Tuesday, April 30, 2019

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR MAY ON TCM


Louise Randall Pierson wrote a memoir in her early 50s which was published as Roughly Speaking in 1944. A feisty go-getter and keen observer, the housewife was able to put into words the life of a family in those tumultuous first years of the 20th century.


Warner Brothers made a film based on the book in 1945 with Louise working on the screenplay with Catherine Turney (The Man I Love). Michael Curtiz directed his second of two pictures with leading lady Rosalind Russell (Four's a Crowd), and his second of that year's releases with leading man Jack Carson (Mildred Pierce). Roughly Speaking is the only film on which Curtiz worked with cinematographer Joseph Walker. He was a favourite of Ms. Russell's having filmed her in ten films altogether, including those produced specifically for her (The Velvet Touch).

Rosalind Russell, Eily Malyon

Louise's father passes when she is a 12-year-old girl, leaving the family in straitened circumstances. Nonetheless, her father's love and teachings have made Louise a confident and determined young woman. Graduating from secretarial college, she plans to conquer the business world and be somebody who looks from the inside out, not the outside in. However, romance intrudes with its contrary notions.

Rosalind Russell, Donald Woods

Donald Woods plays Rodney Crane, the young banker who has fallen for the headstrong Louise and he is determined that his wife will not work outside the home. After all, this 1912 and such notions must be set aside. However, with no career to occupy her prodigious energy, Louise puts all of her ambition into her husband and children, which number four in almost no time. She decides where they will live, and their lifestyle. She drags the kids into her efforts to do her bit when WWI comes along. When the children are struck with infantile paralysis, Louise buries her fear and determines to help her young daughter learn to work again.

The unthinkable happens when Louise tries to put a brave face on her husband losing his job. Cracks in their relationship broaden due to their differing personalities and Rodney plans to marry someone else. Again, with all flags flying Louise takes on the challenge of single parenthood.

Rosalind Russell, Jack Carson

The unthinkable again happens when, through old friends, she meets Harold Pierson played by Jack Carson. He's the black sheep of his family and though she may be a bit too focused along with having four children, together they are both "crazy" and well-suited to give marriage a try. The ensuing years for the Piersons, like the years for most of us, are fraught with their ups and downs in business and in family life, but their closeness sustains them through it all. 

Rosalind Russel, Ann Doran with unidentified party-goer

Many familiar faces are sprinkled throughout the cast from Ray Collins to Alan Hale. There's a lovely role for Ann Doran as Louise's chum, and see if you can spot Craig Stevens. 

Rosalind Russell and Jack Carson are a joy to watch as Louise and Harold. I wouldn't have minded if the movie were longer or if a sequel had been made. It is a shame they didn't work together again. By necessity, the story is rather episodic yet the time spent on each incident is enough to give us the full emotion of the characters and capture the essence of the times. There is much humour to leaven the tears and a lot of heart with no schmaltz in the story of this family. It is one that will stay with you like the fond memory of an old friend.


Louise Randall Pierson and daughter publicize the release of Roughly Speaking.

Roughly Speaking kicks off the TCM Mother's Day salute on Sunday, May 12th. If you are being treated to breakfast in bed, be sure to record this movie.


Connections:


Frank Pierson (1925-2012), Oscar-winner screenwriter of Dog Day Afternoon, and nominee for Cat Ballou and Cool Hand Luke was Louise Randall Pierson's youngest son.



Rosalind Russell as Louise deals with her children being stricken with infantile paralysis. The following year, Roz would be Oscar-nominated for Sister Kenny, as the Australian nurse whose pioneering work did so much to help in the fight against polio.












Wednesday, April 24, 2019

PERRY MASON: LOST AT WARNER BROTHERS

Erle Stanley Gardner
July 17, 1889 - March 11, 1970

Erle Stanley Gardner was a successful lawyer, author of mystery fiction, as well as books on travel and conservation. Along with other legal professionals, he began the Court of Last Resort to assist the wrongly convicted. I highly recommend Dorothy B. Hughes The Case of the Real Perry Mason for Gardner's fascinating life story.

