Noir Nook: Ripped from the Headlines – Rope (1948)

Noir Nook: Ripped from the Headlines – Rope (1948)

Rope is a 1948 feature directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring James Stewart, John Dall, and Farley Granger. It may not be necessarily categorized as film noir, but it is undeniably imbued with a feeling of trepidation and inevitable doom that is a hallmark of the era.

Rope (1948) Farley Granger and John Dall
Farley Granger and John Dall in Rope (1948)

The film, which takes place in real time, focuses on two college students – Brandon (Dall) and Philip (Granger) who, for no other reason than to prove that they can, strangle a classmate and stuff his body in a large wooden chest in their apartment (“We’ve killed for the sake of danger and the sake of killing,” Brandon crows after the deed is done.)

But that’s not all. That very night, they’re hosting a dinner party – with a guest list that includes the dead boy’s parents – and they use the chest (unlocked, mind you) as the centerpiece from which the evening’s bill of fare is served. The remainder of the film is set at the dinner party as the boy’s parents become increasingly concerned, Brandon and Philip’s former school housemaster (James Stewart) becomes increasingly suspicious, and the two killers become increasingly unhinged.

Alfred Hitchcock called Rope “an experiment that didn’t work out” and, indeed, the film was kept out of circulation for nearly 30 years. The “experiment” was Hitchcock’s idea to shoot the movie without any visible cuts in the action so that it appears to be in one continuous shot. I’m not at all sure why Hitchcock was so critical of the film – for my money, it ranks up there with his best. It literally left me a bit breathless and on the edge of my seat.

Farley Granger and John Dall in Rope (1948) , Candlestick
Rope was Alfred Hitchcock’s first film in color

Based on a 1929 play by Patrick Hamilton, the film was adapted by actor Hume Cronyn with the screenplay by Arthur Laurents, who also wrote the screenplay for The Snake Pit (1948) and the 1949 noir, Caught, starring Robert Ryan and Barbara Bel Geddes. Hamilton’s play was reportedly inspired by the 1924 real-life case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.

Leopold and Loeb were two wealthy teens who lived in the Kenwood section of Chicago – Loeb’s father was the vice-president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company and Leopold’s father, who inherited a shipping company, made a second fortune in manufacturing of aluminum cans and paper boxes. In 1924, Leopold was studying law at the University of Chicago, and Loeb was taking graduate courses there. Loeb often engaged in such illegal activities as stealing cars, setting fires, and smashing storefront windows, and Leopold, drawn to the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, frequently discussed the mythical “superman” who stood outside the law.

Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, Rope (1948)
Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb

It was Loeb’s idea to kidnap a child for ransom in order to commit the perfect crime. By sheer chance, they chose Loeb’s 14-year-old cousin, Bobby Franks, who happened to be walking down the street near his home as Leopold and Loeb were driving around looking for a potential victim.

Leopold and Loeb lured Bobby into their car, bludgeoned and suffocated him to death, then stopped to grab a meal of hot dogs and root beer, which they ate in the car with Bobby’s body in the back seat under a blanket. (Incidentally, part of the killers’ original plan to commit “the perfect crime” had involved strangling the victim with both their hands on the rope in order to be sure they would both share equally in the guilt, similar to the murder in the Hitchcock film.)

They then dumped his body in a drainage culvert several miles outside of Chicago and mailed a ransom note to the boy’s parents. Before Bobby’s father could gather together the ransom money, Bobby’s body had been found – along with the pair of eyeglasses that had fallen out of Leopold’s pocket. The glasses were traced back to Leopold and investigators determined that the ransom note had been written on Leopold’s typewriter.

Ten days after the crime was committed, later, the young academics were taken into custody and confessed to the kidnap-murder. At their sensational trial, Leopold and Loeb were defended by the famed attorney Clarence Darrow, who argued that the boys were an unavoidable product of their high-society upbringing. They were both found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Loeb was stabbed to death by a fellow inmate in 1936 and Leopold was released in 1958.

