Thursday, February 21, 2013

31 Days of Oscar Blogathon: Oscar's Children

Quvenzahane Wallis

Quvenzhane Wallis was a five-year-old passing as six when she made her acting and film debut in the 2009 feature Beasts of the Southern Wild.  She is nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for the 85th Academy Awards this coming Sunday, February 24th.  Also nominated in the category is 86-year-old Emmanuelle Riva for her role in Amour.  She will be celebrating her birthday on Oscar night.

Justin Henry

The Academy has garnered much publicity for the age disparity in the category.  The previous record in that regard was in the 1980 Oscar ceremony in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category.  At 78 years of age, previous winner Melvyn Douglas was nominated and won for his role in Being There.  The eight-year-old Justin Henry from Kramer vs. Kramer became at that time the youngest ever nominee in a competitive category.

The first Academy Awards were presented in 1929 as a means of encouraging quality, promoting product and, in a vain hope in some studio executives, an attempt to stem the tide of unionism in the industry.  Well, two out of three ain't bad.  The Oscar has come to represent a milestone in entertainment and it certainly gets people excited about the product.  However, a shiny trophy would not dissuade those guilds from forming to protect the rights of workers.

Most little children like to play pretend and some excel at the game.  Some little children seem born for the stage and relish the chance to work and create.  Some little children are goaded into a career by ambitious family or circumstances.  Audiences love to watch children on the screen as much as stopping to admire a baby being strolled around their neighbourhood.  There has always been an "infant phenomenon" as Dicken's Vincent Crummles referred to his daughter's standing in his traveling troupe of players.  Should these children be nominated for Academy Awards?  Certainly, age should not be a barrier to recognition of accomplishment.  However, for a lot of its history it seems as if some of these nominations, however well-deserved, seem like stunt nominations.  The Academy certainly garnered much publicity for the age differences in that 1980 season as well as this year.  The issue seems to be one with which the Academy has struggled throughout its history indicated by the bestowing of honorary Oscars to juvenile performers.  If it is truly a level playing field, age-wise, than there have been some rather glaring omissions such as Freddie Bartholomew in Captains Courageous, Roddy McDowell in How Green Was My Valley, Dean Stockwell in The Secret Garden or Enzo Staiola in Bicycle Thieves.

Despite the honour of simply being nominated and the phrase "the Oscar goes to", at that night and in that moment it is all about the winner and the "non-winner".  Acknowledgement of work or stunt, the Academy has placed children in competition with adults and adults in competition with children.  Perhaps it is not a healthy situation for all.  Let's look at some of the young nominees and winners.

Jackie Cooper

In 1931 Jackie Cooper, at age nine, was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the movie Skippy.  The award was given to 52-year-old Lionel Barrymore.  While I bow to no one in my admiration for Mr. Barrymore, it pains me to say that I do not consider A Free Soul to represent anywhere near his finest work and young Master Cooper was robbed.  I am not referring to his crying scenes which were notoriously coerced by director Norman Taurog (Jackie's uncle) threatening to shoot the youngster's dog.  Jackie carried that movie on his small shoulders.  Every attitude, every stance and line made you like that boy and want to see his story through to the end.

Marcia Mae Jones, Bonita Granville

The 1936 Academy Awards featured the first of the Supporting Actor and Actress categories.  Veteran child actress Bonita Granville, at 13, was nominated for the scheming liar Mary Tilford in William Wyler's These Three based on Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour.  Equally impressive is Marcia Mae Jones as her unwilling accomplice Rosalie Wells.  It is a most worthy nominee alongside Alice Brady in My Man Godfrey, Beulah Bondi in The Gorgeous Hussy, Maria Ouspenskaya in Dodsworth and winner Gale Sondergaard in Anthony Adverse

Brandon de Wilde

The 1954 Academy Awards saw two actors from George Stevens' Shane nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.  Jack Palace as the gunfighter Wilson and Brandon de Wilde as farmer's son Joey Starrett.  In 1950 at eight-years-old de Wilde made his Broadway debut in Carson McCullers' The Member of the Wedding and repeated the role in the screen version.  His Joey Starrett in Shane is one of the most real portrayals of a youngster on screen.  The Oscar went to Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity.

