Musical Interlude: Musical Remakes

 

Musical Remakes

Remakes are nothing new. Since films began, they were remade. Stories are revised, plot lines are shifted and new actors are cast in roles someone else made their own years before. Other times, the story, scenes and lines are exactly the same as they were in the original.

Today, more than 20 years will pass before a movie is remade, but during the classic era, 10 years didn’t even have to pass before an old script was dusted off to make new again. Take for example, The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1929) starring Norma Shearer which was remade in 1937 with Joan Crawford under the same title.

But there is a special kind of remake which is a whole different animal — the musical remake — where an old story is dusted off the shelf, but this time songs and dances are incorporated into the plotline. The idea is that the music will improve upon the original story — and sometimes it does but sometimes it doesn’t.

Here are a few musical remakes you may have missed:

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The Awful Truth (1937) remade as Let’s Do It Again (1953)

Lets Do It AgainJane Wyman and Ray Milland in Let’s Do It Again

The Awful Truth itself was a remake. It first was seen on the screen in 1925 and again in 1929 under the same title. But the classic and best known version was released in 1937 starring Irene Dunne, Cary Grant and Ralph Bellamy. The story revolves around a couple divorcing and trying to thwart each other’s new romance. In 1953, the story was remade as Let’s Do It Again, a musical starring Ray Milland, Jane Wyman and Aldo Ray. Milland plays a Broadway composer who becomes angry when his wife and former musical star, Jane Wyman, spends an evening with a rival composer.

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The Women (1939) remade as The Opposite Sex (1956)

The Opposite SexThe Opposite Sex starring June Allyson (r) and Joan Collins (next to Allyson)

The appeal of The Women (1939) was that the plot revolves around the trouble with men, but not one single man appears on screen. The remake, The Opposite Sex, however includes men in the cast, such as Jeff Richards, Harry James and Leslie Neilson. Esther Williams was initially cast as the lead, and in her autobiography she wrote that she declined the role because she thought it was a mistake to remake The Women. June Allyson was cast instead in the Norma Shearer role, the woman jilted by her husband for a more sultry dame (Joan Collins plays the role, originally played by Joan Crawford). The remake’s cast also includes Ann Miller, Joan Blondell, Agnes Moorehead, Ann Sheridan and Dolores Gray.

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Tom, Dick and Harry (1941) remade as The Girl Most Likely (1958)

The Girl Most LikelyThe Girl Most Likely starring Jane Powell

These two films are more similar to each other than other remakes. Both involve a dreamer of a girl — Ginger Rogers in the 1941 version and Jane Powell in the 1958 version — who have three suitors to pick from: a reliable guy with a job, a handsome loafer, and the rich man.

In the 1941 version it’s George Murphy as the ole reliable, Burgess Meredith as the loafer and Alan Marshal as the wealthy man.

In the 1958 version, Tommy Noonan has the steady job, Cliff Robertson is the slacker and Keith Andes as the rich guy.

In both films, Rogers and Powell have to determine if they want to marry the rich man they always wanted, or to marry for love. While many people today know Ginger Rogers from her musicals, Tom, Dick and Harry is not a musical. It’s The Girl Most Likely that is filled with songs and Gower Champion choreographed dances.

What’s sad about The Girl Most Likely, is that it marks the end – it was the last musical film that Jane Powell made.

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Kentucky (1938) remade as Down Argentine Way (1940)

Down Argentine WayDown Argentine Way starring Betty Grable and Don Ameche

Kentucky is a modern day Romeo and Juliet story starring Loretta Young and Richard Greene. Their families had been feuding since the Civil War and Young’s grandfather, played by Walter Brennan, is keeping the anger alive. Both families also raise racing horses.

Down Argentine Way, starring Don Ameche and Betty Grable, also deals with racing horses and a family feud, but the location is changed from Kentucky to Buenos Aries, Argentina where Betty Grable and her aunt, Charlotte Greenwood are vacationing. And Grable has no crotchety grandfather. Instead, Ameche has a grandfather played by Henry Stephenson, who doesn’t want him to sell any horses to Grable’s family. Down Argentine Way seems to be a little less about the feud and more about Grable and Ameche’s romance, racing horses and lots of great music.

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The Male Animal (1942) remade as She’s Working Her Way Through College (1952)

Shes Working Her Way Through CollegeShe’s Working Her Way Through College starring Ronald Reagan and Virginia Mayo

In The Male Animal, Henry Fonda plays an English professor working at a Midwestern university. Everyone at the school, including his wife played by Olivia De Havilland, only cares about football, which frustrates Fonda. In the midst of the big football weekend, Fonda finds himself in trouble for many reasons: He gets in a free-speech fight with his trustees when he wants to read Bartolomeo Vanzetti’s sentencing statement to his class, and when his old pal Jack Carson comes to visit, his wife swoons for the old football star.

When Warner Bros. remade the film in 1952 as She’s Working Her Way Through College, the focus of the professor — played here by Ronald Reagan — takes a backseat to the character of Angela, or Hot Garters Gertie, played by Virginia Mayo. Angela is a showgirl who wants to go to college and is a character added to the story that isn’t in The Male Animal. Reagan’s character is still the frustrated English professor and an old friend and football star, now played by Don DeFore comes to visit. Instead of a speech, Reagan has to defend wanting to put on a musical rather than a Shakespeare play, and also has to defend Mayo’s opportunity to get an education.

Other honorable mention remakes:

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– Jessica Pickens for Classic Movie Hub

Jessica can be found at cometoverhollywood.com and on twitter at @HollywoodComet. In addition to her overall love of classic movies, she has ongoing series on her site including “Watching 1939″ and “Musical Monday.”

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Jarmila Novotna: My Life in Song Book Giveaway (Facebook/Blog Nov/Dec)

Jarmila Novotna: My Life in Song
Book Giveaway via Facebook and this Blog

Yay! The contest is over and the winner is Carl. Congratulations!

Okay, now it’s time for the Facebook/Blog version of our Jarmila Novotna: My Life in Song Giveaway Contest! This time we’ll be giving away one copy of the book via Facebook and this blog, courtesy of University Press of Kentucky. And, remember, we’re also giving away FIVE MORE copies via Twitter this month as well, so please feel free to enter that contest too…

In order to qualify to win this prize via this Facebook/Blog contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, Jan 12 at 9PM ESTWe will pick one winner via a random drawing and announce him/her on Facebook and here on this Blog the day after the contest ends (Sunday Jan 13).

If you’re also on Twitter, please feel free to visit us at  @ClassicMovieHub for additional giveaways — because we’ll be giving away FIVE MORE books there as well! PS: you don’t even need a twitter account to enter! (Click here for twitter contest details as well as more information about the book.)

jarmila novotna- my life in song
This is Novotná’s own English-language version of her best-selling memoir

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ENTRY TASK to be completed by Saturday, Jan 12 at 9PM EST —

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

THE QUESTION:
Why would you like to win a copy of this book?

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: A legendary beauty, hailed as one of the greatest singing actors of her time, Jarmila Novotná (1907–1994) was an internationally known opera soprano from the former Czechoslovakia. Best known for her performances in Der Rosenkavalier, The Marriage of Figaro, and La Traviata, she was a celebrated performer at the Metropolitan Opera and other theaters across Europe and the United States. A “natural screen actress,” Novotná also appeared in Hollywood hits such as The Search (1948) with Montgomery Clift (with whom she shared an enduring friendship) and The Great Caruso (1951) with Mario Lanza. She was also considered a pioneering “crossover” star who performed on Broadway, and worked in radio and television with Bing Crosby and Abbott and Costello. Throughout this memoir, lavishly illustrated with photos from her personal collection, Novotná shares entertaining stories about her time in Hollywood, an “unending stream of parties”― including those hosted by Louis B. Mayer, co-founder of MGM Studios―alongside such stars as Jimmy Stewart and Elizabeth Taylor. Novotná also offers revealing profiles of many notable artistic figures of the time, including director Max Reinhardt, composer Cole Porter, and conductor Arturo Toscanini, and dignitaries such as Dwight Eisenhower and Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia. This fascinating self-portrait offers a window on history and the reflections of a captivating and supremely talented figure who left an indelible mark on the performing arts.