The 7,000 square foot mansion where Bobby Franks lived is less than a one minute walk from the Chicago apartment where I grew up – it seems like I’ve always known about the Bobby Franks house. Bobby’s father, Jacob, moved out of the house shortly after the conviction of his son’s killers and sold it to theater magnate Joseph Trinz, who operated 27 local properties (including the famed Biograph Theater, the location where gangster John Dillinger was shot in 1934).

Trinz died just two years later and the house was sold to the president of a meat packing firm and then sold again and renovated for use as the Ffoulkes School for Boys and Girls. By 1959, the building had become the DeLena Day School (which my older brother attended); DeLena closed in 1991 and the building has remained vacant since then. It was sold at auction by DeLena in 2008 for $484,000, and renovations have been in process at the house for the last several years, but they are, to date, incomplete.

If you’ve never seen Rope, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won’t be sorry.

– 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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Silver Screen Standards: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

For the very first post of a column called “Silver Screen Standards,” I can’t think of a better choice than The Wizard of Oz (1939), a film that continues to delight and amaze viewers of all ages eighty years after its original release. People often ask me to name my favorite movie, a request I find utterly impossible, but when people ask me about the first classic movie a newcomer should see, The Wizard of Oz is always one of my top suggestions.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) Frank Morgan, Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr
Character actor Frank Morgan appears in six different guises in the film, most notably as Professor Marvel and the Wizard himself. Although he acted in 100 films, Oz is by far his most memorable effort.

It’s a fantastic introduction to classic films for children (as long as they’re old enough to endure the terrifying flying monkeys), but it’s also a familiar picture that adults just getting into classic movies in a serious way should definitely go back and watch, especially if they haven’t seen it since they were kids. The Wizard of Oz rewards viewers of all ages with its delightful songs and spectacular effects, but it also offers a perfect primer for appreciating the classic Hollywood musical, the importance of character actors, and the ways in which various elements of a film, from scores to costumes to choreography, come together to create the whole.

Furthermore, The Wizard of Oz reveals new layers of nuance and meaning with each repeat viewing, which means that even those of us who’ve seen it fifty times can return to Oz and find something previously unnoticed to appreciate.

Many classic movie fans can count The Wizard of Oz as a starting point for their passion. When I was growing up in rural Georgia, classic movies were not easy to see, but every year I looked forward to watching the annual TV airing of Dorothy’s Oz adventure. The first time I remember seeing it was on a black and white television, which spoiled the Oz Technicolor reveal, but I still loved the movie even when I had no idea that most of it was supposed to be in color. Imagine my surprise the first time I saw it on a color set! That yearly TV broadcast starting in 1956 introduced generations of viewers to Oz, and it continued to be a huge annual event until the 1980s and the advent of cable.

For millions of American kids who saw the original movie on television, The Wizard of Oz offered a first encounter with the spectacle of a Hollywood musical, the powerful appeal of Judy Garland, and the unique talents of character actors like Margaret Hamilton and Frank Morgan. Today’s kids can access thousands of movies no matter where they live thanks to streaming services, Redbox, and their smartphones, but they’ll never have the same experience that previous generations did waiting every year for the return of The Wizard of Oz with the same anticipation that they awaited Halloween and Christmas. That annual airing helped the film become the classic favorite that it remains today, and its enduring popularity with those decades of TV viewers proves its timeless appeal.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) Judy Garland as Dorothy
Judy Garland glows as the sweet but determined Dorothy, a Kansas farm girl transported to the magical land of Oz. The costume department couldn’t keep her pigtail length consistent, but her performance itself is perfection throughout.

