Friday, September 22, 2017

THE DUO DOUBLE FEATURE BLOGATHON: Susan Hayward and Tyrone Power in Rawhide (1951) and Untamed (1955)

The Flapper Dame and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies have come up with a fabulous idea. It is The Duo Double Feature Blogathon, and it runs from September 22nd to September 24th. Two stars who worked in two films only. We'll have double bills for days!  Day 1  Day 2  Day 3

Susan Hayward 
June 30, 1917 - March 14, 1975

The scrappy Brooklynite was one of any number of pretty girls with a dream who went to Hollywood to throw her hat in the Scarlett O'Hara ring. Susan stayed to start up the rung to stardom with bit parts leading to progressively more showy roles. By 1941 she was making life miserable for Ingrid Bergman in Adam Had Four Sons. The next year she was featured in the DeMille epic Reap the Wild Wind. In 1944 she was the leading lady in the O'Neill play The Hairy Ape. The 1947 release Smash Up: The Story of a Woman saw Susan Hayward receive the first of five Oscar nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role. The 1949 romantic drama My Foolish Heart gave Susan her second nomination.

The 1950s would find Susan Hayward taking on roles that showcased her personality and her versatility, many at Twentieth Century Fox in films such as the Americana classic I'd Climb the Highest Mountain and the searing film-noir House of Strangers. Biographical films would bring two more Oscar nominations, as singers Jane Froman in With a Song in My Heart and Lillian Roth in I'll Cry Tomorrow. Her winning role would come in 1958 as convicted murderer Barbara Graham in I Want to Live! directed by Robert Wise.

Tyrone Power
May 5, 1914 - November 15, 1958

Born into an acting dynasty reaching back three generations, and blessed with beyond good looks, Tyrone Power would seem blessed by the gods to be a movie star. Signed by Twentieth Century Fox at the age of 22, after a few small roles he was cast as the lead in 1936s Lloyds of London opposite Madeleine Carroll. We might say that his abilities were not fully tested during this period, but Tyrone Power's popularity and star power were unquestioned.

Tyrone Power served with the Marines during WW2 in the Pacific Theatre, and returned with a maturity and a desire to prove himself an actor depth. His first role after the war was an adaptation of Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge, and was a step in the right direction. In 1947 he gave what I believe is his greatest screen performance, that of Stanton Carlisle in Nightmare Alley, the con man extraordinaire whose biggest fall guy is himself. Tyrone Power appeared in memorable films throughout the 1950s, from I'll Never Forget You to Witness for the Prosecution, but more and more he turned to the theatre to find creative satisfaction.

When you look at these two stars, their pairing seems a long time coming, but 1951 finally saw Susan Hayward cast opposite Tyrone Power in a powerful and dramatic western directed by Henry Hathaway. This was the first of four films Hathaway would make with Susan Hayward. Tyrone Power and Henry Hathaway collaborated on 5 films, going back to 1940s Johnny Apollo.

The Rawhide screenplay is by Dudley Nichols, Oscar winner for The Informer, whose other western films include Stagecoach, The Arizonian and The Tin Star.

Rawhide Pass is an isolated way station on the passenger/freight stagecoach line from San Francisco to St. Louis. Tom Owens (Tyrone Power) has one more week to go on the job. His father is the director of the line and Tom is learning the business from old hand Sam Todd (Edgar Buchanan). 

Passengers on an incoming stage include Vinnie Holt (Susan Hayward) who is taking her orphaned niece back east to the the toddler's paternal grandparents. Vinnie's trip is waylaid when a troop of soldiers arrives in search of escaped convict Rafe Zimmerman (Hugh Marlowe). Zimmerman escaped the day before he was to hang for murder and has three others convicts with him. Company policy insists that women and children passengers must remain at the station in the event of such danger. She would have been better off if she had been allowed to continue on her journey.

