The Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon…

20000 Years in Sing Sing

source: Warner Bros.

Although this may be the “Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn blogathon” I took the liberty of choosing a lesser known movie starring the former.

20,000 Years in Sing Sing is a pre-code (one of my favorite eras) drama set in the real-life Sing Sing penitentiary location in Ossining New York- a few miles outside of the 5 boroughs of New York City.

Tommy Conners is a cocky, brash loud-mouthed gangster who has been sentenced to 5 to 30 years in prison at Sing Sing for robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

Despite Sing Sing’s notorious reputation, Tommy is sure that ‘his boys’ on the outside will be able to get him out of this. His lawyer, Joe Finn (played by Louis Calhern) attempts to sweet-talk the warden (played by Arthur Byron) with bribes, to no avail – Tommy Connors is out of luck.

Connors wants to be taken seriously at Sing Sing, so much so that he’s strutting around the prison like he bought it with his own money. This shtick of his gets shut down fairly swiftly (after multiple beatings and seven months in solitary confinement) and Tommy begins rapidly learns his place.

20000 Years in Sing Sing

source: Warner Bros

Beaten but not broken, fellow prison mate Bud Saunders (played by Lyle Talbot) recruits Connors and another prisoner named Hype (played by Warren Hymer) for a highly elaborate escape plan.

All sides of the party agree, but, when the night of the getaway falls on a Saturday, which Tommy regards as a day that’s always unlucky for him, he backs out of it leaving Bud to adjust his idea ‘on the fly’.

Bud’s plan continues without him and fails – spectacularly.

The warden was tipped off to this scheme and preemptively sends guards to spoil it, losing two of them and one prisoner in the process.

When prisoners aren’t trying to flee the steely gray walls of Sing Sing, Tommy’s girlfriend Fay Wilson (played by Bette Davis) visits him regularly every weekend.

In a desperate plea to get him out of jail, Fay admits to Connors that she’s been intimately meeting with Finn with the hope that he could do her a favor and get him released from jail.

Sing Sing

source: Warner Bros.

Enraged by the thought of Fay with another man, Tommy forbids her from seeing him again, even if that means staying in jail for permanently.

A couple of days after their meeting, Connors gets called to the warden’s office where he’s handed a telegram with tragic news:

Fay’s on her deathbed, with life-threatening injuries from a car accident.

Seeing as this has physically and emotionally affected him, the warden, incredibly – gives Tommy 24 hours to see her before she passes away, on the condition that he was to return as soon as possible.

Tommy gives the warden his word and jumps at this opportunity to leave his jail cell. When he gets Fay’s apartment he sees her wounds, he is understandably upset. Wanting to know who did this to his sweetheart, he presses Fay into giving him the answer.

Sing Sing 2

source: Warner Bros.

Fay confesses that it was Finn driving the car she was in.

The first rule of Gangster flicks is to NEVER mess with their girlfriends, or else they go crazy.

Oops.

After learning about this, Tommy grabs the nearest gun and is on a one-man mission to kill Finn. Before he could step out of the door, however, Finn shows up with a letter exonerating Connors for the crimes he committed in exchange for the $5000 dollars Fay was going to use to get him discharged from prison.

Tommy lunges at him, striking Finn in the head with a fallen telephone. Just as it seemed Connors was about to be murdered, Fay in her weakened state picks up the gun Tommy dropped and shoots Finn in the back – killing him instantly.

Tommy bolts from the scene taking the gun and – unknowingly thanks to Fay – the $5000 dollars. The police arrive at Fay’s apartment a few moments after Tommy leaves but with just enough time for Finn to name him as his killer.

His confession leads police on a national manhunt and lands the warden in hot water due to his decision to let Connors walk free.

Just as the warden is about to resign, Tommy returns to Sing Sing fully knowing that he’ll be charged with murder.

He’s sentenced to death by electric chair, accepting complete responsibility. Fay, fully recovered, tries to explain to the warden that she was the one who shot Finn, but her cries land on deaf ears. In the final scene of the movie, Tommy and Fay comfort each other, realizing that this would be the last time that they would be together.

Conclusion

Sing Sing 3

source: Warner Bros.

Though this film has no Katharine Hepburn, I still very much enjoyed it.

Directed by Michael Curtiz, 20,000 Years in Sing Sing was positively wonderful.

I went in expecting it to be a dross and dreary gangster film that I’ve so often seen in classic films but luckily for me, this wasn’t the case.

The directing was impeccable, the shadows, the black and white contrast, and the quirky camera angle gave this movie an extra kick. The chemistry between Bette Davis and Spencer Tracy was excellent.

The scene where Bette‘s character Fay is at Sing Sing for conjugal visits, whispering sweet nothings to Tracy‘s Connors like it was the last time they’ll meet is heartbreakingly adorable.

As for the supporting cast, they did just as good a job as the two leads and further deepened my sense of immersion during the movie.

All in all, 20,000 Years in Sing Sing is a wonderful pre-code film with great acting, directing and set design. Even though there’s no Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis made a more than capable substitution.

I hope that you’ll have the chance to see this film because I genuinely believed it’s one of the more underrated pictures in both Tracy‘s and Davis‘ filmography.  It deserves to be seen, and I implore you to watch it as soon as possible.

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5 Great Books That Every Classic Film Fan Should Read

Rita Hayworth

“Whenever somebody says black and white movies are boring…”

When I’m not watching classic films or laughing hysterically at What’s My Line? clips on YouTube, I spend my spare time reading.

