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.

Five Top Five of November — Vivien Leigh

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Hey, classic film fans! I know it’s been quite a while since I have updated this blog, but I was unexpectedly ill. I know I was unable to do a couple of the blogathons that I signed up for, but I have one of them mostly completed and I’m back and announcing some original content for this month: my Five Top Five series! On five various classic film stars’ birthdays throughout November, I’ll be ranking my top five favorite films of theirs and offering my recommendations. I’m obviously starting today with the incomporable Vivien Leigh! I sincerely hope you all enjoy my lists, and if they’re well-recieved I may even make a Five Top Five for December!

5. That Hamilton Woman (1941)

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Birthday girl Vivien Leigh looking lovelier than ever in That Hamilton Woman (1941).

This was birthday girl Vivien’s third and final collaboration with her offscreen love Laurence Olivier, and quite easily the best of the three. Vivien portrays Lady Emma Hamilton, mistress to Lord Horatio Nelson, and ironically this was the only film that Leigh and Olivier made while they were actually married. The film has everything from romance to action, and loads of drama. While it truly is a masterpiece as far as art direction and cinematography go, it fails to capture the attention of the audience during its entire two-hour running time. The film can hardly be blamed, though, considering the fact that it takes place during the span of twenty-five years, and it was directed by Alexander Korda, who often sacrificed excitement in his films for the sake of asthetic. All in all, I would say that if you’re a diehard fan of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier and don’t mind some dull moments, I would strongly recommend giving this historical melodrama a go today!

4. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

I’m going to begin this one with an unpopular opinion: When it comes to Vivien’s most famous roles, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) has always ranked pretty low in my mind. Truthfully I would probably have placed it last on my list were it not for the fact that it’s truly a mesmerizing film with superb acting from everyone involved. Even in my youth I held a distaste for Marlon Brando’s role of Stanley Kowalski and Vivien’s infamous portrayal of Blance DuBois. Both seemed to be unlikable characters to me, but as time went on I learned more about the actors personal lives, and how separate they were from the fictitious characters that the two of them played onscreen. In fact, I would cite this film as one of the few that really served as hurdles for me in learning that just because a character in a film is unlikable, it does not make the film poor as a whole. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen this picture since I came to that realization, but I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is even remotely a fan of Vivien’s and wants to see her acting prowess in all its glory.

3. The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)

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Vivien and Warren Beatty make a steamy pair in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961).

Among Leigh’s final films we find another one of her gems in this Tennessee Williams adaptation. She plays the aging actress Mrs. Karen Stone, who accompanies her husband on a trip to Rome only for him to pass away during the flight. Karen ends up making the best of it once she sets her eyes on the youthful Italian Paolo di Leo in what was Warren Beatty’s first starring role. Despite the fact that Leigh has the lead, it’s difficult not to want to pay more attention to her character’s captivating lover, and it’s no wonder because Beatty beat out dozens of other actors for the part. This film has ranked among my favorites since I first watched it years ago, and I still believe that it truly shows how wrong some of the studios were in their reluctance to cast aging actresses. It’s even quite depressing to see her taking on such a brilliant and challenging part while knowing that she only starred in one more film after the completion of this one, but it’s a must for any fan of Vivien’s who wishes to scratch beneath the surface of some of her more glamorous parts.

2. Gone with the Wind (1939)

I know what you’re thinking. This is a perfect movie if there ever was one, and I quite agree, but there is one more film of Vivien’s that I find to be perfect as well that holds just a bit larger of a place in my heart. Still, I intend to give credit where credit is due, and Gone with the Wind (1939) is a masterpiece. Vivien is superb in her breakout role (one that she beat out hundreds of other legendary actresses for), and it makes me both sorry and glad that she took the part of the notorious Scarlett O’Hara because she was rejected for the role of Cathy in Laurence Olivier’s Wuthering Heights (1939). Her acting in this and many other of her great works show that she would have excelled in both parts, but the world certainly will never forget her Oscar-winning performance. Of course the supporting cast is incomporable as well, and the film won eight Academy Awards in all. No birthday marathon or salute to Vivien Leigh would be complete without this four-hour epic that truly defines what it means to be a classic.

1. Waterloo Bridge (1940)

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Vivien and Robert Taylor melting everyone’s hearts in Waterloo Bridge (1940).