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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:

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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Vitaphone View: The Talkies – How Could They Be So Wrong?

Vitaphone View: The Talkies
How Could They Be So Wrong?

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus
When he said, the world was round
They all laughed when Edison recorded sound
They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother
When they said that man could fly
They told Marconi
Wireless was a phony
It’s the same old cry
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin

Paying for water in bottles. Cell phones that take pictures. Computers in every home… You can kind of understand how some new ideas and predicted innovations can bring out the skeptics and naysayers. It was no different for talking pictures.

Some of that skepticism is understandable, given the troubled and failure-ridden path the new medium had to negotiate. Between 1893 and 1926, literally hundreds of talking picture systems were tried, and crashed and burned. Often laughed out of theatres due to poor synchronization and other technical deficiencies, “talking pictures” became a term synonymous with bankruptcy.

So, by the time “perfected” talkies arrived with Vitaphone in 1926, most in the industry chose to either ignore it or deride its chances for success. The arguments against it were predictable. “A fad.” “The public doesn’t want talking pictures.” “Silent pictures are fine as they are.”

During Vitaphone’s first year, it was still unclear if the public wanted these improved, well-synchronized and recorded sound films. During that trial year, Warner Bros released about a dozen features with music but no dialogue, except for The Jazz Singer ( ’27). Also released were about 80 one-reel Vitaphone short subjects with singing and talk. With the release of the Jolson feature and the expansion of wired theatres, Vitaphone and talkies became harder to ignore. Concurrently, William Fox’s Movietone sound on film system also boosted audience interest and comfort with the new medium.

By 1928 – at least retrospectively – it should have been obvious that the silent picture was doomed and that talkies were here to stay. But that year the naysayers found their voice and did all they could to reject the idea of the inevitable transition. Since the sound films from Warner Bros and Fox were doing well at the box office, we must look for reasons why some of the most prestigious and influential industry leaders were so opposed to talkies as a permanent new business norm.

Unquestionably, the other studio heads considered the cost of rewiring their studios and theatres (many owned by them). But that argument was never spoken publicly. Instead, arguments focused on the beauty of the silent picture, and the unsubstantiated claim that the public would have no lasting interest in sound films.

Here are a few contemporary quotes from individuals who should have known better, and likely did:

“ No, I don’t think the talking motion picture will ever be successful in the United States. Americans prefer silent drama. They are accustomed to the moving picture as it is and they will never get enthusiastic over any voices being mingled in. The American people do not want it [talkies] and will not welcome it. We are wasting our time in going on with this project.”
Thomas Edison, March 4, 1927

“ Talking pictures will never displace the silent drama from its supremacy, or affect the appeal of motion pictures with synchronization and sound effects.”
Joseph Schenck, United Artists July 6, 1928

“ A good voice in a talking picture will be a canned voice nevertheless.”
Fred Niblo, MGM director Sept. 16, 1928

“ I consider the so-called ‘all talkie’, the film with conversation from beginning to end, nothing but rotten trash.”
Sergei Eisenstein, director Feb. 23, 1930

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Each year, Film Daily put out a nearly 1000-page compendium of the industry, listing every film, studio and professional details and ads, and predictions from filmland leaders for the coming year. It is fascinating to read those predictions from the 1928 edition, and then those for the very next year. The contrast is both chilling and telling. In 1928, out of nearly three dozen predictions from studio heads and producers, only TWO mention sound films at all — Jack Warner and William Fox — who were then the only producers of talkies The others chose to not even mention them, much less predict their impact on the industry in the coming year. Considering how far along the transition already was in early 1928, this studied cluelessness is bizarre.

Here are 1928 predictions …

1928 Film Daily Predictions1928 Film Daily Predictions

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Then, just a year later, everything had changed. By then, MGM, Paramount, Universal and the other studios had acquiesced to the public’s insistence for talking pictures, and even the most vocal naysayer could no longer ignore that fact. Film Daily’s 1929 Yearbook predictions section revealed that 100% of the leaders commented on talkies, in almost all cases as a boon to the box office. Here are a few examples….

1929 Film Daily Predictions1929 Film Daily Predictions

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Two “hedgers” was Paramount producer Jesse Lasky and Universal studio head Carl Laemmle…

1929 Film daily Lasky quote 1929 Film daily Laemmle quote

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The real test of whether or not talkies were just a fad ultimately was determined by comparing production numbers of 1928-29 to those of 1929-30. As Donald Crafton discusses in his book The Talkies:

“ In the final quarter of the 1928-29 season (that is, the period ending in April 1929), of the 200 films actually released, more than half (114) were silent-only… The scorecard of proposed films for the 1929-30 season announced 504 films. Less than 10 percent (43) were to be pure silents.”

1928/ 1929 Film Daily Year Book Covers1928/ 1929 Film Daily Year Book Covers

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Carl Laemmle, head of Universal, was probably the most entrenched of the studio heads in committing to continuing to produce silent features and dual versions. His company, after all, served many rural theatres, which were struggling to deal with the costs of converting to sound. Incredibly Universal and other studios created purely silent versions of allegedly music-based features as Showboat, My Man, The Jazz Singer, and The Singing Fool. For Showboat’s re-release in 1929, Universal added a synchronized score to the 1927 film and appended a series of sound vignettes with Aunt Jemima and other cast members to serve as a prologue. It did well at the box office.

Showboat 1929 Lobby CardTheatre Lobby Card for Showboat (1929).

Regardless of the soothsayers and deniers, by the end of 1930, the silent film was dead. Only Chaplin resisted, producing the silent City Lights (’31) and Modern Times (’36) before acquiescing to talking with his The Great Dictator in 1940.

But I still can’t figure out selling tap water in bottles!

– Ron Hutchinson, Founder of The Vitaphone Project, for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Ron’s Vitaphone View articles here.

Ron is widely recognized as one of the country’s foremost film historians, with special emphasis on the period covering the transition to sound (1925-30) and early attempts to add sound to film. As the founder of The Vitaphone Project, he has worked with Warner Brothers, UCLA, LOC and private collectors worldwide to find previously lost soundtrack discs and restore early sound shorts. Ron’s unique knowledge has  been sourced in over 25 books as well as documentaries for PBS and TCM, and commentary for “The Jazz Singer” DVD boxed set. He was awarded the National Society of Film Critics “Film Heritage Honor” for his work in film preservation and discoveries, and was the presenter of rare Vitaphone shorts at the 2016 TCM Film Festival. For more information you can visit the Vitaphone Project website or Facebook Group.

And, if you’re interested in exploring some of these newly discovered shorts and rarities, you can pick them up on DVD via amazon:

               

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Western RoundUp: A Trio of Wyatt Earp Westerns

Western RoundUp: A Trio of Wyatt Earp Westerns

Real-life Western lawman Wyatt Earp (1848-1929) has been portrayed in countless films over the years. The stories always take a fair amount of dramatic license, but Earp’s legend was such that his name and incidents from his life were a seemingly bottomless well of inspiration for Western filmmakers.

The best-known Earp film of all may be John Ford‘s My Darling Clementine (1946), which is truly an American masterwork. Henry Fonda plays Earp, with Victor Mature a moving Doc Holliday; much of the film centers on their confrontation with the Clantons (headed by Walter Brennan) at the O.K. Corral.

Over the years Earp has been featured in many more films, which again often focus on the famous incident at the O.K. Corral. These titles include Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), with Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday, and a decade later, Hour of the Gun (1967), with James Garner as Earp and Jason Robards as Holliday.

In more recent years Kurt Russell played Earp in Tombstone (1993), co-starring Val Kilmer as Holliday. The year after that, Kevin Costner played the title role in Wyatt Earp (1994), with Dennis Quaid as Doc Holliday.

