Caftan Woman

Caftan Woman

Monday, December 14, 2009

Yummy

Clare's Black & White Squares
A delicious holiday treat

Grease 8 x 8 pan
Preheat oven to 325 F

Cream:
1/3 C butter
1 C white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Add:
3/4 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt


Divide mixture, adding 2 tbs cocoa to one half and 1/2 C cocoanut (I use medium shred) to the other.

Spread the chocolate base over the pan and top with the coconut. Bake for 30 to 40 (you know your own oven) minutes. Cool. Frost with your favourite chococlate frosting. Yummy!


AKA "Burke's Law Treats" because they're black & white and full of flakes.

Gene Barry
1919 - 2009

The recently departed Gene Barry, Tony nominated (La Cage Aux Folles) actor and singer, sci-fi hero (The War of the Worlds) and debonair television crimefighter (Bat Masterson, Burke's Law, The Name of the Game) also qualifies under today's title of "Yummy".


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Daddy


William Daniel Nolan
February 19, 1928 - December 12, 1986


The Middle

When I remember bygone days

I think how evening follows morn;

So many I loved were not yet dead,

So many I love were not yet born.


- Ogden Nash


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Some thoughts of the Season - blogathon season

It's been over a week now, but I'm having trouble letting go of the Boris Karloff blogathon. Everything around me is all Boris, all the time. It being that time of year I got to thinking of what a wonderful Ebenezer Scrooge he would have been. Seymour Hicks? Alastair Sim? Ha! Yes, I said "ha!" (with an exclamation mark). Boris could give us quite the cold and forbidding man of finance. Boy, could he give us cold and forbidding. And could he give us the warm and fuzzy old Scrooge of the reclamation? There would be no one warmer or fuzzier! However, Karloff could also be a perfect Marley's ghost. After all, we have seen him come back from the dead and fix us with a baleful stare. Oooh, that baleful stare. On the other hand, he could give us a most genial Ghost of Christmas Present. Karloff as everybody in A Christmas Carol! I believe Tiny Tim was not outside his talents.


This time of year is also a prime time for mysteries, particular mysteries shrouded in fog and set in Victorian England. Karloff as Holmes? Well, of course, at the time he might have been considered for the screen the role was most felicitously taken over by Basil Rathbone and no matter how many Holmes there have been or will be, it is Rathbone's voice I hear when I read Conan Doyle or any of the countless pastiches and homages. But if Boris wearied of touring in Arsenic and Old Lace, surely a revival of William Gillette's Holmes would have proven popular. If not S. Holmes, then perhaps a most diabolical Moriarty or Col. Sebastian Moran might have been fun.

Happy thoughts in the alternate casting line perhaps fueled by too much or too little Christmas cheer.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Decorating with Boris

A relatively unexplored area of decorating is the selection and placement of movie posters. Posters reflect a persons's taste and passion. While some posters may only be purchased because their shape and size covers imperfections in a wall, some may take on the aura of family portraits.

This poster adorns my kitchen bringing a touch of mystery and culture to the centre of the household.

As I spent a joyful couple of hours going through the wares of a shop it occurred to me that I - one of the world's noted Charlie Chan fans - I did not have a Charlie Chan poster among my collection. I turned to the vendor's assistant and, barely able to contain the excited anticipation from my voice, asked "Do you have Charlie Chan at the Opera"? "Why?" he responded. "What's so hot about Charlie Chan at the Opera?" Taken aback may accurately describe my reaction to his query, but it was more than that. I was shocked. It's always surprising when the people who sell these treasures aren't as committed to the items as the customer. Where, I wondered, oh, where was that nice teenage girl who was here a couple of months ago? We had rhapsodised for a good half hour on Im-Ho-Tep.

"Perhaps," I responded politely, yet coldly, "if I used the full title card you will realize the folly of your question. I am speaking of Warner Oland vs. Boris Karloff in Charlie Chan at the Opera." Unimpressed, the lackey pointed in a vague direction. "Yeah, that's here somewhere."