Here’s a classic that I find is hardly talked about nowadays. In Vivien’s first film after making Gone with the Wind (1939), she portrays demure ballet dancer Myra Lester, who in an almost two-hour flashback gets swept up into a whirlwind romance with a British officer during World War I. A miscommunication leads the blissful couple into dark and dangerous territory, however, when Myra is led to believe that her fiancé is dead. It appears considering the release date that this was supposed to be an early source of comparison for World War II, and the absolute beauty of the story, screenplay, and cinematography makes it a tough act to follow. I think it’s a real shame that this film is among Leigh’s lesser known ones, and she pairs with Robert Taylor so perfectly that it makes me wish that the two of them had been onscreen lovers more often. It does take a couple of watches for the audience to really build connections and emotions for the characters, but I would absolutely recommend this flawless picture to any fan of romantic dramas and our birthday girl, as it is certainly among my favorites of all time.

Announcing the Humphrey Bogart Blogathon!

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Ever since I joined the WordPress community in June (and even before that), I have wanted to host or co-host my very own blogathon. However, until now I haven’t been able to find just the right subject to celebrate. In fact, it wasn’t until Phyllis Loves Classic Movies astutely pointed out that no male actors had been honored with blogathons this year did I find the perfect icon to pay tribute to. So, without further ado, Diana of Sleepwalking in Hollywood and I are happy to announce our first ever blogathon, paying tribute to the magnificent Humphrey Bogart!

He’s number one on AFI’s Greatest Stars of All Time list, and his film quotations take up an astounding five spots on their 100 Greatest Quotes list, the most for any actor. He’s an Oscar winner and three time Oscar nominee. He has his hand and footprints permanently cemented in the courtyard of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in honor of his outstanding career in motion pictures. In short, he’s the best, and there’s really no better actor to add to this year’s multitude of blogathon tributes. Of course it would be difficult for many bloggers in the community to participate in this birthday blogathon on his actual birthday on Christmas Day, so we decided to push it ahead a little bit in order to accomodate everyone.

RULES

  1. Bogie has an extremely significant and diverse filmography with over eighty films to his credit, so we will only be allowing ONE duplicate for each film, and this is only going to be allowed only on a case-by-case basis. We want as many films to be covered as possible, and we made sure to leave most of his classics open for the taking. For example, we don’t want to see two out of five bloggers writing about Casablanca (1942). Try to expand your horizons and write about a film that you may not be as familiar with first.
  2. Anything relating to Humphrey Bogart is up for grabs! You could write about his relationship with Lauren Bacall, his Oscar nominations, his many collaborations with John Huston, or even how he helped Gene Tierney on the set of The Left Hand of God (1955). 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). You may comment on Sleepwalking in Hollywood’s post as well.
  4. Once you’ve been approved, help us spread the word! We’re both fairly new blogs and we’ll need all the help we can get! Please take one of our lovely banners from below and put it somewhere on your blog, and make sure to tell your friends. We want as many participants as possible, and if this blogathon is a success we will likely do it again next year!

 

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ROSTER

The Agatha Christie Blogathon: My Analysis of Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

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NOTE: As it would be nearly impossible to review or analyze this film without including all parts of it, this will be one of my very few posts that is NOT spoiler-free. Read on only if you dare!

I would like to begin by thanking the hosts of this awesome blogathon: Little Bits of Classics and Christina Whener. I apologize that my post is so late, but I am eternally grateful that both of you gave me the perfect opportunity to see this film for the first time, and I’m even more esctatic to be able to write about both Agatha Christie and Lauren Bacall for their birthdays! So without further ado, I send many belated birthday wishes to Miss Christie and Miss Bacall, and on with the post!

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The art deco style title card for Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

I was instantly intrigued by the art deco style of the title cards as well as the chilling score playing over them. It’s clear by the use of color and cinematography — even before we see any of the characters — that this film is from the 1970s, but I’ve always felt that movies from that decade and the one prior shed a new and possibly more realistic light on the 20s and 30s (I find The Sting (1973) and Splendor in the Grass (1962) to be the best examples of this). The use of color in the opening montage was also very functional and deliberate, as the crime scenes and newspapers regarding the disappearance of Daisy Armstrong were tinged with a blue-gray that showed the grief of the incident. The flash of red at the end that paired with the announcement of her murder really grabs the audience’s attention as any clever use of color should, and makes me wonder what sort of connection ties this story to the rest of the film.

