Looking at the Stars: Audie Murphy

“Nobody likes for his life to be disrupted. But when the country calls, they need you.” - Audie Murphy

By the age of 19, Audie Murphy had won two Silver Stars and the Distinguished Service Cross. He won the Medal of Honor at that age by operating a machine gun on a burning tank destroyer waging a solo attack against German forces. Murphy, a native Texan, exhibited that kind of valor throughout his military career, a valor that garnered him every decoration that this country had to offer in addition to five commendations presented to him by France and Belgium. (History) Audie Murphy was the most decorated American combat soldier of World War II when he began his movie career. For these reasons, we look at Audie Murphy (June 20, 1925 – May 28, 1971) in May, which is National Military Appreciation Month.

Audie Murphy, America's Most Decorated Soldier, on Life Magazine in 1945

When Murphy returned home from the war in June 1945, he was greeted with parades, banquets and the cover of Life. Acting legend James Cagney was so taken by the image of the hero soldier that he called Murphy and invited him to Hollywood to begin an acting career.

Audie Murphy appeared in over 40 motion pictures. He made his film debut with a small part in John Farrow’s Beyond Glory (1948), a drama starring Alan Ladd and Donna Reed. Murphy’s first starring role came in Kurt Neumann’s Bad Boy in which he delivers a convincing portrayal of a guilt-ridden juvenile delinquent. Audie Murphy may be best remembered for the numerous Westerns he appeared in, but his most famous turn came in Jesse Hibbs To Hell and Back (1955) based on Murphy’s 1949 best-selling autobiography of the same name. He plays himself in this picture.

Audie Murphy in To Hell and Back (1955)

“Sure the exhibitors love me; I’m a two bag man! By the time I’m through shooting up all the villains, the audience has gone through two bags of popcorn each.” - Audie Murphy in 1955 after being selected the most popular western star by movie exhibitors.

As the above quote illustrates, Audie Murphy never took his acting talent seriously. He also did not like to be called a hero or to be referred to as “the most decorated soldier.” However, today we all remember him for all he excelled at and for the sacrifices he made to make the world a better place.

Other military observances in May…

Loyalty Day – May 1

VE Day (commemorating the end of WWII in Europe) – May 8

Military Spouses Day – May 11

Armed Forces Day – May 19

Memorial Day – May 28

National Military Awareness Month was officially declared by Congress in 1999.

Similarly themed pages…

Movies about the Civil War

Movies about the Korean War

Movies featuring the Air Force

The Navy in Movies

Movies featuring Sailors

Movies about World War I

Movies about World War II

Military Academy was a Film directed by D. Ross Lederman

Safeguarding Military Information (1942) short film directed by Preston Sturges

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Until next month,

–Aurora Bugallo for Classic Movie Hub

Aurora Bugallo is a classic film-obsessed blogger, and co-founder and co-host of the Classic Movies and More Youtube show. You can read more of Aurora’s articles at Once Upon a Screen, or you can follow her on Twitter at @CitizenScreen.

Posted in Looking at the Stars | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Kino Lorber Springtime Blu-Ray/DVD Giveaway Promotion (May via Twitter)

Celebrating Springtime with Kino Lorber!
DVD/Blu-Ray Giveaway, Winner’s Choice of 4 Classic Titles

This month we’re celebrating Springtime courtesy of Kino Lorber! We are happy to say that we have TEN classic DVD or Blu-Rays to giveaway on Twitter this month, winners’ choice of four titles. But please stay tuned because we’ll also be giving away TWO more DVDs/Blu-Rays via a separate Facebook/Blog giveaway this month too. That said, here we go…

since you went away, Jennifer Jones and Claudette ColbertJennifer Jones and Claudette Colbert in Since You Went Away

In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, June 2 at 10PM EST. However, the sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning, because we will pick two winners on five different days within the contest period, via random drawings, as listed below… So if you don’t win the first week that you enter, you will still be eligible to win during the following weeks until the contest is over.

  • May 5: Two Winners
  • May 12: Two Winners
  • May 19: Two Winners
  • May 26: Two Winners
  • June 2: Two Winners

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 10PM EST — for example, we will announce our first week’s winners on Sunday June 3 at 10PM EST.

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Here are the titles up for grabs:

   

   

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Since You Went Away: Blu-Ray or DVD available. Restored Roadshow Edition! This heartwarming and soul-stirring portrait of life on the homefront during World War II is a magnificent picture that is rich in humor and poignant with heartbreak. Claudette Colbert (Midnight) heads an all-star cast, including Jennifer Jones (Portrait of Jennie), Joseph Cotten (The Farmer’s Daughter), Shirley Temple (I’ll Be Seeing You), Monty Woolley (The Bishop’s Wife), Lionel Barrymore (Duel in the Sun), Robert Walker (Strangers on a Train), Agnes Moorehead (Citizen Kane) and Hattie McDaniel (Gone with the Wind), in this beautifully produced David O. Selznick (The Paradine Case) picture that tugs at your heart. With her husband Tim off to war, Anne Hilton (Colbert) struggles to be a pillar of strength for her daughters Jane (Jones) and Bridget (Temple). During America’s darkest hours, she bravely steers her girls through heartbreak and hardships as she eagerly awaits news from overseas and wonders if life will ever be the same. Wonderfully directed by John Cromwell (Made for Each Other) and beautifully shot by Stanley Cortez (The Night of the Hunter) and Lee Garmes (Shanghai Express). This masterpiece was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Actress (Colbert), Supporting Actress (Jones), Supporting Actor (Woolley), Best Cinematography (Cortez and Garmes) and winner of Best Score by Max Steiner (Casablanca).

I’ll Be Seeing You:  Blu-Ray or DVD available. Hollywood greats Ginger Rogers (Swing Time), Joseph Cotten (The Third Man) and Shirley Temple (Since You Went Away) top a stellar cast in this tender wartime love story about two troubled strangers who long for a normal life, meet by chance and try to crowd a lifetime of love and laughter into eight days. Studded with brilliant performances, I’ll Be Seeing You manages to ambush your emotions and hasten your heartbeats. After serving half of a prison sentence for accidental manslaughter, Mary Marshall (Rogers) is allowed a holiday furlough to visit her family. Keeping her history a secret, she falls in love with a kindhearted G.I. (Cotten) who’s struggling to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder. This David O. Selznick (Duel in the Sun) holiday classic features stunning cinematography by Tony Gaudio (The Adventures of Robin Hood) in glorious black-and-white and wonderful direction by William Dieterle (Portrait of Jennie).

The Whales of August:  Blu-Ray or DVD available. Screen legends Bette Davis (All About Eve), Lillian Gish (Duel in the Sun) and Vincent Price (Tales of Terror) unite their iconic talents in this beautifully photographed, intensely emotional drama that offers unexpected and quite marvelous rewards. Libby (Davis) and Sarah (Gish) are widowed siblings who have vacationed for half a century at a seaside cottage in Maine. Now in their eighties, the sisters have unexpectedly arrived at an impasse: While Sarah embraces change and the possibility of romance with a courtly Russian suitor (Price), the stubbornly bitter Libby rages at the inevitability of death. As the summer months wane, can Libby and Sarah rediscover the powerful bonds of memory, family and love? The stellar cast includes Ann Sothern (A Letter to Three Wives) in her Oscar-nominated performance, Harry Carey Jr. (3 Godfathers), Mary Steenburgen (Melvin and Howard), Margaret Ladd (TV’s Falcon Crest) and Tisha Sterling (Coogan’s Bluff). The Whales of August features a wonderful screenplay by playwright David Berry (G.R. Point) based on his play and top-notch direction by the great Lindsay Anderson (O Lucky Man!, If….).