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This month we’ll take a look at a trio of very good Wyatt Earp films which aren’t nearly as well known as the titles mentioned above yet are worthy, well-done movies.
Frontier Marshal (Allan Dwan, 1939) – Fans of My Darling Clementine (1946) who see Frontier Marshal will feel a curious sense of deja vu, as the movies share a number of similar scenes and characters. Both 20th Century-Fox films were based on Stuart N. Lake’s book Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, with Sam Hellman’s Frontier Marshal screenplay receiving story credit for Samuel G. Engel and Winston Miller’s later Clementine screenplay. Lake’s book had actually also provided the inspiration for an earlier Fox film also called Frontier Marshal (1934), with George O’Brien playing a character modeled on Earp, though his character had a different name.

Frontier Marshal (1939) Randolph Scott and Nancy KellyRandolph Scott and Nancy Kelly in Frontier Marshal (1939).

Randolph Scott stars as Wyatt Earp in the ’39 Frontier Marshal, with Cesar Romero acquitting himself extremely well as Doc Halliday. (Online sources say the studio changed the name slightly due to fears of a lawsuit from the Holliday family.) Earp initially plans to start a business in Tombstone but soon finds himself employed as a lawman. Earp’s chief nemesis in this version is played by John Carradine, with Lon Chaney Jr. and Joe Sawyer also on hand as bad guys. Scott plays Earp as calm and confident, traits which are also integral to the Wyatt Earp character in the films discussed below.

Frontier Marshal (1939) Randolph Scott and Nancy Kelly Movie PosterMovie poster for 1939′s Frontier Marshal.

Frontier Marshal and My Darling Clementine are different in a number of respects, including the fact that the earlier film is significantly shorter at just 71 minutes; it almost seems an abridged telling of the familiar story. Despite the variations between the two films, those who have seen the better-known Clementine will easily recognize various moments in Frontier Marshal, including a girl (Nancy Kelly) from Doc’s past looking at a photo in his hotel room; Doc performing emergency surgery; an actor (Eddie Foy Jr.) performing in a saloon; and even a woman (Binnie Barnes) thrown into a horse trough!

While Frontier Marshal has solid direction by Allan Dwan and is quite entertaining in its own right, the similarity of many scenes with My Darling Clementine certainly brings home to the viewer the added depth which a director like John Ford brought to the table. Frontier Marshal is a good movie, while My Darling Clementine is a masterpiece, with note-perfect performances, emotional resonance, and remarkable visual poetry.

A bit of cast trivia: Charles Stevens plays the role of Indian Charlie in both the ’39 and ’46 films. Ward Bond, who would go on to play Morgan Earp in My Darling Clementine, appears in a small role in this film and for good measure also appeared in the 1934 version! Chris-Pin Martin, who plays Pete, would also appear in the next Earp film discussed, Tombstone: The Town Too Tough to Die (1942).

Tombstone (1942) Movie PosterMovie Poster for Tombstone (1942)

Tombstone: The Town Too Tough to Die (William C. McGann, 1942) – This movie is rarely seen these days; like many films released by Paramount Pictures, it’s now owned by Universal and is not available on DVD or even VHS. It stars Richard Dix as Wyatt Earp, with Kent Taylor as Doc Holliday and Rex Bell and Harvey Stephens as Virgil and Morgan Earp.

Tombstone Movie Poster (1942)Tombstone: The Town Too Tough to Die (1942)

The film traces some familiar Earp territory, as Wyatt agrees to serve as sheriff of Tombstone after seeing a child shot and killed, a theme that would be repeated in the next film discussed, Wichita (1955). Part of the story is unique to this film, focusing on Wyatt working to reform wayward Johnny Duane (Don Castle), including reuniting Johnny with his hometown love (Frances Gifford). More significantly, Wyatt, his brothers, and Doc battle the Clanton gang (Victor Jory, Donald Curtis, and James Ferrara) and outlaw Curly Bill Brocious (Edgar Buchanan), who was played by Joe Sawyer in Frontier Marshal.

Wichita (1955) Movie PosterWichita (1955) Movie Poster

I’m not an Earp expert by any means but my reading indicates that some aspects of this film are somewhat more authentic than other Earp movies, particularly the close-range gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which is over and done within a relatively short time. The scene is wonderfully staged, with Earp, his brothers, and Doc checking their gun belts as they walk oh-so-deliberately toward the corral, with the sound of their boots advancing ever closer striking fear in the hearts of the Clantons.

The movie also depicts the murder of Morgan Earp as he played billiards, which in real life took place a few months after the O.K. Corral incident. That’s followed by a massive, nicely staged shootout filmed in the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, California — a location also utilized in Frontier Marshal. Director William McGann handles the action well and keeps up a tight pace in this 79-minute film, which was shot by Russell Harlan.

The cast is excellent, headed by Dix as the genial, confident Wyatt Earp. I particularly enjoyed Taylor as Doc Holliday and just wish his part had been a little bigger. There are a handful of moments, such as a bit of “comic relief” with an anonymous couple in a saloon, that could have been pared out in favor of more screen time for the main characters. That said, overall this is a well-done film I like quite well and have enjoyed on multiple occasions.

Wichita (Jacques Tourneur, 1955) – The last film on this list is my favorite. Wichita is a beautiful collaboration between director Jacques Tourneur and leading man Joel McCrea, playing Wyatt Earp. Tourneur and McCrea had previously worked together on another wonderful film, Stars in My Crown (1950), in which McCrea played a small-town pastor in the post Civil War era who faces down a lynch mob and copes with a typhoid epidemic.

Wichita (1955) Movie Poster Jacques TournerurMovie Poster Jacques Tournerur’s Wichita (1955).

In Wichita Tourneur impressively uses the entire CinemaScope frame, with one of the most memorable shots coming near the beginning, when Earp is just a speck riding on the horizon. The movie’s beautiful look, filmed by Harold Lipstein, is paired up with a strong script by Daniel B. Ullman.

In this version of Earp’s life we see his first meeting with a young newsman, Bat Masterson (Keith Larsen); he also courts his wife (Vera Miles), spends time with his brothers (Peter Graves and John Smith), and cleans up Wichita, where the villains include Lloyd Bridges and Robert J. Wilke. As the movie ends, Wyatt Earp is headed for a job in Dodge City.

McCrea’s Earp is a noble man who would prefer to be a businessman, but as he stares at the lifeless body of a child he reaches for a gun and a badge, ready to do the job others won’t do. Earp seems to constantly be confronted with violent situations, noting “I guess I was born under a troublesome star,” yet he’s never less than calm as he deliberately does what must be done. His quiet certitude belies his amazing speed with a gun, which time and again enables him to successfully deal with violent men.

This Allied Artists film is a pitch-perfect, satisfying 81 minutes. Perhaps my only complaint is it needs more of handsome Peter Graves as Morgan Earp, but his sequence is so wonderful I’m willing to forgive him being short-changed on screen time. This is up there with my favorite McCrea performances. It’s a terrific film from start to finish.

Wyatt Earp is a supporting character in several other Westerns, notably Winchester ’73 (1950), played by Will Geer, along with a trio of lesser-known but likeable George Montgomery Westerns: Gun Belt (1953, played by James Millican), Masterson of Kansas (1954, Bruce Cowling), and Badman’s Country (1958, Buster Crabbe). Millican also played an Earp-inspired character in the wonderful Rory Calhoun  Western Dawn at Socorro (1954). All of these films are likely to find their way into future Western Roundup columns!

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– 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 , , | 7 Comments

Film Noir Review: 10 (More) Classic Films Noir for the Holidays

10 More Classic Film Noirs for the Holidays

Novelist Douglas Coupland once said that “Christmas makes everything twice as sad.” His quote may have stemmed from a place of tender melancholy, but here at CMH’s Film Noir section, we’d like to apply it to the lushes and low-lifes that inhabit the holiday’s bleakest cinema.

We released our original ranking of noir films to watch during the holidays last year, but as often the case with lists, we weren’t able to cover everything. As such, we’ve decided to return to the snow-covered streets and dig up whatever titles were overlooked. Here are 10 more classic films noir to watch during the holiday season.

