Sunday, September 30, 2018

THE DEBORAH KERR BLOGATHON: Reunion at Fairborough (1985)


Maddy Loves Her Classic Films and is celebrating Deborah Kerr on the occasion of her birthdate, September 30th, with a blogathon. Click HERE for the tributes to the actress whose name rhymes with star.

There is joy in watching experts in their field. Skill and talent can be inspirational. There is an added emotion when observing the art of acting when it holds up a mirror to humanity.

Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr at Mascot Airport, 1959
Have they finished The Sundowners or are they about to begin it?

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison in 1957 was the first teaming of two actors of vastly different backgrounds and temperaments, whose experience and talent combined beautifully. Their later big-screen collaborations would include a sophisticated marital comedy The Grass is Greener and a story of migrant workers in Australia, The Sundowners.

Robert Mitchum as Carl Hostrup and Deborah Kerr as Sally Wells Grant
Reunion at Fairborough

The final pairing of Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum would be Reunion at Fairborough, a 1985 TV movie originally airing on the American cable channel, HBO. Albert Ruben, whose television scripts include westerns, crime pictures and soap operas, and an Edgar win for 1980s City in Fear wrote this telefilm. Herbert Wise was the director. His long career included Emmy nominations for I, Claudius and Skokie. The music by composer Nigel Hess underscores the emotions with a feel not unlike the scores in films of the 1940s. Reunion at Fairborough was filmed on location in England.

In World War II,
America's Eighth Air Force attacked
Hitler's Germany from bases in Britain.

To the gallant men and women
of the Eighth,
and to the generous Britons who
opened their hearts and homes to them,
this picture is gratefully dedicated.

When we meet Carl Hostrup (Robert Mitchum) he appears to be a prosperous, if solitary man. It is when he returns to his apartment and contemplates suicide that we understand the depths of his despair. Fortunately, he changes his mind and is brought out of his depths by a phone call.

Robert Mitchum, Red Buttons

Dr. Nathan Barsky (Barry Morse), formerly Sgt. Barsky is arranging a reunion of the bomber squadron of which they both were members. It is in two weeks time at the village where they had been stationed, Fairborough. Barsky assumes "Hoss" Hostrup will attend and tasks him with finding that "tough little guy" Jiggs Quealy (Red Buttons). Carl needs to be doing something and when he discovers Quealy is a rummy who makes a little money by sweeping out a flophouse, he takes him on as a project. Jiggs is dried out and cleaned up and taken to the reunion.

Carl thinks often of the old days and the memories are in black and white. At home in Chicago, they are memories of planes and scared, yet brave young men. As the train takes him and Jiggs through the countryside Carl's memories are of a young woman and lost love.

The first day in Fairborough is a scene we have become familiar with through newscasts of similar events with bands playing and children waving flags. Banners proclaim "welcome" while a local reminds younger people of the old saying about the Yanks. "over-sexed, overpaid, and over here."

Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum

The first day also sees Jiggs fall off the wagon while Carl goes looking for that lost love Sally (Deborah Kerr). At Sally's home, he meets her granddaughter Sheila (Judi Trott) who offers to drive him to the shop where Sally works. Sally's immediate reaction upon seeing Carl is "My God!" causing Sheila to ask "Is he the one?" When Sally nods, Sheila shocks Carl with "Hello, Grandad."

Carl did not know of the existence of his daughter with Sally who died, along with her husband, in an accident at age 23. At this stage of her life Sally is not of a mind to apologize for the decision she made all those years ago. Carl would like to blame her, but he cannothonestly say if his younger self would have walked away or reached out for happiness.

Red Buttons, Barry Morse, Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr

Reunion at Fairborough takes its time allowing us to experience the festivities and reflections. Dr. Barsky is a guide through the physical location of the air base. It is a battered memorial to the physical and spiritual journey taken by himself and so many others. Barry Morse is wonderful in the role.

Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum, Judi Trott

Sally and Carl reconnect, rehash the past and prevaricate about the future, particularly if they have a future at all. Carl tries to bridge the generation gap and family gap with his granddaughter. An activist against a local American missile facility, she and Carl are at odds about his defensiveness about her perceived hate for Americans. Sometimes they listen to each other and sometimes they just shout at each other.

Jiggs takes a clear-eyed look at himself for the first time while in the company of the companions of earlier days. He vows to turn over a new leaf, to be a better man. We can but hope that the experience of these days will carry him far.

Sheila comes to love her grandfather, as he quickly came to love her. She reminds him of how much there is to live for and inspires a soaring act of defiance to the passage of time. Carl begins to hope that Sally will someday be his.

Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum

Deborah Kerr is marvellous in this role. Always a beautiful woman, she is 64 at the making of this film and the picture of the prettiness so well-remembered by Carl and his friends. She is feisty and vulnerable, full of longing and love. Her chemistry with Robert Mitchum, five years older than his co-star, has lost none of that sparkle and deep camaraderie audiences first saw 28 years earlier. Simply dancing to Moonlight Serenade, they are electric.

Reunion at Fairborough is a moving story and a fitting coda to the joint careers of two beloved stars.












Friday, September 28, 2018

THE POPEYE BLOGATHON: Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936)


Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlog hosts Blow Me Down, a Fleischer Popeye Podcast and this Popeye Blogathon on September 28th to 30th.


Click HERE for fun!

Elzie Crisler Segar's rambunctious character Popeye was a natural to make the leap from the comic strip page to the animated screen. The Fleischer team did that very thing in 1933 with popular and successful Popeye shorts.


If you like one reel Popeye 'toons filmed in the inimitable Fleischer style in black and white (and who doesn't?) then you will love the epics. The studio gave us three two-reel Popeye films in glorious Technicolor. Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor was the first of these in 1936.

I don't believe epic was the word that came to mind upon my first childhood viewing of Popeye the Sailor Meet Sinbad the Sailor, as I probably didn't know the word, but the feeling I had watching it was definitely "epic".


"Who's the most remarkable extraordinary fellow?"
- Sindbad sings his own praises


"Popeye the sailor!"
- Popeye unintentionally ruins the punchline


"I scare all the creatures on land and on sea
But talk about women, they all fall for me."
- Sindbad even has a verse about the ladies

Sindbad doesn't like anyone able to boast about deeds that upstage his own. So the swaggering vocals of Popeye off Sindbad's island make the two sailors mortal enemies. Sindbad being a fellow who "takes his affections wherever they're found", is immediately enamoured of Olive Oyl.


The biggest buzzard in the world is dispatched to destroy the ship and "bring the woman" to Sindbad.


Despite the fact that Wimpy, the hamburger fiend, is barely a curiosity to the villain of this piece, he gives me some chuckles.


Popeye can read but we know nothing like this warning will keep him from rescuing the goilfriend. Along with vanquishing Sindbad, Popeye has to subdue Boola the two-headed giant, the biggest buzzard in the world, and various other creatures.


It takes a can of spinach and Olive Oyl's encouragement to use the twisker punch to bring down that nasty old Sindbad.


Could this scene be the inspiration for the challenge fight in the 2018 hit movie Black Panther?


What do you think?


The important thing to kids, old and young, is that, as gleefully anticipated, Popeye may take a beating that would do-in lesser, non-spinach eating sailor men, but in the end, he pummels that Sindbad but good!

"I'm one tough Gazookus
Which hates all Palookas
Which ain't on the up and square.
I biffs 'em and buffs 'em
And always out roughs 'em
But none of  'em gets nowhere."


Jack Mercer

Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor produced by Max Fleischer, directed by Dave Fleischer and Willard Bowsky. Jack Mercer as Popeye, Gus Wickie as Sindbad, Mae Questel as Olive Oyl and Lou Fleischer as Wimpy.


I'm Sindbad the Sailor written by Sammy Timberg with lyrics by Bob Rothberg. I'm Popeye the Sailor Man by Sammy Lerner.



