Monday, March 29, 2021

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR APRIL ON TCM


The Footlight Club is a NYC boarding house for young women in the theatrical profession; actresses, chorus girls, musicians or waitresses, and hatcheck girls making the rounds of auditions and manager's offices. Mrs. Orcutt (Elizabeth Dunne) is the landlady. She was in Bernhardt's company and a chair used by the legendary actress is the centrepiece of the home's main floor. Miss Luther (Constance Collier) is an older resident of the club and the younger women, if they open their eyes, may see their future in the woman all too willing to share the stories of her past glory, and who "may" begin coaching until the next role comes along. Note: Constance Collier was in reality a respected acting coach and became a lifelong friend of co-star Katharine Hepburn.



The residents can be characterized by the naive newcomers with stars in their eyes and the hardened veterans of the theatre wars. It only takes a few weeks of lack of work, lack of money, lack of food, and lack of encouragement for one to turn into the other. A steady flow of sarcasm and bitter humour is the armour worn by these young women. It offers scant protection.

Teenager Ann Miller with Ginger Rogers

Judith Canfield (Lucille Ball) entertains visiting businessmen from back home in Seattle for the meals they provide. She sometimes brings pals like Eve (Eve Arden) in on the free food. Linda Shaw (Gail Patrick) has found a temporary meal ticket with Anthony Powell (Adolphe Menjou), a producer who is not looking for emotional entanglements.

Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers) is an attractive and talented dancer, and one of those who has perfected the art of looking like she hasn't a care in the world while carrying the weight of it on her shoulders. Her dance partner Annie (Ann Miller) is a go-getter with an open personality. 

Kay Hamilton (Andrea Leeds) is an actress. Everyone agrees she is the most talented resident, and last season she wowed everyone in her Broadway debut. This season, she can't even get into Anthony Powell's office. A combination of personal and professional disappointments and lack of money is driving Kay to tragedy.

Katharine Hepburn, Constance Collier in the background

Into this garden spot comes Terry Randall (Katharine Hepburn), a midwestern heiress; confident and well-heeled. Terry has gotten it into her head that she wants to be an actress. She has very definite ideas and very definite ways of expressing herself. It will take a while for the others to discover Terry is not such a bad egg, as eggs go.

Directed by Gregory La Cava (My Man Godfrey) from the screenplay by Morrie Ryskind (Penny Serenade) and Anthony Veiller (The Stranger) adapting the Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman play.

You will find our peek into The Footlight Club, the characters, their struggles, and their valiant humour a place you will happily visit more than once. 



"They should have called it Screen Door."
- George S. Kaufman

The Ferber and Kaufman play, their third following The Royal Family and Dinner at Eight, ran on Broadway for 169 performances from October 1936 to March 1937. It is not a surprise that the authors were less than pleased with the adaptation seeing as their play has its fair share of Hollywood-bashing which, of course, had to go.

Terry Randall of the play is no nouveau-riche newcomer, but a talented actress who is devoted to the theatre and to a young playwright of left-leaning ideals. Margaret Sullavan was acclaimed and associated with the role, and when she left the play due to pregnancy, the producers decided to close the run. 

Note Mary Wickes (upper right) in her first Broadway season at the beginning of her long and storied career.

On stage and on screen, Stage Door gives young actresses a chance to strut their stuff and the characters are timeless.


TCM is presenting Stage Door in the morning of  Monday, April 26th when the alphabetical screenings of 31 Days of Oscar reaching the letter "S." Don't miss it. The calla lilies will be in bloom.

Stage Door Oscar nominations:

Best Picture
Winner: The Life of Emile Zola


Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Andrea Leeds as Kay Hamilton
Winner: Alice Brady, In Old Chicago

Best Director, Gregory La Cava
Winner: Leo McCarey, The Awful Truth

Best Writing, Screenplay: Morrie Ryskind and Anthony Veiller
Winner: The Life of Emile Zola


Of note:
Andrea Leeds as Kay, Oscar nominee

Classic TV is in good hands:
Eve Arden, Our Miss Brooks
Gail Patrick, Perry Mason producer
Lucille Ball, I Love Lucy, Desilu













Friday, March 19, 2021

THE 7TH ANNUAL FAVOURITE TV SHOW EPISODE BLOGATHON: Barney Miller, Fog 1980


Terence Towles Canote at A Shroud of Thoughts is hosting his Seventh Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon. Click HERE to access this year's contributions.

