Wednesday, February 27, 2019


The world first became acquainted with the Hubbards of Alabama through Lillian Hellman's play The Little Foxes. The basis for the play was Lillian's observations of the machinations within her own family for business success.

The Hubbard siblings are a mess of back-stabbing, manipulative creatures who destroy all those around them in the battle for success, money, and power.

"Take us, the little foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes."
- Song of Solomon

Tallulah Bankhead starred as Regina Giddens in the original 1939 Broadway production of The Little Foxes. To date, there have been four Broadway revivals of Hellman's most successful play. Bette Davis was cast in the 1941 film in the final of three collaborations between Davis and director William Wyler. Cast members repeating their Broadway roles in the film are Charles Dingle as Benjamin Hubbard, Patricia Collinge as Birdie Bagtry Hubbard, Carl Benton Reid as Oscar Hubbard, and Dan Duryea as Leo Hubbard. The film was nominated for 9 Academy Awards but did not receive any trophies.

Patricia Neal as Regina Hubbard

In 1946 Hellman revisited the Hubbards with Another Part of the Forest which ran on Broadway for 182 performances and won Patricia Neal as young Regina Hubbard the first Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play.

Vladimir Pozner (The Dark Mirror) adapted Hellman's play for the Universal film release of 1948 and was nominated for a Writers Guild of America award for Best Written American Drama. The movie has an oppressive atmosphere and nice directorial flourishes from Michael Gordon (An Act of Murder). The cinematographer was Hal Mohr, the only write-in Oscar candidate for A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Ann Blyth, Edmond O'Brien, Fredric March, Florence Eldridge

Another Part of the Forest takes us back to the earlier years alluded to in The Little Foxes. We have heard of the shady background of the Hubbards and their father Marcus, but now we are face-to-face with the events which will shape a generation.

Fredric March, Ann Blyth

Fredric March stars as Marcus, a man whose success from profiteering during the Civil War makes him a financial power in his town. There is also a secret in Marcus' past which, if confirmed, could lead to fatal consequences. It has already caused his wife Lavinia played by Florence Eldridge to hover ever closer to a mental breakdown.

Marcus is a self-made man in business and proud of being self-educated. Marcus aspires to culture and has been sorely disappointed in his sons. The eldest, Benjamin played by Edmond O'Brien schemes for success beyond the bookkeeping duties and a pittance in wages which has been his lot in life as a Hubbard. The weakling son, Oscar played by Dan Duryea (playing the father of his role in The Little Foxes) has the tendencies of a wastrel and no clue of how to get what he desires.

Ann Blyth plays Regina, the apple of her father's eye. She has no difficulty in devising ways to get what she wants and right now the attractive and confident young woman wants John Bagtry played by John Dall. The man she desires lives in the past; his glory years as a Confederate officer, and cannot fully return her affection. Betsy Blair plays Birdie Bagtry, the young mistress of the failing plantation Lionette. Her gentle nature and desperation foretell her tragedy at the hands of the Hubbards.

A musical evening at home with the Hubbards

Hope and schemes, and lies and truths come together on the night of Marcus Hubbard's monthly musical entertainment. Breaking with tradition, this evening will not only include the hired musicians who stoke Marcus' pretentions, but also some guests.

Birdie Bagtry attends in hope of getting a much-needed loan after a northern businessman unexpectedly and violently left town. Birdie will be accompanied by her cousin John. Regina plans to cement her romance with John this evening. Oscar has romantic hopes and will introduce his father to his intended Laurette played by Dona Drake, who dances the can-can at a local establishment. 

What Marcus Hubbard failed to understand in his disappointment in his sons and his delight in his daughter is that he created them in his own image. He will have no one else to blame for his comeuppance. Most of these people will find what they perceive as strength, but only one among them will display the real thing. 

Dona Drake, Dan Duryea, Ann Blyth, Fredric March
Florence Eldridge, Edmond O'Brien, John Dall

See the smiling actors in the photo above. I imagine it was fun to go to work with such a meaty script and talented co-stars. Although the Hubbards are not a particularly fun group of people, they are fascinating to watch.

