Month in Movies: June

Hello again, everyone! I may be a little late into the new month in bringing this write-up to the table, but I’m really excited to follow in the footsteps on some other great classic film blogs and begin my own list of the five best and worst films that I’ve watched each month. Since I’m such an avid film viewer, I do have to put some restrictions on my list, though, so all of the films that I will be offering mini reviews for here will fit the following criteria:

  1. Each film is what I consider Old Hollywood. Usually this means that they were made before 1970, but I will make exceptions if I watch the film for a specific Old Hollywood actor or filmmaker. I am an Old Hollywood blog, after all!
  2. I will only be reviewing films that I have seen each month for the first time. If I included films here that I had seen before on top of the ones that are new to me, each month the list would be a mile long!

Without further ado, here are my best and worst picks for the month of June!

The Best of June

5. Scared Stiff (1953)

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Have you ever had a craving for a particular actor’s films like you would have a craving for ice cream or pizza? Well, I’ll be the first to admit that this happens to me all the time, and early in June I had a craving for Jerry Lewis’ films, despite having only seen a few before. Hence, I got to broaden my horizons a bit, and Scared Stiff (1953) was just one of three new Jerry Lewis films that I watched, the other two being Living it Up (1954) and The Nutty Professor (1963). There were different aspects of all three that I thoroughly enjoyed and I think all three deserve spots on this list, but to be fair to the other contenders I chose to only include one film from my Lewis binge. I’ll be discussing The Nutty Professor (1963) in September as part of the Movie Scientist Blogathon, so it was almost a neck-and-neck tie between the two Martin and Lewis films, but Scared Stiff (1953) won out due to the similarities between the film and The Stooge (1952), a personal favorite of mine. The differences between the two films appealed to me too, of course, like the appearance of one of my favorite underrated actresses, Lizabeth Scott. In the film, singer Larry Todd (Dean Martin) and busboy Myron Mertz (Jerry Lewis) find themselves running away from a group of gangsters after their hides, not too differently than Curtis and Lemmon did in the iconic Some Like it Hot (1959). Instead of dressing up in drag and fleeing to Florida, Larry and Myron find themselves in a haunted mansion in the Carribbean owned by a mysterious heiress (Lizabeth Scott). Seeing Martin and Lewis at their best battling it out with ghosts, trap doors, gangsters, and skeletons (who look an awful lot like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby) was an utter delight, and if you’re looking for some adorable and spooky antics from one of cinema’s best comedy duos, look no further than Scared Stiff (1953)!

4. The Lost Weekend (1945)

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This is quite possibly the film on this list that I’ve been wanting to see for the longest time. For years I’ve heard about Billy Wilder’s masterpiece melodrama that won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1945, but I kept putting off actually sitting down to watch it until I finally caught the film as part of The Essentials on TCM. Of course Wilder didn’t disappoint, and this film brings out many raw emotions in both the characters and the audience. For anyone who struggles with alcoholism or is close to someone who is familiar with the struggle, this film brings out even deeper feelings for antihero Don Birnam (Ray Milland), a desperate man who makes multiple attempts throughout the picture to stay on the wagon of sobriety. Milland’s portrayal of Birnam is absolutely dynamite as he allows the audience to feel sympathy for the character while also maintaining realism as he commits legitimate crimes and hopelessly does whatever it takes in order to get to the next bottle of liquor. It’s incredible how many times I secretly wished that Don would sober up (just as most of the supporting cast did) no matter how deplorable he became and no matter how much his cause appeared to be a lost one. I attribute that faith for the protagonist not only to the performance that earned Milland his first and only Oscar, but also to the ingenious writing and directing by Billy Wilder, one of the best multifaceted filmmakers who ever approached a camera. If you haven’t seen this intense and masterful classic, add it to your watchlist as soon as possible and prepare for some anxiety as you follow Don Birnam through his four-day drinking binge.

3. Her Sister’s Secret (1946)

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I just love it when I unexpectedly find a quality B picture, don’t you? That was certainly the case with Her Sister’s Secret (1946), made by notorious “poverty row” studio Producers Releasing Corporation in 1946. I found the film while browsing through Watch TCM earlier in June, and ironically enough it stood out to me because of how absurd the plot was. I mean really, when reading the snippet,”When her soldier lover disappears, a young woman gives up their child to her sister, only to have the man return intent on building a family.”, wouldn’t you regard the storyline as soap opera fodder and move on with your day? That’s almost what I did, but something about it actually drew me in, and after finding nothing better to watch that afternoon I decided to give it a try. I’m certainly glad that I did, because the acting and dialogue in this picture is stellar considering the meager budget and concept, and Her Sister’s Secret (1946) progresses and eventually concludes in a way that is both realistic and makes perfect sense to the audience. Obviously the standout performance here is that of Nancy Coleman as Toni Dubois, the young woman who gives up her child out of the fear and shame that came along with being a single mother at the time. Seeing her immediately regret the decision and seeing her efforts to reunite with her son in the years after his birth is heartbreaking, and Coleman’s portrayal made me feel so much empathy for her character. I’m not entirely certain just how accessible the film is as I stumbled upon it by chance, but if you ever come across this romantic drama yourself, don’t be afraid to give it a second look.

