Marilyn: Behind the Icon – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Marilyn: Behind the Icon — Monroe Catapults to Global Fame in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

marilyn monroe gentlemen prefer blondes pink dress diamonds are a girls best friend

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes signified an ideal pairing of star & role, catapulting Marilyn Monroe into global superstardom, endearing her to the public, and cementing her comedic & musical talents. According to Sarah Churchwell, the breakout role of Lorelei Lee remains Marilyn’s iconic role “because she so closely approximates the cultural fictions about Marilyn herself.”

marilyn monroe gentlemen prefer blondes 2

Monroe’s interpretation of the role of Lorelei—with affected speech, exaggerated lip and eye movements, and deadpan delivery—provided fodder for impersonators for generations to come. The role was a perfect embodiment of the Marilyn Monroe persona and became the screen image that the public and critics would equate with the actress for the remainder of her career. Yet, what Monroe made look so natural and effortless on screen was a well-crafted performance.

howard hawks gentlemen prefer blondes title treatment

The plot of 20th Century-Fox’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes involves gold-digging, diamond-obsessed showgirl Lorelei Lee and her loyal sidekick Dorothy Shaw. Lorelei is described as a girl “who can stand on stage with a spotlight in her eye and still see a diamond inside a man’s pocket.” She is focused solely on marrying for money. Lorelei’s fiancé, Gus Esmond, sends her to Paris with Dorothy to test her fidelity. Esmond’s father employs a private detective to spy on the women and report back any suspicious behavior.

jane russell marilyn monroe gentlemen prefer blondes wedding dresses
Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe

During the transatlantic cruise, Dorothy and the private detective fall in love while Lorelei befriends a married diamond merchant, Sir Beekman, and convinces him to give her his wife’s diamond tiara. Beekman covers his tracks by feigning theft of the tiara and retreats to Africa. When Esmond learns of Lorelei’s escapades, he cuts off her line of credit. She is eventually charged with grand larceny. Dorothy poses as her friend in a court hearing and straightens out the mess. Spoiler alert: The film ends with a double wedding.

tommy noonan marilyn monroe gentlemen prefer blondes 1
Tommy Noonan, Monroe and Taylor Holmes

Monroe engenders the audience’s sympathy by effectively projecting a perfect balance of kindheartedness and materialism. She also mastered the art of gaining laughs by pretending to be ignorant while endearing herself to the audience. Neither is an easy feat for any actress. In one of her final scenes, Monroe skillfully delivered a thoughtful speech to the father of her fiancé:

“Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You might not marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help? And if you had a daughter, wouldn’t you want her to have the most wonderful things in the world? Then why is it wrong for me to want those things?”

“Hey, they told me you were stupid,” the fiancé’s father exclaims. “You don’t sound stupid to me.

“I can be smart when it’s important,” Lorelei responses in a line Monroe herself seized the power to amend. “But most men don’t like it.”

howard hawks jane russel marilyn monroe gentlemen prefer blondes
Director Howard Hawks with Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe

Studio head Darryl F. Zanuck tapped Howard Hawks as director. Having directed Monroe in Monkey Business (1952), Hawks was known for a wide range of films including dramas, Scarface (1932) and The Big Sleep (1942), as well as screwball comedies such as Bringing Up Baby (1938) and His Girl Friday (1940). “We purposely made the picture as loud and bright as we could,” Hawks said about Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, “and completely vulgar in costumes and everything.”

marilyn monroe gentlemen prefer blondes orange dress 3

Zanuck needed “loud and bright” name recognition for box office draw and passed on Carol Channing who portrayed Lorelei Lee on stage. He envisioned Betty Grable as the blonde & Monroe in a brunette wig as Dorothy. After hearing a recording of Monroe singing “Do It Again” for the Marines at Camp Pendleton, he decided she would remain blonde as the perfect Lorelei Lee. Zanuck was also getting a bargain. The second year of Monroe’s contract stipulated her salary of $750 per week, compared to Grable’s $150,000 per film.

marilyn monroe jane russell gentlemen prefer blondes montage

In an early script conference, Zanuck realized the necessity of the audience’s belief that Dorothy felt genuine affection for Lorelei. This bond motivates Dorothy to defend her friend in the courtroom scene near the end of the film. Ultimately, Fox appropriately cast Jane Russell to deliver Dorothy’s acerbic wisecracks. Russell was five years older than Monroe and assumed the role of her big sister during the production. Russell had graduated from Van Nuys High School, and Monroe’s first husband James Dougherty was Russell’s classmate. Russell had also met Monroe when she was still Norma Jeane at a dance in the early 1940s.

tommy noonan, marilyn monroe, charles coburn gentlemen prefer blondes montage
Tommy Noonan, Charles Coburn and Monroe

As Lorelei’s fiancé, Gus Esmond, Fox considered David Wayne before deciding upon the often-bespectacled Tommy Noonan. Monroe was again joined by swag-bellied Charles Coburn, her costar in Monkey Business, as Sir Francis Beekman.

norma varden marilyn monroe tiara gentlemen prefer blondes
Norma Varden and Monroe

British-born Norma Varden was cast as Lady Beekman. In a delightful scene, Lady Beekman offers Lorelei to wear her diamond tiara. When Lorelei tries to display it around her neck, Lady Beekman explains that it designed to wear on the head. Lorelei squeals, “Oh, I just adore finding new places to wear diamonds!”

marilyn monroe Taylor Holmes george winslow gentlemen prefer blondes
Monroe and George Winslow

George “Foghorn” Winslow (1946-2015), a six-year-old with a stentorian voice and deadpan delivery, portrayed Henry Spoffard III. A child with the voice of a man, Winslow contrasted with Monroe, a woman with the voice of a child.

jane russell and the Olympic Team Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

John Weidemann, a stunningly handsome and well-built 1950s physique model, was heavily featured in close-ups with Jane Russell in “Bye Bye Baby” and “Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love?”

marilyn monroe on the set gentlemen prefer blondes

The production, beginning in November 1952 and ending in February 1953, recycled ocean liner sets used for Titanic (1953) and required weeks of grueling pre-production rehearsal and sound recording. Monroe was the first to arrive on the set each morning and worked on the dance routines for an hour or two after Russell went home in exhaustion. She begged for extra coaching to allay her insecurity, but her dancing needed no improvement.

jane russell and marilyn monroe behind the scenes gentlemen prefer blondes 1

Was Monroe difficult on the set? According to musical director Lionel Newman, Monroe was always punctual for rehearsals and courteous and friendly to the men in the orchestra. Monroe made a special point to personally thank everyone who worked with her. Although she had a definite idea of what she wished to accomplish vocally, Newman saw no signs of a temperamental diva. Monroe received Newman’s blessing upon her first take recording “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” a particularly challenging playback because of its length. Monroe asked to record eleven takes. In the end, she led Newman to the podium where she apologized to him and the orchestra. Monroe announced that he was correct and requested to use the first take.

marni nixon gentlemen prefer blondes
Marni Nixon

Did Monroe sing in the soundtrack? Although Monroe’s voice is clearly on the soundtrack, she was challenged to hit some high notes only in “Diamonds” and required minor assistance. Enter Marni Nixon, a soprano who ghosted for Deborah Kerr & Natalie Wood. Nixon provided vocals for only Monroe’s highest notes in the final lyrics “Are a girl’s best…best friend” and sang the song’s operatic prelude of repetitive “No-no-no!” “I don’t even know why they wanted to re-dub [portions of] her voice,” Nixon said, confident of Monroe’s rendition. “Thank goodness they let her sing in her own way. That breathless, sexy sound suited her screen persona perfectly, even if she did need a little help on the high notes.”

Monroe rehearses on set with choreographer Jack Cole & Gwen Verdon
Monroe rehearses on set with choreographer Jack Cole & Gwen Verdon

Working with legendary choreographer Jack Cole, Monroe felt a sense of confidence that few of her directors inspired. “There was no sexual tension,” wrote William J. Mann, referencing Cole’s sexual orientation as gay, “and besides, Cole had no loyalty to the studios in the way her directors might: he loathed them and all they stood for, and so could afford to be fully present and attentive to Monroe’s insecurities.” The Cole-Monroe partnership created magic, and Monroe would collaborate with him on five additional films. Gwen Verdon also assisted with choreography. ““My mom liked both Marilyn and Jane,” said Verdon’s son, James Heneghan. “Marilyn especially displayed a tough work ethic that was a big deal with my mother.”

Future Oscar-winner George Chakiris at far right in Marilyn’s chorus
Future Oscar-winner George Chakiris at far right in Marilyn’s chorus

For Monroe’s big production number, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” Fox spared no expense to showcase her talents for what would become the single most identifiable film sequence of her career. Shot in long takes requiring few edits, the number’s perfect blend of dramatic art design and superb choreography is forever enshrined as an iconic film scene and aided by Monroe’s incomparable execution.

Joseph C. Wright’s original art direction for marilyn monroe gentlemen prefer blondes

Joseph C. Wright’s original art direction called for Monroe in black against a black background, an Empire bed with pink sheets emblazoned with black satin Napoleonic emblems. William Travilla’s original costume for the number was excessively revealing, comprised of a pair of black fishnet hose attached to a leotard that came up to a bodice of nude fabric. In the wake of the discovery of Monroe nude calendar pose from 1949, Zanuck called Travilla and ordered him to “Cover her up.”

jane russell and olympic team gentlemen prefer blondes “Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love?”