Back in the day, I wasn’t a huge fan of reading; I would’ve much rather been working with my hands in some, unique, creative way, whether that may have been cooking, writing or playing an annoying soccer simulator on my phone that refused to let me win for some, frustrating, reason.

This toxic mindset of mine did a complete 180° when I discovered the love I have for classic movies my freshman year of high school. As I explained in a previous post, I was introduced to a number of classics through a very informative (and transformative) Film Appreciation class. It taught me that there’s more to movies than explosions, random sex scenes and lazy directing that were so prevalent in modern films.

From that point on, I found a new hobby – collecting, and reading, books about classic movies.

The more I watched these pictures, the more information I wanted to know about them. This lead me to seek out every and any book printed about that specific moment in time. I combed over a multitude of books that would help me get a better understanding of an era of movie history that I held so dearly.

The following are a list of books that I’ve read over the years. If you’re so inclined, I strongly suggest you pick up a couple. You’ll have a better understanding of the world of classic cinema and will certainly deepen your love and admiration for them.

5. By Myself and Then Some by Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall, somewhere in Key Largo, I presume…

Written without the help of a ghostwriter, By Myself and Then Some is Lauren Bacall – unfiltered.

Ms. Bacall goes through each portion of her life with extraordinary detail.

It starts off with her birth in The Bronx, talking about her absentee father and being raised by her mother, then takes you through how she got her first job working as a theatre usher and how that lead her to be discovered by Howard Hawks‘ wife Silm thanks to a Harper’s Bazaar cover. Eventually, she takes us through the courtship, marriage and eventual death of Bogart, heartbreakingly describing the terrible night he passed away in 1957.

This sounds somber, yes, but there are quite a few upbeat moments as well. There several behind the scenes stories of rowdy on-set antics of some of Bacall‘s favorite films. The African Queen, How to Marry a Millionaire and To Have and Have Not are some of the many films that Bacall writes about in this book.

Since she wrote this herself, the book does run a little long, 500+ pages to be exact. But, it does provide a fascinating insight into what it must’ve been like living during the Golden age of Hollywood.


ISBN 10: 0061127914

ISBN 13: 978-0061127915


4. Grace by Robert Lacey

Grace by Robert Lacey

“I tried to be like Grace Kelly..”

Much has been written about Grace Kelly, so much, in fact, that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.

Thank the Lord for Robert Lacey.

For a long time, I was trying to find a definitive Grace Kelly biography. I would search Amazon Books, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads to no avail.

Until I stumbled upon Grace by Robert Lacey.

Perhaps, the most lengthy biography of her, Grace covers every single aspect of Kelly‘s life. Now, the reason why I said I was searching so heavily for something like this is that there have been various, let’s just say – rumors, about Grace that no one would confirm or deny. I wanted a book that would clear up some of the stories that I’ve so often heard surrounding the Grace Kelly “legend.”

Lacey goes in-depth into Grace‘s life, from the highs (winning an Academy Award) to the lows (her overbearing parents rejecting every man she brought home to marry) and everything in between. If you always wanted to see the other side to Grace Kelly, this book is for you.


ISBN 10: 0399138722

ISBN 13: 978-0399138720


3. Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations by Peter Evans

Ava Gardner

The Ava Gardner Museum is absolutely fantastic.

I always wondered what it would be like to have a drink with Ava Gardner, luckily this book gave me the chance.

Written by Peter Evans, The Secret Conversations is a wild ride. Devilishly candid and wildly witty Ava Gardner sounds off on her life, loves and career in this recently released ‘memoir.’

The book is a hilarious look at Ava Gardner‘s stream of consciousness. With Peter Evans visiting her during her wine-fueled late night rants, this book is filled to the brim with juicy tidbits about Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rooney, Howard Hughes, and quite frankly, any person Ava came in contact with during her days in Hollywood.

It makes you feel like you’re eavesdropping into to a conversation between two friends, I think that’s what makes this book feel so…intimate. It feels real and down to earth, just like Ava.

I have to warn you, however, the book does get fairly explicit, and you may be shocked at some of the stuff you read, but, if you read it through the lens of modern-day Hollywood, I promise you, it’s less ‘pearl-clutching’ than you think.


ISBN 10: 145162770X

ISBN 13: 978-1451627701


2. Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the Dawn of the Modern Woman.

Audrey Hepburn BAT

source: Paramount Pictures

Everyone loves Audrey Hepburn.

Everyone loves Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Why not combine the two?

That’s exactly what Sam Wasson does in Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman. My favorite piece of in-flight reading material, 5 A.M, reads like a warm cup of tea.

In the book, Wasson tells the behind the scenes history of the production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s against the backdrop of the personal lives of everyone involved. Truman Capote, Blake Edwards, and Audrey Hepburn all had a hand in making ‘BaT’ the cultural icon as we know it today. Sam Wasson compartmentalizes their lives in a fun read that every fan of this 1961 classic should have on their nightstand.


ISBN 13: 9780061774164


1. Conversations With Joan Crawford by Roy Newquist

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford and husband, Alfred Steele in Italy, 1957.

The first and final book on this list is one that I enjoyed the most.

Joanie, Joanie, Joanie, what have you done?

Maybe the funniest and most enlightening on this list, Conversations with Joan Crawford left me in tears – the good kind.

I absolutely adored this book.

It made me see a side of Joan Crawford that I never knew she had. Printed in 1979, it took me a while to find a copy of this book in circulation, but when I did, I never looked back.

