Monday, August 31, 2020


Each month at MovieRob's site a different film genre is explored through recommendations and blog articles. This month I was pleased to select the topic of Medical Dramas.

Link HERE to access the varied films from different eras devoted to the topic. Get your drink and snacks now because there is a lot of interesting reading ahead.

My contributions are the prize-winning Men in White, 1934, and an undercover caper, The Sleeping City, 1950.

Thursday, August 27, 2020


Virginie Pronovost at The Wonderful World of Cinema is hosting The 5th Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon. Running from August 27 - 29, please read the wonderful tributes HERE.

"It's delightful to be married..."
- Anna Held

Cary Grant, Cecil Parker

International banker and diplomat Philip Adams thinks it is delightful to be married, in his own way.

Cary Grant as Philip Adams 
"I don't care to get married. On the other hand, I don't care to give up women. Since I have no intention to get married I feel honour bound to declare myself in the beginning. I say I am married and I can't get a divorce. Now our position is clear. There can't be any misunderstanding later.

Cecil Parker as Alfred Munson
"I know there's a big hole in your argument I just haven't come to it yet, but there must be."

Ingrid Bergman, Phyllis Calvert

Actress Anna Kalman is a successful yet discontented woman. Something is missing in her life. Perhaps she needs to meet the right man. Perhaps she wants marriage.

Ingrid Bergman as Anna Kalman
"When love is right everything is right."

Phyllis Calvert as Margaret Munson
"I don't know what you expect from a man. You know, there's a limit to how entertaining they can be."

Megs Jenkins, David Kossoff

Megs Jenkins as Doris
"She's so happy, Carl."

David Kossoff as Carl
"She is happy now, but for how long? What's to come of it? It can't go on like this. A man, a wife, another woman. I think about that."

Anna's sister and brother-in-law the Munsons introduce her to Philip and the attraction is instant. Before much time has passed, the two are in an affair that stretches from London to Philip's home base in Paris. Anna and Philip are in love and they aren't fooling anybody. The emotions are true yet there is dishonesty at the core of the relationship. How will it all turn out?

Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman

In a decade that would take Ingrid Bergman from Stromboli to Anastasia and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Indiscreet stands out as a romantic comedy with one of her finest co-stars, Cary Grant of Notorious, 1946. The chemistry between the attractive pair glows on screen. Ingrid, in particular, is so compelling in the role of an actress finding the love of her life that we can almost overlook the man that all of the fuss is about.

Miss Bergman's costumes are by Christian Dior. The setting is glamourous from Anna's charming apartment to exclusive clubs and ballrooms and theatres. Filmed in London by Freddie Young, an evening stroll by Cleopatra's Needle becomes a wonderland.

Charles Boyer, Mary Martin
Kind Sir

Norman Krasna (Dear Ruth, The Devil and Miss Jones, Princess O'Rourke) wrote the screenplay for Indiscreet transferring the setting of his play Kind Sir from New York to London. Kind Sir had a Broadway run of 166 performances starring Mary Martin and Charles Boyer. Frank Conroy and Dorothy Stickney were the Munsons and Margalo Gillmore and Robert Ross the domestics. Krasna's Indiscreet screenplay was nominated for a BAFTA and a Writers Guild of America award.

Stanley Donen produced and directed Indiscreet, his second film with Cary Grant following Kiss Them for Me. The director and actor would later collaborate on The Grass is Greener and Charade.

I believe Indiscreet, at 100 minutes needed a surer hand at editing. The script relies too much on our stars, fine as they are. While watching two enchanting and beloved stars fall in love is a pleasant pastime, the film lacks the energy necessary in even the most sophisticated of comedies. Despite its polish and star power, ultimately Indiscreet is fitful entertainment.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

THE FOURTH VAN JOHNSON BLOGATHON: 23 Paces to Baker Street, 1956

Michaela at Love Letters to Old Hollywood is hosting The Fourth Van Johnson Blogathon. The fun begins on August 23 through to 25. Click HERE to enjoy the contributions looking at the career of fan favourite Van Johnson.

