The Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon: INTERMEZZO; A LOVE STORY (1939)

This post is part of The Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon hosted by Virginie over at The Wonderful World of Cinema.  Be sure to check out the other entries here!

The following post will deal with the English version of INTERMEZZO.

Holger Brandt (Leslie Howard) is a famous violinist, renowned throughout the world for his concerts with his accompanist Thomas Stenborg (John Halliday).  At a recital in New York, Holger announces that Thomas is planning on retiring to teach music and that the two men will be returning home to Stockholm.  Having spent so many years abroad performing the men are happy to be finally reunited with their families.  Thomas is met at the station by his wife Greta (Enid Bennett), and Holger is met by his wife Margit (Edna Best) and his youngest daughter Ann Marie (Ann Todd).  Margit and Anne Marie are overjoyed to finally be reunited with Holger and he is delighted to see them too.  Once home Holger is also greeted by his son Eric (Douglas Scott) and is soon being regaled with tales of home life.  Ann Marie excitedly tells her father that she is learning piano from a young lady, one whom Margit tells him he will meet soon.  Holger is happy to be with his family but something has changed.  While he still loves Margit the long separation has taken its toll and the relationship has become more distant.  Family memories will have to wait until later as Ann Marie’s piano lesson is about to begin as her teacher, Anita Hoffman (Ingrid Bergman) has just arrived.  Holger and Anita exchange greetings and the lesson begins.

The next evening a small gathering is being held to celebrate the return of Thomas and Holger.  Ann Marie accompanies her father on the piano, much to the delight of everyone.  After her performance with her father, Ann Marie asks Anita to play for everyone.  Anita eventually agrees and gets up to play just as Holger comes over to congratulate his daughter.  He is eventually drawn to Anita’s playing and takes up his violin again.  As the two play Margit watches, concern in her eyes.  Holger asks Anita to consider being his new accompanist but she refuses.

One night as Holger and Thomas leave a concert, they are met by Anita who has just attended the very same performance.  Thomas soon excuses himself, and Holger and Anita continue on walking and talking together.  Anita finds herself drawn to the offstage persona of Holger Brandt.  For his part, Holger is attracted to Anita’s youth and vibrance.  As they walk their attraction for each other deepens and before the night is over their affair will begin.

Some time later Anita comes to the Brandt household early in the morning.  She asks to speak with Margit, and as she waits she lovingly touches Holger’s violin as it sits in its case.  Margit coming down the stairs notices this, and enters the room with trepidation.  Anita tells Margit that she can longer teach Ann Marie as she has decided that she must leave Stockholm.  Margit looks at her and understands the deeper meaning behind these words, telling her that she is sure Anita is doing what is right.  Anita leaves and goes to a nearby cafe where she meets Holger.  The two have been meeting in secret for some time, carrying on their affair.  Anita is ashamed of what they are doing and tells Holger that they must end things.  Holger agrees at first but then realizes that he cannot let her go.  He returns home and confesses all to Margit.  His marriage in tatters he leaves, seeking Anita to continue their romance.

Anita and Holger go on tour together from city to city.  At the end of the tour they decide to take a vacation together and for a time they are terribly happy.  Then one morning Anita receives a letter from Thomas.  He tells Anita that she has been awarded a prestigious scholarship for music, one that will help bolster her fledgling career as a concert pianist.  He urges her to not allow anything to come between her and her bright future.  Knowing that accepting this scholarship would mean leaving Holger behind, Anita burns the letter and resolves to stay with the man she loves.  But soon she questions whether or not she has made the right decision.  Not only does she feel guilty for the pain they have caused, but she has also noticed that Holger’s longing for his family is beginning to creep back and is only growing with each passing day.

This is such a beautiful love story.  It is a quiet and adult tale, not over the top or too melodramatic.  The love between Holger and Anita is subtle but still feels deep and passionate.  It is not the love of two teenagers rather of two adults who enter the relationship with their eyes open to the hurt and disruption they will cause.  Leslie Howard is perfectly suited to the role, bringing a quiet intensity to Holger that speaks to a man who has put all his passion into music, leaving none for his wife.  He feels the lack of fire in the relationship and the prospect of losing his accompanist, and therefore his ability to play music with the emotion and fire he has heretofore been able to, leaves him open and vulnerable to being attracted to any other source of that passion.  Like a moth to a flame, Holger finds himself drawn to vibrance, youth, and life, things he finds in abundance in Anita.

