Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Happy New Year!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Fast Company (1938) Melvyn Douglas, Florence Rice. Joel and Garda Sloane, rare book dealers turned husband & wife detectives.
Fast and Loose (1939) Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell. Same characters, another murder mystery; my favorite casting combination of the three-film series, though not my favorite film in the series.
What a Couple: Robert Montgomery & Rosalind Russell in what will likely be the cover to a DVD release of 1939's Fast and Loose.
Fast and Furious (1939) Franchot Tone, Ann Sothern. Here's the favorite! Yet another incarnation of Joel and Garda Sloane. Ann Sothern is incredibly cute--and gorgeous.
Vivacious Lady (1938) James Stewart, Ginger Rogers. A slap-happy good time of a film, with nightclub singer Ginger falling in love with engaged small-town teacher Stewart.
The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936) William Powell, Jean Arthur. A trifle compared to the other 1936 releases that starred William Powell, this husband and (ex)wife detective team movie has always amused me.
Skyscraper Souls (1932) Warren William, Maureen O’Sullivan. Pre-Code naughtiness in a film that would appear to be a commentary on the Empire State Building. Beautiful Deco sets and a delightfully debauched scene with Maureen O’Sullivan being plied with booze.
Johnny Eager (1942) Robert Taylor, Lana Turner, Van Heflin. The film that proved to me that Taylor could act. He plays a gangster who falls in love with the district attorney’s daughter (Turner). Van Heflin won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as Taylor’s alcoholic pal.
World Weary: Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe in 1975's Farewell, My Lovely.
Farewell, My Lovely (1975) Robert Mitchum, Charlotte Rampling. The movie I've been waiting the longest for on DVD. It needs to be done right, unlike the cruddy pan-and-scan edition pictured above. Farewell, My Lovely is also one of my favorite novels of all time. As for the film, I prefer it to the infinitely more famous Chinatown. At least David Shire’s excellent music score is available.
So now it's wait and see time. It'll be interesting to see how many--if any--of these movies will make it to DVD in the coming year.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Whirlpool is not a movie to watch obsessively like other Preminger efforts Laura or Fallen Angel, and the film lacks the swirling imagery of its own theatrical trailer. In fact, Whirlpool cries out for a surreal hypnotism sequence, and it’s disappointing that the scene in the film itself is ineffective. Perhaps Preminger was relying solely on Jose Ferrer's power, because this lesser Otto entry is worth savoring just for Jose Ferrer’s lascivious performance as Korvo, who uses hypnotism to aid his murder plot and frame the lovely Gene Tierney for the deed. Whirlpool was only Jose Ferrer’s second film but he steals the movie from his first appearance onscreen and his absence is keenly felt whenever he’s not seen, as he delivers many of screenwriter Ben Hecht’s best lines:
“A successful marriage is usually based on what a husband and wife don’t know about each other.”
“I hope your new marriage will give you something to live for---if only a divorce.”
“You’re in top form today…almost makes me lonesome for your faded charms.”
I was so impressed with this early Ferrer performance (only his second movie) that I wanted his scheme to succeed! Ferrer makes it easy to like him; his entire performance is hypnotic, with his mellifluous voice pulling Tierney into his murder plot. Ferrer's Korvo is quick witted and charming and his appeal is helped by the fact that the Tierney and Conte characters are complete idiots! Weary flatfoot Charles Bickford is just too…weary…to care. If Whirlpool is to qualify as a Film Noir, it’s Bickford’s police Lieutenant Colton who is the typical Noir character: a tired-out, widower cop who just wants to believe that Tierney’s Ann Sutton is the killer of her husband’s patient, Theresa Randolph (Barbara O’Neil), who Korvo romanced and then bilked for $60,000. You know a movie’s in trouble when the audience cheers for the villain. But who cares? Ferrer is brilliant and makes off with every scene he’s in.
Jose Ferrer was at the cusp of a great career when he made Whirlpool. He had already earned a Best Supporting Actor nod for his film debut, 1948's Joan of Arc. In 1951, Ferrer would go on to win a Best Actor Oscar for his role in Cyrano de Bergerac and receive another nomination in 1953 for his portrayal of artist Talouse- Lau Trec in Moulin Rouge (1952). Ferrer worked steadily during the next few decades, appearing in dozens of TV movies and series like many actors of his era. For those unfamiliar with his work, Whirlpool is a good place to start, even if the film is no masterpiece, Jose Ferrer makes it all worthwhile.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
I’ll Cry Tomorrow- Lillian Roth’s life had its share of tough times and Susan Hayward’s gritty performance would be aided by Alex North’s jazzy, modernistic score, which would help lead Susan's version of Lillian Roth out of the gutter and back into the spotlight. I’ll Cry Tomorrow is occasionally reminiscent of North’s own A Streetcar Named Desire with a smoldering intensity and beautiful pathos on several cuts. Star Susan Hayward sings beautifully on three songs, especially the title tune (lyrics by Johnny Mercer), which is so good I get chills whenever I hear it, especially the way she sings the line, "...who could say to a heart that is full of spring/they've written a blue song/for us to sing." Hayward also performs fine renditions of “The Vagabond King Waltz” and “Happiness is a Thing Called Joe”; a song I never liked until I heard Hayward sing it. North's underscore is moody, with swanky brass and sweeping strings, along with a "childhood waltz" from the character's happier times. Cues like “Ashamed”; “String Chord/Reel Heel”; and “Stood Up/Shattered/Tortured” are the highlights, bringing Roth’s true story to life. North was reaching a career peak in 1955 and his star was still ascending.
