Saturday, November 06, 2010

Advice from the Siren

A gentleman has emailed the Siren:

I think you should start an advice column. Here's my first question:

Dear Siren,
I don't understand why Charles Boyer would prefer Olivia de Havilland over Paulette Goddard in "Hold Back The Dawn."
Please advise.
Signed, Cinematically Conflicted

Dear Conflicted,
The Siren is always happy to oblige her patient readers, although she warns some questions are beyond even her mythological powers. Happily, this one she can illuminate, if not solve.

In the studio era, it was occasionally assumed that what a man wants in a life's companion is wholesome sweetness and naïveté, not red-hot rafter-rattling sex. That hasn't been the Siren's personal experience, but then again, she never tried to conduct a love affair under the watchful eye of the Hays Office.

De Havilland was gorgeous, but given her prim character in the movie, Olivia over the much livelier Paulette joins some other puzzling choices. These include Dick Powell even realizing Ruby Keeler is alive when he is right there in the same movie with Ginger Rogers or Joan Blondell; Judy Garland over sultry Angela Lansbury in The Harvey Girls; Janet Leigh over Eleanor Parker in Scaramouche (and in case you're wondering, no, the Siren is never going to get over that one); Donna Reed over Lana Turner in Green Dolphin Street; the Catholic Church over Ingrid Bergman in Bells of St. Mary's; the Welsh church over Maureen O'Hara in How Green Was My Valley; and Margaret Lindsay over Bette Davis in Jezebel.

You may notice a number of these are literary or theatrical adaptations; indeed, this quandary has classic antecedents, e.g. Ivanhoe. Given free rein many, if not most, scriptwriters got it right. Clark Gable, for example, almost always managed to pick Jean Harlow by the last reel.

In an unusual example of Hollywood reverse sexism, this problem is rarely encountered when women are doing the choosing. Rosalind Russell prefers Cary Grant to Ralph Bellamy, Irene Dunne prefers Cary Grant to Ralph Bellamy, and in one that must have really stung, Carole Lombard preferred Fred MacMurray to Ralph Bellamy in Hands Across the Table. The Siren can think of two examples where she questions a heroine's taste, although in both cases there are extenuating circumstances. Joan Crawford goes for Henry Fonda over the decidedly more sensual Dana Andrews in Daisy Kenyon, but as Andrews' character is something of a heel, and it was Fonda's job up to 1968 to be a mensch, you see it coming. And in How to Marry a Millionaire, the large age difference between William Powell and Lauren Bacall can be taken as explanation of why Bacall picks Cameron Mitchell, although the Siren always mutters, "I don't care how old he is--woman, are you nuts?"

There's one that will stump the Siren to her dying day, however. In Walk Don't Run, the remake of The More the Merrier, Samantha Eggar picks Jim Hutton over a never-in-the-running Cary Grant. That flaming chunk of crazy was part of what made Grant decide being a cosmetics executive was a much better deal.

In real life it is a toss-up as to who would have won a Goddard/de Havilland Hold Back Your Man smackdown. They both had It. And How.

Best regards,


La Faustin said...

Dear Siren,

Fred MacMurray plain is one thing – Fred MacMurray adoringly lensed by Mitchell Leisen is quite another, and steamy, kettle of fish, as viewers of Hands Across the Table, Swing High Swing Low, and even Remember the Night can attest.

Why can’t every nice-enough guy have a Leisen to put his charms in high relief? Why, one asks, wondering at the unfairness of it all, couldn’t Ralph Bellamy?

Anonymous said...

I've never gotten over Scaramouche either. And though Ivanhoe is one of my favorite books, I'm always inwardly screaming by the end.

Practically anyone is preferable to Ralph Bellamy. He was born to play the bland, annoying male. ;D

Lauren Bacall and William Powell were quite and amazing couple. I thought she was slightly loopy to not marry him -- it was obvious they'd have gotten along quite well togther!

The Siren said...

La Faustin, I have defended MacMurray before and I enjoy him a lot in a lot of things, but steamy is one adjective I just wouldn't apply, even with Leisen behind the camera. Although Leisen did a lot for him. As for Bellamy, he made a good living not getting the girl...

Emm, bless you, I feel the same way about Ivanhoe. And in the movie Rowena is my own Joan Fontaine, and still, nope. And bless you for seeing my point about Powell and Bacall. I always did think they had more chemistry, and we all know Powell was the perfect husband and Bacall had a thing for older men anyway (which HTMAM references in a in-joke).

gmoke said...

"Walk Don't Run" was a remake of "The More the Merrier." Cary Grant was certainly no Charles Coburn and Jim Hutton was no Joel McCrea. Samantha Eggar, with a touch of vinegar, could have made a passable Jean Arthur substitute but that's another story.

Laura said...

HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE is the first movie where I really sat up and took a good, fresh look at Fred MacMurray and decided there was a whole 'nother side to him I'd never noticed before. There's a late-night love scene scene he has with Carole Lombard in the apartment...definitely steamy in my book. :) Enough so that I started looking for more of his earlier films to see if more of what I saw in him there was hiding in some of his other movies; it was, especially in REMEMBER THE NIGHT and NO TIME FOR LOVE.

Best wishes,

Gloria said...

