Saddle Up with Anne Bancroft: Exclusive Guest Post by Author Douglass K. Daniel

Saddle Up with Anne Bancroft

When I think of actress Anne Bancroft, I picture the sexy, seductive Mrs. Robinson of The Graduate (1967) or the determined Annie Sullivan of The Miracle Worker (1962). Or a feisty New Yorker, whether she’s the woman who loves books in 84 Charing Cross Road (1984) or the devoted fan in Garbo Talks (1984). In my mind, Bancroft’s almost always a modern woman facing life’s challenges.

Anne Bancroft in Garbo TalksBancroft, here in Garbo Talks, usually played a modern woman.

Researching her career for the biography Anne Bancroft: A Life, I was surprised to encounter a different kind of Bancroft in her earliest films. She was twentysomething then, a beautiful and alluring woman even if her talent wasn’t as sharp as it would become. And several of her roles were in my favorite genre, Westerns.

I’m not sure that Westerns made the best fit for her talents. Movies about cowboys and gunfighters have always been dominated by men, leaving women to be fought over or lend support. Yet there is something appealing about watching Bancroft’s star on the rise.

Van Heflin and Bancroft in The RaidVan Heflin and Bancroft in The Raid

Her seventh movie, The Raid (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1954), isn’t exactly a Western; it takes place in New England, after all. But it has all the trappings: good guys, bad guys, gunplay, horses, a bank robbery and a 19th century setting. Based on a historical event, the story follows an undercover Confederate officer (Van Heflin) who leads a raid on the town of St. Albans, Vermont, aiming to steal money from three banks and take the loot across the border into Canada to fund the Cause.

For her part, Bancroft plays the widowed boarding house operator for whom the Confederate develops warm feelings – all dashed when it turns out he’s there to rob the town and set it on fire. That’s the best part of the movie, a relatively cheap enterprise filmed at the RKO-Pathé studios for $600,000. It still looks good, thanks to Technicolor and old sets from Gone with the Wind (1939).

Victor Mature and Anne Bancroft in The Last FrontierA blonde Bancroft fires up Victor Mature

As with many of Bancroft’s 1950s movies, The Raid came and went with little fanfare. She followed with three urban dramas, then filmed The Last Frontier (Columbia, 1955), her first real Western and a notable entry in the genre. This was no back-lot oater made for kids. Set in Wyoming, it was shot forty miles southwest of Mexico City, in the shadow of the icy volcanic peak Popocatépetl.

Another plus: the director of The Last Frontier was Anthony Mann, whose Westerns with James Stewart are among the best of the period. Carrying the psychological undercurrents that Mann preferred, the story was aimed at adults: a mountain man (Victor Mature) falls in love with the wife (Bancroft) of an Army commander (Robert Preston) as they war with Sioux leader Red Cloud. In Mann’s world the rugged, dark Mature represents nature while fair, blonde Bancroft – yes, blonde – represents civilization. The Last Frontier isn’t as highly regarded as the Mann-Stewart movies, but it’s worth watching.

The Last HuntThe Last Hunt, the Western she didn’t make

Maybe the unusual depth and subtext of The Last Frontier led Bancroft to think a Western wasn’t necessarily a throwaway. The next project she picked was another Western, The Last Hunt (MGM, 1956). This was a step up for her career. It was being produced at Hollywood’s top studio by the MGM chief himself, Dore Schary, and adapted from a prize-winning novel by tough-as-nails director Richard Brooks. He would have a big hit with Blackboard Jungle and this movie about buffalo hunters and Native Americans promised to generate more controversy.

Alas, you won’t actually see Bancroft playing the Native American woman who comes between Robert Taylor and Stewart Granger. On the last day of location filming in South Dakota, Bancroft was hurt when Granger pulled her onto a horse; Debra Paget replaced her. The outdoor scenes were already finished and those showing Bancroft at a distance remained in the film, a budgetary decision. Meanwhile, she was out of commission for months with a painful back injury – and her chance to be in a big MGM movie dashed.

Anne Bancroft Walk the Proud LandBancroft played an Apache in an Audie Murphy movie

Believe it or not, Bancroft came back from her sick bed three months later to appear as a Native American woman in an Audie Murphy Western, Walk the Proud Land (Universal-International, 1956). While the filmmakers followed the common practice of casting Europeans as Native Americans, the story itself was more forward thinking: the new Indian agent for Arizona’s San Carlos reservation, John Clum, sees the Apache not as savage prisoners but as wards of the government deserving dignity and as much autonomy as possible. It was a thoughtful Western, which might have disappointed fans who preferred gun smoke over cultural awareness.

Scott Brady Anne Bancroft The Restless BreedDuring production of The Restless Breed, Bancroft struck up a romance with co-star Scott Brady

Bancroft made one more Western in the 1950s, The Restless Breed (20th Century-Fox, 1957). She played a lustful half-breed dancer who falls in love with a man bent on revenge. The director was Allan Dwan, three movies away from wrapping up a career that had begun in 1911. A side note: Bancroft began a romance with co-star Scott Brady, one serious enough to include introducing him to her parents.

The Los Angeles Mirror’s review of The Restless Breed pointed to the problem of most Westerns for an actress: “Miss Bancroft doesn’t have much to do except bandage her beloved’s wounds and plead: ‘Don’t go out there! You’ll get yourself killed.’ ” We can only wonder what she might have done with stronger female roles in movies like High Noon (1952) or Shane (1953) or Hondo (1953).

 

The Restless Breed
Bancroft’s role in her final Western was typical for an actress

Why didn’t Bancroft make any Westerns after the 1950s? For one thing, her career took off after she won a Tony and an Oscar for The Miracle Worker and she became very selective about any role. Another reason: The Western was dying out on the big screen. Few in the 1970s offered good roles for a woman, among them Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), starring Bancroft’s future co-star in The Turning Point (1952), Shirley MacLaine. And there was Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971).

