Monday, June 1, 2020

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR JUNE ON TCM


John P. Marquand's serialized novel Gone Tomorrow was published in McCall's magazine 1940/1941 and released as a film by MGM under the name H.M. Pulham, Esq. in December of 1941. Marquand was the creator of Mr. Moto and the Pulitzer Prize winner in 1938 for The Late George Apley.

King Vidor and Elizabeth Hill
married: 1937-1951

The screenplay is credited to H.M. Pulham, Esq.'s producer/director King Vidor and his wife Elizabeth Hill. Hill was Vidor's script assistant since the 1930s and has writing credits on Our Daily Bread, The Citadel, and Northwest Passage.

Ruth Hussey, Robert Young, Hedy Lamarr

Robert Young (1907-1998) is an actor I easily take for granted, probably due to his "living room ease" on two popular series, Father Knows Best (1954-1960) and Marcus Welby, M.D. (1969-1976). Then I'll decide to rewatch the Chan picture The Black Camel from 1931 and see the appealing personality of Robert Young at the beginning of his career. Or I'll watch Crossfire, 1947 and notice the ease with which he handles the speech given his police captain character. Maybe I'll come across They Won't Believe Me or The Enchanted Cottage or Claudia or The Canterville Ghost and muse on how suited Young seemed to these diverse films.

If put to the fire, I would name Harry Pulham as my favourite of Robert Young's performances. We meet the staid Bostonian in the dealing with a mid-life crisis and we journey with him down Memory Lane as he ponders his past, present, and future. Young plays Harry the naive college student at Harvard where his associations are formed. We see Harry as a lieutenant in France during WWI, awarded medals. We see Harry's bid for independence from a stifling history of societal expectations by beginning a business career at an advertising agency in NYC.

Robert Young, Bonita Granville, Charles Coburn

Harry's iconoclastic friend Bill King played by Van Heflin arranged the New York job and it is there that Harry has his great love affair with career girl Marvin Myles played by Hedy Lamarr. Marvin is unlike anyone Harry has ever known, a poor girl from an immigrant family, she has used her brains to get ahead. Marvin wants the good things in life and is willing to work hard to get them. When she and Harry fall in love her fear is that she will lose him to his old life. Harry doesn't understand that foolishness, just as he doesn't understand Marvin perhaps as well as she understands him.

Middle-aged Harry is accustomed to his routine at home and at work; walking the dog and walking the line laid out by his secretary played by Sara Haden and his wife Kay played by Ruth Hussey. Harry and Kay have known each other since childhood. Kay had her own fling at something different in the form of Bill King prior to marrying Harry, which was what their parents had always planned. Harry wonders if he and Kay ever really loved each other and if he ever truly knew happiness outside of his time with Marvin and Bill in New York.

Van Heflin, Robert Young, Ruth Hussey, Leif Ericson, Walter Kingsford, Fay Holden

The outstanding cast of H.M. Pulham, Esq. includes Charles Coburn, Fay Holden, and Bonita Granville as Harry's parents and sister. Leif Ericson as a college football star, Douglas Wood and Charles Halton at the advertising agency, and Walter Kingsford as an influential teacher. You are sure to spot Anne Revere, Connie Gilchrist, Grant Withers, and Byron Foulger as you take this journey with our Harry.

Harry Pulham is one of those roles which dominates the story and if we did not have Robert Young's completely committed and believable performance the movie would not work, and King Vidor's H.M. Pulham, Esq. works. Hedy Lamarr also turns in one of the finest performances in her film career, and Ruth Hussey is so consistently fine that you may overlook her contribution and have to watch the movie all over again.

How much time do we spend living our lives and how much thinking about our lives? Do we spend too much time thinking when we should be living or vice versa? What will Harry do at this critical point?


TCM is screening H.M. Pulham, Esq. on Sunday, June 28th at 1:45 PM. The afternoon appears to be devoted to couples at crossroads including Love Affair and Adam's Rib, with the primetime lineup of  Two for the Road and The Marrying Kind.


Movie/Television connection:


Robert Young (Harry) and Ruth Hussey (Kay) also appeared together in the following films: Rich Man, Poor Girl, 1938, Honolulu, 1939, Maisie, 1939, Northwest Passage, 1940, and Married Bachelor, 1941. Ruth guest-starred on Young's series Marcus Welby, M.D. in 1971, and in 1973 they starred as an engaged couple in the TV movie My Darling Daughters' Anniversary.












16 comments:

  1. Even though King Vidor is considered a successful director, I always find myself surprised by how much I enjoy his films. They are so thoughtful and understated, but always pack an emotional punch and really make me think.

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    1. I go through the same emotions. Each viewing is a reminder of his ability to touch us.

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    2. A thank you to you here... https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/more-2/my-blogging-awards/sunshine-bloggers/

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    3. Thanks, Gill and congratulations. I love reading these posts, but it is just not my thing these days.

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  2. When I see the name CHARLES COBURN I always think of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES with MARILYN MONROE and JANE RUSSELL. Marilyn was born on this day(June 1) 92 years ago as was ANDY GRIFFITH. Did you see any of the three eps of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW with DAPHNE and SKIPPY also known as the fun girls? They were played by JEAN CARSON and JOYCE JAMESON. Skippy had an odd laugh and said BERNIE instead of BARNEY. Daphne would say-hello, doll and she had a deep voice. If MARILYN turned up in MAYBERRY she would shake up the town!

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    1. I haven't seen much of the Griffith show, but those sound like fun with those talented actresses.

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  3. I agree, this is one of Young's most agreeable performances; as you note, he tends to be underrated as an actor because he always IS so agreeable. But both Ruth Hussey and especially Hedy Lamarr give about the best performances of their careers--I was surprised at the intelligence and and sharpness Lamarr brought to her acting--maybe she was allowed to show for once her real-life intelligence? The film is anchored by these two strong female performances; you wish as you watch that Young's character could have found a wife who combined both women!

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    1. The studio had the resources for any number of different casting combinations but there is something so "right" about these actors and their performances. A lot of it may be due to Vidor's guiding hand.

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  4. I want to correct an error. I meant to say that MARILYN MONROE and ANDY GRIFFITH were born 94 years ago. What are your favorite movies that CHARLES COBURN was in?

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    1. The movies that I consider feature some of my favourite performances from Charles Coburn are The Lady Eve, Monkey Business, The More the Merrier, The Devil and Miss Jones, Kings Row, In This Our Life, and Lured.

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  5. You're right that Robert Young is an actor that one can take for granted. And thank you for mentioning The Enchanted Cottage, which is one of those little films that stays with one for a long time. Young is very good as Harry Pulham and it's wonderful to see Hedy Lamarr playing the kind of intelligent woman that she was in real life.

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    1. It is a very satisfying movie and I hope it gets more fans from its TCM airing this month.

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  6. MONKEY BUSINESS had MARILYN MONROE and GINGER ROGERS. Ginger starred in TENDER COMRADE which also had RUTH HUSSEY. Ginger and Ruth were very good in that movie (as was the rest of the cast including the leading man ROBERT RYAN).

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    1. The scene of Ginger and Ryan arguing felt very real to me. I was almost embarrassed to be intruding on the couple.

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  7. Robert Young is someone who makes acting look easy, but he still manages to create Presence. I've been listening to him in the old radio show Father Knows Best and, while not all the scripts are the best, Young is always fabulous. He's one of those who can elevate the material without fanfare.

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    1. I agree. Although, I haven't heard the radio program I think I will give it a listen for the sake of the talented Robert Young.

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