What about Jane Russell’s solo? The premise for Russell’s solo number “Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love?” is her seeking the attention of the Olympian gymnasts while they exercise, none breaking concentration to notice her. The humor exists in the subtext. Many of the male dancers were gay, and in real life on the set, were disinterested in her. The number is hugely homoerotic. The men wear flesh toned short swimming trunks, simulating a nude appearance if not for the black band on the leg openings. Jack Cole coordinated the body-builders’ exercise routines to music. “The resulting images could have come straight out of the then-popular gay magazine Physique Pictorial.

marilyn monroe gold lame gown gentlemen prefer blondes

What happened to Monroe’s gold lame gown? In her deleted number “Down Boy,” Monroe performed in the gold tissue lamé halter gown with plunging neckline forever linked to her image through publicity photographs. An audio recording of “Down Boy” surfaced in 2006, but film footage remains lost. The only glimpse of Monroe wearing the gown onscreen is a brief longshot of Lorelei dancing with Lord Beekman, seen from the perspective of Dorothy watching through a window.

marilyn monroe and jane russell gentelemen prefer blondes Four French Dances

Isn’t there another number in the trailer cut from the film? “Four French Dances,” a quartet of orchestral arrangements, was another musical number edited just before the film’s release. Wearing yellow-trimmed bustiers and Napoleon-style hats, Monroe & Russell perform the act while suspended on a quarter-moon and climbing down an ornate ladder onto a set with the Eiffel Tower. The number also included a French language version of “Two Little Girls from Little  Rock.” Although the sequence appeared in promotional trailers released while Blondes was still in production, the film’s final version includes only a brief scene that followed.

jane russell and marilyn monroe gentlemen prefer blondes russell black sequin dress

Did Monroe & Russell get along with each other? At the end of her life, Monroe still appreciated Russell’s kindness in her last interview: “She was quite wonderful to me.” Russell coached Monroe, dating Joe DiMaggio at the time, explained how couples could be happy together without surrendering identities. She also coached Monroe on managing a household & balance the roles of  wife & mother while maintaining a career. “We got along great together,” Russell said, “[She] was very shy and very sweet and far more intelligent than people gave her credit.”

gentlemen prefer blondes originally in 3D

Wasn’t the film produced in 3-D? Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was originally filmed in the 3-D process, providing the viewer with the three-dimensional illusion that characters or objects project off the screen. The leading ladies’ ample breasts risked poor taste in the use of this new photographic application. Several scenes displayed specific staging for the visual gimmick: Lorelei tossing a rope of diamonds to her fiancé, dancers carrying and thrusting her forward as if to catapult her into the laps of the film’s audience, and Lorelei jutting forward when she gets caught exiting a stateroom through its porthole.

porthole scene gentlemen prefer blondes and i love lucy

Didn’t ‘I Love Lucy’ re-create Monroe’s porthole scene? Lucille Ball copied the porthole scene in 1954 episode of I Love Lucy on television when her character, Lucy Ricardo, crosses the Atlantic on an ocean liner. In Blondes, Monroe gets indelicately stuck in a too-small porthole. Little Henry Spoffard III agrees to help her get unstuck for two reasons: “The first is, I’m too young to be sent to jail. The second is, you’ve got a lot of animal magnetism.”

marilyn monroe porthole gentlemen prefer blondes

Was Monroe denied a dressing room during production? Monroe had warranted only a cubicle in the studio’s changing room. Fox. “I couldn’t even get a dressing room,” Monroe later told Life magazine. “Finally, I said, ‘Look, after all, I am the blonde and it is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Because still they always kept saying, ‘Remember, you are not a star.’ I said, ‘Well, whatever I am, I am the blonde!’” offered her Betty Grable’s plush dressing room, but the gesture was intended more to dethrone Fox’s former blonde champion than to coronate its current one. “They tried to take me into her dressing room as if I were taking over,” Monroe said. “I couldn’t do that.” Instead, Fox gave Monroe a large dressing room next to Russell’s.

marilyn monroe and jane russell graumans chinese theater imprint ceremony

On June 26, 1953, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre invited Monroe & Russell to make impressions of their signatures, hands, and high heeled shoes in the theater’s famed cement forecourt. As they simultaneously made imprints of their hands, Monroe turned to Russell & asked excitedly, “This is for all time, isn’t it?” Then they shook hands.

jane russell marilyn monroe imprints graumans chinese theater

As the women held hands and stepped into the wet cement, the newsreel cameras recorded the event and described them as “friendly as sorority sisters.” Monroe cement was tinted yellow, and the “i” in Marilyn was dotted with a rhinestone that would be repeatedly pried out by fans and replaced.

marilyn monroe handprint graumans chinese theater

The little girl who once fit her hands and feet in the prints of her film idols had now achieved success and joined their ranks. When Monroe reminisced about visiting the Chinese Theatre as a child, she acknowledged inspiring the next generation: “It’s funny to think that my footprints are there now, and that other little girls are trying to do the same thing I did.”

marilyn monroe red sequin dress gentlemen prefer blondes

The Chinese Theatre’s immortalization of Monroe was symbolic. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes cemented Marilyn Monroe’s legacy as a superstar. The performance elevated her beyond the restraints of her pin-up persona and showed her as a full-fledged and multifaceted actress. The four minutes of Monroe’s flawless breakout solo number established her as an actress with no formal training who could sing and dance superbly in a musical comedy. Zanuck now had a formula for his star.

gentlemen prefer blondes movie posters

“In her own class is Marilyn Monroe,” announced Motion Picture Herald. “Golden, slick, melting, aggressive, kittenish, dumb, shrewd, mercenary, charming, exciting sex implicit…Miss Monroe is going to become part of the American fable, the dizzy blonde, the simple, mercenary nitwit, with charm to excuse it all.”

jane russell marilyn monroe gentlemen prefer blondes russell red dress

Other reviews were equally positive. “There is the amazing, wonderful vitality and down-to-earth Jane Russell…AND—there is Marilyn Monroe!” lauded the LA Examiner. “Zounds, boys, what a personality this one is! Send up a happy flare. At last, she is beautifully gowned, beautifully coiffed, and a wonderful crazy humor flashes from those sleepy eyes of her…Her natural attributes are so great, it’s like a triple scoop of ice cream on a hot August day, to realize she is also an actress— but, by golly, and Howard Hawks, she is…She’ll do more for 20th Century-Fox than their discovery of oil on the front lot.”

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–Gary Vitacco-Robles for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Gary’s Marilyn: Behind the Icon articles for CMH here.

Gary Vitacco-Robles is the author of ICON: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, Volumes 1 2, and writer/producer of the podcast series, Marilyn: Behind the Icon.

  
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Free Streaming in July on the CMH Channel at Best Classics Ever – Santa Fe Trail, And Then There Were None, Penny Serenade and More


Classic Movie Hub’s July picks for our CMH-Curated BCE Channel
More than 40 Titles Streaming Free All Month Long!

As we announced last month, we are thrilled to have partnered with Best Classics Ever (BCE), a mega streaming channel dedicated to classic films and TV shows!

And, we are proud to have our own Classic Movie Hub Channel there, where CMH fans can stream lots of classic movies and TV shows for free each month!

That said, this month on the CMH Channel, we’re featuring over 40 classic movies and TV shows that our fans can watch for free – all you need to do is click on the movie/show of your choice, then click ‘play’ — you do not have to opt for a 7-day trial.

In celebration of July Birthdays, we’re featuring Gracie Allen, Milton Berle, William Powell, Barbara Stanwyck, Olivia de Havilland, Charles Laughton, James Cagney and Harriet Hilliard Nelson.

CMH BCE July Birthdays classic movies and tv shows for streaming
Click on this image to visit our Channel

We’ve also added our Fan Favorites section which features Santa Fe Trail, And Then There Were None, Penny Serenade, Scarlet Street, His Girl Friday, A Star is Born (1937) and more:

fan favorite classic films for streaming at Classic Movie Hub Channel on Best Classics Ever

And an ‘All in Good Fun’ section featuring some fun comedies and musicals including Road to Bali, My Favorite Brunette, Royal Wedding and The Inspector General.

comedy films for streaming at Classic Movie Hub Channel on Best Classics Ever

Plus Friday Fright Night with some horror classics starring Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and more:

classic horror films for streaming at Classic Movie Hub Channel on Best Classics Ever

And more 🙂

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We really hope that you enjoy these films, and please feel free to explore the entire BCE channel. If you click to the BCE Home Page, you can watch even more free classic movies and shows. BCE is able to provide this content for free to you because it includes some commercials – so it’s kind of like watching ‘regular’ TV. There is no sign-up necessary to enjoy this free content, and there are hundreds of movies and TV episodes available with this option. If, instead, you prefer to enjoy your classic movie content ‘straight’ aka commercial-free  or if you want access to LOTs more movies and shows, please feel free to check out a 7-day free trial.

You can read more about Best Classics Ever and our partnership here.

Hope you enjoy!

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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Classic Movie Travels: Ruby Keeler

Classic Movie Travels: Ruby Keeler – NY and CA

Ruby Keeler

When thinking of early musicals, the output of Warner Bros. studios is certainly worth noting. In the Gold Digger musicals and so many others, a wide variety of Warner Bros.’s triple-threat talents shone in the musical genre. Though Ruby Keeler was not considered a strong singer, she was an exceptionally gifted dancer and charmed audiences with her many film roles.

