Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving with Loretta, Bing and the Gang

Fall is by far the Siren's favorite season. As soon as the temperature drops, her energy goes into overdrive and her family is confronted by the spectacle of the Siren, once so listless in the heat of the summer, standing in front of the pantry proclaiming, "I know! Let's alphabetize the spice rack!" From October to December is the best part of the year, as far as the Siren is concerned.

And Thanksgiving is the Siren's favorite holiday, elegant in its simplicity, devoid of anxieties like presents and whether you should put colored or white lights on the Christmas tree--although, for the record, the correct answer is colored. Anyway. Thanksgiving. You get together with people you love, and you eat. A lot. And the prospect of this happy event always makes the Siren philosophical. She walks around the house pulling unwatched DVDs off the shelf and instead of thinking, "Oh criminy, I haven't seen anything," she thinks, "Oh criminy, I haven't seen anything. Isn't that marvelous? Look at all these unwatched entries in the filmography of Hedy Lamarr, just out there waiting for me. Hey Mom! Whatcha doing? Let's watch Experiment Perilous!"

So the Siren thinks back over this year's moviegoing and reflects that in her view, a certain generosity of spirit is by far the most rewarding way to approach film. There will always be names in the credits that make the Siren's heart tingle with joy, and others that cause her to mutter something along the lines of, "All right, Gina Lollobrigida, get it right this time." The great philosopher Wile E. Coyote once said, "Even a genius can have an off day." The flip side of that is, as another great philosopher once said, "Every movie is another chance." Maybe the Siren has seen twenty movies in which Buddy Ebsen irritated the ever-loving hell out of her. (Technically, that's more like ten movies, but hear a Siren out.) Who's to say that number twenty-one won't be the time when she finally says, "Well played, Jed Clampett!"

It could happen. In fact, it has happened. Well, not with Buddy Ebsen, but with others. Three years ago the Siren, in a puckish spirit, put up a list of actors who usually fail to charm her. But now that the Siren has alphabetized her spice rack and rearranged her scarf drawer and she is feeling all cozy and right-with-the-world-ish, she finds herself moved to recall that making a film is incredibly goddamn difficult. It is, and always has been, miraculous that great ones get made. It is miraculous that good ones get made. The Siren is thankful for that, and thankful to those who do good work, even in mediocre films.

The spirit of Thanksgiving, says the Siren, is the spirit of being happy with what you've got. Turkeys are nonrefundable. And not all of those actors served up turkey every time, far from it. So, in celebration of the Siren's favorite holiday, she offers an amended list of amends to 11 of the 20 actors she once griped about. Ebsen, Red Skelton, Dan Dailey, David Wayne, Dolores Del Rio, Betty Hutton, Helen Hayes, Maureen O'Sullivan, Ruby Keeler, even (though this last is a faint, forlorn hope) Sonja Henie, who knows--the Siren hasn't seen their every movie, and better things may await.

1. Bing Crosby. Kim Morgan's wonderful post on him, and The Futurist's enthusiasm for the Road movies, make the Siren realize she was too way hard on Der Bingle. He was a lot, lot more than Father O'Malley. The Road movies are, in fact, some kind of genius, at times as weirdly surreal and funny in their way as the Marx Brothers, if bereft of the Marxes' full-on insanity. And while Bob Hope is most of what the Siren loves about the Road movies, they don't work without the very Bing Crosby "phoniness" that the Siren was bellyaching about. Furthermore, the Siren loves White Christmas.

2. Pat O'Brien. The Siren liked him a lot in several things she didn't mention, including Bombshell and Virtue.

3. Robert Taylor. Rewatched bits of Party Girl, Undercurrent and High Wall; saw him in Conspirator. Asexual Taylor was not, at least not at his best, and as the man also said, it's by our best work that we all hope to be judged.

4. Richard Conte. The Siren was thinking mostly of I'll Cry Tomorrow and Whirlpool when she listed him, although she did acknowledge his terrifying work in The Big Combo. But Conte was also good in New York Confidential and marvelous in The Godfather. Not a particularly versatile actor, but since when did that matter to the Siren, if the performances within the range were good?

5. Ronald Reagan. The Siren should have emphasized how very much she does like him in Dark Victory and King's Row.

6. Glenn Ford. Made a great villain in 3:10 to Yuma. Should have played more heavies, thinks the Siren.

7. Peter Lawford. The Siren loves the way Cluny Brown plays with his layabout image, and gets immense pleasure from his final line in Easter Parade: "Nadine, get out all the hounds. We're going for a walk."

8. Jeanette Macdonald. She really is swell in those Lubitsch musicals.

9. Gina Lollobrigida. Love her in Come September, one of those Mad Men-era confections that the Siren can't resist.

10. June Allyson. Yes, the Siren said JUNE ALLYSON, and it's Trish's fault. Trish reminded the Siren about Executive Suite. All right, the Siren isn't crazy about Allyson in Executive Suite, but she does not ruin the movie. And the movie is good. And the Siren is still trying to see The Shrike.

11. Last, but most certainly not least, the woman who inspired this entire post: Loretta Young. Gretchen, the Siren Done You Wrong. First off, was any other actress so utterly hobbled by the advent of the Production Code? There's Young, keeping unwed house for Spencer Tracy's ghastly character in Man's Castle, and committing adultery with no less a wolf than Warren William in Employees' Entrance. And she's fresh and natural and unaffected and sexy and when she's on screen you are perfectly happy to have her stick around as long she wants. Next thing you know, it's 1937 and she's in Cafe Metropole and what the Siren mostly thinks about Young in that movie is "Siddown, you're blocking my view of Tyrone Power." Still, even Loretta's later career was unfairly treated by the Siren. Cause for Alarm! is an extremely tidy, suspenseful domestic noir and Young's later buttoned-up, tightly controlled manner works perfectly for the suburban character. As indeed it does in The Stranger. The Siren caught Young last year in Wife, Husband and Friend which was fun--it won't stir the lumps out of your gravy or anything, but a very diverting comedy. And, as the Siren remarked at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, if the Siren absolutely has to watch a nun movie, Come to the Stable is pretty cute. Hand on heart, the Siren is going to be much kinder about Young in the future.

Wait a minute…"Hey Mom! Whatcha doin'? Do you realize neither one of us has ever seen Zoo in Budapest?"

Happy Thanksgiving. May all your turkey be on the table, and not on the screen.


Karen said...

I'm pleased you've come around to pre-Code Loretta Young. And to Road-movie Bing. And Glenn Ford, whom I confess I've always rather liked.

But..but...JUNE ALLYSON?? Oh, SIREN!!

Richard said...

No apology to Betty Hutton, I see. Good! Just saw her in an Astaire movie where she bulldozed the man himself, before the startled eyes of myself and spouse. Indeed Miracle/Morgans is the exception that proves the rule. As for Skelton, no surrender, even if Tex Avery thought he was funny.

The Siren said...

June Allyson in EXECUTIVE SUITE, okay? The Siren is feeling generous, not clinically insane. :)

The Siren said...

Richard, I did say before that I loved her in Miracle of Morgan's Creek, but so far that remains my sole concession to Betty.

Peter Lenihan said...

I saw Tennessee's Partner for the first time this year--it's an exceptional film, probably one of Dwan's best, and was really shocked at how great Reagan was in it.

