Caftan Woman

Caftan Woman

Monday, February 27, 2017

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR MARCH ON TCM


Quality Street
Where a gentleman passerby is an event.



Miss Phoebe expects an offer of marriage.
Katharine Hepburn, Franchot Tone

The year is 1805 and the dashing Dr. Brown has been paying attentions to Miss Phoebe Throssel much to the pleasure and jealousy of the maiden Georgian ladies of the neighbourhood. Miss Phoebe and her older sister Miss Susan are in high hopes of the dashing Dr. Brown making an offer. After all, he did say he had something of importance with which to speak to Miss Phoebe this afternoon. Patty, the household maid even ceases visiting with the local Recruiting Sergeant to usher the dashing Dr. Brown into the garden with great haste. Alas, the news from the dashing Dr. Brown is not as wished by the Throssel sisters. The dashing Dr. Brown has followed the clarion call of the Recruiting Sergeant and, perhaps overcome with news of Nelson's victory at Trafalgar, has joined the cause of King and Country.



Miss Phoebe altered by time.
Katharine Hepburn, Franchot Tone

The year is 1815, King George III is holding unto his crown, but the Little Corporal's ambitions have been vanquished at Waterloo. The dashing Captain Brown is returning to Quality Street. He will find the Throssel household and the inhabits within, with the exception of Patty, sadly altered. Ten years of running a school have taken the ringlets from Miss Phoebe's hair and the weariness of her lot weighs on that face once so beloved. This reaction Miss Phoebe can see in the dashing Captain Brown's face which both saddens and annoys her. Why is it that 30 is so much older than 29?



Miss Livvy makes her entrance.
Cora Witherspoon, Fay Bainter, Katharine Hepburn

Attempting to prove something to herself, Miss Phoebe dons her finest gown and arranges her hairstyle as of old. She is young again and dances around the parlour. The dashing Captain Brown, as a close friend of the family, has returned with cards for an evening's ball and happens upon the rejuvenated Miss Phoebe. He begs the young woman's pardon and remarks on the resemblance to his old friend Miss Phoebe. A flustered Miss Phoebe easily falls into the housemaid Patty's announcement that this is Miss Phoebe's niece, Miss Livvy. The dashing Captain Brown escorts Miss Livvy to the ball where she is an immediate hit with two debonair Lieutenants. The dashing Captain Brown gallantly overlooks Miss Livvy's allusions to his grey hairs and age.



The Sisters Willoughby on the job.

Miss Phoebe keeps up the Miss Livvy pretense after the night of the ball for two reasons. The first is that she enjoys being young, being lively and being a flirt unconstrained by the society of Quality Street. The second is that she intends to get an offer from the dashing Captain Brown and laugh in his face. Three gossipy neighbours, the Willoughby sisters, are an obstacle to the success of Miss Phoebe's plan. Never having heard mention of a niece previously and never having seen Miss Phoebe and Miss Livvy together, they are suspicious and set out to prove their suspicions.



Patty and her confused beau.
Cora Witherspoon, Eric Blore

Has the dashing Captain Brown fallen for Miss Livvy? Will he make that offer? How will Miss Phoebe react or, rather, Miss Livvy? Will she be able to keep her characters straight? What about the poor Recruiting Sergeant? The household maid Patty has enlisted him in a plan to maintain the secret, but he can't figure out what, precisely, is the secret.



Ellaline Terriss, Seymour Hicks
Quality Street

These are the questions leading up to the finale of James M. Barrie's Quality Street which was his first great theatrical success. The play premiered on Broadway in 1901 enjoying only a scant 64 night run. Certainly not a flop, but not the roaring success it would have when it opened in London in 1902 starring the married team of Ellaline Terris and Seymour Hicks (Scrooge). The show was a sensation, running for 459 performances. Several revivals on both sides of the Atlantic followed and a musical version Phoebe of Quality Street was produced by the Schuberts in 1921 with Max Steiner as the musical director.

