Monday, March 16, 2015

The Luck of the Irish Blog O'Thon: George Brent stars in Out of the Blue (1947)


George Brent as Arthur Earthleigh
Oliver Jensen:  "Arthur Earthleigh.  It isn't even a name, it's a lisp."

Those darlin' girls of Silver Scenes are hosting a wee bit of a St. Paddy's Day celebration with The Luck of the Irish Blog O' Thon running from March 15 to 17.

I feel a connection to folks who share the family name of Nolan that extends to the likes of Jeanette and Kathleen and Lloyd and Bob and George.  George?  Yes, George.  The charmingly handsome lad with the winning smile and over 100 movie and television credits under the name of George Brent was actually born George Brendan Nolan in Shannonbridge, Ireland in 1899.  Orphaned at age 11, caught up in "the Troubles" and an alumni of the Abbey Theatre, George Brent made his mark in Hollywood as leading man to the greatest leading ladies of Hollywood's greatest era, Barbara Stanwyck (5 pictures), Bette Davis (11 pictures), wife Ruth Chatterton (4 pictures), Merle Oberon (2 pictures), Claudette Colbert (2 pictures), Myrna Loy (2 pictures) and one movie with wife Ann Sheridan. Among "cousin" George's best pictures are 42nd Street, Baby Face, The Rains Came, 'Til We Meet Again (a lovely remake of One Way Passage), The Spiral Staircase and Tomorrow is Forever.

How do you prefer your George Brent?  In a moving melodrama, a tidy B crime picture, an historical romance, a pre-code shocker, a comedy?  I like it when George gets to exercise his comedy chops as in Snowed Under.  Of course, he had a lovely, sly way of inserting a bit of wit into all the appropriate roles, but rarely was he given the chance to to be a flat out goof.  1947s Out of the Blue provides George Brent with an opportunity to display all of his Irish humour; the sarcasm, the love of the absurd and the offhand way of treating the outlandish as commonplace.

Julia Dean, George Brent, Elizabeth Patterson, Richard Lane, Carole Landis

The story by Laura author Vera Caspary concerns a group of Greenwich Village apartment neighbours, bedeviled by the heat and frightened by the news of a serial killer at large.  A put-upon husband steps out on his nagging wife and finds himself with a body to hide and the prime suspect in a murder.  Prime noir territory, wouldn't you say?  This story, however, is played for laughs and the director, Leigh Jason, was noted for such comedy-mystery stories as exemplified by The Mad Miss Manton (Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda), Wise Girl (Miriam Hopkins, Ray Milland) and Dangerous Blondes (Evelyn Keyes, Allyn Joslyn).

George Brent, Carole Landis

Nothing that happens in the apartment complex goes unnoticed by a couple of maiden ladies played by Elizabeth Patterson (Intruder in the Dust) and Julia Dean (The Curse of the Cat People).  From the vantage point of their terrace they can focus all their attention on the goings on on the terraces of the 10th floor.  One is occupied by a Bohemian playboy artist David Gelleo played by Turhan Bey (Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves) and his prize-winning German Shepherd, Rabelais played by Flame.  His next door neighbours are Arthur and Mae Earthleigh.  The hapless Arthur is completely under the thumb of the domineering Mae.  Heartthrob George Brent plays Arthur and glamourous Carole Landis (I Wake Up Screaming) is the unpleasant spouse.

Two more of Hollywood's glamourous leading ladies are thrown into the mix when debutant Deborah Tyler played by Virginia Mayo (White Heat) proposes to our artist friend that his Rabelais would be a perfect match for her own prize-winning Shepherd.  Her proposition gives David other ideas, more human in nature.  David is not the only one with romance on his mind.  Mae Earthleigh is out of town for the weekend and Arthur is on the loose and ready to howl.  At a local tavern he meets professional interior decorator and amateur souse Olive Jensen played by Ann Dvorak (Three on a Match).  Arthur flirts with Olive.  Arthur is not very good at flirting, but Olive thinks he's cute and happily returns to his abode where disapproving pictures of Mae squelch any starry-eyed notions.