2. He Ran All the Way (1951)

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Over the course of the past year or two, noir has slowly but surely become one of my favorite genres in classic film. Recently this has been due to Noir Alley, hosted by the always informative and charming Eddie Muller on TCM. However, my relationship with Noir Alley hasn’t always been a pleasant one, mostly due to its annoying 10am timeslot which (as someone who works nights) falls right in the middle of my sleeping schedule. Since I first began watching the program in April I’ve managed to soldier through most of the films, but when a noir that I wake up just to watch is subpar or just so-so (He Walked by Night (1948) comes to mind), it really gets my goat. Noir Alley’s film for the third week of June put my faith back in the show entirely, and I’m elated to report that I’ve tuned in every week since. Yes, that’s how great it was! The film follows Nick Robey (John Garfield), a small-time crook who attempts to hold up a payroll with his pal Al Molin (played by Norman Lloyd, one of the oldest living classic film stars who’s still making movies at 102!). What was meant to be a quick and easy robbery turns into a farce when Al is killed and a statewide manhunt is issued for Nick, who managed to make a sizeable profit from the heist. While on the run, Nick finds himself at a public swimming pool and meets Peg (Shelley Winters), and he takes a liking to her before deciding to terrorize her and her family by keeping them in their apartment at gunpoint and forcing them to keep him there until he can make a clean getaway with the dough. He Ran All the Way (1951) is an excellent suspense from start to finish, and John Garfield is in his element as a criminal you hate to love, proving to all of us that he was a talent who was taken from us much too soon. Shelley Winters gives a memorable performance as well, and I was so thrilled to see her in a likeable role for once that attempted to play up her beauty. Finally she makes decisions that I can get behind, and a great deal of what made me so impressed with the film was the fact that there was a leading lady in a noir who made every single choice that I like to think I would have given the situation. I don’t think I overstate my case when I say that this is one of the best noirs that I’ve ever seen, and if you’re looking for a thriller that will keep your eyes glued to the screen, believe me when I say that this is it!

1. Hitler’s Madman (1943)

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Here we have another dramatic B picture that absolutely stole my heart in June! Hitler’s Madman (1943) drew me in as soon as I saw the cast. First we have Alan Curtis, who really stood out to me in Phantom Lady (1944) despite not having much screen time, but the name that made me immediately turn on the film was that of Patricia Morison. As I mentioned above about the great Norman Lloyd, Patricia is another one of the oldest living classic film stars, who is luckily also still gracing us with her presence at 102! She had a varied and interesting film and stage career, most notably originating the role of Lilli Vanessi in Kiss Me Kate onstage in 1948 (she would later be replaced by Kathryn Grayson for the 1953 film), as well as appearing in the last of Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes films, Dressed to Kill (1946). I knew most of that information beforehand and had seen her exquisite beauty in photographs, but I had yet to see a film of hers and saw Hitler’s Madman (1943) as a chance to catch her in one of her starring roles. I didn’t expect much from the picture, but boy was I blown away! Like Her Sister’s Secret (1946), Hitler’s Madman (1943) was also made by Producers Releasing Corporation, but MGM saw such potential in the film that they purchased it for their own release, which many film scholars believe is the first time something like that had been done. It takes place in the idyllic Czechoslovakian village of Lidice, which is steadily being taken over by the Nazis. Karel Vavra (Curtis), a soldier serving for the Allies, parachutes into the town that he used to call home and rallies the villagers together in hopes that they will form an uprising and throw the Nazis out. At first the townspeople are too afraid to stand up to their oppressors, but when the demented Reinhardt Heydrich (John Carradine), one of Hitler’s right hand men, begins to throw innocent citizens in jail for fictitious crimes and round up underage girls to be sent to the front lines for German soldiers to use, some of the braver townsfolk plot to get rid of Heydrich once and for all. I was stunned to see so many sensitive subjects brought to light onscreen, and never have I seen a movie that puts the Nazis in as despicable of a light as this one. It’s important to note that this film was made while World War II was still being fought, so I can’t imagine the bravery that was involved in translating these horrific events to the screen. Even more impactful were the acting skills displayed by every actor involved in the production, and the film is heartwrenching to watch as a result. This was the first time in a long time that a film has outright made me bawl while watching it, and I’m sure that it will happen to you too, especially after learning as I did that the events in this film were based on fact. If you want to watch a dark and gripping movie that stands out among the rest of the films made about the Second World War, I would wholeheartedly recommend this one, and be sure to keep an eye out for a very young and alluring Ava Gardner as an extra in some scenes!