Barrie's comedy-of-manners is a masterful play set in the early 19th century. The formal and stylized language of its characters is expansive enough to allow for much wit and many truths about how people cope with their stations in life. Miss Susan has resigned herself to the life of an old maid. The household maid Patty still holds out hope for a sweetheart despite lowly station and the fact that she is not "handsome".  Miss Phoebe wants to kick over the traces and have her revenge despite the constraints of society.




Sidney Franklin directed a 1927 film version of Quality Street starring Marion Davies and Conrad Nagel. A 1949 television version on The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse starred Marsha Hunt and Alfred Drake.



Costume sketch, Walter Plunkett

George Stevens directed the 1937 film version of the play at RKO. He was assisted in creating the appropriate feel for Quality Street by costumer Walter Plunkett, set decorator Hobe Erwin, cinematographer Robert De Grasse and Roy Webb's Oscar nominated score.



The Sisters Throssel
Fay Bainter, Katharine Hepburn

The exemplary ensemble beautifully interpreted the style of the play. Katharine Hepburn as Miss Phoebe/Miss Livvy is touching and funny as both characters. We understand immediately the softness of her heart and the steel in her backbone. Fay Bainter is adorable as the timid Miss Susan, placing her lost hopes of happiness on those of her sister. George Stevens would direct both actresses later in Woman of the Year starring Katharine Hepburn as an independent journalist and Fay Bainter her feminist mentor/role model.



Young Joan Fontaine takes her moment.

Franchot Tone is the dashing Captain Brown and this thoughtful and intelligent actor portrays the charms of the character while also subtly conveying the nuances of the script. The comic second leads Cora Witherspoon as Patty and Eric Blore as the Recruiting Sergeant are a joy. The Sisters Willoughby are our laughable villains, led by the brazen gossip played by Estelle Winwood. An uncredited Joan Fontaine plays a young society belle whose popularity is usurped by Miss Livvy. She would work with George Stevens again as the ingenue in 1939s Gunga Din and by the following year would receive an Oscar nomination for Rebecca.




The immense popularity of the play led the candy manufacturer Mackintosh, established 1890, to package their chocolates and toffees under the label Quality Street in the late 1930s. Illustrations of Miss Phoebe and the dashing Captain Brown adorned the tins and paper advertisements for decades. It would be pleasant to indulge in the confectionery treat soon.

TCM is screening Quality Street on Monday, March 13th at 1:00 pm in a day (6:15 am to 8:00 pm) devoted to Katharine Hepburn with 7 feature films and 1 documentary.










Monday, February 20, 2017

MOVIE OF THE WEEK BLOGATHON: Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole (1972)




The Classic Film and TV Cafe today hosts the Movie of the Week Blogathon. Click HERE for contributions and a stroll down Memory Lane. Click the banner for a video trailer.




"Oh, Maggie, Maggie. Take a risk. Don't you know that's all the difference between being alive and being dead? Take a chance, girl. Take your lumps. And learn to say goodbye."



Susan Hayward as Dr. Margaret Cole

Susan Hayward (my late dad called her "Susie baby") was a movie star and actress with an undeniably unique mix of beauty, guts and vulnerability. The model from Brooklyn worked her way through the studio system, paying her dues in bits and supporting roles before becoming a popular headliner. During an era when outstanding actresses had equally outstanding roles to play, Susan Hayward received five Oscar nominations, winning in 1959 for I Want to Live!.

ABCs popular Movie of the Week proved a home for many greats from Hollywood's classic era. It was a time when fans, new and old, still wanted to see the stars, but too many producers were tone deaf to that idea. In 1972 Susan Hayward appeared in two made-for-TV films. Heat of Anger was a crime drama with Susan portraying an attorney, directed by Don Taylor, who appeared in one of Susan's Oscar nominated films, I'll Cry Tomorrow. In Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole Susan plays a physician at a turning point in her life.



Susan Hayward, Darren McGavin

Maggie Cole had a comfortable and happy life as a medical researcher working with her beloved husband played by Richard Anderson. A massive coronary takes his life and Maggie finds that the work she thought she loved as much as her husband no longer interests her. Running from her loss, Maggie leaves California for a temporary position taking over a Chicago general practice from a vacationing doctor. The vacationing doctor played by Darren McGavin never does seem to leave on that vacation. He uses this ploy to test potential partners and he doesn't have a lot of faith in Maggie Cole.

