Cooking With the Stars — Vera Miles’ Mexican Casserole

Hey, fellow classic film fans! I’m back with my second installment of Cooking With the Stars, a series of posts in which I whip up and review a delicious recipe that was cooked or eaten by a classic film star. More often than not it will even be their own personal recipe! Most 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 second of three recipes that I plan to blog about for the book, Vera Miles’ Mexican Casserole, courtesy of the author of the upcoming book herself. Thank you so much once again, Jenny!

61

Vera Miles was born on August 23, 1929 in Boise City, Oklahoma, but soon after her birth her family relocated to Kansas, where she attended school in both Pratt and Wichita. After graduating from high school, Vera worked nights as a typist and operator for Western Union, but her first real taste of fame came in 1948 when she won the coveted title of Miss Wichita, and went on to win Miss Kansas and compete in the Miss America pageant. Vera excelled in the pageant circuit, snagging the titles of Miss Chamber of Commerce, Miss New Maid Margarine, and Miss Texas Grapefruit on top of that before 1951 came to an end. Her many titles as a beauty queen caught Hollywood’s eye, and Vera Miles moved to Los Angeles in 1950, landing bit parts in both film and television. It was the legendary director John Ford who gave Vera her first starring role in the classic western The Searchers (1956), opposite John Wayne. The very next year she began a five-year personal contract with another iconic filmmaker and the one with whom she’s most closely associated: none other than Alfred Hitchcock, who added Vera to the long list of delicate blondes who he hoped would serve as replacements for his muse, Grace Kelly, who had just retired from Hollywood in order to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco.

62

Her first job for Hitchcock came when she starred in the pilot episode of Hitchcock Presents (1955-1962), titled “Revenge”, in which she played the dramatic leading role of Elsa Spann, a woman assaulted by an unkown attacker. The master of suspense admired her performance so much that he instantly cast her in The Wrong Man (1957) with Henry Fonda, a film that proved to be yet another success in their partnership. Hitchcock put in motion a third thrilling production for his newest leading lady, but when Miles became pregnant with her third child, the director was forced to replace her with Kim Novak in what would eventually become one of his best known classics, Vertigo (1958). During and after her pregnancy Vera remained a constant in Hollywood, appearing in well-received films like The FBI Story (1959) with James Stewart and continuing to make numerous television appearances, which she would go on to do even after she stopped making films. Notwithstanding the gap between collaborations, Hitchcock was still determined to make Vera Miles his biggest star, and to do that he put her in her biggest role to date, that of Lila Crane in Psycho (1960). The film was a smash, yet Vera would only go on to appear in one more critically acclaimed film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Despite her roles in so many iconic films and television shows (The Twilight Zone, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Columbo, and The Outer Limits, to name a few), sadly Vera hasn’t received the fame and notoriety that she deserves. Though she retired from acting in 1995 and has declined public appearances and interviews, she is fortunately still with us at age 87 and still graciously responds to her fan mail.

I was warned that this dish is very cheesy, but decided to go ahead and give it a try anyway, and I’m glad that I did! Luckily I’ve been watching The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) in order and was able to watch her episode, “Mirror Image”, while I was cooking. It was incredibly well-acted, and the special effects and camera tricks were phenomenal! If you want a delicious and versatile meal to munch on while you watch this lovely Hitchcock blonde in action, here’s how you can make this recipe:

Vera Miles’ Mexican Casserole

  • 2 pounds / 900 grams Cheddar Jack cheese
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 ½ tablespoons flour
  • Dash of salt to taste
  • 2 small cans of green chilli peppers
  • 1 fresh tomato, sliced
  • Dash of oregano
  1. Grate the two cheeses and mix together.
  2. Separate egg whites and beat until stiff, adding the flour for added body.
  3. Beat egg yolks until fluffy and gently fold into egg white mixture.
  4. Take chilli peppers and chop. If you desire less of a hot taste, remove some of the chilli seeds as they contain the hot flavor.
  5. Grease a large casserole dish that would serve about five people and layer a portion of the egg mixture into the dish.
  6. Layer part of the chopped chilli pepper, ending with a portion of the cheese. Repeat until ingredients are used up.
  7. Slice the fresh tomato over the top and and add a sprinkling of oregano.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees F / 190 degrees C / Gas Mark 5 for 30 minutes, or until mixture is set.
8
My casserole just before it went into the oven!
9
My finished casserole!
10
A serving of the casserole! This one looks much prettier than my serving of the first Cooking with the Stars dish!