The first of the many characters that we meet during the course of the film is our star detective, Hercule Poirot. He is immediately revealed to be a strange yet intelligent man, who surprisingly does not seem to show a great deal of empathy for the lives of others. Next we begin to meet some of the characters who will soon become the passengers of the Orient Express and eventually suspects in the murder of Mr. Ratchett. Colonel Arbuthnot (Sean Connery), followed closely by the woman who we eventually find out is his lover Mary Debenham (Vanessa Redgrave). We see the murder victim in question, Ratchett, and his secretary McQueen (Anthony Perkins) as well as his valet Beddoes (John Gielgud), the elderly Princess Dragomiroff (Wendy Hiller) and her maid Hildegarde (Rachel Roberts), Count and Countess Andrenyi (Michael York and Jacqueline Bisset), the twice-wed Mrs. Hubbard (Lauren Bacall), devout missionary Greta (Ingrid Bergman), the Italian car salesman Foscarelli (Dennis Quilley), Pinkerton’s employee Hardman (Colin Blakely) and the steward on the Express, Pierre (Jean-Pierre Cassel). As Poirot expertly unravels the details of the murder, he slowly but surely finds out that every single suspect was once connected to the Armstrong family.

Agatha Christie attended the premiere of this film when she was eighty-four years old,

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Albert Finney as enigmatic detective Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

just fourteen months before her death on January 12th, 1976. Murder on the Orient Express (1974) was supposedly the only film adaptation of her novels that she was completely satisfied with, and she praised Albert Finney’s portrayal of the shrewd Hercule Poirot as the closest screen version to her character that she had ever seen (though she was reportedly unhappy with the whimsical moustache that he was given in this film). The film was no walk in the park for lead actor Albert Finney, however, as he was starring in a stage play while filming, and the task of completing both productions allowed Finney hardly any sleep at all. In an attempt to make the actor’s life a little bit easier as he played both parts simultaneously, the makeup department would pick him up every morning in an ambulance and painstakingly transform Finney into Detective Poirot while he was still asleep in his pajamas! To make matters worse for him, Poirot’s famous monologue at the end of the film required take after take as the set did not allow for more than one camera to occupy the cramped train compartment at one time. This of course was no easy feat for the peculiar detective, as his closing speech was over eight pages long.

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Theatrical poster for Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

Finney’s performance certainly paid off as I found the actor’s performance to be delightful, though he was completely unrecognizable in the main role. High praises could also be given to the rest of the all-star cast, including Ingrid Bergman, who won an Academy Award for her performance and had to redevelop her Swedish accent with the help of diction coaches to play the role of Greta. Oscars aside, I must admit that my two favorite performances in the film were those of Anthony Perkins and belated birthday girl Lauren Bacall, who played the suspicious secretary McQueen and the talkative Mrs. Hubbard, respectively. Other notable appearances included the always wonderful Sean Connery as Colonel Arbuthnot, Vanessa Redgrave as Mary Debenham, Jacqueline Bisset as the beautiful Countess Andrenyi, Martin Balsam in a wonderful leading role as Bianchi, and of course Richard Windmark as the murder victim Ratchett, who only took on the role in order to meet the array of other stars who would be present during filming. Of course it’s really no wonder that the cast was so impeccable, as I found out that the film boasts fifty-eight Oscars between the members of the cast and crew.

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My favorite performance: Lauren Bacall as Mrs. Hubbard in Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

Despite the valiant efforts of the cast, director Sidney Lumet, and composer Richard Rodney Bennett, I did find a few issues with the film’s plot. Granted, this may be because I have only seen the picture once, but I can’t seem to understand why twelve people, who were all very closely related to the same family and the same crime committed five years ago, happen to be on the same train at the same time on a totally separate continent. Also, if all twelve of these people were so closely related, how did none of them slip up even once to Poirot and reveal that they knew each other? These points lead me to believe that it was either a completely improbable coincidence or that it was planned, and if it was, I noticed no evidence or explanation of this aforementioned plan in the film. I also find it difficult to believe that all twelve of the compartment’s passengers (despite having motive) were completely fine with participating in the murder. The only character to show any remorse at all is Greta, but only because she was committing a crime in the eyes of God. Not a single person seemed worried that they were breaking the law, that one of the world’s greatest detectives was onboard the same train, or that they would more than likely be going to jail. I think more detail could have been provided from the novel to answer these plot holes, or even better I think a sequel that would contain the confessions and backstories of each of the passengers would be a clever way of clearing everything up and tying all of the film’s loose ends. Despite these lingering questions, I still find the film to be a mystery as genius as only Agatha Christie could pen, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who loves a good crime thriller or is a fan of murder mystery dinner theatres, as this was without a doubt the tale that sparked the genre.

The 2016 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon: My Top Five Picks for Cyd Charisse’s Tribute

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We’re almost halfway through the month of August, and while summer is winding down, the stars on Turner Classic Movies are shining brighter than ever! For those of you who didn’t get the chance to read my picks for Esther Williams’ birthday, my top five for Hedy Lamarr’s tribute, or if you’re unfamiliar with Turner Classic Movies, Summer Under the Stars honors a different classic film star during each day in August by showing a twenty-four hour marathon of their films. To be quite honest, I would not consider Cyd Charisse as one of my favorite actresses of all time like I would Hedy or Esther, but I truly believe that her filmography is vastly underrated and she’s an incredible woman in her own right. I knew that she had to be the last of the three ladies that I chose to write about! So, without further ado, keep reading for my top five recommended films that TCM is showing today in honor of Cyd Charisse!