Ethel Ruby Keeler was born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, on August 25, 1909. Her family was of Irish-Catholic descent, with her father working as a truck driver to support the family. Keeler was one of six children, with the family living on East 70th St. in Manhattan. Though born in Canada, Keeler and her family would relocate to New York City, where her father would earn higher pay.

While growing up, finances were a constant issue for the Keeler family. Though Keeler expressed an interest in dancing, it was not financially plausible for the family.

Ruby Keeler young
a young Keeler

Keeler studied at St. Catherine of Siena while residing in New York. In addition to the academic curriculum, the school also had a dance teacher on staff to teach the students to dance once a week. The instructor noticed Keeler’s affinity for dance and met with Keeler’s mother to arrange for regular dance lessons. They worked out an agreement that would not put the Keeler family’s finances in a worse situation, and Keeler was able to receive training.

As Keeler continued her classes, opportunity struck when a stage production was seeking chorus girls. Though Keeler was three years under the legal age of 16, she lied about her age and auditioned anyway. Keeler typically danced in the buck dancing style, focusing on heaving taps and little to no movement of the arms. Keeler would be hired to dance at nightclubs and speakeasies, including El Fay nightclub in New York. Soon, she would be performing in Broadway productions produced by the likes of George M. Cohan and Flo Ziegfeld.

In 1928, Keeler met performer Al Jolson in Los Angeles, where she was sent to assist in the publicity campaigns for The Jazz Singer (1927). After a whirlwind courtship, the two married in New York.

Ruby Keeler, Al Jolson, and their adopted son
Ruby, Al Jolson, and their adopted son

In the 1930s, Keeler would regularly work in films. Producer Darryl Zanuck cast Keeler in 42nd Street (1933) alongside Dick Powell and Bebe Daniels, which was a huge success in addition to being her film debut. Warner Bros. signed Keeler to a long-term contract and starred her steadily in many musicals, typically continuing to cast Powell as her love interest. Though Powell was usually Keeler’s on-screen suitor, Jolson and Keeler did star together in one film: Go into Your Dance (1935).

Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell in Gold Diggers of 1933
Keeler and Powell in Gold Diggers of 1933

Sadly, Keeler’s marriage to Jolson was not a happy one. Though they were initially happy and went on to adopt a son, there are many anecdotes and resources documenting Jolson’s abusive behavior towards Keeler. They divorced in 1940.

By 1941, Keeler met and married businessman John Lowe, leaving the film industry. The couple had four children and remained married until Lowe’s passing.

Keeler devoted herself to family life upon her second marriage and did not have any screen credits for just over 20 years. In the 1960s and 1970s, she made occasional television appearances. In 1971, her popularity was revived alongside the revival of No, No, Nannette on Broadway. The production was supervised by Busby Berkeley, with whom she worked in 42nd Street and many other musicals. Keeler starred in the musical for two seasons on Broadway and in as part of the show’s tour.

Ruby Keeler in the Broadway revival of No, No, Nannette in 1971
Keeler in the Broadway revival of No, No, Nannette in 1971

In 1974, she suffered a brain aneurism and dedicated herself to work as a spokesperson for the National Stroke Association. She passed away from kidney cancer on February 28, 1993, at age 83. Keeler was buried beside her husband at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange, California. 

Today, some of Keeler’s past residences remain, in addition to her family continuing to celebrate her legacy.

In 1928, Keeler and Jolson lived at 465 Park Ave. in New York. This is the building today:

465 Park Ave., New York, NY
465 Park Ave., New York, NY

The home she shared with Jolson in the 1930s was within the Talmadge Apartments, which still stand. They are located on 3278 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles.

3278 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
3278 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA

By 1940, she was living at 4326 Forman Ave. in Los Angeles. This is the home today:

4326 Forman Ave., Los Angeles, CA
4326 Forman Ave., Los Angeles, CA

Keeler was honored with a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Fame.

Ruby Keeler's Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Fame
Ruby Keeler’s Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Fame

Keeler also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is located at 6730 Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles.

Ruby Keeler's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Keeler’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

In 2005, Keeler’s granddaughter, Sarah Lowe, performed Keeler’s dance from the title number in 42nd Street (1933) as part of the L.A. STAGE Benefit.

Today, Keeler is remembered for her many musical film roles and her enthusiastic dancing style that was featured in many Warner Bros. Pre Code musicals.

–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

Annette Bochenek pens our monthly Classic Movie Travels column. You can read all of Annette’s Classic Movie Travel articles here.

Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for Classic Movie Hub, she also writes for Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco SocietyMagazine.

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Marilyn: Behind the Icon – Monroe Steals Scenes in All About Eve

Marilyn: Behind the Icon
Marilyn Monroe Steals Scenes in All About Eve

Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, George Sanders All About Eve
Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe and George Sanders

On the heels of winning the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for A Letter to Three Wives (1949) director Joseph L. Mankiewicz casted an A-film produced by Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century-Fox. The story, originally titled Best Performance, centered on a fortyish grande dame of the Broadway stage, Margo Channing (Bette Davis), and her young stand-in and rival, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). Eve, seemingly a down-on-her-luck star struck ingénue, insidiously ingratiates herself to the actress and becomes her personal assistant and later, her understudy. Slowly, Eve is revealed as a calculating opportunist who arranges for Margo’s absence to perform her role, attract the attention of New York critics, and eventually replace her.

All About Eve posters

Mankiewicz’s brilliant and textured screenplay twists and turns in plot and contains sharp, snarky dialogue and memorable lines. It is a smart exploration of the backstabbing competition between egotistical actresses and the dynamics and politics of the theater, written by a heterosexual man with a gay man’s sensibility. The American Film Institute ranked the film as twenty-eighth among the Greatest American Films of All Time, and it was the only one of Monroe’s films to win a Best Picture Academy Award (fourteen Oscar nominations and six wins).

Marilyn Monroe’s performance in All About Eve redeemed her in the eyes of Zanuck and would lead to contract with the studio which lasted until her death twelve years later. Previously under contract with Fox in 1946, Monroe appeared in walk-on parts in two productions until her option was dropped the following year. She returned modeling and freelanced at rival studios, delivering a solid performance in MGM’s The Asphalt Jungle (1950).

Marilyn Monroe Mankiewicz All About Eve
Monroe and Mankiewicz

“I felt Marilyn had edge,” Mankiewicz recalled in casting Monroe after interviewing nearly a dozen actresses. “There was breathlessness about her and sort of glued-on innocence about her that I found appealing.” Monroe had prepared for the role of Miss Caswell, creating a performance out of a handful of lines and only minutes of screen time. Monroe played her with humor as vacuous but ambitious. Serious about her craft, Monroe put her soul into menial parts as if they were leading roles.

Bette Davis All About Eve

The American Film Institute ranked the film’s star, Bette Davis, as second among the greatest actresses in the history of motion pictures. With a strong-willed character, clipped New England diction, large eyes, and idiosyncratic mannerisms, Bette Davis swept across the screen as a force of nature in over one hundred films over the course of six decades. She earned two Best Actress trophies for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938), and received a total of ten Academy Award nominations, including one unofficial write-in nomination for Of Human Bondage (1934). By 1950, her twenty-year career was in a slump after leaving Warner Brothers, where she peaked in Dark Victory (1939), The Letter (1940), and Now, Voyager (1942). The comeback role of formidable Margo Channing seemed to define her both professionally and personally at age forty-two, although she played it as a near parody of over-the-top actress Tallulah Bankhead.

Gregory Ratoff, Anne Baxter, Gary Merril, Celeste Holme, George Sanders, Marilyn Monroe All About Eve
Gregory Ratoff, Anne Baxter, Gary Merrill, Celeste Holm, George Sanders, Marilyn Monroe

Davis and Monroe had little in common aside from their dislike of Zanuck. Davis had not set foot on the Fox lot, nor had she spoken to the mogul since the two had a major falling out during the time she served as the first woman president of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “You’ll never work in Hollywood again,” Zanuck told Davis, but she proved indomitable. Indeed, she was not Mankiewicz or Zanuck’s first choice for Margo. Only after Claudette Colbert injured her spine and could not perform did Zanuck pick up the phone, make amends, and offer Davis the role.

Anne Baxter and Marilyn Monroe on the set of All About Eve
Anne Baxter and Monroe

As a contract player at Fox, Anne Baxter was loaned to RKO Pictures for a role in Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). Mankiewicz cast her as Eve partly because she resembled Claudette Colbert, originally cast as Margo, to suggest that Margo was being replaced by her younger self. In 1947, Baxter won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as Sophie MacDonald in The Razor’s Edge (1946).

Bette Davis Gary Merril All About Eve
Bette Davis and Gary Merrill

Gary Merrill portrayed Bill Sampson, Margo’s younger boyfriend. He had only completed four films, including Twelve O’Clock High (1949), before playing opposite the diva of all screen divas. All About Eve brought Merrill and Davis together in an impassioned affair while each awaited a divorce from respective spouses. They married shortly after filming ended, but the tumultuous union ended in divorce in 1960.

