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.

Random Harvest of Thoughts: Classic Film Fans Save History

Will McKinley recently wrote a truly wonderful post over at his blog.  In it he described the heartache that classic film fans suffer as our idols grow old and pass on, and how this is the price we have to pay for loving these films and their stars as much as we do.  I think that while we suffer for our love we also receive the opportunity to do and be more because of it.

Inside every classic film fan is an old soul yearning to find its counterpoint in the world.  Sometimes we get lucky and find new friends on Twitter, Facebook, or (most rare of all) in the real world.  But for the most part classic film fans are a less than popular option when it comes to finding a hobby.  And that is where I think something important happens.  It happens when we realize and accept that being a classic film fan isn’t just a hobby for the weekends but rather it is a way of life.  Classic films, their actors and directors, the music, the books, the fashion, everything from that time seeps into our hearts and souls and finds purchase there, changing us forever.  It is because of this that we are so deeply affected by the passing of yet another classic film star, but it is also because of this that we have the chance to do something greater…a chance to save history.

Let’s be honest, in today’s society things that are old are not considered worthwhile or given much respect.  This goes for clothes, books, movies, music, and even people.  Before my son was born I worked as a nurse in an intensive care unit, and I saw first hand how the elderly are treated, more often than not, like children or idiots or burdens rather than what they are which is young people who got old.  I saw how doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, even their own family members left the room as quickly as possible instead of sitting and trying to talk with them.  I saw the empty rooms with no visitors for days and weeks on end.  I saw the people forgotten in beds, with no one to help them move to the chair next to the window.  Now I wasn’t perfect, I had days where I was busy or tired and didn’t do the best job I could have.  But for the most part I tried to give these patients a little extra time and comfort.  I tried to talk with them, to hear a story or two, to return to them a little of the respect and dignity that had been lost to them, and at the very least I tried to see if they liked TCM.  And in return I was given smiles, pats, the occasional attempt at a cash tip, a few flirts, and stories about lives and times that were long past.  I heard from a man who was supposed to be in the first wave of the planned invasion of Japan during WWII and who later travelled to New York and saw the perfect game in baseball.  A woman who used to hide the dinner rolls in her purse told me about how she and her husband travelled doing USO tours during the war.  I heard stories about children, grandchildren, sisters and brothers, and these are stories I still remember to this day.

Classic film fans are a window to a part of our past and our history that is starting to be forgotten.  As the living links to this time begin to fade away we remain, standing resolute against the dimming light.  Even though it isn’t popular or “cool” it is something that is needed and vital for what we hope society can be.  I’m not foolish enough to think that the time of classic films was an ideal utopia that we should bring back in its entirety, but I do think that there are certain pieces and attitudes of it that are needed today.  Like knowing your neighbor, like having a sense of community and pride in that community.  In this world a child can’t walk to the park down the street by himself without fear of his parents being arrested for neglect, people are more likely to text someone than call, email than write a letter, Facebook than actually go and see someone face to face.  We seem to have lost the sense of strength and togetherness we used to have, the sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves, and the respect for each other and the world around us.  But as classic film fans we still see those values and attitudes reflected back at us in the movies we watch, the songs we listen to, and the books we read.  And we have a chance to help keep all that alive, to continue standing firm holding up our small lights in the approaching darkness, showing anyone and everyone that classic films not only matter but that they are important, smart, fun, and life changing.  And all we have to do is watch the films we love, read the books we enjoy, and listen to the stories that people want to tell us.

February 2015 Highlights for Turner Classic Movies

February is here and with it comes TCM’s 31 DAYS OF OSCAR.  This is a month that divides some TCM fans, some preferring to stick to the classics from before 1970 and others welcoming the more modern “classics” of the recent Oscars.  Regardless of your feelings about 31 DAYS OF OSCAR there are still some great films showing on TCM this month.  Here is a quick round-up of the offerings to be had!


