The Elizabeth Taylor Blogathon…

Furious Love

source: Harper’s Bazaar

Furious Love.


Can one ever love something too much?

Can love be destructive?

What would you give up for love?

Friends? A vice? Your sanity?

These questions encapsulate the problematic romance between two classic Hollywood giants: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.


She was Hollywood’s sweetheart.

She grew up in front of the public eye, driving everyone who laid eyes upon her to develop a sense of protective possession with every move she made.

He was a foreigner; a brash man whose love for acting was forged by the written works of Willam Shakespeare. He paid his dues at The Old Vic in London, working years to hone his craft before being plucked out of obscurity by the bright lights of Hollywood.

How they met? Well, that’s easy to explain.

Take the history of the last active ruler during the Ptolemaic Kingdom era of Egypt, slap on some old Hollywood glitz and glamour, add on a legendary director like Joseph L.Mankiewicz while throwing millions of dollars at the production and you’ve got a perfect recipe for a high stake on set affair.


1962. Rome, Italy.

Taylor, Burton, and Mankiewicz fly to the peninsula to help salvage an, already, delayed and over budget shooting schedule. Sometime during the production, Burton and Taylor fell into bed together, which led to something more.

On top of an already delayed filming schedule and the astronomically rising costs due to Taylor‘s various illnesses (and vanity), their affair was straw that broke the metaphorical camel’s back.

Burton and Taylor 2

source: Time Magazine

When shooting ending and everyone went their separate ways, Burton and Taylor, on the other hand, did not. With both of them in marriages (Taylor‘s being the more high profile of the two) the revelation of their relationship didn’t go over too well.

The studios couldn’t wait to capitalize on their scandal, quickly shoving the two stars in a movie that reflected the real-life headlines about them.

The V.I.P.S was commercially and critically successful, drowning out the negative press that came from Cleopatra set just a couple of months earlier. After completing the movie, Burton and Taylor made their dalliances official and married on March 15th, 1964.

This is where their ‘charming’ love story turns from Hollywood legend to lore.

Nicknamed ‘Liz and Dick’, the ‘Burtons‘ lived a lifestyle jet-setting lifestyle that saw them in the headlines every other day of the week; Diamond rings, fur coats, vintage cars, the whole she-bang. Not only did they have the time to live this lifestyle, they also managed to complete mutltiple movies together throughout the decade. Some of the more memorable ones include The Sandpiper in 1965, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1966, and The Comedians in 1967.

Those were happier times, of course, compared to what happened in the latter part of the decade.

Taylor‘s career was on the decline and so was her marriage. By the time 1970 swung around Taylor was overweight, and out of favor with Hollywood producers. Newer, younger and slimmer actresses like Jane Fonda and Julie Christie made it difficult for her to find roles and that frustration (along with Burton‘s heavy drinking) boiled over into their marriage.

Burton and Taylor 3

source: Vanity Fair

By the time 1974 rolled the so-called ‘power couple of the decade’ divorced after 10 fabulous years of marriage.

The pair reconciled married, however, briefly, a couple months after the fact only to divorce as swiftly as they got back together, thus ending a real-life fairytale.


The Taylor/Burton was one of the first affairs you hear about when you get into the world of classic movies. 10 years, 11 films, and countless articles, this is the only classic Hollywood pairing where being friends was preferable to being lovers. Even when they were both old, and gray, they never stopped loving each other.

Isn’t that what true love is about?

Despite everything you may have gone through together, at the end of the day you’ll still care for each other no matter what happens.

That’s what makes their romance so legendary.

 

With that, I’ll leave you with a quote from Richard Burton about Elizabeth.

She has turned me into a moral man but not a prig, she is a wildly exciting lover-mistress, she is shy and witty, she is nobody’s fool, she is a brilliant actress, she is beautiful beyond the dreams of pornography, she can be arrogant and wilful, she is clement and loving, Dulcis Imperatrix, she is Sunday’s child, she can tolerate my impossibilities and my drunkenness, she is an ache in the stomach when I am away from her, and she loves me!

