The Summer Under the Stars Blogathon: A MOVIE A DAY GUIDE

This post is part of the Summer Under the Stars Blogathon hosted by Kristen over at Journeys In Classic Film.  Be sure to check out new entries all month long!

Every summer I can’t wait until August because it means only one thing…Summer Under the Stars on TCM!  This is a fabulous month long celebration of stars, with each day featuring the films of just one actor or actress.  Not only can you find new talent and films to love but if your favorite star is being featured you have the perfect excuse to call in sick at work.  As part of the celebratory month-long Summer Under the Stars Blogathon I am doing something a little different for my monthly guide to TCM.  Instead of talking about all the films feature this month, I am going to pick one film each day to recommend to all of you to check out.  Here we go!


August 1st – Gene Tierney

THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR

This was a tough one because LAURA is also on today, but I have to go with this ghostly love story.  This film is sexy, romantic, funny, smart, and just everything you could want in a film.  Rex Harrison is very handsome and dashing as the brash sea captain from beyond the grave but this movie really belongs to Gene Tierney.  She has never looked lovelier and her character is tough, smart, and witty.  Don’t miss this one!


August 2nd – Olivia de Havilland

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD

Another tough call, since I would like to tell you to watch IT’S LOVE I’M AFTER as well, but this is my pick.  This is the first classic film I remember watching and falling in love with, and it is still such a fun movie!  The chemistry between Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland cannot be matched, the costumes are fabulous, the fights are exciting, and this is just a terrific film.  You must see this film!


August 3rd – Adolphe Menjou

MEN CALL IT LOVE

A lesser known pre-code but one that deserves to be seen.  I have looking out for this one since I read Karen of Shadows and Satin’s post about it.  High society shenanigans mixed with pre-code goodness, make sure to watch this little known gem…I know I will be!


August 4th – Teresa Wright

MRS. MINIVER

This is the classic film with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon about a British family during WWII.  Moving and poignant this is must see film that seems to be not as well known today outside of classic film fans.  It is followed by THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES if you want to stick around for that one as well…


August 5th – Fred Astaire

THE GAY DIVORCEE

There are so many Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films showing on August 5th, but this is one that doesn’t seem to get as much airplay as TOP HAT, SWING TIME, and SHALL WE DANCE.  Tune in for Fred and Ginger, stay for Eric Blore and Everett Edward Horton ordering breakfast by the pool.


August 6th – Michael Caine

THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING

John Huston’s epic starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine as two con men trying to take over a remote land in Asia full of treasure.  I haven’t seen this film for years but it is a terrific film, great popcorn movie, and one not to be missed.


August 7th – Katharine Hepburn

BRINGING UP BABY

While not everyone likes this screwball comedy, especially Katharine Hepburn’s zany heiress, I have always found it a great deal of fun.  Also, I love the chemistry between Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.  While I enjoy her films with Spencer Tracy, I always felt that she held herself back while acting alongside the man she loved perhaps diminishing her impact to make sure he came out on top.  But here she goes all out and Cary Grant keeps pace while we get to join in the fun.


August 8th – Raymond Massey 

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE

Raymond Massey is creepy as all get out in this zany comedy.  He and Peter Lorre play off each other brilliantly, and Raymond Massey even spoofs himself.  Lots of fun and another chance to laugh along with Cary Grant.  CHAAAAAARRRRGGGEE!!


August 9th – Robert Walker

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN

Robert Walker is SO CREEPY  in this Hitchcock film.  He starts off as just a little odd and transforms into something truly diabolical.  What starts as a conversation between two strangers about who in their lives they would like to kill (like you do) takes a very dark turn in this suspenseful thriller.


August 10th – Joan Crawford

FORSAKING ALL OTHERS

Joan Crawford’s pairings with Clark Gable are somewhat legendary, so that chance to see one which also co-stars Robert Montgomery is too good to pass up!  Add to that W. S. Van Dyke directs this tale of a woman pursuing the wrong man for twenty years…how can you pass that up?


August 11th – Rex Ingram

CABIN IN THE SKY

This Vincent Minnelli film was notable for its time due to it having an all African-American cast.  A musical retelling of Faust, Minelli and Arthur Freed sought the opinion of African-American community leaders before proceeding with this film.  While there are some racial stereotypes present in the film, when picking the film for this date I wanted to find one that really had Rex Ingram in the forefront of the cast, rather than a supporting player.


August 12th – Robert Mitchum

THE LUSTY MEN

I saw this film a few months ago and was completely blown away.  Directed by Nicholas Ray and co-starring a phenomenal Susan Hayward, this is a film that I didn’t expect to like but ended up loving it!  This one stuck with me for days after and I think it will do the same for you.


August 13th – Ann-Margret

BYE BYE BIRDIE

How could I not?  This was the first film I ever saw Ann-Margret in and it is still the one that I think of every time I see her.  And the fact that Janet Leigh and Dick Van Dyke are in it doesn’t hurt, and neither does the music!