31 Days of Oscar

Every night TCM will highlight a different year of the Oscars starting on February 1st with 1927-1930.  The greatest year of the golden age of Hollywood, i.e. 1939, will be featured on February 6th.  Here are some great movies being shown as part of the 31 Days of Oscar, in my opinion, as well as some I am looking forward to checking out!

February 4th (1936-1937) – SWING TIME 8PM EST, THE AWFUL TRUTH 10PM EST

February 5th (1938) – THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD 8PM EST

February 7th (1940-1942) – THE PHILADELPHIA STORY 8PM EST, HERE COMES MR. JORDAN 10PM EST, MRS. MINIVER 2AM EST

February 8th (1942-1944) – GASLIGHT 12AM EST, WOMAN OF THE YEAR 2AM EST

February 9th (1944-1946) – THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES 8PM EST, LAURA 1AM EST, MILDRED PIERCE 3AM EST

February 10th (1946-1947) – THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY-SOXER 2:45AM EST

February 12th (1949-1951) – BORN YESTERDAY 1:30AM EST

February 13th (1951-1953) – HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE 8PM EST

February 14th (1954-1956) – MARTY 1AM EST

February 15th (1957-1958) – I WANT TO LIVE! 1AM EST

February 18th (1960-1962) – THE APARTMENT 8PM EST

February 24th (1979) – A LITTLE ROMANCE 8PM EST

February 25th (1980-1985) – OUT OF AFRICA 12AM EST


Here are some other movies being shown in February that I am interested in, or that I think are worthy of a look!

February 5th – MANHATTAN MELODRAMA 6AM EST How I have not seen this film, the one that got John Dillinger killed, I do not know but I intend to see it this month!  Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, and William Powell!, LITTLE CAESAR 9:30AM EST Edward G. Robinson’s iconic pre-code gangster film

February 10th – AFTER THE THIN MAN 4PM EST I love all movies in the Thin Man series and this one has Jimmy Stewart in it!

February 11th – CAPTAIN BLOOD 11:45AM EST Nothing beats a good Errol Flynn/Olivia de Havilland swashbuckler…nothing

February 13th – WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? It seems somehow fitting that this movie is being shown on Friday the 13th…Bette David and Joan Crawford at their campy horror best

February 14th – VIVACIOUS LADY 6:30AM EST  I recently got this movie from the Warner Archive and can’t wait to see it, Ginger Rogers and Jimmy Stewart and Beulah Bondi, LIBELED LADY 8:15AM EST Can’t wait to see this one for the first time, Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy are always great but I am interested to see a post-code Jean Harlow, HOLIDAY 10AM EST I think this is one of my favorite Katherine Hepburn movies and Cary Grant makes it magical

February 15th – THE BLUE DAHLIA 2:30PM EST This one intrigues me with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, a man fighting to prove he didn’t kill his wife…I’ll be watching, KEY LARGO 6PM EST Bogie and Bacall with gangsters in the middle of a hurricane…fantastic film

February 19th – WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION 12:30PM EST This is a really interesting and fun film directed by Billy Wilder, Marlene Dietrich as the wife who might have more to do with the murder her husband is on trial for and Charles Laughton as the lawyer defending him

February 20th – I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAN GANG 10AM EST Paul Muni and Glenda Farrell in a pre-code film about what happens to a WWI veteran sentenced to a chain gang, I have been meaning to see this film for some time and I can’t wait to do that this month, WHITE HEAT 11:30AM EST James Cagney is a twisted gangster with mommy issues, I watched this some years ago and you really can’t take you eyes off him

February 21st – THE PRODUCERS 6:15PM I’m wearing a cardboard belt!

February 24th – BERKLEY SQUARE 5PM A lovely film with Leslie Howard as a young man transported back in time to meet his ancestors during the American Revolution, IT HAPPENED TOMORROW 6:30PM EST The premise of this one got me, a newspaper editor who writes headlines that predict the future is too good to resist

February 25th – MISTER ROBERTS 5:45 PM EST Just a great film that should be seen, Henry Fonda with Jack Lemmon and James Cagney

February 28th – THE NARROW MARGIN 12:45PM I recently posted about this great noir that shows how B movies should be made, make sure to catch this one


If you are looking for more suggestions about what to catch on TCM this month, Kristina at Speakeasy has a great round-up to check out!  And because I love pre-codes…here is Danny at Pre-code.com‘s list of what movies are coming up this month.  Finally, here are some musings from Laura on what to see in February!


