Monday, December 28, 2020

THE THIRD FRED ASTAIRE AND GINGER ROGERS BLOGATHON: I'll Be Seeing You, 1944


Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood is hosting The Third Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers blogathon while her partner in this endeavour, Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is hospitalized with a serious illness. The blogathon is a lovely way we can send our best wishes to Crystal for her recovery.

The tributes to Fred and Ginger can be found HERE from December 28th to 30th.

People reach out to other people instinctually. Often times, behavior and circumstances keep us from doing so, giving us the feeling of perpetually being on the outside looking in. Some people seem to know how to navigate life while others wonder if they will ever know the secret. 

Joseph Cotten

furlough (noun): 1. a leave of absence granted to a governmental or institutional employee (such as a soldier or civil servant), Merriam-Webster

Sgt. Zachary Morgan is on furlough from an army hospital. He is shell-shocked (PTSD) from his time in the Pacific. Zach has medals that attest to his bravery and a Purple Heart to indicate he was wounded. His mind is taking a long time to recover. The doctors have given Zach advice and reassurances he will be able to handle two weeks over the Christmas holiday reacquainting himself with civilian life.

Joseph Cotten stars as Zach Morgan in a charming and gut-wrenching performance. He is charming in his attempts to reconnect with the world "back home" and breaks our heart when overwhelmed by the memories of Guadalcanal that will probably never fade. Zach is on his own fighting with the horrors of battle, the horrors of his cure, and his fear of failure.

Joseph Cotten

Zach (to himself): "Don't get worried, Zach. That bayonet wound is all healed, but the wound in your mind is going to take a little more time. That's why the doctors gave you this ten day leave from the hospital --- to prove to you that you can go out in the world again and find a place for yourself. It's going to take a little while to get your timing back. You'll still drop things and be a little slow, but you'll get well. They told you you would. The important thing is not to get too tired, not to give in. Then you won't get any of those things that wind up with a shot in the arm, or a tub or that little room with a barred window. You can fight those things off, Zach, if you believe that you'll get well." 

Ginger Rogers

furlough (noun): 3. a set period of time when a prisoner is allowed to leave a prison, Merrian-Webster 

Mary Marshall is on furlough from a Women's Prison where she is serving what her family considers to be an unjust sentence. She has been a model prisoner and is allowed the consideration of a Christmas with her uncle, aunt, and teenaged cousin. 

Ginger Rogers stars as Mary Marshall, a young woman who wins our sympathy while dealing with her twin burdens of imaginary confidence and confusion. The world has changed during her years "inside" and she is marked with the stain of her conviction.

Home is a place called Pinehill. It is the home of Uncle Henry played by Tom Tully, Aunt Sarah played by Spring Byington, and Barbara played by Shirley Temple. They represent the normal life that Mary now feels she can never attain. The Marshall family unit is open-hearted and welcoming to Mary. The family enjoys the easy, teasing way of people who have lived together and think they understand each other. 

Sarah is more philosophical than you might think. She worries about Mary and wants to make things work out for her. This exchange between the characters is the homey set of the kitchen speaks many truths.

Ginger Rogers, Spring Byington

Aunt Sarah: "Honey, you've got to stop being afraid. You've got to stop feeling that you're branded like people were in the old days. You've done something. You're paying your debt to society. Most people are willing to let it go at that." 

Mary: "I know, Aunt Sarah, but coming out into the world and seeing everybody in uniform, everybody doing something --- I just don't belong. I don't fit in. And dreams that I've had for the future are just impossible."

Aunt Sarah: "Well, most dreams are, Mary. It's just the dreaming that counts. Nobody gets exactly what he wants out of life. One of the first things you learn is to make compromises with your dreams."

Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple

Uncle Henry and Aunt Sarah have been less than forthcoming to their daughter Barbara about Mary's troubles and the teen is curious and repelled by the thought of sharing her room with a convict. Barbara's lack of maturity leads to a strained relationship with her cousin. Eventually, it is Mary's honesty that brings them together.