FOG

Season 6, Episode 22

First aired May 8, 1980

Directed by Noam Pitlik

Story by Mark Brull, Teleplay by Frank Dungan, Jeff Stein, Tony Sheehan


Hal Linden

Captain Miller: "A helluva night for brooding."

Fog envelopes NYC and completely oppresses the 12th Precinct, the site of the award-winning ensemble comedy series Barney Miller, 1975-1982.


Max Gail

Det. Sgt. Arthur Dietrich (Steve Landesberg) quotes Shakespeare, Sgt. Stan Wojciehowicz (Max Gail) quotes Sandburg, and Detective/author Ron Harris (Ron Glass) resorts to a familiar cliche to describe the atmosphere. Pea soup, anyone? 

Captain Barney Miller (Hal Linden) is in a contemplative mood as he has, for the third time, been passed over for a promotion to Detective Inspector. The squad is concerned as Barney sits alone in the dark ruminating on life and careers and choices.


Ron Carey, Bill Dillard

Officer Carl Levitt (Ron Carey) brings in the first arrest of the evening. Edward Jennings (Bill Dillard) is a trumpet player who had a run-in with a Julliard string quartet who was playing at his corner on Washington Square. The second violin is pressing charges and Jennings has no access to bail.


Robert Levine, Sydney Lassick, Hal Linden

Dietrich and Harris bring in Victor Carse (Sydney Lassick), who has indelicately used a sledgehammer on the satellite dish atop the telephone company offices. The phone company executive Howard Kimbro (Robert Levine) has a tick and a problem with the persistent Mr. Carse. Carse's warning of the dangers of the microwaves used by the phone company falls on deaf or at least pragmatic ears due to his unhinged rants.


Ron Glass, Max Gail, Steve Landesberg, Hal Linden

Concern regarding the dark place to which Barney has literally and metaphorically retreated leads to an impromptu therapy session. Each sergeant finds they have a reason to take responsibility for "downtown" skipping their Captain for promotion. Harris's book, Wojo's acting without thinking, and Dietrich getting arrested. For Barney, it is the time that has passed.

Barney Miller: "You know, the first years were really the best. I mean, we really thought we would make a difference. We were out there every day, busting our tails, me, Baxter, Crusen. My God, I'm starting to sound like Luger." (James Gregory).

Harris: "Don't worry. We caught it early."


Ron Carey, J.J. Barry, Hal Linden, Max Gail

Wojo and Harris's last collar of the evening is Fred W. Bauer (J.J. Barry). Bauer's goal was to rob a jewellery store on Houston, but the confusing fog sent him into a Christian Science Reading Room, tripping their alarm. Bauer sees great humour in how he ended up at the 12th, but he's dealing with a tough crowd. His off-the-cuff lines which would normally fit in with the staff's sense of humor are falling flat because of the spirit of the evening.

Levitt gives Mr. Jennings his trumpet and from the cage, he serenades the 12th Precinct with a melancholy version of I Can't Get Started (Vernon Duke/Ira Gershwin).


J.J. Barry, Ron Glass, Bill Dillard, Ron Carey
Sidney Lassick, Steve Landesberg, Max Gail, Hal Linden

Another Bauer quip falls flat in the squad room but this Barney Miller fan has been chuckling about it for 40 years.

Fred Bauer: "What year is this?"




Bonus: Bunny Berigan's 1937 recording of I Can't Get Started








Monday, March 8, 2021

THE JOAN COLLINS BLOGATHON, Ellery Queen: The Adventure of Auld Lang Syne, 1975


Gill at RealWeegieMidgitReviews is hosting The Joan Collins Blogathon from March 8 - 10. Enjoy the tributes to the enduring star HERE plus BONUS articles.

Ellery Queen, the fictional detective/author created by Frederick Dannay and Manfred Lee in 1929 was developed as a television series in 1975 by Richard Levinson and William Link. They placed the birdlike bulldog from Headquarters, Inspector Richard Queen (David Wayne), and his writer son Ellery (Jim Hutton) in a 1940s milieu which made 22 episodes of perfect whodunit television. The series has grown in appreciation with audiences over the years, but NBC didn't realize what they had at the time.

Each episode featured an ensemble guest cast as suspects. Each guest star was given the opportunity to shine throughout the story. 


