Hey, everyone! Today I’m bringing you the first of what I hope will be a series of posts in which I whip up and review a scrumptious dish that was cooked or eaten by a classic film star. More often than not it will even be their own personal recipe! All of the recipes that I’ll be posting in this series will be courtesy of one of my favorite bloggers, Jenny of Silver Screen Suppers. If you’ve ever wanted to try vintage cooking or the favorite foods of your favorite icons, her blog is the place to go! I’m fortunate enough to be one of the lucky test cooks for her upcoming Columbo Cookbook, a compilation of recipes that were either featured on the hit television show or cooked by one of its stars. Today I’ll be bringing you the first of three recipes that I plan to blog about for the book, Jackie Cooper’s Curried Eggs and Macaroni, courtesy of the author of the upcoming book herself. Thanks, Jenny!
Jackie Cooper, born on September 15, 1922, was a much beloved child star of the 1930s, and the first child actor to be nominated for an Academy Award. In 1931 he went on to break yet another barrier, for at age nine he became the youngest actor to be nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his smash hit, Skippy (1931). He did not win, but Cooper still holds the record for the youngest person to be nominated in the category. Unlike many of his peers, he went on to achieve success in films and television as an adult, starring in Ziegfeld Girl (1941) and The Twilight Zone in 1964, even receiving the leading role in multiple television shows throughout the 1950s before snagging a supporting part in Superman (1978) as Perry White and returning for its three sequels. My personal favorite of Cooper’s appearances was his stint as a celebrity panelist on To Tell the Truth (1956-1968), a television game show that was wildly popular at the time. Cooper continued to have a stellar career in television before his reitrement in 1990, and passed away more than two decades later on May 3, 2011 at the age of 88.
The recipe that I’ll be reviewing today is from the height of his fame as a child star in the 1930s, when he told the author of a vintage recipe book that this was a favorite of his that was often prepared for him by his mother. Cooper was quoted as saying, “Whenever my mother wants me to have a dish that contains all the vitamins that are necessary for a young chap who is growing by leaps and bounds, this is what she serves me and boy, is it good.” If you’re from the US like me, this recipe may come as quite a shock to you. At first it appears to be a typical recipe for homemade macaroni and cheese, topped with breadcrumbs and all, but if you look closely you’ll see one key missing ingredient: the cheese! What this dish lacks in cheesy goodness it makes up for in sliced hardboiled eggs and curry powder, of all things. I’ll admit that these changes made me a little hesitant to cook the recipe at first, but I decided to try something new and it certainly paid off. If you’d like to try this recipe for yourself, here it is:
Jackie Cooper’s Curried Eggs and Macaroni
1/2 lb / 225g macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 to 1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups / 475 ml milk
6 hard-boiled eggs
Buttered bread crumbs
Bring a pan of water to boil, salt and place macaroni in and let cook until tender, drain and wash under hot water until all the starch is removed.
Next make a cream sauce – first melt butter and add flour, curry powder, salt and milk — cook until thickened and add to the macaroni.
Place macaroni in baking dish, alternating layers of macaroni with layers of hard boiled eggs, ending with the macaroni on top. Sprinkle with buttered bread crumbs and brown under the broiler/grill.
I cooked the recipe accordingly, and here are my results:
I made this for dinner when my sister stopped by for the weekend and she tried it along with my husband. He said, “I was thrown off because I don’t like the texture of eggs, but in this the texture of the pasta balances out the eggs. There was no aftertaste, and I liked it and I ate more than I expected. If I could improve it I would add some cheese like Parmesan or Mozzarella. Another downside is that once it went in the fridge, the leftovers crumbled quite a bit and wouldn’t hold their shape.” My sister said, “It tastes like ramen, with similar seasonings. The curry kind of overpowers everything and if I were cooking it I would use less, but I like that the egg adds some texture, and I also think it would better with cheese.” I tend to agree with them both to an extent. The taste of the curry was pretty strong fresh out of the oven, but once I had some leftovers the flavors all blended together better and I really fell in love with this dish! If I did it again, all that I would change is that I’d add a ton of cheddar cheese to the sauce to make a scrumptious cheese sauce before mixing it with the macaroni.
I hope that you all get to make and try out one of Jackie Cooper’s specialties, and hold on to your seats until I come back with my next recipe and review!
Hooray! I’m already back with my first post for April! Today I’m celebrating the coming of the new month with The April Showers Blogathon, celebrating the best uses of rain in motion pictures. I’d like to start off as always by thanking the host of this blogathon, Steve over at Movie Movie Blog Blog, for creating such an interesting topic for everyone to write about. I shower the blogathon with love and hopes that it’s a great success, and if you’d like to read all of the other soggy entries, check out this post! Without further ado, let’s begin!
Of all types of weather that’s displayed in film, you could say that rain is the most important. Rain can make a romance more tender or dramatic, a noir more heartwrenching, or a horror even more chilling. Rain can stop the plot of a picture or even help it along, and when I was thinking about great uses of rain on the silver screen, my mind immediately went to Thunder on the Hill (1951), an underrated gem starring two incomporable stars of the day, Claudette Colbert and Ann Blyth, the latter being one of my favorite actresses of all time and the namesake for my two blogs. The film begins with a heavy downpour, so heavy that it floods the county of Norfolk, England. The innundated streets prevent ambulances from getting to county hospitals, and the only shelter and medical center available for miles is the convent and hospital Our Lady of Sorrow that rests on top of a steep hill, safe from the floods and headed by Mother Superior (Gladys Cooper) and Sister Mary (Claudette Colbert). Though she has no real authority, it appears that Sister Mary attempts to run the convent and hospital with a self-righteous need to do everything her own way, which causes tension between herself and some of the nurses in the convent. It’s later revealed that Sister Mary has strived to make no mistakes due to one that she made in her past which led to her sister’s death; Mary forbade her union with a man whom Mary felt was unfit for her, and her sister committed suicide as a result.