The screenplay for Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole was written by Sandor Stern, an Ontario born physician who wrote for the CBC before moving to California as a full-time writer and director of television and film. The medical aspects of the story ring true as does the attitude of the various doctors depicted. The emotions of the patients and others in the involving script are heartfelt to the core without being sentimentalized.

The film was directed by Jud Taylor, an experienced overseer from TVs Dr. Kildare to Star Trek to Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Among his many made-for-TV successes, Taylor was nominated for an Emmy for Tail Gunner Joe.

Maggie Cole has spent the last 15 years of her career in a laboratory. Perhaps she was hoping the change of pace, of venue and the distraction of patients would keep her from concentrating on life without her husband. Familiar and favourite actors fill up the cast. Maidie Norman (Bright Road, About Mrs. Leslie) plays Nurse Ferguson, who is immediately on Maggie's side, just like the audience. Fergie is friendly and smart, just the friend and colleague Maggie needs.



Michelle Nichols, Susan Hayward

Michelle Nichols plays Lisa, a young woman with big dreams and a leukemia diagnosis. Maggie is unaware of the diagnosis when she becomes friends with Lisa, even boarding with her grandmother played by Jeanette Nolan (The Big Heat, Dirty Sally).

Beverly Garland (Gunslinger, My Three Sons) and Richard Carlyle (Torpedo Run, Crime Photographer) play a couple dealing with the uncertainty of a brain tumor. Michael Constantine (Room 222) is a treat as an eccentric neurosurgeon. Frank Puglia (Black Hand, Tall in the Saddle) has a bit as a stubborn patient not interested in seeing a "lady doctor". I kept waiting for his return.

Maggie Cole learns about days and nights with too many patients and not enough hours. She learns about life as a "street doctor" and how to communicate. She learns about the grief of others in a very moving scene with Jeanette Nolan. Maggie learns to stop looking inward and to give her heart again.  She learns to say goodbye, as Dusty Springfield sang in the theme song Learn to Say Goodbye by Hugo Montenegro and Bradford Craig.



















Sunday, February 19, 2017

THIRD ANNUAL BUSTER KEATON BLOGATHON: THREE BOOKS ABOUT BUSTER


BUSTER KEATON
1895 - 1966
Portrait by Janet Clare Hall, 2016


This year is a special one for our hostess Lea of Silent-Ology because her Third Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon coincides with the 100th anniversary of Buster entering the film business. Let's celebrate! Click HERE for the all the fun.

Buster Keaton makes us laugh. Even more than that, Buster Keaton inspires us. His persevering character in silent films inspires us to develop that characteristic in our own lives. His life and art in turn inspires our own creativity. His story inspires interpretation and sharing.





Certainly the best way to introduce anyone, but especially youngsters, to Buster Keaton is through his films. Read HERE about my young niece Lenny's first movie theatre experience at a screening of The Navigator. If you can follow that successful outing with a relateable picture book, then you can be assured of having made a fan for life.

Written and illustrated by Catherine Brighton and published in 2008, Keep Your Eye on the Kid, the Early Years of Buster Keaton combines the facts and legends of Buster's life from his born in a trunk beginnings to his entry into films. Along the way we learn about Vaudeville, about the skills Buster picked up, his education and his interests. We learn about the pioneering years of motion pictures. We meet the famous people who influenced Buster from Harry Houdini to Fatty Arbuckle.

The youngster hearing or reading this story will develop a kinship with the kid Buster - one of their own. Perhaps they will be inspired in their life as Buster was in his.




KEATON COMEDIES
A Toby Bradley Adventure
by Harold D. Sill, Jr.


Illustration by Mike Eagle of Buster in Steamboat Bill Jr. for Sill's book.

