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Christmas Carol(e)s

 

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Carole Lombard began her screen career as Carol Lombard. Somewhere along the way she picked up an extra ‘e.’ Once when she was traveling across the ocean, she pretended to be a Scandinavian princess. But Fred MacMurray knew she was really an actress playing a role, and after she realized she couldn’t fool him, she fell in love with the guy.

 

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Carole Landis' movie career started in the late 30s. She was blessed with beauty, poise and plenty of natural talent. At one point she inherited a baseball team in Flatbush, but Lloyd Nolan got in the way. This occurred after she had lived in a cave with Victor Mature.

 

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Carol Burnett is known for her variety show on television. But she has appeared in movies, too. She’s worked with people like Dean Martin, Lucille Ball, Harvey Korman and Alan Alda. She never worked with Tarzan, but she could yell just like him.

 

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Carol Channing enjoyed success in the stage version of ‘Hello Dolly.’ She also found time to appear on screen. For instance, she played Clint Eastwood’s girl in THE TRAVELING SALESLADY; and she was thoroughly entertaining in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE. She even got mixed up with Jackie Gleason in SKIDOO. But after a while, he told her to skidaddle.

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Year in review 2016

 

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TCM has scheduled its annual In Memoriam programming on the 29th of December. Several more beloved stars of the golden age have left us, and they will be honored. People like Gloria DeHaven, a talented golden age star of Hollywood, whose career peaked in the 1940s and 50s. I did a special series on her a few years ago.
 

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TCM will also be honoring stars from more recent decades, including George Kennedy. His skill as a performer is evidenced in almost every genre. He appeared in all four AIRPORT films during the 1970s. If that doesn’t earn him a special page in a movie trivia book, I don’t know what does.
 

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With TCM I celebrate Gloria and George, as well as the others whose films are airing on the 29th. There are some whose films are not being shown– Noreen Corcoran; George Gaynes; James Douglas; Ken Howard; Anne Jackson; Doris Roberts; William Schallert; Hugh O’Brian; Pierre Etaix; Zsa Zsa Gabor; Carrie Fisher; and Debbie Reynolds. I salute them, too.


*****


Besides looking back, this is also a time to look forward. I have a few special series planned for the coming months. There will be columns that focus on legends whose last screen work receives little fanfare. (How does someone go from being a big splash to being mostly forgotten?) And I will continue to cover the on-going trials of Hedy Lamarr. Let’s face it– Hedy was always news. Even after her death, she continues to cast a very powerful spell over classic movie lovers.
 

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Plus I will keep celebrating the films of David Selznick; start looking over Pauline Kael’s reviews; and at some point, I want to shine a spotlight on the achievements of the poverty row studios. There’s a lot of interesting stuff ahead. Happy New Year!
 

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Coming up in January

 

Classic resolutions…things movie characters resolve to do in 2017.

 

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Jane Wyman melodramas…it’s Jane’s 100th birthday.

Occupations seldom represented in movies…not everyone is a lawyer or a doctor. Or a drug dealer.

 

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A discussion about BYE BYE BIRDIE…TCM message board poster RayBan chats with me about a popular musical.

Interiors and memories…two films by the same director elicit different reactions.

 

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Dennis Morgan & Jack Carson…remembering two buddies at Warner Brothers in the 40s.

Pauline Kael’s observationssometimes what a film critic says is exactly right.

 

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Join me in January!

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Classic resolutions

 

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Mildred Pierce tells me she will do right by her daughter. She intends to be there when Veda is taken into the gas chamber.
 

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Henry VIII resolves to take no more wives unless absolutely necessary. Alimony is quite expensive, and the price of beheading has gone up.
 

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According to his cousin George, Lennie promises to stay away from rabbits in 2017. And from women who frolic in the hay.
 

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Lassie vows to come home and stay home this time. No more wandering off to help people in trouble, even if there’s a new movie deal or a lucrative television series.
 

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A whole western town says they will now support James Garner. But they refuse to support Jim Rockford, because that’s going too far.
 

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Lina Lamont resolves to take more enunciation lessons and singing lessons and dancing lessons and acting lessons…and…and…

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Jane Wyman melodramas

 

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Jane Wyman had already earned an Oscar for JOHNNY BELINDA when she signed up to make the 1951 melodrama THE BLUE VEIL. She once again starred as a struggling mother and seemed born to play these kinds of roles–relating to the hardships and making them seem real. Jane was nominated for another Oscar for her work in THE BLUE VEIL, and she received the Golden Globe award for best actress. Years later when asked what her favorite movie was, she indicated it was this one.

