Classic Movie Travels: Marion Stadler

Classic Movie Travels: Marion Stadler

Marion Stadler
Marion Stadler

When viewing the restored The King of Jazz (1930) film, the act that captivates my attention most is the energetic duo performance by Marion Stadler and Don Rose. In learning about the vaudeville backgrounds of several other performers in the film, the story of Stadler and Rose both on the camera and off has intrigued me. Though their appearance in the film is brief, their presence and skill as acrobatic dancers paired with light comedy is phenomenal.

Marion Stadler, King of Jazz (1930)
King of Jazz (1930)

Marion Eleanor Stadler was born on December 15, 1911. There are some conflicts as to her birthplace, as the 1930s census lists her being born in Illinois, while other documents claim that she was born in Huntington Park or Glendale, California. With these discrepancies taken into consideration, the 1930 census does indicate that her parents, Harold J. Stadler and Ella M. Weber Stadler were living with her grandmother, Johanna F. Stadler, in Pasadena, California. Johanna was listed as the head of the household. Of the residents, Harold is listed as maintaining a furniture store in town and being born in Illinois, while Ella was born in Germany. The store was located in the Atwater area and the family lived nearby. At the time of the census, Marion was well into her dancing career. She is listed as working as a dancer in the theater by age 18.

Stadler exhibited a fondness for dance at an early age. She took lessons to sharpen her skills and even treated her fellow graduating eighth-grade classmates to a special ballet performance executed by her. Soon enough, she would pursue this passion as a profession, teaming with Matt Duffin. While the partnership offered her strong experience with the rigors of traveling and performing with a teammate, their partnership lasted from 1926 to 1927.

The following year, Stadler partnered once again but with an individual who had no formal training as a dancer: Donald Crowne Rose, born on August 29, 1902, in Nevada. Instead of focusing upon dancing, he aimed to elicit laughter among audiences and to impress them by an acrobatic style of dancing with Stadler.

Ragdoll dance scene from King of Jazz (1930)
Ragdoll dance scene from King of Jazz (1930)

Stadler’s dancing style with him mimicked that of a ragdoll, being masterfully tossed about the stage by Rose and appearing to be totally malleable by his strong lead. As they toured the vaudeville circuit and grew in popularity, they made several appearances in different film shorts and in a Pathe featurette. As they continued to build upon their ragdoll act, they were booked as part of Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic in 1929. Their act appeared at the New Amsterdam Theater’s rooftop theater in New York, working alongside the likes of torch singer Helen Morgan, the Duncan Sisters, and Paul Whiteman. After their engagement with Ziegfeld, they continued to tour in the Publix circuit as part of John Murray Anderson’s unit, touring Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Washington, D.C., Ohio, and Michigan.

In 1930, the duo also appeared in The King of Jazz, a Technicolor variety show with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra at the helm. The partners performed their ragdoll routine to the tune of “Ragamuffin Romeo,” sung by Jeanie Lang and George Giles, telling the story of a rag-collector who dreams up his very own rag mate. Once his fantasy comes true, Stadler and Rose launch into their ragdoll act in full force, with a routine that continues to entertain and excite audiences to this day. Though Stadler’s last name is misspelled “Stattler,” the routine is executed with intricate control and amazing energy.

While they rehearsed for the film, they were simultaneously working through a four-week booking at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, where they received praise from local critics. After the release of the film, the duo toured all over the world, with documented trips in Poland, England, Italy, and more. Along the way, their partnership was made all the more official by their marriage in 1936. Their extensive travels came to a close with the start of World War II.

Once the duo retired from dancing, they sought out other career pursuits together as they resided in Glendale, California. The couple remained married until Rose’s passing on September 4, 1987, after which Stadler lived on her own for a time. She retired to Rockhaven Sanitarium in 1994, a private mental health institution for women housed in a serene environment, where she developed many friendships, participated in the activities offered there, and spent time enjoying the gardens there. Stadler also shared her enthusiasm for dance with the community, screening a video of some of her dance routines there. Stadler remained at Rockhaven until her passing on December 23, 2011.

For further reading about Stadler and Rose, tour photos, and a sweet photo of them later in life, I highly recommend enjoying Rockhaven Sanitarium: The Legacy of Agnes Richards

In 1930, Stadler lived at 981 Parkman St. in Pasadena, California, with her grandmother and parents. This is the property at present:

981 Parkman St. in Pasadena, California
981 Parkman St. in Pasadena, California

By 1947, she was living at 925 Centinela Ave. in Los Angeles, California. Here is the property today:

925 Centinela Ave. in Los Angeles, California
925 Centinela Ave. in Los Angeles, California

The address of the home she shared with Rose at 606 E Broadway is listed alongside the Village Laundro Meter in Glendale, California. The home no longer exists.

Rockhaven stood at 2713 Honolulu Avenue in Montrose, California. Among its residents were Stadler, Gladys Pearl Eley Baker (mother of Marilyn Monroe), Billie Burke, Peggy Fears, Josephine Dillon, Babe Egan, and Gwen Lee. It developed a reputation as a “Screen Actors’ Sanitarium,” frequently housing those connected to the entertainment industry. After changes in ownership and threats to raze the historic property, the City of Glendale purchased the property in 2007 for use as a community park.

As of 2016, the site was considered for use as a mental health facility or shopping center. Despite objections by the City of Glendale, the Friends of Rockhaven successfully nominated the structure for listing in the National Register of Historic Places in April 2016. The Friends of Rockhaven work to protect the buildings and legacy of the property and host tours to educate the public in hopes of encouraging the restoration of the property and see it used as a public park or community center. Today, Rockhaven sits unoccupied but is very much intact on the inside and outside.

The Friends of Rockhaven – 2713 Honolulu Avenue in Montrose, California
The Friends of Rockhaven – 2713 Honolulu Avenue in Montrose, California

Stadler’s scrapbooks highlighting her life and career are part of the New York Public Library’s collection, housed in the Lincoln Center archives for dance.

Though Stadler and Rose are long gone, their act and partnership are lovingly preserved in The King of Jazz.

–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.

Posted in Classic Movie Travels, Posts by Annette Bochenek | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cooking with the Stars: Joel McCrea’s (and Frances Dee’s) Boot Kicking Range Top Casserole

Cooking with the Stars: Joel McCrea’s (and Frances Dee’s) Boot Kicking Range Top Casserole

Joel McCrea & Frances Dee
Joel McCrea & Frances Dee

As the leaves have started to fall from the trees and I’ve begun bringing out the autumnal decorations in the house, my mind has been wandering towards comforting fall dishes made by the stars.

Of course classic Hollywood came out in full force in the cookbooks and magazines of yesteryear, and many recipes are still available that revolve around Thanksgiving and fall. However, I knew that I was onto something when I discovered that my newest classic film star crush, Joel McCrea, celebrates his 114th birthday on November 5th and that I had a delightful and homey-looking recipe of his in my archives!