Driftwood:  Blu-Ray or DVD available. Brand New HD Master from a 4K Scan. The Magic of eight-year-old Jenny (Natalie Wood, Marjorie Morningstar) comes alive in this spirited, funny and immensely charming story of a lost orphan girl’s effects on the townspeople who find her. After witnessing a small plane crash, a frightened Jenny seeks comfort in the home of a small-town doctor (Dean Jagger, Rawhide). Like a whirlwind of truth, Jenny speaks her mind, questions everything and changes the lives and loves of everyone she meets until she’s stricken with a plague that threatens the whole town. Now, the Doc must discover a cure or lose her. Driftwood was produced and directed by Hollywood veteran Allan Dwan (Manhandled), who directed over 400 features and shorts from 1911 to 1961. The classic drama features stunning black-and-white cinematography by the legendary cameraman John Alton (The Crooked Way) with a wonderful cast featuring Ruth Warrick (Citizen Kane), Walter Brennan (Rio Bravo), Charlotte Greenwood (Oklahoma!), Jerome Cowan (Miracle on 34th Street), Margaret Hamilton (The Wizard of Oz) and Alan Napier (Alfred from TV’s Batman).

The Whales of August bette davis lillian gishLillian Gish and Bette Davis in The Whales of August

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ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, June 2 at 10PM 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 Springtime Celebration #DVDGiveaway courtesy of @KinoLorber and @ClassicMovieHub #CMHContest link: http://ow.ly/Afux30jMNGM

THE QUESTION:
Which of the above films would you like to win 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.

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…

…..

You can visit Kino Lorber on their website, on Twitter at @KinoLorber or on Facebook.

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).

For complete rules, click here.

And if you can’t wait to win any of these titles, you can click on the images below to purchase on amazon :)

 

   

   

Good Luck!

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged , , , , | 37 Comments

The Funny Papers: Make Love, Not War – The Sex Comedies of the Sixties

Make Love, Not War: The Sex Comedies of the Sixties
Doris DayDoris Day

Wedged between the cookie-cutter conformities of the fifties and the Women’s Lib movement of the funky seventies, the swinging sixties exploded into history. The film world has a way of reflecting the styles, trends and changes in our society. Romantic Comedies from the late ‘50s into the late ‘60s tapped into the changes that women and men faced in everyday life. But usually in a light-hearted, exaggerated, and often parodied way.

Women were struggling to find new identities, sometimes as single, career women or as mothers ready for progress. The younger generation embraced protests, free love, flower power, the beatnick movement, and fought for civil rights and against war. Men adapted to these changes in their own way, sometimes clinging to the traditional roles of past, sometimes embracing rapid changes, but on their own terms. Whether the challenges existed between men and women, or between parents and their teenagers, times were a changing everywhere. Movies released the tension via humor.

Some of my favorite films as a kid were those romantic comedies during this era that poked fun at the sexual revolution along with its freedoms and infidelities that challenged marriages, office workplaces, and parenting. The generation gap battles rocked families. These sex comedies tackled heavy topics and troubling times by lightening the mood and bringing a few laughs. Here is a sampling of some of my personal favorites of this specific sub-genre of Rom-Coms…

Pillow Talk (1959)

Pillow Talk (1959)Doris Day and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk

In this romantic comedy headlined by the supremely talented Doris Day and Rock Hudson, and co-starring the fabulous Thelma Ritter  and Tony Randal, the performances excelled in classic comedy with just the right touches of slapstick. The sexual revolution was still in its infancy in the late fifties, as Hudson’s playboy image as the cad-on-the-make ushered us into the gender battlefront. Notably, Day was a gorgeous example of the single, career gal with unquestionable femininity, high fashion, and sex appeal… all in an on-screen image that was widely appealing to all audiences with just the right amount of sexual innuendo for the grown-ups. In addition to other rom-com treasures for these actors, this film marked the beginning of many more films to come over the next decade that would take a soft swing at the radical changes happening on the American home front.

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Lover Come Back (1961)

Doris Day and Rock Hudson team up again (and again with wingman, Tony Randall) to deliver a sex comedy that asserts Day firmly in the role of the single, career gal. This time, instead of creating a contentious romance via a party line and the charms of a Texan accented twin, Doris, and Rock battle as equals in business. With all the style and sexism of Mad Men, Day’s character is assumed to be a competent competitor on Madison Avenue in the man’s world of advertising. But as one might imagine, she still runs into sexist roadblocks as Hudson’s character takes creative and low-brow tactics to win over a client. In the process, he scrambles to nab an account by creating a mystery product, “VIP” and she follows the trail to reveal his unprofessional tactics. Undoubtedly the creators of the Mad Men tv series loved this film in particular, in addition to this era. As much as I enjoy Mad Men’s Peggy and Joan, they couldn’t possibly rival Doris Day as Carol Templeton. As a nice nod to women supporting other women in careers, Ann B. Davis (better known as “Alice” on Brady Bunch) portrays a much less feminine but apparently competent career woman as Day’s assistant, Millie.

Touches of slapstick are sprinkled throughout and sexist stereotypes are parodied in full force. As in Pillow Talk, we again see Rock attempt to fool Doris by means of false identity with sexist motivations only to ultimately find true love. In other words, it’s a ridiculously unrealistic and silly premise, but the formula works well and it is as charming as the best romantic comedies should be.

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Boys’ Night Out (1962)

Boys Night Out

James Garner, Howard Morris, Tony Randall and Howard Duff in Boys’ Night Out

James Garner and Kim Novak lead this silly sex comedy that centers on a bachelor pad for married men. The premise is as far-fetched as it is sexist but does so in farce fashion. Garner takes his daily train commute with his pals who all groan about their boring, repressive lives and blame their marriages. They coerce bachelor Garner to take on a cool apartment in the city, where they plan to all share for future indiscretions to counter their unhappy marriages. Surprisingly, when Garner takes on an apartment lease, it comes complete with a beautiful woman (Kim Novak) who appears to comply with this bizarre arrangement.

As you can imagine, Novak’s character brings more than they bargained for and without any actual adultery. The sex in this sex comedy, as commonly portrayed with these films, is more implied and flirty than ever actualized. The fellas get to brag about fulfilling their sexual fantasies, but it’s only bravado. This time, the formula is flipped and it’s Novak’s character that uses false identity via the guise of sexual motivations to trick Garner and his pals, only to find actual love. Don’t worry – it’s all in the name of science. Novak is the well-educated, sexy, career gal. A scientist studying sex… of the bored married man. It doesn’t have the same snappy chemistry and style as some, but this film has fun by flipping the gender roles on the same ole formula. The supporting cast is terrific and a nice array of character talent from this decade, including Tony Randall, Howard Morris, Jessie Royce Landis, Jim Backus, Fred Clark, Zsa Zsa Gabor and more.