‘Conversations’ is basically 179 pages of a collection of interviews Joan has done talking about her career, lovers, children and anything else that may have been bothering her at the time. Boozier than a bar the night prohibition was implemented, Joan confesses to a lot of things that normal Crawford biographies wouldn’t touch.

Raucously funny, and at times very emotional, Conversations with Joan Crawford is an intriguing look at the last days of a Hollywood legend, and a fitting end to this list of books that would fill any classic movie fan with glee.


ISBN 10: 0425050467

ISBN 13: 9780061774164


 

Hidden Gems: Two For The Road (1967)

TwoForTheRoad

source: 20th Century Fox

The 1960s were a decade of change.

We went from the high & tight haircuts and skinny suits that were all too prevalent throughout the Kennedy Administration to the loose-fitting bell bottoms, civil unrest, and free-love that most people have come to associate with the decade.

The 1960s also saw Audrey Hepburn break out of stereotype that had plagued her for years.

The Eyes Wide Shut of its day, Two For the Road marked the beginning of the end of Hepburn‘s acting career. With a young son and a crumbling marriage (she and Mel would divorce a year after this film was released), Audrey would take an extended leave of absence from Hollywood in order to be a more present figure in her son’s life.

Much like the social and cultural shift that the decade experienced, Hepburn‘s film career in the 60s would be a reflection of the society that was quickly changing around her.

Arguably starting in 1961 with Breakfast at Tiffany‘s, the film roles Audrey would go on to star in betrayed the ‘waif-like’, ingénue typecast that she was known for earlier in her career.

TFTR 1967

source: 20th Century Fox

Films like The Children’s Hour, How to Steal a Million and Wait Until Dark – all staples of Hepburn‘s later career – have a surprising amount of depth and feeling to their plot compared to the rather ‘superficial’ (I use that word lightly) characters that Hepburn has previously portrayed.

One of these movies, with more emotional depth than the Grand Canyon, is the aforementioned romantic drama Two For the Road. 

Directed by the legendary Stanley Donen, Two For the Road or “TFTR” stars Audrey Hepburn and everyone’s favorite movie boyfriend Albert Finney as the bickering married pair of Mark and Joanna Wallace. Told in a non-linear format, Donen fabulously uses Joanna and Mark as an allegory for what can happen after 12 years of marriage.

In order to do that, Donen uses this format to present the couple at different stages of their marriage: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good (Newlyweds – Year 1)


TFTR part 2 1967

source: 20th Century Fox

The film starts in France – the world’s most romantic country (or so they say.)

Current day Mark and Joanna are flying their white 1965 Mercedes 230SL up to the North of France, then down to St. Tropez in celebration of Mark’s latest architecture creation being completed. Right away, the tension between the couple is palpable and it escalates from there.

Before they even board their flight, there are already clear signs of contempt for one another. She asks for a box of cigarettes – he snaps back at her. He asks for his passport – she gives him the cold shoulder. He threatens her with divorce – she laughs in response.

As an audience member, this is hard to watch, but, it also makes you wonder.

What made them grow to hate each other so viciously?

Why don’t they get a divorce?

If they have them, what must their children think?

Just as I was asking myself these questions, Stanley Donen dives us head first into the Wallace’s tumultuous backstory.

TFTR 1967 4

source: 20th Century Fox

It was the summer of 1954; Mark was a struggling, ‘down on his luck’ architect looking to catch a break and Joanna was a shy, rather witty member of an all-girls choir group.

They first meet on a ferry crossing post. Mark, furiously rummaging through his backpack, is desperately searching for his passport. This would be a major problem because the crossing guard would refuse him entry into another country if he failed to identify himself.

Looking defeated and on the verge of tears, a dainty wrist draped in a red sweater reaches over his shoulder to return, what appears to be, his passport.

When Mark gets up to thank this good Samaritan, he turns around and is face to face with the future mother of his child.

Joanna was otherwise known as ‘Jo,’ was about to start a conversation with this handsome stranger, but Mark had other ideas. He swiftly gives his thanks and continues on his journey to self-discovery.

A couple of hours later while hitchhiking on a potato truck, Mark sees ‘Jo’ and a number of other girls stuck on the side of the road looking for a repairman. At first, his intention was to proceed on with his journey, but eventually, he slows down and helps them get back on the road.

Now hitchhiking with this girl’s choir, Joanna and Mark get an infinite amount of time to learn about each other.

TFTR 1967 part 7

source: 20th Century Fox

As darkness night falls, Mark and the choir group spend the night in a dilapidated, centuries old, French inn. The next morning, something terrible has happened.

All of the girls, except for Mark and Joanna, have come down with chickenpox. Instead of advancing to their destination, the choir’s director (played by Jacqueline Bisset) instructs the two to keep going without them.

So, they did.

The couple spent the rest of their time hitchhiking around the old cobblestone cities of France, stealing fruit from vendors and making love til dawn. Inevitably, Joanna believes that they should get married. After much trepidation, Mark excitedly agrees.

The Bad (Recent Past – Year 6)


TFTR 1967 6

source: 20th Century Fox

Giving us their backstory, Donen cleverly switches the timeline to 1960 – about 6 years into their marriage.

Skinny ties, cardigans and dark-rimmed glasses – galore!

The Wallaces have conformed.

Now with a child (this will come back to haunt the couple, later) Mark and Joanna have begun to lose the magnetism that initially attracted them towards one another in the first place.

