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Golden age: Roll call


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Dick Powell began singing when he very young in his native Arkansas. Later, he dropped out of college to tour the midwest with a band, where they enjoyed moderate success. He wound up on the east coast signed to a small record label in the late 1920s. Shortly afterward, the label was bought by Warner Brothers, and this led to Powell being signed to a movie contract. He made his first screen appearance in a 1932 film starring Lee Tracy. But Jack Warner was impressed with Powell's crooning and boyish charm and quickly made him a lead in light musical entertainment, which cemented Powell's success, costarring opposite Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell (his second wife). In the late 30s, Powell was restless and wanted a chance to do more dramatic roles. He left the studio in 1940 and signed with Paramount. Dramatic roles did not come right away at the new studio, but Powell was determined to be taken more seriously as an actor. Finally, in 1944, he landed the role of Phillip Marlowe at RKO in MURDER, MY SWEET. It was  a big hit and Powell had effectively transitioned. He continued to make film noir at RKO for the remainder of the 40s, while also playing assorted detective characters on radio. The radio programs also allowed him to continue singing. In the 1950s, Powell was happily married to third wife June Allyson. But he was restless again and yearned to direct features. He was able to do so at RKO and Fox. After this, the next frontier was television, which Powell did with ease, as both a producer and host (as well as occasional star) of anthology series. He managed guest appearances on friends' shows and still sang for audiences on some of those programs. He truly did it all.


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Dick Powell present and accounted for..!


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0139 of 1300


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Jane Powell came along in the mid-1940s at a time when MGM musicals were at a creative highpoint and that type of escapist entertainment was popular. Did she do anything different or better than other young girl singing stars of her generation, like Deanna Durbin, Gale Storm, or Judy Garland? Probably not. But Jane Powell did have a wholesome, winning personality and this combined with the studio's polished production values and an array of talented costars made her movies successful with audiences. Among the standouts were confections like A DATE WITH JUDY; NANCY GOES TO RIO, and this writer's personal favourite-- RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY. By the mid-1950s, audience tastes (and studio budgets) were changing. In a downsizing move precipitated by television's inroads on the feature film industry, Powell had left MGM. She made a few more films at other studios and turned up on television, usually in guest appearances.


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Jane Powell present and accounted for..!


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0139 of 1300

Jane_Powell_headshot.png

Jane Powell came along in the mid-1940s at a time when MGM musicals were at a creative highpoint and that type of escapist entertainment was popular. Did she do anything different or better than other young girl singing stars of her generation, like Deanna Durbin, Gale Storm, or Judy Garland? Probably not. But Jane Powell did have a wholesome, winning personality and this combined with the studio's polished production values and an array of talented costars made her movies successful with audiences. Among the standouts were confections like A DATE WITH JUDY; NANCY GOES TO RIO, and this writer's personal favourite-- RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY. By the mid-1950s, audience tastes (and studio budgets) were changing. In a downsizing move precipitated by television's inroads on the feature film industry, Powell had left MGM. She made a few more films at other studios and turned up on television, usually in guest appearances.

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Jane Powell present and accounted for..!

 

 

Jane was the feature guest on the Judy Garland T.V. Show that Get-TV is showing every Monday.    The show was made in 61 or 62 an Jane looked wonderful.   i.e. she still had that young girl type glow she was known for.    Judy and Jane did some rather great numbers together and looked like they were having a lot of fun doing the show.

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Jane was the feature guest on the Judy Garland T.V. Show that Get-TV is showing every Monday.    The show was made in 61 or 62 an Jane looked wonderful.   i.e. she still had that young girl type glow she was known for.    Judy and Jane did some rather great numbers together and looked like they were having a lot of fun doing the show.

Just two pals from the old MGM days getting together and having a great time.

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0140 of 1300


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Sandy Powell was a British comedian who reached the height of his popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. He began performing as a child, pushed on to the stage by a domineering mother who inspired his famous catchphrase, which also served as the title of one of his hit movies. He achieved success (and wealth) making comedy recordings, selling over 7 million copies. These records increased his popularity on radio and allowed him to transition into films. He was also known for touring in road shows, where he often did a ventriloquism act. In 1939, he was named one of the top box office stars in Britain. Though his movie career waned after the war, he continued to do live shows until he passed away in the early 1980s.


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Sandy Powell present and accounted for..!