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The Thrill Of It All (1963)

Dorris Day in The Thrill Of It AllDoris Day and James Garner in The Thrill of It All

Doris Day, as this decade’s biggest box-office attraction takes on a traditional role as a doctor’s wife and stay-at-home mom. Hunky and charming James Garner is the hubby obstetrician doctor. It’s a happy, upper-middle-class suburbanite life until Day’s character agrees to be the spokesperson for a soap company, eager for her homespun and trustworthy ad spots. That’s when the chaos and slapstick kick into high gear. Garner’s performance in this film demonstrates one of the best examples of his incredible talent in comedy. Again, Doris Day successfully embodies this emergence and transition of a housewife with the ambitions of a career woman. While some critics of the time criticized her for being too innocent and virginal for a portrayal during this era, I vehemently disagree. Day was the sexy, beautiful woman who didn’t rely on it as her only asset, mainly because her other talents – of acting, singing, and brilliance in physical comedy – were so strong, they almost overshadow her natural beauty and sexuality. Who better to serve as the American ideal during this era where housewives and moms could now be career women and sexy, too?

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Take Her, She’s Mine (1963)

Jimmy Stewart and Audrey Meadows play the parents of college-aged daughter Sandra Dee. Stewart’s character is the over-protective, worrisome dad who faces scandals and a tarnished reputation in his career as he follows his daughter around as she blossoms into an attractive young woman and explores campus life in the era of sexual revolution and flower power. A running gag is that Stewart’s character looks just like the actor Jimmy Stewart. Obviously, many clues abound that signal this film doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a joyous romp to see the generational gaps with contrasting methods played out from old school to new school. As with many of these 60s Rom-Coms, look for familiar faces in the supporting cast. From Bob Denver to Jim Nabors to James Brolin’s first movie debut, you’ll recognize plenty of character actor gems.

Interesting trivia – this film is based on a Broadway play of the same name, written by married couple/playwrights Phoebe and Henry Ephron who based this story on their own experiences of watching their real-life daughter go off to college, who later became a famous novelist and director in her own right, Nora Ephron.

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How Sweet It Is! (1968)

In this sex comedy, James Garner and Debbie Reynolds show that mom and dad can experience a healthy love life and marriage while dealing with the woes of their teenager kid transitioning into adulthood in the era of free love. Garner is a frequently traveling photographer who wants a last chance to spend more time with his son before he’s a fully-grown man who’s left the nest for good, so both mom (Reynolds) and dad chaperone a school trip to Europe. Complications and jealousies arise when mom accidentally books her stay at a European villa that isn’t exactly part of the program. It may be dated and innocent in comparison to modern standards, but this comedy pushes boundaries in scenes that hint and suggest sex more so than a decade prior while still keeping it relatively squeaky-clean compared to the gritty realism of the real 1960’s.

Plenty of peace symbols, flower power, protest and feeling groovy montages can be found here. And Debbie Reynolds shows off her midriff several times in bikini-clad scenes that make the rest of us middle-aged moms rather green with envy.

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The Impossible Years  (1968)

The Impossible Years (1968)David Niven and Lola Albright in The Impossible Years

Probably not David Niven’s best film by a long shot, but to me, every David Niven on-screen appearance is pure gold. (And by gold, I mean that high-class, charming stuff that makes you feel wealthy just by being near it.) Here, he plays another protective dad, as his entire world is thrown into chaos when his daughter reaches a blooming age where all the boys (and men, in this case) take notice. Ironically Niven’s character is a famed University professor/psychiatrist who is supposed to be an expert in raising teenaged daughters but finds he struggles in real-life practice.

This film gets a tad edgier than the others on my list, regarding the issue of parenting free-spirited kids. His daughter is portrayed by a young Cristina Ferrare, who is pursued by several suitors, from surfers to bikers, including a sharp-looking Chad Everett. Dad Niven plays it flustered, but it’s a clear nod to the cultural shift of teens having greater control and freedoms than generations prior.

Michael Gordon directed The Impossible Years. Upon further inspection, he also directed Pillow Talk, Boy’s Night Out, Move Over, Darling, His story is an interesting one. He started out directing more gritty dramas. He was blacklisted by the HUAC in the ‘50s due to his left-leaning politics. When he found his second chance in Hollywood, he stuck to light comedies. He is also known as the grandfather of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

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I was trying to think about what drew me to these films so much in my youth when I doubt I fully comprehended their parodies on the changing views on sex, marriage, war, and generational disparities. Because these films poked fun at the serious and very adult topics of the day but presented them in a rather G-rated fashion, I suppose I reviled in the silliness. Ultimately, this sub-genre of film during this decade was not unlike the old Looney Tunes cartoons. You can enjoy them immensely, both as a kid and as an adult, only the perspective changes when you finally get the adult jokes and references.

In addition to the films listed above, you could count on the “Gidget,” surfer, and beach films during this same era to both reflect and satirize current (and counter) culture via their own take on the sex comedy. Do you have a favorite ‘60s sex comedy?

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–Kellee Pratt for Classic Movie Hub

When not performing marketing and social media as her day gig, Kellee Pratt writes for her own classic film blog, Outspoken & Freckled (kelleepratt.com). Kellee teaches classic film courses in her college town in Kansas (Screwball Comedy this Fall). Unapologetic social butterfly, she’s an active tweetaholic/original alum for #TCMParty, member of the CMBA, Social Producer for TCM (2015, 2016), and busy mom of four kids and 3 fur babies. You can follow Kellee on twitter at @IrishJayHawk66.

Posted in Posts by Kellee Pratt, The Funny Papers | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Win Tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: The Producers” (50th Anniversary) (Giveaway runs through May 19)

Win tickets to see “The Producers” on the big screen! 

In Select Cinemas Nationwide Sun June 3 and Wed June 6!

“How could this happen? I was so careful. I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?”

CMH continues into our 3rd year of our partnership with Fathom Events - with the 6th of our 13 movie ticket giveaways for 2018, courtesy of Fathom Events!

That said, we’ll be giving away EIGHT PAIRS of tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: The Producers – Mel Brooks’ first movie — 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, May 19 at 6 PM EST.

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter on Sunday, May 20, 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.

TCM BIG Screen Classics Present The Producers

The film will be playing in select cinemas nationwide for a special two-day-only event on Sunday, June 3 and Wednesday, June 6 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)

ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, May 19 at 6PM EST…

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

THE QUESTION:
What is it about “The Producers” that makes it a classic? And, if you haven’t seen it, why do you want to see it on the Big Screen?

2) Then TWEET* (not DM) the following message:
I just entered to win tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics Presents: The Producers” on the Big Screen courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @FathomEvents #EnterToWin #CMHContest link here: http://ow.ly/1U1e30jXBpF

*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.

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…

Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel in The Producers

About the film: “I want… I want… I want everything I’ve ever seen in the movies!” Once the King of The Great White Way, Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) is reduced to romancing old ladies to finance his next flop show. But when nervous accountant Leopold Bloom (Gene Wilder) surmises that more money could be made from a flop than a hit, the next step is to produce the Busby Berkeleyesque musical Springtime for Hitler and to cast stoned-out Flower Child “LSD” (Dick Shawn) in the lead. A surefire flop — or is it? Writer/director Mel Brooks nabbed an Oscar® for Best Original Screenplay of 1968, while his movie skyrocketed from controversial cult comedy to Classic, now on the National Film Registry and umpteen lists of the funniest movies ever made, with Mostel & Wilder considered the greatest comedy team since Laurel & Hardy and The Marx Brothers. See the restored film from Studiocanal and Rialto Pictures in honor of the 50th anniversary of its release. This 50th Anniversary event includes exclusive insight from Turner Classic Movies.

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

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

You can follow Fathom Events on Twitter at @fathomevents

Good Luck!