Not sure what's wrong with Father O'Malley, or rather not sure what's wrong with the Father O'Malley of The Bells of St. Mary's (Really dig Bing's & Bergman's chemistry).

D Cairns said...

This snippet of a skinny, teenage Betty Hutton gives me a sugar rush of hysteria.


Pre-code Loretta is a whole 'nother animal from her post-nun incarnation. It might not be due to the later strictures, maybe she was just young enough to suggest dangerous innocence...

rudyfan1926 said...

Holiday Inn with Bing (even with the unfortunate Lincoln blackface number, a rare miss for Irving Berlin) and a rather caddish (and delightful) Fred Astaire.

Pre-Code Loretta can be wonderful. I can't resist mentioning The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, Don Ameche is so infectious, you get all the Young sisters (with six you get eggroll) gowned gorgeously and Bobs Watson and Gene Lockhart reduce me to tears every single time. I'm a total sucker for The Bishop's Wife. Of course Cary Grant has a whole helluva lot to do with that.

The Siren said...

Peter, I like Bell's for Ingrid but Bing, no, and Going My Way makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it. Would love to see Tennessee Partner though.

David, I don't know it is with Hutton but I feel like she's going to throttle me unless I pay attention to her. With Young, I think it was the whole shift into less modern casting that she got after the Code. Not coincidental, because the studios themselves starting doing more historical movies and somehow they decided that because Loretta looked great in any kind of a dress ever made, that meant you'd buy her in The Crusades.

Rudy, I mentioned Alexander Graham Bell in my previous list; she's sweet in it and as biopics of the era go, it's a very entertaining one. One of several classic movies that treat the deaf with dignity.

Shamus said...

To echo Miss Green, pleased about Man's Castle Loretta Young and... and Jeanette MacDonald: even Borzage could do it for her but ah, Lubitsch managed it, didn't he? And One Hour With You has probably her best (and sexiest) performance in that cycle. (Also I have a great *hem* weakness for Genevieve Tobin. With Chevalier in the middle. All in all, as wonderful a love triangle as Lubitsch-Raphaelson ever created.)

Love the season too, but here we call it, Autumn.

Vanwall said...

Bingle, meh. It's that way. Pat O'Brien was always a fave, he's a master of patter - "Riffraff" from '47 is so much fun because of him.

Robert Taylor had such a curious line delivery forever, like an accountant in chain mail, or gaucho - I still like him in the right film, tho.

Conte was fantastically compelling in "Cry of the City", and I have a soft spot for "Somewhere in the Night", a film full of almost-somebodies and sly, hard case performances by Conte and Hodiak.

Reagan in "The Hasty Heart" - a human being for a little bit, rather than a cardboard cut-out.

Ford and Lawford are kinda slippery to get a handle on - Ford wins by a nosey.

I'm not a big musicla fan, Macdonald escapes my sphere of interest.

Seeing "Trapeze" at an early age, hell, I fell for Gina right then.

Allyson, she has ES, I'll give her that, but otherwise I step around her perfomances.

Loretta Young was a total invention, and she was made for pre-code like nobody else. Liked her dresses on her TV show, tho, which was often interesting.

K. Hepburn, that's my WTF - never could glom onto her performances. Not ready to revisit those crime scenes yet.

Happy Thanksgiving, I'll be sated with turkey and wild-rice stuffing, catch you after the recovery period.

Frank Butterfield said...

Just discovered your blog and I do love it so!!

I also love Executive Suite and June Allyson is one of the reasons. The other three reasons are:

1. Nina Foch, who I first discovered in Tales of the City when she played Franny Halcyon so fabulously (and drank oh-so-many Mai Tai's). I love how she saunters around that executive suite and simply owns it. Plus, who doesn't love those watches on a stick?

2. Shelley Winters. I love the scene when she tells Paul Douglas it's over and then drives off, leaving him in the dust.

3. William Holden's speech at the end. If you don't want to get into the furniture manufacturing business by the time he's done, you just don't have a heart.

And to quote Karen above:

But..but...HELEN HAYES?? Oh, SIREN!! I have one word for you: AIRPORT

The Siren said...

Why thank you Frank, and welcome aboard. She's kinda fun in Airport, and has some lovely moments via John Ford's camera in Arrowsmith, but the one movie where I *adore* Hayes is Anastasia. I could watch that recognition scene over and over. In fact, I have.

Vanwall, you know the Siren loves Kate forever and always but I think even her acolytes admit that they can see what would rub people wrong about Hepburn. In fact, that is a large and perverse part of her appeal.

I don't remember The Hasty Heart very well but I do hear Reagan is quite creditable in it. I also like him in Desperate Journey and Santa Fe Trail. It's after World War II when he largely became borderline un-watchable to me.

Laura said...

What a delightful post, Siren! Your description of approaching Thanksgiving weekend with the joy of unwatched movies made me smile -- just how I feel!

Side note, I saw EXPERIMENT PERILOUS at the Noir City Festival in 2010 and really liked it. Especially on the big screen, it was very visually striking and detailed, and I was impressed with how much emotion Hedy could convey simply with her eyes. An underrated actress. Hope you find it enjoyable.

The first thing I saw Ronald Reagan in, other than KINGS ROW, was VOICE OF THE TURTLE with Eleanor Parker. Due to his political career, his films were difficult to see on TV when I was younger, so watching that film and what he could do on screen was a real eye-opener for me -- he was utterly charming and romantic. (And Parker is delightfully daffy.) Highly recommended.

I'm especially happy that you have enjoyed some films starring two of my faves, Robert Taylor and Loretta Young. Among other films, I definitely bought his clinches with Eleanor Parker in ABOVE AND BEYOND (there have been rumors over the years it wasn't acting...). Loretta was one amazing lady, from the impossibly glamorous star of pre-Codes through hardworking, glamorously gowned TV star.


Best wishes for a very Happy Thanksgiving,

Laura (of Miscellaneous Musings)

Karen said...

I grant your lack of clinical insanity, Siren! I guess I just feel that All right, the Siren isn't crazy about Allyson in Executive Suite, but she does not ruin the movie isn't really enough to take someone off your shit list.

David, thanks for that snippet of Hutton! (I'm still puzzled over why they would put "America's #1 Jitterbug" in a floor-length gown, however.) I first saw Hutton in films when I was very, VERY young--as Tex Guinan, as Annie Oakley, as Pearl White--and her hectic huskiness appealed to 8-year-old Karen. I've been wise enough not to revisit any of those films, so I retain my fondness for her, and her performance as the incredibly-named Truky Kockenlocker (was the Hays Office ON VACATION???) does nothing to cool that warmth.

It's probably good that that's all I watch her in nowadays, though.

I still can't bear Robert Taylor, though.

The Siren said...

Ahem. I beg to differ, Karen. "She does not ruin the movie" -- this is June Allyson we're talking about! It's practically a rave!

Patricia Perry said...

I had not been by your blog in awhile, and had to let you know how much I love this post.

Glad to see that I am not the only one who loves the fall and gets a "supercharge" of energy right around the times the leaves start to turn. I don't know from Spring Cleaning, but Fall Cleaning is an annual event in my house - as of this weekend, there's a lot more room in my closets and a lot of my "gently used" clothing on the racks at the local Goodwill store.

Anyway, I still haven't found the role that would warm me up to Bing Crosby. While researching a post on "The Music Man" recently, I discovered he was Meredith Wilson's original choice to play Harold Hill (shudder of horror) but turned it down (Whew!)

