Friday, December 14, 2018

WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON: The Villainy of Jack Lambert


It's time for the 7th annual What a Character! blogathon hosted by Paula's Cinema Club, Outspoken and Freckled and Once Upon a Screen. Thank you Paula, Kellee, and Aurora! Look for the contributions posted on December 14, 15 and 16. DAY ONE / DAY TWO / DAY THREE

Jack Lambert
April 13, 1920 - February 18, 2002

When someone decides to pursue a career as an actor, as did Yonkers-born Jack Lambert when he abandoned his original plan to become an English Professor, you prepare yourself by becoming adept at playing any role in the vast repertoire of the theatre. You also prepare yourself in the knowledge that the powers-that-be will not see you for any role. Unless a casting director was in a particularly whimsical mood, Lambert would not be cast as a kindly professor. His craggy face and intimidating physique made Lambert a tough guy walking.

Jack Lambert had two brief runs on Broadway in 1940/41 and his first movie work was an uncredited bit in Stage Door Canteen in 1943. You can't miss him! He's Jack Lambert! The work that piled up in the next few years was still mostly uncredited. Look for Jack Lambert in The Hidden EyeThe Harvey Girls, and The Killers. Better roles of the villain type were coming his way and the following are a few of my favourites.


ABILENE TOWN 1946


Randolph Scott has to tangle with a lot of trouble in this entertaining western, from a lazy sheriff played by Edgar Buchanan, gal pals Ann Dvorak and Rhonda Fleming, sneaky businessmen, and the murderous Jet Younger played by Jack Lambert. What's a hero to do?


DICK TRACY'S DILEMMA 1947

Jack Lambert, Ralph Byrd

John Rawlins directed this movie I refer to as the Citizen Kane of Dick Tracy flicks. Ralph Byrd's stalwart detective is up against a single-minded maniac in Steve Michel aka "The Claw" played by Jack Lambert. The Claw has been betrayed by criminal cohorts and he stops at nothing, including wanton murder to exact his revenge and make the big payday he feels he is owed. Noirish cinematography by Tracy series regular Frank Redman adds much to the value of this movie. Lambert is truly frightening.


THE UNSUSPECTED 1947

Claude Rains, Jack Lambert

No one would suspect Claude Rains of being a murderer, or would they? Michael Curtiz directed this interesting film-noir wherein a noted radio host blithely believes he is smarter than those who would ferret out his deadly secrets. Lambert is the dupe whose brawn is useful but becomes dangerous in more ways than one when he tries to use his brain.


STARS IN MY CROWN 1950

Based on Joe David Brown's episodic novel of nostalgia and coming-of-age, Lambert plays town bully Perry Lokey in Stars in My Crown. Typical of his ilk, Lokey delights in tormenting those weaker than himself. He's happiest when he can use his whip. Joel McCrea as Reverand Gray turns the tables, and the whip on Lokey. In a moving climax, Gray even reminds Lokey that he has a soul, or at least he is smart enough to understand which way the wind is blowing. An excellent movie well worth many viewings.


BEND OF THE RIVER 1952

Harry Morgan, Rock Hudson, Royal Dano, Arthur Kennedy, Jack Lambert

This second of many excellent Anthony Mann and James Stewart collaborations was filmed on location in Oregon. It is an exciting outdoor adventure with Lambert part of a gang of ne'er do wells pressed into transporting goods for farmers. The stake offered for their unwilling service looks like peanuts next to the fortune offered by starving miners. Lambert as the bluff leader of this ragtag group, and sporting a credible French-Canadian accent, leads his gang in a mutiny. No sooner does he reach that goal then he is usurped by the smarter and more cunning Arthur Kennedy. Exciting stuff.


