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.

Luise Rainer Holding an Academy Award
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.

The Humphrey Bogart Blogathon Is Here!

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I couldn’t be more excited to present all of the incoming entries for my first ever blogathon, celebrating the iconic Humphrey Bogart! Below you’ll find all of the entries so far, and please comment on this post or on the blogathon’s announcement with a link to your entry!

The Midnite Drive-In discusses Bogart’s humble beginnings and his iconic role in The Maltese Falcon (1941).

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Who would’ve thought that such a tough guy was the face of a popular brand of baby food?

Moon in Gemini pens a stunning analysis of greed in Bogie’s classic The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948).

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How everyone will probably look after participating in a blogathon in the middle of the holiday season.

Magnolia’s Favorite Classic Films dissects the timelessness of Bogart’s most iconic film, Casablanca (1942).

Image: FILE PHOTO: 70 Years Since The Casablanca World Premiere Casablanca
Here’s looking at your entry, kid!

Champagne for Lunch brilliantly describes the improbable chemistry between Bogie and June Allyson in Battle Circus (1953).

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Now that you’ve done a war drama, does this mean that I have to play a bobby-soxer?

Critica Retro reviews Bogart’s final collaboration with director John Huston in Beat the Devil (1953).

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What do you mean my blogathon ends tomorrow?

I rank Bogie’s five best performances as part of my Five Top Five series for December.

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How I look when I realize that this is the last day of the blogathon.

Movierob reviews not one, but two of Humphrey’s best performances in The African Queen (1951) and Sabrina (1954).

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But which do you like better?

Old Hollywood Films talks about one of the films that skyrocketed Bogart to fame: High Sierra (1941).

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Will I always have to take George Raft’s sloppy seconds?

Film Noir Archive gives us a fantastic closer look at The Maltese Falcon (1941).

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Gee, why didn’t I think of putting that in my entry?

Back to Golden Days delivers a stunning analysis of one of Bogart’s final films, The Caine Mutiny (1954).

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Looking for the rest of the entries.

Cinema Cities honors Bogart and his role in In A Lonely Place (1950).

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The morning after writing an awesome blogathon entry.

Five Top Five of December — Dorothy Lamour

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Hey, lovely readers! It’s finally nearing the end of the year, and I’m starting off the holiday season with the first installment of my Five Top Five series for December! I must admit I enjoy writing these, and they’re an especially good respite in between blogathons, so I’m happy to announce that the series will continue for as long as my typing hands can hold out! Today I’ll be talking about Dorothy Lamour’s stunning career in films on what would have been her 102nd birthday. While I usually write exclusively about a star’s best roles, I think this list would be better if I focused this time on her best films, as she nearly always played second banana to the likes of Crosby, Hope, and many other leading men. So without further ado, on with the post!

5. Johnny Apollo (1940)

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Dorothy Lamour and Tyrone Power in a publicity photo for Johnny Apollo (1940).

While I’m sure that I caught at least one of the great Road movies in my youth, Johnny Apollo (1940) is the first Dorothy Lamour film that I distinctly remember watching, and if you’re a regular reader of my blog, I’m sure you know the reason: it also stars none other than my all-time favorite actor, Tyrone Power. Power is really the star of the story as Robert Cain Jr., son of wealthy Wall Street broker Robert Cain Sr. (Edward Arnold), who at the start of the film gets arrested for embezzlement. The man gets a hefty sentence of thirty years per charge despite everyone (even the judge) believing that he doesn’t deserve it, while notorious gangster Mickey Dwyer (Lloyd Nolan) gets a measly five years the very same day, as it was the maximum sentence for his current crime. Robert Jr. is distant towards his father at first but soon has the desire to set him free, so he tracks down the attorney of Mickey Dwyer, Emmett T. Brennan (Charley Grapewin), who bent the law in Dwyer’s favor to already get him released from prison on parole. In an effort to get the same treatment for his father, Robert Jr. changes his name to Johnny Apollo and gets himself caught up in Dwyer’s life, becoming his partner in crime and winning over the affections of his girlfriend, Lucky DuBarry, played by our star of the day Dorothy Lamour. Despite the forced chemistry between Lucky and Johnny towards the beginning and no real explanation for her to be with Mickey in the first place, I thought this was a fine film, and Dorothy’s array of songs held my attention throughout the duller parts, especially the endearing “Dancing for Nickels and Dimes”, for which she’s dressed in rags and wearing her best smile. I would definitely recommend this picture if you’re into gangster films and want to catch Dorothy in one of her lesser-known roles.

