The MGM Musical Magic Blogathon…

on-an-island-with-you 2

source: MGM

It’s typical for most Esther Williams‘ films to start with some sort of swimming number.

The film doesn’t necessarily need it, but since Williams was an ex-swimmer it’s shoehorned into the film anyway.

On an Island With You is no different.

Directed by Richard Thorpe, and co-starring a talented cast that boasts the likes of Cyd Charisse, Peter Lawford, Richardo Montalban, Leon Ames, and Xavier Cugat, On an Island With You is your quintessential MGM musical.

With a flowery set, endless musical numbers and an impromptu cameo from a bandleader, the movie tells the story of a swimming star Rosalind Reynolds (Williams) and her efforts to film a movie in the lush jungles of Hawaii.

Stringing along her fiancé, Ricardo Montez (Montalban), on the island (hehe) the movie’s technical director, Lt. Lawrence Y. Kingslee (Lawford)  falls in love with her instead. If the plot can’t get any wackier, Rosalind’s best friend, Yvonne Torro (Charisse) gets enamored with her friend’s almost husband, thus leading to a love rectangle, of sorts.

on an island with you 3

source: MGM

The rest of the movie sees Lawrence attempting to wine and dine Rosalind despite her being very involved with another man.  It isn’t until he kidnaps her on a prop jet, whisking her away to different Hawaiian island that the plot really starts to kick into high gear.

While this is happening, Rosalind’s fiancé and the search party he brings together gets kidnapped by a group of cannibals who inhabit the island Lawrence took Rosalind on. Luckily, by the time Lawrence confesses his feelings for Rosalind and her fiancé finds them, in traditional classic Hollywood fashion, the problem gets fixed in the end.

Yvonne gets involved with Ricardo and Lawrence finally has his love reciprocated by Rosalind.


To be quite frank, when I initially watched this film, I really enjoyed it. Re-visiting it 3 years later, it didn’t leave the same impression it did a couple of years earlier.

I will admit, it’s a great movie, but compared the classic MGM greats, it’s hard to have On an Island with You stick out in your head.

Of course, there are people who enjoy the film, I can’t say I’m one of them. That’s not to say this movie doesn’t have great moments – because it does. Peter Lawford, for example, is a great actor. I’ve always loved him in whatever role he took on, this film is no different.

All in all, On an Island with You has a great premise but fails to make any lasting impact. Maybe, I’ll revisit it again in the future, who knows?

 

To read the rest of the entries click: here.

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The Classic Comfort Movie Blogathon…

mclintock 1

source: United Artists

“George Washington McLintock,” is the name that Katherine McLintock wistfully whispers to herself as she comes face to face with estranged husband of 2 years.

Standing eye to eye for the first time in 730 days, the McLintock’s are reuniting for a rather important moment in their lives – the finalization of their divorce.

Spearheaded by Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne, McLintock! is a film that may be overlooked compared to other Wayne/O’Hara collaborations.

Action packed with slapstick comedy, romantic tension, and witty dialogue by James Edward Grant, the film is a refreshing take on the western genre.

It may star John Wayne, but it isn’t your typical “shoot em’ up cowboy” movie.

Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, McLintock! is a family friendly, comedy romp starring two Hollywood legends.

It tells the story of George McLintock as he struggles both professionally and personally to overcome various obstacles in his life.

Whether it be his ex-wife returning to his ranch to beg for their daughter’s custody, Native Americans fighting him for a piece of his land, or local townsfolk harassing him for no good reason, the predicaments that George gets himself into makes for a hilarious movie.

McLintock 2

source: United Artists

One of the more memorable scene from the film was the giant mudslide fight about halfway through the movie.  The scene, which lastest a grand total of 10 minutes is an absolute ‘gut buster.’ It had me rolling on the ground for a good 5 minutes, my lungs were very sore after that ordeal.

O’Hara, often known for her grittiness and willingness to do action sequences, did all of her own stunts in the scene. As a woman, I’d have to say that was very commendable, and it’s probably something I would’ve done as well.

Lastly, and perhaps the funniest scene of the picture is its finale. It sees a half naked (not really, she was wearing bloomers) O’Hara soaking wet and soiled running away from an irked and disgruntled John Wayne.

When he finally catches up with her, it culminates in Wayne taking O’Hara over his knew and smacking her into submission.