Gary Merril, Bette Davis, Celeste Holme, Philip Marlowe
Merrill, Davis, Celeste Holm and Hugh Marlowe

As Karen Richards, Margo’s best friend and the wife of her playwright, Celeste Holm outlived her co-stars in the film. Holm signed with Fox in 1946 and won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in the studio’s groundbreaking film about anti-Semitism, Gentleman’s Agreement (1947). As the subdued playwright of Margo’s successful show, Lloyd Richards, Hugh Marlowe delivered the proper toned-down stereotype of a writer. Like Marilyn, he was no stranger to studio rejection. Marlowe had been dropped twice from MGM, hired by Fox in 1948, and had starred in Twelve O’Clock High (1949) and Night and the City (1950).

Marilyn Monroe George Sanders All About Eve

Acid-tongued Broadway critic Addison DeWitt, described as a “venomous fish-wife,” was splendidly portrayed by George Sanders, who embodied suave and snobbish onscreen. For his performance in Eve, Sanders earned the Oscar as Best Supporting Actor of 1950.

Bette Davis Thelma Ritter All About Eve
Davis and Thelma Ritter

Appearing with Monroe in the first of three films together, Thelma Ritter played the crusty former Vaudevillian entertainer, Birdie Coonan, working as Margo’s maid and companion and intuitively suspicious of Eve from the start. Notorious for stealing scenes, Ritter, with her Brooklyn accent, responded to Eve’s sob story with the comical line, “What a story! Everything but the blood hounds snappin’ at her rear end.”

Anne Baxter, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, George Sanders All About Eve

The role of Miss Claudia Caswell in All About Eve was an important assignment for Monroe in a significant film starring several of Hollywood’s veteran actors. When a supporting actress in Margo’s antebellum play becomes pregnant and requires replacement, Miss Caswell vies for the role with the support of her benefactor, critic Addison DeWitt. We learn of Miss Caswell’s lack of professional acting experience when Addison describes her as “a graduate of the Copacabana School of Dramatic Art,” implying she had been one of the famous Latin-themed New York nightclub’s showgirls.

At a Fox’s soundstage nine dressed as Margo’s sprawling brownstone townhouse in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Mankiewicz filmed the legendary cocktail party in which Margo Channing delivers the film’s most memorable line, “Fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy night,” and sashays past her guests toward the second-floor landing to her living room. Miss Caswell ascends the stairs with Addison DeWitt and meets the hostess on the landing.

Marilyn Monroe All About Eve collage

Monroe is arresting in a white ermine coat over a strapless white brocade gown with a sweetheart bodice and white tulle bouffant skirt, designed by Charles LeMaire but credited to Edith Head. Monroe’s hair was pulled back on each side of her face and pinned up in the back in curls. Her widow’s peak was prominent, and a wave of hair casually touched her forehead. For the first time, Allan Snyder had darkened the small mole on Monroe’s left cheek between her nose and mouth. The “beauty mark” was her signature makeup trick for the rest of her life.

ette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, George Sanders

Monroe steals a scene from Davis with an adorable, girlish air, and perfectly timed delivery of Mankiewicz’s sparkling dialogue. In the scene, Miss Caswell meets Margo, much like the way Monroe had met Davis. The characters paralleled the actress’ actual status in Hollywood at the time. Like Miss Caswell, Monroe was a fledgling, whose beauty outshone her developing skill-set. Margo, like Davis, was a diva with decades of acting experience and success behind her.

When Addison asks Margo if she remembers Miss Caswell, the older actress emphatically states she does not. With a sweet smile, Miss Caswell explains the reason — obvious to the others — is because they have never met. Addison makes the introduction, and when Eve joins them, Margo presents her to Addison and Miss Caswell. Until now, he tells Eve, they have only met “in passing.”

“That’s how you met me,” Miss Caswell reminds Addison.

Margo sarcastically introduces Miss Caswell to Eve as “an old friend of Mr. DeWitt’s mother.”

Marilyn Monroe George Sanders All About Eve 2

Addison pulls Miss Caswell aside and points to Max Fabien, the producer. While removing the ermine coat from her shoulders, Addison advises her to “go do yourself some good.” Miss Caswell asks him why producers always look like “unhappy rabbits.” He tells her that is exactly what producers are and suggests she advance her career by making this one happy.

Marilyn Monroe George Sanders All About Eve 3

Monroe appears in another scene in which Margo’s cocktail party winds down. Miss Caswell sits on the stairs with the film’s stars and Gregory Ratoff as Max Fabien. After calling out, “Oh, waiter” to a server carrying a tray of cocktail who ignores her, Addison explains that he is not a waiter, but instead a butler. Miss Caswell retorts, “I can’t yell ‘Oh, butler,’ can I? What if somebody’s name is Butler?”  Addison responds, “You have a point. An idiotic one, but a point.”

Marilyn Monroe All About Eve 3

Seconds later, Max offers to bring Miss Caswell a drink, and she smiles coyly at him. “Well done,” Addison comments, admiring her charms. “I can see your career rising in the east like the sun.” As art imitated life, the line describes the truth about Monroe in this film.

Stairway scene All About Eve

“Thees girl ees going to be a beeg star!” Ratoff correctly predicted in his thick Russian accent.

stair scene all about eve 3

Whenever Monroe appears on the screen, she commands the audience’s complete attention, no matter who else inhabits the camera’s frame, or even if she remains silent. In the cocktail party scene, all eyes are on Monroe, and she upstages the Hollywood veterans. Davis was not amused.

Marilyn Monroe All About Eve 5

Photography for Monroe’s third scene took place on location in San Francisco in the lobby and main hall of the Curran Theatre. To film her brief scene, Monroe arrived in the lobby of the theatre wearing her own sweater-dress previously worn in 1950’s Fireball and Hometown Story. Wardrobe attendants draped a fur chain of lynx pelts over her shoulders. Mankiewicz blocked the movements. Davis, as Margo, arrives at the theater late to Miss Caswell’s audition as Addison sits in the lobby waiting for Miss Caswell, who is in the ladies’ restroom being “violently ill to her tummy.” He tells Margo that Eve’s performance was filled with “fire and music” and had been hired as her understudy. Margo conceals her fury. As Miss Caswell exits the ladies’ room, Addison asks how she is feeling.

“Like I just swam the English Channel,” Miss Caswell replies as she undulates across the lobby. Addison suggests her next option is television.

Marilyn Monroe All About Eve 6

When Miss Caswell inquires if producers hold auditions for television, he explains that television is “nothing but auditions.” The exchange is a joke demeaning the perceived inferior medium competing with both theater and film.

Monroe was playing in the big league with an all-star cast, and her anxiety skyrocketed. According to Celeste Holm, she kept her co-stars waiting as she vomited off-stage, just as her character had at the Curran Theatre.

Marilyn appreciated George Sanders’ kindness in San Francisco. They started having lunch together at the studio’s Café de Paris. Sanders said she was “very inquiring and unsure; humble, punctual and untemperamental. She wanted people to like her, her conversation had unexpected depth. She showed an interest in intellectual subjects.”

Marilyn Monroe Mankiewicz All About Eve 2

Sanders was not the only male on the set that found Monroe intelligent and complex. Mankiewicz drew the same conclusion after he saw her carrying a copy of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and asked if someone had recommended it to her. “No,” Marilyn explained, “I go into the Pickwick and just look around. I leaf through some books, and when I read something that interests me, I buy the book.” Mankiewicz told her it was a good way to select reading material, and she smiled.

Anne Baxter Bette Davis All About Eve

In All About “All About Eve”: The Complete Behind-the-Scenes Story of the Bitchiest Film Ever Made, author Sam Staggs noted that among her veteran costars, Monroe’s career was the only one to ascend. For the others, this film was the peak. In the final scene, Eve wins the fictitious Sarah Siddens Award as Best Actress and returns to her apartment to find a young woman, Phoebe (Barbara Bates). The woman identifies herself as the president of the Eve Harrington Fan Club and ingratiates herself. Later, Phoebe quietly slips on Eve’s satin cape, clutches the award, admires herself in a four-mirrored cheval, and repeatedly bows, echoing an early scene in which Eve had bowed before a mirror while holding Margo’s costume close to her body. Phoebe’s infinite reflections represent multiple ambitious ingénues poised in the wings to replace aging actresses.

Marilyn Monroe All About Eve 10
Monroe and Thomas Moulton

Monroe’s performance garnered 20th Century-Fox signing her to a seven-year contract which she effectively renegotiated in 1955. She also appeared at the Academy Award Ceremony in 1951 and presented the Best Sound Record Oscar to Thomas Moulton for All About Eve. Like Eve and Phoebe, Monroe was poised in the wings and equally ambitious for a successful acting career, but not at the expense or exploitation of another established performer. Like Eve, she was willing to sacrifice a personal life to achieve the goal of stardom.

Until her death, Monroe used the name “Miss Caswell” in phone messages for her friend, columnist Sidney Skolsky.

…..

–Gary Vitacco-Robles for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Gary’s Marilyn: Behind the Icon articles for CMH here.

Gary Vitacco-Robles is the author of ICON: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, Volumes 1 2, and writer/producer of the podcast series, Marilyn: Behind the Icon.

  
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Western RoundUp: Review – The Cariboo Trail (1950)

Western RoundUp: Review – The Cariboo Trail (1950)

It’s hard to believe, but this month’s column marks two years since the Western Roundup debuted here at Classic Movie Hub.