4. My Favorite Brunette (1947)

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Frequent costars Dorothy and Bob Hope getting close on the set of My Favorite Brunette (1947).

I could never leave off this marvelous spy comedy that paired frequent costars Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour in a film that wasn’t part of the Road pictures. The film’s events are told in flashback by Bob Hope’s character, who is on death row at San Quentin awaiting his execution, and Dorothy portrays Baroness Maria Montay who appears to be in the middle of a great conspiracy as she attempts to find her uncle (or husband?) who has gone missing. She pleads for help from the man whom she thinks is private detective Sam McCloud (the real Sam is played in a great cameo by Alan Ladd), but she’s really getting help from baby photographer Ronnie Jackson (Hope), who has set up shop across the hall from McCloud and is looking after his office while he’s away on a case. However, Jackson has always aspired to become a detective himself and sees this mistake as his golden opportunity to step into the detective’s shoes. Soon he gets caught up in a convoluted web of deception and intrigue, and like any amateur detective (especailly one played by Bob Hope in a heavily typecast buffoon role), he has no idea what he’s doing and the enemy ends up leading him exactly where they want him to go, including straight into a frame-up for murder. I adore this lighthearted comedy, and there are many humorous references and ingenious cameos throughout. Of course Lamour and Hope couldn’t do a film without Bing Crosby, and I was so delighted to see him at the very end of the picture. Bob Hope wanted him to appear in the film so badly that he paid Crosby $5,000 out of his own pocket to do so, and Crosby proceeded to donate the money to charity. If you haven’t seen this public domain classic and are a fan of the famous Road trio, you certainly should!

3. Road to Singapore (1940)

Finally I include the first of the seven Road films with Dorothy, Bing, and Bob. In this particular gem, Crosby and Hope play Josh and Ace, two playboys with a love of the sea. Josh comes from an illustrious family who used ships to create their enormous wealth, and his father (Charles Coburn) wants him to pick up where he leaves off. Everything’s been planned out for him, including his home, career, and even his fiancé, but Josh wants no part of it. All he cares about is being on the ocean and exploring the world with his best friend Ace, who’s in a jam himself when the family of his previous fling insists that he marries her. Rather than face their problems head on, the two flee onboard a ship to the South Sea Islands, ending up in (where else?) Singapore. At first things seem to be going well for the two of them as they find a comfortable home and get by for weeks without employment. However, when they run out of food and their home becomes a mess, they find that they need the help of Mira (Dorothy Lamour), a local dancer who is attempting to flee an abusive relationship. Mira is more than happy to tag along and help Josh and Ace survive, but troubles begin when they reach the end of their financial rope, when three becomes a crowded love triangle, and when Mira’s former beau Caesar (Anthony Quinn) goes on the hunt for her. This is a comedy for the ages, and almost a perfect one as far as classics go. As I watched it I prayed that some of its delightful gags would be repeated in the other films, and luckily many of them were. It has been and will always be one of my favorites, and the only downsides that come to mind are that this film doesn’t include nearly as many fourth wall breaks that make the rest of the series so funny, and I always found it sad that Bob never got the girl. Despite these drawbacks, I strongly recommend watching every film in this series if you like adventure, laughs, and these three.

2. Road to Morocco (1942)

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Dorothy and Bob looking glamorous in a scene from Road to Morocco (1942).

The second and final Road film to appear on my list is actually the third, Road to Morocco (1942). Originally there weren’t supposed to be three Road pictures, there wasn’t even supposed to be one, but this trifecta of comedy was such a smash that it had to be continued, especially in this film that was the first especially written for the series. In it our heroes are in the roles of Jeff Peters (Bing Crosby) and Orville “Turkey” Jackson (Bob Hope), two friends stranded on a raft in the Mediterranean who eventually end up in Morocco. Once again the two find themselves struggling to get by, starving after spending weeks adrift as castaways. Jeff takes matters into his own hands, selling Turkey as a slave to a stranger to pay for their meal and planning to find and rescue him later on. Little does he know that Turkey needs no rescuing, however, as he has been sold to the alluring Princess Shalmar (Dorothy Lamour) as her soon-to-be husband. Jealous of his friend’s new position, Jeff attempts to woo the princess himself, singing to her and quickly getting her to fall for him. It is soon revealed, however, that a soothsayer has told her that her first husband will die a horrible death within a week, and she plans to go through with her marriage to Turkey so she can get rid of him and presumably marry her true love, Mullay Kasim (once again played by Anthony Quinn, making him the only other regular actor to appear in the Road films). But can Turkey be saved? Is Kasim her true love after all? So far this is undoubtedly my favorite film of the series, as it has the most memorable songs and seamlessly blends both the older bits of the previous two films and the newer and funnier fourth wall breaks throughout. The ending also makes this film stand head and shoulders above the rest, and I couldn’t recommend a better picture among the seven. If you watch only one Road film in your life, make sure this is it.

