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Virginia Bruce


mrroberts
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I am pleased to see that TCM is giving this actress a day , tomorrow August 25th.  She is an actress who I only really "discovered" a few years ago and there are quite a few of her films that I have not seen. So this day of films presents the opportunity to get to know Virginia a little better.  Just what I think this SUTS format does so well, especially by presenting a few films that otherwise would never get noticed. From films I have seen I like Virginia a lot. I see by her biography she was another one of those stars (especially actresses) who got a brief run at stardom, but then all too quickly faded away. By the 1940's ( when she was only in her 30's) she was yesterday's news. Her personal life had its share of misfortune with multiple marriages, etc.  Her last significant film work was in 1960 when she played Kim Novak's mother in STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET. I know I have seen that film before, but never realized that Virginia Bruce was Kim's "mother" .  My favorite Virginia film (so far) is THERE GOES MY HEART, a very nice romantic comedy with Fredric March , that TCM has scheduled at 10 am est.  In the evening TCM has another comedy, THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (not a bad flick) with John Barrymore in one of his final films.

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I am thrilled about Virginia Bruce Day and plan to tape all day/night.  I think this was a great choice and even though she plays support in some of the films, she's a delight to see.  Just what you need after Warren Oates Day.

 

Lydecker

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I think that the two most interesting films scheduled to come on Virginia Bruce day are KONGO, at 6:30pm (EST), and DOWNSTAIRS, at 8pm (EST). In the case of both films it's the performances of Bruce's male co-stars that stand out.

 

Kongo is a pre-code remake of Lon Chaney's West of Zanzibar, starting Walter Huston as the ruler of a jungle kingdom bent on a savage vengeance (involving a hapless Miss Bruce as victim) over an old partner who betrayed him. The film is strong, from what I recall, even a little nasty and distasteful. Certainly the sadism displayed here would not have made it on screen just a few years later when the code was being enforced.

 

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Downstairs is a little known but quite fascinating drama, written by the film's star, John Gilbert, who was also Miss Bruce's husband for a while. Many regard this as Gilbert's most successful talkie performance, the actor interestingly cast against type as a scoundrel and bounder. Gilbert is a smooth talking snake in the grass in this one, using his manipulative charm on wealthy members of a family, hoping to win their hearts and whatever luxuries go with it, and he's very effective in his role.

 

The skill of Gilbert's performance in Downstairs may surprise a few. It's ample prove that he could well have prospered as a character actor if given the opportunity. Unfortunately the public had already lost interest in the actor by the time of this film's release and he would, essentially, drink himself into his grave less than three years later.

 

John Gilbert was struggling against the label of "has been," while his wife and the star of the day, Virginia Bruce, would, unfortunately, be a "never was." All the more reason to appreciate TCM for devoting a day to an actress to whom few ever refer.

 

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I can't speak more specifically about either film because it's been a number of years since I last saw them but I can definitely say that both are well worth watching.

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I like that TCM mixes it up on the August schedule with days devoted to lesser-known actors as well as the "usual suspects."  I plan to record DOWNSTAIRS, INVISIBLE WOMAN and ARSENE LUPIN RETURNS.  I've always been surprised Bruce wasn't a bigger star - she had the looks and pretty good acting chops.

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THE INVISIBLE WOMAN is one of my faves, even though we don't see enough Virginia Bruce! I also like THERE GOES MY HEART, very sweet and it shows Virginia Bruce could hold her own playing next to powerhouse hams like March & Barrymore.

 

I find Virginia Bruce to look very "modern" as if she could walk off the screen and enter a movie of today. I too wonder why she never broke the supporting role ceiling?

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THE INVISIBLE WOMAN is one of my faves, even though we don't see enough Virginia Bruce! I also like THERE GOES MY HEART, very sweet and it shows Virginia Bruce could hold her own playing next to powerhouse hams like March & Barrymore.

 

I find Virginia Bruce to look very "modern" as if she could walk off the screen and enter a movie of today. I too wonder why she never broke the supporting role ceiling?

Two consecutive films today with Walter Pidgeon and Virginia Bruce. Is this Walter Pidgeon day or Virginia Bruce day?

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Two consecutive films today with Walter Pidgeon and Virginia Bruce. Is this Walter Pidgeon day or Virginia Bruce day?