August 14th – Groucho Marx

DOUBLE DYNAMITE

OK, hear me out on this one.  Yes, there are Marx Brothers films on this day.  Yes, I could recommend them.  But I would rather take this opportunity to point out a film that stars Groucho Marx being someone other than Groucho Marx of the Marx Brothers and this film is actually pretty fun!  Frank Sinatra, Jane Russell, and Groucho Marx in a story of a banker who gets a reward for saving a gangster’s life but can’t tell where he got the money from, this one might just surprise you.


August 15th – Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

UNION DEPOT

A pre-code that also co-stars Joan Blondell, this is a really great film.  The story of a con man who finds a suitcase of money at a train station and must decide what to do with it.  Definitely make sure to see this one.


August 16th – Patricia Neal

A FACE IN THE CROWD

Andy Rooney as you have never seen him before.  Patricia Neal as a female television executive who turns a homespun folk singer into a huge media sensation, and the destruction that follows.  Watch this film.


August 17th – Lee J. Cobb

ON THE WATERFRONT

This is the movie that shaped how I see Lee J. Cobb.  I love this film, definitely one of my favorites.  So, allow me to personally recommend this film for your viewing pleasure.  Elia Kazan’s film of corruption and gangs on the docks is essential viewing.


August 18th – Vivien Leigh

WATERLOO BRIDGE

An emotional and at times shocking film, this is a remake of a pre-code film but it does not lessen the impact.  Vivien Leigh is lovely and powerful as a ballerina who turns to the world’s oldest profession after her fiancé is reported among the dead during WWI.


August 19th – John Wayne

THE QUIET MAN

John Ford’s story of an Irish ex-boxer who retires to Ireland and searches for a wife, whose dowry causes more issues than expected, pairs John Wayne with one of his best co-stars, Maureen O’Hara.  The part of me that is Irish (50% of me) hopes you will tune in for this film.


August 20th – Mae Clarke

THE PUBLIC ENEMY

If you know Mae Clarke then you know why this movie is famous.  The grapefruit.  We will say no more except that if you read the new William Wellman biography then you will read a story about how this scene was devised.  Apparently Wellman wanted to do the same to his wife of the time but restrained himself, and so surprised Mae Clarke the next day by having James Cagney do it to her instead.


August 21st – Alan Arkin

WAIT UNTIL DARK

Alan Arkin creeps me out because of this movie.  Watch this film and then tell me if you won’t look at him a little differently afterwards.  My father saw this movie in a theater packed with women and when THAT PART happened he said the roof came off the building.  I totally believe it.


August 22nd – Marlene Dietrich

KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOR

You guys.  This movie.  This movie, you guys!  I LOVE this movie.  Robert Donat being fabulous.  Marlene Dietrich being amazing.  These two smolder, they honestly smolder.  This film about a British spy attempting to help a countess escape the newly formed Soviet Union and it is so so SO good.  See this!


August 23rd – Debbie Reynolds

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN

Come on.  What else?  Even if you know all the words to all the songs it doesn’t matter, this is just fun.  Admit it, you are hearing “Good Morning, good morning to you” in your head right now.


August 24th – Warren Oates

RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY

Quintessential western that also stars Joal McCrea tells the story of two aging gunslingers who agree to help transport gold from a remote mining town.


August 25th – Virginia Bruce

KONGO

One of the darkest pre-code films that I have ever seen.  This talkie remake of WEST OF ZANZIBAR stars John Huston as you have never seen him.  Virginia Bruce does an impressive job of showing the transformation of pure and naive girl to broken down and debased woman.  Not for the faint of heart.


August 26th – Greta Garbo

GRAND HOTEL

An amazing cast in an amazing film showing the struggles and heartache of guests at a high end Berlin hotel.  Greta Garbo is stunning as a fall prima ballerina who really just wants to be left alone.


August 27th – Monty Woolley

THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER

I get ridiculously happy when I see Monty Woolley in the opening credits for a film.  Things get exponentially better when he comes on screen.  THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER is an extremely funny film and it is totally Monty Woolley’s film.  Must watch!


August 28th – Ingrid Bergman

GASLIGHT

This is such a great film and Ingrid Bergman is so terrific in it.  Charles Boyer is suitably charming and creepy as the man who has something up his sleeve when it comes to his wife, and Joseph Cotten is dashing as the man trying to find out what it is before it is too late.  Ingrid Bergman holds this whole film together and is such a powerhouse in it.


August 29th – George C. Scott

PATTON

When I think George C. Scott, I think PATTON.  Everyone knows the opening scene but do you know the rest of the story?


August 30th – Gary Cooper

MEET JOHN DOE

Yes it is a Frank Capra film, and all that that entails, but I really like this film.  Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck have such terrific chemistry that you can’t help but fall in love with them.  Gary Cooper is sympathetic an endearing as the tramp turned national hero, fighting against the corporate machine that seeks to use him.