 

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A few years later, Jane worked with Rock Hudson in two pictures at Universal. Both were directed by Douglas Sirk, and the first collaboration was the studio’s remake of MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION. It did well with audiences, so they were teamed up for ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, which is considered a quintessential 50s melodrama. Jane really captured the struggle her character faced as she dealt with an empty nest. She fell in love with someone outside her class but was expected to still keep up appearances and avoid a scandal. It was a brilliant examination of suburban irony.

 

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Meanwhile Jane had worked with Van Johnson in two separate films. They initially costarred in MGM’s romantic comedy THREE GUYS NAMED MIKE. He played the Mike she chose to marry at the end. Six years later, Jane was back at her home studio Warner Brothers for what would be her last film there, MIRACLE IN THE RAIN. She portrayed a woman who met a soldier on leave and developed a lasting attachment with him. After Johnson has died, she’s forced to go on without him, though his spirit continues to be with her. The story provided Jane the perfect opportunity to tap into her Catholic faith.

 

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She hadn’t been on screen much during the previous decade when she was hired to star in the primetime soap opera Falcon Crest in 1981. The TV show was a huge hit, airing for nine years and producing over 200 episodes. Jane portrayed Angela Channing, the powerful matriarch of a wine growing region in northern California. David Selby played a younger adversary who turned out to be the son she thought had died at childbirth. For the episode when she realized his true identity, they used a clip from a scene in THE BLUE VEIL where Jane had given birth on screen. In 2007, after Jane passed away, David wrote a heartfelt tribute on his website. He said when they were making Falcon Crest, she’d call him each morning. She wanted to see if he was going to attend church services with her before they began filming on the set. He always went with her to mass. He also enjoyed having wine with her when they weren’t working, at her favorite Santa Monica restaurant.

 

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Occupations seldom represented in movies

 

 

Not long ago I came across a copy of HAPPY LAND, a 1943 20th Century Fox morale booster that takes place on the home front. Don Ameche stars as a small town druggist in the story, which is adapted from a MacKinlay Kantor novel. One of the reviews I read on the IMDb must have been written by a druggist (or ex-druggist). He says “every pharmacist I know would want a copy” of the film.

 

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This made me think about people in other lines of work whose occupations are seldom seen, or glorified, in movies. For example, maybe Spencer Tracy is the patron saint of cab drivers because of his performance in MGM’s BIG CITY. Or Red Skelton is because of his role in THE YELLOW CAB MAN.

 

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Napa vineyard owners have their own industry represented on screen. In the classic RKO film THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WANTED, Charles Laughton plays an immigrant named Tony who grows grapes.

 

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At first he misrepresents himself to the woman he loves (played by Carole Lombard) but eventually she stops wine-ing and accepts him for what he is. Down the road from them is Falcon Crest where Angela Channing is now a hundred years old and still as powerful as ever.

 

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And how about generals? Do they get together to watch PATTON? Would such high-ranking officials enjoy seeing Buster Keaton’s Johnny Gray or Danny Kaye’s inspector?

 

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A discussion about BYE BYE BIRDIE

 

This column grew out of a conversation I had with TCM message board poster RayBan:

 

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RB: There is quite a difference between the original Broadway musical, which was directed by Gower Champion and the later screen version, directed by George Sidney. The stage musical pivoted on the relationship between the characters played by Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera. The film version loses that emotional center by building up Ann-Margret’s part. She often seems to be squeezing Dick Van Dyke and Janet Leigh off the screen. And she really wasn’t young enough to play a high school girl.

 

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TB: It became an Ann-Margret vehicle. I suppose Columbia thought that would ensure box office success, instead of letting the original material carry the film.

RB: For the director, George Sidney, this is quite a step down. The stage musical is infinitely superior.

TB: I think Charles Walters would have done a better job directing it, don’t you?

RB: Charles Walters would have been perfect.

 

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TB:When I was a sophomore in high school, we performed the play. I remember some of us looked at the movie to see how our parts were played. We had a red-haired girl play Kim, and she did look like Ann-Margret. She was 16, a real high school girl and she fit the part perfectly. I played Mr. McAfee– and if you go by the original text, he’s a blustering sort of Gale Gordon type; not at all how Paul Lynde plays him in the film.

RB: So, you got to sing ‘Kids,’ you lucky dude, you!

TB: Yes, I had two big songs– ‘Kids’ and ‘Ed Sullivan.’ Plus the finale.

 

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RB: Who played Conrad Birdie?