Not to mention 2 remakes  ---  Society Lawyer (remake of Penthouse) and The Man Who Talked Too Much (remake of The Mouthpiece.) Still, great to see Virginia Bruce get a long overdue salute.

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I think that the two most interesting films scheduled to come on Virginia Bruce day are KONGO, at 6:30pm (EST), and DOWNSTAIRS, at 8pm (EST). In the case of both films it's the performances of Bruce's male co-stars that stand out.

 

Kongo is a pre-code remake of Lon Chaney's West of Zanzibar, starting Walter Huston as the ruler of a jungle kingdom bent on a savage vengeance (involving a hapless Miss Bruce as victim) over an old partner who betrayed him. The film is strong, from what I recall, even a little nasty and distasteful. Certainly the sadism displayed here would not have made it on screen just a few years later when the code was being enforced.

 

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Downstairs is a little known but quite fascinating drama, written by the film's star, John Gilbert, who was also Miss Bruce's husband for a while. Many regard this as Gilbert's most successful talkie performance, the actor interestingly cast against type as a scoundrel and bounder. Gilbert is a smooth talking snake in the grass in this one, using his manipulative charm on wealthy members of a family, hoping to win their hearts and whatever luxuries go with it, and he's very effective in his role.

 

The skill of Gilbert's performance in Downstairs may surprise a few. It's ample prove that he could well have prospered as a character actor if given the opportunity. Unfortunately the public had already lost interest in the actor by the time of this film's release and he would, essentially, drink himself into his grave less than three years later.

 

John Gilbert was struggling against the label of "has been," while his wife and the star of the day, Virginia Bruce, would, unfortunately, be a "never was." All the more reason to appreciate TCM for devoting a day to an actress to whom few ever refer.

 

gilbert51_zpsai1azzxe.jpg

 

I can't speak more specifically about either film because it's been a number of years since I last saw them but I can definitely say that both are well worth watching.

I have not seen Invisible Woman for quite awhile, but found it was a very enjoyable film.  She certainly got even with a thoughtless boss (played by the serious-looking Charles Lane) if it is the one I recall t is very humorous.  Downstairs is very good too, where she plays a naive maid seduced by fellow employee, a chauffeur. John Gilbert played the role very effectively.  She later finds that he is trying blackmail on several wealthy  women, who are forced to pay.  SHe has no money and fears her husband will find out.  It was very well-done.  I also liked Kongo, which had an interesting revenge plot.  Virginia has been a favorite of mine since I first saw some of her films on TV growing up in the 60's.  I remember one in particular I would love to see again which had Virginia and Walter Brennan.  Later when I went to look it up it sounds like it was called When Love is Young.  I have not seen it in a long time.  Both Virginia and Walter had very humorous moments in the film. 

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Nice to see that there are other Virginia fans out there. I recorded several films which I hope to  see over the next few days and I dropped in to see portions of a few during the day. What can I say except the more I see of her the more I like her. DOWNSTAIRS,  the film with her future husband John Gilbert,  shows her a most capable actress at only 21, she already had quite a bit of film work on her resume by that time.  She was under contract to MGM through the 30's (no small feat) but by the end of the decade her contract was up or they started loaning her out to other studios. Only 30 years old but her career was already on the down hill . I guess there is always a back story to all of this that we may never really know. I think she deserved better and hope that she will never be completely forgotten. Thanks for the Virginia day TCM. Hope that TCM continues to highlight the work of these "obscure, forgotten" talents.

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Nice to see that there are other Virginia fans out there. I recorded several films which I hope to  see over the next few days and I dropped in to see portions of a few during the day. What can I say except the more I see of her the more I like her. DOWNSTAIRS,  the film with her future husband John Gilbert,  shows her a most capable actress at only 21, she already had quite a bit of film work on her resume by that time.  She was under contract to MGM through the 30's (no small feat) but by the end of the decade her contract was up or they started loaning her out to other studios. Only 30 years old but her career was already on the down hill . I guess there is always a back story to all of this that we may never really know. I think she deserved better and hope that she will never be completely forgotten. Thanks for the Virginia day TCM. Hope that TCM continues to highlight the work of these "obscure, forgotten" talents.

Yes, Santa Claus, there is a Virginia.