Fredric March is the TCM Star of the Month and you can enjoy his performance as Marcus Hubbard when Another Part of the Forest airs on Tuesday, March 19th at 11:00 pm eastern time.


Jacqueline T. Lynch's definitive look at the career of Ann Blyth features an insightful study of her wonderful performance in Another Part of the Forest. Information on the book here.

Friday, February 22, 2019

31 DAYS OF OSCAR BLOGATHON: Irving Berlin at the Oscars

Time again for our best bib and tucker as Once Upon A Screen, Outspoken and Freckled, and Paula's Cinema Club host the gala blogathon 31 Days of Oscar. Thanks, Aurora, Kellee, and Paula! The Ceremonies:    Day 1     Day 2     Day 3

Irving Berlin, born Israel Isadore Baline
May 11, 1888 - September 22, 1989 

A poor lad from a Russian immigrant family, Berlin left school early and found his dreams and his success in the mythical New York City thoroughfare called Tin Pan Alley. Broadway success followed for the young man who wrote the songs that tapped into the hearts of his countrymen and received the admiration of his fellow composers.

The 1925 Broadway hit The Cocoanuts was filmed by Paramount in 1929 bringing to Hollywood the sensational Marx Brothers and the songs of Irving Berlin. Irving wrote 14 songs for the Broadway show and 4 of them made it to the movie, with one new ballad. The relationship between Irving Berlin and Hollywood was just beginning.

1936 nominee: Cheek to Cheek from Top Hat
Winner: Lullaby of Broadway by Harry Warren and Al Dubin from Golddiggers of 1935

If Irving didn't exactly set Hollywood ablaze after The Cocoanuts, there were hit Broadway revues to thrill his fans including As Thousands Cheer with Ethel Waters introducing Heat Wave and Supper Time, and Clifton Webb singing Her Easter Bonnet.

1935 saw the release of the RKO Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musical Top Hat and the songs Irving wrote for that show include Top Hat, White Tie and Tails, Isn't This a Lovely Day (to be Caught in the Rain)?No Strings (I'm Fancy Free), the on-demand big finale The Piccolino, and the Oscar-nominated, immediate standard Cheek to Cheek. Fred suggested he talk-sing Cheek to Cheek and Irving heartily agreed. 

1939 nominee: Best Writing, Original Story for Alexander's Ragtime Band
Winner: Eleanore Griffin and Dore Schary for Boys Town

Twentieth Century Fox had great success in 1937 with Irving Berlin's musical On the Avenue. Irving is an uncredited writer on the film with the plot of an entertainer romancing a debutante echoing Irving's second marriage to Ellin McCay, a daughter wealth and privilege.

Darryl Zanuck admired Irving's place in entertainment history and wanted to film a Berlin biography. The shy Irving avoided that in his treatment for Alexander Ragtime's Band, with the movie's story spinning around the title breakthrough hit song. The film became the tale of a musician's rise and fall and rise, and the romance in his life. The three stars and director from In Old Chicago, Alice Faye, Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, and Henry King were popularly reunited and joined by Ethel Merman.

1939 nominee: Now It Can Be Told from Alexander's Ragtime Band
Winner: Thanks for the Memory by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin from The Big Broadcast of 1938

The film Alexander's Ragtime Band hangs on 24 of Irving Berlin's hit songs, and one new ballad for Alice Faye which was nominated for an Oscar, Now It Can Be Told.

Along with Irving's Oscar nomination for Original Story and Best Original Song, Alexander's Ragtime Band was nominated for Best Picture, Best Art Direction, and Best Film Editing with one Oscar being won by Alfred Newman for Best Music, Scoring.

1939 nominee: Change Partners (and Dance With Me) from Carefree
Winner: Thanks for the Memory by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin from The Big Broadcast of 1938

Nominee number 2: Irving's second song in the field of 10 nominated for Best Original Song came from RKO's Carefree starring Astaire and Rogers. Since They Turned Loch Lomond Into Swing, The Yam, Carefree, and Change Partners would join the Berlin catalogue.

