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.

grandma1

2015 Summer Reading Classic Film Challenge: GOOD STUFF; A REMINISCENCE OF MY FATHER, CARY GRANT

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!

A few weeks ago my husband presented me with a bag of birthday presents.  He had taken the time to go out and search for some classic film related books for me, a not so easy task as anyone who collects books or classic film related items will attest.  In amongst the other gifts was this book, GOOD STUFF.  I was intrigued as I knew that Cary Grant became a father late in life but had never read anything much about that child.

That child is Jennifer Grant, daughter of Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon.  Although her parents divorced when she was very young, she still managed to spend a great deal of time with her father especially when her mother was away on a film set.  Cary Grant retired from the film industry when Jennifer was born in order to spend more time with her and be there to raise her.  At the time this book was written Cary Grant had been dead for about twenty years.  It is apparent in reading Jennifer’s reminiscences that this devastating event still is as clear and affecting as if it happened yesterday.  In fact she makes mention at the beginning of the book that her therapist suggests that she write about her father, ostensibly to help her work through her grief.

What follows then are short chapters, almost vignettes, in the life of Cary and Jennifer Grant.  Remembering the happy times with her father, the “good stuff”, Jennifer allows us a brief glimpse into a part of Cary Grant that many have never seen or even considered.  We get to see him as a husband and more importantly, as a father.  He delighted in his daughter and saved everything she touched practically.  He was also constantly videoing or recording their lives and Jennifer quotes these recordings often in her book.  Yes, in some places the praise of her father and his love for her might seem a little heavy handed but then why shouldn’t it be?  This is not a book written by a scholarly biographer but rather a love note written from a daughter to her father.

GOOD STUFF is not a typical biography, nor is it an unbiased and scholarly look at the life of one of the greatest actors of all time.  But then I don’t think that it is meant to be.  The sense I got from this book was that it was cathartic for her to write it.  In an effort to work through the grief of losing her father, Jennifer Grant wrote this book.  She wrote it in an attempt to say one last good-bye and I love you to her father.  So, if you are looking to find a book about Cary Grant’s entire life or one that is completely factual and neutral in its portrayal of the former Archie Leach then I would urge you to look elsewhere.  Jennifer never knew that part of her father’s life and he was reluctant to speak of it, preferring to leave it in the past, so she cannot speak to it in her book.  But if you are looking for a personal, private, almost stream of consciousness look at Cary Grant the man and father then this is the book for you.  In remembering her father, a man who was her biggest fan and greatest support, Jennifer Grant talks only about the “good stuff” and how can we blame her for that?

Spending My Birthday With Katharine, Cary, Jimmy, and My Mom

Today is my birthday!  It is also Susan Hayward’s, Glenda Farrell’s, and Marya’s from Cinema Fanatic…as well as the day that RED HEADED WOMAN was released.  But yes, it is my birthday!

Imagine my excitement when I realized that TCM was showing my favorite movie, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, at 1PM on my birthday!  Imagine my dismay when I realized by addled brain had misread the guide and it was actually playing at 1AM on my birthday.  Never fear, Mom to the rescue!

To celebrate my Mom came over to my house with sandwiches and all kinds of junk food and treats that we never eat and we watched THE PHILADELPHIA STORY.  At first it was just the two of us and later it was the two of us and my son, who was resisting his nap and ending up sleeping next to us after watching some Cary Grant.  We spent the time chatting, discussing trivia, and deciding who would be a modern day cast if they ever remade the film today.  We decided on Leonardo DiCaprio for CK Dexter Haven, Lee Pace for Mike Conner, Jennifer Lawrence for Liz Imbry, Bradley Cooper for George Kittridge, and either Jessica Chastain or Amy Adams for Tracy Lord.  And Bill Murray for Uncle Willy.  But we both agreed that you really shouldn’t mess with perfection that is Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and Katharine Hepburn.

Our snacks…

My Mom doing her best Greta Garbo…

My feet (My feet are made of clay, made of clay did you know?)

All in all a delightful afternoon and way to spend my birthday!  Thanks Mom!

