Monday, April 30, 2018


The ground-breaking playwright and producer Elmer Rice, who studied the law before making the theatre his life, first made his Broadway mark in 1914 with On Trial. Impressive titles followed including The Adding Machine, Counsellor-at-Law, and Dream Girl.

Street Scene opened in 1929 and ran for 601 performances. Technically challenging and extraordinary, the story uses over 70 characters to create this microcosm of a vital city and desperate lives. Rice took over the direction when others were daunted by the task.

"Never did the phantasmagoria of street episodes seem so lacking in sketchy types and so packed with fully delineated character."
- Brooks Atkinson
The New York Times theatre critic

Independent producer Samuel Goldwyn purchased the rights for the film and Rice adapted his play for the screen. King Vidor (The Big Parade) directed with vigor and empathy. George Barnes (Rebecca) and Gregg Toland (The Best Years of Our Lives) were the cinematographers with art direction by Canadian born Richard Day (Dodsworth).

Beulah Bondi as Emma Jones

Nine members of the original Broadway cast appear in the 1931 film with Street Scene being the screen debut of Beulah Bondi (It's a Wonderful Life), John Qualen (The Grapes of Wrath), and Matt McHugh (The Devil's Brother).

David Landau and Estelle Taylor as Frank and Anna Mourant

Citizens of an apartment house in New York are suffering through a heat wave which only exacerbates their daily worries and drama. Estelle Taylor is heartbreaking as Anna Mourant. Her relationship with the milk company representative, Mr. Sankey played by Russell Hopton, is fodder for the gossip and entertainment of her neighbours. Perhaps if her husband Frank played by David Landau were kinder things would be different. Her daughter Rose, played by Sylvia Sidney, worries her father will learn of his wife's straying affection. Younger brother Willie played by Lambert Rogers is getting into fights with boys who say mean things about his mother.

Sylvia Sidney and William Collier Jr. as Rose and Sam

The biggest gossip in the house is Emma Jones played by Beulah Bondi. She's a querulous and complaining old thing who is morally superior and has all the answers. Her son Vince is a bully and a favourite target is Sam Kaplan played by William Collier Jr. Sam and Rose are shy sweethearts with no real hope of a future. Sam, his education, and future law career is the hope of his sister, schoolteacher Shirley played by Ann Kostant. Their father Abe played by Max Montor bores the neighbourhood with his radical political theories.

We are privy to the personal lives and concerns of the music teacher and his barren wife, the janitor and his troubles, the young expectant couple, and the abandoned family about to be evicted. Sudden and terrible violence comes among them, changing many lives forever. Quiet comes to the apartment house, but never peace. The heat and the worry persists.

Uncredited, Alfred Newman's Street Scene is a moving score for this movie and has become the perpetual musical theme for New York City as we would come to see it on the big screen. It is filled with a familiar and primal noirish longing.

TCM is airing Street Scene at 6:00 am on Tuesday, May 22nd. You do not want to miss this excellent Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Elmer Rice and its beautiful interpretation on the screen by King Vidor.

Friday, April 27, 2018

THE 1961 BLOGATHON: One, Two, Three

Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlog is turning another year older. He's turned 57 of them to be exact and is commemorating the event with The 1961 Blogathon. Click HERE to celebrate.

I enjoy the way Billy Wilder amuses himself and us by laughing at politics.

Ninotchka, Ninotchka (Greta Garbo): "The last mass trials were a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians."

General Sebastiano, Five Graves to Cairo (Fortunio Bonanova): "Can a nation of belchers understand a nation that sings?"

In One, Two, Three Wilder hilariously shows his disdain by pulling the leg and tweaking the nose of both Capitalism and Communism and the excesses of both. A Cold War is not such a hot thing, but Cold War humor is something else again. Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond based their screenplay on a short play by Ferenc Molnar with a few ideas from Ninotchka.

Mac: "On Sunday, August 13, 1961, the eyes of America were on the nation's capital where Roger Maris was hitting home runs #44 and #45 against the Senators. On that same day, without any warning, the East German Communists sealed off the border between East and West Berlin. I only mention this to show the kind of people we're dealing with - REAL SHIFTY!"

James Cagney stars as C.R. MacNamara, the head of Coca-Cola in West Berlin. MacNamara had been looked over for promotion and has a plan to open up the Russian market to their product, ensuring he gets "the London job". Unexpectedly, the head office in Atlanta isn't interested in doing business with the Reds. They have a more personal project for Mac.

Scarlett: "Tell daddy I'm going to the U.S.S.R. That's short for Russia."
Mac: "Are you out of your seventeen-year-old mind? Russia is to get out of, not to get into!"

