The Duo Double Feature Blogathon…

the pride and the passion 1957

source: United Artists

“An Italian bombshell and an English gentleman walk into a Roman bar…”

This is a story of the courtship, romance and eventual falling out between two classic Hollywood legends.

She’s from the eternal city of Naples, He’s from the cold, windy, rainy streets of Bristol in southern England. She grew up in the working class fishing town of Pozzuoli, He grew up with a mother who was very insistent on having her son become a star.

One was discovered during a flight to Rome, the other by a vaudeville act when he was expelled out of his, very strict, very expensive private secondary school. Despite all of this, both wanted nothing more than to be loved and cherished.

The tale of Cary Grant and Sophia Loren is one of classic Hollywood legend. They first met on the set of The Pride and The Passion in 1957 and from then on, their story takes on another life of its own.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy the tale of an old Hollywood romance that almost was.

Their Movies

When you read about on-set romances, they usually start on movies that are glamorous, exciting and well-received.

This isn’t the case.

The Pride and The Passion is an action adventure that stars Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren, and Cary Grant. Directed by Stanley Kramer, the film is a modern re-telling of a Napoleonic war era battle between the Spanish and the French.

Grant plays British Royal Navy Captain Anthony Trumbull, who is sent on a mission to retrieve a siege cannon in Spain, then return it to British forces. His orders are spoiled by a Spanish guerrilla leader, played by Sinatra, who wants to use the weapon to capture the town of Ávila before French forces stake their claim. As for Loren‘s character, well, she’s basically the ‘token’ woman that Sinatra and Grant fight over.

This movie would NOT pass the Bechdel Test.

Anyway…

The picture didn’t do too well; It was critically and commercially panned with the worst reviews being reserved for the horrendous plot. Luckily for the duo, they’d get a second chance to redeem themselves with 1958’s Houseboat.

houseboat1958

source: Paramount Pictures

The better of the two movies that this duo stars in, Houseboat, is a romantic comedy that I can not stand did significantly better than Grant and Loren‘s first cinematic go-round. Grant stars as a Tom Winton, a widower who’s struggling to raise his three kids after his wife’s tragic death.

No need to worry! In enters, a gorgeous, charming 23-year-old Italian named Cinzia Zaccardi who he meets at a concert and hires her to be his live-in nanny. Jokes on him, Cinzia is actually a wealthy socialite on the run from her tyrannical father and has no idea how to cook, clean or take care of children. On the bright side, she does have a romantic interest in the man who employed her.

Laughter and situational comedy ensue.

For the rest of the film, the pair goes through a number awkward situations and adventures all while falling in love. In the final moments of the movie, the pair ends up happily married and living permanently on the Houseboat they once loathed.

Unlike their widely criticized 1957 counterpart, Houseboat enjoyed a lot of success. It was critically and financially successful and was nominated for two Academy Awards. However, by the time filming wrapped on the romantic comedy, the intense passion between Grant and Loren, that started in 1957, started to fizzle out.

Their Romance

It all started in Spain.

In 1956, Sophia‘s husband Carlo Ponti landed his wife a role in the Stanley Kramer production The Pride and the Passion. Having his cast and crew assembled, Kramer threw a cocktail party to celebrate the start of filming. Sophia, who was so nervous she changed her dress multiple times, was one of the first ones to arrive.

Stricken with anxiety, she patiently waited for her fellow co-stars to show up to this little get-together. A couple of hours and martinis later, the nervousness swiftly melts away when Cary steps into the room.

When they first meet, Grant teases her by conflating her name with a fellow Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida, but, eventually that teasing escalated into deep conversations and late-night dining at Spanish restaurants.

They fell in love.

Grant, in particular, took this relationship – hard.

Cary and Sophia

source: Grant and Loren at a press junket for their film, Houseboat (1958.)

In anticipation of her arrival in America, Grant wrote Loren several letters detailing the trials and tribulations her career could face in an entirely new country. What was also enclosed in these letters were two gold bracelets he had given her. Grant was serious about her, he wanted marriage.

She was all for it until Sophia realized she was VERY involved with her FIANCÉ of 3 years Carlo Ponti.

Uh oh.

It was a stroke of luck and Jayne Mansfield’s dress that changed the trajectory of Cary and Sophia‘s relationship.

How? Let’s find out…

The Aftermath

Carlo Sophia and Cary

source: Cary Grant with Carlo Ponti and Sophia Loren.

After location shoots in Spain and Libya, Ponti and Loren flew to California and checked into the Beverly Hills Hotel to attend a reception held in her honor at Romanoff’s restaurant. The event was going smoothly until it was crashed by Jayne Mansfield.

If you’re a classic movie fan, then you’ve probably seen that infamous photo of Mansfield and Loren. It may seem like all fun and games now, but, at the time Sophia was very put off by this so-called “publicity stunt.”