Director Henry Hathaway (The Dark Corner) and actor Van Johnson (Battleground) teamed for two interesting projects for Twentieth Century Fox in 1956. The Bottom of the Bottle was based on a novel by Belgian Georges "Maigret" Simenon and filmed on location in Arizona. 23 Paces to Baker Street was based on Warrant for X, a 1938 novel by the prolific and popular London mystery writer Philip MacDonald. Nigel Balchin (The Small Back Room) wrote the screenplay for the film whose exteriors were shot in London.

Playwright Philip Hannon has a success on Broadway and London's West End. We are not privy to the reason for his blindness, accident, or illness, but he has moved to London where he constantly rewrites his current hit. Philip had thought to isolate himself from his former secretary and ex-fiancee Jean Lennox played by Vera Miles (The Wrong Man), but the determined young woman has followed him to London. Philip must steal himself to hide his pleasure. Obviously, he has decided to sever ties "for her own good."

Cecil Parker (The Court Jester) plays Bob Matthews, Philip's obliging valet. He is presented as a loyal employee, yet pragmatic and humorous. Humour and loyalty will play a major role in the events of 23 Paces to Baker Street.

Van Johnson

Philip is familiar with the layout of his neighbourhood and looks for relief in a local pub. The landlady at The Eagle is the chatty and accommodating Estelle Winwood (Quality Street). Philip sips a whisky and tries to relax when his reverie is interrupted by the voices in an adjacent booth. The raspy voice of a "Mr. Evans" and the querulous voice of a young woman. The voices are discussing something that is about to happen "on the tenth." Money is involved. "Her ladyship" is involved. It is all quite sinister.

Van Johnson

Philip races back to his flat and the tape recorder he uses for work to preserve the dialogue he heard through the noisy interruption of a pinball machine, plus his impression of the characters and the information gleaned from the pub's landlady. The police are contacted and presented with the evidence of the conspiracy. Maurice Denham (Curse of the Demon) is very polite and very noncommital. After all, the words could have many interpretations and it is not much to go on.

Philip: "Look, Inspector, it seems to me you not only think I am blind but crazy. I told you it's my business to know how people talk, what they're thinking when they say things. And I tell you that girl was scared. No one's that scared just because someone suggests changing a job."

A week out from whatever is about to happen and Philip knows the police will not do anything. However, the playwright, the valet, and the ex-fiancee are doing more than their part to discover the parties involved. They find "her ladyship" played by Isobel Elsom (Monsieur Verdoux) which leads them to a name for the young woman which leads them to an employment agency for nursemaids/nannies.

Vera Miles, Van Johnson, Cecil Parker

The employment agency leads our amateur detectives to a phony job applicant which, or her to them. This link to the villains is followed all over the city by Bob in an amusing and interesting set-piece. Eventually this grunt work will pay off in most unexpected ways.

A desperate newspaper ad placed by Philip to locate the woman they believe at the heart of the matter, Janet Murch played by Natalie Norwick (Hidden Fear), brings a man claiming to be her father Joe, played by Liam Redmond (The Ghost and Mr. Chicken). In a tense and atmospheric scene, Joe attempts to murder Philip. Our playwright never considered their quest to be a game, but until this point he hadn't reckoned on the consequences being deadly. Frustration, fear, and anxiety are heightened as solving the mystery reaches a tight deadline.

Jean and Philip's romantic relationship see-saws back and forth while the investigation reveals more clues, the police come on board, and the scheme is revealed. In a well-made and edge-of-your-seat finale that surely must have inspired Frederick Knott's Wait Until Dark, Philip Hannon faces off against the mysterious "Mr. Evans."

Henry Hathaway knew his way around crime pictures as evidenced by Call Northside 777, Kiss of Death, and The House on 92nd Street. 23 Paces to Baker Street is more along the lines of a "cozy thriller" than his usual work in the line. Filmed in Deluxe Color and Cinemascope, it has a very definite look and feel. 23 Paces to Baker Street is a solidly made and entertaining diversion; a perfect rainy day companion.

Van Johnson

Van Johnson was giving us some very interesting characterizations at this time with the alcoholic convict in The Bottom of the Bottle, the romantic soldier in Miracle in the Rain, and the return to his musical roots in Brigadoon. Philip Hannon is another performance that impresses.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

LEGENDS OF WESTERN CINEMA WEEK: The Big Valley, The Great Safe Robbery, 1966

Hamlette's Soliloquy and Along the Brandywine are our hosts for the online celebration Legends of Western Cinema Week, during August 17 - 21. The celebration of your (our) favourite westerns will certainly brighten the summer of 2020.