1940 nominee: I Poured My Heart Into a Song from Second Fiddle
Winner: Over the Rainbow by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg from The Wizard of Oz

Irving concluded his contract with Zanuck at Twentieth Century Fox with the romantic comedy Second Fiddle. Starring Tyrone Power and Sonja Henie, the premise of the movie is a spoof of the search for Scarlett O'Hara. Irving provided six songs which were sung by Mary Healy and Rudy Vallee. I Poured My Heart Into a Song was the favourite of the critics and the Academy.

1943 nominee: Best Writing, Original Story Holiday Inn
Winner: Emeric Pressburger for 49th Parallel

Irving had had an idea rattling around in his brain for several years for a revue that would feature a lazy entertainer and the holidays. The scenario of the show business hotel fell into place following his 1940 Broadway hit, Louisiana Purchase.

The Easter holiday was all set, song-wise, and after he had a completed score, Irving presented the idea to Paramount. Being that he was, after all, Irving Berlin, he requested and received his dream team of director Mark Sandrich (Top Hat, Follow the Fleet, Carefree), Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Claude Binyon and Elmer Rice worked out the screenplay. 

Max Steiner, Irving Berlin - Oscar winners

1943 Best Original Song Winner: White Christmas from Holiday Inn

The 15th Academy Awards presentation honouring the films of 1942 was held at the Cocoanut Grove of The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on March 4, 1943. Max Steiner won Best Original Score for Now, Voyager and Irving won Best Original Song. Here's an interesting tidbit: Max Steiner was born on May 10, 1888, in Vienna, Austria-Hungary and Irving on the following day in Mogilev, Belarus. 

Jewish-born Berlin had fond memories of the Christmases of his childhood; the decorated trees and excitement shared by and with friends. These memories were what he tapped into when White Christmas was born. It was one of what he referred to as his "round songs", something that came together, not without hard work, but perfectly.

In Laurence Bergreen's As Thousands Cheer, published 1990, he describes Irving as heading to his office first thing in the morning after the long night of completing White Christmas. Irving told his transcriber Helmy Kresa "I want you to take down a song I wrote over the weekend. Not only is it the best song I ever wrote, it is the best song anybody ever wrote." Kresa thought "Oh you conceited ass", but knew the boss was right after hearing it once.

The beautiful secular holiday ballad was introduced to the public by Bing Crosby on The Kraft Music Hall on Christmas, 1941. The popularity of the song as judged by record and sheet music sales through the years cannot be denied nor the emotional impact on all who love it.

Bing Crosby: "I don't think we'll have any trouble with that one, Irv."

1947 nominee: You Keep Coming Back Like a Song from Blue Skies
Winner: On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer from The Harvey Girls

The 1940s saw Irving busy writing, composing, producing, performing and touring in his revue This Is The Army which was filmed by Warner Brothers in 1943. Meanwhile, Paramount had put together another tale of romance and show business using the songs and a story idea from Irving Berlin. Irving took a break from Army tour to lend a supervisory hand to the movie and to compose a lovely new ballad, You Keep Coming Back Like a Song. Singers and the Academy took notice.

1955 nominee: Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep from White Christmas
Winner: The title song from Three Coins in the Fountain by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn

Back on Broadway Irving gave us Annie Get Your Gun, Miss Liberty, and Call Me Madam. Movie hits in this era featuring Berlin tunes included Easter Parade, There's No Business Like Show Business and the screen version of Call Me Madam.

Over at Paramount, the decision was made to revive and revamp Holiday Inn for the post-war era with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire as former soldiers. Michael Curtiz directed the Norman Krasna, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank script. Fred was retiring (again!) and eventually Danny Kaye was cast, along with the talented Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. The mix of old and new songs included the charming Count Your Blessings which would be Irving's final kick at the Oscar can.

At this time in Oscar history, the song nominees were limited to five. That season's selection also included Hold My Hand from Susan Slept Here, The High and the Mighty theme, and my choice for winner, Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin's The Man that Got Away from A Star is Born.

Irving delights some friends at the 1963 Screen Producers Guild Awards

The connection between Irving Berlin's timeless songs and Hollywood continues to this day. To date, Berlin's music is included in the soundtracks of over 400 television programs and close to 300 movies. As Jerome Kern famously said, "Irving Berlin is American music."