For Anne Bancroft, modern dramas would remain her home turf.

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–Douglass K. Daniel for Classic Movie Hub

A journalist and biographer, Douglass K. Daniel is the author of Anne Bancroft: A Life, just published by the University Press of Kentucky.

Books by Douglass K. Daniel:

          

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Film Noir Review: His Kind of Woman (1951)

“This place is dangerous. The time right deadly. The drinks are on me, my bucko!”

There’s an old saying that all films are made at least three times: once, when the screenwriter commits the story to paper; again, when the director captures the story on film; and finally, when the story is constructed in the editing room. At its best, this can allow a margin for creativity that improves the final cut. At its worst, it can allow for too many opinions and the film can become a compromised mess.

The latter is what makes His Kind of Woman such an oddity.

His Kind of Woman movie posterHis Kind of Woman, 1951

Released by RKO Radio Pictures in 1951, His Kind of Woman is a film that suffered mercilessly at the hands of its studio. Scenes were rewritten, characters were recast, and the majority of it was reshot after production had wrapped. It fuses film noir and screwball in completely nonsensical ways. It’s overtly violent at times and incredibly hammy in others. It’s also far more entertaining than it has any right to be.

In an effort to determine how such a confounding little film was made, I’m going to break His Kind of Woman down into its respective acts; each of which appears to reflect the input of a different artist.

ACT 1: THE FILM NOIR

His Kind of Woman 7Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell

The first draft for His Kind of Woman was actually styled as a traditional film noir. Screenwriters Jack Pearson and Earl Fenton (uncredited work on Nocturne and Out of the Past) penned a story that had all the obligatory bells and whistles: gangsters, gunplay, and plenty of choice dialogue for star Robert Mitchum to rattle off while looking cool.

The film’s opening scene plays to this style, with its seamy Los Angeles backdrop and hoodlums who’d just as soon beat you to a pulp than play a game of cards. In the case of Dan Milner (Mitchum), he’s treated to both — the price of being an amateur gambler on good days, and a professional loser on bad ones. But things seem to turn around when he’s offered $50,000. The catch? That he go down to a resort in Mexico and make good on an undisclosed “favor.” Milner smells a rotten deal, but like any self-respecting sap, he takes the bait anyway.

John Farrow was hired to direct after helming Mitchum’s previous film, Where Danger Lives (1950), and his tight, economic pace is evident in these early scenes. Note the way the camera lingers on its surroundings here, winding up dread through silence. As soon as Milner boards a plane to Mexico, though, you can feel Farrow’s grip being pried from the wheel and replaced with that of the film’s producer, Howard Hughes.

ACT 2: THE COMEDY

Mitchum and Russell would reunite in 1952's Macao.Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell

Hughes was evidently unhappy with Farrow’s cut of the film, and decided to overhaul production. In an effort to create something that was more commercially “worthy” of his stars, he had Pearson and Fenton rewrite every scene that took place after Milner arrives in Mexico. It’s anybody’s guess as to what happened in the original draft, for their rewrites unspool the tension of the opener and replaces it with silly characters and a few romantic subplots.

Generally speaking, this is a good way to ruin a film noir. There have been countless situations where a noir opens in the city, establishes a bleak tone, and then undermines it with a second act that sees characters hideout and soften up. Regularly passed off as an attempt to humanize the characters, it mainly succeeds in making them less compelling. See Desperate (1947), Dark City (1950), and the colossal waste that is One Way Street (1950) for proof.

The main reason the second act avoids this curse is that it doesn’t take its radical shift in tone very seriously. It actually settles into something of a screwball comedy, with Milner poking fun at the more eccentric guests (Jim Backus is especially kooky as a skirt-chasing stockbroker) and flirting with lounge singer Lenore Brent (Jane Russell). The two create romantic sparks, even as Brent attempts to woo rich actor Mark Cardigan (Vincent Price) from his wife.

Price gives a wonderfully bubbly performance as Cardigan.Vincent Price

Mitchum and Russell’s chemistry is superb (more on that here), but really, it’s Price’s hammy performance as Cardigan that steals the show. While Mitchum is forced to remain the straight man and play detective, Price is allowed to run wild as a character desperate to trade his “phony” hero image in for the real thing.

The scene where Cardigan screens his latest swashbuckler at the resort is an early highlight. The hopeful star sits behind the crowd, eagerly scanning to see if their enjoyment equals his own. At one point, he stands up and claps at his character’s victory, only to recoil in silence when he realizes he’s the only one doing so. The chilly response he gets from Brent (“Oh it was fine, it was just a little long. About an hour and a half.”) and the miserly Dr. Kellog (“It has a message even a pigeon wouldn’t carry.”) allow for some of the best one-liners in the film.

If Cardigan feels superfluous to the story, it’s because he was one of Hughes’ later additions. Fenton originally wrote him in as a minor character, but the producer was so amused by Price that he brought in writer/director Richard Fleischer to give him more scenes.  Price later spoke on the bizarre production, and the impact it had on his co-stars: “I think Bob [Mitchum] was disappointed at the direction the script took because if he had known about the comic tilt, he would have played his character in a lighter vein.”

As Milner is taken captive by gangsters, however, Hughes and Fleischer prove just how far they’re able to travel down the rabbit hole of wackiness.

ACT 3: THE CHAOS

If ever a still captured the divided spirit of a film...Price and Mitchum

Nothing in noir quite matches this film’s finale. There have been those that are more brutal perhaps, or more comedic, but never one with scenes this wildly juxtaposed, and somehow integral to one another. Milner learns that deported kingpin Nick Ferraro (Raymond Burr) plans to steal his identity and reenter the U.S. using plastic surgery. But before then, he strips Milner of his shirt, savagely beats him with a belt, and attempts to put a bullet in his unconscious body.