The Barkleys of The Big Valley
Barbara Stanwyck as Victoria
Lee Majors as Heath
Peter Breck as Nick
Richard Long as Jarrod
Linda Evans as Audra

Today's celebration of Barbara Stanwyck and television westerns turns to The Big Valley, 1965-1969. For many fans, this series was our introduction to Barbara Stanwyck and the admiration and affection would last a lifetime.

Barbara Stanwyck won her second Primetime Emmy Award in 1966 for playing the role of Victoria Barkley. She would be nominated two more times for the series and win a third Emmy for The Thorn Birds in 1983. 

"I try to make Victoria Barkley as human as possible. She doesn't come waltzing down the stairs in calico to inquire as to the progress of the cattle. She's an old broad who combines elegance with guts."
- Barbara Stanwyck to the New York Journal-American, 1965

"Some producers think women did nothing in those days except keep house and have children. But, if you read your history, they did a lot more than that. They were in cattle drives. They were there."
- Barbara Stanwyck to The New York Times, 1965

The Big Valley was created by A.I. Bezzerides and Louis Edelman, writer and executive producer of The Barbara Stanwyck Show, 1960-1961. Over 4 seasons and 112 episodes each leading character of The Big Valley had the opportunity for feature stories and acting challenges. As matriarch Victoria Barkley, Barbara Stanwyck played in touching dramas, exciting thrillers, and even some comedy. Her filmography attests to her expertise in all those areas including performing her own stunts when the series turned to action.

This trilogy of television posts began with laughs in a western spoof on The Barbara Stanwyck Show and we will conclude in a similar vein with a look at a comic episode of The Big Valley.

Written by William Norton
Directed by Virgil W. Vogel
Aired on Monday, November 21, 1966

Victoria Barkley and her daughter Audra have been visiting friends. The Barkleys, rancher Lou Johnson played by Bill Quinn and Lee Kreiger as the Station Agent are brought up short by three strangers who have ridden into the train station at Bixby Flats.

The Barnes brothers have plans to rob the station safe to get themselves out of desperate poverty. Warren Oates as Duke is the leader of the gang by virtue of his ability to shout the loudest, and deference to the leg he injured in the war.

Christopher Cary is Shorty. Duke may get all the ideas, but Shorty is more of a critical thinker. He's just quiet about it.

Kelton Garwood plays Elwood. He's the strongest and he may look like a lunkhead, but he is quite observant and has a sarcastic sense of humor.

The situation is ripe for a dramatic offering of The Big Valley, but the musical score underlines punchlines and a lighthearted tone even if you didn't notice the look on Victoria Barkley's face. She is not worried in the least. In fact, she is rather amused. 

Time out for the distraction of Audra's escape attempt. A mailbag over her head and into the baggage room she goes!

The safe is new and cannot be opened, in the normal sense of the word, until the head office in St. Louis provides the correct combination. This is where Duke starts coming up with ideas. His ideas are mainly violent in nature including all sorts of banging and physicality. None of these ideas have any effect on the implacable safe. 

Duke blames the gabbity, know-it-all woman who keeps interrupting! Guess who?

With the next train due at the station Duke gets the idea of using dynamite on the safe. There is dynamite at the old mine shack in the hills from whence they came. The brothers will take the safe with them along with Victoria and Audra for shields. The gabbity women will be kept in line with the threat of mailbags.

The robbery commenced because the brothers were hoping for a few hundred dollars to better their lives. They now learn that the safe holds $3000 so as their desperation increases, Victoria and Audra are free to work on the bandits.

Shorty is entranced with the Barkley princess and open to her talk of his real worth and breaking from Duke.

Duke is a little more open to Victoria's yakking when she saves him from blowing himself up with the dynamite caps. 

Audra: "I never thought I'd live to see the day my mother would be trying to blow up a safe."

A Duke-sized explosion.

A Duke-sized reaction.


Not-so-frightened hostages.