My Favorite Classic Movie Blogathon: THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940)

This post is part of the My Favorite Classic Movie Blogathon hosted by Rick’s Classic Film and TV Cafe.  Check out all the other terrific entries here!

I can’t tell you exactly when I started loving THE PHILADELPHIA STORY.  I can’t tell you exactly what made me start watching it or what made me keep watching it.  What I can tell you is that it is one of those movies that holds a special place in my heart.  It is one of those films that I have to watch every few months, one of those films that I know lines of dialogue from, one of those films that I tell everyone about.  Any time that I see that THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is on TV, it doesn’t matter what point in the movie we are at, that is it I have to stop everything that I am doing and watch.

I am not going to get too involved in the plot, as I think many people know the movie and for those who don’t I really don’t want to spoil much and would much rather entice you to see the film and let me know what you think!  That having been said…

Tracy Lord (Katherine Hepburn) is a Philadelphia socialite from a very old and very wealthy family.  She is the ex-wife of one C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), sportsman and recovering alcoholic.  The marriage between the two childhood sweethearts broke up due to Tracy’s imperious and holier-than-thou attitude which is due mostly to her wealth and privileged upbringing.  Two years later Tracy is engaged to self-made man, and wind bag, George Kittridge (John Howard).

Tracy’s absentee father has caused the family some embarrassment of late by taking up with a dancer.  Unfortunately for everyone, the publisher of the biggest gossip magazine has gotten a hold of some dirt on the affair and is now threatening to publish it.  C.K. Dexter Haven now shows up at Tracy’s door with a reporter named Mike Conner (James Stewart) and a photographer named Elizabeth Imbrey (Ruth Hussey).  It seems that Dexter has agreed to allow Mike and Liz to cover Tracy’s upcoming nuptials in exchange for the magazine agreeing not to publish the embarrassing information about Tracy’s father.

What follows is a most delightful mess of family dysfunction, love triangles, champagne, swimming, and redemption.  All in all my idea of a really perfect movie.

Katharine Hepburn was considered undesirable in 1938.  Several flops had led her to be added to Manhattan movie theater owner Harry Brandt’s list of “box office poison”.  Taking some time away from Hollywood she starred in a play on Broadway, entitled THE PHILADELPHIA STORY.  Inspired by the life of socialite Helen Hope Montgomery Scott, a Philadelphia socialite known for her crazy antics, it was written by Philip Barry who happened to be friends with Montgomery Scott’s husband.  Barry wrote the role of Tracy Lord specifically for Katharine Hepburn and she played alongside Joseph Cotten (Dexter), Van Heflin (Connor), and Shirley Booth (Imbrey).  Barry and Hepburn both backed the play, with Barry forgoing a salary, and the play (and Hepburn) were a great success.  Howard Hughes, then Hepburn’s boyfriend, purchased the film rights and gave them to her as a gift.  In the hopes of undoing her label of “box office poison”, Hepburn sold the rights to Louis B. Mayer in exchange for $250,000 and veto rights over director, producer, cast, and screenwriter.

George Cukor was selected as the director and Donald Ogden Stewart was brought in as screenwriter.  Hepburn initially wanted Clark Gable to play Dexter and Spencer Tracy to play Connor but both had other commitments, and Mayer was still wary of Hepburn’s poisonous status.  As insurance he put in two A-list celebrities to co-star with Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart.  Grant agreed to the part as long as he received top billing and his salary would total $137,000 which he would donate to the British War Relief Society.  The film went into production in Culver City from July 5 to August 14, 1940 and was opened for general release on January 17, 1941.  THE PHILADELPHIA STORY went on to break a box office record by taking in $600,000 in six weeks.

Now that we know a bit more about the history of the film, let’s talk about why I love it so.  But first, here is the trailer which should give you a little taste of the greatness to come!