Pamela Tiffin plays Scarlett Hazeltine, the almost legal daughter of Mac's boss. She has been sent abroad to forget some fellow or other, and it is now the MacNamara's turn to entertain and watch over the girl. The girl has other plans, sneaks out at night, and falls for a "marvy" Communist Party member. Their secret marriage has Mac apoplectic. The discovery of this betrayal by Scarlett of America and acceptable behavior will certainly scotch "the London job".

Otto (to Scarlett): "I'll pick you up at 6:30 sharp, because the 7:00 train for Moscow leaves promptly at 8:15."

Horst Buchholtz plays Otto Piffl, a rabidly loyal Party member, who just happens to fall under the spell of the hotblooded Scarlett. She doesn't really have a clue about all the political rhetoric her hubby spouts but is willing to follow him anywhere. Mac sees only "the London job" and devises a plan to get Otto out of their lives forever. The plan is contingent on an ingenious cuckoo clock which presents a reliable 15-minute show of Uncle Sam waving a flag to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy. When Otto returns to East Berlin with this little item in his sidecar, he is arrested. Under unbelievable torture (Could you stand up under a barrage of Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini?), Otto confesses to being an American spione.

Phyllis: "Why can't you get yourself a nice permanent job in the home office in Atlanta?"
Mac: "Atlanta? You can't be serious! That's Siberia with mint juleps!"

Arlene Francis plays Phyllis MacNamara, Mac's wife. On one hand, she could be considered long-suffering as she has put up with constant travel and Mac's proclivity to spending time on "language lessons" with various secretaries. On the other hand, Phyllis has a ready wit that is a great weapon and shield.

Ingeborg: "Here's your mail, here's your Wall Street Journal, and here's my resignation."
Mac: "Resignation? What are you talking about?"
Ingeborg: "You do not work me overtime anymore, you do not take advantage of me on weekends, you have lost all interest in the...umlaut. So obviously, my services are no longer required here."

Lilo Pulver plays Mac's current secretary Ingeborg. She's a very attractive, very efficient and very mercenary girl. All of those characteristics will come into play as the plot of One, Two, Three unravels. Hanns Lothar plays Schlemmer, Mac's number one assistant. His willingness to go along to get along will also prove useful in a funny performance.

Howard St. John and Lois Bolton play Scarlett's parents, who are arriving in Berlin within 24 hours to take little Scarlett off of Mac's hands. Mac's joy at having gotten rid of Otto quickly disappears when it is determined that Scarlett is in the family way. Now Mac has to put his ingenuity to work at getting Otto out of East Berlin and back into Scarlett's arms.

Mac: "Did you have any trouble getting out of East Berlin?
Schlemmer: "No. But I had a little trouble in West Berlin. I was picked up by an American soldier in a Jeep. He was very fresh. Wanted to take my picture for something called "Playboy"?

The Russians with whom Mac had been negotiating the Coca-Cola rights had been quite taken with Fraulein Ingeborg. Fraulein Ingeborg is exchanged for the Trade Commission's help in getting Otto released. Actually, the Trade Commission is dismayed to learn that instead of Fraulein Ingeborg, they got Schlemmer in a dress. You can't trust anybody!

Otto: "You mean I've been a capitalist for only 3 hours and already I owe $10,000?"
Mac: "That's what makes our system work. Everybody owes everybody."

The Hazeltines plane is scheduled to arrive at noon. Mac has 3 hours and 2 minutes to turn his bouncing baby Bolshevik into a respectable capitalist. It must be done one-two-three. Otto is less than thrilled, but the prospect of becoming a father, and Scarlett's emotional displays work wonders. Also, maybe - just maybe, he's not so put off by the haircut, manicure, silk shirts, nylon socks, cuff links, etc. that is being provided for him by Mac. Don't worry, Mac is keeping an itemized list, including the installation of Otto as manager of the bottling plant. Mac is sure to get his money back, plus "the London job".

Otto is officially adopted by a down at his heels Count, giving Scarlett a title. Count von Droste Schattenburg is played on screen by Hubert von Meyerinck, but his dialogue is by the familiar voice of Sig Ruman. Unnerving, but comforting at the same time.

It is a race against time to the airport with the perfect son-in-law. Mac did his job too well. Hazeltine is so impressed with this Aristocratic relative that he promotes him to, you guessed it, "the London job."

Mac hasn't been forgotten. He's been promoted back to Atlanta. A fed-up Phyllis is at the airport taking the kids back to the States. Mac pleads his case. The family huddles and votes to give Mac another chance. The vote was 2 to 1.

Instructions to the Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond screenplay:

"This piece must be played molto furioso. Suggested speed: 110 miles an hour on the curves, 140 miles an hour in the straightaways."