In the meantime, Nick and Heath lead a posse after their kidnapped womenfolk and the outlaws. The posse includes a sheriff played by Mark Tapscott and a railroad detective played by Joe Higgins. The detective has the combination to the safe which actually holds $20,000! 

Presumably worn out by his battle with the inanimate safe, Duke listens to Shorty's change of heart regarding their current path to a better life. Duke cuts his losses and rides off. Shorty expresses regrets to the Barkley women and goes to collect Elwood who has been watching for the posse.

The safe has been so banged up by Duke that the railroad detective can't get it open. He vows to do so if it is his last action on this earth! 

That's something Victoria and Audrey have heard before, and often on this day.

A fun episode that stands out among its more serious compatriots and the first thing I associate with Warren Oates, doing a bang-up "angry Festus" impersonation.

Today's effort concludes three posts strolling down Memory Lane with Barbara Stanwyck, TV western legend.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

LEGENDS OF WESTERN CINEMA WEEK: Wagon Train - The Maud Frazer Story, 1961 and The Caroline Casteel Story, 1962

Hamlette's Soliloquy and Along the Brandywine are our hosts for the online celebration Legends of Western Cinema Week, during August 17 - 21. The celebration of your (our) favourite westerns will certainly brighten the summer of 2020.

Continuing a look at TV western icon Barbara Stanwyck with classic episodes of Wagon Train. Barbara Stanwyck's first foray into television westerns was on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre where she guest-starred four times in 1958 and 1959. After the cancellation of The Barbara Stanwyck Show, she appeared on Rawhide in 1962 and four episodes of Wagon Train from 1961 - 1964.

Wagon Train aired for eight seasons from 1957 - 1965 and followed the stories of various pioneers seeking a new life in the west. Stuntmen turned actors Terry Wilson and Frank McGrath as scout Bill Hawks and cook Charlie Wooster were consistent cast members throughout the series run. Ward Bond played wagon master Major Seth Adams and Robert Horton scout Flint McCullough.

Ward Bond's untimely death in 1960 led to recasting the wagon master with John McIntire as Chris Hale. Robert Horton left the show at the end of the fifth season and Denny Miller joined as scout Duke Shannon that year. Michael Burns was youngster Barnaby West for the last three seasons and Robert Fuller played scout Cooper Smith for the final two seasons.

Written by Norman Jolley and Alfred Van Ronkel
Directed by David Butler
Aired Wednesday, October 11, 1961

Barbara Stanwyck stars as Maud Frazer who, along with her husband Isaac played by Russ Conway are leading a wagon train to California. Maud has convinced Isaac to leave the train when they reach a place called South Pass where there is said to be a verified gold strike. Isaac feels his responsibility to the travelers but he is besotted and controlled by his wife. Scout Flint McCullough from the Chris Hale train has warned the Frazers of the threat of Indian attack which they ignore. Maud wants that gold.

Russ Conway, Barbara Stanwyck

Ambushed as they approach the mountains, all of the men in the Frazer train are killed. Before he dies, Isaac implores Maud to think of her responsibility and leave behind her greed. In little ways Maud begins to soften yet when she speaks of the gold to the other women, she is not wrong. What sort of life will they have without men and without money when they reach California? Only poverty lies in their future unless they go back for the gold. Nonetheless, when McCullough again shows up offering the pioneers a spot on the Hale train, the women vote to join up.

Robert Horton, Barbara Stanwyck

The sparks that have flown between Maud and Flint convince her that she can seduce the scout and get his help in returning to South Pass. Flint is attracted to Maud but tells her that if he was all about the gold, he would have gone after it already. Leaving the wagon train at night, Maud is disturbed by strange noises in the dark, lonely night but suppresses her fright by thinking of the gold. A wounded cavalry trooper played by Wesley Lau dies in her arms begging her to get to Chris Hale and warn him of the rampaging Indians. He dies sensing Maud's conflict.

Maud finally sees her duty is to the others and rushes toward the wagon train while Flint and Duke race to find her. Fatally wounded by pursuing Indians, Maud dies in Flint's arms wondering why it took her so long to find and understand what is truly important in life.