Boris Karloff (Gravelle) and Warner Oland (Chan)

I love a mystery and a backstage mystery is something special. When that backstage is at an opera house - well, it just doesn't get any better. Boris is a sympathetic and confused mad man as opera star Gravelle. Is he seeking vengeance or justice? His presence as a character and as a star brings an added oomph to this highlight of the Chan series. Maurice Cass as Mr. Arnold has the immortal line: "I'm stage manager here and this opera's going on tonight even if Frankenstein walks in." As a child catching this movie on the late show my heart ached for poor misunderstood Gravelle. As an adult with box sets, it is a marvelous trip down memory lane. Somewhere along the line I've almost convinced myself I must have seen Oscar Levant's Carnival on PBS. Why are so many soprano characters named Lenore or Leonora?


A recent purchase.

The Mummy has proven a more problematic decorating item. While Jack Pierce's artistry is not to be denied, when one lives with others one must be aware that not everyone has the same sensibilities. I have found that placement in a dimly lit area of the house has worked well. A hallway or stairway leading to the basement. It adds to the creepiness while also affording an out for those who want to avoid its presence.


Ardeth Bey

On the other hand, there doesn't seem to be a place where Ardeth Bey is welcome. I'm considering the corner of a window in place of a "this property protected by such-and-such alarm company" sticker.

The Monster

Fortunately, I have found that Frankenstein's Monster is good to go anywhere. He's not just for Hallowe'en. The perfect fashion accessory for T-shirts, tote bags, handbags, backpacks and school lunch bags. A companionable face in a nursery. A sympathetic one next to the bathroom mirror. He makes a great conversation piece when framed and set among pictures of school children.

Of course, this time of year the Grinch is de rigueur. A tree ornament is a nice subtle touch. Perhaps a stuffed Grinch glowering from the corner. Husbands make a fine substitute. The folks three doors down have a large inflatable Grinch that sits atop their garage to the delight of the neighbourhood. The odd elf may get toppled over before the 25th of December, but nobody messes with the Grinch.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Princess and the Late Bloomer

Happy birthday to you.
Right back at ya'.



William (Teutonic for protector) meets Sara (Hebrew for princess). It's not an exceedingly rare occurence, but it is a lovely serendipitous one when father and daughter share a birthday. Born in 1887, Boris Karloff would meet his daughter in 1938 when he was 51 years old. Talk about your late bloomer!

Well, that's the way it is with the Sagittarius. They love their independence. They love to learn, valuing knowledge above all else. Those, like Sara and her dad, born on the cusp of Scorpio and Sagitarius have a stubborn streak that simply won't let them give up on a dream or an idea.

Actors are a little crazy to begin with. Surely the diplomatic career Bill Pratt's family had mapped out for him would have appealed to his intellectual curiosity and his interest in all sorts of people. However, when the theatre bug bites there is no known cure. Joining a Canadian troupe, it would be a long tough road to success, but it's unlikely Boris even looked at it from that point of view. Living the life of his own choosing probably made him feel like a success. You can spot him as an Indian in The Last of the Mohicans from 1920. The Sagittarius will work determinedly on any project. A determined actor would grab hold of Frankenstein's Monster and create a character that transcends his own lifetime. Surely an unimagined success worth the cost.

Whatever the role, Boris Karloff is a part of our lives. Do you stay up late on Hallowe'en to watch The Mummy for the thousandth time? Does your obsessive-about-his-movies (where does he get it?) autistic son watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas until it's coming out your pores? Are you convinced no one else should ever attempt to narrate Peter and the Wolf?

As Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) once opined on The Honeymooners: "Boris Karloff singing and dancing on The Red Skelton Show - that's not the real Boris Karloff. Frankenstein - now, that's the real Boris Karloff." The audience laughed then and laugh now because we appreciate the actor who created the characters, along with appreciating the characters who took on a life of their own.