Hold back the Dawn is one of my favourite films... Yet I think that while Paulette Goddard's sass and chutzpah are winners, one can't easily dismiss Olivia de Havilland's Emmy: There's that line about leaving a tip (when she learns of her deceiving beau's scheme) which reveals that Emmy isn't that dumb and can swallow the pain like a big girl.

As for Bellamjavascript:void(0)y and the like, it seems that ladies in old films knew how to choose!

The Siren said...

Gmoke: "Cary Grant was certainly no Charles Coburn..."
Since Karen isn't here to say it, I'll say it for her: "THANK GOD!"

Laura, that is a very romantic scene. I don't know, what I get off MacMurray when he is working well as a romantic lead is charm, not steam. And in the one film where he does project sex, Double Indemnity, it's of a sleazy kind that I relish but don't cotton to myself.

Gloria, I love de Havilland's character but there's something about Paulette in that movie. Hell, every movie. You look at her in the bad ones even (and she made a few) and you still totally get how she snared the men she did. And she preferred intellectuals, too, and said so more than once, which should gladden the hearts of a number of my male readers.

Patrick Wahl said...

Wasn't Cary Grant getting pretty long in the tooth by the time of Walk, Don't Run?

I'll give you one - Laurence Harvey preferring Simone Signoret over whoever it was in Room at the Top.

And a sort of ethically dubious one, which is part of what made the movie great - Anna preferring Harry Lime to Joseph Cotten.

And finally, if I may venture into totally different terrain - what the heck is Harry Potter doing preferring Ginny Weasley over Emma Watson, err, Hermione. Destroys the credibility of that particular slice of the Potter movies. (I mean, not that I've noticed whether or not Emma is really attractive, I'm speculating on how someone that age might view her.)

The Siren said...

Charles, do you mean it the other way round with Room at the Top? Because the no-name Harvey winds up marrying does NOT seem the sexy choice over Signoret, at least not to me! Anna also makes the sexier choice in The Third Man, but as you point out, a child murderer has other issues one might think would intrude on one's romantic perceptions.

As for Harry Potter, I will use this occasion to confess: I once tried to watch a Harry Potter movie. On a plane, because I'd finished my book. And sweet Saint Francis of Assisi there are no words for how bored I was. I don't remember which one it was. I just remember that I finally switched it off and read the in-flight magazine. THAT'S how bored I was.

Kevyn Knox said...

Great befuddlement to most of these I agree, (c'mon, Keeler was cute, but Blondell???) but I would still pick Judy over just about anyone - so there!!

Raquel Stecher said...

This is excellent! I hope it's a regular feature on your blog (that is if you get more advice inquiries). I never put much thought as to why that man in a movie wanted woman #1 instead of woman #2. In real life, men have such strange and varied tastes that I just guessed it was a reflection of that but on screen. Everyone has that x-factor that attracts a certain someone.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

Not that I've ever seen it, but ... I believe the example Kael used to use of this kind of mistaken choosing was Melina Mercouri opting for Anthony Perkins rather than Raf Vallone in "Phaedra."

Vanwall said...

I always felt certain designated relationship losers, like Steve Cochran, or David Brian, would be much more interesting paired with the designated throw-away girls like Goddard or Signoret. Cochran did end up with Ruth Roman once, and even Ann Sheridan, it would've been interesting to see more of that for him.

Fred MacMurray seemed best for my tastes in roles that actually had a bit of the heel in them, or at least a hard edge, and a director who could bring that out. Didn't even take much, he had the same hard lived-in facial cues that Bogie and Gabin had; in a little western, "Face of a Fugitive", he's the older, enigmatic sex object, surprisingly, and does pretty good at it, too.

Bellamy had his moments, tho, right up to the end - he stole every scene he was in, in his final role in "Pretty Woman" - the only performance worth appreciating in that one.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

@Vanwall I take it that, when you mention David Brian, you're referring to "Beyond the Forest" and the choice between Brian and Joseph Cotten? For me, the point of that choice was that *anyone* who promised to take Rosa Moline out of her dreary life was attractive to her. Even David Brian.

Vanwall said...

MrsHenryWindleVale - That would be one of the many kicked-to-the-curb Brian roles, altho he tossed Bette under the bus first; he usually does the dyin', tho - geez, that was loopy kind of film if ever was. He had a kind of onscreen menace that can't be acquired, it made him a good bad boy, tho, and an enigmatic good one.

"Ramrod" is another gal conundrum film, but at least the title alone promised much, which it delivered in spades.

Patrick Wahl said...

It was literally 30 years ago that I made a stab at watching Room at the Top. All I remember is thinking the boss's daughter was cute, Simone seemed old to me - what's the dilemma? It's a win/win situation for Harvey. I might view it differently now.

I liked the Third Man resolution I think because it is making an interesting statement. You want people to make a moral choice, it's pretty clear cut in this movie, but that isn't always the way it works. She chooses the more exciting, dynamic, forceful Harry Lime over safe and decent Holly Martins. The triumph of a more basic instinct over a conscious evaluation of things I guess. (thinking back on The Third Man, also a few years since I've seen it, I think I'm simplifying a few things to get to my point, but I think it is valid)

D Cairns said...

I guess the reason there are far fewer cases of women choosing the boring guy is simple sexism: male characters were not defined as good/bad based on sexual virtue, so "bad boys" generally got the girl, and maybe got reformed.