While you might not feel compelled to make this western-style dinner when you’re surrounded by your family and friends on Thanksgiving, I do feel like this would make quite the dish to cook at home when you want a full belly and some food to put you at ease, and to me, that’s what this season’s all about. I hope you read on and learn more about this hunk of an actor and find out all about his dish fit for the strapping cowboy of the silver screen!

Joel McCrea Young
Joel McCrea early in his career

Joel McCrea was born on November 5, 1905, in Pasadena, California to Thomas McCrea, an executive with the Los Angeles Gas & Electric Company, and Louise “Lou” Whipple, a Christian Science practitioner. From an early age, Joel mingled with those in the entertainment industry, as one of his first jobs was maintaining a paper route which included the homes of stars and filmmakers like Cecil B. DeMille. Throughout his youth, he had many opportunities to find himself in Hollywood as he not only witnessed the filming of D.W. Griffith‘s famed Intolerance (1916), but also starred as an extra in various features and serials.

By the time he graduated from Hollywood High School, which he attended alongside future director of his work Jacques Tourneur, Joel stood tall at 6’2½” and worked as a stunt double and horse handler for some of the most prominent western stars in the business such as William S. Hart and Tom Mix. He also attended Pomona College, the alma mater of fellow leading men like Randolph Scott, Robert Young, and Victor Mature, and acted on stage, took classes in drama and public speaking, and appeared regularly at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Joel McCrea opposite Dolores del Rio in Bird of Paradise (1932)
Joel McCrea in a particularly steamy scene opposite Dolores del Rio in Bird of Paradise (1932)

It was during one of his jobs as an extra that McCrea got the chance of a lifetime, as he was chosen out of the crowd for a major role in The Jazz Age (1930). That opportunity only led to greater ones, and it wasn’t long before multiple studios took notice of the promising newcomer.

MGM was the first to sign the budding actor and gave Joel his first leading role in The Silver Horde (1930), but at first, Joel was difficult to place in any one studio or character type. His time at MGM lasted less than a year, and from there he dabbled in westerns at Fox with Will Rogers, who became one of his closest friends in Hollywood and one of his greatest supporters.

However, what really gave Joel’s career the chance to skyrocket were his portrayals of sexy leading men in a variety of steamy pre-codes such as Girls About Town (1931) at Paramount along with Kay Francis and Lilyan Tashman and Bird of Paradise (1932) at RKO with Dolores del Rio, the latter of which caused great controversy over its nude scenes yet at the same time gave him some much-needed and deserved notoriety.

Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake on the set of Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
Joel McCrea looking close to co-star Veronica Lake on the set of Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

From there, McCrea established himself as a handsome leading man capable of excelling in a variety of roles, and he maintained a steady career doing just that throughout the remainder of the 1930s in films like The Silver Cord (1933), which introduced McCrea to Frances Dee, who would become his wife of fifty-seven years until his passing in 1990.

While he continued to be a moderate box office success and delightful onscreen presence throughout this decade, it was the 1940s which would associate him with some of the most influential movies and directors of his era, starting with his collaboration with Gregory La Cava in the heartfelt drama Primrose Path (1940) with Ginger Rogers. The peak of his career continued with another dramatic role in Alfred Hitchcock‘s Foreign Correspondent (1940), but by 1941 director Preston Sturges discovered McCrea’s knack for comedy and cast him in what I believe is one of Hollywood’s greatest takes on itself: Sullivan’s Travels (1941). That feature was soon followed up with the even more successful The Palm Beach Story (1942), and soon George Stevens decided to use his talents for Joel’s third popular comedy of the decade: The More the Merrier (1943).

Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo in a scene from Colorado Territory (1949)
Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo in a scene from Colorado Territory (1949), a Western remake of High Sierra (1941) that compares to the original.

The remainder of the 1940s bounced McCrea around from genre to genre, by the decade’s end he had found his true calling and what he loved best: westerns.

McCrea was later quoted as stating, in an interview from 1978: “I liked doing comedies, but as I got older, I was better suited to do Westerns. Because I think it becomes unattractive for an older fellow trying to look young, falling in love with attractive girls in those kinds of situations…. Anyway, I always felt so much more comfortable in the Western. The minute I got a horse and a hat and a pair of boots on, I felt easier. I didn’t feel like I was an actor anymore. I felt like I was the guy out there doing it.

Thus, Joel made a career move similar to that of James Stewart and Henry Fonda and made a success of his western leading man image in works such as The Virginian (1947), Colorado Territory (1949) (my personal favorite), Frenchie (1950), Wichita (1955), and The Tall Stranger (1957).

Joel McCrea milking a cow on his ranch.
Joel McCrea milking a cow on his ranch. Image courtesy of The Joel McCrea Ranch Foundation.

He effectively remained in the western genre for the rest of his time in motion pictures, most famously reuniting with one of the other most well-known western performers in the business, Randolph Scott, for the critically acclaimed Ride the High Country (1962). It was one of his final films before his retirement in 1976.

For his work as an onscreen cowboy, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. McCrea ultimately lived the cowboy life offscreen as well, settling down in a ranch of his own that he maintained with his wife and sons. Even though Joel McCrea passed away from pneumonia on October 20, 1990, at the age of eighty-four, The Joel and Frances McCrea Ranch Foundation is still active, led by Joel’s descendants, and continues to welcome visitors.

Joel McCrea and Frances Dee’s
Boot-Kicking Range Top Casserole

This recipe is actually courtesy of the McCrea ranch and the McCrea family themselves, so you know it’s authentic! Both Joel and Frances are credited with the invention of this fry-up, so we’ll never know who cooked what, but it’s fun to imagine this couple horsing around their ranch’s kitchen, whipping this up in their cowboy boots!

  • 1lb extra lean ground meat (I used beef)
  • 1 onion
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 2 cans kidney beans
  • 2 garlic buds
  • Optional: Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, mushrooms, crushed red chili peppers (I used all of the above)
  • Brown the meat.
  • Add the onion and garlic.
  • Add kidney beans, cut carrots to the mixture, add cabbage.
  • Fry for 45 minutes.
WARNING: DO NOT fry for 45 minutes as stated. Read on to learn why and fry for 20 minutes instead if you plan on making this dish!)
Joel McCrea Cassarole
This is how my casserole turned out! It looked much better going into the pot than it did coming out of it!