The Actor

Sara has said in interviews that her father could point with pride and joy to the many facets of career, and as fans may well note, he always brought a level of professionalism to every project. Sometimes enjoying the same level of commitment from his creative comrades and sometimes dragging the rest of them along with him. Personal challenges are bread and butter to the Sagittarius.

Her Highness

Sara Karloff exhibits those traits of leadership and enthusiasm. As a youngster, she may not have been aware of her father's cinematic legacy, but as an adult she has resourcefully and adventurously kept her father's name and work in the spotlight with her website and appearances at fan conventions. Next autumn on October 23rd, Sara is involved in a mystery cruise abord the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's "Explorer of the Seas". Wouldn't you want to be the one to save her from a stalker?

Sara is a special torch bearer to fans. Fans who acknowledge that as long as film, television and recordings live - as long as imagination flourishes, Boris Karloff is an actor for the ages.

Someone else's birthday - October, 2008


For me?
Children are so cynical these days.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Proud Day!


Stan and Ollie. The Boys. Part of the family. Here in Babes in Toyland aka March of the Wooden Soldiers from 1937 Stan brings back his famous finger wiggle which continually confounds Oliver.



Janet (she of the alien-like long flute playing fingers) is a master at that finger wiggle. Henry Armetta in The Devil's Brother would be so jealous! Younger brother Gavin faces many challenges with his diagnosis of autism/developmental delay. In his younger years when life would get him down, Janet would amaze and calm him with a display of the famous finger wiggle. It was practically guaranteed to cheer the lad.

Dateline: Saturday, November 7, 2009 Gavin stood in the middle of the living room and placed his hands together. He stood in front of a mirror and - yes - he, Gavin himself, he performed the finger wiggle. Mommy cheered. Mommy hugged him too tight. Gavin blushed and grinned that grin that takes up his whole face. I rushed him to Janet. "Show Janet what you can do!" Again, the feat was greets with cheers and hugs, followed by more blushing and grinning.

Has there ever been a more blog-worthy, classic movie related moment? Well, not in this family. I think it may well trump seeing Ernest Borgnine getting whooped by One-arm Macreedy on the big screen.

Thanks, Ollie. Thank you, Stan.

Friday, October 30, 2009

My first Hallowe'en

Probably 1960. Kid sister Paula is creeped out by the...the...uh, the...well, let's call it a Goblin.

My mother bundled me up in every warm item of clothing I had, topped it with a nightgown and gave me a mask. I don't think there was a plan other than that I shouldn't catch cold. We went trick or treating from our Nana Nolan's house, and all of the neighbours pretended they didn't know who I was. Behind that mask I thought they were being rather silly at first. As houses went by though I was quite taken with the thought that perhaps they really didn't know it was me. I was forgetting that Mommy was waiting for me on the sidewalk.

Nowadays I love handing out the candies and pretending to be frightened of the small, confused children and complimenting the more gory big kids. I'll be disappointed if we have too much candy left.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hollywood to Broadway to Hollywood trivia

JANIS PAIGE
Donna Mae Tjaden, born September 16, 1922

Talented and lovely Janis Paige has starred in film (One Sunday Afternoon, Silk Stockings), Broadway (Remains to be Seen, The Pajama Game), television (Wagon Train, All in the Family) and toured (Gypsy, Mame). Did you see her on the Tony's a couple of years ago? Still a looker!

DORIS DAY
Doris Mary Ann Von Kapplehoff, born April 3, 1922

Talented and lovely Doris Day is a recording star (Sentimental Journey, Que Sera Sera), a movie star (Calamity Jane, Pillow Talk) and a television star (The Doris Day Show). Happy in retirement she devotes her time to animal protection.

It's been a while since we've traversed the twisted trivia trail.

In 1948 Janis Paige was the leading lady in a fun bit of fluff for Warner Brothers entitled Romance on the High Seas. The movie marked big band singing sensation Doris Day's introduction to movie goers. The girl was a hit.