TB: Our high school quarterback. I had a scene where I have to fight him, while he’s trying to do a song. My character wants him to leave my daughter alone. We had rehearsed the whole thing perfectly. I was supposed to push my way through the crowd, get up on the platform and tell him to stay away from my precious baby girl. And he was supposed to brush me off, as in ignore me, and keep playing his song to finish out the scene.

 

RB: But it didn’t go as planned?

 

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TB: Not at all. The night of the performance in front of a sold-out audience, he did more than ignore me– he actually shoved me back and knocked me off the high-rise platform. I fell at least twelve feet maybe more. The audience thought it was how the scene was supposed to go, but the rest of the cast on stage knew it was not as we rehearsed it. They all gasped, very much in character– thinking I was hurtling towards certain death, or at least a concussion.

RB: I can see it now.

TB: Somehow I landed just right, and though my shin was in incredible pain, I pushed my way back up on to the platform. I got in his face again just as the scene ended and the curtain closed. He was surprised to see that not only had I rebounded from the fall but I had gotten up there and stolen the scene from him. I learned a lot about myself that night– how much I loved to act, because it pulled me out of my shyness and inhibitions– and how I was willing to take the necessary pratfalls. After the curtain closed, it was intermission and they were all asking me if I was okay. We still had the second half of the play to do. We all had a great time with it.

 

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Interiors and memories

 

Admit it. You’ve thought it. Maybe you didn’t say it out loud. But it crossed your mind (at least once):

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You tried to give the movie a chance, but it’s just not happening. You decided maybe another minute, maybe five more minutes. Maybe it would get better…but it never did.

 

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Recently, I watched two films by a certain director whose name I won’t mention. His films are either masterpieces, or else they’re self-indulgent exercises in vanity. Assorted bits of philosophical nonsense. Granted even self-indulgent nonsense can have merit if it contains substantial ideas.

 

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On one of the films, I pressed pause at the 25-minute mark. There were 62 more minutes left. Surely I had seen enough to form a valid opinion. My thoughts were wandering. The dialogue started to seem like some sort of satire about people the director had met in his life, but didn’t really know. Though he wanted us to think he had considered these characters fully.

 

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The other film was an absolute masterpiece. Okay, a masterpiece with flaws. Genuinely good but moderately flawed. So how can one motion picture by a well-known director be so completely great, and his very next one so totally bad? I’m still trying to figure it out.

 

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Dennis Morgan & Jack Carson

 

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Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson were both from Wisconsin. During their early days in show business, they met and became friends in Milwaukee. After working in vaudeville and nightclubs around the midwest, they made it to Hollywood but were signed by different studios. Dennis found work at MGM under the name Stanley Morner but didn’t make much of an impression. He was soon let go, and Warner Brothers got him on the rebound.

 

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Jack was working at RKO and quickly moving from bit parts to substantial supporting roles. Two of these films were Ginger Rogers movies. In the early 40s, Jack left RKO and moved over to Warners. He could now costar on screen with his old pal Dennis. Interestingly, Dennis had become a household name when he was loaned to RKO for KITTY FOYLE.

 

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During the 1940s, Dennis & Jack made quite a few pictures together—dramas as well as comedies. They were probably at their best in THE HARD WAY with Ida Lupino and Joan Leslie. The critics raved. But the lighter fare did better with audiences, and they were regarded as their studio’s answer to Bob Hope & Bing Crosby.

 

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By the early 50s, Jack had left Warners to do comedy and musical roles at Paramount. In an independent production, he costarred with Ginger Rogers again, this time as a lead. Back at Warners Dennis was still appearing in big budget movies and finishing out his contract. He did a courtroom melodrama with Ginger called PERFECT STRANGERS.

 

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After he left Warners, Dennis freelanced at RKO and at Columbia in B films. His movie career was in decline during the mid-50s. Since he was quite wealthy from investments, he was not compelled to work much on TV in the following years. However, he did turn up in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. And quite a bit later, he had a last hurrah when he set sail on The Love BoatHe also found time to raise money for the American Cancer Society, in honor of Jack Carson who had died in 1961 from the disease.

 

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Pauline Kael’s observations

 

Positive

 

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NIGHT MUST FALL (1937)..Kael says it’s scary and gruesomely effective. She also says the victim (Dame May Whitty) is as loathsome as the killer (Robert Montgomery) but you still want her to live which can be seen as a way of complimenting Whitty’s performance.

 

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GOOD NEWS (1947)..She calls it one of the best collegiate musicals produced by Hollywood. She enjoys the performances rendered by June Allyson and Peter Lawford; and she praises Charles Walters’ choreography and direction. Plus she likes the fact most of the catchy songs have been preserved from the original stage production.