I first gravitated toward this recipe for Joel McCrea, of course, but also for its comfort factor and simplicity. The brief list of ingredients and the directions that were even more brief made this casserole appealing. It’s basically a “toss these ingredients in a skillet and fry them up” kind of meal, which I hadn’t really tried in an Old Hollywood context before, so I was intrigued. The cabbage and the cooking time scared me a little bit, but I put all of my trust in Joel and Frances and made the recipe exactly as stated, with the exception of adding a little bit of butter in with the vegetables to avoid everything sticking together. Unfortunately, nothing could save these vague directions. While the combination of food worked well together, the fact that no cooking temperature or liquid is included in this recipe quickly turns Joel’s dinner idea from promising to disastrous.

Even the butter that I added on top of my constant stirring couldn’t keep this mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan and immediately burning on medium heat. It was simply impossible to cook this dish with no liquid, no oil, nothing, for forty-five minutes and not have a burnt end result. If you intend to recreate this, DO NOT replicate it exactly. It just doesn’t work as-is. If you want to make this and end up with something edible, add some chicken stock, tomato sauce, or even just plain water in with your vegetables and cook the whole thing for about twenty minutes, and I promise you’ll get a meal you can actually enjoy. I had such high hopes for this casserole, and I’ll very likely attempt it again with my own suggested improvements. The taste was still pretty good even after everything, but as it is I can’t in good faith give this recipe more than two Vincents.

Vincent Price Rating
McCrea’s Casserole gets 2 Vincents!

–Samantha Ellis for Classic Movie Hub

Samantha resides in West Chester, Pennsylvania and is the author of Musings of a Classic Film Addict, a blog that sheds light on Hollywood films and filmmakers from the 1930s through the 1960s. Her favorite column that she pens for her blog is Cooking with the Stars, for which she tests and reviews the personal recipes of stars from Hollywood’s golden age. When she isn’t in the kitchen, Samantha also lends her voice and classic film knowledge as cohost of the Ticklish Business podcast alongside Kristen Lopez and Drea Clark, and proudly serves as President of TCM Backlot’s Philadelphia Chapter. You can catch up with her work by following her @classicfilmgeek on Twitter.

Posted in Cooking with the Stars, Posts by Samantha Ellis | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Win Tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: When Harry Met Sally (30th Anniversary)” (Giveaway runs now through Nov 16)

Win tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: When Harry Met Sally” on the Big Screen!
In Select Cinemas Nationwide Sun Dec 1 and Tues Dec 3

“I’ll have what she’s having.”

CMH continues with our 4th year of our partnership with Fathom Events – with the 14th of our 14 movie ticket giveaways for 2019, courtesy of Fathom Events!

We’ll be giving away EIGHT PAIRS of tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: When Harry Met Sally (30th Anniversary)” on the Big Screen — starring Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan and Carrie Fisher.

In order to qualify to win a pair of movie tickets via this contest, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, Nov 16 at 6pm EST.

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter on Sunday, Nov 17, between 6PM EST and 7PM EST. If a winner(s) does not have a Twitter account, we will announce that winner(s) via this blog in the comment section below.

when harry met sally 30th anniversary fathom events
When Harry Met Sally, directed by Rob Reiner… written by Nora Ephron

The film will be playing in select cinemas nationwide for a special two-day-only event on Sunday Dec 1 and Tues Dec 3 at select times. Winners will be responsible for their own transportation to the Event. Only United States entries are eligible. Please click here before you enter to ensure that the Event is scheduled at a theater near you and that you are able to attend. (please note that there might be slightly different theater listings and/or screening times for each date)

ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday Nov 16 at 6pm EST…

1) Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post

THE QUESTION:
Although not officially a classic-era film, what in your opinion makes “When Harry Met Sally” a classic? And, if you haven’t seen it, why do you want to see it on the Big Screen?

2) Then TWEET* (not DM) the following message:
I just entered to win tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics Presents: When Harry Met Sally (30th Anniversary)” on the Big Screen courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @FathomEvents – you can #EnterToWin too at http://ow.ly/5Qv650wWXc7

IMPORTANT: If you don’t have a Twitter account OR if your Twitter account is private, you can still enter the contest by simply answering the above question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog — BUT PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU ADD THIS VERBIAGE TO YOUR ANSWER: I do not have a Twitter account (or it is private), so I am posting here to enter but cannot tweet the message.

NOTE: if for any reason you encounter a problem commenting here on this blog, please feel free to tweet or DM us, or send an email to clas…@gmail.com and we will be happy to create the entry for you.

ALSO: Please allow us 48 hours to approve your comments. Sorry about that, but we are being overwhelmed with spam, and must sort through 100s of comments…

Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan… Harry and Sally…

About the film: A special 30th Anniversary showing is coming to select theaters nationwide. Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally ALbright (Meg Ryan) meet when they share a car on a trip from Chicago to New York right after both graduate from college. As the two build their lives and careers in Manhattan, they find love and heartache– with other people– but their paths continue to cross and their friendship continues to grow over the years… until they confront the decision whether to let their friendship develop into a romance. The anniversary event includes exclusive insight from Turner Classic Movies.

Please note that only United States residents are eligible to enter this giveaway contest. (see contest rules for further information)

BlogHub members ARE also eligible to win if they live within the Continental United States (as noted above).

Good Luck!

…..

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Fathom Events, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Film’s First Family – Book Giveaway (Nov)

“Film’s First Family: The Untold Story of the Costellos”
We have FOUR Books to Give Away this month!

“It is as gripping as an epic novel” – Kevin Brownlow, Filmmaker and Film Historian

It’s time for our next book giveaway contest! This month CMH is very happy to announce that we will be giving away FOUR COPIES of Film’s First Family: The Untold Story of the Costellos” by Terry Chester Shulman, courtesy of University Press of Kentucky, from now through Oct 26.

In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, Nov 23 at 9PM EST. However, the sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning, because we will pick a winner on four different days within the contest period, via random drawings, as listed below… So if you don’t win the first week that you enter, you will still be eligible to win during the following weeks until the contest is over.

  • Nov 2: One Winner
  • Nov 9: One Winner
  • Nov 16: One Winner
  • Nov 23: One Winner

We will announce each week’s winner on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub, the day after each winner is picked at 9PM EST — for example, we will announce our first week’s winner on Sunday Nov 24 at 9PM EST on Twitter. And, please note that you don’t have to have a Twitter account to enter; just see below for the details…

“The Goddess of the Silent Screen” Dolores Costello married John Barrymore in 1928. They are Drew Barrymore’s grandparents.

…..

And now on to the contest!

ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, November 23 at 9PM EST — BUT remember, the sooner you enter, the more chances you have to win…

1) Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post

2) Then TWEET (not DM) the following message*:
Just entered to win the “Film’s First Family: The Untold Story of the Costellos” #BookGiveaway courtesy of @KentuckyPress & @ClassicMovieHub You can #EnterToWin here http://ow.ly/kmRP50wWWIH

THE QUESTION:
What is it about the Costellos that intrigue you? And if you’re not familiar with their legacy, why do you want to win this book?