JANIS PAIGE and JOHN RAITT

In 1954 Janis Paige had a major hit starring as Babe Williams in The Pajama Game on Broadway. T'was ever thus that Hollywood studios were always afeared that a "name" in the theatre would not translate into box office.



DORIS DAY & JOHN RAITT

So, the casting round went around. If Frank Sinatra had said "yes" to The Pajama Game then Janis would be brought back to Hollywood. Frank said "no". Box office gold Doris said "yes" and Broadway leading man Raitt, and most of the original cast, appeared in the appealing 1957 film.


It's 1960 and Doris is still filmgoers favourite leading lady. In Please Don't Eat the Daisies Doris is married to theatre critic David Niven and their lives are turned upside down by a move to the suburbs and a wiley and attractive stage star. Who else could play that scene stealing part, but lovely and talented Janis Paige?

So goes the merry-go-round of entertainment.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Haiku is in my movie loving blood



The road to Lordsburg

The only road for the Kid

The road to vengeance


Thursday, September 24, 2009

More Hollywood Haiku




The gathered suspects

tremble 'neath Inspector's glare

"You are murderer"

















Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Boys


Stan and Oliver

The magic shadow dances

The laughter lives on


Friday, September 4, 2009

For Your Consideration: Donald Meek

Donald Meek
July 14, 1878 or 1880 - November 18, 1946

Next up in my look at character actors of classic Hollywood and the roles that have won them loyal fans, but not awards, is Donald Meek.

T.S. Eliot's, Gus, the Theatre Cat has nothing on Glasgow born Meek. Do you recall how it was bragged that Gus "acted with Irving, he acted with Tree"? Well, so did Meek - with Sir Henry Irving that is, as a child actor in Britain. Before he was out of his teens however, Donald Meek relocated to the United States. In 1998 the young man was a soldier fighting in the Spanish-American War. I have not read that he met that famous Roughrider Teddy Roosevelt, but he did meet up with Yellow Fever and, as a consequence, lost his hair. My good friend and noted Toronto thespian, Ben Gans, has told me that the secret to his success is a bald head. Although I found no such happy effect when I reluctantly sported the look, it did prove fortunate for Meek's road as a character actor/star. He trouped the continent for over 15 years before his first Broadway role in 1917 and appeared in 20 plays from that time until 1932.


The Toast of New York, 1937

Two of these gentlemen came across the pond as comedic acrobats. Hint: not the two in the middle.

Donald Meek portrayed the curmudgeonly criminologist, Dr. Crabtree, an S.S. Van Dine (Philo Vance) creation, in 11 movie shorts in 1931 and 1932. His co-hort in criminal deduction was Inspector Carr played by John Hamilton (Perry White, The Adventures of Superman). Interesting little puzzles for fans, the Crabtree and Carr flicks often show up on TCM at odd hours. Look for such titles as The Side Show Mystery, Murder in the Pullman and The Symphony Murder Case.

Meek would appear in several movies as crackpots, teachers, nervous nellies, flat out loons and villains for the next 15 years. He's a stubborn grandfather in 1936's Pennies from Heaven starring and produced by Bing Crosby. Also in 1936, Meek is the caretaker of a French palace/museum who sees ghosts in Love on the Run. In 1941's Come Live With Me he teaches down-on-his-luck writer Jimmy Stewart the fine art of being a bum. In 1939's Nick Carter, Master Detective starring Walter Pidgeon, Meek plays a detective crazy fellow known as Bartholomew, the bee man. He is a delight to watch as he deftly steals the movie and helps nab the baddies. I absolutely adore him as the judge in 1945's State Fair who gets happily pickled on Mrs. Frake's mincemeat.

You Can't Take It With You, 1938
Poppins: "The die is cast. I'm a lily!"