This lack of attraction manifests itself in a carpool alongside Mark’s ex-girlfriend (played by Eleanor Bron) her husband (played by William Daniels) and their 5-year-old daughter Ruth (played by Gabrielle Middleton.) Normally laid back and agreeable folk, the Wallaces are more than happy to put up with a bratty 5-year-old for a few hours.

It isn’t until Ruth refuses to give up the location of her father’s missing car keys (which she threw out of the window out of spite) that Mark and Joanna reach their wit’s end.

After spending 12 hours in a car with a whiny toddler, Joanna has had enough. With nighttime imminent and hunger pains growing louder, Mrs. Wallace twists the little girl’s arm, forcing her to give up the location of the key.

She ultimately does, and before her parents can apologize Joanna and Mark decide to travel alone.

This is the moment where Mark and Joanna (Mark, especially) decide not to have children. But, little did he know that wouldn’t be the case.

The Ugly (Current – Year 12)


TFTR 1967 5

source: 20th Century Fox

When we return to the present day, Donen intercuts several different, defining, moments (all ones pertaining to the downfall of their marriage) during this current timeline.

Current day Mark and Joanna have reached their destination of St. Tropez and it appears that all hope is lost for their relationship.

“What kind of people can sit there without saying a word to each other?” Joanna asks. Mark replies, “Married people.”

As this scene ends, Donen turns our attention to another period where – again – we see Mark and Joanna on a trip to, somewhere. Donen doesn’t specify where, but, looking at the scenery, it resembles the French countryside, the same countryside where they originally fell in love.

It’s implied that Joanna chose this location specifically because it holds such a memorable place in her heart.

It’s also the place where ‘Jo’ tells Mark she’s pregnant. Mark is hesitant to become a father but is happy nonetheless. This announcement happens to coincide with Mark getting a job offer from a very wealthy Frenchman named Maurice Dalbert (played by Claude Dauphin.)

For the next few months, the Wallaces live in France while Mark makes a sizeable income as an architect for a rather demanding client.

two-for-the-road-1967-

source: 20th Century Fox

Everything seems to be going well for them until Mark confesses to stepping on her while on a business trip. Understandably hurt about his revelation, Donen cuts back to the present day before we could see her response.

The next story is perhaps the most emotionally heavy in the film. In another timeline shift, Donen shows Mark, Joanna, and their child Caroline in a hotel room after – what looks to be – another road trip of sorts.

While sleeping comfortably in her crib a few feet away from them, Caroline’s parents have heated discussion about whether or not that should’ve had her. This “conversation” (more like a shouting match leaves Joanna in tears and Mark in frustration.

For the last and final time in the movie, Donen cuts back to the modern day with Mark and Joanna on the verge of divorce.

Joanna’s *ahem* extracurricular activities with taller, skinnier, richer Frenchmen named David (played to perfection by Georges Descrières) leaves Mark a broken man.

What started as a fling, has now turned into a full-fledged affair that threatens the state of their marriage.

Mark concedes defeat and starts his journey back home.

TFTR 1967 part 7

source: 20th Century Fox

As this is happening, David and Joanna have a meal by the beachside.

Silence.

Ironically, this time it’s her lover David that asks the question,”what kind of people can sit there without a word to say to each other?”

Joanna emphatically responds,”Married people!” realizing she truly does love Mark.

In the film’s finale, Mark and Joanna have a heart to heart about their relationship and agree that they should stay together. As they cross the border of France into Italy, not only does it signal a change in scenery and clientele for Mark but, it also symbolically signals a new start for their relationship.


Why This Film is a ‘Hidden Gem.’

Stanley, Audrey and Albert

source: Stanley Donen, Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn on the set of Two For The Road (1967).

Two for The Road is an impeccably directed, acted, and presented movie, unfortunately not too many people know about it.

When people discuss Hepburn‘s filmography, they usually speak about her more popular films.

You know the ones.

Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Funny Face, Charade, Breakfast at Tiffany‘s et cetera et cetera. Sadly, Two For the Road never makes the list and it should. This movie shows a different side to Audrey, and I have Stanley Donen to thank.

Donen created a film that showed the unglamorous side of marriage. His depictions of love, lust, and heartbreak were flawless. The pairing of Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn worked perfectly (too perfectly.) What Stanely Donen did was unprecedented, he created a movie that portrayed the realities of marriage using the (under-rated) technique of non-linear formatting.

With this method, he was showed the exact moments where the marriage went south, and how it could – possibly – be prevented.

I don’t think another movie like this could be made – and I don’t want it to be.

Bravo, Stanley Donen, Bravo.

The June Allyson Centenary Blogathon…

Music-for-Millions-1944-2

source: MGM

Have you ever watched a film and after it was finished thought to yourself, “That was very good, but, I don’t think I want to see it again.”

Schindler’s List, Se7en, Million Dollar Baby, and many other motion pictures have all earned the title of, “So Good, it’s Bad.”

This movie I’m about to discuss is no different.

Directed by Henry Koster, Music for Millions is a musical “comedy” that stars this blogathon’s subject June Allyson, a very young Margaret O’Brien and everyone’s favorite comedian Jimmy Durante.

Now, before I continue on with my review, I would like to explain what I meant when I said, “I never want to see this again.”

This movie is excellent, in fact, I’d enjoyed it so much that I vowed to never watch it again. Despite it being a “musical comedy” it felt much more like war-time romantic drama. There were comedic elements sprinkled throughout the film, but, never enough for me to seriously laugh at.