1. Lady on a Train (1945)

Deanna Durbin (right) in Lady On a Train

Deanna Durbin (right) in ‘Lady On a Train’

Lady on a Train remains one of most bizarre entries in the classic film noir canon. It stars Deanna Durbin as Nikki, a woman heading home for Christmas who witnesses the murder and impersonates a nightclub singer in an attempt to uncover the killer. Along the way, she’s forced to sing a few tunes and trade verbal barbs with the victim’s squabbling clan of heirs (including a smooth Ralph Bellamy and a slithery Dan Duryea).

All this is set against a lively holiday backdrop that plays up the inherent charm of Durbin’s predicament. Nothing is taken too seriously here, to the point where many of the scenes resemble a satire on the noir genre rather than the genuine article. Combine that with the crisp, winter cinematography by Woody Bredell, and Lady on a Train is a ride worth taking.

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2. The Man I Love (1947)

Robert Alda and Ida Lupino in The Man I Love

Robert Alda and Ida Lupino in ‘The Man I Love’

The Man I Love stars Ida Lupino as a New York nightclub singer who travels to California to visit her siblings for Christmas. She chooses to stay and and lands a gig in a nightclub, but tensions mount once she turns down the advances of her corrupt boss (Robert Alda) to marry a lovesick piano player named San (Bruce Bennett). She’s ultimately faced with the challenge of sticking with San despite his self-destructive lifestyle.

While far from the grittiest of films noir, The Man I Love cultivates the spirit of the genre through doomed characters living in a chilly, unwelcoming city. Enhanced by the trio of lead performances and the committed direction of Raoul Walsh, the film strikes a tragic tone that perfectly suits the more downtrodden holiday viewer.

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3. The Reckless Moment (1949)

Joan Bennett and James Mason in 'The Reckless Moment'

Joan Bennett and James Mason in ‘The Reckless Moment’

A forgotten gem from director Max Ophuls, The Reckless Moment deals with regret and the paranoia of covering up a crime. It follows bored housewife Lucia (Joan Bennett) as she attempts to hide the accidental death of a hoodlum who was seeing her teenage daughter. Things become even more problematic when the hoodlum’s partner (James Mason) comes into town looking for answers.

The film is the worst holiday break you could envision for a mother, with children and dangerous criminals coming into contact on a regular basis. Bennett offers a masterful performance, while Ophuls flips the domestic charm of most Christmas fare to comment on the hollow state of the nuclear family. ”We’re getting a blue Christmas tree this year,” Lucia tells her husband via telephone, ignoring the destruction she wrought. “Everything is fine, except we miss you terribly.”

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4. Mr. Soft Touch (1949)

Glenn Ford and Evelyn Keyes in 'Mr. Soft Touch'

Glenn Ford and Evelyn Keyes in ‘Mr. Soft Touch’

Where most films noir use the holidays as a tonal counterpoint, Mr. Soft Touch uses it as a ticking clock. Joe Miracle (Glenn Ford) returns from the war to discover that his club has been taken over by the mob. He robs the place in a moment of weakness, but he has to wait a day before he can escape to Yokohama on Christmas Eve. Miracle opts to hide out from the mob and the police at a settlement house, where he meets a kindly social worker (Evelyn Keyes).

Instead of playing things straight up, Mr. Soft Touch wisely combines elements of film noir; namely the heist and the grim mob consequences, with the brighter trappings of the romance genre. Ford and Keyes have marvelous chemistry together, and the snappy direction from both Gordon Douglas and Henry Levin ensures that the film doesn’t overstay its welcome.

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5. Cover Up (1949)

William Bendix and Dennis O'Keefe in 'Cover Up'

William Bendix and Dennis O’Keefe in ‘Cover Up’

While some of the aforementioned titles combine film noir with other genres, 1949’s Cover Up is an old fashioned noir mystery. It stars Dennis O’Keefe as an insurance investigator who’s called upon to look into a suicide, only to determine that it may have been a murder. While pressed to find a suspect, he finds that the dead man was a local pariah and that nobody, not even the sheriff (William Bendix), is eager to help.

Cover Up benefits from the combustible pairing of O’Keefe and Bendix; two veterans who know their way around a noir script. The holiday setting is inconsequential, but it adds a great deal of personality to the film as it deals in hallmark noir themes like murder and greed. Nothing groundbreaking, but a cozy viewing nonetheless.

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6. They Live by Night (1949)

Cathy O'Donnell and Farley Granger in 'They Live by Night'

Cathy O’Donnell and Farley Granger in ‘They Live by Night’

As the fourth and final entry to be released in 1949, They Live by Night is also the most profound. It follows a pair of star-crossed lovers, Bowie (Farley Granger) and Keechie (Cathy O’Donnell) as they attempt to leave their criminal past behind and start a new life together. The film spans roughly a year, but director Nicholas Ray saves the most heartbreaking moment for Christmas, when the young couple plan to exchange presents.

Bowie’s old partner (Howard Da Silva) shows up and asks him to do one last job, and while a reluctant Bowie agrees, things go south and he and Keechie are forced to go back into hiding. As such, they’re forced to leave their presents behind, including the watch that Keechie was so eager for Bowie to open. It’s as sad a moment as any in a film noir, and its tied inherently to the safety that Christmas is meant to represent.

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7. Backfire (1950)

Virginia Mayo and Dane Clark in 'Backfire'

Virginia Mayo and Dane Clark in ‘Backfire’

Backfire was written by the same duo who wrote White Heat, and was even shot before, but it was delayed until after the release of that seminal gangster film. Seen today, and Backfire is very much a thematic precursor. Both deal with theft, betrayal, and the inclusion of Virginia Mayo and Edmond O’Brien as characters with questionable alliances. Not as good as White Heat perhaps, but very much a solid noir with standout performances by the aforementioned stars.

The holidays loom large over the film, with Christmas and New Year’s Eve serving as time markers for naive main character Bud (Gordon MacRae). As he slowly uncovers the fate of his disappeared friend Steve (O’Brien), he realizes that the line between right and wrong is not as clear as it was when they both served in the military. Vincent Sherman directs.

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8. Storm Warning (1951)

Steve Cochrane, Doris Day and Ginger Rogers in 'Storm Warning'

Steve Cochrane, Doris Day and Ginger Rogers in ‘Storm Warning’

Storm Warning is easily one of the most racially-charged films noir to be released during the 1950s. The film deals with a dress model (Ginger Rogers) who stops by a small town and accidentally witnesses the Ku Klux Klan commit a murder. She agrees to help the district attorney (Ronald Reagan) prosecute the men involved, but she quickly faces pushback and threats of violence from the rest of the Klan.

While unabashedly a “message film”, like so many noirs of the period, Storm Warning still carries a potent social edge that contrasts nicely with the Christmastime setting. While Rogers may be miscast (Lauren Bacall was the studio’s original choice), the impressive supporting roster of Doris Day, Steve Cochrane, and Reagan gets the film across the finish line with style.

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9. Batman Returns (1992)

Michelle Pfieffer and Michael Keaton in 'Batman Returns'

Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Keaton in ‘Batman Returns’

Technically, Batman Returns is a superhero film. We have characters dressed in tights, sinister schemes involving bombs, and cats that can seemingly resurrect the dead. But more than any other superhero flick (besides The Dark Knight), Batman Returns is a modern film noir. Here, the moral clarity established in Tim Burton’s 1989 original is blurred to reflect a world where Batman (Michael Keaton) is just as problematic as the criminals he chases. And of course, its set during Christmas.

Batman’s inability to handle the likes of the Penguin (Danny DeVito), combined with the screen time that Burton dedicates to making the character tragic, causes us to reexamine what we know about trauma. That’s to say nothing about Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), Batman’s ultimate femme fatale and the one who nearly changes his outlook on heroism. Replace the tights with trench coats and you’ve got a quintessential noir viewing.

