Fall CMBA Blogathon – Outlaws…

the petrified forrest

source: Warner Bros.

When discussing notorious gangsters, one name usually comes to mind.

From his buzzcuts to his scars on face, Humphrey Bogart, the man with the famous lisp, was, for a time, the world’s most threatening man.

Before marrying Bacall, and flirting with Audrey Hepburn on camera, Bogart was Hollywood’s resident tough guys; cracking wise, smooching dames, the guy did it all.

The film that best portrays Bogart in this “tough guy” light is 1936’s The Petrified Forest.


Directed by Archie Mayo and co-starring a talented cast of Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, and Dick Foran, The Petrified Forest tells the story of a man, a wanderer, to say the least, the goes by the name of Alan Squier.

He’s a failed writer, a poet – a broken man. Couple that with his Great Depression woes, and that makes a perfect recipe for someone, specifically Alan, to go and bother a homely barkeep and his daughter.

petrified-forest 2

source: Warner Bros.

After getting fed and clothed, Gabrielle (Bette Davis) and Alan start to get on swimmingly.

It’s quite cute, actually. This homely, rather socially awkward (this hits too close to home,) young lady being absolutely enthralled with this mystery man’s presence is, frankly, one of the more underrated parts of this film.

So, the two of them get along very well, and everything appears to be going splendidly for them.

In walks Bogart and company.


Duke Mantee, a gangster, a cheat, an all-around bad guy walks into their bar with a gun in one hand and a point to prove.

After holding hostage a wealthy couple in order to evade police, Duke strolls into this bar looking his girlfriend that he was supposed to rendezvous with.

Duke is a pretty intimidating guy and is precisely the reason why he was picked for this blogathon.

When you initially view this film, especially when you’re used to the “cleaned up” Bogart, his appearance comes as a shock.

Dirtied, 5 O’Clock shadow, and stained clothes galore, this is Duke Mantee in his entire glory.

petrified forest 3

source: Warner Bros. 

What makes him so scary is his lack of control.

Duke has a very quick temper and any little thing (or person) that he perceives to mess up his plans will more or less be caught in his line of fire.

This kept me on edge throughout the entire film.

When he’s holding everyone captive inside that bar, you could feel the tension. One false move and, potentially, your life could be over. Just thinking about it again makes my skin crawl. What a wonderful performance that Bogart put on, absolutely outstanding.

Classic movie buffs could argue that this is the film that put Bogart on the map, and they’d be right.

This was Bogart‘s first major screen role, it essentially put Humphrey‘s acting abilities on the map, not only for the public eye but also in the offices of every major movie studio during that era.

If you haven’t had the chance to see this film, I strongly suggest you do so. You’ll not only enjoy performances from Bette Davis and Leslie Howard, but you will also be able to see Bogart at his career inception and, arguably,  in his very best role.

 

If you’d like to read more entries in this blogathon, click: here

 

 

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The Third Annual Bette Davis Blogathon…

source

source: 20th Century Fox


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

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

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

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

The Star 1952

source: 20th Century Fox

It’s 1952.

Bette Davis has just turned the dreaded age of 44.

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

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

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

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

It’s funny that she would say that.

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

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

The Star 1952 2

source: 20th Century Fox

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The 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.

Reel Infatuation: Paul Henreid in Now Voyager (1942)

now-voyager

source: Warner Bros.

The start of my love for classic films goes back to my freshman year of high school. I remember, specifically, it was a Cinema Appreciation class where the first movie my teacher introduced to us was Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

As soon as the screen faded to black, I was hooked.

I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. At the time, I had no clue that those,”black and white” movies could be so enthralling. I was one of those people who wouldn’t touch a classic film with a ten-foot pole. As that class continued, my teacher went on to introduce me to more marvelous films like Rear Window, Lawrence of Arabia, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Sabrina.

The motion pictures that I was introduced in that class, left a lasting mark on my life.

After the course was over, I sought after as many classic films as I could. In fact, for the next couple of years during my high school career, I made it my duty to watch as many classic movies as I could get my hands on. From film noirs like, To Have and Have Not, to musicals like An American in Paris, and even the occasional romantic comedy such as Pillow Talk.

I was obsessed.

now voyager

source: Warner Bros.

So much much so, I started dressing, talking and moulding myself into what I believed a woman of that era should look like. Not only did I look the part, I felt it. And those feelings trickled down into how I interacted with members of the opposite sex.

Due to my excessive classic movie viewing, I started to get a sense of what true romance really was. The men in those movies seemed, to me, to be so much more gentle and tactful than their modern-day counterparts. I started to analyze all the leading men in these movies, and because of this analysis, the way I was attracted to men changed.

One of the movies that had a huge influence on me was Now Voyager, from 1942. Directed by Irving Rapper and co-starring Bette Davis and Paul Henreid, the film tells the story of Charlotte Vale, a frumpy looking, Boston socialite who has a very nervous disposition. This is mostly brought on by her overbearing mother (played by Gladys Cooper), who causes her to, slowly but surely, go mad.

Bette and Paul 2

source: Warner Bros.

Convinced that there’s something wrong with her, Charlotte’s mother hires a psychiatrist to try to help ease her daughter’s woes. Dr. Jasquith (played by Claude Rains) comes into the Vale family household to tend to Charlotte’s needs. After a few days of back and forth, Charlotte comes out of her shell and, somehow, Jasquith manages convinced her to take a cruise to Rio de Janeiro.

While on the cruise, Charlotte encounters a handsome stranger that goes by the name of Jerry (played by Paul Henreid.)

Considering the fact that she spent the last few weeks working on her self-esteem, Charlotte is hesitant that a man this good-looking could be interested in her. But after Jerry, ‘butters’ her up a bit, she eventually lets her guard down.

charlotte-vale-now-voyager

source: Warner Bros.

The pair has an affair in Rio, despite Jerry being married. After a few weeks at sea, their time together runs out, and Charlotte returns to her home back in Boston. When her family first see her step off the boat, they’re very surprised that their frumpy, homely, looking family member could be transformed into such a beautiful young woman.

The rest of the movie sees Charlotte’s struggle to adjust to her new climate and a number of other obstacles that sees her faith tested.

At this point, I don’t want to spoil the rest of the film, because it’s such a gorgeous movie to watch for the first time, I don’t want to take away anyone’s chance to experience that.

I do, however, want to talk about why I choose Paul Henreid for this blogathon.

Now Voyager2

22 years after Now Voyager was released, Henreid and Davis would team up again to make 1962’s Dead Ringer. Here is a ‘behind the scenes’ photo of the two recreating that famous double cigarette lighting scene.

Now Voyager is one of the movies that had the biggest influence on me. Paul Henreid as Jerry is essentially my dream man.

Jerry should be everyone’s dream man.

Yes, I know he cheats on his wife, and yes, I know that he makes some questionable choices in the movie, but that doesn’t stop me from swooning over the way he’s so loyal to his daughter and to Charlotte. This scene, alone, should be the only reason why you should be attracted to Jerry.

The fact that even when they were miles apart and he still shows his concern for Charlotte and her well-being, tells me that Jerry is a true gentleman. I mean, what more can you ask for? Isn’t that what every girl wants?

I don’t know about you, but, I would love for a man to have that level of concern for me. I suppose that is what makes Jerry so attractive. Not only does he look like this, he also has a heart of gold, and because of that, he’s changed the way I’m attracted to men- forever.

 

 

 

If you would like to read the other entries in this blogathon, click: here!