It’s that easy! This wasn’t the healthiest meal that I’ve ever made (all that cheese meant a lot of grease!), but it tasted great! The egg and tomato made this a recipe that could be a perfect addition to a breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The recipe is wonderful as it is, but I could see more of the chilis or some fresh green bell pepper, spinach, or mushrooms making this a healthier and more complex brunch staple. I would also recommend dividing this recipe up if you’re just cooking for yourself and don’t want leftovers for days and days (mine lasted three!). I hope that you all get to try this for yourselves! You could even write to Vera if you love it! Stay tuned until my next review, where I’ll be trying out a dish from another Pyscho (1960) star!

Five Stars Blogathon — My Top Five Favorite Classic Film Stars

78

Hello, everyone! I’m back after yet another long absence, but I promise that I have some very exciting original content in the works, all having to do with stars and food! Today, however, I’m celebrating National Classic Movie Day, what should be my favorite day of the year yet is a holiday that I wasn’t even aware of until this wonderful blogathon idea came about! Speaking of which, I’d of course like to thank Rick of Classic Film and TV Café for giving me such a difficult task as listing only five stars that I consider my favorite. If you’d like to see more lists and more stars than you can count in the sky, you can find a list of all of the blogathon’s participants here!

5. Grace Kelly

77Let me admit first and foremost that Grace Kelly was not my first favorite actress. That honor goes to Natalie Wood, who would undoubtedly be on this list if I had only one or two more spots to fill. However, Grace was the first actress that I became truly obsessed with and wanted desperately to become. She simply oozed elegance and talent from the moment that I first saw her in Dial M for Murder (1954) almost ten years ago, but I didn’t truly appreciate her until I saw her photograph in Entertainment Weekly’s book, 100 Greatest Stars of All Time, and there read about her incredibly charmed life. Little by little her influence took over my wardrobe, my manner of speaking, and the way that I carried myself as I began to watch the rest of her filmography. Grace only made eleven films, but I’m proud to say that I’ve seen and treasured every single one. Few women have ever had what it takes to make the transition from socialite to actress, and even fewer still have ever been taken seriously after the fact. Grace not only survived, but thrived in Hollywood during her time there, winning a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Actress for The Country Girl (1954) as well as the heart of Prince Rainier of Monaco. Alfred Hitchcock, the iconic director to whom Grace Kelly was a muse, was quoted as saying, “They all said at first she was cold, sexless. But to me she was always a snow-covered volcano.” I completely agree, and as an actress, princess, and philanthropist, Grace did it all with a style and gentle femininity that no one else could ever possess, and I believe that she was more like a shooting star than a twinkling one, a fleeting and rare beauty the likes of which will never be seen again.

Favorite Film — High Society (1956)

4. Errol Flynn

76

I think it’s safe to say that Errol Flynn is my most enduring love on this list. He started out as one of my favorite actors and has continued to be among the best in my book since the beginning of my appreciation of classic film. I feel like I’ve adored him since I’ve known what a classic film was, and what makes him stand out even more among the rest is the fact that he is one of the few actors who have had the talent that’s required in order to have a genre all to themselves. No one could star in a thrilling swashbuckler the way that Flynn could, and hardly anyone dared to try, yet in all honesty the way that he handles a sword has little to do with my love for him. Like I’m sure it’s been with everyone else ever since Errol Flynn cemented himself as a legend, his reputation preceded him, and as soon as I saw his devilish smile, heard his unique and seductive accent, and read about his notorious philanderings, I knew that I had fallen and would never want to get back up. His movies are the evidence that’s left of the endless charm and wit that he possessed that no other actor could ever come close to having for themselves. While many have tried, who could really strut into a banquet hall with a buck slung over his shoulders as effortlessly and formidably as Flynn did in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)? No one, that’s who. Underneath all of that magnetism there was still a very real man with very real feelings that he didn’t reveal to many that knew him, and his offscreen love for Olivia de Havilland that was only chronicled in his autobiography released after his death shows how far from his sleeve his heart remained. I think that his complexity and inaccessibility makes him even more attractive, and for that reason and so many others Flynn will remain the apple of my eye for all time.