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10. In Bruges (2008)

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in 'In Bruges'

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in ‘In Bruges’

Darkly comedic and morally chilly, 2008’s In Bruges is a brilliant twist on the film noir hitman. Where classic titles like The Lineup and Blast of Silence focus on the steely efficiency of their main characters, director Martin McDonagh decides to show us the hilarity of being incompetent at such a bleak profession. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson star as two mid-level gunmen who are forced to hide out in Bruges following a botched gig.

The infantile Farrell and fatherly Gleeson make for a delightful comedy duo, while their trek through Bruges during the holidays lead to a series of unforgettable and unforgettably violent encounters. By the time Ralph Fiennes shows up as their profanity-spewing boss, one can’t help but be won over.

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–Danilo Castro for Classic Movie Hub Danilo Castro is a film noir specialist and Contributing Writer for Classic Movie Hub. You can read more of Danilo’s articles and reviews at the Film Noir Archive, or you can follow Danilo on Twitter @DaniloSCastro.

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Classic Movie Travels: Danny Thomas – Toledo and Memphis

 Classic Movie Travels: Danny Thomas

Danny Thomas HeadshotActor and philanthropist, Danny Thomas.

Many remember Danny Thomas as an individual who made his mark upon the entertainment industry as a nightclub comedian, singer, actor, and producer. His lengthy career included a starring role in a situation comedy, in addition to appearing in a wide range of variety shows. Though valued as an entertainer, he was also a generous and notable philanthropist, founding St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Amos Muzyad “Muzzy” Yakhoob Kairouz was born on his family’s horse farm in Deerfield, Michigan, during a blizzard as one of 10 children. His parents were Charles Yakhoob Kairouz and Margaret Taouk.

Though born in Michigan, the family soon moved. Kairouz grew up in Toledo, Ohio, attending St. Francis de Sales Church, as his parents were Catholic immigrants from Lebanon. He went to Woodward High School and, later, the University of Toledo, where he was a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. Bishop Samuel Stritch, a native of Tennessee, would confirm him and  become a lifelong spiritual advisor to him.

Danny thomas,age 9 1921 Danny Thomas, age 9 in 1921.

As a child, Kairouz and his brother, Raymond, were a vaudeville team. Once the duo grew up and Raymond got married, Kairouz hitchhiked to Detroit, Michigan, to find work in radio. In 1932, Kairouz began performing on the radio in Detroit on WMBC. During this time, he performed under his anglicized birth name, Amos Jacobs Kairouz.

While working as a struggling young comic, he also executed a variety of odd jobs. Kairouz found work as a kitchen helper and as a punch-press operator’s assistant to lumber yard watchmen. During this time, he met singer Rose Marie Mantell. They were married one week after his 24th birthday. The couple would go on to have three children: Margaret Julia “Marlo”, Theresa “Terre”, and Charles Anthony “Tony” Thomas. Each of the children would find work in entertainment, with Marlo as an actress and producer, Tony as a television producer, and Terre as a singer-songwriter. The couple would remain married until Kairouz’s death in 1991.

Danny and Rose Marie Thomas with their children, Tony, Marlo and TerreDanny and Rose Marie Thomas with their children, Tony, Marlo and Terre.

Once Kairouz moved to Chicago in 1940, he decided to perform under a pseudonym because did not want his friends and extended family to know that he went back to working in clubs. As a result, he came up with the stage name “Danny Thomas,” borrowing the first names of two of his brothers as he continued his work in entertainment.

All the while, Thomas’s faith remained important to him. According to Thomas, “I got through my act at 4:30 A.M. and I went to a 5 A.M. mass to thank God. As I knelt, I saw in the pew in front of me a huge pamphlet with St. Jude’s picture mentioning a novena in honor of a national shrine.” While he was struggling as an actor, he made a personal vow: if he found success, he would open a shrine dedicated to St. Jude, the patron saint for hopeless causes.

Soon after, Thomas would first reach mass audiences through radio by playing Amos, a brother-in-law character on The Bickersons, starring Don Ameche and Frances Langford. He also appeared as postman Jerry Dingle on Fanny Brice’s The Baby Snooks Show, in addition to several appearances on NBC’s radio variety show, The Big Show.

Along with working on the radio, Thomas also shared his talents through film. He made two films with Margaret O’Brien in the late 1940s and later appeared with Betty Grable in the musical film, Call Me Mister (1951). Continuing his musical roles, he portrayed composer Gus Kahn in I’ll See You in My Dreams (1951). By 1952, he worked alongside Peggy Lee in The Jazz Singer, a remake of the original 1927 film.

Thomas found immense success with an 11-year run on the television comedy series, Make Room for Daddy or The Danny Thomas Show. The show was produced at Desilu Studios, where Lucille Ball was performing alongside her husband, Desi Arnaz, in I Love Lucy. In 1970, the series was revived for one season as Make Room for Granddaddy.

Danny Thomas, Rusty Hamer, Sherry Jackson and Jean Hagen in Make Room for Daddy (1953)Danny Thomas, Rusty Hamer, Sherry Jackson and Jean Hagen in Make Room for Daddy (1953).

Off-screen, Thomas became an exceptional television producer, working on shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, That Girl, and The Mod Squad. He often appeared in cameo roles on the shows he produced. In fact, Thomas was responsible for Mary Tyler Moore’s big break in the acting business. Though he turned her down for one of his shows, he recommended her to Carl Reiner, remembering her as “the girl with three names.” Reiner would cast her in The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Over time, Thomas did not forget about his promise to St Jude. Once he became a successful actor in the 1950s, he and his wife began to travel throughout the U.S. in order to raise funds to make St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital a reality. Thomas believed that “no child should die in the dawn of life”, and actively worked to promote his dream. To bolster his campaign, Thomas recorded an album of Arabic folk songs for a St. Jude Hospital Foundation fundraiser.

With assistance from pathologist Dr. Lemuel Diggs and auto magnate Anthony Abraham, Thomas founded the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1962.

Danny Thomas St. Jude Children's Research HospitalDanny Thomas, Founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Out of all of his achievements, Thomas was most passionate about his work for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Thomas once said, “It is my belief that St. Jude Hospital will one day announce to the world the great tidings of a cure for leukemia or cancer or even both. I am proud to beg for this project.” Since its inception, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has treated children within the U.S. and all over the world, continuing the mission of saving children and finding cures to illnesses.

Thomas died on February 6, 1991, at the age of 79. Two days prior to his passing, he celebrated St. Jude Hospital’s 29th anniversary and filmed a commercial for it, which aired posthumously. He and his wife are interred in a mausoleum on the grounds of the hospital.

While Thomas was not proud of his origin in small towns, there are places in Toledo, Ohio, that acknowledge his time there. In 1930, Thomas was listed as living at 909 Walnut St. in Toledo. This is the property today:

Danny Thomas' residence at 909 Walnut St. Toledo, OhioDanny Thomas’ residence at 909 Walnut St. Toledo, Ohio.

Nearby, there is a Danny Thomas Park, which displays a monument to Thomas. The park is located at 2199 Broadway St. in Toledo.

Danny Thomas Park MonumentDanny Thomas Park in Toledo, Ohio.

Additionally, in 2012, the U.S. Postal Service issued a postage stamp in honor of Thomas.

Danny Thomas U.S. Postage StampU.S. Postage Stamp dedicated to Danny Thomas

Beyond Toledo, the city of Memphis, Tennessee, has Danny Thomas Boulevard, fittingly named after Thomas in the town that houses the hospital he helped establish.

Danny Thomas Blvd, Memphis, TNDanny Thomas Blvd, Memphis, TN

Perhaps the greatest testament of all to Thomas’s legacy is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which actively makes a difference in the lives of children all over the world to this day. According to Thomas’s vision, no child is denied treatment on race, religion, or a family’s ability to pay.

St Jude Children's Research Hospital logo
 Jude Children’s Research Hospital  is one of the world’s premier pediatric cancer research centers. Its mission is to find cures for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment.