What makes Hold Back the Dawn work for me is that Paulette is actually BAD, as in mean, as she plots against Boyer. But Wilder and Brackett had the smarts to realize she was still likable in spite of that, so she wins a happy ending despite being completely amoral.

Wilder: "If she's not a whore, she's a bore." Meaning, he couldn't be bothered with censorious prescriptions about how virtuous heroines were supposed to be.

I like Ralph Bellamy, but I guess there's something inescapably non-sexual about him.

Good to hear all the love for Leisen, somebody whose critical standing seems on an unstoppable upwards swing.

Sondermann said...

When it comes to love triangles I think more screen writers should follow Wilder's "How would Lubitsch do it" method:
The best solution probably is the one proposed in "Design for Living".
If that solution shouldn't be viable one could always try (as a sort of second best) the approach chosen in "The Smiling Lieutenant".

As to the original question - for me the puzzling aspect isn't so much the fact that Boyer chooses de Havilland over Goddard. What I find troubling is that any of those two would choose Boyer....

The Siren said...

But David, but but...Goddard's been HURT. "Well, I AM a tramp, and I AM in love with him!" A woman scorned has gotta do *something.* Anyhow, whatta movie. My favorite Leisen. And Wilder's script is genius. I love that quote from him, it's new to me. And yeah, now that you mention it, it probably is simple sexism. A bad man can always go good; a woman, not so much.

Sonderman, you cut me to the quick. The Siren is a Boyer fan from way back, but not everyone gets him. Otto Friedrich in City of Nets disses Boyer in a big way too. And of course we all know how Wilder felt about him. Still, Madame de...! And he's great in Hold Back the Dawn.

The Siren said...

Kevyn, I can't agree on The Harvey Girls, but I love a man who loves Judy, all the same. I had a friend who saw The Clock a while back and had really worked himself into knots over how Robert Walker didn't deserve her. Didn't agree there either, but it sure was endearing.

Mrs HWV, Phaedra is one of those legendary bad films that we all plan to see one day, just to see if it's really all they say.

Raquelle, this was the first such request I'd ever gotten and I was so charmed I had to answer on the blog. I don't know if I'll get many more, as studio movies are not that mysterious for the most part, but one never knows, do one.

The Siren said...

Charles, Signoret aged hard and fast; "I got old the way women who aren't actresses get old," she once said. But she's still a big ol' dose of heat to me in Room at the Top. I agree with all you say about The Third Man. Harry Lime had such potent charm that he became the (anti)hero of a radio series after the movie. I haven't listened but I presume they sort of jettisoned the whole penicillin thing, and I have no idea how they handled his being, well, dead.

Sondermann said...

"Sonderman, you cut me to the quick. The Siren is a Boyer fan from way back, but not everyone gets him. Otto Friedrich in City of Nets disses Boyer in a big way too. And of course we all know how Wilder felt about him. Still, Madame de...! And he's great in Hold Back the Dawn."

No cutting intended. I quite liked Boyer in "Cluny Brown" and (cast slightly against type - before he had one) in Lang's Liliom. And he certainly doesn't belong in the category of actors I actively dislike - like George Raft for example.
And speaking of Raft: when it comes to Wilder's opinion about actors - remember, he wanted George Raft for the role of Walter Neff...

The Siren said...

Oh, Boyer gave so many great performances. In Love Affair he's better than Grant was later in the same role. Love him in History Is Made at Night, All This and Heaven Too, Gaslight, The Happy Time (which I saw at Karen's urging, and it's a pip), and he's the main reason to see Barefoot in the Park. And that voice, my god it was luscious.

Peter Nellhaus said...

This reminds me of the time when a friend expressed disbelief that George Segal would choose Glenda Jackson over Hildegard Neil in A Touch of Class. By the way, Segal played a role that was originally intended for Mr. Grant.

Not quite Ralph Bellamy, but you do have Vera Miles choosing the less rugged James Stewart over John Wayne in The Man who Shot Liberty Valance.

Arthur S. said...

Ralph Bellamy is really sexy in PICTURE SNATCHER, it's a pre-code Cagney movie and he punches more women in this film than Cagney did in his career.

The way Ralph Bellamy is tortured in HIS GIRL FRIDAY is the height of humiliation and the fact that Cary Grant includes that self-reflexive line about Ralph Bellamy makes it an attack on his career rather than his character.

In Raoul Walsh's HIGH SIERRA you have Bogart's character pine, almost imitation-of-Chaplin to restore a girl her legs in this film. She's played by Joan Leslie meanwhile he rejects the advances of Ida Lupino. In the end, he realizes that the Leslie character used him terribly while Lupino loves him deeply. Walsh also made one of the most wonderful films about romantic rejection in THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE where James Cagney's working class "dentist" pines for society gal Rita Hayworth(playing the title role) only to appreciate DeHavilland's love in good time. The tone Walsh takes is much more generous and without sanctimony or moralism which is odd because people always say he's a macho film-maker.

cgeye said...

I think Mr. Bellamy's hotter in his earlier work -- he did a movie with Miss Stanwyck -- FORBIDDEN, that let *him* be the fast, corrupt newsman -- and because he was meaner, he was looser -- and that made him teh sexxay....

