The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
“Hey fellas! Here comes the strawberry blonde!”
One day a friend and I were walking around New York City and we were walking down this one street when this tall, skinny girl with long black hair and dressed like she wants to get attention comes in front of us. There were a few guys working on something and they were all breaking their necks to get a glimpse of this girl. All my friend and I could do was laugh and wonder what on earth there was to this girl. The whole time we have just been seeing her from behind. Well when she turned around my friend and I just looked at each other and laughed because she was not that pretty!
In the film The Strawberry Blonde set in the early 1900s a couple of guys break their necks to get a look at the new girl the “Strawberry Blonde” and whistle at her as she goes by. The women they were all admiring and whistling at deserved it unlike the girl I saw because she just so happened to be Rita Hayworth playing Virginia Brush. Virginia knows she can get any man she wants and she does. One man who is interested in her is an aspiring dentist named Biff Grimes (James Cagney). All his life Biff has been getting the short end of the stick constantly getting the leftovers. He is friends with a man named Hugo Barnstead (Jack Carson) who is running a new organization that is making money. Hugo makes a date with Virginia and her friend Amy Lind (Olivia de Havilland).
Virginia and Amy could not be more different: Virginia is a spoiled brat whoand knows she is a hot thing and Amy is a nurse who wants to be seen as a tough cookie suffragist. Biff wants to get with Virginia so Hugo says that he can but that does not happen instead he ends up with Amy as planned. Biff is all a wreck and only has his mind on the Strawberry Blonde but then Amy turns him on his toes a bit with some of the things she tells him.
A few days later Hugo and Biff plan to take the ladies out on a boat ride with Hugo promising Biff he can be with Virginia for the day. They have the tickets but the limit the boat can hold is reached just as Biff and Virginia were about to board. Biff finally gets his chance to have the girl of his dreams to himself and has a great time. When they return home he asks her out but she tells him she is booked solid for the next few weeks with dates with other men. They make a date for three weeks from that Wednesday.
When the Wednesday for their date comes Biff cannot wait. Virginia on the other hand was ready to blow him off but after he says they were to go dancing and to a show she says yes. Well anyway she is a bitch and blows him off anyway that night after she marries Hugo that day. Biff is waiting in the park when Amy comes around. She went to tell him that Virginia got married. On the rebound he asks Amy if she would like to go steady with him and not too long after they get married. They do not have a lot money, Biff is working his way through correspondence school to be a dentist but in the meantime he is delivering milk at night.
One day while getting his father out of a brawl in a bar he sees Virginia for the first time in a long time. She invites him and Amy to her home for dinner the next night. The night of the dinner before Biff and Amy arrive Virginia tells Hugo to give Biff a job since Amy was her good friend once and Biff was his good friend too. Hugo gives Biff a job but because he is only out for himself and gets the not so bright good guy in trouble.
The whole film is told through a flashback but it is not bad as I often find films that use the device to be. It fit the story and gave it a satisfying ending. Biff’s realization that he really is a lucky man and he loves his wife can be seen as too over done but with the way the story goes it works and it is not corny.
The cast was so good they all worked together perfectly. This was the first time I have ever seen James Cagney in a film. I liked him as the small tough guy who is always getting the leftovers in life. He was not over the top with being too tough or too nice he was great. Now I cannot wait to really see him as the tough guy. Olivia de Havilland was outrageously adorable. The scene where she first meets Biff in the park is hysterical because you could never see her that way: when we are first introduced to Amy she has just gotten out of work and is in her nursing uniform. Right away she starts with the women’s suffragist talk; we are supposed to think she is this really tough cookie. She starts winking and being flirty with a guy she does not even know. When she and Biff are sitting together while Virginia and Hugo are off doing their own thing she tells him her mother was one of the original Bloomer Girls and that her aunt was an actress (which was a profession that used to be very risqué), she does not mind if a guy kisses her before they are engaged, and that she smokes when she gets bored. I was laughing with her in those scenes she was great. I have a whole new admiration for her. Of course later it turns out she was just kidding about everything but you cannot be mad she was so cute. I really liked de Havilland and Cagney together they acted perfectly with one another. Rita Hayworth was ok there were some moments where she got on my nerves. Her clothes were fantastic though.
I really liked how the film had Olivia de Havilland and Rita Hayworth play strong women. De Havilland was not the weak timid woman she usually played to this point. She was spunky even at the end she was being really cheeky and cute. She was feminine but did not take any crap. The film did not set to knock the women down a peg and I really liked that especially for the time it was made in. It makes fun of Women’s Rights at the beginning of the century but it does not outright and completely mock it.
One of my all time favorite directors Raoul Walsh directed the film. I love how he does not constantly focus on one actor or actress if they are all together in a scene. He had such a great touch at capturing his actors at their best.
I have to admit I was not expecting The Strawberry Blonde to be as good as it was. I thought it was going to be too dramatic but it was not all dramatic there were many bright, good moments especially between Olivia de Havilland and James Cagney. The story is very good it comes from a play entitled One Sunday Afternoon and was made into a film of the same name in 1933 starring Fay Wray and Gary Cooper. The Strawberry Blonde is adorable and has a lot of heart. It is a very good Classic Hollywood film and I definitely suggest seeing it.