Favorite Film — Captain Blood (1937)

3. Jayne Mansfield

71

I just want to take this time to mention that I have a thing for blondes. I feel that blondes exude the ultimate level of femininity and sex appeal that makes everyone around them stop and stare, and there were so many who made their mark in the golden age of Hollywood that I could have easily filled all five of the spots on this list with fair-haired icons that I admire. Grace Kelly already stole my heart and the fifth spot on this list, so the three ladies who battled it out for the third were Marilyn Monroe, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Jayne Mansfield. I have such a deep affection for all three and feel that they could have each made their way to this ranking for various reasons. Still, I’ve decided to give this title to Jayne Mansfield, because she holds the nearest and dearest place in my heart. Jayne was criminally underrated in my opinion, and while it’s easy to say that the studio system decimated nearly as many careers as it created, I feel that Hollywood was possibly the most unkind to Jayne, and as a result she doesn’t have the respect and acclaim today that she most certainly deserves. All she wanted was to be a star and a mother, but in return she was put forth as a second-rate Marilyn Monroe, and that is exactly what history has accepted her as, though nothing could be farther from the truth. Jayne was practically a genius, fluent in five languages and a virtuoso of the piano and violin. Motherhood and her fans were the most important things in her life, and her kindness and enduring generosity stretched like a blanket over her children and the public. All in all, the misconceptions about Jayne are insurmountable, and I consider myself to be one of the biggest fans of the person that she truly was. Her devotion to her children and her relationship with her daughter Jayne Marie in particular, combined with the struggles that she faced during her lifetime remind me so much of my own mother that an even deeper level of adoration is given to her when I watch her films (if that’s even possible), and because of that and so many other things, my love for Jayne won’t ever fade.

Favorite Film — The Girl Can’t Help It (1955)

2. Rita Hayworth

74

Can you believe that even after all of that  deliberation over my favorite blonde bombshells, I chose a redhead as my favorite actress? Of course not just any redhead either, but the redhead in my eyes. To me, Rita Hayworth is the pinnacle of Hollywood perfection. It took all of Hollywood and its electrolysis treatments and acting lessons to get Rita to the top, but once she was there she exploded onto the silver screen like an atomic bomb (she did have one named after her, after all). Rita had the opposite effect on me that Grace Kelly did. I discovered both of them in the same book, and while Grace was an instant favorite, Rita took years to take up the second largest spot my heart, but now that she has, she isn’t going anywhere. Both Rita and Grace embody everything that I want to be, but while Grace exudes a cool and unattainable kind of perfection, Rita is the kind of flawless that seems within the realm of possiblity to achieve. The shy and sweet personality that she maintained offscreen led everyone who knew her to consider her one of the nicest people in Hollywood, yet those same qualities made her easy for others to take advantage of. Onscreen, however, a completely different person took over, a daring and sexy femme fatale that no one could hurt or destroy. Her acting and dancing abilities were unrivaled, and her singing would have been too had Columbia head Harry Cohn allowed her to use her quality singing voice in her films. Still, her talents led her to excel in every type of film under the sun, from dreamy Technicolor musicals like Cover Girl (1944) and Down to Earth (1947) to chilling noirs like Gilda (1947) and The Lady From Shanghai (1946). While most consider her simply a love goddess, I consider her a glimmering and talented woman whose cinematic accomplishments are severely underappreciated today.

Favorite Film — Cover Girl (1944)

1. Tyrone Power

3

Somehow for me writing about Tyrone Power is the toughest part of making this list. On one hand I feel that my adoration for Ty goes beyond words, but on the other there’s so much that I could say about him that I could probably fill a book. He’s yet another star on this list that I’ve had a passion for for many, many years, ever since I first saw him in Marie Antoinette (1938). He was the epitome of a Casanova, and the amourous dialogue that he delivered to Norma Shearer in the film was the best that I had ever seen. In just under three hours he swept both of us off our feet, and after that I dove straight into the rabbit hole, immersing myself in facts about him and his life and watching as many of his films as I could get my hands on. Over the years, I’ve practically become a historian of Tyrone Power, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I consider him to have two eras in film: the light-hearted romantic movies that he made when he started out as a young matinee idol, and the rugged aventure films he made after returning from his service in World War Two that offered him more challenging parts and scripts. Ty himself preferred the latter, but I simply can’t resist how downright beautiful and charming he appears in films like Love is News (1937) and Thin Ice (1937). Like Flynn, he had a bit of a rebellious streak that makes me even more devoted to him. He loved to play practical jokes on his friends and costars, and was considered one of the funniest men in Tinseltown who wasn’t a professional comedian. Underneath the fun and games, however, was a complicated actor who struggled to break away from his romantic leading man image and be taken seriously in pictures. He even went as far as to say that he wished that he could have been in a car accident bad enough to ruin his looks and lead him to take on character actor roles that would allow him to rely on his talent. His biggest dramatic success came late in his life with Witness for the Prosecution (1957), too late to save himself from the ill health that he brought upon himself. His magnificent performances have been unfortunately consigned to oblivion for the most part, and I think that it’s a crying shame. The title that history has given Ty, “The Forgotten Idol”, may be true for many today, but he means so much to me that I won’t be able to forget him for as long as I live.