I think it was his fuller lips I remembered -- when he was the thin second banana, he held back, but earlier on those lips were generous and sensuous. I guess it all comes down to typecasting -- he chose to fit a mold, then chafed when that mold became his only definition, until he was old enough to be a devious character actor and steals scenes as he wished.

D Cairns said...

GUNSHOT. "That was the shot that killed Harry Lime. He died in a sewer beneath Vienna, as those of you know who saw the movie The Third Man. Yes, that was the end of Harry Lime ... but it was not the beginning. Harry Lime had many lives ... and I can recount all of them. How do I know? Very simple. Because my name is Harry Lime."

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I love this. I hope you get many requests from devoted followers seeking enlightenment. And I feel really bad for poor Ralph Bellamy.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Ralph Bellamy finally got his own back for being dumped by leading lady after leading lady when he joined forces with Satan in Rosemary's Baby.

Nice as Ralph is, face it people -- we'd ALL choose Cary Grant.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Boyer was cooking with gas right up to the last. He's overwhelming in Resnais and Sondheim's Stavisky. . and Minnelli's maudit -- A Matter of Time where he's reunited with Ingrid Bergman

DavidEhrenstein said...

Fred MacMurray is truly a case of still waters running deep. That's why Wilder knew precisely what he was doing when he cast him in both Double Indemnity AND The Apartment.

There was a dark side beneath his "Hail Fellow Well Met" veneer -- and it's clearly on view in Leisen's great Swing High Swing Low (which was in turn a major influence on Marty's New York New York)

Exiled in NJ said...

When it comes to plain folks, Celia Johnson choosing the boring Cyril Raymond over Trevor Howard.

Jane Austen should be the person to handle queries like this.

The Siren said...

I love that this has turned into something of a Ralph Bellamy Appreciation thread. And David E. is too right about Rosemary's Baby; bet he relished the hell out of that one. I am ambivalent about Trading Places but Bellamy and Ameche tear it up and just obliterate the two leads whenever they're on screen. Clearly I need to see some of his pre-Codes, as Arthur and cgeye point out.

I should also add in here that in Hands Across the Table, which I love in case it isn't obvious from the post, Ralph to me is very appealing, with a nice dry wit and some good interplay with Lombard. She could probably strike sparks off a damp sponge, but she had something going with Bellamy. What's particularly interesting is that his character is in a wheelchair and yet he's allowed to have an openly (for the era) sexual interest in Lombard. So while I was making a joke at MacMurray's expense, Hands is one movie where Bellamy constitutes a viable option. In His Girl Friday he's there to be dumped. But god is he funny, and he gets so little credit for it. "Well, we can take the five o'clock train if it will save a man's life." "The young lady seemed to have a fainting spell..."

Arthur, I thought about Strawberry Blonde but its inclusion was ruled out on the grounds that Cagney chooses wisely in the end. He learns that smoulder sometimes comes in prim packages, and outward smoulder is sometimes just a smokescreen for an ice-cold nature. God I love that movie. And High Sierra, same thing, although THANK YOU for reminding me of how much I love the treatment of Joan Leslie in that movie. She's no huge favorite of mine but she's perfect there.

The Siren said...

Exiled, I am beyond delighted to see you again. Alas I am not Jane Austen but I do my poor best. I was hoping to see you in the Ivy thread--thought the mysterious Miss Smith might draw you out. Welcome back.

David C., I take it that's the intro! There's one of those post ideas that never gets written. How did such a remarkably amoral, indeed rather Nazi-like character take on such allure for the audience that he tilts the whole movie? Is it Welles alone?

Peter, Man Who Shot Liberty Valance--yes, you completely got me there. And I do love Stewart. Jim Wolcott also has me at his place by bringing up The Hucksters, where Clark Gable going for Deborah Kerr over Ava Gardner is difficult even for this Kerr-worshipper to justify.

Dan Callahan said...

If I remember correctly, "Hold Back The Dawn" has a wonderful scene where Boyer sees de Havilland in the morning (in the back of a car?) with her hair down and looking all mussed and sexy, and he suddenly realizes what he has.

"Hold Back" would make a great double bill with "The Strawberry Blonde," where Livvy is also the Woman to Build Your Life With, just as sexy but more substantial than the insecure Rita and Paulette.

I seem to remember Deborah Kerr bringing a strange kind of quiet sexuality to "The Hucksters," whereas Ava is very stilted and inhibited. In 1946, in this movie at least, I can still see picking Kerr over Ava. In 1956, no.

I've always been haunted by that close-up of Bellamy in "The Awful Truth" as he lustfully looks at Dixie Belle's wind-machine act. It really is one of the most alarming shots in movies. It reveals what's behind Bellamy's bland exterior...a kinky sex machine! Whereas Grant is a dream date, and such fun out on the town, but he's probably going to poison your milk.

I guess the moral here is that we have to look beyond the surface, sometimes.

Gloria said...

Another "Hold Back the Dawn" De Havilland moment is when she takes a dip in the Pacific: the little schoolteacher from Azusa becomes a mermaid jumping the waves in the roaring ocean.

Boyer cannot do anything but finally surrender and drop his "ailing shoulder" charade.

Arthur S. said...

