Sunday, February 9, 2020

FAVOURITE MOVIES: Call Me Madam, 1953


Irving Berlin's Call Me Madam opened on Broadway on October 12, 1950, and closed on May 3, 1952. A hit with audiences and critics, the show won the Tony Award for Berlin for Best Original Score, for Ethel Merman for Best Actress in a Musical, for Russell Nype as Best Featured Actor in a Musical, and for carpenter Pete Feller for Stage Technician.

The Twentieth Century Fox film of Call Me Madam opened in March of 1953. Ethel Merman (Sally) and Lilia Skala (Countess) were the only members of the Broadway production cast in the movie. Alfred Newman won the Oscar for Best Music, Scoring of a Motion Picture and Irene Sharaff was nominated for Best Costume Design, Color. Ethel Merman was the recipient of the Golden Globe for Best Actress, Musical or Comedy. Walter Lang was nominated by the Directors Guild of America and the Cannes Film Festival.

The song Lichtenburg used in the film was truncated from the Broadway version. Broadway's Once Upon a Time Today was switched for What Chance Have I With Love?, and the Washington Square Dance was omitted. Irving Berlin's deal at this time with Twentieth Century Fox called for two more films which would turn out to be two films recycling Irving's greatest hits,  There's No Business Like Show Business with Ethel Merman and Donald O'Connor from Call Me Madam and White Christmas.


The Hostess with the Mostes

Sally Adams, an oil-rich Oklahoman widow has become the most popular hostess in Washington, D.C. where all sorts of disparate politicians and movers-and-shakers gather to work out their issues in a neutral zone. Sally's parties and Sally's friendship with President Harry Truman lands the ebullient woman the post of Ambassador to the tiny country of Lichtenburg. Beyond that formidable personality, Sally is little qualified for the assignment and takes on an assistant, Kenneth Gibson played by Donald O'Connor.


Can You Use Any Money Today?

Arriving in Lichtenburg Sally is confronted by the hoity-toity Pemberton Maxwell, who is in charge of the Embassy. This is Billy De Wolfe playing his hoity-toity best. Sally is under orders from Harry to not loan any money to Lichtenburg. Lichtenburg is desperate for money to pay the dowry of Princess Maria played by Vera-Ellen. We know her intended, Helmut Dentine as Prince Hugo needs the money for his country but it is not made clear what Lichtenburg gets out of this deal. Princess Maria doesn't seem too excited for the marriage.

Two of Lichtenburg's fawning politicians, Prime Minister Sebastian played by Stefan Geray and the treasurer August Tantinnin played by Walter Slezak do their best fawning toward Mrs. Adams without shaking her resolve to follow orders.

Marrying for Love

However, when General Cosmo Constantine played by George Sanders puts in an appearance Sally melts. The suave Cosmo enchants the new Ambassador. She is willing to give him the entire treasury. Cosmo is honest when he says he does not want money for his country. He has a plan to make Lichtenburg self-sufficient. Hoity-toity Maxwell convinces Sally that it is a ploy on Cosmo's part and her romantic dreams are shattered.


It's a Lovely Day Today

Kenneth needs a high hat for the presentation at the palace and while shopping he meets a lovely girl interested in the newest things from America: music, and Kenneth. Sparks fly, singing and dancing ensues, and Kenneth is shocked to discover the lovely girl is Princess Maria. Will her title stand in the way of true romance, not to mention her engagement to Prince Hugo?


The International Rag

Sally wobbles her curtsy to the Grand Duke and Duchess, played by Ludwig Stossel and Lilia Skala, and is flustered by Cosmo's attentions which she has been led to believe are false. However, Sally breaks the ice with the tradition-bound Lichtenburgians with a rousing routine of Irving Berlin's 1913 hit TheInternationalRag. Talk about a trunk song!

Kenneth and Princess Maria break their own ice with a dance in the garden much to the chagrin of Prince Hugo.


You're Just in Love

Sally and Kenneth commiserate over their apparently doomed romances with Irving's hit counterpoint number that saved the second act of Call Me Madam. The duet was recorded by Rosemary Clooney and Guy Mitchell, Perry Como and The Fontane Sisters, Ethel with Dick Haymes, Dinah Shore with Russell Nype, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby, Jane Horrocks and Ewan McGregor for starters. Irving's last great song.

The Ocarina

The annual Lichtenburg Fair is a big deal. Sally gets hit on by Tantinnin. The Treasurer is rebuffed perfectly. Sally is helpless in the face of Cosmo's attention. Princess Maria, who is very interested in singing, acting and dancing performs TheOcarina to the delight of the fair-goers. Maria and Kenneth spend some little time together before Prince Hugo practically threatens a duel with his rival. Note: Julie Newmar, Barrie Chase, and George Chakiris are among the dancing throng.


What Chance Have I With Love?

Kenneth drowns his sorrows to the equally sorrowful sorrows of the publican who wants to close up and go home to bed. Kenneth will not leave before singing and dancing his troubles away in one of my favourite Donald O'Connor routines. He's drunk and there are balloons. Let your imagination go from there.

Something to Dance About

Sally arranges for Kenneth and Maria to meet (accidentally) in the not-so-secret tunnels between the Embassy and the Palace. The couple dances their affection in this peppy and endearing tune. The hopelessness of their fate leads to Sally and Kenneth reprising You're Just in Love.

The Best Thing for You Would be Me

A pretty love song speaks the truth of Sally and Cosmo's feelings. Sally, believing in Maxwell's insight into Cosmo's reverse psychology to get the money wants to do all she can for him. The money will put a crimp in Kenneth's aspirations and, knowing Cosmo's sincerity, he will be equally displeased. Sally has botched things royally and is recalled to Washington.


Mrs. Sally Adams

Naturally, Sally throws a party her first night back and surprises (not really surprises for fans of musical comedy) are in store.

Call Me Madam is a delight. The play was brought to the screen with a gorgeous color palette and wonderful performers handling the Berlin tunes with aplomb. The digs at the political world haven't changed one bit! Check out the Senators played by Emory Parnell, Charles Dingle, and Percy Helton.


Donald O'Connor and Vera-Ellen make a wonderful team, and it is a shame this was their only movie pairing.


What a treat to hear George Sander's musical talent! It is another shame that Hollywood didn't utilize that side of his talent more often.


With the exception of a bit in Stage Door Canteen, 1943 Ethel Merman's last movie role was in 1938. The above is from that year's release Alexander's Ragtime Band. Well, what do you know? Another Irving Berlin picture. Ah well, Hollywood's loss was Broadway's gain.

Of note:


The 1949 TIME magazine cover of Perle Reid Mesta (1889-1975), the socialite and political hostess who received an appointment as Ambassador to Luxembourg and was the inspiration for Call Me Madam book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, music by Irving Berlin.


Ethel Merman with her Broadway Cosmo Constantine, Paul Lukas.



A charming interpretation of You're Just in Love by Chet Atkins.












Monday, February 3, 2020

THE JAMES GARNER BLOGATHON: Maverick Is The Name


Gill is hosting The James Garner Blogathon at her site Realweegiemidget Reviews. Take part in all the affection and admiration HERE. Follow-up: DAY 2 and DAY 3

James Garner as Bret Maverick

The television western Maverick (1957-1962) is the only series to be awarded the Emmy for Best Western Series. The year was 1959 and with the surfeit of westerns aired on television, it was the only year the television academy featured that category. You can read about the award and the nominees here.

Roy Huggins' (The Fugitive, The Rockford Files) creation was a follow-up to his success with Cheyenne starring Clint Walker. His winning formula was to turn the archetypal western loner/hero into gamblers with their own wry code of self-preservation.

James Garner's appealing personality and talent as Bret Maverick made him an instant hit with the audience and one of the most over-worked actors at Warner Brothers. Easing that burden was the addition of the equally charming Jack Kelly as Bret's brother, Bart Maverick. Episodes were usually assigned to one or the other, but audiences always looked forward to the combination of Mavericks as in one of the series' most popular episodes, Shady Deal at Sunny Acres

Robert Colbert, Roger Moore, Jack Kelly

James Garner would leave Maverick after three seasons in a legal dispute with the studio, becoming one of the first major television stars to have a thriving motion picture career. Throughout his career, James Garner would easily travel back and forth from the large to small screens in quality projects. Jack Kelly's Bart would be joined for the final three seasons by Maverick cousins Beau played by Roger Moore (The Saint) and Brent played by Robert Colbert (The Time Tunnel).

James Garner, Susan Blanchard, Charles Frank

The first Maverick sequel was 1979's Young Maverick starring Charles Frank as the Harvard-educated Ben Maverick, son of Beau, who inherited the family gene for gambling and adventure. Susan Blanchard played love-interest Nell McGarrahan. John Dehner co-starred as Marshal Troy. The series followed a 1978 TV movie, The New Maverick. I found the program a delight, but CBS only ran 8 episodes. Hardly enough time to build up an audience. Note: Charles and Susan have been married since 1977.

Darleen Carr, James Garner

NBC showed James Garner in Bret Maverick for 18 episodes in 1981. Bret has settled down and owns a stake in a saloon so instead of riding into trouble, trouble comes to him. Audiences didn't get to see brother Bart planned second season visit.

Let's enjoy memories of those early days when Bret and Bart Maverick rode the television range with a look at three outstanding episodes of Maverick.

SEED OF DECEPTION
Written by Montgomery Pittman
Directed by Richard L. Bare
First aired Sunday, April 13, 1958

Jack Kelly, James Garner

Mistaken identities and a bank robbery play into this final episode of the first season of Maverick. On his way to Yuma, Bret is persuaded to remain in a small town with the promise of "real eastern turkey with sage stuffing and two kinds of gravy; thickening and speckling." He is a little nonplussed by the idea the townsfolk are under the impression that he is Doc Holliday, but "two kinds of gravy!"

When Bart shows up, Bret still hasn't had his fill of turkey, or of Joi Lansing as a pretty widow, so he lets it slip that his brother just might be Wyatt Earp. After all, Bart likes good food and pretty widows as much as the next guy.

The sheriff played by Frank Ferguson and his fellow citizens are anxious that two such reputable gunmen as "Doc" and Earp are in town because they need help dealing with Jim Mundy played by Myron Healey and his gang. These cousins of the Clanton's are notorious trouble-makers and it is feared they have designs on the town's bank which is central to its business survival.

The sheriff is not wrong. Mundy has brought a dancer to town played by Adele Mara (Mrs. Roy Huggins) to provide noisy and distracting entertainment on the night the bank is filled with a mine payroll and ripe for the picking. The fetching dancer and Bart knew each other in the past and the gang suspects Bart of suspecting them so they arrange for the unarmed Maverick to be shot and framed for precipitating a gunfight.

Bart: "Bret, you're not planning anything old-fashioned, are you? You know, like, uh, getting revenge for an only brother?"
Bret: "I'm not mad at anybody. They didn't shoot me."
Bart: "That's right. I certainly wouldn't do anything about it if it was the other way around."

Bret, of course, can't let things go and his detecting ultimately foils the robbery. A hefty reward goes with Bret's success which he splits with Bart, in the ever-constant hope of winning back the full share.

Gerald Mohr as "Doc" Holliday

The coda features the real Doc Holliday played by Gerald Mohr in seven episodes throughout the series, showing up to the confusion of the townsfolk and the pleasure of the audience.

THE RIVALS
Written by Marion Hargrove
Adapted from Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The Rivals
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
First aired on Sunday, January 25, 1959 

Pat Crowley, James Garner

Sheridan's classic comedy-of-manners The Rivals was a great success in 1775, a favourite with the public, with royalty, and with George Washington. Making sport of the silly and the wealthy will never go out of fashion. Marion Hargrove (See Here, Private Hargrove) adapted the farce for Maverick and it has become one of its popular episodes.

Bret has plans to play the casino at an exclusive resort. It won't be easy to gain entrance to such a place, but the name of Vandergelt opens many doors. Prior to his role as cousin Beau, Roger Moore received top billing along with Garner and Kelly in this episode. His character bears the name of Jack Vandergelt III, but he desires an alias. Bret can be bought for $1,000 a week to play games of chance while the other "Bret" plays games of the heart.

Miss Lydia Lynley played by Patricia Crowley is a young lady with stars in her eyes and a dream in her heart. She longs for a romantic suitor in the fashion of Heathcliffe or Sidney Carton. She refuses all suitors of her class while she seeks a poor but honest soul. Thus, Vandergelt III plans to woo Lydia through the guise of Bret Maverick. Could anything be more uncomplicated?

Barbara Jo Allen, known for her character Vera Vague is perfectly cast in the Mrs. Malaprop role of Lydia's guardian Mrs. Mallaver. Sandra Gould is Lydia's scatterbrained maid. Dan Tobin plays Lucius Benson a thwarted yet ever hopeful suitor of the muddle-headed heiress. William Allyn plays a compatriot of Vandergelt's who can't keep a secret.

Neal Hamilton plays old Brigadier Vandergelt who is determined to marry his son to a suitable young lady, and the young lady he has chosen is - you guessed it - Miss Lydia Lynley. Deceptions and a duel lead to the inevitable conclusion. Jack III gets girl, and Bret discovers that unless your name really is Vandergelt, Stuyvesant or Astor, they won't let you into the casino.

Pat Crowley, Roger Moore

Jack: "It's no life for you, Lydia - polo ponies, a yacht."
Lydia: "That doesn't matter. I'd marry you if you were the richest man in the world."

Bonus:

  Pat Crowley and James Garner in The Rockford Files, 1979

THE SAGA OF WACO WILLIAMS
Teleplay by Gene L. Coon and Story by Montgomery Pittman
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
First aired on Sunday, February 15, 1959

James Garner, Wayde Preston

Bret rides into Bent City with Waco Williams played by Wayde Preston (Colt .45). At first glance, they don't appear to be particularly chummy, but Bret is awfully concerned with Waco's well-being. There must be a pot of gold at the end of this dusty rainbow.

Bent City is a nervous town being only a few weeks out of a range war and strangers are not looked upon kindly. We know from his letter writing to Bart that Bret expects a payoff for keeping Waco alive, but it won't be easy. Waco is thoroughly honest and upright, annoyingly so. He doesn't go looking for trouble but trouble naturally finds him. Waco's fast draw, wicked right, and steadfast adherence to the principles of right over wrong will always find him in trouble.

Future Oscar Winner Louise Fletcher

A stubborn rancher, Colonel Bent played by R.G. Armstrong is determined to rid the town of a possible rustler or gunman, which is how he sees Waco. Waco has given the Colonel's son a well-deserved beating and it is not the sort of thing that can be overlooked. The Colonel's pretty daughter played by Louise Fletcher has a different point of view and tries to help the stranger with the honourable code.

Waco is meeting a man who once did him a good turn in an effort to get the man to turn himself in to the law for a misdeed. Bret wants to capture that same man for the $2,500 reward on his head. Neither Waco nor Bret will be successful in their endeavour. Nonetheless, Waco will be seen by all to be the winner in what we might call the Battle of Bent City. Bret breaks the fourth wall to share his feelings about Waco and the pretty rancher's daughter he's going to marry.

Bret: "Now, he did everything a man shouldn't do, but he's still alive. Looks like he'll be elected sheriff. I know he'll end up with the biggest ranch in the territory. And I'm broke. Nobody even knows I'm leaving or cares. Could I be wrong?"

The Saga of Waco Williams will feel very familiar to fans of The Rockford Files (1974-1980) and the two guest appearances by Tom Selleck as private investigator Lance White, White on White and Nearly Perfect, 1978 and Nice Guys Finish Dead, 1979.

Bonus:

 Wayde Preston and James Garner in A Man Called Sledge, 1970


Can't get enough of Maverick?

Guess Who

You might enjoy some of the sage advice offered up to Bret and Bart by their "Pappy", Beauregard HERE.












Thursday, January 30, 2020

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR FEBRUARY ON TCM


The TCM annual celebration of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is about to begin. This year's 31 Days of Oscar includes None Shall Escape, a searing propaganda drama from Columbia Studios. Alfred Neumann and Joseph Than were nominated in the category of Best Writing, Original Story. The other nominees in the category were Lifeboat, The Sullivans, A Guy Named Joe, and the winner, Going My Way.

Filmed in 1943, the movie takes us to a time in the future when the war has been won and the allies set about bringing war criminals to justice.

The first criminal brought before the international tribunal is an unrepentant Nazi named Wilhelm Grimm played by Alexander Knox. Through testimony and flashbacks, we see the truth in the words of the first witness, Father Warecki played by Henry Travers. 

Father Warecki: "The trial of these criminals marks a milestone in human history. It is being argued today that we, having defeated the Nazis, should show tolerance and mercy; that these men are the victims of circumstance and history, and that they enjoyed no freedom to act in accordance with the dictates of their own conscience. I would like to relate an incident which occurred many years ago to prove that the accused acted of his own volition and that he had freedom of choice and will."


Marsha Hunt, Alexander Knox

A German-born teacher, Wilhelm Grimm, returns to Litzbakk, the small town in Poland where he lived prior to WWI. His job and his sweetheart are waiting for him. Embittered by the loss of a leg, and Germany's loss in the war, Grimm spouts political thoughts that will become all too common in the coming decades. His warped world view turns his fiancee Marja Pacierkowski played by Marsha Hunt away from the idea of marriage to such a man.

The town turns on Grimm when it is discovered that his assault of a teenager led to her suicide. The courts did not convict but he was driven back to Germany where he totally embraced Hitlerism.

The second witness at the tribunal is Grimm's own brother, Karl played by Erik Rolf. Karl is a writer for a socialist paper. He and his wife Alice played by Ruth Nelson have a son and daughter. They take Wilhelm lovingly into the family fold and laugh at his silly political ideas. Wilhelm's rise in the Third Reich involves the incarceration of his brother and the indoctrination of his nephew into the SS.

The third damning witness is Marja Pacierkowski. Widowed in the early days of the war, she and her daughter Janina played by Dorothy Morris have returned Litzbakk. Wilhelm Grimm is the officer in charge and in addition to the maniacal devotion to evil orders, there is the retribution he wants to extract from the townspeople for what he sees as his past mistreatment.


Grimm's rule is one of terror and slaughter. His devotion is to Hitler and to his nephew. When that nephew's eyes are opened to a different and kinder way of life by his feelings for Janina a personal tragedy strikes the Pacierkowski family.

The script for None Shall Escape is a combination of the literate and the lurid. The direction by Andre de Toth forces the audience to be aware of oppression through visuals and the use of sound. It is the sound of the Jewish citizens being rounded up for transport that is as heartwrenching as their doomed uprising.

The interesting premise of a look at the end of the ongoing conflict and the powerful performances from Ms. Hunt and Mr. Knox make None Shall Escape a film of interest and value.

TCM is screening None Shall Escape on February 6 at the end of that programming day, or the beginning of the next depending on your time zone.












Thursday, January 16, 2020

THE CAROLE LOMBARD MEMORIAL BLOGATHON: We're Not Dressing, 1934


The Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon is being hosted by Crystal of In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood and Vince, whose site Carole & Co. is the last word on the talented and timeless Carole Lombard. Join the tributes HERE


Wealthy Doris Worthington (Carole Lombard) has the world at her feet as she travels the Pacific in her self-named yacht. Wealthy Doris Worthington also has man trouble. The two gigolo princes at her beck and call (Ray Milland and Jay Henry) are beginning to bore her. Her Uncle Hubert (Leon Erroll) doesn't approve of the princely pair, and he drinks a tad too much. Singing sailor Steve (Bing Crosby) attracts her attention and annoys her greatly because he attracts her attention. The girls in her life aren't much better as pal Edith (Ethel Merman) waits around for the discarded prince or the soused uncle, whichever is handy. Doris's pet bear "Droopy" vies for the undivided attention of singing sailor Steve.

Uncle Hubert's shenanigans cause the yacht to sink and while the bulk of the crew is rescued, singing sailor Steve and the rich folks end up on an apparently deserted island. In time honoured J.M. Barrie (The Admirable Crichton) fashion, singing sailor Steve, as the only practical person among the castaways, takes charge. Only Doris retains her stubborn pride in the face of starvation and privation.

Bing Crosby, Carole Lombard

On the other side of this not-so-deserted island, we find married naturalists George Burns and Gracie Allen. Droopy the bear finds them as well. Eventually, Doris finds them and uses that secret knowledge to play a trick on singing Sailor Steve. After a tender moment of romance, and a nasty moment of anger and retaliation, which feels out of place in this comedy, the whole kit and kaboodle are rescued and sent their separate ways before reuniting for the final clinch and song.

Directed by Norman Taurog, the whole business runs an hour and a quarter including nine Harry Revel and Mack Gordon songs and reprises, plus a couple of Burns and Allen routines. Carole had six movies released in 1934 with We're Not Dressing her first foray into Screwball and Twentieth Century one of her greatest in the genre. In between, we have Now and Forever, The Gay Bride, Bolero, and Lady by Choice.

Leon Erroll, Ethel Merman, Ray Milland, Jay Henry

Many writers are credited for the plot and dialogue, which is fairly thin, relying on the idea and the talents and personalities among the cast. Ethel Merman at 25 is a bright and shiny talent and plays well opposite funny man Leon Erroll. Of the gigolos, this was the only movie for Jay Henry, while Ray Milland simply oozed charm and instinct.

Bing Crosby, Carole Lombard

According to Bing's autobiography Call Me Lucky (1954), and the first volume of Gary Gidden's biography The Early Years (2001),  Bing and Carole got along famously with an appreciation for each other's sense of humour. The shooting of the movie on Catalina Island was a picnic for all. These film personalities show fun chemistry in this lightweight picture, and it is indeed a shame that we would not have another opportunity to see them together.




















Friday, January 10, 2020

BEYOND STAR TREK BLOGATHON: DeForest Kelley on Zane Grey Theatre


The Beyond Star Trek blogathon is the brainchild of our hosts Quiggy of The Midnite Drive-In and Hamlette's Soliloquy. The blogathon explores the careers of Star Trek actors beyond and before their involvement with the influential and enduring series. Your exploration begins HERE and HERE.

DeForest Kelley
January 20, 1920 - June 11, 1999

DeForest Kelley is immortalized in pop culture for making the role of Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy on Star Trek such a memorable and beloved character in the franchise. Nonetheless, it is fitting that Mr. Kelley was awarded the In Memoriam citation from the Golden Boot Awards, presented by the Motion Picture and Television Fund for significant contributions to the western genre. His film and television credits include numerous westerns films including Tension at Table Rock, 1956, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, 1957, Warlock, 1959, and Gunfight at Comanche Creek, 1963. 

Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, John Hudson, DeForest Kelley
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral directed by John Sturges

DeFrest Kelley's television western appearances are plentiful beginning with The Lone Ranger through to Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Trackdown, The Virginian, and Bonanza before settling in on the little series Gene Roddenberry touted to executives as "Wagon Train in space."

DeForest Kelley
Warlock directed by Edward Dmytryk

Dick Powells Zane Grey Theater (1956-1961) provided DeForest Kelley with a paycheque and the chance to display his acting versatility in the four guest spots looked at here. The anthology western series was produced by Four Star Productions (founders: Dick Powell, David Niven, Charles Boyer, and Joel McCrea. McCrea bowed out early on and was replaced by Ida Lupino). Zane Grey Theater ran on CBS from 1956 to 1961.

STAGE FOR TUCSON
Written by John McGreevey and Harold Shumate
Directed by Bernard Girard
First aired on Friday, November 16, 1956

"What's the matter with you -- with everybody? One failure, one hurt and you think you can spend the rest of your life feeling sorry for yourself!"

The usually quiet stop at the Dragoon Springs waystation, run by Sandy Neal (Mona Freeman) will be the site of violence and transformation. Marshal Tharpe (Rusty Lane) has word a notorious bank robber and murderer has escaped Las Cruces on the incoming stage to Tucson. They must keep the passengers at the station until the arrival of a neighbouring rancher (Tyler McVey) who can identify the criminal. Will the murderer's gang arrive first?


The disparate group includes a drummer (Eddie Albert), a one-armed veteran of the Civil War (John Ericson), a disgraced doctor (Ian McDonald), and a runaway couple. Les Porter (DeForest Kelley) has convinced the married May Farrell (Jaclynne Greene) to run away with him, and her husband's money. It is evident from their testy exchanges that things are not going well. Porter is only interested in the money and guilt is overwhelming Mrs. Farrell.

Porter's true character, a chance at redemption for the doctor and the soldier, and a new life for pretty and feisty Sandy await those who stand up to villainy and bloodshed.

VILLAGE OF FEAR
Written by Antony Ellis
Directed by Christian Nyby
First aired on Friday, March 1, 1957

"Sometimes violence is the only way. I wish it was different."

Allan Raikes (David Niven), a traveling bookseller is surprised to ride into a deserted town and then shocked to be taken hostage by a gang of thieves and murderers. Brill (George Wallace) had ridden into town with his gang to rob a gold shipment. In a shootout, his kid brother was killed and Brill has hanged the sheriff and taken the townspeople hostage until they reveal his brother's shooter.

The "book man" has the respect of the outlaw for his knowledge, and is thrown in with the frightened hostages and tasked with seeking out the outlaw's killer. Raikes will use his experience as a soldier and his knowledge of human nature to help the townspeople in their plight.


Holton (Peter Hansen) and Donnelly (Ross Elliot) are stable forces in the group, but nerves are frayed and the future seems hopeless. Sherm Pickard (DeForest Kelley) is almost certain he knows who shot the young outlaw. His fear shows in his proclamations and actions. Is he a loose cannon or someone who can be depended upon in the fight for the lives of all?

SHADOW OF A DEAD MAN
Written by Frederick Louis Fox and Aaron Spelling
Directed by Robert Gordon
First aired on Friday, April 11, 1958

"I guess we all got reasons for the things we do."

Logan Wheeler (DeForest Kelley) believes he has completed a question. He has captured Raney Benson (Barry Sullivan), wanted for bank robbery. It is not a purely mercenary act on Logan's part. His father Zachary Wheeler (Carl Benton Reid) lost his $600 savings in the robbery and Logan wants the reward for his father and sister Jessie (Whitney Blake), whom he hasn't seen in years.


On the return trip, the two men learn about each other's lives. Benson is not a lifetime criminal. His ranch went under financially, and this was his first "job". He didn't get any of the money, just a wanted poster and a reward. When Logan is bitten by a rattlesnake Benson has the opportunity to escape, but he opts to take Logan safely to his family. Logan Wheeler dies imploring his family to help Benson.

Zachary and Jessie bury Logan with a headstone proclaiming he is Raney Benson. Despite her engagement to Mark Wilkins (Richard Shannon), Jessie doesn't try to fight her growing attraction to Benson. Zachary can see that the feeling between his daughter and the bank robber is genuine and worries for her future. Mark discerns the truth and goes to Sheriff Kenney (Fred Kohler Jr.), whose arrival brings an unexpected twist to the story of the star crossed lovers.

CALICO BAIT
Written by Raphael Hayes
Directed by Robert Ellis Miller
First aired on Thursday, March 31, 1960

Kelley's final episode on Zane Grey Theater is this 4th season episode. I was unable to access the episode online and, as far as I can tell, that season has yet to be released on DVD. I probably saw it when we had an all-western channel in the vicinity 20 years ago.

The premise as a Deputy (Robert Culp) on the trail of a murderer (Burt Douglas). He uses the outlaw's girlfriend (Inger Stevens) as bait and comes up against trouble in the form of his own attraction to the woman, and opposition from a fellow named Swain (DeForest Kelley). I imagine someone out there has a clearer memory of Calico Bait.


----####----



DeForest Kelly at home, 1968

Doesn't this look like a comfortable place to sit back and enjoy a western or two?













Thursday, January 9, 2020

THE BUTLERS AND MAIDS BLOGATHON



Ladies and Gentlemen of the Blogging World, Rich of Wide Screen World and I cordially invite you to a blogathon tribute to the outstanding, and maybe not so outstanding, butlers and maids of the large and small screens.

From Hattie McDaniel to Thelma Ritter. From Eric Blore to John Gielgud. From Hazel to Mr. Belvedere. We all have a favourite or two, and here you can tell us all about them. Or perhaps you have scary memories of some servant in a horror film (eek!). 

The Butlers and Maids (and chauffeurs, and cooks, and gardeners, etc.) Blogathon will be presented to the public on February 22nd and 23rd. 

Please R.S.V.P. the invitation here or at our host's estimable site here.


Participants:

Caftan Woman, Personal Maid's Secret (1935)

MovieMovieBlogBlog II (Steve), Another Fine Mess, 1930

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films (Maddy), If You Could Only Cook, 1935

A Shroud of Thoughts (Terence), My Man Godfrey, 1936

Second Sight Cinema (Lesley), Ruggles of Red Gap, 1935

Strictly Vintage Hollywood (Donna), Sunset Blvd., 1950

Old Hollywood Films (Amanda), The Fallen Idol, 1948

Hometowns to Hollywood (Annette), Higher and Higher, 1943

The Midnight Drive-In (Quiggy), Clue, 1985

Taking Up Room (Rebecca), Benny and Joon, 1993

Grand Old Movies, Thank You, Jeeves!, 1936 and Step Lively, Jeeves!, 1937

Once Upon a Screen, (Aurora), Rebecca, 1940

Pale Writer (Gabriela), Cluny Brown, 1946

Another Old Movie Blog (Jacqueline), Sullivan's Travels, 1941

Critica Retro (Le), Murder by Death, 1976

The Story Enthusiast (Brittaney), Imitation of Life, 1934

RealweegiemidgetReviews (Gill), The Others, 2001












Wednesday, January 1, 2020

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR JANUARY ON TCM


Clare Spiegel and Jane Mayer collaborated as Clare Jaynes on four novels and many short stories. Their first novel in 1942, Instruct My Sorrows was adapted by Catherine Turney (A Stolen Life) for the Warner Brothers 1946 release, My Reputation. The movie was directed by Curtis Bernhardt (High Wall), filmed by James Wong Howe (Kings Row) with a memorable score by Max Steiner (Mildred Pierce).

Barbara Stanwyck, Bobby Cooper, Scotty Beckett

There is a mourning wreath on the door of the elegant Drummond home in Lake Forest. Never before has Jessica Drummond been so aware of the uncertainty of life. Uncertainty had been hidden from her by her controlling mother and then the man she fell in love with as a teenager. Their happy family of two sons, ages 14 and 12, lived under the cloud of illness for two years. Now Jess must find out who she is as a young widow and mother.

Uncertainty is a way of life for the entire country for the year is 1942 and people of all classes are dealing with death, with ration cards, and with victory gardens. Uniforms are worn by men and women who rush to face the uncertainty from which Jessica has been protected.

Barbara Stanwyck

Jessica sees how single women are the subject of gossip, she faces the unwanted advances of the husband of a friend (Jerome Cowan), and she is forever and always dealing with her intractable mother (Lucile Watson)

Jessica's boys Keith (Bobby Cooper) and Kim (Scotty Beckett) are pulling away toward their own crowd and leaving soon for boarding school. Red Cross work keeps Jessica busy, and she has the sympathetic support of her maid Anna (Esther Dale). However, Jess is deeply lonely and not coping with her bereavement.

Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent

Close friends Ginna and Cary Abbott (Eve Arden, John Ridgely) convince Jess to go with them to Tahoe and forego her usual "trip south with mother." It is on a ski trail that Jess meets Major Scott Landis (George Brent). Scott makes no secret of his interest in Jess but she is reluctant to pursue a romance. They part less than amicably but are excited to meet again when the Major is transferred to Chicago.

In the midst of her own environment, Jessica finds herself drawn to Scott instead of to the more suitable family friend Frank Everett (Warner Anderson) that everyone has chosen for her. Her involvement with the Major finds Jessica the subject of nasty gossip that gets back to her sons.

Barbara Stanwyck was adept at drama, comedy, and action. In My Reputation, she presents a frank portrait of a woman at a crossroads in her life, who wears her heart on her sleeve for us to see. Many choices surround Jessica Drummond. Will she continue to be cowed by her mother? Will the humor and acceptance of her friend Ginna point the way toward freedom?

George Brent is the perfect leading man here. His witty portrayal of an outsider to Jessica's world represents the changing times, personally and societally. Everything is upended when attraction turns to affection. Courage and sincerity in abundance will be needed to see them through.


TCM is screen My Reputation on Thursday, January 16th during a daytime schedule which appears to be devoted to the subject of gossip, beginning with Affair With a Stranger and concluding with The Women. It will be quite a day!


Movie Connections:

Barbara Stanwyck and George Brent in The Purchase Price, 1932 the first five co-starring films including So Big, 1932, Baby Face, 1933, The Gay Sisters, 1942 and My Reputation.


Edith Head was borrowed from Paramount to design the gowns for Barbara Stanwyck in My Reputation. Other Stanwyck projects at Warners featured Edith's designs: The Gay Sisters, Cry Wolf, The Two Mrs. Carrolls and Christmas in Connecticut.


Barbara Stanwyck in Samuel Fuller's Forty Guns, 1957. Her character is named Jessica Drummond just as in the earlier My Reputation.












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