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I watched DOWNSTAIRS last evening for the first time in a few years, and was, once again, very impressed by this drama depicting the relationship between those family members living upstairs in a wealthy Austrian home, and their servants downstairs. In particular, the story concentrates upon the upheaval brought into the home by a larcenous new chauffeur who will be ready to use his considerable charm to seduce female servants, as well as resort to blackmail on the family itself in order to retain a position of power.

 

John Gilbert, whose back was to the career wall when he sold this story idea to MGM for, reportedly, one dollar, is wonderful in the part of the blackmailing chauffeur. He is smooth and confident, and I marvelled at the courage that this former silent screen matinee idol had in being willing to play such a complete cad on screen. And to do it with such subtle conviction!

 

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One of the most remarkable scenes in the film, however, was between Virginia Bruce, playing a household maid that Gilbert had seduced, and Paul Lukas, as her husband, who is also head of the household staff.

 

It's the dialogue that takes place between them that is a real surprise (strictly pre-code stuff) as she confesses to him about the affair but also speaks of the physical excitement that she had experienced with Gilbert that she had never received from him. She talks of a kind of love "that drives you mad and crazy." (courtesy Gilbert). "Are you going to throw me out in the street," she adds, " because I didn't know this before?" (through his lovemaking).

 

"You learn something vile from a rat," Lukas responds, "and you forget you are my wife."

 

Then Bruce really lays into him. The apology and sorrow she felt before is replaced by a look of contempt on her face.

 

"Alright, you good, good man," she sneers, "I'll stop this kind of talk. You believe whatever you want to believe, but you listen. Whatever's happened, some of it your fault, some of it.

 

"You think you can make love in the same frozen way you do everything else, and you think that's all I should have any wish for. Well, I tell you plain and straight right now nothing of the kind. I meant no harm. I don't want anybody but you in my home.

 

"But if you're going to be so good and so perfect and so unforgiving that I can't have that, then I thank heaven I found out there is something else, something that makes you so dizzy you don't know what's happened and you don't care. Now you go ahead and believe anything you like."

 

She then runs from the room, with her husband standing there speechless, his mouth slightly open.

 

Wow.

 

It's a scene with a strong perfromance from Paul Lukas and a truly impassioned one (her best scene in the film, in my opinion) from Virginia Bruce as she delivers the above dialogue that would ring forever in the mind of any husband hearing it.

 

Gilbert and Bruce began a relationship while making this film, marrying soon afterward, a marriage that would last just two years. Not long afterward the actor would begin a relationship with Marlene Dietrich, which would help Gilbert cut back on his drinking for a while. Unfortunately, when word got back to the actor that Dietrich had begun an affair with Gary Cooper on the set of a film of hers, Desire, he went off the deep end. Gilbert began drinking with a vengeance, and would soon be dead of a heart attack in January, 1936. Photos can be seen of Dietrich weeping uncontrollably at his funeral. The guilt she must have felt!

 

The remarkable skill of Gilbert's performance in Downstairs (as well as in his final film, The Captain Hates the Sea) makes one appreciate what a sad waste it was of a potentially fine character actor, dead at age 39.

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Count me in as enjoying THE INVISIBLE WOMAN.

 

It makes me mad when people write off John Barrymore at the end of his career- because that is when some of (if not the) best performances he ever gave occurred (see also: MIDNIGHT and THAT THING WITH KAY KAISER.)

 

He was an utter hoot in this movie, loved how he kept saying "me" for "my"- never once in watching him would you guess he was thisclose to The End.

 

He may've been a pain to work with, but from what i saw, he was 100% invested in the part and he MADE the film.

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I wish I had recorded Downstairs. It looked interesting, but it had already started by the time I put it on. And a precode.  I was just too tired to devote the time to it. John Gilbert looked shockingly thin. I dont know much about Virginia Bruce. She seemed to be typecast in vixen roles early on. At least thats what she's played in most of the films I've seen her in. She did play a sympathetic role in The Man Who Talked Too Much I saw awhile ago with George Brent. There was a biography written about her about a decade ago by Scott O'Brien, but I havent read it yet...........

 

I didnt realize that was her playing Kim Novak's mother. I'll have to watch that again next time its on.....

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I wish I had recorded Downstairs. It looked interesting, but it had already started by the time I put it on. And a precode.  I was just too tired to devote the time to it. John Gilbert looked shockingly thin.