As for Ronald Reagan, I'll second Vanwall's endorsement of his performance in "The Hasty Heart," one of my father's favorite films, and therefore, near and dear to my heart. It was just on TCM a few nights ago in a lineup of Richard Todd films, and I wish I had through to record it.

The Siren said...

Laura, you name not one but two Eleanor Parker movies I haven't seen, and I do love her so. I still have to track down Zoo in Budapest. It shall not elude me forever.

Shamus, house style at my paper is "fall"!

Anonymous said...

Zoo in Budapest is a ravishing, poetic, luminous movie by a much underrated director. It feels very European and the cinematography is stunning. Very unusual film, with an almost fairy-tale like quality. Loretta Young was stunningly gorgeous in her comedies with Tyrone Power. And she's also delightful in the charming western Rachel and the Strangers. June Allyson? Ok, I never got her either... Robert Taylor - he's really good (and beautiful) in Borzage's Three Comrades. And he makes quite an electric pair with Lana Turner in Johnny Eager.

Eurappeal said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Siren. I love lists like this! And watching movies with your mom really struck a chord.

I hate liking Reagan in Dark Victory and Kings Row, but I make myself feel better by thinking he was a Democrat at the time. Still doesn't help much.

I've always liked Glenn Ford because I grew up watching his gunslinger movies on late night TV. His surliness toward Gilda does tick me off, however.

I can't get with Pat O'Brien. It drives me crazy he's in so many good movies with James Cagney, one of my favorites. The best I can say about him is that he doesn't ruin them for me. Cagney is too great for that.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Another vote for pre-code Gretchen and her work with Bill Wellman.

Also enjoyed Betty Hutton as Texas Guinan. Stork Club has its moments.

With the exception of Courtship of Eddie's Father, I prefer the grittier Glenn Ford films. If you have a chance, check out Burt Kennedy's The Money Trap. Good neo-noir with a welcome, brief onscreen reunion with Rita Hayworth.

AK said...

As always, a wonderful article (honestly, just checking out the archive here can keep me smiling for hours)!
Re Loretta, I've always thought that woman was smart--very smart!Anyone tried to scratch her, they'd proably break a nail. She knew how to take care of herself, and how! (and why not? If not for her steely qualities, she might have ended up on the heap of discarded starlets after having been passed around by the directors and executives in Hollywood). I haven't seen a lot of her movies,but even in some of her less-famous roles (Rachel and the Stranger) I just like LOOKING at that face. Nobody does "glow" like Miss Young. But it's her personal life that interests me most. Total enigma...
Don't know much about some of the actors and actresses here, and on the previous list, but Ronald Reagan doesn't do much for me, not because of his politics, just because he seems like--a coworker?
(that's the first thing that popped into my head when I saw his name)
And from your previous post:
"Just you sit through The Sin of Madelon Claudet and tell me if you don't emerge with a new appreciation for Lana Turner in Madame X"
(but then I loves me some Lana)
Wonderful stuff, Siren!

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Great list and I love your observations. There are a few here I could also take or leave. About the only one I still really have trouble with is Betty Hutton. I feel myself become tense whenever she's on screen. Too in-your- face. I think the only time I warmed up to her was when Robert Osborne interviewed her on TCM.

Mr. K said...

I like Ronald Reagan in Don Siegel's version of THE KILLERS. I think his normal "aw, shucks" charm is effectively creepy in his gangster. And I love the way he just kind of shrugs when he realizes how screwed he is at the end.

Shamus said...

Nah, I was joking. It's really the monsoon season :)

Prithee, take pity on a novice: which paper?- New York Times? Village Voice? Wall Street Journal?

And hey, Siegel's The Killers: Reagan is vile, more than a little scary, absolutely loathsome and therefore absolutely perfect. Of course, he came to regret that role later. And I have to say, speaking of remakes, Siegel's version is (slightly) more engaging than Siodmak's: Lee Marvin over Edmond O'Brien? Yeah, I needn't get back to you on that one.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Speaking of Thanksgiving, “Would You Like Some Fresh Sprayed Pepper?”

DavidEhrenstein said...

Ronald Reagan's greatest performance, was also his last.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Peter Lawford gives the greatest line reading of all-rim, IMO ("They sure are blue") in the grand finale of my favorite musical

DavidEhrenstein said...

As ofr Jeanette i'm over the moon about her. She doesn't get nearly enough credit for her infectious sense of humor and deliciously "ladylike" sexiness.

Moreover bseides Lubitsch there was
Rouben Mamoulain. You'll find her at the close of this impossibly great production number

Trish said...

Okay, okay... I'm responsible for the Siren giving thanks for the otherwise irritating June Allyson. Here I mostly object to the lack of chemistry between June and William Holden. And as a thespian, she's not fit to polish his shoes, although I'm sure the standard 50s wife she always plays would be eager to do so...

And speaking of irritating blondes, I've never seen The Miracle of Morgan's Creek because I've already seen The Greatest Show on Earth and (shudder!) Annie Get Your Gun. And that is already far too much Betty Hutton.

Love, love, love every single, corny minute of White Christmas, especially Vera Ellen.

Glad to see Richard Conte on this list. He is magnificent in A Walk in the Sun.

Laura said...

Robert Taylor's always been a big smiling blank to me. Even at his most charming, which I think was in Waterloo Bridge, he came off too squeaky clean to be believable. And as I said about him in the comments of my blog post about Waterloo, he was one of many factors that absolutely ruined Ivanhoe for me.

As for Young, I've said it once, and I'll say it again: she peaked at age fourteen in Laugh Clown Laugh. Well, not really, but I can't help remembering something Virginia Field once said (speaking of Waterloo Bridge): "She was, and is, the only actress I really dislike. She was sickeningly sweet, a pure phony. Her two faces sent me home angry and crying several times."

I certainly haven't seen as many Young movies as the Siren or her commentators, but I feel like I can see Young's growing manufactured charm and poise in stills taken of her throughout her career. Whereas she was radiantly gorgeous and youthful in '20s/'30s movies like Laugh Clown Laugh, Call of the Wild, and Platinum Blonde, around the '40s her face seemed somehow stiffer, the bright smile too hard and forced. That quality really turned me off throughout The Stranger. Though thankfully, that was mostly Orson and Edward's show, anyhow.

Great post! The Siren and I share a lot of cinematic ambivalence, which is something I can be thankful for this Turkey Day.

Shamus said...

I love the Mamoulian film, David, but Jeanette's ah apogee comes in those bedroom sequences with Chevalier in One Hour. Please (for God's sake) note that they are not twin beds. And this is not pre-code, y'know?

Take it as evidence if you will that it was emphatically Lubitsch who made the film (whose signature is practically stamped on almost every frame) and not Cukor (whose static staging gives him away in that one "confrontation" scene between Chevalier and Roland Young: but that is all). When Cukor got another chance at matrimony, he made the dismal Adam's Rib.

Not twin beds. What a revelation!

DavidEhrenstein said...

Shame on you Shamus! I don't find Adam's Rib "dismal" in the slightest!
Cukor juggles the contrasting styles of Hepburn, Holiday,Tracy, and Ewell with aplomb. And that's not to mention Jean Hagen (MGM's most-neglected great actress) and david Wayne as Hepburn's coded-gay pal. (Mr. Cukor makes sure to emphasize that his character's "date" at a party is a sceamingly obious "beard.")

