Tuesday, October 29, 2019

DARK AND DEEP: THE GOTHIC HORROR BLOGATHON: The Hound of the Baskervilles, novel and 1939 film


Pale Writer Gabriela is giving us a Hallowe'en treat with Dark and Deep: The Gothic Horror Blogathon. Click HERE for your autumn chills.


Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles with illustrations by Sidney Paget was serialized in The Strand Magazine in 1901/1902 and published as a novel in 1902. The Sherlock Holmes mystery has been continually in print and is considered a favourite tale of that most favourite character.

The Gothic setting and nature of this murder mystery tinged with the supernatural reach out from the pages as Dr. Watson recounts the unfathomably suspicious events and the gloomy atmosphere of Grimpen Mire and Baskerville Hall. The dread which weighs on our friend and storyteller makes every footstep in the dark, every flickering candle an object of suspense.

On a brisk evening in October, consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. John Watson are visited by a Dr. Mortimer of Devon. The recent death of Sir Charles Baskerville of Baskerville Hall has been blamed on heart failure, but was there something sinister behind that heart failure?


Dr. Mortimer relates the legend of the Baskervilles in which an evil ancestor, Hugo, kidnapped and caused the death of a neighbour's daughter. Hugo was then overtaken by a supernatural hound and himself killed, dooming the future line of Baskerville. Sherlock Holmes obliges Dr. Mortimer's request for protection for Sir Henry, the new heir arriving from Canada. He will send Dr. Watson to observe and report. The idea may be too fantastic for a modern man of science, yet Dr. Mortimer has kept secret something he saw on the grounds of Baskerville Hall near Sir Charles' body.

"Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound."
- Dr. Mortimer



"A few minutes later we had reached the lodge-gates, a maze of fantastic tracery in wrought iron, with weather-bitten pillars on either side, blotched with lichens, and surmounted by the boars' heads of the Baskervilles."
- Dr. Watson

Watson recounts to Holmes the various people of the household and village in his daily reports to Holmes. This includes the news of an escaped convict evading capture on the moors. Sir Henry proves himself an amiable host, master, and friend. He even has hopes of romance. However, in the gloom and isolation, and mysterious actions among servants and acquaintances, it becomes very easy to believe in the legend of the hound.


"The fellow is wary and cunning to the last degree. It is not what we know, but what we can prove. If we make some false move the villain may escape us yet."
- Sherlock Holmes


"A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame. Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish be conceived than that dark form and savage face which broke upon us out of the wall of fog.
- Dr. Watson

The story is perhaps overly familiar to many of us after all these years, but on a brisk October evening, such as the one on which Dr. Mortimer recited the legend, there is nothing better than to sit in a circle of light with your favourite beverage at your side as you travel with Dr. Watson to the treacherous Grimpen Mire.



The instant popularity of Sherlock Holmes on the page naturally led to popularity and success on the stage and screen. Universally acknowledged as one of Hollywood's finest years, 1939 saw lasting movie magic. One piece of superlative casting occurred when Darryl F. Zanuck of Twentieth Century Fox had the idea that versatile Basil Rathbone would make a perfect Sherlock Holmes. The studio was noted for several worthy literary adaptations and historical dramas such as Kidnapped and Lloyds of London. It was time for The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Holmes was in place, and now they needed a Watson. In Nigel Bruce's unpublished memoir Games, Gossip and Greasepaint (found online), depressed when his 1938 gig in a Broadway play closed too quickly, a telegram from Mr. Rathbone cheered Mr. Bruce. "Do come back to Hollywood, Willie dear boy, and play Doctor Watson to my Sherlock Holmes. We'll have great fun together."


Nigel Bruce, Lionel Atwill, Basil Rathbone, Richard Greene

The outstanding cast surrounding this new team included Richard Greene as Sir Henry, Lionel Atwill and Beryl Mercer as Dr. and Mrs. Mortimer, and Wendy Barrie and Morton Lowery as the Stapletons. John Carradine and Eily Malyon play the Baskerville Hall servants whose names were changed from Barrymore to Barrowman. Barlow Borland is the contentious neighbour Frankland. E.E. Clive is a delight as a London cabbie. The doomed Sir Charles was played by Ian Maclaren, Seldon the convict by Nigel De Brulier, and the wicked Sir Hugo by Ralph Forbes in a flashback/storytelling sequence. Mary Gordon made the first of seven appearances as Mrs. Hudson with Rathbone and Bruce. 