*****

Negative 

 

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KEEPER OF THE FLAME (1943)..Flat out says it’s “not good.” Complains that it is (over)stuffed with anti-Fascism. She calls it a “gothic wet blanket,” whatever that means, and says most of the cast is wasted. She does not care for Tracy’s performance, and thinks Hepburn plays the mournful female too dramatically. She implies that the two stars should stick to comedies.

 

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THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1952)..She wastes no time calling it “mawkish and trite.” She suggests De Mille went huge– with the idea that bigger was better. She dislikes the extremely melodramatic contrivances of characters who do not seem in the least bit interesting. She also says it is too clean looking for a place overrun by circus animals. She comments on how something so cornball could win an Oscar for best picture.

*****

Positive and negative

 

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PIGSKIN PARADE (1936)..According to Kael, this sports comedy is atrocious. But she says it’s also funny and enjoyable. Though she does not exactly recommend it, the picture still has a lot going for it. It features Judy Garland in an early role.

 

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THE FURY (1978)..She calls Brian De Palma’s sci-fi thriller “cheap.” Nonetheless, she finds it compelling from a visual standpoint. She singles the film out for its unrelenting intensity, but says it tries too hard to present classic sequences.

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Coming up in February

 

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Classic movie fans…they’re a unique bunch of people.

Appreciating Aldo Ray…a northern California boy makes good in Hollywood.

 

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Which one will she choose?…what’s a gal in a rom-com supposed to do when she has three different proposals of marriage?

Phases of a screen career…the great, the good and the not-so-good.

 

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Hedy arrested for shoplifting: a sequel…it’s 1991 and Hedy Lamarr’s been accused of taking things from another store.

 

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Join me in February!

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Classic movie fans

 

Classic movie fans come in all varieties. But they start at the beginning.
 

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First, there is the Initiation— noticing a certain style of film or star for the first time. It occurs to the novice that previous generations of moviegoers watched stars that might all be dead now. Other things also enter consciousness, like ‘the production code.’ The neophyte tries to figure out the code- is it like a Morse code for movies?– and who in the bejeezus is Hays and why do we care if Robert had an office when he made AIRPLANE!
 

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The second level is known as Intermediate. One has an understanding of all the big names, but one is still limited. This is where the classic movie fan only thinks that Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant made movies back in the day, nobody else. Also, fans at this stage have seen GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER two or three times and still think it’s a big deal an African American is coming over to Spencer Tracy’s house for a meal. Being an Intermediate is like being half-way up the food chain– smarter and more well-versed on the classics than the amoeba down below and hoping to become a veritable shark of information someday.
 

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Next is Advanced. Advanced members have grown tired of the well-known classics. They are also way beyond the novelty of James Dean dying so young; and they have started looking at the sexual orientation of stars who should have come out of the closet. Advanced film buffs take pleasure in directors like Otto Preminger having challenged the production code. He becomes almost a hero of sorts. Also, all Advanced members have clearly decided which side of the Davis-Crawford feud they are on. The really cool ones are on Joan Crawford’s side and relish the fact she was smarter than Bette Davis. They love knowing Joan wore weights so Bette’s back would break lifting her out of the bed in BABY JANE.
 

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The next plateau is for ultimate classic film fans, and it’s Very Advanced. This involves trading on the internet to get Andrews Sisters movies that TCM just won’t ever play. They also have become friends with people at film heritage museums across the country; know the staff at the UCLA Film & Television Archive by first name; and have begun to look at which films from the post-code era could legitimately be called classics. They listen to old radio shows where Burns & Allen played Heathcliff & Cathy in a terrible adaptation of WUTHERING HEIGHTS, and they have hired a private detective to find out if Wallace Beery really killed someone. The Very Advanced person looks at more obscure silent films; and Woody Allen is now the best director of all time– not John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock or Orson Welles.
 

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Super Advanced. Can’t go any higher. It’s a metacognitive phase where one writes columns about the stages of classic film dependency. This person has most of James Agee’s reviews memorized. They now watch classic French films and classic Swedish films and can say things like merci beaucoup and Ivannabeleftalone with a perfect accent.

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Appreciating Aldo Ray

 

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Aldo Ray was someone who serendipitously became an actor. He had gone with his brother to be an extra in a movie that was being filmed in San Francisco. It was Columbia Pictures’ SATURDAY’S HERO starring John Derek and Donna Reed. The director liked Aldo’s voice and after the picture was finished, he was offered a contract with the studio. But Aldo had no intention of being a full-time movie actor and didn’t stick with it at first.

 

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But he reconsidered and did a screen test for George Cukor. Cukor was getting ready to direct a new Judy Holliday movie. Aldo was up for a small part but Cukor ended up giving him the lead in THE MARRYING KIND. Soon Harry Cohn was promoting him as the studio’s great new discovery. More films followed—one with Jane Wyman (LET’S DO IT AGAIN); and BATTLE CRY (a loan out to Warners for director Raoul Walsh). These were hits and Aldo’s career was red hot.

 

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During the next few years, Cohn kept him busy working in Columbia action films and crime dramas, as well as on productions with other studios. Probably his best known loan-out was to Paramount, where he made the comedy WE’RE NO ANGELS with Humphrey Bogart. But by the end of the decade, Cohn had died and the studio did not renew Aldo’s contract.

 

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Aldo then went to Europe where he found work in British productions. When he returned to the U.S., he tried his hand at television and there were some notable roles on the small screen. But attempts at starring in his own weekly series failed. So he began taking supporting roles in films that promoted other stars. He continued in this direction until the early 70s.

 

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By the 70s his movie career was in decline. There were offers from independent producers in low-budget productions, and Aldo took the work. He was now typecast as tough military types and ****. In the 80s, the quality of the scripts coming his way was even worse, but he didn’t turn down the offers. He kept going until a battle with throat cancer made it impossible to perform. He died in 1991 at the age of 64, a hero (not just on Saturday but every day of the week) in his hometown outside San Francisco.

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Which one will she choose?

 

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After the death of Norman Maine, Vicki Lester (Janet Gaynor) left Hollywood and moved to New York City. She changed her name to Nancy Briggs, and soon she found love again. She fell for a dashing writer and his handsome best friend. I guess when you’re that cute, you’re not going to mourn a drunk guy who died in the ocean very long.

 

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Meanwhile there were three guys who pursued a girl named Janie (Ginger Rogers). Each one was marriage material. But Janie was having an awful time choosing between Tom, Dick and Harry. She had on-going fantasies imagining how life might be with each one of them, but she was only getting more and more confused. Finally, she made her choice. As you can see in the photo below, Tom is definitely questioning the decision, since it was not him:

 

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Oh, and we can’t forget the adventures of airline stewardess Marcy Lewis (Jane Wyman). You know, back when they were still called stewardesses. They weren’t allowed to stay on the job if they got married or turned 30. Don’t even ask what happened to the ones who were still not married at 30. Marcy, of course, was definitely going to have rice thrown at her. You know, back when people still did that. She had three guys with the same first name vying for her attentions. You know, back when everyone was named Mike.

 

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Anyone who sees the opening credits knows which one she picks, since he is billed first. She wouldn’t pick the guy who wasn’t the actual star, would she?

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Phases of a career, part 1

 

I was on an Irene Dunne kick recently. It started when I found one of her films on YouTube– CONSOLATION MARRIAGE, a precode melodrama the actress made in 1931.
 

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What drew me into the story was the highly engaging way she and costar Pat O’Brien played off each other. O’Brien seemed an unlikely choice of leading man for her. But given the dynamics of the plot, about two lost souls who strike a bargain to enter a marriage of convenience, it worked. They infused the melodrama with wry humor and it was obvious they had fun doing it. It was only Dunne’s fourth film.
 

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She was already a pro, but she did come across a bit insecure in some of her scenes. It was a competent and thorough performance, but she was not quite as confident or self-assured as I expected her to be. Since I enjoyed CONSOLATION MARRIAGE, I decided to see what other Irene Dunne offerings may exist on YouTube I hadn’t seen before. I found two more titles.
 

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The first one was a Paramount sports melodrama from 1939 called INVITATION TO HAPPINESS. It was filmed eight years later in Dunne’s career, and she appeared very different. In fact, it was hard to believe she had also made LOVE AFFAIR the same year. Maybe it was the direction or type of story, but my guess is it had to do with the studio. Paramount had its own way of packaging and presenting an Irene Dunne movie. She was teamed with their hot young star Fred MacMurray. She and MacMurray would go on to do another film in 1950 plus a weekly radio series together.


Tomorrow: a late-career TV appearance by Irene Dunne I found on YouTube…

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Phases of a career, part 2

 

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As I finished watching INVITATION TO HAPPINESS, I could tell Fred MacMurray was doing some of his best acting in this picture. Maybe because of Irene Dunne. She really brought out the best in him. She had a role that Kate Hepburn specialized in– a patrician daddy’s girl– and MacMurray was the lower class boxer she married. This Paramount classic demonstrated the versatility they both had on screen. In particular, I felt Dunne captured the pathos of the climactic fight scene at the end. It was all the more remarkable since she was not in the crowd, but listening to it on radio.

 

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Another Irene Dunne performance I watched on YouTube was one of her very last. It was a 1961 episode of a short-lived western series called Frontier Circus. Chill Wills played the owner of traveling circus in the late 1800s. Dunne guest starred as a woman doctor who saved the life of a performer with a cracked skull. Along the way she has taught Wills and the other men not be so quick in judging female physicians. According to her credits on the IMDb, Dunne hadn’t acted in two years, and the following year she would quit show biz for good.

 

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She was about 63 years old when she made Frontier Circus. During filming she was reunited her with her I REMEMBER MAMA costar Ellen Corby. The production values were adequate for an hour-long TV series at that time. She had come a long way from the insecurities she had thirty years earlier. She seemed very serene and assured, and you could tell she enjoyed the role of Dr. Sam and appreciated the opportunity to be there again on screen.

 

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Some final thoughts…O’Brien acted into the 1980s; MacMurray stopped performing in the late 1970s; Wills’ career also ended in the late 70s; and Corby continued into the 1990s. You have to wonder why we never talk about the late-career appearances of someone like Irene Dunne. Is it because we don’t want to be reminded a major star who was nominated five times for an Oscar had a career that ended in such a relatively quiet manner? 

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Fans might disagree

 

Can you guess which films the critics are blasting? 
 

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1. If you’re a fan of Peter Greenaway’s films, you might not agree with a statement by Vincent Canby of The New York Times. While reviewing a Greenaway picture in 1985, Canby said it was: “pretentious, humorless and, worst of all, more boring than a retrospective devoted to television weather forecasts delivered over a 30-year period at 11 P.M., Eastern standard time.” Which film was it?
 

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2. In 1951 Bette Davis got a call that she had a stinker on her hands. The New York Times did not print a favorable review of her newest film. Problems were found with the script, and a reviewer considered it “a static affair that rarely escapes from its sets or the scenarist’s verbosity. Suspense is only fitfully generated and then quickly dissipated.” Which film was it?
 

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3. In 1991, a critic for the Chicago Tribune thought Bruce Willis’ latest flick was a dog: “the end result is being thrown up on selected screens this weekend, and the suspicion that this was a pooch turns out to be undeniably correct. Boring and banal, overwrought and undercooked, [it] is beyond bad.” Which film was it?
 

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4. Speaking of Bruce Willis, he was in another box office bomb the year before. A reviewer for the Washington Post felt like she had wasted 126 minutes watching it. She called it “a calamity of miscasting and commercial concessions.” The cast included Tom Hanks and Morgan Freeman; and it only made $15 million. Which film was it?
 

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5. Lana Turner was in a costly flop in 1956 that signaled the end of her long association with MGM. The screenwriter, Christopher Isherwood, blamed her for the film’s failure. He said all the problems in the finished film were because Lana had tampered with the script. But the leading lady claimed she knew what was best. Lana wanted audiences to know the main character “wasn’t afraid to use her head” and sympathized that she “was never caught with her brains showing.” After the movie performed poorly, people wondered if Lana had any brains. Which film was it?
 

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Hedy arrested for shoplifting: a sequel

 

Part 1: August 2, 1991


It had been 25 years since the last shoplifting incident. Hedy Lamarr was now living in a suburb north of Orlando, and a friend had come by to pick her up. They were going out to get a few things at a local drug store. Carefully scanning the piece of paper in her hand, she told her friend she needed some laxative tablets and eye drops. They found a parking spot close to the door, and they went inside. Hedy quickly located the items on her list and then met her friend at the front door. But according to representatives at Eckerd, she took the things without paying and owed $21.48.
 

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The store manager later told reporters how Hedy had been apprehended. It was explained that an alarm usually went off when customers attempted to leave with unpaid merchandise. But as Hedy and her friend walked out, they did not set off the alarm. Still the manager was suspicious, and Hedy was asked to go back inside. The manager told Hedy ‘open up your purse, open up your enormous purse where you hide things’ or something like that.
 

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So Hedy opened the purse and she pulled out a gun, I mean she pulled out the laxatives. But instead of handing them over to the manager, Hedy accidentally slipped them into her friend’s bag. The manager then noticed the eye drops in Hedy’s purse and promptly requested Hedy to follow her to the office. Hedy made a scene in front of Cecil B. DeMille, I mean in front of the manager, and did not want to go to the office. In the meantime, Hedy’s friend disappeared and Hedy could not remember the name of the other thief, I mean the other woman.
 