There are so many different ways to remember Thomas’s life and legacy. One of the best ways to honor him is to support the foundation he so loved. Consider learning more about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and offering your support here.

–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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Noir Nook: Five Things You Need to Know About Christmas Holiday (1944)

Noir Nook: Five Things You Need to Know About Christmas Holiday (1944)

Christmas Holiday is a 1944 noir starring Deanna Durbin as a devoted young bride who slowly comes to realize that her husband, played by Gene Kelly, is a charming sociopath and killer. The cast includes Gale Sondergaard as Kelly’s mother, who will stop at nothing to protect her baby boy.

Christmas Holiday (1944) Gene Kelly and Deanna DurbinGene Kelly and Deanna Durbin in Christmas Holiday (1944)

In celebration of the holiday season, this month’s Noir Nook serves up five things you need to know about this interesting and underrated noir.

1. The film is loosely based on the 1939 book by the same name by W. Somerset Maugham. The movie retains the names of the two of the main characters from the book, Charley Mason and Simon Fenimore. In the book, Charley is a Cambridge University grad who looks up his school chum, Fenimore, during a visit to Paris at Christmastime. In the film, Charley is a jilted soldier who is introduced to Fenimore when his plane to San Francisco is forced to land in New Orleans. Several other Maugham novels were made into movies, including Of Human Bondage (1934), The Painted Veil (1934), and The Razor’s Edge (1946).

2. The screenplay was penned by Herman J. Mankiewicz, brother of writer-director Joseph Mankiewicz, and grandfather of TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. Herman changed the setting of the film from a Paris brothel to a New Orleans nightclub and changed the name and occupation of the main character from prostitute Lydia to singer Jackie Lamont. Mankiewicz wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for a number of popular films, including Dinner at Eight (1933), The Wizard of Oz (1939), Citizen Kane (1941), and The Pride of the Yankees (1942). After years of heavy drinking, Mankiewicz died from uremic poisoning at the age of 55.

3. Famously acerbic New York Times critic Bosley Crowther was not a fan of the film, labeling it a “moody and hackneyed yarn,” and was particularly disparaging of Deanna Durbin’s performance. He seemed to be disappointed that the film wasn’t a musical, pointing out that Durbin “sings two numbers only,” and wrote that her speaking voice was “girlish and empty of quality.” He concluded that it was “really grotesque and outlandish what they’ve done to Miss Durbin in this film.” (Geez. Tell us how you really feel, Bos.)

4. Robert Siodmak directed the film. Siodmak is one of noir’s premier directors – among numerous others, he also helmed such gems as Phantom Lady (1944), The Killers (1946), Criss Cross (1949), and The File on Thelma Jordon (1950).

5. The character of Simon Fenimore was played by Richard Whorf, who can also be seen in Midnight (1934), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), and Keeper of the Flame (1943). Whorf was truly a Renaissance man. He directed such films as Till the Clouds Roll By (1946) and Champagne For Caesar (1950), produced two Natalie Wood starters, The Burning Hills (1956) and Bombers B-52 (1957), and wrote or directed episodes of several TV shows, including The Beverly Hillbillies and My Three Sons. He also won the 1954 Tony Award for Best Costume Designer for Ondine, which starred Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn.

Richard Whorf PainingA painting by Richard Whorf at only age 15!

Finally – and most personally fascinating to me – he was an excellent painter. He sold his first painting for $100 when he was 15 years old. “Who says,” Whorf asked a reporter in 1963, “that a man has to do one thing?”

Happy holidays!

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– 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:

 

 

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Jarmila Novotna: My Life in Song – Book Giveaway (Dec 8 through Jan 12)

“Jarmila Novotna: My Life in Song”
We have Five Books to Give Away via Twitter or this Blog

Yay! The contest is over and the winners are Robert, Billy, Vickie, Amy and Mark. Congratulations! 

It’s time for our next book giveaway! CMH is happy to say that we will be giving away FIVE COPIES of  Jarmila Novotna: My Life in Song, Novotna’s memoirs, courtesy of University Press of Kentucky, from now through Jan 12. (plus ONE more copy via Facebook and this Blog — stay tuned for more info).

jarmila novotna- my life in songThis is Novotná’s own English-language version of her best-selling memoir

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In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, Jan 12 at 9PM EST. However, the sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning, because we will pick a winner 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.

  • Dec 15: One Winner
  • Dec 22: One Winner
  • Dec 29: One Winner
  • Jan 5: One Winner
  • Jan 12: 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 Dec 16 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…

If you’re also on Facebook, please feel free to visit us at Classic Movie Hub on Facebook for additional giveaways (or check back on this Blog in a few days) — because we’ll be giving away ONE MORE cop via Facebook/Blog as well!

Jarmila Novotná acted as diva Maria Selka in 1951's The Great Caruso with Mario Lanza.Jarmila Novotná as diva Maria Selka in 1951′s The Great Caruso with Mario Lanza

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And now on to the contest!

ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, Jan 12 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 “Jarmila Novotna: My Life in Song” #BookGiveaway courtesy of @KentuckyPress & @ClassicMovieHub #CMHContest link: http://ow.ly/WYCW30mVcdH

THE QUESTION:
What is one of your favorite Jarmila Novotna films or performances, and why? And, if you’re not familiar with her work, 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…

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About the Book:  A legendary beauty, hailed as one of the greatest singing actors of her time, Jarmila Novotná (1907–1994) was an internationally known opera soprano from the former Czechoslovakia. Best known for her performances in Der Rosenkavalier, The Marriage of Figaro, and La Traviata, she was a celebrated performer at the Metropolitan Opera and other theaters across Europe and the United States. A “natural screen actress,” Novotná also appeared in Hollywood hits such as The Search (1948) with Montgomery Clift (with whom she shared an enduring friendship) and The Great Caruso (1951) with Mario Lanza. She was also considered a pioneering “crossover” star who performed on Broadway, and worked in radio and television with Bing Crosby and Abbott and Costello. Throughout this memoir, lavishly illustrated with photos from her personal collection, Novotná shares entertaining stories about her time in Hollywood, an “unending stream of parties”― including those hosted by Louis B. Mayer, co-founder of MGM Studios―alongside such stars as Jimmy Stewart and Elizabeth Taylor. Novotná also offers revealing profiles of many notable artistic figures of the time, including director Max Reinhardt, composer Cole Porter, and conductor Arturo Toscanini, and dignitaries such as Dwight Eisenhower and Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia. This fascinating self-portrait offers a window on history and the reflections of a captivating and supremely talented figure who left an indelible mark on the performing arts.

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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:

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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This World Needs Its Dreamers: Clarence Brown’s National Velvet (Exclusive Guest Post by Author Gwenda Young)

“This World Needs Its Dreamers”
Clarence Brown’s National Velvet (1944)
Exclusive Guest Post by Author Gwenda Young

In a reappraisal of National Velvet written in the 1960s, Pauline Kael observed that “it touches areas in our experience that movies rarely touch — the passions and obsessions of childhood.”