One of the reasons that The Wizard of Oz proved such a reliable hit with television viewers is that its pleasures grow with age; as we get older we begin to see and appreciate the film in new ways. We go back and watch it again for its familiarity but instead find some previously unrecognized gem in a dance step, the delivery of a line, or a performer we hadn’t paid enough attention to before. We begin to understand what a magical experience is created when everything in a film comes together. We watch for the changing lengths of Dorothy’s pigtails and anticipate the next appearance of the omnipresent Frank Morgan, especially when showing someone else the picture for the first time.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) Margaret Hamilton The Wicked Witch of the West
After terrorizing generations of children as the Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton appeared on television shows like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood to let them know that she wasn’t scary or terrible in real life.

We also think more deeply about the picture’s persistent use of doubling in its characters and how that shapes our understanding of Dorothy’s adventure as more psychological than literal. A nasty neighbor becomes an actual witch, a sideshow huckster becomes a fraudulent wizard, and a trio of goofy farmhands transform into sidekicks full of failings but also full of wisdom, love, and courage. Why doesn’t Aunt Em have an Oz counterpart? Why doesn’t a version of Glinda exist in Dorothy’s Kansas? There’s always something else to notice and think about when we revisit the film.

As a starting point, then, for a column about the essential film experiences every fan should have, I can’t really think of a better choice than The Wizard of Oz. It’s one of the first classic movies I showed my daughter when she was little, and it’s a never fail hit when I show it to groups of seniors. Maybe it’s time you dusted off your copy and showed it to the people in your life. Who knows? You might set yet another viewer off on the yellow brick road to a lifelong passion for classic films.

–Jennifer Garlen for Classic Movie Hub

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

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

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Win Tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: Hello Dolly 50th Anniversary” (Giveaway runs now through July 27)

Win tickets to see “Hello Dolly” on the Big Screen!
In Select Cinemas Nationwide Sun Aug 11 and Wed Aug 14

CMH continues with our 4th year of our partnership with Fathom Events – with the 9th of our 14 movie ticket giveaways for 2019, courtesy of Fathom Events!

That said, we’ll be giving away EIGHT PAIRS of tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: Hello Dolly 50th Anniversary” – on the Big Screen — starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau.

In order to qualify to win a pair of movie tickets via this contest, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, July 27 at 6pm EST.

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter on Sunday, July 28, 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.

hello dolly 50th anniversary

The film will be playing in select cinemas nationwide for a special two-day-only event on Sunday Aug 11 and Wednesday Aug 14 at select times. Winners will be responsible for their own transportation to the Event. Only United States entries are eligible. Please click here before you enter to ensure that the Event is scheduled at a theater near you and that you are able to attend. (please note that there might be slightly different theater listings and/or screening times for each date)

ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday July 27 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 ‘Hello Dolly’ that makes it a classic? Or, 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:
I just entered to win tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics Presents: Hello Dolly 50th Anniversary” on the Big Screen courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @FathomEvents – you can enter too at http://ow.ly/GrkR50v06BQ

*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…

Barbra Streisand as matchmaker Dolly Levi who seeks a wife for Walter Matthau, the ‘half-a-millionaire’ Horace Vandergelder, in Hello Dolly

About the film: Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Hello, Dolly! Dolly Levi uses her matchmaking skills in New York City to orchestrate the love lives of her friends, all while trying to get the man she likes to fall for her. This event includes exclusive insights from Turner Classic Movies.

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

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

Good Luck!

…..

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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Classic Movie Travels: Mae Busch

Classic Movie Travels: Mae Busch – Melbourne, Australia

Mae Busch Headhsot
Mae Busch

Mae Busch worked with so many Hollywood greats during her lifetime. Billed as the “Versatile Vamp” during the silent era, she also enjoyed success during the time of talkies. Throughout her career, she worked alongside the likes of Erich von Stroheim, Lon Chaney, Charley Chase, James Finlayson, and Oliver Hardy, to name a few.

Annie May Busch was born in Melbourne, Australia, to Australian vaudeville performers Elizabeth Maria Lay and Frederick William Busch. Both of her parents toured all over the world, taking breaks when their two children were born. Dorothy Busch was born in 1889 but passed away after four months, while Annie May was born in 1891.