…Elizabeth is an eternal one night stand. She is my private and personal bought mistress. And lascivious with it. It is impossible to tell you what is consisted in the act of love. Well I’ll tell you, E is a receiver, a perpetual returner of the ball! I don’t write about sex very often, because it embarrasses me, but, but…

‘E’ and I did our going to bed exercises last night together. It is especially droll when we do running on the spot as she has to hold her breasts – one hand on each – for firm as they are, they are pretty big and the resultant wiggle-waggle is a pretty fetching sight and were it open to the public it would fetch in a lot of people. Like 10 million.

If you wish to read other entries in this blogathon click: here.

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The Best of M-G-M: Sunday in New York (1963)

Sunday in New York

source: MGM

The 1960s were a complex time for Jane Fonda, to say the least.

She went from being the squeaky-clean daughter of an American film legend to being cemented as the country’s resident sex symbol by the time decade ended. But, before Vadim, Barbarellaand the unbridled activism, there was Jane Fonda: the ingenue.

Ahhh, yes. We all remember that Jane. 

The perpetual virgin who was hesitant to sleep with a man she didn’t love; the dreaded stereotype.

Of course, this was a noble stance to take, but in the context of romantic pictures, it makes for hilarious situational comedy. Because of this, Jane had the tendency to make multiple versions of the same film.

Girl meets boy, boy loves girl; boy wants to take things a bit faster than the girl was anticipating, girl gets nervous and runs away. Boy gets offended and pursues her even harder until girl relents or she’s talked into it by an older brother or a friend.

Fonda’s early 60s career was littered with movies like this. They were your usual romantic comedies filled with rudimentary plot points that you tend to forget about halfway through the movie – nothing truly notable.

Sunday in New York 2

source: MGM

One of the less bothersome and perhaps the more charming films during those years is the sex romp Sunday in New York.

Adapted from the Norman Krasna screenplay of the same name, the film tells the story of wealthy 22-year-old music critic Eileen Taylor and her struggles to come to terms with her sexuality, fueled by a break up with her fianceé.

Eileen hopes to get her mind off of the situation by taking a Greyhound down from Albany to New York City, wanting to drown her sorrows in alcohol with her older brother Adam, played by Cliff Robertson.

Adam, on the other hand, has other ideas.

Instead of commiserating with his baby sister, he’s anticipating a love filled weekend with his modelesque girlfriend Mona, played by Jo Morrow.

When he isn’t neglecting his brotherly responsibilities by day, he flies jetliners by night, spending his off days smoking, boozing, and spending an inordinate amount of time with his girlfriend, primarily living the playboy lifestyle.

You can imagine the look of shock he had when Eileen unexpectedly dropped in for a weekend wanting a shoulder to cry on. This predicament forces Adam, who’s already on thin ice, to postpone his weekend tryst with Mona, much to her dismay.

Sunday in New York 3

source: MGM

Pushing aside more “immediate pleasures,” Adam gives his unbridled attention to his sister, hoping to punch the guy out get to the bottom of the situation.  When she tearfully explains that her finaceé dumped her for not “putting out” Adam’s male instinct kicks in.

“How dare he!”

Ironically, Adam was about to try the same spiel on his girlfriend before his baby sister waltz into his apartment, but that doesn’t matter. He thinks this is an abomination! No one treats his sister this way!

“Do as I say, not as I do,” right?

As Eileen emotionally implodes, Adam reassures her that not all men think that way. If she’s patient enough, her “knight and shining armor” will eventually find her and all of her tears will be in vain.

Albeit cringe-worthy, Adam’s words comfort Eileen enough for her to calm down and with more than enough time for him to make amends with Mona. With that, Adam rushes to the phone and begs her to meet him on his next flight out of NYC.

She agrees and with that, Adam bolts out of the door leaving Eileen alone with her tear stained cheeks and mangled emotions.