There is nothing subtle about One, Two, Three. The dialogue is barked staccato and the pacing is - well, it's "one-two-three". High energy is required of the entire cast, and they provide it. The sarcasm and contemporary (now historical) references come fast and it takes a couple of viewings before you catch everything. Nonetheless, One, Two, Three is so amusing that returning to it every once in a while is worth it.

Daniel Rapp was nominated for an Oscar for his black and white cinematography (winner: The Hustler). The movie was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Comedy (winner: A Majority of One). Pamela Tiffin was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress (winner: Rita Moreno, West Side Story).

Our 60-year-old star, James Cagney, found One, Two, Three a rough shoot and decided to retire. He would remain so for many years until accepting the role of Police Commissioner Waldo in 1981s Ragtime.

"In this business you need enthusiasm. I don't have enthusiasm for acting anymore. Acting is not the beginning and end of everything."

Retirement for Cagney meant years on his farm in Stanfordville, New York with his wife, Billie.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

FAVOURITE MOVIES: Canyon Passage (1946)

Ernest Haycox (1899-1950) wrote stories filled with fascinating, multi-dimensional characters, interesting historical perspectives, and thrilling action. Popular best-sellers and magazine serials, these stories were also much prized by Hollywood. A few of those notable and familiar films from Haycox stories include Stagecoach, Union Pacific, Abilene Town, Man in the Saddle, and Bugles in the Afternoon. Ernest Pascal adapted Canyon Passage for the screen. The London born writer worked in film from 1923 to 1946. Other screenplays include As the Earth Turns, Lloyds of London, Wee Willie Winkie, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Blue Bird.

This amalgam of love triangles, frontier hardship, and entrepreneurial spirit was directed for Universal by Jacques Tourneur. His previous picture, for RKO, was the romantic melodrama Experiment Perilous, his next for that studio in 1947 would be an essential film-noir Out of the Past.

Cinematographer Edward Cronjager filmed the glorious Technicolor movie in Oregon locations that included Crater Lake National Park, Diamond Lake, and Umpqua National Forest, along with the Universal backlot. Cronjager was a six-time Oscar nominee for both his black and white, Cimarron, Sun Valley Serenade, The Pied Piper, and colour cinematography, To the Shores of Tripoli, Heaven Can Wait, Home in Indiana, and Beneath the 12-Mile Reef.  

Dana Andrews stars as Logan Stuart, an enterprising and restless man who runs a transport company employing mules and ingenuity. Money is something he wants and needs, but he doesn't worry about it, using it to get ahead or help people, as he sees fit. Brian Donlevy plays Stewart's friend George Camrose. Camrose has a need for success which is at odds with his need to gamble. George's inner conflict will lead to bad decisions and dire consequences. "I always feel lucky. That's my trouble."

Susan Hayward plays feisty Lucy Overmire, engaged to George, but more suited to Logan. More suited than the girl Logan has set his eye on. Lovely British screen star Patricia Roc plays Caroline Marsh, an immigrant living with the Dance family. The Dances are played by Andy Devine, Dorothy Peterson, and their two sons by Tad and Denny Devine. Ben Dance is a leader in the far-flung community and something of a prophet. When asked by Logan if there had been any Indian trouble, Ben responds "Well, it's their land and we're on it and they don't forget it. Things'll be alright, I reckon unless some medicine man stirs them up or some white cuss starts something."

The town of Jacksonville is hewn out of the forest and stacked unto a hillside. It is prosperous and poor, has a lawyer, a doctor, shopkeepers, and a gambling establishment. It is populated by character actors with familiar faces who know their work and do it well: Ray Teal, Lloyd Bridges, Stanley Ridges, Halliwell Hobbes, Onslow Stevens, Rose Hobart, Fay Holden, Harlan Briggs, Frank Ferguson, Chief Yowlachee. Peter Whitney and Chester Clute appear in the opening Portland segment of the movie. Logan has an interesting exchange with Whitney's clerk character, who strives for a banker's career. "A man can choose his own gods, Cornelius. What are your gods?"

Victor Cutler plays Vane Blazier, a subtle rival for Caroline Marsh's affections. Famed singer/songwriter Hoagy Carmichael plays Hi Linnet, a singing shopkeeper in Jacksonville. Linnet is a wry observer of life in Jacksonville, and a laidback trader. Here he wants to trade a fiddle for a pocket watch: "Well, all you can do with that is clock the time. With a fiddle, you can pass the time."

The town bully, a murderer, and a thief called Honey Bragg is played by Ward Bond. Logan has his suspicions that Bragg is responsible for the death of two miners. As Doc opines, "Honey Bragg is a low down skunk." When the brutal Bragg attacks a young Native woman, he brings righteous wrath upon the settlers extending the death of innocents.