*If you do not have a Twitter account, you can still enter the contest by simply answering the above question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog — BUT PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU ADD THIS VERBIAGE TO YOUR ANSWER: I do not have a Twitter account, so I am posting here to enter but cannot tweet the message.

NOTE: if for any reason you encounter a problem commenting here on this blog, please feel free to tweet or DM us, or send an email to clas@gmail.com and we will be happy to create the entry for you.

ALSO: Please allow us 48 hours to approve your comments. Sorry about that, but we are being overwhelmed with spam, and must sort through 100s of comments…

About the Book:  Scandal, adultery, secret marriages, celebrity, divorce, custody battles, suicide attempts, and alcoholism ― the trials and tribulations of the Costellos were as riveting as any Hollywood feature film. Written with unprecedented access to the family’s personal documents and artifacts ― and interviews with several family members, including Dolores Barrymore Bedell (the daughter of John Barrymore and Dolores Costello) and Helene’s daughter Deirdre ― this riveting study explores the dramatic history of the Costellos and their extraordinary significance to the stage and screen. The original members of this pioneering family may be gone, but the name and legacy of the Costellos will live on through their accomplishments, films, and descendants―most notably, actress Drew Barrymore.

Click here for the full contest rules. 

Please note that only Continental United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and the territory of Puerto Rico) entrants are eligible.

And — BlogHub members ARE eligible to win if they live within the Continental United States (as noted above).

Good Luck!

And if you can’t wait to win the book, you can purchase the on amazon by clicking here:

 …..

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged , , , , , | 22 Comments

Western RoundUp: Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935) on Location in Lone Pine

Western RoundUp: Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935)
on Location in Lone Pine

Earlier this month I had a wonderful time at the 30th Lone Pine Film Festival, which I previewed here in September.

Lone Pine Festival Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935) Programs
2019 Lone Pine Film Festival programs

My seventh year attending the festival was a busy long weekend, which included nine movie screenings and three location tours, not to mention the festival parade and a closing night campfire! Although the weekend was filled with activity, somehow it also managed to be very relaxing. I especially like the way screenings can be alternated with other activities at this festival.

The very first film I watched at the 2019 festival was Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935). This also happened to be the very first “Hoppy” film, based on the character created by Clarence E. Mulford. This movie is also sometimes known by an alternate title, Hopalong Cassidy Enters.

Lone Pine Festival Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935) William Boyd
Lone Pine Film Festival Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935)

I’ve seen a number of Hopalong Cassidy films in the last few years thanks to the festival, and I found it particularly enjoyable to see the movie which kicked off the long-running film series, which later morphed into a TV program.

Watching the movie, it’s hard to believe now that William Boyd was not the first choice for the role. While there are different stories floating around as to how casting plans evolved — some sources indicate character actor James Gleason was the first choice of producer Harry “Pop” Sherman, which is hard to imagine now — the ultimate choice of Boyd proved to be inspired.

William Boyd

Boyd simultaneously conveys a steely “Don’t mess with me” authority with a kindly and patient nature; throughout this film, every time hotheaded young Johnny (James Ellison) expresses regret for a mistake, Hoppy responds with a reassuring “You’re all right, Kid!” Hoppy is fatherly while still young enough to be an action star; whether a fistfight or gunfight is involved, once Hoppy arrives on the scene, all will be well.

In this first film, Boyd’s character is initially introduced as Bill Cassidy, who works for the Bar 20 Ranch; he’s dubbed Hop-a-long as he limps around while recovering from being shot. “Ol’ Hop-a-long Cassidy, that’s me!”

Lone Pine Festival Hop-a-long Cassidy Enters (1935)
Hopalong Cassidy Enters (1935)

The plot concerns nasty H2 Ranch foreman Jack Anthony (Kenneth Thomson), who plots to turn his own employer, Jim Meeker (Robert Warwick), against neighboring Bar 20 employees, who include Hoppy, Johnny, Ben (George “Gabby” Hayes), and foreman Buck Peters (Charles Middleton). Anthony is working with rustlers to steal cattle from both ranches, and his plan is for the ranchers to blame one another rather than the real culprits.

The folks who work on the two ranches are soon at loggerheads thanks to Anthony’s machinations, though Johnny nonetheless dares to visit the H2 Ranch to spend time with the owner’s pretty daughter, Mary (Paula Stone).

Eventually, Anthony’s plot becomes clear and the Bar 20 and H2 ranchers join forces to combat the rustlers.

Doris Schroeder’s Hop-a-long Cassidy screenplay tells a great deal of the story in its one-hour running time, with well-developed characters, solid drama, and good action sequences. Director Howard Bretherton keeps things moving while seeing that light comedy and romance are balanced with gunfights and even pathos; Gabby Hayes has quite a memorable death scene as the mortally wounded Ben (Hayes) still manages to let Hoppy know critical information.

James Ellison, John Merton, Paula Stone, Kenneth Thomson, and Robert Warwick in Hop-a-Long Cassidy (1935)
James Ellison, John Merton, Paula Stone, Kenneth Thomson, and Robert Warwick in Hop-a-Long Cassidy (1935)

All in all, it’s a strong film which set a firm foundation for the many Hopalong Cassidy films and TV episodes to follow. Later in the weekend, as a matter of fact, I enjoyed another early film in the series, Hopalong Rides Again (1937).

The film was helped greatly by atmospheric filming by Archie Stout in the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine; a significant portion of the film was shot there, with only a handful of scenes taking place indoors.

One of the great pleasures of the Lone Pine Film Festival is the ability to watch a film and shortly thereafter be standing in the exact spots where the movie was filmed. Within a couple of hours of seeing Hop-a-long Cassidy, I participated in a car caravan tour to the film’s locations just a few minutes outside of town.

Lone Pine Festival Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935) tour ticket
Lone Pine Film Festival Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935) tour ticket

Our tour guide, Greg Parker, has great knowledge of Hopalong Cassidy films and the Alabama Hills. He was aided in his tour by a booklet of screenshots prepared by another regular Alabama Hills tour guide, former L.A. Times photographer Don Kelsen. We used the booklet to match up scenes with each Hop-a-long Cassidy location we visited.

Lone Pine Festival Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935) scene booklet
Hop-a-long Cassidy scene booklet

Most Alabama Hills tours begin with a drive down scenic Whitney Portal Road towards Movie Road, named as it leads to a variety of areas regularly used for filming by movie production companies.

Lone Pine Festival Whitney Portal Road
Whitney Portal Road

Finding movie locations is rather like a puzzle, matching up rock formations with screen captures. For instance, the rock formations seen in the booklet in Picture A2…

Lone Pine Festival Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935) Scene A2
On location for scene A2

…are right here.

Lone Pine Festival Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935) Scene rocks

I have sometimes thought how amazed movie companies of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s would be if they could have foreseen so many of us making pilgrimages to the places where they worked!