Even more chaos erupts in the convent when two guards, Sergeant Melling (Gavin Muir) and Miss Pierce (played by Norma Varden, one of the most recognizable character actresses of classic film), arrive with their prisoner, Valerie Carns (Ann Blyth). Valerie is considered a notorious murderess and practically evil incarnate by the townspeople who seek refuge in the convent due to her cold-blooded murder of her brother, composer Jason Carns. In fact, she was in the process of being transported to Norwich for her execution when the floods came and left them stranded at the convent in the first place. Sister Mary informs Valerie and her guards that the floods cannot allow anyone to be transported anywhere, and that the three will have to wait a few days until the water recedes before going on their way. Valerie is in despair when she hears the news, unable to bear waiting longer and longer to die, and Sister Mary attempts to comfort her while Valerie remains cynical. In spite of everything, she still maintains her innocence, and the closer Sister Mary gets to Valerie, the more she too believes that Valerie did not kill her brother. All too quickly Mary begins to become obsessed with the case and with clearing her new friend’s name, even involving the other Sisters in her attempt to save Valerie’s life. But will the holier-than-thou nun be stopped before she can bring out the truth? Will Mary endanger everyone when the real killer is revealed?
As I mentioned before, rain can either halt the plot of a film or help move it along. At the start of this film, one might suspect that the floods would stop the action by not allowing Valerie to be transported to her execution. It’s soon revealed that quite the opposite is true when Mary begins her journey to solve the murder of Jason Carns almost singlehandedly. The movie is filled to the brim with stellar leading as well as supporting performances, and there’s no shortage of suspense despite the action basically being limited to just the location of the convent. It’s easy to see how utterly vital the rain is in this film when you think about how different it would have been without it. If the flood hadn’t swept over the county of Norfolk, Valerie Carns would have simply been led to her demise, Sister Mary would not have discovered the real murderer, and essentially all of the events that occurred in the duration of the film would have simply ceased to exist. If that doesn’t show how important weather can be to a picture, I don’t know what does.
Hi, everybody! I’m back again with what will likely be my final blogathon entry for March. This time I’m celebrating one of my favorite actors, and one that I feel is among the most underrated of all time, Jack Lemmon. As always, I’d first love to thank the gracious hosts of this blogathon, Crítica Retrô and Wide Screen World, for choosing such a wonderful person to write about. I wish this blogathon all of the success possible, and without further ado, on with the post!
I must admit that I had a little bit of trouble at first when I was attempting to choose a film to write about for this great blogathon. I was in the mood to discuss something that I hadn’t seen before, yet at the same time I’m such a huge fan of Jack Lemmon that I had already seen most of his fantastic work. Finally after perusing his filmography, I found one that made me laugh out loud just by hearing the premise, and I knew that I simply had to review it. Hold on to your hats, folks, because You Can’t Run Away From It (1956) is a musical remake of It Happened One Night (1934), a film beloved by all who have seen it that starred Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, and the first film to win every single major Academy Award in the same year. Needless to say the stars of this film, Jack Lemmon and June Allyson, had some large shoes to fill. The remake was helmed by Dick Powell, June Allyson’s then-husband, who served as both producer and director. It was Powell’s third time in the director’s chair, and at the time he and June Allyson had been one of the reigning couples in Hollywood for eleven years. Their marriage would only last seven more years after the completion of this picture, however, as Powell died of cancer in 1963. It’s suggested that the film The Conqueror (1956), the film that he directed just before You Can’t Run Away From It (1956), attributed to and perhaps caused his death as he decided to film in St. George, Utah, 137 miles away from one of the US government’s nuclear testing sites. The filmmakers knew about the government’s activities in the area, but the government assured them that the tests would not be hazardous to the cast and crew. Despite their reassurance, 91 out of the 220 people who worked on the film developed some form of cancer, and 46 eventually died from it, including lead actors John Wayne and Susan Hayward, as well as director of The Conqueror (1956) and today’s film, Dick Powell.
If you’re familiar with the original classic It Happened One Night (1934), you’ll definitely pick up on all of the similarities to You Can’t Run Away From It (1956). In fact, you could probably say that there are more similarities than differences between the two. Both films begin with heiress Ellen “Ellie” Andrews (played by June Allyson in this film) being held prisoner by her father on his yacht just after her marriage to a man that he doesn’t approve of. She’s inconsolable and completely uncooperative with the yacht’s crew members, even throwing a hairbrush at one of them for attempting to bring her food during her defiant hunger strike. One of the most apparent differences in the remake is that Ellie’s father A.A Andrews is played by Charles Bickford, giving a Texan flair to the whole film as a result. His character half-heartedly attempts to calm Ellie down before letting her know that her new husband, Jacques Ballerino (Jacques Scott), decided to wait for her in her hometown of Houston rather than their wedding location in Alcapulco, and that A.A planned to keep her on the yacht and have the marriage annulled. Furious, Ellie decides to jump ship and swim ashore, planning to find her own way to Houston and into the arms of her husband. She manages to evade her father’s crafty detectives, who are already on the lookout for her, by paying a trustworthy-looking old lady to buy her the last bus ticket to Tuscon, Arizona. While on the bus, she meets out of work newspaper man Peter Warne (Jack Lemmon), whom she loathes at first but eventually warms up to after he helps her out of multiple sticky situations, including his gallant attempt to retrieve her stolen luggage and his success in getting her away from George Shapley, a slimy individual who attempts to make passes at Ellie on the bus. Once Peter finds out who she really is, the two make a deal: He assists her to Houston and her husband, while she gives him the exclusive story of her travels, saving his career in the process. But when Peter and Ellie start to fall in love along the way, they find out that they can’t run away from it!