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Fathom Events | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

Silents Are Golden: Silent Superstars, The Incomparable Mary Pickford

Silent Superstars, The Incomparable Mary Pickford

You’ve all seen pictures of her, no doubt–of a girlish actress with long golden curls and a face like an Edwardian valentine. She was often photographed holding puppies and kittens, practically radiating purity and sweetness. And you might know she was famous for playing “little girl” roles, despite being in her twenties. Yes, you’ve heard of Mary Pickford…but there’s a good chance you haven’t seen one of her films. And perhaps, just perhaps, it’s because you think they’d be pretty old-fashioned.

Mary Pickford

Ah, my friends, you’re missing out! Pickford was absolutely a universal symbol of goodness in the early 20th century, but don’t equate her with those wan “Victorian” stereotypes we think we know so much about. She was a wonderful, charismatic actress, equally adept at comedy and drama, and was a remarkably powerful film pioneer behind the scenes. Her characters were spunky, funny, courageous, and often tomboyish, and audiences identified with them to the point where they affectionately nicknamed the actress “Our Mary.” In a 1921 Photoplay article, writer Adela Rogers St. Johns put it well: “In the mass of people is a splendid, upward surging toward good–and they have found the symbol of that goodness in Mary’s face.”

Mary Pickford

Gladys Louise Smith was born on April 8, 1892, in Toronto. She had two younger siblings, Lottie and Jack. Her mother Charlotte was a strong-willed, capable woman who would one day be essential to her eldest daughter’s career. Her father John, however, was an alcoholic. After abandoning his family he eventually died of a brain hemorrhage in 1898, leaving the Smiths impoverished. This was a deeply painful experience for young Gladys, who vowed to one day be free of poverty and to never let her family become separated again.

Charlotte took in boarders as a way of scraping by. One of the boarders was a stage manager who convinced her that acting could be a respectable profession and a good way to bring in extra income. Thus, at the mere age of seven, Gladys Smith became a stage actress, helping contribute to her family’s meager earnings. In time, Lottie and Jack would follow.

Mary PickfordMary Pickford as a child.

Gladys adored the theater, with all its melodrama and its comedy, its handmade special effects and brightly-colored scenery. She would play in East Lynne and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, to name a few, and join touring companies that took her family from boarding house to boarding house across the country.

By the time she was a teenager, she was a remarkably mature actress and beginning to feel unsatisfied with touring cheap theaters. She managed to talk her way into working for famed Broadway theater producer David Belasco, and he gave her the name that would go down in cinema history: Mary Pickford.

It was probably Charlotte who suggested that Pickford try acting in motion pictures–then a fairly new form of entertainment that was considered a big step down from the stage. Although Pickford protested that she was “a Belasco actress!” Charlotte convinced her it would be a good way to earn extra money. And thus the young woman confidently presented herself to director D.W. Griffith at the Biograph studio and persuaded him to take her on.

Mary Pickford in The New York Hat (1912)Mary Pickford in The New York Hat (1912)

Much to her own surprise, she enjoyed film work, finding it took more skill than she thought and was less grueling than stage touring. As much as she loved the theater, she decided to stay in films (Lottie and Jack would soon follow). In those days before screen credits, she became known as the “Biograph Girl” and also “the Girl with the Curls,” due to her signature hairstyle of long ringlets. She would marry fellow screen actor Owen Moore in 1911, although his alcoholism quickly became an issue for them.

At the time movies were evolving swiftly, becoming longer and featuring complex editing and camera effects. Now adept at climbing the career ladder, Pickford joined Famous Players–one day to be called Paramount Pictures. Feature-length films like Hearts Adrift (1914), Tess of the Storm Country (1914) and Rags (1915) made her a worldwide star at a speed and a scale that had never been experienced before. Conscious of this, she and her mother handled the business side of the film industry fearlessly. In 1916 they worked out a deal to give Pickford control over her films and an incredible salary of $10,000 a week.

Mary Pickford with CameraPickford worked tirelessly on overseeing every aspect of her work, from set designs to costumes to cinematography, becoming a big influence on the industry. She churned out hit after hit, her specialty being beautifully-shot comedy-dramas with uplifting morals. She often played working-class girls, as in Amarilly of Clothesline Alley (1918) or Suds (1920), or adapted popular stories like The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917) and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917). These adaptations were particularly popular and caused the public to associate her mainly with “little girl” roles (although she played mature women just as often). She took these roles very seriously, studying children’s behavior and movements to try and make her characters as convincing as possible.

In the late 1910s, Pickford became romantically involved with energetic fellow superstar Douglas Fairbanks. Both were unhappily married at the time (Pickford, in particular, could no longer take Owen Moore’s alcoholism), and decided to obtain divorces so they could marry. This was a risky move, but their clean public images were so beloved by the public that their marriage was instantly accepted. Pickford and Fairbanks became the closest thing to U.S. royalty, frequently appearing at public events and entertaining the rich and famous at their beautiful estate, Pickfair.

Mary Pickford in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917)Mary Pickford in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917)

In 1919, Pickford, Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin would form United Artists, giving them power over not just their films but how they were distributed, too. This was an unprecedented level of independence, making Pickford the single most powerful woman in Hollywood.

Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. GriffithMary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith.

Her career stayed strong until beginning to fade in the late 1920s, her work beginning to look old-fashioned in the new era of the talkies. She would bob her famous hair (shocking her fans) and act in a few sound films, but ultimately decided to retire from the screen. Unfortunately, she and Fairbanks would divorce in 1936, their marriage strained by their immense levels of fame. They apparently always regretted not reconciling.

Her third and last marriage was to actor Buddy Rogers, and they would adopt two children. Pickford would become increasingly reclusive, staying within the walls of Pickfair and receiving few visitors. She was apparently a secret alcoholic, which was perhaps exacerbated by her divorce from the Fairbanks and lingering sadness over the death of her mother from cancer in 1928 and deaths of both Lottie and Jack in the 1930s.

Mary Pickford

Mary Pickford

Mary Pickford would pass away on May 29, 1979, at age 87. She was one of cinema’s most important and influential pioneers, a woman of class and strength, dedicated to making her work the best it could be. And her legacy can be described in just a single word: Hollywood.

 Mary Pickford HeadshotMary Pickford

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–Lea Stans for Classic Movie Hub

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

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

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Vitaphone View: Where is “Convention City” Hiding?

Where is Convention City Hiding?

Film mythology tells us that the 1933 Warner Brothers Vitaphone Pre-Code feature Convention City was so hot and so outrageous that after its initial run, Jack Warner recalled every print and burned them. To this day, not a single copy of the film, or even its coming attractions trailers, is known to survive. So the myth sounds like it could be true.

But it isn’t.

1933 Ad for Convention City1933 Ad for Convention City.

“Me, I was the one. Single-handedly I brought on the whole Code,” boasted Warner Bros producer Henry Blanke. “Yeah. Ask Joe Breen. He’ll tell you. Ask him about Convention City.” Blanke produced the film for an economical $239,000 despite its impressive cast. And it was extremely popular at the box office. It was distributed throughout the world, with foreign versions translating the title to mean “what a week”. In Spanish speaking countries, it was Que Semana! and in France, La Folle Semaine. Dubbed or sub-titled versions were also made for Denmark and Sweden. In all, there were likely 500-800 35mm prints of Convention City upon its release.

And yet, not a single copy is currently known to exist.