Sunday, February 17, 2019


Virginie of The Wonderful World of Cinema is hosting this blogathon tribute to Arthur Kennedy on the occasion of the 105th anniversary of his birth. Click HERE for the tributes to the fine actor.

Arthur Kennedy

John Arthur Kennedy made his Broadway debut in the short-lived Marc Connelly play Everywhere I Roam in 1938. Through the years, his Broadway roles would include such Arthur Miller classics as Chris in All My Sons, Biff in Death of a Salesman, for which he was awarded the Tony in 1949, and John Proctor in The Crucible. He also starred as Thomas Becket in Jean Anouilh's Becket opposite Laurence Olivier as Henry II in 1961. 

Arthur Kennedy made an impressive film debut in 1940 with James Cagney in City for Conquest. His film career would not include any trophies from the Academy, but he would be nominated for five Oscars. Four of the nominations were in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category for Champion, Trial (Golden Globe winner), Peyton Place, and Some Came Running. His sole Best Actor in a Leading Role nomination was for the 1951 film Bright Victory.

Arthur Kennedy stars as Sergeant Larry Nivens in Bright Victory. We meet Larry in North Africa in 1943 with two fellow soldiers played by Rock Hudson and Kenneth Harvey. Larry is a garrulous character and through his conversation, we learn of Larry's sentimental attachment to the girl back home and his cynical attitude toward her rich father. Larry also has rather foolhardy bravery as when the trio ignores MPs orders to avoid a restricted area due to mines. It is not mines they encounter but German snipers who kill one and permanently damage Larry's optic nerves.

Donald Miele, Peggy Dow, Richard Egan, James Edwards
Arthur Kennedy, Murray Hamilton

The flight home reveals Larry's nervous energy as he tries to avoid thinking of his injuries. He meets another soldier from his home state of Florida played by James Edwards but cuts off the conversation when he realizes the man is African American. Both of these men are on their way to Valley Forge Hospital which opened in 1942 to deal with the war wounded.

Larry is in a ward dedicated to blind soldiers. Like the rest of the men, Larry will go through stages of grief at the loss of his sight. However, the combination of expert staff, training and the support of the other men in the ward, the soldiers learn to adapt to their new normal. Larry goes from a bungled suicide attempt to pride in his achievements and making new friends. Among his fellow patients and staff, you will spot actors Richard Egan, Murray Hamilton, and Robert F. Simon.

Arthur Kennedy, Peggy Dow

Peggy Dow plays Judy Greene, a U.S.O. volunteer in nearby Phoenixville. Judy is well-thought of by everyone, and after a rocky introduction, she and Larry become close. Judy works as a bank teller and introduces Larry to her sister and brother-in-law. Larry is amazed to find himself enjoying life and considering career choices. Judy has fallen hard for Larry but he still has feelings for the girl back home and the security he finds in the memories of life before his blindness.

Judy: "No, no, no. It isn't pity. I know that down deep inside. I didn't want to tell you. I never meant to. I tried to stop it believe me. But whenever I saw you, whenever you touched me, there it was."

James Edwards (fourth billed after the leading ladies) plays Joe Morgan, the soldier who was rebuffed by Larry on the plane. They literally run into each other at Valley Forge and not recalling the earlier meeting, they become inseparable as friends. Larry's old prejudice raises its head when there is talk about new patients arriving and Larry comments that he didn't realize the hospital accepted "that kind". Not only has he hurt Joe, but from that time on Larry is shunned by the other members of the ward until the time for all to part for their homes prior to further treatment at another facility.

Will Geer, Nana Bryant, Arthur Kennedy

Will Geer and Nana Bryant play Larry's parents. They are anxious about the reunion and Mrs. Nevins prattles on about local gossip and about their former maid Ella May, Larry recognizes the attitude he displayed toward Joe. It is easier to spot your own shortcomings when you observe them in others. Larry's emotional growth is in progress.

