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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Announcing The Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon!

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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!

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

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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!

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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).

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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!

The 90 Years of Sidney Poitier Blogathon: My Analysis of A Patch of Blue (1965)

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Already I have another blogathon entry to offer my wonderful followers! This time I’m celebrating the 90th birthday of my favorite living actor, Sidney Poitier, and my favorite film of his. Before I begin I’d love to thank the always gracious host of this blogathon, Virginie over at The Wonderful World of Cinema, for always choosing such incredible and deserving people for us to write about. I wish this blogathon all of the success possible, and I can’t wait to participate in the 2nd Golden Boy Blogathon: A William Holden Celebration in April! And of course, if you’re interested in reading all of the other entries relating to Sidney Poitier, mosey on over to this post which lists them all. Without further ado, I wish Mr. Poitier the happiest of birthdays tomorrow, and on with the post!

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A theatrical poster for A Patch of Blue (1965).

I have had a long and loving relationship with this film over the last five years or so. I was first introduced to it as a freshman in high school, and immediately fell in love with both the moving story and its leading actor, Sidney Poitier. This single film has developed into what will likely be a lifelong passion of mine for his work, and the year after I discovered it I introduced it to the classic film club that I created as a sophomore. Of all of the films that we watched during the club’s existence, this was considered the favorite by a unanimous vote, which speaks volumes about its powerful subject matter, artistic direction, and relevancy, even today. The film takes place right in the middle of the historic Civil Rights Movement, and immediately introduces the audience to Selina D’Arcey (Elizabeth Hartman), a blind teenager who dilligently strings beads for income and keeps house after her alcoholic grandfather Ole Pa (Wallace Ford, in his final film role) and her abusive mother Rose-Ann (Shelley Winters, in her typical role as an obnoxious villainess), a prostitute. Despite her hardworking demeanor, Selina is not very independent as she never received a formal education, and begs Ole Pa to walk her just a few blocks to the park. She promises to work twice as hard stringing beads if he does so, and he agrees despite Rose-Ann’s selfish objections.

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Sidney Poitier and Elizabeth Hartman in A Patch of Blue (1965).

While there, Selina meets the gentle Gordon Ralfe (Sidney Poitier), a black man who works nights and spends his days in the park. The two become fast friends and Selina tells him the story of how her mother Rose-Ann blinded her by accidentally throwing acid in her face when she was five years old during a domestic dispute with her father. Gordon begins to witness the level of abuse that Selina has been through and feels sympathy for her, helping her string her beads, bringing her pineapple juice, and by presenting her with a pair of dark sunglasses because she felt insecure about the scars around her eyes. He soon learns that she has never attended school and is shocked by that fact most of all, stunned that she had never even heard of Braille or schools designated for the blind. Later that evening he takes it upon himself to do some reading about the blind, and meanwhile Rose-Ann slaps Selina for going to the park and steals the sunglasses given to her by Gordon. Despite her opposition, Selina manages to go back to the park the next day with the help of Mr. Faber (John Qualen), the merchant who gives her beads to string. Once again she meets Gordon, and he helps her find her own way across the street and ends up teaching her a little bit more about the world in the process. The two begin to fall in love, but Selina starts being pulled in two directons. On one hand, Rose-Ann is making plans to shack up with fellow prostitute Sadie, ditch Ole Pa, and forcefully bring Selina into their grim business. On the other, Gordon promises Selina a brighter and more independent life by assisting her in enrolling in a blind school. Which path will she be able to choose? Will Selina begin to teach Gordon a few things about life as well? Is love truly blind, or will Selina never be able to look past the color of Gordon’s skin?

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Shelley Winters with her Academy Award for her portrayal of Rose-Ann in A Patch of Blue (1965).

The complex role of Selina D’Arcey proved to be a difficult one for director and screenwriter Guy Green as well as the casting directors at MGM. Hayley Mills was considered for the role but hiring her proved to be too costly. Producers Green and Pandro S. Berman then offered the role to Patty Duke, who was advised to reject it as she had just starred in the 1962 hit The Miracle Worker (1962) as the famous blind woman Helen Keller, and was afraid of being typecast in such parts. Eventually Green set his sights on casting an unknown actress, leading to open casting calls, and as soon as Elizabeth Hartman walked in, he knew that she was perfect for the role. She had only appeared in middle and high school plays prior to her appearance in A Patch of Blue (1965), and the studio decided to take advantage of this fact by releasing “A Cinderella Named Elizabeth”, a short film documenting her casting process and the research that she conducted for her role, prior to the film’s release. Hartman ended up wearing opaque contact lenses as Selina, which added a realistic touch to the completed picture as they ended up actually depriving her of her sight. Her work and research paid off, as she became the youngest woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress at the tender age of twenty-two, a record that she held proudly for eleven years until 1976, when Isabelle Adjani was nominated at twenty-one for her work in The Story of Adele H (1976). A Patch of Blue (1965) was nominated for five Academy Awards in all, yet only a single Oscar was awarded to Shelley Winters for Best Supporting Actress in the role of Rose-Ann. Winters, a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, was actually overwhelmed and speechless after winning the award as she felt uncomfortable portraying a racist and disliked her character as a result.