Sunday in New York 4

source: MGM

Being left alone for a few hours forces Eileen to re-evaluate her decisions. She thought about her brother words and how disingenuous they sounded coming from him. Eileen was aware that Adam lived the lifestyle he scolded her about.

This infuriated her, she didn’t want her older brother dictating her life. With that, Eileen took the matter into her own hands and sauntered onto the streets of Manhattan looking for a suitor who would indulge in her fantasy.

Adam, in the meantime, is trying, and failing, to win back his girlfriend’s affections. Due to a series of miscommunication about his plane schedule, Mona ultimately ends up boarding the wrong flight, making her even more irritated and dissatisfied.

Karma? Maybe. It sure seems that way.

Back on the street, Eileen awkwardly succeeds in picking up a suitor. Mike, played by Rod Taylor, is a tall, handsome, newspaperman with a knack for seeing right through people. Eileen brings him back to her brother’s apartment wanting to seduce him but fails when Mike quickly catches on to her drift.

Ashamed and flustered, Eileen has ANOTHER breakdown, forcing Mike to not only yell at her in frustration, but also rethink his life choices.

The latter part of his inner monologue kicks into overdrive when, surprisingly, Eileen’s ex fianceé, Russ played by Robert Culp, walks in on the pair in just their underwear (or in the classic movie sense, their robes.)

Russ returns triumphantly, taking Eileen in his arms and greeting Mike like he’s her brother. He apologizes for the way he treated her and begs for forgiveness, which leaves Eileen with no other choice but to accept his offer.

Sunday in New York 5

source: MGM

As if the situation can’t get any more interesting, Adam walks in a few moments later suspicious of the entire thing.

He knows who Russ is, but isn’t entirely sure why this strange man in a bathrobe in his apartment. He suspects why but waits until the situation escalates to voice his displeasure.

When it does, Adam is introduced as Mike’s co-pilot, ending Russ’s confusion, only enraging Adam even further.

Later that night, the trio go out to eat where the tensions rise to unparalleled degrees.

When Russ excuses himself to go the restroom, Adam takes this opportunity to swiftly punch Mike in the nose, shocking Eileen in the process.

Through the pain and humiliation, Mike comes to terms with his feelings for Eileen. He realized this during his introspective walk with her through Manhattan before she invited him back to her brother’s apartment. Even though she ultimately wanted to use him for selfish purposes, he had a soft spot for her, he took on the role of ‘protector’ which made him fall for her even harder.

When Russ comes back from the restroom and sees Mike doubled over in pain and Eileen tending to his wound, he uses context clues to figure out what’s going on and officially re-breaks his engagement with Eileen. In the final scene of the movie, Adam loosens his metaphorical grip on Eileen and “allows” her to continue to see Mike without any hassle.

Conclusion

Sunday in New York conclusion

source: MGM

Written right before the sexual revolution of the 1960s, Sunday in New York is just risque enough to keep the audience interested but also charming enough for the classic film purists.

Norman Krasna carefully crafted a romantic comedy that, strangely, feels very modern. Despite it being released in 1963, the rugged looks of Rod Taylor and the fresh-faced Fonda made for an interesting, if not very charming, couple. They bicker, argue, and inevitably makeup, all within the backdrop of the steel towers of Manhattan

Speaking of the leads, Taylor and Fonda did a fantastic job of portraying the three stages of Eileen and Mike’s relationship; first as potential love interests, then enemies, and eventually star-crossed lovers.

The supporting cast didn’t have much to do, but when they did, they knocked it out of the park. Praise is in order for Jo Morrow, Robert Culp, and of course the very handsome Cliff Robertson for doing such a respectable job with almost little to no screen time.


Sunday in New York is a lovely romantic comedy, that often gets overlooked for, flashier, more star-studded affairs. Films like this are one I live for. They aren’t well known, but they sure are movies that should be given more attention.