The other glaringly obvious difference between this film and It Happened One Night (1934) is the multitude of songs, with the lyrics penned by the legendary Johnny Mercer, who wrote many classic film songs including “I’m Old Fashioned” from You Were Never Lovelier (1942), “That Old Black Magic” which appeared in Bus Stop (1956) and The Nutty Professor (1963), and most famously the song “Moon River”, which Audrey Hepburn immortalized in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961). The music for the songs was supplied by Gene de Paul, who had previously worked on the iconic musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). Five songs appeared on the soundtrack overall: “Howdy Friends and Neighbors”, sang by one of the bus’ passengers Fred Toten (played by Stubby Kaye), “Temporarily”, an adorable tune in which Peter and Ellie gripe about their living situation, “Thumbin’ A Ride”, which musically explains the scene which made It Happened One Night (1934) so famous as Ellie (originally played by Claudette Colbert) lifts her skirt to show her leg and successfully hitches a ride after Peter (originally played by Clark Gable) fails to do so with his thumb, “Scarecrow Ballet”, an insrumental song during which Ellie dances with a scarecrow, and of course “You Can’t Run Away From It”, the lovely and fitting title song performed by a wildly popular group at the time, The Four Aces. Of the five numbers in the film, I honestly was only impressed by “Temporarily” and “You Can’t Run Away From It”. While I feel that “Howdy Friends and Neighbors” worked for the plot, I don’t understand why it was wasted on such a minor character, one who was in fact only in the film to sing the song. I felt that both “Thumbin’ A Ride” and “Scarecrow Ballet” were both completely unnecessary, with the first practically ruining the iconic scene that appears in the original film, and the second being an obvious time killer that stopped the plot dead in its tracks.
Despite my misgivings for the majority of the songs, I must say that You Can’t Run Away From It (1956) was far better than I expected it to be. Jack Lemmon absolutely shines in the role of Peter Warne, and though he obviously doesn’t bring the gruff manliness to the role that Clark Gable naturally did in the original, he did bring a unique sort of magic and a different kind of street smart character that only he could pull off. His vocals thoroughly impressed me as well, even though you might say that he talked through a couple of the songs rather than sang them. It’s obvious that Dick Powell was trying his best to put all of the spotlight on his wife June Allyson, but it’s easy to see that Jack Lemmon stole the show in spite of Powell’s efforts. While her portrayal of Ellie Andrews was fine, I feel that it lacked the cleverness and wit that Claudette Colbert brought to the part, and unforunately this film further cements my opinion that June Allyson simply wasn’t right for musicals. It may be an unpopular opinion considering how many she appeared in and how well they did at the box office, but her singing voice just never appealed to me. Overall, I would strongly recommend watching this film for Jack Lemmon as well as the delightful story, and I feel that it really did justice to the original classic. I urge any who are curious to check out It Happened One Night (1934) first though, because many of the sly witticisms were taken from the film word for word, and the remake allows them to come off so naturally that a moviegoer who only saw You Can’t Run Away From It (1956) would probably think that the iconic lines were completely unique.
It’s with a heavy heart that I write about some severely underreported news: Universal Studios in Hollywood has demolished four of their soundstages (Stages 22, 23, 24, and 25 to be exact), putting in motion a five-year plan to demolish their older stages in order to make room for theme park expansions and a newly renovated backlot. Inside Universal first broke the news two days ago, and while I was stunned at first, my feelings quickly turned into sadness and honestly a bit of anger once I began researching some of the history that these stages posessed. Below I’ve decided to point out some of the iconic films and television shows that were filmed on Stages 22-25, as well as what’s next for Universal Studios.
Stage 22, like most of the other stages that have been or will be torn down, was the birthplace of quite a few films that we know and love, including but not limited to: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1947), To Catch A Thief (1954), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), Airport (1970), and The Sting (1973). Stage 22 was also the home of some television shows like Murder She Wrote (1984-1996), and CSI (2000-), as well as some more modern films like The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), the remake of Psycho (1998), Hulk (2003), and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004).
The only two films shot at Stage 23 that would be considered Old Hollywood are Harvey (1950) and The Sting (1973), but this stage holds a great deal of recent history. The Rockford Files (1974-80), the legendary television series starring lovable classic film actor James Garner was filmed there (James Garner’s fan page on Facebook is actually how I learned about this upsetting demolition), as well as the original television series starring The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982), the original Jurassic Park (1993), The Cat and the Hat (2003), and the second and third installments of the wildly popular Pirates of the Carribean franchise, Dead Man’s Chest (2006) and At World’s End (2007).
As an Old Hollywood fan, the demolition of Stage 24 upsets me perhaps most of all. Two of Rock Hudson’s best films were filmed here, Pillow Talk (1959) and Man’s Favorite Sport? (1964). From season three onward, Lucille Ball’s show Here’s Lucy (1968-1974) also found a home at the lot.
Last but not least of the recently torn down soundstages, Stage 25 was where the Oscar-winning film Written on the Wind (1956) and the John Belushi classic The Blues Brothers (1980) were shot.
I wish I could say that Universal’s demolitions ended with these stages, but unfortunately there will be more to come. The studio plans to tear down Soundstages 29, 33-37, and 41-44, along with a rehearsal hall. Not all of these offer up any classic film nostalgia, but the some certainly do, like Stage 29, which housed the courthouse exterior of To Kill A Mockingbird (1962). Stage 33 also served as the filming location for the Debbie Reynolds hit Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), and Stage 44 was one of the many places where the legendary Hitchcock thriller The Birds (1963) was filmed.
As tempted as I am to try to do something about the future destruction, I really don’t believe that it would do much good this late in the game. I think all we can really do is offer a moment of silence for these locations that were home to some of the greatest stars and films of all time.
If you’ve followed my blog long enough, you probably know how much I love birthdays. I always give birthday shoutouts when it pertains to a blogathon entry that I’m writing, and my Tumblr really shows my adoration for all of classic film’s brightest stars on their birthdays. So, after trying long and hard to think of a great idea for my follow-up of my blogathon celebrating the 117th birthday of Humphrey Bogart, I couldn’t resist celebrating another birthday! Still, this time I wanted to change things up a bit and celebrate something more important. When I found out that the iconic Dean Martin is celebrating the big 100 this year on June 7, I knew that he was the perfect person to honor in the grandest of fashions.
