Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Caftan Woman's Choice: One for May on TCM

The May spotlight is doing double duty as my annual birthday salute to Bing Crosby.

What is better than a "Road to" movie? How about a "Road to" movie in Technicolor. 1953s Road to Bali is the only "Road to" movie filmed in colour and is the last of what I would call the official "Road to" pictures. The code I live by does not accept 1960s The Road to Hong Kong as Dorothy Lamour is not the leading lady.

The first of the Crosby - Hope - Lamour comedies, 1940s Road to Singapore had a checkered history having been conceived as a vehicle for George Burns and Gracie Allen then refashioned into a buddy picture for Fred MacMurray and Jack Oakie. The timing didn't work out for that duo to play the playboy and his pal who stir up comic misadventures in the south seas. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope ended up singing Johnny Burke, James Monaco and director Victor Schertzinger songs to a sarong clad Dorothy Lamour. The movie's slight plot was bolstered by the music, a faux-exotic locale and the breezy camaraderie of the newly installed leads. Paramount found themselves with an unexpected hit.

Bing and Bob had first met in NYC in 1932 when Bob was emceeing at the Capital Theater where Bing had a week long engagement. Sharing a love of fun and repartee, the two hit it off and worked up routines to enliven the show. Years later in Hollywood, between their writers and their individual wits, the future entries in their movie series took off in wild flights of fancy and fun, for the participants and for the audience. The followups, all with songs by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Huesen, are 1941s Road to Zanzibar, 1942s Road to Morocco, 1945s Road to Utopia, 1947s Road to Rio, 1952s Road to Bali, and the other one.

Dorothy Lamour, Bing Crosby

The idea in all these movies is that Bing and Bob are shiftless entertainers usually on the run from the law and/or shotgun armed fathers of voluptuous daughters. Along the way there would be evil-doers (Anthony Quinn, Douglas Dumrille, Jack LaRue, etc.) and Dorothy Lamour as a damsel in distress who loves both of them but usually ends up with Bing. Songs in the series would become standards such as Moonlight Becomes You, Personality and But Beautiful. Ensuing hijinks include contemporary political humour, inside jokes, breaking the fourth wall, talking animals and Robert Benchley.

Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour

In Road to Bali (they never do get there) the boys are broke in Melbourne and on the run from a couple of dolls. One of them is 22-year-old Carolyn Jones! They end up as deep sea divers aka giant squid bait retrieving sunken treasure. A half Scottish Island princess gives the boys an excuse to wear kilts for a novelty tune, Hoot Mon.

The princess has an evil cousin played by Mervyn Vye (Golden Earrings, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court).  A widowed gorilla falls for the boys. Bob, Bing and Dorothy sing a lively The Merry Go Run Around. Oh - and there's a volcano. All of this happens with non-stop one-up-mans-ship in the form of quips, asides and some of the corniest sight gags, sound gags and celebrity cameos you have ever seen in one movie. It cracks me up!

TCM is showing Road to Bali on Friday, May 2nd at 10:45 am. It is part of a morning of Bing Crosby films to commemorate his birthday. The lineup is Going Hollywood, Road to Bali, High Society and Man on Fire.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Great Villain Blogathon, The Spider Woman (1943)

Something scary is happening.  Speakeasy, Shadows and Satin and Silver Screenings have pooled their considerable talents to bring us The Great Villain Blogathon, running April 20th to 26th.

Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce first embodied Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson for Twentieth Century Fox in 1939s The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The Victorian-era tales were well made and popular, but a series idea did not continue past those two excellent movies. In 1942 Universal took up the mantle with Rathbone and Bruce, updating the pair to a contemporary setting with the majority of the films directed by Roy William Neill. Holmes was free to pursue various nefarious villains from Professor Moriarty to Nazis. In 1944 Holmes was pitted against one of the most fiendish of them all - The Spider Woman!

Gale Sondergaard, Basil Rathbone

Holmes:  I suspect a woman.
Watson:  A woman?  You amaze me, Holmes.  Why a woman?
Holmes:  Because the method, whatever it is, is peculiarly subtle and cruel.  Feline, not canine.

Well, if that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is.

London newspapers are full of reports of mysterious deaths known as "pyjama suicides". Eminent men of means retire for the evening and, with no apparent cause, leap to their deaths. What is behind it all? Only one man can solve the puzzle, but that one man is dead. While on a fishing vacation in Scotland, Sherlock Holmes falls to his death leaving behind a baffled constabulary and a bereft John Watson.