This was the turning point.

Already turned off by the Hollywood lifestyle, this incident sent those feelings over the edge. On top of this, the studios didn’t really know the type of films to put her in. Was she a dramatic actress? A Comedienne?

“I know,” says your typical Hollywood producer, ” I’ll put her in as many stereotypical Italian roles as I can!”

So, Loren goes forth and does her due diligence in Hollywood until she can’t take it anymore. She was a hair’s breadth away from quitting altogether and returning to Italy until the script for Houseboat came along.

houseboat1958 cary and Sophia

circa, 1957.

Re-united and feeling lonely, Grant and Loren fall even harder the 2nd time around.  It was then where Carlo decided to do something drastic.

Fortunately for Mr. Ponti, he didn’t have to choose.

Sophia was faced with two choices.

Go back to Italy with a man (and a mentor) who, “belonged to my world,” as she would later put it. Or, stay in the United States and start a new life with a man that she met a year ago?

The choice was clear to her – she decided on Carlo. He gave her a sense of security and the confidence to go do great things, but, not in America. That’s the advantage that Carlo had over Cary: Italy.

Ultimately, Sophia loved her homeland and Carlo more than she ever could love the bright lights and glamour of Hollywood. Cary was disappointed, but, hell – he’s Cary Grant for crying out loud, he was bound to find someone else.

As for Sophia and Carlo? They lived happily ever after. What could possibly be more classic Hollywood than that?

If you would like to read more entries in this blogathon click: here.

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Classic Film Reviews: Bus Stop (1956)

Bus Stop 1956

source: 20th Century Fox

I watched Bus Stop the other night, and I think I’m in love.

Don Murray.

Lord, have mercy.

I’ve never seen a more handsome man on the silver screen, other than Paul Henreid of course. There was something about Murray‘s performance in Bus Stop, however, that changed the way I saw this film.

As a matter of fact, not only does Murray (in his film debut by the way) give an unbelievably attractive performance as thick-headed country boy Beauregard “Bo” Decker, Marilyn Monroe, arguably, gives the best acting display in her entire filmography.

At this point in her career, Marilyn was exhausted, not just mentally and physically, but creatively; she wanted, desperately, to shake off the “dumb blonde, sex-pot” stereotype.

“How might I go about this,” the then 29-year-old Marilyn asked herself in 1955.

Well, after many days of deliberation and pacing the floor of her California home, she found a way.

Despite coming off the successes of films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Seven Year Itch, Monroe was tired of the dross that 20th Century Fox was sending her. Because of this, she took the matter into her own hands.

Bus-Stop-1956

source: 20th Century Fox

Studying at the Actors Studio with the legendary Lee Strasberg, Monroe fled to New York where she took a sabbatical to hone her skills as an actress.

Luckily for Marilyn, this “leave of absence” did wonders for her confidence in her acting ability. Revitalized and anxious, she returned to Hollywood on December 31st, 1955 where she re-negotiated her contract with 20th Century Fox which saw (in the fine print) Monroe gain control of the story material, the director and cinematographer for all of the movies she starred in.

In tandem with this decision, Monroe also opened up her own production studio, aptly named, “Marilyn Monroe Productions.” Subsequently, the first film ‘MMP’ happened to produce for Fox was the movie that kickstarted a 5 year period where Marilyn attempted to shed the persona she believed was holding her back from reaching her full potential.

Directed by Joshua Logan and starring Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray, and Arthur O’ Connell, Bus Stop is a hilariously endearing film about a rambunctious, dimwitted cowboy and his journey to find love.

Not just any kind of love, though – no – he wants an angel; one he picks himself, one that loves him unconditionally, one that (as we see later) wants absolutely nothing to do with him.

Don Murray and Marilyn Monroe

source: 20th Century Fox

Naive, raucous, lewd, and just plain rude, Beauregard “Bo” Decker is a 21- year- old cowboy who has the social awareness of a child. Only having been off his family’s Montana ranch once in his life, his guardian/father figure Virgil “Virg” Blessing (played Arthur O’ Connell) starts to mentally prepare ‘Bo’ for a rodeo they’re participating in all the way down in dusty Phoenix, Arizona.

Seeing how ‘Bo’ is probably the only 21-year-old male who hasn’t had a girlfriend, ‘Virg’ encourages him to take an interest in the opposite sex.

During this 19 hour trip to “The Copper State”, ‘Virg’ gives ‘Bo’ some advice on how to properly handle a woman. He advises him to settle down and marry a “plain old little girl” who could be there to take care of him when, eventually, ‘Virg’ either dies or moves onto something bigger and better.

Unfortunately, his advice falls on deaf ears.

‘Bo’, like most men, wants a woman who can do no wrong, someone he can put on a pedestal and treat like a goddess, someone who exists purely for his pleasure, he wants an angel – his angel.