The Strawberry Blonde is available on DVD.
“Listen, you can write her off your next year’s income tax as an unavoidable”
If you have seen a Norma Shearer film you have pretty much seen them all. Shearer was “Queen of the Lot” at MGM and what people wanted to see from The Queen was melodramas. And boy did movie audiences get their fill of Norma Shearer melodramas in the 1930s. But unlike many of her films at the beginning of the thirties which were Pre-Code Riptide is her first Post- Code film.
Riptide has the most original beginning I have seen in classic films starting with Mary (Shearer) and Lord Philip Rexford meeting to go to a party. Their first meeting is odd because they were supposed to be on their way to a costume party where they had to dress like insects. They decide they look hideous and felt very uncomfortable so they skip the party. Mary goes to pick up Philip and they meet out of costumes. They are instantly drawn to each other and after a little flirting and eyes from Mary they kiss.
A few months go by and they cannot stand to be apart. Philip is supposed to leave to go back to England for business. He does not get on the ship instead he stays with Mary and they get married. Five years go by and they are happily married living in England with their daughter. One day Philip has to leave for business in New York. Mary cannot stand to be apart from him saying they have not been apart since they have been married. While they were talking Philip’s Aunt Hetty comes by to meet Mary. The two women hit it off perfectly and Hetty is next telling Mary she should go to the Riviera with her.
Mary goes to the south of France and has a great time. Also in the Riviera is Tommie Trent (Robert Montgomery) a man Mary used to hook up with every now and then in New York. Mary and Tommie have a fabulous drunken time together. Mary feels so light and free that she flips off a diving board into a pool fully clothed. Tommie tries to kiss Mary but she backs away but the rest of their time together she flirts with him. When she senses things are getting too much between them she leaves without saying goodbye. Tommie is not happy she left so back in his hotel room he decides to cut across the balconies to her room. He does not get to Mary’s room he falls from one of the balconies through a canopy. Mary goes to visit him in the hospital and she agrees to kiss him. Unfortunately a newspaper photographer gets a picture of them kissing and the next day their kiss is spread far and wide in the newspapers.
After this things get a little complicated. It becomes a big back and forth between Philip wanting to divorce Mary and then he does not but Mary is not sure she wants to go back to him but she is willing to work things out. The film gets to be kind of a pain at this point and because it is a post-code film you can guess the ending.
Norma Shearer has her moments where she is excellent and not over dramatic and then she has her over the top dramatic moments. I really enjoyed her scenes with Robert Montgomery when Mary and Tommie were drunk running around and dancing together. Shearer was really good at being silly but as I said at the beginning of this post she was known for her melodramas. I liked seeing her lighter side especially when she flipped into the pool. After the scene where she was caught kissing Montgomery she was back to being her over dramatic self. But I have to say she was a good actress and she does make the whole film. Out of all the films I have seen of her so far I think this was one of her best acted films. Shearer as Mary, just like in The Divorcee and A Free Soul, is very good at portraying sexuality and flirting which I feel a lot of actresses in her time could not pull off as convincingly as she did. I always feel like no matter what her sins are I want her to be forgiven and get back with the man she really loves. Her acting only enhances the film. You can almost feel her sexual tension and her desire for her leading man and that is what makes us want her to be sinful and lustful and why we root for her characters.
Robert Montgomery is always a joy to watch I always enjoy him in a film. I just wish that he was the leading man mostly because he seems to be the other man with Shearer (such as in The Divorcee) and he would have been so much more convincing it was difficult to see why Mary loved Philip so much.
Famed MGM costume designer Adrian made all of Norma Shearer’s gowns. He designed all of Shearer’s gowns while he was at the studio. I have issues with some of his designs the more I see of his costumes. Some of his costumes were just weird and over the top. There was one really questionable outfit Shearer wore towards the end of the film but for the most part her costumes were very pretty and were very typical 1930s- Art Deco clothing. There was one scene where Shearer was dressed in a nightgown and I have to say she looks stunning she had the perfect figure for it. Even in her other “racy” films prior to this she pulled off wearing “risqué” clothing to perfection.
Edmund Golding wrote and directed Riptide. I do not believe I have ever seen one of his films although the name sounds familiar. I think he did a great job directing the film he got some great close ups of Shearer and was really good focusing on the characters it was not all about the leading lady. The script was not bad but the plot got a bit confusing.
Riptide is typical Norma Shearer- MGM melodrama but it has some very amusing and well acted scenes. While the story lags in many parts there are many scenes, mostly when Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery are together, that pulls the film up. Riptide follows the typical 1930s marital strife plot but it should not be missed.
The Perils of Pauline (1947)
The Perils of Pauline is based on the silent actress Pearl White and her famous serials “The Perils of Pauline”. The film tells the story of how Pearl (Betty Hutton) went from working in a garment factory to a stage actress to a famous screen actress to the ending of her serials when the genre went out of favor.