Gardner's most famous protagonist and greatest gift to popular fiction is the lawyer Perry Mason. I love kicking back with one of the Mason page-turners. The energetic and quick-witted lawyer goes beyond the extra mile for his clients. This attitude echoes much of Gardner's thinking that the law has everything on its side in terms of power and resources, and anything a lawyer has to do to assist his client is right. 

The first Mason novel, The Case of the Velvet Claws was published in 1933 followed by The Case of the Sulky Girl, and in 1934 The Case of the Lucky Legs and The Case of the Howling Dog. It was The Case of the Howling Dog that Warner Brothers chose to kick off their series based on the newly popular fictional sleuth. It was the beginning of Gardner's dissatisfaction with adaptations of his novels. Gardner did not have an expectation of slavish devotion to his work but failed to understand why the studio would pay for a property with a built-in fan base and its inherit advertising value and then stray so far from the character.

"Warners proceeded to ruin Perry. It seemed to me had had about an acre of office and Della was so dazzling I couldn't see her for diamonds. Everybody drank a lot."
- Gardner interview with Dwight Whitney, TV Guide, 1961



The Case of the Howling Dog  (1934)

The Case of the Howling Dog was a great success for its author. It is an excellent story that packs a real emotional wallop with an ending that just tip-toed past the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code. Alan Crosland, whose greatest successes as a director had been in the 1920s directed a stylish and witty film of Gardner's story. William Rees' cinematography gives us a nice, early noir feeling, especially in the nighttime scenes.

Helen Trenholme, Mary Astor, Warren William

Warren William, the sophisticated star equally at home in drama and comedy, was cast as Perry Mason following his impressive success as a lawyer in The Mouthpiece and his casting as Philo Vance in The Dragon Murder Case. Canadian-born Helen Trenholme played a smart Della Street in one of two pictures she made before returning to the stage. Allen Jenkins played Sergeant Holcomb and Grant Mitchell the D.A. Claude Drumm. Although part of the novel, Perry's legman Paul Drake was not included in the movie.

When Gardner refers to the "acres of office" he is not kidding. The film sets up Perry's law practice as a major industry employing dozens of employees from investigators and clerks to doctors. They are housed in a huge art deco set that looks like a museum.

Perry finds himself with a client in an untenable situation after the murder of her estranged and abusive husband. Perry's original client, Arthur Cartwright disappeared after leaving instructions for Mason to defend Mrs. Foley should the need arise. It is only one of the interesting twists and turns in this story. We see the risks Perry Mason is willing to take for the sake of clients who invariably lie. Gardner always satisfies his audience when the truth is discovered and revealed in dramatic fashion.



The Case of the Curious Bride (1935)

The second outing introduces us to Perry Mason, gourmet and connoisseur of fine wines. This Perry is intimately acquainted with produce retailers, restauranteurs, and chefs. Perry's closest friends form an entourage and include City Coroner Wilbur Strong played by Olin Howland. Allen Jenkins plays investigator "Spudsy" Drake. Spudsy!? Spudsy is one of the "dese" "dem" and "dose" chaps which Jenkins could play in his sleep.

Warren William, Margaret Lindsay

We are also given to understand that Perry is something of a ladies' man when his commandeering of a local restaurant's kitchen is interrupted by the appearance of an attractive young woman played by Margaret Lindsay. She and Perry reminisce about their past before getting down to the reason for her out-of-the-blue visit. Of course, she is lying about many of the facts but Perry has come to expect that from clients. It is little wonder that our Della Street, this time played by Claire Dodd displays more than the usual shades of green. 

Perry's apartment takes the place of the office in the earlier film as the site of elegant opulence. The abode is the perfect site for the gathering of suspects culminating in a stunning reveal, a la Nick Charles from Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man popular novel and MGM film.

Michael Curtiz had a way with all the genres he directed. He always knew how to entertain and The Case of the Curious Bride, with Gardner's fascinating plot, is a fast-paced and fun film. I could probably get used to this iteration of the character in film, but Warner Brothers was not done with their tinkering.