Favorite Film — Love is News (1937)

 

 

 

 

The Franchot Tone Blogathon: Phantom Lady (1944)

62

Hi, everyone! I’m so happy to be back with what will likely be my last post for the month. Today I’ll be celebrating one of the most underrated actors in classic film, Franchot Tone! As always, I’d like to start off by thanking the gracious host of this blogathon, Finding Franchot, for dedicating an entire blog to celebrating such an iconic person and giving us all something really great to write about. I wish your first blogathon all the success possible, and I hope that it could become an annual one in the future! Without further ado, on with the post!

58
An original theatrical poster for Phantom Lady (1944).

The first half or so of Phantom Lady (1944) follows engineer Scott Henderson (Alan Curtis), who prior to the events of the film had an argument with his wife Marcella when she turned down the opportunity to go to the theater with him. Despondent that his marriage isn’t working out, he heads to the nearest bar, where he befriends a mysterious woman wearing a daring black hat. The two decide to go to the theater instead, where they have a fun time despite getting stared at by the skirt-chasing drummer of the show’s band (played by the iconic supporting noir actor Elisha Cook, Jr.), and despite the star of the show Estela Monteiro (Aurora Miranda, whom I found out was the sister of Carmen Miranda) becoming infuriated with the woman for wearing the same hat as she was. Scott and the nameless woman part ways, and upon reentering his home, he discovers that his wife Marcella has been strangled to death by one of her husband’s neckties and suddenly he’s being questioned by a mob of detectives. Though it’s obvious that he is innocent of the murder from the start, he is unable to cough up an alibi that suits the police. The next day is spent with Inspector Burgess (Thomas Gomez) as the two of them attempt to retrace his steps from the night before. The bartender, the taxi driver who took Scott and the phantom lady to the theater, and Estela Monteiro all claim to have seen Scott, but not the woman that he was with, while Scott himself can hardly remember what she looked like. Due to circumstantial evidence, a judge and jury rule Scott guilty of Marcella’s murder and sentence him to death row.

60
Director Robert Siodmak, Ella Raines, and Franchot Tone on the set of Phantom Lady (1944).

Scott’s faithful and lovestruck secretary of fifteen years Carol (Ella Raines) remains by his side throughout the trial, and when he informs her that he has only eighteen days left before he is executed, Carol begins to conduct an investigation of her own. She starts by essentially stalking the bartender, occupying the same booth at the bar night after night for weeks before one day attempting to follow him home. It appears that she has terrified him to the point of attempted murder, as we see him almost push her onto the tracks of the train that they are both waiting for, yet his plan is foiled by the appearance of another passenger. Finally he confronts Carol as she continues to follow him, questioning her motives and attempting to get physically violent with her before strangers interfere and restrain the man. Terrified once again, he runs out into the street and is run over. After the bartender’s death Carol finally gets some help with her investigation in the form of Inspector Burgess, who originally conducted the investigation against Scott, but now Burgess too feels that he is innocent. Carol and the inspector move onto the next witness, the drummer at the show named Cliff, who they plan to get talking by having Carol disguise herself as a trashy dame named Jeannie hoping to earn his affection. The plan works, and after a few drinks and some incredibly impressive drumming that’s said to have been dubbed in by Buddy Rich, one of the most famous jazz drummers of all time, Cliff reveals that he was paid $500 to say that he had never seen the lady that Scott was with that night. Soon afterwards the rest of Carol’s plan is foiled when Cliff finds a police file on him in “Jeannie’s” purse that was undoubtedly supplied by Inspector Burgess, and Carol flees Cliff’s apartment.

61
Ella Raines and Franchot Tone in a publicity still for Phantom Lady (1944).

After she leaves, the real murderer is revealed. We find out that Scott’s best friend Jack Marlow (Franchot Tone) was the one who really killed Marcella with Scott’s necktie, and due to Cliff’s loose lips about being paid off Jack strangles him in the same fashion. Soon Jack himself joins Carol and the inspector’s investigation in order to derail it and kill everyone who can help clear Scott’s name, but will the truth be revealed in the end? The most interesting part about this plot is that Jack is revealed to be the true killer about halfway into the film, unlike most mysteries and noirs that save that juicy tidbit for the end. The choice that Phantom Lady (1944) made added some much needed suspense to the film, and every time you see Carol or the inspector on the right track or Jack closing in on them, you really feel like you’re at the edge of your seat and the question is no longer who the killer is, but when the protagonists will find out who the killer is, and if they can before it’s too late. Unfortunately what the plot has in originality and structure, it lacks in just about everything else.