First of all, can you beat this cast?  Katharine Hepburn is Tracy Lord.  Full stop.  No one else but Katharine Hepburn could pull off the role and give Tracy the complex dimensions that she does.  Tracy is cold and aloof but underneath it you can sense that hurt and disappointment with her father and her ex husband have made her that way.  She is privileged and wealthy but she also is in love with George and with the hope that he will give her something real, honest, and true because he is a self-made man.  She is totally in control and wildly out of it.  Tracy Lord is a woman who starts as one thing and ends as another and we take the journey with her and whats more we actually like her as well.  In spite of the hard time she gives everyone, in spite of what other people say about her, we still like her and find ourselves rooting for her.  Only Katharine Hepburn could do this and Tracy Lord is the role she was meant to play.

Then there is Cary Grant.  What can I say?  I would watch Cary Grant tie his shoes and it would be amazing.  Here he brings his quintessential light humor to the role and where C.K. Dexter Haven could have been a somewhat nasty piece of work, he makes him into a man who is still in love with his ex-wife but feels betrayed by her lack of support and, more importantly, love during his struggles with alcoholism.  He brings a humor to his scenes and seems to be having a fantastic time during the filming.  Just watch his face sometimes, even when he isn’t the focus of the scene and you will see what I mean.  And let’s be honest, only Cary Grant could start off a film shoving a woman to the ground by her face and still be a man you root for.

James Stewart won an Oscar for his role as Mike Connor and while I would have liked to see a double Oscar between him and Cary Grant, you can’t deny that this is a breakout role for him.  Not to say that he had never made any great films prior to this, I mean THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER and MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON are fantastic, but I think that this film really showed Jimmy Stewart holding his own in an ensemble and even having moments of outshining even Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.  Mike is a complex character, an everyman who is tired of being the everyman.  He wants to be comfortable and rich but sees the “old money” families as obstacles to his ultimate happiness.  He wants to be an author but he works as a newspaper reporter for a gossip magazine.  He also wants to dislike Tracy Lord because of everything she stands for in his mind, but he can’t because there is something magnetic in her and he can’t resist.  Starting out cynical and hard, Mike ends up being chivalrous and genuine making a transformation that we can all believe and one that makes sense.

Like I said, this is a dream cast.  And let’s not forget Ruth Hussey, Roland Young, and Virginia Weidler.  Oh how I love Virginia Weidler in this movie.

If you didn’t at least smile once during that clip…then I’m sorry I can’t help you.

And that brings me to what I think I love the most about this movie.  The words.  I have loved words and books ever since I was little.  True story, my first word was book.  Even now when I am driving or going for a walk or cooking in the kitchen, I would much rather listen to a podcast or a book on tape than music.  So for me, the script in this film is just heaven.  The quick and witty dialogue, the truly funny jokes, the pure poetry of the monologues…this film makes me feel like a really great book has come to life before my eyes.  The quality of the writing is palpable and I would be just as happy closing my eyes and listening to this movie as I would be watching it.  Donald Ogden Stewart wrote in his autobiography that adapting the screenplay for THE PHILADELPHIA STORY was the easiest job he ever had because the original material was so perfect.  So whether it is thanks to Philip Barry or Donald Ogden Stewart that we have dialogue like;

C. K. Dexter Haven: Sometimes, for your own sake, Red, I think you should’ve stuck to me longer.
Tracy Lord: I thought it was for life, but the nice judge gave me a full pardon.
C. K. Dexter Haven: Aaah, that’s the old redhead. No bitterness, no recrimination, just a good swift left to the jaw.

Or

Margaret Lord: Oh, dear. Is there no such thing as privacy any more?

Tracy Lord: Only in bed, mother, and not always there.

Or

Macaulay Connor: The prettiest sight in this fine pretty world is the privileged class enjoying its privileges.

Well, I could go on.  But whoever it was…the script is divine and the movie is divine and I love it.  I wish that I could fill this entry with clips of the film and quotes of dialogue and bits of trivia, but I can’t.  What I can do instead is to wish you all a Happy National Classic Movie Day and encourage you all to go out and watch my  favorite movie, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY.

The Fabulous Films of the 30s Blogathon: THE AWFUL TRUTH (1938)

This post is part of the CMBA Spring Blogathon, The Fabulous Films of the 30s.  To check out the other fabulous entries click here!