Ingrid Bergman is almost the Anti-Garbo to me.  I don’t mean that I prefer her to Garbo, rather that where Garbo is distant, aloof, and at times cold, Ingrid Bergman is open, inviting, and warm.  Where Garbo has a mystique, Bergman radiates honesty and authenticity.  She brings these qualities to her roles and in Anita she finds a way of projecting youth without immaturity. She manages to make Anita wholly sympathetic even though she is technically “the other woman”.  You never feel like she is destroying a marriage or taking a father from his children, although that is what happens.  Ingrid Bergman creates a character that is so happy, warm, and charming that we fall in love with her just has Holger does.  Of course it doesn’t hurt that she is stunning as well.  There is a story that when David O. Selznick hired Gregg Toland to take over the photography of INTERMEZZO, he asked Toland why Bergman looked so beautiful in the original European production and so terrible in this version. Toland replied, “In Sweden they don’t make her wear all that makeup.”  Selznick then had all the previous footage reshot with Ingrid Bergman’s natural beauty producing the stunning film we see today.

Ingrid Bergman shines in this, her first American film and her English language debut.  She is utterly wonderful as is the story of Anita and Holger.

The Anti-Damsel Blogathon: WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1952)

This post is part of the Anti-Damsel Blogathon hosted by Fritzi of Movies Silently and Jo of The Last Drive-In.  Be sure to check out the other entries here!

When I first heard of this blogathon I was beyond excited to take part.  I loved the idea of celebrating some truly tough and empowered women  in film.  As I go along I am finding that more and more classic films had some very fine examples of women doing what they want when they want and not giving a hoot what other people think.  Real kick-bottom-take-names type behavior.  Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think that there are some good examples of empowered women in television and film today, but often I feel that many modern “empowered women” in media are not as tough as we might like to believe.  Often it seems like a woman is meant to exude confidence and independence simply because she can fit into a leather catsuit without showing any cellulite or because she can punch and kick people in vaguely sexual ways while tossing witticisms over her shoulder.  To me being an empowered female is more about being treated, not as a man’s equal, but as a person.  Not wanting gender to come into the equation at all and not allowing my gender to affect either other people’s treatment of me nor my expectations of my own limits.  Being empowered is doing anything and everything that I want to, no matter how tough, not because I am a woman and I want to prove something but because I want to do it and why should my gender have any thing to do with anything.  If I want to go out and rebuild an engine I can, if I want to wear a tutu and dance in the ballet I can, and if I want to write a classic film blog I can.  To me being empowered is about respect and what I look like in a catsuit should have nothing to do with it.  There are no catsuits in WESTWARD THE WOMEN.  There are, however, about two hundred highly empowered, tough, and determined WOMEN (not girls).

In 1851 Roy Whitman (John McIntre) is running a prosperous ranching community in his valley in California.  There is one problem however.  There are no women around and the men are getting antsy.  The men want to lay down roots and start families of their own, which means that they need wives.  Roy turns to his friend Buck Wyatt (Robert Taylor), who is an experienced trail blazer, and recruits him to travel to Chicago with Roy in the hopes of finding enough women willing to come west and marry the hundred men of Whitman Valley.  Buck is resistant at first as he believes the journey would be too difficult for women to endure, but he finally agrees once Roy offers to double his usual salary.

Once in the city Buck and Roy set up a “casting call” of sorts for any eligible women willing to come out and marry some tough California ranchers, sight unseen.  Many women turn up, all seeking a new life, and Roy soon has one hundred and forty-eight women signed up.  The last two are Fifi Danon (Denise Darcel) and Laurie Smith (Julie Bishop).  Fifi and Laurie are prostitutes who, after seeing their other prostitute friends turned away, went off and changed their usual clothes for something more modest.  Roy seems fooled by the change but Buck sizes both women up immediately and silently registers his disgust.  The party is now full at one hundred and fifty women.  Among those chosen are Patience Hawley (Hope Emerson), the aging widow of a New England sea-captain and mother of two lost sons; Maggie O’Malley (Leonore Lonergan), farm girl and an expert with a gun; Rose Meyers (Beverly Daniels), who is pregnant with an illegitimate child; Mrs. Maroni (Renata Vanni), an Italian widow traveling with her nine-year-old son Tony (Guido Martufi).  Why fifty extra women you might be wondering?  Due to the toughness of the trek ahead, Roy and Buck expect fifty of the women to either die or abandon the journey.  Buck then goes off to recruit his own crew of men while Roy invites the women up to each choose the picture of the man she would like to marry.