Shy Mr. Poppins who casts his lot with the easy-going Sycamore family in Frank Capra and Robert Riskin's Academy Award winning adaption of Kaufman and Hart's Broadway success is probably the sort of role most associated with Donald Meek.

"If we are ever to have law and order in the west all the railroad tycoons must be taken out and shot down like dogs!"

Meek's villainy knows no bounds as McCoy the nasty head of the nasty railroad who drives those poor James boys into a life of lawlessness in Henry King's 1939 Technicolor western Jesse James. He would repeat the role in 1940s The Return of Frank James.


Mr. Peacock tries to be heard.

It is for another western from that year, John Ford's exquisite Stagecoach that I feel Donald Meek should have received peer recognition. Mr. Peacock is a soft-spoken whiskey salesman often overlooked by his fellows. He is a man of sense and of heart. He is respectful of the ladies (both of them), solicitous of the alcoholic Doc and brave in the face of danger. Stagecoach boasts a fine ensemble cast and an Academy Award winner in Thomas Mitchell, but I find myself on repeat viewings drawn again and again to watching the actions through the eyes of Mr. Hay...sorry, Mr. Peacock.

Along with Stagecoach, Donald Meek stole scenes for John Ford in 1935's The Informer and The Whole Town's Talking and 1939's Young Mr. Lincoln.

A valued player who worked up until his death at the age of 68, Donald Meek had an interesting career, one wife named Belle Walken, one posthumous star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, and legions of fans.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

King of Pops!

Erich Kunzel
1935 - 2009

Internationally known and renowned conductor Erich Kunzel's life was taken by cancer. His legacy includes a 50 year career, leader of the Cincinnati Pops since 1966, 10 million recordings sold since 1977, Billboard's Classical Crossover performer four years running, the National Medal of Arts (2006) and induction into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame (2009).

Through the years I have greatly enjoyed Maestro Kunzel's recordings, television performances and appearances with the Toronto Pops at Roy Thomson Hall. He was a vibrant and caring professional who imparted joy to the audience.

My favourite part of Erich Kunzel's biography as it appeared in Playbills reads:

He and his wife, Brunhilde, live in Swans Island, Maine and Naples Florida. They frequently take to the water in their 44-foot Hinckley jet cruiser, "Pops".

It gives me the image of someone who loved and lived, and someone who would go on forever.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

That's cold...


...and funny!

Sorry to hear that Coors is pulling this ad from their "colder than" series. Toronto folks can chuckle at themselves - honestly, we can!

Monday, August 10, 2009

For Your Consideration: Joseph Calleia

A bust of Malta's favourite son in front of his birthplace.
Project intiated in 2005 by 17 year old fan Eman Bonnici.

Joseph Calleia
August 4, 1897 - October 31, 1975

Caftan Woman's dilemma: in my series "For Your Consideration" I want to spotlight one special performance of the wonderful character actors of Hollywood's Golden age which was overlooked at award season. However, I cannot settle on the "one" for Joseph Calleia. I will put my three before you - you decide.

Guiseppe Maria Spurrin-Calleja was born and died in beautiful Malta. Wouldn't you like to see a movie whose main character left home as a teenager, a singer and composer who sang in the Cafes and Music Halls of Europe? What an exciting time!

As it comes to all with greasepaint in their veins, Calleia went to Broadway in 1926. For the next ten years he found great success on the Great White Way. His first play was Broadway by Philip Dunning and George Abbot, also featuring Millard Mitchell and Lee Tracy. Next he played reporter Kruger in Hecht & MacArthur's The Front Page. Osgoode Perkins was Walter Burns and Lee Tracy played Hildy Johnson. His next play was the prison hit The Last Mile which brought Spencer Tracy to prominence. In the 1930 adaption of Vicki Baum's Grand Hotel Calleia played the chauffeur and was the general stage manager. You might like to know that Sam Jaffe played Krigelein, Sig Ruman was Preizig and Albert Dekker played the Baron. Next up was the comedy Honeymoon directed by Thomas Mitchell, followed by Ten Minute Alibi and another George Abbot play, Small Miracle. During this time Calleia had featured roles in a couple of New York produced pictures and those itchy feet sent him to Hollywood.