Passion and obsession characterize, too, the long, tortuous path that led to the release of the film that made Elizabeth Taylor a star in 1944. By that time, almost a decade had passed since the publication of Enid Bagnold’s novel and Paramount’s purchasing of the rights, with the intention of turning it into a vehicle for Claudette Colbert or Margaret Sullavan. Scripts had been written, talent searches had been conducted, but National Velvet had never quite made it to the shooting stage. In 1939, MGM took it on, and rumors were rife that John Gilbert’s daughter, Leatrice, would play the lead, but the outbreak of World War II scuttled plans to shoot it on location in Sussex, England, and momentum was lost. It was largely due to interest from producer Pandro S. Berman that the project was revived. He’d originally bid for the rights way back in 1935 when he was at RKO and had the notion that twenty-eight-year-old Katharine Hepburn would be perfect for the role of the feisty, horse-mad Velvet Brown. Fast forward to 1941, and now he was at MGM and still eager to get his pet project realized. It was good timing: he arrived on the lot just as Mickey Rooney’s stardom was in the ascent. As far as Berman was concerned, no actor could be better suited to the role of Mi Taylor, the cynical jockey that helps Velvet achieve her dream of riding her horse in the Grand National. For the ‘role’ of director, Berman identified the versatile Mervyn LeRoy but soon switched to Clarence Brown when LeRoy’s schedule got backed up. As it turned out, Brown was a fortuitous choice as it just happened that he was a master at what W.C. Fields had always advised against: working with children and animals.

national velvet movie poster

For the part of Velvet Brown, Berman now had a more age-appropriate star in mind, the exquisite Elizabeth Taylor. She was under contract to the studio and was already getting attention for her roles in Jane Eyre, Lassie Come Home (both 1943) and The White Cliffs of Dover (1943 and directed by Clarence Brown). Taylor’s beguiling looks disguised a formidable ambition and this, along with her fierce devotion to animals, convinced her that she was “born” to play Velvet. She enthusiastically canvassed both Berman and Brown, and later even claimed to have “willed” herself to grow taller to reassure the studio that she had the required physical stamina for the challenging role.

Although it seemed that she was a shoo-in, MGM hedged its bets and, in a bid to generate advance publicity, went on a nationwide talent search in early 1943 that yielded…its very own employee, Taylor. With war still raging in Europe, there was now no chance of shooting in Sussex and Brown had to content himself with location work at Pebble Beach in Monterey (standing in for the Grand National’s Aintree), and on the backlot, where a decidedly artificial-looking “English village” was built, complete with half-timbered houses and imitation foliage, and lit by the banks of lights required for the Technicolor photography (by Len Smith). Actress Angela Lansbury, who had been cast as Velvet’s sister, Edwina, remembered it as an “oppressive” set, mainly because of the heat from the lights and the low ceilings of the sets, but also because she found Brown to be something of an intimidating presence (she recalled he was “numero uno…he ruled the set”).

Whatever of Lansbury’s reservations, others in the cast flourished under Brown’s direction: veteran Donald Crisp delivered a perfectly-judged comic performance as the Brown patriarch, a man whose authority is perpetually undermined by his entire household, including his pets. All of Brown’s skills at directing children were called upon to guide the relatively inexperienced Jack “Butch” Jenkins in the role of Donald, the youngest member of Velvet’s clan. It was Brown’s second time working with Jenkins—another one of his “discoveries” — and he coaxed a memorable performance from the child: there are striking parallels between it and the “performance” delivered by King Charles, a.k.a. The Pie. Both equine and boy are visually arresting screen presences, forces of nature, mercurial in their moods (in a review of the film, the brilliant Manny Farber observed that Jenkins’ Donald “still seems cut off from this civilization and has been wisely left”).

Jackie “Butch” Jenkins, Elizabeth Taylor, King Charles (the horse), and Mickey Rooney in a promotional still for National VelvetJackie “Butch” Jenkins, Elizabeth Taylor, King Charles (the horse), and Mickey Rooney in a promotional still for National Velvet (photo: courtesy of Gwenda Young)

It’s no insult to point out the connections between human and non-human animal performances. because at its heart. National Velvet is all about how we humans relate to the animals that share our world. The callous-yet-charming Donald sees them as beings to collect, categorize, control — the film changed his beloved “spit bottle” of Bagnold’s novel into a specimen bottle in which he amasses helpless insects for further scrutiny — but Velvet, the butcher’s daughter, wins our hearts because of the compassion she shows in her treatment of The Pie. The two encounter each other in a scene that offers a variation of the “boy-meet-girl” of romantic drama: we have the sweeping cinematography, the building-up of tension, the swelling music, but this time the object of love is a magnificent horse, galloping wildly and seemingly impossible to tame. Just as in Brown’s earlier, Of Human Hearts (1937) and his later, The Yearling (1946), where animals are integral to the narrative, albeit as facilitators of human development, it takes a young “uncluttered” mind such as Velvet’s to finally realize that the wildness of the animal is an expression of fear. It is fear, too, that has governed the humans who, to this point, have responded to the Pie with cruelty and violence. In contrast, Velvet (and Taylor) shows fearlessness, compassion and a recognition of the animal as a sentient being. The only “breaking” of the horse comes from the animal himself: Velvet later declares that The Pie would “burst” his heart in his efforts for her.

Mickey Rooney, who delivered a very accomplished performance in a role that required tact — after all, his character is a man in his 20s who forms a close relationship with a prepubescent girl —recalls that he expected Taylor to have to imagine all sorts of (human) scenarios to work herself up to the required emotional state for a scene in which Velvet tends to a colic-stricken Pie. As it happened, the tears came easily for the actress, as she simply imagined what it would be like if “her” horse were to fall ill. It’s a shame that Taylor’s considerable talents as an actress have been overshadowed by the glamor and drama of her private life, because in many of her films, including National Velvet, she delivers performances that are instinctual and deeply affective (and effective).

It is easy, too, to disregard National Velvet, to view it as sentimental, maybe even saccharine, product of a bygone era. Yet that would be to overlook its enduring qualities as a work of entertainment and as a study of human emotions. Observe how delicately, and movingly, Brown directs Anne Revere and Taylor in their scenes together, how the relationship between a mother and her daughter is explored without recourse to high drama, “feminine” tensions or discussion of the men in their lives. Instead, this seemingly remote, stern mother lowers her guard to encourage Velvet to follow her dreams and, in doing so, reveals her own ambitions and achievements. Brown paces the scene in a leisurely fashion, all the better to allow the interaction between the two actresses to unfold in a natural, understated way. This scene also returned Brown to a preoccupation that had dominated his work, especially in his collaborations with actresses such as Pauline Frederick, Louise Dresser, Ruth Clifford and, of course, Garbo: his exploration of a world in which women are confined to limited roles, their ambition scorned, their dreams crushed. Cynics may scoff at the seemingly far-fetched plot of a young girl riding a horse to victory in the Grand National, but National Velvet is about the necessity of dreams and dreamers, and it expresses a hope — so pertinent in 1944 but still relevant today — that a world might be forged that can accommodate both.

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–Gwenda Young for Classic Movie Hub

Gwenda Young is a professor of film history and lecturer in film studies at University College, Cork, Ireland. She is the author of numerous articles about film history, including three articles about Clarence Brown, and co-editor of two books of critical essays. In 2003, along with Kevin Brownlow, she curated a retrospective of Brown’s films at the National Film Theatre, London. Her latest book, Clarence Brown: Hollywood’s Forgotten Master is the first full-length account of the life and career of the pioneering filmmaker.

We’re giving away copies of Gwenda’s new book from now through Dec 8; you can enter here. And if you can’t wait to win the book, you can purchase the on amazon by clicking here:

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A Big Thank You from CMH: The 2nd Annual “Give a Gift, Get a Gift” Promotion

Last Year was so Awesome (Thank You), We’re Doing it Again…
The Give A Gift, Get a Gift Holiday Contest.

Yay! The contest is over and the winners are Laurie T, Martin T and Daniel B (3 Grand Prize Winners), and David H and Sara S (Runner Ups). Congratulations! 

it-happened-on-5th-avenue cmh holiday contest

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Greetings CMH Fans and Followers! 

We had so much fun last year – and are truly grateful that you all took the time to read and comment on our Contributor posts – that we’ve decided to do it again!

That said, to show our appreciation to our CMH fans and followers — and to celebrate our columnists who take the time to pen such wonderful articles for us — we’re launching the 2nd Annual “Give a Gift, Get a Gift” Holiday Giveaway…

Here’s how the giveaway works:

Over the past two years, we added a variety of monthly CMH columns, each with a niche classic film theme, authored by some of the best writers in the classic film community. To better acquaint you with these fabulous writers and to show them some fan love in return, this contest asks you to read as many of these featured posts as you desire (listed below) and leave a comment of feedback for each of those you’ve read. For every comment submitted, you get an entry into our contest. The more comments you give, the more chances you have to win! And – for those of you that already commented on some of these posts earlier in the year, no problem, just comment again, and each new comment will count toward your entries.