Ten Classic Films for 2015

Round about the blogosphere I came across an interesting list.  It was from Speakeasy and she had gotten the idea from Laura.  The two of them had inspired Ms. Coolsville to come up with a list of her own and all three of them inspired me to write one myself!  The idea is that you make a list of ten classic films that you have not seen but want to, and then make every effort to watch and review/blog them before the end of the year.  So, without further ado here is my list of ten classic films for 2015!

*Remember these are ten films which I haven’t seen yet but am going to make a concerted effort to do so!

YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942)

MARTY (1955)

DARK VICTORY (1939)

MILDRED PIERCE (1945)

GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933)

MADAM SATAN (1930)

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943)

TOPPER (1937)

NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)

THE RULES OF THE GAME (1939)

Classics with Criterion: IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934)

My husband is starting to enjoy classic films.  As I write this he is sitting next to me laughing along to A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, his first time watching the Marx Brothers.  The other night I decided to show him IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT for two reasons.  First, I wanted to watch my new Criterion Edition of the film.  Second, I wanted to test my theory that a truly great classic film can be enjoyed by anyone (even if that person doesn’t think they like classic films).  A good story is a good story and a great movie is a great movie.  And if any film is both a good story and a great movie it is certainly IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT.

On board his yacht in the waters of Florida, millionaire Alexander Andrews (Walter Connolly) is trying to persuade his daughter Ellie (Claudette Colbert) to eat.  She is pitching a fit, shouting at crew members, throwing things, and refusing all food that is sent to her cabin.  The cause of her displeasure is her own father who, after discovering her hasty marriage to playboy aviator King Westley (Jameson Thomas), has “kidnapped” her and taken her away on his yacht.  He hopes that time apart from her new husband, a man whom he considers to be a fortune hunter, will give Ellie time to reconsider her actions.  If that doesn’t work the annulment he has in the works should do the trick.  Disgusted with her father’s continual attempts to control her life, Ellie bursts from the room and runs out onto the deck.  Climbing over the rail she swan dives into the water and quickly swims off.  Her father’s men hurry after her but cannot catch up to her, and she swims out of sight.  Andrews sends word to his personal detectives to be on the lookout for Ellie, to keep an eye on all modes of transport going to New York (and back to King Westley).

In a Miami bus station an old woman buys a ticket for the night bus to New York.  Two of Andrews’ detectives are watching nearby but this elderly woman doesn’t attract their interest.  As she steps away from the counter the woman crosses the floor and hands her ticket to Ellie, who has been hiding nearby.  Slipping past the detectives, Ellie boards the bus where she finds herself sitting next to a slightly drunk and newly fired newspaper man named Peter Warne (Clark Gable).  The two take an instant dislike to each other, Ellie being offended by Peter’s rough way of speaking to and dealing with her, and Peter finding Ellie a spoiled brat.  However, at the next stop on the route Ellie’s bag is stolen while she smokes a cigarette and Peter takes off after the thief.  Unable to catch him, Peter returns empty-handed to Ellie who reveals that all her money is now gone and she has only four dollars left.  Peter suggests that she wire her father for more money or report the theft to the bus driver, but she refuses raising his suspicions.  His theory of Ellie’s true identity is confirmed when she leaves the bus at the morning rest stop, assuming that the driver will hold the bus to wait for her.  Ellie returns to the station twenty minutes late to discover that the bus has left her behind and the next bus to New York won’t leave until eight o’clock that evening.  But Ellie is not alone as she soon discovers that Peter has also stayed behind.  He hands her a newspaper with her photograph on the front page.  Ellie offers to pay him once she gets back to New York, to give him any amount of money to keep her secret.  Peter is offended that Ellie thinks that she can just buy people off when he was willing to help her if she would have just asked.  The two argue and then part ways until boarding the bus to New York that evening.

