From movies of all genres (dramas, comedies, horror, and musicals…) and even in Disney theme parks, the pirate is a common sight. So, when I was invited to pay tribute to the beautiful and glamorous Judy Garland, I immediately chose her pirate movie.  This post is part of a Blogathon celebrating the work of Judy Garland.  It is graciously hosted by Crystal from In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.

https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/the-judy-garland-blogathon-has-now-arrived/

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Since, I admit to my pirate weaknesses, I should acknowledge that I am also a fan of television series Once Upon a Time.  Of course, I am happy Emma Snow (the savior) played beautifully by Jennifer Morrison fell in love with Captain Hook played by devilish handsome Colin O’Donoghue. Who could resist?

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Whatever the influence from history, movies, books, or location, pirates are part of the general population’s psyche.  Now, what does this have to do with a post about Judy Garland’s The Pirate?  Well it explains how I could fall (Hook, line and sinker) for the storyline of this MGM, 1948 musical. Although this film was a bust, it lost over two million dollars at the box office, I feel it had the potential to be a great movie.  Okay, given it is not a great movie, it is still enjoyable and has some of the greatest dance and song scenes ever recorded.

There is a myriad of reasons why movies fail.  For instance, a movie like Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory (1971) is an example of a movie that failed at the box office: but, later not only becomes a children favorite, but a cult classic, and later a successful remake in 2005 with Johnny Depp.  Although the The Pirate (1948) is unforgivably underrated, it is enjoyable and  entertaining. This film not only stars the multi-talented actress and singing star, Judy Garland; but, also the versatile Gene Kelly. In addition, it showcases an energetic dance number by the amazing Nicholas Brothers; luscious music by the suave Cole Porter; and, all of this delivered under the artful direction of Vicente Minnelli (married to Garland at the time).

So, how did this movie become underrated?  

Part of the reason is because two dance and song scenes were cut from the movie for different reasons.  With these cuts, it left gaps that gave the audiences at the time a sense that something was missing.  Plus, this was released only three years after World War II.  Although Spain was a neutral country, it was still a fascist country under Franco.  The Cold War, and the House Committee of  Un-American Activities were beginning to rear their ugly heads.  Many American audiences were more than cautious about being influenced by what they perceived as propaganda. This is one explanation out of many that explains why this musical failed so miserly at the box office.

Another reason, some say it failed was a result of the music.  Some believe the Cole Porter Tunes didn’t match the story.  I personally do not feel that way.  It is true, there is not a heavy influence of Spanish rhythms or beats in the music to enhance the setting in the Spanish Caribbean Port of San Sebastian.  However, the emotional lyrics matched the story very well.  And, let’s face it, Garland could sing the words off a traffic ticket and people would swoon. There is one thing Cole Porter did that might have hurt this movie.  He agreed to write the music if he could name the pirate after a friend, Macoco. The name sounds like a special hot drink at Starbucks. Latte, anyone? You could find a better pirate name from the following list:

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If I could change anything, it would be the character development of the two main leads. Serafin’s character (Gene Kelly) trying to “sell the life of a traveling troupe” to Manuela’s character (Judy Garland) has an sound of untruthfulness or Con job. An actors life should have sounded as romantic as the life of a pirate. Plus, he speaks so quickly, he sounds too smug to be charming. Manuela is a nobleman’s daughter.  The romantic side of her character should have been developed more. Manuela’s final decision of what to do with the rest of her life should not have been so obvious.  The dilemma of choosing happiness over her family, reputation, duty and money is not an easy one to make. Yes, I did find the script to be lacking.  There were six writers involved in this project.  Only two of them were credited. So, another reason the movie might have failed could have been a simple matter of ” too many writers” spoiling the script.

Manuela Dreams of Life With The Black Macoco

Manuela (Judy Garland) is a young woman who has just come of age. Her aunt Inez (Gladys Cooper) has just told her that an arranged marriage has been negotiated on her behalf with the mayor of the city, Don Pedro Vargas (Walter Slezak).  Manuela learns of her newly betrothed just after she describes, (romantically sings “Mack The Black” to her lady friends.  When Judy Garland sings, you are in her world of possibilities.  No one interprets a song like she does.  She sings of “Mac’s” (Macoco) bravery; his heroic acts of fighting; and, his treasure and gold. She dreams of her pirate, the Black Macoco, falling desperately in love with her and sailing away with her to see the world.

Manuela is well aware that her aunt and uncle took her in as an orphan with no diary of her own to attract husbands. The mayor is a self made man who is at least 20 some years her senior.  She feels beholden to their care in taking care of her.  Plus, it isn’t so so bad since the Mayor is rich and is a world traveler.  Angela’s dream of seeing the world could come true.  During a meeting is set up between her and the mayor, he assures her that although he is not cultured, he has seen the world and will tell her all about it.  He has no wish to travel again because he  cannot bear the sea.  Instead, he enjoys just staying home since it is quite, peaceful and safe. Then, Manuela is told the mayor is paying for her new wardrobe.  To seal the deal, he gives her a beautiful bejeweled extremely expensive engagement ring.