Pearl works in a garment factory where she is none too happy. Her boss is a work horse never really giving the ladies a fair deal. One day a stage actress named Julia Gibbs (Constance Collier) comes into the factory after a dress of hers was made for a new show she will be performing that night. The owner will not allow Julia to pay for the dress with a check so he sends Pearl along to make sure Julia pays for the dress. Pearl is so excited she wants to be on the stage so bad all she wants is to be an actress. Since Julia was let getting to the theater the head of the acting company Michael Farrington (John Lund) sends Pearl onto the stage as an opening act. She sings a song called “Rumble Rumble Rumble” with such enthusiasm she nearly brings the house down.
With Julia’s help, Michael gives Pearl a chance on the stage but she keeps messing up and never performs to his standards. He is constantly yelling at her and bringing her down. While rehearsing for a kissing scene sparks happen between them and they begin to fall in love… or at least have some kind feelings for each other. The scene they rehearsed for does not go too well. Michael is furious with her but Pearl lets him have it and leaves the company. Julia standing behind Pearl leaves as well.
Julia’s agents give her a job in the movies. She is not thrilled about it but she takes it. Right from the moment she enters the set she is insulted by getting a pie in her face for the scene but the director does not tell her. Pearl is furious and trying to help her friend they accidentally walk through multiple sets including one with a lion. Pearl does not even realize she pushed a lion out of the way until the director tells her he will pay her one hundred dollars a week as an actress because of what she did with the lion.
Pearl becomes a star with her serials “The Perils of Pauline.” Every week Pauline comes close to death in a new adventure. Pearl does all her own stunts falling off of airplanes, jumping from buildings, being captured by bad guys. Meanwhile, Michael and Timmy (one of the members of the acting company) have not had it easy. The company folded and they were jobless. Pearl gives Timmy a job in her serials. Michael was working as a sideshow announcer when Pearl finds him after so long. Michael still thinks he has a chance as a serious actor and is reluctant to go into the movies. He becomes Pearl’s love interest in her shows and Timmy is the villain.
Michael falls in love with Pearl but after he becomes disillusioned with films and even Pearl he leaves her. Once again the two actors do not see each other for a long time. Michael is now a successful actor on Broadway. Silent serials went out of style leaving Pearl without a job so she moves to Paris where she is now a singer and dancer in a nightclub.
Besides Betty Hutton the cast to me is nothing really to brag about. Hutton was just incredible I seriously cannot believe the amount of energy and enthusiasm she had and put into her character. The Perils of Pauline is the reason MGM used her to replace Judy Garland in Annie Get Your Gun. If you watch the video I posted for “Rumble Rumble Rumble” you will see why they chose her for Annie. I really have nothing but love and admiration for Hutton she can go from being crazy and all over the place to being calm and dramatic the next being fantastic either way. She was the perfect example of the ideal entertainer she could literally do comedy and drama as well as musicals. I love her singing voice as well as her speaking voice.
The Perils of Pauline offers the Code-d version of the story of Pearl White. Of course the film ending has Pearl and Michael ending up together but in real life Pearl died in Paris when she retired from films after word got out her stunt double died doing one of her serials. The actress died from alcoholism and drugs. If this was made today of course we would see the sad, realistic version but this was made in 1947 at MGM so the ending had to be happy. I gotta say though I would rather see a happy ending.
The Perils of Pauline is a cute film. Betty Hutton is definitely worth sitting through the film for she is fantastic. Definitely see this film. It is available on DVD and the music numbers are available on Youtube.
Annie Oakley (1935)
“Toby Walker, you’re supposed to be a sharpshooter and you can’t even see a woman gal under your own nose.”
“I can see anything I’m aiming at.”
A while back I watched Annie Get Your Gun with Betty Hutton and Howard Keel. From liking this film I found out that Barbara Stanwyck played the character in the 1935 version of Annie Oakley. I found Stanwyck’s version and watched it.
Toby Walker (Preston Foster) has just been signed by Jeff Hogarth (Melvyn Douglas) to be the new sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Rough Riders show. While in Cincinnati a challenge is set up to see if anyone can win a shooting match against Toby. MacIvor the owner of a hotel gets on the line to his friend in a small town who knows the person who shoots the quails for his kitchen. The hotel owner thinks the challenger is a man named Andy Oakley and is shocked that Andy is actually Annie (Stanwyck). He wants to call off the challenge but Jeff and Toby stick to it and have the challenge go on as planned. Annie is winning but she sees everyone is making fun of Toby for getting beat by a girl so she lets him win. But Jeff sees that Annie would be a great addition to Buffalo Bill’s show and signs her as well.
Bill is not too sure about Annie at first. All she seems to be able to do is shoot she does not have any theatrics. Toby helps her out with some stunts and by the time the show is over Annie is a hit. Toby does not really like the idea of Annie being billed before him so Bill and Jeff come up with an idea that they can do a Battle of the Sexes act. Annie can see Toby does not like this but he says he does not care just as long as he can be with her.
