Caftan Woman

Caftan Woman

Thursday, July 20, 2017

'TILL DEATH US DO PART: The Stranger (1946)

"How do I kill thee, let me count the ways."

CineMaven has been sitting on her couch dreaming of homicide and wedded bliss. On Monday, July 24th click HERE for the contributions to the blogathon with the inspiring title of 'TILL DEATH US DO PART. My contribution is a look at The Stranger and it is full of spoilers.

Mary Longstreet Rankin: "In Harper there's nothing to be afraid of."

The post-war thriller 1946s The Stranger presents us with happy newlywed bride Mary Longstreet played by Loretta Young. Mary transforms throughout the film from an infatuated wife to a victim of psychological horror to a hunter.

Director and star Orson Welles worked with familiar and creative personnel in fashioning this story of what lies beneath the surface of a pretty little world and a pretty little marriage.

Production designer Perry Ferguson, art designer Albert S. D'Agostino and cinematographer Russell Metty had collaborated with director Orson Welles in earlier films, Citizen Kane and Journey Into Fear, and here they created a charming setting for their thriller. Anthony Veiller wrote the screenplay, the same year as his Oscar nominated work on The Killers.

The town of Harper with its welcoming town square, historic church and school buildings is picture perfect. The homes, from simple to grand, have a roomy and lived-in feel. Though filmed in black and white, one can "see" the autumn colours as they feel the briskness in the icy breeze.

The centerpiece of the town and the film.

The world is looking up in 1946, up and away from the war that ravaged much of the world, physically and emotionally. The picturesque and quaint town of Harper, Connecticut is a quiet, out-of-the-way spot with antiques and a popular Boy's School. Certainly, it is not a place where one would expect to find an escaped Nazi awaiting the return of the new order. Perhaps a few years earlier those quaint Bavarian villages didn't seem like places where fascism would burgeon.

Welles use of close-ups in The Stranger highlights emotional tension, and his artistic shadow tableau heighten the sense of secrecy that permeates the story. Composer Bronislau Kaper's score swirls in partnership with the confusion of characters and motives.  

Mr. Wilson makes himself at home.

The friendly drug store with its eccentric proprietor Mr. Potter played by big old Billy House gives the feel of visiting family with customers helping themselves and trading gossip. Although, the way Mr. Potter keeps to his seat while bossing his old, rickety assistant Mr. Peabody played by Pietro Sosso makes one wonder about small scale dictators.

A newcomer to Harper, Mr. Wilson played by Edward G. Robinson, finds the store a good base of operations for both his antique business cover and his assignment for the Allied Crime Commission. Mr. Wilson is a hunter of Nazis, one particular Nazi called Franz Kindler. 

Prior to Mr. Wilson's arrival, the newest citizen of Harper was Professor Charles Rankin, played by Orson Welles. He came to town shortly after the war. The history professor with the cultured manner and voice soon becomes the affianced of Mary Longstreet, a popular local girl and daughter of a liberal Supreme Court Justice, Adam Longstreet played by Philip Merivale. Richard Long plays Mary's younger brother Noah who mistrusts Professor Rankin. However, love for a sister means at least pretending to accept a brother-in-law.

Orson Welles, Konstantin Shayne

On the day of the wedding Mary is hanging curtains in their new home when a strange, little man pays a call. The man with the haunted look and the foreign accent is most anxious to see Professor Rankin. Instead of waiting, he rushes to meet the teacher on his way from school. He is rushing to his death. This strange little man is Conrad Meineke played by Konstantin Shayne, and he was second in command to a German death camp mastermind, Franz Kindler. Herr Kindler has found the perfect disguise to await the expected rise of Nazism, as Charles Rankin. Meineke's presence will destroy Kindler's cover. Kindler murders his old friend and buries the body in the woods behind the school.

Charles' shadow looms large in Mary's life.

Mary and Charles return a week later from their honeymoon to set up housekeeping and enjoy a dinner with the Longstreet family and guests. The guests are family friend and local doctor Dr. Lawrence played by Byron Keith, and Mr. Wilson.  