Note: Future Perry Mason Donald Woods and future Warners star Errol Flynn have roles in this adaptation of another popular Gardner novel.



The Case of the Lucky Legs (1935)

The above advertising should dispell any lingering doubt that Warner Brothers was more interested in Nick Charles than they were in Perry Mason. In this movie, we are introduced to a hungover Perry Mason asleep on his office floor. The office this time around is of a more manageable and realistic size yet its attached washroom is almost as large as the one in his penthouse in the previous film. 

Olin Howland is back, but not as the coroner. He is Perry's personal physician called Dr. Croker. Allen Jenkins' "Spudsy" is still around but considerably dumbed down for comic effect and is now the henpecked husband of Mary Treen.

Genevieve Tobin, Warren William

Genevieve Tobin and Warren William showed themselves to be an excellent comic pairing in the 1933 screwball Goodbye Again, and keep up that standard here as Della Street and Perry Mason. Theirs is a fun-loving and understanding relationship in which every conversation has a punchline.

Porter Hall plays the client this time out; a businessman bilked by a phoney contest racket. Many of the beautifully gammed gals who were scammed are also involved in the murder of the con man. Hall and Warren William make a grand comic tag team. See them also in Satan Met a Lady and Arizona

The script here makes reference to a "curious bride" and a more subtle allusion to William's role as The Match King. Watch for them in this nifty and shifty movie directed by Archie Mayo (Moontide, Angel on My Shoulder, The Petrified Forest). Have we yet found Warner Brothers idea of the perfect Perry Mason? 


The Case of the Velvet Claws (1936)

The movie maintains the interesting Gardner lot involving a blackmailing tabloid editor and the most duplicitous of clients. Olin Howard returns to playing coroner Wilbur Strong. Also back in the mix is Claire Dodd as Della. "Spudsy" Drake is still on the premises, but Allen Jenkins is out and Eddie Acuff is in. Spudsy is still the comic relief and the character returns to the single life. In an act of charity, they give the character a few more brain cells than Jenkins had on his last appearance.

William Clemens directed the movie, and it was right in his wheelhouse with Nancy Drew, Torchy Blane, and The Falcon also coming under his watchful eyes. Highlights include Winifred Shaw as the double-dealing client, a peroxide Carol Hughes as a cutie southern belle, Ruth Robinson as a housekeeper who is more than she appears, and Clara Blandick as a judge.

Claire Dodd, Warren William, Eddie Acuff

The script also includes a lot of silliness. Perry and Della get married! Della has persuaded her husband to give up the practice of criminal law! When the honeymoon is interrupted by a murder case, Della swings between being her usual competent and understand self to weeping on the sofa and seeking an annulment. Ah, me. 

"What a honeymoon; murder, influenza, and looming annulment!"
- Perry Mason

Warren William, Winifred Shaw

Exciting sequences in interesting settings are interrupted for Perry to sneeze. He is catching a cold which he exaggerates to influenza. By the dramatic reveal, everybody in the cast is sneezing. Is this really how Warner Brothers see Perry Mason? They monkeyed around with the character to the extent that you didn't know what to expect from picture to picture, except that it wasn't going to be Perry Mason.

Stage Struck filmed after The Case of the Velvet Claws was the movie with which Warren William finished out his Warner Brothers contract. It was obvious at this time that dissatisfaction between the studio and the star went both ways. If the Mason series were to continue, there would be a new Perry.



The Case of the Black Cat (1936)

Ricardo Cortez had recently signed with the studio and was pegged to bring the crusading attorney to the screen. This Perry Mason was not a Nick Charles knock-off, but the determined, smart, and slightly bemused professional who went the extra mile for his clients. This is the Perry Mason who likes to stir things up and use the authority of the law to help those caught in the web of red tape. 