Crushed, Manuela begs her aunt to allow her to take 30 minutes by herself to look at the sea wall.  They are in town to meet with the dressmaker who is making alterations to her new wardrobe from a famous Paris fashion House, Maison Worth.  Just one last  trip to the sea by herself, she begs.  At least then she could see some corner of their world on an adventure. The aunt nervously grants her that wish.  It is near the sea wall that she meets a touring actor, Serafin (Gene Kelly).  He falls instantly in love with Manuela.  How do we know? Because, he calls every woman he meets “Nina.”  It saves him the trouble of remembering their names.

There is a great song and dance that Kelly does as he sings about all the town Ninas. During his dance routine he uses carnival poles. This might be the first pole dancing performed on screen.  After a brief meeting with Manuela, he begs her to give him her name. She informs him that she will soon be married; and, he tells her that she must not marry a “pumpkin.”  Before, she leaves, he invites her to his performance later that evening.  Before the show begins,  Sarafin sees her in the audience and decides to hypothesize her as part of his act.  But, what he really wants to do is plant the idea that she might love him.

While under hypnoses and  to his surprise, she reveals her infatuation with the notorious pirate. She sings about the Black Macoco.  This is one of the song and dance routines taken out of the picture.  It is known as the Voodoo scene.  When Louis B. Meyer saw the clip of this song and dance, he became enraged and demanded all the negatives of it be destroyed. The recording of the song survived. Someone took some movie clips and pictures of the revised scene with Judy singing Mack the Black again but at a much faster tempo.   This video is on YouTube; but,  I added that link below.  The beginning of this song is kind of creepy.

https://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=WKhytfI1UKg

The Tale of Two Scenes (Dance and Song) Cuts: Too Much Sex or Too Much Diversity

Eventually, Serafin borrows Macoco’s identity in his pursuit of Menuela. There is a lot of fun here before Manuela has her revenge for his deception.  Serafin is so convincing in his act, the mayor has him arrested as Macoco. It is during his trial that one of the best dance scenes in the history of film was cut out of the movie, Be A Clown. Gene Kelly and the Nicholas Brothers are incredible in this unbelievable routine. It was cut out of the film before it could be showed in Southern cities.  This was a time of law enforced segregation.  It was the first time a white and black men were filmed dancing together. Eerily, there is a part of the routine where they dance to close to the gallows and see three nooses hanging.  All three of them cringe and quickly dance away as part of a joke.  Unfortunately,  after the Northern cities saw the film, the Nicholas Brothers were blackballed and could not find work in Hollywood. So, they left the continent to find work in Europe.  They would return in 1964 during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. This great dance routine can be seen in the DVD version.  Hereit is to view it now.  It is not to be missed.

Not to spoil the surprise ending, Garland and Kelly will sing and dance this song again, dressed as clowns. Four years later, the song Be a Clown will be plagiarized by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed for another Kelly film, Singing In The Rain. They changed the title to Make em Laugh. Kelly did not sing the song in that movie, Donald O’Connor did. Cole Porter did not legally make a claim that the  song was used without his permission.

https://www.bing.com/search?q=be+a+clown+garland&form=EDGTCT&qs=PF&cvid=7f80993c1d3c4473a334e8398af45e26&cc=US&setlang=en-US

Final Thought

Despite the problems with the script and the cut and piece editing of the dance scenes, I still enjoyed this Garland movie. Personally, I am happy that she had the opportunity to share her romanticized pirate in one of her  movies.  Honestly, regardless of the movie, Garland and Kelly are simply a joy to watch and listen to.  This was the second of four projects planned for Garland and Kelly.  The first was For Me and My Gal (1942), The Pirate (1948), Easter Parade (1948) and Summer Stock (1950).  Kelly broke his ankle during the filming of Easter Parade and was replaced by Fred Astaire.     

What is truly amazing is that Garland, the consummate performer, could make this look and sound so good, especially  when you learn that she smoked four packs of cigarettes a day during the filming of this movie; and, she was also not at her best mentally or physically.  She missed 99 days out of the 135 filming days for illnesses.  It was during the filming of this movie that she received psychiatric treatment that was paid for by the studio. This was a first for any studio because they usually dock expenses out of their actors’ pay.

Like all Garland fans, I wish her life could have been better because she really deserved it. Who knows what may have happened if she went to nursing school and had a different life. What I do know is that she was so amazingly talented that even today, when we  hear her sing, watch one of her movies or listen to her interviews, we feel warm inside because she has made a special place in our hearts. With that said, here is a clip gym from the film, For Me And My Gal.  Garland and Kelly are shinning bright and at the top of their game as they “Show ’em.”

 

This post is part of a Blogathon celebrating the work of Judy Garland.  It is graciously hosted by Krystal from In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.  To read more posts on the work of Judy Garland, please use the link below.

https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/the-judy-garland-blogathon-has-now-arrived/

 

SOURCES:

http://www.notablebiographies.com/Fi-Gi/Garland-Judy.html

Link list of historical Pirates:

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

 

 

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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.  I used to laugh at how Egghead loved to pronounce words that started with “ex” as egg.  Like the word, excellent would be pronounced egg-cellent or egg-actly for exactly.  There is a humorous story about Price on the Batman set. He actually started an egg fight with the other actors and crew.  Price 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 established the need for villains, on to the next questions: 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 etched on 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

 

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.

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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

 

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

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.

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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

John Garfield 4

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

buster-blogathon-the-third-2

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

 

 

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