1. The Hurricane (1937)

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Dorothy and Jon Hall in The Hurricane (1937).

I admire Dorothy Lamour for so much of her work, and I wanted to make certain that my number one choice wasn’t a Road film, as I believe I have talked about her role in the series enough. Luckily I admire one of her more dramatic parts more than enough to give it the top spot. In this film Dorothy plays native Polynesian girl Marama, who marries fellow islander Terangi (Jon Hall), the best sailor on the island of Manukura, and quite possibly the world. As quickly as they wed, however, Terangi has to leave as first mate on a voyage to Tahiti. In a lovable chain of events Terangi tries to smuggle his new bride onboard in a potato sack, but the captain quickly threatens to demote him if Marama doesn’t swim back to the shore. Wanting the best for her husband she agrees, patiently waiting for him back on land, but unfortunately fate has other plans. Meanwhile in Tahiti, a wealthy bully picks a fight with Terangi in a pub, leading the young sailor to fight back and knock the man out. He gets a six month jail sentence, which almost everyone involved says is extreme, but Terangi, not knowing much about first world law practices, attempts to escape from jail every chance that he gets, adding more and more time onto his sentence and eventually increasing it to sixteen years. Finally after eight years Terangi escapes for good, taking a canoe and rowing nearly four hundred miles back home to Manukura, where his wife and daughter have been waiting patiently for his return. But will it be happily ever after, or will those who want to keep Terangi confined have their last laugh? If we’re being honest, leading man Jon Hall really carries the picture, withstanding real flogging, practically real hurricanes, and even changing his name to highlight the fact that he was the nephew of the author of the original novel for his role, but Dorothy Lamour’s performance certainly doesn’t go unnoticed. She expresses a wide variety of very real emotion, from adorable newlywed to despondent mother and wife. In all honesty, I always felt sorry that Dorothy has been remembered only for the roles in which she dons her trademark sarong, but if all of those pictures are half as good as this one, it makes me wish that she appeared in it more often.

Announcing the 1st Annual Classic Hollywood Holiday Card Giveathon!

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I, like almost everyone, have had some very happy holidays. It’s my favorite time of year, but ever since I began to blog about classic film, I haven’t made many traditions that involved my passion. This holiday season, I wanted to change that and find a way to incorporate my love for old Hollywood into my celebrations for years to come. So far I’ve been watching some timeless movies, as most fans do, and I signed up for Journeys In Classic Film’s Secret Santa, but it wasn’t until I saw Silentology’s heartfelt post asking for Christmas cards to be sent to one of the last living silent film stars that I knew what to do to make a difference. I know this announcement is cutting it very close to Christmas Day, but since I thought of this wonderful idea I wanted to attempt to start it this year rather than waiting until next year. I perfectly understand if not everyone is able to set aside their time and money for this event, and that’s why I intend to make it an annual one so I can bring it back next year for everyone to participate in. The idea is for everyone involved to sign up to send holiday cards to their favorite living classic film stars and give them some holiday cheer this season.

HERE is a list on Wikipedia of living silent film stars, and HERE is a lengthy list of living Golden Age film stars  for inspiration. Below I will list some living stars (sorted by age) for inspiration as well! Of course you may sign up for a star who is not on any of these lists.