Buck gathers his crew of hopefuls, among them a small Japanese man called Ito (Henry Nakamura) who becomes the cook for the team, and gives them all the rundown of what will be expected of them.  The men seem fairly eager to join up, especially when they hear so many women will be around.  Buck soon puts a stop to that and warns them to “stay away from the women” promising to shoot anyone who disobeys.  Over the next week some of the women who are versed in shooting guns, riding horses, and controlling mules teams teach the rest of the ladies how to perform these skills on the trail.  Buck arrives with his men, doubtful that the women will be able to carry their own weight.  He tells the women to prepare for a long and difficult journey and warns them to “stay away from the men”.  Buck then calls for the wagon train to move out which, much to his surprise, it does without any issues.

After a few days of travel things seem to be going well.  That is until Buck catches one of his men heading into a wagon with one of the women for some “quality time”.  True to his word, and much to the surprise of all the men, Buck shoots the offender in the shoulder promising to kill the next man who tries anything like that.  He has seen too many wagon trains descend into chaos when men and women start canoodling.  The men grudgingly accept this and things go one peacefully for a time.  One day the wagon train finds itself under threat from a band of raiding Indians.  As the women circle the wagons the men ready themselves for a fight.  The Indians admit that their arrows are no match for the guns of the wagon train but promise to come back when the odds are in their favor.  Buck decides to not push the train forward any farther that day and they make camp.  The women are enjoying a game of “Have you ever seen a sting bat?” when Fifi comes up asking if anyone has seen Laurie.  No one has and she rushes off, promptly running into one of the men coming back from the desert looking disheveled.  Fearing the worst, Fifi hurries off and finds her friend raped and beaten.  She yells for Buck, who comes running.  After taking in the scene Buck returns and confronts the man, who reasons that he didn’t kill Laurie but only “roughed her up a little bit” and gave her nothing more than she got a thousand times before in her profession.  Buck is unmoved and makes good on his promise, shooting the man dead.  The other men are shocked and one attempts to shoot Buck, before being shot dead himself by Maggie.  Buck thanks Maggie and then advises everyone to go to bed for the night, but he takes a few moments to voice his concerns for the wagon train to Roy.

In the morning Buck’s worst fears are concerned.  All the men, save Ito and a man named Jim Bailey (who has fallen in love with Rose), has left taking with them eight women and any hope of safely finishing the trail or so Buck believes.  When he tells this to the women, offering them an option of turning back and going home, everyone one of them responds “Not me!”.  Buck smiles and tells them to ready the wagons, the trail was tough before but it will be even worse now…and the Indians have not forgotten their promise.

This was an amazing movie.  Based on an original story idea from Frank Capra, which he then sold to his friend William Wellman, WESTWARD THE WOMEN is definitely going into my top ten list.  Often toted as a western that turned the genre on its head, I don’t feel like Wellman made this film for that reason.  I think he found this idea exciting and wanted to see it come to life, and if it riled a few things up in the world of westerns all the better.  After reading Wellman’s biography I got the sense that William Wellman was a man who didn’t care if you were a man or a woman.  He cared about what sort of person you were.  If you were a hard worker, tough and able to roll with the punches, then it didn’t matter if you were a woman or not.  I think he had great respect for strong women, women who didn’t put other people down to make themselves feel better, women who didn’t complain and want special treatment, women who meant what they said, said what they meant, and did what they said they would do.  And that attitude really comes out in this film.