I didn’t expect it to make me fall down, clutching my sides in laughter pains, I merely believed that a few laughs will be sufficient enough to call this movie a comedy.

Perhaps it would be best if I lay out the plot in order for you to get a better understanding of what I’m trying to convey.

music for millions 1944

source: MGM

The synopsis for this film is fairly simple.

7-year-old ‘Mike’, played by O’Brien is sent from Connecticut to stay with her older, pregnant, sister Barbara ‘Babs’ Ainsworth, played by Allyson, in New York. Expecting her sister to meet her off the train ‘Mike’ panics when she doesn’t see her and quickly makes a scene.

Although she’s only seven years old, she wants to put up a brave front for her ‘no-show’ sister and the small crowd that’s gathering around her.

Increasingly growing concerned for this child’s well being, several policemen spend a couple of minutes talking to ‘Mike’ until they find out where she’s supposed to be heading to. They escort her to New York’s Symphony Hall where she spots her sister in the middle of a performance lead by real-life bandleader José Iturbi.

Overcome with delight, “Mike” can’t help herself and rushes the stage in search of her sister. She finds Barbara, but in doing so she prevents the band from finishing their piece, much to the dismay of her sister’s bandmates.

Sitting on a suitcase

source: MGM

Iturbi, naturally, is furious with this random little girl disrupting his orchestra and is a hair’s breadth away from firing whoever she’s related to.

Before Iturbi could bring down the full wrath of his discipline on this little girl’s sister, his righthand man Andy, played by Jimmy Durante, reminds him that if he were to fire ‘Babs’ he would be short staffed, seeing as though so many of the men in the band were off fighting in the war. With that new piece of information in mind, Iturbi changes his tune and let’s ‘Babs’ stay in her position.

Now that she’s had one problem solved, ‘Babs’ must find a way to solve another – her baby sister ‘Mike.’

Although she was completely blindsided by her aunt’s decision to send ‘Mike’ over, ‘Babs’ is grateful that she has someone to give her company while her husband’s on deployment.

After thinking about a myriad of ways to care for ‘Mike’ while she’s on her visit, ‘Babs’ decides (with the help of her roommates) to sneak her into the “No Children Allowed” boardinghouse that she currently resides in.

music for millions 1944

source: MGM

The stresses of this begin to weigh on ‘Babs’ and she faints from exhaustion. Her roommates take her to the hospital where ‘Mike’ finds out that her sister is pregnant. The doctor, for some reason, instructs ‘Mike’ to take care of her sister until she returns to full strength.

When ‘Babs’ doesn’t show up to rehearsals, Iturbi begins to get suspicious and demands an answer. Twisting their arm until they confess, her roommates comply as they tell their band leader why ‘Babs’ is really missing. They tell him what happened and he’s – weirdly-  sympathetic.

As ‘Babs’ is stuck inside her apartment on bedrest, she receives a telegram that coincides with her orchestra’s trip to Florida. Fearing that whatever is in the envelope may stress her out even further, her roommates agree to not tell ‘Babs’ what’s on the card until the baby is delivered.

Here’s the point in the film where I determined that I would never willingly subject myself to this movie again – not without tissues and some ice cream, however.

Music for Millions 1944 2

source: MGM

On their train ride to Florida ‘Mike’ and a few of ‘Bab’s’ roommates spot her quietly weeping in her bunker. They suspect they know what’s wrong, but anxiously wait until ‘Babs’ tell them before they inadvertently ‘spill the beans’.

She tells them, over a steady flow of tears, that she believes that her husband – Joe – may be dead/missing because he hasn’t written to her in four months.

‘Mike’ being an eternal optimist (and also a very optimistic 7-year-old) implores her sister to have a little faith in God if she were to ever see Joe again.

It was at this instant during the movie where the film turned from a light, romantic comedy featuring two sisters, to a heartwrenching romantic war drama between two lovesick lovers.

The orchestra’s train reaches Florida and the ladies head to their hotel room for the night. As they were getting ready for bed, a yelling match breaks out between ‘Mike’ and Rosalind, the roommate who discovered the telegram intended for ‘Babs.’ Just as things were beginning to calm down, ‘Babs’ saunters into the room to check on her sister.

Music for Millions 1944 3

source: MGM

Rosalind nervously tries to hide the telegram before ‘Babs’ has a chance to see who it’s addressed to with no luck. ‘Babs’ insists that everyone is hiding something from her, but, Rosalind lies and says it was sent to her.

The group returns to New York after a week-long concert series and ‘Babs’ still hasn’t gotten over her ills. Sensing that she could miscarry, the clarinetist Marie (one of ‘Bab’s’ other roommates) gives her uncle Ferdinand (What a name!) a call and asks him to forge a letter in Joe’s name.

Next the day, ‘Babs’ receives a letter that looks eerily similar to ones that the United States Army sends out when they, “Regret to inform you…”

As ‘Babs’ opens the letter, a wave of happiness washes over her face. Elated with the news, she rushes to find the nearest church to give thanks to God for keeping her husband safe. Her roommates thought that this forged telegram would give them some sort of solace, but, in the end, it made them feel guilty for betraying such a close friend

The final scene of the movie sure is a doozy, so, strap in folks – it’s going to be a good one.

Right before their next concert is supposed to start, ‘Babs’ goes into labor. As the band is at the concert hall impatiently waiting to hear the status of their friend’s child, they get a surprise visit from Marie’s uncle. He tells them that he didn’t have the audacity to lie to an army wife and that he didn’t forge the letter.