Onboard the bus Ellie finds herself sitting next to one Mr. Shapely, who is more than slightly interested in Ellie.  Believe you me, Mr. Shapely would love to have Ellie as his something on the side and isn’t shy about letting her know.  Ellie tries to get him to leave her alone but he persists until Peter stands up and requests to change seats with Mr. Shapley.  When asked why Peter replies that he would like to sit next to his wife, much to Mr. Shapely and Ellie’s surprise.  Ellie tries to thank Peter but he dismisses her saying that the other man’s voice was getting on his nerves.  The bus continues on for a time but soon is stopped by a washed out bridge.  Peter manages to secure lodging for himself and for Ellie, sharing a cabin at a nearby lodge.  Because money is tight and room fees are high, Peter has them sharing one cabin and posing as a married couple.  Ellie enters the cabin reluctantly as Peter readies the beds.  She wonders why he is going through so much trouble to help her get back to New York.  Peter tells her that all he wants in return for helping her are the exclusive rights to her story, which he hopes will get him his job back. If she does not go along with his plan then he will call her father and reveal her location.  She reluctantly agrees and Peter returns to his bedtime preparations.  He strings a rope between the beds and hangs a blanket, calling it “The Walls of Jericho”.

The next morning the two prepare to leave for New York, taking in a quick breakfast complete with lessons in doughnut dunking etiquette, when they hear people approaching the cabin.  Ellie recognizes the voices as those of two of her father’s detectives.  Realizing they are about to be caught, Peter and Ellie spring into action now behaving like a married couple having an argument.  Caught off guard by the yelling and crying in the cabin the two detectives leave quickly before taking a closer look at the bride.  Unbeknownst to them Andrews has offered a $10,000 reward in exchange for information regarding his daughter.  A new picture is published in the newspapers, along with the reward offer, and it is this picture that catches the eye of one Mr. Shapley.  Back onboard Peter and Ellie continue on their bus ride, the trip becoming more pleasant as musicians take out their instruments to play “The Young Man on the Flying Trapeze”.  Other passengers join in, taking a verse here and there, and even Peter and Ellie find themselves singing along.  Everyone gets caught up in the song, including the driver who lets go of the wheel to applaud the song.  The bus swerves off the road and promptly gets stuck in the mud.  A young boy cries out to his mother, who has fainted, and while Ellie tends to his mother tells Peter of how neither one has eaten since boarding the bus as they spent all their money on the tickets.  Peter guilty looks at his money and is about to put it back into his pocket when Ellie returns, and after comforting the boy hands him the money to buy food with.  Now penniless, Peter and Ellie must be careful while traveling.  While the driver tries to figure out their next move, Mr. Shapley approaches Peter and asks to speak with him about Ellie Andrews.  Peter quickly leads him away from the bus where Mr. Shapley offers to keep his mouth shut in exchange for half of the $10,000 reward.  Peter pretends that he is part of a gang who have kidnapped Ellie for a large ransom and threatens Mr. Shapley in order to keep him quiet.  Thoroughly convinced, Mr. Shapley takes off running into the woods (and he might be running still) while Peter hurries back to the bus to retrieve Ellie.  Worried that Mr. Shapley might still go to the police or that someone else might recognize Ellie, Peter believes that it is better to continue on foot.  The two are forced to spend the night in a field, sleeping in haystacks.  As the night passes Peter’s mood darkens, but Ellie has begun to see Peter in a new light and as the night deepens her eyes stay locked on his sleeping form nearby.