Hidden Gems: Spencer’s Mountain (1963)

Spencer's Mountain

source: Warner Brothers

If you ever longed to live in the vast, open spaces of the Grand Teton Mountains of Wyoming while drinking your favorite brand of bourbon till the sun goes down, annoying not only your significant other but also your fellow townsfolk, children and their friends, then Spencer’s Mountain is a movie that may pique your interest.

1200px-barns_grand_tetons

Where the Spencer’s laid down their roots.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Earl Hamner Jr. Spencer’s Mountain tells the story of Clay Spencer, played by Henry Fonda, and his struggles to build a better life for his family.

His wife, Olivia, played by Maureen O’Hara, tries her best to accommodate Clay and his ambitions but finds it difficult when he continually deviates from the path he stringently set for himself.

Among some of Clay’s ‘distractions’ include mild alcoholism, perpetual flirtations with other women, and the occasional adversarial comment about his wife’s religion.

Clay’s carelessness causes his family more harm than good.

The Spencer’s essentially live in the middle of nowhere. They don’t own any vehicles, horses or telephones, this leaves the family especially helpless during emergencies. When they do need some assistance, Clay just harrases his eldest son ‘Clayboy’ a freshly minted high school graduate, to run a couple of miles to the nearest police station.

It isn’t a very effective way to go about things, but, it’s the best they have.

‘Clayboy’ played by James MacArthur, is the only man to graduate high school in the Spencer family. He wants to make something out of himself, and he decides that living in the backwoods of, in his words,”the middle nowhere” is no way to live a life.

Strangely enough, his father agrees, and when ‘Clayboy’s’ teacher chooses him for one of the few scholarships that his school offers, he jumps at the chance.

Spencer's Mountain 2

source: Warner Brothers

This is where Clay’s redemption story begins.

‘Clayboy’s’ teacher nominates him for a “divinity” scholarship. It wasn’t necessarily the one he wanted, but it was better than nothing.

Knowing the elder Spencer’s general grumpiness about religion, he’s hesitant to agree to this. Olivia, on the other hand, is ecstatic that her baby boy is potentially pursuing a career as a pastor.

All the while this is happening, Clay begins renovating his home, hoping to use a plot of old Spencer land to create his dream residence. With ‘Clayboy’s’ dream of going to college, all of that is put on hold.

After letting this ruminate in his heart for a few days, Clay casts aside his prejudices and quietly accepts his son’s decision. Just as he came to terms with himself, it turns out that ‘Clayboy’s’ scores in Latin were too low for his scholarship to be accepted.

Frustrated, Clay drives up to the university to give the dean a piece of his mind. A couple of hours of contentious conversation later, the dean gives him an ultimatum: if ‘Clayboy’ can learn Latin before the semester starts, then he can enroll, but his scholarship will be dropped as a result.

Problem solved, right?

Well, not exactly.

It takes the Spencer’s a couple days to figure out where they could possibly find a Latin tutor in the middle of the dense backwoods of Wyoming. When they do, it comes as a shock to Clay when it’s the local priest that selflessly agrees to help his son.

Divine Intervention.

Spencer's Mountain 3

source: Warner Brothers

Preacher Goodman (played by Wally Cox) forces Clay to go to his services on Sunday in exchange for ‘Clayboy’s’ lessons. Sure enough, next Sunday Clay sticks to his word and attends the service, much to the delight of not only his wife but the entire town.

It appears that the hard-drinking, no-nonsense, Clay Spencer has finally begun to soften up a bit.

His newfound faith would be tested, however, when he and his father Grandpa Spencer (played by Donald Crisp) get crushed by an unsuspecting falling tree while trying to remove the stump before it grows into the family funeral plot.

The irony.

‘Clayboy’ arrives moments after the incident, bringing a pail of lunch the pair requested hours earlier. As he steps closer to the scene, ‘Clayboy’ knows that this is quickly turning into a life or death situation.