Gardner's popular novel The Case of the Caretaker's Cat was retitled The Case of the Black Cat, I should imagine for the sake of mysteriousness. However, Clinker, the cat in the story looked to me like a run-of-the-mill tabby. Nonetheless, the duplicitous family of crotchety millionaire Peter Laxter played by Harry Davenport is on display with all of their greed and murderous intent.

Nedda Harrigan, Ricardo Cortez, Garry Owen

June Travis, who spent only a few years at Warners before leaving Hollywood for marriage, is an attractive and competent Della Street. She and the boss are not married (forget that last movie, folks) but do engage in some adorable flirting. "Spudsy" is gone! He is replaced by - here's an idea! - investigator Paul Drake played by Garry Owen. The character is still played for laughs by displaying a lack of social graces and a habit for opening his mouth at the wrong time. Guy Usher plays District Attorney Hamilton Burger in a gruff, let's-get-Mason manner. 

Ricardo Cortez, June Travis, Clinker

Alan Crosland (The Case of the Howling Dog) was directing when he lost his life in an automobile accident and was replaced by William McGann, Oscar-winning Effects Artist for A Stolen Life. The film moves briskly and holds your attention due to the palette cleansing performance of Ricardo Cortez. I'd say things were looking up for the series. I don't know what Warner Brothers thought, but Cortez thought there were greener and more lucrative pastures elsewhere (The Magnificent Heel, The Life and Films of Ricardo Cortez by Dan Van Neste). Here we go again!



The Case of the Stuttering Bishop (1937)

Manitoba-born Donald Woods becomes the first, but not the last Canadian actor to play Perry Mason in 1937s The Case of the Stuttering Bishop directed by B mystery champ William Clemens (The Case of the Velvet Claws). The opening credits and the publicity material don't mention Perry Mason. It is as if they are trying to slip one over on the public. I think they should have been pleased.

Joseph Crehan, Ann Dvorak, Donald Woods
Paul, Della, Perry

It took me the entire movie to get used to Donald Woods moustache, but his work as the crusading lawyer felt natural. He even did the hands in pockets while pacing his office or the courtroom attitude which can be found in Gardner's novels. This Perry seemed the right age and the right physicality. He's not a habitual souse, and he's not a pretentious gourmet. Ann Dvorak played Della Street. I don't think the studio really knew what to do with that talented girl. She had the chops to make Della interesting, plus the personality to blow everyone else off the screen if she wanted.

Joseph Crehan is on board as investigator Paul Drake, no longer comic relief, but a professional on the level of Mason with the gravitas of being older than his employer. Tom Kennedy handles the detective as clown bit. He's a hotel dick of halting mental process and over-baked enthusiasms. He was doing the same thing for the Torchy Blane series as Gahagan. Frank Faylen was around as one of the Drake Detective Agency lads, and I couldn't help but think he would have been an excellent Drake from the beginning of the series.

Donald Woods, Craig Reynolds

Charles C. Wilson was the fuming Hamilton Burger, pronounced with a soft "g", and I found that a more difficult adjustment than Woods' moustache. Gardner's tale of a blackmail racket, missing heirs, and international witnesses played out at a nice, interesting pace. Perry kept almost a half a step ahead of the law and the crooks leading to an exciting courtroom reveal. Very satisfactory. 

I suppose it is easy to understand why Warner Brothers wanted to copy the "Thin Man" formula as most studios did try to varying degrees of success. However, Perry Mason was popular in his own right and when they finally got around to following Gardner's template, they let Perry faded away from the big screen. 


Thoughts:

Warner's contractee Craig Reynolds appears in three of the Mason features. If some bright executive had kept his eyes open back when they purchased Erle Stanley Gardner's stories, they might have seen that the attractive and versatile actor would have been perfect for the role of Perry Mason. 

They could add my idea of Frank Faylen for Paul Drake, and maybe give Jane Wyman's career a leg-up as Della. Only, for the love of Heaven, no "Spudsy!"


Trivia:

Tim Considine, Russ Conway, Tommy Kirk

Mason #3, Donald Woods' younger brother was actor Russ Conway, Fenton Hardy on the Disney Hardy Boys series. They were born Ralph and Russell Zink in Brandon, Manitoba.