After walking for the better part of the day, Ellie asks when the hitching part of “hitch hiking” starts.  Peter extolls the virtues of proper technique when thumbing a ride and takes his place at the side of the road.  But after several cars drive past him, Ellie asks for a chance to try her luck.  Not even using her thumb, Ellie flags down a car and soon the two of them are passengers of a jovial man who seems to have a knack for putting anything into song.  Peter is in a sour mood, but this soon turns to anger when the man driving them attempts to abandon them and take off with their belongings.  Peter chases after him leaving Ellie behind, only to return sometime later driving the very car that had left them.  It seems their roadside savior was in fact a car thief, making a living by picking up hitch-hikers and then taking off with their belongings.  Ellie tends to Peter who is slightly battered from his fight with the man, which ended with Peter tying him to a tree.  Meanwhile in New York, Andrews has resigned himself to Ellie’s marriage in order to get her to return.  Westley publishes an appeal to Ellie in the newspapers, telling her that all is forgiven, which she sees but hides from Peter.  The pair is now just three hours away from New York but Ellie insists that they spend one more night at a lodge.  That night across the walls of Jericho, Peter tells Ellie about his dreams in life which include moving far from the bustle of the modern world, to a simple life on an island in the Pacific he once saw.  He hopes to one day find a girl who would go with him to that sort of life.  But suddenly Peter stops talking because the walls have been breached, and Ellie is standing in front of him.  She confesses her love for him and pleads with him to take her away with him, to take her to his island.

This is the original romantic comedy and it is just SO good!  I hadn’t seen it for a few years and it is even better than what I remembered.  My husband said that this was a “sweet movie” and it is. It is also astonishingly well done. It is a simple story but it is just done so well that it becomes something greater. I loved every moment of this film and could not imagine anyone other than Claudette Colbert or Clark Gable being in it.  The Criterion Edition looks gorgeous, and I can’t wait to dig into the extra features that are included on the disc.

It is so surprising that at the time it was made really no one in the industry, aside from Frank Capra, liked the film or thought it would do well.  Claudette Colbert apparently hated making the film, and once it was complete told a friend that she had just finished making “the worst picture”.  Clark Gable came to set on the first day saying “Let’s get this over with”.  But this would go on to sweep all the major categories at the Oscars in 1935, the first time that had ever happened, and would also grow in popularity and respect as the years went on.  According to Frank Capra, it was not until the film started to make its way out to the theaters in smaller towns in rural America that the box office returns began to increase.  It was the people in local towns and small movie theaters who helped make this film a success, going to see the film and then taking their friends and family to see it as well.  And it is fitting that it is those people who had such an impact on the outcome of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, because it is those people who Frank Capra seemed to have in mind when he made it.  Whenever I watch a Frank Capra film I always feel a common thread running through them, this feeling that people can and should be decent, hard-working, honest and true.  I always have a sense of wanting to be something better and more honorable after watching a Frank Capra film, and this is no different.  Though perhaps not as lofty as MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON or MEET JOHN DOE, this film shows us that we can be kind to each other and that there is nothing so satisfying as dunking a doughnut or riding piggyback, if they are done honestly and without airs.

Watching with Warner: THREE ON A MATCH (1932)

After watching THREE ON A MATCH (1932) on Warner Archive Instant I had two reactions.  First, how do they cram so much into just sixty-four minutes?  Second, how is Ann Dvorak not a huge thing?

THREE ON A MATCH tells the story of Vivian (Ann Dvorak), Mary (Joan Blondell), and Ruth (Bette Davis).  These three girls all attend Public School No. 62 as children, though each has a very different path to follow.  Ruth is studious and practical, Mary is independent and headstrong, and Vivian is popular and privileged.  Mary is always getting into trouble, sneaking off to smoke with boys, and showing off her bloomers, much to the disapproval of Vivian.  At graduation Ruth is awarded Valedictorian and, as her family cannot afford to send her to high school, goes off to business college.  Vivian is voted Most Popular and is sent off to an exclusive boarding school, while Mary barely manages to graduate at all.  When Ruth wonders what will happen to Mary now that they have left school, Vivian sniffs that she will probably end up in reform school.  Flash forward a few years and Ruth is working hard in business college, Vivian is reading saucy novels among breathless girls at boarding school, and Mary is indeed in reform school.

