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“Forgive me for I have sinned”

 

Having been raised Catholic, I can remember at a very young age making the sacrament we called ‘First Confession.’ Later, it was referred to as the sacrament of ‘Reconciliation.’ After going into the confessional, we would be given our penance, in which we were usually asked not to repeat the same mistakes. To atone for our wrong-doing, we would recite prayers, including one known as the ‘Act of Contrition.’

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Over the years, my views of Catholicism have changed, but my feeling that confession is good for the soul has not changed. I think that’s why I like the following films so much, and right now, it does my soul good to mention them:

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I CONFESS (1953). Alfred Hitchcock was a devout Catholic, so it was inevitable he would make a film where a man of the cloth was the main character. While the director could easily have gone for shock value in some of the story’s most revealing scenes, he keeps it thoughtful and, well, spiritual. Montgomery Clift is cast as an inner-city priest caught up in a murder investigation. As he withholds key information that was confessed to him by a guilty party, we see the toll it takes on him and his faith.

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CONFESSIONS OF TOM HARRIS (1969). This film is based on the life of Hollywood stuntman Tom Harris, an emotionally troubled guy that raped a girl then married her. Don Murray stars as Harris and gives a very intense performance; Linda Evans plays the victim, and is appropriately vulnerable. The story goes in an unexpected direction when we meet her father– a tough but compassionate Christian minister (David Brian) who finds decency in his volatile son-in-law. It’s a very powerful motion picture which has a lot to say about forgiveness.

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ABSOLUTION (1978). Richard Burton is a head priest and overseer of teenage boys at a private Catholic school. The boys are evil, and Burton is desperate to save them from themselves. Soon he gets involved in a diabolical plot that leads to murder– lured into it, because of the things he is told in the confessional. The plot is a bit far-fetched in spots, but it works, thanks to Burton’s fine acting and the movie’s many atmospheric touches. You never know if Burton’s character is being manipulated because he’s an unfortunate victim, or if it his own sinful nature that is being controlled by demons.

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MASS APPEAL (1984). In this one, Jack Lemmon is cast as an older priest at a parish that is undergoing great changes. The story seems like an 80s update of GOING MY WAY, where Lemmon is paired with a new priest. The drama hinges on the spiritual dilemmas faced by the younger clergyman, who is relieved of his weekly duties when he confides his sins to the older priest. From this point on, he must go his own way.

Over the years, "I Confess" just gets better and better.

 

Only Hitchcock would make a film in which the main character has "no way out".

 

"No way out", and intensely dramatic, too.

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Over the years, "I Confess" just gets better and better.

 

Only Hitchcock would make a film in which the main character has "no way out".

 

"No way out", and intensely dramatic, too.

 

Yes. I CONFESS is one of Hitchcock's least contrived films. The conflicts are very real. And it feels like Karl Malden's work as the detective was an 'audition' for his later role in The Streets of San Francisco. 

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Yes. I CONFESS is one of Hitchcock's least contrived films. The conflicts are very real. And it feels like Karl Malden's work as the detective was an 'audition' for his later role in The Streets of San Francisco. 

I really don't like Karl Malden.  Usually, he is just too "big".

 

He gives one of his worse performances in "Parrish".

 

By the way, how did you get to see "Absolution"?

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I really don't like Karl Malden.  Usually, he is just too "big".

 

He gives one of his worse performances in "Parrish".

 

By the way, how did you get to see "Absolution"?

 

Malden seems a bit miscast in PARRISH but it's still a fun film.

 

ABSOLUTION is on Amazon Prime.

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Biker films part 1

 

Any discussion about biker films has to start with THE WILD ONE. It’s based on an actual event which occurred in the late 1940’s. Marlon Brando plays the leader of a gang that stops off a California highway and goes on a rampage against the authority figures of a small town. At the same time, he is charmed by one of the local girls.

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During the ruckus, he acts out his generation’s views of society. He’s tortured emotionally and exists in a culture that drifts from place to place. The desired mode of transportation– a motorbike– provides fast escape when there’s trouble. Though usually, violence and more societal conflict are waiting at the next place.

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Not every film is as potent as THE WILD ONE. Some are tamer and less explosive. But Brando and his bike still linger in the public consciousness. A decade later, Roger Corman produced a low-budget update called THE WILD ANGELS. It continued the main idea and took it in newer directions. In the 60s, there was a revolution in the wind, along with the sound of motorcycles.

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Often such movies are written off by critics, but upon re-evaluation, they can be deemed quite significant. They contain sensational images and editing that give them a unique energy. And they represent how we all feel sometimes, when we just want to get away from everything.

Coming up: bikers in the 70s & 80s…

 

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TCM message board poster CaveGirl contributed to this write-up.

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Biker films part 2

 

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By the late 1960s, biker films would become increasingly popular with moviegoers. But some believed these pictures were more than harmless rebellion and anti-establishment sentiment. They thought the films were a type of fascist propaganda encouraging violence, murders and mob rule.

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After Corman’s THE WILD ANGELS, there was a proliferation of biker films. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, these stories would be mass produced and exhibited in drive-in theaters. Made quickly and cheaply, mostly by American International Pictures, they had a certain visual style.

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The names of the films were usually as colorful as the stories depicted on screen. And there were some actors who appeared quite frequently in them. People like Tom Laughlin, known as the character Billy Jack in THE BORN LOSERS; he would return with THE VIOLENT ANGELS. And Dennis Hopper turned up in THE GLORY STOMPERS, while Jack Nicholson appeared in HELL’S ANGELS 69. Soon afterward, Hopper and Nicholson would team with Peter Fonda to make EASY RIDER– one of the most important biker films of all time.

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EASY RIDER won a directing award for Fonda at the Cannes Film Festival. For a picture basically made on a shoestring budget, it proved how enormously profitable biker flicks could be with audiences. Its huge success only led to more such films– including ones made at major studios. For example, Robert Redford starred in Paramount’s LITTLE FAUSS AND BIG HALSY. And Joe Namath transitioned from football to the movies in C.C. AND COMPANY for Embassy Pictures.

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These films echoed the feelings that began in THE WILD ONE with Marlon Brando. They were about youth’s search for identity on bikes. In the 1980s, the genre evolved considerably. But even a futuristic movie like MAD MAX is a nod to the biker legends and shows warriors on the road grappling with issues that oppress a generation.

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TCM message board poster CaveGirl contributed to this write-up.

 
 
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Agee's horror reviews

Film critic James Agee was an admirer of Val Lewton’s films:

THE LODGER (1944)

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“It is years since a horror picture has given me my money’s worth, and I feel that today only Val Lewton, who makes such B pictures as THE SEVENTH VICTIM, has occasional promising ideas how to go about it. For me the main troubles with THE LODGER were that everyone was trying for gentlemanly, intelligent horror, sustained only by tricks of secondary suspense (you know from the start who the Ripper is). As a result the beautiful interiors, the sometimes beautiful streets, and the too beautiful lighting and photography drew too much attention to their own sumptuous but very passive vitality. The good performances of Laird Cregar, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Sara Allgood and Merle Oberon also remained a purely visual pleasure. Doris Lloyd, however, does project a moment of solid, old-fashioned fright.”

 

*****

ISLE OF THE DEAD (1945) and THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)

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“ISLE OF THE DEAD is at moments arty, yet in many ways to be respected, up to its last half hour or so; then it becomes as brutally frightening and gratifying a horror movie as I can remember. More self-contained and pleasingly toned and told, is Lewton’s recent BODY SNATCHER with Karloff, Lugosi, Henry Daniell. It too, for all its charm and talent, is a little dull and bookish; but it explodes into an even finer, and a far more poetic, horror-climax.”

 

*****

BEDLAM (1946)

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“BEDLAM is an elaborate improvisation. Boris Karloff has charge of a madhouse, prior to its reform. A Quaker and a spirited young woman are also involved. This is a Val Lewton production. I hear I have been accused of favoring Mr. Lewton, for reasons presumed to be underhand. The actual reason is underhandedness epitomized: I think that few people in Hollywood show in their work that they know or care half as much about movies or human beings as he does. Lewton and his friends would have to make much less sincere and pleasing films than this before I would review them disrespectfully.”

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Coming up in November

 

It’s a month of special columns with members of the TCM message board community:
 

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TCM fan programming…in this two-part interview, YanceyCravat describes what it was like to be an on-air programmer during TCM’s 20th anniversary.
 

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Programmer MarshaKatz…Marsha discusses her favorite directors, Billy Wilder and Woody Allen.
 

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Programmer Gipper…Gipper talks about some of Ronald Reagan’s films at Warner Brothers.
 

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Programmer Tisher Price…Tish mentions a few Clara Bow classics.
 

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Programmer Natalie Webb…Natalie shines the spotlight on some of her favorite actresses of the 1940s.
 

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Join me in November!

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TCM fan programming part 1

 

During the month of November, some of our TCM message board posters are going to discuss their favorite classic films with me. I thought it would be fun to start with poster YanceyCravat, because he was one of the 20 Ultimate Fan programmers who appeared on TCM in April 2014.

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TB: What was the process like when you entered the contest TCM had for its 20th anniversary? Did you think you would be chosen?

YC: The whole thing came to me in a roundabout way. I’d been to several of the festivals and got to meet and know many of the attendees and several of the TCM Staff.  I was at a gather of people celebrating the life of the late TCM fan and Guest Programmer Kyle Kersten. (AKA Kyle in Hollywood) Charles Tabesh was there and commented that maybe I could be one of the programmers as a Super Fan. I’ve been watching TCM since the earliest of days, attended Robert Osborne’s Walk of Fame Star ceremony and had been “on air” during the festival with Robert.

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TB: What a great photo. Thanks for sharing it with us.

YC: What a lot of people don’t know and I should say now because it doesn’t matter anymore, I auditioned for the job of TCM host that eventually went to Ben Menkiewicz.  I still can’t understand why they picked him over me! LOL! So you see my connection with TCM has always been very strong.

 

TB: Okay, so which film did you pick when you entered the contest?

YC: I decided to film my contest entry introducing ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN in front of Universal Studios in Hollywood. Just as we got a good take a security guard came and told us to leave! Apparently we weren’t allowed to shoot in front of the studio.  Well we got it anyway. That was pretty hilarious. Of course, I’d hoped that I’d be chosen. I’d always wanted to sit in the “Big Red Chair” opposite Robert and talk about movies. What could be better than that for a life long movie fan.

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TB: What was it like when you were told by TCM you had been chosen?

YC: To tell you the truth when I was chosen I was “unchosen” pretty quickly. There was a slight hitch. I was told that the folks in charge felt I had already been a “presence” on air owing to my moment during the festival talking with Robert about my experiences there. So they wanted to give someone else a shot. Naturally I was extremely disappointed. Crushed is probably a better term but I understood. However as fate would have it, a week or so later, someone couldn’t go and I was once again selected to be a Guest Programmer.  That was one of the happiest days of my life. Oddly enough being a happy second choice has been a pattern in my life. It’s like the Universe wants to know if I really want something before I get it! I told everyone I knew and they all said the same thing, “If anyone deserves to be there it’s you!”

Coming up: Yancey describes what it was like when TCM flew him and the other 19 fan programmers to Atlanta to film their individual segments with Robert Osborne…

 
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TCM fan programming part 2

 

This is the second part of my conversation with YanceyCravat.

TB: As viewers know, you ended up presenting the British war film WENT THE DAY WELL?…what were you hoping others might gain by seeing it on TCM?

YC: While I was attending the TCM festival I had an open slot and didn’t know what movie to see. I saw Leonard Maltin in the lobby of the Chinese Theatre. I asked him what he thought would be a good choice and he told me to see WTDW.  I’m embarrassed to admit I went begrudgingly. I never heard of the movie and didn’t know any of the cast. Turns out that was the best reason to go. In the first five minutes they kind of tell you what the movie is about and I wondered where is this going to go now.

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YC: It was the best movie going experience I ever had. The entire audience responded to the laughs, the tears, the suspense and triumph as a whole.  It reminded me of why we go to the actual theatre to see something and not stay home and watch television. Because it’s a good movie, because I had such a great time seeing it, I wanted others to experience what I experienced even if only in a small way. It’s a film everyone should know.  I think it still speaks loudly to today’s audience about average people dealing with terrorism and heroism. What would you do when confronted with enemies as powerful as the Nazis? I think we all want to be heroes but maybe we’d fall a little short. When confronted with the choice, could you give your life for your fellow man?

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TB: Please describe what it was like filming the wraparounds with Robert Osborne. Were these done quite a bit in advance of the actual broadcast?

YC: The wraparounds were shot several months in advance. It was an awesome experience. I was a bit nervous. You want something so badly and then they give it to you and you just don’t want to seem lame or screw it up. The segments we shot were longer than what appears on TV. I think the whole thing took about half an hour. They allow for glitches and mistakes but they don’t stop you just keep talking. Then they take a small break to reset, check things and then you do the wrap-up. You may decide ahead of time certain points you want to discuss or emphasize. It goes by very quickly and you have no idea whether or not you’ve made a fool of yourself until you see it. All our fellow programmers were extremely supportive and encouraging before, during and after taping each segment. TCM did send a DVD ahead of air which was nice of them. I’m guessing you can tell from my response to these questions what a great time it was for me.

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YC: Since I was one of the last people to tape their wraparounds I got to watch everyone else and make mental notes. I got a little emotional when comparing WENT THE DAY WELL to 9/11.  I could have stayed another two weeks!  It truly was one of the happiest times in my life. Ten of us shot one day and ten of us shot the next. I was in the latter group, On the day we weren’t shooting we got a little tour of Atlanta. TCM treated us royally. They couldn’t have done a better job or made us feel more welcome. When they told us we were part of the TCM family I think everyone felt ten feet taller.  The one ironic moment of the whole thing was the hotel where we stayed, didn’t have TCM!  We all went back to our hotel rooms exhausted but we all did the same thing, turn on the TV to watch TCM and it wasn’t there! Hilarious! When they asked us if there was anything they could have done better I believe all of us said the same thing. Put us in a hotel with TCM!

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TB: Do you stay in touch with the other fan programmers?

YC: I can’t say I’m in constant contact with the other programmers because I’m not really a social media guy, however, when we run into one another it’s like old home week. We shared a very wonderful experience. Something we all wanted to do. When you go through something that special you can’t help feel connected for the rest of your life.  One of the reasons I’m especially happy and proud of Tiffany Vazquez is because she was a part of that group. She was one of our 20. I feel like I had five numbers in the lotto and Tiffany hit all six! God bless her!

TB: If you could have chosen a second film, what would it have been?

YC: My second choices would have been one of three films. The aforementioned ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, my favorite movie growing up,  THE STING, my favorite movie of all time. I watch it at least once a year. Perfect cast, great character actors, perfect story, pure fun!  The Lillian Gish version of THE SCARLET LETTER. One of the first silent films I’d seen. I was about 13 or 14.  They showed it on PBS and the ending just shook me to the core. As I said before when you experience something so wonderful you want to share that feeling with others.

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Programmer MarshaKatz

 

Marsha wanted to discuss her favorite directors. She has chosen two films by Billy Wilder and two films by Woody Allen:

 

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THE APARTMENT and STALAG 17 are my two Billy Wilder selections. I love Billy’s work. You can’t pin him down to one particular genre. He’s acerbic, his characters are just a little bit off kilter and unpredictable.

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THE APARTMENT is a film that takes place during the Christmas/New Year’s season, which for many people can be very stressful and depressing. Billy takes the depression and adds a great deal of comedy to it to ease the tensions. It’s a moving love story, and the chemistry between Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine is wonderful. I’ve lost count as to how many times I’ve seen the film, but I love it more and more after each viewing.

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I must admit my main reason for picking STALAG 17 is William Holden’s fabulous performance. This is a film I can never see often enough and wish it were given more air time on TV. Only Billy Wilder can make you laugh out loud in a WWII POW camp.

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The two Woody Allen films I’ve selected are CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS and BROADWAY DANNY ROSE. The first time I saw CRIMES, I was totally surprised and except for the fact that Cole Porter’s “Rosalie” was part of the score (which Woody uses very often in his films), a cold blooded murder would be the last thing I would have expected in a Woody Allen movie. I cannot forget the scene where Martin Landau returns to Anjelica Huston’s apartment and there she is lying dead on the floor….so antiseptic and upsetting. That scene continually stays with me and haunts me. CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS is a film that can be discussed in great detail, but for me it just exhibits the talent that Woody Allen has.

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My second selection BROADWAY DANNY ROSE is in black and white cinematography. It has my favorite Woody Allen performance. It makes me cry. And it’s a wonderful love story. I enjoy the opening with all the comedians telling their own personal Danny Rose story. And the characters, who may seem like misfits in society, bring such empathy to the film. “Acceptance, forgiveness, and love.”

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Programmer Gipper

 

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With a screen name like ‘Gipper,’ it makes sense that today’s programmer would select four Ronald Reagan films. In a private message Gipper told me he wanted to focus on the actor’s Warner Brothers output. Specifically, he said “I think they are a good representation of his career. They show how he could do comedy as well as dramas.”

 

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BROTHER RAT (1938) —- He met first wife Jane Wyman while filming, and it shows they had chemistry both on and off screen. It was also his first comedy, based on a popular Broadway play.

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DARK VICTORY (1939) — his first “A” picture with major stars like Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart (both Oscar winners). Though he received fifth billing, he held his own and gives a great performance despite being in only a few scenes.

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KNUTE ROCKNE ALL-AMERICAN (1940) — Again, despite not appearing in the entire film, he gives his most memorable performance. A role he fought for and won (with help from Pat O’Brien).

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KINGS ROW (1942) — It’s considered his best role and an outstanding performance. The scene when he discovers his legs have been amputated and utters ‘Where’s the rest of me?’ (the title of his 1965 autobiography) was done in one take.

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Programmer Tisher Price

 

One of Tish's favorite actresses is Clara Bow. She watched her first Clara Bow movie two years ago on TCM, and has quickly become an expert:

 

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IT (1927)– Clara Bow had been in the movies since around 1924, maybe sooner but her breakthrough role made her an overnight sensation. She was dubbed the “It” Girl, and apparently “It” isn’t explained, I think those who have seen this knows that it meant sex appeal. Bow appears with her signature dark red henna hair, and a carefree, unchained attitude as a flapper in the rise of the flapper craze. Clara clearly steals the show, and she is unforgettable. She came up with an idea for one of the scenes that was purely her genius which blew her director away. It’s where she is behind the desk at a department store, when the new boss who is very handsome and she has the hots for walks in one day. In a matter of 30 seconds, Clara’s close ups first showed her looking lustfully at the boss (keep in mind Clara was still relatively young, so the director thought it was creepy at first), next she has a dreamy look in her eyes for the women in the audience portraying how they would feel if they saw the man of their dreams. Then the third face went childlike and innocent for the grandmas so they wouldn’t think she was a bad girl. Clara Bow’s expressive face made her a star and made the movie a big success.

 

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THE WILD PARTY (1929) is as fun and comfortable as Bow looks in the movie. The first time I watched it I very much enjoyed it and thought Clara Bow was a natural, only to learn it was of nightmarish proportions. Since it was her first talkie, things changed–and how! The intro of the talkies was the death blow to many silent actor careers who looked good on screen but had an unpleasant speaking voice. Some fared well with the transformation, like Norma Shearer who sounded “perfect.” All the female actors wanted to sound and talk like Norma Shearer. All though Bow’s voice had a heavy unpleasant almost plebeian accent, she passed the voice test. This was just the beginning of a medium Bow could not get over.

 

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The hanging microphones became the bane of Clara’s sanity. She was continuously “at war” with these microphones, hovering above her distracting her many times to the point of pure frustration, tears, and panic. Along with this new technology, the mics would pick up every noise very easily…the scene where the girls go to the wild party, dressed scantily, dancing all in a line shuffling feet–the sound of feet sounded like crunching over the mic, so scenes had to redone, actors were to be QUIET during shooting which Clara found unsettling. She wasn’t too crazy about her voice, fully aware that she sounded unschooled. She was a pro, though.

 

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THE SATURDAY NIGHT KID (1929) was Bow’s second talkie. Once again she seemed like a pro, performing effortlessly. If the microphones hovered over her in every shot, it didn’t show on her face. The movie starred two up and comers who had “accents more pronounced than her own.” They were Jean Arthur (who unfortunately was criticized for having a voice like a foghorn) and Jean Harlow, who had a very thick Brooklyn accent. Due to her growing phobia of talkies and the mics, Clara tried punching back at them with her fist tearfully and frustrated. She was starting to come undone at this time, getting to the point where she developed a nervous disorder where she couldn’t get out one line without being reduced to tears. She would open her mouth and nothing would come out.

 

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CALL HER SAVAGE (1933)– Clara had a family, but she went thru a gamut of problems before thinking hard about doing anymore films. She was seeing a psychiatrist for countless mental ailments, some real and some imaginary physical pain. In this film, she plays Nora ‘Dynamite’ Springer, an irreverent party girl who is wild in her nature, because, and this might be seen as racist these days–wild because it turns out she is a half breed Indian. She turns to drinking, fighting, flightiness, and trouble making– embarrassing her conservative father who disowns her after she unwittingly marries a playboy just to get back at her dad for controlling her life. It was a movie chock full of drama, the rise and fall of Nora Springer who makes bad choices in life, drinking to dull her pain, one tragedy after another. This is my all time favourite Bow movie for two reasons. It was the first Clara Bow movie I ever saw thanks to TCM’s Pre-Code spotlight in 2014. Secondly, it shows a healthier, saner, beautiful Clara Bow whose acting skills seemed to have improved greatly after a short hiatus from movies. After this she did one more film before retiring at the ripe old age of 25.

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Programmer Natalie Webb

 

Natalie picked three films from the 1940s:

THE LETTER (1940)

 

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This mystery is the movie that made me really appreciate Bette Davis for the first time. Her character is abnormally well developed and complex for this genre and time, and it is one of the most gripping performances I’ve ever seen.

On an eerie moonlit night, Mrs. Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis) shoots a man, calmly sends for the authorities, and goes back into her house where she begins work on a lace shawl. Her claim of self-defense is questioned when an incriminating letter surfaces, and Leslie must adjust her story. Her web of deception becomes as complicated as the lace she continuously crochets, and we the audience discover piece by piece the truth behind Leslie’s actions.

 

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The tension and suspense are present in this movie from the beginning all the way to the climactic end. Even if you aren’t a Bette Davis fan, you’ll appreciate this film for its camerawork, intriguing setting, and the mesmerizing story.

*****

THE LEOPARD MAN (1943)

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I saw this suspenseful film for the first time on a dark November night several years ago. I’d only seen one other Jean Brooks film, and thought I’d give this one a try. Before I knew it, I had been swept into the mysterious plot, anxious to see who the murderous “Leopard Man” was.

Jean Brooks plays a nightclub singer looking for attention in this Val Lewton film. During a publicity stunt gone wrong, she accidentally unleashes a black leopard on the town, and it isn’t long before the gruesome killings begin. However, suspicions arise as to whether it is the leopard, or the work of a maniac. Soon, it becomes clear that no one should be trusted, anyone could be the infamous “Leopard Man.”

 

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I love this movie, because it is a marvelous exhibition of a lesser known actress, Jean Brooks. If you’ve never seen her before, she is definitely worth looking into. Once you start watching, you won’t be able to stop until the culprit is revealed!

*****

DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)

 

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This is one of the greatest suspenseful film noir movies ever made. Starring the legendary Barbara Stanwyck alongside Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson, this movie will hold your attention until the last dramatic minute.

The plot centers around an insurance salesman (MacMurray) who is persuaded into helping a beautiful and mysterious woman murder her husband and collect his life insurance money. In an effort to collect double, they decide to stage a strange freak accident to employ the “Double Indemnity” clause and get twice as much money. But it only works if they can prove his death was really an accident.

 

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To me, some of the greatest movies are the ones that manipulate the way you think. You may find yourself rooting for Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray as they plot their crime, holding your breath as they are questioned, wondering if they will pull it off. In short, this film convinces you to sympathize with murderers, effectively making you cheer on the villains. Any movie that can manipulate your thinking that much deserves a watch! Besides, it’s worth seeing just to hear all the hilariously quotable things Fred MacMurray says! You’ll enjoy this movie, as sure as 10 dimes make a dollar!

 
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I'd like to thank Glenn, Marsha, Allen, Tish and Natalie for joining me this month. Such a great variety of films were discussed. It's always fun to see how the classics resonate with others.

I too enjoyed the posts and was "green with envy" at those being a guest programmer.   I liked the selection of "Went the Day Well" as I love British movies from the 40's through the mid 60's.  My parents took us to see as many Brit films as possible when I was growing up (they were usually at an Art Film Theatre) which I think is funny in itself as I don't believe Peter Sellers in "I'm All Right Jack" could ever be considered an "art film".   Anyway we had great fun and as my parents were both Brits we were one of the very few who got all the laughs and understood the language (it was truly different then) as opposed to universal language today. 

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I too enjoyed the posts and was "green with envy" at those being a guest programmer.   I liked the selection of "Went the Day Well" as I love British movies from the 40's through the mid 60's.  My parents took us to see as many Brit films as possible when I was growing up (they were usually at an Art Film Theatre) which I think is funny in itself as I don't believe Peter Sellers in "I'm All Right Jack" could ever be considered an "art film".   Anyway we had great fun and as my parents were both Brits we were one of the very few who got all the laughs and understood the language (it was truly different then) as opposed to universal language today. 

 

Many of the British films did not get released in the U.S. until a year or so after they had been screened in England and parts of Europe. 

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Coming up in December

 

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Scenes that confuse viewers…pencils rolling, helicopters swirling and frogs flying– what do these things have to do with the movie’s story?

Same name different person…there are two Martha Stewarts: one is an actress, and the other is not.

 

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The time Hedy was arrested for shoplifting…in 1966 Hedy Lamarr starred in a sensational real-life drama.

 

STAR of David…appreciating David Selznick and A STAR IS BORN.

 

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Christmas Carol(e)s…singing the praises of four lovely actresses.

Year in review…remembering 2016 and classic movies.

 

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Join me in December!

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Scenes that confuse viewers

 

Recently I watched Fritz Lang’s gothic noir HOUSE BY THE RIVER. I’ve always liked this film, because of its precise period detail and highly atmospheric touches.

 

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Halfway into the story there’s a courtroom scene where Lee Bowman’s character is on trial for murder. We already know his brother (played by Louis Hayward) is the real culprit. One of the attorneys rolls a pencil across the table where he is sitting. Lang has the camera show the pencil rolling across the length of the table before reaching the edge of the surface and falling to the floor.

 

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The camera then cuts to Hayward on the stand who continues to give false testimony, completely unfettered by the interruption of the pencil dropping. Viewers may wonder why Lang has nearly stopped the narrative to focus on a runaway pencil. But I think it’s because the attorney knows Hayward is lying on the stand, and he’s trying to see if he can rattle him and expose his perjury.

 

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In 1991 Lawrence Kasdan directed the ensemble drama GRAND CANYON. There are several scenes of helicopters flying overheard. Sometimes we don’t even see them, we just hear them hovering directly above the action. What is this supposed to mean? Does it suggest that chaos continues to swirl around the inhabitants of an urban landscape? Maybe it symbolizes there is something ‘up there,’ like a god. Or that it’s a deliverance of sorts, since the characters might take a helicopter ride when they visit the Grand Canyon at the end of the film.

 

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Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 film MAGNOLIA has a very dramatic scene where frogs start falling out of the sky and land on a car. Yes, frogs. Nothing in the story seems to lead up to this moment, and to say it’s surreal is an understatement. It could be one of those times where the filmmaker is trying to be irreverent and stylistic, but I think it also symbolizes the point where insanity rains down on the characters. I could be wrong. Sometimes, like the frogs in the story, we have to take a leap and trust the filmmaker’s vision even if we do not fully comprehend it.

 

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Same name different person

 

There are always going to be performers who don’t reach the upper ranks of Hollywood success. But maybe if circumstances had been different, who knows…these stars might have been household names:
 

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1. Vicki Lester…from 1937 to 1942, she appeared in 18 features. Named after Janet Gaynor’s character in A STAR IS BORN, but it wasn’t enough. RKO claimed her real name was Vickie Lester (with an ‘e’), but census records prove it was actually Dorothy Day. And she did not have a husband named Norman.
 

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2. Speaking of actresses with the last name Day, how about the original Doris Day…from 1939 to 1943 there was another Doris Day in Hollywood. She made 12 films. As someone at the IMDb writes:
 

“This is some other chick with the same name. Very confusing, especially when you order a DVD of a movie and find out it’s the wrong one!”
 

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3. Martha Stewart…not the one with her own housekeeping magazine and TV shows. Talking about an actress under contract to 20th Century Fox in the post-war years. She appeared in DOLL FACE with Perry Como. Maybe the second Martha could change her name to Betty Crocker.
 

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4. Michael Fox…a character actor with over 200 screen credits from 1952 to 1995. The story goes that when the Family Ties and BACK TO THE FUTURE superstar registered with the Screen Actors Guild, he was told the name Michael Fox was already taken. The younger actor’s middle name was Andrew, but Michael A. Fox sounded like Michael is a fox, so he became Michael J. Fox.

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The time Hedy was arrested for shoplifting part 1

 

Thursday January 27, 1966
 

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It happened on a night in late January. Hedy Lamarr was at the May & Co. department store in the Wilshire area of Los Angeles. She had found some nice things and was ready to go. On her way out the door, an arm reached forward and stopped her. It was the store detective.
 

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About $14,000 in checks were discovered inside Hedy’s purse. Also in her possession were items that had been taken from the store. These things included a suit; eye makeup; a string of beads; greeting cards; and some bikini panties. The manager insisted on pressing charges, so Hedy was taken to the Sybil Brand Institution for Women and booked.
 

She was far from destitute. Though Hedy had not made a film in several years, she had been a guest recently on an episode of the music show Shindig and was paid for her appearance. She was also receiving $1250 a month in alimony from one of her ex-husbands.
 

*****


Friday January 28, 1966
 

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After Hedy had been booked for petty theft, she spent four hours in jail. Bail was set at $550. She paid it and was released. An arraignment was then set for February 2nd. If convicted, she could get six months in prison and a fine.
 

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Hedy faced accusations she was a shoplifter. At a press conference held at a Beverly Hills bistro, she said it was hardly possible she was guilty of the crime. She had $14,000 in her purse when she was arrested. These were checks from movie studios—one for $9000 and the other for $5000. So how she could be accused of stealing anything from a store if she had all that money in her purse?
 

Hedy told reporters it was all a big misunderstanding and the store detective should not have followed her out to the parking lot. She had paid for shoes and a coat but apparently forgot to pay for the other stuff. Her arrest absolutely mystified her. Hedy said everyone was kind to her in jail, and she would write about the experience in a book.


​Coming up in part 2: Hedy’s hospitalized…

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The time Hedy was arrested for shoplifting part 2

 

Friday January 28, 1966

 

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Helen McGarry, the store detective who had nabbed Hedy Lamarr outside May & Co., said she spent 45 minutes watching Hedy near the counters. She saw the actress pilfer things and drop them into a large bag. McGarry witnessed Hedy taking things on previous occasions but always lost her in the crowds. This time she was determined to follow her and make a citizen’s arrest.

Hedy insisted she was willing to pay for everything she forgot to buy. Other stores let her do it.

*****

Thursday February 3, 1966

 

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A week later Hedy was expected on the set of a new movie. It was Bert I. Gordon’s PICTURE MOMMY DEAD, but she failed to show up. Gordon sent a car to Hedy’s home to get her. The housekeeper told the driver Hedy had been at a hospital in Westwood for nervous exhaustion and was in no condition to work. When the car returned to the soundstage without Hedy, Bert Gordon fired her. He would later say it had nothing to do with the shoplifting charges. It was because she was not reliable and he had a movie to make.

 

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Another press conference was held, this time at Hedy’s home in Beverly Hills. Her attorney chatted with reporters in the backyard, answering questions about the firing.  Hedy graced them with her presence. She said she just needed a good night’s rest. She felt getting some much-needed sleep shouldn’t upset Mr. Gordon and his crew too much. She claimed the producer was making her a target, which was difficult given her recent troubles. Because of all the stress, she had only slept one hour in four days.

 

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Since Bert Gordon did not have any intention of rehiring her (the role went to Zsa Zsa Gabor), Hedy told the media she was just going to quit the movie business. She had decided she would never act again. After her trial, she planned to concentrate on a book about her life story. Then she would leave Hollywood for good.