See also, Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves from 1937 and Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp from 1939.












Friday, September 21, 2018

THE GENDER BENDING THE RULES BLOGATHON: First a Girl (1935)


Quiggy at The Midnite Drive-In and Chris of Angelman's Place are hosting, on September 21st to the 23rd, the GENDER BENDING THE RULES BLOGATHON.


Spend your weekend checking out the contributions HERE or HERE.

From the backroom of a sophisticated fashion house to a second-class music hall to the elite stages of Europe, our aspiring performer Elizabeth, played by the vibrantly winning Jessie Matthews goes on a physical and emotional journey achieving her dream of stardom.

Jessie Matthews

Elizabeth is a theatre-mad girl working for a fashion design house. Tasked with delivering an outfit to a demanding client, royalty no less, Elizabeth seems to think she has time to borrow the outfit and sneak into theatrical offices to audition. She's kicked out of the building, she's past due at the Princess's, and then gets stuck in a downpour; ruining the outfit. 

Luckily, she keeps running into Victor, played with great panache and humour by Sonnie Hale. The character is, in his mind, a great Shakespearean actor. However, the only money he earns from the theatre is by working as a female impersonator in the music halls. Victor has a cold which precludes his accepting an offer to perform his act that evening. Here is Elizabeth's chance to trod the boards. She will be "Bill" and appear as "Mr. Victoria"; a girl pretending to be a man pretending to be a girl. Victor will be there to help her every step of the way. The lure of the footlights is all.

Several mishaps occur during the performance, but they don't deter top-flight producer McLintock played by Alfred Drayton from seeing a diamond in the rough. He was convinced "Mr. Victoria" was a girl! What an act! McLintock is willing to back the routine with money and bookings on the continent.

Jessie Matthews, Sonnie Hale

Elizabeth: "I'm not going. I can't do it."
Victor: "Do what?"
Elizabeth: "I can't be a man all my life."
Victor: "But you'll have time off. And you can knit and knit to your heart's content."

Success is a wonderful and heady experience for the pair. At a Paris nightclub, they become acquainted with Princess Helen (who never received her outfit from the fashion house) and her current fiance Robert played by Griffith Jones. Victor is enamoured of the Princess and, much to Victor's dismay, "Bill" flashes Robert a less than "he-man smile".

Anna Lee, Griffith Jones

Robert is put out because he missed the first part of the act and found himself attracted to "Victoria". He doesn't like "young men who make good girls" and snubs Bill at first. Later when they share drinks and cigars and attempt their own Mills Brothers impersonation, Robert amends his opinion to "the kid is all right."

On the other hand, the Princess is suspicious of this "Bill" character and she and Robert devise a plan to see who is correct. A trip to Nice that Elizabeth has been so looking forward to as a sort of holiday from her male persona will be interrupted by complicated machinations to discover her true identity. Despite the fact that the aristocrats are unsuccessful in their scheme the world is starting to move in on the deception.

Jessie Matthews

Victor: "Tomorrow, the Riviera."
Elizabeth: "Two whole weeks in skirts! Oh!"

Robert is the first to uncover the truth when he comes upon Elizabeth swimming. He proves himself to be a good egg by keeping the newfound knowledge from the Princess. Princess Helen admits to having no compunction about revealing the truth to the world, should there be any truth to reveal. 

The romantic complications pile up quickly. Elizabeth believes Robert must have told the Princess her secret and boldly goes to Helen declaring her intention to steal Robert. The Princess has too much of an ego to consider Elizabeth a serious rival. Victor then makes his honest feelings of love known to Princess Helen and she is surprisingly enchanted.

After much snooping, a nosy reporter finally sees Bill as he/she really is and swears out a fraud complaint with the local gendarme. This all leads to confusion in the dressing room and Victor, instead of Elizabeth, performing a popular "Mr. Victoria" number to a delighted audience. The jig is up.