DAY OF THE OUTLAW 1959

Jack Lambert

Jack Lambert plays "Tex" in this Andre De Toth picture. He is the toughest in a gang of very tough men; thieves and robbers under the leadership of a former military man played by Burl Ives. Tex chafes when Ives declares there must be no molestation of the people of Bitters, the town they have taken over while Ives receives medical treatment. At every turn, Tex attempts to push the boundaries until his ironic and gruesome end. A most worthwhile entry in the western-noir subgenre.


CLASSIC TV

Jack Lambert as Joshua Walcek, Riverboat

Jack Lambert has 57 television credits according to the IMDb. These include Jane Wyman Theatre, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Burke's Law and, as you might expect, Have Gun Will Travel, Bonanza, Wagon Train, Death Valley Days, Bat Masterson, Daniel Boone, and a recurring role on Riverboat.


Jack Lambert, Leonard Nimoy, Don Adams

My favourite Lambert pop up was on a 1966 episode of Get Smart as "Shark" in the episode The Dead Spy Scrawls. KAOS is headquartered in a pool room. Max is fooling no one going undercover.

Jack Lambert's last acting credit was on Gunsmoke in 1970 after which he and his second wife Marjorie moved to Carmel and ran a boutique. Tough old guy roles were few and far between and that whimsical casting director had yet to make his or her mark.

Jack Lambert's presence in many of my favourite older movies and television shows makes me smile at the thought of the supreme villainy I am about to enjoy from the comfort and safety of my living room couch.


Postscript: When you are enjoying your classic television keep an eye peeled for Lee J. Lambert (sometimes Lee Jay Lambert), Jack's son from his first marriage, who has a number of credits on series ranging from Daniel Boone to I Dream of Jeannie to Adam-12 to Hawaii Five-O between 1968 to 1979.












Sunday, December 9, 2018

CHRISTMAS ON REMAKE AVENUE: Kind Lady 1935 and 1951


Hugh Walpole's short story The Silver Mask was the basis for Edward Chodorov's play Kind Lady. Grace George starred in the 1935 Broadway production and a 1940 revival. The first film version was released by MGM in 1935. 

Kind Lady is a psychological thriller starring the incredible Aline MacMahon and the versatile Basil Rathbone. Ms. McMahon plays Mary Herries, a wealthy woman living comfortably in London. She has an affectionate family and is well-thought-of by friends and strangers alike.

Since losing her fiance in the Great War Mary Herries has devoted herself to her collection of art. She has a kind heart and also a physically weak heart. Her sister Lucy played by Doris Lloyd encourages her to get out more, but Mary feels content in her life. Her Niece Phyllis played by Mary Carlisle is happily engaged to an American, Peter played by Frank Albertson and they bring a youthful energy to Mary's stately home. 

Aline MacMahon, Basil Rathbone

It is a fateful Christmas Eve when Miss Herries crosses paths with Henry Abbott played by Basil Rathbone. Abbott's life has also been affected by the Great War. He is a clever man, an artist, and deeply disturbed. Abbott takes advantage of Miss Herries' generous impulses and insinuates himself into her home using the pretense of a sick wife and tiny child. Eventually, a family of crooks played by Dudley Digges, Eily Malyon and Barbara Shields join Abbott in controlling the household. Also part of the gang is a murderous doctor played by Murray Kinnell.

Basil Rathbone, Nola Luxford

Miss Herries' cook has walked out and her devoted maid Rose played by Nola Luxford is about to do the same. Miss Herries comes to the realization that Abbott plans to take over her household and dispose of her art collection. She has a heart episode and is sadly left to the tender mercy of the cutthroats with everyone who loves her thinking she is enjoying herself on a trip with Rose.

It is a battle of wills and nerve as avenues of escape are closed to the terrified woman who must keep her wits about her against the combined forces of these "wretched people". The mentally disturbed Abbott is particularly troubling with his power and sense of entitlement.

Kind Lady was the only teaming of actors MacMahon and Rathbone and they bring the script to life with a strong sense of the strengths and weaknesses of their characters. Directed by George B. Seitz (The Last of the Mohicans, Hardy Family series) Kind Lady is an emotionally engrossing thriller.