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Sidney Poitier and Elizabeth Hartman on the set of A Patch of Blue (1965).

As for our star of the day Sidney Poitier, the picture proved to be the most financially successful of his entire career despite the fact that he did not receive an Academy Award nomination, with the film raking in $6.75 million with a budget of only $800,000. This proved to be most lucrative for Poitier as he forfeited a portion of his salary in exchange for 10% of the film’s profits. In addition, the film skyrocketed Poitier to a new level of stardom with excellent critical reception and box office draws even in the southern cities that were steadfastly against the Civil Rights Movement, like Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte. Scenes of Sidney Poitier and Elizabeth Hartman kissing were nevertheless removed when it was shown in theaters in those and other southern cities, where many states had laws against what they called “race-mixing”. Overall, A Patch of Blue (1965) still proved to be a step in the right direction, and casting agents, directors, and producers began lining up to cast him in films that would later be regarded as some of his best and most well-known, like To Sir, With Love (1966), In the Heat of the Night (1967), and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967). This picture in particular still remains the closest one to my heart of all of Mr. Poitier’s roles, especially due to the ingenious direction by Guy Green. His decision to shoot the film in black and white when he could have very easily produced it in color is a stellar artistic choice on its own, and the audience being visually limited, even if it isn’t on the same scale as Selina D’Arcey, adds subtle meaning to the finished product. All in all, I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking to watch a poignant and underrated classic on his nintieth birthday.

31 Days of Oscar Blogathon: Luise Rainer’s Back-to-Back Oscar Wins

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After a long time away from this blog, I’m finally back with my first post of the year! Today I’ll be talking about legendary actress Luise Rainer and how becoming the first back-to-back Oscar winner changed the course of her life and career. I’d like to start by thanking the three lovely hosts of this blogathon, Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen for hosting, and I wish this wonderful blogathon all the success possible! And so, without further ado, on with the post!

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Luise Rainer the year of her American film debut, c. 1935

If you have ever seen a film of Luise Rainer’s before, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that she got her first big break in Europe. In fact, she was discovered in Vienna by legendary theater director Max Reinhardt (who went on to direct A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)) and garnered widespread acclaim as part of his theatre company before even turning eighteen. At first Rainer had no interest in films, but in after appearing in several German films in the early 1930s, she was seen performing in a play by MGM talent scout Phil Berg. Immediately he offered Rainer a three-year contract with high hopes that she would move to Hollywood and make a useful backup for finicky Swedish MGM player Greta Garbo. Rainer accepted the offer, and got her second lucky break as soon as she arrived in sunny California, as Myrna Loy had just dropped out of her newest Powell and Loy vehicle halfway through filimg and MGM was in dire need of a star. At the tender age of twenty-five she made her American debut in the film, titled Escapade (1935).

Costar William Powell served as a mentor to her on the picture, teaching her how to act in front of the camera. Rainer remembered him always as “a dear man” and “a very fine person”, and after the film’s completion Powell reportedly told MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer, “You’ve got to star this girl or I’ll look like an idiot.” And star her he did, in what would be her first Oscar-winning performance and her second film with William Powell, The Great Ziegfeld (1936). It was a film that chronicled the life of entertainment mogul and founder of the Ziegfeld Follies, Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., and also served as MGM’s attempt to ride on the coattails of other successful biographical pictures of the 1930s, like Mata Hari (1931), The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), and Cleopatra (1934). In it, Rainer portrayed Ziegfeld’s first wife, French actress and singer Anna Held. A lavish budget of just over $2 million was given to the picture, and in return it received raving critical and box office success, earning back its budget and almost a million more in total profits and nabbing seven Academy Award nominations, for Original Screenplay, Art and Dance Direction, Film Editing, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Actress for Luise Rainer.

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Luise Rainer shown with her first Academy Award for The Great Ziegfeld (1936), shown with Paul Muni (left) and Frank Capra (right).