High-strung and independent characters with conflicting intentions clash in Jacksonville. Affections are deep and changing. The community can act as one for good or ill. The good includes a cabin raising for a young couple played by Virginia Patton and James Cardwell, and the coming together when danger looms. The ill include a fight between Logan and Bragg. It is expected and the town must have its show. The scene is brutal and satisfying. Yet it finishes nothing. The ill mood and power of the mob are also on display when a kangaroo court decides the fate of George Camrose who is accused of murder. "What's wrong with hearsay if it's true?"

Pascal's screenplay is poetic and thoughtful. Tourneur presents characters who are always more than they seem on the surface. The reality of the harshness of the wilderness matches the reality of the emotions of the people we get to know in Canyon Passage. These are people we like, people we understand, as well as people we revile. Canyon Passage is a continually engrossing story and a beautiful sight for the eyes.

Frank Skinner's score soars with the action and supports the story. Hoagy Carmichael wrote and performs four songs, or snippets of songs, throughout the picture: Rogue River Valley, I'm Gettin' Married in the Mornin', Silver Saddle, and Ole Buttermilk Sky with lyrics by Jack Brooks.

Ole Buttermilk Sky was a recording and Billboard hit for several artists including Kay Kyser, Matt Dennis, and Hoagy Carmichael. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Music, Original Song. The trophy went to On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe from The Harvey Girls by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer.

Here's Hoagy singing Ole Buttermilk Sky. On YouTube, you can access several artists singing the popular song.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


The Third Golden Boy Blogathon, A William Holden Centenary Celebration is underway April 15-17.


Dalton Trumbo

Some people have an awful lot to say, and writer Dalton Trumbo was one of those people. The newsman and novelist began his Hollywood career as a studio reader, summarizing and recommending projects for filming. His first screenplay, the "B" film Road Block was produced in 1936.

Trumbo adapted his novel The Remarkable Andrew for the screen in 1942. The story is set in Shale City, Colorado, a fictional stand-in for his hometown of Grand Junction. Perhaps the character of Andrew Long played by William Holden is a fictional stand-in for the naive youngster Trumbo may have been.

The Remarkable Andrew is at its core a civics lesson wrapped in the sugary spun coating of a comedy/fantasy. The philosophy and doctrines espoused by our leading character are made all the more appealing and relatable as given by an appealing and relatable star.

William Holden

Golden Boy, the 1939 film that was 21-year-old William Holden's make or break role, made his career thanks to the support of his co-star Barbara Stanwyck. His follow-up roles played on Holden's fresh-faced image and natural likability. The Remarkable Andrew follows in that mold. We like Andrew Long of Shale City, Colorado.

Andrew Long is a bookkeeper for the City. When he discovers a discrepancy in the books, he is compelled to honestly bring it to the attention of his superiors. It soon becomes apparent that every one of those superiors from the Chief Clerk to the City Treasurer to the Mayor to the District Attorney is covering up their own malfeasance. Should Andrew take the offered raise in pay and keep his mouth shut? Not this boy!

Andrew's three times grandfather was an officer under General Andrew Jackson and that personage is Andrew's legacy hero. Here are some of the sayings attributed to the General that motivate our young hero.

"One man with courage makes a majority."

"Do what is right ... That is what the law always means."

"Part with existence before you depart from virtue and honesty."

It is plain that Andrew has no choice but to put his reputation on the line and confront the crooked politicians. Andrew's plight is such that in the after-life, his three times grandfather Ezra has hounded General Jackson into giving the situation his personal attention. Andrew is at first shocked and confused by the appearance of the spirit of his idol appearing in his boarding house room but quickly adapts. Jackson, as portrayed by Brian Donlevy, is such a boisterous and overbearing chap that he cannot be ignored or dismissed.

The tee-totaling Andrew shocks his neighbours when he starts purchasing copious amounts of Old Maryland Rye, the drink of choice for the General. Andrew's intended, Peggy played by Ellen Drew, tries her best to be supportive. This is not an easy task as Andrew is walking down the street apparently talking to himself when he is talking to the General. Everything people hear of the one-sided conversations sounds suspicious.

General Jackson has one opinion on how to deal with the "Rascals and poltroons every one of them!" He advises his young namesake to "Hang 'em! You show me a politician with heels ten feet in the air and by Judas Priest I'll show you an honest politician!"

Poor Andrew has lost his job, his standing in the community, and possibly his girl. The forces against him throw him in jail. Andrew will be tried for the crimes of his accusers. General Jackson is incensed.

"You've been trying to keep an honest accounting of City money. You've been dealing with politicians. You've been standing up for your own rights. Naturally, you landed in jail."