In another director’s film, Ford, Hawkes, even Capra, there would have been a come to the light moment where Fifi and Laurie repent for their wicked former ways.  Wellman does not do this, nor does he make Rose regret her unmarried dalliance, nor Patience forswear love to any man but her lost husband.  Rather he allows each of these women to be human and to have a past that is less than perfect but one that remains with them and shapes who they are.  These women are seeking marriage not for love or the fairy tale ending, but for safety in a world which had very few options available to unmarried females.  The fact that he allows the women to choose their own husbands, to step up and pick rather than showing up and standing like a meat auction before the men, shows too that he is valuing these women and their choices as adults.  He is allowing them to have free will and independence, trusting them to know what is best for themselves.

Buck never sugar coats things for the women on account of their sex.  He tells them upfront how dangerous the journey will be and offers them a chance out at the beginning.  Not one women leaves.  He registers some surprise at this and Buck’s journey to respecting the women is part of the story of WESTWARD THE WOMEN.  And again, where other directors would have made a big show about it, would have had one great sudden realization on Buck’s part, Wellman does not do this.  Rather he allows Buck to realize through the continued observation of the strength and determination of these women, that he was judging them too quickly before.  He never says “I was wrong” but then he doesn’t need to because we see it and realize it too.

Do you know how sometimes you watch a movie and the characters set out on a terrible journey but the terrible things that face them are really about ten minutes worth of only moderately annoying events at best?  Like someone loses a shoe or their favorite locket, someone goes out in the rain to pout and gets pneumonia for a week, and someone falls and sprains their ankle (a classic) before finally reaching their chosen destination?  Yeah, not so much with WESTWARD THE WOMEN.  The wagon train faces some pretty terrible stuff like desert heat, wagon crashes, insanity, Indian raids, the aforementioned rape, and death.  Lots of death.  In fact the female body count is at least four times that of the male body county by the time the film is over.  These women face terrible odds and do so without ever asking for special treatment or consideration.  There is not one scene in which a woman whines about being tired, hot, or hungry.  Not once does a woman collapse and say “I can’t go on!  Just leave me behind!”.  No women is gathered up into the arms of a man and carried because she is too exhausted to go on. And any time a woman starts to lose her cool, another woman is right there ready to slap her across the face and tell her to get on with it.  There are so many great scenes that tell of the strength of women.  I won’t spoil them for you here (go watch this movie!), but for those who have seen it…Mrs. Maroni, Rose and the wagon wheel, Laurie’s look to Fifi after she comes back, and the women’s refusal.

Of note, after the 1930s there were fewer and fewer stuntwomen working in Hollywood.  Many filmmakers would use men in wigs to substitute as women during stunts so it was quite something when Wellman decided to use all women in his production of WESTWARD THE WOMEN.  In fact he hired every stuntwoman working in Hollywood at the time and even cast a few in minor roles.  Stuntwomen like Opal Ernie, Evelyn Finely, Ann Roberts, Edith Happy, Polly Burson, Lucille House, Stevie Myers, Sharon and Shirley Lucas, and Donna Hall.  Polly Burson, who was a rodeo trick rider and had stunted for Betty Hutton, Dale Evans, and Barbara Stanwyck (among others), became the first female stunt coordinator on WESTWARD THE WOMEN.  Despite facing sexism and prejudice at the local town near where the film was shooting, there is a story Wellman told about the stuntwomen being harassed in a local bar which they soon put a stop to by putting a very tight grip on the men’s testicles (one stuntwomen broke a nail), the production crew seems to have never had an issue working alongside the two hundred women.  William Wellman certainly didn’t.

WESTWARD THE WOMEN is absolutely one of the most empowering movies that I have ever seen.  After watching it I had a feeling of the awesome power of just being a woman can be.  The assuredness that we can do anything we put our minds to.  The strength of those two hundred women is magnetic and leaps off the screen.  This is what empowerment truly is.

The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon: ARSENE LUPIN (1932)

This post is part of The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon hosted by Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.  Check out the other entries here!

What better film to watch during a Barrymore blogathon than a film that features BOTH John and Lionel Barrymore!  And one that is a ton of fun to boot!