Convention City Special Publicity 19331933 publicity Convention City train used to promote the popular, but now lost, film.

So, where did it go? The myth that Jack Warner recalled and burned every copy makes a great story, but there is no truth to it. Warner Bros maintained voluminous records of virtually every bit of studio correspondence, and nothing exists to back up the tale. More importantly, it would be physically impossible to recall EVERY copy of Convention City, considering the number of prints, spread all over the world, that existed. And no such action was alleged for any of the drastically racier Pre-Code features that the studio made. Further putting this myth to bed is the fact that the studios’ own records show they had a print of Convention City in their vaults as late as 1948. At that time, a routine inspection indicated that the sole print had already begun to decompose, and it was destroyed. For safety, not lewdness.

Convention City Ad 1937 illicit screening1937 Ad showing the illicit post-Code screening of Convention City, 3 years after it was banned.

Another permutation of the disappearance tale says that Jack Warner was concerned that the many requests he got from real conventioneers to show the film could get him in trouble with the Motion Picture Producers Association, as Convention City was on the list of films not allowed to be shown publicly anymore. In 1936, Jack Warner submitted a list of titles to the PCA’s censor head, hoping for permission to re-release them. One of them was Convention City. On September 3, 1936, Joseph Breen wrote him that no amount of cutting could make these films suitable for re-release. Recent research has proven conclusively that the studio’s film exchanges were still (contrary to the Code) renting out Convention City to theatres as late as 1937. Ads in Chicago and other big city newspapers show it being paired on double bills and heralded as a return of a beloved all-star comedy.

Convention City Frank McHugh and ConventioneersFrank McHugh with conventioneers in Atlantic City in Convention City.

Digging further into the mystique of Convention City’s disappearance, we have learned it was shown in a Madrid theatre in 1942. That same year, a British soldier noted in his diary that he had seen it at a military film program. This tidbit supports the belief that 16mm copies of Convention City, and many other Hollywood productions, were made for the military. This would mean even hundreds more prints were in circulation.

Because the lone Warner Bros print of Convention City was gone by 1948, it was never released to television. As with many other “lost” films, like Lon Chaney’s London After Midnight or Laurel & Hardy’s Hats Off (both 1927) rumors of sightings constantly surface, but never pan out.

Convention City Adolph Menjou and Joan BlondellAdolph Menjou and Joan Blondell in Convention City.

Cast member Joan Blondell mentions in her autobiography that for laughs she would screen Dick Powell’s print of Convention City for guests. All leads, including her two sons, have been pursued. Nothing.

So, do I believe Convention City will be found one day? Absolutely! Lost films are being found every year. And considering the sheer number of circulating prints — easily over 1000 when both 35mm and 16mm are considered —- one would think at least one will eventually turn up.

And when it does, it is not likely to disappoint. Consider the cast, the typical Warners fast pace, quick cutting, and racy plot. New York’s Film Forum has presented Convention City twice with seasoned Broadway actors performing from the original script. The venue’s Repertory Director, Bruce Goldstein, carefully selected each actor, with particular success for the Guy Kibbee and Mary Astor roles. He decided to take on the drunken Frank McHugh part himself, relishing every line and the McHugh signature laugh.

The Vitaphone Project has spent nearly thirty years trying to find Convention City. Circa 1994, we were contacted by the late Phil Serling, who founded and ran the annual Cinefest film event in Syracuse, NY. He told me a person in Italy had a subtitled nitrate print but was concerned about how to ship the flammable material. This, of course, is done all the time, following stringent packaging and labeling protocols. But the trail quickly went cold and Phil died soon after. Virtually every surviving relative of the film’s cast and production members have been contacted. Still nothing. Every archive has been checked, under both Convention City and foreign release titles. While nothing has turned up, it is not unheard of for an archive to have a film misfiled or not recorded in a database.

Convention City Window CardWindow Card for Convention City.

Eighty-five years after its release, and seventy years since that last known print decomposed in the Warner vaults, the most likely scenario for re-discovery is for a 16mm military or 35mm theatrical print to be found in a far-flung part of the world. Australia has yielded many lost films in recent years. Prints sent there were too expensive to return, so they stayed there.

For more details on the quest to find Convention City, you can read my essay at Jazz Age.

Meanwhile, please keep your eyes peeled for this most sought-after of all lost sound films!

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– 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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Sophie Tucker Book Giveaway (Facebook/Blog)

“Red Hot Mama: The Life of Sophie Tucker”
Book Giveaway via Facebook and this Blog

Okay, now it’s time for the Facebook/Blog version of our of  of  “Red Hot Mama: The Life of Sophie Tucker” Giveaway Contest! This time we’ll be giving away one copy of the book via Facebook and this blog, courtesy of University of Texas Press. 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, May 12, 2018We 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 May 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.)

red hot mama: the life of sophie tucker

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ENTRY TASK to be completed by Saturday, May 12 at 1oPM EST —

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

THE QUESTION:
What do you admire most about Sophie Tucker? And, if you’re not familiar with her work, why do you want to win 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…

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About the Book: The “First Lady of Show Business” and the “Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” Sophie Tucker was a star in vaudeville, radio, film, and television. A gutsy, song-belting stage performer, she entertained audiences for sixty years and inspired a host of younger women, including Judy Garland, Carol Channing, and Bette Midler. Tucker was a woman who defied traditional expectations and achieved success on her own terms, becoming the first female president of the American Federation of Actors and winning many other honors usually bestowed on men. Dedicated to social justice, she advocated for African Americans in the entertainment industry and cultivated friendships with leading black activists and performers. Tucker was also one of the most generous philanthropists in show business, raising over four million dollars for the religious and racial causes she held dear. Drawing from the hundreds of scrapbooks Tucker compiled, Red Hot Mama presents a compelling biography of this larger-than-life performer. Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff tells an engrossing story of how a daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants set her sights on becoming one of the most formidable women in show business and achieved her version of the American dream. More than most of her contemporaries, Tucker understood how to keep her act fresh, to change branding when audiences grew tired and, most importantly, how to connect with her fans, the press, and entertainment moguls. Both deservedly famous and unjustly forgotten today, Tucker stands out as an exemplar of the immigrant experience and a trailblazer for women in the entertainment industry.

…..

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 book, you can purchase the on amazon via the below link (click on image):

Good Luck!

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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Classic Movie Travels: Glenda Farrell

Classic Movie Travels: Glenda Farrell – Wichita, San Diego and NY

Glenda FarrellGlenda Farrell

There are so many actresses to celebrate when it comes to Depression Era films, and Glenda Farrell is certainly one of them. Shining with snappy dialogue in several cleverly construed plots, it is no surprise that Glenda’s career was a success throughout the 1930s and paved the way for her 50 years in the business as an accomplished actress of film, television, and theater.

Glenda Farrell was born on June 30, 1901, in Enid, Oklahoma. Like many of her peers, however, she would shave a few years off of her age an claim that she was born in 1904. She was born to Charles and Wilhelmina “Minnie” Farrell. Her father was of Irish and Cherokee descent, and worked as a dog and horse trader. Her mother, on the other hand, was of French and German descent and aspired to be an actress. Wilhelmina instilled a love of acting in her daughter, dreaming that Glenda would one day be an actress.

When the family moved to Wichita, Kansas, Glenda took on her first acting role as Little Eva in the play Uncle Tom’s Cabin at age seven. Later, she enrolled at Mount Carmel Catholic Academy in Wichita.