John Gilliland, who often attends the festival wearing his extensively researched Hopalong Cassidy gear, re-enacted Gabby Hayes’ death scene for us along with a volunteer, in the exact location where it was shot over 84 years ago. They were great sports, and we all had a good time with that.

Lone Pine Festival Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935) Gabby Hayes Death Scene
Spoiler Alert: Gabby Hayes’ death scene reenactment

The vehicles in the background, incidentally, were parked for the annual horseback ride through the Alabama Hills hosted by McGee Creek Pack Station. My husband was one of those exploring the hills on horseback while I was on the Hoppy tour, another great illustration of the variety of activities that are available at the festival.

Compare the location above with the screenshot of William Boyd and Gabby Hayes in the lower right corner:

Lone Pine Festival Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935) Gabby Hayes Death Scene screenshot
Screenshot from Hayes’ death scene

Over the years I’ve found the tours educational in a variety of respects. For instance, a production company with a lean budget could often achieve a variety of background “looks” simply by rotating the camera to another angle, without spending time and money setting up in a new location.

They also cleverly used optical illusions; for instance, in the movie Hoppy lassos a boulder and seemingly scales a steep mountain wall. In reality, Boyd was simply walking up a path toward the rope. Here John Gilliland’s Hoppy hat pops up over the rocks as he demonstrates for us the path Boyd took during his “climb”:

Lone Pine Festival Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935) Hoppy scales wall
Hoppy’s rock climb in reality

Gilliland, incidentally, is a font of knowledge regarding Hopalong Cassidy in general and Hoppy’s costumes in particular, and during the course of the tour he described for us how Boyd worked with Edith Head to establish Hoppy’s initial “look” and then made further changes to the costume early on in the film series. He’s always a welcome presence at the festival.

Here’s one more screenshot comparison, showing a scene where Hoppy is resting against a rock:

Lone Pine Festival Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935) Nap rock
Hop-a-Long’s nap rock

Hoppy was here:

Lone Pine Festival Hop-a-long Cassidy (1935) Nap rock scene
A comfortable place for a rest

We spent a couple of hours visiting many more locations seen in the film. It’s a great deal of fun being able to do so, and the experience also really changes a viewer’s perspective watching the many additional Westerns filmed in the Alabama Hills.

Lone Pine Festival Mug
A true western fan always gets a souvenir

The Lone Pine Film Festival is a “must” for classic film fans in general and those who love Westerns in particular, and I strongly encourage anyone with interest to attend a future festival. A memorable experience is guaranteed.

– 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.

Posted in Posts by Laura Grieve, Western RoundUp | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Monsters and Matinees: How Movies With Dad Spawned A Classic Horror Fan

How Movies With Dad Spawned A Classic Horror Fan

It was a moment of serendipity that had me nearly bouncing out of my seat.

Classic Movie Hub was looking for stories about “classic sci-fi movies and horror and …”

I didn’t give Annmarie Gatti a chance to finish the sentence – instead, I interrupted and nearly yelled “Yes!” out of pure excitement. I may not have been born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I came into the world with an insatiable appetite for classic horror movies. It’s true.

Family folklore has it that my parents were watching a Peter CushingChristopher Lee film at the drive-in when Mom was pregnant with me. She made Dad leave halfway through the film and always maintained that’s why I was so obsessed with horror films growing up. I don’t know the title of the movie – they couldn’t remember and there wasn’t a film released right before I was born – but my fate was sealed.

Horror of Dracula (1958) Christopher Lee
Did a Christopher Lee movie my mother watched while she was pregnant with me have anything to do with my love of horror films? I think so.

By the time I was 5, I was watching the “old movies” with Dad. Bela and Boris, giant insects and animals, dinosaurs and time machines. We watched them all. Occasionally Dad put his hands over my eyes during a scary part, but that made me only want to see more.

I don’t know how our little tradition started, but I do remember sneaking out of bed and “hiding” (as if dad didn’t see me) to watch the movies. Other nights, I waited for Dad to get me once Mom fell asleep. At first, this ritual revolved around the Friday night Fright Night movies that started after the late news. With the lights off, Dad sat in a chair just feet from the TV. I was on the floor at his knee.

It was a successful night if Mom didn’t catch us. When she did, it was off to bed for me. She once caught   us watching a Hammer film and I clearly remember her telling Dad: “She is going to grow up with serious problems if you let her watch these movies.”

She was right: I grew up with a serious problem in that I couldn’t find enough classic horror, sci-fi and B-movie creature features to watch (this was well before the current endless buffet of movies offered via cable and streaming).

The War of The Worlds (1953) Lobby Card
The first time I tried to watch War of the Worlds on television, my parents sent me to bed. After I finally saw it, I realized they were right to do that. The film still gives me nightmares.

A few years later, the Saturday Night Movie started showing similar films – but often with the dreaded parental warning.  Back then, parents listened so when the warning popped up before George Pal’s TheWar of the Worlds – a film I had been eagerly waiting to see – they turned the station. I threw such a tantrum, I was sent to bed (and I pouted for days).

Eventually, I saw The War of the Worlds (yes, it gave me nightmares) and countless other horror/sci-fi films thanks to Dad. Our favorites were “giant anything” movies like Them! (ants), Beginning of the End (grasshoppers), Tarantula (self-explanatory), It Came From Beneath the Sea (octopus), The Amazing Colossal Man and a favorite that has been passed down through generations in our family, Mysterious Island (giant bees, crab, chicken). When the creature or monster appeared, Dad and I would look at each other in awe as if what we were seeing was real.

Mysterious Island (1961)
This artwork for Mysterious Island details some of the oversized animals that gave stranded travelers trouble in the 1961 film adaptation of the Jules Verne story.

Not all the films were great, but it didn’t matter. We affectionately called them “Herman movies” from Dad’s nickname of Herman (as in “Munster”). When there was a particularly bad film, one of us would say “It’s a Herman movie” (a special code we still use) and keep watching. We were having fun.

The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)
The Amazing Colossal Man was a 1951 B-movie from Bert I. Gordon that was fun and creepy.

Dad taught me to find joy in every movie – even the bad ones – and that film education has been a gift. I learned about Universal Monsters, Hammer Films, and B-movies. Later, we added disaster flicks (thank you, Irwin Allen). The more ridiculous the better – hence our outing last year to see Skyscraper.

Before there was Google and Wikipedia to make everyone feel like an expert, Dad was a wealth of movie trivia. To this day, when we watch Tarantula (yes, one of our favorites), he reminds me that the young pilot at the end is an uncredited Clint Eastwood. I always pretend I didn’t know and respond with a variation of “wow.”

It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955)
Giant creatures, like the octopus in It Came From Beneath the Sea, have been a favorite to watch with my dad since I was a kid.