While her family was touring the United States, Annie May was placed in a convent school in New Jersey. By the time she turned twelve, she became part of the family act, which was the Busch Devere Trio, working from 1903 to 1912. She performed with her mother as Mae Busch and earned positive reviews. She achieved more notice when she replaced Lillian Lorraine as the lead actress in “Over the River” with Eddie Foy on Broadway.

Having gained experience on the stage, Busch attempted to find work in Hollywood. In order to do so, she claimed that she once lived in Tahiti and was able to swim and dive. She planned to use this story to ideally be cast in The Water Nymph (1912). Unfortunately, she was injured during a dive and returned to New York. After working in the theater more, she developed a reputation for herself that led her to become a potential leading lady.

Mae Busch Vamp Style
Mae Busch, Vamp Style

By 1915, Busch was working at Keystone Studios and appearing in comedic two-reelers. Her romantic involvement with Mack Sennett ended his engagement to Mabel Normand, who was also a friend of Busch’s. Reportedly, when Normand walked in on the pair, Busch inflicted a serious head injury on Normand by hitting her with a vase—something that audiences would often see Busch’s aggressive characters do in comedies, usually to fictitiously antagonize Oliver Hardy.

After Busch appeared in a string of films such as The Devil’s Pass Key (1920), Foolish Wives (1923), and The Unholy Three (1925), she walked out on her contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and experienced a nervous breakdown. Upon her return, she worked in supporting roles at studios such as Gotham and Tiffany.

In 1927, Busch received an opportunity that reinvigorated her career. At that point, she was offered a lead role in the Hal Roach two-reeler comedy, Love ‘em and Weep (1927), which began her working relationship with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. In total, she appeared in thirteen comedies with them, often playing high-strung or shrewish women, though she did appear in more sympathetic roles. Some of her credits with Laurel and Hardy include Chickens Come Home (1931), Come Clean (1931), Their First Mistake (1932), Sons of the Desert (1933), Them Thar Hills (1934), Tit for Tat (1935), The Fixer Uppers (1935), and The Bohemian Girl (1936). Beyond 1936, most of her film roles were uncredited.

Mae Busch, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy
Oliver Hardy, Mae Busch, Stan Laurel

Busch appeared in roughly 130 films between 1912 and 1946, including a role in the recently-discovered feature, The Grim Game (1919), which was the first feature to star Harry Houdini.

Sadly, Busch died at the age of 54 in San Fernando Valley, at a sanitarium. She had been suffering from colon cancer and her ashes were left unclaimed.

Today, Busch has tributes in her home country of Australia. Her birthplace, located at 57 Page Street, was renumbered to 56 Page Street and stands in Melbourne, Australia.

Mae Busch Home, 57 Page Street and stands in Melbourne, Australia
Busch’s Home, 57 Page Street and stands in Melbourne, Australia

Thanks to the Sons of the Desert, an international Laurel and Hardy fan club, and its Melbourne Night Owls chapter (or tent), Busch’s home now has a plaque installed on its fence in honor of Busch.

Mae Busch Plaque
Mae Busch’s plaque installed on her home

Back in the United States, the Sons of the Desert’s Way Out West tent went through the process of claiming her ashes and paid for her interment at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles. 

Mae Busch Headstone
Busch’s Headstone

It is heartening to see that Busch’s work still resonates with film fans today, particularly with the members of the Sons of the Desert.

–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

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

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

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Pre-Code Corner: Sins in The Cheat (1931)

Pre-Code Corner: Sins in The Cheat (1931)

The Cheat (1931) Movie Poster Tallulah Bankhead
Even the poster makes it clear Tallulah Bankhead is the star

One of the captivating traits found in a Pre-Code film is a dark tone, that often reflects a discernible note of danger. I suppose it’s a flair for the dramatics that draws many to the dark side of Pre-Code cinema. There are many such themes of sins and malice found in George Abbott’s The Cheat (1931) .