The Worst of June

5. Just A Gigolo (1931)

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I think a trend that you’ll find often on my blog is that I tend to watch films mostly for the actors who appear in them. That was the case with Just A Gigolo (1931), the first film screened on TCM as part of their Gays in Hollywood theme in June. The film features William Haines, a prolific actor of the 1920s and 1930s whose career was ultimately cut short due to his refusal to leave his partner, interior designer Jimmie Shields. Haines stars in the film as Lord Robert Brummell, a notorious playboy and Casanova who spends most of his time fooling around with married women while dodging their jealous husbands. His uncle Lord George Hampton (C. Aubrey Smith) does everything he can to lead his nephew on a path of righteousness, even setting up an important job interview that Lord Brummell proceeds to blow off and finding him a suitable wife in his close friend’s lovely daughter, Roxanne Hartley (Irene Purcell). Robert is not convinced that Roxy is wife material, however, and makes a wager with his uncle that he can romance Roxy as a gigolo, make her fall in love with him, and expose her as just a common floozy. I’ll be honest when I say that I didn’t hate this film. I didn’t even dislike this film really, but I did find it very forgettable and quite typical as a romantic comedy. What’s more, I agree with the TCM hosts who discussed the film when they say that William Haines wasn’t exactly convincing as a philanderer, and subtle changes were even made to the script that hinted that he batted for the other team. The leading lady, Irene Purcell, stood out to me in a fiery performance, and I must say that I admired her character Roxy as she saw through Lord Brummell’s plans. C. Aubrey Smith was memorable as well in the role of Lord Hampton, and quite frankly had onscreen charisma that rivaled the leading man. All in all,  Just A Gigolo (1931) was a disappointing introduction to what promised to be an interesting theme on TCM, and faded into the background in comparison to some other landmark performances by gay actors in Hollywood.

4. Journey Into Fear (1942)

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As I mentioned above, I lost some interest in Noir Alley on TCM for a short time this year, and I think it’s easy for me to say that this picture was one of the reasons why. Granted, I wasn’t able to watch Journey Into Fear (1942) when it aired on the channel during the last week of May, but I did catch it while it was still on Watch TCM in early June. Luckily host Eddie Muller’s intro to the movie was still intact and I got to hear about how illustrious filmmaker Orson Welles abandoned the project while it was still in production, and that Welles despised the ending that RKO Pictures filmed without his knowledge so much that he returned to film a new and better ending. I never did learn what the original ending was supposed to be, but I did watch Journey Into Fear (1942) completed as Orson Welles intended. Joseph Cotten plays Howard Graham, a munitions expert who visits Turkey with his wife only to find out that the Nazis are attempting to bump him off and make sure that he doesn’t return to the States. Fortunately for Graham, the Turkish government is sympathetic to his plight, but not  at all sympathetic to his marriage as government officials whisk his wife away while hurriedly ushering Graham on a tramp steamer across the Black Sea to Batumi. At first it appears that the Turks’ half-baked plan worked, but soon the munitions expert finds out that armed and dangerous Nazi agents have followed him onboard, and our protagonist must find a way to safety without leaving the ship and without a gun to his name. I suppose Journey Into Fear (1942) qualifies as another film that I didn’t hate, but at times it was very difficult to follow. This is mostly due to the fact that the film commits the faux pas that I’ve found is commonplace in many noirs: there are simply too many characters to keep track of. While I gave the film my undivided attention, I constantly heard names and saw faces that seemed to pop up out of nowhere, and while a diverse cast is always a good thing, an audience should at least get an idea of which characters are most important to the story. Even worse, some of the best stars in the film got little to no screentime, like Orson Welles as Colonel Haki, the Turkish representative who attempts to give Graham safe passage, and Ruth Warrick as Graham’s devoted but confused wife. In general the picture appeared to me to have no heart in it, and seemed like just another excuse for Orson Welles to reunite his Mercury Theater players without actually putting in the necessary effort to make a quality film.