Trivia:

Henry Daniell, Basil Rathbone as Moriarty and Holmes
The Woman in Green

Henry Daniell played Henry Abbott in the 1935 Broadway production opposite Grace George, the role taken by Basil Rathbone on the screen. Daniell played Henri Trochard in the 1953 play My 3 Angels. Rathbone took that role in the 1953 movie We're No Angels. The two actors seem to have had a Holmes and Moriarty thing happening.



MGM remade Kind Lady in 1951 with an outstanding cast and directed by John Sturges. Sturges' output for the studio at this time includes Mystery Street, The Magnificent Yankee, The People Against O'Hara and The Girl in White. All are top-flight entertainment and Kind Lady is no exception. In many respects, I think this film outdoes the earlier version. The psychological intensity and the darkness in the story are played up beautifully.

Note that the tagline, 15 years apart, remained the same. Outstanding aspects of this treatment are the cinematography by Oscar winner Joseph Ruttenberg (Gaslight, Madame Curie) and the score by David Raksin (Laura, Separate Tables).

Maurice Evans, Betsy Blair, Ethel Barrymore, Keenan Wynn, Angela Lansbury

Ethel Barrymore is exceptional in the role of Mary Herries. At the age of 72, her portrayal of an "old lady" as this character makes the whole situation more poignant and fraught with anxiety. Maurice Evans plays the villainous Henry Elcott and his frail wife Ada is played by Betsy Blair. In this treatment, it is a genuine family instead of a thrown-together facade. This makes Henry's maniacal hold over Ada even more dire.

The couple Henry brings into his plans, Mr. and Mrs. Henry, is played by Keenan Wynn and Angela Lansbury, and they are more hirees than friends, making their loyalty suspect. Their simple daughter Aggie appears only briefly.

Doris Lloyd as Rose

The loyal Rose is played by Doris Lloyd and again her instincts regarding the artist in their midst are spot on. John Williams is cast as a banker new to the Herries account, but sharp in his judgement.

Instead of the Christmas Eve beginning, the movie opens a week before Christmas and by that day Elcott's plans are flourishing. Miss Herries does not suffer from a heart problem but is physically restrained to her bed while Elcott spreads the news that she has had a nervous breakdown thus explaining away any screams heard by neighbours or the police.

Henry immediately begins selling off the priceless possessions collected by Miss Herries. All the while he cheekily refers to her as "Aunt Mary" and presents himself to outsiders as a relative. He also continues his work on a portrait which shows the woman descending into madness. Miss Herries calls the portrait "corrupt, vicious, and insane." She is not wrong.

Miss Herries is a cany individual who plays her tormentors against each other. Ada in this version is frightened of her husband and open to anything that will free her. Mrs. Edwards is smart enough not to trust Henry but has difficulty convincing her husband of their own personal danger.

The hoped-for comeuppance of Henry Elcott is led by Miss Herries with unforeseen and tragic assistance. The villain is done in by his own madness and greed.

Trivia:

Basil Rathbone, Doris Lloyd

Doris Lloyd, the loyal maid in our 1951 version, pictured here in the 1935 film as Lucy Weston, Mary Herries' sister.












Tuesday, December 4, 2018

REGALING ABOUT RICHARD BURTON BLOGATHON: Becket (1964)


Gill is hosting the Regaling About Richard Burton Blogathon at her site Realweegiemidget Reviews


Click HERE for the tributes to the revered actor.

A historical drama and a character study, Becket tackles such weighty subjects as politics, faith, the divine right of kings, love, jealousy, honour, and murder. The roles of King Henry II and the later canonized Thomas Becket were made for great actors to portray. Peter Glenville directed this film and the original Broadway production starring Laurence Olivier as Becket and Anthony Quinn as the King. During the run, the stars switched roles and when Quinn left the production Arthur Kennedy played Becket to Olivier's Henry.