SURPRISE SURPRISE!

To my and everyone’s else shock, Joe is actually alive. Uncle Ferdinand’s letter wasn’t sent! All this time, they believed that he was M.I.A, in actuality he never was! He was perfectly fine! The film ends with everyone rejoicing with glee and leaves me on the floor in a puddle of tears and laughter.

Conclusion

Music for Millions 1944 4

source: MGM

I hate/love this movie.

This first time I watched it, I was in tears – genuinely. I’ve never been so happy/sad in my entire life. I’m not entirely sure why this movie is considered a musical “comedy”  because it made me cry at multiple points in the film.

Anyone who watches this should heed my warning: DO NOT LET THE MUSICAL COMEDY LABEL FOOL YOU. The final 10 minutes of this movie had my stomach in knots.

Did he live?

Is ‘Babs’ a widow?

Why did her rommates lie to her?

WHY WOULD YOU PUT POOR JUNE ALLYSON THROUGH SOMETHING LIKE THIS?

Besides my emotional objections to the ending (and the terrible way her roommates treated her), I honestly did enjoy the film.

June Allyson did a wonderful job of carrying the emotional weight of the film (isn’t she incredible?) As for Margaret O’Brien, normally I don’t like child actors (Bill Mumy being the exception) but, she did a great job being the comedic release in an otherwise somber plot.

All in all, Music for Millions is the best film I never want to see again. Not that it’s bad or anything, or that June Allyson and Margaret O’Brien were wretched in their roles, it’s just that it emotionally drained me, in the best way possible.

Surviving Hurricane Irma With Ava Gardner

Life has an interesting way of playing out.

About 3 weeks ago, I had to flee my humble abode due to Hurricane Irma.

Oh, boy.

It wasn’t an ideal situation, but, I made the most of it. My family and I packed up our things, loaded up our cars and took off. We didn’t know exactly where we were going, so, we drove until we couldn’t do it anymore. 2 days and many bags of Doritos and trail mix later, our final destination was Greenville, North Carolina.

Now, I wasn’t too keen on disrupting my life due to a hurricane (very selfish, I know) however, what I got to experience because of it was marvelous.

During this period of adjustment, I had the opportunity to visit a classic Hollywood attraction that not many people are aware of.


Nestled within a busy downtown shopping district, The Ava Gardner Museum is the crown jewel of Smithfield, North Carolina.

When I first walked into that lovely establishment, I was greeted by a ‘larger than life’ sized picture of Ava Gardner as her character Kitty Collins from the hit 1946 film noir The Killers.

That photo instantly caught my attention and set the tone for what was a fascinating look at the life and loves of this remarkable woman.
Picking up my jaw and wiping the drool off my bottom lip after what I’ve just witnessed, I was escorted to a dark room filled with various paintings and movie posters of Ava where I was shown a mini-biography of her life.

The film features numerous interviews and first-hand accounts from friends and family members discussing how Ava affected their lives.

The movie was quite charming and it certainly established the mood for the rest of my tour of the museum.

Following my excursion to the theatre, I was promptly submerged in all things, Ava Gardner. The exhibits ranged from Ava‘s early years growing in Garbtown, North Carolina to her lifelong friendship with Gregory Peck and even a few props from some of my favorite films she starred in.

What I particularly enjoyed about my walk around was how intimate it was. I truly felt like I knew Ava, it was as if I was alongside her through each and every stage of her life. These exhibits transcended her movies, they gave me a glimpse into the world of a Hollywood icon.

If you ever find yourself in Eastern North Carolina, I highly recommend stopping by this hidden treasure. Not only will you find yourself face to face with artifacts of a Hollywood legend, you may end up learning a thing or two and as a classic film fan, it gave me everything I wanted – and more.

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 2 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.

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 heart strings, I know it did with mine.

The 3rd Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon…..

caryandingrid

source: Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant posing for photos after a press conference promoting their film, “Indiscreet” (1958).

From having an affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini in 1950, to being denounced on the floor of Congress for her actions, which eventually culminated in winning an Oscar her role in AnastasiaIngrid Bergman‘s later years are absolutely fascinating.

Spanning 26 years, this era of Bergman sums why she’s recognized as one of the greatest actresses of all time. Looking back, it may have been the peak of Ingrid’s career, but, if you rewind the clock to the beginning 1956, everything in Bergman’s life, both professionally and personally, was in shambles.

It all started in 1949.

Stromboli.

Wanting to work with Italian director Roberto Rossellini, Bergman mailed him a letter detailing how she was just dying to make a picture with him. Flattered and amused, Rossellini took the beautiful Swede up on her offer and together Ingrid and Roberto made Stromboli which was released a few months later.

That’s not the only thing they created together, however.

Coinciding with the release of the Stromboli was the birth of Bergman and Rossellini‘s love child son, Renato Roberto Ranaldo Giusto Giuseppe “Robin” Rossellini. The affair, naturally, caused a giant scandal in the United States, where Bergman ended up public enemy number one.

roberto-rossellini-ingrid-bergman

Ingrid and Roberto finally married in 1950 after intense pressure from outside forces.

You see, when Hollywood typecasts you as the perpetual virgin, then you go out and have a child with a man who isn’t your husband, that’ll make A LOT of people angry.

The backlash and vitriol against Bergman got so hateful that for about 5 years, starting in late 1950, she stayed in Italy with her husband continuing the film career that she had lost in America.

Luckily for her, 1956 was the start of her comeback.