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0141 & 0142 of 1300


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William Powell and Myrna Loy delighted audiences in six films based on Dashiell Hammett's THE THIN MAN. The long-running MGM film series, about a bantering husband-and-wife detective team, began in 1934 and concluded in 1947. A lot happened to Powell & Loy during those dozen or so years, and just as much happened to their alter egos, Nick and Nora Charles who solved one murder after another. The studio bosses knew they had captured lightning in a bottle by pairing these two stars, and in between Thin Man assignments they were thrown into several other films, usually romantic comedies. Powell & Loy made a total of 14 films, all at MGM except the last one-- THE SENATOR WAS INDISCREET-- which Powell did at Universal and where Loy has a brief cameo, probably done as a friendly gesture to help her pal. Though the duo didn't appear together in any more films after this (Powell would retire in the mid-50s), they are remembered to this day for their witty dialogue, and for establishing the standard by which all subsequent romantic and mystery comedies are judged. 


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Nick & Nora Charles William Powell & Myrna Loy present and accounted for..!


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Can you guess the ones I'll be spotlighting?

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In the week ahead:

 

Saturday February 13th: Two MGM stars who played cat and mouse.

 

Sunday February 14th: Pair who wound up together again after an earlier love affair.

 

Monday February 15th: British actress who came to Hollywood after the war.
 

Tuesday February 16th: Detective Mark McPherson.

 

Wednesday February 17th: Universal starlet in the late 40s/early 50s.

 

Thursday February 18th: B-movie star who turned into Clark Kent.

 

Friday February 19th: Early 1930s costars and long-time married couple.

 

***

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Since I have the "tragic weakness" as Waldo might say in hoping that "a lean strong body is the measure of a man" I will probably be watching on February 16th, TB!.

 

Hopefully I won't "get hurt".

Andrews' biographer visited the Silver Screen Oasis two or three years ago. He said Webb was very interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with Andrews during the filming of LAURA. Of course, Andrews turned him down. :)

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Andrews' biographer visited the Silver Screen Oasis two or three years ago. He said Webb was very interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with Andrews during the filming of LAURA. Of course, Andrews turned him down. :)

Well, she probably was more into the Jack Kennedy look doncha think being that she liked him and of course Oleg Cassini?

 

This is interesting since I thought Webb was, um...gay?

Maybe I am "cornfused", as Fred Mertz might say.

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0143 & 0144 of 1300

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Since 1940 a housecat named Tom has attempted numerous times to catch a mouse named Jerry. Their adventures have been chronicled in 163 short films, with seven of these earning Oscars. In 1945, Gene Kelly called Jerry to ask him to do a scene in ANCHORS AWEIGH, and Jerry's agent was all for it. Tom's agent demanded that he also have a scene in ANCHORS AWEIGH, so he was given a brief cameo. But it's Jerry's dance routine with Gene that everyone remembers. In 1953, Esther Williams was having lunch with Tom and Jerry in the MGM studio commissary one day when she decided to use the two in her musical DANGEROUS WHEN WET. They perform an underwater number with Esther, and it went over big with audiences. In the 1950s and 1960s, Tom & Jerry became popular again when their films were shown on television. This led to their first weekly series in the mid-1970s. They have had their own program every decade since then, and currently their latest series, The Tom and Jerry Show, delights millions on The Cartoon Network. And the two still make movies. There have been several features between 1992 and 2015, with another one currently in development.

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Tom and Jerry present and accounted for..!

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During filming, Webb tried the old "could you please help me

find the soap? I think it fell to the bottom of the tub" routine,

but Dana didn't fall for it. He just kept on trying to get the

little metal ball into second base.

Duh, mea culpa!

 

I don't know what I was on when I read the original post about Clifton hitting on his co-star, but my brain registered "Andrews" as "Tierney" so of course my confusion about Webb.

 

I get it now. 

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Duh, mea culpa!

 

I don't know what I was on when I read the original post about Clifton hitting on his co-star, but my brain registered "Andrews" as "Tierney" so of course my confusion about Webb.

 

I get it now. 

Okay, that explains it. I didn't quite understand your posts yesterday.

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I was kind of wondering about that. I don't think Webb was bi.

I've got to give him props for hitting on Andrews who, drunk

or sober, could have folded CW into origami.

He probably hit on a lot of his handsome costars. How could he not be interested in William Holden, whom he worked with in SATAN NEVER SLEEPS..?

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0145 & 0146 of 1300

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In April 1939 Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne appeared in Leo McCarey's classic tearjerker LOVE AFFAIR for RKO. It was an immediate hit with audiences and made back more than twice its original budget. The film's poignant story still resonates with modern viewers and it has been remade several times. The successful pairing of Boyer and Dunne was repeated later in 1939 when Universal cast them in another romance drama, WHEN TOMORROW COMES. Again, they were required to overcome melodramatic obstacles on their way to lasting happiness. Five years after this, Columbia featured the stars in a lighter vehicle, the romantic comedy TOGETHER AGAIN, which was their third hit. Fans just couldn't get enough. And who can blame them.