Scared out of his mind, he drops everything he’s doing and runs to the nearest ’emergency bell’ immediately alerting anyone near. Subsequently, everyone heads up the mountain bringing all the tools and medical supplies that are needed.

Spencer's Mountain 4

source: Warner Brothers

Clay escapes with a few injuries but it’s Grandpa Spencer that takes the brunt of the damage, ultimately losing his life.

Months go by after the accident.

Clay preoccupies himself with his new “dream house” project, expecting it to take his mind off of what happened. It does for a little while, but his ambitions only serve as a reminder of his dad who also shared the same dream.

The next day, Clay and ‘Clayboy’ head up to the dean’s office to show him that he successfully passed his lessons. The dean agrees and proudly scribbles ‘Clayboy’s’ name on the roster. Knowing that the last thing they need to do in order to enroll is a tuition deposit, Clay gives up on his dream of building a new home and literally sets the house on fire.

Once it simmers down and there’s nothing left but ash and disappointment, he sells the land for a hefty fee, which goes towards ‘Clayboy’s’ tuition.

The end of the movie sees the Spencer family send-off ‘Clayboy’ to college. With a clear conscience and a happy wife, Clay Spencer can definitely rest easy knowing that he made his dad proud.

Conclusion

spencers-mountain-the-end

source: Warner Brothers

This movie is the equivalent of drinking iced tea on the banks of a canal that sits a couple of feet behind your home, watching the sunset while you quietly ignore your responsibilities.

Director Delmer Daves truly outdid himself with this one. Not only does the movie give you a sense of familiarity, it shows a different side to what one would call a “nuclear family.”

Everything is not what it seems in Spencer’s Mountain.

I’ve always seen Henry Fonda as the soft, brooding type of guy. So it came as a bit of a surprise when I saw him acting “out of character” – so to speak – in this film.  Maybe I need to watch a couple of more of his movies to break this stereotype, but I’d say that his portrayal of Clay Spencer did a perfect job of that.

As for the film itself, it’s certainly a fun one. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the acting performances put on, particularly James MacArthur who, I have to admit, made my heart flutter during multiple instances in the movie.

If you have the chance to check out this film, I recommend that you do. It may not be the most exciting, or the most angst-inducing, but it’ll have you compelled to cast aside some selfish need for the sake of your family.

 

The Clark Gable Blogathon…

MMELODRAMA

source: MGM

A story of principle.

There have been many movies over the years that exemplify this precious sentiment. What there hasn’t been, however, is a film that makes sticking to what you believe in a matter of life or death.

Manhattan Melodrama is a film about convictions, love, and how far one is willing to go to keep them together.

Director W.S Van Dyke tells the story of two boys who grow up together, and how time and different circumstances lead them to live different lives.

Clark Gable and William Powell star as ‘Blackie’ Gallagher and Jim Wade, the two boys whose friendship is thicker than blood. Their friendship goes through countless ups and downs, through several trials and tribulations, but despite those hardships, Wade and ‘Blackie’ were inseparable.


Their misfortunes begin at the beginning of the film when the cruise liner they were traveling on catches fire, leaving everyone to fend for themselves.

This unlucky accident has both of their parents die in the frenzied blaze, leaving both of the boys parentless. As the boys and other survivors swim to safety, they run into a homely man named Poppa Rosen (played by George Sidney.) It’s shown that he also lost a family member, a son, the same age as ‘Blackie’ and Wade.

MMELODRAMA2

source: MGM

As the trio grieve together, Rosen offers to become their guardian. With nowhere else to go, the boys jump at the opportunity.

A couple of years pass by and everything seems to be going well for the boys (well, at least for one of them.) Wade is studying to become a district attorney and ‘Blackie’ is dipping his toes into the grimy world of petty crime.

After living comfortably with Rosen for a few years, he’s accidentally trampled to death by a policeman’s horse at a pro-Communism rally.