Nigel Bruce, Beryl Mercer, Richard Greene, Wendy Barrie, Barlowe Borland

Ernest Pascal (Lloyds of London) adapted the novel and Sidney Lanfield (Station West) directed. Gwen Wakeling (Samson and Delilah) designed the costumes. Each character looks appropriate for each scene and the gowns for the ladies are beautiful and detailed. Eerie music from 20th Century Fox stalwarts Cyril Mockridge, David Raksin, David Buttolph and Charles Maxwell contributed greatly to the evocative atmosphere of the film.

Baskerville Hall

The movie clocks in at 80 minutes and with not one wasted moment. We are introduced to Holmes and Watson in their Baker Street abode and treated to some exciting and witty London scenes. When the action changes to Baskerville Hall the superb work of art directors Richard Day (Dead End) and Hans Peters (The Picture of Dorian Gray) truly comes to the fore with its Gothic nature. The set for the Dartmoor countryside and Baskerville Hall took up an entire soundstage and is filled with hills, caves, and the dangerous marshland. A persistent fog was created and pumped onto the set, adding to the atmosphere of suspense and dread. Cinematographer J. Peverell Marley (Suez) creates an inky palate keeping us off-guard and looking over our shoulders.

Richard Greene, at 21-years of age, was top-billed as Sir Henry, followed by Basil Rathbone as Holmes. Leading lady Wendy Barrie was next and then Nigel Bruce as Watson. Perhaps this indicates that the studio was not certain if the audience would take to this new team. Certainly, the audience would be more than aware that they were going to see a Sherlock Holmes story. The film proved to be such a great success both at home and internationally that before the year was out, an adaptation of William Gillette's play was underway, and we had Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as the stars of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce

Sherlock Holmes: "Murder, my dear Watson, refined, cold-blooded murder. There's no doubt about it in my mind. Or, perhaps I should say in my imagination. That's where crimes are conceived, and where they're solved, in the imagination."

The team of Rathbone and Bruce would make 12 modern-day set Holmes films for Universal Studios between 1942 and 1946, also performing in a popular radio series. For many of us, these actors were our introduction to the world of Baker Street and the films from 20th Century Fox are a special treat for giving us the characters in their true Victorian/Edwardian setting.















Friday, October 25, 2019

THE HONEYMOONERS BLOGATHON: Musical Moments from the Classic 39


Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlogII is at it again! This time it is The Honeymooners Blogathon and HERE is where you can join all the madcap fun.

Jackie Gleason
1916-1987

A strong sense of musicality permeates the entertainment legacy of Jackie Gleason from his alternately brash and sensitive characters to his popular orchestral albums to the enjoyable musical versions of The Honeymooners in the 1960s.

The musical moments from the classic original 39 episodes begin with Gleason's composition You're My Greatest Love, the familiar theme to The Honeymooners ("with the stars Art Carney, Audrey Meadows, and Joyce Randolph").




THE $99,000 ANSWER
Original airdate: January 28, 1956


Herb Norris (game show host): "Tell me, have you discussed this at home? Have you talked it over with your wife?"

Ralph Kramden (contestant): "Yes, I did and regardless, I am going for the $99,000 answer!"

Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden's success is assured. A contestant on a television game show, The $99,000 Answer he must answer questions on the subject of popular songs that will take him over hurdles from $600 to $99,000.

If there is one thing Ralph knows, it is popular songs. He wasn't like those other bums in the neighborhood growing up, hanging around poolrooms and the corner. Every night in the week he was up in some ballroom listening to a dance band!

Alice would be very happy if Ralph came home with easy money from the easy questions offered in the first couple of hurdles. Ralph sees only his dreams coming true and leaves nothing to chance. A week of work (unpaid) is taken off for study. Tons of sheet music is purchased in advance of the winnings. Mrs. Manicotti of the apartment building tests him on songs from Italian classics. Mr. Garrity, another neighbor, doesn't murder Ralph for keeping everybody up all night. A piano is rented for his pal Ed Norton to play and test Ralph's knowledge. Of course, Norton's quirk of limbering up with the same tune annoys Ralph to excess, but that is a price that must be paid.