We still watch these films and enjoy modern creature and disaster movies that clearly have a basis in the classics. One night a few years back, dad called and without saying hi, blurted out: “Are you watching this movie about the shark and tornado?” Of course, I was. We hung up quickly to get back to the movie. Dad just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing out. In my family, Sharknado is the perfect father-daughter movie.

I know many classic movie fans have similar stories of how a parent or other family member helped cultivate their love for these films. In fact, it’s a topic that has come up a few times while waiting in line at the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival. I adore these tales and how they are another bond between classic movie fans. I would love to hear your story, so please share.

As I write for Classic Movie Hub, I hope you won’t mind it will be with the pure enthusiasm of a little girl who watched these films in the dark with her Dad and enjoyed them despite seeing the zipper on the creature’s suit.

Toni Ruberto for Classic Movie Hub

Toni Ruberto, born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., is an editor and writer at The Buffalo News. She shares her love for classic movies in her blog, Watching Forever. Toni was the president of the former Buffalo chapter of TCM Backlot and now leads the offshoot group, Buffalo Classic Movie Buffs. She is proud to have put Buffalo and its glorious old movie palaces in the spotlight as the inaugural winner of the TCM in Your Hometown contest. You can find Toni on Twitter at @toniruberto.

Posted in Monsters and Matinees, Posts by Toni Ruberto | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Blu-Ray Giveaway – Ida Lupino: Filmmaker Collection (4 disc set) (now through Nov 23)

Celebrating Women Pioneer Filmmakers!
We’re Giving Away FIVE Ida Lupino Blu-Ray Filmmaker Collection Sets!

This month we continue our Women Pioneers Filmmaker Celebration with another special giveaway! We are happy to say that we’re giving away FIVE COPIES of the Ida Lupino Filmmaker Collection 4-disc Blu-Ray set, courtesy of our friends at Kino Lorber! The set includes four newly restored classics directed by Ida Lupino: Not Wanted (1949), Never Fear (1949), The Hitch-Hiker (1953) and The Bigamist (1953).

Includes four newly-restored classics directed by Ida Lupino

In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, Nov 23 at 9PM EST. However, the sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning, because we will pick our winners on five different days within the contest period, via random drawings, as listed below… So if you don’t win the first week that you enter, you will still be eligible to win during the following weeks until the contest is over.

  • Oct 26: One Winner
  • Nov 2: One Winner
  • Nov 9: One Winner
  • Nov 16: One Winner
  • Nov 23: One Winner

We will announce each week’s winner on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub (or this blog, depending how you entered), the day after each winner is picked at 9PM EST — for example, we will announce our first week’s winner on Sunday October 27 at 9PM EST.

…..

About the DVD: This collection includesfour Newly Restored Classics Directed by Ida Lupino — Not Wanted (1949) Starring Sally Forrest and Leo Penn, Never Fear (1949) Starring Sally Forrest and Hugh O’Brian, The Hitch-Hiker (1953) Starring Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy and William Talman and The Bigamist (1953) Starring Joan Fontaine, Ida Lupino, Edmond O’Brien and Edmund Gwenn.

…..

ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, November 23 at 9PM EST— BUT remember, the sooner you enter, the more chances you have to win…

1) Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post

2) Then TWEET (not DM) the following message:
Just entered to win the “Ida Lupino Filmmaker Collection” 4-disc Blu-Ray #Giveaway courtesy of @KinoLorber and CMH #CMHContest Link: http://ow.ly/oJPc50wRKyM

THE QUESTION: Why do you consider Ida Lupino a film pioneer? And, if you’re not familiar with her work, why do you want to win this collection?

*If you do not have a Twitter account, you can still enter the contest by simply answering the above question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog — BUT PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU ADD THIS VERBIAGE TO YOUR ANSWER: I do not have a Twitter account, so I am posting here to enter but cannot tweet the message.

ALSO: Please allow us 48 hours to approve your comments. Sorry about that, but we are being overwhelmed with spam, and must sort through 100s of comments…

…..

Please note that only Continental United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and the territory of Puerto Rico) entrants are eligible.

And — BlogHub members ARE eligible to win if they live within the Continental United States (as noted above).

And if you can’t wait to win this Blu-Ray, you can click on the images below to purchase on amazon:

…..

Good Luck!

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged , | 42 Comments

Silents are Golden: A Closer Look at – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Silents are Golden: A Closer Look at – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

The indisputable masterpiece of German Expressionism is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari–both because it’s a perfect example of the style done right (which was less common than you’d think!) and because it’s just plain great filmmaking. A dark tale set in a world of bold, bizarre design, the sharp angles and painted-on shadows of Caligari are as iconic as they are unique.

The Cabinet of Dr.Caligiri (1920)
The Cabinet of Dr.Caligiri (1920)

You might wonder precisely where this strange film came from. After all, in an era when many films strived for a type of elegant realism, Caligari stands out. Even today, it has an edge. We might be tempted to say it was ahead of its time–but was it?

To wrap our heads around the film, we should briefly examine where German Expressionism came from. The movement didn’t start in the movies, after all, but popped up during the wave of early 20th century modern art. In 1905 a small group of students labeled themselves Die Brücke (The Bridge) and created artwork that featured a lot of strange angles and lighting similar to what we see in Caligari. Die Brücke had much in common with other modern art movements too, and many of their new ideas began showing up in the theater. Max Reinhardt, the owner of the prestigious Deutsches Theater in Berlin, encouraged experimentation with lighting and set design and introduced many daring new trends. And thus, modern art and theater combined to form the distinct style that we recognize as German Expressionism.

The Cabinet of Dr.Caligiri (1920) - German Expressionism, Die Brücke
An expressionist student group, Die Brücke

The term tends to be thrown around a bit today, but German Expressionism was technically a specific style of flat, deliberately artificial sets, sometimes with light and shadows painted right on them. The look was meant to echo the moods of the characters or the overarching themes. The Student of Prague (1913), The Golem (1915) and Homunculus (1916) are considered early German Expressionist films, but the full potential of the exaggerated style would only explode onto the screen once Caligari was released.

A beautiful shot from The Calinet of Dr. Caligari depicting the emphasis on art, design, and perspective,
A beautiful shot from Caligari depicting the emphasis on art, design, and perspective,

Caligari has a fascinating and thought-provoking backstory. It was written by Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz, who both had tragedies in their pasts. Mayer, a scriptwriter in a Berlin theater, had been raised in Austria by a father obsessed with creating a “system” to gambling. When the obsession led him to lose everything, he took his own life, leaving Mayer and his siblings to fend for themselves. Mayer managed to make a living in the theater, and occasionally underwent traumatic exams that tested him for mental illness. Janowitz, an author from Bohemia, had been an officer in World War I. His experiences seeing countless soldiers sent “over the top” to be slaughtered had shattered his trust in authority figures. This, coupled with haunting memories of possibly seeing a murder victim not long before her death, had left a deep impression on him.

