Monday, November 30, 2020
Monday, November 23, 2020
Monday, November 16, 2020
Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is hosting The Sixth Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon which runs on November 15 - 17. Please enjoy the tributes which may be accessed HERE.
The Secret of Convict Lake is an ensemble western released by Twentieth Century Fox in 1951. Based on a short story by science fiction writers Anna Hunger and Jack Pollenfex, the screenplay is attributed to Oscar Saul (Woman in Hiding) with uncredited contributions from Ben Hecht (The Front Page).
Director Michael Gordon (Another Part of the Forest, An Act of Murder) would find this assignment his last in Hollywood until Pillow Talk in 1959. He became another victim of McCarthyism in the paranoid America of the 1950s.
Every community needs its moral centre or compass. The isolated community of Lake Monte Diablo finds its centre in "Granny." The small settlement relies on their elder played by Ethel Barrymore, especially this winter when the men have gone in search of a silver strike to support their families.
Coping with the harsh conditions in their valley is Gene Tierney as Marcia, engaged to Rudy Schaefer played by Harry Carter, and Ann Dvorak as Rachael, Rudy's spinster sister. Ruth Donnelly plays Mary Fancher, and Helen Westcott plays Susan Haggarty. Jeanette Nolan and Barbara Bates play Harriet and Barbara Purcell, mother and daughter.
The lonely settlement is invaded by five men; five convicts that remain from a mass breakout. Some were recaptured, some fell victim to a blizzard while crossing the mountains that took them to Lake Monte Diablo. The village was the destination of Jim Canfield played by Glenn Ford. He was sentenced for a murder and robbery by the lies of Rudy Schaefer.
The village was the destination of Johnny Greer played by Zachary Scott because he wants the forty thousand dollars he believes Canfield has hidden in the valley. Fate drew the lots of the three remaining men, the brutal Matt played by Jack Lambert, pragmatic Limey played by Cyril Cusack, and a psychotic rapist Clyde played by Richard Hylton.
The women are not without resources and wits, but it is a perilous and unexpected situation in which they find themselves. By instinct, they turn to Granny who is a shrewd judge of character and, despite being mostly bedridden, a woman of action.
The relationships among this unlikely group of hunted men and hostages vacillate between wariness and curiosity. Canfield's focus on the absent Rudy Schaefer distresses Marcia. Their emotions are complicated by a strong attraction for each other. Johnny takes advantage of Rachael's longing for romance and adventure in the outside world. Naive Barbara precipitates a violent incident involving young Clyde. In the end, all rely on the wisdom and fortitude of "Granny."
The tangled tale is an engrossing western with well-formed characters for its brief runtime of 83 minutes. Location shooting in Colorado and California is combined effortlessly with studio bound scenes by the black and white cinematography of two time Oscar nominee Leo Tover (The Heiress, Hold Back the Dawn).
Legendary stage star Ethel Barrymore made her last Broadway appearance in Embezzled Heaven in 1944. From that time, she worked in Hollywood films beginning with the Oscar-winning role of Ma Mott in None But the Lonely Heart. Of the 21 movies that would follow, Miss Barrymore would garner three more Oscar nominations for The Spiral Staircase, 1947, The Paradine Case, 1948, and Pinky, 1950.
Ethel Barrymore's Hollywood tenure was relatively brief considering her long and historic career, but she left us the benefit of her talents in dramas, thrillers, films-noir, comedies, musicals, and, probably a surprise to her, the fascinating western, The Secret of Convict Lake.
Monday, November 9, 2020
Talented stage and screen actor, as well as acting teacher Claude Rains took his career to Hollywood in 1933 as the title character in The Invisible Man; a unique film debut for a unique talent. Over the next 32 years Rains would create many equally memorable characters and garner four supporting actor Oscar nominations: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Casablanca, Mr. Skeffington, and Notorious.
Claude Rains also found television to be a fine showcase for his abilities in the Golden Age of television which began in the 1950s with small-screen version of plays like On Borrowed Time, Abby Mann's Judgment at Nuremberg, and the fondly recalled musical The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Episodic television benefited from Rains' guest performances in Naked City, Wagon Train, Rawhide, and Dr. Kildare. Between 1956 and 1962 Claude Rains appeared in five episodes of the anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The series ran from 1955 to 1965 and was acclaimed with several industry awards.
This is a spoilerish look at The Diamond Necklace written by Sarett Rudley, who wrote nine episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and directed by Herschel Daugherty, director of 24 episodes of the series. It first aired on Sunday, February 22nd, 1959. I guarantee that knowing what occurs will in no way diminish your pleasure in watching the program, and it is all due to Claude Rains.
We begin with a typically lugubrious and cheeky introduction by our host Alfred Hitchcock who takes us on a tour of an art museum.
Sunday, November 1, 2020
Iverstown is a dark place and we rarely see it in the daylight. Sam Masterson has been a traveler and unexpectedly finds the road is leading back to his old hometown. He hasn't seen it in years and hasn't thought of it or those friends he left behind for even longer. A new friend is on his mind when he makes the acquaintance of a hard-luck gal named Toni Marachek played by Lizabeth Scott in her second feature; another Wallis contractee. Toni has attached herself to Sam. Sam isn't complaining but he is surprised.
Sam is also surprised by his treatment by what appears to be the underworld of the old town. Perhaps his old friend Walter, now the District Attorney can be of some help or is he in back of the trouble? Funnily enough, to Sam's mind anyway, Walter is married to Martha. Walter and Martha have a relationship built on secrets and lies. Walter and Martha both believe Sam knows the depth of their lies and try to use intimidation and offers of other things to avoid the blackmail they see coming. It is indeed a tangled and emotional web spun around these characters. A web that started spinning long ago.
Robert Rossen and Robert Riskin wrote the screenplay for this film-noir based on the short story Love Lies Bleeding by Jack Patrick. Lewis Milestone directed this stylish and classy production for Hal Wallis. The Miklos Rozsa score gives chilling support to the story and performances.
Cinematographer Victor Milner creates an Iverstown where anything can happen, anything unseemly and crooked. Milner shot leading lady Barbara Stanwyck many times: Union Pacific, The Lady Eve, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, The Other Love, The Furies, and Jeopardy.
Edith Head's costumes for the ladies are fabulous. Martha Ivers indulges her good taste in fashion and her money. Toni is cute as can be on a budget. It is a joy to watch the ladies clash over Sam. Hey, you have to take your joy where you find it in Iverstown.
TCM is devoting primetime Wednesday, November 4th Lizabeth Scott. The lineup includes Too Late for Tears, Dead Reckoning, The Pitfall, The Racket, and our movie, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. You have but two options: record or prop open those eyelids!
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