  • Mary Carlisle
  • Olivia de Havilland
  • Kirk Douglas
  • Danielle Darrieux
  • Diana Serra Cary
  • Nehemiah Persoff
  • Marge Champion
  • Nanette Fabray
  • Rhonda Fleming
  • Rose Marie
  • Glynis Johns
  • Dina Merrill
  • Doris Day
  • Eva Marie Saint
  • Honor Blackman
  • Maria Riva
  • Dorothy Malone
  • June Lockhart
  • Angela Lansbury
  • Peggy Cummins
  • Jerry Lewis
  • Julie Adams
  • Sidney Poitier
  • Peggy Dow
  • Nancy Olson
  • Ann Blyth
  • Terry Moore
  • Jane Powell
  • Arlene Dahl
  • Debbie Reynolds
  • Mickey Kuhn
  • Debra Paget
  • George Chakiris
  • Russ Tamblyn
  • Margaret O’Brien
  • Kathryn Beaumont
  • Liza Minnelli
  • Gina Lollobrigida
  • Roger Moore
  • May Wynn
  • Vic Damone
  • Pat Hitchcock
  • Don Murray
  • Vera Miles
  • Tippi Hedren
  • Robert Wagner
  • Joanne Woodward
  • John Astin
  • Gena Rowlands
  • Mamie Van Doren
  • Claire Bloom
  • Tab Hunter
  • Leslie Caron
  • Barbara Eden
  • Mitzi Gaynor
  • Angie Dickinson
  • Barbara Darrow
  • Rita Moreno
  • Felicia Farr
  • Kim Novak
  • Julie Newmar
  • Kathryn Crosby
  • Shirley Jones
  • Shirley MacLaine
  • Sophia Loren
  • Brigitte Bardot
  • Ruta Lee
  • Diahann Carroll
  • Julie Andrews
  • Alain Delon
  • Keir Dullea
  • Ursula Andress
  • Robert Redford
  • Jane Fonda
  • Claudia Cardinale
  • Mary Tyler Moore
  • George Takei
  • Richard Beymer
  • Diane Baker
  • Paula Prentiss
  • Dolores Hart
  • Patrick Wayne
  • George Hamilton
  • Katharine Ross
  • Jill St. John
  • Raquel Welch
  • Ann-Margret
  • Yvette Mimieux
  • Carol Lynley
  • Pamela Tiffin
  • Tuesday Weld
  • Britt Ekland
  • Catherine Deneuve
  • Shelley Fabares
  • Mia Farrow
  • Priscilla Presley
  • Lana Wood
  • Hayley Mills
  • Sue Lyon

If you’re interested, here’s what you should do:

  1. Leave a comment with your blog’s name, your blog’s link, and the names of the actors you intend to send cards to.
  2. Once you’re approved, write your card, put it in an envelope, and send it to the star’s fan mail address. To find this address, go to fanmail.biz and type the name of the actor into the search bar. You may have to do some digging to find his or her current address! If you don’t feel comfortable with this or are having some trouble finding your desired star’s address, please ask me by commenting on this post and I will do my best to find the correct address for you and reply in a timely manner.
  3. Make a blog post about the event! You may include pictures of your card, write down the note that you sent to the star, or if your card is personal, just make a post stating why you chose to send a card to that star. Be creative!
  4. Finally, once you’re finished, repeat this process with all of the stars as you signed up for, if you signed up for more than one.
  5. Please help me spread the word! I’m still not the most popular blog and I’ll need all the help I can get! Please take one of my lovely banners from below and put it somewhere on your blog, and make sure to tell your friends. I want as many participants as possible!
  6. IF you still want to be a part of this event but cannot afford to send a card or cannot find a star to send a card to, you may still join and write a blog post about whom you would send a holiday card to and why. Of course you may write about anyone living or dead, and you may include what the card would say and what the card would look like. Those who enjoy this option may also do this in addition to sending real cards.

RULES

  1. Because it’s the holiday season and I want to make sure everyone can sign up to send to their favorite stars, I am allowing up to THREE duplicates of each star and you may sign up to send to an UNLIMITED number of stars. If any star exceeds three duplicates, I may possibly allow more on a case by case basis. I also want to make sure that as many stars recieve cards as possible, so let’s please avoid everyone signing up for the same person. You may also choose a television star as long as they appeared on television before 1970, or the family of a deceased star if you can find the address for them.
  2. I am allowing cards to be sent to approved fan mail addresses only! I would like to avoid anyone sending mail to personal residences, so if you ask me for a star’s address, I will only reply with what fan mail addresses I can find. If you do your own research and find a star’s personal address, you may send a card there on your own free will, but I will not be claiming responsibility for that.
  3. You may make your own card or buy one from a store and include a handwritten note. You are not required to spend any money. If you don’t wish to do so, please refer to number six of the previous list. I would like these cards to be as personal as possible, but do what you can. If you don’t have time to write a note, you of course may simply sign and send a card, or if you intend to send cards to multiple stars, you may buy a pack of cards and sign each individually (this is my preferred method). Many of these stars also sign autographs or will reply to your card, so please do your research or ask me about this if you’re hoping to receive something in return.
  4. In general, please be respectful of all of the stars as well as their respective religions. Do your research before sending any religiously inclined cards to make sure that you do not offend anyone. If you aren’t sure about a star’s religious preference, stick to non-denominational “holiday” cards. Refrain from sending any inappropriate or negative cards as well. This is the holiday season, please use common sense as the object of this event is to spread cheer!
  5. I would like all of the cards to be sent by Christmas Day (December 25th), and I will be making a post in one week (December 17th) to round up all of the blog posts, though you may make your blog posts at any time. I will be adding entries to the post indefintely, so if you don’t send your card out on time, that’s okay! Also, please let me know if a star replies to your card! I would love to see that!