Peter O'Toole, Richard Burton

Peter O'Toole had been cast as the King in the Royal Shakespeare Company production but backed out when the opportunity came to make Lawrence of Arabia. His replacement was Christopher Plummer opposite Eric Porter. Becket was O'Toole's next feature film role after the Lean film made him an international star.

Becket's placement in Richard Burton's early 1960s filmography comes between Cleopatra, The V.I.P.s, and The Night of the Iguana and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Both Burton and O'Toole were nominated by the Academy in the leading role category the movie season of Becket's release with Rex Harrison receiving the trophy for My Fair Lady.

On one level Becket is the story of the deep kinship between two disparate friends. The sovereign of a land and the educated member of the class dominated by power. On another level, it is the story of the mistrust of the ruling class, the Normans, for their subjects, the Saxons. It is the mistrust between the monarchy and the religious leaders, and their struggle for power. The Divine Right of Kings must be secondary to the Divine Right of God, but on this earthy plain, the struggle is more than intellectual or spiritual.

Feeling a great frustration with the disrespect accorded by his clergy, Henry has the brilliant idea of installing his educated friend Thomas Becket in the place of the recently deceased Archbishop of Canterbury. Even a king can use friends in high places.

What Henry did not reckon on was that his moody friend whose search for meaning in his life had never been fulfilled would find that fulfillment in the priesthood and his sacred calling to this high position. Becket would not bow to his king's wishes. Becket would do his God's bidding. Becket would vex the king greatly.

O'Toole is a flamboyant monarch, relishing in his position and confident in his abilities. Burton's more introspective character is played with the sardonic eye of the observer and the soul of a searcher. It is an operatic duet blending a tenor and a baritone in an exploration of emotion.

Richard Burton, John Gielgud

Also nominated for an Oscar, in the supporting category is John Gielgud as King Louis VII of France. It is a performance with a deceptively light touch that balances the intensity of our leads as Louis plays his own game of politics vs. church.

Sian Phillips, Peter O'Toole

Martita Hunt is Henry's mother, the imperious Empress Matilda, and Pamela Brown his contentious wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Sian Phillips (married to O'Tool 1959-1979) is haunting as Gwendolyn, a woman who loves Becket but is desired by Henry. Her fate means more in the men's lives than they acknowledge. David Weston draws our interest as Brother John, a young monk whose faith and character inspires his bishop, Becket.

The conflict between king and cleric results in the assassination of the Archbishop. The conflict also results in Henry humbling himself before his people and the Church in atonement. Henry has made a martyr of Thomas Becket and learns that a king cannot fight a saint.

Becket is an engrossing drama with an interesting take on the history of the time, fascinating themes and performances for the ages.


Trivia:


The year of Becket's release, 1964, saw Richard Burton Tony-nominated for starring on Broadway in Hamlet directed by John Gielgud, who also played the Ghost.


Oscars:

Oscar winner Edward Anhalt with Deborah Kerr who presented the writing awards

Total nominations: 12
Total wins: 1

Edward Anhalt won the Oscar for Best Writing Based on Material from Another Medium for his screenplay based on Jean Anouilh's 1959 play, Becket or The Honour of God.

The Academy accorded the film 11 other nominations including Best Director for Peter Glenville and Best Picture. Acting nods went to Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, and John Gielgud.

The Academy also nominated the film's cinematography, art direction-set decoration, costume design (color), sound, editing, and original score.












Saturday, December 1, 2018

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR DECEMBER ON TCM


Friendly warning: Pour your tea before the movie starts or the scene of domestic bliss around the breakfast table will confuse even you with that one cup!

On second thought: It's close enough to noon for something a little more libatious. Why don't we meet up at Denker's Beer Garden? Everybody goes to Denkers. Mr. Hardy and his good friend Mr. Laurel end up there with their wives, Daphne "Mama" Hardy (Daphne Pollard) and Betty "Bubbles" Laurel (Betty Brown). 