David C., How did such a remarkably amoral, indeed rather Nazi-like character take on such allure for the audience that he tilts the whole movie? Is it Welles alone?

Well that's one of those instances on how horrible characters are rendered into cult figures through pure casting. Jonathan Rosenbaum writes that when Welles played a terrible villain like in TOUCH OF EVIL he made him as ugly and menacing as possible and still somehow you wound up having great feeling for that character but certainly without forgetting what he's done.

Likewise, In MR. ARKADIN(a spin-off of the radio plays), the Harry Lime character isn't the title character played by Welles, it's the very uncouth Guy Van Stratten. Welles in his movies never made villainy attractive.

You can see something similar with Hannibal Lekter who as played by Anthony Hopkins is really seductive and now with the new Tarantino movie where the main Nazi guy has become really popular.

Kent Jones said...

Siren, within or without HOLD BACK THE DAWN, if had a choice between Olivia de Havilland and Paulette Goddard, I'd take Olivia every time. "She has for a long time been one of the prettiest women in movies," wrote James Agee in 1946. I concur. I presume that in this unfavorable comparison, she is cast in the buttoned-down prim girl role with Goddard as her hot, uninhibited opposite number. That seems too limiting. I will admit, though, that when I think of de Havilland, it's always another performance that springs to mind: the wife in THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE. Those close-ups in that movie get me every time, and there's a wealth of longing, physical and emotional, in every move. However, returning to HOLD BACK THE DAWN, I have no problem whatsoever with Boyer's choice.

In the "why did he/she choose him/her instead of her/him" department, I will cite ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS. I share the opinion that Jean Arthur is as wildly miscast in that movie as she is perfectly cast in the Capras or THE WHOLE TOWN'S TALKING. Not that Grant should have run away with Rita Hayworth instead - they both seem pretty dim. But life with the supposedly fun-loving Bonnie seems like a nightmare.

Vanwall said...

de Havilland was a very layered actress, and most of her roles seemed to require the rather facile outer layer that the Studios wanted her for - "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte" and most especially "The Dark Mirror" brought out her real abilities to portray a kind of dangerous sexuality, something she didn't get to do very often, altho her looks alone could sell many a gesture or glance. And I'm sorry, in "The Heiress", it was impossible to mistake her for plain, the suspension of disbelief failed in that one for me. I can see a guy taking her over Goddard, but frankly, never a pale and vapid Janet Leigh - ice maiden - over ELEANOR PARKER!!! - Technicolor's flaming Masterpiece!!! - it just doesn't parse. That's the real great H'wood mystery that conflicts me.

It's hard to beat the scripts when you're pegged down as the good girl, and de Havilland did quite well to show the attraction of purity, and indeed, even the sexually alluring person that lurked underneath the same, but it was really in her edgier work that she truly got to me. Hell, in "The Dark Mirror", Lew Ayres has to choose which Olivia, that woulda been tough.

Brian Cox from "Manhunter" will always be Hannibal Lecktor for me, sorry - he is unapproachable in that film, which as a twisted example of choice, Peterson's Will Graham takes sanity - the Leigh/de Havilland/Bellamy choice - over Lecktor's darker, sexier uber-Goddard/Gardner/Welles-ian offerings. A Code-approved ending? Hmmm.

Welles made Hank Quinlan a deeper character in "Touch of Evil", but it took Marlene Dietrich's Tana to sell it for me, at the end of the film.

DavidEhrenstein said...

"He was some kind of man. What does it matter what you say about people?"

Vanwall said...

M Ehrenstein, I can't read that line without hearing that tinkly, signature cantina song of Tana's in my head.

Yojimboen said...

Moi aussi M VW.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

I'm a part of the pro-Paulette camp, myself, and yet I *can* understand choosing Emmy over Anita. Audience expectations notwithstanding ... there's also the stability factor. Given a choice between a dancer (Anita) who once had a career in Europe and a teacher (Emmy) who has a respectable job and a whole community, just about, backing her up, don't you think that there's a practical argument or two for choosing the latter?

DavidEhrenstein said...

I'm torn cause I love Olivia AND Paulette -- but obviously for very different reasons.

panavia999 said...

Classic joke: a man is courting three women and cannot decide which one to marry. He gives each one $1000 to see how she spends the money. The first woman spent all the money on wardrobe and cosmetics. The second woman spent half the money on herself and put the rest in a savings account. The third woman put all the money in savings. Which woman did the man marry? The one with the biggest tits.

Tonio Kruger said...

Well, of course, Ralph Bellamy never got the girl. What sane woman would have him after he gave my beloved Ginger a black eye?

Prior to that, though, he was the most sympathetic male character in Hands Across the Table. I agree with the Siren.

And publicly admitting an inability to appreciate a Harry Potter movie? I admire your chutzpah, Siren. I haven't been too crazy about the last few entries in that series myself but up to now, mine has seemed like a minority opinion.

As for Ms. Goddard, I must confess that the one thing which always made me a big Paulette Goddard fan wasn't just her scenes in Modern Times, a movie in which she was admittedly very appealing, but her scenes in George Cukor's The Women, a movie in which she literally stole the film from the other cast members the minute she showed up--and never gave it back till she left. Of course, I'm aware that that might be a minority opinion as well. But it's okay. I'm used to being in the minority.

gmoke said...