Plus there's Cole Porter's "Farewell Amanda" -- whcih he adapted from a song he wrote to sing to close pals called "So Long Samoa." A number of years back in the pre-Evilslimeletch era of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art I introduced a screening of Adam's Rib and sang "So Long Samoa" a capella to apreciative applause.

DavidEhrenstein said...

As for Betty Hutton. . .

Shamus said...

(Quite unashamed) What I meant is that the movie is cripplingly cute and decidedly unromantic: Cukor even had better lead actors than Lubitsch but... (And wasn't Wayne on the Siren's previous list: and he didn't appear here, so ha!).

Let me not supply any further epithets: it's not a bad film but considering the great line of films that preceded it (add The Thin Man films to the list: the first two) it's a disappointment. Also, I have this pronounced anti-Cukor bias (something that will get me lynched one of these days).

Evangeline Holland said...

Ronald Reagan -- You must see him "The Voice of the Turtle". He and my #2 actress (Jean Arthur is my #1) Eleanor Parker are so adorable and sexy in that film!

You won't hear any complaints from me about Robert Taylor, though I did like him as a villan in "Undercurrent." Otherwise he is painfully unfunny and unsexy and uncharming.

I love Loretta Young, but yes, she was so good in the Pre-Code era. Those big eyes do some naughty things.

Pinko Punko said...

Gina L in "Beat the Devil" I think she's great.

X. Trapnel said...

Shamus, you are not alone. I loathe Adam's Rib, the first nail in the coffin of romantic comedy, a decisive turn from comedy to sitcom generally, the point at which Cukor ceases to be a director of any interest, and finally the spectacle of Hepburn warming up for Stanley Kramer.

I refuse to believe that Cole Porter actually wrote Farewell Amanda. I think he farmed it out to Wendell Corey and June Allyson.

However, since the theme of this post is generosity and forgiveness, I will confess that WC (heh) is not absolutely awful or freakish in the few stretches of No Sad Songs For Me I was able to endure. A friend assures me that S.A. Brugh is quite good in The Law and Jake Wade through much of which he is taunted and humiliated by Richard Widmark, an idea I find very satisfactory.

Casey said...

Interesting how some of these actors provoke wildly different reactions in people. Here are a few comments on what I've read so far....

Though he got some really boring roles, Pat O'Brien could be really good. Check out The Last Hurrah if you don't believe me.

Somebody mentioned Hedy Lamarr, and she is underrated. She was stuck in some awful roles, but if you want to see what she could do, watch Edgar Ulmer's The Strange Woman.

Siren, you mentioned that you like Reagan in Santa Fe Trail, and I have to say I hate him in that movie. Though, to be honest, I hate Reagan in just about everything. A few people have mentioned The Killers. A friend of mine tells me that at the Whiskey back in the seventies, they used to project his death scene in between bands every so often. The scene always got cheered by the crowd.

Trish said...

Yes, Siren, Glenn Ford was excellent as a bad guy in 3:10 to Yuma.

Robert Taylor is an oddity. There he is adrift in the 1950s, performing woodenly through a series of costume epics, and Party Girl. Yet because he comes off as being so old-fashioned, I find him oddly endearing.

X. Trapnel said...

Trish, it's the crankiness, the black triangle of hair begining to discompose itself in spidery strands, exiled as it is from MGM paradise into a world it never made.

Michael Dempsey said...

I find Robert Taylor unfailingly riveting in several later-career roles that allow him to release a saturnine side to his temperament that wasn't apparent during his years as a trite matinee-idol.

In different ways, such movies as "Devil's Doorway", "The Last Hunt", "The Law and Jake Wade", and "Party Girl" all demonstrate his alert, forceful deployment of this welcome tone.

Nicholas Ray himself paid tribute to the Method-actor-like dedication that Taylor brought to "Party Girl", which was reportedly MGM's contractual kiss-off to both him and Cyd Charisse. Maybe this behind-the-scenes circumstance helped the two of them to generate the remarkably touching love relationship that so enriches this picture.

And let's not forget how poetically lovely, in both appearance and spirit, that the very young Loretta Young is opposite Lon Chaney in the silent "Laugh, Clown, Laugh".

Aubyn said...

Since a few people have already mentioned Voice of the Turtle, I can't pass up the opportunity to link to a clip of Warner Brothers bloopers, in which Eve Arden and Ronald Reagan accidentally proposition each other. Twice. At 3:23 and 6:38.

I really do like Reagan in Kings Row. And since the Siren included Bob Cummings in that still, I'll throw in a bit of Thanksgiving mercy for him too and say that I think he's perfectly cast in Dial M for Murder.

Let me think, who are my Thanksgiving turkeys? I guess I'll pass along a good word for Wendell Corey; I think he's perfect in Rear Window. Robert Young usually leaves me cold, but I got a real kick out of him in Secret Agent, as a suave villain who leaves John Gielgud in the dust. I really do like Glenn Ford in Gilda. And I've been a little rough on Vera Miles in the past (although not on this site, I think), but I recently saw her in an Outer Limits episode where she did a brilliant job as the icy femme fatale. Takes the Signoret role from Diabolique and nails it.

Shamus said...

Thank you, XT: feel somewhat safer now. Cukor... I dunno, I just don't get him at all (apologies to David).

On the other hand, I haven't seen Gaslight yet and I'm looking forward to that.

Shamus said...

And Wendell Corey! How come he's not on the Siren's list?

X. Trapnel said...


You'll probably "like" Gaslight. I "do".

In The Killer is Loose (in which he may be savoured in drag) Wendell Corey plays a blank, cold, nondescript psychotic. He is superb; being rather than merely acting.

Shamus said...

Huh? Why the quotation marks, XT?

No, I agree with Rachel: Corey is Lt. Doyle in Rear Window, a loser ogling pretty gymnasts and his friends' girls and thinking about his wife. And possibly taking notes from Lars Thorwald.

But I'll look around for that Boetticher film all the same (he's one of my favorite directors).

R.K. Gist said...

So much to comment on--and I usually don't, but . . . the pre-code Loretta is so on, that I have trouble reconciling with her later rather priggish saintly roles--but I have always liked "The Stranger" and "Rachel and the Stranger." And you are so right about Hetty Button--I love the Preston Sturges but often she will make you want to bang your head into the wall.

Now Jume Allyson--well as a kid I kind of developed a crush on her from repeated viewings of "The Stratton Story" and "Two Girls and a Sailor." But I kind of know what you mean . . .

Glenn Ford, now that entirely depends on the role, I can really like him, as in "3:10 to Yuma", "The Sheepman" or "The Big Heat" or think he ruins/really harms something like "Human Desire", Mann's "Cimmaron" or Minelli's "Four Horsemen."

I've never really had a problem with Ronnie as an actor--"Desperate Journey" is a favorite guilty pleasure and he is really quite good in "Kings Row" (much better than Robert Cummings--with whom I really have trouble.)and "The Hasty Heart." Plus he is quite the amoral A-hole in Don Siegel's "The Killers." Essentially he is a poor man's Bill Holden.

Der Bingle--well my Mom loved Bing, so I developed a sort of love too--especially for the "Road" pictures and the early snappy Bing--I really want to see "Mississippi" again . . .

Pat O'Brien--well, he certainly could do the patter well and I liked him lots in "Some Like It Hot" and "The Last Hurrah",but I often found him rather dull. "The Front Page" really needed Lee Tracy. Then again I love "The Torrid Zone"--but maybe that's Cagney and Sheridan.