My introductory post covered Five of My Favorite Westerns, and since then it’s been a great honor to share my love for Westerns from a variety of angles including looks at additional favorite Westerns, movies available for streaming, books on the Western genre, film festivals, locations, and visits to interesting Western-related places such as the Autry Museum of the American West and McCrea Ranch.

I appreciate everyone who stops by to read my columns, as I certainly enjoy writing them!

This month I’m going to take a “close-up” look at a single Western movie. My last such review earlier this year was of a new-to-me Audie Murphy film, Seven Ways From Sundown (1960).

This time around I’ve watched The Cariboo Trail (1950), a movie I’ve never seen starring another Western film legend, Randolph Scott.

The Cariboo Trail (1950) movie poster
The Cariboo Trail (1950)

Scott is supported by a tremendous cast of great Western faces such as Dale Robertson, Jim Davis, Gabby Hayes, and Bill Williams, for starters; reliable character actors such as Victor Jory, Douglas Kennedy, and James Griffith are also on hand. Leading lady Karin Booth is also a familiar face for fans of the genre.

The Cariboo Trail, set in British Columbia, might more properly be termed a “Northerner,” as some of us like to call films set on the Canadian frontier. The movie combines familiar Western themes of cattle driving and gold prospecting, with Jim Redfern (Scott) doing a little of both.

Jim and his partners Mike (Williams) and Ling (Lee Tung Foo) are driving cattle along the Cariboo Trail from Montana to British Columbia. They drive their cattle across a toll bridge controlled by local tycoon Frank Walsh (Jory) without paying, but in turn, Walsh’s men (including actors Davis and Kennedy) later stampede Jim and Mike’s cattle.

The Cariboo Trail (1950) Dale Robertson, Randolph Scott, Gabby Hays
Dale Robertson, Randolph Scott and George “Gabby” Hays

Mike loses his arm in the incident; Jim, Ling, and new friend Grizzly (Hayes) get him to safety in the nearest town, but Mike becomes an embittered alcoholic, spending far too much time drinking at the local saloon owned by Francie (Booth).

Francie and Jim regard one another with noticeable interest, but for the time being Jim is focused on building his future. Walsh wants Francie himself, and her preference for Jim gives him one more reason to cause Jim problems.

Randolph Scott & Karin Booth in The Cariboo Trail (1950)
Randolph Scott & Karin Booth

With the cattle gone, Jim, Ling, and Grizzly go gold prospecting, looking for a new stake, but are captured by Indians. They manage to get away but are separated in the process; Jim, making his own way through the wilderness, stumbles across a creek with enough gold to get a fresh start in the cattle business.

The three men make a pact with Grizzly’s relatives Martha (Mary Kent) and Jane (Mary Stuart), along with Martha’s foreman Will (Robertson), to go into partnership, taking Martha’s cattle to land Jim has found in a beautiful valley; along the way the group will face plenty more trouble, from both Indians and Walsh’s men.

The Cariboo Trail may not be a great film, but this Randolph Scott fan found it a very enjoyable, solid Western tale. It features a top cast and packs a great deal of story into 81 minutes, and on the whole, I was quite entertained.

In fact, while I’m definitely a fan of shorter films, in this case, I would have liked the movie to be few minutes longer so the supporting cast had more time to shine; in particular, I would have enjoyed seeing more of the secondary love story between Robertson and Stuart.

Dale Robertson and Mary Stuart in The Cariboo Trail (1950)
Dale Robertson & Mary Stuart

Scott is terrific, as always. He plays a level-headed man who reminds his partners that while it might be nice to do a little gold prospecting, their long-term future will more reliably be found in good land and raising cattle. He’s also remarkably good-natured and understanding when Mike repeatedly lashes out at him in anger after losing his arm.

Williams’ Mike becomes such an angry man that it’s almost hard to watch him at times, but late in the film he starts down the path toward redemption and becomes a more multi-shaded character. A scene where the one-armed Mike takes down two gunmen is a terrific bit of staging.

Storywise there are some interesting elements scattered throughout the movie. For instance, I found it notable that the loyal cook, Ling, was not relegated to a minor hired servant’s role but was a full, equal partner with Jim, Mike, and Grizzly. Ling has a couple of nice moments in the film, including providing Jim with a getaway horse when it’s needed in a hurry.

Lee Tung Foo, Gabby Hayes, Randolph Scott in The Cariboo Trail (1950)
Lee Tung Foo, Gabby Hayes and Randolph Scott

Women turn up as independent businesswomen with perhaps surprising regularity in Westerns, typically either running a saloon, a boarding house, or a restaurant. Francie is interesting in that while she runs a business often associated with “bad” women in Westerns — while the “good” women run more respectable establishments — there is never any question about her being Jim’s love interest and potential wife. While Francie looks briefly worried at possible competition from young Jane, that issue is immediately dropped, with Jane and Will having eyes for one another.

Leading lady Karin Booth, who plays Francie, spent much of the ’40s in minor roles, along with occasional more substantive parts such as a ballerina in MGM’s The Unfinished Dance (1947). The Cariboo Trail marked her first film as a Western lead. She would appear opposite George Montgomery in a trio of Westerns and also starred with Sterling Hayden in Top Gun (1955). Booth’s film career ended in 1959.

This was only the fifth film credit for Dale Robertson, who was working his way up from uncredited bit parts. Although the role is small, he’s extremely handsome, and it’s easy to see why his career soon progressed forward into lead roles, including many film and TV Westerns.

Mary Stuart plays Jane, who’s interested in Robertson’s Will. Stuart had played bit roles for the past decade; the year after this film she would star in a new TV soap opera, Search for Tomorrow, and remain with the show for its entire 35-year run. After Search for Tomorrow ended she joined the cast of another soap, The Guiding LightThe Cariboo Trail is a rare opportunity to see Stuart in a nice-sized movie role.

The Cariboo Trail was produced by Nat Holt and released through 20th Century-Fox. The film’s production values waver somewhere between an “A” and a “B” film; the second-unit photography, filmed in Colorado, is extremely good, but at the same time it’s quite clear that stand-ins are used in the long shots and the main cast never left California.

Some of the exterior scenes with cast members are actually filmed inside a sound stage, while other sequences, such as the opening cattle drive, at least took them outdoors to Bronson Canyon in Griffith Park, Los Angeles. The rocky Bronson Canyon backgrounds will look familiar to anyone who’s been there.

The movie was originally filmed by Fred Jackman Jr. in two-strip Cinecolor, and for many years it could only be seen in a black and white print. Happily, the film was restored to its original color a few years ago, a process that took over a year, and the restored print is now available on Blu-ray via Kino Lorber.

Director Edwin L. Marin spent the last few years of his career directing Westerns, including half a dozen starring Scott; sadly, he died less than a year after The Cariboo Trail was released, at only 52 years of age.

Randolph Scott in The Cariboo Trail (1950)
Randolph Scott

While Randolph Scott’s Western career later reached its zenith working with director Budd Boetticher — along with his very last film, Ride the High Country (1962), for director Sam Peckinpah — he made many Westerns in the ’40s and early ’50s which are quite entertaining. The Cariboo Trail is a strong exemplar of this phase of Scott’s Western career and illustrates why he continues to have so many fans.

– Laura Grieve for Classic Movie Hub

Laura can be found at her blog, Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, where she’s been writing about movies since 2005, and on Twitter at @LaurasMiscMovie. A lifelong film fan, Laura loves the classics including Disney, Film Noir, Musicals, and Westerns.  She regularly covers Southern California classic film festivals.  Laura will scribe on all things western at the ‘Western RoundUp’ for CMH.

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Marilyn: Behind the Icon – Monroe’s Break-Out Performance

Marilyn: Behind the Icon – The Asphalt Jungle,
Monroe’s Break-Out Performance

Marilyn Monroe the asphalt jungle

In April 1955, Marilyn Monroe appeared on Edward R Murrow’s television series Person to Person featuring celebrity interviews. From his armchair in a studio, Murrow conversed with Monroe, who appeared remotely from the living room of a Connecticut farmhouse owned by her business partner and his wife, Milton and Amy Greene. Monroe had fled Hollywood five months earlier to establish her own production company — Marilyn Monroe Productions — and to study The Method at Lee Strasberg’s Actor’s Studio. “What the best part you’ve ever had in a movie?” Murrow asks. Monroe immediately references The Asphalt Jungle in addition to her latest role in The Seven Year Itch, a film she was promoting.

Five years before this interview and shortly after 20th Century-Fox Studio dropped her as contract player, Monroe dazzled critics for the first time in The Asphalt Jungle (1950). The MGM Studio’s Oscar-nominated drama was one of  the most influential crime films of the 1950s.

Ths Asphalt Jungle movie poster

The plot centers on a corrupt lawyer, Alonzo D. “Uncle Lon” Emmerich (Louis Calhern), who fronts an elaborate jewel heist executed by criminal mastermind Doc Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe) and a team of experienced thieves; Dix Handley (Sterling Hayden), Gus Ninissi (James Whitmore), and Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso). While the robbery is precisely designed, a series of mishaps, including Emmerich’s betrayal, thwarts its success. Ultimately, each criminal succumbs to his inner weakness and faces prison or death.