Larry: "Dad, I'm sorry I hurt mother's feelings but I couldn't help it. My best friend at Valley Forge was a negro, Joe Morgan. I didn't even know he was black until one night I said something to him that tore us wide apart. When mother talked about Ella May it reminded me how she never let me play with negros when I was a kid and how she taught me to think about them. That's why I blew up at her."

Mr. Nevins: "She taught you those things because she was taught them, son. I was too. The whole world is changing and you more than we because you helped to change it."

Julie Adams, Arthur Kennedy

Julie Adams plays Chris Paterson, Larry's fiancee. Her father played by Minor Watson wants the wedding called off, but Chris won't hear of it. Larry and Chris spend weeks reuniting and planning for the future. What they find is that they have both changed and that the past alone won't give them the future they need. Larry discovers he wants more in his life than a charity job at a barrel factory.

The journey to the Avon facility in Connecticut includes a stop at Philadelphia where Larry lays plans for a future career in law thanks to new friends, Judy's brother-in-law played by Jim Backus and a blind lawyer played by Larry Keating. Larry also accepts the opportunities to reconnect with Judy, and with Joe. Both are willing to forget the past and start anew with Larry.

Larry: "I told you I wanted security, remember? Well, I was looking for it in all the wrong places. Nobody can ever give it to you, Judy. That way it costs too much. You gotta make it for yourself or it's no good."

Judy: "I know that. I knew it then."

The future, however it may turn out, is in Larry's own hands with only one guarantee - it won't be easy, but it will be worth it.

Lights Out, a novel by mystery writer Baynard Kendrick (1894-1977) published in 1945 was the basis for the film Bright Victory released in 1951. Philadelphian Kendricks enlisted in World War One by traveling to Canada. A friend's blinding in the war and a visit to the St. Dunstan Hospital in England piqued his curiosity about the training required for blind patients and the patient's coping abilities.

So intense was Kendrick's interest in the subject that he created the popular blind fictional detective, Duncan Maclain. MGM would produce two films based on the character starring Edward Arnold. Later, he would create the blind insurance investigator Longstreet (1971-1972) for television. Kendrick was an instructor to blind soldiers during World War 2, which inspired this novel. He also belonged to organizations that supported the blind, as well as being one of the founding members of the Mystery Writers Association of America.

Arthur Kennedy gives us all of Larry Nevins, his bravery, his fear, his prejudice, and his emotional growth. Most admirable is Larry's persistence in overcoming himself and his circumstances. It is something he has in common with his fellow patients at Valley Forge.

The producer and screenwriter of this movie for Universal-International was Robert Buckner, a Warner Brothers veteran. Mr. Buckner's work on Bright Victory won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay and a Writers Guild of America award.

Bright Victory was directed by Mark Robson who got his start in the Val Lewton unit at RKO. Adding to the realism of the story, Robson chose to film Bright Victory on location at Valley Forge Hospital, Phoenixville, and the Broad Street Station in Philadelphia.

The sequences at Valley Forge are fascinating to watch as the patients are trained in practical skills such as Braille and maneuvering streets, and learn how to adjust through the subtle attitudes of the staff and the camaraderie of companions.

Mark Robson previously worked with James Edwards in Home of the Brave, and with Arthur Kennedy in Champion. Robson and Kennedy's future collaborations would include Trial and Peyton Place, all of these titles garnering the actor Oscar nominations.

Lest we begin thinking that the sterling performance of Arthur Kennedy as Larry Nevins was yet another case of "always the bridesmaid and never the bride" the New York Film Critics Circle Award came his way.

Leading ladies:

Peggy Helmerich of Tulsa, formerly Hollywood actress Peggy Dow.

1926 - 2019

Julie Adams visited the Classic Film and TV Cafe.

Friday, February 15, 2019

ADORING ANGELA LANSBURY BLOGATHON, Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man (2001)

The Adoring Angela Lansbury Blogathon is hosted by Gill of Realweegiemidget Reviews. Enjoy all of the contributions collected HERE

"There is something a little bit mysterious and interesting about her and that certainly appeals to me... Mystery is my business, as you know."
- Angela Lansbury speaking of her character in Mary Poppins Returns, 2019

Murder, She Wrote starring Tony winner and Oscar and Emmy-nominated actress Angela Lansbury as mystery writer and amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher ran on CBS for 12 seasons from 1984 to 1996. The series was followed by 4 made-for-TV movies: South by Southwest in 1996, A Story to Die For in 2000, The Last Free Man in 2001, and The Celtic Riddle in 2003. Fans have not given up hope for another visit with J.B. Fletcher.

