Friday, September 21, 2018

THE GENDER BENDING THE RULES BLOGATHON: First a Girl (1935)


Quiggy at The Midnite Drive-In and Chris of Angelman's Place are hosting, on September 21st to the 23rd, the GENDER BENDING THE RULES BLOGATHON.


Spend your weekend checking out the contributions HERE or HERE.

From the backroom of a sophisticated fashion house to a second-class music hall to the elite stages of Europe, our aspiring performer Elizabeth, played by the vibrantly winning Jessie Matthews goes on a physical and emotional journey achieving her dream of stardom.

Jessie Matthews

Elizabeth is a theatre-mad girl working for a fashion design house. Tasked with delivering an outfit to a demanding client, royalty no less, Elizabeth seems to think she has time to borrow the outfit and sneak into theatrical offices to audition. She's kicked out of the building, she's past due at the Princess's, and then gets stuck in a downpour; ruining the outfit. 

Luckily, she keeps running into Victor, played with great panache and humour by Sonnie Hale. The character is, in his mind, a great Shakespearean actor. However, the only money he earns from the theatre is by working as a female impersonator in the music halls. Victor has a cold which precludes his accepting an offer to perform his act that evening. Here is Elizabeth's chance to trod the boards. She will be "Bill" and appear as "Mr. Victoria"; a girl pretending to be a man pretending to be a girl. Victor will be there to help her every step of the way. The lure of the footlights is all.

Several mishaps occur during the performance, but they don't deter top-flight producer McLintock played by Alfred Drayton from seeing a diamond in the rough. He was convinced "Mr. Victoria" was a girl! What an act! McLintock is willing to back the routine with money and bookings on the continent.

Jessie Matthews, Sonnie Hale

Elizabeth: "I'm not going. I can't do it."
Victor: "Do what?"
Elizabeth: "I can't be a man all my life."
Victor: "But you'll have time off. And you can knit and knit to your heart's content."

Success is a wonderful and heady experience for the pair. At a Paris nightclub, they become acquainted with Princess Helen (who never received her outfit from the fashion house) and her current fiance Robert played by Griffith Jones. Victor is enamoured of the Princess and, much to Victor's dismay, "Bill" flashes Robert a less than "he-man smile".

Anna Lee, Griffith Jones

Robert is put out because he missed the first part of the act and found himself attracted to "Victoria". He doesn't like "young men who make good girls" and snubs Bill at first. Later when they share drinks and cigars and attempt their own Mills Brothers impersonation, Robert amends his opinion to "the kid is all right."

On the other hand, the Princess is suspicious of this "Bill" character and she and Robert devise a plan to see who is correct. A trip to Nice that Elizabeth has been so looking forward to as a sort of holiday from her male persona will be interrupted by complicated machinations to discover her true identity. Despite the fact that the aristocrats are unsuccessful in their scheme the world is starting to move in on the deception.

Jessie Matthews

Victor: "Tomorrow, the Riviera."
Elizabeth: "Two whole weeks in skirts! Oh!"

Robert is the first to uncover the truth when he comes upon Elizabeth swimming. He proves himself to be a good egg by keeping the newfound knowledge from the Princess. Princess Helen admits to having no compunction about revealing the truth to the world, should there be any truth to reveal. 

The romantic complications pile up quickly. Elizabeth believes Robert must have told the Princess her secret and boldly goes to Helen declaring her intention to steal Robert. The Princess has too much of an ego to consider Elizabeth a serious rival. Victor then makes his honest feelings of love known to Princess Helen and she is surprisingly enchanted.

After much snooping, a nosy reporter finally sees Bill as he/she really is and swears out a fraud complaint with the local gendarme. This all leads to confusion in the dressing room and Victor, instead of Elizabeth, performing a popular "Mr. Victoria" number to a delighted audience. The jig is up.

Our couples are then neatly sorted out with Robert proposing to a sobbing Elizabeth. He expresses his affection with this loving rebuke: "Be a man, you sissy. Is this the stuff female impersonators are made of?"

Princess Helen throws in her lot with Victor as her next fiance and plans to back him in a production of Hamlet. However, Victor has had so much fun going back to "Mr. Victoria" that he chooses a different career path: "Hamlet? I shall be the world's greatest Cleopatra!"