Several more years pass and Mary is now working as an actress when she happens to run into Ruth, who is now working as a secretary.  As Mary recounts her chance meeting to a hairdresser that afternoon, the woman in the booth next door overhears and realizes that she also knows Mary.  In fact the other woman is Vivian, who is now married to a successful lawyer named Robert Kirkwood (Warren William) with whom she has a 3 1/2 year old son.  The three women agree to meet for lunch to catch up on old times.  Over sandwiches and tea, the women share a match to light their cigarettes causing Mary to note, “Three on a match.”  The “Three on a Match” superstition was created around WWI, at first believed to be from soldiers on the battlefield but later discovered to have been created by a large match manufacturer in an effort to decrease sharing and increase sales.  The saying goes that three on a match, the last one on the match is soon to die because in the time it takes for the three to share the match a sniper has enough time and light to find his target.

Mary asks what the other two have been up to over the years, and each discusses their lives and their envy of the others.  Surprisingly, even though Vivian has everything the other two could ask for she is the least satisfied with her life.  She complains that she feels restless, that the things that give pleasure to others hold nothing for her, that they simply leave her cold.  Ruth speculates that perhaps it is because things have always come easily for Vivian, which she does not disagree with.

Later that night, Vivian and Robert are returning from a party to find that their son is still awake.  Vivian tucks him back in and goes back to her bedroom, while Robert spends some more time with his son.  Once alone Vivian hurries to get ready for bed before Robert comes in.  When Robert does finally appear, Vivian is already in bed and pretending to be asleep.  Sensing something is wrong, Robert asks Vivian what he can do to make her happier.  After some discussion, it is decided that Vivian will take a trip abroad with just herself and her son.  Robert is sad to have his family leave but he truly wants to help Vivian find the happiness that is eluding her.  When the day of departure comes Vivian is excited to have some time on her own, and is even looking forward to the prospect of caring for her son without the help of the nursemaid.  Robert offers to spend some time with the two of them before the ship departs but he is interrupted by the arrival of a message from his office.  Work calls him away and he leaves Vivian with a kiss, before hurrying out down the hall and past Mary who has just arrived.  Mary and several friends are onboard to throw a farewell party for another friend who is sailing.  She invites Vivian to join her and Vivian, who has noticed Mary’s handsome friend Mike (Lyle Talbot), happily agrees.  By the end of the night Vivian and Mike are smitten with each other.  Vivian is thrilled by Mike’s attention, and feels more alive and desired than she ever has before.  Mike asks her to leave the ship with him and she agrees.  Vivian returns to her state room to collect her son and her baggage before disappearing into the night.

Robert is going crazy looking for Vivian and his son, but no one can find her.  But Mary knows where she is, and is concerned for the safety and health of the child.  Vivian and Mike are wrapped up in each other, alcohol, parties, and drugs.  Vivian’s son is often hungry and dirty as his mother no longer cares enough to get him food or bathe him.  Mary has a plan to get Vivian’s son away from her and into the care of Ruth, and Ruth’s sister.  Mary goes to see Robert and lets him know just where Vivian has been staying and what she has been up to.  Leading the police to the apartment, Mary finds Vivian passed out in the room and her son playing in the bathroom.  Father and son are happily reunited, and Vivian relinquishes control having no grounds to object to Robert taking the boy into his care.