Sinister types were the order of the day in After the Thin Man, Juarez, Algiers (Critic's Award), Marie Antoinette, My Little Chickadee and The Glass Key. Excellent roles followed in For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Cross of Lorraine and Gilda. And guess who played Papa Anthony in The Caddy, and could probably give Dean Martin a run for his money with That's Amore? In 1936 Calleia co-wrote with director William Wellman, The Robin Hood of El Dorado starring Warner Baxter as Joaquin Murrietta.



C. Aubrey Smith, Joseph Calleia
A plane trip to Hell in Five Came Back

The first of the roles that failed to receive an Academy nod, and confounds my decision, is that of Vasquez, the revolutionary, in Five Came Back directed by John Farrow. Of course, 1939 being the stellar year that it was we can forgive any nominating committees. This exciting movie which still packs a punch is a tale of survival in a South American jungle after a plane crash. It has a wonderful ensemble cast with Chester Morris, Lucille Ball, Wendy Barrie, C. Aubrey Smith, Elisabeth Risdon, Kent Smith, Allen Jenkins and John Carradine. Vasquez is a man on his way to prison and execution. He finds unexpected freedom and purpose in the circumstances. He is the heartbreaking hero who touches every viewer of this movie.


Frank Puglia, Joseph Calleia, John Qualen
Buldeo, the Storyteller
Korda's Jungle Book, 1942

The 1942 version of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book starring Sabu as Mowgli is a Technicolor delight. One of its greatest delights is the old man who tells the fantastic story of the boy raised by wolves and the lost city of gold. When that old man is revealed to have been a main player in the story, the sneaking and duplicitous Buldeo, it is also revealed that the audience has been treated to a tour de force from Joseph Calleia.


Pete Menzies
Touch of Evil, 1958

Orson Welles wanted to work with Joseph Calleia and when they did, it proved a real winner. Touch of Evil is a remarkably audacious film noir treat. In the midst of the lies, the emotions and the wild ride of a story is Calleia's Pete Menzies - a good cop, a loyal friend and an honourable man. His performance is the rock that makes all others possible and plausible. For shame on the Academy for not recognizing Calleia.

Joseph Calleia made more fine movies including Disney's A Light in the Forest, John Wayne's The Alamo and the gangster favourite Johnny Cool before retiring to Malta in 1964. I have read that Mr. Calleia claimed ailing health when declining Francis Ford Coppola's request to play Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, but I like to think he was enjoying his retirement too much to return to Hollywood.




Malta issued two stamps featuring Joseph Calleia in 1997. Movie fans rejoice when a dvd issue features another performance of this favourite actor from the screen's golden era.






Thursday, August 6, 2009

For Your Consideration: Ward Bond

Ward Bond
April 9, 1903 - November 5, 1960

Caftan Woman has been watching movies again, and again she has found a performance overlooked at Award time. This time back in 1952 by prolific character actor Ward Bond.

Nebraska born Bond was attending the University of Southern California when he and a fellow footballer and lifetime friend, John Wayne, spent some larking time at Fox Studios. John Ford was doing a football picture and hired the kids. They worked on Salute starring George O'Brien and worked props. Bond certainly had a talent for acting. You cannot watch classic movies without stumbling across Ward Bond in roles big and small. He's the bus driver in It Happened One Night, the doorman in Dead End, an officer in Gone With the Wind. He's cop and thug, hero and coward - he's everywhere.

Many of his best roles were in John Ford movies. Apparently he was a favourite whipping boy of the curmudgeonly director, but thick-skinned enough to do some fine work including the repentant "Yank" in The Long Voyage Home, the gallant Sergeant Major O'Rourke in Fort Apache, the comic Father Lonergan in The Quiet Man, the trustworthy Rev. Clayton in The Searchers and director "John Dodge" in The Wings of Eagles.