Charles Rankin: "But Marx wasn't German. Marx was a Jew."

Mary's post-war idyll should be filled with nothing beyond setting up housekeeping with the help of Sara, the Longstreet housekeeper played by Martha Wentworth, and getting to know her new husband. Yet Mary is plagued by nightmares about the strange little man who appeared and disappeared so suddenly and mysteriously. Charles concocts a story to explain away the visit. It is a terrible and sad story, and Mary believes it.

Oddly, Charles has consigned Mary's beloved retriever, Red, to the basement after a lifetime of freedom. Charles claims right of decision as man of the house. This has become necessary to keep the inquisitive canine from following his instincts and digging up the grave in the woods. Mary begins to feel uneasy in her new life.

"Poor old Red"
Richard Long as Noah Longstreet

The suspicious Noah has been enlisted to assist Mr. Wilson's investigation, and the death by poison of Red indicates that Rankin/Kindler is becoming desperate. Backtracking the trail of the poisoned animal leads back to the grave. It is a cause celebre among the citizens of Harper - a real life mystery! Charles must create yet another story to placate Mary's fears. He confesses to murder, placing Meineke in the role of a blackmailer, drawing her into a need to protect  her beloved husband. 


Mary is startled by Charles' strange and shocking behavior. 

Fearing for Mary's safety, Wilson decides it is time to break the truth to the newlywed and he does so with the assistance of her father and graphic film of the death camps. It is too much for a devoted wife to bear; to accept she has made such a horrendous choice. Mary spills all she has been told to Charles. She declares her steadfast belief and loyalty which Charles accepts. However, in his acceptance, Charles does not even bother denying the charges.

Mary's breaking point.

Life carries on with a faculty tea for 28 guests at the home of the Rankins. The pressure is too great for Mary as she tries to behave naturally, especially when faced with the guest Wilson, and the gossip surrounding the discovery of the body in the woods. Mary is at the breaking point and, ironically, so is our Nazi. Like Meineke, Mary must be eliminated if Kindler is to be safe and Mary's death must look like an accident.

Rankin's obsession with the ornate mechanical clock in the church tower in the middle of town is almost a joke among the townfolk. The 16th century marvel features iron statues of angels armed with swords which encircle the tower on the hour. The clock hasn't worked for years, but the maniac Rankin spends much needed time on the machine as it helps him remain calm and focused. 

It is such an expected habit for Rankin to be at the tower that Mary thinks nothing of his asking her to meet him there, and that it is important. Rankin will not be in the tower. Mary will fall from a sabotaged ladder in a tragic accident. The housekeeper Sara has been made aware of the dire situation and fakes an illness to keep Mary from leaving the house. Mary innocently asks Noah to keep the meeting for her, and Noah wisely brings Mr. Wilson with him to the tower.

Mary's shadow looms large in Charles' life.

The broken rung of the ladder was almost fatal for Mr. Wilson. Meticulously setting up his alibi, it is an understatement to say that Charles was surprised to return home to find his loving Mary among the living. He cracks! She is explaining about Sara's attack and Noah when Charles tells her that Noah's blood is on her hands. The scales fall from her eyes suddenly and violently. Mary is magnificent in their confrontation.

Mary: "Kill me. Kill me, I want you to. I couldn't face life knowing what I've been to you and what I've done to Noah. But when you kill me don't put your hands on me! Here, use this!"

Mary tosses a fireplace poker at him, and Rankin/Kindler rushes out the back door as Wilson and the police arrive.

His safe place becomes the instrument of Franz Kindler's doom.

Where would you be hiding were you the fanatic Kindler? Indeed, he has retreated to the dubious comfort of the clock tower and that is where Mary seeks him out to destroy the monster who came into her life. Suspecting what was in Mary's mind, Mr. Wilson is there as well to confront the unrepentant zealot.

Kindler is brought down by hubris, by official justice in the personification of Wilson, and emotional retribution from the woman he used.