5. It’s Always Fair Weather (1955) On TCM at 10:00pm EST

Though she isn’t exactly the main attraction, Cyd sparkles in this film about three soldiers who agree to meet up in New York City ten years after their service, only to find out that they have nothing in common. Of course the film focuses more on star Gene Kelly than anyone else, but I find this picture to be well worth your time just for its fantastic musical numbers like the now iconic “I Like Myself”, in which Kelly shows his absolute prowess in the art of dancing by hoofing it on roller skates. Kelly later mentioned that he had bought the ordinary pair of skates used in the film just a block from his house, and they were not altered in any way or adhered to his shoes. Despite the hard efforts of this incredible cast, which includes Kelly, Charisse, Dan Dailey, and Dolores Gray, this big budget musical was actually a financial flop, and many film historians attribute the decline of the extravagant Technicolor musicals of the fifties to the failure of this particular picture. Admittedly Charisse is not nearly as present in the film, but just her unique character and her perfect rhythm in the “Baby, You Knock Me Out” number is worth giving this late night treat a go.

4. The Band Wagon (1953) On TCM at 8:00pm EST

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Cyd Charisse wearing the white gown as she performs “Dancing in the Dark” with Fred Astaire in The Band Wagon (1953).

 

This musical comedy is often ranked as one of MGM’s best of all time, and it’s no wonder that many Cyd Charisse fans cite The Band Wagon (1953) as their favorite picture of hers as well. In one of her starring roles, Cyd plays young ballerina Gabrielle “Gaby” Gerard, who is starring in a show that aging musical star Tony Hunter (played by none other than Fred Astaire) has lined up for his comeback. Gaby finds herself intimidated by Tony’s musical experience, and unbenknowst to her, Tony is just as intimidated as she is by the ballerina’s youth and beauty. The two work out their differences, of course, and soon fall in love. Cyd shows in this film that she could truly pull off a leading role in memorable numbers like the finale “Girl Hunt Ballet” and “Dancing in the Dark”, in which she wears a flowing white dress that was actually copied from a dress worn by the film’s costume designer Mary Ann Nyberg. The designer’s dress was off-the-rack and cost about twenty-five dollars, but after searching for a replica to no avail the costume department ended up creating the look from scratch for one thousand dollars. Of course Cyd looks lovelier than ever in it, as she does in the rest of this perfect primetime picture directed by the great Vincente Minnelli.

3. Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956) On TCM at 8:00am EST

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Cyd Charisse in a promotional still for Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956), wearing the costume from the number “Frankie and Johnny”.

Cyd stars as Maria Corvier, yet another ballerina in this 1956 musical that takes place in The Sands Hotel, one of the many glimmering attractions of the Las Vegas Strip. Costar Dan Dailey plays slick yet womanizing cowboy Chuck Rodwell, who has arrived to gamble and lose all of the money that he has brought to Sin City. Of course when he expects to lose, just the opposite happens when he holds Maria’s hand, and he instantly follows his lucky charm everywhere she goes hoping to strike it rich. The film includes many adorable cameos, including one from Charisse’s husband (singer Tony Martin) as one of her many suitors who is inevitably out of luck. Even more cameos come from Debbie Reynolds, Peter Lorre, Vic Damone, and two members of The Rat Pack, including Frank Sinatra as a man who wins the jackpot, and Sammy Davis Jr., singing the showstopping number “Frankie and Johnny”. In my opinion, this is easily Cyd’s best number of all time, and she absolutely shines in the stort story of two ill-fated lovers told through dance and song. I would certainly recommend that you see this charming picture for “Frankie and Johnny” alone, if nothing else, as the infectious tune and captivating story make all of her other numbers pale in comparison.

2. Silk Stockings (1957) On TCM at 6:00pm EST

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Cyd Charisse performing her infamous number in Silk Stockings (1957).

In this musical remake of the classic film Ninotchka (1939), Cyd stars as the title character, a Russian envoy sent to complete a mission that three of her comrades had already bungled: to retrieve straying composer Peter Illyich Boroff (Wim Sonneveld) from Paris. Fred Astaire costars as American film producer Steve Canfield, who corrupts the composer and his comrades with all of Europe’s luxuries, including women, alcohol, and night life. Eventually he even captivates the ever-stoic Ninotchka, and the two fall in love. Aside from the fact that it’s a remake of such an iconic picture, Silk Stockings (1957) is possibly best known for the striptease that Charisse performs over the title number, which definitely turned the heads of both filmgoers and film censors, who demanded that a mirror, chair, and sheer petticoat be included in the scene to conceal Cyd’s shapely figure. Of course the three objects don’t exactly succeed in leaving much to the imagination, but in spite of such a scandalous number the film ended up tanking in the box office as well. Nonetheless, this is without a doubt the film that I’m looking forward to the most yet haven’t seen, and I strongly urge you all to discover this gem with me.

1. Brigadoon (1954) On TCM at 4:00pm EST

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Cyd’s husband Tony Martin visiting her on the set of Brigadoon (1954), with costar Gene Kelly.

In what could possibly be considered the most Scottish musical of all time, Cyd stars as Fiona Campbell, a demure citizen of the mideval village of Brigadoon. Tommy Albright (Gene Kelly, by far my favorite costar of Cyd’s) and Jeff Douglas (Van Johnson), who are in Scotland on a hunting trip, discover the town after getting lost and soon discover its fascinating secret: Brigadoon is a blessed village that appears from the mist for only one day every hundred years, so that it will remain unmarred by modern civilization. Anyone who remains in Brigadoon must remain there forever, for if they leave, the town and all of its inhabitants disappear permanently. While there, Tommy and Jeff grow to love the village, and Tommy begins to fall for Fiona, but is one day enough to make Tommy want to remain in Brigadoon for eternity? This lavish picture is filled to the brim with catchy songs, magnificent costumes, and romantic dance sequences, and I consider it one of the most overlooked musicals that MGM has ever produced. Charisse, Kelly, and many of the supporting cast members give heartwarming performances that make you believe in miracles, and despite the overbearing Scottish motifs, I find this film to be a worthwhile classic that song and dance fans of all ages can appreciate.

Once more, I’d like to thank Journeys in Classic Film from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to participate in this blogathon one third and final time. I can see that you worked very hard to make this blogathon possible, and I hope the rest of the month is a big success!

The Film Noir Blogathon: My Analysis of Criss Cross (1949)

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I would like to begin by thanking the gracious host of this fantastic blogathon, Quiggy of The Midnite Drive-In, for creating such a perfect homage to such a perfect genre. I’m just as ecstatic as you are for such a magnificent number of responses, and I’m incredibly honored to be one of the blogathon’s many participants. Now, without further ado, on with the post!

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Yvonne De Carlo, Burt Lancaster, and director Robert Siodmak share a banana split on the set of Criss Cross (1949).

The film begins with two things that instantly grab my attention. The first is the wonderful yet ominous score, composed by Miklós Rózsa, who oversaw the music of an innumerable amount of classics, including but not nearly limited to Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945), Spellbound (1945), and Ben-Hur (1959). The second thing that catches my eye is the very first exchange of the movie: an amorous love scene in the parking lot of a dance hall that features what appears to be an already established couple, Anna (Yvonne De Carlo) and Steve (Burt Lancaster). They anxiously discuss their affair and plans for the aftermath of a heist that is to take place the following day, including their plan to end up together, with Anna promising her lover Steve that “after it’s all over it’ll be just you and me, the way it should have been from the start”.

Despite the film giving no background about how the couple met or why they plan to go through with what seems to be a dangerous operation, the audience’s sympathy immediately lies with the pair, and the film could have ended right there and gotten a five star rating from me. It goes on, however, and shows Anna’s inquisitive husband Slim Dundee once she leaves the parking lot and reenters the Round Up dance hall. The two argue, of course, and make it painstakingly obvious why Anna is having an affair. Not long afterwards, Slim and Steve get into a predictable scuffle. We find out only later that it was staged just to throw Lieutenant Pete Ramirez off their trail, and that Steve and Slim actually plan on pulling off the robbery of an armored car together, but what meant to be a fight only for show turned into a real one once Slim began questioning Steve about his wife. Nonetheless, the two let bygones be bygones and the day of the robbery arrives. Steve, an employee for the armored car agency that they plan to steal from, is behind the wheel.

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Yvonne De Carlo and Burt Lancaster share an embrace in this publicity still for Criss Cross (1949).

As he drives to his destination and the plan is put into motion he begins to hear Anna’s comforting words in his head, and from there he narrates a flashback that finally gives some insight into how it all really started. He begins just after his return to Los Angeles after his divorce from Anna, and spins quite the yarn about how he returned to the Round Up where they used to spend their time together, reunited with her there, and fell in love with her all over again. Steve starts to dream of resuming their marriage, but his hopes are soon dashed once Anna marries Slim, the resident gangster of Los Angeles, and all of the money that comes with him.

A heartbroken Steve is on his own for a time, but inevitably Anna comes back into his life and the two begin a clandestine liaison. After a series of secret meetings between the two of them, Slim finds out that Steve and Anna have been seeing one another, and in a moment of desperation Steve devises an elaborate excuse in order to diffuse suspicion. He states that he was only conversing with Anna so that she and her mobster husband would assist him in holding up one of the armored cars that he is meant to protect for the company he works for, and as soon as the explanation leaves his lips he finds himself planning an armored car robbery for real.

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Tony Curtis dances his way to stardom with Yvonne De Carlo in Criss Cross (1949).

Lancaster’s performance stands out head and shoulders above the rest, and though I have not seen the bulk of his filmography I would certainly dare to say that this is the best acting I have ever seen him display onscreen. The feelings of desperation and heartache that Steve goes through are so very convincing that it is quite difficult to separate the actor from the character. Of course De Carlo’s performance is also first rate, and even though at times her acting is a bit stiff (especially compared to such superb an actor as Lancaster) I find her magnificent beauty and appeal makes her vastly underrated as an actress. She practically sends shockwaves through the screen, and I truly feel that she deserves more credit for her incredible films outside of The Munsters. Another notable appearance occurs twenty-two minutes into the film, during the scene in which Steve first sees Anna again at the Round Up, dancing with another man. That man is none other than Tony Curtis, in his feature film debut. He was so nervous that he kept his back to the camera as often as possible, and amusingly he would later star in two more films with Burt Lancaster, Trapeze (1956) and The Sweet Smell of Success (1957), both of which gave Curtis a starring role but gave Lancaster top billing.

In spite of some dull points here and there, I find this picture to be quite the thriller, and though the film contains many noir trademarks, I would consider it anything but archetypal. For once the leading lady is much more than just an afterthought and the love story is fully developed, which balances out the action in the picture nicely, gives it some raw human emotion, and sets it apart from the typical noir. All in all, Criss Cross (1949) is still a suspenseful delight for any noir fan, and its crosses and double crosses leave you hanging on the edge of your seat until the film’s tragic end.

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon 2016: My Analysis of Marnie (1964)

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I would like to begin by thanking the host of this wonderful blogathon, Eva of Classics and Craziness, for arranging such an interesting tribute for the birthday of such an iconic director.  It’s easy to see that you worked very hard to make this possible, and I’m incredibly honored to participate. So, without further ado, I wish Hitch a very happy 117th birthday wherever he may be, and on with the post!

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Tippi Hedren post-transformation in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964).

The film begins on an enthusiastically high note as infuriated businessman Sidney Strut, played by the usually lovable Martin Gabel, raves to two detectives about the burglary that has just taken place in his establishment, and he is certain that his raven-haired former employee named Marion Holland is the culprit. Meanwhile, the camera also follows a strange woman whom we soon find out is the thief in question, but not only is the name Marion Holland one of her many aliases, she is also a chameleon who presently becomes the Hitchcock blonde that we all know and love. Soon we are taken into the life of the habitual thief Marnie, who works for businesses under false pretenses, robs them blind, and uses the money to aid her invalid mother.

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Tippi Hedren looking lovelier than ever, seen here with Alfred Hitchcock promoting Marnie (1964).

The complex and challenging title role of Marnie became a difficult one for Hitchock and the studio to cast. It started off as a no-brainer, as the famed director had planned to give the role to just as famed actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly. However, the subjects of Monaco did not want to see Her Highness portraying a compulsive thief, making love to Sean Connery rather than their prince, and spending her time in Hollywood when her duty was to her country. Thus, Kelly had to turn down the role, and soon it became one of the most coveted parts in Hollywood at the time. Famous names like Eva Marie Saint, Lee Remick, Susan Hampshire, Claire Griswold, and Vera Miles all threw their hats in the ring but soon lost out once Hitch offered the role to newcomer Tippi Hedren, who was filming The Birds (1963) at the time, as he was quite impressed (though some, including Hedren herself, would say obsessed) with her performance in the film. As many fans of both Hitchock and Hedren know, this was the second and final film that the two made together due to the alleged emotional and sexual abuse that the director inflicted upon her during the filming of both pictures. After the filming of Marnie (1964) ended, he famously held Hedren to her seven-year contract to him, refused all offers that came her way, and essentially ended her career in pictures.

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Hitch himself, seen here with Diane Baker and Sean Connery, directing Tippi Hedren in Marnie (1964).

Once the lead actress was cast, there were still many bumps in the road before the cameras began rolling. Hitchcock had first began the creation of the script in 1961 with Joseph Stefano, screenwriter of the pièce de résistance of Hitchcock’s works, Psycho (1960). He wrote extensive notes but was shelved along with the rest of the film’s progress once Grace Kelly turned down the title role. Again the famed director picked up the original novel during the filming of The Birds (1963), and gave screenwriter Evan Hunter the job of working on Marnie (1964). Despite their past collaborations, Hunter and Hitch bumped heads over the novel’s rape scene, and Hunter begged the director to cut it out. Instead he decided to cut Hunter out, and replaced him with Jay Presson Allen, the third and final screenwriter who worked on the film. She later told her predecessor Hunter, “You just got bothered by the scene that was his reason for making the movie. You just wrote your ticket back to New York.” Once the final draft was finished and the picture was ready to be shot, one last hindrance occurred when three days prior to the first day of filming, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and filming was postponed due to the nation’s mourning.

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Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery in a promotional still for Marnie (1964).

Eventually Marnie (1964) was filmed, however, and thus completed what many consider to be the last great picture of Alfred Hitchcock. The first time that I watched it I was completely in awe of Hedren and Connery, and despite the fact that Grace Kelly is my favorite actress of all time, I think she would not have done this particular film justice. Tippi has a rebellious and wild aura about her, and despite her beautiful and irreproachable exterior, it’s easy to believe that she could be inherently bad. Connery’s character Mark Rutledge, on the other hand, is far more difficult to place on a scale of good and evil. Yes, he commits dastardly deeds, invades Marnie’s privacy and disregards her consent on multiple occasions, but many audience members (with screenwriter Allen herself among them) believe that he redeems himself by the film’s end, always had Marnie’s best interests at heart, and forced her to face her past as well as her fears.

In retrospect, I find that the film is flawed in many regards and many of Hedren’s actions seemed needlessly exaggerated and forced, but outside of that I truly believe Marnie (1964) is a vastly underrated classic that deals with vices as well as facing one’s own fears. It dealt with many tender subjects for a film of its time and deserves to be applauded based on that fact alone. As problematic as it may be to film buffs due to the offscreen relationship of Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren and also due to the startling and delicate topics within the film like rape, prostitution, and psychological abuse, this film earns its place among Hitchcock’s many triumphs, and to silence the picture’s negativity and controversy would be like denying that those events that occurred inside and outside of the movie ever existed.

The 2016 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon: My Top Five Picks for Hedy Lamarr’s Tribute

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We’re onto Day Ten of the best time of the year: Turner Classic Movies’ Summer Under the Stars! For those of you who didn’t get the chance to read my pick for Esther Williams’ birthday or if you’re unfamiliar with Turner Classic Movies, Summer Under the Stars honors a different classic film star during each day in August by showing a twenty-four hour marathon of their films. After I found out that Hedy Lamarr would be one of the many stars honored this month, I knew that she had to be one of the three incredible ladies that I chose to write about! Without further ado, keep reading for my top five recommended films that TCM will be showing today in honor of Hedy Lamarr!

5. Her Highness and the Bellboy (1945) On TCM at 8:00am EST

Hedy plays against type as a visiting princess from an unnamed kingdom in this

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Hedy looking as lovely and regal as ever in Her Highness and the Bellboy (1945).

lighthearted comedy that tears many of its motifs straight out of fairytale books. Her character, Princess Veronica, requires an escort and by an interesting chain of events clumsy bellboy Jimmy Dobson (Robert Walker) steps up to the plate, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend Leslie Odell (June Allyson). Despite how dreamlike the film’s plot seems, the making of the picture was anything but a fantasy. To begin with, Lamarr (who’s star was waning at the time) battled with MGM to get top billing. Much of the 1940s was spent accentuating the studio’s up and coming actors,  but after a heated fight Louis B. Mayer agreed to bill Hedy first. However, she paid the price for it as most believe that the argument was a deciding factor in MGM choosing not to renew her contract, and so this was her last film under contract to any major studio. Costar Robert Walker had his offscreen troubles during the making of this film as well, as he was going through bouts of depression and a heated divorce at the time after estranged wife Jennifer Jones left him for studio mogul David O. Selznick. The situation left him in a state of despondency for the rest of his brief life, and his costars were amazed that he was able to portray such a comical and carefree character despite his real life hardships. This film is truly uplifting and sweet in spite of the struggles that those creating it faced, however, and it truly starts Hedy Lamarr’s tribute on a high note.

4. The Heavenly Body (1944) On TCM at 11:30pm EST

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Hedy Lamarr, seen here with William Powell in The Heavenly Body (1944).