We hear snippets of Return to Sorrento, Shuffle Off To Buffalo, Don't Fence Me In, Melancholy Serenade and Swannee River before being treated to one of the greatest punchlines in television history.


YOUNG AT HEART
Original airdate February 11, 1956

Add caption
Ralph: "Let's face it, Alice, we've been out of the age range of roller skating since Alf Landon stopped being presidential timber."

A couple of teenagers (Suzanne Miller and Ronnie Burns) convince Alice that she and Ralph are in a rut. She wants to go out and do the things they used to do. She wants to feel young again. There is no reason why they can't go dancing and roller-skating. Ralph feels ashamed for making fun of the idea and plans to make it up to Alice. However, Ralph's ideas of what is "hip" coalesced twenty years ago, so Norton takes up the task of teaching Ralph a new dance. Kay Starr's record The Hucklebuck gives Art Carney and Jackie Gleason a chance to strut their stuff.


The elegant The Skaters Waltz poses no problems for Alice, Trixie, and Norton. However, Ralph has a dreadful time on roller-skates. His embarrassment turns to laughter as he learns the less painful lesson of staying young through memory.


MAMA LOVES MAMBO
Original airdate March 3, 1956


Ralph: "Wait a minute! If I told you once, I told you a thousand times, not to carry a heavy wash like that! Now the next time you have a heavy wash like that, make two trips!"

Ralph Kramden is a man of extreme emotions. When he hears that the new neighbor has grey hair and lives alone, his heart is filled with compassion and pity. He makes plans to visit after dinner and play a game of checkers with the old fellow. Ralph's pity turns to jealousy when he sees that Carlos Sanchez (Charles Korvin) is more silver-haired than grey and that he dances in a night club and will be home during the day with Alice. When the suave dancer teaches the ladies of the building the Mambo Ralph orders him and every ardent dance student out of the apartment.

When Carlos admonishes Ralph, Norton, and Mr. Manicotti for not treating their wives politely and kindly for all the things they do, Ralph is sincerely chastened. Of course, his efforts to be a better husband are so extravagant that Alice begs him to go back to being the old Ralph. At least, Ralph did get Carlos to teach them all the Mambo.

Carlos uses the Tito Rodriguez record Claves for Mambo to teach his neighbors the dance.




YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN
Original airdate: March 24, 1956


Ralph: "You know something? I did hit that high note once: The day I married you."
Ralph aims for the high note. "Well, that's a little piece of it, Alice."

Ralph is in a reflective mood. The lack of major success in his life is exemplified by coming across his old cornet. Ralph sees his failure in never sticking with anything long enough to become a success. He wants to hit that high note at the end of Carnival of Venice.

A visit from former tenants of the apartment, an elderly couple called the Gunthers brings it all home. Mr. Gunther had taken stock of his life forty years ago, enumerating his weak and strong points, and became a business success. Ralph tries following Mr. Gunther's example and takes a Civil Service exam in hopes of advancing his career. When he fails the exam, Alice helps Ralph to see what good has come out of his attempt to better himself.

Alice: "I like the new Ralph Kramden and I'm not gonna let you give up. And if the old Ralph Kramden ever shows his face around here again, I am gonna hit him right on top of the head with this cornet."













Tuesday, October 15, 2019

CMBA 2019 FALL BLOGATHON, ANNIVERSARIES: Stray Dog, 1949


The Classic Movie Blog Association (CMBA) celebrates its 10th anniversary with the Fall 2019 blogathon, a salute to film anniversaries. HERE is the link to the contributions.


Stray Dog was my introduction to Akira Kurosawa; an introduction that occurred far later than it should have or, perhaps in the grand scheme of things, when the timing was right. The groundbreaking Japanese film is 70 years old this year and is a perfect time capsule of an era and startling fresh filmmaking. Kurosawa and frequent collaborator Ryuzo Kikushima first wrote Stray Dog as a crime novel before turning it into a screenplay.

The contemporary (1949) crime drama could easily be subtitled The Coming of Age of a Cop. A stifling heatwave has the entire population on edge, no one more so than rookie Homicide detective Murakami (Toshiro Mifune). The necessary urban scourge of public transportation put strangers in uncomfortably close quarters, both cops and crooks. The result of Murakami's transit journey finds his department-issued Colt revolver pinched. The former soldier presents himself to his superior in abject disgrace, expecting the worst for his transgression.