By the end of 1955, Rosellini and Bergman were divorced. After 3 kids and 6 years of marriage, they officially divorced in 1957, but, were separated for many years before that.

What would you do if your marriage was breaking down?

Throw yourself into your work, of course.

Anastasia 1956

source: 20th Century Fox

Released in 1956, Anastasia was the monumental comeback that Bergman was due for. Co-starring along side Yul Brynner and Helen Hayes, the film was met with rave reviews from American audiences; the same audiences that cursed her name 5 years earlier.

The movie was so successful that Americans (and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) decided to give her a public apology by nominating her performance for an Oscar, which she would, subsequently, go on to win.

Her win in 1956, saw Bergman‘s name back in the hearts and minds of the American people.

It would only be until 1958, however, that Bergman would officially make her first public appearance presenting the Best Picture Oscar at the Academy Awards. Being introduced by Cary Grant, she received a standing ovation from the audience, which symbolized how much they forgave and missed her.

After this career resurgence, Bergman was on roll.

She continued to alternate her work between the United States and Europe while periodically sprinkling in the occasional TV appearance. During this time, she made fantastic films Indiscreet, Goodbye Again and The Yellow Rolls- Royce.

Although this may be an impressive list of films, Bergman would further add to her success by winning ANOTHER Oscar for her role in Agatha Christie‘s Murder on the Orient Express. Ingrid was surprised that she was given the Award considering that her part was only a couple of minutes long.

Nevertheless, the Academy thought she was good enough to earn her second Oscar in the span of 20 years.

A woman called Golda

source: Paramount Television

Unfortunately, after this picture, Bergman‘s acting roles steadily began to reduce as she got older.

In 1978, Bergman starred in her final cinematic role in the Ingmar Bergman‘s drama Autumn Sonata. The film was a triumph and for her performance, Bergman received her 7th and final Academy Award nomination.

In what would be her final acting role, Ingrid was cast as Golda Meir in the television miniseries about her life, appropriately named, A Woman Called Golda. Her performance once again was lauded, but, sadly Ingrid would pass away before she could receive her second Tony Award in 1983.

Conclusion

Ingrid Bergman was truly a Hollywood legend. Her life, memory, and contributions to cinema have not been forgotten. While she was alive her movies and charisma made her stand out from the typical actress of that time. Fresh-faced, and naturally beautiful, Bergman changed that way Hollywood saw women for the better.

Today, on what would’ve been her 103rd birthday, I look back at Ingrid’s career with joy and satisfaction. She was an incredible woman, and her legacy will be one that we look at in awe.

 

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

Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon…

Libeled Lady

source: MGM

Libel

It’s a word that gets flung about carelessly, particularly in today’s heated political climate.

But, in this movie’s case, it’s used as a comedic plot device.

Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow and Spencer TracyLibeled Lady is a hilarious look at the newspaper industry and how they handle being sued for, you guessed it, libel.

The newspaper that has the unfortunate luck of being in this predicament belongs to a tough-talkin’, quick-witted editor named Warren Haggerty (played by Tracy) whose business is the focal point of the entire film.

Dubbed, “The New York Evening Star” the plot kicks off when a wealthy socialite named Connie Allenbury (played by Myrna Loy) sues the paper for running a story about her being a homewrecker. Asking for $5,000,000 dollars in damages, Mr. Haggerty spends day after day, tirelessly trying to get her to drop the charges.

libeled-lady-1936

source: MGM

Although Warren is exhausted from working his butt off to avoid being swindled for an absurd amount of money, he is more than content to continue to on this path he’s set for himself.

Why?

Well, the more he works, the more time he has to come up with an excuse to why he hasn’t proposed to his girlfriend Gladys Benton (played Jean Harlow.) Luckily for Gladys, Warren is running out of options – fast.

Desperately looking for a way out of this libel suit, he goes for the “nuclear option,” so to speak.

He phones the owner of the ‘Evening Star’ and requests to have him send in disgruntled former employee and ladies man Bill Chandler (played by William Powell) who could help him create a scheme so unbelievable that only a classic Hollywood movie can get away with.

Chandler’s plan is as follows:

  1. Marry someone in name only; Warren volunteers his girlfriend who, begrudgingly accepts, only on the condition that Haggerty marries her after the whole ordeal.
  2. Maneuver a way into Connie arms, where his “wife” would find them in a compromising position.
  3. Lastly, force Connie to drop the suit because, you know, she’s cheating with a married man – that wouldn’t look too good in the papers, now would it?
libeled-lady

source: MGM

After brainstorming for a couple of days, the plan is finally set in motion when Bill arranges to meet Connie and her father on an ocean liner returning to America, where he harasses them until he gets into their good graces, which ultimately sees Connie beginning to fall in love with him.

Taking a liking to this young man, Connie’s father J. B Allenbury (played Walter Connolly) invites Bill on a fishing trip for a little R&R.

“No big deal,” Bill says, “I can get through this.”

Except he doesn’t. His feelings for Connie grow – rapidly.

Oh, boy.

A conflict of interests has become apparent; what is a red-blooded male American supposed to do about this?

Call off the plan, of course!

Myrna-Loy-and-Spencer-Tracy-in-Libeled-Lady-1936

source: MGM

The pair return to New York where their relationship begins to flourish. Connie isn’t the only woman who has been wooed by Bill’s suave nature, however. Gladys takes their fake marriage and decides she wants to turn into a real one. Unfortunately for her, Connie and Bill have gotten married already, and have gone on their honeymoon.