Published in 1977, Harold Sill's Young Adult novel takes teenager Toby Bradley on a ghostly time travel adventure with Buster Keaton. The spectre Keaton whisks Toby back to 1920s Hollywood to give the youngster a first-hand, behind-the-scenes taste of how Buster put together some of his most famous and awesome stunts beginning with that falling house in Steamboat Bill Jr. to the racing motorcycle in Sherlock, Jr. to the cliffhanger in Our Hospitality.

Away from the studio, Toby gets a glimpse of life in the 1920s; the fashions, the celebrities and the automobiles. Along with learning about movies, which is fascinating to many tweens and teens, the reader gets a very easy to swallow history lesson. The book is a total charmer. Toby had a follow-up adventure published in 1978 with Fats Waller.






Inspired by the autobiography My Wonderful World of Slapstick and Buster's tales of The Actors' Colony founded at Bluffton by his dad Joe Keaton, Matt Phelan's beautiful graphic novel was published in 2013.

A summer home for Vaudevillians and actors by a lake in Muskegon, Michigan, the Colony existed from 1908 to 1938. Buster's vacation home during his youth is the basis for the story of a kid from the show business and a kid with stars in his eyes, and both finding their way.

Henry works in his father's hardware store, handles his chores at home and daydreams when the actors come to town. Never having seen a Vaudeville show makes the strangers even more fascinating to Henry. They bring elephants and zebras, and their own extraordinary personalities to upset the daily grind.

Henry becomes pals with a couple of kids his age; the baseball mad Buster Keaton, star of the Three Keatons, and Lex Neal, the son of actors and a future film writer. Henry enjoys hanging out with his newfound friends. He is proud of the association and admires and is jealous of Buster. Henry longs to really belong in this group. He tries to put together his own juggling act without success. He tries to get Buster to teach him some of his tricks, but it is summer and Buster would much rather play baseball. While Henry sees only glamour in Buster's trade it appears Buster sees things about Henry's regular routine that have great appeal. For one thing, Buster's stated dream of becoming a mechanical engineer is at odds with his lack of education. 

The bond of friendship, along with the hurts youth can inflict on each other, are a part of each succeeding summer as the boys mature.  Time passes and Henry comes to appreciate the life his family afford him. He grows up to marry the girl he's always liked and retains a connection to his friend, Buster Keaton.

The charming illustrations and the knowing text make all of the characters endearingly real in Bluffton. It brings to life an era long gone, but which deserves a place in our memory. A delightful story to share with children and a touchingly nostalgic tale for an adult curled up in their favourite reading chair.










Saturday, February 18, 2017

90 YEARS OF SIDNEY POITIER BLOGATHON: The Slender Thread (1965)


Virginie at The Wonderful World of Cinema is hosting this blogathon in celebration of the 90th birthday of Sidney Poitier. The blogathon runs from February 18 - 20. Click HERE to join the party.


The Slender Thread was written by Stirling Silliphant (In the Heat of the Night, TVs Route 66, Naked City) based on a magazine article by Shana Alexander. Silliphant was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best screenplay for this involving drama. The film was director Sidney Pollack's first feature after years of television films and episodes.  Its stars, Sidney Poitier and Anne Bancroft, were recent winners of Academy Awards for Lilies of the Field and The Miracle Worker, respectively.



Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier portrays Alan Newell, a university student volunteering one night a week at a crisis centre. On the night we meet him Alan is manning the centre on his own while the boss, Dr. Coburn played by Telly Savalas (Kojak), takes some down time.  It is on this night that Alan crosses paths with Inga Dyson.



Anne Bancroft

Anne Bancroft plays Inga, a 30-year-old married mother of a 12 year old son. A past long buried and forgotten has caught up with her and is tearing her marriage to pieces. Steven Hill (Law and Order) plays Mark, Inga's estranged husband. There are days when our problems overwhelm us, when we can see nothing ahead but unhappiness. This is such a day for Inga. She needs someone to talk to, but she doesn't seek that someone until after she has swallowed a bottle full of pills. That someone is Alan and the race is on to save the woman at the end of the phone line who has so much to live for.