First a Girl is a grand showcase for players Jessie Matthews and Sonnie Hale (married: 1931-1944). Anna Lee is the epitome of entitled elegance as Princess Helen. Griffith Jones runs hot and cold as Robert, but that could be due to the make-up folks going a little heavy with his lipstick which highlights a perpetually dour expression.

Ralph Reader was the uncredited choreographer of the elaborate and entertaining production numbers for Jessie, Sonnie, and singer Donald Stewart. The songs by Maurice Sigler, Al Goodhart and Al Hoffman are spritely popular airs that fit the spirit of the movie and performances.

Victor Saville directed the movie, the fourth of five with his leading lady. Saville began his film career as an administrator before trying his hand at producing, writing and directing, Saville's worked in both Britain (Dark Journey, Storm in a Teacup) and Hollywood (The Green Years, If Winter Comes, Kim) is impressive. Marjorie Gaffney (Evergreen) wrote the well-paced and slyly humourous screenplay.


Ms. Gaffney's script was based on the 1933 German film Viktor und Viktoria written and directed by actor (Notorious, Berlin Express) Reinhold Schunzel. Our characters played by Renata Muller, Hermann Thimig and Anton Walbrook go through the same travails as their British counterparts and set the tone which continues through the remakes.


These earlier films would inspire Blake Edwards in 1982 to give us Victor/Victoria starring Julie Andrews, Robert Preston, and James Garner. Seven Oscar nominations and one win would go its way. In 1995 Victor/Victoria went to Broadway where Julie Andrews famously declined her Best Actress in a Musical Tony nomination due to the snub of all others associated with the show.

Jessie Matthews, Sonnie Hale, Griffith Jones

The world over everyone wants to be known for their true selves, yet societal conventions often stand in the way. In this story, an elaborate charade allows Elizabeth to fulfil her dreams, but she must deny her true self.










Friday, September 14, 2018

THE SECOND LAUREN BACALL BLOGATHON: Young Man with a Horn (1950)


Crystal is sharing her personal connection to Lauren Bacall on her site In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood with The Second Lauren Bacall Blogathon which you can access by clicking HERE.

Lauren Bacall plays Amy North, a wealthy young woman who describes herself as "an intellectual mountain goat, leaping from crag to crag, trying everything." Those of us who observe this character may come up with another, less complimentary yet worthy description.

Amy is friends with popular singer Jo Jordan played by Doris Day. Jo wants to introduce Amy to "that crazy musician I talk about all the time." Rick Martin played by Kirk Douglas is a trumpet player whom Jo first met when they worked together in a dance band. Jo is crazy about Rick. Rick only has eyes for his trumpet and jazz. Amy North is about to blow up all of that. Why? Because she can.

Doris Day, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall

Amy has a troubled background relating to her mother's suicide and her distant relationship with her father, a noted psychiatrist. Amy is currently studying to be a doctor. She explains to Rick that she likes to learn what makes people tick, especially artists like him. Of course, this is only a phase. Amy is too self-absorbed to truly consider others. Amy has attempted many things in her life while accomplishing nothing. She is jealous of those who seem to truly know themselves or have a talent. Perhaps it is this jealousy that leads to her destructiveness. She is certainly a destructive force in Rick's life, and he did not need that.

Kirk Douglas, Juano Hernandez

Orphaned at a young age and under the neglectful care of an older sister played by Mary Beth Hughes, Rick Martin grew up on the streets, avoiding school and society. Happenstance led him to discover a talent for and love of music. Luck or fate led him to the orbit of a respected jazz player, Art Hazzard played by Juano Hernandez. Art became everything to Rick, a teacher, and a father. As Rick reached adulthood, Art looked at the young man and realized that his obsession with music had left him with nothing else. Advice that there could and should be more to life was too little and too late to keep Rick off of a rocky road.

Click HERE to see the beginning of the relationship of young Rick played by Orley Lindgren and Art Hazzard played by Juano Hernandez.