Movie trivia:

It is reported in various sources that Welles had wanted to cast his favourite actress Aggie Moorehead as the crime commission investigator, but a woman in that position was too much for Hollywood at that time. A most interesting film it would have made, but a most interesting film it is with this cast intact.

Billy House as Mr. Potter is a sedentary salesman: "All your needs are on our shelves. Just look around and help yourselves." Yet he still had the bluff of his The Egg and I character: "Best friend the farmer's wife ever had. Smiling Billy Reed. Whatever you need see Billy Reed, that's me.

Friday, July 14, 2017

SWASHATHON: Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

Erroll Flynn introduces himself as Don Juan de Marana in Adventures of Don Juan.

THE SWASHATHON IS BACK! Fritzi of Movies, Silently is hosting the second version of her popular blogathon tribute to derring-do on the silver screen. It runs from July 14 - 17, and HERE is where you will find all the excitement.

"For the man, the sword; for the woman, the kiss."
- Rodolfo Tonetti (Erik Rhodes), The Gay Divorcee

It may seem like a stretch to connect a 1934 musical to a 1948 swashbuckler, but as I rewatched Adventures of Don Juan for the Swashathon, I couldn't help but think that perhaps the emotional co-respondent Tonetti was descended from the famous fictional lover of yore. His line is the perfect motto for the character played by Errol Flynn in our film. His adventures all start and end with a beautiful woman, and involve many clashes of the blade.

As we leap with actor Flynn from film to film, it is his swashbucklers that stand out. Many actors display an athleticism. Many actors display a wry attitude. Many actors display a tender, romantic heart. Few actors combine these attributes with such polish and unselfconscious enthusiasm.

Don Juan surprises his enemy.
Errol Flynn about to turn into a leaping stunt double Jock Mahoney.

Errol Flynn was 26 when he was given the coveted leading role in 1935s Captain Blood. Flynn became a star as the wrongly convicted political prisoner turned pirate and leader of men. He had the goods and the audience responded. 1938s The Adventures of Robin Hood is a classic and, for many, Flynn is the definitive Robin of Sherwood. 1940s The Sea Hawk, a grand tale of deception and adventure presents a character of depth in Geoffrey Thorpe.

In 1948 Warners decided to put their 40 year old star in another costumer, Adventures of Don Juan. Was this decision a mistake? Was Flynn past the age of screen escapades? The finished product tells us the answer is "no" to both questions.

Don Juan about to be presented at the Spanish court.
Each player from lead to bit part is costumed beautifully.

Vincent Sherman, the actor turned director who is best known for interesting dramas such as The Hasty Heart, The Hard Way and Harriet Craig directed this, apparently his only foray into the adventure genre. Perhaps I would cut some of the buildup to action sequences, but overall there is nothing to complain about in Sherman's touch. He has a lovely way with intimate character scenes. George Oppenheimer and Harry Kurnitz are credited with the screenplay which has many amusing and witty lines as one would expect from fellows who gave us such films as Libeled Lady, Nothing Sacred, I Love You Again and How to Steal a Million.

"Sweet lady, love is not measured in terms of time, only in ecstasy!"
I could be wrong, but I think Don Juan has said this more than once.

Don Juan roams Europe in search of happiness. Said happiness has everything to do with seducing as many beautiful women as possible. Our film opens with Don Juan climbing a balcony to meet his latest conquest. It is obvious in all of Don Juan's romantic encounters in the film that the ladies know he is playing a part, and they are more than happy to play their role in the charade. Lady Catherine is played by Mary Stuart and it was one of her better film showcases in 10 years in Hollywood for the actress. She would move to New York and in 1951 begin her 35 year reign as a Daytime TV icon playing Joanne Gardner (Barron, Tate, Vincente, Tourneur) on Search for Tomorrow.

Don Juan always finds a willing audience for his audacious tales.