Coming up in part 3: Hedy’s trial begins…

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The time Hedy was arrested for shoplifting part 3

 

April 21, 1966
 

Hedy’s trial was big news. Witnesses for both sides were called to the stand to testify. Helen McGarry, the detective for the May & Co. department store, repeated what she had told the police back in January.
 

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After the prosecution had finished presenting its case, Hedy’s lawyer was allowed to call character witnesses. Key testimony came from Dr. Henry Hamilton, a psychiatrist based at the UCLA Medical Center. He told the court he had been treating Hedy since 1964 for nervous exhaustion and other stress.


Dr. Hamilton said the movie queen had been under tremendous pressure since her recent marriage ended a year earlier. He also said Hedy was facing eviction from her Beverly Hills mansion. When she was arrested, some of the windows in her home did not have drapes in them, a swimming pool wasn’t finished being built, and an old Christmas tree was waiting to be taken to the dump. All of this had weighed heavily on Hedy’s mind. Dr. Hamilton explained in front of the jury that his patient sometimes rambled because of the strain. However, he did not consider her a kleptomaniac.


*****


April 22, 1966
 

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The next day, Hedy’s lawyer called her 19 year old son Anthony Loder to the stand. Tony told the court how distressed his mother had been because of the alleged shoplifting. He said she was very distracted the day she went to May & Co. According to Tony, Hedy had been deeply troubled by her fading beauty and the fact her career was in decline. She was extremely worried about how she’d look in her latest movie. Tony also said his mother was living alone after the divorce from her sixth husband– and that she looked so very thin and unhealthy.


After Tony’s testimony was over, the defense called Dr. Harold Ross to the stand. He was the physician who treated Hedy for nervous exhaustion when she went to the hospital after her arrest. Dr. Ross asserted that Hedy had showed signs of confusion, but she was not a danger to anyone.


*****


Coming up in part 4: a verdict is reached…

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The time Hedy was arrested for shoplifting part 4

 

April 26, 1966
 

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After testimony and closing arguments had been presented by both sides, the judge sent the jury off to deliberate. By the end of the day on the 26th, jurors returned to the courtroom with a verdict. They found Hedy not guilty of shoplifting. When the decision was read, Hedy smiled and fans who were present burst into applause. After the judge dismissed the case, Hedy stood up. Then she walked over to the jury and shook hands with the seven men and five women that had acquitted her.
 

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She told reporters outside the courtroom how the past few months had been very difficult. She was happy to be exonerated. She thought she might be able to get a good night’s sleep now. Reporters asked if she had plans to get married again, since that was almost more important than any guilty verdict might have been.


As photographers took her picture, she posed in a cute two-piece suit with gold buttons. She also had a lavender scarf, bright yellow shoes and new pantyhose. Nobody thought to ask if she paid for all those things.
 

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CAST
Hedy Lamarr: Hedwig Kiesler
Store detective: Helen McGarry
Hedy’s lawyer: Jordan Wang
Hedy’s son: Anthony Loder
Medical experts: Dr. Henry Hamilton & Dr. Harold Ross
The judge and members of the jury
Supportive fans and reporters
Angry producer: Bert I. Gordon

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STAR of David

 

As an independent producer, David Selznick made important films in the 1930s and 1940s. The 1937 version of A STAR IS BORN was one of his greatest successes.
 

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He had made a similar picture four years earlier at RKO– WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD?– directed by George Cukor. But Cukor did not want to do another Cinderella story about an actress, so the new project was handed over to William Wellman. A team of writers collaborated with Wellman on the main points, but David’s goal of doing a ‘message film’ about Hollywood drove everything.
 

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The message was one the remakes tend to ignore– that Hollywood is about real people, not just fabricated situations. David envisioned A STAR IS BORN to be almost semi-documentary.
 

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He purposely did not hire a glamorous star to play the neophyte performer; he chose Janet Gaynor, who could believably portray a humble and self-effacing fish out of water. Similarly, a popular matinee idol was not chosen to play the leading man. Instead, Fredric March was hired to project the inner frustrations of an actor ‘losing it.’ David selected real stars who were not going to behave like pretend stars on the screen.
 

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The most dramatic component of the story was the suicide scene and its immediate aftermath. Should Norman’s death be sacrificial and heroic, or should it be simple yet anguished? The production code office was consulted. David did not want to glamorize Norman’s death with a scene that would overtake the picture and its message about the death of a real man.  Also, when Esther (a.k.a. Vicki Lester) accepts her award at the end, is she accepting it as herself, a new and possibly artificial Hollywood personality; or as the wife of a great but failed star?
 

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It’s clear that in his memos, David Selznick counted on Janet Gaynor’s technical expertise to get the moment at the end across realistically. And in a letter thanking Fredric March after the picture was finished, he realized that they did succeed in giving the audience an honest look at what life in the movies is all about.

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