Amy and Rick marry. Why? Amy is the sort who wants to experience everything. Rick thought it was love. Neither individual connected fully, emotionally. Rick tried to share his music, but that only bored Amy. Rick didn't fit in with Amy's society crowd; he didn't even try. Amy sought companionship elsewhere with a new friend, a female artist who becomes her new obsession. Amy decides to divorce Rick to enjoy a new Bohemian lifestyle in Europe.

Rick had turned away from friends and his music for Amy. He shunned his mentor Art and the love and light offered by Jo. He was devasted and had begun to drink heavily. Amy's final act of destruction was to smash the Art Hazzard records Rick had lovingly collected for years. Rick lost his job and his soul. He lost his health and began a downward spiral.


The screenplay for Young Man With a Horn is by Carl Foreman (High Noon) and Edmund H. North (Colorado Territory) based in the same-titled 1938 novel by Dorothy Baker. Ms. Baker fashioned her novel on the short life of legendary jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931).


Michael Curtiz directed this film, one of many biopics to his credit, and the dramatic story and the music that is such an integral part of it are seamlessly bound with much credit going to a strong collaboration with musical director Ray Heindorf. Ted McCord's glorious black and white cinematography paints a gritty, noirish world for a film that, for a large part of its telling, is steeped in memory, but not nostalgia.

Hoagy Carmichael

Hoagy Carmichael, a close friend of Bix Beiderbecke's is featured in Young Man With a Horn as Rick's friend and the narrator of the story.

"My name is Willie Willoughby, but they call me Smoke. I play piano in a run-of-the-mill dance band. Kind of monotonous. But there were times when I got my kicks. Not so long ago either. Like when I palled around with Rick Martin, the famous trumpet player. What a guy. ... Of course, Rick is practically a legend now. People ask me about him and those times. Ordinarily, I don't talk much about it. But I think a lot about it."


Bix Beiderbecke
1903 - 1931

The ending of Young Man With a Horn deviates from that of the novel and of Bix Beiderbecke's tragic life. The rest of the movie is not set up for the reversal which disturbs this viewer. Perhaps in some way, it was a bittersweet comfort to Bix's friends.

Harry James, Kirk Douglas

The soundtrack to Young Man With a Horn features great versions of jazz standards with Harry James playing the trumpet for the Martin character. James also tutored Douglas on how to look authentic as a trumpet player.


Columbia released an album of the songs with Doris Day and Harry James which spent a total of 11 weeks at Billboard's number one spot.


Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall enjoyed a lifelong friendship which dated back to student days at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Betty Bacall was instrumental in introducing to Kirk to Hal Wallis to kickstart his Hollywood career. The two actors were reaching heights of success they had dreamed of and worked for when they were paired in this 1950 drama.












Thursday, September 13, 2018

THE NEIL SIMON BLOGATHON announcement


I am happy to be joining my friend Rich of Wide Screen World in co-hosting The Neil Simon Blogathon dedicated to the man whose creative life has meant so much to me. The blogathon will be running on October 13th, hosted at Wide Screen World and the 14th at this site.

Any aspect of Neil Simon's career and life is open for your contribution. Duplicates are accepted.

Please join us in the celebration by letting Rich or I know your choice of topic by the usual methods of communication.

The Roster

Wide Screen World, Brighton Beach Memoirs
Amy's Rib: A Life of Film, Murder by Death
The Stop Button, The Cheap Detective
In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, Barefoot in the Park
Once Upon a Screen, Chapter Two
Poppity Talks Classic Film, Seems Like Old Times
Critica Retro, The Odd Couple
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films, California Suite
Slightly Scarlet, The Last of the Red Hot Lovers
Moon in Gemini, The Heartbreak Kid (1962)
Realweegiemidget Reviews, The Goodbye Girl
Caftan Woman, Episodes of The Phil Silvers Show











  

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

THE JOSEPH COTTEN BLOGATHON: Walk Softly, Stranger (1950)


Maddy Loves Her Classic Movies and Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood are the hosts of The Joseph Cotten Blogathon running from September 5th to September 7th. 


Contributions:  DAY 1   DAY 2   DAY 3

Walk Softly, Stranger is a redemptive romance with noir trimmings. A man played by Joseph Cotten tosses a coin and decides "The Little Big City of Ashton - Home of Corelli Shoes" is the place to discard his past and start a new life. A little research provides him with an "in" as the surrogate son/boarder with a widow played by Spring Byington. Her friendship with a foreman at the shoe factory gets the fellow she knows as Chris Hale an entry-level job at the establishment. Using a phoney history as a former resident of the town, "Chris" ingratiates himself with wealthy Elaine Corelli.

