Caftan Woman

Caftan Woman

Saturday, April 1, 2017

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR APRIL ON TCM



It is usually the case with anthology films that the various segments are directed by a corresponding number of directors. 1942s Tales of Manhattan is different in that regard as the sole director is the esteemed gentleman from France, Julien Duvivier (Pepe le Moko).  The audience will appreciate that M. Duvivier was a deft handler of many moods and genres. A fine suit of tails is the item that ties together all of our stories.



The new suit of tails is taken to the dressing room.
Tailor Robert Greig and butler Eugene Pallette lead the parade.

A set of tails is delivered to the home of actor Paul Orman played by Charles Boyer. Due to some trouble at the tailor's the cutter was discharged, but prior to leaving he placed a curse on the suit. Bad luck will befall all who wear it.



Charles Boyer, Thomas Mitchell, Rita Hayworth

The first story concerns a love triangle among Charles Boyer, Rita Hayworth and Thomas Mitchell. The on-again, off-again affair of Boyer and Hayworth has been off for the past year since she married Mitchell. On the night of the successful opening of his new show Boyer intends a showdown with the woman of his dreams and the man of his nightmares. A wry little tale and a perfect showcase for the noirish side of cinematographer Joseph Walker (It Happened One Night).



Henry Fonda, Ginger Rogers

Our next story finds the tails in the home of a soon to be married playboy. The valet from our previous story is played by Eugene Pallette. For a small stipend, he is loaning his master's suit to the playboy's valet played by Roland Young to wear on the occasion of his master's wedding. His master is played by Cesar Romero and Romero's fiance, played by Ginger Rogers, finds a love letter in the inside pocket. The playboy's best friend played by Henry Fonda attempts to cover for his pal by claiming the coat and letter as his own. Romantic and comic complications abound. Rogers and Fonda display great chemistry in this story and it is a shame they were never cast together in a full-length feature.



Charles Laughton

The two valets, hoping to split the funds, take the coat next to a second-hand shop where it is purchased by the wife of an impoverished composer to wear at his concert hall debut. Oh, this story always breaks my heart. Laughton can do that, you know. Tears and laughs both fill this little story. Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester are the downtrodden couple dreaming all these years of success.



George Sanders, Don Douglas, Edward G. Robinson

A Chinatown mission is the next home for the tails where kindly James Gleason tries to help down and outer Edward G. Robinson back on his feet. The tails are heading uptown once more to the 25th class reunion of some Ivy League lawyers and businessmen. Will the chance at redemption come true or will it be snatched from his fingertips? George Sanders will have something to say about how things turn out. He knows things about Robinson that would be better kept secret. The grudge runs deep.



J. Carroll Naish

J. Carroll Naish is the next to wear the tails. He steals it from another second-hand joint so he can wear it into a swank gambling joint and rob the fancy patrons of their ill-gotten gain. His flying getaway takes him over rural land and a fire forces him to dump the coat overboard - with the money!



Paul Robeson, Eddie Anderson, Ethel Waters

The money is manna from Heaven according to Ethel Waters character. It is God's answer to the many prayers of this poor community. She is quick to advise her husband played by Paul Robeson that wishing is not the same as praying. Look, I love Ethel Waters as much as the next guy, but she certainly can be a stick in the mud when it comes to that bible (see Cabin in the Sky). Rounding out the cast are Eddie Anderson, Clarence Muse and the Hall Johnson Choir. 

Mr. Robeson objected to the stereotypes present in the script and the producers acquiesced to demands for changes. Robeson's character makes a plea for communal farming and sharing, with no rich or poor. On the other hand, Clarence Muse thought the picture was an opportunity to show the poor living conditions under which people suffered. Nonetheless, this film is the last Paul Robeson would make. I lean toward Robeson on this one, but I'm a sucker for the Hall Johnson Choir so it is not a choice as to whether I watch or skip this segment.

A further sequence was excised for time constraints or perhaps jealousy because it is said that W.C. Fields absolutely steals the picture as a temperance lecturer.

TCM is screening Tales of Manhattan on Monday, April 10th at 8:00 pm. Like the short story collection you curl up with on a dark evening, watch the movie and see what speaks to you. Perhaps the Fields bit will be included. 

Note: keep your eyes peeled on the schedule for Flesh and Fantasy, a horror anthology made the following year, directed by Duvivier and produced by Boyer.

NOTE: Among the billed "46 featured players" there is an Esther Howard sighting.  Also, Morris Ankrum, Christian Rub and Don Douglas for fans.