Patty McCormack

The Bad Seed ran on Broadway for over 300 performances beginning in 1954.  The young murderer Rhoda Penmark was portrayed by nine-year-old Patty McCormack.  The 1956 Mervyn LeRoy directed screen version featured many of the original cast including Nancy Kelly, Eileen Heckart, Henry Jones and Evelyn Varden.  Miss Kelly would be nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role and both Patty McCormack and Eileen Heckart were nominated in the Best Actress in a Supporting Role.  Herein lies another of those Academy vagaries that set fans' teeth on edge.  Supporting!  If Rhoda isn't a lead character than who is?  Ingrid Bergman in Anastasia was awarded the trophy that season.

Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, James Dean

Teenagers Natalie Wood (16) and Sal Mineo (15) were nominated in the supporting categories for 1955's Rebel Without a Cause.  Natalie had made her film debut at age five and Sal began appearing on Broadway at age 11.  Natalie would receive Best Actress in a Lead Role nominations for 1961s Splendor in the Grass and for 1963s Love With the Proper Stranger.  Sal would receive another supporting actor nomination for 1960s Exodus

Anne Bancroft, Patty Duke

The successful Broadway play, The Miracle Worker began its 700 plus performance run in 1959 starring Anne Bancroft and 12-year-old Patty Duke.  They would recreate the roles of teacher Anne Sullivan and the inspiring Helen Keller in the 1962 film directed by Arthur Penn.  Miss Bancroft would win the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role and Miss Duke for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.  Supporting, indeed.  The two actresses supported each other magnificently.  Patty would play Anne Sullivan in a 1979 made-for-TV movie with Melissa Gilbert as Helen. 

Gregory Peck, Mary Badham

Competing with Patty Duke at the 1962 Academy Awards was 10-year-old Mary Badham so memorable as Scout in Robert Mulligan's haunting To Kill a Mockingbird.  Veteran Thelma Ritter for Birdman of Alcatraz, Shirley Knight in Sweet Bird of Youth and Angela Lansbury in the chilling The Manchurian Candidate rounded out the nominees in the supporting actress category.  Quite a diverse group of ladies.

Tatum O'Neal

The 1973 awards would see another nomination of two youngsters.  Tatum O'Neal, at 10 years of age, wowed critics and audiences as Addie in Peter Bogdanovich's film of Joe David Brown's Paper Moon.  Winning in the Best Actress in a Supporting role category over 13-year-old Linda Blair in The Exorcist, co-star Madeline Kahn, Candy Clark in American Graffiti and 63-year-old Sylvia Sidney for Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams.  Again we see a lead character nominated in the supporting category, a move made throughout the Academy's history perhaps hoping to ensure a win.  It does belie the idea of a level playing field.

Jodie Foster

Already a veteran and fine actress, at the age of 14 Jodie Foster received her first Academy Award nomination for Martin Scorsese's 1976 film Taxi Driver.  She was too good to be ignored although the award would go to Beatrice Straight in Network.  Jane Alexander in All the President's Men, Lee Grant in Voyage of the Damned and Piper Laurie in Carrie rounded out the nominees in the Best Actress in a Supporting Role category.  Jodie's next three nominations would all be in the leading category for The Accused (win), The Silence of the Lambs (win) and Nell.

Quinn Cummings

A lovely performance from 10-year-old Quinn Cummings in 1977s The Goodbye Girl is a worthy Best Actress in a Supporting Role nominee.  Vanessa Redgrave was awarded for Julia.  Other nominees were Tuesday Weld in Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Melinda Dillon in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Leslie Brown in The Turning Point.

