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

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

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Theatrical poster for Dodge City (1939).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Theatrical poster for Rebecca (1940).

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

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

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

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

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

The Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon — Day Three Recap

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


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

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Our faces when the blogathon comes to an end.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon Continues! — Day Two Recap

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

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

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Is that so? Even I didn’t know that!

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

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Has anyone seen Peter and Joey?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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The gang’s all here!

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

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Have you guys seen the great entries about me?

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

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

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

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Now you just remember that this is my blogathon!

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

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I’m already looking for tomorrow’s entries!

Three Days Until The Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon!

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

Five Stars Blogathon — My Top Five Favorite Classic Film Stars

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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.