Few people have ever achieved the level of legendary star status that Dean Martin has over so many forms of entertainment. From his film career that spanned four decades to his discography that includes over sixty albums (including compliation and those released after his passing in 1995) and memorable hits like “That’s Amore” and “Everybody Loves Somebody”, Dean continues to be a household name all over the world. His long-running television shows, “The Dean Martin Show” and “Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roast”, allowed him to reach even higher levels of notoriety, as did his on and offscreen associations with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and the rest of the infamous Rat Pack. However, few of Martin’s accomplishments measure up to his partnership with the incomparable Jerry Lewis, which resulted in sixteen films and a lot of laughs. All of these fantastic achievements and so much more is why I’ve decided to celebrate his life and career.
I am allowing TWO duplicates for each subject, but Dean has an extremely significant and diverse filmography with nearly seventy films to his credit, so I would still like to see as many different topics being written about as possible.
Anything relating to Dean Martin is up for grabs! You could write about his partnership with Jerry Lewis, your favorite song of his, his lesser-known westerns, his many television appearances, or even his associations with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. The possibilities are endless!
Once you think of a topic, please leave a comment with your blog’s name, your blog’s link, and your subject (include the year if you’re choosing a movie).
Once you’ve been approved, I’d appreciate it if you help me spread the word! Please take one of my banners from below and put it somewhere on your blog, and make sure to tell your friends. I’d love to see as many participants as possible!
Musings of A Classic Film Addict — 10 Things You May Not Know About Dean Martin
Hello, everyone! I know I’ve been a bit busy these last few months, but I’m trying my best to squeeze in a few blogathon entries and perhaps a new series that I have in the works that my readers are sure to enjoy before I host my next blogathon (you can vote for what my blogathon will be about here). Today I’ll be beloved actor John Garfield on the day after what would have been his 104th birthday, and I’d like to start things off by thanking Phyllis of Phyllis Loves Classic Movies for the opportunity to write about such an underrated actor and film. So without further ado I’d like to wish Mr. Garfield a very happy belated birthday, and on with the post!
In this film, we meet a diverse group of people hoping to board an ocean liner for America at the height of World War Two. All seems to be well until an Austrian pianist and French Resistance veteran named Henry Bergner (Paul Henried) is denied passage for himself and his wife due to lack of an exit permit. Leaving the premises in despair, the audience soon sees his equally distraught wife Ann (Eleanor Parker) searching for Henry in the street amongst the chaos and uproar of a German air raid. She witnesses one of the many falling bombs destroy a car full of passengers on their way to the docks, and hurries home to find Henry attempting suicide by subjecting himself to gas exposure. Rather than putting forth much effort to save him, she intends to join him in death, and soon the two find themselves onboard the ship on which they were denied entry at the film’s beginning. Ann and Henry soon realize that they are dead and find themselves happy to spend an eternity together, especially after Henry finds that he can once again play piano after what was undoubtedly post-traumatic stress disorder caused his hands to shake uncontrollably. Ann also recognizes some of the other passengers on the ship as the very same people who were killed in the air raid, while Henry sees some of the people who were with him in the ship’s office when he was not allowed onboard. Eventually the audience meets all of the ship’s commuters, including cynical drinker and newspaper man Thomas Prior (played by our birthday boy John Garfield) and his girlfriend Maxine Russell (Faye Emerson), the rich and powerful Mr. Lingley (George Coulouris), the steward of the ship Scrubby (played by the always incredible character actor Edmund Gwenn), shy priest Reverend William Duke (Dennis King), sailor Pete Musick (George Tobias), wealthy yet mismatched couple Genevieve and Benjamin Cliveden-Banks (Isobel Elsom and Gilbert Emery), and a sweet elderly woman named Mrs. Midget (Sara Allgood).
With the exception of Henry, Ann, and Scrubby, no one onboard knows that they are dead, and one by one we get a glimpse into each person’s lives, motivations, and desires. We find out that Mr. Lingley used his power in order to get Thomas Prior fired for writing unsavory articles about him, and while Thomas is drinking and blowing off steam about it, we also learn that his girlfriend Maxine doesn’t want to be with him anymore and begins to cozy up to Mr. Lingley due to his wealth and position. Meanwhile, Henry and Ann meet Pete Musick, and are about to tell him that he is deceased when Scrubby intercedes, telling the couple that the passengers need to find out in their own time and way. Everyone convenes at dinner, and the discussion of new beginnings upsets Ann so much that she flees the room in tears. Both friends and enemies are made onboard the ship, and eventually our star of the day’s character Thomas Prior is the fourth to find out that everyone is dead after overhearing Henry and Ann discussing it, though it seems that he was already beginning to form the suspicion of it himself. Already dumped at this point by his girlfriend Maxine for Mr. Lingley, Thomas decides to get his revenge by setting up a magic show which ultimately informs the rest of the travelers that they are lifeless as well, ending it in a “spectacular” finale in which Tomas shoots Mr. Lingley in the chest and doesn’t harm him at all. Soon the cat is out of the bag, and Scrubby informs everyone on the ship that they will be judged by the Examiner (Sydney Greenstreet) and sent ashore to their respective afterlifes according to his ruling. Will the commuters’ pleas or good behavior save their souls? Who will be sent to heaven, and who will be sent to hell?