Some years pass, and Robert has become more friendly with Ruth and Mary.  Ruth is wonderful with his son, and Mary is just wonderful.  Robert asks Ruth to stay on as governess to his son, and he asks Mary to stay on as his wife.  Now divorced from Vivian, Robert marries Mary and settles into a happier life.  But one day Vivian appears on the corner and asks Mary for help.  It seems that Mike has left her, after spending all her money and now she has nothing.  Mary, feeling sorry for Vivian, gives her what she can and tells Vivian to come again to talk with her.  Walking around the corner Vivian meets with Mike, who has in fact not left, and presents him with the money.  Mike has gambled away more money than he can pay, and now he owes $2,000 to a night club owner named Ace (Edward Arnold).  Ace tells Mike that if he does not return the money life will become very painful, a threat which will be backed up by his main enforcer Harve (Humphrey Bogart) and his gang.  Mike is desperate and decides to go to see Robert.  In an attempt at blackmail, Mike threatens to tell the papers about Mary’s stay in the reform school unless Robert pays him $2,000.  Robert refuses and sends Mike away, telling him that if the story about Mary makes its way into the news that Mike will be sued for libel.  On his way out of the office Mike spies Robert’s son coming to see his father, and he suddenly has an idea.  In the park Mike corners the little boy, and tells him that Vivian needs him and he must go to her at once.  The child agrees and goes off with his “Uncle Mike”, little knowing the truth behind Mike’s actions.  In the apartment Vivian is getting high and she is less than thrilled with Mike shows up.  Things go from bad to worse when there is a knock at the door, and in walks Harve and the gang.  Apparently, Ace has had an idea of a way to get even more money out of Mike.

This movie is an essential Pre-Code viewing.  It has everything that the Hayes Code hated!  There is sex, violence, drinking, drugs, and skin.  There is also a nice bit of foreshadowing at the beginning, but I won’t spoil it for you.  Joan Blondell is great as Mary, her quick patter delivery and snappy comebacks giving a bit of comic relief.  Bette Davis is a really minor character here, but you can still tell that this is an actress to watch even if all she is doing is putting on her stockings.  Warren William, the “King of Pre Code”, is sympathetic as Robert a man who really wanted only the best for his family.  But let’s be honest here, this is really Ann Dvorak’s movie.

I will admit that I hadn’t really heard of Ann Dvorak until recently.  I had heard some talk of her online, and seen her biography written by Christina Rice which I have since bought, but aside from that I didn’t know too much about this actress or her films.  That changed during TCM’s month of pre-code films, starting with HEAT LIGHTNING.  Here is the talented and gorgeous actress who is relatively unknown today, especially outside of classic film fan circles.  How can that be?  I won’t presume to offer any theories at this point, at least until I have read her biography.  That might be a blog post for the future.  But let’s talk about Ann Dvorak in this film.  She is amazing.  She starts out as a child (played by Anne Shirley by the way!) who has everything she wants and who looks down on those who are too different, wild, or free.  She grows into a woman who craves those very things, but who has settled into a quiet and respectable life.  When she is given a taste of what she desires it becomes too great of a temptation, and she is ultimately destroyed by those desires.  Ann Dvorak gives such a complete performance, moving from put-together socialite, to unsatisfied wife and mother, to debauched mistress, to fallen woman, finally to strong and protective mother.  She changes in degrees throughout the film, so each time you see her she is slightly different, moving further down the path towards ruin.  I had heard that in this film Ann Dvorak is like “an exposed nerve”, and this is totally true.  It isn’t just near the end, when she is so raw and wired that she seems ready to take flight and burst through the screen, but really throughout the whole film.  There is never a moment where you don’t know exactly what Vivian is feeling.  Good emotions or bad, Ann brings them out on her face and through her performance and through her we experience everything.  I can’t wait to read the biography, to see more films (I have Scarface on my DVR!), and to learn more about this amazing actress who definitely deserves more recognition.

How to Make Friends and Influence People (to Love Classic Films)

Recently I came across a blog post written by the fantastic Vanessa over at bawler.blogspot.com.  Her post, which can be found here, is about the solitary nature of being a classic film fan.  It extends into all aspects of your social life, including your romantic entanglements as Vanessa describes.  Her post got me thinking…and inspired me to write one of my own.

If you can name the two actors and the movie, we should be friends! Also, do you feel like this when you try to convince someone to watch a classic film with you?