3. Ride the Wild Surf (1964)

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As you might imagine, Ride the Wild Surf (1964) qualifies as your typical surfer film, though unfortunately in this case it qualifies to a fault. The picture tells the story of young friends Jody (Fabian), Colton (Peter Brown), and Steamer (Tab Hunter), who arrive in Hawaii with hopes to get lucky both in love and on the arduous waves of Waimea Bay. The plot is so unoriginal that I can’t understand how it got off the ground, but the personalities of some of the characters take the movie from being run-of-the-mill to being just plain awful. Jody is the main culprit; throughout the film he is the epitome of the angsty teenager and somehow manages to get by as a beach bum with no schooling or career path. While Colton and Steamer consider Hawaii a vacation that they’ve studied and worked hard for, Jody just considers Waimea Bay to be just another opportunity to show off his skills on a surfboard, and (spoiler!) of course he wins the big surfing contest, teaching all the kids of the 1960s that if you’re the one in your circle of friends who sheds your responsibilities, you too can get everything you desire in life, including the lovely Shelley Fabares who plays Jody’s love interest, Brie Matthews. In general, Fabian steals far too much screen time in the role, and if his character was written out I’m sure I would have enjoyed this film much more overall. Though it’s not nearly as important, another aspect of Ride the Wild Surf (1964) that annoyed me to no end was the fact that nearly every star who appeared in the movie dyed their hair for it. Shelley Fabares, who is best known today as one of Elvis Presley’s most frequent leading ladies and as a brunette, lightened her hair for the film to contrast her leading man Fabian. Tab Hunter darkened his signature blonde locks to a brunette hue to match his stunt double for the surf scenes, while Peter Brown lightened his hair so that all of the leading men didn’t have dark hair. Barbara Eden, who became an iconic blonde after starring on I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970), dyed her hair red for the film in order to contrast Peter, making Fabian and Susan Hart (Tab Hunter’s raven-haired love interest) the only actors in the film who didn’t ditch the hair color for which they were most famous. It’s a real shame that I didn’t like this picture more than I did, but Fabian and all of the hair switcheroos proved to be too much for me. If you’re looking to catch some waves this summer and this movie, I wouldn’t necessarily insist that you skip Ride the Wild Surf (1964) but I would recommend that you pay more mind to Shelley Fabares and Barbara Eden, two great actresses of their day who give far better performances in this film than the men do. Also be sure to catch Robert Mitchum’s son James, who is the spitting image of his legendary father in a smaller role as Eskimo!

2. The King’s Thief (1955)

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The King’s Thief (1955) is a colorful costume adventure film about Michael McDermott (Edmund Purdom), a highwayman who stumbles upon a notebook belonging to Duke James of Brampton (David Niven), the right hand man of King Charles II (George Sanders). The notebook uncovers a devious plot on the part of the duke, as it lists the names of nobles whom James has falsely accused of treason in order to steal their property and holdings for himself after their execution. The notebook also reveals the nobility that the duke still intends to slander, and Michael hopes to do the right thing for once and reveal the plan to the king himself, especially after meeting and falling in love with Lady Mary (Ann Blyth), a noblewoman whose father was among the wealthy subjects that James already led to the gallows. Michael and Lady Mary attempt to blackmail James at first, which lands the highwayman in prison, but will he escape and deliver the notebook to the king, or will he have to resort to more drastic measures to get his majesty’s attention and reveal the truth? My qualms about the film are few but important nonetheless, my main issue with it being that it absolutely bored me to tears! The swordfights, gambling, romance, and jailbreaks seemed like they were enough to carry the film, but throughout I found myself hardly able to keep my eyes open in the middle of the afternoon. Even the costumes in this costume drama could be considered a hit or miss, with some of Ann Blyth’s dresses being quite lovely and some of the male ensembles being gaudy and unnecessary. For me The King’s Thief (1955) raises a lot of unanswered questions, like “Why did they think Edmund Purdom would look good with a mustache?”, “Why didn’t they cast Basil Rathbone as Duke James instead of David Niven?”, and “Why was George Sanders only in the movie for five minutes?”. A question that does receive an answer, however, is “Should anyone watch this movie?”. If you’re wondering, the answer is no.

1. In the Good Old Summertime (1949)

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Earlier in June, I volunteered to write a review about In the Good Old Summertime (1949) for Judy Garland’s birthday. I chose the film myself because it was one of the only classics in Judy’s filmography that I had yet to see, and I was even more excited to write about it because I found out that it was a musical remake of one of my favorite films (and possibly my favorite Christmas film), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), the film which also inspired the iconic Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan vehicle You’ve Got Mail (1998). Quite a few aspects of the original are changed for In the Good Old Summertime (1949); for instance, the setting is a turn-of-the-century music store in America owned by the lovable S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall instead of a department store in Hungary owned by the even more lovable (in my personal opinion) Frank Morgan. There are many other differences in this film, but the general premise is the same: two coworkers who utterly despise each other, Veronica Fisher (Judy Garland) and Andrew Larkin (Van Johnson), are in the dark about the fact that they’re actually falling in love as each other’s anonymous pen pals. This film has earned the number one spot on my list of the most disliked films of June partially because it butchered such a wonderful and underrated original, but also because of the off-the-charts level of disappointment that I felt after finding that out. I was so disappointed in it, in fact, that I couldn’t even bring myself to write about it on Judy’s birthday, as I simply couldn’t say anything mean about a film that she starred in on a day that we all were celebrating her. In the Good Old Summertime (1949) had all of the ingredients of a film that I might enjoy: stars Judy Garland and Van Johnson, who are not my all-time favorites but I’ve certainly admired them both and appreciated their films, beautiful and colorful costumes, and of course the concept of turning a fine plot into a musical. There are movies that pull off such a feat without a hitch like High Society (1956), but this one blatantly rips off all of the clever dialogue from The Shop Around the Corner (1940) and doesn’t make it sound even half as clever or unique. Most of the changes made for the remake are unwelcome ones except for the addition of the legendary Buster Keaton as the shop owner’s cousin, but even he is criminally underutilized. In conclusion, if any of my readers approached me and told me that they were interested in taking a look at In the Good Old Summertime (1949), or anyone at all for that matter, I would probably feel inclined to grab them by the collar and vehemently direct them to the nearest showing of The Shop Around the Corner (1940), and that’s all there is to it.