Toshiro Mifune

Murakami's employers have more understanding than the young man has for himself. He is quickly forgiven and offered guidance with the investigation. Experienced department heads and fellow workers in records and forensics give practical sympathy and point promising avenues to follow. Those avenues will include much pounding of the beat.

"apres guerre"
The French term for the post-war years used by Chief Detective Sato when discussing Murakami's situation.

The post-war Japan setting presents the opportunity to present two sides of the young returning veteran. Detective Murakami saw much beastly behavior and upon returning to Tokyo had his knapsack stolen. Bitterness filled his heart yet he turned his face toward justice and his current career. An introverted young man named Shinjiro Yusa (Isao Kimura) was traumatized by the war and by the theft of his belongings upon returning to Tokyo. He turned to crime. Eventually, he would come into possession of Murakami's pistol and use it in increasing violent robberies, culminating in murder.

Noriko Sengoku, Toshiro Mifune

One of the pickpocket gang was a "middle-aged lady" and the mug shots lead to Ogin (Noriko Sengoku). While the pickpocket and Officer Ichikawa (Reikichi Kawamura) reminisce about their old days, the young detective observes and learns. Anxious to discover more about his gun from the tight-lipped Ogin, Murakami follows her. Filmed on city street locations, it is a chase that is amusing for the detective's doggedness in the face of Ogin's increasing frustration. Eventually, the pickpocket joins the ranks of the protective superior officers at headquarters. She offers the tired young detective a cold beer and the benefit of good advice for the next phase of the investigation.

Murakami sets out to find those who deal in contraband firearms. He becomes a down-and-outer, roaming the back alleys with a desperate and haunted look, waiting for someone to reach out with an illicit offer. Once more, Kurosawa and cinematographer Asakazu Nakai film the seedier sections of Tokyo capturing the atmosphere, the faces, and even evoking the smells of the underworld. Murakami's headstrong anxiety about his stolen gun clouds his judgment and in arresting a contact, misses his man. A victim is wounded by the gun in a robbery and Murakami feels he must resign.

Lt. Nakajima (Gen Shimizu): "Bad luck either makes a man or destroys him. Are you gonna let it destroy you? Depending on how you take it, bad luck can be a big break."

Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Awaji

Murakami is placed on a team with Chief Detective Sato (Takeshi Shimura), a much-respected officer with many commendations. Sato's reputation has Murakami's built-in respect and the relationship between the two characters flourishes.

Once more Kurosawa takes his camera to a unique setting as a gun-runner named Honda (Reizaburo Yamamoto) is traced to Korakuen Stadium. Filming an actual baseball game must have been interesting for film and baseball fans of the day, nostalgic for a later generation, and interesting history for still later viewers. It makes for a tense and exciting incident in the film.

The investigation takes a deeply emotional turn as Sato turns to murder during a break-in. The grief of the victim's husband wounds Murakami deeply. Sato tries to help his young protege navigate the pitfalls of becoming too involved with crime victims or alternately hardening your heart against any emotion. The necessities of investigating citizens at such a vulnerable time must be dealt with as the team learns about Yusa's home life and background. They discover the soft spot in his heart for childhood friend Harumi Namika (Keiko Awaji). Harumi is a young chorus girl and this avenue brings varied and quirky show business characters into the officer's circle.

Murakami is asked to "tough it out" on a rainy night as the tumultuous mother/daughter relationship between Harumi and her single mother may lead to Yusa's whereabouts. Sato investigates a possible lead at a hotel. He has left his gun with Murakami and must face the frightened Yusa alone.

Toshiro Mifune, Isao Kimura

Detective Murakami thrives and matures during the incident of his stolen pistol. He uses his head when confronting Yusa, yet his heart still feels the pain.

Detective Murakami: "They say there is no such thing as a bad man. Only bad situations. Come to think of it, you have to feel sorry for Yusa."

Chief Detective Sato: "Oh, no. Thinking like that won't get you anywhere as a cop. It is easy to develop delusions, chasing criminals all day. We can't forget the many sheep a lone wolf leaves wounded."

Whatever the future holds for Detective Murakami, he will be a different cop from the one who lost his pistol on that crowded streetcar. His lessons and experiences will mold him. In some ways, he will be like his mentors, but in other ways, the war years will continue to shape his character.