Eventually, he got one.

BusStop1956

source: 20th Century Fox

As their bus nears Phoenix, it stops for an hour or so for a quick rest at a small diner named “Grace’s” run by, coincidentally, a woman named Grace (played by Betty Field.) ‘Bo’, with his lack of table skills and brash attitude, aggressively storms the eatery, plops down on one of their swivel chairs, and loudly requests to have served to him three uncooked hamburgers with milk and a side of onions.

Not only is this very unhealthy and disgusting, it also doesn’t go over too well with the other paying customers and his bus mates.

After he finishes his meal, ‘Bo’ decides it’s time to “hop to it” and get back on the road. Wanting to keep the peace, the bus’s driver Carl (played by Robert Bray) obliges.

They board the bus and ‘Virg’ spots a nice, young girl that ‘Bo’ could possibly take up with. He introduces himself to her and the girl says her name is Elma (played by Hope Lange.) Elated that he found a girl for his ‘traveling companion’, ‘Virg’ swiftly encourages ‘Bo’ to court this young woman, but, he isn’t interested; he’s still holding out for that “angel” that he so longingly craves.

Hope Lange and Marilyn in Bus Stop

source: 20th Century Fox

A couple of hours and dusty back roads later, the bus arrives at Phoenix. Exhausted and thirsty (not for water, if that’s what you’re thinking) they head to the local saloon named the Blue Dragon Café.

So, Virg and ‘Bo’ saunter into this pub when the young cowboy, finally, spots his angel: a 5’5″ honey blonde, cabaret singer named ‘Cherie’ (played by Marilyn Monroe.)

‘Cherie’ (or “Cherry” as ‘Bo’ would later go onto mispronounce) is an ambitious, tone-deaf singer who hopelessly wants a career under the bright lights of Hollywood. Being from a small town in the backwoods of Arkansas, ‘Cherie’ hitch-hiked her way to Phoenix, marking each town she stopped at with a smidgen of lipstick on her map.

While ‘Cherie’ performs her sultry rendition of “That Ole’ Black Magic” with ‘Virg’ looking on in amazement, ‘Bo’ storms the bar, and immediately locks eyes with the sultry singer.

Utterly infatuated with this woman, ‘Bo’ stalks her backstage after her set and convinces her to have a quick chat with him.

No sex, just talking.

Initially, ‘Cherie’ is shocked that a man is treating her with respect, and quickly becomes enamored with ‘Bo’s physically strong nature.

Bus Stop 1956

source: 20th Century Fox

‘Bo’ takes this interest as an invitation to visit ‘Cherie’ early the next morning just as she’s getting out of bed. Much to her chagrin, ‘Bo’ comes to see ‘Cherie’ at her boarding house and proclaims (from the mountain tops) that they’re engaged.

Horrified and terribly turned off by his demeanor, ‘Cherie’ relents all the feelings she ever had about him and angrily tells ‘Bo’ off. Naturally, this hurts him, seeing how this woman (now fiancée) was his “angel.” Hoping to impress her with his “intellect”, ‘Bo’ recites the Gettysburg Address while straddling an unclothed, half awake ‘Cherie.’ This only upsets her further and frustrates ‘Bo’ even more.

Sick and tired of trying to properly court a woman, ‘Bo’ chooses to handle the situation in a calm, rational, sensible manne-

Who am I kidding? He reverts back to his farm boy ways and rips ‘Cherie’ out of bed and forces her to go to the rodeo he’s performing in later that day.

A couple of moments after that, we see ‘Bo’ holding up an annoyed ‘Cherie’ on his shoulders, believing that he’s being a proper gentleman by letting her see the pre-rodeo parade from, in his opinion, the best vantage point possible.

At the actual event that ‘Bo’ and ‘Virg’ traveled to Phoenix for, ‘Cherie’ is not only fatigued mentally but physically as well. Due to the rigorous situations ‘Bo’ has been putting her in, sitting in the stands watching her husband-to-be hoot and holler about getting married becomes a tortuous affair.

Bus Stop Parade

source: 20th Century Fox

At the end of her wits, ‘Cherie’ attempts to flee.

Not so fast.

While riding a bull, ‘Bo’ spots ‘Cherie’ scurrying along the dusty bull pen looking for an exit. In the middle of roping a calf, ‘Bo’ runs after her, which gives the crowd a further reason to believe that the marriage between the two is imminent.

When ‘Cherie’ returns to her room at the boarding house she and her friend Vera (played by Eileen Heckart) help her pack a trunk filled with clothes and other valuable items. Back at The Blue Dragon, ‘Virg’ and ‘Cherie’ have a heart to heart about her situation with ‘Bo’. ‘Virg’ slowly explains to her over a nice glass of whiskey that the 21- year -old lovesick cowboy is a kissless virgin.