Ellery Queen: The Adventure of Auld Lang Syne

Season 1, Episode 1

First aired September 11, 1975

Directed by David Greene

Story and screenplay by Peter S. Fischer

Peggy Rea, Tom Reese, David Wayne

Inspector Queen is ushering in the New Year's Eve leading to 1947 at the Astor Hotel listening to Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians and valiantly suffering under the forced gaiety of Sgt. Velie (Tom Reese) and his wife (Peggy Rea).

Jim Hutton

Ellery and his date are expected but Ellery is remarkably absent-minded when he is working on a novel. 

Thayer David

THAYER DAVID as Marcus Halliday is hosting his own soiree at the Astor. Halliday has problems with every one of his guests and is determined to ruin them or cut them out of his will as the case may be. Before midnight Marcus Halliday will be murdered and be the cause of a big headache for Inspector Queen. There is a well-to-do and well-connected crowd at the Astor and they don't like being tied up in a murder investigation.

Our suspects/guest stars listed alphabetically are:

David Doyle, Farley Granger, Joan Collins

JOAN COLLINS as Lady Daisy Frawley. Lady Frawley is engaged to Halliday's son Lewis. She is, to quote Marcus Halliday "a divorced and shopworn social climber."

We will focus on the fun in Joan Collins's performance for this blogathon. The posh Lady Frawley is accused by Marcus Halliday of being a tramp from Soho Square; a golddigger who was never married to a Lord. Lady Frawley's outrage almost makes her accent slip a time or two. She loves Lewis for who he is, not for his money! Well, Lewis may believe that but no one else is falling for it.

Charles Robinson, Joan Collins, David Wayne

Lady Frawley is cowed by Inspector Queen's investigation but keeps her head. When the photographic proof is processed that seems to absolve both she and Lewis from the crime she really lords it over Inspector Queen in a most unladylike fashion.

It is a great deal of fun watching Joan Collins as Lady Frawley. Her energy and panache are a joyful thing. I hope she had as much fun working on this program back in 1975 as we have watching the performance.

David Doyle

DAVID DOYLE as Donald Becker. Halliday's newly acquired business partner is a scam artist.

Herb Edelman

HERB EDELMAN as a cabbie. He's not a suspect but is a welcome help to Ellery Queen.

Farley Granger

FARLEY GRANGER as Paul Quincy. Halliday's deceitful nephew is a petty, unimaginative thief.

Guy Lombardo

GUY LOMBARDO as Guy Lombardo, Canadian-born musician. For many years, it was not truly a New Year's Eve unless we heard Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians play Auld Lang Syne.

Karen Machon, Jim Hutton

KAREN MACHON as Kitty McBride. She is not a suspect either but she is one angry date who has been stood up by Ellery Queen. She gets over it.

Joan Collins, Charles Robinson

CHARLES ROBINSON as Lewis Halliday. Marcus considers him a lazy, grateful son. Lady Frawley considers him a handsome meal ticket.

Barbara Rush

BARBARA RUSH as Emma Zelman. Halliday's loyal secretary for 15 years is on his bad side since "deserting him" for romance.

Ray Walston

RAY WALSTON as Howard Pratt. Emma's boyfriend is described by Marcus as a middle-aged Casper Milquetoast. He hides a huge secret.

George Wyner

GEORGE WYNER as Joe Kemmelman is a confused undertaker who gets mixed up in a New Year's Eve murder.

While we are enjoying the plot and the performances in an Ellery Queen episode, time slips by, and before we know it there is Ellery asking us if we have solved the mystery.

Jim Hutton

"Are you with me? You may even be way ahead of me. Now, it's not that difficult to figure out why Halliday called Kemmelman, a man he never met, a man he never knew. Remember, he had to have known who stabbed him. The knife was wedged in that phone booth so he couldn't crawl out. He couldn't talk so why call the police, so he did the next best thing. Since he didn't have a pencil or a pen, he left us the only clue he could to the murderer's identity. Have got the same answer as I do?"



