We call the contest Give a Gift, Get a Gift… The gift you’re giving is the gift of time by reading and commenting on the post(s)… The gift you’re getting is an entry (or entries) into the contest… As for me, to show my appreciation for your participation, I have tried to put together some nice prize packages — and all of the DVDs have been purchased by me (they were not supplied by any outside company)…

a night at the opera cmh holiday contest Sanity Clause

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The weekly and Grand Prize drawings:

The contest will run from now through December 29, 2018, 8PM EST. In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this contest giveaway, you must read and comment on as many of the featured posts as you want (links below). For each comment submitted, you will gain one entry into the contest. However, the sooner you get started, the more chances you will have to win – because in addition to the Grand Prizes awarded at the end of the contest, we will also be giving away one DVD a week (as listed below). And, if you win a DVD during one of the weekly drawings, you are STILL ELIGIBLE to win one of the Grand or Runner Up Prizes at the end of the contest! United States (all 50 states) and Canadian residents are eligible this time. All prizes will be awarded via random drawings. Prizes will be shipped to our winners in mid-January.

  • Dec 8: The Bishop’s Wife DVD (1 winner announced Dec 9 at 8PM)
  • Dec 15: The Bishop’s Wife DVD (1 winner announced Dec 16 at 8PM)
  • Dec 22: The Bishop’s Wife DVD (1 winner announced Dec 23 at 8PM)
  • Dec 29: The Bishop’s Wife DVD (1 winner announced Dec 30 at 8PM)
  • Dec 31: Grand Prize Packages (a total of 5 winners… each winner will be announced around midnight on Dec 31 — to help ring in the New Year)
    • Grand Prize #1: winner’s choice of 4 DVDs (listed below) + one surprise gift
    • Grand Prize #2: winner’s choice of 4 DVDs (listed below) + one surprise gift
    • Grand Prize #3: winner’s choice of 4 DVDs (listed below) + one surprise gift
    • Runner Up Prize #1: winner’s choice of 3 DVDs (listed below)
    • Runner Up Prize #2: winner’s choice of 3 DVDs (listed below)

We will announce each week’s winner on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub or this blog, depending how you entered, as noted above.

See full rules below.

barbara stanwyck Christmas in Connecticut trimming trees holiday cmh contest

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Here are the DVDs up for grabs (winner’s choice of 3 or 4, as noted above, while supplies last):

  1. Alfred Hitchcock: 20 Films (The Lady Vanishes 1938, The Farmer’s Wife 1928, The Manxman 1926, Easy Virtue 1926, Jamaica Inn 1939, The Lodger 1926, The Ring 1927, Young and Innocent 1937, Rich and Strange 1932, The Thirty-Nine Steps 1935, Secret Agent 1936, Champagne 1928, Blackmail 1929, Juno and the Paycock 1930, Sabotage 1936, The Skin Game 1931, Number Seventeen 1932, The Man Who Knew Too Much 1934, Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Cheney Vase, Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, trailers)
  2. An Affair to Remember
  3. An American in Paris
  4. The Adventures of Robin Hood
  5. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (39 episodes, 4 films) (includes TV episodes starring Ronald Howard, as well as films including The Woman in Green starring Basil Rathbone)
  6. The Apartment
  7. Barefoot in the Park
  8. Breakfast at Tiffanys
  9. Bullitt
  10. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  11. Cabaret
  12. Carousel
  13. Casablanca
  14. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  15. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  16. Christmas in Connecticut
  17. The Day the Earth Stood Still
  18. Father of the Bride
  19. Fiddler on the Roof
  20. Four Film Favorites, Classic Holiday Collection Vol 2 (All Mine to Give, It Happened on 5th Avenue, Holiday Affair, Blossoms in the Dust)
  21. Francis the Talking Mule
  22. Funny Face
  23. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  24. Hello Dolly
  25. Heroes of the Old West (20 TV episodes, 10 films) (includes McLintock and Santa Fe Trail, plus some episodes of The Lone Ranger)
  26. House Boat
  27. How to Marry a Millionaire
  28. The Incredible Mr. Limpet
  29. John Wayne Tribute Collection (25 films plus documentary) (includes Angel and the Badman McLintock and Sagebrush Trail plus a documentary called The American West of John Ford)
  30. The King and I
  31. Life with Father / Father’s Little Dividend
  32. Ma and Pa Kettle, Vol 2. (Four Films: At the Fair, On Vacation, At Home, At Wakiki)
  33. The Maltese Falcon
  34. The Music Man
  35. North by Northwest
  36. Oklahoma
  37. Paris When It Sizzles
  38. Penny Serenade
  39. Rebel Without a Cause
  40. Rio Bravo
  41. The Roaring Twenties
  42. Roman Holiday
  43. Sabrina
  44. Second Hand Lions
  45. Send Me No Flowers
  46. Singin’ in the Rain
  47. Some Like It Hot
  48. Spellbound
  49. The Three Stooges 75th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Disorder in the Court, Sing a Song of Six Pants, Brideless Groom, Malice in the Palace, Jerk of All Trades, live action color classics, Swing Parade of 1946, cartoons, trailers)
  50. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  51. True Grit
  52. West Side Story
  53. Great Cinema: 15 Films (The Snows of Kilimanjaro 1952, Anna Karenina 1948, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court 1952, Tale of Two Cities 1953, Jane Eyre 1971, Legend of the Sea Wolf 1975, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 1953, The Jungle Book 1942, Call of the Wild 1972, Macbeth 1961, Of Human Bondage 1934, Little Men 1940, The Last Time I Saw Paris 1954, David Copperfield 1970, Cyrano De Bergerac 1950)

Barney fife santa clause cmh holiday contest

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Here are the links to the blog articles…
(enter as many times as you like… 1 comment on 1 post = 1 entry):

NOTE: if for any reason you encounter a problem commenting on any of the blog posts, 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 overwhelmed with spam, and must sort through 100s of comments every day…

Bonanza Christmas CMH holiday contest

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Last but not least, the Rules:

  • Contest will run from Dec 2, 2018 to Dec 29, 2018 at 8pm EST.
  • Limited to United States (yes, all 50 states can enter this time!) and Canadian residents only.
  • Every time you read a column article (from the list above) and leave an eligible feedback comment, you will receive one entry into the Contest.
  • Only one comment per post/article during the contest period is counted as an entry. If you already commented on a post/article at some point earlier in the year (aka before the contest start date of Dec 2, 2018, you can still post a comment during the contest period of Dec 2 through Dec 29 and it will be counted as a new/eligible entry)
  • Each comment must be positive, and must be more detailed than simply “great post!” Some good examples:
    • “Karen, I really enjoyed learning about the noir gem, WICKED WOMAN. Who knew the writing/directing duo behind that film created the story of Doris Day/Rock Hudson classic PILLOW TALK?? Thanks for teaching me something new about classic film!”
    • “Ron, I never thought about how early talkies would completely change movie concessions. That was a fascinating perspective. Thanks!”
  • Yes, you can win the weekly DVD giveaway, and still be eligible to win a Grand Prize or Runner Up Prize package.
  • Spammers (i.e. using bots to make generic comments) are ineligible.
  • Updates will be posted on CMH social media channels on a regular basis.
  • Each winner will be notified by email and/or Twitter and will have 48 hours to respond with their shipping information or a new winner may be chosen. If any Prize or Prize notification is returned as undeliverable, the winner may be disqualified, and an alternate winner may be selected.
  • Prizes will ship after the contest period is over. Please allow up to 2 to 4 weeks for prize delivery. Classic Movie Hub is not responsible for prizes lost or stolen.
  • Family of Classic Movie Hub is not eligible for entry……

The more feedback comments you give, the more chances to win. See? Give a Gift, Get a Gift! We hope you enjoy participating in our Holiday Contest to honor this season for giving.

A Big Thank your for participating! And a Happy and Healthy Holidays to All,

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged , , | 6 Comments