Robert Taylor is one actor I really have problems with. He always gives an earnest, professional performance, but often there seems to no substance. I recently re-watched "The Law and Jake Wade" and all I could think of was how Richard Widmark totally blew away Taylor. A Holden, Mitchum, Ryan or even Ford would have held their own.

Anyway . . . I have rambled quite enough, but I do like Richard Conte, I grew up with Red and can't help but love him and will always wonder what Buddy would have been like as the "Tin Man"

Thanks . . . and your blog is terrific.

Shamus said...

Manny Farber on Westward the Women:

"A hundred woman and Robert Taylor. This is a western?"

Pithy. No more than Taylor deserved.

gmoke said...

Red Skelton worked with Lord Buckley before he got into the movies so there is that. Although, if I remember correctly, he may have left Buckley in the lurch when he shifted to higher ground.

Gary Giddins makes a case for Mr Crosby as a singer in _Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams_, which I haven't read but remember the reviews. Giddins, a jazz critic whom I have always enjoyed, says that Bing may have been the first hipster. He certainly learned a lot from and appreciated Louis Armstrong. Evidently, there were friends which is not insignificant in the days before integration.

Crosby's singing style was a real breakthrough and can still sound fresh lo these many years on (I especially like his version of Harold Arlen's "Out of This World," an exquisite song that he introduced in the Eddie Bracken film of the same name - in which he dubs Bracken's singing voice, the gimmick of the movie).

Can't find Bing's version but here is Ella's:

It's a little too bouncy for me but Ella's perfect voice more than makes up for it.

G said...

In terms of really enjoying an actor you previously didn't like...

While I had found him not too bad in supporting parts, I had always felt Van Johnson negatively affected any film where he played a leading man.

But a few years ago I stumbled across a movie called "Go For Broke" on TV where Johnson stars as the (initially reluctant) leader of a Japanese American regiment who despite bigotry within the US military go on to become heroes in WWII.

I'm not going to say Johnson was GREAT - but he was perfectly fine and did not even come close to ruining the film.

It's too bad Go For Broke is not better known, its quite a gem of a WWII movie in many ways.

It's funny you mention Zoo In Budapest. I have been wanting to see this ever since I read a glowing capsule review of it in one of Pauline Kael's books - but I don't think its ever been available on tape/DVD nor have I heard of any revival houses showing it.

G said...

As for comments about Robert Taylor.

I enjoyed his prettiness in his earliest movies (like "Camille") but when he matured and began playing tough guys I lost interest.

EXCEPT I do have a really soft spot in my heart for Westward the Women - and I actually think Taylor is pretty good in it.

As for Loretta Young - it seems like many actresses of that era became increasingly mannered - which strikes me as having less to do with the 'code' than aging out of playing ingenues and having to 'brand' themselves in a new way. Some did this well, like Myrna Loy, but I'd argue at some point the 'light' went out of Barbara Stanwyck's acting and she became increasingly hard to take.

Shamus said...

Reading G's comment on Barbara Stanwyck...


(expletives to follow)

Shamus said...

A dangerous thread if there ever was one; one minute we kicking around Wendell Corey and June Allyson and the next minute, it's Barbara Stanwyck and William Powell. Christ, I'd hate to see G's next targets: Danielle Darrieux, Margaret Sullavan and freakin' Lubitsch, most likely. Probably kicks puppies too.

Karen said...

Oh, Rachel, that blooper reel!

The Arden-Reagan propositions are good, but for my money it's the Ann Sheridan-Errol Flynn segments, with her calling him a schmuck and him remarking on how she handles a cigar like a monkey handles a coconut.

VP81955 said...

And speaking of irritating blondes, I've never seen "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" because I've already seen "The Greatest Show on Earth" and (shudder!) "Annie Get Your Gun." And that is already far too much Betty Hutton.

You're only hurting yourself by missing "Morgan's Creek." It's not really a Hutton film, though she obviously plays a big part in it, but an Eddie Bracken film. And when he worked with Preston Sturges, the results were wonderful.

Gary Giddins makes a case for Mr Crosby as a singer in "Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams," which I haven't read but remember the reviews. Giddins, a jazz critic whom I have always enjoyed, says that Bing may have been the first hipster. He certainly learned a lot from and appreciated Louis Armstrong. Evidently, there were friends which is not insignificant in the days before integration.

The early '30s Bing was as splendid as the pre-Code Loretta; there was such a freshness to his approach, a genuine appreciation for jazz and black music. (Listen to Crosby perform "Dinah" with the Mills Brothers, or sing "St. Louis Blues with Duke Ellington's orchestra -- both are among the most incredible recordings of the early '30s. And Bing's "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" is without a doubt the definitive version of that Depression anthem, with a conviction from Crosby that remains astounding.) Bing was so popular in the black community at the time that he not only had white imitators of his style, but black ones; one of them, Harlan Lattimore, was among those honored by other night by Rich Conaty on his magnificent program of '20s and '30s music, "The Big Broadcast" on WFUV-FM.

Unfortunately, like Doris Day, Bing is now remembered more as an actor than a singer, even though neither would have had an acting career without their vocal talents (there are very few cases of careers going in the other direction; the first that comes to mind is Julie London, and she eventually returned to acting without singing). But Bing, Doris and Frank Sinatra all had plenty of good moments on screen.

Let's not also forget how youthful the pre-Code Loretta was -- at the time it was enforced by Joseph Breen and his lackeys in mid-1934, Young was all of 21 1/2, and her characters had already been put through the mill. But these days, actresses of that age are playing teenage witches or cheerleaders.

As for June Allyson, I can imagine that the day she entered heaven, she was confronted by a giant apparition of Carole Lombard, who looked down on her, hands on hips, and shouted, "A 'My Man Godfrey' remake? What were you thinking?"

Karen said...

VP--and, right after Lombard said her piece, Norma Shearer flounced over and said, "The Women remake? Were you on drugs?"

And then Joan Crawford slapped her.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Junie gets no respect in here. Ah well.

As for Robert Taylor he's at his very best opposite Garbo in Camille, directed by a man who's starting to get as mcuh respect in here as Junie.

Wednell Corey is teriffic in Rear Window but he's at his absolutely best in Desert Fury (1947) where he plays a gay gangster fighting with Lizabethe Scott over John Hodiak. Lewis Allen (The Uninvited) directed froma script Robert Rossen adapted from a "Saturday Evening Post" serial. I wrote about it at considerable length for "Film Comment." You can find my piece in the antohegy "Film Comment: Fory Years -- A Selection (University of California Press.)

Wishing everybody a Happy Thnaksgiving and hope you all go see Marty's Hugo -- which is a masterpiece.

The Siren said...

Oh my. The rule in the Siren's comments section is, NEVER GO TO BED...all kinds of lovely people show up. And now I have to skedaddle to work and am too pressed with pre-feast prep to write out responses to all. But I read and love every comment and am always so pleased when a new person or a once-in-a-while person de-lurks to contribute. As indeed I am pleased when all the cocktail-party regulars show up.

I like Robert Taylor very much in The Last Hunt AND Westward the Women, the latter being a way-underrated late-career effort from the great Wellman. There's a harrowing scene of hauling covered wagons via rope, and when I saw Meek's Cutoff last year I wondered if Kelly Reichart knew the Wellman, or it was a happy coincidence.