McLintock 3

source: United Artists

Hilarious? Yes.

Sexist? A tad bit.

Is it in line with the movie’s plotline? Absolutely!

That’s why I believe McLintock! is the perfect comfort movie. It’s not the best Western out there, but it doesn’t attempt to be.

It does it its job perfectly.

It’s entertaining, nostalgic, and the excellent film to watch when you want to unwind from a long day at work.

What more could you ask for?

Classic Movies Are Food For the Soul

mgm_1943

source: MGM’s 20th Anniversary Celebration

When I first got into classic films 5 years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long) I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Naturally, like any bratty, snotty-nosed teenager, I turned my nose up at those “black and white snoozefests.” It wasn’t until I took a mandatory ‘Cinema Appreciation’ class that I started to *ahem* ‘appreciate’ classic films.

A couple weeks, I began to watch to The Asphalt Jungle. About halfway through, I got unbearably tired and I just had to go to bed.

The next morning I check the TCM on demand (the app is truly God-sent, I highly recommend you download it) to see if the film was still there, lo and behold, it had an expiration date.

Crushed.

I have to admit, I was pretty disappointed, but then I realized the movie served its purpose.

The Asphalt Jungle 2

source: MGM

At the time, circumstances in my life were pretty overwhelming. My college courses weren’t going to plan, the weather down here was dire, and I was struggling with life in general.

That hour of The Asphalt Jungle immediately put me in a better mood. I may not have finished it, but the film took my mind off of my current problems.

This show the power of classic films, I may not have finished it, but it gave me pleasure in another way – emotionally.

And for that, I thank them.

A Year With Anybody Got a Match?

AGAM

source: Warner Bros.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

It’s officially been a year since I’ve started sharing for love of classic films.

I started doing this because I believed having a personal blog, separate from my main freelance work, would be some sort of stress reliever – and it is.

I’ve met some wonderful people, been apart of some incredible blogathons, and got to watch some unbelievable movies that I wouldn’t have watched otherwise.

I never thought that I would amass such a following ranting and raving about my favorite films.

So, thank you.

Here’s to another year.

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The Short-Lived Romance of Kim Novak and Sammy Davis Jr.

Sammy and Kim

God Bless you, Vanity Fair

I’ve written quite a lot about classic Hollywood romances.

Some are tragic, others are straight out of a romance novel, this relationship, in particular, is intriguing for other reasons.

The pairing of Sammy Davis Jr. and Kim Novak is an underrated coupling – an interesting one, actually.

In 1957, a couple of weeks after Kim was finished shooting the greatest movie of all time, Vertigo, she stopped by her hometown of Chicago for a night out at Chez Paree.

The entertainment for that night? None other than the very charming Sammy Davis Jr.

According to this “Vanity Fair” piece on the matter, apparently – at first- Kim wanted to use Davis‘ flirtations as a way to get back at Harry Cohn for his mistreatment of her.

Eventually, she and Sammy fell into a cordial friendship, which saw them exchange numbers and midnight rendezvous hidden away from the public eye.

NOVAK DAVIS 2

What attracted Kim to Sammy wasn’t his race (of course that was part of it) but his stage presence. Much like my attraction to the internationally known k-pop band BTS, Sammy Davis‘ stage presence oozed sensuality.

With a cigarette in one hand and a ribbon microphone in the other, Davis crooned his way into the depths of Novak‘s heart.

So, they started dating.

Fully aware that their interracial relationship in 1957 could very well ruin both of their career’s, the pair had to keep it low-key.

For a couple of months, Sammy and Kim were in complete and utter bliss.

But they knew that inevitably the gossip columns (specifically Dorothy Kilgalen) would sniff around and get a whiff of what their relationship was giving off.

Once Kilgalen alerted the general public, other gossip columns started to jump on the speculation bandwagon.

That was the first gust of wind that knocked down their carefully crafted house of cards.

KIM AND SAMMY

Sadly, their relationship didn’t last too long after that.

They tried to continue their romance, by evading photographers, hiding in the backseats of cars, meeting behind closed doors, and just generally staying out of the public eye.

Between the press and Harry Cohn’s incessant harassment, Novak and Davis parted ways.


In 1957, America was still deeply segregated. Unfortunately, their relationship was a casualty of that toxic mindset.