August 31st – Shelley Winters

LOLITA

This film is pretty iconic but you might not have seen it yet.  Take some time and see James Mason as a man with desires on his pre-pubescent stepdaughter and Shelley Winters as the mother who cannot or will not see the truth.


So there are my picks for Summer Under the Stars!  These are films that I would personally recommend or seek out for viewing, but they are by no means the only films worth watching in August.  There are so many fabulous films to see and I hope the films mentioned here serve as a starting point for your viewing!

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Watching With Warner: HIGHWAY 301 (1950)

Several months ago I read a great post (well, one of many great posts) by Kristina over at Speakeasy about a gritty gangster film she had just seen called HIGHWAY 301.  Spurred on by her recommendation I picked up at copy from Warner Archive but haven’t gotten around to watching it until now.

The film starts with the real-life governors of Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina extolling the virtues of staying on the right side of the law and reminding audiences that the film they are about to see is based on true events.  The action then quickly moves to a bank robbery being perpetrated by Tri-State Gang.  The gang is made up of George Legenza (Steve Cochran), William B. Phillips (Robert Webber), Robert Mais (Wally Cassell), Herbie Brooks (Richard Egan) and Noyes (Edward Norris).  The men make off with the money but they are spotted by a farmer as they switch cars, allowing police to get a partial license plate from the getaway car.  Up to this point the police have been unable to identify any member of the Tri-State gang but the men are no strangers to the law.  Each has had run ins with the police but have received only light sentences for punishment.

Flush with the success of a bank heist done well, the men head back to their wives and girlfriends.  Phillips has recently married a French Canadian by the name of Lee Fontaine (Gaby Andre) who is blissfully unaware of what her husband does for a living.  Legenza’s girlfriend, Madeline (Aline Towne), is more than happy to tell her especially since she has become so disillusioned with the crooked life.  Madeline is miserable and begs Legenza to let her leave but his puts a stop to those thoughts with the back of his hand.  The men go off to talk and Madeline starts to strongly drop hints to Lee about where her new husband’s money comes from, despite the efforts of Mais’ girlfriend Mary Simms (Virginia Grey) to stop her.  Madeline does shut up when Legenza pops up behind her, having heard the end of her little tirade.  Madeline runs off to the ladies room with Mary close behind while Legenza grills Lee on just what was being said.  Fearing for her life, Madeline gives Lee the slip and hurries back to the apartment she shares with Legenza.  Her soon to be ex-boyfriend follows closely behind.

The next day Lee is listening to the radio report on Madeline’s death.  She is terribly upset and blames herself and Phillips for Madeline’s death.  She begs her husband to escape this life with her, having now fully realized just what she has let herself in for.  Phillips tries to calm his wife and tells her that so long as he is around nothing will happen to her.  He promises her that they will leave behind the life of crime after one last job.  This will be the big one, the job that will set them up for life.  After that Phillips promises that he and Lee will return to Canada to start their life together.

Legenza has been tipped off to the route of a transport van carrying two million dollars.  The next day the gang sets out and robs the van with Legenza killing a guard in the process.  As they make their getaway they open the bags to find that the money has all been cut and is now worthless.  The police set up road blocks but Legenza uses his tipster to avoid every barrier and the gang makes their escape in the back of an egg truck.  Upon the men’s return Lee is quite upset at what has happened and at the senseless murder of the guard.  Legenza begins to suspect that Lee might be a threat to the gan, even if her husband is currently preventing anything from happening to her.  Little does the Tri-State gang suspect but things are about to get much worse for them as the police have gained another partial license plate number and are now in the process of putting names and faces to the members of the Tri-State gang.

If you ever wanted to watch a film and say, “Wow they did that?” then let me suggest this film to you.  This is a taught and brutal gangster story with tension and suspense to spare.  There are so many great sequences that I don’t wish to describe here because it would diminish their impact. Special note goes to the sequence in the apartment building when Legenza pursues Madeline which uses the ding of an elevator to ratchet up more tension than fifty machine guns.  The many escapes and police pursuits, as well as the scenes of Legenza stalking his prey are also truly spectacular.  The action is fast and brutal and doesn’t let up for a second.

Can we take a moment and just comment on Steve Cochran?  He always seems to play a nasty piece of work but Lengenza is just about the nastiest piece of work I have seen in a while.  First of all, he shoots EVERYONE…and I do mean everyone.  Second, he has an almost pathological disdain for women.  It starts with Madeline and moves on to Lee, as well as other female bystanders, with Legenza ripping through women like tissue paper.  His slaps fly as fast as his fists, and he shoots with a cold precision that proves he won’t let anything or any one prevent him from getting what he wants.  He seems to have a loyalty to the other members of his gang but that is about it.  Steve Cochran plays all this with a tightness and a coldness that makes it truly frightening.  Legenza never loses his temper completely, never flips out or acts in a way that seems like anything other than cold and methodical.  Maybe that is what makes Legenza even more frightening, the idea that there is even more rage, an even darker side that is still lurking below just waiting to come out and play.