As for Cukor, he gets oodles of respect from the Siren and always has. A brilliant director who brings out the closet auteurist in me, since I tend to like even lesser efforts like Let's Make Love. As a corrective I am going to link to my own post about What Price Hollywood? which has a great deal of love for Cukor. There.

Vanwall and XT will be coming around with the 1928 Krug and we'll be breaking the stems at midnight a la One Way Passage so drink up and make merry.

Aubyn said...

G, since you mentioned Van Johnson, I'll take the opportunity to plug for 23 Paces to Baker Street, a nifty little mystery with Johnson as the blind detective. It's funny. Van Johnson and Robert Taylor both seem like the epitome of the MGM contract men, cheerfully taking what the studio hands out to them. Except that Taylor could tend to be insincere and oily at times while I always find Johnson likable, even when he's bad. Although what he's doing in The End of the Affair is a question best left to blitzed-out-of-their-minds casting directors.

Karen, I agree. You just know that a tape of Sheridan and Flynn kidding around on set was better than whatever nuthouse costume drama they were making. And your and VP's imaginings of June Allyson's afterlife make me giggle. Truly there's a similar fate awaiting Ted Turner.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I get to doubting my judgement when I run across super-fans of actors I dislikes. Then the Siren comes along reassures my hatred of Betty Hutton. Watching Annie Get Your Gun nearly killed me last year. How I endured it as a child is beyond my ken.

But, Dear Siren, you must see The Voice of the Turtle. It is perfection. And it's easy to find on YouTube if TCM isn't playing it in the near future.

Shamus said...

A brilliant director who brings out the closet auteurist in me...

Good one. Although frankly Cukor is not gay as he is made out to be: Wilder is far queerer. And H'wood had plenty of great gay directors; including the greatest: FW Murnau. Among the queerest of the Greatest is probably Bresson: his male creatures wander about with a hungrily erotic look to them- Cukor never achieved anything remotely close.

But then, I don't find Cukor to be much of an auteur either.

(Reason I'm comparing Wilder and Bresson is that they apparently had to find work as gigolos at a certain point in their lives.)

Well, now that you mention it, bed does sound like a good idea.

VP81955 said...

Karen, I agree. You just know that a tape of Sheridan and Flynn kidding around on set was better than whatever nuthouse costume drama they were making. And your and VP's imaginings of June Allyson's afterlife make me giggle. Truly there's a similar fate awaiting Ted Turner.

Ted's work on behalf of film preservation, and classic film in general, has more than absolved him in the afterlife: http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/438472.html

DavidEhrenstein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DavidEhrenstein said...

Shamus you obviously haven't seen Sylvia Scarlett< Our Betters or Justine. Mr. Cukor is TONS gayer than Almodovar.

Bresson is of course a major influence on the writings of my dear friend Dennis Cooper (whose latest novel, "The Marbled Swarm" is a hommage to Pierre Clementi that everyone in her must read)
According to Anne Wiazemsky in her superlative memoir "Jeune Fille" the man who selected her to be chielf "model" in Au Hasard Balathazar was the biggest Gallic perv since Henri de Montherlant.

Shamus said...

No, I haven't seen Sylvia Scarlett, although I have a copy close by. But this is still Cukor we're talking about, right?

And very odd that you mention Montherlant: I'm reading The Girls right now. As a companion to Laclos' Liaisons dangereuses.

Vanwall said...

Actually, Robert Taylor for me is like my ability to handle John Wayne films - they both need a bit of the bastard in their roles to make me watch.

I believe all the rope-hauling of Prairie Schooners goes back to Raoul Walsh's "The Big Trail", which pretty much defined the wagon trail genre forever - I was a bit amazed as a kid seeing the the sheer size of everything connected with the film.

Van Johnson I have no real problems with, 'workmanlike' could be his description, but then you watch "Battleground", and he leaps off the screen as a human being - few actors would've played a cowardly moment as well as he did, and redeem his character so well.

Wendell Corey is often a sign the film is going to be pretty damn good, maybe in spite of him, but he played the whipped dog, ordinary second banana just about as well as anyone ever, which is kinda extraordinary.

Hutton really is mental overkill, isn't she?

Ah, the '28 K, a good stem-breaker.

Karen said...

Well, now I'm trying to figure out which costume drama Flynn and Sheridan were in for that 1946 blooper reel.

IMDb has them in Dodge City in 1938, which seems far removed from 1946, but they're not in another historical film until 1948's Silver River, which was filmed in mid-1947. But in the second clip, Sheridan refers to Flynn as "Mr McComb," which is his character in Silver River, so clearly the year "1946" was a flexible concept.

Incidentally, I'll add my encouragement, Siren, for watching The Voice of the Turtle; it really is a sweet little film and Reagan is perfectly palatable. Plus: Eve Arden!! It has Kent Smith, too, whom I can usually take only in very small doses, but happily his dose is fairly small here, so go for it.

Aubyn said...

Ah, Vincent, I didn't know half that about Ted Turner (this is what I get for not doing my research before I slap somebody). You're right, he's absolved himself big time. Thanks.

I still haven't seen Voice of the Turtle but from what I can tell, Eve Arden plays a flirtatious man-eater in it. 'Nuff said. Surely there were men back in the 40s who wouldn't have minded being enslaved by Ms. Arden.

Trish said...

Damn it, I like Wendell Corey in I Walk Alone.

X. Trapnel said...

Van Johnson is either good or bland, not a case of offensiveness (Brugh) or bizzarerie (Corey) like, say, Laurence Harvey who commands both. I think of the Manchurian Candidate less as a political thriller than as an anxious and perplexed inquiry into the LH phenomenon. Of course, he is as superb in it as he is inexplicable elsewhere.

Dunno what '28 Krug is but in such splendiferous company what matter?

DavidEhrenstein said...

Yes we're talking about Cukor, Shamus.

Van Johnson was a huge star for MGm during the war. Most of the time he's blandly competent. Every once in a while slightly better. I was looking at In the Good Old Summertime las week and was surprised to see how good he was.

As for his off-screen life everyone shoudl read "We Have Always Lived in Beverly Hills" by Tracey Keenan Wynn which among other things deals with Van Johnsons's long-running affair with the author's father -- Keenan Wynn.

G said...

My apologies if this goes too far off-topic, but as per my comment about Barbara Stanwyck...

She was great, and is my favorite actress of her generation (well, I really like Jean Harlow too but she died young). Compared to say, Bette Davis, Crawford, Hepburn she had an unmannered chameleon quality - usually she had a down-to-earth warmth but she could also do funny, tough, cynical and even heartless (like Double Indemnity).

At a certain point in the 40's I feel like she became entombed in a sort of hard glamor with never a hair out of place. I'm not saying her acting was BAD but for ME, she
became more mannered like her contemporaries, which I personally found a bit sad.

I wish Stanwyck had gotten a great late-career role like Katheryn Hepburn in "Long Days Journey" where she threw her Hollywood image to the winds.

John Fitzpatrick said...

A curious thing about the mild stage comedy The Voice of the Turtle: it ran for 1,557 performances on Broadway from 1943 to 1948. I think the run set a record in those pre-megamusical days; it still surpasses Dreamgirls, Funny Girl, The Sound of Music, The King and I . . . I'd never heard anybody mention the movie version before, but now I shall have to look for it. Too bad Margaret Sullavan didn't get to repeat her starring role.