If there were any classic Hollywood relationship that could’ve worked out, I wish it were this one. Not only would they have broken boundaries but, seeing an interracial couple on the covers on “Confidential” or “Photoplay” would’ve been a sight to see.

It truly is a shame.

If only we could go back in time.

The Third Golden Boy Blogathon: A William Holden Centenary Celebration…

Audrey and Bill

source: Paramount Pictures

Is it really a true classic Hollywood film unless your two leads have an affair?

From Bogart and Bacall, Crawford and Gable, Kelly and well, just about everyone (allegedly), having an affair with your co-star is as common as putting cereal before milk.

One tryst that I’ve always liked was the short-lived relationship between Audrey Hepburn and William Holden.

Audrey and William

source: Paramount Pictures

Let’s travel back to 1954.

The Korean war has ended, Eisenhower was president, and Audrey Hepburn was Hollywood’s hottest commodity.

Coming off an Oscar win for 1953’s Roman Holiday, Hepburn threw herself into her work, starting with the Billy Wilder romantic dramedy Sabrina.

It’s on this set where she meets and subsequently falls in love with Hollywood’s ‘Golden Boy’ William Holden.

Sabrina was Holden‘s third film with Wilder, making him a mediator whenever there were disagreements between Bogart and Hepburn on set. Since Holden was notorious for having on set affairs, it was only a matter of time until Hepburn fell for his charms.

One thing led to another and Hepburn eventually caved in. Their on-set rendezvous, however, caused frustration among the crew – particularly Bogart who was still bitter about his wife Lauren Bacall being passed over the title role of Sabrina.

William and Audrey 2

source: Audrey and ‘Bill” having a rather flirty conversation during one of their breaks on the set of 1954’s Sabrina

Their heated affair lasted until the end of filming.

According to multiple biographies, Audrey ultimately wanted Holden to divorce his wife and move in with him, inevitably having his children.

Hah!

Holden unintentionally ruined their future together when he had an impromptu vasectomy after his two sons were born. This left Audrey rather distressed and heartbroken. She finally ended their relationship when Holden admitted he wouldn’t divorce his wife for her.

Luckily, filming was completed relatively swiftly, leaving Hepburn with time to mend her shattered hopes and dreams.

William and Audrey 3

source: Paramount Pictures

The next time Holden and Hepburn crossed paths was in 1964, 10 years after the filming of Sabrina when they co-starred in the romantic comedy Paris When It Sizzles.

The movie wasn’t too great, but what it lacked in the on-screen plot was more than made up in the crazy behind the scenes drama involving their relationship and Holden‘s rampant alcoholism.

Director Richard Quine commented on this, saying that Holden “was like a punch-drunk fighter, walking on his heels, listing slightly, talking punchy. He didn’t know he was drunk.”

This downfall was partly due to Hepburn‘s presence.

Holden fell for Hepburn – hard.

Apparently, every so often, Holden would send letters and flowers to Hepburn even though she’d been married to fellow actor Mel Ferrer for 10 years.

Holden would later recall his first time seeing Audrey after 10 years, saying, “I could hear my footsteps echoing against the walls of the transit corridor, just like a condemned man walking the last mile. I realized that I had to face Audrey and I had to deal with my drinking. And I didn’t think I could handle either situation.”

William and Audrey 5

source: Audrey and William having a laugh during their downtime on the set of 1954’s Sabrina

I suppose that’s the saddest part of this entire ordeal. If wasn’t for Holden‘s ‘surprise’ vasectomy and his alcoholism, he probably would’ve married Hepburn.

Who knows what they would’ve become? The next Newman and Woodward or Burton and Taylor? Would he have cheated on her like he did with his wife or would he treat her differently?

I’d like to think so, considering how deeply affected he was after seeing her again after 10 years.

In the end, Holden and Hepburn went their separate ways. Hepburn with Mel Ferrer and Holden with Brenda Marshall until their divorce in 1971.

 

The Third Annual Bette Davis Blogathon…

source

source: 20th Century Fox


The Star is a peculiar movie in Bette Davis‘ filmography.

It earned her an Academy Award nomination, but also some of the worst reviews of her career. Some may say that the film is a “stain” on an otherwise flawless movie career by Davis, but I believe it’s probably the most interesting.

The plot is fairly simple, it’s your typical Tinsel town story about an out of work film star and her struggles to keep hold of the fame that she once had.