Lust For Life- Miklos Rózsa's music for the 1956 Vincent Van Gogh biopic has long been a favorite and it’s music that evokes the vivid colors of the artist's work. In fact, much of the score recalls spring and the fields in which Van Gogh worked. Rózsa also excels at revealing Van Gogh’s torment. Even those who haven’t seen the movie or have the slightest knowledge of the painter can follow his short-happy life through Rózsa’ s music.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
William Powell- No wonder one of MGM's leading lights is largely unknown by the general public today: no biography! It would be fascinating to read behind-the-scenes stories of the Thin Man movies, and the tough time Powell had during 1937-38, when fiancé Jean Harlow died and Powell himself battled cancer, keeping him out of movies (watch the Another Thin Man trailer; MGM emblazons the bottom of the screen with “Welcome Back, Bill!” a reference to Powell’s extended absence).
Carole Lombard- The “Hoosier Tornado” needs a full-scale biography. Lombard was not just married to Clark Gable, but a dedicated American patriot, swore like a sailor, and died young in a plane crash. A new bio on her should address whether or not she was rushing back home because she believed Gable was carrying on an affair with Lana Turner. Turner denied this, I’m not sure if it is true, but the myth persists.
Dana Andrews- Andrews was another popular leading man with personal struggles, and for my money, the personification (for better or worse) of the WWII-era American male. A career overview would be great, and the good movie star biographies excel at this.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
UPDATE: After doing some additional fact checking last night in Mason Wiley and Damien Bona's Inside Oscar, I have to conclude that the LIFE magazine photo archive got the photo's date wrong...possibly. Their archive dates this photo March 21, 1956 but it's most likely March 30, 1955 when both women were up for Best Actress. Audrey Hepburn for Sabrina and Grace Kelly for The Country Girl. It also makes sense that the two women would be backstage together, as both were presenters in 1955: Kelly presented the Documentary awards and Hepburn the Story & Screenplay award. Both were presenters the next year at the 1956 Oscars-- Kelly was on hand to give the Best Actor award--but Audrey Hepburn appeared only on film, reading off the Best Picture nominees from London, according to Inside Oscar. If any Audrey Hepburn experts out there can confirm her whereabouts during that period, please chime in, as Hollywood Dreamland prides itself on getting its facts straight!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
He muses about “The Philadelphia Story,” “Holiday,” and one of Hepburn’s favorite directors, George Cukor.
“Hollywood Dreamland” is a fun blog for you to bookmark if you like the old days in Los Angeles."
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Lucille Ball- Yes, she’s positively immortal to television viewers as the squawking Lucy Ricardo/Carmichael in those two perpetually rerun sitcoms, but whenever I see her in my favorite Golden Age movies--Stage Door (1937) and The Dark Corner (1945), I still wonder how stardom eluded her on the big screen. She was beautiful, too.
Fred MacMurray- To many he will be cardigan-wearing, pipe-smoking patriarch Steve Douglas in the My Three Sons sitcom, but to me he’ll always be Carole Lombard’s co-star in the four films they did together in the 1930s. And let’s not forget MacMurray’s great role as murderous insurance salesman Walter Neff in 1944’s Double Indemnity. He also turned in good performances as weasly heels in The Caine Mutiny (1954) and The Apartment (1960). MacMurray is the star who initially inspired this entry. I was surprised to see him as such an engaging character in the 30s and impressed with his playing spineless villains, too. Two of MacMurray's future My Three Sons co-stars, William Frawley and William Demarest worked with him in movies during the 1930s. By the way, MacMurray is the dashing fellow pictured in this blog's masthead.
Agnes Moorehead- One of the great character actresses. Take a look at her 1940s filmography for the excellent films she’s in. Moorehead was best when she played a malicious bitch. I love her in those movies, especially 1947's Dark Passage. But Agnes Moorehead week-in-and-week-out is just too much for me to take. As Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery’s meddlesome mother, Endora ( “Endura” at my house) she’s as irritating as Hell.
Donna Reed- Sweet, pretty, "Girl Next Door" Reed is a site to behold in her various film appearances, whether it's in Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), The Human Comedy (1944), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and especially her Oscar-winning role in From Here To Eternity (1953), Reed was wonderful. As TV’s Donna Stone in The Donna Reed Show, she’s just blah.