Ann Dvorak, George Brent

The sorts of mishaps that only happen in screwball comedies start happening to Arthur Earthleigh.  He thinks he has gotten rid of Olive, but she is passed out in the guest room.  Olive had told Arthur about her bad ticker and her propensity for "popping off", but Arthur does not realize the truth of her statement.  An unconscious Olive appears to Arthur to be a dead Olive.  He places the body on David's terrace, more in fear of Mae than of any official condemnation.  Arthur's action compounds an ongoing feud with David over Rabelais.  In the midst of his burgeoning romance with Deborah, David uses Olive in a scheme to get even with Arthur.  Olive is quite amenable to David's plans, after all, she gave Arthur the best years of her life!

By now you have the idea that our leading actors are playing characters well removed from their usual fare and carrying it off beautifully.  Turhan Bey a sophisticate, Carole Landis a nag and Virginia Mayo the woman with class.  Mayo, who played her fair share of molls and dames is absolutely adorable in a scene where her dainty deb pretends to be a crook.  George Brent is a riot as a man buffeted by fate.  He takes one step forward in ill-conceived shenanigans and always winds up two steps back.  Ann Dvorak takes the comedy crown as Olive Jenson.  Olive has no impulse control whatsoever and her stream-of-consciousness ramblings are the highlight of a very funny screenplay.

An early release from Eagle-Lion, this comedy has a lot going for it, but has yet to achieve the acclaim that is attached to some of the studio's film-noir of that era like T-Men or Raw Deal.  To my comic ear the screenplay is that good that at one of the major studios with bigger names Out of the Blue might be looked upon as one of screwball comedies last great hurrahs.  As it stands now, it is a gem awaiting discovery, especially for the delightful Dvorak and goofy cousin George.


 

12 comments:

  1. The only Brent movie that comes to mind for me at the moment is 'My Reputation,' and now that I think of it, he brings some light humor to an otherwise dramatic movie. I always thought of him as a dramatic actor, but it's not too surprising to see he did comedy as well.

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    1. I always see a twinkle in George's eye. Working with such dramatic divas I think would require a fellow to keep a sense of humour.

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    2. Today is his birthday. Always loved him. Killed him off in Jezebel, The Old Maid, and Spiril Staircase, great thriller, scared when I first saw it as a youngster. Great color film with Olivia De Haviland as a logger.

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    3. Today is his birthday. Always loved him. Killed him off in Jezebel, The Old Maid, and Spiril Staircase, great thriller, scared when I first saw it as a youngster. Great color film with Olivia De Haviland as a logger.

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  2. My favorites are The Gay Sisters, The Great Lie and (can't think of title) he was a doctor and Bette Davis was dying of a brain tumor. Tremendous performances!! Love him!!!

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    1. "Dark Victory" is the title that momentarily escaped you. Another top-flight picture.

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  3. Oh gosh, this film sounds good! I love comedy-mysteries. George Brent was great in that Irish classic "The Fighting 69th", but like my friend Barbara, I'm at odds sometimes at whether to consider him a stud or a dud. Truth is, I think he only seems wooden when he is playing overly serious roles and inwardly he favored comedies. So this film will definitely be put on our to-see list ( along with Snowed Under )! Thanks for a grand entry in the blog o'thon, and Happy St.Pat's Day you Irish gal!

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    1. The best of the day to you both! George is at his best when his inner Irish clown is able to come to the fore.

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  4. Ah, a new discovery! I've never seen this one, but thanks for pointing the way. I agree Brent always had a comic charm in reserve and it's too bad he wasn't used in more comedies.

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    1. "Out of the Blue" is a flat out hoot! Line this up for an Ann Dvorak double bill with "Our Very Own" and you'll want to give her all the awards they ever invented.

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  5. Wow, this was a fast masterclass on George Brent. I didn't know tthat a) he was Irish and b) he was married to Ruth Chatterton and Ann Sheridan!
    Thanks for the always kind comments!

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    1. We learn from each other all the time.

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