Seeing as this film stars Davis, I find it hard to believe that movie doesn’t have parallels to the real-life crossroads Davis was feeling at the time.

The Star 1952

source: 20th Century Fox

It’s 1952.

Bette Davis has just turned the dreaded age of 44.

In classic Hollywood terms, that means she’s well past her ‘expiration’ date. Not unlike Joan Crawford (who The Star‘s script is inspired by), Davis was at a turning point in her career.

After rising to fame in the 30s, winning two Oscars and enjoying the bulk of her success in the 40s, Davis only made 10 films in 1950s, with All About Eve being the standout.

It appeared to be a theme in Davis‘ later career to choose scripts that had aging actresses in the beginning stages of a mid-life crisis; The Star is another example of this.

Co-starring alongside Sterling Hayden and Natalie Wood, Davis once called the film’s script, “one of the best ever written about a movie-mad actress.”

It’s funny that she would say that.

Even though Davis has been quoted multiple times saying the script is based on the ‘many faces of Joan Crawford‘ she could’ve easily been talking about herself.

Both she and Crawford were known to be rivals during their hay-day, but what if The Star was indicative of a larger problem that both women were facing at the time.

The Star 1952 2

source: 20th Century Fox

Hollywood has never been kind to older actresses. The studio system during the ‘Golden Age’ was no exception to this phenomenon.

The Star portrayed the lengths that someone would go through just to hold on to the last vestiges of fame they had left.

By 1952, Bette Davis was in the same predicament. Struggling to find work and deemed, washed up by Hollywood, she grappled with producers, forcing her way into any every script she could find.

Some films like All About Eve and The Star were fantastic; others, like Another Man’s Poison and The Catered Affair, fell flat.

The Star reflected the struggles of not only Bette Davis, but every actress of the age of 35. The movie might’ve done poorly at the box office, but its importance goes far beyond any critical and commercial praise.

It brought a sensitive subject out to the open, it broke a taboo and that’s why this movie is so important, even though some critics might not think so.

 

 

The Second Annual Doris Day Blogathon…

Midnight Lace

source: Universal Pictures

Doris Day.

Happy Birthday, first of all. Secondly, give yourself a pat on the back.

She really outdid herself this time.

The Doris Day that we like to remember is the girl next door. She’s everyone’s best friend, she’s one who married her child high school sweetheart and bakes cookies for her children’s school bake sale.

Perhaps that facade gets masks the true hidden talent in Day‘s acting arsenal.

In the thriller Midnight Lace, the ‘Hitchcock Day™‘ (something, I dubbed her after watching The Man Who Knew Too Much ) was out in full force.

The film follows newly-wed Kit Preston and her struggles to adjust to life in England. Not only does she have to deal with the melancholic weather and a different culture, she’s also being phone stalked by a man who’s threatening to kill her.

Her husband Anthony ‘Tony’ Preston, played by Rex Harrison, insists that it’s just a practical joke and tries to calm her down with an extended honeymoon to Venice.

Midnight Lace 1960 2

source: Universal Studios

The next day Kit prepares for this trip by buying a variety of clothing. During her shopping spree, she nearly gets hit by a falling girder from a nearby construction site. This is where we get introduced to Brain Younger, played by John Gavin.

He quickly takes an interest in Mrs. Preston, acting as a guardian angel of sorts, whenever she gets in trouble.

The phone calls continue, getting more and more hostile as the days roll on. It gets so bad that Tony takes the initiative and gets Scotland Yard involved. Immediately they bombard Mrs. Preston with a litany questions. Ranging from, ‘do you have any enemies?’ to ‘are you happy in your marriage?’

Naturally Tony takes offense and that leads the head detective, played by John Willams, to question him, insinuating that he may behind this entire ‘stunt.’

As if things can’t get any worse for Kit, Tony cancels their trip to Venice, claiming that work has got him extraordinarily busy.

midnigh lace 1960 3

source: Universal Studios

Luckily, a few days later Kit’s vivacious Aunt Bea, played by Myrna Loy, shows up for an extended stay at her flat.

Things progressively get stranger as the weeks go on. It starts with Kit getting stuck in an elevator and having a panic attack. What she believes is her stalker is actually Brian apologizing for his construction site cutting off the electricity. Next, she gets pushed in front of a moving bus in front of a crowd of strangers The final straw is when the people around start to doubt her, calling her delusional and paranoid.