The two sharpshooters fall in love but keep it private and play up their “rivals” aspect of the show. Everyone even Bill and Jeff think Annie and Toby really are rivals. At a show in Annie’s home town, one of the locals goes to kill the Indian Sitting Bull by shooting him. Toby was in the chief’s teepee and got rid of the person before they got to Bull. Unfortunately the man’s gun went off right in front of Toby’s face temporarily blinding him in one eye.
At the show that day Annie has the announcer say that Toby is going to shoot a quarter out of her hand. Toby is upset he says he will not do it since he has not told anyone he cannot see straight. All the men in the stands and in the show start to pester him about being a pansy so he shoots. He misses the quarter and hits Annie’s shooting hand. The whole company thinks Toby hit her on purpose because she was more popular than he was. Annie knows he did not mean it they love each other and she trusts him. Toby is fired from the show.
Annie is heartbroken throughout the show’s trip through Europe. She wants to leave the show after it plays in New York. She misses Toby. Of course they get back together though and it is really cute how they get back together.
Barbara Stanwyck was so perfect as Annie. To me she is always the tough cookie and perfect that way. I just cracked up that she was supposed to be from the back woods of Ohio and she had a Brooklyn accent. Never saw Preston Foster in a film before this. He kept driving me nuts he reminded me Brut Reynolds and I hate Burt Reynolds. Melvyn Douglas was not front and center and was not really a good character but I liked him I like him in any film he does.
Annie Oakley is a good film and it is not very long at an hour and a half. Definitely suggest seeing it.
“All our lives there has been too much left unsaid between us. Loving is the only thing that really matters, Charlotte. It’s worthwhile being hurt a bit to find that out.”
Last summer my brother Anthony had to read Wuthering Heights for his AP English class. My mom read it too so she could help him out with the story and he could have someone to talk it over with. By the time Anthony finished the book and watching a BBC production of the story I was so sick of hearing about Heathcliff and Cathy I wanted to scream. I seriously never want to read the book the story annoyed the hell out of me. Then I realized since the book was published how many other great literary novels and films (Gone with the Wind in particular in both mediums) were based off Emily Brontë’s literary masterpiece. I have seen the 1939 film version with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in a film class and wanted to scream my head off.
I love to read but I tended to stay away from literature with my preferences leaning towards mysteries, history books, biographies, and film books. But after reading Gone with the Wind I now have an interest in reading literature masterpieces… well ones I know I will understand, I do not have the patience to sit and try to decipher the meaning.
Now you may be wondering why on earth I am ranting about Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, and reading literature. Well two weeks ago when I was home by myself for the weekend I got to peacefully watch Devotion that I had recorded off of TCM. Devotion tells the (dramatized and romanticized) story of Branwell (Arthur Kennedy), Charlotte (Olivia de Havilland), and Emily Brontë (Ida Lupino) (as well as a little bit of their sister Anne). Branwell is like the black sheep of the family; he drinks too much and causes scenes when he is drunk. Charlotte wants to see the world in order to write her stories while Emily is very content to stay home on the moor near their Yorkshire home.
Charlotte, Anne, and Branwell get the opportunity to travel to London for a few months. While away a new priest named Reverend Arthur Nichols (Paul Henreid) comes to help their father at his church. He and Emily spend an awful lot of time together. They even fall in love a bit but there is no sharing of feelings between them. In time the three traveling Brontë siblings return home. The first time Arthur lays eyes on Charlotte he falls in love with her but she does not like him.
Branwell has not been behaving himself and feels awful he wants to do something nice for Emily and Charlotte. He sells one of his paintings and sends his sisters to school in Brussels to further their education as well as to teach. Charlotte is loving the experience and she is falling in love with the married school master. Emily misses the moor and England. She repeatedly has dreams of Death on a horse where she cannot see his face. She dreams of Death while in Brussels and she finally sees his face and to her this means she does not have time left and must go home.
Both sisters return home. Charlotte begins to see Arthur loves her and begins to fall for him. Emily is upset because now she will never be with him. She pours all her feelings about Arthur and her lost love into Wuthering Heights. Charlotte finishes writing Jane Eyre and has it published along with Wuthering Heights. Both books are huge successes. Charlotte lives it up in London with all the attention on her. But yet again she finds herself returning home and this time it is because Emily is very sick.
I know this is a very short description with not too much detail but I do not want to give away too much detail and the film was long. If you really want to know what happens to the sisters and brother look them up online.
I really, really liked the cast. I have never seen Ida Lupino in a film before and I found myself liking her a lot. Her best scene is when Emily was walking in the moors with Arthur. There is a house on the hill of the moor and she tells Arthur that she calls the abandoned house Wuthering Heights. Just then her vision of Death on his horse appears in the distance. The description was incredible and Lupino’s acting was superb. That scene I now count as one of my favorite scenes from a film it was just acted, filmed, and written so well. Lupino may have gotten top billing but the film definitely belonged to Olivia de Havilland. De Havilland was in the film the most and she was, as always, so amazing. She was adorable in one scene where Charlotte goes on a date with the married head master of the school in Brussels. They go on the Tunnel of Love ride and she wonders why they named the ride so. Well when they emerge they definitely found the reason! Their hair is a mess and their hats are out of place and de Havilland has the best look of bliss on her face. This was the first time I have ever seen Paul Henreid outside of his role of Victor Laszlo in Casablanca. I liked him as the reverend and I now see that he was a very good actor.