The violence shown here is made all the more brutal by the calm that preceded it, while Fleischer (who was hired after Hughes saw a cut of The Narrow Margin) brings an ugliness and desperation to the characters. This is especially true with Ferraro, who Burr plays with borderline masochistic behavior: “I want him to be fully conscious. I don’t like to shoot a corpse. I want to see the expression on his face when he knows it’s coming.”

"I want to see the expression on his face when he knows it's coming.”Mitchum and Burr

We then cut to a lake, where Cardigan is prepping a rescue mission. He’s armed and enraged over Milner’s capture. He’s also wearing a cape, quoting Hamlet, and sinking in a paddle boat with a fleet of Mexican policeman. “My kingdom for a ship,” he mugs at the camera, “Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground!” They eventually make it to Ferraro’s ship, where things devolve into a feverish parade of pratfalls and violence.

Milner gets the girl, Cardigan gets to be the hero, and the film closes on a fittingly nonsensical shot: a pair of trousers being burned by an iron. Sounds about right.

ACT 4: THE AFTERMATH

His Kind of Woman 5

In his 1991 autobiography Just Tell Me When to Cry, Fleischer revealed that the film took two months to reshoot, including the scenes with Ferraro (Burr replaced original actor Robert J. Wilke) and everything in Mexico. The new footage was then pieced together with scraps from Farrow’s abandoned cut. His Kind of Woman eventually premiered in August 1951, over a year after its initial completion.

Audiences were reasonably confused by the film when it was released, and it lost a reported $820,000 at the box office (roughly the same amount Hughes spent on reshoots). The confusion holds up even today. It’s an utter mess of a film with plot threads coming and going as they please, and actors emote as though they’re in different genres altogether.

His Kind of Woman 8Price and Russell

Yet, its enjoyable qualities stem in no small part from it being such a mess — a film as unpredictable and thrilling as anything released during Hollywood’s Golden Age. A film where a man in a cape, a sadistic gangster, and a tender romance somehow coexist. A film that unintentionally paved the way for a generation of violent noir-comedies (In Bruges, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Ice Harvest continue to heed its influence). Not everyone will like it, but those that do will love it.

If permitted to sum up His Kind of Woman with a single line, I’d defer once again to Mark Cardigan: “This place is dangerous. The time right deadly. The drinks are on me, my bucko!” A

TRIVIA: Hughes had to pay $15,000 to reshoot the scene of Cardigan and the police sinking in the rowboat.

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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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Vitaphone View: Early Talkie Restorations and the Theory of Relativity

Early Talkie Restorations and the Theory of Relativity

When The Vitaphone Project began in 1991, its primary goal was to seek out, mainly in private collectors’ hands, long-lost 16-inch soundtrack disks for early talkies. When a match with a surviving mute 35mm film turned up, that meant a restoration was possible.

But while our focus was on tracking down physical elements, we never could have predicted how many of the relatives of stars of restored films would be found. We’ve either heard from, or located, the relatives of over two dozen Vitaphone shorts performers over the past 26 years. And in many cases, those relatives have been able to sit in a theatre with an audience as the relative’s performance of eight decades earlier is enjoyed again.

Heidt Vita and his North CaroliniansHeidt Vita and his North Carolinians

Two early examples of these fortuitous connections involve bandleaders’ sons. Horace Heidt led a popular dance band from the twenties into the sixties. In 1929, he made two Vitaphone shorts, one of which was restored from a surviving soundtrack disk and mute film. Once we announced the restoration possibility, we soon heard from Heidt’s son, Horace, Jr.  He generously funded the total cost of the restoration and enjoyed its screening at UCLA in the mid-1990’s. Another bandleader’s son, Tal Henry, Jr., similarly paid for the restoration of his dad’s rousing 1929 Vitaphone, Tal Henry and his North Carolinians (1929).  I sat next to him at the UCLA screening of the restoration, and he cried when his dad announced the first tune.

Eddie WhiteEddie White

Vitaphone shorts restorations have rejuvenated interest in long forgotten vaudevillians whose acts still seem fresh today. Eddie White in I Thank You (1928) presents the singer/comedian in 9 minutes of music and patter.  I knew nothing about him, but called upon friend Bill Cappello who can seem to find relatives of the most obscure performers. In one day (!) he located Eddie’s son in Florida, and I shared the short with him. I learned that Eddie had seen a comedy act in Atlantic City while he was headlining at the Steel Pier. He brought them to his major venue and soon their career took off.  The act was Abbott & Costello, who never forgot Eddie’s generosity. Cappello also found the son of Jack Waldron, anther forgotten talent whose Jack Waldron in A Breath of Broadway (1928) proved the claim he was one of the very first stand-up comics. His son told me of Jack’s close friendship with Burns and Allen and Jack Benny.

FRAME Zelda Santley Title Card Little Miss EverybodyZelda Santley Title Card Little Miss Everybody

Having relatives of performers present at restorations is a real treat. Often the relatives most interested are not the sons or daughters — who often endured the rough life of a traveling star. Instead, I’ve found that interest often skips a generation, with the grand kids being most interested. I have hosted over two dozen screenings of Vitaphone shorts restorations at New York’s Film Forum, and have been pleased to have in the audience  the grandkids of the stars of  Jack Osterman in Talking It Over (1929), Zelda Santley in Little Miss Everybody (1929) and Grace Johnston and the Indiana Five (1929). Each performer was a hit, and the relatives were beaming at the audiences’ appreciation of their talent.