Loretta Young- She did some pre-Code films that stir my blood, and won an Oscar for 1947’s The Farmer’s Daughter, then she got real goody-goody and took that routine to TV in a wildly successful program.
Andy Griffith- Griffith radiated sleaze in Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd (1957) and charm in No Time for Sergeants (1958). Then it was off to Mayberry, California---uh, North Carolina to mete out his brand of homespun justice to the likes of Gomer, Goober, and Howard Sprague. And Warren. Let's never forget Warren, so that he never happens again.
Raymond Burr- Burr was often cast as a brutal “heavy” in film, but went on to true fame as lawyer Perry Mason and wheelchair-bound police detective Robert Ironside in two long-running shows—with great themes, I might add. It is Burr’s hands clenched in hatred from 1947's Desperate that are seen in the intro montage to Turner Classic’s Film Noir program, Darkness at Dawn.
Robert Young- Another “boy next door” type in the 1930s, he’s best remembered today as Jim Anderson in Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby, M.D., in addition to a series of Sanka decaf coffee commercials.
So there you have it. Some of the movie stars that did some great work on the Silver Screen only to have it erased by weekly exposure and subsequent decades-long reruns to achieve pop culture immortality, but we at Hollywood Dreamland prefer to remember them as they were, larger than life on the big screen.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Whenever I think of Dana Andrews, two images come to mind: The scene from The Best Years of Our Lives in the soon-to-be-scrapped bomber and how his character confronts his wartime trauma while reliving the sheer terror of that experience; and Where the Sidewalk Ends, when Andrews’ character, after accidentally killing a suspect, stays up the entire night at the police precinct ruminating about what to do. The worn out look on his face come morning is simply brilliant.
As I saw more of his films, I realized that Andrews was his own man; he wasn’t explosive or menacing like the tightly-wound Robert Ryan, and he lacked the smart-alecky disposition of another favorite, Glenn Ford. And even when Andrews is playing a man on the edge, he doesn’t erupt like Ryan might, but instead boils from within, so deep that it only faintly registers on his face, but it’s so well done that I shake my head with amazement at his ability to burn so subtly. Maybe that's reading more into Andrews’ performances than what's actually there, but whatever it is that he’s trying to convey comes across loud and clear and registers right away, even in my chickpea-sized brain. He has some moments in Fallen Angel (1945) where it’s blatantly obvious what is going on in his character’s head, especially when it involves luscious Linda Darnell’s character, Stella. Andrews came of age during a time when men were expected to keep their emotions under wraps, Andrews is able to show the viewer what his character is feeling and thinking without saying a word. I’m blown away by his style, which never-- despite the claims made by some movie buffs-- comes off as “wooden.”
Now, since I’m (ostensibly) an adult, I see Dana Andrews in a different light and with that a whole new wave of associations. I’ve read much about that WWII generation and with the death of my own relatives, it’s obvious to me that Andrews is representative of the “Greatest Generation.” His tightlipped, keep-a-lid-on-his-emotions persona reminds me of my grandfather. Every time I see a Dana Andrews movie, my Generation Envy kicks in and I can’t help but think of how I’d have behaved had I lived in Dana’s time and gone through the things that men like my grandfather went through during their service in World War II. For me, my fascination with that generation is also what makes Dana Andrews so appealing.
The man had his share of personal battles. He was an alcoholic, having overcome that addiction by the late-sixties. Andrews briefly gave up acting to become the president of the Screen Actors Guild (1963-65) and then upon his return, toiled in some truly dreadful horror and cult movies during the 1960s & 1970s, and appeared in numerous TV movies. Like another Twentieth Century Fox star, Henry Fonda, Andrews would spend that decade in films unworthy of his talent and stature. However, unlike Fonda, Andrews would not enjoy a comeback. There would be no career-capping Oscar win, nor any Lifetime Achievement Awards. Andrews would die in 1992, essentially forgotten. I was acutely affected by his death. Upon learning the news, I immediately thought of that Best Years bomber scene and how it held so much meaning for me and realizing that this actor-- completely unknown to many under the age of fifty-- was a treasure. I haven’t seen every one of his movies, but I have yet to be disappointed by anything he’s done. I know that there’s something more going on in a Dana Andrews performance than what the character says, and his brilliance is such that he doesn’t have to say anything at all.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Majestic Gail: Gail in an interesting dress from an undated glamour shot. If she’d worn that dress onscreen, I’m sure many women would have been declaring how much they liked it. Because when an article of clothing appears in a movie, it has to be beautiful, right?
Smart Girl Gail: Here’s a publicity still from an obscure 1935 film, Smart Girl, proof again that Gail had the best eyebrows in Hollywood. Her co-star is Kent Taylor. I’d never heard of him, but he’s got 110 screen appearances and when I scan his filmography, there isn't a single film of his I've seen!