When Oscar night drew near, however, everyone believed that she would lose to one of her more experienced and respected competitors. That year, Carole Lombard received her first and only nomination for My Man Godfrey (1936), Norma Shearer recieved her fifth nomination for Romeo and Juliet (1936), and Irene Dunne received her second of five unsuccessful nominations for Theodora Goes Wild (1936). Even Luise Rainer herself remained at home, not expecting to win, but when Mayer learned that she had indeed won in what many consider to be a shocking upset, he hurriedly sent MGM publicity head Howard Strickling to her home to fetch her. After much commotion Rainer took home the golden man, and since that date many theories have been presented as to why. One states that MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer had more influence over the Academy than anyone else, and he believed that an Oscar for Rainer would give her some much needed publicity. Another believes that the Academy was blinded by the glitter and glamour of The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and wanted to award the film with as many accolades as possible. Most historians believe, however, that her heartfelt performance in what is now called the famous “telephone scene” earned her the Oscar, a scene in which the broken-hearted Held congratulates Ziegfeld over the telephone on his upcoming second marriage to Billie Burke in a prideful attempt to maintain her composure and her dignity.

Her performance in the film led her to recieve the coveted part of O-Lan in her next picture, The Good Earth (1937), an adaptation of the bestselling 1931 novel by Pearl S. Buck about the trials of Chinese farmer Wang Lung. O-Lan is a servant who becomes Wang Lung’s faithful and hardworking wife, and the two of them lead a life that brings both prosperity and destitution. The role required a stellar actress despite the character not having many lines, and Rainer nabbed the part after censors forbid the use of Asian actress Anna May Wong after hearing that white actor Paul Muni had already received the role of Wang Lung. Like many other films, the production of The Good Earth (1937) was riddled with complications as soon as Rainer was cast. Louis B. Mayer did not approve of such a realistic and plain picture for Luise Rainer, who he had just built up as a beautiful star. “He was horrified at Irving Thalberg’s insistence for me to play O-Lan, the poor uncomely little Chinese peasant,” she recalled in a later interview. “I myself, with the meager dialogue given to me, feared to be a hilarious bore.” Rainer also remembered hearing Mayer’s comments to Thalberg, producer of the film. “She has to be a dismal-looking slave and grow old; but Luise is a young girl; we just have made her glamorous — what are you doing?”

Nevertheless, Rainer considered the film and her part in it among her “greatest achievements”, stating that she was finally able to express realism, even refusing to wear the “rubber mask Chinese look” suggested by the makeup department, and she fondly remembered being allowed to act “genuine, honest, and down-to-earth”. Other serious problems arose when director George W. Hill, who had already spent several months on location in China filming esablishing and background scenes, committed suicide soon after returning to Hollywood. The filming was postponed until Sidney Franklin could take over as director. Months later, producer Irving Thalberg also died suddenly at the age of thirty-seven. Rainer commented years later, “His dying was a terrible shock to us. He was young and ever so able. Had it not been that he died, I think I may have stayed much longer in films.” The opening credits of The Good Earth (1937) include a dedication to Thalberg: “To the Memory of Irving Grant Thalberg — his last greatest achievement – we dedicate this picture.” His hard work and that of the rest of the cast and crew paid off, however, as the film received overwhelmingly positive reviews and was nominated for five Academy Awards, for Film Editing, Cinematography, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Actress, giving Luise Rainer her second nomination in a row.

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Luise Rainer shown with her second Academy Award for The Good Earth (1937).

Again not much faith was put into Rainer’s ability to win the Oscar and her competition was very steep, as in 1937 Irene Dunne received her third nomination for The Awful Truth (1937), Greta Garbo received her second of three unsuccessful nominations for Camille (1937), Janet Gaynor received her second nomination for the original production of A Star is Born (1937), and Barbara Stanwyck received her first of four unsuccessful nominations for Stella Dallas (1937). Once more Luise Rainer surprised everyone by becoming the world’s first back-to-back winner of the Academy Award, male or female. The feat would not be duplicated again until 1968, when Katharine Hepburn won Best Actress for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) and The Lion in Winter (1968). This time Rainer made sure to attend the ceremony, appearing in person and accepting her Oscar for the world to see. Critics overwhelmingly did not agree with the decision, favoring Greta Garbo’s performance in Camille (1937) and still believing that she deserved the Oscar, and unfortunately for Rainer, the award proved to be the beginning of the end for her career in films.