The film was finished filming in 1943 but was not released until 1946. At this time Olivia de Havilland was fighting Warner Bros. for adding extra time to the end of her contract with a suspension. Jack Warner held the film back for three years and gave the actress third billing in an attempt to damage her career. This is when she sued the studio going all the way to the Supreme Court and winning her case. After winning her case and leaving the studio de Havilland went on to win two Academy Awards. The de Havilland Decision is the reason why TV actors are only contractually obligated to a show for six years and no actor can sign a contract for longer than six years.
The score was created by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. I like Korngold’s scores they were always dramatic and fit perfectly with the stories of the films. He created a great score for Devotion especially in the scene where Emily is in the moor with Arthur looking at Wuthering Heights and sees Death on his horse.
Devotion, although a highly dramatized story based off the Brontë family, is very well done. The acting by all the actors is amazing, the writing is excellent, and the direction and cinematography are perfect. After seeing this film I am now thinking about giving Wuthering Heights a chance and I now would really like to read Jane Eyre (I find it funny that Olivia de Havilland played Charlotte who wrote the novel and her sister, Joan Fontaine was in the first film version of the story playing the main character). My brother liked Wuthering Heights, he likes anything with a tragic ending (except for Gone with the Wind he was so upset that Rhett and Scarlett did not get back together). I can always ask him if I am confused with the story. I do plan on getting Devotion on DVD and will be showing it to my brother.
Definitely see Devotion it is a very well made film but just remember it is a film telling of the Brontë family it is not going to be completely accurate.
Headline Shooter (1933)
“You gotta cold? No wonder you’re putting the freeze on me.”
Headline Shooter is about a newsreel camera man Bill Allen (William Gargan). Bill is a lady’s man and a hot shot with his camera work. He is the guy who gets to where the news is happening before anyone else and gets the best shots by the time all the other cameramen come. He even goes where other cameramen will not go.
While covering the Long Beach earthquake he meets a tough, wisecracking female reporter named Jane Mallory (Frances Dee). She gets in the way of one of his shots but he does not stay mad at her for long. Jane and Bill decide to work together she can do the reporting and write the story for his film story. They walk all over the city gathering all kinds of stories.
News cameraman and reporter see each other throughout the week. Bill begins to fall in love with Jane, he even tells her that he has been seriously thinking about her and that she is the only woman he has considered settling down with. Jane likes him as well but her father was a reporter she knows all about the long nights and the drinking he did to finish a story. She does not want that life and that is the reason why she is engaged to a banker down in Riverport, Mississippi named Hal Caldwell (Ralph Bellamy).
Jane leaves California for Riverport. After a traumatic incident where one of his cameraman buddies dies, Bill realizes that he cannot let Jane get away so he goes after her. When he gets down to her she has a nice sized ring on her finger. Bill could not have gotten to Mississippi at a better time. The levee breaks and he and Jane sees this as a great thing to cover. They go to where the levee broke and they find that the stone used to build the levee breaks apart very easily. Bill gets the flood on camera as well as Hal breaking the stones together. Jane interviews several people. On their way back to town Bill is forced to give his footage of the levee to town officials but he keeps the footage and gives them blank film. He says that the public has the right to know the truth of what happened. Unfortunately the mayor of Riverport kills himself over Bill’s film getting out to the public. Jane gets mad at him and and now without doubts know she is supposed to be with Hal.
Back in California, Jane goes to her office to resign so she can marry Hal and move with him to Riverport. As she walks out of her interview Jane is kidnapped by the gangster. Now Bill and Hal have to go look for her.
Of course they find Jane and I am sure you can guess who she winds up with in the end.
TCM aired the film as part of their Summer Under The Stars with one day being dedicated to Ralph Bellamy. Bellamy is only in the film for the last few minutes. Just as many of his parts to come he played the guy who initially has the girl but in the end he gives her up to the guy who really has the girl’s heart. I liked William Gargan I have never seen him in a film before this. I liked his character even if he was a womanizer he was not nasty about it and he was really nice to Jane. Alright now onto Frances Dee… she was so ridiculously adorable and so fabulous. She is definitely one of the most underrated actresses. I have seen so many films with her and she is excellent at playing so many different types of characters. Right from the moment Dee comes on screen she was a spitfire giving it right back to Gargan. She is the best at the end after Hal and Bill save her. As soon as everything is all clear she gets on the phone to her boss and tells her she has a big scoop for the paper. All excited Dee tells her boss “I witnessed my own rescue.” Gargan and Dee were very good together they had some good chemistry.
Max Steiner composed the score. Right off the bat you can tell it is a Steiner score if you have ever heard any of his scores. If you are a big film buff and really know Steiner’s score you will notice that his “Fanfares 1,2,3” from King Kong playing with the credits at the end.