Shaw & Lee Beau BrummelsShaw and Lee, The Beau Brummels

Perhaps the most touching relativity story is that of the then-forgotten team of Shaw and Lee. Their 1928 Vitaphone short, The Beau Brummels, beautifully preserves their deadpan and bizarre humor, and modern audiences love them. The short even joined the National Film Registry in 2016. After the strong reaction to this short’s screenings in 1997, we sought out their relatives.  Again Bill Cappello came though and found the grandsons of both Shaw AND Lee. I was able to build a friendship with both and quickly got funding for the team’s second Vitaphone, Going Places (1930) a few years later. In 2007, I learned from the grandson that Al Shaw’s son, his dad, was dying. In a wonderful case of synchronicity, I also learned that a Vitaphone program was being planned soon at the Mary Pickford Theatre in Hollywood. We arranged for them to include the Shaw and Lee short on the program. Shaw’s son was able to sit with an audience of over 700 and to hear their continuous laughter and enjoyment of his father from up on the big screen from 79 years before.   This relativity angle sure makes the effort to restore these films worthwhile!

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

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:

               

 

Posted in Posts by Ron Hutchinson, Vitaphone View | Tagged | Leave a comment

Hollywood at Play Book Giveaway (September)

“Hollywood at Play: The Lives of the Stars Between Takes”
September Book Giveaway

“If you share my affection for candid shots of the stars you’ll love Hollywood at Play: The Lives of the Stars Between Takes…”
-Leonard Maltin, Indiewire.com

And, now we’re happy to announce our next contest! This time, we’ll be giving away FIVE COPIES of Hollywood at Play: The Lives of the Stars Between Takes” courtesy of the authors themselves – Stephen X. Sylvester, Mary Mallory and Donovan Brandt!  Hollywood at Play features over 200 fascinating and rare photos from the collection of Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee, Hollywood’s first and oldest family-owned photo archive. A wonderful treasure trove of photos for every classic movie fan :)

Hollywood at Play: The Lives of the Stars Between Takes

In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, September 30 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.

  • Sept 2: One Winner
  • Sept 9: One Winner
  • Sept 16: One Winner
  • Sept 23: One Winner
  • Sept 30: One Winner

We will announce each week’s winner on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub (or via 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 winners on Sunday October 1 at 9PM EST.

Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh in boatTony Curtis and Janet Leigh ‘at play’ enjoying a leisurely boat ride

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ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, September 30 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 “Hollywood at Play” #BookGiveaway courtesy of author @mallory_mary & @ClassicMovieHub

THE QUESTION:
What classic movie stars would you love to see in candid shots and why?

*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.

Please allow us at least 24 hours to approve (and post) your comment, as we have an unprecedented amount of spam to sift through…

Elizabeth Taylor at poolElizabeth Taylor ‘at play’ by the pool

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About “Hollywood at Play”: Fans from around the world continue to be fascinated by classic-era Hollywood (1925-1960) and its larger-than-life stars. Nostalgia for this simpler, more glamorous time offers a safe and temporary escape from our complex lives. The authors capture this era with in Hollywood at Play, featuring unique and rarely seen images of such legendary stars as Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, W.C. Fields, and Tyrone Power enjoying fun and relaxation outside of their studios. Hollywood at Play presents iconic images of the classic stars taking time out from the demands of celebrity to enjoy dancing, bike-riding, roller skating, bowling, and playing tennis; diversions offering a chance to relax and be themselves. This delightful and unique book will appeal to classic movie fans, and enthusiasts of celebrity, fashion, and Hollywood history.

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).

Joan Crawford and dogsJoan Crawford ‘at play’ with her dogs

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For complete rules, click here.

And if you can’t wait to win, you can buy it now on amazon:

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Good Luck!

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

 

Posted in Books, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | 24 Comments

The Lost World (1925) Blu-Ray Giveaway Contest (via Twitter in September)

“The Lost World” Deluxe Blu-Ray Giveaway Contest 
1925 Silent starring Wallace Beery, Bessie Love and Lewis Stone

Wow, this is an exciting one! Thanks to our fine friends at Flickr Alley, CMH will be giving away FIVE COPIES via Twitter of the world-premiere Blu-ray edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, the most complete version of the film ever released. And stay tuned because we’ll also be giving away ONE more copy via Facebook and this Blog as well (details to follow later this week), so if you want to increase your odds of winning you can enter both versions of the contest…

The Lost World 1925 BluRay …..

And now for the giveaway contest…

In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, Sept 30 at 8PM 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.

  • Sept 2: One Winner
  • Sept 9: One Winner
  • Sept 16: One Winner
  • Sept 23: One Winner
  • Sept 30: 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 8PM EST — for example, we will announce our first week’s winner on Sunday Oct 1 at 8PM EST.

And remember… 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 copies via Facebook/Blog as well!

The Lost World 1925 film, dinosaur

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ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, September 30 at 8PM 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 “The Lost World (1925)” #BluRay #Giveaway courtesy of @flickeralley and @ClassicMovieHub

THE QUESTION:
Why would you like to win this DVD/Blu-Ray? 

*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.

Please allow us at least 24 hours to approve (and post) your comment, as we have an unprecedented amount of spam to sift through…

The Lost World 1925 film, dinosaur in front of building

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About the Release:  True to its title, the 1925, 10-reel version of The Lost World effectively disappeared from circulation in 1929 – all known positive prints destroyed – a move by First National Pictures to help clear the way for another “creature film” utilizing special effects and Willis O’Brien’s cutting-edge animation techniques: King Kong. For more than 80 years, only abridged editions of The Lost World remained in existence… until now! This visually stunning 2K restoration features newly-discovered scenes and special effect sequences, incorporating almost all original elements from archives and collections around the world. Renowned silent film composer Robert Israel contributes a new and ambitious score, performed by a full orchestra in 2016. Bonus materials include audio commentary from film historian Nicolas Ciccone, deleted scenes, and short films R.F.D., 10,000 B.C. (1917) and The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1918), and more…

Synopsis: Follow Professor Challenger, played by the inimitable Wallace Beery, as he and a crew of curious explorers embark on an expedition in search of a mythical, prehistoric plateau in South America. Along for the adventure are eminent scientist Summerlee (Arthur Hoyt, the director’s brother), sportsman Sir John Roxton (Lewis Stone), journalist Ed Malone (Lloyd Hughes) and Paula White (Bessie Love), whose father disappeared on the same plateau. The party is not there long before the “lost world” of the jungle begins to reveal its secrets: a primitive ape-man, a Pterodactyl flying through the air, a massive Brontosaurus feeding upon the trees, the vicious Allosaurus, and many more monstrous beasts of the Jurassic age.