To me the 1930s are the epitome of two genres of film.  The first is the Pre-Code film, but this is inevitable as the Hayes Code went into strong effect in 1934.  The second is the screwball comedy.  With such films as IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, TWENTIETH CENTURY, BRINGING UP BABY, and MY MAN GODFREY the 1930s brought us films with quick and clever dialogue, zany situations, and hysterical physical comedy which usually ended up being sealed with a kiss.  These films are some of the first ones I fell in love with during my initiation into classic films.  They are a good start for the new fan, easy viewing if you will, but ones that only become richer and more fabulous with repeated viewings.  Even today I find these comedies far more amusing than most modern films.  So when it came time to choose a film for this blogathon I decided to pick one of the quintessential screwball comedies, and the one that debuted the classic Cary Grant “comedic light touch” persona that would catapult him into world-wide stardom.

Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant) is in need of a sun tan.  He is currently under the lights at his sports club trying to get one because he has to prove to his wife, Lucy (Irene Dunne), that his recent trip out-of-town was to Florida as he said it was.  Which of course it was not.  Later that night armed with a gift basket of oranges from California and surrounded by several friends, Jerry returns home expecting to find Lucy there waiting for him.  Which of course she is not.  Everyone sits around somewhat awkwardly while Jerry reassures them that Lucy is most assuredly with her Aunt Patsy and will be home soon.  Enter Aunt Patsy.  Soon after Lucy returns, terribly happy to see Jerry, followed closely by her über suave singing instructor named Armand Duvalle.  Friends and Aunt Patsy slowly filter out as Lucy explains that she and Armand spent the night together, quite innocently, when Armand’s car broke down on their way back to the city.  Jerry is none too pleased with this situation and Armand senses that this is his cue to leave.  Once alone Jerry and Lucy have one of those not so pleasant conversations where Jerry pretty much accuses Lucy of sleeping with her singing instructor and Lucy, denying the first accusation, points out that Jerry never mentioned the terrific rains that Florida was having in any of his letters home.  After some back and forth, and increasingly sharp digs and accusations, the couple decides that without faith there can be no marriage so it is best to call it quits.

Really Jerry? And how were those California oranges?

Their day in divorce court comes and the judge grants the motion.  The only matter left to resolve is who gets custody of Mr. Smith, the family dog.  Both Jerry and Lucy claim ownership so the judge decides to play King Solomon and let Mr. Smith decide.  Much to Jerry’s dismay he chooses Lucy, thanks in large part to the sudden appearance of his favorite toy in her hand, and the group leaves the court room while the judge promises to consider visitation rights for Jerry.  Some time later Lucy is at home in the apartment she now shares with Aunt Patsy.  Patsy is bored with Lucy staying home every night, her only male companion of late being Mr. Smith, and decides to get out for a while.  As she heads to the elevator she runs into Daniel Lesson (Ralph Bellamy), a good old country boy from Oklahoma, who not only happens to be single and handsome but also an oil man.  She brings him home to introduce to Lucy and soon the pair is going out almost every night.  It is during one such date that they run into Jerry and his new squeeze Dixie Bell Lee.  Dixie works at a nightclub singing songs with a backup wind machine, an act which she soon demonstrates, leading Jerry to comment “I just met her.”

Lucy and Daniel become engaged, and Jerry begins his personal mission of trying to breakup the engagement.  Through a series of misadventures he finally does just that, through a complete misunderstanding of course, but by the time that Lucy is single again (and beginning to realize that maybe she still loves Jerry after all) Jerry is not.  Through some misunderstandings of his own, Jerry has taken up with “madcap heiress” Barbara Vance and is himself now engaged.  It is going to take some scheming, some drinks, a fake wind machine, and a sudden appearance by Jerry’s heretofore unknown sister Lola to work things out.

How’d you do? I’m the nut of the family tree!