The familiar mean streets of film-noir are waiting for you in Stray Dog with the added cinematic experience of stepping into another place and time through the artistry and technical skill of Akira Kurosawa.





Congratulations to founder Rick Armstrong and the Classic Movie Blog Association on the milestone of its 10th Anniversary.
















Friday, October 11, 2019

THE SECOND SPENCER TRACY AND KATHARINE HEPBURN BLOGATHON: Keeper of the Flame (1942)


Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood is co-hosting with Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood The Second Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn Blogathon. The celebration runs from October 11 - 13. Check out the interesting contributions HERE.


The 1942 release Keeper of the Flame is an intellectual thriller that relies on its sterling cast and atmospheric filming to maintain the audience's attention. The political nature of the script was unusual for MGM at the time. While war movies of a morale-boosting nature were among their output, only The Mortal Storm in 1940 stands out as facing harsh political realities.

I.A.R. Wylie
1885-1959

Donald Ogden Stewart, Oscar-winner for The Philadelphia Story, adapted the 1942 novel by I.A.R. Wylie. Ida Wylie was an Australian-born author whose Hollywood career began in 1915 and ended in 1950s television. It is assumed that the genesis for Ms. Wylie's story was the infamous "Business Plot" of 1933. A retired Marine General brought claims to the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities of an attempted Fascist Coup attempt against Franklin Roosevelt. Major General Smedley Butler said that he had been approached by wealthy businessmen eager to create a fascist veteran's organization with him as the figurehead. No prosecutions arose out of the allegations.

Keeper of the Flame was the second film starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn following their success with the romantic comedy Woman of the Year. The resulting film shows a struggle between the political theme vs. the romance. However, director George Cukor, working for the first time with Tracy and the 6th with Hepburn, obviously had a way with the actors and the talkie material. Cinematographer William H. Daniels created a fine moody backdrop for the unfolding tale of deceit and secrets.

Robert Forrest has lost his life in a tragic accident. Robert Forrest was an honoured veteran of WWI and a political force who founded the America Forward Association. Robert Forrest was the idol of thousands of youngsters and a beacon of light for many lost adults. One such adult is reporter Steve O'Malley played by Spencer Tracy. O'Malley has been covering the war in Europe and now he is in the small town which houses Forrest's estate to write the life story of that great man. O'Malley wants to keep the beacon burning bright.

Audrey Christie, Stephen McNally

Gloom permeates the town now crowded with newspaper reporters. Gloom is in every headline, and gloom on the faces of the people. Everyone seems to be caught up in the Robert Forrest mystique. Only reporter compatriates Jane Harding played by Audrey Christie and Freddie Ridges played by Horace (Stephen) McNally keep the detached attitude necessary to do their job.

Steve O'Malley befriends the young son of the Forrest Estate's groundskeeper, and this is his entre to the widow of Robert Forrest. Young Jeb Rickards is played by Darryl Hickman and the youngster is wracked with guilt that he didn't stop the accident. His father is played by Howard da Silva, who served with Forrest in the war and seems strangely bitter.

Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy

Christine Forrest played by Katharine Hepburn is by turn oddly aloof and effusively forthcoming. The dynamics of the household are a puzzle as Forrest's secretary played by Richard Whorf seems to hold uncommon sway, while also answering to unseen forces. Among those who lead Steve O'Malley down unexpected and terrifying revelations is a philosophical cabbie played by Percy Kilbride, a clear-eyed doctor played by Frank Craven, an angry young cousin of Christine's played by Forrest Tucker, and Margaret Wycherly as Robert Forrest's quite mad mother. These many subplots are given short shrift which tends to give the film a lopsided feel, but the core mystery retains its interest to the end.  

The chemistry between Tracy and Hepburn lights up the screen, while the romance between Steve and Christine is underplayed for the sake of the tension and secrecy. The true nature of Robert Forrest and his political ambitions will not be revealed without tragedy and loss. Steve O'Malley will write an entirely different story than the one he started out to produce.

Keeper of the Flame is, sadly, a most timely story of the manipulation of the masses for nefarious goals. The film tells its story with great polish and an atmosphere of dread that should engross many viewers.












Friday, October 4, 2019

THE UNEMPLOYMENT BLOGATHON: Gold Diggers of 1933


Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlogII is hosting The Unemployment Blogathon. We've all been there, and so have the movies. Check out how many right HERE.