Both men shared a distrust of authority, and both were pacifists thanks to the horrors of World War I. Becoming friends in Berlin, they would talk frequently about their tragic experiences as well as their fascination with cinema. They agreed that cinema was becoming a tremendously powerful art form–and a perfect vehicle for introducing powerful ideas. During their conversations, an idea for a screenplay began taking form. While walking through a colorful street fair one fateful night, they saw a sideshow act called “Man or Machine” where a strongman uttered ominous predictions under hypnosis. The sight of a human being performing against his will (in a sense) was the last spark of inspiration they needed–and the plot for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was born.

The Cabinet of Dr.Caligiri (1920) Lobby Card
Caligari lobby card

The film would deal with abusive authority figures, insanity, and duality–the themes that continually haunted Mayer and Janowitz. While neither had written a screenplay before, they wrote it in six weeks, proudly presenting it to a somewhat uninterested Erich Pommer of the Decla-Bioscop film studio. After Mayer read it out loud, Pommer was impressed enough with the script’s unusual horror elements to offer them a contract on the spot. (He also assumed it could be filmed cheaply.)

While Fritz Lang was originally Caligari’s director, he became busy with another project and Robert Wiene was chosen instead. Hermann Warm was in charge of the art design and believed a highly stylized look would be perfect for the themes of the story. He and fellow designers Walter Reimann and Walter Röhrig decided the radical new “Expressionism” would be perfect, and got permission to make their sets as fantastically bizarre as possible. The studio thought this could help draw audiences and also make the film distinct from Hollywood products.

The Cabinet of Dr.Caligiri (1920) Perspective
Again, a great example of perspective in German expressionist film

Paper, canvas, and paint were used for the scenery (and faux lighting) in the film, and the somewhat small film studio forced the designers to make creative use of limited space. Some sets played with perspectives, such as the scene where Cesare appears to be standing on a rooftop, or the early scenes where small, strategically-placed merry-go-rounds give the illusion of a busy carnival. Interestingly, much of the radical design choices were the result of low budgets (being post-WWI and all), challenging the designers to make as big an impact as possible with cheap materials.

The Cabinet of Dr.Caligiri (1920)
Fact: The film is included on Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies” list.

Of course, all the impactful sets in the world can’t equal a great film without great actors, and fortunately, Conrad Veidt, Werner Krauss, and Lil Dagover were chosen to play the leads. Veidt and Krauss (Cesare and Caligari, respectively) both had experience with Expressionist-style acting and felt very comfortable on the fantastical sets. Lil Dagover was used to more conventional acting, but her whitened face and darkened eyes also made an impact on screen. The look of Dr. Caligari was somewhat based on grim philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, while Veidt’s appearance was intensely Expressionistic, allowing him to fit seamlessly into Caligari’s incoherent world.

The Cabinet of Dr.Caligiri (1920)
Dr. Caligari: “I must know everything. I must penetrate the heart of his secret! I must become Caligari!”

The “bookend” scenes were apparently added to the story at the studio’s insistence, much to Mayer and Janowitz’s irritation. Their original script had included a simple framework of having the main character Francis relating the tale of happened to him 20 years prior, while the new scenes seemed to subvert much of Caligari’splot. Janowitz would later insist that he and Mayer were deeply unhappy with the new scenes–and how they twisted their “abusive authority” theme–and had to be talked into not protesting the finished film.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was a fairly successful release in Germany, helped by a mysterious marketing campaign where posters and ads proclaimed: “You must become Caligari!”  It did respectably well in the U.S. too, where it was marketed as “something new” (although it thrived more in cities than small communities). But today, its influence has reached far beyond 1920, impacting decades of horror and arthouse films. Dependent on the distinct culture of modern art that circulated in Germany throughout the Edwardian period, Caligari was very much a product of its time. But when all is said and done, its value to film history has proven to be timeless.

The Cabinet of Dr.Caligiri (1920)
Made before “horror” was a designated genre, this is sometimes cited as the first true horror film. –IMdB

–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.

Posted in Posts by Lea Stans, Silents are Golden | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Noir Nook: Five Things You Need to Know About Guest in the House (1944)

Noir Nook: Five Things You Need to Know About Guest in the House (1944)

Guest in the House movie poster (1944)
Guest in the House movie poster

Guest in the House (1944) is a little-known noir starring Anne Baxter as Evelyn Heath, who has been in the hospital due to a heart ailment and, upon her release, goes to stay with the family of her doctor-fiancé, Dan. Although she appears, upon first glance, to be a sweet, guileless sort, she’s actually a she-wolf in sheep’s clothing and, once she’s settled into her fiancé’s home, proceeds to use her sociopathic wiles to wreak havoc throughout the household. In addition to Baxter, the film’s cast includes Ralph Bellamy, Ruth Warrick, Aline MacMahon, and Margaret Hamilton.

…..

In celebration of the upcoming Halloween holiday season, this month’s Noir Nook serves up five things you need to know about this creepy, atmospheric, and slightly off-the-rails noir. (Full disclosure: Guest in the House is one of my “guilty pleasures” – I wouldn’t exactly characterize it as a classic, but I get a kick out of it all the same.)

…..

Ruth Warrick and Anne Baxter in Guest in the House (1944)
Ruth Warrick and Anne Baxter in Guest in the House (1944)

ONE: The film’s original director was Lewis Milestone, who had previously helmed such well-received features as All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), The Front Page (1931), and Of Mice and Men (1939). Just a month into shooting, Milestone suffered an attack of appendicitis and collapsed on the set. He was replaced by John Brahm, who reshot some of the early scenes.

TWO: Evelyn’s fiancé in the film was played by Scott McKay, in his second big-screen performance. McKay, who also played roles in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) and Duel in the Sun (1946), spent most of his career on the small screen. He was the widower of actress Ann Sheridan – the couple married in June 1966; Sheridan died of esophageal cancer less than a year later, in January 1967, at the age of 51.

THREE: Guest in the House was re-released in theaters as Satan in Skirts.

Anne Baxter in Guest in the House (1944)
Anne Baxter

FOUR: Guest in the House and Satan in Skirts had several – shall we say – tantalizing taglines to attract moviegoers. Here’s my favorite: “No girl has ever been called more names! That’s Evelyn . . . the guest . . . who manages to throw her pretty shadow around where any man near must see it — and when it comes to a man she grants no rights to anyone but herself!”