Director Leo McCarey scared Cary Grant.  McCarey shot THE AWFUL TRUTH with a different style than most directors of the time, preferring to improvise most of it even going into a scene with no idea of what would happen more than the overall plan (i.e. get from point A to point B). In a style that sounds more like the filming of Buster Keaton, McCarey started making THE AWFUL TRUTH and Cary Grant became convinced that the whole thing was going to be a terrible flop.  He even went to see Harry Cohen, head of MGM, to beg him to be let out of the film.  Failing that he asked to be allowed to at least switch to the Ralph Bellamy role.  Harry Cohen basically told him to not let the door hit him on the way back to the studio lot, which thankfully Cary Grant did.  After some time he began to see that the film was not only working but turning out to be a great hit.  McCarey also gets the credit for helping Cary Grant craft the urbane, witty, subtly comedic persona that would become his signature for years to come.  As Peter Bogdonavich said after THE AWFUL TRUTH when it came to light comedy, “there was Cary Grant and everyone else was an also-ran.”  McCarey is said to have borne an eerie physical similarity to Grant as well, so perhaps we have more even more to thank him for.  The sense of improvisation that runs through this film makes it a bit beyond other screwball comedies, in my opinion.  The dialogue flows fast and feels off the cuff, which indeed much of it was, thus making the whole thing feel more realistic and less staged which can sometimes happen in a farce.  Instead of feeling like an excuse to get from gag to gag each scene feels like the natural progression in Jerry and Lucy’s lives and we are just along to enjoy the ride.

THE AWFUL TRUTH helped catapult Cary Grant into worldwide stardom.  Where before he was simply a good actor, now he become a persona and one that would continue to endure to this day.  To say that Cary Grant is good in this movie is like saying that the sun is hot in the middle of August.  It simply doesn’t begin to cover it.  We all know that Cary Grant can act and we all know that he can deliver snappy dialogue better than most.  But let’s pause for a moment and acknowledge the physical comedy that he brings to the film.  Having started his career in vaudeville, Cary Grant is no stranger to the tumbling and acrobatics needed for the more slapstick humor.  THE AWFUL TRUTH is different in that it actually requires the lead actors, not the second tier ones as most other films did, to take pratfalls and do physical comedy.  And Cary Grant does it with the style, the grace, and the wit that we have come to expect from his more “verbal” performances for example, HIS GIRL FRIDAY.  Go back and watch again and see how Cary Grant manages to take pratfalls and tumbles, all while never losing that sense of grace, style, and above all wit.

Of course we can’t talk about THE AWFUL TRUTH without talking about Irene Dunne.  I love Irene Dunne.  She is an actress who is able to bring a lovely light-headedness to her comedic roles without fully straying into ditz.  She and Myrna Loy have a very similar approach to their female comedy roles, I think that Nora Charles and Lucy Warriner would get along swell actually, and I think this is part of why I love her.  After having seen her in films like THEODORA GOES WILD and MY FAVORITE WIFE (another film with Grant and McCarey) I began to really appreciate Irene Dunne’s flair for comedy.  But to me she takes it to a whole new level in THE AWFUL TRUTH.  Lucy is a character that is both serious and funny, in love and hurt, clever and just a little dizzy.  In another actress’s hands one trait could have become more pronounced or outshone the others.  But Irene Dunne manages to balance all these traits perfectly, giving us a character that feels more real than made up.  And she does more than enough to keep up with Cary Grant in the comedy department!

There is some talk that maybe this kind of movie, the marriage/remarriage comedy, is not timeless and might feel dated to today’s audience.  Maybe that is true but maybe it isn’t.  While it is true that the idea of divorce and remarriage is not looked upon with the same societal mores as it was in the 1930s, I think that deep down we all want to see people end up with the ones that they love.  Why else would the whole boy meets girl/boy gets girl/boy loses girl/boy gets girl back formula still be so popular today?  So maybe instead of looking at THE AWFUL TRUTH as simply a movie about divorce and remarriage, perhaps we should look at it as a movie about people learning to trust each other and learning that telling the truth isn’t so bad after all.  Because the awful truth is that we can be our own worst enemies, creating lies where there don’t need to be any and mistrust where there should be faith.  Because really the truth isn’t so awful, especially when we have Irene Dunne and Cary Grant telling it to us.

I solemnly swear that I love this movie