Of course, we know he's an old faker. Holmes wouldn't go and die on us. He wants to lull the criminal element behind the "pyjama suicides" into a false sense of security. A disguised Holmes will follow up on his one lead by placing himself in harm's way. Holmes, in his everlasting confidence, does not fear the "female Moriarty" of crime.

Dennis Hoey, Basil Rathbone

Gale Sondergaard stars as Adrea Spedding, the Spider Woman. Ms. Spedding has quite the lucrative racket. Through the auspices of a gaming establishment, she induces the eminent men of means to sign over their insurance policies and then on a luckless night frightens them into causing their own deaths to escape the Lycosa Carnivora, the deadliest insect known to science. Creepy and effective.

It is a deadly game of cat and mouse between Holmes and the Spider Woman. They see through each other's disguises and ploys easily, and their enjoyment in the game is as great as ours is in watching the sparring. Holmes comes very close to underestimating his adversary in this adventure.

Adrea Spedding is a brilliant manipulator and exceedingly clever. She controls her organization with an uncanny ability to anticipate her enemy's moves and an easy access to her dark side. A mad scientist, an annoying child, and an arcade shooting gallery all figure in the match-up between the two masterminds, which gives us one of the most entertaining entries in the Universal Holmes series.

Vernon Downing, Basil Rathbone, Alec Craig, Gale Sondergaard

Holmes aficionados will have fun looking for nods to The Adventure of the Final Problem, The Sign of Four, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, The Adventure of the Devil's Foot and The Adventure of the Empty House in Bertram Millhauser's screenplay.

Gale Sondergaard
(1898 - 1985)

When stage actress Gale Sondergaard came to Hollywood in the 1930s it was for her husband, writer/director Herbert Biberman's career. However, it was Gale's screen career that started off brilliantly when Mervyn LeRoy cast her in the 1936 epic Anthony Adverse. Her peers saw something in her portrayal of the manipulative and avaricious Faith that moved them to award her the first Best Supporting Actress Award, at the time, a plaque. Less than two decades later her peers would not be so kind when Herbert Biberman was jailed as one of the Hollywood Ten and Gale was blacklisted. Her last movie role for many years before the blacklisting set in was as Barbara Stanwyck sympathetic mother in Mervyn LeRoy's East Side, West Side in 1949.

Gale Sondergaard was an actress of versatility and intelligence who could and did play a variety of roles, including the mysterious Mrs. Hammond in The Letter, Lady Thiang in Anna and the King of Siam (another Oscar nomination) and the possessive Mrs. Manette in Christmas Holiday. It is for the classy relish she brought to her villains for which Gale Sondergaard is best remembered. Whether played in earnest or played for laughs her presence is as welcome and comforting as any on the screen.

Gale Sondergaard

You know what you are getting when Gale shows up in The Cat and the Canary, The Road to Rio or The Time of Their Lives as surely as when you are watching The Mark of Zorro or The Spider Woman. In the 1970s, Gale Sondergaard returned to our screens with guest spots on television programs including Get Smart, Rod Serling's Night Gallery, the mini-series Centennial and the daytime drama Ryan's Hope.

Once a Spider Woman, always a Spider Woman. Originally a freelance actress, during the 1940s Gale Sondergaard signed with Universal who capitalized on her appearance in the Holmes series by again presenting her as the "Spider Woman". However, in the 1946 film The Spider Woman Strikes Back she plays a different character, Zenobia Dollard. Ms. Dollard is even more mad than Ms. Spedding. Does anyone else feel a chill?

Monday, April 14, 2014

The James Stewart Blogathon: Bend of the River (1952)

An idea whose time has come!  This post is part of the James Stewart Blogathon hosted by the Classic Film & TV Cafe.  You can view the complete blogathon schedule here.

The screen credit always read James Stewart, yet the people in the audience always called the actor "Jimmy".  Jimmy was like an old pal they had watched for years, first angling for his spot in Hollywood at MGM then speaking for what is good in all of us with his Oscar-nominated performance in Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  Then there was the war, where Jimmy the flyer was an instructor and flew combat missions in Europe, become a Colonel by the end.  When he retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1959 he was a brigadier general.  After the war, like other actors, and directors like Frank Capra (It's a Wonderful Life), Jimmy took control of his own career.