Joseph Cotten, Valli

Alida Valli plays Elaine, a beautiful socialite who lost the use of her legs in a San Moritz skiing accident. She has been isolating herself and sheltering her heart. The intriguing and seemingly straight-forward Chris Hale interests her, makes her smile, and makes her dream.

The man we know as Hale has a shady past as a gambler, a con man, and a thief. Leaving town one weekend, he and a compatriot played by Paul Stewart rob a casino owned by Howard Petrie. The thinking is that the purveyor of an illegal establishment will be loath to call the police to report the crime. Of course, that doesn't prevent the gambler from seeking his own retribution. Chris Hale feels safe in his new identity and advises his partner in crime to do likewise.

Joseph Cotten, Spring Byington, Paul Stewart

Months pass and the relationship between Chris and Elaine grows to the point where she becomes afraid of her emotions and travels to forget him. However, as the Christmas holiday approaches she cannot resist the idea of the two of them and returns to Ashton. Their affection and plans for the future bloom over some lovely Christmas scenes, which includes carolers, and a festive New Year's Eve. Stubbornly, Chris is ignoring the presence in Ashton of his now broke and frightened fellow thief. Revenge is also coming to Ashton.

Walk Softly, Stranger benefits from the direction of Robert Stevenson (Jane Eyre, Mary Poppins). I find in this, and much of Stevenson's work, a real feel for his characters and setting. In the case of this RKO production, the cast of the people surrounding Chris and Elaine are excellent. Along with Spring Byington, there is Esther Dale as Elaine's confidante and housekeeper, Frank Puglia as Mr. Corelli, Jack Paar as a work pal, and John McIntire as the factory foreman. Unfortunately, the script offers no sure intention from beginning to end which mares the finer components of the film.

Joseph Cotten is excellent at portraying the dual nature of his character. Everything he says since hitting town has been a lie, but his faux sincerity works on everyone. When do his feelings become real and when does he realize it? Perhaps it is not until he feels the noose tighten and confesses to Elaine that he didn't realize he could have what he wanted any other way. Perhaps it was when he realized that what he wanted wasn't what he needed.


Trivia:


Cotten's character takes on the name of Chris Hale when he moves to Ashton. Chris Hale was the name of co-star John McIntire's character on TVs Wagon Train.


Joseph Cotten guest-starred twice on Wagon Train. Above he is pictured with John McIntire in The John Augustus Story from season 6.












Saturday, September 1, 2018

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR SEPTEMBER ON TCM


Panic in the Streets is an award-winning crime drama released in 1950. The Academy Award for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story went to Edna and Edward Anhalt. The Writers Guild of America nominated Richard Murphy's screenplay. Director Elia Kazan won the International Award at the Venice Film Festival. Panic in the Streets was placed on the Top Ten List of the National Board of Review.

Panic in the Streets was Kazan's second of three collaborations with cinematographer Joseph MacDonald, which include Pinky and Viva Zapata. The filming of this story would take place entirely in New Orleans with much of the action occurring at night, and the work is splendid. Of Kazan's first half dozen films four of them would involve location work, rare at that time in Hollywood: Connecticut for Boomerang!, Arizona, New Mexico and Nebraska for Sea of Grass, and Connecticut and New York City for Gentleman's Agreement.

Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas

Panic in the Streets brings together a doctor of public health played by Richard Widmark and a police captain played by Paul Douglas who try to avert not only panic but a plague.

A Greek immigrant smuggled into the country is murdered by his cousin and two of that petty criminal's cronies. When the body is autopsied it is discovered that the man is a carrier of the pneumonic plague. Authorities have no way to identify the corpse or discover his murderers, who are now plague carriers. Nonetheless, that is the job set out for Tom Warren (Douglas) who is stymied by Dr. Clint Reed (Widmark) and his insistence that the public not be given the full story. He is concerned that the criminals will leave the city and spread the plague.