Monday, March 1, 2021

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR MARCH ON TCM


"
Still, at first, they swore they wouldn't take bite or sup till they were restored to their grieving families. But Milly had some tea ready for them, in a jiffy—and a woman will usually take tea, no matter how mad she is." 
- The Sobbin' Women by Stephen Vincent Benet  

The Sobbin' Women is Stephen Vincent Benet's delightful short story of a bound-girl named Milly who manipulates her new husband and family, and eventually an entire town into getting the life and family she seeks. Producer Joshua Logan held the rights to the 1937 story with intentions to turn it into a Broadway play. Benet's widow canceled the contract in 1951 and MGM snapped the property up. 

Our 1954 film opens with Howard Keel as Adam Pontipee singing about his intention to leave town for his backwoods home with a wife (Bless Your Beautiful Hide). He gets more than he bargained for when Milly played by Jane Powell agrees to his proposal (Wonderful Wonderful Day and When You're in Love). 

Milly whips her six new brothers-in-law into a rough and ready respectability (Goin Co'tin') and has hopes of their society being enriched by future sisters-in-law. After the athletic Barn Raising Dance which ends in a fight with "townies," the brothers' are completely dejected (Lonesome Polecat).

Adam, half-listening when the educated Milly read from Plutarch's history, determined that much like the Romans who abducted their wives, the Sabine women, the Pontipees could do the same thing as long as they remembered a preacher (Sobbin' Women).

Jeff Richards, Matt Mattox, Marc Platt, Jacques d'Amboise, Tommy Rall, Russ Tamblyn Julie Newmar, Ruta Lee, Norma Doggett, Virginia Gibson, Betty Carr, Nancy Kilgas

The preacher was left behind and the "brides" are trapped through the winter by an avalanche. Milly and Adam separate due to his impetuous action. Over the course of the long winter, Milly, expecting her first child, is overjoyed to see happy and strong relationships form between her friends (June Bride) and her brothers (Spring, Spring, Spring).  Months of reflection have brought Adam to an understanding of his thoughtless actions toward the young women and toward Milly, whom he has come to love dearly. 


"It truly was one big happy family." - Howard Keel

Producer Jack Cummings originally wanted to use original American folk songs for this musical but after searching, decided on original music which was written by Gene de Paul and Johnny Mercer when Mercer declined to work (again) with first choice perfectionist Harold Arlen. Gene and Johnny would write another rustic show, L'il Abner for Broadway in 1956. Julie Newmar, our bride Dorcas in the movie would play Stupefyin' Jones in the Broadway production with Al Capp's characters and our choreographer Michael Kidd would handle that chore as well for L'il Abner.

Director Stanley Donen's hopes to film the movie over the course of a year, on location in Oregon were dashed when the studio slashed their budget in favour of Brigadoon. Brigadoon as well would lose its plans of filming on location in Scotland. Painted backgrounds however do not hinder the bright and beautiful Oscar-nominated cinematography by George Fosley.

Other Oscar nominations for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers were Ralph Winters for Film Editing, the screenplay by Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, and Dorothy Kingsley, and producer Cummings for Best Picture. Adolph Deutsch and Saul Chaplin won for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a fresh and funny tale, performed with infectious energy by its young and talented cast. Familiarity over the years has done nothing to take away from this creative, life-affirming musical.

TCM is screening Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on March 5th at midnight after Gone with the Wind. The theme for Thursday nights in March is "reframed."

"Many of the beloved classics that we enjoy on TCM have stood the test of time in several ways, nevertheless when viewed by contemporary standards, certain aspects of these films can be troubling and problematic. This month, we are looking at a collection of such movies and we'll explore their history, consider their cultural context and discuss how these movies can be reframed so that future generations can keep their legacy alive."


Of note: 

Jane Powell, Howard Keel in South Pacific 

Our leads, Jane Powell and Howard Keel would tour in the 1970s and 1980s in stage productions of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, South Pacific, and I Do, I Do. We enjoyed both Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and South Pacific at Toronto's O'Keefe Centre.


2021 Birthdays among the cast of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers


Jane Powell will be 92 on April 1st 


Ruta Lee will be 86 on May 30th


Jacques d'Amboise will be 87 on July 28th
I am sad to hear the news of Jacques' passing on May 2nd, 2021.


Julie Newmar will be 88 on August 16th


Nancy Kilgas will be 91 on November 7th


Russ Tamblyn will be 87 on December 30th





CMBA 2021 FALL BLOGATHON, LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE: Disney's Pluto

The Classic Movie Blog Association ( CMBA ) presents its Fall 2021 blogathon, Laughter is the Best Medicine . The contributions from members...