Joseph Cotten, Ginger Rogers

Zach and Mary met on the train to Pinehill. It was not Zach's destination but he impulsively concocts a story of a sister in town and gets off the train determined to meet Mary again. What could be more normal than to follow up an attraction to an appealing traveling saleslady? You see, Zach and Mary have secrets to keep from each other.

Zach is the first to open up about his recovery process. The welcoming from the Marshalls and the kind support of Mary appears to be a major step in his healing. His gratitude is quickly turning to love. Mary is falling in love with the sweet and troubled man and fears that her reality, as opposed to what he sees, will cause a setback. 

Spring Byington, Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotten, Tom Tully, Shirley Temple
Christmas dinner at home.

Those year-end milestones Christmas and New Year's Eve are celebrated with the attendant rise and fall of emotions. The furloughs are coming to an end, but what about the relationships forged with genuine feeling and one pitiable and looming lie?

Spring Byington, Tom Tully, Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotten 
New Year's Eve Dance at the YMCA

I'll Be Seeing You is a beautiful and honestly told story with exquisitely memorable performances from the entire ensemble. It touches the lonely searching core to be found in everyone.

Charles Martin's radio play Double Furlough first aired in October of 1943 starring Gertrude Lawrence and James Cagney. David Selznick Studios (Since You Went Away) produced the 1944 film directed by William Dieterle (Portrait of Jennie) from Marion Parsonnet's (Gilda) screenplay. 

I'll Be Seeing You by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahan was written in 1938 and with its romantic longing became a popular tune during the war years. It has been recorded by many great artists. Two of my favourite recordings are by Bing Crosby and Billie Holiday, both from 1944.











Monday, December 21, 2020

Christmas at Dingley Dell


The 1836 publication of The Pickwick Papers (The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club) by 24-year-old Charles Dickens and illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne, following the death of Robert Seymour, was a sensation with the public and a game-changer for the publishing business.

We follow the fictional exploits of Samuel Pickwick, his friends and acquantainces as they travel throughout the country observing and gathering facts about life while "life" buffets them about in amusing and unexpected ways.


Chapter 28 is A Good-Humoured Christmas Chapter. Let Charles Laughton tell us all about Mr. Pickwick's Christmas recorded for Decca Records in 1944 by clicking HERE.
 


Merry Christmas, One and All from the four of us in Toronto.

Janet, Paddy Lee, Gavin, and Garry











Monday, December 14, 2020

12 Delights of Christmas Tag


Heidi of Along the Brandywine created the 12 Delights of Christmas Tag. I was delighted to be tagged by Rachel at Hamlette's Soliloquy as part of the spirit of the season.


1. A favourite Christmas tradition? 

On Christmas Eve the kids open their gift of pajamas and a book, so everyone is nice and cozy when we watch A Christmas Carol aka Scrooge, 1951 starring Alastair Sim.

2. Say it snowed at your domicile, would you prefer to go out or stay curled up inside?

I like to be inside looking at the outside, but I find it more enjoyable if I have been outside first. 

3. Tea or hot chocolate?

Generally tea, but if there is a bitterness to the cold (and isn't there always?) then it is hot chocolate time.


4. Favourite Christmas colours (e.g., white, blue, silver, blue, green, etc.)?
 

It's not always the same. The basic reds and greens speak to me, but sometimes I like the look of pink Victorian decor.

5. Favourite kind of Christmas cookie? 

Maybe it's the kid in me, but I find sugar cookies are irresistible, especially with icing.

6. How soon before Christmas do you decorate? More specifically, when does your tree go up?

December 1st, the wreath goes on the door and the kid's decorative stockings made by their aunt when they were babies go up. Sometime during that first week, it is tree time. Last year, I switched from the green floor size to a white tabletop retaining the most sentimental of my ornaments. Framed posters (reproductions) of Christmas movies take up the stairwell or any blank spot I can find.