The too smart for his own good Zimmerman is after gold that is headed toward the way station. His gang is not of his choosing, but was formed due to the circumstances of the escape. Simple-minded Yancy (Dean Jagger), unimaginative thug Gratz (George Tobias) and psychotic Tevis (Jack Elam). Shocking violence comes to Rawhide Pass when these four ride in, with the almost immediate killing of Sam Todd. The outlaws conclude that Vinnie and little Callie (Judy Ann Dunn) are Tom's wife and child. Tom and Vinnie play along to stay alive.

The wait for tomorrow's gold laden stage is fraught with anxiety as character is revealed through escape plans that almost work, that cause more danger, and are twisted through the unexpected. Rawhide is a top-notch western, an intriguing character study and a searing hostage drama.

Susan and Ty would be reunited on screen in 1955s epic adventure Untamed. The film would be Susan's fourth and final with director Henry King and one of the 11 pictures King made with Tyrone Power during their years together at 20th Century Fox.

The source of the story of Untamed is a novel by South African Helga Moray. Our heroine is Katie O'Neill Kildare (Susan Hayward), a Scarlet O'Hara sort, whom life keeps kicking around, but who always lands on her feet. Her first kick is when she falls for the visiting Paul Van Riebeck (Tyrone Power), who is buying horses from Katie's father, a wealthy Irish landowner.  Their love for each other is not enough for Paul to abandon his responsibilities as a leader of the Dutch settlers in South Africa.

Two years later Katie is in South Africa with her husband Shawn Kildare (John Justin), her infant son, and companion Aggie (Agnes Moorehead). The potato famine has wiped out her family's fortune and she is looking for new land. A Zulu raid on the wagons trekking to new land leaves a widowed Katie free to reunite with Paul. Complications arise when Katie callously discounts the attraction she holds for Paul's friend Kurt Hout (Richard Egan) and the enmity of Kurt's girl, Julia (Rita Moreno). 

Choosing an idyllic place to farm Katie is planning her future with Paul, while Paul is still dedicated to his political ambitions for the Dutch. The conflict causes the couple to separate. It will be many years before Katie and Paul are together once more. Those years bring storms, tragedy, the birth of Paul's son, of whom he will remain unaware for years, poverty, wealth and power, regret and adventure. 

Untamed is epic in scope and boasts gorgeous location filming in Ireland and South Africa. The score by Franz Waxman is another of his glorious compositions. 

Nonetheless, for all its assets, I find Untamed lacking in depth and, therefore, in entertainment value. The characters, leading and supporting, are underwritten, leaving the actors to flesh out a sense of their core amid the overwhelming narrative. Although necessitated by story, it holds back our involvement when our two charismatic leads, Susan Hayward and Tyrone Power, spend so much time apart on screen.

Friday, September 15, 2017

REMAKE AVENUE: From Headquarters (1933) and When Were You Born (1938)

Another amble down the twisty byways that lead to those movies you watch and say to yourself, "Haven't I seen this before?"

You say you like your fast-paced Warner Brothers programmers particularly fast-paced? You have come to the right place, the municipal building of a city that hosts, among other things, its police headquarters, a jail, a records facility with IBM technology, a press room, and a forensics lab. Everything that happens in the next 64 minutes occurs within its environs.

Director William Dieterle, whose classics include The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Devil and Daniel Webster, and Portrait of Jennie, shows a masterful hand with with the cut and the swipe in moving us through the action. Howard Hawks himself would sit back and applaud the off-hand delivery of the dialogue.

Robert N. Lee, Oscar nominated for Little Caesar, came up with the story and co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Milne, who gave us The Kennel Murder Case. We are introduced to headquarters through the round-up of undesirables and the routine they go through at booking. The crowded hall shows workers coming in for the day including Lt. Stevens played by George Brent and Sgt. Boggs played by Eugene Pallette. Apparently Inspector Donnelly played by Henry O'Neill sleeps in his office. Edward Ellis as Dr. Vanderwater, the top lab man is a hoot in his glee at each conflicting clue.

The whole crew is on the job.