The alluring Tallulah Bankhead is Elsa Carlyle, an extravagant spender who lives beyond her means and an unsuccessful gambler. She finds herself in debt to the tune of $10,000 one night at a high-end/high-stakes card game, which is more than her husband (Harvey Stephens as Jeffrey Carlyle) can afford. He’s a stockbroker on a tight budget awaiting the next big deal. Outlook grows more grim and perverse when she meets Irving Pichel as Hardy Livingstone. 

The Cheat (1931) Irving Pichel as Livingston
Irving Pichel portrays Livingston, who plays a dangerous game.

Livingstone intrigues her high-risk inclinations by welcoming her to his exotic house. He is an international traveler with a specific taste for authentic Japanese decor and antiquities. Oddly, he first shows off his enormous ‘Yama, god of destruction’ statue. It’s a frightening and imposing figure, hidden behind closed doors. He goes further in revealing his secret cabinet of dolls. Initially, she finds this to be a queer but amusing display until he explains the symbol embellished on each as his own Japanese crest.

He claims each doll represents the women in his life:
“I brand all my belongings with it. It means, possess.”
Foreshadowing alerts of strangeness, which lies ahead.

The Cheat (1931) Tallulah Bankhead as Elsa, dolls
If these dolls could talk, she’d (Tallulah Bankhead as Elsa) run now.

Once again acting impulsively and secretly from her husband’s gaze, her $10,000 debt doubles when she makes a high-risk investment that fails. Desperate, she makes a deal with Livingstone. He’ll give her the money in exchange for her company. While not stated outright, it’s implied his terms demand a currency of sexual favors.

The next day, thanks to her husband’s financial savvy, he lands a million dollar windfall thereby allowing her to repay her debts (after she painfully admits a washed down version of her embarrassing situation). She goes to Livingstone’s house to return his check. But he doesn’t want the terms changed. Cue the strange danger lurking.

The pace picks up now when Livingstone demands payment, despite Mrs. Carlyle returning his money in full. She tells him she would rather end her life than do his bidding. He presents her with a pistol, daring her. In a violent struggle when she refuses to comply with any of his vile absurdity, he rips down her shirt to expose her chest and shoulder. And now for the truly strange, he takes a hot poker from the ready flames and brands her. That’s right, just like his twisted trophy dolls, he burns her flesh with a fire-hot iron on her bare chest as his possession.

The Cheat (1931) Tallulah Bankhead, branded, gunshot
An intensely shocking scene, and not just for the bare shoulder. GIF credit: Pre-Code.com

I’ll leave you at this jaw-dropping cliffhanger juncture in this bizarre story before revealing any more juicy plot tidbits, including its conclusion. Instead, to whet your appetite, I’ll share my thoughts on why I believe this Pre-Code makes for an interesting screening.

Firstly, I have a personal curiosity for the lure of Tallulah Bankhead. I haven’t seen many of her films but her raspy-voiced confidence and strong screen presence is rather appealing. She immediately comes across as a woman who can hold her own in any situation, and certainly with men. Which is why it is all the more compelling when she demonstrates her authentic portrayal of a flawed character with vulnerabilities. In this film, she does not disappoint. 

The Cheat (1931) Tallulah Bankhead and Harvey Stephens
Harvey Stephens as Jeffrey Carlyle, Tallulah Bankhead as his wife, Elsa

I appreciated the dynamics between Mr. and Mrs. Carlyle. She is self-aware of her own weaknesses, and there is no doubt of the challenges in their differences. But there is a gentle kindness and respect within their marriage. Evidence of the strength of their relationship is tested and proven by a climatic conclusion via a courtroom trial.

The Cheat (1931) Tallulah Bankhead as Elsa Carlyle headress
Bankhead as Elsa looks stunning, but at what price?