Written by Gerry Day
Directed by Virgil W. Vogel
Aired Wednesday, September 26, 1962

Barbara Stanwyck stars as a captive of an Indian tribe who gets help from a greedy trader played by Robert F. Simon when he recognizes the locket she is wearing belonged to Caroline Casteel. Ten years ago Caroline was taken in a raid and her grieving husband's $10,000 award for her return remains valid.

Robert F. Simon, Barbara Stanwyck

The woman anxious to return to her own world is not Caroline Castell, she is a former "working girl" called Lily. Nonetheless, she knew Caroline and that knowledge makes up for the changes she and Mr. Casteel played by Charles Drake (see A Man's Game) find in each other. Caroline's young son played by Roger Mobley is thrilled to have a mother yet harbors guilt at her capture.

Charles Drake, Barbara Stanwyck

The ladies of the wagon train are welcoming at the beginning but their judgment turns to suspicion and sniping when "Caroline" continues to wear comfortable mocassins, speaks of the good people she knew during her captivity, and touts the efficacy of medicinal herbs. Those herbs come in handy when the children of the wagon train become ill although it is not until Jamie Casteel is cured first that the others come with hat in hand.

Frank Casteel was not immune to the thoughtless gossip of the others and in an epic argument, Lily confesses and relates that the gentle and loving Caroline that she knew would not be able to understand his attitude. Frank and the other members of the train are shown to be moved and changed by their encounter with Lily.

Lily realizes Chris Hale had long ago figured out her story but kept it to himself in the belief that everyone deserves a second chance. Lily leaves the train with names of Chris's friends who can help her, and allowing Frank and Jamie to return to their life in the town.

The Caroline Casteel Story marked the first time Barbara Stanwyck worked with director Virgil W. Vogel. Vogel would direct Stanwyck in two other episodes of Wagon Train made during the program's 7th season, with episodes in colour and running 90 minutes. The Molly Kincaid Story starred Carolyn Jones with Barbara Stanwyck as freighter Kate Crawley. The Kate Crawley Story chronicled the romance between Kate and wagon master Chris Hale. Virgil Vogel would later direct 48 episodes of The Big Valley.

In a 1965 New York Times interview Barbara Stanwyck said that Virgil Vogel "knows as much about making westerns as the old master John Ford." 

Tomorrow, we feature Barbara Stanwyck's crowning television western achievement, The Big Valley.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

LEGENDS OF WESTERN CINEMA WEEK: The Barbara Stanwyck Show, A Man's Game, 1961

Hamlette's Soliloquy and Along the Brandywine are our hosts for the online celebration Legends of Western Cinema Week, during August 17 - 21. The celebration of your (our) favourite westerns will certainly brighten the summer of 2020.

I am joining the Legends of Western Cinema Week with Barbara Stanwyck and her career turn that made her a television western icon. Let's begin the Emmy-winning The Barbara Stanwyck Show. Barbara's anthology show ran in the 1960-1961 season on NBC.

Our hostess introduced each episode and advised us not to take tonight's gentle spoof of the old west too seriously.

written by David Harmon and Albert Beich
directed by Lewis Allen
aired July 3, 1961

Narrator (Barbara Stanwyck): "In the old days around 1950 Hollywood used to make westerns about Indians. Then the Indians gave way to cattle drives and cattle rustlers. But lately, the cattle, in turn, have retired in favor of the gunslinger." 

Charles Drake as Ben Stockton

Narrator: "Here's one now riding up to a cantina on the Mexican border in 1875. Notice that he is alone. The gunslinger is always alone. Just riding through minding his own business until he runs into some fool kid trying to make a name for himself."

Clinton Sundberg as Billy Deevers and Charles Drake as Ben Stockton

In this case, "the kid" has his sights on two gunslingers, and Ben steps in to help his colleague Billy Deevers.

Narrator: "The kid calls him out so naturally, he has to shoot the kid. But then he's disgusted. He hangs up his guns, changes his name, and goes west - somewhere beyond his reputation."

Ben takes Billy at his word never to recognize him should they ever meet again.

Edgar Buchanan as Judge Franklin

Narrator: "Notice that old man with the white kitten named Snowflake? There's always an old man in westerns. Sometimes he's a doctor but in this case, he's Judge Franklin. We'll see him again in about a year in the Oklahoma Territory where the Buffalo roam."