The Second Annual Olivia de Havilland + Errol Flynn Blogathon: Dodge City (1939)

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Hi, everybody! I honestly had my doubts that I would be able to write up any blogathon entries while participating in TCM Presents The Master of Suspense: 50 Years of Hitchcock from June 26th until August 7th, but despite the heavy workload I found time to watch Dodge City (1939) once again and write my review! I’d like to thank Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood for orchestrating another fun weekend honoring one of the most iconic women in cinema history on her 101st birthday, as well as one of my personal favorite iconic men. I can’t wait to read all of the other amazing entries and participate in this wonderful blogathon next year!

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Theatrical poster for Dodge City (1939).

The film takes place in Dodge City, a small town built at the Western end of a newly established railroad named after the railroad’s constructor and the town’s founder Colonel Dodge (Henry O’Neill). A dear friend of Colonel Dodge is Texan and cattle agent Wade Hatton (Errol Flynn), who soon makes his way to Dodge City with a herd of steer and a wagon trail in tow. Among the settlers in the trail are Abbie Irving (portrayed by our birthday girl Olivia de Havilland) and her brother Lee (William Lundigan). Wade takes an immediate liking to Abbie, but Lee causes trouble by drunkenly firing his gun and causing the steer to stampede, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake. When Lee begins to shoot at Wade he draws his own pistol in order to defend himself, which result’s in Lee’s death when he is unable to escape the stampede that he caused.

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Olivia de Havilland and William Lundigan in a scene from Dodge City (1939).

Wade’s interest in Abbie doesn’t fade despite her loss of interest in her brother’s killer, and when the trail arrives to Dodge City Abbie moves in with her uncle, the town’s resident doctor. And does the town certainly need a doctor as lawlessness and anarchy run rampant as the city grows in population. Shootings are more commonplace than anything else, and Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot) and his men serve as the ringleaders of chaos and crime. Wade seems to be the only man in town with enough courage to stand up to the league of bandits, and after stepping in to save his adorable friend Rusty (Alan Hale) from Surrett’s noose, the town rallies for him to become Dodge City’s resident sherriff. At first he turns down the job out of fear of commitment and settling down, but once a young boy in the town is killed by Surrett and his cronies, Wade takes the position and vows to make the streets safe. Will Wade succeed in his task, or will Surrett run him out of town just as he did to the sherriffs before him? Will Wade be able to convince Abbie of his honorable intentions?

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Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn sharing a romantic scene from Dodge City (1939).

Dodge City (1939) was the fifth of nine movies made by Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn, Warner Brothers’ resident romantic pair at the time. Flynn shines in his first ever Western, though he later wrote in his autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1959), that he felt miscast in the genre due to his English accent. He would later go on to excel in Westerns anyway, and scriptwriters found unique and creative ways to write his accent into the story, just as they did with this film. Olivia de Havilland had misgivings about her part in Dodge City (1939) as well, feeling that the project as a letdown in her career. She had grown frustrated with the lack of depth in her roles as an ingenue, and her pleading to Warner Brothers to cast her as saloon girl Ruby Gilman was ignored by the studio (the role would eventually go to Ann Sheridan).

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Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn in a publicity still from Dodge City (1939).

In all honesty, I must admit that I don’t understand Olivia’s point of view. While I can agree that the role of Abbie Irving is rather two-dimensional, it gave Olivia ample time onscreen (as much as her leading man Errol Flynn, if not more), and the character was quite motivational and feminist for the time as Abbie maintained a steady job as an instrumental reporter for the Dodge City Star. Even more confusing was the fact that Ann Sheridan’s time onscreen was practically a cameo, and an unmemorable one at that despite my love for her as an actress. Nevertheless, for her own reasons the filming of Dodge City (1939) remained an unhappy time for Olivia as she fell victim to the Hollywood studio system. “It was a period in which she was given to constant fits of crying and long days spent at home in bed,” wrote author Tony Thomas in his book, The Films of Olivia de Havilland (1983). “She was bored with her work and while making Dodge City (1939) she claims that she even had trouble remembering her lines.”

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Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland on the set of Dodge City (1939).