Jimmy Stewart's film career in the 1950s is a model of versatility and success that any actor would be proud to claim.  In 1950 he played Elwood P. Dowd in the screen version of Mary Chase's Pulitzer Prize winning play Harvey and found a role he could return to in future on the stage.  At the end of the decade he was Oscar-nominated for the Otto Preminger directed courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder.  In between there were three biographies, The Stratton Story and The Glenn Miller Story, both co-starring June Allyson and The Spirit of St. Louis.  His collaboration with Hitchcock which began with 1948s Rope, continued with Rear Window, Vertigo and The Man Who Knew Too Much.  There were thrillers, romance, dramas, and he even got to be a clown in The Greatest Show on Earth.  Best of all there were westerns.  Jimmy Stewart made eight films with director Anthony Mann and five of them are among the best westerns of the 1950s, Winchester '73, The Naked Spur, The Far Country, The Man from Laramie, and Bend of the River.

Bend of the River is my movie.  We all have one.  The movie we reach for when a cold is coming on.  Not the flu or anything major, but a cold that entitles you to pampering while foregoing a trip to the ER.  You snuggle on the couch under a mound of blankets with tissue at your side while obliging family members bring you classes of water, cups of soup and toast with the crusts cut off.  You watch the movie that comforts you right down to your fluffy slippers.  Life is good.

"How many bad guys have to bite the dust before you are comforted?"
- Janet Hall, concerned daughter

Screenwriter Bordon Chase had been working in Hollywood since his first novel Sand Hog was adapted for Raoul Walsh's 1935 film Under Pressure.  Mysteries, war pictures and westerns make up the bulk of Chase's work, with his westerns being true classics of the genre such as Red River, Man Without a Star, Winchester '73 and The Man from Colorado.  I find his best films to be emotionally epic, and this is how Bend of the River, adapted from William Gulick's novel Bend of the Snake, struck me when I first saw it over 40 years ago, and strikes me again on my many re-watches.

Julie Adams, James Stewart

Jimmy Stewart plays Glyn McLyntock, leader of a wagon train taking settlers to the Oregon territory.  Glyn has a past as a border raider during the Civil War, a past he wants to forget.  He's hoping to have a new beginning with these brave settlers, particularly with lovely Julie Adams playing Laura Baile.  On a scouting expedition Glyn saves the life of Emerson Cole played by Arthur Kennedy.  Cole has angered some vigilantes and he and Glyn recognize each other for the bad men they have been.  Cole is willing to string along with the wagon train until something better turns up or Laura Baile casts an eye in his direction.  Cole knows he owes Glyn, but his allegiance is strictly self-serving.

The settlers led by Jay C. Flippen as Jeremy Baile, father of Laura and younger sister Marjie played by Lori Nelson, are greeted warmly in Portland purchasing the supplies which will carry them through the winter.  Merchant Tom Hendricks played by Howard Petrie will see that the supplies are shipped in time.  The approaching winter causes concern when the supplies have not arrived as promised so Glyn and Jeremy return to Portland to check on their stock and on Laura.  Laura had been wounded in an Indian attack and had been recuperating in Portland.

Rock Hudson, Arthur Kennedy, James Stewart

The intervening months had seen a gold strike and the countryside was filling up with optimistic miners who needed supplies and were willing to pay much more than top dollar.  Hendricks is holding back the settler's necessaries for all the money he can get.  Meanwhile, Emerson Cole is running a gambler's paradise with Laura and with a handsome young gunman named Trey Wilson played by Rock Hudson.  This was a breakout role for Rock who proved himself an appealing screen personality.  Glyn hires some men at the dock to load the settler's goods on a paddle wheel run by Cap'n Mello played by Chubby Johnson and Adam played by Stepin Fetchit.  It is a messy situation and Glyn can't get away cleanly as they are followed up river by Hendricks and a gang.

Arthur Kennedy, Harry Morgan, Royal Dano

Glyn counts Cole and Trey as his partners in the dangerous enterprise, but the men who were basically shanghaied from the dock are not satisfied with the situation.  Jack Lambert, Harry Morgan and Royal Dano are among the crew who decide to turn on Glyn, hijack the goods and sell them to the miners.  As masterminds, they fall a little short of their scheme, but Emerson Cole is ahead of them and were it not for Laura's presence, Glyn would be dead.  Instead, he is left to die in the wilderness.