The only lawyer available to Andrew is out of town leaving him feeling alone, but he will not be isolated for long. General Jackson has assembled a team of helpful spirits with an interest in seeing right done. Montagu Love is General George Washington, Gilbert Emery is Mr. Thomas Jefferson, Brandon Hurst is Mr. Chief Justice John Marshall, George Watts is Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Rod Cameron is Jesse James (jailbreak expert) and Jimmy Conlin is Private Henry Bartholomew Smith (a guy who's taken more orders than anybody).

Minor Watson plays District Attorney Orville Beamish and he plays it to the hilt as he disparages Andrew to the jury.

"Look at him - sullen, morose - of questionable sanity. Given to furtive reading instead of that red-blooded exercise that has made our youth the envy of the civilized world. Mark you well, this constant reading is the sign of the radical, the agitator, the spy, the thief."

Andrew defends himself to the jury most eloquently. Dalton Trumbo would not allow him to do otherwise. Imagine the forthright and honest performance of William Holden giving this speech.

"I think I'll answer Mr. Beamish's criticism of what I read. Mr. Beamish has been talking all the time about democracy and how I'm subverting it. As a matter of fact, everybody now seems to be talking about democracy. I don't understand this. As I think of it democracy isn't like a Sunday suit to be brought out and worn only for parades. It is the kind of a life a decent man leads. It's something to live for and to die for. I hope that what I am trying to say doesn't sound like flag waving because I've always felt that flag waving was something sacred and quiet, and not to be done for any selfish motive. But Mr. Beamish has started this and I'm only defending myself as well as I know how."

"Mr. Beamish has told you what democracy means to him. I think I ought to tell you what it means to me. Democracy means that people can say what they want to, all the people. It means that they can vote as they wish, all the people. It means that they can worship God in any way they feel right and that includes Christians and Jews, and VooDoo doctors as well. It means that everybody should have a job if he's willing to work. And an education. And a right to bring up his children without fear of the future. And it means that old should be provided for without shame to themselves or to their families. It means do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It also means the prayers of the pilgrim fathers in the wilderness, and the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights, and the Emancipation Proclamation, and the dreams of an immigrant mother for her children. And that's what I believe in. If I'm wrong send me to jail. If I'm right just give me a fair chance to prove my innocence. I ... that's all, I guess."

While Andrew is being vilified in court, his ghostly legal team roams the halls of city government looking for evidence to assist their young client. Eventually, they come across recordings of the conspiracy which General Jackson, in his enthusiasm, breaks. However, Chief Justice Marshall boasts an impressive memory and recalls the conversation verbatim which they pass onto Andrew. Andrew presents this to the court in a most judicious manner and in the course of an adjournment, all of the "petty-foggers, gamblers and masters of chicanery" resign their posts. Andrew is appointed City Treasurer.

Brian Donlevy as the ghost of Andrew Jackson and Ellen Drew as Peggy Tobin

It is easy to draw a direct line from The Remarkable Andrew's Andrew Long to Dalton Trumbo's testimony before HUAC later in the decade. However, I can't let politics negate the obvious fact that The Remarkable Andrew is also a very funny and sweet movie with winning performances from Holden and Ellen Drew. Holden takes Andrew Long from a go-getting young man to an apparent nut-case publically going off his rocker, to a studious defender of justice. Ellen Drew is a charming, yet frustrated fiancee, and her attacking her unseen rival, the General, is terrific slapstick. Brian Donlevy gives us a memorable characterization as the ghostly embodiment of a rollicking Andrew Jackson.

Paramount gave director Stuart Heisler (Along Came Jones, The Biscuit Eater) a bevy of fine character actors for the historical figures, and for those populating fictional Shale City. Porter Hall as Andrew's immediate boss, Helena Phillips Evans as Andrew's landlady, who takes on cops and the court in his defense, Tom Fadden as the clerk who sells the rye, and Richard Webb as a romantic rival are all spot-on and very funny.

Trumbo's script combines political beliefs, a history lesson, and a fast-paced, sweet-natured screwball comedy. No small feat, and a treat for classic film fans and fans of an actor of the career and calibre of William Holden.

Saturday, April 14, 2018


The Charlie Chaplin Blogathon, The Life and Films of the Little Tramp is hosted by Little Bits of Classic and Christina Wehner on April 14th, 15th and 16th. HERE is where you find the tributes.

The Circus is a moody film in that the audience feels the moods that writer/director/star Charlie Chaplin wants us to feel, from gleeful delight to sudden surprise to pity to affection to melancholy. I know that you can say that about your favourite meticulously created Chaplin film, but I hold it especially true for mine.

Three movie seasons had passed between Chaplin's 1925 The Gold Rush and the release of The Circus. The film has many sunny scenes, but the making of the movie was anything but a happy experience. During the 11-month shooting schedule, Chaplin's mother passed away, his studio burned down, legal issues arose relating to his divorce from Lita Grey, and the IRS demanded one million dollars in back taxes. Is it any wonder his hair turned white?