In ARSENE LUPIN, Lionel Barrymore is police detective Guerchard who is called out to a robbery in progress. Once there the police chase a fleeing car only to find the passenger tied up in the backseat. The man (John Barrymore) claims to have just been robbed by the notorious Arsene Lupin, saying he is the Duke of Charmerace. Guerchard doesn’t believe this for a second and suspects that this man is in fact Arsene Lupin. However another man named Gourney-Martin (Tully Marshall) returns to the house and confirms the identity of the passenger as the Duke of Charmerace. Strangely enough the next day Guerchard finds that the shoe impressions taken from the outside of the scene of the crime are an exact match for his own shoes! Perplexed he goes to see the chief of police where he is told that if he wants to retire quietly to the country with his daughter he needs to do one last thing, and that is to catch Arsene Lupin! The police have just received a note from Lupin telling them that he will be at the Duke of Charmerace’s ball that night to take whatever he wants. Geurchard decides to go to the ball himself just to make sure that nothing goes wrong.

The Duke of Charmerace is having some issues of his own. Two bailiffs have arrived asking to collect past due bills. He manages to fob them off with drinks and food, while he returns to his ball. He sees Geurchard enter and begin talking to another male guest, who is an undercover policeman. It turns out that there are hidden police officers throughout the ball in an effort to trap Arsene Lupin should he try anything. At this point, the Duke is up in his bedroom where he has found a naked woman in his bed. The Countess Sonia Krichnoff (Karen Morley) claims that her evening gown is being mended in the other room and since she was cold, she took refuge under the covers of the Duke’s bed. After some risqué flirtation the Duke and Sonia rejoin the party and just in time for some cake. Unfortunately, as the lights are down for the cake’s arrival several ladies find that they are missing various pieces of jewelry. Sonia has lost a bracelet and she hurries to find the Duke. At this moment Guerchard’s men spring into action but Geurchard is nowhere to be found. He is a little preoccupied at the moment, being held at gunpoint by the two bailiffs upstairs who have mistaken him for Arsene Lupin. Once released by the two men, Geurchard begins the send all the guests downstairs to be questioned. However, he has a private word alone with the Countess Sonia before sending her on with the others.

Later the Duke and the Countess find themselves invited to Gourney-Martin’s home for the weekend. While there the Duke and Sonia continue their flirtations and Gourney-Martin demonstrates his new electrified safe. One morning Sonia awakes to find a real bracelet in place of her fake one from none other than Arsene Lupin. Tourney-Martin has also had a visit from Lupin, though his is far less pleasant. Lupin has left a note saying that he will come back and steal everything Tourney-Martin has because he is a war profiteer. Geurchard is called to the house at once to be there when Lupin makes his entrance. But who Arsene Lupin really? Is everyone who they appear to be?

I really enjoyed this film.  It is so much fun and really a joy to watch.  It is smart, sexy, witty, and exciting.  I loved the character of Sonia because she was used as more than just a placeholder in a slinky evening dress.  She holds her own alongside the boys and is just as cunning and clever as the real Arsene Lupin.  You simply could not have this film without her character or her story. Sonia is a complex, clever, and interesting woman, and is more than capable of handling Arsene Lupin and his ruses.

The Barrymore brothers are really hitting on all cylinders with this one.  Lionel Barrymore is fantastic as usual, bringing a gravitas to his role but also a sense of under doggedness.  You really sense that he respects Arsene Lupin as a foe and is quite determined to catch the thief no matter what it takes.  Lionel Barrymore is such a great actor that he is always terrific in anything and often acts as the grounding force in a film.  He does the same here, keeping the story feeling more real and more “risky”.  Where the story could get away and become almost too fantastic, Lionel Barrymore makes it more meaningful and more impactful.  He is not the usual bumbling detective, rather he is a smart man trying his best to outwit a man who might just be a little more clever than him.

For his part John Barrymore seems to be having the time of his life.  He is fabulous as the Duke of Charmerace.  He is funny and charming, also just mischievous enough to make you question his motives.  He seems to enjoy playing off his brother as well, particularly in the scenes where he gets to make a fool of him.  One can’t help but wonder if there was some similarity in the relationship between the Duke of Charmerace and Geurchard, and that of John and Lionel Barrymore in real life.  John Barrymore is definitely the star of this tale and he really carries the film forward.  Where his brother brings a sense of grounding to the story, John Barrymore makes things seems just a little more fun and fantastical.  It is really is thanks to him and his interactions with everyone else that ARSENE LUPIN is as much fun as it is.