Another Classic Film Book Haul!

Today I stopped by my local church thrift shop and so you know what that means…

Classic Film Book Haul!

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And these books were just 50¢ each!

What I Got

Sweetheart; The Story of Mary Pickford by Robert Windeler

Me; Stories of My Life by Katharine Hepburn

Ernie; The Autobiography by Ernest Borgnine

My Wicked, Wicked Ways by Errol Flynn (Yay!)

The Vaudevillians by Bill Smith

A Remarkable Woman; A Biography of Katharine Hepburn by Anne Edwards

Judy Garland; A Biography by Anne Edwards

Ginger; My Story by Ginger Rogers (Yay yay!)

Charlie Chaplin; Pyramid Illustrated History of The Movies by Robert F. Moss

Shirley Temple; Pyramid Illustrated History of The Movies by Jeanine Basinger

Marlon Brando; The Way It’s Never Been Done Before by George Englund

The Great Movie Shorts; Those Wonderful One- and Two-Reelers of the Thirties and Forties by Leonard Maltin

Let me know in the comments if you have read any of these books and how you like book haul posts.  I have some other classic film books, as well as some I have ordered that I am waiting for, that I haven’t posted about yet so if you like seeing book hauls let me know and I will keep posting them!

The Absolute Ripping-ness of the Attaboy Clarence Podcast

Once again I have to thank the terrific Will McKinley for the inspiration behind this posting.  Basically, I think I need to just consult with Will in all things classic film.

About a week ago Will celebrated his three year anniversary (Congrats Will!) over at his blog Cinematically Insane, which if you haven’t checked out yet do so now.  As part of his celebration, Will recommended two podcasts to fans of classic films.  I have yet to check out the second one, but I have listened to the first and that is why we are here today.

Both podcasts are hosted/created by Adam Roche and I have to second Will’s sentiments when I urge you to subscribe to the Attaboy Clarence podcast.  Classic film fans will recognize the title from IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, and the podcast is a real treat for anyone who loves classic films or radio.  In each episode Adam Roche talks about classic films that he has recently watched or discovered.  These films tend not to be the top ten listers or most popular or well-known ones that we might be used to hearing about.  Rather these are forgotten gems or rarely seen films, movies that you might never have known existed if Adam Roche didn’t tell you about them.  I really enjoy hearing about little known titles that I can try to add to my collection or watch for free online (Thanks Adam!).  What I like even more than the titles is the absolute enthusiasm and glee with which Adam Roche discusses them.  He is also quite witty and has made me chuckle quite a few times during his episodes, as well as dissolving in laughter himself when discussing films (just mention THE BRIGHTON STRANGLER to him).  This podcast almost feels like a conversation you are having with a friend who came in and sat across from you saying. “You have got to hear about this movie I just saw, you would love it!”  Listening to the podcast makes me want to find Adam and keep talking with him about the films we both love.  And luckily you can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at his website.  Adam is also super responsive and friendly to messages sent to him, something else that makes him fabulous.

The second half of each episode includes one or two classic radio dramas that have some link to the films being discussed.  I love radio dramas.  True story, when I was young I used to get out my tape player and listen to cassette tapes of classic radio programs while I cleaned my room, drew pictures, wrote Christmas cards (Gert and Daisy FTW, and if you know who they are please message me so we can talk), and generally did anything that allowed me to listen without distraction.  It has been many years since I heard Fibber McGee and Molly so this surprise at the end of the episode was especially delightful for me.

So take a few moments and be sure to go and subscribe to the Attaboy Clarence podcast, you won’t regret it!  You can subscribe on iTunes and Stitcher.

Watching With Warner: ALL AT SEA (1957)

I am a complete anglophile.  I love all things British and so when I was wanting something a little more light-hearted to take a short break from TCM’s Summer of Darkness, I turned to Sir Alec Guinness, Ealing Studios, and the Warner Archive.

Captain William Horatio Ambrose (Alec Guinness) and his crew are being awarded the Lloyd Medal by the British Government, a prestigious award for their heroic actions in saving their ship, the H.M.S. Arabella.  After the ceremony Captain Ambrose is besieged by reporters hoping for a story but they are to be disappointed.  The good captain has already promised his story exclusively to a reporter named Peters.  Peters is waiting for the captain at the pub across the street, where the captain is given a jug of rum with the compliments of the owner all in thanks for his heroic actions.  Captain Ambrose begins to regale Peters with the tale of his life, one which starts soberly enough but as the rum flows becomes more and more, shall we say, blustery.  It seems that Captain Ambrose comes from a long line of sea-faring men all of which met with varying degrees of success, or lack there of, during their naval careers.  Ambrose has a terrible secret of his own and it is that he suffers from terrible and intractable sea sickness.