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Irene Dunne & Charles Boyer present and accounted for..!

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Duh, mea culpa!

 

I don't know what I was on when I read the original post about Clifton hitting on his co-star, but my brain registered "Andrews" as "Tierney" so of course my confusion about Webb.

 

I get it now. 

Oh, I knew as soon as you said, "she," that you meant Tierney. 

 

Come to think of it, this movie has a male lead with a woman's first name and a female lead with a man's first name.  Who wouldn't think Dana and Gene were first the woman and then the man.

 

Every time I watch "Laura," I find Clifton Webb so obviously gay that it makes it hard to believe he would be in love with Laura.  In fact that's become a flaw, to  my modern eyes, in several old movies. In "All About Eve," the character who narrates and eventually marries Eve, seems just so obviously gay to me that I have trouble believing that ending.

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Every time I watch "Laura," I find Clifton Webb so obviously gay that it makes it hard to believe he would be in love with Laura.  In fact that's become a flaw, to  my modern eyes, in several old movies. 

That's exactly how I feel. Webb seems dreadfully miscast. Why would he be so possessive and resort to murder over a woman he's clearly not attracted to...it removes the whole crime of passion angle. Now if Laura Hunt had instead been Hunt Laurence, a hunky boy toy (played by Tyrone Power), then I'd believe it, given this sort of casting.

 

In my opinion, Claude Rains should have been chosen to perform the role of Waldo.

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He deserves credit for his perseverance in the face of rather

long odds. Someone came up with the category of the sissy,

a male heterosexual who has the characteristics that used to

be attributed to the stereotyped sensitive gay character. I

suppose Waldo might fit into that model. The fact that Waldo

has many of the characteristics of a stereotyped gay character

has never really lessened my enjoyment of the picture.

 

Note that one key theme of the film is the difference between men like Waldo,  Shelby and McPherson, the detective.   Waldo makes multiple cracks about both men in an attempt to put them down and expose them as unsuitable for Laura.    Waldo's fatal flaw was believing that Laura was a different type of women;  i.e. a women that preferred the company of a man like Waldo over a man like Shelby or McPherson.

 

But for a man like Waldo to KILL someone over that type of rejection doesn't add up.   He felt he was so superior he would have just found another women and tried to make her into the next Laura.     But of course we wouldn't have a noir movie plot!

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But for a man like Waldo to KILL someone over that type of rejection doesn't add up.   

Right...it doesn't add up. Not for a man like Waldo in the guise of Clifton Webb. This fatal casting mistake unfortunately keeps the film from earning four stars from me (I have to give it 3 stars). 

 

The other implication is that gay men or sissy men are killers because they are abnormal and killers are abnormal. This casting is so politically incorrect that it gets in the way of enjoying the story as it was originally conceived. 

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0147 of 1300


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She had been discovered doing a play in the late 1930s by producer Alexander Korda, and soon afterward Patricia Roc was cast in her first leading role. Practically overnight, she became a star, appearing in a succession of hits throughout the 1940s, mostly in melodramas and war-time propaganda pictures. Some of the more memorable ones included TWO THOUSAND WOMEN; THE WICKED LADY; and SO WELL REMEMBERED which was distributed in the U.S. by RKO. In 1946, she was borrowed by Universal and came to Hollywood to make Jacques Tourneur's Technicolor western CANYON PASSAGE. But she was soon back in England where she continued to draw attention for her acting as well as the fact that she had broken up several marriages (her own and others) due to frequent affairs. She remained among the most popular actresses in Britain when she relocated to France in the early 1950s. Other films and affairs followed, with her giving birth to a son. Eventually, she retired to Switzerland, but still made periodic appearances on television as late as 1962. Audiences never forgot Patricia Roc, and in her 80s, years after last appearing on screen, she was still being mobbed by fans at public events.


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Patricia Roc present and accounted for..!


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Yes, it was very obvious that Waldo had a Pygmalion thing going for

his "discovery" Laura. And when he found out that not only was

she not interested in him in that way, but was interested in a "vulgarian"

like McPherson, well he went a little crazy and resorted to murder.

To me that's believable, at least as believable as most things in a

Hollywood film. One of those "we all go a little mad sometimes"

situations.

 

I do agree that the plot isn't so 'out there' when compared to other Hollywood film plots.   But the way Waldo tried to kill Laura with a planned shotgun to the face,  without even looking at her before doing so (which is why he believed he had killed her instead of the other gal),   is a very calculated and controlled way to murder someone  (verses losing it in the moment and going a little bit mad because of rejection and defeat).