Tony and Bea take her to a physician where he clears her of all potential ailments.

Seeing as though there’s nothing wrong, Tony decides to re-schedule their trip to Venice, at the insistence of Aunt Bea.

A couple of days pass without calls and the Preston’s deduce that they must’ve stopped. It isn’t until late one night when Tony’s due at a business meeting across town that the calls continue. This time, Tony actually hears the threats. He quickly tells Kit that he’ll cancel his meeting and they’ll devise a plan on how to catch the stranger.

Tony plans to walk out of the building, in plain sight, sneak back in and catch the killer in the middle of his act.

He does just that and this is where the film gets even crazier.

Midnight Lace 1960 4

source: Universal Studios

They wrestle for a while until the “stranger” gets shot with his own weapon. I put “stranger” in quotations because he isn’t a stranger at all but the naval husband of Kit’s supposed best friend and next door neighbor Peggy Thompson, played by Natasha Perry.

This is important because she’s being used as a witness in Tony’s plot to kill Kit while making it look like an accident. You see, Tony recently found that one of his employees’ embezzled one million pounds away from his company. The only way to get that money is to, apparently, kill his wife.

Her husband Roy Ash, played by Anthony Dawson, has been stalking Tony’s movements ever since he returned home from the war. He believed that they were having an affair, and that’s why he’s been so secretive.

Stuck at crossroads, Kit sprints towards her bedroom where she screams out for help. Once again, Brian is there to save the day, conveniently walking out of the pub just in time to help Kit cascade down the scaling safely.

Moments later the police arrive, arresting Tony, Peggy and getting medical help for the wounded ‘intruder’ lying on the ground so desperately needs.

The final shot of the film has Brian and Aunt Bea walking off in the distance comforting Kit with words of encouragement.

Conclusion

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source: Universal Studios

As I stated earlier, Day‘s dramatic acting skills are very underrated.

During the entire film, I was in shock at how well she carried the heavier, fear-inducing scenes.

I suppose that’s a testament to the director, David Miller.

His use of shadows and darkness to create a frantic mood truly terrified me. As for the acting performances, Rex Harrison was positively unsettling. I always suspected he was up to something, It didn’t surprise me when he revealed himself to be the ‘bad guy’ at the end.

I AM surprised that Doris didn’t receive a nomination for her role as Kit. I thought she did a phenomenal job, acting alongside Myrna Loy certainly isn’t an easy task, but she pulled it off flawlessly.

Speaking of Myrna Loy, I absolutely adored in this movie. Her delivery was quick, witty and at time heartbreak (when we reach the film’s climax, anyway.)

As the film ended, I couldn’t help but think that Day‘s character would bounce back that ordeal.

In my mind, she’d fly back to the States with Aunt Bea for a period of time while they clean out her old apartment, keeping in touch with Brian through a letter correspondence. After a couple of weeks in the US, she’ll return to England where she and Brian will move in together, eventually marrying months later.

One can only hope, right? Please tell me I’m not the only one who believes this?

 

Classic Film Reviews: Pal Joey (1957)

Pal Joey

source: Columbia Pictures

The year is 1957.

Seventeen years after its release, Columbia Picture’s cinematic ‘dictator’ Harry Cohn is dying to bring the romantic dramedy Pal Joey to the silver screen.

Filled to the brim with sexual explicit scenarios and slick dialogue, it took Cohn numerous re-writes and several years to finally have his pipe dream realized.

Cagney, Grant and even Gene Kelly (due to Louis B Mayer‘s greediness) all turned down the lead role before Cohn settled on ole’ blue eyes, himself.

By the time Sinatra came into the fold, the script had been through various iterations, eventually ending with the finished, cleaned up product that moviegoers know as 1957’s Pal Joey.


The film starts off in San Franciso with noted womanizer Joey Evans (played by Sinatra) stepping off the bus in search of new employment. He’s a drifter, a playboy, irresponsible, but that doesn’t stop women from falling for his ‘sweet nothings’.

While walking down the North Beach pier, Evans spots an advert featuring an old friend, bandleader Ned Gavin. He diligently writes down the address and quickly saunters over to the nightclub, hoping to run into Ned; what finds instead, is the club’s owner, Mike Miggins.