Jack Palance, Zero Mostel

A roundup of  "usual suspects" actually brings one of the men they are looking for into their net. Zero Mostel plays Fitch, the lackey of a nasty piece of business known as Blackie, played by Walter Jack Palance in his first film role. The cousin of the man murdered over gambling money is Poldi played by Guy Thomajan. Blackie's imagination carries him as far as determining that the cop's heavy involvement in the case must mean that the man took something into the country, but that imagination stops at valuable contraband. He believes Poldi is holding out on him and his determined to keeping the police at bay.

Richard Widmark, Barbara Bel Geddes

While the 48 hours of the search are carried out, we become voyeurs of Dr. Reed's personal life; his money issues, his dissatisfaction with the job, and how his prickly personality interferes with his relationships with his wife played by Barbara Bel Geddes, and his son played by Tommy Rettig. During the crisis, the doctor-hating Captain Warren and the stiff-necked doctor find a mutual respect and a possible friendship.

The mayor played by H. Waller Fowler Jr. is unexpectedly sympathetic and forthcoming with help. We don't always expect that from a politician. A newspaper reporter played by Dan Riss is everywhere underfoot and a nuisance who wants to spill the story. He's doing his job.

Emile Meyer, Paul Douglas, Richard Widmark

The telling of the story takes us to tenements and middle-class neighbourhoods, to restaurants and docks. We feel the heat of the sun and the heat of the crowded clubs in the night. Tracking down the origins of the corpse's arrival takes us to a ship loaded with stowaways. Emile Meyer, a New Orleans native who worked as a longshoreman plays the Captain of that ship. He would move to Hollywood and enjoy a career of over 150 appearances in movies such as Shane (Ryker) and much classic television.

The brutal Blackie causes much mayhem and heartbreak and Palance makes quite an astounding impression in the role. Mostel makes his character the most supreme of grovelers, and you can't help but feel ashamed for the constantly frightened man.

A large number of local extras are masterfully used in fleshing out the city and always bringing us back to the enormity of the situation. They are almost equalled by the number of medical workers and police who are required to follow the orders necessary to contain an epic disaster.

TCM is screening Panic in the Streets on Saturday, September 15 at 8:00 PM on a night they are comfortingly calling CONTAGIOUS! with the follow-up being another must-see for Evelyn Keyes performance, The Killer That Stalked New York.













Thursday, August 30, 2018

THE FRED MACMURRAY BLOGATHON: There's Always Tomorrow (1956)


Phyllis Loves Classic Movies is hosting the Fred MacMurray Blogathon running from August 30 to September 1.


HERE is where you will find the tributes to this outstanding actor.

Fred MacMurray is a favourite actor of mine. Comedy or drama, he rarely puts a foot wrong. I attribute this to his early training and career as a musician. He knows how to play those notes on the page, and how to improvise when needed. There are spoilers in this look at There's Always Tomorrow.


There's Always Tomorrow is MacMurray's only collaboration with director Douglas Sirk. Leading lady Barbara Stanwyck had previously starred for Sirk in 1953s All I Desire. There's Always Tomorrow is the final of four films co-starring the team of Stanwyck and MacMurray following Remember the Night, Double Indemnity and The Moonlighter.

The screenplay for There's Always Tomorrow is by Bernard C. Schoenfeld (The Dark Corner, Phantom Lady) based on a novel by Ursula Parrott (The Divorcee). I find echoes of Noel Coward's Still Life, filmed as Brief Encounter, in this treatment of loneliness in a marriage. 


Fred MacMurray

This is Cliff Groves (Fred MacMurray), by any level a successful man. His toy manufacturing business is lucrative and satisfying. His wife Marion (Joan Bennett) is attractive, bright, good-natured, and runs a comfortable home. His children are all healthy and apparently happy. Son Vinnie (William Reynolds) is in college and in the throes of his first great romance with a smart young woman called Ann (Pat Crowley). Melodramatic teen Ellen (Gigi Perreau) is an overly-dramatic teen, but not a troublemaker. Youngest daughter Frankie (Judy Nugent) is living through "the dancer" phase.