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ROSTER

  • Musings of a Classic Film Addict — Dina Merrill, Diana Serra Cary, Mary Carlisle, Jane Fonda, Kim Novak, Gina Lollobrigida, Raquel Welch, Vera Miles, Kathryn Crosby, Don Murray, Joanne Woodward, Shelley Fabares
  • Sleepwalking in Hollywood — Kathryn Beaumont, Nehemiah Persoff, Russ Tamblyn, Olivia de Havilland, Mamie Van Doren, Tab Hunter, Julie Newmar, Robert Redford, Lana Wood, Mike Farrell, Claire Bloom
  • Silentology — Diana Serra Cary
  • Champagne for Lunch — Marsha Hunt, Margaret O’Brien
  • The Wonderful World of Cinema — Sidney Poitier
  • In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood — Sidney Poitier, Debbie Reynolds

The Agnes Moorehead Blogathon: Agnes’ Early Life and Role in Citizen Kane (1941)

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Today I’m paying tribute to the talented Agnes Moorehead! I’d like to start off by thanking In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood for hosting yet another fantastic blogathon. I wish it all the success possible, and I can’t wait to write about Carole Lombard in January! I’d also mention that I don’t intend to tackle and discuss the entirety of such an iconic film as Citizen Kane (1941). There’s just too much to say about such a picture, and to do it justice it would require many posts. Besides, our star of the day (despite giving a fine performance) hardly appeared in it, so I think discussing her early life and path to her breakout role in Citizen Kane (1941) would far better suit the theme we’re trying to highlight today. So without further ado, on with the post!

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Agnes Moorehead as a happy child, c. 1904

Agnes was born on December 6, 1900 (though she would later tell the white lie that she was born in 1906) to a Presbyterian minister named John Henderson Moorehead and a singer named Mildred McCauley. Her first performance was surprisingly early; at the age of three she sang “The Lord’s Prayer” at her father’s church, urged by her mother. Later on her family moved to St. Louis, where Agnes honed her acting talents by impersonating members of her father’s congregation with her sister, much to the encouragement and delight of both of their parents. At the age of ten Agnes joined the St. Louis Municipal Opera Company (“The Muny” for short) as a singer and dancer for four years, where she also developed a strong interest in religion that would remain with her for the rest of her life. There are conflicting reports as far as which high school she attended; she claimed that she graduated from Central High School in 1918, but she does not appear in its yearbook and lived nowhere near the school. Thus, I am led to believe that she graduated from Soldan High School that same year, as she does appear in their yearbook and within proximity. While both of her parents were supportive of Agnes’ desire to act, as I mentioned earlier, her father insisted that she complete her education first. Always one to respect his wishes, she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Muskingum College in Ohio in 1923, while appearing in several stage productions on the side. The very same year she landed her first job as a singer for a St. Louis radio station, which instilled in her a deep appreciation for the medium which would last well into her later fame.

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Agnes as a lovely young woman, c. 1920s

Afterwards her father recieved a pastorate in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, uprooting the Moorehead family and Agnes along with them. She went on to attend the University of Wisconsin, earning a Master’s degree in English and Public Speaking. Afterwards she taught English and Drama for five years and in between studied pantomime in Paris with the illustrious Marcel Marceau. In 1928, Agnes enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, graduating with honors the following year and adding yet another accomplishment to her resume. From there Agnes’ career would begin to falter, however, as she struggled to find work with the exception of a few minor stage productions once she left school. She often found herself unemployed and hungry, and later recalled a period of four days during which she went without food, saying in hindsight that it “taught her the value of a dollar”. Soon Agnes found work in the medium that she loved straight out of college: radio. Stations began to clamor for her and her many voice talents, and she often worked on several programs each day. During that time she met actress Helen Hayes, who encouraged her to try for Hollywood, but her first attempts failed and she was rejected as not being the “right type”, leading Agnes to head back to radio, where she met the man who would give her her real shot at the big time: Orson Welles.

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Agnes and fellow Mercury player Joseph Cotten on the set of Citizen Kane (1941).

It was through her work on such radio programs as “The Shadow”and “March of Time” in 1937 that she met and befriended Welles, and he soon invited her to join him and fellow actor Joseph Cotten (who of course would later star in Citizen Kane (1941) as well) as charter members of his “Mercury Theatre on the Air” program. The first show performed by Welles and his company that would attract worldwide attention was the infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast of 1938, which Miss Moorehead was deeply involved in and resulted in a lucrative $100,000 per picture deal for Welles with RKO Studios. The Mercury Theatre players, including Moorehead and Cotten, were on their way to Hollywood. Welles’ very first picture for RKO was none other than Citizen Kane (1941), and he made every effort to heavily include the Mercury Theatre cast, and of course this was not limited to Agnes Moorehead, who made her first onscreen appearance in the film as the mother of the titular character, Charles Forster Kane. Despite only appearing in the film for one brief scene, Welles made sure to give Moorehead ample credit during the end credits, as he did with every actor who starred in the film and assisted him in his rise to the top. The one scene and plug at the end was all that she needed, and as they say, the rest was history.

The Cary Grant Blogathon: My Analysis of That Touch of Mink (1962)

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Here I am, back at it again with another blogathon! The year is winding down, but luckily fans of Old Hollywood never run out of fascinating stars and films to write about. Today I’m going to talk about Cary Grant, thanks to the host of this spectacular blogathon, Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. I’m so grateful to be able to write about such an interesting film in Grant’s career, so without further ado, on with the post!

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Cary Grant and Doris Day in a theatrical poster for That Touch of Mink (1962).

I’ll be honest here; I signed up for this blogathon a little late in the game, and had to look up the filmography of ever so suave Cary Grant in order to find a film to discuss. My first and only rule that I kept in my mind as I scrolled through his career that spanned over three decades was that I didn’t want to write about one of his later films. In general, I just never cared for the films that he made in the fifties and sixties in comparison to some of his charming pictures of yesteryear, and as I’ve seen more of his later films than his earlier ones, I thought I might learn a thing or two in the process. Of course, as you might have guessed from the title, everything changed once I learned that That Touch of Mink (1962) was available. I had seen the film once before and absolutely adored it, and with such a scandalous plot (for the time, anyway), and a wonderful cast of characters, I knew that I was sold. So here I am, embarking on this journey of analyzing Cary Grant’s fourth-to-last film. If there ever was a romantic comedy from the sexual revolution of the sixties that showed just how dead the Hayes Code was by that time, this film was it. It’s primarily a Doris Day vehicle as she was the number one box office draw at the time, though she surrendered top billing to costar Grant due to his distinguished career. Day plays Cathy Timberlake, an unemployed and unmarried woman who gets sexually accosted by nearly every man she meets, which I’ll admit ruins my childhood a little considering how attached I’ve been (like anybody) to her wholesome, motherly onscreen image. Creepiest of all of her suitors is unemployment agent Everett Beasley, played by John Astin in another out of character role that separates itself entirely from his usual lovable, goofy parts.

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Grant and Day goofing around in That Touch of Mink (1962).

On her way to a job interview, Cathy gets splashed by the limousine of wealthy businessman Phillip Shayne (played by Cary Grant, of course), who makes every effort to find and repay her for any damage done aside from actually meeting her himself, instead sending his financial adviser Roger, who is fed up with how wonderfully he’s been treated by Shayne and his company. It’s clear that he wants to resent his employer and everything he stands for, and wants to go back to teach at his alma mater, but everyone is so kind to him that he just can’t leave. He decides to rally with Cathy and her irritation at Shayne for not making amends with her in person, and urges her to storm directly to his office and complain. She attempts to do so, but her instant attraction to him causes her to forget all of her grievances, and Shayne’s mutual attraction to her leads him to wine and dine her, traveling all across the country to the best restaurants, baseball games, and even a United Nations conference for which he gives a compelling address. At the end of all of their adventures, Shayne propositions Cathy and offers to take her to Bermuda and then around the globe, and though it isn’t explicitly mentioned considering the times, it’s obvious that he expects sex and states that he has no intention of marrying her. This leaves it up to Cathy to make a life-changing decision, giving up her virtue for a shot at happiness or taking the advice of Roger and her best friend Connie (Audrey Meadows) and forgetting about Shayne for good.