The Tramp is broke and hungry. Perhaps a way can be found to alleviate his situation at the Circus Sideshow. Laugh-out-loud encounters with a baby, the baby's lunch, a pickpocket, and the attempt to put that criminal's ill-gotten-gain to good use, and various ways of eluding a cop occur in this environment.

Charlie leads law enforcement on a merry chase through the circus tent that is his introduction to the people of this world and a new life for the Tramp. The owner and ringmaster played by Al Ernest Garcia is a tough taskmaster to all of his employees, but is particularly rough on his stepdaughter, a bareback rider played by Merna Kennedy. The poor girl is even denied food when things go wrong in her act.

The Tramp has become one of the clowns in the troupe and is a hit with the crowds. The ringmaster keeps the Tramp's popularity as a performer a secret so he can use him as an underpaid props man.

The Tramp and the girl form a bond of friendship that becomes much more on the part of our hero. They share their hopes and dreams. The Tramp longs to impress his love and become more than a mere clown. Merna supports the Tramp by letting him know how important he is to the success of the circus and encouraging his attempts at a new act.

We are brought to gasps and laughs when the Tramp attempts his tightrope walk routine. He is determined to compete with Rex, a new performer at the circus played by Harry Crocker. Merna and Rex are attracted to each other and the Tramp is jealous. The Tramp had concocted a plan with a props man to manipulate a harness so the Tramp would be safe in the air. In the middle of his routine, the harness breaks, and then monkeys attack!

Charlie mastered the skill of tightrope walking to the point of being able to travel the rope placed at 40 feet in the air. The footage had to be shot twice for these scenes as the original negative was found to be scratched.

The Tramp's heart is about to be broken, but he can't help but see how happy Merna and Rex are together. Rex is also in a position to protect Merna as the Tramp had never been. On the day the couple is married, the Tramp is their supportive friend. The circus stars assert their independence with the ringmaster, creating their own new environment for the workplace/home. The happy couple has the complete expectation that their friend, the Tramp, will continue to be one of them.

Life in the circus is no longer what the Tramp envisioned and what he wants. There is no goodbye as The Tramp heads off to whatever life next holds in store. It is a lovely, poignant, perfect ending.

The Circus runs for one hour and twelve minutes, and every one of those minutes is a delight of cynical laughter, sentimental romance, and thrilling stunts. My most recent viewing of The Circus was a theatrical one in December of last year. The Chaplin Estate insists that screenings of the film include their recorded score. In this instance, I did not miss the live accompaniment which usually accompanies Silent Revue screenings because Chaplin knew what worked best for him and his films. The audience responded to The Circus with much laughter and affectionate applause.

"All images from Chaplin films made from 1918 onwards, Copyright (c) Roy Export S.A.S. Charles Chaplin and the Little Tramp are trademarks and/or service marks of Bubbles Inc. S.A. and/or Roy Export."

Friday, April 13, 2018

OUTER SPACE ON FILM BLOGATHON: Abbott and Costello Go To Mars (1953)

Debbie Vega of Moon in Gemini is hosting the Outer Space Blogathon from April 13th to 15th. You can go out of this world by clicking HERE.

Bud Abbott, Robert Paige, Lou Costello

Dr. Wilson played by Robert Paige (Son of Dracula) runs an experimental facility where his rocket ship has been given the go-ahead for a journey to Mars. His secretary Janie played by Martha Hyer (The Sons of Katie Elder) is concerned for her boss's safety, but she needn't be.

Longtime facility handyman Lester played by Bud Abbott has inadvertently brought dimwitted Orville played by Lou Costello past the guarded gates as a stowaway in his delivery van. Dr. Wilson decides Orville would be a liability were he to leave the grounds prior to take-off and let the news out. Orville is assigned to help Lester prepare the rocket for launch.

Martian (?) cutie and Lou Costello

The blustery Lester and the vague Orville start pushing buttons they shouldn't and before you know it they are airborne. Dr. Wilson is tracking the hijackers and knows when and where they land - somewhere outside of New Orleans. Lester and Orville, knowing the rocket was going to Mars, assume that they have landed on that distant planet. They don protective spacesuits and head out to explore. What Lester and Orville believe to be Mars is New Orleans at Mardis Gras.

Jack Kruschen, Horace McMahon

My favourite part of the movie is now coming up; the appearance of escaped convicts Mugsy played by Horace McMahon (Detective Story) and Harry played by Jack Kruschen (McLintock!). The comedy team that never was but should have been are a riot in Abbott and Costello Go To Mars. Mugsy is the brains of the outfit. He has a large vocabulary and he talks a lot, but he doesn't make a great deal of sense. Harry is willing to go along with an obvious brainiac. His catchphrase is "I'm witchu".