After living in Wichita, the Farrells moved once again to San Diego, California. There, Glenda worked as part of the Virginia Brissac Stock Company. Her picture appeared in the April 1919 issue Motion Picture Magazine, featuring her picture and a brief description of her work in chorus, vaudeville, and camp entertainment. The article also notes that Glenda has light brown hair, dark grey eyes, and stands at 5’3″.

Glenda met her first husband, Thomas Richards, when she was hired as a dancer for the San Diego Navy benefit ball. They were married in 1921 and had a son named Tommy. The couple divorced in 1921.

By 1928, Glenda was cast in her first lead role in the play The Spider. She made her film debut in the same year as part of the film Lucky Boy, carrying out an uncredited bit role. She moved to New York City the following year, replacing Erin O’Brien-Moore in the role of Marion Handy in the play Skidding; the play would later act as the basis for the Andy Hardy film series. After portraying Marion Handy 355 times, Glenda went on to appear in several other plays, including Divided Honors and Recapture. She also performed in Love, Honor, and Betray, with the likes of George Brent, Alice Brady, and Clark Gable.

Glenda FarrellGlenda Farrell poses for a picture in studio.

In 1930, Glenda performed in the film The Lucky Break and as the female lead in Mervyn LeRoy’s Little CaesarWhile Glenda once again returned to the stage, she felt that films offered larger salaries in comparison; however, she saw theater as an important foundation for any actor. Her starring role in the 1932 play Life Begins came to Jack Warner’s attention. He signed her to a long-term contract with Warner Brothers to perform the same role in the film adaptation of the play. Glenda would not return to live theater until 1939.

Glenda starred in a total of 17 films during the first two years of her contract with Warner Brothers, most notably appearing in Columbia Pictures’ Lady for a Day (1933) by director Frank Capra. It was typical for her to be working on four films at once and she transitioned seamlessly from role to role. Between 1934 and 1936, Glenda appeared in over 20 films, with roles in Go Into Your Dance (1935)Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935), and Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936). Along the way, she became good friends with co-stars Dick Powell and Joan Blondell and was paired with Blondell as one-half of a comedy duo in a series of five films: Havana Windows (1933)Kansas City Princess (1934)Traveling Saleslady (1935)We’re in the Money (1935), and Miss Pacific Fleet (1935). They would work together in four more films, firmly establishing personas as smart, witty, wisecracking women of the early screen.

Joan Blondedd and Glenda FarrellJoan Blondell and Glenda Farrell in We’re in the Money (1935).

By 1937, Glenda was cast in her most notable role as Torchy Blane, “Girl Reporter.” Warner Brothers adapted a set of “MacBride and Kennedy” detective stories by novelist Frederick Nebel and changed the Kennedy character into a woman named Teresa “Torchy” Blane, who is in love with the MacBride character. Director Frank MacDonald cast Glenda in the role, alongside Barton MacLane as Steve McBride. Glenda portrayed Torchy in seven of the nine Torchy Blane films, including: Smart Blonde (1937), Fly Away Baby (1937), The Adventurous Blonde (1937), Blondes at Work (1938), Torchy Gets Her Man  (1938), Torchy Blane in Chinatown (1939), and Torchy Runs for Mayor (1939). In fact, co-creator of Superman Jerry Siegel holds that Glenda’s depiction of Torchy served as the inspiration for Lois Lane. While working in the Torchy Blane series, Glenda appeared in many other films, including Breakfast for Two (1937)Hollywood Hotel (1937), and Prison Break (1938). She also performed in several radio programs.

Glenda Farrell as Torchy BlaneGlenda Farrell as Torchy Blane

At the same time, Glenda also participated in a 1937 Warner Brothers publicity stunt, which found her elected to a one-year term as the honorary mayor of North Hollywood. She beat her competition, which included Bing Crosby and Lewis Stone, and took the position quite seriously. Glenda was spotted attending functions, presentations, and ceremonies throughout the North Hollywood area. She also held a leadership role when the North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced it wished to put sewers along Ventura Highway and began the groundwork for the project.

Longing for more experience on the stage and the immediate connection a live audience provides, Glenda left the studio in 1939. She had been under contract for eight years with Warner Brothers, and was eager to return to theater upon the expiration of her contract.

Glenda performed in several plays until 1941, when she decided to return to motion pictures. In the same year, she married Dr. Henry Ross on January 19th. Dr. Ross was a staff surgeon at New York Polyclinic Hospital and served as chief of the public health section on General Eisenhower’s staff. The couple met when Glenda Sprained her ankle while performing in a play and was treated backstage by Dr. Ross, who had been summoned from the audience. The couple remained married until Glenda’s passing.

Glenda Farrell Husband Dr.Henry RossGlenda Farrell and her husband, Dr.Henry Ross

From the 1940s to the 1960s, Glenda continued to work in numerous films. Two of her later films, Kissin’ Cousins (1964) and The Disorderly Orderly (1964), also featured her son, Tommy Farrell. She made her television debut in 1949 as part of the Chevrolet Tele-Theatre and appeared in over 40 additional television series programs, including Bonanza and Bewitched

Though Glenda retired  in 1968, she once again returned to acting. Her final role was in the Broadway play Forty Carats, in which she starred until her health caused her to leave the production. She was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away at age 66 in 1971.

Today, a few places in existence are relevant to Glenda’s early years and legacy.

Mt. Carmel Academy, the school at which she received her formal education, exists in Wichita but has changed locations. Presently, the original school buildings have been replaced by an apartment complex called Mt. Carmel Village. Mt. Carmel Village is located at 3000 West Douglas in Wichita. This is the property today:

Mt. Carmel Academy, Wichita, KansasMt. Carmel Academy, where Farrell recieved her formal education

Glenda and her family moved on many occasions, but the address of her San Diego home is documented. Here is a picture of the property today at 2320 Broadway in San Diego, California:

2320 Broadway, San Diego, CaliforniaThe home of Glenda Farrell and Dr. Ross at 2320 Broadway, San Diego, California

When Glenda passed away, her husband, Dr. Ross, donated 38 acres of land to the Putnam County Land Trust in her memory. In doing so, he established the Glenda Farrell-Henry Ross Preserve in southeast New York. The preserve remains to this day.

Glenda Farrell - Henry Ross Preseve in Putnam, New YorkThe Glenda Farrell – Henry Ross Preserve in Putnam, New York

Whether you watch one of Glenda’s many movies, or hike through the forest preserve named in her honor, take a moment to remember Glenda Farrell.

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–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Annette’s Classic Movie Travel articles here.

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

Posted in Classic Movie Travels, Posts by Annette Bochenek | Tagged | 1 Comment

Noir Nook: Johnny O’Clock

YouTube Spotlight: Johnny O’Clock

Back in the day, you had to rely on late-night TV or cable, or fork over your hard-owned dough for VHS tapes and DVDs in order to experience the shadowy world of film noir.

But no more.

All you need now is access to the internet and you can dive headfirst into a veritable noir feast on YouTube which, for those of you who may not be acquainted with it, is a free video sharing website. Created in 2005, the site is now one of the most popular on the World Wide Web – visitors reportedly view more than six billion hours worth of videos every month! And among those billions are countless full-length noirs, from well-known classics like Detour (1945), The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), and D.O.A. (1950), to obscure features starring performers that you’d never expect to find in a noir, like Jimmy Lydon (Henry Aldrich!) and Warren William in Strange Illusion (1945).