Headline Shooter is a very good Pre-code film made by RKO. I came across this completely by accident I do not even know what made me look at the description but once I saw Frances Dee’s name of course I had to see it. But besides Dee being in the film it is really good. It is pretty odd how much it echoes today’s issues with journalism and news and the public having the right to know what is going on.
Headline Shooter was never released on VHS and it is not available on DVD. Keep an eye out on TCM’s schedule to see if the station ever airs it again. I definitely suggest seeing it.
Nothing But the Truth (1941)
“No, I don’t lose. That’s not a lie. That’s an opinion. If I said YOU were good-looking - That’d be a lie.”
Nothing But the Truth is the third pairing of Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. While The Cat and the Canary and The Ghost Breakers were in the same vain story wise Nothing But the Truth is a departure. Even though both of their previous films’ plots were pretty much the same they were still funny and entertaining. Hope and Goddard are very entertaining without a doubt but there are many aspects of the film that keep it from being all around amusing.
There really is not much to the plot and nothing really outstanding about it. Hope plays Steve Bennett who has joined a stockbroker firm down in Florida. As soon as he gets there his boss Ralston’s niece Gwen Saunders (Goddard) comes in with money. She got the money from running a scheme. Gwen gives ten thousand dollars in cash to Steve and he tells her he can invest it and get her double the money. He has no idea how she got it and does not ask because he has become smitten with her.
At a meeting with Ralston and his associates Steve says that no one has to lie someone can be an honest business man and tell the truth. Ralston and his associates offer Steve ten thousand dollars. Steve takes the bet so he can double Gwen’s money and right after the he agrees to the bet he sees Gwen walking out with one of the associates.
So now Steve is stuck with telling the truth for the whole day and Ralston and the others cruelly ask him personal questions that he has to honestly answer. Ralston even has him come on his private ship for a weekend with some important people. Gwen will be on the ship as well. Ralston continues to abuse Steve with the questions in front of the guest.
Once on the ship the whole film goes all over the place and gets too silly.
Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard were excellent despite a drawn out plot and really ridiculous moments. I will let it slid that Hope gets stripped of his clothes and has to put on a woman’s robe! There is not too much else I can say about the rest of the cast I did not really like their characters which I guess is the point.
Edith Head once again designed the costumes for Paulette Goddard as she did for many of the actress’s other films.
Nothing But the Truth has its moments where it is really funny and well done but most of the time I found it to be over the top and annoying. It was predictable mostly because Screwball comedy was on its way out and had been done so much previously. I do not mind the fact that I sat through it I am glad I sat through it, I am always happy to sit through a Paulette Goddard film because it seems a handful of her films are hard to find. I caught Nothing But the Truth on TCM when the station had Paulette Goddard as their actor of the day a few weeks ago and it is available on DVD through a Bob Hope collection called Thanks for the Memories. See the film if you can.
Land of the Pharaohs (1955)
“Yes, he will be remembered. The pyramid will keep his memory alive”
Ever since I was little I have had a great fascination with Ancient Egypt. I think it all started when I was little and I used to watch the Sesame Street video Don’t Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street Visits the Metropolitan Museum of Art where Big Bird and Snuffy have to help this little Egyptian kid who was cursed to live in a tomb on display in the museum answer a riddle so he can join his parents in the sky. Do not be shocked I recently watched that again for the first time in God knows how long. Anyway, Ancient Egypt was always my first historical and artistic love and still is. I scour through the History Channel and History International looking for any kind of programs on the time period.
Not that long ago my Uncle Frank, my grandpa’s brother, was talking about the film Land of the Pharaohs with Joan Collins. He was going on and on about the costumes and the sets and how gorgeous it is. Luckily he told me about it when TCM was airing it the same week so I recorded it. It is a dramatized fictional story mixed with some historical figures and events.
Land of the Pharaohs is about the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza by King Khufu (Jack Hawkins). He has just captured a group of people for slaves through his conquest of their lands. Khufu has reaped more gold than can be imagined. He does not want anyone touching it so he hides it in a cellar protected by guards. Khufu wants to take his treasure with him to the afterlife and does not want anyone to take it away from him. He has the best architects work on a maze and secret chambers to hide and bury him with his fortune. The architects he chose did not come up with any good plans. He remembers while he was invading the last country he was in there was an architect who built the greatest mazes and chambers he had ever seen he even offered a reward to his soldiers to capture this architect. The architect’s name is Vashtar and he and his son are chosen to work on the pyramid.
Fifteen years go by before the pyramid is near completion. In the mean time Pharaoh has gained a new wife named Nelifer (Joan Collins). Nelifer is no good. She wants Pharaoh’s treasure all to herself and she plots to have his first wife and child killed so she and her lover can become king and queen of Egypt and has all the treasure to themselves.
The plan almost goes over without a problem… almost.