The Warner Brothers Studio output in the early 1930s had a gritty and realistic touch that extended from their crime pictures and dramas to their musicals; backstage fare like 42nd Street that highlights the precarious and competitive existence of the troupers, gypsies, and vaudevillians.

Aline MacMahon, Joan Blondell, Ginger Rogers, Ruby Keeler

Carol King (Joan Blondell), Trixie Lorraine (Aline MacMahon), and Polly Parker (Ruby Keeler) are our Gold Diggers of 1933, out of work chorus girls. They had a job, or they thought they had a job. The show was about to open but a legal attachment to collect for credit has put producer Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) out of business, and everyone dependent on the show out of luck.

Barney: "This is our dress rehearsal. I got a great show. It opens tomorrow night. You can't do this to me. Just because I don't pay a few bills. When the show opens I will pay up."

It's the way of the world, isn't it? A little more time and a little more money and everything will work out, but time and money always seem to be in short supply.

Carol, Trixie, and Polly have been through this routine before. So have hundreds of other girls. It's a tough world in 1933 with U.S. unemployment at 25 percent and the closing of 5000 banks. As if the show business wasn't enough of a struggle!

Trixie: "I can remember when that alarm clock used to ring. Those were the good old days when you had to get up. Come on, let's get up and look for work."

Life goes on. Girls have to eat, even if it means stealing the neighbour's milk bottle. And, of course, romance will play its little games. Polly and songwriter Brad Roberts (Dick Powell) have been exchanging longing looks and witticisms. When Barney comes to commiserate with the girls he gets an earful of Brad's songs and the producer is inspired for another show. If only they could get their hands on the dough. 

Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler

Money, apparently, is no problem for struggling songwriter Brad who offers to front the show if they keep his name out of it. Brad's struggles have nothing to do with the practicalities of life as experienced by his newfound friends. Brad's struggles are with his snobby, and terribly rich, Back Bay family who object to his show business aspirations. The secret of his familial shame leads Trixie to convince everyone that Brad is a crook who is backing the show with ill-gotten gain.

Where Brad came by his money is a decent complication, but Gold Diggers of 1933 add to it when Brad's family catches up to him. Older brother J. Lawrence Bradford (Warren William) is tasked with bringing the errant musician back to the Arrow shirt collar fold. The stiff-necked Mr. Bradford is accompanied to New York by Faneul H. Peabody (Guy Kibbee), who is overtaken by nostalgia for a youthful dalliance with a chorus girl. More complications are coming our way.

Joan Blondell, Warren William

J. Lawrence Bradford mistakes Carol for Polly, the "hussy" who is luring kid brother away from his rightful place in society. The gang lets the deception continue in order to teach J. Lawrence Bradford a thing or two. Lawrence falls for the Carol, the phony Polly, and Carol, sap that she is, falls for the stubborn millionaire.

Aline MacMahon, Guy Kibbee

Meanwhile, Trixie takes "Fanny" Peabody to her heart and pocketbook. He's looking to recapture his youth and she's looking for a little security. They are a perfect pair. Brad and Polly were always fated and, with not a minute to spare before the big finale, all romantic entanglements are untangled.

The trenchant dialogue by David Boehm (Employee's Entrance) and Ben Markson (What Price Hollywood?) is a pleasure to the ears under these actors directed by Mervyn LeRoy. The musical aspects of Gold Diggers of 1933 has the finest of pedigrees with production numbers created by Busby Berkeley and songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.

Ginger Rogers

The movie opens with Miss Fortune (Ginger Rogers) singing The Gold Diggers Song (We're in the Money) in Pig Latin. The lovely melody of Shadow Waltz is set to a mesmerizing choreographic display. The risque Pettin' in the Park is the epitome of pre-code cheek. I've Got a Right to Sing a Torch Song would become a studio staple in the coming years featured both instrumentally and vocally in a number of other features. All of these incredible musical numbers lead up to the highlight of this film of highlights, Remember My Forgotten Man.

Etta Moten

Harry Warren's driving melody and Al Dubin's downbeat lyrics paint a picture of true-life despair and desperation. Joan Blondell gives an aching performance along with featured soloist Etta Moten, who dubs Blondell for the final verse in Remember My Forgotten Man. The imagery of marching soldiers and cheering throngs followed by humiliation and breadlines must have spoken all too clearly to the audience of the day as it speaks all too clearly to the audience today.