The first thing I noticed about the film was its exceptional score, likely because I learned prior to watching that it was the favorite composition of famed film composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who also composed the scores for such classics as Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) and The Constant Nymph(1943). I also caught onto many of the film’s references to another classic Warner Bros. film made two years prior to this one, Casablanca (1942), which also starred the man who is arguably the main actor in this film, Paul Henried. His character Henry Bergner (sounds like Bergman, doesn’t it?) is a Resistance fighter for the French, and discusses the discussion of exit visas for himself and his wife. Both pictures also starred Sydney Greenstreet, who portrays the Examiner in this film. All in all, I found nearly every performance to be excellent, and this film reminded me how much I adored John Garfield’s speaking voice. In 1944 his star power was a force to be reckoned with, but despite that, I do believe giving him top billing in this film was slightly misleading. Paul Henried and Eleanor Parker’s characters are definitely given the most screen time and attention of the cast, especially towards the beginning of the film, and Garfield’s character tends to come in like a dark horse throughout the middle and end of the picture, gluing together subplots and adding some realism when necessary.
I appreciated his performance even more when I learned that Between Two Worlds (1944) appears to be the last film that John Garfield completed prior to the death of his daughter Katherine Hannah Garfield on March 18, 1945 at only six years old from a sudden allergic reaction, and the fact makes it even more chilling that this film dealt so much with death and the afterlife. Usually I dislike films with too many characters and different storylines moving forward at once, and if we’re being honest this film isn’t much of an exception. Nevertheless, I can’t say that the film as a whole is subpar, as I found it to be more of a mixed bag than I anticipated. On one hand, I really applaud Warner Bros. for gathering so many underappreciated supporting actors into one movie, especially the always too overlooked Henried, Parker, and Gwenn. Yet on the other, I think if the screenwriter of Between Two Worlds (1944) decided to nix some of the minor characters and put more focus on the plots of Henry, Ann, and Thomas, we would have seen a much better and more coherent film as a result. Still, despite my own personal misgivings, I would definitely still recommend it to anyone looking for a fantasy-based picture to watch for John Garfield’s birthday.
Hey, awesome followers! Since I’ve been getting back into the swing of things I’ve been itching to host another blogathon here on Musings of a Classic Film Addict. My very first one on this blog, a tribute to Humphrey Bogart this past December, was a great success, and I’d love to honor another shining star in the same fashion this spring. Unfortunately, my only problem has been that I can’t seem to decide whom to celebrate!
As my last blogathon celebrated Bogie’s birthday, I’m thinking that I’d like to honor another star on his or her birthday as well, especially because birthdays have always been near and dear to my heart. So, with that being said, I’ve compiled a small list of actors and actresses that I’m seriously considering celebrating in the coming months, and all I need is your input! If you have any ideas that you’d like to see that aren’t below or if you’d like to collaborate, definitely let me know that as well!
Make sure to vote in the poll below, and make sure to tell your friends to vote too! I’ll be leaving the poll open until Friday, March 10th, and I’ll be announcing my next blogathon by March 12th. Have fun voting!
Already I have another blogathon entry to offer my wonderful followers! This time I’m celebrating the 90th birthday of my favorite living actor, Sidney Poitier, and my favorite film of his. Before I begin I’d love to thank the always gracious host of this blogathon, Virginie over at The Wonderful World of Cinema, for always choosing such incredible and deserving people for us to write about. I wish this blogathon all of the success possible, and I can’t wait to participate in the 2nd Golden Boy Blogathon: A William Holden Celebration in April! And of course, if you’re interested in reading all of the other entries relating to Sidney Poitier, mosey on over to this post which lists them all. Without further ado, I wish Mr. Poitier the happiest of birthdays tomorrow, and on with the post!
I have had a long and loving relationship with this film over the last five years or so. I was first introduced to it as a freshman in high school, and immediately fell in love with both the moving story and its leading actor, Sidney Poitier. This single film has developed into what will likely be a lifelong passion of mine for his work, and the year after I discovered it I introduced it to the classic film club that I created as a sophomore. Of all of the films that we watched during the club’s existence, this was considered the favorite by a unanimous vote, which speaks volumes about its powerful subject matter, artistic direction, and relevancy, even today. The film takes place right in the middle of the historic Civil Rights Movement, and immediately introduces the audience to Selina D’Arcey (Elizabeth Hartman), a blind teenager who dilligently strings beads for income and keeps house after her alcoholic grandfather Ole Pa (Wallace Ford, in his final film role) and her abusive mother Rose-Ann (Shelley Winters, in her typical role as an obnoxious villainess), a prostitute. Despite her hardworking demeanor, Selina is not very independent as she never received a formal education, and begs Ole Pa to walk her just a few blocks to the park. She promises to work twice as hard stringing beads if he does so, and he agrees despite Rose-Ann’s selfish objections.
While there, Selina meets the gentle Gordon Ralfe (Sidney Poitier), a black man who works nights and spends his days in the park. The two become fast friends and Selina tells him the story of how her mother Rose-Ann blinded her by accidentally throwing acid in her face when she was five years old during a domestic dispute with her father. Gordon begins to witness the level of abuse that Selina has been through and feels sympathy for her, helping her string her beads, bringing her pineapple juice, and by presenting her with a pair of dark sunglasses because she felt insecure about the scars around her eyes. He soon learns that she has never attended school and is shocked by that fact most of all, stunned that she had never even heard of Braille or schools designated for the blind. Later that evening he takes it upon himself to do some reading about the blind, and meanwhile Rose-Ann slaps Selina for going to the park and steals the sunglasses given to her by Gordon. Despite her opposition, Selina manages to go back to the park the next day with the help of Mr. Faber (John Qualen), the merchant who gives her beads to string. Once again she meets Gordon, and he helps her find her own way across the street and ends up teaching her a little bit more about the world in the process. The two begin to fall in love, but Selina starts being pulled in two directons. On one hand, Rose-Ann is making plans to shack up with fellow prostitute Sadie, ditch Ole Pa, and forcefully bring Selina into their grim business. On the other, Gordon promises Selina a brighter and more independent life by assisting her in enrolling in a blind school. Which path will she be able to choose? Will Selina begin to teach Gordon a few things about life as well? Is love truly blind, or will Selina never be able to look past the color of Gordon’s skin?