Don Juan virtually leaps from his adventure with Catherine and her husband into the mistaken role as a bridegroom in a diplomatically arranged marriage to Lady Diana played by Helen Westcott. This exploit lands him in jail. Fortunately, he is released by Spain's ambassador to England, the Count de Polan played by Robert Warwick. The Count is an old family friend who offers Don Juan redemption and the chance to put his grace, wit and courage to work for Queen Margaret played by Viveca Lindfors. Recently arrived from Austria the Queen is in a difficult position as she tries to do right by her Spanish subjects. The ineffectual King Philip III played by Romney Brent is under the control of the power hungry Duke de Lorca played by Robert Douglas. Queen Margaret needs all the help she can get.

"All my life I seem to have been stumbling around as if in darkness. I am no longer."
I could be wrong, but I think Don Juan is falling for the beautiful and brave Sovereign.

Don Juan impresses the Queen with his candor and he is given the position of a fencing master at the Royal Academy. Don Juan is instantly popular with his students and their female relations. The ever-scheming Count de Lorca attempts to harness that popularity to his cause, but Don Juan remains loyal to the Queen.

Leporello: "Do you think I'd let you go roaming about the universe without me?" 

Don Juan is assisted in all of his endeavours by his loyal companion Leporello played by Alan Hale. Adventures of Don Juan would be the 13th and final film co-starring these old friends whose first cinematic pairing was 1937s The Prince and the Pauper.

Count D'Orsini objects to Don Juan's attentions to Donna Elena.
Ann Rutherford, David Bruce

The brazen de Lorca has become hasty in his treachery. He kidnaps Don Juan's mentor and benefactor the Count de Polan in order to control funds for his overthrow of the monarchy. Don Juan has become disgraced through another misadventure with a certain Donna Elena played by Ann Rutherford and her intended, Count D'Orsini played by David Bruce. Facing banishment or death, Don Juan ignores both in order to save de Polan and Queen Margaret.

Count de Lorca and Captain Alvarez harass and torture Count de Polan.
Robert Douglas, Raymond Burr, Robert Warwick

Don Juan must vanquish Count de Lorca and his henchmen Don Rodrigo played by Douglas Kennedy and the brutish Captain Alvarez played by Raymond Burr. Fortunately, Don Juan can depend on his crew, fencing master Don Lopez played by Fortunio Bonanova, court jester Sebastian played by Jerry Austin, and the entire student body of the Royal Fencing Academy.

"The sword is not for the traitor. You'll die by the knife"
First lesson of Royal Fencing Academy

The fencing scenes include not only fine action sequences between enemies, but some thoroughly entertaining choreographed scenes involving students of the Academy. The stunt double work is exemplary and seamless. All hail fencing master/choreographer Fred Cavens of Captain Blood, Anne of the Indies, The Black Swan, The Black Pirate, Cyrano de Bergerac, etc.

Be vewy, vewy quiet. Juan and Sebastian are hunting bad guys.
Errol Flynn, Jerry Austin

Cinematographer Elwood Bredell, whose proficiency in the dark world of noir as in The Killers and Phantom Lady, knew how to delight the eye with Technicolor in Romance on the High Seas and this beautiful production.

Max Steiner's score is simply glorious. It conjures up feelings of every swashbuckler ever enjoyed while still highlighting and supporting the screenplay and performances in Adventures of Don Juan.

The Academy saw fit to honour Adventures of Don Juan with well-deserved nominations and wins. Edward Carrere and Lyle B. Reifsnider were nominated in the category Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, color. The winner was MGMs production of Little Women.

Queen Margaret looks regal and radiant.
Viveca Lindfors in just one of the many lovely Oscar winning costumes.

The costumes! Oh, the costumes! Leah Rhodes, Travilla and Marjorie Best won the trophy for Best Costume Design, color. Each gown for each lovely lady is sublime. The colour, the material, the details and the accessories are all breathtaking! The costumes for the gentlemen are no less magnificent. If you are not interested in romance or derring-do, perhaps the fashion show that is Adventures of Don Juan will swash your buckle. 

I find Adventures of Don Juan a delightful movie starring the most exceptional swashbuckler of them all, Errol Flynn. The tongue-in-cheek story naturally and satisfactorily leads us to this:

En Garde!
Errol Flynn, Robert Douglas

and this...