Ollie and Stan

Twin brothers to the prosperous gentlemen mentioned above, Seaman Bert Hardy and Seaman Alf Laurel also show up at Denker's establishment. The two tars were directed there by the Captain (Sidney Toler) of their ship, the S.S. Periwinkle.

Bert and Alf do not have a very good time of it after meeting two refined young ladies Alice (Iris Adrian) and Lily (Lona Andre). The boys don't have enough of the folding stuff to spend on the girls despite just having been paid. Fellow sailor Finn (James Finlayson) is holding their money in crooked trust so they will someday be millionaires.

Bert and Alf with Joe the waiter

Joe Gorgan (Alan Hale) the waiter at Denker's, unaware he is dealing with twins and the twins unaware of each other, has all of the Laurels and Hardys over a barrel. The prosperous town dwellers have been forced to pay up for the earlier indebtedness with the young ladies of refinement while the hapless and perpetually broke sailors have consigned a valuable ring belonging to their captain to the tavern keeper as security.

My, doesn't life get complicated? We'd better hurry with our pick-me-up before that souse (Arthur Housman) starts getting overly friendly. At any rate, we should try and find a nice corner table before things start hopping.

On third thought: Let's head over to a more classy place. Shady characters like the Gangster Boss (Ralf Harolde) and Second Gangster (Noel Madison) only add to the atmosphere of The Pirate Club. Should we sit on the balcony or over by the netting? Oh, look at the fancy birthday cake! I do hope there is no mishap with the confection.

Oblivious twins, jealous women, an irate captain, and gangsters. It's a recipe for mayhem and mirth.

W.W. Jacobs, the author of the famous horror tale The Monkey's Paw, also wrote much humour and it one of those stories, The Money Box, about some poor sailors trying to get rich that was the basis of Our Relations. The story was adapted by Richard Connell, familiar to many as the author of the adventurous tale The Most Dangerous Game. Felix Adler who collaborated on six of Laurel and Hardy's popular features, including Way Out West and Block-Heads was also a contributor.

Our Relations was the only time director Harry Lachman (Charlie Chan at the Circus) worked with the team. Rudolph Mate, the multi-Oscar-nominated cinematographer (Foreign Correspondent) worked on this picture and The Flying Deuces with Laurel and Hardy. Both movies required some movie trickery to put over the laughs.

TCM is screening Our Relations at 11:00 am on Thursday, December 6th in a daytime lineup filled with a generous helping of Laurel and Hardy goodness. In essence, wake up, turn on the television and enjoy!


Remember: Weebles wobble but they don't fall down.


Trivia:

Donald MacBride, Sidney Toler, Sen Yung
Murder Over New York

Our Relations director Harry Lachman would go on to direct the captain in our movie, Sidney Toler in his last four Charlie Chan features at 20th Century Fox.















Monday, November 26, 2018

NOIRVEMBER NUGGET: Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)


Twentieth Century Fox had success with their two period dramas based on Arthur Conan Doyle's continually popular detective, Sherlock Holmes. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were most felicitously paired in The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in 1939.

It fell to Universal to give fans what they craved - more Holmes and Watson. One imagines it was budget constraints that led to the plan to set the tales in contemporary times. Also, where could you find better villains that those masters of destruction, bent on their New World Order, the Nazis?

The studio lets us know where we stand with the opening title card:

Sherlock Holmes, the immortal character of fiction created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is ageless, invincible and unchanging. In solving significant problems of the present day he remains - as ever - the supreme master of deductive reasoning.