18 comments:

  1. Thanks for the recommendation! I've become very interested to see more of the films of Julien Duvivier, whose Pepe le Moko I've watched I don't know how many times. This sounds like a great opportunity to get a better idea of his range. And also to see Paul Robeson's final film. Actually, Tales of Manhattan sounds like a good film, all-around. I can always count on you for excellent suggestions, TY again, Paddy.

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    1. My pleasure. I can understand your rewatching of Pepe le Moko. It continually fascinates. I think (and hope) you will find some of the stories in Tales of Manhattan linger in the memory.

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  2. This sounds interesting for the cast alone, not to mention seeing how all of the stories connect. I've always wanted to check out more of Duvivier's work too, because I've only seen his Anna Karenina and a couple later movies when he was, perhaps, a bit past his prime. Thanks for recommending it!

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    1. You never know what you will find when checking out the TCM lineup. Sometimes the oddest things jump out at you. This is an old favourite from years ago and hasn't aired on the channel as far as I can recall.

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  3. Love these sort of films which had much more of a vogue during the Golden Age than they do now. I liked this one in parts but as these sort of films go I didn't think it hung together as well as some others.

    My favorite segments were the Laughton/Lanchester one and the EGR/Sanders vignette though all were enjoyable to a degree. Ginger's hair in her segment was a marvel of hairdressing engineering!

    Glad you mentioned Flesh and Fantasy which I preferred to this. Loved the Betty Field & Barbara Stanwyck episodes in that one.

    Other favorite anthologies: O'Henry's Full House-Favorite there "The Last Leaf" with Jean Peters, Anne Baxter & Gregory Ratoff-so beautifully realized. The bit of silliness that is "We're Not Married" which Ginger Rogers also appeared in along with Marilyn Monroe, Eve Arden and an amazing cast-a staple of these films.

    Also the English triple of "Encore" with Glynis Johns, "Trio" with Jean Simmons and "Quartet" with Dirk Bogarde all of which use Somerset Maugham stories as their basis.

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  4. "Ginger's hair in her segment was a marvel of hairdressing engineering!" Ain't that the truth!

    Sometimes I find that bits in an anthology that didn't appeal to me at one viewing, may improve upon another. Also, vice versa. I am pleased to see that O Henry's Full House is getting another run this month. The Brits certainly had their way with the format.

    Here's hoping Flesh and Fantasy shows up soon on TCM. Perhaps they're keeping it under wraps until Hallowe'en.

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  5. Well, you were right about Merrily We Live so I guess I'll watch this one too 😉

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    1. Looks like I have a lot riding on this.

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    2. And Caftan Woman does it again!!! Certainly enjoyed this movie with all its drama, warmth, heart, and comedy. The cinematography in the lodge scene was amazing, as was that gun room! I'm also thinking a Fonda/Rogers film is needed for the imaginary movie Blogathon ;)

      The Laughton segment was heartbreaking. And Rochester was hilarious as usual. The Fields segment was not included.

      Thanks again for recommending this film!

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    3. Hooray! I'm so pleased you had a good time with this movie. I think it wears really well.

      Your imaginary movie should be a dandy!

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  6. It''s been years since I saw this one. Thanks for the reminder. Paul Robeson is reason enough to watch anything. What an unusual film! I don't think I knew about the W C Fields segment. Great post!

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    1. Thanks.

      When TCM decided to spotlight character actors this month, they hit the Mother Lode with Tales of Manhattan.

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  7. A delightful pick! I enjoy these kinds of anthology films and this is one of the best. I'm also fond of Duvivier's later anthology FLESH AND FANTASY.

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    1. Thank you. I'm surprised that Flesh and Fantasy doesn't seem to make TCMs October line-up. Perhaps this year.

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  8. This film is a hidden gem. I loved watching it, and I then recommended to anyone I could. My aunt read my review again and again, but she thinks she never saw this - despite being over years old herself!
    The sequences with Laughton and Ed G. Robinson are my favorites. And it's a shame that Fonda and Rogers never worked together again!
    Kisses!
    Le

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    1. You and I know our hidden gems when we find them. Funny about your aunt. One of my sisters sometimes forgets she's seen certain movies. I just play along.

      We'll have to imagine our own special movie starring Ginger and Hank. I think they would have worked in a drama as well as a comedy. Oh, what could have been!

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  9. This sounds utterly fabulous. I love, LOVE the idea of a suit weaving its way through all these characters' lives. I missed last Monday's airing, but I'll track it down elsewhere. :)

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    1. I don't imagine it will be too hard to track down. I enjoy these "sampler" sort of pictures. They set my imagination spinning.

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