Marilyn Monroe The Asphalt Jungle 2

Influenced by neorealism, director John Huston combined the naturalism of that genre with the stylized look of film noir & crime films. Huston was nominated for fifteen Oscars over the course of his five-decade career and won the Best Director and Best Screenplay statuettes for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). In the fall of 1949, he began production on producer Arthur Hornblow’s The Asphalt Jungle. Once a successful screenwriter for Warner Brothers, Huston had transitioned to directing with The Maltese Falcon (1941), followed by classics such as Key Largo (1948) and The African Queen (1951).

Lola Albright  marilyn monroe the asphalt jungle 3

Angela Phinlay, Emmerich’s much-younger mistress, was a small but featured role in a major film with a veteran cast delivering strong performances. The character was significant in both the film’s plot and theme and had the potential to push Monroe into the limelight. She nearly lost the opportunity to portray Angela when Huston chose Lola Albright. Cher’s mother, Georgia Holt, had also auditioned for the role.

Working alongside Monroe’s agent, John Hyde, was Lucille Ryman, Monroe’s benefactor and — serendipitously — the casting director at MGM. Ryman reminded Huston of Albright’s recent success in the acclaimed Champion (1949) and the actress’s resulting increased fee. When Huston paused, Ryman recommended Monroe as a more affordable and equally effective alternative. Coincidentally, Huston’s gambling debts prevented him from paying his $18,000 bill for the boarding and training of his twenty-three horses at Lucille’s ranch. Allegedly, Ryman agreed to a payment plan contingent upon Monroe’s audition for the role. [

marilyn monroe the asphalt jungle 4

In preparing for her audition, Monroe rehearsed with her acting coach Natasha Lytess for three days and three nights, exploring the character’s inner psychology and relationship to the plot. “I played a vacuous, rich man’s darling attempting to carry herself in a sophisticated manner in keeping with her plush surroundings,” Monroe told columnist Dorothy Kilgallen. “I saw her as walking with a rather self-conscious slither and played it accordingly.”

marilyn monroe the asphalt jungle 6

With Monroe’s performance honed, Ryman called on Sydney Guilaroff, the studio’s official hairstylist, to lend his expertise. “I trimmed her hair carefully,” Guilaroff wrote in his memoir, “curling it under in the beginnings of a pageboy but leaving it free to move and shift with Marilyn’s motions. It was an original style, much shorter than the standard length at that time and structured to follow the contours of her face. It was the look that would help make her famous and become her trademark.” Ryman next called Louis B. Mayer, the head of the studio, to tell him that an important audition would take place the next Wednesday.

marilyn monroe louis calhern the asphalt jungle

Monroe’s audition scene was her character’s introduction twenty minutes into the film. Emmerich stands above his young mistress as she naps on a sofa in an elegant striped pants suit, his expression a mixture of admiration and contempt. “What’s the big idea standing there staring at me, Uncle Lon?” Angela asks. He instructs her stop calling him “Uncle.” Sitting up, Angela seeks his approval by reporting she ordered the delivery of salt mackerel because he enjoys it for breakfast. “Some sweet kid,” Emmerich remarks in a soft voice.

louis calhern marilyn monroe the asphalt jungle 2

Angela stretches and yawns. Emmerich mentions the late hour and suggests she go to bed. Angela leans over to kiss him goodnight, and he takes her in his arms, pulls her down onto his armchair, and kisses her passionately. Angela gently pushes him away and lowers her eyes from his. Monroe’s expression suggests the melancholy of a young woman being kept by an older man for whom she feels no passion. Angela slinks off the chair, pats his hand, and slowly walks across the room. The camera cuts to a long shot of Angela walking down the hall to her room and slowly closing the door as she shyly smiles at Emmerich. “Some sweet kid,” he repeats.

marilyn monroe the asphalt jungle 8

Monroe recalled trembling with fear when she auditioned for Huston. She had studied her lines the previous evening but could not relax. He invited her to sit on one of the straight-backed chairs in the room, but she asked to lie on the floor. Hoping to increase her comfort, she also asked permission to remove her shoes. Having been told Monroe was unusual, the request did not surprise Huston.

marilyn monroe the asphalt jungle 9

“When it was over,” Huston recalled, “Marilyn looked very insecure about the whole thing and asked to do it over. I agreed. But I had already decided on the first take. The part of Angela was hers.” She impressed him more off screen than on. “There was something touching and appealing about her,” the director remarked in The Legend of Marilyn Monroe. Monroe was convinced her reading was “awful,” but before she could apologize, Huston smiled and announced she had earned the part. He told she would probably develop into a very good actress, the goal to which she aspired.

When Monroe filmed the scene in the fall of 1949, she looked over Huston’s shoulder for Natasha Lytess’s approval. In the finished film, as she walks across the living room and off camera, Monroe can be seen glancing off-camera toward her coach.

louis calhern marilyn monroe the asphalt jungle 3

Monroe played most of her scenes with 55-year-old actor Louis Calhern who portrayed Emmerich. In 1950, his career peaked with three exceptional performances: as Buffalo Bill in the musical Annie Get Your Gun, as Oliver Wendell Holmes in The Magnificent Yankee, for which he was nominated for an Oscar, and as Monroe’s sugar-daddy in The Asphalt Jungle.

marilyn monroe louis calhern the asphalt jungle 4

In her second scene, Monroe wears a tight black dress with off-the-shoulder straps designed by Otto Kottke, a diamond necklace, and bracelet. “Uncle” Lon tells Angela that he will be busy with cases and offers to send her on a trip.

marilyn monroe louis calhern the asphalt jungle 6

With girlish delight, Angela darts to her bedroom to retrieve a magazine advertisement for a vacation in Cuba and rests her head on his lap. Monroe makes the most of a few lines, which now appear dated by slang interjections of the era: “Imagine me on this beach with my green bathing suit. Yipes! I almost bought a white one, but it wasn’t quite extreme enough. Don’t get me wrong. If I’d gone in for extreme-extreme, I’d have bought the French one.”

louis calhern marilyn monroe the asphalt jungle 8

A pounding on the door interrupts her excitement. Angela becomes frightened by the disturbance at such a late hour and asks “Uncle” Lon to see who is calling. Monroe completed the scene in one take. Her acting ability shines in this final sequence. The police commissioner and detectives have arrived at Emmerich’s home to present the signed confession of his accomplice and arrest him.

marilyn monroe the asphalt jungle 10

One of the detectives knocks on Angela’s bedroom door. When she opens the door, Monroe speaks in a natural voice. “Haven’t you bothered me enough, you big banana-head?” she booms angrily. “Just try breaking my door, and Mr. Emmerich will throw you out of the house.” Her posture is bold and determined.

marilyn monroe the asphalt jungle 11

When the detective announces the commissioner is ready to interrogate her, Angela’s anger turns to little-girl fear as her shoulders cave and she clings to the door- knob. In a slight, tremulous voice, she asks if she can talk to the detective instead. He gently advises her to comply by telling the truth. The policeman leads Angela by the arm into the living room where the commissioner stands over Emmerich as he calmly reads his accomplice’s confession. The commissioner interrogates Angela, who has provided her lover with an alibi, and threatens her with a jail sentence for perjury. She looks pleadingly at Emmerich, who directs her to tell the truth. Breaking down in to tears, Angela buries her face in her hands; the policeman leads her away to sign a statement.

marilyn monroe the asphalt jungle 12

Monroe satisfied Huston on the second take. Angela apologizes through tears as she grabs Emmerich’s hand. He assures that, all things considered, she did well. She asks about the status of their trip to Cuba. “Don’t worry about the trip baby,” Emmerich responds. “You’ll have plenty of trips.”

marilyn monroe the asphalt jungle 13

Monroe would cite her experience of working in The Asphalt Jungle as one of the most rewarding of her career. “I don’t know what I did, but I do know it felt wonderful,” she told Natasha, as told to Jane Wilkie in an unpublished manuscript. Cinematographer Harold Rosson, who had been Jean Harlow’s last husband, lighted and filmed Monroe beautifully.

the asphalt jungle cast louis calhern, sterling hayden, jean hagen

In her first starring role, Jean Hagen is effective as Doll Conovon, the woman who loves Dix Hanley and remains at his side until the bitter end. Like Monroe, she is best known for comedic roles; Hagen was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as Lina Lamont in Singin’ in the Rain (1952).

When The Asphalt Jungle premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on May 23, 1950, Los Angeles police officer James Dougherty served with a squad of other officers to restrain the crowds. He looked at the posters advertising the film and saw the image of his former wife, but she was not in attendance.

Photoplay lauded Marilyn’s enormous screen presence: “There’s a beautiful blonde, too, name of Marilyn Monroe, who plays Calhern’s girlfriend, and makes the most of her footage.” New York Herald-Tribune acknowledged Monroe’s performance as lending “a documentary effect to a lurid exposition.”

the asphalt jungle movie poster 2

The next spring The Asphalt Jungle won four Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Sam Jaffe; Best Cinematography, Black-and White, Harold Rosson; Best Director, John Huston; and Best Screenplay, Ben Maddow and John Huston.

Monroe and Huston worked together again during the summer of 1960, when she achieved another dramatic milestone in her last completed film, The Misfits (1961).

…..

–Gary Vitacco-Robles for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Gary’s Marilyn: Behind the Icon articles for CMH here.

Gary Vitacco-Robles is the author of ICON: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, Volumes 1 2, and writer/producer of the podcast series, Marilyn: Behind the Icon.

