Friday, July 5, 2019

THE JANET LEIGH BLOGATHON: Columbo, Forgotten Lady (1975)


Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood is hosting a blogathon tribute to lovely Janet Leigh. Click HERE to enjoy the contributions.


Forgotten Lady guest-starring Janet Leigh was the opening episode of the 5th season of Columbo airing on September 14, 1975. The episode was written by William Driskill and directed by Harvey Hart. Janet Leigh, movie star also had a healthy number of TV movies and episodic television guest spots beginning in the 1960s.


The role of Grace Wheeler in Forgotten Lady seems tailor-made for the versatile film actress who excelled at drama, comedy, adventure, and musicals. The woman who wrote There Really Was a Hollywood exuded the charm and talent of a star, and a star is what she plays here. Although in the case of Grace Wheeler, her stardom ended some 20 years previous when her onscreen partner Ned Diamond played by John Payne was in an alcohol-fueled car accident. Grace learned that she was only wanted as part of a team. Remaining friends, but going separate ways, Ned opened a dance studio and worked as a choreographer. Grace married an eminent diagnostician, Dr. Henry Willis played by Sam Jaffe.

Janet Leigh, John Payne

The premiere of the musical compilation film Song and Dance, an obvious nod to the success of MGM's That's Entertainment has once again put Wheeler and Diamond in the spotlight. Grace has visions of reviving her career with a Broadway production of the Kurt Weill, Ogden Nash and S.J. Perelman musical One Touch of Venus. The future looks incredibly bright with Grace once again a star, and her Ned directing a hit. All she needs is the backing and she expects to get it from her retired husband. However, Henry is unwilling, for many reasons, to support such an endeavour. After all, hadn't they been planning a trip around the world? Grace is driven to the extreme act of murder to reclaim her place as a star.

Sam Jaffe

Grace drugs her husband so he will not be aware that she has taken his pistol out of the car where it is kept, locked his bedroom door from the inside, placed medical records that indicate he was ill on the bed, placed his hand on the trigger and fired. Believing she has left no doubt as to Henry's suicide, she leaves the room via a balcony and a tree to complete her alibi.

Grace is known to spend many nights enjoying her own films in a projection room. The butler Raymond played by Maurice Evans can attest to Madam's whereabouts, as can his wife Alma played by Linda Scott. Dr. Willis' suicide is a true tragedy.

Clips from the Universal-International musical from 1953, Walking My Baby Back Home starring Janet Leigh and Donald O'Connor are interpolated perfectly into this episode which shows us that Grace Wheeler, indeed was every inch the cinema star.

Maurice Evans, Peter Falk

Lt. Columbo is called in on the case and immediately little facts start bothering him. Why would a man contemplating suicide take a sleeping pill? Why would a despondent man be reading a humourous novel? How did the gun get from the garage into the house? Henry had retired at 8 o'clock to enjoy dinner and his book. Why were there no marks of the outside on the soles of his slippers? So many questions. The byplay between the butler Raymond and Columbo is fascinating fun, but the Lt. has yet to meet the Forgotten Lady.

Janet Leigh

Returning to the mansion on the next day, Columbo is shocked and rather excited to see Ned Diamond in the flesh. John Payne as Ned puts up with the fawning fan and admonishes the police officer to be kind to Mrs. Willis, who is a dear friend of his. Columbo is then further flummoxed to see that Mrs. Willis is none other than Grace Wheeler. Grace Wheeler who is keeping busy in the face of tragedy by rehearsing her new show. Grace Wheeler treats Columbo and his stories of seeing her movies with his wife, with the graciousness one would hope to find in a star. Grace Wheeler who lapses into memory loss and irritability. Grace Wheeler whom Columbo suspects of murder.

John Payne, Janet Leigh

The episode is filled with movie mentions that will gladden the heart of the classic movie fan (Donald Meek!) and a sweet scene with Janet and John singing and dancing to Speak Low from One Touch of Venus. We are treated to Janet as Grace in rehearsal, showing she could still dance as if she were in Walking My Baby Back Home.

Janet Leigh
Grace is lost in one of her movies.

This episode of Columbo has a most touching ending proving that Grace Wheeler was not a Forgotten Lady, but was beloved by both her husband Henry and the man who wanted to marry her, Ned Diamond. I believe we can safely add Lt. Columbo to that list.