The acting is so-so and stiff. I never saw Joan Collins in a film before I did not have any expectations set for her. Collins was not too bad but she is bad enough to cringe at times. Jack Hawkins as Khufu was not good he was stiff and looked amateur. The only person who had any acting ability was Sydney Chaplin as Nelifer’s lover. The oldest of Charlie Chaplin’s children had a successful stage career on Broadway so besides the fact that his father is one of the greatest actors ever Sydney Chaplin had legitimate acting abilities.
Howard Hawks the man known for his fantastic screwball comedies directed this film. This was a flop upon release (which is not that much of a shock) and after filming completed Hawks took a year off and it was the longest break between films he ever took.
Land of the Pharaohs is considered a campy, cult film and I can see why. But I liked seeing all the ancient Egyptian sets and scenery actually filmed in the country. The score by Dimitri Tiomkin is enough to sit through the film it is incredible. Land of the Pharaohs is worth sitting through at least once and if you ever do do not take it seriously just have fun with it.
A King in New York (1957)
“There are many things absurd these days…”
A King in New York is one of Charlie Chaplin’s films that attest to his genius. Many filmmakers who want to make something meaningful that has happened to them in their lives more than likely will make a politically, emotionally charged film that can get out of hand and become annoying as they try their very hardest to gain sympathy and push their beliefs on the audience. What makes Chaplin a genius in this film is that he shows how absurd McCarthyism was and America’s Communist witch hunt and even though he was a victim of this ridiculousness he handles it with great care he moves our sympathy not to him but to a little boy and his family.
King Shahdov (Chaplin) was a ruler of some European country. After the war there was a revolution and he was forced to flee to America. He is apparently a genius with his plans for nuclear energy to run his countrymen’s homes. If he can get it passed by an international nuclear committee he will become famous for his invention.
Shahdov refuses to speak about his country’s revolution and what he has done with his money. He will not give any interviews as well. A friend that he knows living in New York keeps insisting that he come to a party she is throwing at her apartment but Shahdov does not want to go. That all changes when he meets a young woman named Ann Kay (Dawn Addams), a television specialist, and she says that she is going to the woman’s party. Ann has manipulated the king in so many ways to go to the party. She desperately wants to get an interview with him and show him to the American people that she secretly has him tapped while sitting down to dinner with the other guests.
The tapping is aired live and Shahdov has become an overnight hit. The next day Shahdov is inundated with calls and messages wanting him to be the new advertising face of their company. He is reluctant at first but finally gives in when he and his butler begin to run out of money.
One day he visits a young boys’ school where he meets Rupert Macabee (Michael Chaplin) who is a political history buff. The former king and the young boy have an all out argument on politics. Shahdov can barely get a word in with Rupert so charged in his excellently backed argument. Shahdov really likes the boy and he gives back in a great way when Rupert has left school because his parents have been arrested for being Communists. A few days later Shahdov sees the boy walking on the streets and takes him in and cares for him by giving him warm clothes and even going out to get him a coat and some new clothes.
Unfortunately while the king is out the atomic committee comes to speak about his nuclear energy plans. Rupert tells the committee that Shahdov is his uncle so they do not ask too many questions as to why he is there. In his pretend family story he gets all charged up on his political history and he lets slip that he is a Communist. The committee men are outraged they do not want to deal with Shahdov if he is a Communist.
Soon Shahdov is falsely accused of being a Communist and is brought up in court. But he is let go after there is not enough evidence against him.
There are so many moving and touching and funny scenes throughout the whole film. In one scene Chaplin pantomimes his order to a waiter in a restaurant when he is seated in front of the drum and the waiter cannot hear him. There is also a little slapstick routine performed by two comedians at a restaurant. These scenes harken back to Chaplin’s silent film routines. There are other wonderful comedic touches that he does which I refuse to give away they are so brilliant. He was so fabulous in the scenes with his son Michael who played Rupert. The younger Chaplin was fantastic he was so good especially when he had his lines about politics. The scene where he and Shahdov duel over politics is one of my favorite scenes of the film he really did seem like his father was backing down to him. The ending was very touching where Shahdov returns to Europe and he promises to bring Rupert and his parents there one day to see him.
The scenes where Shahdov is accused of being a Communist were great. As I said at the beginning many filmmakers who make a personal film tend to always try to force their ideas and sympathy on the viewer. Yes, knowing Chaplin was not allowed back in America because of McCarthyism but he does not let that get in the way of the story. We do sympathize for Rupert and his family which is the point we are supposed to feel bad for these people who are Americans through and through but believed in a Socialist, equal America way before WWII. This is what I admire most about Chaplin he makes us sympathize with people and the story even if he does make his views known they are not thrown in our face. He made modern political people like Hitler and political movements/scandals look ridiculous which in hind sight they were/are.
I have yet to see a Chaplin silent but he was literally able to say so much and be so comedic with words that I am kind of holding off with watching his silents. I am sure they are just as fantastic as The Great Dictator, Limelight, and A King in New York but the first Chaplin film I ever saw was The Great Dictator where he speaks.
A King in New York is a film not to be overlooked. This is just one of the many films Charlie Chaplin made that attests to how brilliant a filmmaker he was he could literally do it all- write, direct, act, produce- and with the greatest care and intelligence. Everything about A King in New York is fabulous. I love his little touch of putting his son in the film as Rupert, he greatly added to the film’s perfection. This was the last time Charlie Chaplin would be the lead in his films and he definitely went out as an actor on top.