Anna Paquin

The 1994 Oscar ceremony saw Best Actress in a Supporting Role go to 11-year-old Anna Paquin for The Piano.  Co-star Holly Hunter won Best Actress in a Lead Role.  Paquin's competition in the supporting category included Holly Hunter in The Firm, Rosie Perez in Fearless, Winona Ryder in The Age of Innocence and Emma Thompson in In the Name of the Father

Haley Joel Osment

The century turned and at the 2000 awards ceremony 11-year-old Haley Joel Osment was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role as Cole in The Sixth Sense.  Is age a a factor in some category determinations?  Competition included Tom Cruise in Magnolia, Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile, Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley and the winner Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules.

Keisha Castle-Hughes

Keisha Castle-Hughes was a 12-year-old actress when she starred in the 2002 feature Whale Rider and was 14 at the 2004 Oscar ceremony where she competed in the Best Actress in a Lead Role Category.  The award was won by Charlie Theron for Monster and the other nominees included Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give, Samantha Morton in In America and Naomi Watts in 21 Grams.  Heavy hitters indeed and heady company for a youngster.

Hailee Steinfeld

The 2011 ceremony saw 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld nominated for the role of Maddie Ross in True Grit.  Again, the nomination was for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.  Anyone who has read Charles Portis' novel or seen either film version knows that the story is all about Maddie.
Shirley Temple

Throughout the years The Academy has seen fit to bestow Honorary Oscars to various members and some of those were bestowed on young performers.  The first of these so honored was Shirley Temple.  Her award reads "In grateful recognition of her outstanding contribution to screen entertainment during the year 1934."  The appealing and talented little dancer and her sunny screen personality replenished the coffers of 20th Century Fox and delighted Depression era audiences.  Shirley's films delight us to this day.

Edgar Bergen, Deanna Durbin

Canadian born soprano Deanna Durbin and the multi-talented, energetic Mickey Rooney were honored in 1938 "for their significant contribution in bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players setting a high standard of ability and achievement."  Deanna Durbin's vocal talent beyond her years and spunky, yet vulnerable screen persona reversed the fortunes of Universal Studios for the better.  Ten years later Deanna would leave show business behind for the life of a married lady in France.

Mickey Rooney

Rooney was a real workhorse for MGM.  From A Midsummer Night's Dream to The Devil is a Sissy to Captains Courageous to the Hardy films and the musicals with Garland, that studio sure got their money's worth.  Rooney would receive leading role nominations for 1940s The Human Comedy and 1944s Babes in Arms and supporting nods for 1956s The Bold and the Brave and 1979s The Black Stallion.

Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney

In 1939, the year of The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland received an Honorary Oscar "for her outstanding performance as a screen juvenile during the past year".  Why not a nomination?

Margaret O'Brien

In 1944, the year of Meet Me in St. Louis, Margaret O'Brien received an Honorary Oscar as "outstanding child actress of 1944".  Again, if others were/are nominated, why not Margaret.  Lionel Barrymore said admiringly of Margaret that if she had been born in a earlier time she'd have been burned as a witch.  She was born to act.

Peggy Ann Garner

Another performance that could not be ignored as Peggy Ann Garner as Francie Nolan in Elia Kazan's movie of Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  Peggy was awarded "outstanding child actress of 1945".

Harold Russell, Shirley Temple, Claude Jarmin Jr.

Claude Jarmin Jr. was awarded "outstanding child actor of 1946" as Jody in Clarence Brown's masterful film of Marjorie Kinnan Rawling's The Yearling.  Both performances from Peggy and Claude are natural and moving.

Ivan Jandl

"For the outstanding juvenile performance of 1948 in The Search" the award was presented to 10-year-old Czechoslovakian Ivan Jandl.  His heartbreaking performance in the post-war story won many hearts as well as the trophy.  Apparently the Czech government would not allow him to take advantage of the Hollywood opportunities that came his way with the Academy's honour.