Monday, April 22, 2019

THE DOUBLE V MYSTERY SERIES BY JACQUELINE T. LYNCH


Above is yours truly enjoying the latest installment in Jacqueline T. Lynch's Double V mystery series, Murder at the Summer Theater. The cozy mystery is often dismissed by those who don't know any better for herein we find fascinating characters overcoming or creating trouble. In the case of the Double V series, we are also taken to another era by an author with an observant eye for history. 


We first meet museum curator Juliet Van Allen and recently released convict Elmer Vartanian in Cadmium Yellow, Blood Red. The setting is New England and the time is the late 1940s. Great atmosphere and history surround these intriguing characters and the murder and heartbreak which brings them together. 

Speak Out Before You Die brings us to New Year's Eve 1949. Juliet's wealthy father's wedding is a part of the celebrations and the guests on this snowy night have more than romance on their minds. Someone is thinking of murder. Juliet's troubled relationship with her father is at the fore, as well as her confusing relationship with Elmer, whose servant guise is intended to prevent tragedy.

Dismount and Murder takes us into a world in the early 1950s that is facing rapid change. The class divisions that Juliet and Elmer deal with in this case among the horsey set is a fascinating setting. Juliet and Elmer not only learn much about those involved in the murder which occupies them but about themselves as well.


Whitewash in the Berkshires is a genuine page-turner where our Juliet is caught up in the 1950s blacklist. She must deal with many untrustworthy people, in and out of the government. The shocking situation places Juliet in peril. She and Elmer must learn the identity of a corpse and keep one step ahead out of the crooks seeking to cover their tracks. 


Murder at the Summer Theater is the most recent novel in the series. Isn't it a delicious title? Doesn't it make you want to dive right in? A missing, possibly murdered actress leads Juliet to playing detective as an actress herself. What secrets must be unearthed among the varied members of the company? What will this case mean to the relationship between Juliet and Elmer? 

The Double V Mysteries, with their fascinating characters and equally fascinating history, is a favourite of mine, and if you are new to the series, I wholeheartedly recommend you give it a try. 


Author Jacqueline T. Lynch has other fiction to offer you, essay collections, plays, plus the definitive look at the career of Ann Blyth. You will also enjoy the thought-provoking movie blog where I first encountered her magic, Another Old Movie Blog. Jacqueline also writes extensively on the history and places of note in New England. I often wonder how she does it all and I am certainly glad she does!


















Tuesday, April 16, 2019

CMBA 2019 SPRING BLOGATHON, FEMME/HOMME FATALES OF FILM NOIR: Nightmare Alley (1947)


The Classic Movie Blog Association Spring Blogathon runs from April 16th to the 19th with a focus on the Femme/Homme Fatales of Film Noir. Click HERE for the fascinating articles.


Tyrone Power stars as Stanton Carlisle, con man extraordinaire whose biggest fall guy was himself.

Stan is a fellow whose confidence often crosses over the border into arrogance. Carlisle is handsome and has a surface charm that wins him many admirers, especially among women. If life hasn't always been easy, at least the immediate pleasures he desires have come his way.

Confidence is an important component of a "confidence man". Like others in that dubious trade, Stanton has the confidence that he is always smarter than his mark. The gullible, for their part, have complete confidence in him. It is a circle that feeds on itself.

Novelist William Lindsay Gresham's 1946 publication Nightmare Alley exposed the seedy world of the carnival and the "spook racket" basing the fiction on his real-life experiences as a carny. Jules Furthman, the prolific and versatile screenwriter of Shanghai Express and Bombshell wrote this 1947 film. Edmund Goulding directed the film, having worked previously with Tyrone Power on The Razor's Edge. Lee Garmes, the Oscar-winning cinematographer of Shanghai Express paints the sordid background of the film with a dream-like sheen.

Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell

Joan Blondell plays Zeena Krumbein, a carny mentalist who was once the Queen of the Big Time with her husband Pete played by Ian Keith. Blondell gives us a character who has seen it all yet despite her jaded exterior has a strong emotional core. Ian Keith is phenomenal as a totally broken man. Zeena's infidelities drove Pete to drink and ruined their prosperity. Guilt has driven Zeena to try to make things up to her husband, but that doesn't keep her from spending time with the attractive Stan. For his part, Stan has his eye on the "code" which made the Krumbein's mind-reading act the best in the business. Just think what he could do to the chumps once he got his hands on that code.

Ian Keith, Tyrone Power

Stan, however, is shown to us to be just as susceptible to a well-turned con as any rube. Pressured into sharing the code, Zeena consults her Tarot cards before making a decision. The cards show success for Stan but danger for Pete. Zeena decides to keep the code as her safety net. Desperate to change her mind, Stan finagles Pete into a position where the poor man loses his life. Yet prior to his demise Pete works the magic of his spiel on Stan, touching on his vulnerabilities. After Pete's death, Stan is haunted by the Tarot reading. Can he bluff his way beyond these fears?

Coleen Gray, Tyrone Power

Coleen Gray plays Molly, a pretty young woman who works an act with the hulking Bruno played by Mike Mazurki. She's a friend to everyone, and sweet on Stan. She has been helping Zeena teach Stan the code after Pete's death. Stan has taken to the act as if born to it and he also proves an asset to the carnival when he bamboozles a local sheriff played by James Burke who had intended to shut them down. High on this successful proof of his brains and ability, Stan spends the evening with a willing Molly. When the rest of the troupe, especially Zeena and Bruno realize what has occurred, marriage is forced upon the couple. Stan realizes this can be turned to his advantage as Molly is comely and knows the code. When next we see the couple they are on top of the world performing in a top-flight Chicago night club. They are raking it in and they are stars, but it is not enough for Stan.

Helen Walker, Tyrone Power

Stan sees a way to make the suckers pay by using the spirituality that was beaten into him in an orphanage. He no longer does the phony mind-reading bit alone but has begun to receive messages from the beyond. His success catches the eye of a quasi-psychiatrist, Lillith Ritter played with a calculating precision by Helen Walker. She records the innermost thoughts of her well-heeled patients and with Stan's reputation as a seer, they begin soaking the saps. Stan even falls for Lillith's own brand of the racket by revealing too much of his inner life.

The biggest con of his life to this point is so close to fruition. Taylor Holmes as a millionaire seeking his lost love is willing to back a tabernacle to Stan, the conduit to the other world. All he requires is physical proof of Stan's abilities. Stan convinces Molly to portray the spirit of the dead woman despite her fears. Molly fears for Stan's soul in his use of spirituality and she is shaken by the faith of the rich, lonely man. Molly breaks down during her act and Stan's perfidy is revealed. He leaves town a broken wretch without even the money he was supposed to have split with Lillith. Yes, the great Stanton Carlisle had been played by an expert.

Tyrone Power, Roy Roberts

It is a quick downward spiral for Stan on his own among the hoboes and drunks who are now his kindred spirits. He can't get a job as a mentalist but one carnival owner offers him a position that ages ago would have repulsed Stanton Carlisle. Stan can be the carny geek. He'll be given a bottle a day to keep him going and a place to sleep it off at night. All he has to do is perform grotesque acts to draw the crowds. Stan accepts that this is now his lot in life, but like others before him breaks down hysterically under the shame and pressure.

Stan stole from Zeena the monetary value she had in the code and the piece of her heart and soul that belonged to Pete. Lillith stole from Stan his money, his success, and the part of him that was smarter than the chumps. The only thing Stan had that was worthwhile was Molly's love, and that he didn't steal; it was freely given.

The film attempts to leave the audience with hope. Molly has found Stan and is determined to help him. Tyrone Power's performance as Stanton Carlisle, a complicated mix of pride and helplessness, ambition and defeat leaves us with the disquieting thought that there is no return for this homme fatale of film noir.












Saturday, April 13, 2019

THE STEWART GRANGER BLOGATHON: The Last Hunt (1956)


Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is our hostess for The Stewart Granger Blogathon running April 13th and 14th. Click HERE for the eclectic articles on the British born star.