Max Steiner's score is in the background, but I hear Harry Warren's At Last in my head.
Errol Flynn, Viveca Lindfors

If it is spectacle and humour and romance and thrills you seek in your swashbuckler then you can do no better than Adventures of Don Juan.


"My dear friend, there's a little bit of Don Juan in every man, and since I am Don Juan there must be more of it in me!"

Movie trivia:  Buffs will have no difficulty recognizing an early getaway of Juan and Leporello as a steal from The Adventures of Robin Hood. When our hero goes chasing after his latest conquest at the end of the film, it is his soon to be ex-second wife, Nora Eddington. She bears a striking resemblance to soon to be next wife Patrice Wymore.

Friday, June 30, 2017


Bonbons at the ready, ladies. Also, help yourself to a large glass of your favourite libation. It is soap opera time. Gentlemen, you needn't pretend you don't occasional enjoy a large helping of mid-century melodrama. I know better since the day I returned home from feminine pursuits outside the home to discover the hubby knee deep in a double bill of The Help and A Summer Place.

Has director Jean Negulesco ever let you down? He gave us Humoresque, Road House, Three Came Home, Titanic and Johnny Belinda. Negulesco also proved himself a master in the popular sub-genre of three girls vs. life which dates back at least as far as 1928s Our Dancing Daughters and includes such titles as 1932s The Greeks Had a Word for Them and Three on a Match, 1946s Three Little Girls in Blue, and 1951s Painting the Clouds with Sunshine which was a reworking of Golddiggers of 1933. Jean Negulesco's contributions, beyond our feature, include How to Marry a Millionaire, Three Coins in the Fountain, Woman's World and The Pleasure Seekers.

And another hundred people just got off of the train...

Rona Jaffe's first novel The Best of Everything was purchased by Twentieth Century Fox prior to its publication in 1958 and the confluence of publicity guaranteed success for both. There is a built-in audience for the story of young women in the big city making their way in Life (capital L intended). New York City is the big city in the film and the location filming adds a lot to the allure of The Best of Everything.

Three Little Maids from School.
Hope Lange, Suzy Parker, Diane Baker

Hope Lange stars as Carolyn Bender, a young woman from a solid Connecticut background and an equally solid university education. Her emotional side belongs to boyfriend Eddie Harris played by Bret Halsey. He's a businessman embarking on a year long assignment in England while Carolyn begins work as a secretary at Fabian Publishing in the big town. At work Carolyn makes friends with April Morrison played by Diane Baker and Gregg Adams played by Suzy Parker. April is a small town girl from Nebraska with romantic notions. Gregg is a beauty with stage aspirations. Her sophisticated facade is a soft shell for a soft heart. They share an apartment, their dreams and their heartbreaks.

Back burner romance adds interest.
Don Harron, Martha Hyer

Fabian Publishing is a hive of worker women in the bottom rung in the steno pool. The women in executive positions are Amanda Farrow played by Joan Crawford and Barbara Lamont played by Martha Hyer. Miss Farrow is an editor who has sacrificed her personal life to a married man. She is smart, tough and bitter. Secretaries call her "the witch". Mrs. Lamont is a divorced mother of a young child. She finds herself in love with a married man played by Don Harron (Charlie Farquharson!). Theirs is a relationship played out mostly in longing looks. It gives the subplot an interesting and complicated quality.

Mike is less than thrilled with Carolyn's success. Men!
Stephen Boyd, Hope Lange

The other men we get to know are Mike Rice played by Stephen Boyd. Mike has unresolved personal issues that make him a bit of a lush. He needs a reason to pull himself together. Perhaps Carolyn is that reason. Brian Aherne plays Fred Shalimar. Fred may be good at his job, but the girls at the firm learn not to work late in his office and know who has just passed by if they feel a pinch.

Carolyn participates in the business tradition of meeting for a drink after work.
Hope Lange, extras

Gregg falls for a womanizing Broadway director David Savage played by Louis Jourdan. She falls hard. He is a player. It is, as Miss Farrow predicted, a recipe for disaster. April is swept off her feet by rich country club louse called Dexter Key played by Robert Evans. The only thing that will save her is her sincerity.