 Bobby Driscoll

"For outstanding juvenile actor of 1949" the honorary Oscar was given to Bobby Driscoll.  An actor since the age of 3, Bobby was seen in a number of films and was the lead in Disney's Song of the South and So Dear to My Heart prior to this win.  In 1949 the 11-year-old was the "boy who cried wolf" in The Window based on a Cornell Woolrich story.  Drisoll's character Tommy is a compelling film-noir protagonist.  Later roles include Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island, the voice of Peter Pan and (a favourite of mine) "Bibi" in The Happy Time.

Vincent Winter, Jon Whiteley

The last juvenile players to receive Honorary Oscars are from across the pond.  Eight-year-old Jon Whiteley and six-year-old Vincent Winter each received awards "for his outstanding juvenile performance in The Little Kidnappers.  Well-deserved recognition for a charming and under-recognized film.

Born into a show business family and carrying the acting gene in spades Hayley Mills was a phenomenon in the 1960s and her Honorary Oscar reads "for Pollyanna, the most outstanding juvenile performance during 1960."

As a film fan I can't help but rejoice at the acknowledgement of fine work and the chance to promote the same afforded by the Academy.  However, I see throughout its history the same sort of conflict within the organization that I sense in the placing of youngsters in competition, both the competition to get the part and the one for the trophy.  As a film fan, the event may become just another bit of accumulated movie trivia, but the performance lives forever.

The 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon jointly sponsored by Once Upon a Screen, Outspoken and Freckled and Paula's Cinema Club is full of insights, information and all around good reading.  It runs from February 1 to March 3rd.  Enjoy.

Monday, February 18, 2013

CMBA Fabulous Films of the 1940s Blogathon: My Darling Clementine (1946)

I love a lot of movies.  A lot of the movies I love are from the 1940s.  I think the Classic Movie Blog Association's Fabulous Films of the 1940s Blogathon is the greatest idea since Allan Dwan's crane shot in Intolerance!

While I do love a lot of movies, there is only one movie that I have fallen in love with and that is John Ford's noirish, poetic look at the broken souls of Tombstone in 1946s My Darling Clementine.  Love has been known to get a girl in trouble.  The owner of the local laundromat may have regretted installing that television set the day of my contretemps with a heavy-set fellow from the apartment building next door.  That gentleman loathed My Darling Clementine as much as I love it.  He loathed it for historical inaccuracies regarding characters and events.  He loathed the use of Monument Valley for the filming location.  I cannot understand why any of that matters in the face of such a beautiful film.  It is the story told that grabs me.  Facts are available elsewhere.  When a fellow who thinks he knows all about movies meets a woman who knows she knows all about movies there are bound to be some uncomfortable moments for the rest of the customers in the laundromat.  When we parted it was not on friendly terms.  

The life of frontiersman/lawman/entrepreneur/self promoter Wyatt Earp (1848-1939) and his exploits has been the basis for countless and popular books, movies and television.  One of the first films to recount the subject matter of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral is 1932s Law and Order adapted by John Huston from W.R. Burnett's "Saint" Johnson (the fictional name given Wyatt) starring Walter Huston as the lawman.  It's interesting cast includes Walter Brennan and Russell Simpson who shows up later in our story.  The film itself is very interesting with a fabulous shootout, as recalled from my one and only viewing several years ago.

My Darling Clementine was John Ford's first film following his service with the Field Photographic Unit in WW2.  Ford was chaffing to get his own production company underway (Argosy), but was contractually obligated to one more film for Darryl Zanuck and 20th Century Fox.  The hands-on producer noted for his strong story sense and editing abilities had collaborated with Ford on such bona-fide classics as The Grapes of Wrath and How Green Was My Valley.  Desiring a hit and choosing a western, Zanuck assigned Ford the task of reworking the 1939 picture Frontier Marshal.  Ford chose to shoot in Monument Valley to keep away from studio interference.  Ford had his way on the shoot and Zanuck had his way with the cutting.  Whatever their differences or agreements, the arrangement worked.