Angela Lansbury, Anthony Shaw

The Last Free Man is the only Murder, She Wrote script from producer and writer Matthew Sommer. All of the Murder, She Wrote TV movies and 68 episodes of the series were directed by Anthony Shaw who seems to know exactly how to handle his star Angela Lansbury without letting his mother Angela Lansbury get in the way.

"The truth. That is the most elusive of mysteries."
- Cassandra Hawkins (Phylicia Rashad)

Jessica Fletcher is in Virginia to look into the history of her family who came from Ireland and settled in the area in the 18th century. While attending a lecture by historian Dr. Cassandra Hawkins played by special guest star Phylicia Rashad, Jessica is made aware of a disturbing historical connection.

Dr. Hawkins is descended from a slave called Samuel Pickney who died prior to the beginning of the Civil War as the accused murderer of a landowner named Robert Mercer. Samuel Pickney was the property of Sarah McCullough, a distant aunt of Jessica Fletcher. Cassandra confirms the connection with a family heirloom; a silver watch engraved "To Samuel Pickney from S. McCullough."

David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, Phylicia Rashad

Dr. Hawkins is investigating what she sees as questionable proofs in the murder case against her long ago grandfather, including the presence of two gravesites for the man, one in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania

Combining their forces, and using archival papers, including letters and Sarah McCullogh's journal, the ladies search for the truth. Their quest brings them into conflict with local historian Stanford Thornton played by David Ogden Stiers. His goal is to preserve the past as culture and fears an agenda on Cassandra's part. Her only agenda is to face uncomfortable truths. Will Thornton hinder their efforts or will he be challenged to assist in the inquiry?

Phylicia Rashad, Gloria Stuart, Angela Lansbury

Cassandra and Jessica are led in their research to Eliza Hoops, a woman past 100 years of age played by Gloria Stuart (91 at the time). Eliza has memories of her grandfather and the "magic train" with the passengers who were not to be disturbed. 

The Last Free Man is told in two equally riveting sections. The search for the truth in the contemporary day and the telling of the story of Samuel Pickney and Sarah McCullough in Antebellum Virginia. In the "story" sequence Angela Lansbury plays the role of Sarah opposite Michael Jace as Samuel. 

Robert Mercer played by Tim Dekay is murdered on the night of his wedding to the daughter of a wealthy slaveholder. A jealous ex-beau of the bride's, the overbearing father-in-law, and an opportunistic newspaper editor are among those in attendance when Sarah and Samuel arrive at the wedding. Samuel is subjected to abuse from the former beau, a Confederate officer played by Tim Abell. The officer quickly arouses feeling against Samuel following the murder.

Angela Lansbury, Keith Jefferson, Michael Jace, Taraji P. Henson

Sarah displays the characteristics that have been passed down to Jessica. She will not see an injustice without fighting it, and she will not see anyone in trouble without helping. Sarah's investigation debunks flimsy evidence and reveals a shocking secret between Samuel and the murdered Robert Mercer. Nonetheless, she is unable to prevent tragedy and is stopped at every turn from revealing a truth that is not accepted by her community. It will be a much future generation that will discover that healing truth and spread its word with the unexpected help of Stanford Thornton.

Angela Lansbury as Sarah McCullough

The compelling stories told in The Last Free Man are well presented and it is a special treat to see Angela Lansbury in the role of Sarah McCullough, with her soft southern accent and steely determination in the face of a patriarchal and bigoted society.


David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach
Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Lumiere
Beauty and the Beast

Angela Lansbury and David Ogden Stiers appeared together previously in 3 episodes of Murder, She Wrote, the TV Movie The First Olympics: 1896, and share a Grammy Award for the soundtrack album for Beauty and the Beast. Let's not forget Mrs. Potts and Cogsworth also pop up in the Beauty and the Beast sequels/spinoffs/games.

