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.












29 comments:

  1. As soon as I saw the name ESTHER DALE I remembered that she played the mother-in-law to JANET LEIGH in HOLIDAY AFFAIR with BOB MITCHUM and WENDELL COREY.

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    1. She's a very versatile actress probably best known as Birdie Hicks in the Ma and Pa Kettle series.

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  2. How can you go wrong with a film starring Barbara Stanwyck? She's great in this (as always), and always manages to bring out something unique in her characters. What a range she had! Supposedly she was the first choice to star in the film "Mildred Pierce" - while I really admire Crawford's performance in that movie, I wonder (in one of those alternate-history musings classic-film lovers love to indulge in) what a Stanwyck performance would have been like.

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    1. We can't help indulging in those what-ifs. I think Stanwyck would have been perfect in Flamingo Road in place of Joanie. Once I had that idea I can never just relax and enjoy the movie.

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  3. GEORGE BRENT was born GEORGE NOLAN. From 1942 to 1943 he was married to the lovely ANN SHERIDAN who was born CLARA LOU SHERIDAN in TEXAS.

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    1. We call him Cousin George around here. Giggle.

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  4. You mentioned that this movie was set in 1942. That was the same year that LINDA EVANS, daughter AUDRA BARKLEY to BARBARA STANWYCK on THE BIG VALLEY, was born.

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    1. Back in 2006 Linda Evans and Joan Collins appeared in Toronto in a tour of the play Legends!

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  5. I love this movie. Every time I see a Stanwyck movie it surprises me what range she had as an actress.

    I also like Lucile Watson who proves herself to be not quite as stuck-up as we're led to believe in the beginning.

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    1. Indeed. Barbara Stanwyck was one of those seamless actors who didn't let us see the work. Her range is most impressive.

      The mother and daughter relationship in My Reputation is intriguing to me. Sometimes it isn't exactly who we are, but how people react to us.

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  6. JESSE WHITE was born on this day 103 years ago (Jan. 3, 1917). His passing was six days after he turned 80. He and his wife CELIAS 55th anniversary was Jan. 14, 1997, five days after his passing. Jesse is best known as being the MAYTAG repairman on those commercials. He was in the play and movie HARVEY. The movie starred JIMMY STEWART and the play starred FRANK FAY who by then was already the ex-husband of.....BARBARA STANWYCK.

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  7. According to imdb JESSE WHITE did five eps of PERRY MASON. He guest-starred on all three of PAUL HENNINGS shows THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, PETTICOAT JUNCTION and GREEN ACRES. He did two eps each so that made six eps (always as a different character). You will probably recall him from his two eps of THE TWILIGHT ZONE including the one with CAROL BURNETT.

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    1. Jesse White is one of the most familiar faces (and voices) of movies and television to those of us who spent too much of our lives in front of the screens!

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  8. You've picked a movie that I'm unfamiliar with (although I've seen most of Barbara Stanwyck's movie from this period). I'd watch this one if Comcast hadn't taken TCM away and made it part of an add-on sport-entertainment package!

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    1. Why would Comcast do such an unconscionable thing? I imagine there has been backlash and hope, for once, a corporation will listen to the consumer.

      We started getting TCM on our cable company in Toronto in December, 2006. There had been no announcement, but while channel surfing one night I came across J. Carroll Naish and Donald Woods (Star in the Night). For months, I held my breath worrying that it would be taken away as suddenly as it had appeared.

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  9. I'm not usually a George Brent fan – can take him or leave him – but I liked the way you described his performance here. Of course, I was already sold on this film as soon as I read Barbara Stanwyck is the star.

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    1. The entire programming day is built for staying on the couch and eating bonbons, but if you can only see one (and assuming you've already seen The Women multiple times), My Reputation is definitely the way to go.

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  10. I have read that BARBARA STANWYCK turned down the part of ANGELA CHANNING on FALCON CREST and that JANE WYMAN(ANGELA) and Barbara were friends.

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  11. P.S. According to imdb JANE WYMAN was born Jan. 5, 1917-103 years ago. That would make her two days younger than JESSE WHITE that I mentioned earlier. What are your favorite movies that Jane did? I really like POLLYANNA that has at least three people still with us-HAYLEY MILLS, NANCY OLSON and JAMES DRURY. Nancy did an ep of THE BIG VALLEY but she didn't have any scenes with BARBARA STANWYCK. She was in a story with NICK and RONNY HOWARD played her son.

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    1. I admire Jane Wyman's career and some of my favourite performances are in Just for You, Here Comes the Groom, Stage Fright, The Yearling, Miracle in the Rain, and The Glass Menagerie.

      Nancy Olson is a very appealing actress and I remember The Night of the Wolf episode of The Big Valley very well.

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  12. Are there any actors you would have liked to see BARBARA STANWYCK co-star with in a movie? I don't think she worked with JIMMY STEWART. Also JEFF CHANDLER, ALAN LADD and ROCK HUDSON. She did work with a lot of big names including FRED MACMURRAY, JOEL MCCRAE and ELVIS PRESLEY. P.S. Did you know about her turning down FALCON CREST?

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    1. The one actor I would have loved to have seen paired with Barbara Stanwyck is Cary Grant. A sophisticated mystery or a comedy would suit both of their talents.

      I admit your history on Falcon Crest was new to me. I didn't follow the nighttime soaps.

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  13. I agree with your choice, CAFTAN WOMAN. I think BARBARA and CARY would have been great together! Did you see Cary in ONCE UPON A HONEYMOON with GINGER ROGERS? I really liked them in that movie. Speaking of the name BARBARA, Cary was married to two women with that name.(Altogether he was wed 5 times.) His second wife was heiress BARBARA HUTTON and his last wife(his widow) was BARBARA HARRIS(not the actress).

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  14. When I was typing the names of CARY & GINGER I just now realized that if you put her first name with his last name you get the name GINGER GRANT. That was the name of the character on GILLIGANS ISLAND played by TINA LOUISE. Tina did 5 eps of DALLAS as JULIE GREY, the secretary/mistress of J.R. EWING. You probably know Tina from her ep of BONANZA with STEVE FORREST(also later on DALLAS).

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    1. Tina is immensely talented as well as being such an attractive actress. The "Ginger" character seems to overshadow her fine dramatic work (Day of the Outlaw, God's Little Acre, etc.), but there is something to be said for making people laugh.

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  15. I know that BARBARA STANWYCK played women that had a daughter in some of her movies. I wonder if any of them were blondes like LINDA EVANS from THE BIG VALLEY. P.S. Did you watch both of the movies CARY GRANT & GINGER ROGERS did? If so, which do you like the best?

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    1. I prefer Monkey Business to Once Upon a Honeymoon.

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