Warren hears about this and is, understandably, livid.

He decides that he wants to end the scheme and painstakingly seeks out the hotel room that Bill and Connie are staying at.

Warren barges into the room, only to find Bill and Connie doing what newlyweds would normally do on their wedding day- talking.

In true comedic fashion, Bill confesses to Warren that he’s told Connie everything, and he means everything. He goes on to explain that Gladys’ divorce from her first husband wasn’t valid, therefore her “marriage” to him wasn’t real. Gladys, on the other hand, won’t take no for an answer.

Nope

Libeled Lady 1936

source: MGM

Gladys rebuts these claims, asserting that she got ANOTHER divorce later on in Reno and is truly married to Bill. Connie interjects herself into this conversation to tell Gladys that she only fell for Bill because he showed her a bit of kindness while her actual boyfriend didn’t.

Her words fall on deaf ears, and a fight breaks out between Bill and Warren.

During this commotion, Gladys realizes that Connie is right and rushes into the arms of Warren where they embrace.

The film ends when Connie’s father, Mr. Allenbury, finds his daughter in the hotel room and demands an explanation of what’s happening, wherein the four of them attempt to explain it to him all at once causing a massive uproar.

Conclusion

libeled-lady-end-title-still

source: MGM

This film is an absolute joy to watch, It plays like a cool sip of water.

The acting is superb, the dialog is phenomenal and the chemistry between the four leads is palpable. Not only that but, to see the inner workings of a daily newspaper was a joy to observe- even if this movie was a comedy.

Libeled Lady is, in a lot of ways, a great film to pick for this blogathon. It’s entertaining, interesting and gives the audience a great glimpse at a professional setting. Yes, it may be a rather light-hearted film, and maybe not as serious as some of the other movies in this blogathon, but, I still believe it gives you the essence of what it’s like to be a newspaperman.

All in all, this film is a really exceptional one to experience. Harlow, Tracy, Powell, and Loy make a hilarious team to watch.  If I have the chance to watch this picture again, I would! And I strongly suggest you do that same, you certainly won’t regret it.

 

If you want to read more entries in this blogathon, click: here.

The Third Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon…

The spiral staircase

source: RKO Pictures

Well, this film sure is something.

If you look up the word,”thriller” in the dictionary this movie’s title would, surely, be right next to it.

Directed by Robert Siodmak and starring Dorothy McGuire, George Brent, and Ethel Barrymore The Spiral Staircase is a psychological film noir thriller that tells the story of Helen McCord, a mute woman working as a helping hand in a New England mansion. Even though things appear to be going smoothly from the average citizen’s point of view, appearances aren’t everything.

I would love to expand upon that point, but……. I can’t.

When I normally review a movie for a blogathon, I usually plot out the synopsis of the entire film, hoping to give you a sense of what happened.

This time, it’s slightly different.

The Spiral Staircase is such a unique film, I don’t think it would be right to spoil it for you. Instead of writing a full fledged summary, I’ll discuss the main plot points of the film, then I’ll explain why the acting performances are positively astonishing.

The Spiral Staircase

source: RKO Pictures

Starting off with Dorothy McGuire, her heartbreaking portrayal of Helen is phenomenal.

You see, the movie’s plot revolves around a string of murders that are happening around the town where this mansion is located.

These not your ordinary murders, however.

No, whoever is doing the killing is specifically targeting women with disabilities, “afflictions” as the movie calls them, such as the kind that Helen has.

To make matter worse, one night during a thunderstorm, completely alone and devoid of help except for Mrs. Warren, the bed ridden women she’s taking care of (wonderfully played by Ethel Barrymore) she’s stalked around the mansion by a mysterious man whose identity I will not reveal.

The Spiral Staircase2

source: RKO Pictures

Because of the horrifying circumstances I just described, throughout the film, McGuire is essentially required to only use her face to do the majority of the acting for her.

There were multiple moments in the movie where dialogue easily could’ve been shoehorned into the script but wasn’t needed because of McGuire‘s incredible ability to emote her face to reflect the mood of the scene.

Not only did Dorothy McGuire give us a serious master class in acting, Ethel Barrymore (one of the Barrymores this blogathon was inspired by) steals the show.

This is evident particularly at the climax of the film where tensions are high and the emotion is rampant. Barrymore‘s take on the deathly ill Mrs. Warren is one for the ages and definitely takes this movie to another dimension.

The Wonderful Directing

The Spiral Staircase 3

source: RKO Pictures

Now, that I’ve discussed the acting, let me turn my attention to the director, Robert Siodmak.

Holy Moly.

Quite frankly, I don’t think enough people know about this film, and that’s a shame because Siodmak gives us some fabulous cinematic shots that are pretty bizarre (in the best sense.) The interesting part about this is that though this movie may be a film noir, it’s also simultaneously a period piece – and a glorious one at that.

Combining a period piece with a film noir is a genius idea, but not an original one.

Yes, it’s been done before, and it’s very possible that other movies may have done it better, but, there’s something about the way Siodmak films and frames every shot with a purpose, that takes this movie from being good to great.

The shadows, the lowlights, and the atmosphere are all a testament to his directing – and it shows.

Conclusion

In the end, The Spiral Staircase is a wonderfully paced, acted, and directed film. The performances by McGuire and Barrymore are unquestionably the best ones in the movie, director Robert Siodmak sees this uses their talent and maxes out to its full potential.

And for that, I thank him.

 

 

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