Flynn and de Havilland’s distaste with their roles just goes to show that sometimes great films come out of the misery of the artists who made them, because while I’m not often a fan of Westerns I find Dodge City (1939) to be among my favorites, and the picture will always go down as one of the quality films from one of the best onscreen couples. While their acting in the film was excellent as usual, the Technicolor by Natalie Kalmus and Morgan Padelford and cinematography by Sol Polito undoubtedly impressed me the most, and I don’t exaggerate when I say that it’s the most beautiful looking Western ever made (the only one that even comes close for me is Red Canyon (1949), which looks strikingly similar). All in all, if you’re looking for a unique and excellent Western to watch on Olivia de Havilland’s birthday, this is obviously the movie for you!

The Reel Infatuation Blogathon: Laurence Olivier in Rebecca (1940)

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Hi, everybody! I’m back with another blogathon entry! Unfortunately for my followers (but fortunately for me), I may be taking somewhat of a break from blogging in order to focus more fully on the college course hosted by TCM that I’ll be participating in from June 26th until August 7th, TCM Presents The Master of Suspense: 50 Years of Hitchcock. I couldn’t be more excited about it! I’ll be trying my absolute hardest to keep up my participation in blogathons during that time, and hopefully even provide you all with some more original content, but I thought I’d give you a heads up nonetheless. In the meantime I’ll be bringing you my entry today for the Reel Infatuation Blogathon. I didn’t get to participate in this one last year, but it was so entertaining to read the entries, and I simply couldn’t resist submitting my own this year as it’s such a wonderful idea! My thanks goes to Font and Frock and Silver Screenings for hosting, and I hope the blogathon’s a great success again this year!

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Theatrical poster for Rebecca (1940).

I must admit that when I asked myself who my biggest cinematic crush was, it didn’t take long for me to find the answer. Laurence Olivier’s portrayal of Maxim de Winter in Rebecca (1940) has always given me butterflies, and Maxim is probably my favorite fictional character of all time. From the beginning of the film Mr. de Winter captured my attention as he stood on a precipice in Monte Carlo and as the nameless leading lady (played by Joan Fontaine) mistakenly believed that he was going to jump off of it. Perhaps it wasn’t such a mistake to think so considering the look of anguish on his face, and his expression made me wonder what sort of a life he had led in order to come to such a dramatic crossroads. We soon find out about Mr. de Winter through the lead’s boss, Mrs. Van Hopper (Florence Bates), who speculates that Maxim is a “broken man” and likely desperately lonely after his wife Rebecca drowned while sailing the year before. Soon the young girl gets to know him better herself as Maxim takes an almost immediate interest in her, sweeping her off her feet by taking her dancing and out for drives while her boss is in bed with the flu. At first she believes that his outings with her are simply charity and kindness on Mr. de Winter’s part, but he quickly attempts to put that out of her mind by telling her that he wants to be near her and that she “blotted out the past more than all the bright lights of Monte Carlo”.

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Laurence Olivier as Maxim de Winter in Rebecca (1940).

Their dalliance almost comes to an end, however, when Mrs. Van Hopper tries to take her away to New York after hearing about her daughter’s engagement. Joan Fontaine’s character frantically tries to get a hold of Maxim on the telephone so she can say goodbye, and after no success she finally visits him in his room. There he gives her an ultimatum; either she leaves for New York with her boss or goes to his glorious estate, Manderley, with him. Still not believing that Mr. de Winter could possibly have any feelings for her, she asks “You mean you want a secretary or something?”, and I personally believe that no other character could make his reply sound as romantic as he did: “I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool!” She eventually accepts his attempt at a marriage proposal and becomes the second Mrs. de Winter, and I think that the first twenty-seven minutes of the film that captures their romance and elopement could be the perfect film in and of itself. In all honesty, I would even go so far as to say that I could stop watching the movie right there and be just as willing to talk about how much I adore Maxim de Winter, but of course the film goes on, and after their long honeymoon he takes his bride back to his mansion (because obviously he has a mansion, what sort of dream man doesn’t?).

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A lovely photograph of the miniature built for Manderley, Maxim de Winter’s estate in Rebecca (1940).

Throughout the film Maxim proves to be the sort of husband who also serves as a mentor and even a father figure to Mrs. de Winter. His stern and experienced personality matches well with her shyness and naivety, and he attempts to guide her into her new position as his wife when he can. Still, Maxim most certainly isn’t without faults,  and in parts of the film he comes off as harsh and brutal to her and to everyone else at Manderley, but it’s easy to see that this is due to his inner torment over the passing of his first wife. While the second Mrs. de Winter remains emotional yet optimistic, Maxim is a broken but beautiful man who simply doesn’t know how he can go on living with himself as his past tortures him and proceeds to tear him apart. It’s delightful to see his character grow as he falls deeper in love with his new wife and as he allows himself to forget his past, and parts of his chilled exterior melt away over time. His complexity and his intriguing nature always makes it impossible for me to tear my eyes away whenever he’s onscreen, and the darker and more troubled side of him makes me see him as a challenge, and makes me want to tear down the walls that he has built up around himself just like Mrs. de Winter did. I have to admit that on top of that, Laurence Olivier’s dashing good looks and suave accent is like the whipped cream on top of such a well-rounded character. All in all, I think that a life with Maxim de Winter at Manderley would be absolute bliss, though I think if I ever got the chance to become Mrs. de Winter myself I would see about hiring a new housekeeper before walking down the aisle!