Symbolisms and themes are sprinkled in: racial stereotypes, sex, cheating, secrets, gambling and other addictions, debt and financial woes, domination, misogyny, objectifying, manipulation, and psychopathic violence. I must say the branding scene was uniquely shocking, even for a Pre-Code.

I own a DVD of this film, as part of my Universal Backlot series, Pre-Code Hollywood Collection. Fortunately, I was delighted to discover a free copy on YouTube. Be aware that this is a remake. There are two silent film versions of this movie; with one considered to be lost, and the other directed by Cecile B DeMille in 1915. I encourage you to explore this unusual film, should you steel yourself in preparation for the creepy perversity, and share your thoughts with me here!       

–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

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Western Roundup: McCrea Ranch

Western Roundup: McCrea Ranch

Joel McCrea has been one of my favorite actors since I was a teenaged classic film fan, and in the ensuing decades my admiration for Joel, as both an actor and a person, has only deepened.

Joel McCrea could do it all: Hitchcock, classic comedies, and of course Westerns. But while Joel loved working in the movie business, he famously listed “rancher,” not actor, as his occupation on tax returns. The center of Joel’s life was living with his family on his beloved ranch in Moorpark, California.

Joel McCrea Ranch Welcome Sign
Welcome to the McCrea Ranch!

It was thus a dream come true when I first had the opportunity to visit Joel’s ranch when it opened for public tours in 2011. I’ve been privileged to visit McCrea Ranch on several occasions since then, and I’d like to take Western Roundup readers along on my most recent visit to the ranch in May 2019, sharing a bit of the ranch’s history along the way.

Joel McCrea Ranch Horse
“I always felt so much more comfortable in the Western. The minute I got a horse and a hat and a pair of boots on, I felt easier. I didn’t feel like I was an actor anymore.
I felt like I was the guy out there doing it.”
– McCrea

The occasion for my latest visit was the ranch’s annual Cowboy Cookout fundraiser, which helps to support ongoing restorations at the ranch, where California’s film and ranching history intersect.

Joel McCrea Ranch View
Beautiful view from the Ranch

Joel bought the ranch in the early ’30s with the encouragement of his mentor, Will Rogers. Joel and his bride, actress Frances Dee, moved into the ranch soon after their wedding in October 1933. They raised three sons: Jody (born 1934), David (born 1935), and when the first two boys were grown, along came Peter (born 1955). The McCreas lived on the ranch for decades, until Joel’s passing on their 57th wedding anniversary in 1990.

Joel McCrea Frances Dee
Joel McCrea and Frances Dee in Wells Fargo (1937)

The McCreas grew oats and barley along with raising cattle. Whenever I visit I muse how surprised many people would be at the simplicity of the McCreas’ lifestyle; there’s nothing “movie star” about it. Their home was sprawling and comfortable yet many of the rooms are quite small by modern standards, heated with simple wood-burning stoves. The decor included a sampler hand-stitched by Joel’s mother and a bedstead which had long been in the McCrea family, shipped around Cape Horn to reach California.

Joel McCrea Ranch House
The front of the McCrea home

Views of the McCreas’ front porch and yard, which includes a treehouse and a simple “swimming hole” only filled during the summer:

Joel McCrea Ranch Porch
Joel McCrea Ranch Yard
Joel McCrea Ranch Porch View

Before their deaths the McCreas donated much of their land to local groups including the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club. After Joel’s death the family donated 225 acres, including the ranch house, to the Conejo Recreation and Park District.

A Visitor Center opened on the ranch in 2011, with informative displays about the family and the ranch and a short introductory documentary. Several areas of the ranch, including the milk house and the ranch shop, are available to tour on days the ranch is open for visits. Joel’s 1947 pickup is parked at the ranch, and it still runs!