Johnny O'Clock - Dick Powell, Evelyn KeyesDick Powell, Evelyn Keyes in Johnny O’Clock

For this month’s Noir Nook, I’m starting up a new series that shines the spotlight on first-rate noirs that can be found on You Tube. For my inaugural post, I offer you Johnny O’Clock (1947), starring Dick Powell.

In the 1930s, Dick Powell rose to fame as a crooner in more than 30 Warner Bros. musicals, but over time, the actor grew frustrated with his casting as the “eternal juvenile.”

“It got so I’d get a part, do my songs, and then do my best to forget all about the darned pictures,” Powell once said. “I made four or five of those things a year – and always the same stupid story. I just wore different clothes.”

In 1945, when he landed the lead in Murder, My Sweet, Powell got the chance to point his career in a whole new direction – and he never looked back, offering filmgoers a series of characters that couldn’t be more different from his former glamour boy image. Two years after Murder, My Sweet, Powell starred in his third film in the noir canon – Columbia’s Johnny O’Clock (1947).

Johnny O'Clock - John Kellogg, Nina Foch, Dick Powell, Lee J. CobbJohn Kellogg, Nina Foch, Dick Powell, Lee J. Cobb

In Johnny O’Clock, Powell plays the title character, a gambling house owner described by one character as the type of guy who “looks at a situation, says ‘What’s best for me?’ and acts accordingly.” Smooth, debonair, and cool as the other side of the pillow, Johnny’s  unflappable demeanor is shaken when he finds he’s suspected of killing a dishonest cop (Jim Bannon) and his naïve girlfriend, Harriet Hopson (Nina Foch). In addition to the always-watchable Johnny, the film is peopled with a variety of fascinating characters, including Johnny’s gambling casino partner, Guido Marchettis (Thomas Gomez), who tries unsuccessfully to mask his rough edges with pricey possessions; Guido’s wife Nelle (Ellen Drew), who is Johnny’s ex-lover and still has the hots for him; Harriet’s beautiful but fearless (and somewhat reckless) sister Nancy (Evelyn Keyes); Charlie (John Kellogg), Johnny’s loyal right-hand man who may not be quite as loyal as he appears; and Inspector Koch (Lee J. Cobb), the relentless detective who’s determined to solve the murders.  (And keep your eyes peeled for a brief appearance by a young, uncredited Jeff Chandler, in his second big screen role).

Johnny O'Clock - Ellen Drew, Dick Powell, Evelyn KeyesEllen Drew, Dick Powell, Evelyn Keyes

Rife with plenty of hard-boiled dialogue, appropriately shadowy scenes, and a typically labyrinthine noir plot, Johnny O’Clock is well worth your time. Tune in to YouTube and see for yourself!

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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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Pre-Code Corner: The Censorship Woes of One More River

One More Hurdle to Cross: The Censorship Woes of One More River

In between the credits and the opening shot of One More River, a certificate proclaims that the picture has been passed by the Production Code Administration (PCA), the 122nd film to do so.

So why am I writing about it for Pre-Code Corner? Released on August 6, 1934, One More River entered production before the establishment of the powerful PCA and the Code’s strict re-enforcement beginning in mid-June and early July 1934. I’ve always been intrigued by movies that straddled the line, with one foot rooted in the pre-Code era and the finished product forced through the industry’s rigorous moral sterilizer. I was also entranced by TCM’s logline: “An abused wife flees her husband and finds love, but at a price.” Now, physical abuse towards women was, unfortunately, not an uncommon sight in pre-Codes, though women could pack a wallop, too. However, a term as frank as “abuse” was not, to my knowledge, bandied about often, which made me curious as to exactly what cruelty the film displayed.

One More River 1934 movie poster One More River, 1934

When One More River opens, Claire (Diana Wynyard) has fled her vicious husband, Sir Gerald (Colin Clive), and meets Tony (Frank Lawton) on route back to England. Tony falls for Claire, and though she doesn’t return his affection, she welcomes his company at home. After warding off Gerald’s physically aggressive attempts at reconciliation, Claire is caught spending an innocent evening with Tony, furnishing Gerald ammunition for a divorce. The ensuing trial brings Claire’s relationship with both men into question. With Claire proudly refusing to divulge details of her marital life and fervently defending Tony’s honor, the hearing results in a win for Gerald – and freedom for Claire.

Gerald’s “aggressive attempts” involve spousal abuse and implied rape, both subjects explored in pre-Code titles, but generally not as bluntly and seriously as the proceedings are examined here. Director James Whale and scripter R.C. Sherriff, using John Galsworthy’s posthumously published novel as a source, weren’t able to deliver as frank a picture as they would have liked to, as exhibited through several pages of dialogue modifications the Studio Relations Committee (SRC) requested in the script in April 1934, some of which was left untouched.

Colin Clive as dastardly Gerald in One More RiverColin Clive hit the bullseye with his dastardly performance as Gerald.

The overarching concern the SRC cited was the story’s anchor in sadism, a “definite” Code infringement. As highlighted in notes given on the original script, Gerald initially educed a perverse pleasure from abusing his wife, which was a no-go. “We can see no objection to your developing the character of Corven [Gerald] as that of a brutal man who has beaten his wife and thus compelled her to leave him, but we cannot allow any suggestion, directly or indirectly, referring to sadism,” Joseph Breen, future head of the PCA, wrote Universal’s Harry Zehner. So, spousal abuse was A-OK, but any sexual deviance it suggested crossed the line. Breen struck down such provocative lines from Gerald as: “It was only an experiment. Some women adore it” (the second part wound up: “Some women like rough handling”) and the underlined portion of: “I’m a sensualist if you like – a bit of an experimentalist – what does it matter? Sex naturally wanders from the paths laid down for it by morality.” In many cases, individual words caused a stir, too, including “physiology” and “beast” (altered to “brute” or “cad”).

Diana Wynyard and Colin Clive One More River Diana Wynyard and Colin Clive One More River Two words: Body language. If your wife (Claire – Diana Wynyard) steels herself like this when you’re around, there’s something very wrong with your marriage.

As exhibited above, some of Breen’s objections were pacified by swapping indecorous expressions for diluted synonyms. For instance, “I see. I’m fruit – not blossom” was initially found “highly objectionable” and thus edited to: “I see. I’m not blossom any more.” (So, the mention of “fruit” was what deemed the original “highly suggestive”?) Also, the dialogue: “There are some things that can’t be done to me, and you’ve done them” came out the ringer as: “There are some things I won’t stand for from any man.” In this case, verbs insinuating negative action on Gerald’s part (“you’ve done them”) were substituted for an impassioned declaration on Claire’s end (“I won’t stand for”), which actually takes her from a victim to a resolute woman standing her ground, though I’m guessing that’s simply a byproduct of watering down Gerald’s abuse and not some kind of covert feminist intent to empower Claire. In the end, audiences probably still perceived the same type of behavior alluded to despite the edits; after all, Claire’s mix of resilience, restraint, and resolve and Gerald’s sneering, heartless demeanor convey the same underlying point, regardless of the specific language delegated to their characters.

Diana Wynyard and Colin Clive One More River You don’t need the word “sadism” to describe what happened before this shot.