X. Trapnel said...

Too bad indeed; at that point Sullavan had turned her (sublime) back on Holywood. No Sad Songs for Me was strictly for money. If I recall correctly she claimed to have signed on for it in a moment of confusion after a bump on her (divine) head from a ladder.

Shamus said...

G, methinks I branded you too soon as puppy-kicker: Stanwyck was typecast, true, but there are still some wonderful gems she made in the 50s: There's Always Tomorrow, for instance. Her most touching performance and (most sublime.)

And as XT pointed out, K. Hepburn ended up playing in St. Kramer movies: Stanwyck with Siodmak, Fuller, Mann, Sirk and Fritz Lang, didn't do too badly, I think.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

(My apologies if my comment echoes earlier ones. I entered this thing late, and I've done a fair amount of skimming.)

I'm a big fan of Crosby-the-singer; his movie work ... not so much. If I were to pick enjoyable performances, though, I'd pick his work in Walsh's GOING HOLLYWOOD and Seaton's THE COUNTRY GIRL. That latter is with caution, 'cause it's been a while since I've seen it and Seaton movies aren't known for their subtlety.

For Robert Taylor, also not a fave, I'd pick Borzage's THREE COMRADES and LeRoy's JOHNNY EAGER. As to whether that's acting or "being for the camera," I'll decide later.

Splendid piece, in any case. Thank you, and best seasonal wishes.

X. Trapnel said...

My only problem with later Stanwyck are those awful scrollwork hairdos that began to infest late forties films generally(Fontaine in Born to Be Bad), a portent of that strange fifties creature, the Handsome Woman.

Happy Miser said...

This may get me permanent banishment from Never Never Land; but, I've never even seen a Van Johnson, Robert Taylor or Glenn Ford movie. They just don't interest me. Richard Conte:I agree he is great in the Godfather; but, what about House of Strangers? Max Monnetti: period. For Bing Crosby, I recommend Holiday Inn and his hip, droll narration in Disney's Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Karen said...

Happy Miser, you really ought to see The Courtship of Eddie's Father, if only to hear a 9-year-old Ron Howard address Glenn Ford as "my lover-man."

Trish said...

This is off topic, but I wish all my American friends here a very happy Thanksgiving. I hope friends and family, and all the complications of bringing them together is as seamless as possible. And if you're so inclined, have a productive Black Friday as well...

VP81955 said...

As for his off-screen life everyone shoudl read "We Have Always Lived in Beverly Hills" by Tracey Keenan Wynn which among other things deals with Van Johnson's long-running affair with the author's father -- Keenan Wynn.

Well, that puts an entirely new spin on "Easy To Wed," doesn't it? And since that was a remake of "Libeled Lady," it conjures up an image of William Powell and Spencer Tracy doing...(I quickly guzzle down some Bud Light + Clamato Chelada and move to a different subject for my own peace of mind.)

Oh, and a few years after my colossal afterlife Carole let June Allyson have it, she did likewise to Betty Hutton on her heaven entry day for remaking "True Confession" as "Cross My Heart," which, like "Easy To Wed," was made in 1946. (Did studios honestly think they could remake screwball comedies a decade after the originals, even though wartime and its aftermath had completely changed the landscape of the filmgoing audience? A good topic down the road, that.)

Very few postwar screwballs are worthwhile, though I'd have loved to seen 1951's "A Millionaire For Christy" done in 1936 or so, when the writers would have had a better feel for the genre; as it is, Eleanor Parker has wonderful chemistry with Fred MacMurray, and her breathy energy suggests she probably watched many a Lombard film in her youth. Wish she had done more comedies.

Patrick Wahl said...

No no no, you cannot love White Christmas, you can only hate it. It is ok to love Holiday Inn though (well, at least you should like it), that one has a nice sense of humor.

As usual, many things can be resolved by watching a good western. For the tough guy verson of Glenn Ford, here are a few westerns, where I think he was in his element - The Sheepman, The Violent Men, Cowboy, Texas.

X. Trapnel said...

I'm sure the immortal soul of Claudette Colbert will also give June A. a condign drubbing for You Can't Run Away From It.

The afterlife of Meg Ryan I will leave to the imagination of Signore Alighieri who I hope is planning something special.

X. Trapnel said...

Hate White Christmas? But it has "What Can You Do With a General?" "our song" to countless romantic couples.

The Siren said...

No!! White Christmas has Vera-Ellen and Robert Alton's choreography. It does NOT have blackface and it does NOT ask me to buy the patently ludicrous notion that any breathing woman on this green earth would chose Bing over Fred Astaire.

Also, in the proper mood I can defend Danny Kaye, esp. in the Court Jester and The Inpspector General, but I have to go cook now.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's Der Bibgle at his most enchanting -- crooning to the woman J. Edgar told Clyde he wanted to marry, thus inspiring a ruckus recreated in Clint's fascianting, ambitious and already neglected new movie.

DavidEhrenstein said...

From the same film a number I really really love.

mndean said...

Glad to see Jeannette got out of Siren jail at least on a pass. I did like her also in the slapstick McCarey musical Let's Go Native. I never knew she could be so broadly silly.

Red Skelton. Dear me, I can't think of one film where I like him (I can tolerate him in one film because he plays the world's worst comic, a part suited to him), yet I liked him on TV.

Loretta is uneven in my book. I saw Cause For Alarm! years ago and thought she did well there, but I think that most films she's good in are from the precode era, as in The Devil To Pay!, but Myrna Loy is more fun there (and has a great entrance). Conversely, when Loretta married a Nazi in The Stranger, my only thought was that she deserved no better.

Bing was a hell of a singer and I like the precodes of his I've seen, but I can't abide his McCarey films and the Road films are Hope's mostly. I mostly remember him from all those Christmas specials that made me gag when I was a kid.

Trish said...

Here's hoping those celestial creatures Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant are waiting at the pearly gates for Warren Beatty and Annette Bening with a collective "How could you????"

VP81955 said...

Here's hoping those celestial creatures Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant are waiting at the pearly gates for Warren Beatty and Annette Bening with a collective "How could you????"

But they would thus indirectly (at least) be implicating the Almighty Katharine, Goddess Of All She Surveys. Do they have the collective courage to do that?

Trish said...

I'm hoping that the great Katharine is otherwise engaged -- waiting for Cate Blanchett...

The Siren said...

HA! I think that Katharine will probably just give Cate Some Detailed Notes.

When Kate Beckinsale arrives, however--having spent her publicity time for The Aviator complaining that in order to play the World's Most Beautiful Animal, she had to GAIN WEIGHT, the horror--well, let me tell you, after Ava gets through, they'll have to wipe Little Miss I'm-More-Svelte-Than-Gardner off the floor with a wet rag.

VP81955 said...

Jean Harlow will likely have some interesting things to say to Carroll Baker and Carol Lynley, though Ginger Rogers has probably apologized to Jean for playing her mother in the Lynley movie.

Carole probably wanted to give it to Jill Clayburgh for "Gable And Lombard," but she's waiting for the real culprits -- the director and screenwriter, who reduced two fascinating personalities to cardboard and screwed up historical facts. (Gable was not in the military at the time of Lombard's death; in fact, her passing led him to join, a fact that would have added significant poignancy to an otherwise putrid movie.)

Trish said...