James Stewart as Glyn McLyntock

"You'll be seeing me. You'll be seeing me. Everytime you bed down for the night, you'll look back to the darkness and wonder if I'm there. And some night, I will be. You'll be seeing me!"

The twists and turns of Glyn's redemption make for riveting viewing.  Bend of the River was the second Jimmy Stewart-Anthony Mann western following Winchester '73.  It was filmed in gorgeous Technicolor by cinematographer Irving Glassberg and has an appropriate stirring score by six time Oscar nominee Hans Salter.  Location filming in Oregon lends a sense of the treachery of the land and of the people.  You can feel the crisp breeze, the mundane hazards of rocks and mud, and be awestruck by the vistas of rivers and mountains.

A perilous journey.

The story of Bend of the River is compelling and filled with action.  Glyn's search for a new life is heartbreakingly convincing in the hands of Jimmy Stewart, who was giving the public a look at the new post-war actor, a man of darker shades.  Arthur Kennedy is a charming skunk as Emerson Cole.  Whether he is playing a sweetheart or a villain, he is an actor that it is impossible to ignore.  

Chubby Johnson's long screen career in movies and on TV was just beginning.  Oldtimer J.C. Flippen still had some interesting roles to play, even into the 60s.  Until a couple of late life roles in the 70s in a Moms Mabley comedy and Won Ton Ton the Dog Who Saved Hollywood, this year would mark the end of the movie road for Stepin Fetchit.  His role in Bend of the River did not rely on much of the traditional comic schtick for which he is most remembered.  Rock Hudson staked his claim in the star lottery.  In future years, certain cast members would become famous for TV roles, Harry Morgan for December Bride, Pete and Gladys, Dragnet and M*A*S*H, and Frances Bavier for The Andy Griffith Show.  In the 1970s Julie Adams would play Jimmy Stewart's wife in The Jimmy Stewart Show, but for now it was 1952.  The 1950s, Jimmy's decade, was just beginning. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Diamonds and Gold Blogathon: Day 2, the Ladies

Ladies and gents, it is the sparkly Sunday of the Diamonds and Gold blogathon, a look at great performances by actors over the age of 50.  Yesterday Rich of Wide Screen World hosted the wonderful articles on gentlemen who impressed us the most.  Today I am thrilled to host a look at all the great actresses who got better with time.

ImagineMDD - Anne Bancroft in 84 Charing Cross Road with Anthony Hopkins

Victoria Loomes, Girls Do Film - Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Minoo Allen - Bette Davis and the Baby Jane Paradox

Patti, They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To - Bette Davis in Right of Way with James Stewart

Beth, Mildred's Fatburgers - Marie Dressler's Second Wind

Margaret Perry.org - How Katharine Hepburn Defied Sexist Ageism in Hollywood

Aurora, Citizen Screen - Josephine Hull in Harvey

Dorian and Vinnie, Tales of the Easily Distracted - Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton together in Witness for the Prosecution 

Jacqueline T. Lynch, Another Old Movie Blog - Rosalind Russell in A Majority of One

Amy, Vintage Cameo - Gloria Swanson

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Diamonds and Gold blogathon: Ride the High Country (1962)

It is my pleasure to be co-hosting Rich Watson's (Wide Screen World) brainchild, The Diamonds and Gold Blogathon, highlighting some of the great film performances from actors past the age of 50 (which we all know is the new 30!). Tomorrow this site will be devoted to ladies of a certain age. Today, my contribution looks at three popular actors together in one of the best westerns from any era.

Ride the High Country was a 1962 release based on a script by N.B. Stone, Jr. (TVs Zorro, Cheyenne, Bonanza, etc.) that writer/director Sam Peckinpah reworked to create a personal vision in the story of two aging lawmen at the dawn of the 20th century. Peckinpah's film serves as a forward-looking farewell to an era of filmmaking and a tribute to a vanished breed of men. 