Milton Lott's Pulitzer nominated novel of 1955, The Last Hunt was the basis for Richard Brooks' screenplay which he directed for MGM. It was the first of three westerns in Brooks' career. The Last Hunt, The Professionals and Bite the Bullet all feature difficult physical surroundings to match the conflict of complex characters. In this case, the film location was Bad Lands National Park in South Dakota.


"I'm fed up on killing. Seems like that's all I've ever known since I was a kid; killing of one kind or another."

Stewart Granger plays our hero, Sandy McKenzie. McKenzie is not a hero in that he always does the right thing, but that despite his struggles, his first instinct is toward kindness. Sandy's work as a buffalo hunter for the government has wounded him psychologically. The slaughter, whether it be of man or beast, has marked his mind and soul, and he wants to leave that behind. The heart of his current troubles is with the buffalo. The stampeding animals wiped out his meager herd of cattle. Broke, and looking from the bottom up Sandy makes a dangerous alliance.


"Killing is like...like the only real proof you're alive."

Robert Taylor plays Charlie Gibson, a man to whom killing is synonymous with breathing. Whether it be man or beast, Charlie only feels alive when he has destroyed life. Charlie is a bitter and lonely man. He is aware of Sandy's reputation as a buffalo hunter and promotes a partnership as the bounty on the animals is currently high. For one more time, Sandy will raise his rifle against the buffalo; his last hunt.


Two skinners are hired for the hunt. Oldtimer "Woodfoot" played by Lloyd Nolan is a pal of Sandy's who doesn't let his hard-drinking ways interfere with the job. He is a jovial liar and a keen judge of men. Russ Tamblyn plays Jimmy O'Brien whose mixed heritage has driven him away from the reservation to see if his path lies in another world. In Sandy and Woodfoot, Jimmy finds friends, while in Charlie he finds the embodiment of bigotry.


Charlie alone of the group takes after natives who stole their stock, taking an uncalled for vengeance by killing all he sees, save one. Debra Paget plays the young woman who escaped with only a bullet graze and with a toddler under her protection. Charlie takes her as his rightful property. She may look like a girl, but this woman has strength and understanding that will carry her through the ordeal. She will overcome her enemy.

Exciting action sequences, heartbreaking scenes of violence and psychological terror highlight the story of these people on the hunt. It is a clash of personalities, of philosophies and of cultures with unavoidable destruction and the possibility of rebirth. 

Stewart Granger, with his patrician good looks, is a natural for the role of McKenzie and his struggles. Robert Taylor gives an outstanding portrayal of a thorough psychopath. Debra Paget avoids stereotype as we see her character use her situation and those around her to her advantage. Nolan and Tamblyn make a great double team of a mentor and a seeker.

The Last Hunt offered interesting and unique roles for its cast and should engross the viewer ready to delve into the world and minds of these characters.


Of note: Filming of government-sanctioned herd-thinning by marksmen was used in this production.


Connections:

Richard Brooks, Jean Simmons, Stewart Granger
Jean Simmons visits the set of The Last Hunt, 1956.

Jean and Stewart Granger were married from 1950 to 1960.

Jean and Richard Brooks were married from 1960 to 1977.















Tuesday, April 9, 2019

REGINALD DENNY AT THE TORONTO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL


Toronto film fans extend their congratulations and their thanks to co-founders Shirley Hughes and Mark Wonnacott, and all of the dedicated volunteers at the Toronto Silent Film Festival, 2019. Happy 10th Anniversary!

Festival-goers were thrilled with the world premiere of Ensemble Polaris' score for Shiraz: A Romance of India, the popular Saturday program 1000 Laffs accompanied by Jordan Klapman, and Garbo, The Temptress accompanied by Marilyn Lerner. Bill O'Meara provided the music for the delightful Douglas Fairbanks comedy When the Clouds Roll By on Sunday afternoon, and also on Monday evening's concluding feature, the dramatic G.W. Pabst film The Love of Jean Ney.