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!

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!

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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!

Announcing The William Wellman Blogathon

I recently read the fantastic biography of William Wellman and found myself so inspired by the life and films of this great American director that I decided to do something about it!  More to the point, I decided to host my very first blogathon!

Announcing The William Wellman Blogathon!

Love WINGS?  Does WESTWARD THE WOMEN get your heart beating?  Want to talk about THE OX-BOW INCIDENT?  Think that Gary Cooper owes quite a bit to William Wellman and want to share your thoughts?  Go for it!  You can write about anything and everything related to William Wellman, his life, his films, and his career.

Now for the nitty gritty!  This event will run from September 10-13, 2015.  I am not assigning days for posts so feel free to post any time during the event.  Duplicates are fine so pick any topic you like!  Also, this is my first time hosting a blogathon and I am going solo so please let me know if I have forgotten anything or if you have any questions.  When the event goes live please be sure so send me a link to your posting either through email, twitter, or posting a comment to the event post on this blog.  I want to make sure you get all the credit you deserve!

So now you are itching for the chance to join in the fun!  How do I sign up, you may be asking.  Why it is very simple!  Just leave me a comment below letting me know your topic of choice and a link to your blog.  You can also tweet at me or send me an email (nowvoyaging [AT] gmail [DOT] com) with the same information.  Once you have done that feel free to take one of the fabulous banners, that Fritzi of Movies Silently has so kindly designed for the event, and post it all over the blogosphere or at the very least your corner of it!  I am so excited to host my first blogathon and I hope you will join me!


Roster

Now VoyagingLady of Burlesque 

SpeakeasyYellow Sky

Movies SilentlyThe Boob

Silver ScreeningsThe Ox-Bow Incident

CineMavenSafe in Hell and Beggars For Life

Shadows and SatinLilly Turner

StardustWings

Old Hollywood FilmsThe Public Enemy

Sister CelluloidFrisco Jenny

Criterion BluesA Star Is Born (1937)

Once Upon A ScreenThe Purchase Price

Silents And TalkiesHeroes For Sale

The Stop ButtonMagic Town

A Shroud of ThoughtsBeau Geste

Twenty Four FramesThe Ox-Bow Incident

Immortal EphemeraWild Boys of the Road

Movie Movie Blog Blog Nothing Sacred

The Motion PicturesWilliam Wellman; The Stanwyck Collaborations

That Classic Movie LifeThe Call of the Wild

Critica Retro Nothing Sacred

Caftan WomanGoodbye, My Lady

Laura’s Misc MusingsWild Boys of the Road

Moon In GeminiWestward The Women

Second Sight CinemaSafe In Hell

Portraits By JenniThe Story Of GI Joe

Pre-Code.ComCollege Coach

Girls Do FilmOther Men’s Women

Vitaphone DreamerA Star Is Born (1937)

The Movie RatNight Nurse

Comet Over HollywoodBattleground

Movie ClassicsThunder Birds

In The Good Old Days Of Classic HollywoodThe Great Man’s Lady and It’s A Big Country

Wide Screen WorldSo Big

Pop Culture ReverieThe Happy Years

Mike’s Take On The MoviesIsland In The Sky

Back To Golden DaysThe Iron Curtain

Barry Bradford – The Story of GI Joe

Noir GirlLove Is A Racket

Serendipitous AnachronismsRoxie Hart

Phyllis Loves Classic MoviesBlood Alley

The Cinematic FrontierWings

Defiant Success – The Ox-Bow Incident

Nitrate DivaBeggars of Life

Louise Brooks Society – Beggars of Life

Wolffian Classic Movies DigestRoxie Hart

B Noir DetourLady of Burlesque

Mildred’s Fat BurgersTrack of the Cat

Cinema Dilettante – Midnight Mary

Losh-Man’s Hollywood ClassicsAcross The Wide Missouri

Spellbound By MoviesMaybe It’s Love

Grand Old MoviesThe Next Voice You Hear


Banners (Thanks Fritzi!)

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william-wellman-blogathon-beau-geste

william-wellman-blogathon-ox-bow

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