Joel McCrea (1905-1990) was born in California and followed through on an interest in the motion picture industry by appearing as an extra in films in the 1920s and studying acting to prepare for the hoped-for big break. Blessed with good looks and an athletic build, McCrea was a perfect match for films. Signed by RKO he appeared in increasingly larger roles in interesting films such as The Lost Squadron, Bird of Paradise and The Most Dangerous Game. He proved a fine match opposite popular leading ladies such as Miriam Hopkins (The Richest Girl in the World, Barbary Coast, These Three), Ginger Rogers (Primrose Path, Chance at Heaven) and  Irene Dunne (The Silver Cord).

McCrea was an understated actor whose work smoothly speaks for itself in bona fide classics such as Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent, Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels and The Palm Beach Story, William Wyler's Dead End and George Stevens' The More the Merrier. By the mid-1940s McCrea, also a rancher by trade found himself comfortably in the position of a screen cowboy in such well-remembered titles as Ramrod, The Virginian, Colorado Territory and Stars in My Crown.  

"I liked doing comedies, but as I got older I was better suited to do Westerns. Because I think it becomes unattractive for an older fellow trying to look young, falling in love with attractive girls in those kinds of situations ... Anyway, I always felt so much more comfortable in the Western."
- Joel McCrea

Joel McCrea as Steve Judd

In Ride the High Country 57-year-old McCrea plays Steve Judd, a former renowned marshal fallen on hard times. He has taken a job of transporting gold from an isolated mining camp to a bank. The trail is dangerous as miners have been murdered in recent attempts to get to town, and the take is expected to be in the tens of thousands. Judd is an honourable man who is loyal to his personal code of right and wrong, and to his employers. Successfully completing this assignment is a matter of pride and one which Judd hopes will encourage others to see him as a worthy of hire. Joel McCrea as Steve Judd gives us a character who is down, but not out; a philosophical man who has retained his values and his good humour. The stakes involved in his trek to the mining camp of Coarse Gold are large and Steve thinks he has found someone to help him in the task.

Someone with the same sense of pride, Gil Westrum is also a former lawman now running a sideshow carnival booth going by the name of the Oregon Kid with a list of imaginary villains run to ground. Westrum earns his living soaking the rubes with the help of a younger partner Heck Longtree played by Ron Starr. Westrum agrees to go along on the job for old time's sake, and for the money.

Randolph Scott as Gil Westrum

In what would be his final film role in a 34-year film career, 63-year-old Randolph Scott (1898-1987) plays Gil Westrum. He commented to McCrea at the end of filming that it was time to hang them up as they'd never find another script as good. It was mainly in B westerns such as To the Last Man, Wagon Wheels and The Thundering Herd, which kept the young actor from North Carolina gainfully employed in his early Hollywood career. However, he became a popular and well-rounded lead and second lead in many familiar titles including A Successful Calamity with George Arliss, Murders in the Zoo starring Lionel Atwill, the adventure-fantasy She, The Last of the Mohicans as Hawkeye, two Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals, Roberta and Follow the Fleet, and two Shirley Temple movies Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Susannah of the Mounties.

It was westerns where Randolph Scott excelled and seemed most at home in such top-flight titles such as Frontier Marshal, Jesse James, Western Union, and Belle Starr. By the late 1940s Scott, forming his own production company with Harry Joe Brown (Ranown) would focus exclusively on westerns. The mid-budget westerns proved extremely popular and profitable, featuring an interesting array of age-appropriate leading ladies including Donna Reed, Angela Lansbury, and Ann Dvorak.

Produced by John Wayne's Batjac in 1956, Scott starred in 7 Men from Now written by Burt Kennedy and directed by Budd Boetticher. Scott and Boetticher would collaborate on seven highly regarded westerns solidifying Scott's screen character as a man who might do the right thing for the wrong reason or vice versa. His characters were often edgy loners, suspicious and secretive in nature. Gil Westrum plays off that Scott persona and gives us an interesting and layered character.

Ride the High Country features some lovely exchanges between Steve and Gil which recounts their history and their present situation. Particularly telling is their reminiscing about a girl and what might have been. Steve is looking for a sort of redemption for his life and a chance to "enter his Father's House justified". Gil feels the world owes them both more than they received out of the dangers they have faced and the chances they have taken. Gil is determined to steal the gold with which they are entrusted and feels he is just. Steve will only do the right thing, no matter the cost or who must pay.