The National Film Preservation Board, USA placed Gold Diggers of 1933 on the National Film Registry for culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films in 2003.













Wednesday, October 2, 2019

THE SHELLEY WINTERS BLOGATHON: Wagon Train, The Ruth Owens Story (1957)


Erica D. of Poppity Talks Classic Film and Gill of Realweegiemidget Reviews are co-hosting The Shelley Winters Blogathon running from October 1 - 3. Day Day Day 3


Ward Bond stars in this western anthology series as Major Seth Adams, leader of a wagon train filled with many stories. Drought and secrets and vengeance plague Adam's wagon train in The Ruth Owens Story. Shelley Winters is the Special Guest Star in this episode from the first season of the series written by Robert E. Thompson (They Shoot Horses, Don't They?) and directed by Robert Florey (Outpost in Morocco).

Kent Smith and Dean Stockwell co-star as the husband and the younger brother of the former Ruth Drew. It is Ruth's past as a "fancy woman" in St. Joseph, Missouri that is the secret that weighs her down, and the cause of a murder at her brother's hand.

Ruth and her brother grew up in a poor and abusive household. Ruth was the protector of her brother Jimmy until her father threw her out. She married her sweetheart who died of camp fever his first week in the Civil War. Left with a baby girl to care for Ruth turned to work at the notorious Silver Slipper.

Ward Bond, Shelley Winters

Ruth is traveling with her daughter, and her husband Paul, a teacher to whom two things are important, honesty and his love for his wife. When the naive Jimmy Drew comes to the wagon train in search of his sister he openly admits to one of the men that his sister used to work as a waitress at a place called the Silver Slipper. The man teases him about the type of woman his sister is and when Jimmy challenges him, Lank Carr pulls a knife on the kid, who shoots in self-defense. The only witness is the dead man's blind uncle played by Ralph Moody.

Dean Stockwell, Ward Bond

Russell Simpson is Carr's father and he demands justice/vengeance to the point of asking his other son played by Ross Elliot to conceal Lank's knife. A lynching is in progress when Major Adam's timely help arrives thanks to Ruth who ran from the camp to find him. The Major believes Jimmy's story of self-defense and arranges for a fair trial the following night. Observing Jimmy and Ruth together, the Major also becomes the holder of secrets. This secret may lead to another death. Ruth wants to keep her past hidden, and Jimmy, now knowing the truth, doesn't care what happens to him.

Kent Smith, Shelley Winters

The wagon train is still dealing with the unprecedented drought which is keeping everyone on edge. When the verdict is guilty, Ruth speaks up and pleads convincingly and heart-wrenchingly for her brother's life by confessing her past and reminding these travelers that they are all trying to leave something behind. Mr. Carr is forced to give up the incriminating knife when the blind uncle unburdens his secret that he heard Lank threaten Jimmy with "I'm going to cut you up!"

Paul tells Ruth that she could have told him anything as he loves her, and invites Jimmy to join their family as they head toward the new start that means so much to so many.

Wendy Winkelman, Shelley Winters

The opening of this episode features a charming scene where Shelley sings the spiritual Poor Wayfaring Stranger to her daughter played by Wendy Winkelman. She has a lovely, controlled voice and a sincere interpretation of the lyrics. 

I'm just a poor wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world of woe
And there's no sickness, no toil, nor danger
In that fair land to which I go

I'm going there to see my mother 
I'm going there no more to roam
I'm just a-going over Jordan
I'm just a-going over home

Shelley has no film credits in between 1955 and 1959, but plenty of television occupied her career, including seven guest appearances in 1957 including Wagon Train. Shelley, as one of my sisters aptly said, "never phones it in", and she certainly maintained her standard in The Ruth Owens Story. She honestly portrays the characters kind impulses, fear, and guarded optimism. The scene of her confession sneaks up on you and breaks your heart.

Shelley's performance of Poor Wayfaring Stranger can only be heard in The Ruth Owens Story but this version on YouTube by Burl Ives comes close to the charming heartfelt simplicity of her version.
















WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon: George Zucco

The annual What a Character! blogathon hosted by Paula's Cinema Club , Once Upon A Screen , and Outspoken And Freckled runs from Nov...