   
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This Month on the CMH Channel at Best Classics Ever – His Girl Friday, My Man Godfrey and More

Classic Movie Hub’s June picks for our
CMH-Curated BCE Channel

As announced a few weeks ago, CMH is thrilled to have partnered with Best Classics Ever (BCE), a mega streaming channel dedicated to classic films and TV shows! And, we are proud to have our own Classic Movie Hub Channel there, where CMH fans can stream lots of classic movies and TV shows for free each month! We’ll be specially curating our channel, so we’ll be sure to feature a nice selection for fans, which we’ll announce each month!

That said, without further ado, here are some of the films we’re featuring this month on our channel – all you need to do is click on the image below, then click ‘play’ — you do not have to opt for a 7-day trial:

In celebration of June birthdays: Errol Flynn (Errol Flynn Theater), Gail Patrick (My Man Godfrey), Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes: Dressed to Kill), Rosalind Russell and Ralph Bellamy (His Girl Friday) and Jane Russell (The Outlaw).

And more 🙂

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Lots more to come next month on the CMH Channel!

In addition to our curated CMH Channel, fans can also pivot to the BCE Home Page, where they can watch even more free classic movies and shows on these classic streaming channels – Best Stars EverBest Westerns Ever and Best TV Ever.

You can read more about Best Classics Ever and our partnership here.

Hope you enjoy!

…..

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Best Classics Ever BCE, Classic Movie Hub Channel, Posts by Annmarie Gatti, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Directors’ Chair: Foreign Correspondent (1940)

The Directors’ Chair: Foreign Correspondent

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940)

joel mccrea FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT ( 1 )

What a nifty little spitfire of a movie Foreign Correspondent is. Joel McCrea stands in for America in this ‘thirty-seconds-before-WWII-begins’ thriller. A Dutch ambassador (poignantly played by Albert Basserman) possesses “The MacGuffin” and the bad guys want it…by any means necessary.

“It’s a secret clause. I know it. Clause 27. But they, they mustn’t know it.
It will help them if they make war.”
joel mccrea FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT ( 3 )

And here stumbling in on the world scene is beat reporter, McCrea. His newspaper upgrades him to the level of foreign correspondent but Kronkite and Murrow, he ain’t. Broad, twangy monotone voice, trading in a fedora for a bowler he can’t keep track of, and a cavalier attitude towards world events…heck, that ain’t even our fight. Added to this fish-out-of-water trope are two more Hitchcock ingredients stirred in to make this a bona fide Hitchcock movie:

laraine day FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT ( 4 )

1. a feisty and pretty girl (this time not necessarily a blonde)

and 

herbert marshall FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT ( 5 )

2. a smooth, sleek, cultured villain. 

Herbert Marshall Laraine Day Foreign Correspondent It's true then, what I wouldn't believe.
“It’s true then, what I wouldn’t believe”

Well, he’s got that in Laraine Day and Herbert Marshall. There’s a slight twist…they are father and daughter, so loyalty gets a good going over. Now, I never really quite buy them as father and daughter no matter how many times Day says ‘cahnt’ instead of ‘caint.’ But what the hey. What matters is Marshall cares very much for her and she can be used as a pawn against him.

George Sanders Foreing Correspondent He's not your friend, Mr. Van Meer.
“He’s not your friend, Mr. Van Meer.”

George Sanders makes a jolly good showing in this film. I love him as a journalist wanting to join forces with McCrea. He’s fast-talking, playful, charming and free-wheeling, physical and shows emotion. I’ve never seen Sanders like this again in his career.

Hitchcock has all sorts of set-pieces in Foreign Correspondent as it moves along at a clip:

*  a chase underneath a sea of umbrellas

*  a windmill turning the wrong way (mind your trenchcoat Joel)

*  an assassin sent in as a body guard

*  that spectacular plane crash (before CGI)

Laraine Day Joel McCrea FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT ( 8 )

Two aspects in Foreign Correspondent are explored more and less in two later Hitchcock films. One is Lifeboat (1944) for reasons obvious after you see this 1940 film. And if I might stretch this a bit, the father ~ daughter relationship in Foreign Correspondent is given a nod in Notorious (1946) by the Alicia Hubermann character though it’s only touched upon there.

Albert Basserman FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT ( 9 )

Boy-meets-girl, spy meets future son-in-law. And it all hangs in the balance by a kindly white-haired gentleman. Hitchcock’s works are such a many layered thing… there’s enough there to mine for its parts.

…..

–Theresa Brown for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Theresa’s Directors’ Chair articles here.

Theresa Brown is a native New Yorker, a Capricorn and a biker chick (rider as well as passenger). When she’s not on her motorcycle, you can find her on her couch blogging about classic films for CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch. Classic films are her passion. You can find her on Twitter at @CineMava.

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Silents are Golden: A Closer Look At – Safety Last! (1923)

Silents are Golden: A Closer Look At – Safety Last! (1923)

Few images from cinema are more iconic than the 1920s, black-and-white photo of a young man in round glasses dangling from a clock. Even if you’ve never seen a silent film, it’s guaranteed that you’ve seen this famous still at some point  – and you’ve probably seen more than a few homages to it, too.

Harold Lloyd in the famous clock scene from Safety Last!
Harold Lloyd in the famous clock scene from Safety Last!

Yet relatively few people have seen the film it’s from – Safety Last! (1923), Harold Lloyd’s silent comedy classic. This is a shame because it’s not only timelessly funny, but it can still give audiences a thrill even in this age of elaborate special effects (not for nothing did the American Film Institute include it on their “100 Most Thrilling Movies” list).

By the early 1920s, Harold Lloyd was flying high. He had energetically worked his way up from being a bit player and supporting comedian to becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest box office stars, with an appealing “everyman” persona in signature round spectacles. Usually called “The Boy” in his comedies, Lloyd portrayed hardworking, optimistic go-getters who strove for success – characters very much in tune with 1920s culture.

Harold Lloyd
Harold Lloyd

At the time, “thrill comedies” were a popular subgenre, with comedians braving dizzy heights, out-of-control automobiles, speeding steam trains, and other assorted terrors all in the name of laughs (often doing the dangerous stunts themselves). Stunt work had been common in slapstick films since the earliest days of cinema and only accelerated as the years went by. Studios like Keystone Film Company were legendary for their goofy stunts, and comedians like Larry Semon specialized in crazy spectacles. The thrill comedies of the Roaring Twenties were the natural result of years of comedians trying to outdo each other, one spinning Model T or lengthy fall from a window, at a time.

Stunts weren’t only popular in the movies, either. Fairs often included frenetic shows involving everything from diving horses to people being shot out of cannons — even staged locomotive crashes. Stores used “ballyhoo,” or publicity stunts, to attract fresh crowds of customers, which could be as simple as paying someone to wear a sandwich board all day or as dangerous as having someone bungee jump off the store building. In general, folks in the 1920s seemed to have an endless appetite for crazy stunts.

1920s Barnstormers standing on the wings of a plane
Just a few of the daring “barnstormers” of the era.

In fact, it was witnessing a man perform a public stunt that gave Harold Lloyd the idea of making Safety Last! Years later he recalled: “Without too much ado he started at the bottom of the building and started to climb up the side of this building. Well, it had such a terrific impact on me, that when he got to about the third floor or fourth floor, I couldn’t watch him anymore. My heart was in my throat, and so I started walking up the street…but, of course, I kept looking back all the time to see if he was still there…I just couldn’t believe he could make that whole climb, but he did…

As hair-raising as this climb was to watch, it turned out to be inspiring. Lloyd decided he simply had to meet this daredevil. Nicknamed “the Human Spider,” Bill Strother had become famous for climbing buildings in front of amazed crowds to advertise various businesses. With an idea for a new comedy brewing, Lloyd got Strother a contract with his producer Hal Roach and started work on what would become Safety Last! Lloyd had made several “thrill pictures” by 1923, such as High and Dizzy (1920) and Never Weaken (1921), but he was determined that this newest film — involving the daring climb of a tall building — would top them all.

Harold Lloyd in Never Weaken (1921)
A still for Never Weaken.

Safety Last! is basically a two-part film, the first half introducing us to “the Boy” (Lloyd) who travels to the big city to “make good” so he can marry his girl (Mildred Davis). He ends up working as a lowly sales assistant in a department store. In the second half, the Boy comes up with the idea for a publicity stunt to boost the store’s sales. He enlists his pal “Limpy” Bill (played by Strother) to climb to the top of the 12-story building that houses the department store. Unfortunate circumstances keep Bill from climbing, however, and the Boy takes his place.

Parts of this hair-raising sequence were done for real. Strothers, dressed like Lloyd’s character, is shown climbing a building in several long shots, which were interspersed into the closing scenes with Lloyd.

The famous clock scene building is located at 908 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, California. Harold Lloyd Safety Last! (1923)
The famous clock scene building is located at 908 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, California

But film wizardry was also heavily involved, of course. Lloyd would build a set on top of an actual building in downtown Los Angeles, near the edge of the roof, with a tower for the cameramen built nearby. When angled slightly downwards, the camera captured Lloyd climbing the faux building in the foreground with a real view of the busy downtown in the background. A simple but convincing effect. Several buildings were used for these shots to get footage at escalating heights — the set for the famous clock scene was apparently atop 908 S. Broadway.