Rainer went on to fulfill her contract with MGM, making three more pictures in 1937 alone. Her next (and most consider her last) hit was The Great Waltz (1938), another musical biographical film in which Rainer played the part of Poldi Vogelhuber, wife of Johann Strauss. The film was nominated for three Oscars and won one for best cinematography, but Luise Rainer did not receive another nomination. Later she became one of the many actresses considered for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939), and rallied unsuccessfully for the part of Belinda McDonald in Johnny Belinda (1948). The role eventually went to Jane Wyman and earned her her only Oscar for Best Actress. In 1938 Rainer left MGM, arriving at the office of studio head Louis B. Mayer and reportedly telling him, “Mr. Mayer, I must stop making films. My source has dried up. I work from the inside out, and there is nothing inside to give.”

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Luise Rainer in her later years, shown with both of her Academy Awards.

Despite her grievances, she was not released from her contract and was still bound to make one more film for the studio, which she did in 1943 with the film Hostages (1943). Rainer later said about her departure: “I was very young. There were a lot of things I was unprepared for. I was too honest, I talked serious instead of with my eyelashes and Hollywood thought I was cuckoo. I worked in seven big pictures in three years. I have to be inspired to give a good performance. I complained to a studio executive that the source was dried up. The executive told me, ‘Why worry about the source? Let the director worry about that.’ I didn’t run away from anybody in Hollywood. I ran away from myself.” She later attributed her the end of her career to her back-to-back Academy Awards, saying that “For my second and third pictures I won Academy Awards. Nothing worse could have happened to me. When I got two Oscars, they thought ‘Oh, they can throw me into anything’. I was a machine, practically a tool in a big, big factory, and I could not do anything. And so I left. I just went away. I fled. Yes, I fled.” Despite other offers in the meantime, Luise Rainer did not return to films until she was eighty-six years old, with one small role in The Gambler (1997), after which she did not work again.

Five Top Five of December — Humphrey Bogart

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Here I am with another installment of my Five Top Five series for December! Today I’ll be ranking the best films of rugged tough guy Humphrey Bogart as my contribution to my first ever blogathon, the Humphrey Bogart Blogathon! You can find the blogathon’s announcement here, and you can find the rest of the entries here! Without further ado, on with the post!

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5. In A Lonely Place (1950)

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Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in a scene from In A Lonely Place (1950).

First up we have one of the two films that I saw for the first time at last year’s Humphrey Bogart Film Festival and thoroughly enjoyed. In this vastly underrated noir, screenwriter Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart), who is known for his drunkenness and belligerence, is given the arduous task of adapting the latest bestseller to the screen. Unwilling to read the book himself, he takes home a lovely hat check girl and fan of the novel named Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart) to summarize it for him in his home. When the girl is found murdered that very same night Steele becomes the police’s prime suspect, and when he is unable to cough up an alibi his alluring neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) interferes in his defense. Dixon and Laurel become unlikely friends and eventually unlikely lovers, but will their love be enough when he becomes violent and doubts of his innocence creep into her mind? Bogart plays against type as a completely unlikable character in a Hollywood film about Hollywood, which was the fourth film produced by Bogart’s own production company, Santana Productions. With stellar writing, acting on the parts of Bogie and Gloria Grahame, and directing on the part of Nicholas Ray (husband of our leading lady at the time and the man who would go on to helm Rebel Without A Cause (1955)), In A Lonely Place (1950) deserves an immense amount of credit and should go down in history as one of the more sublime and dark noirs of the genre.

4. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

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Bogie shows off the titular artifact in a publicity still for The Maltese Falcon (1941).

I know what you’re thinking; this film is far too much of a classic to be ranked so low on my list, but I must admit that this film took a few watches to fully understand the plot and arc of the story. Once I did understand, I developed an appreciation for it, but not quite as strong as my appreciation was and is for many of Bogart’s less convoluted pictures. This iconic movie is all about Sam Spade (Bogart), a private eye and half of Spade and Archer, a detective agency with his partner Miles (Jerome Cowan). One not so ordinary afternoon, a captivating brunette who goes by Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor) enters Spade’s office and begs for his help in finding her missing sister by sending one of the detectives to track the man who she’s supposedly in love with. Archer takes the case, trailing the man supposedly named Floyd Thursby, and winds up getting murdered in the process. With hardly any leads and nothing turning out like it seems on the surface, Sam Spade entangles himself in a web of crime and deceit, all revolving around a priceless artifact: The Maltese Falcon. Bogart puts his incredible “tough guy with a heart of gold” persona on full display in this film, and even though Spade makes some antihero-like decisions throughout its entirety, you know that he will swallow his pride and do the right thing in the end. This trope that resides in many of Humphrey Bogart’s roles is what really attracts my attention to his films, and this one is no exception. If you have a desire to check out some iconic noirs and see the likes of Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and many more talented character actors in their best roles, check out this film immediately.

3. The Caine Mutiny (1954)

Next we have my favorite of the films that I saw for the first time at the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival. Here we find newcomer Robert Francis in the lead as Ensign Willie Keith, a recent graduate who reports to the USS Caine, a beaten up minesweeper called “the rust bucket” by its untidy and unorganized crew. The commander, Lieutenant De Vriess (Tom Tully), is liked by everyone on the crew except for Keith, who believes that those on the ship could use some good discipline. Soon De Vriess is relieved by Phillip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), a far more uptight yet bizarre captain, who makes mistake after mistake and covers each one up to the best of his ability. Keith and two of his good friends onboard the ship, Lieutenants Steve Maryk and Tom Keefer (Van Johnson and Fred MacMurray), begin to doubt their captain’s sanity, and when Queeg makes a decision that Keith believes would put the Caine‘s entire crew in jeopardy, he takes it upon himself to call for a mutiny and relieve Queeg of his position as captain. Every single performance in this ensemble cast is noteworthy, but Humphrey Bogart truly outdoes himself in his role as the possibly demented captain of the Caine. The scene in which Queeg crumbles on the witness stand in an attempt to defend himself against the crew’s mutiny is especially awe-inspiring, and quite possibly the best acting of his career. If you want to see a superb war epic and acting at its finest, go see this rare color film of Humphrey Bogart’s on his birthday.

2. Dark Passage (1947)

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Bogie and Bacall share an embrace on the set of Dark Passage (1947).

Here we have another of Bogart’s dramas that doesn’t receive nearly enough acclaim. In it he plays the role of Vincent Parry, a convict on death row at San Quentin for the murder of his wife who makes a break for it at the start of the film. He doesn’t get very far at first, but luckily painter Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall) comes to his rescue and smuggles him in her car to her home in San Francisco. There she explains that she felt sorry for Parry and had sat in for every day of his trial, comparing it to the trial and execution of her own father who she believed was innocent in the murder of her stepmother. Parry hides out in Jansen’s apartment and the two are instantly attracted to each other, but destiny comes banging on the door in the form of Madge Rapf (Agnes Moorehead), a shrill and vindictive woman who is an imposing friend of Irene’s and who testified against Vincent at the murder trial out of jealousy. Will Madge and fate interfere and throw Vincent back behind bars, or will he find a better life and escape the electric chair? I find this to be a thrilling masterpiece and the best of the four Bogie and Bacall films. The directing and cinematography Delmer Daves and Sidney Hickox are revolutionary as the entire first half of the film is ingeniously shot from the main character’s perspective. This trick gives us a glimpse into Parry’s life that no other method would, and gives us a gratuitous amount of shots of Lauren Bacall, which I could never complain about either. I would strongly recommend this film to any Bogie and Bacall fan.

1. Dead Reckoning (1947)

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Lizabeth Scott and Humphrey Bogart break for tea on the set of Dead Reckoning (1947).

My top pick is likely among my list of the most underrated films of all time. In the film Bogie plays Rip Murdock, an ex-paratrooper who tells most of his story in flashback. He and his best friend and fellow paratrooper Johnny Drake (William Prince) are taken by private plane to Washington, D. C. and surprised with the fact that Drake is to be presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery and good deeds in battle. Before he is to receive it, however, Drake leaves town without a word. Determined to find out what happened and what caused his best friend’s disappearance, Murdock heads to his hometown. While there Rip digs a little deeper, and finds out that what was originally a disappearance has turned into a murder, and that Johnny was possibly involved in a murder of his own before he joined the army. To complicate matters even further, Rip finds the love of Johnny’s life, intriguing lounge singer Coral Chandler (Lizabeth Scott), and begins to fall in love with her himself. The exceptional writing by Oliver Garrett and Steve Fisher (based on a story by Gerald Addams and Sidney Biddell) is what truly makes this picture special. Almost every line is quotable in its own right, and while some of the acting may seem cliche or forced (on all counts with the exception of Bogie’s performance), you know that the dialogue spoken in the film is poetic and genuine. With beautiful and mysterious lines like “Go ahead, put Christmas in your eyes and keep your voice low. Tell me about paradise and all the things I’m missing. I haven’t had a good laugh since before Johnny was murdered.”, this film is chock full of romance and intrigue, and I classify it as a must see.