7. Three favourite traditional Christmas Carols.

Silent Night

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

What Is This Lovely Fragrance?

8. A favourite popular Christmas song.

The Christmas Song

9. A favourite Christmas movie.

A Christmas Story, 1983 always makes me laugh in recognition. I wasn't a kid in the 1940s, but I was a kid who lived in my own head like Ralphie.

Three Godfathers, 1936 directed by Richard Boleslawski is my favourite telling of Peter B. Kyne's classic tale of redemption.

10. Have you ever gone caroling?

I belonged to a community choir and sharing Christmas Carols was my favourite time of the year. 


11. Ice skating, sledding, skiing, or snow boarding?

I am a kluntz and could never get the hang of skating. Didn't even consider trying skiing. I was frightened by a "Goofy" cartoon. Nonetheless, I love getting knocked around on the old sled. Especially when you know hot chocolate is at the end of the line.

12. Favourite Christmas feast dish?

Last year I began adding Yorkshire Pudding to the turkey dinner and it was a hit. Why wait for roast beef? 


Tagging the following, if they have the time and inclination:

Maddy Loves Her Classic Film, Critica Retro, Silver Scenes, and any friends who may wander by and think it would be fun. 

1) A favorite Christmas tradition?

2) Say it snowed at your domicile, would you prefer to go out or stay curled up inside? 

3) Tea or hot chocolate? 

4) Favorite Christmas colors (i.e. white, blue, silver, red and green etc)? 

5) Favorite kind of Christmas cookie? 

6) How soon before Christmas do you decorate (more specifically, when does your tree go up)? 

7) Three favorite traditional Christmas carols? 

8) A favorite Christmas song (i.e. something you might hear on the radio)? 

9) A favorite Christmas movie? 

10) Have you ever gone caroling? 

11) Ice skating, sledding, skiing, or snowboarding? 

12) Favorite Christmas feast dish?















Friday, December 11, 2020

THE MARIE WINDSOR BLOGATHON: Maverick, The Quick and the Dead, 1957


Toby Roan at 50 Westerns from the 50s is hosting the event we have been waiting for - The Marie Windsor Blogathon. The tributes to the actress can be found HERE. The blogathon runs from December 11th to the 15th.


THE QUICK AND THE DEAD
Written and directed by Douglas Heyes
Aired: Sunday, December 8, 1957


James Garner as Bret Maverick

See that face? That is the face of a man who has just been introduced to Cora played by Marie Windsor. Our mostly amiable roving gambler Bret Maverick is in trouble and has come to town to extricate himself from that trouble.

"I'm not trying to solve the crime. I'm just trying to get out from under it."

Bret had been arrested for being in possession of five $100 bills that were part of a hold-up. He escaped to track down Parker, the man who lost that money to him in a card game. The man provided a lead of three names, Shields, Kane, and Johnny. Parker declined the offer to return with Maverick to the Marshal at Qualary and died in a struggle over a gun. Bret's trouble keeps getting more troublesome.


Marie Windsor as Cora

See that face? That is the face of a woman who has just been introduced to James Garner as Bret Maverick. Cora is the boss at the Red Front Casino. By all accounts, she is a fair boss and indications are that she would hire Bret in a heartbeat.


John Vivyan as Stacey Johnson aka "Johnny"

This is the face of a wary man, a man who is jealous. He is jealous of the boss and he is jealous of his reputation as a man who once made Doc Holliday back down. Stacey Johnson goes by the nickname, to his close friends, of "Johnny." Bret is looking a Johnny who has a habit of twisting his gold pinky ring for luck. Bingo!


Gerald Mohr as Doc Holliday

Lo and behold, who should come to town but Doc Holliday himself. This is indeed the face of a man who says "There are two types of people in the west, the quick and the dead."

Like Bret, he is looking for Johnny. Unlike Bret, he does not need Johnny to clear his name. Doc wants to even the score with Johnny for impugning his reputation. Doc and Bret have crossed paths before, but Doc doesn't remember this Mr. Martin, as Bret calls himself, and wastes a good deal of time threatening Bret for gossip spread by Johnny. Their intentions are definitely at cross-purposes.