Cagney, Powell, Fonda, Bond & Lemmon
The cast of Mister Roberts relaxes.
Who wants to be a fly on the wall?

Bond seems able to give any script its due whether it be the cowardly marshal in Frontier Marshal, the villainous Honey Bragg in Canyon Passage or that "family man", Bert the cop in It's a Wonderful Life.

The outstanding role of his career, for me, is in Nicholas Ray's On Dangerous Ground. Robert Ryan stars as an embittered police officer driven to his breaking point. Ordered off the mean city streets to the country in pursuit of a killer, he finds redemption. Bond plays Walter Brent, the father of a murdered girl. Grieving for his loss and suspicious of the cops, he tags along in the hunt for his daughter's murderer. He is looking for vengeance and what he finds gives him no solace. Bond is heartbreaking in this movie and his performance made me realize that I have spent most of my life taking him for granted. It seems his peers did as well by overlooking the performance.

Robert Ryan, Ward Bond
On Dangerous Ground

After all his years as a featured player in movies, Ward Bond achieved true stardom as the star of Wagon Train. Major Seth Adams is an image many viewers recall fondly. His last film role was fittingly, as John Wayne's friend, in Rio Bravo. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1960. Ward Bond was married twice. He was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 2001. A park was named in his honour in his hometown of Benkleman, Nebraska.

My late father used to say that if he saw Ward Bond's name in the credits there was a good chance he would enjoy the movie. When I started seriously introducing my daughter to classic movies she told me she'd only watch if Ward Bond was in it. Gotcha! He's in everything!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

For Your Consideration: Josephine Hutchinson

Josephine Hutchinson
October 12, 1903 - June 4, 1993

Once again, Caftan Woman's blog highlights a performance that was overlooked by the Academy during Hollywood's Golden Age. Fortunately, the work lasts for us to enjoy today.

Seattle born Hutchinson was an actress with a strong theatrical background before signing with Warner Brothers in 1934. She appeared in 22 plays between 1925 and 1933 including Alice in Wonderland (Alice), Peter Pan (Wendy), Twelfth Night, Hedda Gabbler, The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull and Camille. Not a conventional leading lady, but more than a standard character actress Hollywood found it difficult to pigeon-hole the talented actress.

Some of her well-remembered titles include The Story of Louis Pasteur (1935) opposite Paul Muni, Ruby Gentry (1952), Miracle in the Rain (1956), North by Northwest (1959) as the phoney ambassador's phoney wife and Widow Douglas in Michael Curtiz' The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960). A particular favourite of Ms. Hutchinson's was Son of Frankenstein (1939) for the good humour and cameraderie of her co-stars, Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone and Bela Lugosi.

Josephine Hutchinson was also featured in many classic television episodes including four episodes of Perry Mason, The Twilight Zone's "I Sing the Body Electric", Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie. She created the role of Mamie Baldwin in Christmas StoThe Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971) which became the popular series The Waltons. Dorothy Stickney played her sister Emily. The Baldwin sisters were so generous by sharing their late Papa's "recipe". On the series the roles were played by Helen Kleeb and Meg Jenkins.


In Joseph Mankiewicz's prototype noir of 1946 Somewhere in the Night Josephine Hutchinson gave one of those memorable performances that deserved much more recognition from her peers. A war veteran with amnesia played by John Hodiak desperately searches for the clues to the man he is and the man others claim him to be. The trail leads to Elizabeth Conroy played by Hutchinson. She is a lonely woman living in a dream world brought about by trauma equal to our hero. Does she know him? What secrets are locked in her mind? It is a heartbreakingly moving and touching performance that in lesser hands could have been a dotty Miss Faversham type. Instead, the audience is left wondering about this character and hoping for her peace and sanity. Brava, Ms. Hutchinson.