Let me share with you part of the charm of the Sunday afternoon program at the Royal Cinema.

Janet Hall, Caftan Mom

My heart skipped a beat as my daughter Janet and I approached the historic venue at 608 College Street. Festival photographer Maureen Nolan was quick to capture our happy reaction to Reginald Denny's name on the marquee announcing the screening of Skinner's Dress Suit.

Emily Evans, Paddy Nolan-Hall

The presentation of the 1926 film directed by versatile William Seiter (Sons of the Desert, Roberta, If You Could Only Cook) included accompaniment by audience favourite Tania Gill, along with some very special guests. Emily Evans joined us from Chicago. Emily is a Denny expert and devotee, as her followers on twitter at @laura_la_plante well know. Her informative notes on the film and its star, plus her heartfelt delivery was a perfect introduction to a joyful afternoon.

Jacqueline Hadden, Paddy Nolan-Hall, Jill Pucci

The wonders of the internet had brought Emily together with Jacqueline Hadden and Jill Pucci. These two lovely ladies joined us at the Festival to share memories of their grandfather, Reginald Denny. His accomplishments as an aviator, inventor, boxer, and actor were thrilling to hear. His happy marriage and love for children and animals made his presence felt. At one point, Jill remarked that she felt as comfortable as if she were sharing stories with friends in her living room. Truly, that perfectly described the afternoon as Reginald Denny came alive for the audience.

A charming introduction to Reginald Denny's legacy was presented as well. You are sure to be impressed with this video produced by another Denny granddaughter, Kim Pucci. 


Henry Irving Dodge had a way with a yarn, just like his great-uncle Washington Irving. His most popular stories concerned one William Manning Skinner, and that is the character Reginald Denny played in Skinner's Dress Suit in 1926.

This Skinner, as the intertitle tells us is "just another commuter", but in the eyes of his adoring wife Honey played by Laura LaPlante, Skinner is a Captain of Industry, a Man Among Men, and all he needs to do is demand a raise in salary and it shall be his. 

Following Skinner to his office, we see that bright lad though he may be, he's not exactly on the top of the pecking order. In fact, the office boy Tommy played by Arthur Lake even puts the odd joke over on our Skinner. Perhaps young Lake was taking hints from this gig that would find their way into his future portrayal of Dagwood in the Blondie series.

Skinner realizes a raise is out of the question, but to Honey, there is no question about it. Skinner goes along to get along and tells Honey a most innocent little white lie about the raise and its amount. There's nothing much wrong with building castles in the sky, but it is best not to spend real money on such flimsy real estate. Honey starts spending real money. Skinner must have a dress suit. A man as important as her husband is too good to be seen in his one shabby old suit. Besides, the society-setting Colbys are having a party and the Skinners must look their best to attend.

Reginald Denny, Laura LaPlante

The Skinners are the hit of the party, teaching all the stuffed shirts the latest dance craze. Honey is invited to join an exclusive bridge club. Mr. Colby offers to drive Skinner to the train station in the mornings. No more running and missing the 7:32! Things are looking up, with the exception of their bank account. Honey keeps spending and the prosperity of their furnishings and wardrobe have nothing to do with reality.

Everything happens at once! Skinner loses his job and keeps it from Honey while creditors want to repossess everything from the radio to his dress suit. The dress suit is necessary for one last party at The Ritz. It is at this soiree that Skinner runs into a manufacturer with a social-climbing wife and the opportunity for things to go either horribly wrong or amazingly right. I'll let you enjoy the shenanigans with no further spoilers.

Laura LaPlante and Reginald Denny are captivating as the Skinners. They are attractive and talented actors who throw themselves into comic situations with appropriate abandon and artistic control.

The many delights of this adorable domestic comedy were enhanced by the opportunity given us by our Festival hosts to get to know our star, Reginald Denny. There is no doubt that anyone new to the actor would become a fan after this screening, but on this memorable day, he also became our friend.



Sharing movies and making friends for ten years.












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....