James Garner, Marie Windsor, John Vivyan

Bret has concluded that Doc must have been on a winning streak when he ran into Johnny. Doc doesn't like to kill anyone while on a winning streak. He's funny that way. Johnny recalls that those were the circumstances. Bret proposes Cora provide him with a thousand dollars and a deck of marked cards. If he can keep Doc winning, he may be able to keep Johnny alive. Bret needs to keep Johnny alive.


Marie Windsor, John Vivyan

Cora is the boss in more than the Red Front Casino. She sets up the jobs that Johnny, Shields, and Kane pull. Johnny figures he takes most of the risks and wants a bigger cut. Their personal and professional relationship is becoming complicated. Cora is weighing her options.


Sam Buffington as Ponca Brown

Here is the face of a sweep who drinks too much. He was disappointed in not seeing a showdown between Doc and Johnny. His alcoholic haze made him brave enough to pull a gun on Doc Holliday's back. Bret saves both Ponca and Doc, hopefully putting something in the Doc owes him column.

"You're a very dishonest man. You've been cheating me, Mr. Martin, with marked cards!"

At the very least it gives Bret the benefit of not being directly in Doc's sights when Doc takes offense at being cheated, even if that cheating was to his financial benefit. All Bret has to do now is stay out of Doc's way while Johnny remains target number one.


Marie Windsor

Cora likes what she sees in the way Bret handled Doc and how he handled the Ponca situation. She offers Bret a spot in her gang as Johnny's replacement. Cora is very happy with how she has solved her problem. Bret is very happy at how he has solved his problem. Their intentions are at cross-purposes.


Marie Windsor

Nonetheless, Bret still requires proof for that pesky Marshal back in Qualary. It takes hours to crack Cora's office safe for those consecutively marked bills, but it is accomplished while "She was asleep now. Looking as sweet and innocent as a newborn vulture."


Marie Windsor, James Garner

Cora wants to celebrate with her new partner. Hence the welcoming tilt of her face. Cora also doesn't completely trust what her new partner was doing in her office at this early hour of the day. Hence the gun in her hand. 


James Garner, Marie Windsor

When Bret leaves to arrange a celebratory breakfast, he means to leave town but instead runs into the Marshal from Qualary, who had captured Shields and Kane. Their story cleared Bret and implicated Cora and Johnny. Bret is very happy that his troubles are over.

Bret offers a final farewell to the boss lady, who is not having the good day she anticipated.


James Garner, John Vivyan

Bret is hoping to get out of town before running into Doc. Instead, he runs into Johnny who observed Bret speaking with the Marshal. He assumes Maverick is a lawman who must be eliminated. Look at Johnny's face. It is the face of a man who has been called out by Doc Holliday. Johnny, even with his gun out of his holster is not one of "the quick."


Gerald Mohr, James Garner

Between the evening's disagreement and the morning's killing, Doc has remembered where and when he met Maverick. Congeniality rules as the pair decide to ride together to Dodge where Doc heard they got a pretty good game going.

The Quick and the Dead was one of two episodes where Mohr played Doc Holliday. The other was Seed of Deception. In all, he guested in seven episodes of Maverick.



Some Warner's publicity that has nothing to do with the episode but is fun for us and, we hope, fun for Marie as she kissed the hubby and kid goodbye and headed to the daily grind.


Awards

Writers Guild of America, 1958
Nominee: TV Western, Douglas Heyes
Maverick: The Quick and the Dead

Winner: Gene Roddenberry
Have Gun - Will Travel: For Helen of Abajinian

Primetime Emmy Awards, 1958
Nominee: Best Editing of a Film for Television, Robert Sparr
Maverick: The Quick and the Dead

Winner: Michael Pozen
Gunsmoke: How to Kill a Woman













Wednesday, December 9, 2020

THE CELLULOID ROAD TRIP BLOGATHON: Mystery Street, 1950


Dr. Annette Bochenek of Hometowns to Hollywood is hosting a shared imagined road trip through the United States via The Celluloid Road Trip Blogathon on December 9th - 11th. Hitch your ride HERE.