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In the office, they waited for the police to arrive. When Hedy went to the station, she was charged with a misdemeanor that could’ve resulted in one year of jail time as well as a $1,000 fine. The arresting officer released Hedy on the condition that she would agree to appear in court at a later date. He was very nice when he drove the 76-year-old actress home. The officer was 24 and had no idea she was a former movie queen. As they pulled up in front of Hedy’s condominium, she did provide an autograph, I mean a signature, when she wrote her name on the notice to show up for court.

Tomorrow: Hedy appears before a judge...

 

*****

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Hedy arrested for shoplifting: a sequel

 

Part 2: October 24, 1991


It was a week before Halloween when Hedy appeared in front of a judge, and she was eager to put the latest shoplifting incident behind her. Since early August, Hedy had received a great deal of publicity. Not only had her arrest been reported by legitimate news organizations, but she was now the focus of tabloids eager to play up the scandal of an actress charged with breaking the law.
 

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An attorney spent over two months gathering evidence to bolster her defense. It was revealed that Hedy did not drive, and she was legally blind. She had been undergoing treatment on her eyes, which necessitated getting the eye drops. The bottle she picked up at the Eckerd drug store was on sale, a real steal.


Finally a deferred prosecution was agreed to, meaning a Florida state attorney would eventually drop the charges if Hedy promised to stay out of trouble for one year. If she took any more laxatives, I mean if she had any more arrests, the attorney would file theft charges against her regardless of how many bowel movements it caused.

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Hedy and her lawyer felt vindicated. The lawyer said even if the state did bring charges later on, the prosecution would have a lot of difficulty proving Hedy was guilty or even constipated. Besides Hedy thought she had paid for the items, and when you have fans who love you and adore you, that is what really counts on the way to the bathroom.

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Coming up in March
 

My special theme will be classic television. A lot of film stars have done television work, and TV is just short film (with interruptions to sell products). So it seems related to what I normally write about.


Wagon TrainI will discuss some early episodes featuring Ward Bond and Robert Horton.
 

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Naked Citya look at episodes with outstanding guest stars like Sylvia Sidney and Robert Duvall.
 

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The Andy Griffith Showin my opinion the ones in color are more interesting.


The Virginianwith James Drury as the title character.
 

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The Big Valley…we’ve already been discussing this great series in the western genre sub-forum.


Lou Grant…who else could but Ed Asner could have played Lou..? He’s superb.
 

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Simon & Simon…a guilty pleasure from the 80s. The seventh season has some very dark stories and I will look at several of them.


Amen…Sherman Hemsley went from George Jefferson to Deacon Ernie Frye without missing a beat.
 

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Join me in March!

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Wagon Train (1957-1965)

 

Ward Bond transitioned from the movies to a starring role on this hit western series. Several episodes are worth seeing:
 

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“The Joshua Gilliam Story” — March 30, 1960; written by Gene L. Coons; directed by Virgil Vogel


Dan Duryea gives a fine performance as a conman pretending to be a teacher on the wagon train. He tells the kids about the Salem witch trials and plants a seed of doubt about a spinster’s old mother. When she uses a broom to clean and snaps at the children, they are convinced she really is a witch. This leads some of the parents to demand that Major Adams (Bond) throw the two women off the train. The final sequence where the mother wanders off into a ghost town and Duryea tries to kill her is suspenseful.
 

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“The Felizia Kingdom Story” — November 18, 1959; written by Sloan Nibley & Leonard Praskins; directed by Joseph Pevney


Judith Anderson was a star of stage and film who made occasional forays into television. In this episode she plays her own age in a flashback and then a much more made-up elderly woman in the modern-day scenes with Flint (Robert Horton). When her character refuses to let him go, virtually holding him prisoner, one can’t help but hate her and pity her at the same time. Only a great actress can make us feel sympathy for such a twisted woman.
 

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“The Dick Jarvis Story” — May 18, 1960; written by Floyd Burton; directed by Jerry Hopper


The writer for this episode borrows from well-known characters by Dickens. We have a story about a crippled boy named Dick Jarvis, who is obviously inspired by Tiny Tim. Also, Major Adams is in a foul mood and spends much of the story acting like Scrooge. The interaction between Ward Bond and the young guest actor is interesting to watch. And there’s some comic relief involving Charlie Wooster who seems jealous by the amount of time and attention that is devoted to the lad.