Barbara Stanwyck as Chris Mathews

Narrator: "And here I am, Miss Chris Mathews. Where else? In my saloon, the Ace High."

A year later and Ben Stockton is a seller of buffalo hides going by the name of Ben Weedon. He has made a killing, so to speak, and with $2,000 in his pocket, or more precisely in Chris's safe, Ben asks Chris to be his bride. They will go to St. Louis and live the high life. However, Chris does not have any intention of leaving her built-from-the-ground-up business to live the life of and with a "floater" which is how she sees the noticeably gun-free "Weedon."

Barbara Stanwyck, Charles Drake

Discussions, romantic and otherwise are put on hold as the latest sheriff and a bad guy shoot it out in the saloon and the town - once again - is looking for a new sheriff. Since none of the town's menfolk are interested in the job, and if people keep shooting up the saloon and each other there won't be a saloon or any customers either, Chris takes the job.

 Barbara Stanwyck, Edgar Buchanan, Charles Drake

Narrator: "Here I am. It's what all the lady sheriffs are wearing."

Chris is top-notch when it comes to handling the not-bad-just-high-spirited cowboys who get rowdy on Saturday nights. She is so good, in fact, that she decides to run for election when the time comes. It is a four-year term. Ben does not want to marry a sheriff, and he does not want to wait four years. Chris does not want to be some piece of fluff dancing in St. Louis. The road of true love ne'er runs smooth.

Sam Buffington, Charles Drake, Edgar Buchanan, Andy Albin

Judge Franklin: "There's more to this than meets the eye, boys. And I don't refer to the romantic situation of our friend here. There's a larger evil."

Red Quincy: "How's that again, Judge?"

Judge Franklin: "I'm speaking of women. I make a firm prediction. Someday they'll all wear pants."

Vic Trenton: "Judge, they won't go that far. Congress will pass a law or something."

Judge Franklin: "They'll probably be in Congress! Take Wyoming, they've had a woman sheriff there for years. Why, they even let women vote. Make no mistake about the female of the species. We know they're inferior. They know they're inferior. But will they admit it? On the contrary, they seize every opportunity to get out of the kitchen and the nursery; their natural habitat. I tell you, it's horrendous."

Edgar Buchanan, Charles Drake, Barbara Stanwyck, Clinton Sundberg

Eventually, a situation arises which Chris can't handle. That situation is Billy Deevers. Told to leave town he only responds that he will consider the sheriff's request. Ben calls upon that favor owed from their time at the border a year ago. Unfortunately, he also slips up by mentioning the $2,000 in Chris's safe.

 Barbara Stanwyck, Andy Albin

Chris can't bring herself to shoot anyone, even a gunslinging thief. Ben puts his guns back on to face Deever, and in the process discovers that the Judge has known about his real identity all this time.

Clinton Sundberg, Charles Drake

Narrator: "The inevitable gunfight on TV has grown longer and longer. However, you've seen one gunfight, you've seen them all. So we thought we'd get this one over fast."

Charles Drake, Barbara Stanwyck, Edgar Buchanan, Andy Albin, Snowflake

Secrets are out in the open. Money is locked in the safe. Chris still wants to keep her business. Ben still wants to get married. So ...

Narrator: "The gunfighter is now the sheriff, and the sheriff is back to her nice saloon."

Judge Franklin performs the wedding ceremony.

Barbara Stanwyck

Our hostess (Barbara Stanwyck): "I guess that was a case of a woman getting too big for her britches. It's a common failing. Happens to a lot of us --- in more ways than one."

The two other western-themed episodes of The Barbara Stanwyck Show were Ironbark's Bride with guest star Charles Bickford and Little Big Mouth with scene-stealing Judy Strangis and Buddy Ebsen. A Man's Game was the final episode of the series aired and its cheeky humor is a delight.

1961 Primetime Emmy Awards
Barbara Stanwyck's first competitive acting award win was for The Barbara Stanwyck Show.

NOTE: Tomorrow we'll visit two of Barbara Stanwyck's guest appearances on Wagon Train.


Terence Towles Canote at A Shroud of Thoughts is hosting The 8th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon . The popular blogathon is runn...