Frontier Marshal is based on Stuart N. Lake's detailed and admiring 1931 biography Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal.  Much of the book centres on Earp's close family ties, his friendship with "Doc" Holliday, his work in Dodge City and the troubles with the Clantons in Tombstone.  The screenplay by Sam Hellman (Little Miss Marker, Stanley and Livingstone, The Return of Frank James) included incidents which have been standard parts of the Earp legend including the routing of the drunk "Indian Joe" and the trouble when entertainer Eddie Foy journeyed to Tombstone.  Earp takes the marshal's job away from a timid Ward Bond who shows up later in our story.  It is a well-cast and crisp western directed by Toronto born film pioneer Allan Dwan (Heidi, Suez, Silver Lode, Sands of Iwo Jima).  Randolph Scott is Earp who arrives in Tombstone a loner with no family ties who takes on the marshal position and becomes friends with the consumptive gunfighter and gambler "Doc" Halliday (that's right, "Halliday") played by a charismatic Cesar Romero.  Nancy Kelly is the girl from Doc's past and Binnie Barnes the saloon gal who wants to be his future.  In this film Barne's character despises Scott throughout, and it's rather tough on this gal who grew up loving their "meant to be together" relationship as Alice and Hawkeye in 1936s The Last of the Mohicans.  1939 would also find Scott pining for Kelly in Henry King's Technicolor film Jesse James.  Our classic Hollywood is a small world. 

Ward Bond, Henry Fonda, Tim Holt

The screenplay for My Darling Clementine "based on a story by Sam Hellman" is by producer/writer Samuel Engel (Charlie Chan in Rio, Blue, White and Perfect) and Winston Miller (Danger Street, Lucy Gallant) TV producer and writer of popular shows such as Ironside, The Virginian, Cannon, etc.  Wyatt Earp is given back his brothers and a powerful motive for remaining in the "wide awake, wide open town" of Tombstone.

Our story opens with four Earp brothers driving cattle to California.  Wyatt played by Henry Fonda isn't the oldest, but he's a natural leader.  Morgan Earp is John Ford stock company stalwart Ward Bond.  Tim Holt makes his second (Stagecoach) appearance in a Ford film as Virgil Earp.  A 23-year-old, and looking younger, Don Garner whose work here as in most of his films is uncredited plays the baby of the family, James.  Garner would also appear in the 1955 remake of 1932s Law and Order.  

John Ireland, Grant Withers, Henry Fonda, Fred Libby

After refusing an offer for their cattle from Ike Clanton played by multiple Academy Award winner Walter Brennan, the older brothers head into town for a shave and a drink, leaving their beloved younger brother in charge of the herd.  The Earps do indeed find Tombstone to be the "wide awake, wide open town" Clanton proclaimed it to be.  Wyatt receives a job offer when he settles the hash of poor old "Indian Joe", but he's not interested.  Not interested until they return to their camp to find young James murdered and their cattle gone.  On a dreary, rainy night in Tombstone Wyatt becomes marshal with his brothers as deputies and the die is cast.

Henry Fonda said in an interview with Elwy Yost on TVOntario's Saturday Night at the Movies that John Ford with his unerring eye won awards for his cameramen.  In his career cinematographer Joe MacDonald was nominated three times for Oscars, twice for color films (The Sand Pebbles, Pepe), but it is his sumptuous work in Black and White that moves me in such films as Call Northside 777, The Dark Corner and Panic in the Streets.  His stunning work on location in My Darling Clementine adds immeasurably to the dark flavour of Tombstone at night and walks us into the brightness of the sunshine in the day.