Gloria Stuart as Edna Jarvis
The Days Dwindle Down

Gloria Stuart guested on a popular season 3 Murder, She Wrote episode The Days Dwindle Down which acts as a sequel to the 1949 movie Strange Bargain.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


The First Annual Valentine's Day Meet-Cute Blogathon is the brainchild of Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. Click HERE for all the wonderful movie moments.

The cliches of even the finest westerns lend themselves to kidding, and fans are always up for a laugh. Writer/director Burt Kennedy (Seven Men from Now) and writer William Bowers (The Gunfighter) are at the top of the pack in the subgenre due to their share dramatic westerns. They know of which they spoof.

James Garner plays Jason, a stranger passing through a lawless town in search of a lawman. An unexpected gold strike has left the suddenly rich town disorganized and unable to deal with the influx of people and the villainous Danby clan. Jason wants to get to Australia so he can be a pioneer. Pioneering takes money so he temporarily takes on the job of Sheriff. All of the sheriffs in this town have only held the job temporarily.

Romance will come to Jason in the form of Prudy Perkins played by the brilliant Joan Hackett (Will Penny, The Last of Sheila). Prudy is smitten with the new sheriff but getting together is going to be awkward. There are stages to Jason and Prudy's meet-cute as they are not formally introduced upon their first encounter. Their second and third encounters don't go too well either!

Prudy was in the process of crossing a wide, busy and very muddy roadway to get to the Perkins General Store. Two men having a fist fight to settle their differences as to the right of way of their wagons inadvertently shove Prudy into the mud. Prudy did not take this well, nor sitting down. The fight escalates with Prudy in the middle of it. She takes particular umbrage at a fellow combatant's grabbing her where he oughtn't.

James Garner, Joan Hackett

Prudy: "Watch where you're grabbing." She notices Jason observing the battle from the boardwalk. "What about you?"

Jason: "What about me?"

Prudy: "You wanna grab something?"

Jason: "Everything looks too slippery to me."

Prudy: "What does that mean?"

Jason: "Nothing."

Prudy: "You look too clean to suit me."

Mayor Perkins takes Jason to his home where the new sheriff will be provided room and board, and to introduce him to Prudy, who is a fine cook. Mayor Perkins is unaware that Prudy is at home in the midst of post-mud-fight ablutions. Down to her mud-caked skivvies and with a mop of wet hair, Prudy notices the handsome stranger coming down the street with her father. She keeps one step ahead of them by ducking into the hall closet, the dining room, and out the kitchen door where she climbs a handy tree. Jason is drawn to the sight of a girl in a tree.

Joan Hackett

Jason: "You're the strangest girl I ever met."

Prudy: "Go away."

Jason: "Do you always show this side of your nature or am I just lucky on my first day? I suppose you have some reason for sitting up there like that. Ordinarily, a girl doesn't get undressed, pour a bucket of water over her head then climb a tree."

Prudy: "I'm warning you..."

Kathleen Freeman, James Garner

Enter helpful neighbour Mrs. Danvers played by Kathleen Freeman who provides Jason with the information that this is indeed Prudy Perkins and she lives right in this house.

Joan Hackett

Dinner time presents the opportunity Prudy needs to reverse her previous first impressions. Lost in her daydreams, Prudy doesn't realize she has inadvertently powdered her face with flour, and proximity to the oven has put her skirt afire which Jason politely douses with water.

Prudy: "What are you..."

Mayor Perkins: "You was on fire, Prudy! You was on fire!"

Harry Morgan, Joan Hackett, James Garner

Prudy: "Fire? Oh, I'm sick and tired of these stupid things that have been happenin' to me. And somebody better do somethin' about it soon."

Jason: "That's quite a daughter you got."

Mayor Perkins: "I think she's crazy."

Jason: "What makes you think that? I know why I'd think..."

Mayor Perkins: "She had some shocks this year. She got wealthy overnight. It unhinged her. Then she was always big for her age and puberty hit her hard. That'll do it you know."