A King in New York is available on DVD as well as Youtube.
No Time for Comedy (1940
“I write plays.”
“Er, yes, I have a hobby, too. What I meant was, what do you do for a living?”
“Write plays. Anything wrong?”
No Time For Comedy captured my interest from its title and the pairing of its stars the very versatile and funny Rosalind Russell and James Stewart. I had a feeling this would be a comedy of sorts and it is. I did not know what to expect from the film especially from the pairing because I am now in the habit of associating Rosalind Russell with comedy and James Stewart either with an “aw-shucks,” wholesome kind of character or dark and twisty (thank you Hitchcock).
A new play is about to open on Broadway starring successful stage actress Linda Paige (Rosalind Russell). The play is about Park Avenue society. Linda, the director Morgan Carrell, and the backer walk into a bar and do not look too thrilled about the third act of the play. They feel the third act will tank the whole show. Back at rehearsal a tall, skinny, nerdy looking guy walks backstage. No one believes that Gaylord “Gay” Esterbrook (James Stewart) is the writer of the play. He does not look like a guy who could have written about New York high society. Finally someone recognizes him and lets him into the theater to watch the rehearsals. Gay sits in the theater seats when Linda comes to watch from the seats as well. At first she thinks he is part of the crew asks him to get her cigarettes. But then someone mentions that Gay is the writer and Linda feels a little embarrassed. The two get along well and she even takes him on the subway because she is afraid he will not last against cranky New Yorkers pushing and shoving their way home during rush hour.
The next night Gay is invited to dinner with Linda, Morgan, and the backer. The dinner does not go over too well. The backer first says he will back the play but then recants and pulls out of the play. Gay does not know about the decision so Linda pulls the cast together and asks them to go without pay until money comes in from the play and they all do.
After the play finishes Linda walks with Gay through Central Park to calm his nerves. They wait in the park until morning to read the play reviews in the morning paper. The reviews for Gay’s play are great they are filled with nothing but praise especially for the third act. Linda has come to love Gay for his small town boyishness and his sweetness. In the park she asks in so many ways for Gay to marry her. He is a bunch of nerves between the play and Linda being so nice to him. Gay and Linda marry and in the next three years Gay has written three more successful plays and all starring Linda.
Gay is no longer the small town boy of the beginning of the film. He is now a drunk sophisticate who goes on binges when he is writing plays. He and Linda are still happily married living in a nice house outside of the city. At a party one night Gay meets a woman who tells him that she has the ability to draw out a powerful latent talent he has inside him. He is enthralled by this woman because she is appealing to his want to write a serious play. Linda does not like this woman but she is never cruel to her. Gay’s involvement with this woman begins to threaten his marriage with Linda.
Now for the pairing of Russell and Stewart may seem a bit odd and it is but somehow it works. I have noticed in the few films I have seen Russell in that she tends to dominate the other actors/characters. Maybe this is just my observation but I see her kind of domination as her standing out as a good actress. Her dominance is never overbearing it is just stand out. But in No Time For Comedy Russell was not dominant she played her role just right. There were many scenes that I feel if any other actress had been playing them they would have been over dramatic and not have been sympathetic and caring enough. Near the end Linda and the woman Gay has been with confront each other. Russell kept the character cool in this situation and by doing this she made the character more sympathetic. I find that I am more sympathetic towards a wronged character (mostly it is with female characters) if they can keep calm and much of that is left up to how the actress/actor plays their character. Also near the end Gay is just insulting her after she has told him how he feels about the woman he is always hanging around with and she does not lose it at all but she does not really take it either. I really gained a new admiration and respect for Rosalind Russell in this film. James Stewart I felt was really good here. I am a sucker for seeing actors step out of their comfort zone or playing a character people are not used to seeing. I liked seeing a mean, drunken Stewart who at the end realizes he has done something really stupid. Russell and Stewart were great together although I do have to say there really was no chemistry between them.
I have to give a great amount of mention to the actress Louise Beavers for playing the actress/Esterbrook maid Clementine. The character was hysterical and Beavers was excellent. She had so many funny lines and moments it is hard just to name one. Some of her lines come fast so listen closely if you ever see this film.
The film was written by Jilius and Philip Epstein who would go on to write Casablanca. The serious play Gay wants to write is about all the injustices going on in the world with WWII having been underway in Europe for the past year. The brothers would write Casablanca in the same vain the following year showing the injustices and the plight of refuges trying to get out of Europe. It seems the war in Europe was very much on the minds of the Epstein brothers.
No Time For Comedy is a very good film and one that is excellently acted by the whole cast. I would not say the story is one of the best ever but it is good and helped very much by Rosalind Russell and James Stewart in the leads as well as a few of the supporting cast members. This is a film that should be watched by classic film fans.
No Time For Comedy is not available on DVD or to view on youtube. TCM recently aired the film so keep your eye out for it on their programming schedule.