After the end of the war, the duration of which Ambrose spent in naval labs testing different experimental sea sickness cures, the aging Captain Ambrose reads an advert in a local paper regarding the sale of a vessel docked at Sandcastle called the Arabella.  After spending his entire life savings to buy this vessel, Captain Ambrose finds that he has not bought a ship at all but rather a run-down amusement pier.  The local population is not particularly impressive either.  The pier is currently run by a crew of men who, although wearing naval uniforms, have no military experience save one man named Tom (Percy Herbert).  The head man of the pier is a man named Figg (Victor Madern), a local dredger who promptly resigns as soon as it becomes clear that Captain Ambrose is now in charge and has no interest in continuing to allow the men to slack off.  Tom is quickly promoted to First Officer, and Captain Ambrose sets about trying to make the pier profitable again.

This does not go particularly well however.  The problem is that Captain Ambrose has managed to get on the bad side of two members of the local council.  The first is Mayor Crowley (Maurice Denham), a crooked local politician who sold the pier at a vastly inflated price but who doesn’t like that the captain is not willing to play ball with him in matters of pay offs and the like.  The second, and more troublesome, is Mrs. Barrington (Irene Browne) who runs the local bath houses, has a penchant for moral decency at all costs, and who already thinks that the captain is a peeping tom.  The first sign of trouble comes when Captain Ambrose wakes up to find that the pier’s slot machines have been confiscated by the council because they encourage gambling, according to Mrs. Barrington that is.  Heading down to the police station to make his case, Captain Ambrose manages to convince the local officers that the machines do not constitute gambling at all when Mrs. Barrington walks in.  Supremely confident in her right to take the machines, she is less than pleased to see the captain walking out with them.  This clearly means war.

Captain Ambrose sets about trying new and different ways to improve the pier and create a lucrative tourist attraction.  But at each possible juncture he is foiled Mrs. Barrington and the council.  He makes a dance hall for the local teens (and yes, Alec Guinness dances and it is fabulous) but the police shut him down because he doesn’t have the proper permits.  When Captain Ambrose goes before the council to pay his fines, he is informed that on top of the money he owes he is no forbidden from acquiring a dance hall permit.  He tries to make a bar but he is prevented from getting a liquor license.  The next day the council meets and Mrs. Barrington immediately launches in to a diatribe about how Captain Ambrose is corrupting the morality of the community.  Mayor Crowley dismisses her concerns as he has plans to create a marine drive which will lead to the demolition of the pier.  Mrs. Barrington is on board with this plan until she realizes that it means that her beach huts will be destroyed as well.  In an indignant rage she resigns from the council and storms out.  No one seems to miss her.

Out on the pier Tom and Captain Ambrose spot a figure on the shoreline.  It is Mrs. Barrington and she is crying!  Ever the gentleman, Captain Ambrose goes ashore to speak with her and see if there is anything he can do to help.  Mrs. Barrington brushes him off at first but finally relents and agrees to join the captain for a spot of coffee, with a dash of rum, in his cabin.  After a few cups, Mrs. Barrington and Captain Ambrose are feeling much more sympathetic towards each other.  Captain Ambrose thinks that it is a travesty that the bath houses are to be demolished!  Mrs. Barrington tells him that things are much worse than that, his pier is set to be demolished too!  The two former enemies then set about devising a way to keep both the bath houses and the pier from being torn down.

God Bless Warner Archive.  I love Ealing films, ever since my Dad first showed me KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS.  Some might argue that ALL AT SEA (also released as BARNACLE BILL in England) is a lesser Ealing comedy, but I would say that even a weak Ealing comedy is still aces.  Yes, I am channeling my inner Brit.

Let’s start with the obvious, Alec Guinness is fabulous.  He plays the role of Captain Ambrose totally straight, which makes the situations even funnier.  A character who could be very buffoonish comes across as quite human and sympathetic.  He brings a dignity to Captain Ambrose, but also a humor which is quite endearing.  Also, his voice and diction are wonderful.  He is another person I could sit and listen to read the phone book.

This film is really what I love about the Ealing comedies.  Clever and witty, funny and charming, ALL AT SEA is just a really lovely way to spend an afternoon.  The story is engaging and amusing, and the cast of characters is varied and enjoyable.  Even the “bad” guys are easy to take and no one comes across as really annoying or  just too evil to tolerate.  This is what Ealing did best, a human comedy about people.  While the stories and situations might be slightly inflated or seem just a little out there, there is still a very human heart to each story.  This might be a little story about little people, but it is really great fun and I certainly recommend it.  Thanks to Warner Archive for making ALL AT SEA available and I will be crossing my fingers for more Ealing Studios releases in the future!

If you want to hear more about All At Sea/Barnacle Bill and some other lesser known Ealing comedies check out the Attaboy Clarence Podcast

2015 Summer Reading Classic Film Challenge: EVERY FRENCHMAN HAS ONE

This post is part of the 2015 Summer Reading Classic Film Challenge hosted by Raquel of Out Of The Past. Find out more about this event here and stayed tuned all summer for more reviews!