I have always been a fan of classic films, even before I knew that they were classic films.  I grew up watching THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, and THE GREAT ESCAPE with my Dad.  My sister and I watched THE WIZARD OF OZ so many times there are parts of the VHS tape that are worn down.  I loved MR. HOBBES TAKES A VACATION, THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS, and the “Road Movies” from Bob Hope and Bing Crosby from the time I was ten years old.  I still remember the summer I was fourteen and had just finished reading GONE WITH THE WIND.  What better way to celebrate than by going to see the film as it was re-released in theaters?  I have always been watching classic films.  It was just a part of who I was.  So imagine my surprise when I found out that most people my age didn’t share my passion.  Imagine my shock when, after telling one of my friends that I liked “old movies”, she responded “Oh, you mean from like 1980?”.

It was the same story whenever I tried to talk classic films with people my own age.  They usually said something along the lines of, “I don’t like black and white movies” or “Old movies are boring”.  Boring?!  How could they say that?   Hadn’t they ever seen the sword fights in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD?  Steve McQueen in THE GREAT ESCAPE?  The madcap antics of BRINGING UP BABY?  The quick patter of any of the “Road Movies”?  SOME LIKE IT HOT?!  It didn’t matter.  No matter what I said or examples I gave, my friends usually just shrugged and changed the subject.  Forget getting a boyfriend who liked classic films, I couldn’t even get a friend to watch one with me!  So, I spent my time watching classic movies either alone or with my family.  And it was fine, really lovely actually, spending that time and sharing those films.

But after reading Vanessa’s post, I started thinking about it again.  You see, I have a son.  He isn’t old enough to watch movies with me yet, but I am hoping that he will grow up to share Mom’s passion for classic films.  I am already planning a ROBIN HOOD viewing party.  I also have a husband who, though initially resistant, has started to watch movies with me and even enjoy them.  I know that he liked Daphne in SOME LIKE IT HOT, and after watching TO BE OR NOT TO BE he declared his favorite part to be “The part when they were in Poland” which I take to mean that he liked the whole movie. But I still have no friends my own age who share my love of classic film.  The only people who have ever looked at me with surprise and recognition when I start talking about Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, or William Powell are well above my age bracket.  Why is that?  Why don’t more young people love these movies?  I don’t mind talking to someone’s grandma or great uncle about why THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is so great (answer, because it is!), but there is a part of me that would really love to have a friend my own age to go to lunch with and discuss who was the better son in the Charlie Chan series (my vote is for number one son).

I have some theories.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that most classic film fans have a love of reading.  Not just reading, not just HUNGER GAMES and FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, not just a quick skim of a magazine or an iPhone screen, but READING reading.  The kind of reading that means Dickens, Tolstoy, Austen, and even G.R.R. Martin.  The kind of reading that goes everywhere with you, on the train, at lunch, even to the shower.  The majority of classic film fans that I have come across seem to have a love of reading and books.  I count myself among them.  I have shelves and shelves of classic films on DVD, and piles and piles of books.  Along with a love of classic films, I have always had a love of reading and books.  And this is another thing that most of my friends don’t share. Let’s be honest, the majority of people today don’t read that much.  For most people in their thirties or younger reading isn’t a pleasure activity, its homework.  But classic films are far more literate than the popular films made today.  Of course every once in a while a movie is made today with witty dialogue and a complex story.  But the majority of films, the ones that make the most money, are not on the same literate scale as THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, HIS GIRL FRIDAY, or TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.  Could this be a reason?  Could classic films be considered “too hard” to be enjoyable?  Or is it something less intellectual?  Is it something as simple as the world has changed?  Looking at what is considered important in today’s culture, looking at what is of value to the majority of the younger population, looking at what is considered “cool”, it doesn’t seem to mesh up with the values, standards, and stories put forward in these classic films.  With so much emphasis placed on being cool and accepted, no wonder most younger people reject classic movies.  But my Dad used to say that certain books and movie were like candy, easy and enjoyable but not that fulfilling.  And while I enjoy having candy every now and then, who doesn’t, I really prefer to have something that I can sink my teeth and my brain into.

So Vanessa, if you are reading this, I am a thirty year old classic film fan who loves to read…let’s be friends!  🙂