The resources of the telephone company are deployed for tracing the call which proves more problematic than expected. Police, including an off duty detective with no home life played by Ed Asner (Lou Grant) joins uniformed patrol on the search. Alan is more that willing to turn the phone over to his boss as the pressure of the case wears on him. However, he has established a rapport with Inga and the importance of the relationship they are forming is paramount. Alan must learn to trust his instincts in this nerve-wracked night.



Sidney Poitier, Telly Savalas, Indus Arthur

"Look, Inga. Please get this straight. I'm up to my ears in lessons I've been taught long before I picked up this phone tonight. I've been taught, so lessons I don't need, you understand? Good people I do. You watch the walls close in on you. Me too. You've been ignored or studied out of the corners of people's eyes. Me too. You've been suffered and tolerated. Me too. Okay. Times are bad. Things stink. The world is a cinder in your eye, but what is the alternative? Now I ask you, Inga, what in god's name is the alternative? Every time I breathe, every breath I take, every gulp, it's like it's got bubbles in it - it's heady. Now why can't you reach out and hang on to me, feel what I feel? Why can't you come into my world?"

We follow the story from the tense atmosphere in the crisis centre office to Inga's memories of what brought her to this fateful night. We see her as a sad and introspective woman at the Seattle Center, at her suburban home, at the beach where she first attempts suicide, the hospital, a church and a discotheque.

Our two leading characters never meet in this story, but the connection established by the actors with their distinctive voices and emotionally fine-tuned performances keep us caring for them.  Reminiscent of the great television dramas of the 1950s, The Slender Thread is a fine showcase for Poitier and Bancroft, as well as an impressive movie debut for Pollack.


PS: If the girl at the switchboard looks familiar, it is Charlotte Stewart (My Three Sons, Little House on the Prairie).











Friday, February 10, 2017

THE MARY POPPINS CONUNDRUM



I was 7 years old the year Mary Poppins was released. The emotions associated with that movie are still vivid to this day. Sitting in the theatre I was entranced by the music and the look of the movie. I recall thinking that David Tomlinson was the best actor in the world. I truly felt for his plight at the bank.  My parents bought the soundtrack album and as the eldest child of, at that time 3 sisters, I took control and practically wore it out with the playing.

I remember the deep satisfaction of sitting up straight in bed the night I finally (finally!) managed to say supercalifragilisticexpealidocious all the way through perfectly for the first time.

Nonetheless, there is something about Mary Poppins that always puzzles and concerns me, from the very first viewing on the big screen to the many viewings associated with my son Gavin putting Mary Poppins on a video or DVD return loop. (The boys in my family have this thing for Julie Andrews.)




Perhaps, like me, you too are plagued or blessed with a sweet tooth and find the scene in the chalk drawing equally disturbing.

Settling into the charming cafe, our Mary sings : -

Now then, what would be nice
We'll start with raspberry ice
And then some cakes and tea

The obliging waiters respond : -

Order what you will
There'll be no bill
It's complimentary




However, did you see anyone bring raspberry ice? Not to mention cakes and tea? Did you? No! Nobody did; not then and not now - not ever. 

All they get is a floor show! No eats!










Saturday, February 4, 2017

O CANADA! BLOGATHON: JOE SAWYER


Joe Sawyer
(1906 - 1982)


The Maple Leaf Forever! It is time once again for the O Canada Blogathon hosted by Kristina of Speakeasy and Ruth of Silver Screenings and running from February 3 - 5.   Day 1.  Day 2.  Day 3.

Above is a picture of an old pal of mine, Sgt. Biff O'Hara. Are you acquainted with Sgt. Biff? He was stationed at Fort Apache on the TV series The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin (1954-1959). I didn't watch the show during its initial run, not being around at the time, but in the 60s the show was on air immediately after school and I would settle in for fun and the promised-in-the-title adventures.

Biff O'Hara was played by Joe Sawyer, born Joseph Sauers in Guelph, Ontario on August 29, 1906. The Guelph Mercury Tribune published an article on the city's native son including an interview with one of Joe's sons, Riley in 2014.  Joe was raised in Guelph, attending school there, but worked summers on a relative's Saskatchewan farm. Somehow all of this instilled in the young man both a strong work habit and a desire for the stage.