Rest in Peace, Adam West (1928 – 2017)

5I am at such a loss for words right now. Though television is not my main area of interest, over time I’ve been trying to watch more classic television shows because luckily many of the actors from them are still with us. Without a doubt, Batman was the first one that I watched and thoroughly enjoyed, and I owe that to Adam West. I developed such a crush on him in particular because his kindness, thoughtfulness, and chivalrous manner shined onscreen and was so apparent that I nor anyone else could help but love him. I continued watching the series because of Mr. West, and while I still have a few more episodes to go, I feel even more compelled to honor him by watching them now. Before I even finished the first season of Batman, I wrote Adam a fan letter and bought a picture for him to sign. I never sent them to him because I had been preparing to attend a local convention and hoped that he might make an appearance there, and I hoped that I could dress up as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds (the villainess who almost marries Batman, of course), and tell him in person how much I admired him and his work. It always hurts just a little bit more when you never get the chance to tell someone that you idolize just how much you appreciate them, but I’m sure that Mr. West knew how much he was loved by his fans and just how terribly we all will miss him.

The Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon — Day Three Recap

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Today’s the day! Not only is it the third and final day of the Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon, it’s also finally Dean Martin’s 100th Birthday! Below you’ll find all of the entries posted today, June 7. If you’ve finished your own entry, please comment on this post or on the blogathon’s announcement with a link to your entry. Let’s make this a great day for Dino and a great completion to the blogathon!


Old Hollywood Films discusses why Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964) is perhaps the greatest film starring The Rat Pack.

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Our faces when the blogathon comes to an end.

Christina Wehner gives yet another captivating review, this time of Dean Martin’s first serious role in The Young Lions (1958).

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They’ll sure take me seriously, but I don’t know how anyone can take you seriously with that hair, Brando!

The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog offers a wonderful analysis of the perfect guilty pleasure western, Bandolero! (1968).

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What do you mean it’s the last day of the blogathon?!

Champagne for Lunch highlights Dino’s acting with Susan Hayward in Ada (1961).

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Don’t worry, Susie! Maybe they’ll honor you with a blogathon next year!

The Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon Continues! — Day Two Recap

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There’s only two more days left in my second ever blogathon, but hopefully there will be a lot more entries posted here and on our final recap tomorrow! Below you’ll find all of the entries posted today, June 6. If you’ve finished your own entry, please comment on this post or on the blogathon’s announcement with a link to your entry. I can’t wait to celebrate Dean’s 100th birthday with you all tomorrow!

I kick off the second day’s blogging with my list of Ten Things You Might Not Know About Dean Martin.

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Is that so? Even I didn’t know that!

Realweegiemidget Reviews gives a great analysis of one of Dean’s Rat Pack reunions in Cannonball Run (1981).

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Has anyone seen Peter and Joey?

Christina Wehner makes us all want to fly with Dean Martin in Airport (1970).

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Get me off of this plane and back to my blogathon!

Crítica Retrô makes a masterpiece with her review of Artists and Models (1955).

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Hurry up, I’ve gotta look my best for my birthday tomorrow!

The Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon — Ten Things You Might Not Know About Dean Martin

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It brings me great pride to report that we’re heading into the second day of The Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon! I couldn’t be happier that this blogathon has brought so many people together in order to celebrate Dean Martin’s 100th birthday. It’s taken us quite a while to get to this point since I first announced my plans to celebrate another birthday with a blogathon all the way back in February, but once the poll results were in picking Dino as our honoree, I knew exactly what my own entry would be about. I must admit that even I’m not an expert on Dean Martin, but from the little bit that I’ve learned about his personal life over the years, I’ve found that the person that everyone percieves him as today doesn’t quite match the man who he really was in some instances. So, I thought that it would be fun to compile some little-known facts about Dean that I could share with you all. I hope you enjoy!

  1. Although Dean Martin was born in Ohio to Gaetano and Angella Crocetti, he spoke only Italian until the age of five.

  2. Dean’s son, Dean Paul Martin, revealed in later years that his father usually drank apple juice onstage rather than the liquor that many believed was in his glass during his performances with The Rat Pack. He also mentioned that if Dean had been drinking Jack Daniels instead (his alcohol of choice), he would have been too drunk to perform.