Joan Crawford brings years of experience to Amanda Farrow.

At this time and place there was very little, if any, talk of the balance of home and work life. One made a choice between the two. The mindset and the pressure was always to choose romance and the home over whatever minor benefits one might derive from the pursuit of a career. You cannot have the best of everything. The opening theme song courtesy of Johnny Mathis' rendering of the Alfred Newman tune and Sammy Cahn lyrics lays it all out.

We've proven romance is still the best of everything
That sudden thrill, the best of everything
That one little sigh is a treasure you cannot buy
Or measure, by any test, the best of everything

You've found the moon and the sun
Yes, he's the one, it seems
But soon it's done
And not the fun it seemed

You walk through the night just groping
It's still alright, you're hoping
Love can be all or nothing, but even when it's nothing
It's still the best, the best of everything
We've proven romance is still the best of everything

Most of us have to have a job. Some of us have a calling. Either way, our relationships with others, romantic in nature or not, ultimately define the success of our lives. I think we can have the best of everything, but it is a matter of priorities and attitude. Whatever we consider success isn't handed to us, it is created by us.

The mid-town skyscraper workplace in The Best of Everything is a dream of mid-century design with its clean lines and bold colours. Costume designer Adele Palmer was nominated for an Oscar for The Best of Everything. The two years she spent at Twentieth Century Fox at this, the end of her career, capped decades of solid work at Republic Studios. The movie is a veritable fashion show without stopping the story to point it out.

TCM is airing The Best of Everything on Monday, July 10 at 10:00 PM during an evening salute to Mid-Century Modern. Ah yes, mid-century modern, the design, the dress, and the cock-eyed philosophy. Let's take that time machine.

Friday, June 23, 2017

REEL INFATUATION BLOGATHON: The dashing Gilbert of The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Who is the movie character that sets your heart aflutter? Font and Frock and Silver Scenes are hosting, for the second year, the Reel Infatuation Blogathon running from June 23 to June 25.  Day 1 recap   Day 2 recap   Day 3 recap

The delightful comic-thriller The Lady Vanishes was adapted by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder from Ethel Lina White's novel The Wheel Spins. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the film was a huge international hit that has retained its popularity through the years.

Jam manufacturing heiress Iris Henderson played by Margaret Lockwood is winding down her European tour prior to settling down to married life. The wedding is not a love match, but merely the next expected life step.

A snowy stopover at a wayside inn places Iris smack dab in the middle of an adventure. She unknowingly becomes the confederate of a British spy in the guise of a sweet little old lady, Miss Froy played by Dame May Whitty. In short order Iris is concussed by an errant attempt on the life of Miss Froy, Miss Froy is kidnapped, and Iris' attempts to get her fellow train passengers to become involved in the search are for naught. Iris is persecuted, patronized and attacked. However, it is all worth it because Iris gets a willing partner in her plight in the form of Gilbert played by Michael Redgrave. Two heads are better than one when dealing with espionage on a train.

In his first film role, 6'3" Redgrave cuts a figure full of dash and wry humour. Given the circumstances he is a knight in figurative shining armour. Given Gilbert's character as we come to know him, he is a most unlikely rescuer.

I never thought to count the number of times I watch a favourite movie, but somewhere I imagine around the 17th time or so, I realized watching The Lady Vanishes that I was in love with Gilbert. I loved his looks. I loved his easy and self-deprecating sense of humour. I loved his quick thinking. I loved his interest in music and history. I loved his protectiveness of Iris. 

Gilbert first comes into Iris' life as an annoyance. Researching his book on folk music, Gilbert encourages lively dancing over the heads of hotel patrons. This disturbs Iris' rest as well as Miss Froy's covert receipt of critical spy stuff.

Iris and Miss Froy are of a like mind concerning the "gentleman" upstairs.
Miss Froy: "Some people have no consideration, which makes life more difficult."

Iris' first look at Gilbert.
Caftan Woman: "Sigh."