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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).

And if you can’t wait to win the DVD/Blu-Ray, you can purchase it on amazon via the below link (click on image):

Good Luck!

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Films, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | 35 Comments

Anne Bancroft: A Life Book Giveaway (via Twitter in September)

“Anne Bancroft: A Life”
Book Giveaway via Twitter

Time for our next book giveaway! This time, CMH will be giving away FIVE COPIES of “Anne Bancroft: A Life” by Douglass K. Daniel, courtesy of University Press of Kentucky, from Aug 28 through Sept 30. (plus ONE more copy via Facebook and this Blog, details to follow in a few days).

In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, Sept 30 at 10PM 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.

  • Sept 2: One Winner
  • Sept 9: One Winner
  • Sept 16: One Winner
  • Sept 23: One Winner
  • Sept 30: One Winner

We will announce each week’s winner on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub, the day after each winner is picked at 10PM EST — for example, we will announce our first week’s winner on Sunday Oct 1 at 10PM 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!

Anne Bancroft: A Life biography

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ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, Sept 30 at 1oPM 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

THE QUESTION:
What do you love most about Anne Bancroft? And, if you’re not familiar with her work, why do you want to win this book? 

2) Then TWEET (not DM) the following message*:
Just entered to win “Anne Bancroft: A Life” #BookGiveaway courtesy of @KentuckyPress & @ClassicMovieHub

*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.

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About the Book:  In the first biography to cover the entire scope of Bancroft’s life and career, Douglass K. Daniel brings together interviews with dozens of her friends and colleagues, never-before-published family photos, and material from film and theater archives to present a portrait of an artist who raised the standards of acting for all those who followed. Daniel reveals how, from a young age, Bancroft was committed to challenging herself and strengthening her craft. Her talent (and good timing) led to a breakthrough role in Two for the Seesaw, which made her a Broadway star overnight. The role of Helen Keller’s devoted teacher in the stage version of The Miracle Worker would follow, and Bancroft also starred in the movie adaption of the play, which earned her an Academy Award. She went on to appear in dozens of film, theater, and television productions, including several movies directed or produced by her husband, Mel Brooks. Anne Bancroft: A Life offers new insights into the life and career of a determined actress who left an indelible mark on the film industry while remaining true to her art.

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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 it on amazon via the below link (click on image):

Good Luck!

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Books, Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged , , | 32 Comments

Classic Movie Travels: Jane Powell, Portland Oregon

Classic Movie Travels
Hometowns to Hollywood: Jane Powell, Portland Oregon

“I didn’t quit movies. They quit me.” – Jane Powell

Hollywood has certainly had its fair share of child stars, and Jane Powell is no exception. Thanks to many studio musicals, audiences saw Jane grow up on the screen from a charming teenager to a confident leading lady, while constantly showcasing her gorgeous coloratura soprano voice. Interestingly, this woman from Portland, Oregon, would also portray an Oregonian in one of her most successful films — Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954).

jane powell

Jane was born Suzanne Lorraine Burce on April 1st, 1929. Her father worked for Wonder Bread and her mother was a housewife with ambitious show business aspirations for her daughter. At the age of two, Powell was taking dancing lessons and sporting a perm in an effort to be the next Shirley Temple. Along the way, Powell became intrigued by a career in entertainment, idolizing Sonja Henie’s delightful ice skating routines.

By the time she was five, Powell appeared on a children’s radio program called Stars of Tomorrow and continued her dancing lessons. Encouraged by a talent scout and dance instructor, Powell’s family moved to Oakland, California, in hopes of establishing a career in entertainment. Unfortunately, Jane was one among many other hopefuls. Moreover, she was still being marketed as a Shirley Temple, which — thankfully for us — she was not. She and her family returned to Portland and moved into an apartment building.

While living in the apartment, Powell was tasked with taking out the trash as one of her household chores. In order to make the chore more enjoyable, Powell would sing as she worked. In response, fellow tenants suggested that she take voice lessons. They collectively saved their money and Powell was able to begin taking her lessons while also attending the Beaumont Grade School in Portland.

Powell’s vocal talent created more opportunities for her than her dancing did. At age twelve, Powell was chosen as the Oregon Victory Girl and sang live on KOIN, Portland’s local radio station. While working with KOIN, Powell was able to travel and sell victory bonds, in addition to sharing her vocal talents with the Portland community and beyond. In addition, she had two shows per week: one in which she sang with organ accompaniment, and the other with an orchestra or other performers.

song of the open roadSong of the Open Road, 1944

In 1943, Jane’s parents took Powell on vacation in Hollywood, where she appeared on the Hollywood Showcase: Stars over Hollywood show and won the talent competition. Soon after, she auditioned for at MGM and was signed to a seven-year contract, with no screen test necessary. Powell made her first film appearance while on loan to United Artists for Song of the Open Road (1944). Interestingly, her character in this film was named Jane Powell and her stage name was subsequently derived from this film.

royal weddingRoyal Wedding, 1951

Soon after, Powell starred in a host of musical films, including Holiday in Mexico (1946), Three Daring Daughters (1948), and A Date With Judy (1948), to name a few. She exhibited comedic timing in these teenage roles, while also performing an array of engaging songs. In 1950, Powell played a teenager who wanted to be taken seriously as an adult in Two Weeks With Love (1950), which caused a shift in the types of roles she began receiving. Powell transitioned into playing more adult roles and was cast alongside Fred Astaire and Peter Lawford in Royal Wedding (1951).

seven brides for seven brothersSeven Brides for Seven Brothers

Powell’s most notable role occurred in 1954 as the no-nonsense lead actress in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) with Howard Keel. After her success in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Powell continued to pursue more mature roles in musicals such as Athena (1954), Deep in My Heart (1954), Hit the Deck (1955), and The Girl Most Likely (1957).