Walter Brennan

Many of John Ford's films touch on the bond of families, those of blood (How Green Was My Valley, The Grapes of Wrath) and those brought together by external circumstances such as family of the cavalry (Rio Grande, Fort Apache, etc.).  Oddly enough the Earps find a replacement brother in "Doc" Holliday, a surgeon turned gunfighter battling tuberculosis and his own conscious.  It is an uneasy, yet strangely strong bond.  Victor Mature gives a strong and compelling performance as "Doc".  Ford was known for his unremitting hounding of certain actors during filming (Harry Carey Jr. in 3 Godfathers, John Wayne in Stagecoach).  On My Darling Clementine usual whipping boy Ward Bond was spared in favour of Mature.  In an interview on Saturday Night at the Movies Richard Widmark told anecdotes that show that Victor Mature did not take that sort of guff from director Henry Hathaway on the set of Kiss of Death.  However, he appears to have taken it, as others had before and after, from Ford.  Is it because he or they felt assured that the ultimate performance would be worth it?  One who did not take it was Walter Brennan.  Brennan is outstanding as Clanton, one of the screen`s great villains.  He vowed never to work with Ford again and he didn`t.  Of course, maybe he wasn`t asked.  Brennan would later spoof this role in 1969s Support Your Local Sheriff written by William Bowers (Cry Danger, The Gunfighter) as Pa Danby.  He's a hoot!

Linda Darnell

Linda Darnell (A Letter to Three Wives) is the spitfire Chihuahua, saloon singer, shady lady and Doc`s lover.  She`s beautiful, brassy and sweet.  She`s had to make her place in the world and she intends to keep it.  The title girl is Doc`s former fiance, Clementine Carter played by Cathy Downs (The Dark Corner).  She`s pretty, self-assured and ladylike, but no frail flower.  She has followed Doc across the country determined to return him to his old place in society.  The fact that Doc keeps Clem`s picture shows that she still has a claim upon him.

Henry Fonda, Cathy Downs

Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp feels very real.  He is confident in his abilities as a lawman and amusingly less sure when it comes to his burgeoning feelings for Miss Carter.  John Ford here gives us the opportunity to know Wyatt and expand the family relationship through the little touches of humour that are so memorable with Wyatt balancing himself on the chair and the gussying up he endures from the barber.  Tombstone is not all dark alleys and gambling halls.  A Sunday service and church building gives the Earps a chance to see the other side of the town.  As Virgil says "There must be a lot of nice people hereabouts, we just haven`t met them."  Ford loves a dance (Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Grapes of Wrath) and My Darling Clementine is one of the sweetest as the "marshal and his lady fair" take a turn.

J. Farrell MacDonald, Henry Fonda, Tim Holt
Ward Bond, Victor Mature, Alan Mowbray

Ford gives special moments to beloved character actors such as Jane Darwell (The Grapes of Wrath) as one of the denizens of the night.  J. Farrell MacDonald (3 Bad Men, The Whole Town`s Talking) as the bartender has the best line in the movie, and his expressive face conveys so much throughout.  Russell Simpson (The Grapes of Wrath, They Were Expendable) represents the amiable, non-criminal element of the town.  Alan Mowbray (Wagon Master, Terror by Night) is a charmer as the perpetually inebriated Actor (note the capital A) who incites and delights the town, infuriates the Clantons, and moves Doc with his recitation of Hamlet`s famous soliloquy.

The original music for the movie is by Cyril Mockridge (Nightmare Alley, Cheaper by the Dozen) and sets the sense of the outdoors at the opening and the obligatory minor key to introduce the Clantons.  James Earp is given the theme of a gentle guitar.  For the majority of the film the only music heard is that which is heard naturally in the town, the playing of the saloon musicians or the music for the dancing.  Classic westerns have brought out the best in many film composers and the scores have been come as memorable and as part of the film as any story or performances.  Try to imagine Red River be without Dimitri Tiomkin, The Big Country without Jerome Moross or The Magnificent Seven without Elmer Bernstein.  The lack of a score does not in the least hurt My Darling Clementine.  The story and performances are engrossing, moving and exciting and the choice to forego the punctuation of humour or shock with music was a wise one.

Monument Valley, Cathy Downs

Knowing the Clantons are behind the death of James Earp and proving it are two different things.  When proof is discovered it leads to two more shocking deaths and the ultimate showdown at the O.K. Corrall.  It is a tension filled scene that is exciting to watch and, even at this point in the picture, a chance to explore the characters of the men involved.