For my sixth book in the 2015 Summer Reading Classic Film Challenge I wanted to read something a little special.  This book would fall into that category.  First of all, I love Olivia de Havilland.  I have a special feeling for her because she was the first class film actress I can remember watching and enjoying, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD anyone, and she also was the first classic film star I ever got an autograph from.  She actually sent me a lovely note along with an autographed photo of her and Errol Flynn during the shooting of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, which I have framed and hung on my wall.  I decided to splurge on a pre-birthday present to myself, as copies of this book start around $45 on Amazon, and get a book written by Olivia de Havilland herself.  And I have to say that the result is fabulous.

Actually, the word I would use to describe this book would be delightful.  After the end of her first marriage, Olivia de Havilland traveled to France for the Cannes Film Festival and it was here that she met her soon to be second husband.  After her divorce was finalized and her second marriage legalized, Olivia de Havilland crossed the ocean and settled into life in France.  And that is what this book is about!

A collection of anecdotes and stories about her life and adjustment to life with the French people and the city of Paris this book is not for those seeking a autobiography.  However, if you enjoy the stories of Robert Benchley or the humor of The Night The Bed Fell by James Thurber, you will enjoy this book.  Guys, Olivia de Havilland is funny!  And witty!  And this book shows all of that.  I read the first 115 pages in one night and finished the book the next day.  The writing is quick and clever, and full of amusing tales of her time in France.  She writes about her trials in French fashion, finding and hiring a French maid, and remodeling her new home.

I really enjoyed this book and I would certainly recommend it to any classic film fan!  Thank you to Ms. de Havilland for this wonderful book!


Here is another great post about this book written by Lara of Backlots.  Also, big thanks to Raquel for hosting this challenge!

2015 Summer Reading Classic Film Challenge: THOSE FABULOUS MOVIE YEARS; THE 30s

This post is part of the 2015 Summer Reading Classic Film Challenge hosted by Raquel of Out Of The Past. Find out more about this event here and stayed tuned all summer for more reviews!

Many classic film fans when asked what the best year for movies was would answer 1939.  So many great movies came out that year, in fact so many great films came out in the 1930s as a whole.  How can one film fan remember them all?  And what of the fabulous stars of the 1930s? Well never fear, have I got a book for you!

Found at a library book sale with a very ripped dust jacket I present to you THOSE FABULOUS MOVIE YEARS: THE 30s.  This book is a collection of films made in the 1930s as well as the actors and actresses who starred in them.  Published in 1975 and written by Paul Trent each entry in this book gives a brief overview of the films and the stars.  The entries written for the actors and actresses limit themselves to discussing their careers in the 1930s only.  The films are given very brief overviews with some details about their productions and box office success.  It is interesting to read some of the opinions about such great films as THE WIZARD OF OZ (…”It was an irresistable magnet for sentimentalists and romantics willing to believe and one that thrust Garland into superstardom…”), GUNGA DIN (…”is a period piece, appropriate only for a day when chauvinism was an acceptable word and audience’s believe in the White Man’s Burden.  Its themes, sensibilities, and social mores date the film.”, and DINNER AT EIGHT (“When the film ends, the viewer feel he’s been to one heck of a party.”).

Those looking for a more in depth review of films made in the 1930s will most likely be disappointed.  But this book does give quick information, almost like an encyclopedia, and could be useful for quickly trying to look up who was in that movie that you forgot you liked.  One thing this book does have going for it are the pictures.  Every page is covered in black and white, and some color, photographs of the stars and movies that we love.  It is an odd sensation to read the entries of people like Myrna Loy, Barbara Stanwyck, and Joel McCrea with no final date listed after their birth.  We read the book knowing that they are gone, but in seeing this blank space where the date of death usually goes we get to have a moment of believing that they haven’t left us yet.

The 1947 Blogathon: THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY-SOXER (1947)

This post is part of The 1947 Blogathon hosted by Kristina of Speakeasy and Karen of Shadows and Satin. Be sure to check out the other entries here!

Growing up I remember watching a few Shirley Temple movies and I knew her as a child star with ringlets, a perky smile, and tap dancing feet.  THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY-SOXER was the first movie I ever saw with a grown up Shirley Temple and was also my first introduction to Myrna Loy, who would become a firm favorite as I grew up and found my way to THE THIN MAN.

Margaret Turner (Myrna Loy) is a female judge who is hearing the case of one, Dick Nugent (Cary Grant).  Dick is an artist and a playboy, and also in trouble for starting a fight, along with three of his friends, in a Los Angeles nightclub.  After hearing the case against them, Margaret decides to send Dick on his way with a warning.  Later that afternoon Dick has a run in with another member of the Turner clan, this time it is with Margaret’s sister Susan Turner (Shirley Temple).  Dick is giving a lecture at Susan’s high school and creates quite a stir among the female student body, including Susan.  She is determined to get an interview with Dick for the school paper and pursues him after the lecture.  In an attempt to satisfy Susan’s dogged pursuit and to get himself out of the high school, Dick invents a rather colorful and lurid past for himself and even agrees, rather off-handedly, to allow Susan to model for him one day.