Joel McCrea Ranch Visitor Center Sign
McCrea Ranch Visitor Center sign
Joel McCrea Ranch Exhibit Home and Family
McCrea’s family and home life exhibit
Joel McCrea Ranch Ranching Life Exhibit
“Ranching Life” exhibit
Joel McCrea Ranch Frances Dee Exhibit
Frances Dee exhibit
Joel McCrea Ranch Memorabilia
McCrea Memorabilia

The Ranch is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Joel McCrea Ranch National Register of Historic Places
McCrea Ranch noticed in the National Register of Historic Places

Today David McCrea’s son Wyatt lives on the ranch and spearheads work preserving it for future generations. He’s on the left in this photo taken at the Cowboy Cookout with stuntman Diamond Farnsworth, son of actor-stuntman Richard Farnsworth:

Wyatt McCrea and Diamond Farnsworth
Wyatt McCrea and Diamond Farnsworth

Actor Bruce Boxleitner, who chatted with fans at the cookout, is another supporter of the ranch, serving as the on-camera host and narrator of the Visitor Center documentary.

Bruce Boxleitner
Bruce Boxleitner

My husband Doug visiting with William Wellman Jr. at the cookout. Wellman’s father directed Joel in Reaching For The Sun (1941), The Great Man’s Lady (1942), and Buffalo Bill (1944).

William Wellman Jr. McCrea Ranch Cowboy Cookout 2019
My husband Doug visiting with William Wellman Jr. at the cookout.

Here’s a look at the cookout scene. Live music was provided along with a terrific barbecue!

McCrea Ranch Cowboy Cookout 2019 View
McCrea Ranch Cowboy Cookout 2019

Many items were raffled off to raise additional funds for ranch preservation. I was thrilled to win these original posters for The Virginian (1946)!

McCrea Ranch Raffle including an original The Virginian Poster
Raffle including an original The Virginian Poster!

Events are periodically held at the ranch by the Conejo Recreation and Park District, so Western fans should be sure to watch their website for upcoming events when planning a visit to Southern California. Classic film fans who’d like to help support the preservation of McCrea Ranch for future generations may visit the Joel and Frances McCrea Ranch Foundation for more information.

– Laura Grieve for Classic Movie Hub

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

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Silents are Golden: A (Brief) History of Early Hollywood

Silents are Golden: A (Brief) History of Early Hollywood

Today Hollywood, California is one of the most famous places in the world, the thriving axis of the movie industry. For decades it’s drawn countless dreamers hoping to make it in “the industry.” Real estate up in its hills is bought and sold for millions. And, of course, it attracts perpetual hordes of tourists strolling its famous Walk of Fame or hoping for glimpses of celebrities in nearby Beverly Hills.

Hollywood, California, USA
“Tinseltown”

But there was a time when this same bustling neighborhood of Los Angeles was a sleepy little stretch of hilly farmland ten miles east from the city, accessible only by a gravel road and populated by a few hundred people. Little did the residents of this quiet community know what vast changes were in store–especially once those “movies” came to town (as they would nickname early filmmakers, not knowing “movies” referred to films).

In the 1880s, the now-famous Hollywood hills were mostly wild land, covered in scrubby thickets and cacti. Nearby was the Cahuenga Pass, once the site of two early 19th century battles between settlers and Mexican authorities (in the days before California was an independent state). The valley nearby was ideal for barley and orange groves, which thrived in the near-constant sunny weather.

A Very early glimpse of Hollywood, California
A very early (and empty) glimpse of Hollywood, California

In 1886 real estate developer H.J. Whitley and his wife were honeymooning in the area. He would write in his diary that while they gazing at the valley from a vantage spot up in the hills, a Chinese man stopped by with a wagon and greeted them, explaining in a thick accent that he was “hauling wood.” To Whitley, the phrase sounded like “holly wood,” which had a certain ring to it. Having started over 100 towns in the past, Whitley decided this quiet corner of southern California needed one too, and that it should be called “Hollywood.”

Whitley would purchase 480 acres in the valley, and began guiding it through a modest development phase. A year later, rancher Harvey H. Wilcox purchased 120 acres. His wife Daeida happened to hear about the “Hollywood” name, and the couple decided it was a nice fit for their new estate. On the deed to their land, they put down “Hollywood,” which made it an official part of the area’s history.