Our couples are then neatly sorted out with Robert proposing to a sobbing Elizabeth. He expresses his affection with this loving rebuke: "Be a man, you sissy. Is this the stuff female impersonators are made of?"

Princess Helen throws in her lot with Victor as her next fiance and plans to back him in a production of Hamlet. However, Victor has had so much fun going back to "Mr. Victoria" that he chooses a different career path: "Hamlet? I shall be the world's greatest Cleopatra!"


First a Girl is a grand showcase for players Jessie Matthews and Sonnie Hale (married: 1931-1944). Anna Lee is the epitome of entitled elegance as Princess Helen. Griffith Jones runs hot and cold as Robert, but that could be due to the make-up folks going a little heavy with his lipstick which highlights a perpetually dour expression.

Ralph Reader was the uncredited choreographer of the elaborate and entertaining production numbers for Jessie, Sonnie, and singer Donald Stewart. The songs by Maurice Sigler, Al Goodhart and Al Hoffman are spritely popular airs that fit the spirit of the movie and performances.

Victor Saville directed the movie, the fourth of five with his leading lady. Saville began his film career as an administrator before trying his hand at producing, writing and directing, Saville's worked in both Britain (Dark Journey, Storm in a Teacup) and Hollywood (The Green Years, If Winter Comes, Kim) is impressive. Marjorie Gaffney (Evergreen) wrote the well-paced and slyly humourous screenplay.


Ms. Gaffney's script was based on the 1933 German film Viktor und Viktoria written and directed by actor (Notorious, Berlin Express) Reinhold Schunzel. Our characters played by Renata Muller, Hermann Thimig and Anton Walbrook go through the same travails as their British counterparts and set the tone which continues through the remakes.


These earlier films would inspire Blake Edwards in 1982 to give us Victor/Victoria starring Julie Andrews, Robert Preston, and James Garner. Seven Oscar nominations and one win would go its way. In 1995 Victor/Victoria went to Broadway where Julie Andrews famously declined her Best Actress in a Musical Tony nomination due to the snub of all others associated with the show.

Jessie Matthews, Sonnie Hale, Griffith Jones

The world over everyone wants to be known for their true selves, yet societal conventions often stand in the way. In this story, an elaborate charade allows Elizabeth to fulfil her dreams, but she must deny her true self.










Friday, September 14, 2018

THE SECOND LAUREN BACALL BLOGATHON: Young Man with a Horn (1950)


Crystal is sharing her personal connection to Lauren Bacall on her site In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood with The Second Lauren Bacall Blogathon which you can access by clicking HERE.

Lauren Bacall plays Amy North, a wealthy young woman who describes herself as "an intellectual mountain goat, leaping from crag to crag, trying everything." Those of us who observe this character may come up with another, less complimentary yet worthy description.

Amy is friends with popular singer Jo Jordan played by Doris Day. Jo wants to introduce Amy to "that crazy musician I talk about all the time." Rick Martin played by Kirk Douglas is a trumpet player whom Jo first met when they worked together in a dance band. Jo is crazy about Rick. Rick only has eyes for his trumpet and jazz. Amy North is about to blow up all of that. Why? Because she can.

Doris Day, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall

Amy has a troubled background relating to her mother's suicide and her distant relationship with her father, a noted psychiatrist. Amy is currently studying to be a doctor. She explains to Rick that she likes to learn what makes people tick, especially artists like him. Of course, this is only a phase. Amy is too self-absorbed to truly consider others. Amy has attempted many things in her life while accomplishing nothing. She is jealous of those who seem to truly know themselves or have a talent. Perhaps it is this jealousy that leads to her destructiveness. She is certainly a destructive force in Rick's life, and he did not need that.

Kirk Douglas, Juano Hernandez

Orphaned at a young age and under the neglectful care of an older sister played by Mary Beth Hughes, Rick Martin grew up on the streets, avoiding school and society. Happenstance led him to discover a talent for and love of music. Luck or fate led him to the orbit of a respected jazz player, Art Hazzard played by Juano Hernandez. Art became everything to Rick, a teacher, and a father. As Rick reached adulthood, Art looked at the young man and realized that his obsession with music had left him with nothing else. Advice that there could and should be more to life was too little and too late to keep Rick off of a rocky road.

Click HERE to see the beginning of the relationship of young Rick played by Orley Lindgren and Art Hazzard played by Juano Hernandez.

Amy and Rick marry. Why? Amy is the sort who wants to experience everything. Rick thought it was love. Neither individual connected fully, emotionally. Rick tried to share his music, but that only bored Amy. Rick didn't fit in with Amy's society crowd; he didn't even try. Amy sought companionship elsewhere with a new friend, a female artist who becomes her new obsession. Amy decides to divorce Rick to enjoy a Bohemian lifestyle in Europe.

Rick had turned away from friends and his music for Amy. He shunned his mentor Art and the love and light offered by Jo. He was devasted and had begun to drink heavily. Amy's final act of destruction was to smash the Art Hazzard records Rick had lovingly collected for years. Rick lost his job and his soul. He lost his health and began a downward spiral.


The screenplay for Young Man With a Horn is by Carl Foreman (High Noon) and Edmund H. North (Colorado Territory) based in the same-titled 1938 novel by Dorothy Baker. Ms. Baker fashioned her novel on the short life of legendary jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931).


Michael Curtiz directed this film, one of many biopics to his credit, and the dramatic story and the music that is such an integral part of it are seamlessly bound with much credit going to a strong collaboration with musical director Ray Heindorf. Ted McCord's glorious black and white cinematography paints a gritty, noirish world for a film that, for a large part of its telling, is steeped in memory, but not nostalgia.

Hoagy Carmichael

Hoagy Carmichael, a close friend of Bix Beiderbecke's is featured in Young Man With a Horn as Rick's friend and the narrator of the story.

"My name is Willie Willoughby, but they call me Smoke. I play piano in a run-of-the-mill dance band. Kind of monotonous. But there were times when I got my kicks. Not so long ago either. Like when I palled around with Rick Martin, the famous trumpet player. What a guy. ... Of course, Rick is practically a legend now. People ask me about him and those times. Ordinarily, I don't talk much about it. But I think a lot about it."


Bix Beiderbecke
1903 - 1931

The ending of Young Man With a Horn deviates from that of the novel and of Bix Beiderbecke's tragic life. The rest of the movie is not set up for the reversal which disturbs this viewer. Perhaps in some way, it was a bittersweet comfort to Bix's friends.

Harry James, Kirk Douglas

The soundtrack to Young Man With a Horn features great versions of jazz standards with Harry James playing the trumpet for the Martin character. James also tutored Douglas on how to look authentic as a trumpet player.


Columbia released an album of the songs with Doris Day and Harry James which spent a total of 11 weeks at Billboard's number one spot.


Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall enjoyed a lifelong friendship which dated back to student days at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Betty Bacall was instrumental in introducing to Kirk to Hal Wallis to kickstart his Hollywood career. The two actors were reaching heights of success they had dreamed of and worked for when they were paired in this 1950 drama.












Thursday, September 13, 2018

THE NEIL SIMON BLOGATHON announcement


I am happy to be joining my friend Rich of Wide Screen World in co-hosting The Neil Simon Blogathon dedicated to the man whose creative life has meant so much to me.

Any aspect of Neil Simon's career and life is open for your contribution. Duplicates are accepted.

Please join us in the celebration by letting Rich or I know your choice of topic by the usual methods of communication.

The Roster

Wide Screen World, Brighton Beach Memoirs
Amy's Rib: A Life of Film, Murder by Death
The Stop Button, The Cheap Detective
In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, Barefoot in the Park
Once Upon a Screen, Chapter Two
Poppity Talks Classic Film, Seems Like Old Times
Critica Retro, The Odd Couple
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films, California Suite
Slightly Scarlet, The Last of the Red Hot Lovers
Moon in Gemini, The Heartbreak Kid (1972)
Classic Film and TV Cafe, Seven Things to Know About Neil Simon
Movie Rob, The Heartbreak Kid and Only When I Laugh
Caftan Woman, Episodes of The Phil Silvers Show


Blogathon Weekend

On Saturday, October 13th your congenial host is Rich at Wide Screen World.
On Sunday, October 14th please join me, Paddy at Caftan Woman.










  

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

THE JOSEPH COTTEN BLOGATHON: Walk Softly, Stranger (1950)


Maddy Loves Her Classic Movies and Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood are the hosts of The Joseph Cotten Blogathon running from September 5th to September 7th. 


Contributions:  DAY 1   DAY 2   DAY 3

Walk Softly, Stranger is a redemptive romance with noir trimmings. A man played by Joseph Cotten tosses a coin and decides "The Little Big City of Ashton - Home of Corelli Shoes" is the place to discard his past and start a new life. A little research provides him with an "in" as the surrogate son/boarder with a widow played by Spring Byington. Her friendship with a foreman at the shoe factory gets the fellow she knows as Chris Hale an entry-level job at the establishment. Using a phoney history as a former resident of the town, "Chris" ingratiates himself with wealthy Elaine Corelli.

Joseph Cotten, Valli

Alida Valli plays Elaine, a beautiful socialite who lost the use of her legs in a San Moritz skiing accident. She has been isolating herself and sheltering her heart. The intriguing and seemingly straight-forward Chris Hale interests her, makes her smile, and makes her dream.

The man we know as Hale has a shady past as a gambler, a con man, and a thief. Leaving town one weekend, he and a compatriot played by Paul Stewart rob a casino owned by Howard Petrie. The thinking is that the purveyor of an illegal establishment will be loath to call the police to report the crime. Of course, that doesn't prevent the gambler from seeking his own retribution. Chris Hale feels safe in his new identity and advises his partner in crime to do likewise.

Joseph Cotten, Spring Byington, Paul Stewart

Months pass and the relationship between Chris and Elaine grows to the point where she becomes afraid of her emotions and travels to forget him. However, as the Christmas holiday approaches she cannot resist the idea of the two of them and returns to Ashton. Their affection and plans for the future bloom over some lovely Christmas scenes, which includes carolers, and a festive New Year's Eve. Stubbornly, Chris is ignoring the presence in Ashton of his now broke and frightened fellow thief. Revenge is also coming to Ashton.

Walk Softly, Stranger benefits from the direction of Robert Stevenson (Jane Eyre, Mary Poppins). I find in this, and much of Stevenson's work, a real feel for his characters and setting. In the case of this RKO production, the cast of the people surrounding Chris and Elaine are excellent. Along with Spring Byington, there is Esther Dale as Elaine's confidante and housekeeper, Frank Puglia as Mr. Corelli, Jack Paar as a work pal, and John McIntire as the factory foreman. Unfortunately, the script offers no sure intention from beginning to end which mares the finer components of the film.

Joseph Cotten is excellent at portraying the dual nature of his character. Everything he says since hitting town has been a lie, but his faux sincerity works on everyone. When do his feelings become real and when does he realize it? Perhaps it is not until he feels the noose tighten and confesses to Elaine that he didn't realize he could have what he wanted any other way. Perhaps it was when he realized that what he wanted wasn't what he needed.


Trivia:


Cotten's character takes on the name of Chris Hale when he moves to Ashton. Chris Hale was the name of co-star John McIntire's character on TVs Wagon Train.


Joseph Cotten guest-starred twice on Wagon Train. Above he is pictured with John McIntire in The John Augustus Story from season 6.












THE WORLD WAR ONE ON FILM BLOGATHON: Broken Lullaby (1932)

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is hosting The World War One On Film Blogathon on November 10th and 11th to commemorate the 100th annive...