Iris uses her influence and money to get Gilbert kicked out of his room. Much to our heroine's distress, Gilbert pays Iris a visit demonstrating every intention of moving in bag and baggage. He is quite nonchalant in attitude, but obviously determined. Iris relents and calls the manager, reinstating Gilbert to his quarters.

Iris: "You're the most contemptible person I've ever met in my life!"
Gilbert: "Confidentially, I think you're a bit of a stinker too."

The next day on the train we get Gilbert's idea of sweet talk.

Gilbert: "What's the trouble?"
Iris: "If you must know something fell on my head."
Gilbert: "When, infancy?"

Oh, my!
The look on Gilbert's face when he discovers Iris is engaged.


Gilbert and Iris join forces against the enemy. Nothing bonds a couple like bashing a magician in the employ of foreign agents who kidnap sweet little old ladies.

More of Gilbert's sweet talk.

Gilbert: "Do you know why you fascinate me? I'll tell you. You've got two great qualities I always admired in father. You haven't any manners at all and you're always seeing things."

Gilbert, the hero! 

He's memorized the coded tune, helped Miss Froy to escape, and is now barreling down the track to safety. Gilbert is an amazing mix of qualities: good looks, a quick wit and foolhardy bravery. 

Oh, my!
The look on Gilbert's face when Iris jumps into a cab to hide from her fiance.

Like jam manufacturing heiress Iris Henderson, I found Gilbert irresistible. Personally, I fell sooner than our leading lady, but we must cut her some slack due to the concussion.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A FAVE MOVIE DAD: Constable Edmund Kockenlocker

The movies are filled with interesting and lovable characters, and quite a few of them happen to be dads. On this Father's Day here's a tribute to one of my all-time favourite movie dads.

Betty Hutton, William Demarest, Diana Lynn

Only a genius like Preston Sturges could spoof motherhood, apple pie and the flag in the middle of wartime and get away with it, but that is just what he did in 1944s The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (see also Hail the Conquering Hero).

Bona fide, paid up dues member of the Sturges stock company, William Demarest plays Constable Edmund Kockenlocker in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. Constable Kockenlocker is a man who goes through life in a constant state of apoplexy. Well, after all folks, he has two daughters. That's enough to drive any man around the bend.

Constable Kockenlocker's philosophy:  "Daughters. Phooey."

Trudy, the eldest played by Betty Hutton finds herself in the "family way". It seems she went to a party and there were soldiers and somebody said something about getting married, and the lemonade tasted funny. She can't remember the fellow. His name may have been Razkywatzky or something like it. This is all very distressing to Norval Jones played by Eddie Bracken. Noval has loved Trudy forever and he is certainly willing to help her out in her present difficulties. These difficulties get more complicated and more funny as the movie progresses.

Constable Kockenlocker's parenting skills are limited and basically encompass the ability to shout. The younger daughter, Emmy played by Diana Lynn, is a bright young thing with a facility for sarcasm that confounds dear old dad on one level, but seems to impress him on another.

 Dad Kockenlocker to Emmy: "Listen, Zipper-puss! Some day they're just gonna find your hair ribbon and an axe someplace. The mystery of Morgan's Creek."

Diana Lynn, William Demarest, Betty Hutton

Nonetheless, it must be noted that Constable Kockenlocker's love for his offspring knows no boundaries. Whatever he has to do to protect them and the fair name of Kockenlocker, it will be done. No man in no comedy, before or since, has ever suffered such indignities in the name of fatherhood!

Edmund the Annoyed: "The trouble with kids is they always figure they're smarter than their parents. Never stop to think if their old man could get by for 50 years and feed 'em and clothe 'em - he maybe had something up here to get by with. Things that seem like brain twisters to you might be very simple for him."

Seeing as this is a Preston Sturges comedy, we can't say that The Miracle of Morgan's Creek has a happy ending, or even that it has an ending. There is a satisfactory resolution, and space for the characters and the audience to breathe. We are then left to ponder the devotion of fathers and raise a glass in a Father's Day toast to Dad Kockenlocker.