The complex role of Selina D’Arcey proved to be a difficult one for director and screenwriter Guy Green as well as the casting directors at MGM. Hayley Mills was considered for the role but hiring her proved to be too costly. Producers Green and Pandro S. Berman then offered the role to Patty Duke, who was advised to reject it as she had just starred in the 1962 hit The Miracle Worker (1962) as the famous blind woman Helen Keller, and was afraid of being typecast in such parts. Eventually Green set his sights on casting an unknown actress, leading to open casting calls, and as soon as Elizabeth Hartman walked in, he knew that she was perfect for the role. She had only appeared in middle and high school plays prior to her appearance in A Patch of Blue (1965), and the studio decided to take advantage of this fact by releasing “A Cinderella Named Elizabeth”, a short film documenting her casting process and the research that she conducted for her role, prior to the film’s release. Hartman ended up wearing opaque contact lenses as Selina, which added a realistic touch to the completed picture as they ended up actually depriving her of her sight. Her work and research paid off, as she became the youngest woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress at the tender age of twenty-two, a record that she held proudly for eleven years until 1976, when Isabelle Adjani was nominated at twenty-one for her work in The Story of Adele H (1976). A Patch of Blue (1965) was nominated for five Academy Awards in all, yet only a single Oscar was awarded to Shelley Winters for Best Supporting Actress in the role of Rose-Ann. Winters, a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, was actually overwhelmed and speechless after winning the award as she felt uncomfortable portraying a racist and disliked her character as a result.
As for our star of the day Sidney Poitier, the picture proved to be the most financially successful of his entire career despite the fact that he did not receive an Academy Award nomination, with the film raking in $6.75 million with a budget of only $800,000. This proved to be most lucrative for Poitier as he forfeited a portion of his salary in exchange for 10% of the film’s profits. In addition, the film skyrocketed Poitier to a new level of stardom with excellent critical reception and box office draws even in the southern cities that were steadfastly against the Civil Rights Movement, like Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte. Scenes of Sidney Poitier and Elizabeth Hartman kissing were nevertheless removed when it was shown in theaters in those and other southern cities, where many states had laws against what they called “race-mixing”. Overall, A Patch of Blue (1965) still proved to be a step in the right direction, and casting agents, directors, and producers began lining up to cast him in films that would later be regarded as some of his best and most well-known, like To Sir, With Love (1966), In the Heat of the Night (1967), and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967). This picture in particular still remains the closest one to my heart of all of Mr. Poitier’s roles, especially due to the ingenious direction by Guy Green. His decision to shoot the film in black and white when he could have very easily produced it in color is a stellar artistic choice on its own, and the audience being visually limited, even if it isn’t on the same scale as Selina D’Arcey, adds subtle meaning to the finished product. All in all, I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking to watch a poignant and underrated classic on his nintieth birthday.
After a long time away from this blog, I’m finally back with my first post of the year! Today I’ll be talking about legendary actress Luise Rainer and how becoming the first back-to-back Oscar winner changed the course of her life and career. I’d like to start by thanking the three lovely hosts of this blogathon, Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen for hosting, and I wish this wonderful blogathon all the success possible! And so, without further ado, on with the post!
If you have ever seen a film of Luise Rainer’s before, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that she got her first big break in Europe. In fact, she was discovered in Vienna by legendary theater director Max Reinhardt (who went on to direct A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)) and garnered widespread acclaim as part of his theatre company before even turning eighteen. At first Rainer had no interest in films, but in after appearing in several German films in the early 1930s, she was seen performing in a play by MGM talent scout Phil Berg. Immediately he offered Rainer a three-year contract with high hopes that she would move to Hollywood and make a useful backup for finicky Swedish MGM player Greta Garbo. Rainer accepted the offer, and got her second lucky break as soon as she arrived in sunny California, as Myrna Loy had just dropped out of her newest Powell and Loy vehicle halfway through filimg and MGM was in dire need of a star. At the tender age of twenty-five she made her American debut in the film, titled Escapade (1935).
Costar William Powell served as a mentor to her on the picture, teaching her how to act in front of the camera. Rainer remembered him always as “a dear man” and “a very fine person”, and after the film’s completion Powell reportedly told MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer, “You’ve got to star this girl or I’ll look like an idiot.” And star her he did, in what would be her first Oscar-winning performance and her second film with William Powell, The Great Ziegfeld (1936). It was a film that chronicled the life of entertainment mogul and founder of the Ziegfeld Follies, Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., and also served as MGM’s attempt to ride on the coattails of other successful biographical pictures of the 1930s, like Mata Hari (1931), The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), and Cleopatra (1934). In it, Rainer portrayed Ziegfeld’s first wife, French actress and singer Anna Held. A lavish budget of just over $2 million was given to the picture, and in return it received raving critical and box office success, earning back its budget and almost a million more in total profits and nabbing seven Academy Award nominations, for Original Screenplay, Art and Dance Direction, Film Editing, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Actress for Luise Rainer.
When Oscar night drew near, however, everyone believed that she would lose to one of her more experienced and respected competitors. That year, Carole Lombard received her first and only nomination for My Man Godfrey (1936), Norma Shearer recieved her fifth nomination for Romeo and Juliet (1936), and Irene Dunne received her second of five unsuccessful nominations for Theodora Goes Wild (1936). Even Luise Rainer herself remained at home, not expecting to win, but when Mayer learned that she had indeed won in what many consider to be a shocking upset, he hurriedly sent MGM publicity head Howard Strickling to her home to fetch her. After much commotion Rainer took home the golden man, and since that date many theories have been presented as to why. One states that MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer had more influence over the Academy than anyone else, and he believed that an Oscar for Rainer would give her some much needed publicity. Another believes that the Academy was blinded by the glitter and glamour of The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and wanted to award the film with as many accolades as possible. Most historians believe, however, that her heartfelt performance in what is now called the famous “telephone scene” earned her the Oscar, a scene in which the broken-hearted Held congratulates Ziegfeld over the telephone on his upcoming second marriage to Billie Burke in a prideful attempt to maintain her composure and her dignity.