Later that night Susan proclaims her undying love for Dick Nugent to a horrified Margaret.  Naturally Susan resents Margaret’s impugning the character of her knight in shining armor and leaves in a huff.  She eventually finds her way into Dick’s apartment and devises to wait for him to return home, which he does several hours later.  By this time Susan has fallen asleep on his couch, which Dick realizes just in time for Margaret and her boyfriend Tom (who happens to be the District Attorney) to burst in.  As morning dawns Dick is in jail on numerous charges, among which is striking the DA.  The cell door opens and in comes Dr. Matt Beemish, court psychiatrist and Margaret’s uncle.  After a brief conversation with Dick, Dr. Beemish comes to the conclusion that Dick is telling the truth.  He also has a plan that will help to rid Susan of her childish infatuation with the artist, and hopefully return her to the waiting arms of her high school sweetheart, Jerry.  Dick will have to date Susan.

What follows is a whirlwind of high school picnics, dances, and football games.  As Dick embraces the plan and his inner teenager, Margaret is resistant and finds the whole thing ridiculous.  But as time passes the other Turner sister finds herself catching a glinting light off Dick’s armor, that is if her younger sister will give him up.

I decided to post about this movie for two reasons.  The first being that I really enjoy it.  I mean come on…

If you didn’t laugh or at least smile…  This is just a fun movie.  It makes me happy and makes me smile every time I watch it.  I suppose that this was the sort of movie that was put out for teenagers back in the 1940s and I can’t help but wish we made these sort of films today.  There is an innocence to the humor, while still maintaining an adult sensibility and wit.  It isn’t a new story, a child trying to grow up too quickly and an adult growing old before their time.  But it is one that is done so very well that it still hits its mark today.  The second reason I wanted to write about this film was because of my grandmother.

My Grandma (Second from the Right) with Friends
My Grandma (Second from the Right) with Friends

My grandma was a real life bobby-soxer in 1947.  She was my mother’s mother and the only grandmother I ever had, my father’s parents having both passed away by the time he was twenty-four.  She lived in New Jersey her whole life, near Trenton and Hopewell.  She loved to clean (really she did!), to crochet, and to watch JAG.  She liked trips to Lancaster in Pennsylvania, she wasn’t a great cook but she always made us spaghetti and meatballs when we visited followed by strawberry shortcakes for dessert.  I remember going with her to the market and buying Cool Whip, strawberries, and cakes.  I remember her lying next to me in bed when I would sleep over and talking with me or telling me stories when I couldn’t fall asleep.  I also remember watching this movie with her.  She told me about Shirley Temple and how this was one of the first times she saw her grown up in a movie.  I think that I remember she liked this movie as much as I did.  I do remember that she didn’t like Rudy Valley, not that he was in this film.  It has been many years since my grandmother died.  She died long before I met my husband or got married or had my son.  She never got to see this blog or watch movies all day on TCM or tell me the stories that go along with them.  But when I watch this movie I think of her, every time.  She wasn’t perfect but she was my grandma, and once back in 1947 she was a bobby-soxer too.

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The 1947 Blogathon: BLACK NARCISSUS (1947)

This post is part of The 1947 Blogathon hosted by Kristina of Speakeasy and Karen of Shadows and Satin.  Be sure to check out the other entries here!

High up in the mountains of the Himalayas there is a building, once built by inhabited and later abandoned by friars.  It is known to the locals as “the house of women” and it is there a new group of women comes to make their home.  They are nuns, sisters of Saint Faith, and they have come to build a hospital and a school to help the locals.  Their sister Superior is newly appointed, young and untried, named Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr).  There is also Sister Honey who is young and foolish, Sister Phillippa (Flora Robson) who is hard working and stoic, Sister Briony who is blunt and forthright, and Sister Ruth (Kathrine Byron) who is troubled and high strung.  The sisters are to be assisted in their endeavors by the Governer’s agent, Mr. Dean (David Farrar), a man who is more native than English now having spent so much time in the region.

As the sisters settle in to their new homes they must adjust to the native culture and environment.  Sister Briony notes that none of the villagers speak English save their child interpreter named Joseph, and while Sister Honey thinks they are sweet, Sister Ruth thinks that they are ignorant and savage.  Sister Clodagh does her best to keep the nuns focused and to keep Sister Ruth under control.  She also attempts to find a way of interacting with Mr. Dean, whom she finds irritating and infuriating, though she does not always seem to know why.  Mr. Dean for his part seems to find Sister Clodagh amusing and tells her that he gives the sisters until the rains break before they will be hurrying back to the mother house.