Gordon Bates is the name of our murder victim played by Kenneth Thomson in flashback, a known playboy and a suspected blackmailer. Suspects include Bates' fiancee, a showgirl called Lou Wynton played by Margaret Lindsay, her brother Jack played by Theodore Newton, the butler Horton played by Murray Kinnell, and Bates business associate, a Mr. Anderzian played by a heavily accented Robert Barrat. Hobart Cavanagh as a hapless safecracker called Muggs Manton roams the halls, as does an annoying bail bondsman Manny Wales played by Hugh Herbert. Ken Murray as a pushy newshound called Mac shoves the cops  and the copy around.

Orders are barked into phones, punch cards relay data, officers rush in and out with information and physical evidence. Dr. Vanderwater rushes ballistic tests and autopsies, and fingerprints are covertly gathered. Our pretty showgirl is grilled by Sgt. Boggs who bets his badge on every hunch. She's a former girlfriend of Lt. Stevens, so he's more gentle with his questioning. Evidence of Bates blackmailing schemes are discovered. Compounded with his collection of antique firearms and his drug habit, the suspect net widens. Why won't Sgt. Boggs listen to what Muggs has to say? There's another murder and a lockdown. Just when you think everything is wrapped up - aha! From Headquarters is a dandy use of an hour.

When Were You Born is credited as an original story by Manly P. Hall, an Ontario born astrologer and mystic who introduces the film onscreen. The screenplay is by Anthony Coldeway who wrote dozens of B westerns and mysteries. The movie was directed by cinematographer and Oscar nominated effects director William C. McGann. You may have seen some of his films like Penrod and Sam, The Case of the Black Cat and The Parson of Panamint.

The mystery plot of When Were You Born with the victim a wealthy, drug-addicted, blackmailing playboy, and the myriad suspects including the women in his life, his business associate, butler, etc., basically follows the template of From Headquarters. Where the two films differ gives When Were You Born its cache.

The introduction by Manly Hall takes us through the different signs of the Zodiac and our characters are identified by their birthdates. The story is opened up to introduce us to our victim and suspects on board a luxury liner about to reach San Francisco. Anna May Wong plays Mei Lei Ming, a popular passenger who amuses many with her predictions based on their horoscopes.

Margaret Lindsay has deja vu.

James Stephenson is our disagreeable about-to-be victim, and he is quite put out when Mei Lei warns him of impending danger. Margaret Lindsay repeats her role of a reluctant fiancee from the earlier film and Lola Lane is a rejected girlfriend. Eric Stanley plays the loyal valet and Leonard Mudie a nervous business associate. Jeffrey Lynn plays a reporter, who is moved into the romantic lead position, and hefty Charles Wilson plays the chief inspector. Maurice Cass is our excitable wizard of the lab and Olin Howland the johnny-on-the-spot bail bondsman.

Suspects are called into headquarters, including Mei Lei Ling. She cleverly uses her knowledge of astrology to become an unofficial member of the investigative team. Her strange abilities and coolness under stress leads to the solution of the case. This version of the story is opened up to include street chases and mysterious tunnels. Despite these brackets to the murder story, the run time of both From Headquarters and When Were You Born differs by only one minute. Those studio folks certainly knew how to get a story across without numbing your backside!

Anna May Wong on the case!

Anna May Wong began her film career as a teenager in the silent era. She made her mark in classics like The Toll of the Sea, The Thief of Bagdad, Peter Pan, Old San Francisco, Piccadilly and Shanghai Express. The ground-breaking actress deserved more from her career than the odd character role as in Impact or on television in The Barbara Stanwyck Show. Where, oh where was the foresighted producer to suggest a series based on Mei Lei Ling and starring Anna May Wong?

Friday, September 8, 2017


Christina Wehner and Ruth of Silver Screenings are hosting, for the second time mind you, the Movie Scientist Blogathon. The good, the mad and the lonely lab rats can be found online from September 8 - 10. My guy, Barnaby Fulton, is one of the good ones. Day 1 recap  Day 2 recap  Day 3 recap

Barnaby and Edwina Fulton
Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers

Edwina (to Barnaby): "You're not often the absent-minded professor, but, darling, when you are, you're a real zombie."

Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant) is the chief chemist at the Oxley Chemical Company. Barnaby has been working on a rejuvination formula and it is preying on his mind when he should be thinking about his wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers) and the party they are dressed to attend.

Miss Laurel, Barnaby, Mr. Oxley
Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Charles Coburn

The lab team has been testing their recent formula on chimpanzees and tests show that only 23% of the formula is being assimilated. Mr. Oxley (Charles Coburn), who owns the company, is 70 and more than a little anxious that they come up with what he terms a "youth" formula. Perhaps his secretary, the luscious Miss Laurel (Marilyn Monroe) has something to do with his overly anxious attitude.

When the white coats are away, the simians will play.

Barnaby is assisted in the lab by Dr. Kitzel (Henri Letondal), Dr. Brunner (Douglas Spencer), and Dr. Zoldeck (Robert Cornthwaite). These eminent brains are assisted in turn by Esther! Esther is the youngest of the chimps and she plays a bit of "monkey see, monkey do" by getting out of her cage and pouring this into that and that into this. Perhaps dissatisfied with her work, Esther disposes of her formula in the water cooler. 

Barnaby Fulton, in that way of brainy types, decides to test the most recent formula on himself. It leaves a bitter after-taste that Barnaby decides to chase with water. Funny thing, the water also has a bitter aftertaste. It's incredible! Barnaby can see without his glasses. Barnaby has astounding reservoirs of energy. Barnaby feels young again!

Barnaby doesn't strictly follow protocol by chronicling his reactions to the formula. He wants to have fun! Barnaby goes joy riding with Miss Luscious, I mean Miss Laurel. He gets a younger haircut, buys a snazzy car, goes roller skating and swimming until the formula starts to wear off. A then exhausted and sore Barnaby smashes the car into the factory's fence and takes a well-deserved nap.

Mr. Oxley is over-the-moon in his excitement about the formula. Edwina is less than thrilled with Barnaby's antics of the day. Instead of allowing Barnaby to take more of the formula, Edwina takes the larger dose chosen for the next experiment. Nothing happens until, of course, she chases the bitter aftertaste with water from the cooler.

The blackboard says it all.

Edwina is once again the fun loving, empty-headed girl of her youth. Her love and affection for Barnaby is as strong as ever, and she wants to drive to the coastal hotel of their honeymoon. She wants to dance the night away. Once there, however, she is overcome by sudden shyness and blazing anger at anything her beloved says that strikes her as untoward. Edwina has phoned her old boyfriend Hank Entwistle (Hugh Marlowe) and her mother (Esther Dale), who always disliked Barnaby, to announce their break-up. Barnaby and Edwina both have a lot of embarrassing incidents to explain. Is the formula really worth all of this nonsense?

Again under the influence of what they understand to be the formula, Edwina and Barnaby commit further silliness. Edwina believes a neighbour's baby is a reverted Barnaby (don't ask!). Meanwhile, Barnaby plays a game of "let's scalp Hank Entwisle" with the neighbourhood kids.

I don't believe all labs look like this one.

It is obvious that the chief chemist at the Oxley Chemical Company is not going to be of any help to the corporate world. His assistants finally figure out the mystery of Esther and the water cooler. What was left of the miracle concoction is inadvertently destroyed, and things go back to normal. Poor Mr. Oxley!

Dr. Fulton has come to some conclusions concerning his current line of research:

"I'm beginning to wonder if being young is all it's cracked up to be. We dream of youth. We remember it as a time of nightingales and valentines. But what are the facts? Maladjustment, near idiocy, and a series of low comedy disasters. That's what youth is."

Barnaby's newest formula:  "You're old only when you forget you are young."

No word on Esther's theories after these hectic days in the lab.