Her performance in the film led her to recieve the coveted part of O-Lan in her next picture, The Good Earth (1937), an adaptation of the bestselling 1931 novel by Pearl S. Buck about the trials of Chinese farmer Wang Lung. O-Lan is a servant who becomes Wang Lung’s faithful and hardworking wife, and the two of them lead a life that brings both prosperity and destitution. The role required a stellar actress despite the character not having many lines, and Rainer nabbed the part after censors forbid the use of Asian actress Anna May Wong after hearing that white actor Paul Muni had already received the role of Wang Lung. Like many other films, the production of The Good Earth (1937) was riddled with complications as soon as Rainer was cast. Louis B. Mayer did not approve of such a realistic and plain picture for Luise Rainer, who he had just built up as a beautiful star. “He was horrified at Irving Thalberg’s insistence for me to play O-Lan, the poor uncomely little Chinese peasant,” she recalled in a later interview. “I myself, with the meager dialogue given to me, feared to be a hilarious bore.” Rainer also remembered hearing Mayer’s comments to Thalberg, producer of the film. “She has to be a dismal-looking slave and grow old; but Luise is a young girl; we just have made her glamorous — what are you doing?”
Nevertheless, Rainer considered the film and her part in it among her “greatest achievements”, stating that she was finally able to express realism, even refusing to wear the “rubber mask Chinese look” suggested by the makeup department, and she fondly remembered being allowed to act “genuine, honest, and down-to-earth”. Other serious problems arose when director George W. Hill, who had already spent several months on location in China filming esablishing and background scenes, committed suicide soon after returning to Hollywood. The filming was postponed until Sidney Franklin could take over as director. Months later, producer Irving Thalberg also died suddenly at the age of thirty-seven. Rainer commented years later, “His dying was a terrible shock to us. He was young and ever so able. Had it not been that he died, I think I may have stayed much longer in films.” The opening credits of The Good Earth (1937) include a dedication to Thalberg: “To the Memory of Irving Grant Thalberg — his last greatest achievement – we dedicate this picture.” His hard work and that of the rest of the cast and crew paid off, however, as the film received overwhelmingly positive reviews and was nominated for five Academy Awards, for Film Editing, Cinematography, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Actress, giving Luise Rainer her second nomination in a row.
Again not much faith was put into Rainer’s ability to win the Oscar and her competition was very steep, as in 1937 Irene Dunne received her third nomination for The Awful Truth (1937), Greta Garbo received her second of three unsuccessful nominations for Camille (1937), Janet Gaynor received her second nomination for the original production of A Star is Born (1937), and Barbara Stanwyck received her first of four unsuccessful nominations for Stella Dallas (1937). Once more Luise Rainer surprised everyone by becoming the world’s first back-to-back winner of the Academy Award, male or female. The feat would not be duplicated again until 1968, when Katharine Hepburn won Best Actress for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) and The Lion in Winter (1968). This time Rainer made sure to attend the ceremony, appearing in person and accepting her Oscar for the world to see. Critics overwhelmingly did not agree with the decision, favoring Greta Garbo’s performance in Camille (1937) and still believing that she deserved the Oscar, and unfortunately for Rainer, the award proved to be the beginning of the end for her career in films.
Rainer went on to fulfill her contract with MGM, making three more pictures in 1937 alone. Her next (and most consider her last) hit was The Great Waltz (1938), another musical biographical film in which Rainer played the part of Poldi Vogelhuber, wife of Johann Strauss. The film was nominated for three Oscars and won one for best cinematography, but Luise Rainer did not receive another nomination. Later she became one of the many actresses considered for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939), and rallied unsuccessfully for the part of Belinda McDonald in Johnny Belinda (1948). The role eventually went to Jane Wyman and earned her her only Oscar for Best Actress. In 1938 Rainer left MGM, arriving at the office of studio head Louis B. Mayer and reportedly telling him, “Mr. Mayer, I must stop making films. My source has dried up. I work from the inside out, and there is nothing inside to give.”
Despite her grievances, she was not released from her contract and was still bound to make one more film for the studio, which she did in 1943 with the film Hostages (1943). Rainer later said about her departure: “I was very young. There were a lot of things I was unprepared for. I was too honest, I talked serious instead of with my eyelashes and Hollywood thought I was cuckoo. I worked in seven big pictures in three years. I have to be inspired to give a good performance. I complained to a studio executive that the source was dried up. The executive told me, ‘Why worry about the source? Let the director worry about that.’ I didn’t run away from anybody in Hollywood. I ran away from myself.” She later attributed her the end of her career to her back-to-back Academy Awards, saying that “For my second and third pictures I won Academy Awards. Nothing worse could have happened to me. When I got two Oscars, they thought ‘Oh, they can throw me into anything’. I was a machine, practically a tool in a big, big factory, and I could not do anything. And so I left. I just went away. I fled. Yes, I fled.” Despite other offers in the meantime, Luise Rainer did not return to films until she was eighty-six years old, with one small role in The Gambler (1997), after which she did not work again.
Here I am with another installment of my Five Top Five series for December! Today I’ll be ranking the best films of rugged tough guy Humphrey Bogart as my contribution to my first ever blogathon, the Humphrey Bogart Blogathon! You can find the blogathon’s announcement here, and you can find the rest of the entries here! Without further ado, on with the post!
5. In A Lonely Place (1950)
First up we have one of the two films that I saw for the first time at last year’s Humphrey Bogart Film Festival and thoroughly enjoyed. In this vastly underrated noir, screenwriter Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart), who is known for his drunkenness and belligerence, is given the arduous task of adapting the latest bestseller to the screen. Unwilling to read the book himself, he takes home a lovely hat check girl and fan of the novel named Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart) to summarize it for him in his home. When the girl is found murdered that very same night Steele becomes the police’s prime suspect, and when he is unable to cough up an alibi his alluring neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) interferes in his defense. Dixon and Laurel become unlikely friends and eventually unlikely lovers, but will their love be enough when he becomes violent and doubts of his innocence creep into her mind? Bogart plays against type as a completely unlikable character in a Hollywood film about Hollywood, which was the fourth film produced by Bogart’s own production company, Santana Productions. With stellar writing, acting on the parts of Bogie and Gloria Grahame, and directing on the part of Nicholas Ray (husband of our leading lady at the time and the man who would go on to helm Rebel Without A Cause (1955)), In A Lonely Place (1950) deserves an immense amount of credit and should go down in history as one of the more sublime and dark noirs of the genre.
4. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
I know what you’re thinking; this film is far too much of a classic to be ranked so low on my list, but I must admit that this film took a few watches to fully understand the plot and arc of the story. Once I did understand, I developed an appreciation for it, but not quite as strong as my appreciation was and is for many of Bogart’s less convoluted pictures. This iconic movie is all about Sam Spade (Bogart), a private eye and half of Spade and Archer, a detective agency with his partner Miles (Jerome Cowan). One not so ordinary afternoon, a captivating brunette who goes by Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor) enters Spade’s office and begs for his help in finding her missing sister by sending one of the detectives to track the man who she’s supposedly in love with. Archer takes the case, trailing the man supposedly named Floyd Thursby, and winds up getting murdered in the process. With hardly any leads and nothing turning out like it seems on the surface, Sam Spade entangles himself in a web of crime and deceit, all revolving around a priceless artifact: The Maltese Falcon. Bogart puts his incredible “tough guy with a heart of gold” persona on full display in this film, and even though Spade makes some antihero-like decisions throughout its entirety, you know that he will swallow his pride and do the right thing in the end. This trope that resides in many of Humphrey Bogart’s roles is what really attracts my attention to his films, and this one is no exception. If you have a desire to check out some iconic noirs and see the likes of Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and many more talented character actors in their best roles, check out this film immediately.
3. The Caine Mutiny (1954)
Next we have my favorite of the films that I saw for the first time at the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival. Here we find newcomer Robert Francis in the lead as Ensign Willie Keith, a recent graduate who reports to the USS Caine, a beaten up minesweeper called “the rust bucket” by its untidy and unorganized crew. The commander, Lieutenant De Vriess (Tom Tully), is liked by everyone on the crew except for Keith, who believes that those on the ship could use some good discipline. Soon De Vriess is relieved by Phillip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), a far more uptight yet bizarre captain, who makes mistake after mistake and covers each one up to the best of his ability. Keith and two of his good friends onboard the ship, Lieutenants Steve Maryk and Tom Keefer (Van Johnson and Fred MacMurray), begin to doubt their captain’s sanity, and when Queeg makes a decision that Keith believes would put the Caine‘s entire crew in jeopardy, he takes it upon himself to call for a mutiny and relieve Queeg of his position as captain. Every single performance in this ensemble cast is noteworthy, but Humphrey Bogart truly outdoes himself in his role as the possibly demented captain of the Caine. The scene in which Queeg crumbles on the witness stand in an attempt to defend himself against the crew’s mutiny is especially awe-inspiring, and quite possibly the best acting of his career. If you want to see a superb war epic and acting at its finest, go see this rare color film of Humphrey Bogart’s on his birthday.
2. Dark Passage (1947)
Here we have another of Bogart’s dramas that doesn’t receive nearly enough acclaim. In it he plays the role of Vincent Parry, a convict on death row at San Quentin for the murder of his wife who makes a break for it at the start of the film. He doesn’t get very far at first, but luckily painter Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall) comes to his rescue and smuggles him in her car to her home in San Francisco. There she explains that she felt sorry for Parry and had sat in for every day of his trial, comparing it to the trial and execution of her own father who she believed was innocent in the murder of her stepmother. Parry hides out in Jansen’s apartment and the two are instantly attracted to each other, but destiny comes banging on the door in the form of Madge Rapf (Agnes Moorehead), a shrill and vindictive woman who is an imposing friend of Irene’s and who testified against Vincent at the murder trial out of jealousy. Will Madge and fate interfere and throw Vincent back behind bars, or will he find a better life and escape the electric chair? I find this to be a thrilling masterpiece and the best of the four Bogie and Bacall films. The directing and cinematography Delmer Daves and Sidney Hickox are revolutionary as the entire first half of the film is ingeniously shot from the main character’s perspective. This trick gives us a glimpse into Parry’s life that no other method would, and gives us a gratuitous amount of shots of Lauren Bacall, which I could never complain about either. I would strongly recommend this film to any Bogie and Bacall fan.
1. Dead Reckoning (1947)
My top pick is likely among my list of the most underrated films of all time. In the film Bogie plays Rip Murdock, an ex-paratrooper who tells most of his story in flashback. He and his best friend and fellow paratrooper Johnny Drake (William Prince) are taken by private plane to Washington, D. C. and surprised with the fact that Drake is to be presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery and good deeds in battle. Before he is to receive it, however, Drake leaves town without a word. Determined to find out what happened and what caused his best friend’s disappearance, Murdock heads to his hometown. While there Rip digs a little deeper, and finds out that what was originally a disappearance has turned into a murder, and that Johnny was possibly involved in a murder of his own before he joined the army. To complicate matters even further, Rip finds the love of Johnny’s life, intriguing lounge singer Coral Chandler (Lizabeth Scott), and begins to fall in love with her himself. The exceptional writing by Oliver Garrett and Steve Fisher (based on a story by Gerald Addams and Sidney Biddell) is what truly makes this picture special. Almost every line is quotable in its own right, and while some of the acting may seem cliche or forced (on all counts with the exception of Bogie’s performance), you know that the dialogue spoken in the film is poetic and genuine. With beautiful and mysterious lines like “Go ahead, put Christmas in your eyes and keep your voice low. Tell me about paradise and all the things I’m missing. I haven’t had a good laugh since before Johnny was murdered.”, this film is chock full of romance and intrigue, and I classify it as a must see.