Mugsy, having read his share of comic books, lets Harry know that they have found a rocket ship from Mars. They don spacesuits provided therein as disguises and avail themselves of the ray guns contained in the ship. Ray guns?! Really, Dr. Wilson? Mugsy and Harry will use the ray guns in a bank robbery. They then intend to hop on the ship with the Martians. Really, Mugsy? Of what use do you assume your ill-gotten gain will be on Mars?

Mistaken for the bank robbers, due to their spacesuits, Lester and Orville are chased by the police, but elude them to return to the rocket. A battle of wits and wills the likes of which never seen in cinematic history ensues between the convicts and the "rocket scientists". The result is that the rocket once again leaves the ground and this time actually makes it to outer space. They land on Venus.

Mari Blanchard, Jean Willes

This is the Venusian court of Queen Allura played by Mari Blanchard (Destry). The palace and caves of Venus were created by legendary art directors Robert Boyle (North by Northwest) and  Alexander Golitzen (Thoroughly Modern Millie). You will notice that the planet appears to be populated by females alone. Beauty queens appear as the girls of Venus which I think is a very good gimmick. Apparently, a 22-year-old Anita Ekberg (La Dolce Vita) appears as one of the guards, but I couldn't place her. No trouble recognizing Jean Willes (The King and Four Queens) as a Captain. Four hundred years ago, Queen Allura caught her man cheating so she banished all of them from the planet. Since then everything has been hunky and dory. They have developed pills for everything.

Lou Costello, Mari Blanchard

The arrival of the four men into this garden spot has created tension among the population. The girls think it would be nice to have a king again and Allura anoints Orville. She demands his complete devotion, but he can't keep his mind on one girl when there are so many. Mugsy leads one section of Venusians in revolt while Lester tries to keep Orville on the up and up.

In danger of losing her power, Queen Allura screens pictures of the men who used to live on Venus. They are of the body-building, Adonis type, and when Queen Allura asks her subjects if they should settle for what showed up on their doorstep, the vote is unanimous to refuel the rocket and send these poor excuses for the male of the species back to whence they came.

Horace McMahon, Jack Kruschen

Bud Abbott, Lou Costello

Director Charles Lamont's career began in the silent era and he first worked with Abbott and Costello in 1943s Hit the Ice. Nine films later, their last was Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. Howard Christie, the team's longtime producer wrote the script for this sci-fi comedy, which is light on the sci and heavy on the fi.

The well had begun to run dry for Bud and Lou's movie schtick by this time as evidenced the movie being easily stolen by McMahon and Kruschen. Nonetheless, everyone was looking to the skies in this era and it is only right that the fellows have their crack at space. It may only prove slightly amusing when compared to their great movies of the 1940s, but remember, they did make great movies, and we don't have to go to Mars to see them.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

THE THIRD ANNUAL BETTE DAVIS BLOGATHON: The Virginian, The Accomplice (1962)

Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is hosting The Third Annual Bette Davis Blogathon from April 5th to 7th. Click HERE to join in the fun.

Season 1, Episode 13
Aired: December 19, 1962
Written by Howard Browne, William P. McGivern, Winston Miller
Directed by Maury Geraghty

Shiloh, the fictional Wyoming ranch setting of Owen Wister's timeless 1902 novel The Virginian has seen many incarnations on stage and screen over the years. The television series ran for 9 seasons (1962-1971) with a unique 90-minute format. The seasons saw many changes to the large cast with each iteration bringing its own tone to the program. Consistent through the years was the quality and the stars James Drury as the admirable title character and Doug McClure as fun-loving ranchhand Trampas. The Virginian and Trampas feature in this episode from the first season guest starring Bette Davis.

Joe Darby and Celia Miller robbed at gunpoint.
Woodrow Parfrey, Bette Davis

The bank in the town of Rocky Point was robbed of $60,000 and the bank manager shot and killed. Two of the clerks Joe Darby played by Woodrow Parfrey and Celia Miller played by Bette Davis are witnesses to the crime. A year later one of the robbers, Walt Gleason played by Christopher Dark is apprehended on a separate charge but found with money from the robbery.

Deputy Friendly, Walt Gleason, Trampas
Ken Mayer, Christopher Dark, Doug McClure

Instead of naming his true partner, Gleason identifies Trampas, top hand at the Shiloh Ranch as his confederate. Trampas is apprehended by Rocky Point Sheriff Luke Donaldson played by Gene Evans and taken to face trial.