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That's exactly how I feel. Webb seems dreadfully miscast. Why would he be so possessive and resort to murder over a woman he's clearly not attracted to...it removes the whole crime of passion angle. Now if Laura Hunt had instead been Hunt Laurence, a hunky boy toy (played by Tyrone Power), then I'd believe it, given this sort of casting.

 

In my opinion, Claude Rains should have been chosen to perform the role of Waldo.

The reason Clifton Webb was cast in the role instead of someone like Claude Rains was because a obvious tough guy would be an obvious person to play the killer.  The idea was for the audience to be surprised by the identity of the killer in an era where character actors played the same type of role over and over again.

 

Clifton Webb had been a stage actor up until then so movie audiences didn't know who he was.  I

 

Lots of gay men in the studio system didn't look sissy - Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter were not sissy. 

 

For example, if Raymond Burr or Laird Craiger had played the killer in Laura, we would have known right away who the killer was.  That is part of the problem that fans of certain genres of movies from the studio era have like myself- I have seen so many movies of certain genres that even if I know nothing about a movie I can usually guess half way through how it ends.

 

It is part of trying to keep the audience guessing.

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Right...it doesn't add up. Not for a man like Waldo in the guise of Clifton Webb. This fatal casting mistake unfortunately keeps the film from earning four stars from me (I have to give it 3 stars). 

 

The other implication is that gay men or sissy men are killers because they are abnormal and killers are abnormal. This casting is so politically incorrect that it gets in the way of enjoying the story as it was originally conceived. 

Political incorrectness it might be, but the movie Laura was made in the 1940s.  Gay men in Hollywood were given manly names.  Remember that homosexuality was considered a criminal offence until recently.

 

You have to look at movies from an earlier era with the idea in mind that certain things were not taboo in a certain era.  That doesn't mean it isn't difficult to watch:

 

Look at the whole issue of blackface.  Most people in Hollywood musicals did it at least once.  James Cagney refused and he was punished for this.  I have a horrible time watching blackface numbers.  I have to literally remind myself that such movies are not from today.

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Political incorrectness it might be, but the movie Laura was made in the 1940s.  Gay men in Hollywood were given manly names.  Remember that homosexuality was considered a criminal offence until recently.

 

You have to look at movies from an earlier era with the idea in mind that certain things were not taboo in a certain era.  That doesn't mean it isn't difficult to watch:

 

Look at the whole issue of blackface.  Most people in Hollywood musicals did it at least once.  James Cagney refused and he was punished for this.  I have a horrible time watching blackface numbers.  I have to literally remind myself that such movies are not from today.

Yes. I don't care for scenes that seem quite politically incorrect by modern standards. However, I am not in favor of censorship, unless we are censoring things that threaten human life. So in this case, when we put something like LAURA side by side with SONG OF THE SOUTH, we make it available to modern audiences but we shouldn't glorify it as a culturally valuable work of art. Instead, we should see how minority groups are depicted according to the hegemonist view of white straight men who made these films. It's startling to watch, and it had to be startling for minority viewers to watch on screen when the films were first presented in the 1940s.

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Yes. I don't care for scenes that seem quite politically incorrect by modern standards. However, I am not in favor of censorship, unless we are censoring things that threaten human life. So in this case, when we put something like LAURA side by side with SONG OF THE SOUTH, we make it available to modern audiences but we shouldn't glorify it as a culturally valuable work of art. Instead, we should see how minority groups are depicted according to the hegemonist view of white straight men who made these films. It's startling to watch, and it had to be startling for minority viewers to watch on screen when the films were first presented in the 1940s.

Gee, I feel compelled to answer any post which references the word "hegemony" just because it is such a great word and says so much so economically.

 

I too, like you, TB like to watch my films undiluted, no matter what the subject matter. I read "Mein Kampf" for just such a reason, as how can one understand something unless they see it as it was first presented. It seems to me that I've read that "The Diary of Anne Frank" was bowdlerized  and things that some thought were a bit unseemly, removed. That bothers me, since if I want to understand Anne Frank I want the whole truth.

 

What bothers me more in films, though I still watch them is, hagiography-type biopics. The use of the word "hegemony' made me think of this term, and Hollywood is so often guilty of it. For example, in "The Agony and the Ecstasy" we find Michelangelo as portrayed by Charlton Heston, totally enraptured by some female, when anyone who has read of him knows that he would more likely be dating Raphael Sanzio than a woman of Firenze. But I digress.

 

A film, no matter if its content is not currently politically correct, should be shown as is, or one will never be able to understand the mindset of its makers and their time period is my heartfelt belief. And that is why I watch movies, to get a glimpse of a past I was not living in.

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