Knowing he needs work, Joey haggles Miggins into giving him a job as a singer – which Evans exceeds at. During one his many performances, his warbling catches the eye of a young, blonde chorus girl named Linda (played by Kim Novak.) They get along well, which leads Joey to harass her until she accepts his advances.

Later that night, during a charity auction, a wealthy, older woman shows up to the event, stealing the gaze of every onlooker. Vera Simpson, played by Rita Hayworth, a former stripper who Joey recognizes immediately, turns out to be the sponsor of the auction and the sole investor of the club.

Pal Joey 1957 3

source: Columbia Pictures

Joey, rudely, suggests that she does another performance for “old time’s sake” which earns him a swift slap to the face.

After striking out with Vera, Evans offers to walk Linda home. She’s hesitant to succumb to his wanton ways but, tolerates him when she finds out that they’re sharing an apartment together.

This doesn’t stop Joey from chasing after the older woman, however. Despite using insults as a disguise for flirting, Vera welcomes him back with open arms.

She reciprocates his advances which gives Joey an ego boost. When Vera returns to the club one night to make amends, he gives her his unbridled attention. Vera toys with him, and at the end of his session, she leaves without paying her astronomically large bill.

Guess who gets fired because of his indiscretions?

Luckily, Joey gets to redeem himself if he’s able to get Vera to return her investment in the club.

At this point in the film, Linda’s cold shoulder begins to warm gradually, and the thought of dating Joey seems to appeal to her.

Oooh, but wait! Not so fast.

You can never teach an old dog new tricks.

Linda breaks things off with him after he misses a dinner date they planned the night before, presumably the night he was meeting with Vera.

Joey couldn’t care less.

A couple of lies and champagne bottles later, Joey succeeds in seducing Vera and they begin to ‘go steady.’ But, their relationship is based on mutual gain rather than one that’s based on love.

Pal Joey 1957 4

source: Columbia Pictures

Joey uses Vera for cash, and she uses him for companionship. Joey reveals to Vera that he wishes to have his own club one day. That intrigues Vera and she slyly suggests that she could invest in this new “project.”

The new place, dubbed “Chez Joey” is already a step up from his old place of employment. Decked out in chiffon, lace, and a multilevel stage, Joey’s already large ego doubles in size, essentially biting the hand that fed him. Taking matters into his own hands, Joey shrugs off Vera and reconnects with Linda, promoting her as the featured act.

Vera, naturally, is upset at this display of dominance and orders Joey to fire Linda. Instead of doing the honest thing and letting her go, Joey demands her to turn her singing act into a stripping one, knowing that it would make her uncomfortable.

Linda catches on to Joey’s charade and deduces that Vera is forcing him to do this. She takes matters into her own hands when, later that night, she finds Joey waiting for Vera on a ‘houseboat’ of sorts.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Linda gets revenge by sloppily attacking (or kissing, really) Joey until she passes out in a drunken stupor.

 

Pal Joey 1957 5

source: Columbia Pictures

The next morning, Linda apologizes for her behavior and agrees to perform the ill-suggested strip tease for Joey. Later that night during Linda’s performance, the men in the crowd get a bit too rowdy for Joey’s liking.

Pangs of jealously ring through Joey’s chest.

He yanks Linda off the stage and tells her to perform a song instead, much to her delight.

Vera, however, can’t believe what she just witnessed. Angered at Joey’s disobedience Vera threatens to pull her funds from the club thus forcing its closure.

For the first time in his life, Joey keeps his integrity. He lets it close.

Linda has other ideas, though.

She reconvenes with Vera to discuss the situation. She suggests that if Linda were to leave town, she would reconsider. Obviously, that’s not feasible so, Linda gives up and goes to find Joey.

While driving around downtown San Franciso, Linda finds Joey walking out of ‘Chez Joey,’ bag in hand. After reflecting on his time spent drifting through the Golden State, Joey realizes that it may be time settle down and live an honest life. And with that, he suggests that he and Linda continue their act as ‘Linda and Joey Evans’ leaving Vera alone, troubled and companionless.

 

Conclusion

Pal Joey 1957 2

source: Columbia Pictures

Take an up and coming starlet whose studio is desperately trying to turn her into the next Marilyn Monroe despite her objections and pair her up with an ‘aging’ femme fetale who’s grasping on to the last vestiges of fame before the Hollywood machine™ puts her out for good and you get the musical comedy-drama Pal Joey.