In addition to her success in films, Jane also appeared in several stage roles. Most notably, she made her Broadway debut in a production of Irene, succeeding frequent co-star, Debbie Reynolds, in the lead role. Furthermore, she also added several television appearances to her repertoire, as well filming an ill-fated pilot for her Jane Powell Show. Moreover, she also starred as Esther in a 1959 television version of Meet Me in St. Louis.

1525 NW 29th1525 NW 29th

Currently, Powell is 88 years old and lives in Wilton, Connecticut, where she shared a home with her husband of twenty-seven years, Dickie Moore. Both he and Powell had similar histories of being child stars working under the studio system. Moore and Powell met when he was writing his book Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star: But Don’t Have Sex or Take the Car.

314 Wygant St, Portland Oregon, Jane Powell lived here314 Wygant St

 

While Moore passed away in 2015, Powell has continued to keep busy at her Connecticut home and still enjoys her time away from the days of studio system life. According to a 2017 interview with The Hour, Powell enjoys gardening, attending a nearby non-denominational church, and lives contentedly with her cat and dog.

beaumont grade schoolBeaumont Middle School at 4043 NE Fremont St.

Though Powell now lives on the East coast, her Portland hometown possesses a few sites that were of relevance to her during her time there. Powell lived at 1525 NW 29th Avenue and, upon returning from California, also lived at 314 Wygant St. Today, Beaumont Grade School is now known as Beaumont Middle School and is located at 4043 NE Fremont St. The Heathman Hotel, which once hosted the headquarters of KOIN Radio, was placed on the National Register of Historic places. Still functioning as a hotel, it is located at 712 SW Salmon St.

The Heathman Hotel OregonThe Heathman Hotel at 712 SW Salmon St.

Powell is no doubt a treasure when it comes to MGM musicals and is a wealth of information on classic Hollywood. We are so lucky to still have her with us to this day! Powell accepts fan mail at the following address:

Jane Powell
Celebrity Consultants LLC
14724 Ventura Blvd
Penthouse
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

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–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

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 | 2 Comments

Win Tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (35th Anniversary)” (Giveaway runs August 11 – September 2)

Win Tickets to see “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” on the Big Screen!

In Select Cinemas Nationwide Sunday, September 17 & Wednesday, September 20!

“E.T. phone home.”

CMH is thrilled to announce the 11th of our 14 movie ticket giveaways this year, courtesy of Fathom Events!

That said, we’ll be giving away EIGHT PAIRS of tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” – the timeless classic starring Henry Thomas and Dee Wallace— the way it was meant to be seen — on the Big Screen!

In order to qualify to win a pair of movie tickets via this contest, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, September 2 at 6 PM EST.

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter on Sunday, September 3, 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.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial TCM Big Screen Classics Fathom Events

The film will be playing in select cinemas nationwide for a special two-day-only event on Sunday, September 17 and Wednesday, September 20 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. local time. 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 for each date)

About the film:  

Thirty-five years since its release, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial remains a singular achievement, a movie that enchanted a generation with its sheer movie making prowess and its simple, exquisite story of the bond between a little boy and an alien. Directed by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay by Melissa Mathison, it’s one of the rare movies that can be universally defined by a single shot: Elliott and E.T. flying on a bicycle against a full moon.

ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, September 2 at 6PM EST…

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

THE QUESTION:

Although not a classic-era Classic, most people do consider “E.T.” a Classic nonetheless. What is it about the film that makes it a Classic? And, if you haven’t seen it yet, why do you want to see it on the Big Screen? 

2) Then TWEET* (not DM) the following message:

Just entered to win tickets to see “E.T.” on the Big Screen courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @FathomEvents #TCMBigScreen

*If you don’t 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.

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).

You can follow Fathom Events on Twitter at @fathomevents

Good Luck!

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Fathom Events, TCM Big Screen Classics | 47 Comments

Noir Nook: Am-noir-sia: The Amnesia Motif in Film Noir

Am-noir-sia: The Amnesia Motif in Film Noir

Along with rain-swept streets, voiceover narration, and shadows neatly sliced by venetian blinds, one of film noir’s common features is the character suffering from memory loss. This month’s column takes a look at five films from the noir era with the amnesia motif.

Street of Chance (1942)

As this film opens, Frank Thompson (Burgess Meredith) is walking along a busy street when he’s struck on the head by a piece of wood from a construction site. Knocked unconscious by the blow, he awakens to find himself in an unfamiliar part of town, and when he makes his way home, he learns that his wife (Louise Platt) has moved away. He’s finally able to track her down, but when he does, he discovers that he’s been missing for more than a year and he makes up his mind to unearth what happened to him during that time. He gets his first clue when he returns to the construction site and is recognized by a girl (Claire Trevor) who calls him “Dan” and informs him that he’s being sought for the murder of a wealthy landowner.

Street of Chance film noir amnesia burgess meredith claire trevorBurgess Meredith and Claire Trevor in Street of Chance (1942)

Trivia tidbit: In the mid-1990s, when I was working on my first book, Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of Film (shameless plug), I wrote to actor Burgess Meredith to ask him to share with me his recollections about Street of Chance. He promptly answered, “I’m sorry, but I don’t recall making this movie.” (I didn’t occur to me until just now, but I wonder if his response was tongue-in-cheek!)