Compared to other pre and post-Code files I’ve reviewed, One More River counted substantially more requested edits from the SRC and PCA both before and after filming. It can be argued that timing certainly played a role in this significantly scrutinized feedback, as the campaign against immorality reached new heights around the time cameras were getting ready to roll on One More River in May 1934. Movie condemnations, in the past a potential box office boost, really intimidated business this time, and the looming threat of federal censorship drove studios into a panic in which they “applied soap and water to thousands of feet of questionable film,” Andre Sennwald recounted in 1935.

It was under this tense atmosphere that One More River was filmed, edited, re-shot, and re-cut. The pressure was such that in late July 1934, Breen wrote the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America’s (MPPDA) Vincent Hart a cautionary, yet emboldening note in which he mentioned One More River’s trials and tribulations before broaching the subject of the PCA’s newfound power: “We are on a magnificent spot – both of us. And I need not tell you how important it is that we be scrupulously careful with every decision we render… Everybody in America is censor-conscious; and everybody will be a law to himself, finding fault with our decision. Be prepared for this – keep your chin up – do the best you can – work conscientiously – and let the chips fall where they may.” Perhaps to cover his bases, Breen mandated more than 30 cuts upon reviewing One More River, many for items contested in the script phase, resulting in feverish edits and re-takes. Whale, however, triumphed with some lines, including one in which Claire tells her father that Gerald used a riding whip on her.

Diana Wynyard and Colin Clive One More River

Diana Wynyard and Colin Clive struggle One More RiverOne scene, two sexually violent attempts. The second looks like Gerald was actually about to break Claire’s arm – or neck.

Despite – or perhaps due to – the severe examination One More River underwent in Hollywood, state censor feedback proved relatively tame. New York State passed the picture without eliminations, while Kansas requested one cut and Pennsylvania made three.  A few distinct points that raised flags across several boards included shots of a bed during Gerald’s forced entrance into Claire’s apartment and an exchange with Claire’s sister Dinny right after the aforementioned drop-in, in which Claire apologizes for not letting her in because Gerald only just left. (The latter, I assume, drew ire because it insinuated what Gerald and Claire were doing.) Additionally, entities took issue with the words “adultery” and “debts,” ones Claire insinuated paying to Tony with her body. “Marital,” normally not a term to be concerned about, came under fire as well, as a war waged during the film’s courtroom scene over whether Gerald and Claire resumed “marital relations” after he showed up at her apartment; he affirms it and she vehemently denies it, as she realizes rape doesn’t – or at least shouldn’t – qualify as such.

Diana Wynyard and Frank Lawton in One More River Oh look, a nice man! Tony (Frank Lawton) is trying hard to suppress his feelings for the emotionally shattered Claire.

Though the censors targeted hot button topics that Breen had already pointed out to Universal, all in all, the damage did not appear too severe, and One More River enjoyed exceedingly positive critical reviews. (Interestingly, a few periodicals called out Gerald’s nature using the very word the SRC originally struck, “sadism,” with some even commenting upon the extent of the violence, including the riding whip.) Universal praise was bestowed upon Whale’s outstanding, intelligent direction and astute attention to details; Sherriff’s sincere, honest script; and Wynyard and Clive’s compelling performances. Less unanimously commended traits included the picture’s through and through Britishness (as Americans may have found the laws of the country foreign or dull), Lawton’s turn as Wynyard’s prospective lover (mainly due to his youthful look, as he played Wynyard’s son the year prior in Cavalcade), and the fact that the film’s sophistication would limit its audience, and thus, ticket sales (Variety noted that while it “will delight cultivated audiences,” in the end One More River is “a prestige, rather than a money offering”). On that last note, One More River actually surprised many. The New York Times reported the movie’s “unusually good business” at Radio City Music Hall, where it earned a respectable $86,000 in its first week. Even rural areas responded favorably. According to Motion Picture Herald, a Kansas theater manager initially concerned the refined film wouldn’t be received well confirmed that “everyone who saw it here went for it in a big way. We feel that the picture is good enough for any man’s town.”

Frank Lawton and Diana Wynyard in car One More River Innocently sleeping in a car is illegal now, Claire and Tony. Or at least it gets you into just as much trouble.

Ironically, the movie’s glowing reviews, many of which stressed how human, thoughtful, and realistic the story was, did not save it from denunciation. In fact, One More River earns the distinction of being the first post-Code picture to be condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency, in mid-August 1934. In a letter relaying this news to Universal production head Carl Laemmle Jr., Breen surmised the film’s divorce storyline brought about the criticism and conceded: “In the face of their very definite viewpoint on the subject of divorce, we are helpless under the circumstances.” But being Breen, he had to chastise Laemmle Jr., reminding the producer that his office warned certain “dangerous” dialogue was likely to face censure and prevailing upon him to “appreciate that our purpose in this office is to save the picture” from mutilation. Breen used Ohio as an example of One More River receiving “rough treatment,” despite the fact that the movie faced only about 5-6 edits of varying degrees in that state, on par with Ontario and Alberta and far fewer than Quebec and Japan.

courtroom scene Lionel Atwill and Colin Clive One More RiverThe excellent courtroom scene was a highlight for reviewers and a source of contention for censors. Defending the sexually perverse Gerald is Lionel Atwill, who would find himself in Gerald’s spot less than a decade later on a morals charge.

In a 1984 Los Angeles Times piece analyzing rediscovered films, Kevin Thomas proclaimed star Diana Wynyard’s “timeless cool elegance and directness… highly contemporary, and today ‘One More River’ seems more strongly feminist.” I agree with this 34 year old statement on the 84 year old picture, despite the fact that today it’s readily apparent that Claire’s actions still confine her firmly to the discretionary and honorable values and laws of 1930s Britain, as antiquated as they even were for that time. As evidenced in the movie, obtaining a divorce on the grounds of cruelty is not really an option, especially since the dignified, proud Claire doesn’t want to parade her husband’s abuses, nor does she want him and his position to suffer publicly; thus, the only way she can end the marriage is if Gerald claims adultery, essentially throwing her under the bus to obtain her freedom. As Motion Picture Herald termed it at the time, Claire’s a “complete woman, fighting, sacrificing, losing.” Though the battle she put up, one that accentuated her buoyancy and independence, was certainly admirable for the period, I’m glad our attitudes have changed on those last two points and “sacrificing” and “losing” are no longer automatically synonymous with womanhood. Today, real life abuses like these are pouring out precisely because they have been protected and kept secret for so long in a twisted sense of loyalty, decency, and expectation, all the while suffering victims like Claire have been shamed and shushed.

Diana Wynyard courtroom scene One More River Go girl! This low angle shot of Claire on the stand heightens her ethereal presence and tenacious testimony during One More River’s climatic courtroom sequence.

If Claire’s dilemma still sounds antiquated to you, compare that to her aunt’s anecdote about a husband who kidnapped his wife years prior, and her jest that men couldn’t get away with that behavior anymore. From that sentiment, to Claire’s tribulations (deemed immoral by the Catholics), to today – sure, we’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got quite a path ahead of us to repave.

Note: An analysis of the film’s extensive PCA file and its resulting implications could fill a small book, or at the very least a chapter – and it did. I was surprised to stumble upon an entire detailed section dedicated to this movie in The Very Witching Time of Night: Dark Alleys of Classic Horror Cinema, which I dove in to research for last month’s piece on Doctor X and Mystery of the Wax Museum and ended up using as a valuable source for both articles. If you’d like to read more about One More River, I highly recommend Gregory W. Mank’s book.

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–Kim Luperi for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Kim’s Pre-Code Corner articles here.

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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