Joe Darby, Sheriff Donaldson, Miss Miller
Woodrow Parfrey, Gene Evans, Bette Davis

Both Darby and Miss Miller identify Trampas as the robber and the one who shot McGowan. Later when Joe Darby is reminded that he wasn't wearing his needed glasses until a month after the robbery, he recants his testimony. Miss Miller, on the other hand, is a woman who is quite sure of herself. Indeed, she is quite sure of herself even after she knows she is wrong.

Walt Gleason, Malcolm Brent
Christopher Dark, Lin McCarthy

The reason Gleason fingered someone other than his true partner is that he needs that man, Malcolm Brent played by Lin McCarthy, to help him get out of jail. Brent has money to pay men to accomplish the breakout. Yes, Brent has money, but other people know he has money.

Miss Miller spent her life in this town and is well known and respected. She spent most of her life supporting and caring for an invalid father. Most people in town agree the father was not an easy man to live with, but they don't realize to what extent. Upon his passing Celia discovered that her father's disability was a lie. He used her and lived off her earnings. "This life gives you nothing" has become Miss Miller's creed, and she has decided it is time for her to do some taking.

Malcolm Brent, Celia Miller
Lin McCarthy, Bette Davis

Brent came to town to help Gleason under the guise of being a newspaper reporter. After observing him, Celia Miller realizes why he looks familiar. Her identification of Trampas had been an honest mistake, but she is willing to let that mistake stand. She demands $10,000 from Brent in exchange for her silence. A letter has been placed with the bank which gives his description to the authorities should anything sudden or untoward happen to her. Brent is stuck with this formidable blackmailer. What can he do but give in?

All this time The Virginian, working with Trampas' lawyer Samuel Cole played by Noah Keen, has been investigating. They convinced Joe Darby to change his testimony through the obvious means of his eyesight. Miss Miller is not so easily swayed, but something doesn't seem right about her testimony.

Trampas, Celia Miller
Doug McClure, Bette Davis

On the night of the jailbreak, Trampas takes the opportunity to leave as well in search of Miss Miller. He wants to talk sense to the woman. As The Virginian expressed it: "Gleason was broken out. Trampas is just stupid!" When Trampas realizes his efforts with Miss Miller are in vain, he is recaptured on his way to turn himself back in.

Brent left town at the same time as Gleason and the jailbreakers. This looks suspicious to The Virginian who checks into the man's background and discovers he is not a reporter. If not who he said, then who was he and why was he in town?. The Virginian and Cole gradually piece the plot together, but they lack proof.

Malcolm Brent, Walt Gleason
Lin McCarthy, Christopher Dark

Out in the wilderness, Brent and Gleason turn on each other and both men are dead while Miss Miller keeps her secret and her cash, and Trampas ponders a dismal fate in prison.

Samuel Cole, Judge Cornwall, Miss Miller
Noah Keen, Byron Morrow, Bette Davis

On the witness stand, it is obvious to those in Trampas' corner that Miss Miller is lying, but the Prosecutor Tom Finney played by Harold Gould, is in full Hamilton Burger mode with "incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial" pouring forth as if from a spout.

Bette Davis as Celia Miller

Proof to The Virginian, if not to the court, is the fancy dress Celia has made, the first of many for her new life as a rich woman. She plans to go to Rome and pass herself off as a wealthy widow. Life will be hers to enjoy at last.

The Virginian, Miss Miller
James Drury, Bette Davis

The news is leaked that upon the next day the jury will return a verdict of guilty. The Virginian brings a bottle whisky as a token of Trampas' defeat and Celia's victory. She chides him for the obvious ploy of trying to get her to loosen her tongue. She belittles the fate awaiting Trampas until The Virginian speaks of a life lived under the sky taken away and replaced with prison walls. It may as well be a death sentence.

Bette Davis as Miss Celia Miller

The pressure has finally gotten to Celia. She drinks her own liquor. She worries over the turn her life has taken and the lie she can no longer live with. Desperation drives her to seek the sheriff and as she runs through the main street of town she is not aware of riders and how close they are. Celia Miller is  accidentally killed without completing her act of redemption.

Sheriff Donaldson, Prosecutor Finney, Samuel Cole
Gene Evans, Harold Gould, Noah Keen

The judge is pronouncing a very harsh sentence on Trampas when Sheriff Donaldson arrives with the letter Miss Miller had used as insurance against the real criminal. The Prosecutor makes his recommendation and the Judge sets Trampas free.

Doug McClure as Trampas

On the way out of town, Trampas opines that this town has caused them a lot of trouble. Maybe they should rob the bank. The Virginian's response is the character's most famous line from the novel, the play, and all film versions.

James Drury as The Virginian

Trampas: "You'd make a good bank robber."
The Virginian: "When you call me that, smile."

Bonus: a selection of hats and scarfs worn by Bette Davis as Celia Miller.

Check out those Bette Davis Eyes!


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