Olaf Hytten, Leyland Hodgson, Henry Daniell, Nigel Bruce
Reginald Denny, Montagu Love, Basil Rathbone

A German radio broadcaster calling himself The Voice of Terror is attempting to terrorize the people of Great Britain with pronouncements of acts of sabotage and taunting the officials tasked with protecting their people. The Intelligence Inner Council is a particular target and one of that body, Sir Evan Barham, an old school chum of Watson's played by Reginald Denny, has enlisted the aid of Sherlock Holmes. The other members of the Council are against bringing a private detective into their circle, but Downing Street has approved the appointment. Holmes now brings his special talents to bear on ferreting out what he is sure is a leak in the Intelligence Department.

This first of the new Universal Holmes series was taken from His Last Bow from the 1917 publication Some Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes, adapted by Robert Hardy Andrews (The Cross of Lorraine) with a screenplay by Lynn Riggs (Green Grow the Lilacs) and John Bright (Three on a Match).

The story is told with a distinctive noir flavour as directed by John Rawlins (Dick Tracy's Dilemma) and photographed by Elwood Bredel (The Killers). A constant sense of danger is created in the claustrophobic setting of Limehouse and the docks where Holmes leads all on a search for the criminals. Fog suffocates our characters and unknown enemies lurk everywhere. 

Basil Rathbone, Evelyn Ankers

The noir aspect is raised considerably with the introduction of Kitty played by Evelyn Ankers. Her husband Gavin had been a Holmes informant and was knifed in the back for his trouble. Holmes enlists Kitty's help to catch her husband's killer and to rouse her fellow Limehouse denizens in the battle against the Nazis. 

Holmes: "Gavin was killed not by his own enemies, not even by mine, but the enemies of England."

The use of close-ups in this scene is mesmerizing and a tribute to Basil Rathbone and Evelyn Ankers performances. Close-ups also come into play when we meet our villain, Meade played by Thomas Gomez. 

Evelyn Ankers, Tomas Gomez

Kitty gives herself one hundred percent to the cause and to her revenge. She becomes intimately involved with Meade, passing information to Holmes through a network of spies. Meade is completely power-mad as a chilling monologue recounting his rise indicates. Meade is as devoted to his cause as Kitty is to hers.

Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror runs at just over an hour, and I believe the movie would have benefited from a few more scenes involving Meade and Kitty. Nonetheless, the team of actors Ankers and Gomez is able to convey much about their characters that the script does not give us. It is a true noir relationship of secrets, control, and betrayal, with a bitter noir ending.

That Holmes is successful in quashing an invasion and revealing the double agent is not a surprise. It is why we are here. That this 75-year-old film can still pack a punch with its style should not surprise us either, but that its political content should not be completely foreign to 21st-century ears is troubling.













Saturday, November 17, 2018

THE ROCK HUDSON BLOGATHON: Has Anybody Seen My Gal (1952)


Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood are giving us the opportunity to celebrate the one and only Rock Hudson with this blogathon running November 17, 18 and 19. Click HERE or HERE to join the fun.


Publicity shot of Universal-International's young leading man Rock Hudson kicking up his heels in The Charleston for the 1920s set comedy Has Anybody Seen My Gal released the same year as his breakout role of Trey Wilson in Bend of the River.


Director Douglas Sirk's career from the study of law and art in Germany to Hollywood acclaim and influence brought him to Universal Studios in the 1950s where his output included the polished yet homey family comedy we look at here, to heartrending classic melodramas.

Working at the same studio brings directors and actors together often, and in the case of Has Anybody Seen My Gal this was one of two with Piper Laurie, the third of four with Gigi Perreau, the first of three with William Reynolds, and the first of nine with Rock Hudson. The collaborations of Sirk and Hudson would bring many challenges and successes to both and include Battle Hymn, Taza, Son of Cochise, and All That Heaven Allows.

Eleanor H. Porter (Pollyanna) wrote the story used for the basis of our movie and the screenwriter Joseph Hoffman borrowed a plot from one of his earlier films called Young as You Feel. The lovely Technicolor cinematography is by Clifford Stine (This Island Earth) and the music by Herman Stein. The soundtrack is filled with Tin Pan Alley hits of yesteryear that bolster the nostalgic feel the 1950s audience had for the 1920s.