Monday, July 1, 2019

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR JULY ON TCM


The Korda Brothers gave us an epic filming of A.E.W. Mason's popular and oft-filmed 1902 novel The Four Feathers in cinema's golden year, 1939. Producer Alexander Korda gave us the glory of Technicolor to capture filming locations in Sudan. Director Zoltan Korda, a former cavalry officer, handled the spectacle of thousands of extras and the intimacy of characters battling only themselves with equal skill. Art director Vincent Korda took us from sumptuous English country estates to a crowded prison in the desert.

"There's no place in England for a coward."
- General Faversham (Allan Jeayes)

Harry Faversham (John Clements) has spent his life in the sure and certain knowledge of one thing; he is a disappointment to his father, the General. Harry's gentle nature and love of poetry have his father convinced that Harry is a coward who will not live up to his military ancestors. The youngster's head is filled with tales of glory and tales of the disgrace of cowards, and their grizzly deaths or suicides. If these lessons were intended to stick, they did. If these lessons were meant to inspire, they did not.

June Duprez, John Clements

The adult Harry has become a soldier to please his father. He has fallen in love with Ethne Burroughs (June Duprez), the daughter of an old comrade of his father (C. Aubrey Smith), and the sister of a fellow officer, Peter. Tom Willoughby (Jack Allen) and John Durrance (Ralph Richardson) round up what should be a close-knit group of friends. Captain Durrance is also in love with Ethne and Ethne's brother Peter wishes his sister returned John's regard. He senses something "off" about Harry. 

Ralph Richardson

Man's memory is long and selective. A decade earlier General Gordon was routed at Khartoum and now the British are sending General Kitchener to avenge that loss and stabilize their interests in the region. On the eve of their deployment to Africa, Harry resigns his commission. His reasoning is sound as he only entered the military for his father and now his father his dead, he is engaged to be married and feels he can serve his country best at home.

Harry is presented with three white feathers from Captains Durrance, Burroughs and Willoughby signifying their belief in his cowardice. When Ethne also disapproves of Harry's actions, citing their tradition and the people who rely on them, Harry must face some uncomfortable truths about himself. Taking a white feather from Ethne's hat, he has her present him with the one which will complete the set of four. Harry is now determined to prove himself and make them each take their feathers back.

Harry consults a doctor in Egypt who can dye his skin so Harry can move freely as a mute Sangali native. The brand worn by the group cannot be imitated, so Harry must endure branding. The doctor commends him for his bravery. Joining labourers for the British, Harry is able to blend with the enemy and with his "friends."

John Clements, Ralph Richardson

John Durrance and his company of men are tasked with causing a distraction to the Dervishes in order for Kitchener to regroup. During this assignment, John is the victim of sunstroke which leaves him blind and the company is overwhelmed by the Dervishes. Peter and Tom are taken captive and only John and Harry remain. Ascertaining John's predicament, the mute native takes his old friend through the deprivations of the desert to the bounty of the Nile, leaving him near a fort. Will John ever discover his saviour or the returned white feather among his effects?

Braving torture, Harry next seeks out Peter and Tom in the prison at Omdurman. Many have been in that hellhole for decades. What can Harry do to rescue his friends and make them take back their white feathers? Is there anything he can do to win back Ethne's love? Does he not know he always had Ethne's love?

The screenplay for The Four Feathers is filled with interesting dialogue and many thoughtful conversations. There is humour and heartbreak in this adventure and romance all wrapped up in a Technicolor spectacular. The Four Feathers is a great achievement and great entertainment.

TCM is screening The Four Feathers this month on Friday, the 5th of July as part of their month-long salute to the great films of 1939. The Four Feathers starts off the programming day, and if you're not careful, you will be glued to your couch for hours!












Sunday, June 23, 2019

THE HOTTER'NELL BLOGATHON: Heat Lightning (1934)


Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlog The Sequel is adding to the summertime heat with a blogathon focusing on those movies and shows set under a torturous sun. June 21 - 23 are the days for extra sunscreen. Click HERE as you reach for a fan. 

Aline McMahon, Ann Dvorak

Aline MacMahon stars as Olga, a woman running from her past and trying to make a future. She thinks she will accomplish this in the Mohave Desert where she is the boss of an auto camp/garage/diner. It is a hard, lonely life but that is what Olga feels she deserves and she needs. Perhaps the sun will bake away her past of misdeeds as a party girl with a criminal boyfriend. Perhaps she can keep her beloved kid sister from making similar mistakes. Olga is not taking into account the way life has of catching up with one or the basic truth that you can't live someone else's life for them. 

Myra played by Ann Dvorak is a young woman bored with the isolation of living with her sister. She is longing for her share of life, of fun, good times, and romance. Myra looks upon Olga as a jailer, as someone who doesn't know what fun is, or has forgotten. Perhaps if Olga had explained why that smooth-talker who wants to take Myra dancing is up to no good, they might have had an understanding. Perhaps heartbreak could be avoided. Perhaps.

Willard Robertson, Aline MacMahon

Olga's way station is like a Grand Hotel in the desert with people coming and people going. They get tourists with car trouble such as Jane Darwell and Edgar Kennedy providing a humorous interlude in our story. They get gals who look for and find the fun that Myra is missing.

A frequent visitor is neighboring rancher Everett Marshall played by Willard Robertson. He likes and admires Olga, and what is more, he thinks he understands her. If he doesn't totally "get" Olga, perhaps it is just as noble in that he tries to understand her. 

Frank McHugh, Ruth Donnelly, Ann Dvorak, Glenda Farrell

Things get busy and complicated with the arrival of a Mexican family, and a couple of divorcees fresh from Reno. Mrs. Ashley-Aston and Mrs. Tifton played by Ruth Donnelly and Glenda Farrell are self-absorbed and demanding. They not only demand the best of their hostess, but they each demand the undivided attention of the chauffeur Frank played by Frank McHugh. Can one man keep two women happy? Will he ever get that cold beer he craves?

Ann Dvorak, Preston Foster, Lyle Talbot

Dangerous customers descend on Olga's oasis. Her old boyfriend George played by Preston Foster and his partner Jeff played by Lyle Talbott are on the lam. A robbery went wrong and they left two dead men behind them. More than any other character in the film, it is Talbott's Jeff who feels the heat of his past and of the desert. Jeff isn't responsible for the killings, but he is the one with guilt coming out of every pore. He is a walking bundle of nerves and anxiety. Jeff will either melt or explode.

Aline MacMahon, Preston Foster

George, as Olga can attest, is always a cool customer. Here in the desert, he has found opportunity. He has no doubt about being able to twist Olga to his wants and plans, although he still can't understand why she left him, and she certainly has "let herself go." George believes he has found a perfect set-up here in the desert where his old girlfriend will give them shelter from the law, and there are two rich women waiting to be relieved of their jewellery and car.

Aline MacMahon

Danger is crowding in on all sides; physical, psychological, and spiritual danger from the night, from the heat, from the past, and from George. Whatever happens in the desert will forever alter Olga who sought so much else under the sun.

















Friday, June 21, 2019

THE BLIZZARD OF OZ BLOGATHON: The Sundowners (1960)


Click here to join the journey as Quiggy of The Midnite Drive-In takes us on a journey to movies set or made in Australia with The Blizzard of Oz Blogathon running on June 21-23.

John Cleary's acclaimed 1952 novel The Sundowners was a natural for the movies with its colourful characters and unique setting of 1920s Australia. Independent producer Joe Kaufman commissioned a script in 1954 but was unable to complete the project. Warner Brothers released their film in 1960. Fred Zinnemann (High Noon, From Here to Eternity) directed the Isobel Lennart (Love Me or Leave Me, Holiday Affair) screenplay on location in Australia, with interior filming at Elstree Studios in England.

The Sundowners was nominated for 5 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Deborah Kerr for Best Actress, and Glynis Johns for Best Supporting Actress. Deborah Kerr won Best Actress from BAFTA and from the New York Films Critics Circle Awards.

Deborah Kerr as Ida Carmody

"If we have to live in a tent I say we keep moving. That way, we've got an excuse for not having a home. I'm sick of other people's sympathy. And that's what we always get if we stay too long near any one town."

The sundowners in our story are the Comody family. Paddy keeps on the move, finding work as a drover. His wife Ida, and teenage son Sean love Paddy dearly but are getting fed up with their wandering existence. However, the closer Ida and Sean get to their dream, the farther Paddy gets from his.

Robert Mitchum as Paddy Carmody

"Do you suppose the poor coot on that farm can just come and go like we do?"

The time we spend with the family, Paddy has a herd of sheep to deliver which requires his hiring an extra drover. Into their lives comes Rupert Venneker, an educated and perhaps titled Englishman, with an itch to wander as strong as Paddy's. Rupert has a way with the ladies and a philosophical nature which appeals to young Sean. He attaches himself to the Carmody family, like a pet.


Peter Ustinov as Rupert Venneker

"Pay a woman a compliment, she tries to turn it into a contract."

Ida and Sean have become attached to a farm for sale by one of their campgrounds. In order to raise money for a down payment, Paddy is convinced to take on a job of sheep shearing. The Halstead ranch needs a lot of hands for the job and along with Paddy, Sean becomes a tar boy, Rupert a wool roller, and Ida the cook.

Ida relishes having a real kitchen instead of cooking over an open fire. Sean is "away from home" for the first time as he socializes with the other workers. Ida enjoys the companionship of the ranch owner's society wife played by Dina Merrill. Ida is also indispensable when the wife of a shearer arrives to have their first child near to her husband.

The other shearers are working toward goals, like their own shop or pub, but Paddy only feels constrained by this makeshift community. He feels that the family doesn't need the money; refusing to recognize Ida and Sean's strong feelings about the farm.


Glynis Johns as Mrs. Firth

"You should've come sooner, you would've heard me singing. I've got a voice like a foghorn but I enjoy myself. I don't think life's worth living unless you enjoy yourself, eh?"

In town, hotelier Mrs. Firth becomes a friend to all, especially to Rupert. Their relationship is delightful to watch unfold. Look for a scene where Mervyn Johns (Glynis' father) is cast as a former suitor being put in his place.

Life with these wanderers is never boring and frequently dangerous. The drovers encounter with a wildfire is harrowing. Scenes of shearing the sheep are very interesting and enlightening. You might find your back aching in sympathy with Paddy.
  

Michael Anderson Jr. as Sean Carmody

"I get sick of being told I'm too young like it's a disease or something."

A crisis comes to the family when a put-upon Paddy disappoints Ida for personal reasons, and his fellow workers when he lets those personal reasons get in the way of their plans. Paddy has been appointed Team Halstead in a shearing contest with a competing ranch and he intends to back out and leave before the end of the season. Rupert is the mender of bridges in this case.

The family's fortunes next rise and fall when a racehorse comes into their lives. Sean was born to be a jockey, and Paddy sees a way out of the mortgage. A race will be the turning point for the family in the most unexpected of ways. Paddy's wanderlust and Ida's love always find a way.


Dimitri Tiomkin's score for The Sundowners draws on traditional folk tunes such as The Queensland Drover, Botany Bay, The Lime Juice Tub, and Moreton Bay.



Bonus:


Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum at Mascot Airport, 1959. Exterior filming in Australia has ended and it is off to England for the interior shots. Thanks to Walter S., for confirmation.















Friday, June 14, 2019

DEAR MR. GABLE BLOGATHON: Manhattan Melodrama (1934)


Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood is hosting her second annual Dear Mr. Gable blogathon, a salute to the King of Hollywood, Clark Gable. Click HERE to enjoy the tributes and critiques.

When MGM and other Hollywood studios of the 20th century are referred to as "the dream factory", the description is apt. Like a factory, hundreds of movies were produced and today we enjoy those films as a wonderful art form of collective dreams. The output in terms of quality and quantity staggers the imagination.

Clark Gable was one of MGMs busiest leading men. Manhattan Melodrama is only one of four films Gable released for his home studio in 1934. This is the movie season that saw Gable win his only Oscar for a little Capra movie filmed as a loan-out Columbia. Manhattan Melodrama won its only Oscar for Best Writing, Original Story by Arthur Caesar with the screenplay by H.P. Oliver Garrett and Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The superb direction by W.S. Van Dyke and cinematography by James Wong Howe are the guiding hands that bring the story vividly to life.  

Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Butler
"Blackie" Gallagher and Jim Wade

Turn-of-the-20th-century New York City finds youngsters Blackie and Jim tragically orphaned as the film recreates the disaster of the fire and sinking of the General Slocum steamship with the loss of over 1000 lives. Taken in by a dead pal's grieving father, the boys are raised by their "Papa" Rosen until he too is killed. The innocent man was trampled by police in a riot and Blackie swears to get even someday.

Blackie is energetic, emotional and easy to like. He loves to gamble and win, but he also has a sense of fair play all his own from which he will not waiver. Blackie's other great love is for Jim, as a brother and an idol. Jim is studious by nature, caring, and a stickler for his own ideals. Blackie lives for fun and Jim lives to better himself and the world.

Clark Gable, William Powell
"Blackie" Gallagher and Jim Wade

Their life journeys take Blackie and Jim to success built on their distinct personalities. Blackie is a well-known gambler, and Jim is a rising star in the District Attorney's office. The two men understand and love each other while completely understanding that which keeps them apart. Perhaps Blackie understands their differences even more than Jim. Perhaps Jim doesn't want to think of those differences when it comes to their so important bond.

Myrna Loy
Eleanor Packer

"I fell in love with a very little boy who was playing with a great big box of matches, and I don't want that little boy to get burned." 

Blackie is not only a perpetually lucky gambler; he is also lucky in love. The lady in his life, Eleanor is bright and attractive with a delicious sense of humour. One thing that sets Eleanor apart from the usual women in Blackie's environment is her longing for something better for herself and Blackie. Her observation of Blackie's fly-by-night business and the vicious characters with whom he associates fill her with dread.

"I instinctively keyed my women to the personalities of the men. Male-female relationships were much more clearly defined in those days. My job was to vivify those relationships within the framework of the script, the mores, and the abilities of the men. Clark, for instance, suffered so much from the macho thing that love scenes were difficult. He kept very reserved, afraid to be sensitive for fear it would counteract his masculine image. I always played it a little bit tough with him, giving him what-for to bring him out, because he liked girls like that - Carole Lombard had a tough quality."

- Myrna Loy
Being and Becoming, 1987

Election night is a big deal for Jim as he becomes District Attorney, and Blackie arranges for him to meet Eleanor. Eleanor falls hard for Jim and the things he represents for her that have nothing to do with Blackie. Eleanor breaks things off with Blackie but does not pursue Jim. An accidental meeting later brings the pair together, and Eleanor and Jim plan to remain that way. 

Jim's future looks even brighter with his new wife and a bid for the Governor's seat. Meanwhile,  without Eleanor's influence, Blackie has become tougher, meaner, and more morose. Blackie kills the chiseling Manny Arnold and is suspected but there is no evidence to bring him to trial. When Jim's political campaign is threatened by a bitter former assistant, Eleanor mentions the trouble to Blackie. Blackie has killed once for money and pride. What wouldn't he do for his friend Jim? 

Jim, Eleanor, and Blackie are faced with unimaginable conflict. District Attorney Jim Wade must prosecute his closest friend. Blackie shows only pride in Jim's masterful manipulation of the jury. The death sentence for Blackie is heartwrenching and destructive to Jim and Eleanor. Jim wrestles with his conscious, Eleanor with hers, and Blackie faces death as he faced life.

Clark Gable
"Blackie" Gallagher

"Don't commute me. I don't want it. Hey, look, Jim, if I can't live the way I want then at least let me die when I want."

Gable's performance is charismatic as Blackie, the black sheep of a rootless family. As selfish as some of his actions may seem, he is always looking out for the other guy and has done that since childhood. He can't change even in the face of death.

Clark Gable's Oscar win for It Happened One Night attests to his skill at comedy and double-billed with this sterling drama should convert any doubter about the worthiness of Gable's legendary title as the King of Hollywood.















Friday, June 7, 2019

REEL INFATUATION BLOGATHON: Audie Murphy as Tom Destry, 1954


Maedez of Font and Frock and Ruth of Silver Screenings are once again hosting their popular Reel Infatuation Blogathon on June 7th - 9th. It's all about those oh-so-crushable characters who have made their way into our hearts.

Reel Infatuation:  Day 1   Day 2   Day 3


Audie Murphy

The hubby strolled into the room while I was watching Destry. "What are you watching?" (Audie Murphy walks into the frame.) "Oh! Never mind."


Thomas Mitchell, Lori Nelson, Audie Murphy

Tom: "You know, I don't hold too much for first impressions. The way I figure it, the last impression is important."

The criminal element of the town of Restful has eliminated the latest meddlesome sheriff and appointed in his stead the town drunk. Rags Barnaby played by Thomas Mitchell is said drunk, a former lawman whose glory days were as deputy to the legendary lawman Tom Destry. Once again with a badge, Rags determines to quit drinking and get Destry's son to be his deputy. After all, young Tom cleaned up Silver Creek; Restful should be no problem.

Destry the Younger played by Audie Murphy is not who Rags was expecting. Instead of a six-footer with a six-shooter, the current Tom Destry is a youthful looking man of slight build who doesn't believe in guns. This discovery delights the crooks who run the town, led by Decker played by Lyle Bettger. (I once saw Bettger play a good guy. Honest!) They see no danger in this peace-loving, stickler for the rule of law. 


Mari Blanchard

Tom sets about quietly winning over old Rags and the decent people of Restful. (He had my heart the second he stepped off the stage.) The charm offensive works easily enough with Doc and Bessie Mae played by Wallace Ford and Mary Wickes, proves tougher with Martha Phillips played by Lori Nelson, and unexpectedly easy with saloon singer Brandy played by Mari Blanchard.

Tom: "You make an exception in one case, you may as well not have the law."

Danger, suspense, laughter, music, love, and loss are the elements of this successful western. It is a loss that forces Tom to turn to his skill with guns to defeat the evil that holds Restful in its grip.


Lyle Bettger, Richard Reeves, George Wallace, Audie Murphy

Murphy's attractiveness, his audience appeal and the character of Tom Destry were made for each other. In this script, Tom's deceptive naivety, his intelligence, understated bravery, and determination come together to create a captivating character who easily wins admiration. Ah, be still my heart!

Add George Marshall to your list of directors who revisit an earlier success. The Max Brand story that was adapted by Felix Jackson to emerge as the 1939 classic Destry Rides Again starring James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich gave Audie Murphy one of his most perfect screen roles.

"Audie is a grassroots actor because of the many qualities which overlap between his real life and his reel life."
- George Marshall

The Medal of Honor recipient came to Hollywood in 1945 at the behest of Cagney Productions. At Universal Pictures from 1950, Murphy appeared in mainly mid-budget westerns, and over the years became a natural and adept performer. 


Lori Nelson, Audie Murphy

Could you resist a law-abiding, peace-loving, dogged detective determined to do the right thing, with that face? I certainly have no resolve against such a movie character crush.

Tom: "Which reminds me of a book I read once. It was all about a fellow and a girl. They had the doggonedest time getting together. Oh, it wasn't her fault. It wasn't exactly his fault either. It was just a whole lot of mix-ups kept 'em apart. One day this fella ..." 

Martha: "You know something. You read too many books!"

Tom: "Yeah. But there comes a time when a fella just has to stop readin' so much."

Destry is the second film in as many years to star this Universal Studios duo, following Tumbleweed in 1953. Lori also made a guest appearance on Murphy's 1961 television series Whispering Smith.


Differences between Destry Rides Again, 1939 and Destry, 1954 spotted by a fan.
No prize for guessing which fan.

Destry Rides Again: Black and White cinematography by Hal Mohr.
Destry: Technicolor cinematography by George Robinson.

Destry Rides Again: They are investigating if the sheriff died.
Destry: They are investigating how the sheriff died.

Destry Rides Again: The good girl is the sister of an impetuous cattleman.
Destry: The good girl is the niece of a swindled rancher.

Destry Rides Again: Comic subplot with a feisty landlady and Russian husband (Merkle and Auer).
Destry: Comic subplot with a feisty landlady and Doctor husband (Wickes and Ford).

Destry Rides Again: The final shootout is a free-for-all involving the entire town.
DestryThe final shootout involves only the bad guys, Brandy and Tom Destry in the saloon.

Destry Rides Again: Tom whittles.
Destry: Tom whiles away the time with a piece of string.

Destry Rides Again: Tom has a habit of relating a story he heard somewhere.
Destry: Tom has a habit of relating something he read in a book.

Destry Rides AgainTom gabs away at the pretty girl over the closing credits.
Destry: Tom kisses the pretty girl!

Trivia:

Tom Destry and Tom Destry

The stars of Destry Rides Again, 1939 and Destry, 1954, decorated veterans James Stewart and Audie Murphy co-starred as brothers in Night Passage, 1957.





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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

THE ROSALIND RUSSELL BLOGATHON: Craig's Wife (1936)


Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is celebrating the great Rosalind Russell with a blogathon running on June 4th to the 6th. Click HERE for the tributes to Roz.


John Boles, Rosalind Russell

After two years of marriage, Walter Craig played by John Boles is still besotted with his lovely wife Harriet played by Rosalind Russell. Harriet is the picture of poised perfection, as is the house she keeps. Nothing must mar the image Harriet presents to the world of her control and her independence.

Alma Kruger, Rosalind Russell, John Boles

Harriet's need for control is a neurosis that will be her emotional undoing. Blinded by his love, Walter sees only what he wants to see in his wife. Others, like his Aunt Ellen played by Alma Kruger are only too well aware of the way Harriet has taken over Walter's life by isolating him from the society of former friends. Ellen isn't even allowed the company of their friendly neighbour Mrs. Frazier played by Billie Burke. Harriet sees the matronly neighbour as a rival for Walter.

Servants in the Craig household are difficult to hold onto. The agency who provides cooks will not send another until speaking with Mrs. Craig directly to ascertain the reason for the turnover. The current maid Maizy played by Nydia Westman has never worked for a woman more difficult to please.  Mrs. Harold, the housekeeper played by Jane Darwell doesn't try to please Mrs. Craig. Mrs. Harold does her work and if Mrs. Craig doesn't like it "she has a tongue in her head."

Rosalind Russell, John Boles

Harriet has been away from her beloved and flawless home visiting her ill sister played by Elisabeth Risdon. The emotion of a sick room seems too much for Harriet who uses the pretense that visitors are impeding her sister's recovery to return home. Harriet whisks her niece Ethel played by Dorothy Wilson away with her.

During the train journey, Ethel speaks of her engagement to a young professor played by Robert Allen. Eager to share the experience of love, Ethel is shocked to learn that love plays no part in her aunt and uncle's marriage, at least for Harriet's part. Harriet married Walter for her own emancipation. Walter will pay for Harriet's independence and Harriet will be the dutiful wife as long as Walter behaves. Ethel finds this attitude dishonest and monstrous. Harriet believes her niece to be youthful and foolish.

During Harriet's absence, Walter has visited an old and disturbed friend played by Thomas Mitchell. The man has taken to drink over suspicions of his wife's fidelity. The next day the couple is found dead and the investigation points to a murder/suicide. Walter is, of course, blameless of the events yet feeling guilty for not realizing the depth of his friend's despair. Harriet muddies the waters by using the phone company to determine where Walter had gone by tracing the phone number left with Mrs. Harold if he were needed. It would never occur to the distrustful Harriet to simply ask her husband what he had done or where he had gone.

Rosalind Russell

One by one, the members of the Craig household leave. Maizy is fired when her boyfriend visits her in the kitchen. Aunt Ellen can stand no more of Harriet Craig. When Aunt Ellen leaves, Mrs. Harold will be at her side. Ethel's fiance, who couldn't reach her by phone due to Harriet's interference, arrives to take Ethel away. Ethel is only too happy to leave such an unhappy place.

Walter watches all of this with a sense of shock, but it is Harriet's attitude toward his deceased friends the Passmores and his innocent involvement that is the final eye-opener. Harriet doesn't care whether Walter's knowledge is innocent or not, as long as their names are kept out of the newspapers and the precious sterile world she has created for herself is kept pristine.

Walter's first steps in breaking free of Harriet's grasp include smoking in the museum-like room that is the centerpiece of Harriet's creation. Walter's smashing of an antique vase signals the breaking of the marriage. Harriet will, at last, have her emancipation from the messiness of emotional entanglements. Will her happiness be complete?

Editor Viola Lawrence, Actress Rosalind Russell
Screenwriter Mary C. McCall Jr., Director Dorothy Arzner

Mary C. McCall Jr., one of the founders of the Writers Guild of American wrote the screenplay for Craig's Wife based on George Kelly's 1925 Pulitzer Prize-Winning play. The first film version was produced in 1928 starring Irene Rich and Warner Baxter and directed by William C. DeMille. Vincent Sherman directed a further film version 1950 entitled Harriet Craig starring Joan Crawford and Wendell Corey.

Dorothy Arzner directed Craig's Wife at Columbia Studios and star Rosalind Russell was on loan from MGM. Costumer designer Lon Anthony plays up Roz's tall, slim figure. Harriet at home is often clothed in the long lines of Grecian design making her appear the untouchable goddess. The design by uncredited William Haines and Lucien Ballard's slick cinematography highlights the coldness of Harriet's vision for her life and her home.

For Rosalind Russell, Craig's Wife fell between the adventure Under Two Flags and the psychological thriller Night Must Fall. The role of Harriet Craig was a fine showcase for Roz's versatility in her first decade in Hollywood.















THE JANET LEIGH BLOGATHON: Columbo, Forgotten Lady (1975)

Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood is hosting a blogathon tribute to lovely Janet Leigh. Click HERE to enjoy the contributions....