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Somewhere in the Night (1946)

This feature, directed and co-written by Joseph Mankiewicz, opens as a man (John Hodiak) awakens in a military hospital to find that he has no idea who he is. The hospital personnel call him “George Taylor” and the only clue the man has to his past is a rather unsettling note in his wallet that says, in part: “I’m ashamed for having loved you. And I shall pray as long as I live for someone or something to hurt and destroy you.” Taylor later learns that he’s been left $5,000 and a gun by a man named Larry Cravat, and he makes up his mind to track the man down, certain that he holds the key to his past. Along the way, Taylor encounters a number of individuals who have a connection to Cravat, including nightclub singer Christy Smith (Nancy Guild), Christy’s boss (Richard Conte), who offers to help Taylor in his quest, and Lt. Kendall (Lloyd Nolan), a wily detective who reveals that Cravat vanished two years earlier with a cool $2 million.

Somewhere in the Night film noir amnesia John Hodiak and Nancy GuildJohn Hodiak and Nancy Guild, Somewhere in the Night (1946)

Trivia tidbit: Somewhere in the Night was Nancy Guild’s film debut. Ads for the movie urged: “Meet that Guild girl – she rhymes with wild!” Although she signed a seven-year contract with 20th Century Fox in 1946, Guild retired from the big screen in the early 1950s after appearing in just seven films (including 1951’s Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man).

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Fall Guy (1947)

Released in a year known for such famed noir features as Out of the PastKiss of Death, and Nightmare AlleyFall Guy was definitely one of the year’s lesser-known outputs. The film was based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich entitled “Cocaine,” and starred Leo (billed as Clifford) Penn as Tom Cochrane, who is found drugged and unconscious in the street with a bloody knife beside him. When Cochrane wakes up in the hospital to incessant grilling by detectives, he’s unable to recall the circumstances that led to his capture. He can only remember attending a party, blacking out, and awakening to find the body of a dead woman in the closet. He later escapes and teams up with his girlfriend (Teala Loring) and a policeman friend (Robert Armstrong) in an effort to find out what really happened.

Fall Guy film noir amnesia

Fall Guy (1947) starring Leo (aka Clifford) Penn, Robert Armstrong and Teala Loring

Trivia tidbit: The film’s star, Leo Penn, was the father of actors Senn and Chris Penn. He was blacklisted during the 1940s and 1950s after he publicly supported the Hollywood 10, a group of screenwriters, directors and producer who were accused of having Communist sympathies. He kept afloat by acting in television and stage productions, and later became a television director, helming episodes for a wide variety of popular series, including 77 Sunset Strip, Bonanza, Marcus Welby, St. Elsewhere, and Matlock. Penn’s first wife was actress Olive Deering, perhaps best known for portraying Miriam in The Ten Commandments (1956). His second wife, and the mother of his children, was actress Eileen Ryan, who played in Benny and Joon (1993) and I Am Sam (2001), and portrayed the grandmother of her sons, Sean and Chris, in At Close Range (1996).

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The Crooked Way (1949)

Like Somewhere in the NightThe Crooked Way focuses on a war veteran who’s in search of his identity. In this case, it’s Eddie Rice (John Payne), who’s a permanent victim of amnesia due to a piece of shrapnel lodged in his brain. Armed only with the knowledge that he enlisted in Los Angeles, Eddie returns there, quickly discovering that his real name is Eddie Riccardi and that he has a long rap sheet, a hostile ex-wife (Ellen Drew), and a former partner in crime (Sonny Tufts), who’s determined  to pay him back for a pre-war betrayal.

The Crooked Way film noir with John Payne and Ellen DrewJohn Payne and Ellen Drew in The Crooked Way

Trivia tidbit: The Crooked Way opens with a shot of Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco, where Eddie Rice/Riccardi is convalescing. Letterman was built in the late 1890s or the early 1900s as the U.S. Army Hospital General Hospital at the Presidio of San Francisco. In 1911, the hospital was renamed after Major Jonathan Letterman, a founding father of military medicine. Some of the original buildings of the complex are still standing, and most of the former grounds are now home to the Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center, headquarters of none other than famed filmmaker John Lucas’s Lucasfilm.

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The Long Wait (1954)

This film, based on a novel by Mickey Spillane, stars Anthony Quinn as amnesia sufferer Johnny McBride, whose memory loss was caused by a car accident and who, like so many others in his condition, goes looking for clues to his past. McBride’s quest leads him to his hometown, where he’s promptly arrested for the murder of the city’s district attorney. Fortunately for McBride, he has no fingerprints (they’ve been burned off!), so there’s no evidence and he’s released. Back on the streets, he determines to find the real killer.

The Long Wait film noir, book by Mickey SpillaneThe Long Wait by Mickey Spillane

Trivia tidbit: Born Frank Morrison Spillane, pulp fiction writer Mickey Spillane was born in Brooklyn, New York, the only child of an Irish bartender father and a Scottish mother. Spillane attended Erasmus Hall High School – the school’s many famous alumni include Susan Hayward, Eli Wallach, Barbara Stanwyck, and Dorothy Kilgallen. Spillane was a fighter pilot and flight instructor during World War II; while flying over Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, he decided to make the unincorporated coastal fishing village his home, and lived there until his death in 2006. Spillane became famous for his Mike Hammer detective novels; in addition to The Long Wait, two other novels were made into film noir features – I, The Jury (1953) and Kiss Me Deadly (1955). In another feature film based on one of his books, The Girl Hunters (1963), Spillane himself played Mike Hammer, becoming the only mystery writer to portray his own fictional private eye on screen.

Interested in films with an amnesia theme? Don’t forget (get it?) to check these out!