Mariette Hartley, Ron Starr, Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott

The journey to Coarse Gold brings a young woman into the entourage. Elsa Knudsen played by Mariette Hartley is running from her dictatorial father, played by R.G. Armstrong, to marry one of the mining Hammond brothers, Billy played by James Drury. Elsa's presence leads to conflict when an attraction arises between her and Heck, and the Hammonds (John Anderson, Warren Oates, L.Q. Jones, and John Davis Chandler) turn out to be less than forthright citizens. Marrying Billy is a mistake for Elsa and a wonderfully disturbing scene in the movie. The wedding takes place in a whorehouse with its garish inhabitants and customers. The ceremony being unceremoniously performed by a drunken judge, Tolliver by name, played by Edgar Buchanan.

Edgar Buchanan (1903-1979), beloved as Uncle Joe on TVs Petticoat Junction, was a dentist who turned his practice over to his wife and began a career as a movie extra at the age of 35 in 1939. The extra career didn't last long because by 1940s The Sea Hawk, Edgar Buchanan's ability as a scene-stealer of the highest order was recognized. The adventure epic was quickly followed with prime roles such as Applejack in Penny Serenade, "Doc" Thorpe in Texas and Sam Yates in The Talk of the Town.  

Edgar Buchanan as Judge Tolliver

Previous to Ride the High Country, Buchanan had appeared in six movies opposite Randolph Scott including The Desperadoes, The Walking Hills, and Abilene Town, and twice with Joel McCrea in Buffalo Bill and Wichita. In Ride the High Country the 60-year-old Buchanan excels as Judge Tolliver in the horrific wedding scene, marshaling his lost dignity to proclaim:

"I am not a man of the Cloth, and this is not a religious ceremony.  It is a Civil marriage, but nonetheless, it should not be entered into unadvisedly, but reverently and soberly.  You know, a good marriage has a kind of simple glory about it.  A good marriage is a rare animal, hard to find - almost impossible to keep.  I don't know - you see - well, people change.  It's important for you to know at the beginning that people change.  You see, the real glory of marriage don't come at the beginning.  It comes later and it's hard work."

The wedding night turns to a nightmarish shambles when the Hammond brothers attack Elsa, and Steve and Heck agree to take her back to her home. The Hammonds object, but agree to leave the matter in the hands of the miners' court. Gil Westrum fixes the proceedings with a visit to Judge Tolliver. It is a pleasure to watch Randolph Scott and Edgar Buchanan in the scene where Westrum bullies the judge into relinquishing his license to void the wedding. Nothing they had appeared in together before was ever quite as chilling as that scene. You can tell that they knew this was the goods! 

Westrum finds the hungover Judge Tolliver in a back bedroom at Kate's and offers him some liquor.

Tolliver:  Thank you, sir.  What can I do for you?
Gil:  Clear up a little technicality, if you will.  They're holding a Miners' Court.  About that marriage last night, they'll want to know if it was legal.
Tolliver:  Of course it was legal!
Gil:  Well, I believe that. But the Court may want proof. In the form of a license. To perform marriages. You got one?
Tolliver:  See for yourself.
Gil (reading):  Signed by the Governor of California. Yes sir, there's no question at all about the legality of this document. Now Judge, when you testify at that Miners' Court I'm going to ask you one question: 'Do you possess a license to marry people in California?' And you're going to answer, 'No'. Am I clear?
Tolliver:  But that's a lie.
Gil:  No, it isn't. You don't possess it. I do (pocketing the license).
Tolliver:  Now, hold on, Mister...
Gil:  Listen to me, you fat-gutted soak, you're going to do as you're told.  Understand?
Tolliver nods.
Gil:  Do you recall the question I'm going to ask you?
Tolliver nods.
Gil:  And what do you answer?
Tolliver:  No.
Gil:  Very good. Let's go.

Of course, the Hammonds aren't going to make this simple and the violent force they comprise, combined with the Westrum's treachery from within the group creates the tension and action of the final act of Ride the High Country.

Good acting is a combination of work, inspiration, material, and talent. When you can add experience into that mix you can create truly memorable movie moments. Ride the High Country has an interesting ensemble of younger performers about to make their mark in the industry, but it is the work of the old pros, Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott and Edgar Buchanan that make the film a classic which was placed on the National Film Registry in 1992.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Happy Birthday, Doris Day

"I like joy; I want to be joyous; I want to have fun on the set; I want to wear beautiful clothes and look pretty. I want to smile and I want to make people laugh. And that's all I want. I like it. I like being happy. I want to make others happy."
- Doris Day

Animal activist, multi-talented performer, fashion icon and beautiful soul Doris Day turns 90 on this date.  I wish for her the joy of sweet companions because that is what she will always be to her adoring fans.