It’s in the stars that you should see this adorable romantic comedy! In it, Hedy plays Vicky Whitley, wife of astronomer Bill Whitley (William Powell). Bill discovers a comet and earns his place among the world’s most revered scientists, but soon he becomes so preoccupied with his discovery that he begins to spend more and more of his time at the observatory, much to the dismay of Lamarr. Soon Vicky fills her time with the neighborhood’s astrology expert, and begins to believe that the coomunity’s attractive new air raid warden is supposed to be her dream man. The misunderstanding makes Bill realize just how much he has neglected his wife, but is all lost, or will these two drift back into orbit? Either way, I find that Powell and Lamarr make a beautiful and witty couple, and Hedy’s acting makes me glad that Joan Crawford turned down her role, surprisingly stating, “It was about a girl who stands around and does nothing. I told the studio to give the part to Hedy Lamarr.” To me, Hedy does anything but stand around, and her glimmering personality makes this film a late night delight.

3. The Conspirators (1944) On TCM at 6:00pm EST

Unlike my number five choice, Hedy appears to play the exact sort of role that she was

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Hedy and Paul Henried in a promotional still for The Conspirators (1944).

known for when she appears as Irene Von Mohr in this suspenseful World War II drama. In this film, Vincent Van Der Lyn, a Dutch freedom fighter played by the always dashing Paul Henried, is forced to neutral Lisbon to escape Nazi persecution. During his time there he meets a group of underground conspirators, and over time he begins to assist their leader in identifying the traitor in their midst. This picture has endless parallels to the timeless classic Casablanca (1942), including leading man Henried as well as its great arsenal of supporting players that include Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, who appeared in both films. The Conspirators (1944) was also produced by Warner Bros. and uses the same composer and cinematographer used in Casablanca (1942), Max Steiner and Arthur Edeson, respectively. Even more so, Hedy was considered one of the top choices to play Ilsa in the aforementioned film, and did star in Algiers (1938), another great film that shares a plot with the classic. This is definitely the picture being shown today that I am the most excited to see that I haven’t had the chance to see, and I urge you to check out this evening thriller as well.

2. Comrade X (1940) On TCM at 3:00am EST

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Hedy and Clark Gable in a scene from Comrade X (1940).

Okay, both my first and second pick are late at night, but I can’t help that they’re both so great! To start off my top two, Comrade X (1940) offers a perfect pairing of Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr. Gable stars as Mckinley B. Thompson, a clever American reporter who uses the codename of Comrade X and a cut up handkerchief to smuggle vital information out of Soviet Russia. Eventually unassuming hotel valet Vanya (played by Felix Bressart, one of my favorite character actors) discovers his secret and uses the information to blackmail McKinley into escorting his beautiful daughter Theodore (Lamarr) out of the country, fearing that her Communist beliefs will get her killed. Despite dealing with such delicate subject matter, this film is laugh out loud hilarious and every single performance in it is memorable. I would go as far as to say that both Gable and Lamarr portray their most likeable characters yet, and if you’re looking for a film that seamlessly combines wit, farce, and plenty of WWII historical subtext in its script, look no further than this one.

1. Come Live With Me (1941) On TCM at 1:15am EST

Once again, I realize how unrealistic it is to include such a late night film on the lineup in

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Hedy Lamarr and James Stewart, the epitome of the perfect onscreen couple in this promotional shot for Come Live With Me (1941).

this list, but here I must protest and say that this is quite possibly one of the most underrated romantic comedies of all time. Hedy stars as a Viennese refugee who has illegally evaded deportation for months using the masculine name of Johnny Jones. Finally, the immigration department catches up with her, but feels so sorry for Hedy’s character that they give her one week to marry and stay in the country. To her dismay, however, her hotshot publisher beau is already married and Johnny quickly gives up hope. Nevertheless, all is not lost when she accidentally stumbles upon Bill Smith (James Stewart), a forlorn writer who is down to his last dime. Johnny quickly devises and offers a plan: Bill could marry Johnny so that she could stay in the country, and in return Johnny could pay for his expenses, which would allow him to write the novel he always dreamed of completing. In this film Lamarr and Stewart make for the most wonderful onscreen pair that I have ever witnessed, and I believe that it’s a downright shame that they were never paired together again. Hedy’s exotic and mysterious personality is the perfect contrast to James’ honest and All-American screen persona, and the two opposite stars make this picture a true must-see for any romance fan.

Once again, I’d like to thank Journeys in Classic Film for allowing me to participate in this blogathon, and I hope you check out my last entry covering my picks for Cyd Charisse’s tribute on August 14th!