Why does Cliff look unhappy in this picture above? It could be the rainy day, but it is more likely related to the feeling of neglect. He went out of his way to plan a lovely evening for Marion's birthday, but she is tied up with Frankie's dance rehearsal. His son, daughter, and the housekeeper (Jane Darwell) all pass on his offer of the theatre tickets he had obtained. So, there he sits, alone in the kitchen with a dinner that doesn't feed his stomach or his soul. It is becoming a more common situation as his family devotes themselves to their own lives, taking Cliff for granted.


Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck

This is Norma Miller Vale (Barbara Stanwyck), a successful fashion designer from NYC visiting California for a convention and on behalf of her home store. Twenty years ago she was an employee of Cliff's. She was a friend, and she was in love with him. Lately, the divorcee has been feeling lonely and perhaps wondering what she missed by running away from her emotions and toward her career. This impromptu visit will open up a world of feelings between Norma and Cliff.

Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck

This is Cliff and Norma at a desert resort where circumstances have brought them together. Norma had given her convention speech and was relaxing. Cliff had planned to take Marion away for the weekend but little dancer Frankie had sprained her ankle. Cliff also made plans to meet a business contact who cancelled at the last moment.

Cliff and Norma rode horses, and swam, and danced the night away. They laughed and reminisced, and connected. On the surface, it was nothing but a fun and innocent time. Under the surface, there was something less innocent simmering, but at this point, if Cliff or Norma are aware, they suppress it.

Pat Crowley, William Reynolds

Vinnie and Ann, with some friends, had driven to the resort hoping for a swim and to sponge off dear old dad. Vinnie observed his dad and Norma laughing in the sunlight and immediately jumped to the worst conclusion. Vinnie's indignation and condemnation upset Ann. As an outsider, she has been in the unique position of being able to observe the family dynamics. "It's funny. I'm positive your father hasn't done a thing to be ashamed of, but, you know something, I wouldn't blame him if he had."


Joan Bennett

Cliff invited Norma to dinner in order to show off his family. It was a disaster thanks to the open hostility from Vinnie and his sister Ellen. Marion and Ann did their best to make Norma comfortable. Afterward, Cliff was livid. Marion, on the other hand, picked up on Nora's loneliness and expressed gratitude for her own contented life. Cliff can only see that Norma is independent and successful. How could that not make one happy?

Fred MacMurray, Joan Bennett

Cliff tried to share his unsettled feelings with Marion, but he felt she wasn't truly listening. It isn't that Marion isn't caring or attentive, but perhaps it is more that she isn't saying what Cliff wants or needs to hear at this moment. Alternately afraid of his feelings for Norma and rushing toward them, Cliff is at a crossroads.

Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck

Time is nearing for Norma's return to New York and it forces Cliff's resolve. He achingly professes his love for her. Now it is Norma's turn to be torn between rushing forward into something she desperately wants or running away for a second time.

Gigi Perreau, William Reynolds, Barbara Stanwyck

The cold light of day brings a visit from Cliff's elder children. They confront Norma and she sets them straight about the time in the desert. They are embarrassed but are proud that they are protecting their mother. Norma gives them something to think about when she reminds them that their father is an individual as well. That their father does everything for them and may be due a little more consideration than they have given him in the past.

Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck

Vinnie and Ellen gave Norma much to think about as well. Reuniting with Cliff has been fun and emotional, but looking into the future with clear eyes Norma sees only a man who will regret that he is not the father and husband he is today. Norma must break Cliff's heart and her own.

Fred MacMurray, Joan Bennett

The final scene reminds me of Brief Encounter where Fred Jesson seems to understand that his wife Laura has been through something life-changing. Cliff watches a plane flying overhead, possibly the plane that is taking Norma out of his life for the second time.

Marion: "Hello, dear. Feeling better tonight?"
Cliff: "What?"
Marion: "You've worried me these past few days. It's not like you to be irritable and depressed."
Cliff: "I know, but I'm all right now. You know me better than I know myself."
Marion: "I should after a lifetime you know."

There's Always Tomorrow is a gentle drama, but a deeply emotional one. The 1950s was an interesting period in the career of our leading man Fred MacMurray with a number of westerns (Face of a Fugitive, Good Day for a Hanging), film-noir (Pushover), drama (The Caine Mutiny, Woman's World) and comedy (The Shaggy Dog). The 1960s and The Absent-Minded Professor would cement Fred MacMurray as a Disney Legend and My Three Sons as a historically favourite classic TV dad.