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– Karen Burroughs Hannsberry for Classic Movie Hub

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 , | 2 Comments

Pre-Code Corner: It’s Tough to Be Famous, but It’s Easy to Be Naughty

It’s Tough to Be Famous, but It’s Easy to Be Naughty

Without a doubt, part of the lure of pre-Code pictures are those racy bits of dialogue that surprisingly retain the ability to shock or even make audiences blush over 80 years after they were first uttered. Though by now I expect these types of exchanges, many examples of innuendo or sexually suggestive lines – we’re talking material that miraculously survived script conferences with the Studio Relations Committee (SRC) and censor board axes (or didn’t, in some states) – still make me do a double take and sometimes even prompt me to question my hearing. Like, did they really just say that? Quips such as: “Why don’t you come up some time, and see me?” (1933′s She Done Him Wrong), and “As long as they have sidewalks, you’ve got a job” (1933′s Footlight Parade) represent a small sampling of the audible gems pre-Code titles can offer audiences.

And that leads me to a curious recurring joke that popped up in It’s Tough to be Famous (1932), a brisk satire revolving around the unexpected fame heaped upon Scotty (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), after he sacrifices himself to save the crew of his submarine (don’t worry, he’s miraculously rescued by divers and still hailed as the hero). As Scotty’s stock and popularity skyrockets, his freedom slips further from his reach, and his relationship with girlfriend-turned-wife Janet (Mary Brian) begins to falter.

It's Tough to Be Famous 1932 movie posterIt’s Tough to Be Famous, 1932

Admittedly, my amoral sensor didn’t buzz too often during It’s Tough to Be Famous, but my censor-attuned ears perked when I heard variations of the phrase “don’t forget to wind the clock” bantered not once, not twice but three times between Janet and Scotty. What starts as a benign honeymoon discussion, in between flirtatious pawing of course, on how the couple will build their life around Dr. Tuck’s wedding present (yes, a clock) somehow turns into a racy proposition; after Scotty playfully inverts the letters, “Dr. Cluck’s tock” becomes an inside joke between the couple, with Janet exiting the room while disrobing, turning around and cooing to her husband: “Don’t forget to wind Dr. Cluck’s tock.” Though Janet’s delivery of the line certainly bumps it into suggestive territory, the following two occurrences solidify the intent. The first one arises after the couple split and Janet proposes they revert to being pals again – “no lovemaking” – so they can determine whether they really care for each other or if it’s just “animal attraction.” “No winding Dr. Cluck’s tock? Not even for a little bit?” Scotty inquires. “No, darling. Not for a while,” Janet answers. Yup, that means what we think it does.

It's Tough to Be Famous Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Mary BrianJanet certainly isn’t making this easy for Scotty.

And the final reference really hits it home, as Janet dials Scotty to get this show back on the road with a naughty glint in her eye – and an elated reaction from her reinstated lover: “I think tomorrow would be a grand day to – to wind Dr. Cluck’s tock,” she tells him, with a slight bashfulness in her voice.

It's Tough to Be Famous Mary BrianYes, tomorrow certainly will be a grand day.

Now I’m not really (that) naive, but this phrase was certainly a new one to me, and definitely not a piece of established 1930s innuendo. The more I heard this remark, the more I wondered how reactionary the SRC and state censor boards would have been to ordinary sounding, yet extremely titillating allusions such as this. Personally, I’d wager some dough – only like 25 cents in 1932 terms, which is roughly $4.50 today -  on this saying squeezing past the SRC and several state censor boards and sailing over at least a portion of viewer’s heads – especially the younger ones in attendance. (Though the expression remains intact today, that doesn’t mean the SRC or censor boards didn’t take issue with it; unfortunately, the Production Code Administration [PCA] file for this film is not housed at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, or else I would already have investigated this matter.)

Why do I believe this? Whereas books, articles, reviews and contemporaneous feedback I’ve consulted generally aim concern at a picture’s morality, theme and/or characterizations, censor groups repeatedly requested the deletion of sexually suggestive dialogue and even parts of evocative lines, among other things, during both the script phase and after a movie was in the can. (I’m guessing this tendency, particularly in post-production, can be partly attributed to the fact that a picture’s moral compass couldn’t fundamentally be altered at that point, but specific lines and imagery deemed offensive could instead be targeted in an attempt to water down a potentially depraved theme.) However, I’ve found feedback and demands from these entities frequently take issue with more transparent exchanges, ranging from a line as innocuous as: “I saw Pearl and Pepi go in there” in 1933′s Our Betters (a message wholly bland and harmless on its own, though it confirms a lovers’ rendezvous) to “I knew you from your appendix scar” from 1930′s Madam Satan (uttered by a man who turned out to be a stock broker, not a doctor). Oh, and Joan Blondell’s quip in Footlight Parade, “As long as they have sidewalks, you’ve got a job,” an obvious insinuation of prostitution, got the boot in prints in select territories, including Chicago, Ohio, and Maryland. However, I still consider these references more blatant than Scotty and Janet’s bawdy inside joke, as the former examples clearly allude to risqué topics like sex and prostitution,  while the latter is wrapped around a metaphor whose exact meaning I can’t 100% confirm (I’m at about 95%), though I’m 110% sure it’s naughty.

It's Tough to Be Famous Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Mary BrianSuch a sweet, yet saucy, couple.

To me, it seems the SRC and censor boards were more focused and attuned to such obvious examples of immorality that perhaps innuendo enfolded in banal language such as “don’t forget to wind the clock,” however many times the term was playfully tossed about in the picture, may indeed have slipped past authorities unscathed.

What do you think? Do you believe this allusion, and its repetition, raised eyebrows among the industry’s moral watchdogs?

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–Kim Luperi for Classic Movie Hub

Kim Luperi is a New Jersey transplant living in sunny Los Angeles. She counts her weekly research in the Academy’s Production Code Administration files as a hobby and has written for TCM, AFI Fest, the Pre-Code Companion, MovieMaker Magazine and the American Cinematheque. You can read more of Kim’s articles at I See A Dark Theater or by following her on twitter at @Kimbo3200.

 

 

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