Joe had a role in a brief Broadway run in 1930 of a revival of The Inspector General. After that, it was the sunshine of California and training at the famed Pasadena Playhouse. Bit roles in films followed including The Public Enemy, Arsene Lupin, Shopworn, The Stranger's Return, Ace of Aces, The Case of the Howling Dog, Death on the Diamond and The Whole Town's Talking. These and other movies are fun on their own, but I have even more fun by playing "spot Joe Sawyer", especially in Warner Brothers flicks.



"Now just behave yourselves and nobody will get hurt. This is Duke Mantee, the world famous killer, and he's hungry."
The Petrified Forest

An outstanding role came Sawyer's way as Barty Mullholland, an IRA hit man in John Ford's Oscar winning 1935 film The Informer. Sawyer would be on familiar ground as a henchman in the same year's The Arizonian featuring The Informer co-star Margot Grahame. 1936 would bring what I think of as Sawyer's ultimate henchman role, among dozens, as Jackie, the hot-headed second to Humphrey Bogart's escaped convict in The Petrified Forest.



"Someday I'm gonna catch that ape without his stripes on and I'm gonna kick his teeth out."
The Roaring Twenties

Sawyer definitely doesn't do Bogie any favours as the member of a hate group modeled on the KKK in 1937s The Black Legion. He's behind bars in 1937s San Quentin, and a hated (by Bogie anyway) WWI sergeant in The Roaring Twenties. Things don't end well back in the States.

The 1940s find Joe Sawyer in a number of films with a variety of roles. Classic titles include The Long Voyage Home and The Grapes of Wrath. Joe was featured in popular westerns such as The Dark Command, Santa Fe Trail, They Died With Their Boots On, The Outlaw and Coroner Creek.

Comedies benefited from Joe Sawyer's talents including Brewster's Millions, The Naughty Nineties and The Singing Sheriff starring Bob Crosby. You like film-noir? You'll find Sawyer strutting around the casino in Gilda and as a lovelorn drunk in Deadline at Dawn. I'm fond of him as a private detective in the oddball Christmas Eve, which works best in the wee hours of the title evening with a little bottled Holiday cheer.



"Don't worry about Frank. He'll be alright."
It Came from Outer Space

1950s features with Joe Sawyer include distinguished films such as Kubrick's The Killing and Richard Brooks' Deadline - U.S.A. Some movies may be less distinguished, but still favourites like It Came From Outer Space, Red Skies of Montana and The Kettles in the Ozarks.

During the 1930s, not wanting to rely on movie bits, Joe Sawyer turned to the construction business and did very well building homes. According to his son Riley, Joe enjoyed the life that both businesses provided for his family. Joe could indulge in his hobbies, including fishing, shooting, reading, cars, and enjoying card games and relaxing times with good friends like John Wayne and Bela Lugosi.

Joe and his beloved second wife June Golden, a former MGM starlet, had 5 children and a happy marriage until her death from leukemia in 1960. Joe's family relates that he started turning away from life after the loss, but it was John Wayne who talked him back into work with a part in North to Alaska. After one more movie bit in How the West Was Won, Joe would return full time to his property development business which included houses, shopping centres and a hospital.

In his golden years Joe enjoyed travelling the world, until illness forced him to settle down. Joe Sawyer passed from liver cancer in his 75th year on April 21, 1982. Riley Sawyer's quote from the newspaper article says everything, "He was a great father".











Wednesday, February 1, 2017

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR FEBRUARY ON TCM


It is the time of year when TCM celebrates 31 Days of Oscar. I think this year's kicker of showing titles in alphabetical order is both clever and cute. Those of us with a fondness for Comedy, sub-genre: Screwball will find a treat brought to us under the letter "M".

1938s Merrily We Live's pedigree for inclusion in the lineup is a whopping 5 "count 'em" 5 Oscar nominations. They are listed here along with the winners in each category. 