Time passes and the sisters become more and more enmeshed in the local society.  Their school for girls is thriving and Sister Honey is enjoying looking after the little babies during the day.  The hospital is well stocked and is a source of help for many villagers.  The new Young General (Sabu) who has taken over as ruler of the village has started coming to the school to be taught by Sister Ruth, and the gardens are being planted.  All seems well.  But the sisters are finding themselves affected by their surroundings.  Perhaps it is the high altitude, the crystal clear air, or the constant wind.  Sister Briony notes that everyone is suffering from spots and other maladies from the drinking water.  Sister Phillippa is finding it difficult to focus on her work and has planted an entire garden of flowers, instead of the vegetables they need.  She also tells Sister Clodagh that she is starting to find it hard to refocus and remember her purpose, the reason why she became a nun, the parts of her past life that she has tried to forget.  Sister Clodagh is having similar problems as well, remembering her life in Ireland and the failed romance that sent her to the convent.  And Sister Ruth?  Sister Ruth is becoming more and more wrung out, more and more unhinged.  Matters are not helped much by the arrival of Mr. Dean and a young charge to live with the sisters, a low caste dancing girl named Kanchi (Jean Simmons) who soon catches the eye of the Young General.

Things continue on for a time, the sisters try to move past their unsettled feelings and distracted minds, and then one fateful day a young mother brings her sick baby to the hospital.  Sister Briony tells her to take the child home, much to Sister Honey’s horror.  Sister Briony tells Sister Honey that the child is dying and that nothing can be done, that the kindest thing would be to let the baby go home and die among family.  But Sister Honey cannot bear to let the baby go without anything and so she gives the mother a bottle of castor oil, thinking little of it.  The next day no one shows up to classes, the servants do not come, and the Young General has disappeared.  Mr. Dean investigates and finds that the villagers blame the nuns for the baby’s death and so will not come up the mountain.  As for the Young General, he has run off with Kanchi.  Amidst this turmoil Sister Clodagh hears the news that Sister Ruth has left the order.  Not only that but unbeknownst to Sister Clodagh, Sister Ruth has fallen in love with Mr. Dean and is convinced that he loves her too.  Unstable and half mad, Ruth runs off into the jungle to find the man she loves.

This film is always noted for being visually beautiful.  Often sited as one of the greatest examples of Technicolor in film, it is certainly a feast for the senses.  I think that this is in order to give us an experience as close to that of the nuns as possible.  Each scene is so full of color, pattern, and beauty that it can seem overwhelming to behold it all.  Each scene is full of sound as well, music or just effects, it is ever present.  The wind is always blowing, whether quietly or loud, and it is the constant soundtrack of the mountain.

I remember watching this film many years ago when I was young.  Back then it didn’t have the same impact on me as it did now.  I think because now watching it I can see that it is a really interesting look at the roles and restrictions on women in society.  The nuns are so restrained, so controlled, so held together by the rules of their society.  By contrast the women in the Himalayas are so free and unencumbered that it is startling.  As the nuns spend more and more time among these “free women” they find themselves questioning their motives for joining the sisterhood, remembering past moments that they had pushed deep down inside.  In some ways I felt like this was a comment on how women are restricting and withholding their desires and urges in order to fit into modern society.  They are meant to behave almost like nuns rather than emotional and full blooded women.

As for Sister Ruth, I read that while Powell wanted Sister Ruth to be just completely insane, Kathrine Byron wanted to show her as a woman who was damaged but could have been helped if the hand had been offered.  I found this so intriguing, that a man would simply say “Oh she is crazy” and be done with it, and a woman would say “No there is a reason why she is this way, there is more than meets the eye”.  By thinking of Sister Ruth in Byron’s light we can see more how societal restrictions were damaging to the women they affect.  The sisters of Saint Faith never gave Sister Ruth compassion or understanding really, rather they believed that hard work, introspection, and stoic resolve would banish any demons that would bother her.  It seems some times that society fears an emotional woman, wanting to simply dismiss her as crazy or weak.  If Sister Ruth would have been given some acknowledgment of her feelings, would things have been different?  It is an interesting point to consider when watching this film.

BLACK NARCISSUS is a sweeping story, one that envelops the viewer and deposits them hours later breathless and starry eyed.  Much like the ill-fated sisters of Saint Faith.

The William Wellman Blogathon Is Taking Off…And A Brief Note From William Wellman Jr.

First of all, I want to say a great big THANK YOU to everyone who has signed up so far to take part in The William Wellman Blogathon!  I was so happy that so many of you are as excited about William Wellman as I am!

william-wellman-blogathon-bill

Here is the original post if you would still like to sign up to take part!

I sent a message to William Wellman Jr. to let him know that his book inspired so many of us to come together to celebrate the life and works of his father.  This morning I received this comment from him:

Love your Blogathon idea. My father has been a passion of mine to bring recognition to his vast
body of work. To my mind, he is the most versatile director of his era. Maybe any era…

Thank you so much to William Wellman Jr. for taking the time to stop by and look at our blogathon!  I know we are going to have a great time and do him, and his father, proud!