Truthfully, Ava doesn't have to say a word to get the message across. Still, I'd love to hear her take a strip off the woefully incompetent Ms. Beckinsale while blowing cigarette smoke into her face.

Gable and Lombard sucks - pardon my french. A shameless cashing in of the 30s nostalgia craze in the 70s.

Now what about W.C. Fields welcoming Rod Steiger...?

DavidEhrenstein said...

It's really hard to do movie legends. Just saw My Week With Marilyn in which Michelle Williams is Beyond Aamazing though she doesn't look at all like Monroe. She does, however understand Monrie's inside. Better than the film's writer and director in fact.

Easy to Wed was first Libelled Lady and was scripted by Maurine Watkins whose most famous cotnribution to all mankind remains Chicago.

She also wrote Professional Sweethearts for Ginger Rodgers.

Maurine was the Queen of Cool, before she "got religion" in her later years, electing to "repent" for all the good sh had done us. . .And all that jazz

DavidEhrenstein said...

I thought Cate Blanchett made a good Kate Hepburn.

But she was even better as Bob Dylan.

Yojimboen said...

A small contribution today (turkey takes a back seat to last minute packing for the move):

The Three Faces of Saint Loretta:

Wound a little tighter than usual.

Winning Joan Collins lookalike contest.

Looking for the first and only time IMO, remotely MILF-able (horrid usage, I admit, but accurate).

And as a bonus,
The whole sordid story.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Where ya movin' Yojim?

Yojimboen said...

Check your e-mail, David.

Karen said...

If we're talking Heavenly Retribution, I imagine Audrey Hepburn is drumming her fingers, just waiting to get her hands on Jennifer Love Hewitt.

X. Trapnel said...

Now, I've nothing particularly against Lee Remick, and Haywire was at least an honorable effort (as against You've Got Nerve, uh, Mail), but Remick's earnest mimicry is as ash in the radiant heat shield of Sullavanian divinity (move over, Beatrice). As Klara Novak might put it, they are on different planets.

Trish said...

Call me nosey, Yojimboen. But where are you moving to? ;)

DavidEhrenstein said...

I'm over the moon about Lee Remick. Her debut as the baton-twirling object of Andy Griffith's desire in A Face in the Crowd is still astonishing. And then there's her Broadway career, particularly in Sondheim's legendary cult flop Anyone Can Whistle. She does a teriffic job in Follies in Concert , which is out on DVD, bringing down the house with "Could I Leave You?" and "The Story of Lucy and Jessie."

She also did a lot of really goo TV. Not just Haywire but my all-time fave Nutcracker. Apparently it's available from Warner Bro.s home video. Get it and be gobsmacked.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Off-topic (butr very much film-related): Latest FaBlog: Marble Cake

DavidEhrenstein said...

Saw a very good pre-code Loretta on Fox cable movies this moring Born to be Bad (Not to be confused with Raised To Be Rotten) Directed by Lowell Sherman and co-starring Cary Grant, it's one of those sacrificing mother sags. But this time Mom's a grifter and she teaches her son to be one too.

X. Trapnel said...

I would rather have seen Margaret S. played by Blythe Danner, a splendid and beautiful actress with real Sullavanian qualities, voice included, that Hollywood (70's and after) had no use for.

As per the afterlife, I see Sullavan graciously forgiving Remick while methodically dismantling Katherine Hepburn as though the latter were a poorly made and possibly defective music box that plays "Farewell Amanda."

rcocean said...

Great Point "X". Danner does have a M. Sullavan quality to her.

john_burke100 said...

The script of The Stranger gives Loretta the unenviable duty of saying the line "Surely you don't mean a Carthaginian peace?"

@Pinko Punko: yes, Gina L. in Beat the Devil. "I always keep up my subscription to The Tatler and Country life."

Richard said...

Is there such a word as "unmitigating"? If so, unmitigating circumstances re Loretta Young--she reportedly considered her 1930s films smut, films she was traipsing around in lingerie, compared to the dignity, always dignity, she demonstrated in her tedious later work. David Wayne was a fine Batman villain, the Mad Hatter, scary despite a shocking pink wardrobe. The best word I've heard to describe Glenn Ford is in Halliwell: "dogged." Oddly Mel Gibson, who remade one of Ford's movies, shares that quality exactly.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Isn't ir weird, RvB? Loretta spent all of her later years doing penance for being bright, sexy and fascinating in her earlier years.

I blame Clark Gable and the conequences of co-starring with him in Call of the Wild. It's a wonder their daughter grew up to be sane individual who forgave Mom.

X. Trapnel said...

Latter-day Loretta Y. seems always on the brink of morphing into Carol Burnett.

VP81955 said...

Loretta apparently saw the (cinematic) light before her death in 2000; according to Mick LaSalle in his magnificent pre-Code tome "Complicated Women," in 1998, Young referred to "Midnight Mary" as "one of the best pictures I've ever made." I'm glad she got the opportunity to experience some of the pre-Code revival firsthand; too bad the likes of Constance Bennett and Norma Shearer left us too soon for that.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Off-topic, but. . .

Latest FaBlog: Beyond Our Ken

Karen said...

Oh gosh. RIP, Ken Russell. He always took such chances; they didn't always work, but when they did they were EPIC.

X. Trapnel said...

A Song of Summer (about Delius) is probably the best composer biopic ever.

estienne64 said...

Interesting post, as ever. I'm a little surprised that you bother with some of these, especially amongst the ones you haven't thrown a Thanksgiving amnesty to: in a sense, the fact that the film careers of, say, Wayne, O'Sullivan and Dailey were not all they could have been has already made your point for you. And wooden actors like Taylor and Reagan, or charisma-free girls-next-door like Allyson, are easy enough targets. With me, it's some of Hollywood's true icons I can't be doing with: Spencer Tracy in particular.

The interesting thing about Bing in the Road movies is what an obvious rotter he is, doing the dirty on Bob every chance he gets, and yet he's the romantic lead. He's very curmudgeonly in White Christmas, too.

Re Loretta Young: I haven't seen her in much, though I recall that anecdote from Orson Welles about The Stranger, where he asked Edward G Robinson why he was sulking so much, only to be told that Welles was filming him from his 'bad side'. Young endeared herself to Welles by happily agreeing to be photographed from her own 'bad side' (as if someone with a profile like that could have one).

Mark T Lancaster said...

VP81955 said:
Ted's work on behalf of film preservation, and classic film in general, has more than absolved him in the afterlife.

I could not agree more. TCM is an essential part of my film life. Every week I browse the upcoming schedule and set my DVR to record classic films that aren't available through Netflix. What a treasure! I'd be heartbroken, and I mean that literally, if TCM ever went "off the air".

Karen said...

Estienne--when I introduced my [then-] 12-year-old nephew to the Road movies, he was utterly entranced by Bob Hope (could NOT stop laughing), and told me he thought it was terribly unfair that Hope never got the girl. I tried to explain to him that the crooner will always beat the comic in film romance, but he lodged a heartfelt protest.

Revanchist said...

Conte was a fine actor, and one of the constants in film noir. The first movie that comes to mind is Dassin's lovely "Thieves' Highway" which has a fine Conte performance.

As for Bing, I will unashamedly proclaim my love for him as Father O'Malley. It's this very "phoniness" that makes him believable as the unbelievable Father O'Malley - the negation of a negation, so to speak.
It helps that his co-performers backed him up very well in the two movies - Barry Fitzgerald and Ingrid Bergman