  3. Dean is one of only thirty-three people who posess not one, but three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One was awarded to him for his work in motion pictures, another one for television, and a third for his recording career. The only people who have more stars than Dean Martin are Bob Hope and Tony Martin with four stars each, and Gene Autry with five stars.

  4. Elevators and death were among Dino’s greatest fears.

  5. His friends often described Dino as an introvert who was hardly the center of attention at parties, even going completely unnoticed when he wore a large pair of glasses to events. He was reported to be quiet usually and liked to spend time alone, and that even his closest cronies seldom knew what he was thinking.

  6. In 1962, Dean was slated to star with Marilyn Monroe in Something’s Got to Give (1962), a remake of the Cary Grant classic My Favorite Wife (1940). Production quickly took a turn for the worse when Monroe was fired for her numerous absences from filming among other reasons. Lee Remick was summoned to replace Marilyn, but Dean refused to continue the film without his close friend and exercised his contractual right for approval of his co-star. As a result of his loyalty Marilyn was rehired, but after her passing on August 5, 1962, the film was abandoned by Dean and the studio.

  7. Dean Martin had an impressive forty-one singles reach the Billboard Hot 100 charts during the course of his career, with dozens more that charted but didn’t quite reach 100. However, only three singles ever reached number one: “That’s Amore” in 1953, “Memories Are Made of This” in 1956, and “Everybody Loves Somebody” in 1964.

  8. Charlton Heston revealed in his autobiography In the Arena (1995) that Frank Sinatra prevented Dean from performing at Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural ball as President of the United States because he was too drunk.

  9. Despite reports to the contrary, Dean Martin was actually two inches shorter than his longtime partner Jerry Lewis, with Dean standing at 5’10” and Jerry standing at 6’0″. In order to make Jerry appear shorter for their comedy acts, Dean would wear lifts and Jerry would cut the heels off of his shoes.

  10. Dean maintained a brief career as a boxer, fighting under the name of Dino Crocetti. He won twenty-five of the thirty-six matches that he fought, but he would later joke that he lost eleven out of twelve.

I hope you enjoyed these lesser-known facts, and I hope to see you all for the rest of the blogathon!

The Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon is Here! — Day One Recap

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I couldn’t be more excited to present all of the incoming entries for my second ever blogathon, celebrating the incomporable Dean Martin in the days leading up to what would have been his 100th birthday. Below you’ll find all of the entries posted today, June 5! If you’ve finished your own entry, please comment on this post or on the blogathon’s announcement with a link to your entry! I can’t wait to celebrate Dean’s birthday with you all on the 7th!

NOTE: I do want to point out that I’ve been feeling really under the weather for the past few days, but I will try my best to get every post up as quickly as possible (including my own), and I’ll still be as present as I can be to make sure everything is running smoothly!


Maddy Loves Her Classic Films starts us off with a thoughtful tribute to Dean Martin.

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I’ve gotta admit “favorite uncle” is a pretty accurate description!

The Midnite Drive-In writes about the star-studded cast of The Sons of Katie Elder (1965).

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The gang’s all here!

John V’s Eclectic Avenue convinces us that Dean deserved an Oscar nomination for Some Came Running (1958).

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Have you guys seen the great entries about me?

Crimson Kimono offers an intriguing write-up for Kiss Me, Stupid (1964).

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I’m starting to think I’ve been spending too many nights in Vegas…

LA Explorer highlights Dean’s sweet side in my personal favorite Martin and Lewis film, The Stooge (1951).

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Now you just remember that this is my blogathon!

Love Letters to Old Hollywood gives us a charming look at Bells Are Ringing (1960).

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I’m already looking for tomorrow’s entries!

Three Days Until The Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon!

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Time has really flown by since I first announced that I was hosting my second ever blogathon all the way back in March! Now the big day is almost here, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to write and read about such an iconic star as Dean Martin. There may only be three days until the start of the blogathon, but there’s certainly still time to sign up and write up a quick entry! I’d love to have as many people celebrating Dean Martin’s 100th birthday with me and all of this blogathon’s wonderful participants on June 7th! If you’re curious and would like to sign up, you can find the rules for the blogathon and the list of participants here. I can’t wait to see all of your amazing entries on Monday!

Rest in Peace, Dina Merrill (1923-2017)

73I was so incredibly saddened to learn last night about the passing of Dina Merrill at the age of 93. She was without a doubt among my favorite living actresses, and her generosity and warmth touched so many lives. I’ll always cherish her wonderful performances in films like BUtterfield 8 (1960), Desk Set (1957), and Operation Petticoat (1959), and for the last few hours in particular I’ve been consoling myself by watching her delightful appearances in a number of game shows like What’s My Line?, To Tell the Truth, and Password. If you’re feeling down today like I am, this particular episode of Password that also features Allen Ludden and Tony Perkins will surely lift your spirits. Dina was a treasure to us all, and a wonderful advocate for Lewy Body dementia, the disease which ultimately took her life. She will most certainly be missed.