FIVE: I don’t often agree with Bosley Crowther, the famously acerbic critic for the New York Times, but his take on this film was pure gold: “A more cracked and incredible tale than this quaint one of a mischief-making female has not lately disturbed the screen. As a play by Hagar Wilde and Dale Eunson, it had a moderate run, we understand, but as a film, it is openly in peril of being laughed into a quick decline. The fault is as much in the story as it is in the handling by all concerned, for the story is cheaply synthetic and about as logical as a crooner’s song . . . Nor is any help rendered by Anne Baxter, who plays the wrecker with so much coyness that anyone, shy of a blind man, could see that she was up to tricks. And Ralph Bellamy is equally ridiculous as a middle-aged Byronic beau who tries to be boyish and amorous and also solemn and wise. Miss MacMahon remains in the background, which is a happy place for one in this film, while Ruth Warwick, Scott McKay, and Jerome Cowan get entwined with the torturings upfront. Mr. Stromberg is an eminent producer, but his grip certainly slipped on this job.”

…..

If you’ve never seen this gem, it’s available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube. Check it out, some snowy night by the fire. But check your expectations at the door and get ready for a wild ride!

– Karen Burroughs Hannsberry for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Karen’s Noir Nook articles here.

Karen Burroughs Hannsberry is the author of the Shadows and Satin blog, which focuses on movies and performers from the film noir and pre-Code eras, and the editor-in-chief of The Dark Pages, a bimonthly newsletter devoted to all things film noir. Karen is also the author of two books on film noir – Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of Film and Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. You can follow Karen on Twitter at @TheDarkPages.
If you’re interested in learning more about Karen’s books, you can read more about them on amazon here:

Posted in Noir Nook, Posts by Karen Burroughs Hannsberry | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Silver Screen Standards: Lassie Come Home (1943)

Silver Screen Standards: Lassie Come Home (1943)

Hollywood is releasing a steady stream of sentimental dog movies these days, from A Dog’s Purpose (2017) and A Dog’s Journey (2019) to A Dog’s Way Home (2019) and The Art of Racing in the Rain (2019), which makes this a perfect time to revisit one of the first and best of the genre, Lassie Come Home (1943). All dog movies that have come after the Lassie films owe a debt to the original, but none of them has managed to improve on it. Lassie Come Home is a superior dog movie for several reasons, including, of course, its canine star, but subtler elements also work to make this picture an enduring classic that viewers of all ages can enjoy.

Adapted from the novel by Eric Knight, Lassie Come Home tells the now-familiar story of a loyal dog who refuses to be separated from her beloved boy no matter the obstacles. Child star Roddy McDowall and veteran character actor Donald Crisp – who had already played son and father in the Best Picture winner How Green Was My Valley (1941) – provide the main human points of interest as Joe and Sam Carraclough, whose poverty drives them to sell Lassie to a rich duke (Nigel Bruce). After Lassie returns home twice from the Duke’s estate, she is taken to Scotland, where she escapes again and embarks on the long journey home to Yorkshire.

Roddy MocDowall Lassie Come Home (1943)
Roddy MocDowall stars as Joe, the boy Lassie loves. Every day Lassie meets Joe in the schoolyard when classes end.

Lassie herself, played by a male dog named Pal, has become legendary, and in this first screen appearance, it’s easy to see why generations of dog lovers have fallen under Lassie’s spell. A magnificent rough collie with soulful eyes, Lassie manages to be remarkable but believable throughout her adventures. Unlike most of the current movie dogs, Lassie does not talk, and it’s just as well because her interior monologue would be very dull. “I’ve got to get home to my boy” seems to be her constant, driving thought. Lassie’s silence, however, is part of her appeal. She doesn’t have to tell us what she’s thinking because her actions clearly show it. Besides, this is not a cute, funny dog story. It’s a seriously moving story about hardship and devotion. Silence becomes it.

The significance of silence extends to the main human characters. Neither Joe nor Sam talks much in the film, but their actions show what they are feeling at every moment. Donald Crisp has a particularly effective way of being very still and silent at moments when Sam is too overcome with grief to do anything else. When Mrs. Carraclough, played by the inimitable Elsa Lanchester, tries to fill the men’s silences with words, she only ends up showing how useless they are. Though she claims multiple times that she’s glad Lassie is gone, it’s obvious that she’s heartbroken, too, and it tells us more that she keeps Lassie’s bowl close at hand even after the dog has been taken off to Scotland.

Elsa Lanchester and Donald Crisp in Lassie Come Home (1943)
Elsa Lanchester and Donald Crisp play Joe’s parents, who show their devotion to the family dog even after they are forced to sell Lassie to put food on the table.

In addition to McDowall, Crisp, and Lanchester, Lassie Come Home boasts an impressive roster of top-notch actors, most notably a very young Elizabeth Taylor in her second screen appearance. The role would launch Taylor’s career at MGM and also provide a lifelong friend in McDowall. Filling in the other supporting roles are Nigel Bruce, Dame May Whitty, Edmund Gwenn, J. Pat O’Malley, Alan Napier, and Arthur Shields, a veritable who’s who of British character actors. Whitty and Gwenn have particularly fine scenes as kindly people who help Lassie along her way, while J. Pat O’Malley has the unenviable task of being a villainous servant who mistreats her.

Elizabeth Taylor and Nigel Bruce in Lassie Come Home (1943)
Elizabeth Taylor and Nigel Bruce play the granddaughter and grandfather who buy Lassie from the impoverished Carraclough family.

Too often modern movies about dogs succumb to a temptation to be cute or clever; the going feeling seems to be that family movies require a lot of levity to be palatable, but Lassie Come Home avoids these traps without being mawkishly sentimental, either. We get a few moments of humor, but jokes would not suit a story about a family so desperate that they part with the dog they dearly love, and between the lines of the movie we can read the wartime mood and the film’s effort to remind us how stoic and determined the British people are in the face of adversity. As the film’s introduction observes, the creator of Lassie, Eric Knight, was himself killed in War World II while serving in the United States Army. There’s a seriousness of purpose underlying the film that has nothing to do with dogs but everything to do with loyalty, sacrifice, and perseverance, and that, too, makes Lassie Come Home a film that endures.

If you fall in love with Lassie and her human costars, you’ll find many of them reunited in different roles in the sequels: Son of Lassie (1945), Courage of Lassie (1946), Hills of Home (1948), and Challenge to Lassie (1949). TCM has a DVD set of the original and three of the subsequent films if you’re looking to get a head start on holiday shopping for the dog lover in your life.

Jennifer Garlen pens our monthly Silver Screen Standards column. You can read all of Jennifer’s Silver Screen Standards articles here.

Jennifer is a former college professor with a PhD in English Literature and a lifelong obsession with film. She writes about classic movies at her blog, Virtual Virago, and presents classic film programs for lifetime learning groups and retirement communities. She’s the author of Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching and its sequel, Beyond Casablanca II: 101 Classic Movies Worth Watching, and she is also the co-editor of two books about the works of Jim Henson.

Posted in Posts by Jennifer Garlen, Silver Screen Standards | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment