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.


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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

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.












THE 2020 CLASSIC LITERATURE ON FILM BLOGATHON: Nicholas Nickleby, 1947

Paul Batters at Silver Screen Classics is our host for  The 2020 Classic Literature On Film Blogathan on April 3rd, 4th, and 5th.  Day ...