This blog's contribution is a trip to Massachusetts courtesy of MGM and the crime drama Mystery Street, 1950.

Jan Sterling

Jan Sterling plays Vivian Heldon. Vivian is a girl "in a jam," and you know what that means in 1950. Not to worry, Vivian can take of herself and she knows what she has to do. Some man will have to pay. Six months from this time her bleached bones will be discovered in Cape Cod.

Ricardo Montalban

Ricardo Montalban plays Detective Peter Moralis who has caught his first murder case. He is smart enough to do the job and cool enough to be persistent. 

Bruce Bennett, Ned Glass, Ricardo Montalban

A murder investigation is not a solitary endeavour. Bruce Bennett plays a Harvard Medical professor, Dr. McAdoo. His forensic skills and "big picture" attitude will be of immeasurable help to building a case and in the maturing of Morales's detecting skills. Ned Glass is the lab assistant Dr. Levy.

Betsy Drake, Jan Sterling, Elsa Lanchester

A murder victim is not a solitary creature. Vivian lived in a Beacon Street boarding house. She had a friend in Jackie Elcott played by Betsy Drake. Betsy, a night shift waitress, was a true friend, the sort who worries and notifies the police when a girl is missing. Elsa Lanchester plays the landlady Mrs.  Smerrling. Mrs. Smerrling is not a friend and has no friends. She wants her rent and she spies on her boarders. What's in it for her is Mrs. Smerrling's motto.

Ricardo Montalban, Sally Forrest, Marshall Thompson

Marshall Thompson plays Henry Shanway. The night of Vivian's disappearance, she draws him into her drama. She didn't mean him any harm, in fact, she didn't think of him at all. Henry was drunk and depressed, and embarrassed. His lies are little ones, but they lead to him being the number one suspect in Vivian's murder.

Sally Forrest plays Grace Shanway, a devoted and frightened wife. Their lives are ripped open by the investigation and she has every right to resent it. After all, we know Henry Shanway is innocent. 

Elsa Lanchester, Edmon Ryan

Mrs. Smerrling knows Henry Shanway is innocent as well, but that won't put any money in her pocket. Vivian had a black book full of suspects, but Mrs. Smerrling follows the trail that lead to James Joshua Harkley played by Edmon Ryan. Neither of these malefactors is as smart as they believe.


Forensics, legwork, instinct, and the all-important persistence come into play when looking for the vital key that will solve the case. 


Leonard Spigelgass (So Evil My Love) was nominated by the Academy for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story for Mystery Street. The screenplay is by Sydney Boehm (The Big Heat) and Richard Brooks (Crossfire). Cinematographer John Alton (He Walked by Night) imbues the police procedural with a chilling sense of noir fatalism. John Sturges directed Mystery Street, just one of many interesting "little" films from the director who would become known for his epics such as The Great Escape.

The post-war years saw Hollywood stretching outside of the studio to filming in actual locations to give the audience the realism they sought, and MGM was on board. Beacon Hill, Cape Cod, Hyannis, Boston, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Square, and Trinity Station are captured in the time capsule of a police procedural.


The shifting, whispering sands reveal the mortal remains of Vivian Heldon to an ornithologist played by Walter Burke.


No wonder cops get flat feet. Our detectives march all over Harvard Square before being directed to the Medical School at Roxbury.


Morales meets McAdoo, and I would have been more than happy to a series of mysteries with these characters and actors.


Trinity Place Station is the location of the exciting finale of Mystery Street.
















CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR AUGUST ON TCM

Ambitious and passionate about her work, Bette Davis early on proved her talent and worth to Warner Brothers Studio with whom she had si...