The tinkly cantina piano music in "Touch of Evil" is by Henry Mancini and is extremely memorable.

taci said...

Coming kind of late to thread but, when we discuss choosing plain guys: what was Ingrid thinking in Casablanca? Bogie is so much more interesting than Paul Henreid, though I must admit, she was undecided most of the time (as were screenplay writers). But she improved in Notorious and chose Grant over Reins (no beautiful friendship here), even though Reins is much more interesting than Henreid (which also got Bette the same year in Now, Voyager, with Reins just offering his sympathetic advice – does Reins ever get a girl, must see more of his movies!). And, also, being another obvious choice (perhaps that’s why nobody mentioned it), what was Vivian thinking; Leslie over Clark (shakes her head in wonderment and bafflement).

Arthur S. said...

My favourite Paulette Goddard performance is Jean Renoir's really neglected DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID, vastly superior and far weirder than the version Luis Bunuel made later on.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I agree with you about Paulette in The Women, Tonio. Some actresses can play knowingness. She was genuinely knowing.

Renoir saw that in her too.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Paulette was quite amusing in her later years when her chief walker was

(wait for it)

Andy Warhol.

Andy found her utterly delightful and would dutifully report every amusing thing she said.

The Siren said...

Kent, I share your love for Olivia, believe me, and The Strawberry Blonde was a standing joke around here for a while because it had such love from the commenters and every thread seemed to land on it somehow. Olivia knocks Rita into a cocked paper hat in that one. I hadn't thought about this much, but it's another Walsh movie where he demonstrates a mind-boggling control of tone and ability to shift gears within a movie, comedy to romance to violence to melancholy and back again. Rather like The Man I Love.

(ASIDE: Hey, anybody seen the original of The Strawberry Blonde, One Sunday Afternoon, with Gary Cooper and Fay Wray?)

I love Hold Back the Dawn--really, WHY isn't it on DVD? any kind of DVD?--and don't really have a personal problem with Boyer's choosing Olivia, it's just that my ultimate sympathies tend to lie with the underdog.

As for Only Angels Have Wings, I tend to agree with you, but I could not in good conscience list Jean Arthur as a bad choice. For one thing, Tonio would kill me.

The Siren said...

Vanwall, I would also cite My Cousin Rachel as an example of a rare movie that brought out Olivia's dark side. I haven't seen it since I was a teen, but it has a warm glow in my memory, and I was swooning for Richard Burton in it.

Re: Touch of Evil - a bit surprised no one is mentioning Joseph Calleia. He's the one who really breaks my heart in that movie.

Steve Paradis said...

"Donna Reed over Lana Turner in Green Dolphin Street"

Gee, ask any man that question. It's not just a matter of high vs. low maintainence, it's surface allure vs. an underlying warmth that runs to heat in no time.
Compare Turner done to the 39's in anything to Reed on Bataan in "They Were Expendable"--ten thousand guys can't be wrong.

The Siren said...

Yojimboen, I am having trouble with your email; please drop me a line when you've a chance!

David E. and Mrs HWV, I'm torn too. Like I said, I give Paulette the edge but Boyer's choice doesn't flummox me the way Scaramouche does.

Panavia, tsk tsk. But cute. :)

Tonio, The Women is where I fell in love with Paulette! Absolutely agree, she walks off with the movie. Also, I didn't realize that admitting to hating Harry Potter was controversial, but I Gotta Be Me. I know I'm not alone. One working critic confessed to me that he considered Harry Potter to be his greatest cross to bear. I didn't like the first book either. I know I will have to get used to them though, as my kids approach the Potter age.

The Siren said...

Dan C., I see your point about Ava, and furthermore in The Hucksters she was saddled with a really ghastly hairstyle. The late 1940s were a dark, dark time for the hair of American women. Still, I have to reiterate, Ava. Kerr was cool and lovely but...Ava.

Taci, I wouldn't choose Henreid over Bogie, but I'm not one of those who finds him sexless, not at all; to me he's quite debonair and appealing, and in Casablanca I can see Bergman's attraction because it's his heroism she's looking at, too.

Arthur, completely agree on the Renoir Diary of a Chambermaid, and Paulette in it. Another one whose unavailability puzzles the living hell out of me. I saw it years ago at a revival house and thought it was splendid. (Another Renoir I await in vain: Woman on the Beach, which I seem to like better than most people and which has a really, really good performance from Joan Bennett.)

The Siren said...

David E., one more piece of love for Paulette; several of my friends at NYU got scholarships from the fund she established. Also, in Anita Loos' "A Girl Like I," she tells of how she remarked to Paulette one night that despite their friendship, Anita didn't have a picture of Paulette. The next day a messenger arrived--with a full-size Diego Rivera portrait of Goddard. I love that Goddard story for its combination of cheerful self-love and big generosity.

Kevin Deany said...

My nomination for head scratching preferences is in LADY ON A TRAIN, where Deanna Durbin picks blander than bland David Bruce over the very likeable and quirky Dan Duryea. Oh, and Ralph Bellamy is in that one too, though not for any romantic considerations.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Woman on the Beach is a quite wonderful maudit. It wentthough a lot of reshoots and never really satisfied Renoir or the studo.ut Jacques Rivette swears by it, and you can easily see its influence on his moodier efforts, especially L'Histoire de Marie et Julien.