The movie skips ahead to the year 1920, where Wade has triumphantly become District Attorney and ‘Blackie’ runs an illegal gambling ‘joint’.

Both boys have found success in very, very different lines of work.

The law is the only thing that keeps them separated.

The two boys – now men – run into each other one night at a boxing match. They laugh, and joke around like old pals, prompting ‘Blackie’ to invite Jim out for drinks. Jim declines citing work as his excuse. That doesn’t deter ‘Blackie’ though. If he couldn’t be there he’ll send the next best thing, Eleanor – his mistress girlfriend (played by Myrna Loy.)

When Eleanor and Jim meet, she’s immediately impressed by the class and charms that oozes out of Wade, the polar opposite of ‘Blackie’s’ brash and coarse demeanor.

Eleanor returns from her impromptu ‘date’ and she realizes that she doesn’t want to live the “gangster” lifestyle anymore and ends her romance with ‘Blackie,’ eventually marrying Jim.

MMELODRAMA3

source: MGM

Her decision proves to be the correct one when a couple of days later a man who owed ‘Blackie’ money is mysteriously shot in his hotel room.

The man behind the crime?

Edward J. ‘Blackie’ Gallagher.

But, Wade doesn’t know that.

Run he starts his campaign for governor later that year, his assistant Richard Snow essentially harasses him into looking deeper into the murder case. If Jim doesn’t comply with his wishes, Snow would expose his close friendship to ‘Blackie’ thus ruining his chances of winning the race.

Coincidentally, Eleanor and ‘Blackie’ reunite at a horse track, where Eleanor explains the predicament that Wade has got himself into.

‘Blackie’ being an all-around “bad guy” tells her that she shouldn’t worry and that he’ll “take care of this, himself.”

We all know what this means.

Lo and behold, ‘Blackie’ shoots Wade’s assistant point blank in a restroom during a hockey game in Madison Square Garden. Because, why not?

MMELODRAMA4

source: MGM

What ‘Blackie’ thought to be a blind man sitting outside the restroom when he committed the crime turned out to be a concerned citizen who quickly reports the crime to the police.

Jim is now forced to choose between two of the things that he loves the most: his career or persecuting ‘Blackie.’ He wins his gubernatorial race, but his mind can’t shake the obvious conflict of interests.

Ultimately, his conscience takes over, as much as it pains him to do so and against the objections of his wife, he prosecutes ‘Blackie’ for both murders sentencing him to death by electric chair.

He almost retracts his sentencing, however, when Jim visits ‘Blackie’ in prison, he reiterates to him that he’s proud that he stuck to his conscience and didn’t relent in his charges. Agreeing, Wade gives up and lets ‘Blackie’ have a peaceful death.

The movie ends with Jim tendering his resignation from his governor seat, stating that a murder influenced the result of his election, therefore, making it invalid.

Conclusion

MMELODRAMA5

source: MGM

When you combine the genius of Joseph L. Mankiewicz and the directorial magic of W.S Van Dyke, you’re bound to get magic on the silver screen.

That’s exactly what makes Manhattan Melodrama a film that deserves more recognition. This movie has it all: excellent writing (absolutely incredible, I can’t stress that enough), outstanding acting, and exceptional directing – the trifecta.

W.S Van Dyke has quickly become one of my favorite directors because of pictures like this. He has the magic touch when it comes to movies where you need to have that delicate balance of drama and comedy (e.g The Thin Man.) Though ‘MMD’ isn’t necessarily a comedy, there were several moments in the film where the witty banter between Powell and Gable flowed organically, like they’ve known each other all their life.

For that, we have Mr. Mankiewicz to thank.


Manhattan Melodrama is a film that will make you reflect on what you truly believe and whether or not you can stand for it when the going gets tough. Not only is the film visually stunning and terrifically written, it also has an underlying message of morality and virtue.

There are not many movies that could do this, but ‘Melodrama’ is one of the few that does it so well.


If you wish to read the rest of the entries in the blogathon, click here.