Piper Laurie, Lynn Bari

Harriet Blaisdell played by Lynn Bari (Sun Valley Serenade) is a discontented housewife. Her husband Charles played by Larry Gates (Guiding Light) owns and operates a drug store and the family often has trouble making ends meet. Harriet's late mother married for love while her spurned suitor went on to become a millionaire. Harriet followed suit, but wants and expects better for her eldest daughter Millicent played by Piper Laurie (The Hustler). Harriet has her heart set on Millicent marrying the town's spoiled rich kid Carl Pennock played by Skip Homeier (The Tall T). All Millicent wants is Dan Stebbins played by Rock Hudson (Pillow Talk). Dan works for her dad and he's the bee's knees!

Samuel Fulton played by Charles Coburn (Kings Row) is the aforementioned spurned suitor of Mrs. Blaisdell's late mother. Unemcumbered by a family he went out into the world and made his fortune. The crotchety hypochondriac wants to leave his money to the family of his long-ago sweetheart. His doctor played by Willard Waterman (The Great Gildersleeve) and attorney played by Frank Ferguson (Johnny Guitar) put the idea into Fulton's head that he should return to his hometown and check the family out in person before bequeathing his fortune. They actually just want the old man to be up and doing something.

Charles Coburn, Gigi Perreau

Fulton, using the name of John Smith, gets himself ensconced in the Blaisdell household as a boarder and at the drugstore as a new soda jerker. The youngest Blaisdell, Roberta played by nine-year-old Gigi Perreau (Shadow on the Wall) takes to Mr. Smith right away, as does the family mutt called Penny. Roberta/Gigi is an appealing package of personality and energy. Her scenes with Smith/Coburn are a lot of fun.

After a while, Fulton decides to send a little of the green stuff the Blaisdell's way. Did I say a little? The cheque for $100,000 sends the family into a tizzy. Harriet takes charge in a big way. She urges Charles to sell his store. After all, a mere shopkeeper in their exalted social position? She breaks up Millicent and Dan's engagement. Dan is one of the proud types who doesn't want it to be said he's marrying Millicent for her money.

Charles Coburn, Rock Hudson

While Dan and "Gramps", as he calls Mr. Smith, adjust to working under less than ideal conditions with the skinflint of a new owner, Mr. Quinn played by Forrest Lewis (The Great Gildersleeve), they share lodgings. Harriet insisted on buying the biggest house in town where there was no room for Mr. Smith nor room for Penny the pooch who also moved in with Dan when replaced by two French Poodles.

William Reynolds, Larry Gates

Howard, the son of the Blaisdell household played by William Reynolds (There's Always Tomorrow) had been following his mother's lead and aiming to fit in with a fast and richer crowd. When he got into trouble with some gamblers it was Mr. Smith who anonymously came to his rescue. Howard was smart enough to figure out who his benefactor was and smart enough to learn his lesson.

Mr. Smith got Millicent out of a couple of scraps as well with the irresponsible Carl Pennock, and poor Smith kept ending up in court because of his largess. Eventually, the Blaisdell's ran through their money and their unknown benefactor did them the greatest favour of all by refusing to cough up anything more to be them out of the hole.

Rock Hudson, Piper Laurie

It was back to the comfortable if crowded home, and back to the store with Dan about to join the family as son-in-law and the business as a partner. Mr. Fulton remained Mr. Smith to the family as he said his goodbyes.

This charming family comedy is what I call a Sunday matinee movie due to its popping up on local television on that day and being such a comfort to watch. The movie is gorgeous to look at, with lovely and subtle transitions from summer to fall to winter. The cast is attractive and pleasant, and the problems are not life-threatening, but easily and expectedly solved to the satisfaction of the audience. The costumes by Rosemary Odell (To Kill a Mockingbird) are good looking as well as capturing the era.