Jason and Prudy go through some more comic misunderstandings before the inevitable feelings of attachment are allowed to blossom. All this while dealing with the good-for-nothing Danby clan, a plethora of travelling gunfighters, gold mining, and a town that won't back up its sheriff. You know, and I know, and the whole town knows that this is how things will end up for Prudy and Jason.

James Garner, Joan Hackett, Harry Morgan, Henry Jones

Prudy: "What do you mean, your girl?"

Jason: "Come on, you've had that look in your eye since the first day I hit town." ... "Say, are you really one of the richest girls in this part of the country?"

Prudy: "The richest."

Jason: "That's nice. That's real nice."

By this western fan's reckoning, Support Your Sheriff! pokes genial fun at My Darling Clementine, Red River, Winchester '73, Rio Bravo, and High Noon with a tip of the Stetson to McLintock!. Have I missed any, fellow western fans?

Friday, February 1, 2019


It is time for the annual TCM 31 Days of Oscar lineup which always includes an eclectic mix of the renowned films in Hollywood history and some unexpected titles to pique our curiosity. This month we look at one of those unexpected titles.

Prior to the movie season which saw Columbia Studios and director Frank Capra send a young idealist to the capitol in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Republic Studios and director Joseph Kane released a similarly plotted picture called Under Western Stars.

The star of this picture had been mostly uncredited as a cowboy or singer in 11 previous pictures. Occasionally, he was billed under his real name of Len Slye while a musician appearing with the Sons of the Pioneers, and most recently had been trying out the screen name of Dick Weston. In this picture as Roy Rogers (actor and character), the 27-year-old became a star!

Under Western Stars had been slated for Gene Autry, but along with being a screen personality, composer/singer Gene was a businessman who knew he wasn't getting his share of the profits from Herbert Yates and Republic. Gene walked out on the picture in a contract dispute and "Roy" was promoted. Roy was supported in the film by Autry regulars Smiley Burnett and popular radio singing stars the Maple City Four. Joseph Kane, a musician turned prolific low-budget western director was in charge.

Under Western Stars is set in an unnamed western state suffering the effects of the dust bowl conditions during the 1930s. Guy Usher, another of those familiar yet often uncredited faces, plays John Fairbanks, the owner of the Western Water and Power Company. A dam under the company's control denies local ranchers access to much-needed water by charging usurious rates. After a spirited campaign, Roy Rogers, the son of a late Congressman is sent to Washington on the promise to get Federal control of the water.

Fairbanks' daughter Eleanor played by Carol Hughes (Three Men on a Horse, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe) takes a liking to the handsome, singing Rogers and assists the sometimes naive and often unorthodox Congressman. The real-life Mrs. Frank Faylen would be appear in four pictures with Gene and three with Roy.

The movie packs six songs into the politics, romance, riding and shooting and one of those songs, Dust by Johnny Marvin was nominated for Best Music, Original Song. It is the emotional core of the movie as Roy sings an impassioned plea to lawmakers to assist the ranchers.

The award that year was given to Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin for Thanks for the Memory from The Big Broadcast of 1938. Roy would reprise Dust with the Sons of the Pioneers ten years later in the movie Under California Stars. It is that clip that is available on YouTube and which is provided here.

Oscar nominee Johnny Marvin (1896-1944) was an entertainer and recording artist (singer, ukulele) of the 1920s who later collaborated on Autry soundtracks. He passed of dengue fever contracted while entertaining with the USO during World War 2. 

Gene Autry returned to the Republic fold and no one could ever accuse the producer/star and future owner of the California Angels of not knowing how to handle his money. Within five years Roy Rogers success was assured when he was crowned King of the Cowboys.

Under Western Stars airs on TCM during this year's 31 Days of Oscar salute during the wee hours (3 AM Eastern) of February 13th after an evening of David Lean epics. The fast-paced and entertaining programmer from 1938 runs just around an hour. There is a reason PBS NewsHour devoted nearly a half an hour of its programming to Roy Rogers upon his passing in 1998. Get to see the beginnings of the movie legend in Under Western Stars.


You may be interested in my article on Roy Rogers and Dale Evans for the 2013 Dynamic Duos in Classic Movies blogathon.


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