The entire movie supports itself on the search for the phantom lady that Scott was with the night of the murder, but there are two main issues with that pursuit of an alibi:

  1. The first witness questioned the morning after the murder, the bartender, claims that he saw only Scott just after 8pm, after the murder had already taken place. Therefore Carol and the inspector should not have been searching for the lady who Scott spent time with during and after his visit to the bar, but trying to find out where Scott was during the murder so they could form a substantial alibi.
  2. Even if Scott was supposedly with the woman at the bar or the theater during the murder, the fact that the bartender, the taxi driver, the drummer, and the star of the show all saw Scott (which they claimed that they did) should have been more than enough of an alibi for him, and whether they saw who he was with or not should have been irrelevant.
59
Franchot Tone and Ella Raines appearing in the most suspenseful scene of Phantom Lady (1944).

Still somehow the entire film was built up around finding this woman, and there lies my biggest problem with it. I must admit that I’m not always thinking while watching films and most plot twists really do end up shocking me, but the fact that I figured all of this out before the film even finished should be a testament to how obvious these mistakes were. Desite the obvious plotholes I really did enjoy Phantom Lady (1944) as a whole, though, and was really impressed with the amount of suspense as well as the performances given. Alan Curtis wasn’t top billed for his portrayal of Scott Henderson, but he really held his own as the main character in the forty-five minute timespan until Franchot Tone first appears onscreen. The fact that anyone can receive top billing when their character doesn’t enter for the majority of the film is baffling to me, but I have to admit that I adored Franchot Tone playing a psychotic villain.  It was very much against type for the charismatic romantic idol of the 1930s, and it made me wish that he had done more challenging roles like this one. Before watching this film I had already seen Ella Raines in the B-movie The Second Face (1950), and after seeing her in such a memorable performance for such an inconsequential picture I was even more excited to see her in this film. She didn’t disappoint, and the beauty and brains that she brought to the role proved to be essential to this movie as a whole. All in all I believe that this film can be easily enjoyed if the audience doesn’t care whether the plot makes sense or not, but if it did, it would probably receive a perfect score from me that I just can’t give otherwise.

Cooking With the Stars — Jackie Cooper’s Curried Eggs and Macaroni

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!

61
Jackie Cooper at the age of nine in a publicity still for Skippy (1931).

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.

62
Jackie Cooper as an adult, at the height of his second career in television.

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
  1. 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.
  2. Next make a cream sauce – first melt butter and add flour, curry powder, salt and milk — cook until thickened and add to the macaroni.
  3. 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:

3
A hearty serving of the dish, though it doesn’t get many points for presentation.
4
A bonus picture of my puppy Mozart waiting for the macaroni to come out of the oven! He gobbled up a little bit that fell on the floor and gave it two paws up!

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!

 

The April Showers Blogathon: Thunder on the Hill (1951)

62

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!

60
Theatrical poster for Thunder on the Hill (1951).

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.

61
Ann Blyth and Claudette Colbert in a publicity photo for Thunder on the Hill (1951).

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?

59
Ann Blyth in a scene from Thunder on the Hill (1951).

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.

The Jack Lemmon Blogathon: You Can’t Run Away From It (1956)

56

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!

58
June Allyson and Jack Lemmon in a theatrical poster for You Can’t Run Away From It (1956).

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.

MBDYOCA EC042
June Allyson and Jack Lemmon in a scene from You Can’t Run Away From It (1956).

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!

MBDYOCA EC016
June Allyson and Jack Lemmon appearing in a scene in which they sing the song “Temporarily” from You Can’t Run Away From It (1956).

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.

60
Director Dick Powell and stars June Allyson and Jack Lemmon celebrating Allyson’s 38th birthday on the set of You Can’t Run Away From It (1956).

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.

Universal Studios Has Demolished An Important Part of Old Hollywood History

42

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

57

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).

Stage 23

57

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).

Stage 24

58

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.

Stage 25

58

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.

Announcing The Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon!

52

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.

RULES

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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).
  4. 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!

52

53

54

55

ROSTER

John Garfield: The Original Rebel Blogathon — My Analysis of Between Two Worlds (1944)

41

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!

40
Theatrical poster for Between Two Worlds (1944).

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).

39
George Colouris, John Garfield, Faye Emerson, and Edmund Gwenn in Between Two Worlds (1944).

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?

29
John Garfield and Paul Henried playing chess on the set of Between Two Worlds (1944).

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.

38
John Garfield in a promotional photo for Between Two Worlds (1944).

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.

Help Me Choose My Next Blogathon!

51

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!