Directed by George Sidney and spearheaded by Harry Cohn, this iteration of Pal Joey is the watered down version of the stage play of the same name.

In the stage play, Joey is a real piece of work.

He uses and abuses the two women, and in the finale that leaves with nothing but his suitcase and a bruised ego. In the classic ‘Hollywood-ified’ version, in the end, Joey and the much younger Linda run off together, leaving Vera and her millions in the dust.

This difference is the main reason why Harry Cohn had such a difficult time adapting this to the silver screen.

Fortunately for Columbia and Cohn, the film still managed to earn multiple Academy Award nominations, including ones for Best Sound, Best Editing, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

Pal Joey is truly an underrated film. One of Novak‘s best, it’s a shame not many people know about it.

Drunk Paul Newman

Drunk Paul Newman

Notice any similarities?

Alcohol.

Friend to many, detriment to most.

It can be sipped and savored with friends, tossed around by co-workers and was religiously used by classic Hollywood movie stars as a way to ‘self-medicate’ decompress after a long day of shooting.

More often than not, alcohol is used as a plot device, with screenwriters using the liquid as a physical manifestation of the inner turmoil that the characters are suffering with.

There are two instances where Hollywood’s resident salad dressing salesman™, Paul Newman begins a movie he’s starring in drunker than a freshman at college tailgate party.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Cool Hand Luke were made almost a decade apart from each other, but, they still manage to touch on some similar themes.

Drunk Paul

source: Warner Bros.

In Cool Hand Luke, Lucas Jackson was a free spirit. We see this when he gets sent to prison for drunkenly cutting off the heads of parking meters. When ‘Luke’ arrives at the labor camp he proceeds to “have a bit of fun” by ‘stirring the pot’ among his fellow prison mates and the guards.

Inmates like ‘Dragline’ played by George Kennedy, at first, found ‘Luke’ peculiar, wanting to put him in his place before he gets out of line. Eventually, the pair becomes allies as they join forces to fight against the tyrannical reign of the sadistic prison guards.

The question is, what led Luke down this path?

He was a decorated war veteran, presumably dealing with some sort of mental stress from being in such a high-risk environment, he had a face to die for with the charms of a KPop idol oozing out of every pore and he had the intrapersonal intelligence to make friends with everyone that came in contact with him.

What happened?

Well, according to the film, ‘Luke’ had some family issues, specifically with his sick mother. This, combined with the added mental scars from his war days may have led ‘Luke’ to have a “happy go lucky” attitude about life. This explains why he was up at 3 A.M vandalizing parking meters without a care in the world.

He’d pretty much lost everything: his mom, his mind, and by the end of the movie, his will to live.

Drunk Paul 2

source: MGM

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Brick’s situation is slightly different.

While ‘Luke’ didn’t care too much for other people’s opinions, Brick, on the other hand, cared too much.

This has him fall into a deep, alcohol-fueled depression where not even the advances of his very attractive wife Maggie, played by Elizabeth Taylor, can rescue him from the grasps of perpetual sadness.

Brick’s problem’s, unlike ‘Luke’, stems from his overbearing, classically Southern father ‘Big Daddy’ played by Burl Ives. At the climax of the film, ‘Big Daddy’ and Brick air their grievances with a 10-minute long conversation about the latter’s stubbornness. During the “talk” Maggie saunters in and explains to her father-in-law that it was the loss of his best friend Skipper that sent Brick into this state.

Maggie had always been jealous of their relationship. Brick spent every waking moment of his life with ‘Skip’, naturally that would make any woman upset. As payback, Maggie ruins their friendship, which probably contributed to Skipper’s suicide.

With that out in the open, the first scene of the movie where Brick drunkenly stumbles upon a track and field course and attempts to hurdle every last one of the barriers before being humbled by a broken leg makes sense.

Brick was trying to recapture his youth. He wanted to go back to a time where there were no family picnics, no responsibility, and no doting wives.

He blamed Maggie for his best friend’s death, is it any wonder why he didn’t want to sleep with her anymore; well, that and several other reasons.


In the end, alcohol was just a coping mechanism for deeper problems for each of these men- a side effect of the emotions they were both dealing with.

Paul Newman had a knack for picking good scripts. He certainly didn’t disappoint with these two and I am forever grateful.