Friday, August 24, 2018

THE SECOND VAN JOHNSON BLOGATHON: Zane Grey Theatre, Deadfall (1959)


Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood is hosting a Van Johnson Blogathon, her second in as many years. Click HERE to read what all the fans have to say.

A busy musical performer on Broadway, Van Johnson became box office gold for MGM in the 1940s. Popular with young fans, as he matured so did his acting ability with an interesting array of dramas and comedies in the 1950s including Three Guys Named Mike, Miracle in the Rain, The End of the Affair, Remains to be Seen, The Caine Mutiny, Brigadoon and 23 Paces to Baker Street.

In 1955 Van made his television debut playing himself on a charming episode of I Love Lucy titled The Dancing Star. By 1990 Van would rack up 43 credits on Classic TV performing in musicals, mysteries, comedies, mini-series, and westerns.


Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre was broadcast on CBS from 1956 to 1961. The 1950s was the heyday of anthology series and of westerns, and here we had the best of both worlds. Dick Powell, one of the founders of the television empire known as Four Star Television was the host of these half-hour character studies and adventure tales. Powell acted in some of the episodes as well.


Deadfall first aired on Thursday, February 19, 1959. The twists and turns are many in this episode written by Frederick Louis Fox (Black Saddle, Johnny Ringo, Branded) and Sloan Nibley (Death Valley Days, Wagon Train, The Addams Family) and directed by Jerry Hopper (Wagon Train, Burke's Law, The Fugitive).

Charles Fredericks, Van Johnson, Bing Russell

The all-male ensemble is headlined by Van Johnson as Frank Gillette. Gillette has moved to this town after a three-year prison stretch, hoping to start life with a clean slate. Fate has other plans as he is framed for a bank robbery by Sheriff's Deputy Stover played by Bing Russell (Bonanza). The town prosecutor, Hugh Perry played by Harry Townes (The Twilight Zone), speaks most eloquently of protecting their fair city. A recent silver strike will be attracting the wrong sort of person, of which Frank Gillette is a prime example.

Chuck Roberson, Hampton Fancher, Val Dufour

Sentenced to twenty years in prison, Gillette is being escorted by Sheriff Roy Lamont played by Grant Withers (Other Men's Women) and our old friend Deputy Stover when they are ambushed. Three desperadoes free Frank, but only after Harper played by Val Dufour (Search for Tomorrow) shoots the sheriff in the back.

Harper, young Linc played by Hampton Fancher (Black Saddle) and Brenner played by Chuck Roberson (McLintock!) are none too friendly to Gillette. They are closed-mouthed about the yet unseen boss of this little operation, but Gillette plays it cool, constant needling the hot-headed Harper.

Van Johnson, Harry Townes

Frank is not surprised when the Perry, the man who prosecuted him, turns out to be the leader of this gang. Perry's ultimate goal is to return to town a hero with the recaptured Frank. The town is about to boom, and Perry wants his share of the graft and power that will come with the position of sheriff.

Frank suggests a little twist to this plan. Instead of returning him as an escaped criminal, why not also prove the framing by Deputy Stover. This won't go over well with Stover, but the townspeople will see Perry as a fair-minded and honest man. Perry likes this idea.

Paul Langton, Harry Townes

Tom Lamont played by Paul Langton (Peyton Place) is the brother of the murdered sheriff and currently acting sheriff. He shoots it out with Stover when the Gillette framing comes to light. The impressed townspeople vote to make Lamont sheriff, spoiling Perry's plans.

The angered Perry and his gang again take Frank hostage and attempt to coerce him into murdering Lamont. The cagey Frank Gillette turns the tables on the outlaws by teaming with Sheriff Lamont. While his gang flees, the greedy Perry is caught by trying to grab the stolen loot. Gotcha!

Van Johnson

The villains tried to use Frank Gillette's past against him, but they didn't reckon on his present and his plans for the future.












THE GENDER BENDING THE RULES BLOGATHON: First a Girl (1935)

Quiggy at The Midnite Drive-In and Chris of Angelman's Place are hosting, on September 21st to the 23rd, the GENDER BENDING THE R...