The very funny script for Monkey Business is by Ben Hecht (The Front Page), Charles Lederer (I Was a Male War Bride) and I.A.L. Diamond (Some Like It Hot).

Monkey Business is the last of 5 films Hawks and Grant made together beginning with 1938s Bringing Up Baby where Grant also played a bespectacled absent-minded professor involved in romantic entanglements.

Ginger Rogers as Edwina was nominated for the Golden Globe in the category of Best Actress - Comedy or Musical, along with Katharine Hepburn for Pat and Mike and the winner, Susan Hayward in With a Song in My Heart.

Movie trivia

Douglas Spencer and Robert Cornthwaite, who play two of the scientists, appeared in the previous year's Howard Hawks film The Thing from Another World as Scotty, the newspaper reporter and Dr. Carrington, the obsessive head of the expedition.

Harry Carey Jr. plays a newspaper reporter and his mother, Olive Carey, is the Fulton's next door neighbour who leaves her infant son to the tender mercies of the Fultons while she runs errands.

Friday, September 1, 2017


The improbable and charming love story of a girl who did not know her place and a man with no place of his own. 

Margery Sharp wrote her novel Cluny Brown, set in the time prior to the outbreak of WW2, while working for the war effort as an Army Educator. It is just one of her many novels that were adapted for the screen from The Nutmeg Tree aka Julia Misbehaves to The Rescuers. The screenplay is by Samuel Hoffenstein and Elizabeth Reinhardt (Laura), with contributions from James Hilton (Random Harvest).

This movie is the happy recipient of The Lubitsch Touch, being the final completed project of the great director prior to his death at the young age of 55 from a heart attack.

Cluny Brown: "I may not cook the best tripe and onions in England, but whoever gets me won't have to worry about his plumbing."

On a lazy Sunday afternoon in the London of 1938 Adam Belinski (Charles Boyer), a Czech refugee, wanders into the home of Hilary Ames (Reginald Gardiner), about to host a cocktail party and beset with an unco-operative sink. Belinski intended on putting the touch on his friend, the lettor of the flat. He manages to wrangle a small stipend, a nap, and the acquaintance of Cluny Brown (Jennifer Jones).  Cluny feels she may have found her place in the world as a plumber. She has observed her Uncle Arn (Billy Bevan) and felt she could do him one better. 

Belinski also becomes the unbidden object of the adoration and charitable impulses of two rich young men with serious attitudes toward Nazis and Czech refugees, Andrew Carmel (Peter Lawford) and John Frewen (Michael Dyne). Both men are pining over the cream of society, Betty Cream (Helen Walker). These disparate characters and their varying intentions will come together in the countryside.

Cluny's Uncle Arn feels he has found a place for Cluny when he settles her in the position of a second maid at the Carmel Estate. Andrew Carmel feels he is successfully keeping Belinski safe from Nazis by installing him as a guest at the family country home. Cluny finally feels she has found a place when she attracts the attention of eligible village bachelor, the chemist Mr. Wilson (Richard Hadyn). Of course the relationship is dependent upon Cluny gaining the approval of his mother, Mrs. Wilson (Una O'Connor). What could possibly go wrong, or right?

All of the supporting cast is superb. Sir Henry and Lady Carmel are played with fey appeal by Reginald Owen and Margaret Bannerman. The Carmel's butler Syrette and housekeeper Mrs. Maile display the proper haughtiness of their exalted positions, as portrayed by Ernest Cossart and Sara Algood.

Cluny Brown is a whimsical and insightful look at the class system and the rules society places on ourselves as to behavior. The observations and social commentary are smart and indulgent. The characters are silly and real. The romances we follow with interest are affecting and sweet. Cluny Brown is a completely winning character, and a charming movie.

Jennifer Jones is TCM's September Star of the Month. If, like myself, it took you until 1953s Beat the Devil to appreciate the actress' comedic abilities, then you will truly enjoy Cluny Brown. It pops up on the TCM broadcast schedule on Tuesday, September 5th at 1:00 in the morning.


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