Bonus Points: I first saw it at MOMA and Joan Bennett was in audience. I well recall going down in the elevator with her and trying depserately to eavesdrop on whatever in hell she was saying to her companion that afternoon.

Arthur S. said...

Renoir's American work is generally underrated except for The Southerner, This Land is Mine! and even The Woman on the Beach, as little known as they are they are known in so far as people are aware that Jean Renoir made movies in America.

It was initially to be produced by Val Lewton(whose RKO horror films Renoir admired) but he fell ill before production and then the film faced problems with previews and Renoir had to make cuts. He later said that it was more like a German Expressionist movie than anything but it's a very powerful film and a very clear influence on SHUTTER ISLAND.

DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID might be my favourite.

Arthur S. said...

One scene in THE WOMAN ON THE BEACH might be my all-time favourite cigarette scene. I might not describe it well but it's a scene where Ryan hears conflicting facts about Joan Bennett's character and then sees that she's eavesdropped and nonchalantly lights a cigarette and daringly looks to him. In that moment, she attains the height of coolness.

I have long been a member of the Joan Bennett fan club right from her comic turn in Raoul Walsh's ME AND MY GAL(still in her natural blonde and working-class) and then in her 'La belle dame sans merci' phase of the 40s of which her performance in the Renoir is more complex and self-conscious. And then her best performance in what is paradoxically her most conservative incarnation(as housewife) in Ophuls' ''THE RECKLESS MOMENT'' which typed her in the 50s in Minnelli's ''Father of the Bride'' and Sirk's ''There's Always Tomorrow''(I like the film but I find the characterization of Bennett a very cruel parody of her work in Ophuls). It's common for actors to be typecast but to be typed three times and each different than the last is an impressive career.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Well she sure as hell wasn't ty[ecast in her swan song, Suspiria

Juanita's Journal said...

There's one that will stump the Siren to her dying day, however. In Walk Don't Run, the remake of The More the Merrier, Samantha Eggar picks Jim Hutton over a never-in-the-running Cary Grant. That flaming chunk of crazy was part of what made Grant decide being a cosmetics executive was a much better deal.

Actually, Eggar chose Jim Hutton over John Standing, which is understandable. And Jim Hutton had a charm of his own.

Ladybug said...

Way back, someone mentioned Ivanhoe. For me the great love of the film version was De Bois-Guilbert's love for Rebecca. Okay, he was a villain, but still his love (and not just lust) trumps Ivanhoe's for Rowena and Rebecca's for Ivanhoe.

And choosing younger men over older men doesn't work for me either. I'll never understand why Bardot chose Trintignant over Jürgens in Et Dieu Créa la Femme.

Eurappeal said...

I've never been able to enjoy How To Marry A Millionaire because of Lauren Bacall not marrying William Powell. He's charming and rich, and he's Nick Charles! I also couldn't help thinking that Bacall had a good marriage with the much older Bogart and Powell had a good marriage with the much younger Diana Lewis.

I've never had trouble understanding why Ilsa loved Victor. He's noble, brave, handsome, and speaks with a sexy accent. I adore Paul Henreid.

My love for Paulette Goddard comes from my love for Charlie Chaplin. She was such a good influence on him while their relationship lasted. I too think she's a standout in The Women, which is saying a lot.

Gloria said...

"I love Hold Back the Dawn--really, WHY isn't it on DVD? any kind of DVD?"

It's available in Zone 2... A film-only release, but pretty decent on average

DavidEhrenstein said...

Ilsa loved Victor because he represented something larger than herslef -- The Resistance. Rick knew that and that's why he convinces her she HAS to go with him -- thus producing one of the greatest last scenes in the history of the cinema, ade all the more effective by the fact that our hero doesn't get the girl.

"We'll always have Paris." And so will we.

hamletta said...

One distaff choice that has always boggled me: Kitty Foyle.

Yes, James Craig is noble, but he's not the toothsome hunk he was in later films, and what a sanctimonious bore he is.

I'd be all over South America, and all over Dennis Morgan!

The Siren said...

Kevin, it's always so weird when an unusual movie keeps coming up--David C. just wrote up Lady on a Train at Shadowplay. Need to see it.

David E. and Arthur S., I agree on Renoir's American films, I think they're all great. Woman on the Beach has a weird chopped-up quality to it that reflects the way it was made but I still thought it was the business.

Juanita, I did say Cary was never in the running--but you see, he *should* have been. Grant at 61 years old is still the choice, now and forever.

The Siren said...

Nora, how interesting; you're right, it's the sexier relationship in Ivanhoe. This thread is full of all sorts of inadvertent revelations about one's personal tastes, isn't it?

Steve, I don't know, Reed is just so wholesome to me. Although I hear you on high vs low maintenance, at least on screen. Apparently in real life Lana's problem was consistently choosing domineering snakes.

Eurappeal, did you ever read Sydney Chaplin's description of meeting Goddard? He adored her too. She just seems to have been such a bewitching woman. And I agree on Victor in Casablanca, also with David E. -- it's the whole cause she loves, and it adds immeasurably to the movie's romance.

The Siren said...

Gloria, you are right, and you've told me that before! But I want a reeeeal DVD treatment for this one (she whined). Jeez, the movie deserves it. Look at all this love from all these people with impeccable taste.