As he did with Stagecoach in 1939, John Ford once again raised the bar for the western genre in Hollywood.  The National Board of Review in 1946 placed My Darling Clementine among the top 10 pictures of the year.  In 1991 My Darling Clementine was placed on the National Film Registry.  Its pleasures are many.  My Darling Clementine is easy to fall in love with.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Caftan Woman's Choice: One for February on TCM

"The rich are not like you and me." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Or maybe they are, just better dressed. Philip Barry's comedy-of-manners Holiday was a success on Broadway in 1928-29 running for over 200 performances and touring. The first film version in 1930 starred Ann Harding, Mary Astor and Robert Ames in a fast-paced early talkie. The actors fit their roles perfectly.

The 1938 version from RKO directed by George Cukor is a movie that has become an old friend. Like that old friend with whom we have become too familiar and comfortable, Holiday has been sitting in the corner of my movie universe patiently waiting for me to call. It was a long overdue call.  A call that made me realize just why we became friends in the first place.

Katharine Hepburn understudied Hope Williams in the role of Linda during the original Broadway production. According to her autobiography Me, Ms. Williams offered to take a night off giving Kate a chance at the role, but despite having all the confidence in the world Ms. Hepburn declined, playing the role only once during a later tour.

Linda Seton is the black sheep of an extremely wealthy family. The societal and family expectations that go along with the money stifle and strangle our Linda. She is a lost lamb trying to find herself. The son of the family, Ned played by Lew Ayres, puts in token appearances at the family business during the day and drinks the rest of the time. Julia played by Doris Nolan is the family's golden girl. She behaves as expected and enjoys the good life. Her good life led her to a ski vacation where she has met and fallen in love with a young businessman named Johnny Case played by Cary Grant. Johnny is a bright fellow. He wasn't born to money, but he has worked hard and is about to realize his first great success. He has certain ideas about life and he wants to share that life with Julia. Johnny is head over heels in love.

Katharine Hepburn, Doris Nolan

Love, as we all know, is blind. Johnny is blind to the fact that his beloved Julia doesn't quite understand his plan of using his hard earned money to take some time off and see the world and find out what it's all about. Well, maybe Johnny's ideas aren't very definite, but it is his dream and he wants to give it a go. Johnny has worked for that dream and he deserves it. Where the money or fear or love of it has trapped someone like Linda, Johnny sees it as the key to freedom, to explore. It is the sort of thing that Linda understands. Unfortunately, Johnny isn't engaged to Linda.  

The screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart (Kitty Foyle), who played Nick Potter on Broadway, and Sidney Buchman (The Talk of the Town) is a lovely combination of wit and heart. The players are grand including Edward Everett Horton (The Merry Widow) as Nick Potter, repeating the role he played in the 1930 film, and Jean Dixon (My Man Godfrey) as his wife, Susan. The Potters are Johnny's friends and they are OK. Familiar character actor Henry Kolker (The Black Room) lords it over all as the patriarch of the Seton clan. Binnie Barnes (Frontier Marshal) and Henry Daniell (The Body Snatcher) are too much fun to watch as grasping Seton cousins.

Henry Daniell, Binnie Barnes, Cary Grant, Doris Nolan, Henry Kolker

Stephen Goosson and Lionel Banks were nominated for the Oscar for Best Art Direction for Holiday. Goosson received five nominations throughout his career for the 1930 fantasy Just Imagine, 1942s The Little Foxes, 1946s A Thousand and One Nights and winning the award in 1938 for Lost Horizon. Columbia's Holiday lost the art direction award to the Warner Brothers The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Katharine Hepburn, Jean Dixon, Lew Ayres
Cary Grant, Edward Everett Horton

I long to see Holiday on the big screen to revel in the astounding sets including the immense Seton mansion where the expanse is at odds with the trapped souls of Linda and Ned, and the cozy playroom where life feels real.

TCM is screening Holiday as part of their 31 Days of Oscar on Friday, February 22nd at 9:45 a.m.


Terence Towles Canote at A Shroud of Thoughts is hosting The 8th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon . The popular blogathon is runn...