Harold Lloyd Safety Last! (1923) balancing on clock pole
Safety Last! was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1994.

This being the 1920s, those rooftop sets weren’t all that safe, either. Lloyd still could’ve gotten injured in a fall, or even fallen from the rooftop itself. Apparently, the clock scenes were filmed with a mattress underneath, which Lloyd decided to test one day by dropping a dummy onto it. The dummy bounced off the mattress and right over the edge of the roof. (They filmed the scene anyways.)

If this all weren’t exciting enough, Lloyd performed those climbing scenes with a hidden disability. In 1919, he had posed for publicity stills that showed him lighting a cigarette with a prop bomb. By some bizarre twist of fate, the “prop” bomb turned out to be an actual explosive. The blast blew off the thumb and index finger of Lloyd’s right hand and left him bedridden for weeks. In time, he returned to films, using skin-color gloves to conceal his mangled hand. That he did those rigorous scenes so well, is a testament to his remarkable “can do” attitude.

Haroly Lloyd Safety Last! (1923) climbing building
Harold Lloyd first tested the safety precautions for the clock stunt by dropping a dummy onto the mattress below. The dummy bounced off and plummeted to the street below.

All that hard work, and throwing caution to the wind paid off. Safety Last! was a huge hit in its time, thrilling countless audiences. Some theaters even advertised that they had nurses in attendance in case anyone fainted. Today it’s rightfully considered a cultural milestone, and not only because it’s the source of one of cinema’s most famous images. If it’s ever playing on a big screen near you, drop everything and go experience it with an audience. You’ll never forget all those laughs–and gasps.

Historian John Bengtson’s posts on Lloyd’s filming locations for Safety Last! were a very helpful source for this post–take a look at them here

–Lea Stans for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Lea’s Silents are Golden articles here.

Lea Stans is a born-and-raised Minnesotan with a degree in English and an obsessive interest in the silent film era (which she largely blames on Buster Keaton). In addition to blogging about her passion at her site Silent-ology, she is a columnist for the Silent Film Quarterly and has also written for The Keaton Chronicle.

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The Funny Papers: In Praise of Hildy and His Girl Friday

In Praise of Hildy and HIS GIRL FRIDAY

Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell His Girl Friday

A raven-haired beauty. She’s a tall drink of water and commands the room with her confidence and radiance, with a wit as sharp as her perfectly slanted hat and Kalloch suit. Only Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson could go toe-to-toe with Cary Grant as charismatic Walter in Howard HawksHis Girl Friday (1940)

His Girl Friday (1940) stands out amongst the crowd pleasers of the screwball comedy classics. As a reminder, here are some of the signature elements of the subgenre of Screwball Comedy:

  • female-driven
  • plots involving courtship, marriage or remarriage
  • love triangles
  • fast-paced action, dialogue and/or repartee
  • chase or escapist themes
  • farcical, if not ridiculous, situations (often caught in a jam/tight spot)
  • elements of slapstick, origins in physical comedy
  • parody of the romantic comedy
  • quirky character actors
  • social class struggles/differences
  • female is usually upper-class socialite or heiress
  • male is less dominant, frustrated
  • both male and female in the couple are frequently eccentric
  • hints of reversal of stereotypical gender roles
  • mistaken identification, mix-ups 
  • and most of all, overall tone of confusion and chaos

As you can see from the above list, this film doesn’t check a few boxes, but a majority will do. We’ll forgive Hildy for not being a scatterbrained heiress as typical in screwballs because this more empowered female role, accompanied with lightning speed dialogue and constant laughs, is absolutely brilliant.

Rosalind Russell Cary Grant and Howard Hawks His Girl Friday
Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant with Howard Hawks

Hawks frames the newspaper world via a love triangle of editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant), his ex and once star reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), and her new beau Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy). The madcap pace begins when Hildy arrives at the paper to persuade her ex to finally sign their divorce agreement. Hildy is motivated – she’s now engaged to sweetly gullible and somewhat slow-witted Bruce. He’s stable, dull and naïve so he’s the very opposite to clever, cunning and exciting Walter. 

Cary Grant Ralph Bellamy Rosalind Russel His Girl Friday
Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy and Rosalind Russell

Wrapped in the guise of a funny take on remarriage, this film is very much a bluntly cynical look into the newspaper game. Written by Charles Lederer, based on the play “The Front Page” by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, the script packs a punch in every scene. To infuse more humor into the final draft, Hawks called in Morrie Ryskind to finesse the dialogue. According to imdb: Morrie “gave the film another ending, in which Burns and Hildy are married in the newsroom then immediately start fighting, leading one of the guests to comment “I think it’s going to turn out all right this time.” Unfortunately, Ryskind revealed this ending to other writers at the studio, and before the film could go into production, another picture was shot with the same ending.” Hildy gives her biting retort on the downside on the lifestyle of an ace reporter as she announces her departure:

“Next time you see me, I should be riding in a Rolls Royce giving interviews on success…So long you wage-slaves…When you’re crawling up fire escapes and getting kicked out of front doors, and eating Christmas dinners in one-armed joints, don’t forget your pal, Hildy Johnson!”

Pay close attention, because from the get-go, you almost miss hilarious snaps of fast-paced zingers. In addition to the spectacular performances, it’s the writing that makes this film particularly memorable. Here’s a fun sampling…

Walter Burns: “There’s been a light burning in the window for you!”

Hildy Johnson: “I jumped out that window a long time ago, Walter.”

Upon more than one occasion, the writing goes nearly campy as the actors are called out by their real names: Walter: [describing Bruce] He looks like, uh, that fellow in the movies, you know, uh, Ralph Bellamy.”

There’s also a reference to a ‘mock turtle’ which was the role of Cary Grant in Alice in Wonderland (1933) and he even recalls a fella named “Archie Leach” (Grant’s real name).

Early on, the chemistry of their sparring ignites with crisp wit and unrelentless charm. We know immediately that dullard Bruce could never compete with Walter. More importantly, Hildy could never settle.

Rosalind Russell His Girl Friday

Walter pulls Hildy back into the fray of her former career with an exciting scoop – a man who faces the gallows and a jail break. Her quick-on-her-feet thinking may lead to saving this man’s life. But will her instinctive nose for news be too strong to save her engagement?  

There’s a physicality to this romantic comedy that appeals to slapstick fans, which fits perfectly with Grant and Russell as our sparring duo lashes out turbo tongues of dialogue. While a typical conversation on film would deliver 100 words per minute, His Girl Friday clocks in at 240 words per minute. It remains one of the most notable examples of the best overtalking in celluloid history. Their chemistry is authentic as an old married couple, and we root for them because it’s undeniable that Hildy and Walter are cut from the same cloth.

Will Hildy find true love by choosing Walter over Bruce? That’s debatable. No doubt Bruce is not up to her speed and Walter is. But I like to believe that Hildy is smarter and more talented than all of them and perhaps being a writer – as a single, career woman who can create her own destiny – is actually the best outcome for our Hildy Johnson. At least, that’s how I enjoy fantasizing an alternate plot twist.

rosalind russel his girl friday 2

Hildy Johnson is a powerhouse of a character for female empowerment, especially for a 1940 cinematic landscape. A female star reporter was a rare sight in that male-dominated industry of that time, where few women worked outside the home beyond domestic workers. To this day, she remains one of my personal favorites for women role models in the movies.

I’ll leave you with an example of how Hildy holds her own (as she debates what future she will decide for herself):

Now get this, you double-crossing chimpanzee! There ain’t gonna be any interview and there ain’t gonna be any story. And that certified check of yours is leaving with me in twenty minutes. I wouldn’t cover the burning of Rome for you if they were just lighting it up. And if I ever lay my two eyes on you again, I’m gonna walk right up to you and hammer on that monkey skull of yours ’til it rings like a Chinese gong! [she tears up her story] Do you hear that? That’s the story I just wrote. Yes, yes, I know we had a bargain. I just said I’d write it. I didn’t say I wouldn’t tear it up. It’s all in little pieces now, Walter, and I hope to do the same for you some day. [to newsroom] And that my friends, is my farewell to the newspaper game. I’m gonna be a woman, not a news-getting machine. I’m gonna have babies and take care of them. Give ’em cod liver oil and watch their teeth grow.”

Give ‘em hell, Hildy!

…..

If you’d like to watch His Girl Friday for free, you can do so at the Classic Movie Hub Channel at Best Classics Ever. Every month, we’ll be curating our own selection of classics that fans can watch for free. No need to do a 7-day trial, just hit play and enjoy! This is part of our long-term partnership with BCE.

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–Kellee Pratt for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Kellee’s Funny Paper articles here.

When not performing marketing as her day gig, Kellee Pratt teaches classic film courses in her college town in Kansas (Film Noir, Screwball Comedy, Hitchcock, Billy Wilder and more). She’s worked for Turner Classic Movies as a Social Producer and TCM Ambassador (2019). Unapologetic social butterfly, she’s an active tweetaholic/original alum for #TCMParty, member of the CMBA, and busy mom of four kids and 3 fur babies. You can follow Kellee on twitter at @IrishJayhawk66 or her own blog, Outspoken & Freckled (kelleepratt.com). 

Stream His Girl Friday for free here, just hit play and enjoy. No need for 7-day trial.

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