My introduction to Doris Day was as a singer and the above album, commandeered from my parent's collection, was an early favourite, especially the track Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams.  A little later I discovered Doris Day the movie star, and her popular movie songs.  I thought it would be fun, as I did previously with Bing, to look at Doris' track record with Oscar-nominated and winning tunes. 

Click on the song title links for YouTube performances from the films where available.

Jack Carson, Doris Day

1948:  Romance on the High Seas

In Doris' first film she was directed by Michael Curtiz and she introduced what would become a standard, Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn's It's Magic. A beautiful girl singing a beautiful song in a gorgeous Technicolor comedy-romance. The film has mistaken identities, a cruise ship and an appealing cast led by Janis Paige and Doris Day with Jack Carson and Don DeFore. Oscar Levant and S.Z. Sakall keep the quips and double-takes coming. Along with Doris, there's great music from the Page Cavanagh Trio and Sir Lancelot. It wasn't magic for the composition that year at the Oscars as the trophy went to Jay Livingston and Ray Evans' Buttons and Bows from The Paleface. 

Jack Carson, Doris Day, Dennis Morgan

1949:  It's a Great Feeling

The next year Doris was featured as an aspiring actress whose career is taken under the incompetent wings of Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson. In their comedic efforts to boost their star, the trio runs into many bona fide stars on the Warner's lot and it's a pleasantly diverting Sunday afternoon sort of movie. Doris sang the title song, It's a Great Feeling, again by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn and again they were shut out at the Oscars as Frank Loesser took home the hardware for Baby, It's Cold Outside from Neptune's Daughter. 

Doris Day, Howard Keel

1953:  Calamity Jane

And we have a winner! In every way, Calamity Jane, directed by David Butler, director of It's a Great Feeling, is a winner. Doris Day is right at home as tomboy Jane who falls hard for Howard Keel's Wild Bill Hickcock, after being sidetracked by Phil Carey's cavalry lieutenant and turning the life of Allyn Anne McLerie's faux entertainer inside out. Sammy Fain and Paul Frances Webster filled the movie with charming songs and won the Oscar for Secret Love.

Doris Day, James Cagney

1955:  Love Me or Leave Me

The dramatic musical biography of popular singer Ruth Etting, Love Me or Leave Me is filled with popular song hits of the 1920s and 1930s.  However, an original song was written for Doris to perform as Ruth, and Nicholas Brodszky and Sammy Cahn's I'll Never Stop Loving You was nominated for an Oscar. Sammy Fain and Paul Frances Webster won the award that year for the title song for Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing. Daniel Fuchs and Isobel Lennart wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Love Me or Leave Me and Doris' co-star James Cagney was nominated for Best Actor. Doris' nomination must have been lost in the mail.

Louis Jourdan, Doris Day

1956:  Julie

Released in 1956, Julie is a thriller directed by Andrew Stone (The Last Voyage). Doris stars as flight attendant Julie whose second husband, concert pianist Louis Jourdan, is a tad on the possessive psychotic side, and the relationship has become frighteningly dangerous. Julie fearfully comes to suspect that her first husband was murdered by her second, but convincing others and escaping Jourdan's mania is no easy task, especially on an airplane. The theme Julie by Leith Stevens and Tom Adair was nominated for the Oscar as was Andrew Stone's original screenplay.

Daniel Gelin, Christopher Olsen, Doris Day, James Stewart

1956:  The Man Who Knew Too Much

Alfred Hitchcock revamped his 1934 film of the same name keeping the premise of a couple and their desperate search for their kidnapped child after they unwittingly become involved in international intrigue. Our mystified yet resourceful American tourists are played by Doris Day and James Stewart. The film is opened up to include Marrakesh locations and a song. Not just any song, THE song that is so inextricably associated with Doris Day that it followed her from movie to movie (Please Don't Eat the Daisies, The Glass Bottom Boat) to television (The Doris Day Show). Jay Livingston and Ray Evans won the Oscar for Whatever Will Be Will Be (Que Sera Sera). ASCAP also designated the song as one of the "Most Performed Feature Film Standards".

Happy Birthday, Doris Day.


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