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Grant and Day in a promotional image for That Touch of Mink (1962).

Despite disliking the final result of the film, Cary Grant had a great deal to do with its production, including casting Audrey Meadows as Cathy’s friend and roommate after seeing the actress on the hit television show The Honeymooners (1955-1956). For a scene that took place in his character’s library, he brought books and trinkets from his own home and decorated the set with them. According to his costar Doris Day it made the set more pleasant and made Grant feel more relaxed, giving his performance “that peculiarly natural, suave quality that is the hallmark of his pictures”, though she also mentioned in her autobiography that “Of all the people I performed with, I got to know Cary Grant least of all. He is a completely private person, totally reserved, and there is no way into him. Our relationship on That Touch of Mink (1962) was amicable but devoid of give-and-take. Not that he wasn’t friendly and polite — he certainly was. But distant, very distant. But very professional — maybe the most professional, exacting actor I ever worked with. In the scenes we played, he concerned himself with every little detail: clothes, sets, production values, the works. Cary even got involved in helping to choose the kind of mink I was slated to wear in the film.” In addition, he even personally called a raincoat company after seeing a coat that he felt would suit Doris Day in the picture, but owner Norman Zeiler brushed him off, not believing that Grant was really on the phone. He told the actor that if he wanted to see his collection, he would have to come up himself, and that’s exactly what he did, undoubtedly shocking everyone in proximity in the process.

All in all I find this to be a charming film with quite a few laugh out loud moments. I don’t understand why Cary Grant disliked it so much aside from the fact that it was likely a very controversial picture for its time, despite being the fourth highest grossing film of the year. I think this movie really defines what it means to be a classic romantic comedy, as it seamlessly blends both genres and every performance given, even in the supporting roles, is delightful and memorable, especially those of Doris Day and the slimy character portrayed by John Astin. Unfortunately I found Cary Grant’s role to blend in with his usual rich and debonair sort of type, but the comedic aspects of the part went off without a hitch, and his entire rendition of the role seemed effortless as a result. I loved this film the first time that I watched it so long ago, I adored it even more this time, and I’m sure that I’ll watch this film again and again any time I’m looking for a good laugh and a film that reflects an interesting period in cinema’s history.

Five Top Five of November — Gene Tierney

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Hello, everyone! I’m back with another installment of my ‘Five Top Five’ series, this time honoring the alluring Gene Tierney on her 96th birthday! Here I’ll be listing my top five films of hers, describing the plots, and discussing why I enjoy the films. As I mentioned in my first post in the series honoring Vivien Leigh, be sure to let me know if you enjoy these and I’ll be sure to continue the series with another Five Top Five of December!

5. Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)

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Gene and Dana Andrews, together for a second time in Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950).

This was the first film that I ever reviewed on my blog (you can check out the full review here), and because of that it holds a special place in my heart. Tierney portrays Morgan Taylor, ex-wife of Ken Paine and also unknowingly his decoy in an illegal dice game. It doesn’t take long for her to take a liking to leading man Mark Dixon, a violent but effective detective who has already been warned by his superior that his bad cop attitude will get him in trouble, but still allows his boss’ premonition to come true when he accidentally murders a suspect who he is attempting to question. Fearing for his integrity and career Dixon attempts to cover up the killing, but the plot thickens when he learns that his main squeeze Morgan’s father is to be charged with the crime. Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) is a gripping noir that walks the tightrope of right and wrong and reunites Gene Tierney with her director and leading man from Laura (1944), Otto Preminger and Dana Andrews, respectively. If you enjoy that classic at all, I would definitely recommend its equally intriguing, grittier counterpart, and the only reason why it’s so low on my list is because Gene is hardly anywhere to be found in the film.

4. The Razor’s Edge (1946)

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Gene and Tyrone Power in a publicity still for The Razor’s Edge (1946).

If you know me well enough, you should know that I couldn’t possibly make a list of great Gene Tierney films without including one of the three that she starred in with my favorite actor, Tyrone Power. In this melodrama our birthday girl stars as socialite Isabel Bradley, fiancée of Larry Darrell. Larry isn’t as impressed with the glamour of the upper class as she is, which leads him onto a spiritual ten-year journey to find himself, losing Isabel in the process. When he returns, however, Isabel seems to be still in love with her former flame and wants to be with him despite already being married to a common friend of theirs. To make matters worse, she becomes intensely jealousand spiteful when Larry begins to fall in love with Sophie, another friend in their circle who fell on hard times after he left town. I truly admire Gene’s performance in this film, and she displays her stunning range as she reveals the darker side of Isabel’s personality. It’s no wonder that author of the original novel W. Somerset Maugham placed her at the top of his list of actresses for the role. If you enjoy pictures that include stellar acting performances and a flair for the dramatic, definitely include this film in your Gene Tierney marathon today.

3. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

In this turn-of-the-century romance directed by Joseph L Mankewicz, Gene plays Lucy Muir, a widow desperately looking for a seaside home to rent so she can ditch her late husband’s rude family members. She quickly sets her sights on a picturesque manor and pays no attention to her real estate agent’s warnings that the home is haunted, even after finding out the truth for herself. Slowly but surely Lucy befriends the residing ghost, cantankerous sea captain Daniel Gregg, and the two develop an extraordinary romance as she attempts to assist him in writing his autobiography. Of course the book is considered a masterpiece and is picked up by a world-famous publisher, but along with the notoriety it also brings a suitor, a married children’s author by the name of Miles Fairley. The love that Lucy and the captain share is challenged when Miles enters the picture, and it makes both parties question their relationship and even themselves. I was a fan of this movie ever since I read the plot, and once I actually watched the film I certainly wasn’t disappointed. I doubt that there are many romantic films out there more unique than this one, and I would strongly recommend giving it a try if you enjoy well-written sentimental pictures with a twist like I do. If you do decide to catch this tearjerker, stay on the lookout for an appearance from a young Natalie Wood, who portrays Lucy’s daughter!

2. Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

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Gene in her most devilish scene in Leave Her to Heaven (1945).

Gene Tierney recieved her first and only Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Ellen Berent Harland in this film, yet another villainous socialite who just like in The Razor’s Edge (1946) becomes obsessively attached to the man she loves. Unlike her role of Isabel Bradley, however, it is more apparent that Ellen is mentally disturbed and willing to go to greater and more sinister lengths to achieve her goals. The object of Ellen’s obsession is novelist Richard Harland, played by Cornel Wilde, who coincidentally looks similar to Ellen’s deceased father and the previous victim of her preoccupation. To make matters worse her former fiancé Russell Quinton and her sister Ruth get involved in the mix and are eventually caught in the crossfire of the film’s strange femme fatale. What stood out to me the most in this film is the striking use of color created by Natalie Kalmus, art direction by Maurice Lansford and Lyle Wheeler, and most of all cinematography, helmed by Leon Shamroy of Planet of the Apes (1968) and Cleopatra (1963) fame. The visuals alone make this film worth watching, but those combined with the compelling story and characters are what make this film a classic among fans of film noir, and it’s one of the only color films to recieve such acclaim in the genre. Add it to your list of Tierney films to watch, and you won’t regret it.

1. Laura (1944)

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Gene looking radiant in a publicity still for Laura (1944).

Could I have really put any other Gene Tierney film at the top spot? Laura (1944) is the pinnacle of film noir, and quite possibly of filmmaking in general, and in it our birthday girl portrays the title character Laura Hunt, a (can you guess?) socialite who is found murdered at the beginning of the film. The first half is shown in flashback as her dearest friend Waldo Lydecker, played by Clifton Webb, reveals the story of her life to detective Mark MacPherson, in what I consider to be among Dana Andrews’ finest performances. As Mark learns more and more about the homicide victim in an attempt to solve her murder, he begins to imagine himself with her and finds her to be unlike any “broad” that he has ever known. Tensions rise when Laura’s fiancé Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price) catches wind of this, and suspense builds into a thrilling conclusion of who exactly killed Laura Hunt. Despite the film’s raving success, Gene never gave herself much credit for it: “I never felt my own performance was much more than adequate. I am pleased that audiences still identify me with Laura, as opposed to not being identified at all. Their tributes, I believe, are for the character — the dreamlike Laura— rather than any gifts I brought to the role. I do not mean to sound modest. I doubt that any of us connected with the movie thought it had a chance of becoming a kind of mystery classic, or enduring beyond its generation. If it worked, it was because the ingredients turned out to be right.” And right they certainly were, especially on the part of the film’s score, composed by David Raksin, which is revered even today, and even Vincent Price believed Laura (1944) to be his finest film. Needless to say, if you’re reading this and haven’t seen this masterpiece, you absolutely must.