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Wagon Train (1957-1965)

 

Ward Bond transitioned from the movies to a starring role on this hit western series. Several episodes are worth seeing:

 

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-5-03-39-pm.png

“The Joshua Gilliam Story” — March 30, 1960; written by Gene L. Coons; directed by Virgil Vogel

Dan Duryea gives a fine performance as a conman pretending to be a teacher on the wagon train. He tells the kids about the Salem witch trials and plants a seed of doubt about a spinster’s old mother. When she uses a broom to clean and snaps at the children, they are convinced she really is a witch. This leads some of the parents to demand that Major Adams (Bond) throw the two women off the train. The final sequence where the mother wanders off into a ghost town and Duryea tries to kill her is suspenseful.

 

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-4-20-05-pm.png

“The Felizia Kingdom Story” — November 18, 1959; written by Sloan Nibley & Leonard Praskins; directed by Joseph Pevney

Judith Anderson was a star of stage and film who made occasional forays into television. In this episode she plays her own age in a flashback and then a much more made-up elderly woman in the modern-day scenes with Flint (Robert Horton). When her character refuses to let him go, virtually holding him prisoner, one can’t help but hate her and pity her at the same time. Only a great actress can make us feel sympathy for such a twisted woman.

 

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-4-19-25-pm.png

“The Dick Jarvis Story” — May 18, 1960; written by Floyd Burton; directed by Jerry Hopper

The writer for this episode borrows from well-known characters by Dickens. We have a story about a crippled boy named Dick Jarvis, who is obviously inspired by Tiny Tim. Also, Major Adams is in a foul mood and spends much of the story acting like Scrooge. The interaction between Ward Bond and the young guest actor is interesting to watch. And there’s some comic relief involving Charlie Wooster who seems jealous by the amount of time and attention that is devoted to the lad.

I don't really care for this series.

 

But I have seen some excellent episodes, though.

 

The one that starred Bette Davis as a madam with an all-girl entourage was, in reality, a delightful romp.

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I don't really care for this series.

 

But I have seen some excellent episodes, though.

 

The one that starred Bette Davis as a madam with an all-girl entourage was, in reality, a delightful romp.

 

Yes. Some of the stories are rather formulaic but they're elevated by the big-name guest stars. And Bond is always great to watch.

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Naked City (1958-1963)

 

Inspired by the hit film, this great series ran for five years. It debuted as a half-hour drama, then in the second season it expanded to a full hour.
 

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“The Human Trap” — November 30, 1960; written by Ellis Kadison; directed by Lamont Johnson


Ruth Roman plays a role based on Lana Turner. The plot is slightly changed from the real-life murder of Turner’s mobster boyfriend (by her daughter Cheryl Crane). In this version, an actress is divorced from a gangster and will go to any lengths to protect their fourteen year-old daughter, now involved in another man’s death. In the opening shots, we see the murder weapon is an ice pick, and the death is accidental. Roman’s character, fearing the police will never believe it was an accident, concocts an elaborate tale that drags her daughter deeper into a web of lies. Roman is truly riveting in a scene where it all starts to unravel.
 

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“A Hole in the City” — February 1, 1961; written by Howard Rodman; directed by David Lowell Rich


There are many strong episodes from the second season, but this offering is one of the very best. Sylvia Sidney, whose character undergoes a gradual disintegration during the story, proves what a fine dramatic actress she could be. The scenes between her and a troubled nephew (Robert Duvall) are exceptional and powerful. Images dissolve that transport us from the present day into the past and back again. Later scenes occur outside her apartment, on a landing and stairwell, where Duvall’s partners in crime engage in a standoff with the police. It’s all very well staged and suspenseful. Everything about this episode works– from the performances of the featured guest stars to the final shoot-out.
 

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“Take and Put” — June 21, 1961; written by Howard Rodman & Arnold Ellis; directed by Elliott Silverstein


This story effectively blends drama with black comedy. It probably wouldn’t work so well if not for the comic timing of Mildred Natwick. She plays the housekeeper of a prominent family that is on the verge of bankruptcy. In order for them to continue enjoying the good life to which they are accustomed, she decides to carry out a series of daring jewel robberies. The unusual plot reaches a turning point when she’s apprehended and taken downtown. In an uproarious scene at the precinct, it seems as if she may not be held accountable for her crimes after all. It’s highly improbable but great fun to watch.

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Any script based on the Johnny Stompanato murder is worth seeing. Great exegesis on the series "Naked City" and thanks for the episode update.

 

Recently I was at a store selling many boxed dvd sets and saw the "Naked City" one and realize I should purchase it due to its great panache in storylines ripped from the headlines.

Thanks for the fine review.

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