Best supporting actress, Billie Burke (Fay Bainter, Jezebel)
Best cinematography, Norbert Brodine (Joseph Ruttenberg, The Great Waltz)
Best art direction, Charles Hall (Carl Jules Weyl, The Adventures of Robin Hood)
Best sound recording, Elmer Raguse (Thomas T. Moulton, The Cowboy and the Lady)
Best music, original song: Merrily We Live by Phil Chariq and Arthur Quenzer (Thanks for the Memory, The Big Broadcast of 1938)

PS: I would have found room on those acting lists to include Alan Mowbray and Clarence Kolb.

Noted Washington, DC newspaper correspondent J. Chauncey Cory and his wife Edith Rathbone Brainerd collaborated as authors under the name E.J. Rath. Their comic novel The Dark Chapter was first adapted as a play by Courtenay Savage called They All Want Something that had a brief run on Broadway in 1926. Screenwriters Eddie Moran and Jack Jevne gave us this feature along with Topper, Wonder Man, Topper Takes a Trip, Wintertime and There Goes My Heart. Other versions of the story are 1930s What a Man and 1955s Escuela de vagabundos aka School for Tramps

Surprisingly, or not considering the Academy, Merrily We Live's director Norman Z. McLeod was never nominated for the award despite his many classic comedies including Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, It's a Gift, Topper, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Road to Rio. Like Bill Wellman, Norman McLeod was a veteran aviator of WWI. An artistic bent led him to begin his picture career as an animator.




Who are these people who live so merrily? The Kilbourne household is wealthy, sub-genre: eccentric. All and sundry are at the passive-aggressive bidding of the scatterbrained mistress of the household played by Billie Burke (Dinner at Eight). Mrs. Kilbourne's privilege takes a charitable turn in that she feels blessings must be shared. Her particular charitable cause is that of tramps. She takes tramps into her home to reform them. Invariably these tramps make off with the family silver leaving her disappointed, but undaunted.

Who suffers most from these actions? It is Grosvenor, the butler played by Alan Mowbray (Terror by Night). He suffers at the hands of the family, at the disrespect of his underlings and mostly from the very presence of the tramps. Grosvenor will leave one of these days, mark his words. His bag is always packed.




Clarence Kolb (His Girl Friday) plays Mr. Kilbourne, the supporter of the nonsense under his roof. I never knew a man could put up with so much nonsense and take so many pratfalls! Bonita Granville (These Three) is young daughter Marian, a smart aleck of the first order. Tom Brown (In Old Chicago) is the lone son and feels every inch the outcast. Oldest sister Geraldine is played by Constance Bennett (Topper) and she deftly plays both the roles of peacekeeper and instigator in a family that thrives on patter and gags.

Fashion note: Constance Bennett looks divine in both her casual and formal wear designed by Irene. Howard Greer designed the costumes for Billie Burke and she never looked more divine.

Into this garden spot comes Rawlins played by Brian Aherne (The Great Garrick). Wade Rawlins is an author on vacation. An author on vacation who doesn't shave, dresses shabbily and runs into car trouble. All he wants is to use the Kilbourne's phone, but Mrs. Kilbourne immediately and confusingly takes him under her wing as another tramp who needs saving. Rawlins puts up with it because he is amused by the lady of the house and he is intrigued by Geraldine. Once shaved, Rawlins become the object of affection for Geraldine, Marian and the household staff of Etta played by Patsy Kelly (Rosemary's Baby) and Rosa played by Marjorie Kane (The Dentist).

You can well imagine the sorts of mix-ups and hijinks that occur under these circumstances. When Ann Dvorak (Scarface) as a senator's daughter, mistakes Rawlins for another guest  at an important dinner party and not the help, everybody's life gets turned upside down.




Merrily We Live is a grand tangle of sight and physical gags, along with deliciously goofy and barbed dialogue delivered with aplomb by an expert cast. I promise you laughs and the movie will deliver.

TCM has Merrily We Live scheduled for Thursday, February 16th at 5:00 a.m. on the TCM programming day. Possibly in your thinking it is early on February 17th. Some of us do think like Billie Burke from time to time.

PS: There are Pat Flaherty, Olin Howland and Willie Best sightings for those into such things.