Hamletta, Kitty Foyle, excellent example! I completely agree, Morgan was the way to go.

VP81955 said...

Why can’t every nice-enough guy have a Leisen to put his charms in high relief? Why, one asks, wondering at the unfairness of it all, couldn’t Ralph Bellamy?

Bellamy may never have got the girl, but he more than made up for it by rescuing us from the Depression and helping defeat the Axis (as president-to-be Franklin D. Roosevelt in "Sunrise At Campobello").

mndean said...

(ASIDE: Hey, anybody seen the original of The Strawberry Blonde, One Sunday Afternoon, with Gary Cooper and Fay Wray?)

Mais oui! The plot is much the same but the film is considerably darker as Coop is obsessively bent on revenge. His choice is no choice really, since Fay barely tolerated Coop when he lost her to oily Neil Hamilton and took second best.

The Siren said...

VP, it's been years since I saw Sunrise at Campobello! I don't remember poor Ralph that well but I'm sure being president was consolation.

Mndean, nice to see you again. One Sunday Afternoon seems also to be at Warner Archive so I should check it out. Coop didn't do dark all that often.

Quirky Character said...

Yeah, the choices are sometimes extremely hard/impossible to make. For instance, I would not have been able to make a choice if I were Loretta Young in "Rachel and the Stranger," it's probably the toughest for me, as I equally adore both William Holden and Robert Mitchum. It would have been impossible for me to make a choice between their characters, either.

Other impossible choices just off the top pf my head:
=Gary Cooper or Dana Andrews in "Ball of Fire";
=Tyrone Power or Dana Andrews in "Crash Dive"?
=Humphrey Bogart or Paul Henreid in "Casablanca"?
=Van Heflin or Kirk Douglas in "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers"?
=Tyrone Power or George Sanders in "Lloyd's of London"?
=Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart in "The Philadelphia Story"?
=Cary Grant or Robert Mitchum in "The Grass Is Greener"?

Tough, ain't it?

Ray Davis said...

75 comments and no one mentioned Ralph Bellamy's triumph over Louis Hayward in Dance, Girl, Dance? That movie's happy ending is almost unique in that the heroine chooses career over romance. (Of course Bellamy got on the wrong side of that choice in His Girl Friday. As if Cary Grant wasn't competition enough!)

No Time for Love would be my pick for steamy MacMurray -- Leisen's loving shots of his sweating shirtless labor in the tunnel are more convincing beefcake than Victor Mature ever delivered.

Laura said...

I know I'm coming in late to this party, but I just have to point out another befuddling example: Maurince Chevalier a-salivatin' all over Jeannette MacDonald while remaining indifferent to Myrna Loy in LOVE ME TONIGHT. Um, what? Jeannette MacDonald. Over Myrna effing Loy? True, Jeannette's character is portrayed as more stable than Myrna's nympho. But frankly, you'd think at the end of the day most men probably wouldn't have too much of a problem with a nymphomaniac Myrna Loy. I mean, MYRNA LOY!

Juanita's Journal said...

There's one that will stump the Siren to her dying day, however. In Walk Don't Run, the remake of The More the Merrier, Samantha Eggar picks Jim Hutton over a never-in-the-running Cary Grant. That flaming chunk of crazy was part of what made Grant decide being a cosmetics executive was a much better deal.

Since Cary Grant was in the running . . . why worry about it? Besides, didn't Eggar have to choose between Jim Hutton and some British actor?

Unknown said...

Geez, first of all, Siren, I totally respect your championing of the fair Olivia. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Olivia had and STILL has a luminous, organic, REAL beauty that has seemed to have gotten missed by everyday, casual filmgoers. They seem to be looking for the contrived, overly-processed, Hollywood-made glamour of the Classic-era pinups.
Not saying these women weren't attractive in their own rights, but why not give Livvie her due? Perc Westmore, famous make-up artist, apparently stated that of all the actresses he worked with, Olivia was the most naturally beautiful.
And yes, Paulette Goddard was truly lovely and gorgeous herself.
So, enough already!

Vidor said...

My goodness, I know why Charles Boyer might pick Olivia de Havilland in "Hold Back the Dawn": because Emmy is fabulously good-looking. Just because de Havilland almost always played the wholesome types doesn't mean she wasn't gorgeous and alluring. Just watch that scene where Emmy lets her hair down and spreads blankets in the back of the school bus in preparation for sex. Goodness. You could go further into that movie and observe that George pretty obviously wants something different in his life and has grown out of the gigolo/gold-digging lifestyle, which Goddard's character is still cheerfully enjoying right at the end. But really, Emmy being fantastically beautiful probably played a part as well.

Ditto "Scaramouche"--I have never even seen that movie but sight unseen I'll tell you a good reason to pick Janet Leigh: because she was one of the sexiest women to ever live. "Green Dolphin Street"--well Lana Turner vs. Donna Reed is a classic Betty and Veronica dilemma, but it's not like Donna Reed wasn't alluring; see her as a hooker in "From Here to Eternity".

Judy Garland over Angela Lansbury--actually I'll agree with that one, Angela Lansbury was amazing. I've never been a huge Judy Garland fan, just never really felt she was that compelling as an actress or a performer when she wasn't singing.