James Dean

The extras are packed with young people doing the Charleston and giving out with the slang of the time. There is a very brief and amusing scene with James Dean as a customer giving Gramps a hard time at the soda fountain. You will recall that Dean and Hudson will team up in a "little" picture in a few years.

Stage and screen actor Charles Coburn had been in the acting game for decades. I wonder what he thought of the young leading man who was his co-star here, or even imagined that a cult would build up around that youngster with one scene.

Piper Laurie, Rock Hudson
Millicent sings Gimme a Little Kiss to Dan in this scene. It is adorable!

Rock Hudson had some more westerns to make for Universal-International in the following years and soon he and Piper Laurie would leave behind the Charleston to cavort in the Arabian adventure The Golden Blade. The next level of Hudson's stardom would be reached in 1954 with Magnificent Obsession. A-level classics are in Hudson's future, but there is a lot of joy to be found in his early career.













Friday, November 16, 2018

THE GREATEST FILM I'VE NEVER SEEN BLOGATHON: Modern Times (1936)


Debbie Vega at Moon in Gemini is hosting the genius blogathon The Greatest Film I've Never Seen from November 16th to 18th. What is the big gap in your film viewing? Will you love it? Will you be disappointed? Click HERE to discover the answers to those questions and more.

Over the years, I have seen a clip here and a clip there from Chaplin's Modern Times but had not seen the movie.


Did I think I didn't need to see it? After all, I do know how it ends thanks to this famous image. Did I not want to see it? The title and the things I had read all talked about this being Chaplin's commentary on 20th Century life. Maybe I thought it was going to be preachy. Truth be told, the very opening scene which likened a herd of sheep to the crowds in a city made me grimace. However, I soldiered on and I am very glad I did so.



Our Tramp is a small cog in the great wheel of civilization, sometimes literally. Bosses and cops and preconceptions are aligned against him. I expected the pathos, but for some reason, I didn't expect the laughs and Charlie the clown gave me plenty of them.

Pushed around at his factory job to the point of being a guinea pig for a feeding machine the Tramp goes off the deep end and is sent to a sanitarium. Upon release, he is mistaken for a "Red" (wonder where he got that idea) and ends up a convict who becomes an unlikely hero who gets kicked out of his cushy cell and back to the cold streets.


It is back on those cold streets that he comes across "The Gamin" and they befriend each other. Paulette Goddard plays this orphan who was destined for an institution with her two younger sisters. She sought freedom, no matter the cost. The odd yet simpatico pair dream of having a home someday.


This is the Chaplin of The Rink, as he defies gravity and common sense roller skating during a wonderful segment in which he and The Gamin spend the night in a Department Store. The night watchman job was one of a series of "ups" which is always too quickly followed by a "down." We even get the Tramp of The Cure when he inadvertently gets soused.


Frequent co-stars of the past, Tiny Sandford as a factory co-worker and Chester Conklin as a chief mechanic, add to the nostalgia and the fun of the 1936 release, a mostly silent movie in the era of talkies. Originally planned as a talkie, writer/director/composer/editor Charlie Chaplin thought better of letting the Tramp speak. It was so unlike him! Instead, during one of the "up" periods when The Gamin is dancing in a cafe, she gets her friend the job of a singing waiter. Chaplin is heard onscreen singing delightful gibberish accompanied by an equally delightful pantomime. The creator remained true to his creation.

Chaplin's compositions arranged by David Raksin and Edward Powell, and conducted by Alfred Newman are superb. I admit to getting a little weepy when Smile is played in the score, but I spent most of this movie smiling and chuckling and laughing out loud.

Modern Times was placed on the National Film Registry in 1989. It is a genuine classic and no longer the greatest movie I have never seen.















WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON: The Villainy of Jack Lambert

It's time for the 7th annual What a Character! blogathon hosted by Paula's Cinema Club , Outspoken and Freckled and Once Upon ...