 

I did not notice that. He looked about as good as he ever did to me- although I haven't seen a whole lot of his stuff.

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Count me in as enjoying THE INVISIBLE WOMAN.

 

It makes me mad when people write off John Barrymore at the end of his career- because that is when some of (if not the) best performances he ever gave occurred (see also: MIDNIGHT and THAT THING WITH KAY KAISER.)

 

He was an utter hoot in this movie, loved how he kept saying "me" for "my"- never once in watching him would you guess he was thisclose to The End.

 

He may've been a pain to work with, but from what i saw, he was 100% invested in the part and he MADE the film.

I agree.  Barrymore was delightful in this and while I didn't think I'd like The Invisible Woman I recorded it because it was a Virginia Bruce film I had never seen and was glad I did.

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Count me in as enjoying THE INVISIBLE WOMAN.

 

It makes me mad when people write off John Barrymore at the end of his career- because that is when some of (if not the) best performances he ever gave occurred (see also: MIDNIGHT and THAT THING WITH KAY KAISER.)

 

He was an utter hoot in this movie, loved how he kept saying "me" for "my"- never once in watching him would you guess he was thisclose to The End.

 

He may've been a pain to work with, but from what i saw, he was 100% invested in the part and he MADE the film.

 

I'm not very familar with Virginia Bruce but I did find THE INVISIBLE WOMAN amusing.

I especially liked seeing Margaret Hamilton in the movie.

The "Here Kitty" joke was preditable but still funny.

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Isn't it interesting that Bruce co-starred with two great actors nearing the end of their careers (and lives)?  Gilbert (my not-so-secret crush) and Barrymore - and their movies turned out pretty good with fine performances by all.  Plus Virginia co-starred with my other heartthrob, William Powell, in THE GREAT ZIEGFELD.  Lucky girl!

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 John Gilbert looked shockingly thin.

 

 

 

 

 

I did not notice that.

 

 

 

Oh yes, it's startling seeing that photo TomJH posted. I'm not a Gilbert fan but must tolerate him to see many a Garbo pic. I'm sure she wouldn't have insisted on him co-starring with her if there wasn't something great about him. I just don't "get" it. Maybe Garbo just takes my attention away from him?

 

 

 

But I'm a John Barrymore fan the way speedracer loves Errol Flynn. He's my fantasy-man and elevates every film he's in.

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I did not notice that.

 

Oh yes, it's startling seeing that photo TomJH posted. I'm not a Gilbert fan but must tolerate him to see many a Garbo pic. I'm sure she wouldn't have insisted on him co-starring with her if there wasn't something great about him. I just don't "get" it. Maybe Garbo just takes my attention away from him?

 

But I'm a John Barrymore fan the way speedracer loves Errol Flynn. He's my fantasy-man and elevates every film he's in.

 

Hard to believe that the women swooned over Gilbert in the '20s. He seems rather homely to me.

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John Barrymore is fun to watch in The Invisible Woman. The Great Profile (that profile not quite so great now) loved playing dark, warped characters or, this case, a mild eccentric, particularly if he could add a humourous touch to his characterization.

 

His performance, which some might term cutsey here, is perfectly in tune with the light heartedness of the production.

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Hard to believe that the women swooned over Gilbert in the '20s. He seems rather homely to me.

He had a rather bulbous nose, particularly in profile, that was nicely balanced by the moustache that he has in his most dashing roles (ie Flesh and the Devil). After Valentino's death, Gilbert was the foremost matinee idol of the silent screen, appearing in a few films of considerable substance.

 

He gave a remarkable performance, sans moustache, in The Big Parade, without doubt the highlight of his career. His greatest performance, in my opinion, playing an ordinary doughboy in the army. His simple scenes of courtship with the divine Renee Adoree as a French villager are charming in their simplicity (memorable is the scene in which he humourously introduces her to bubble gum). But he also has his "big" moments in the film, too, such as when he which he rails to the heavens against war and the death of his best friend. Gilbert is empassioned in these dramatic scenes and completely convincing.

 

Gilbert gave one of the great performances of the silent era in The Big Parade.

 

Sorry, mrroberts, for having deviated from the thread's main theme, the films of Virginia Bruce.

 

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