With this new information known, ‘Cherie’, ‘Virg’ and Vera come up with a strategy to handle ‘Bo’. But, before anything could be implemented, ‘Bo’ finds the trio at the Café and promptly wants answers. Not one to tell a lie, ‘Cherie’ simply tells ‘Bo’, “goodbye forever.”

Fury

Bus Stop 1956 2

source: 20th Century Fox

This enrages ‘Bo’.

He can’t possibly understand why his “angel” wants absolutely, positively nothing to do with him.

“That’s it”, he says and in a fit of anger, he tears off the train of ‘Cherie’s’ dress as she’s running away. In a McLintock! style chase scene to her bus station, ‘Cherie’ tries to shake off the looming footsteps of her former fiancé. Frantically trying to lose the man she once was in love with, her anxieties ease when she gets to her bus without interruption.

Not so fast.

Before ‘Cherie’ could step foot on her ticket “outta there” ‘Bo’ comes rearing like a buckin’ Bronco and lassos (yes, lassos) ‘Cherie’ like a calf and forces her to come back to his ranch in Montana.

Just as she thought would be able to escape the vice-like grip ‘Bo’ had on her, ‘Cherie’ now has to sit through a 19 hour trip on a rickety bus to the snowy tundra of Montana. As the bus approaches Grace’s Diner, which is the midway point of the journey, the bus is forced to make a stop due to a blizzard.

Bus Stop 1956 3

source: 20th Century Fox

As the bus stops and everyone else is fast asleep, ‘Cherie’ makes a B-line towards the diner’s door, hoping to, somehow, lose ‘Bo’ in the process. Quickly realizing that something’s gone missing, ‘Bo’ wakes up and barges into the diner demanding to see “Cherry.”

When asked why she left him behind on the bus, ‘Cherie’ couldn’t answer.

“Okay, no answer? I’ll just force it outta’ ya!”

So, ‘Bo’s harassment goes on for an uncomfortable amount of time which eventually sees our friendly neighborhood bus driver Carl pick him up by the scruff of the neck and challenge him to a fight.

Being a rough n’ tumble farm boy, you’d think that he would easily win the fight, right?

Hah, no.

‘Bo’ loses – badly.

Sent with his tail between his legs, the next morning ‘Virg’ forces ‘Bo’ to apologize to ‘Cherie.’

Bus Stop 3

source: 20th Century Fox

He does it, begrudgingly, and to ‘Cherie’s’ surprise he also returns the green scarf that went missing the first night they met, which can be seen: here. Wanting to end it once and for all, ‘Cherie’ gives back his engagement ring.

Ouch.

Instead of making a giant hullabaloo about it like he normally would’ve done, he tells her to keep, in remembrance of the love he has (or had) for her. ‘Cherie’ feels bad about this and struggles to tell ‘Bo’ that she wasn’t the perfect angel that he thought she was.

In the final, arguably most heart touching scene of the film, ‘Bo’ and ‘Cherie’ share a poignant moment together where ‘Bo’ tries to explain that his lack of experience and her abundance can cancel each other out, and they can live happily together without any jealousy.

This sentiment moves ‘Cherie’, particularly when ‘Bo’ tells her that he can love her despite the way she feels about herself. Caving into his affections, ‘Cherie’ throws her map to Hollywood away and embraces him with a warm hug, thus ending a weeklong courtship that started in horror, but, ended in love.

Conclusion

bus-stop-trailer-title

source: 20th Century Fox

This movie marked the change in the way I saw Marilyn.

I know, it’s not fair to judge, but, I’m glad I watched Bus Stop.

Like I said at the beginning of the review, Don Murray hooked me. He was unquestionably the best part of the movie. His portrayal of naive farm boy ‘Bo’ sent this movie into overdrive. This easily could’ve been another Monroe sex romp picture, but both Murray and Monroe put in performances that taught me otherwise.

Monroe as ‘Cherie’ the fame hungry saloon singer who’s desperate to avoid her past, is award worthy. Some people may disagree, but, I undoubtedly believe that at this point in her career, Marilyn‘s reinvention of herself was for the better.

By studying at the Actor’s Studio, Marilyn has said that the experience, “had opened a part of her head, given her confidence in herself, in her brainpower, in her ability to think out and create a character.”

This is what makes Bus Stop so great, not because of its scenic shots of Montana, or its bits humor interjected at the perfect times, no, it’s because of the intimacy between Murray and Monroe.

They were very believable as a couple, which comes as a surprise since, allegedly, Murray and Marilyn didn’t get along too well during filming. That’s just a testament to how good this film is. Everyone who worked on this movie deserves some credit, it’s fantastically crafted, masterfully directed, and beautifully acted.

If you haven’t seen it you should, it will certainly pull at your heartstrings, I know it did with mine.