Downtown Hollywood circa 1907.
Downtown Hollywood circa 1907.

By the turn of the 20th century, the young town had a couple of markets, a post office, a hotel, restaurants, and a single streetcar line. In 1904 voters even outlawed liquor in their community. Being so small and in such a desert-like area, getting an adequate water supply was a constant challenge. In 1910 Hollywood had to petition to merge with Los Angeles. One of the changes this entailed was renaming its main street, Prospect Avenue, to Hollywood Boulevard.

A 1905 postcard showing Prospect Avenue, Hollywood, California
A 1905 postcard showing an (unpaved!) Prospect Avenue.

The film industry had first crept into the Los Angeles area around 1906, when the American Biograph and Mutoscope Company established a modest studio. The following year the little Selig Company arrived, having been busy making one-reelers all around the U.S. It’s thought that the first drama to be made entirely on California soil was Selig’s The Power of the Sultan, starring Hobart Bosworth – and the filming location was a vacant lot next to a Chinese laundry. More filmmakers began to be drawn to Los Angeles, attracted by the sunshine, warmth, and varied scenery. Forests, deserts, valleys, and beaches were either nearby or a short journey away. The first director to make a film in Hollywood itself was apparently D.W. Griffith, who shot his two-reel In Old California there in 1910. And in 1911 the first Hollywood studio officially opened: the Nestor Motion Picture Company, which got to work churning out one-reel Westerns and dramas. 

Nestor Motion Picture Company
Nestor worked in this abandoned tavern (the stage is behind it)..

It’s thought that another reason Hollywood drew filmmakers was its safe distance from New York and Chicago. In those early cinema days, a “Patent War” had erupted between various film companies and the enforcers of Thomas Edison’s many motion pictures patents. Some disputes actually erupted into violence. The Hollywood area likely seemed a good refuge from all the drama, especially since the Mexican border was within a hundred miles.

By the 1910s, the moving picture business was turning into a profitable industry, and Hollywood was (rather unwittingly) becoming its capital. Residents soon grew used to those “movies” filming here, there, and everywhere throughout the town, often quickly setting up in the middle of the street to film a cowboy shootout or asking to borrow someone’s yard as a location for the afternoon. People did get annoyed, however, when filmmakers working in Griffith Park fired off blank cartridges that startled the local wildlife. (Since the park was so vast, studios could even erect impromptu film sets which often remained undiscovered for days.) While their presence was generally tolerated, “picture people” wouldn’t be considered respectable for a few more years, and often had a hard time finding housing.

On set of an early western film in Inceville - Hollywood, California
On set of an early western film at Inceville

As early as 1915, the Patent War had calmed down and the majority of U.S. films were being made in southern California, concentrated in Hollywood. Major directors, including Griffith, Thomas Ince, Mack Sennett, and Cecil B. DeMille had all settled in the area. Major stars like Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford were entrancing audiences in theaters around the world. By the end of the 1910s, Hollywood was officially the cinema’s home, and its population was exploding–as were the numbers of tourists seeking their favorite “players.” New buildings and roads sprang up in the hills and valleys like weeds. The marriage of squeaky-clean superstars Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks in 1920 was perhaps a turning point in the industry. The two built an elegant home they dubbed Pickfair and entertained visiting aristocrats and other famous names. This brought a sense of respectability to motion pictures, and in time, some of those aristocrats even did bit parts in films. 

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks put their hand and footprints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. 1927
Mary and Doug put their hand and footprints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Hollywood boomed in the 1920s, and many actors and directors would make fortunes in real estate. An exclusive new housing development up in the hills dubbed “Hollywoodland” originated one of the world’s most famous landmarks. The developers decided to perch a giant sign spelling out “Hollywoodland” near the peak of one of the hills (it was lit by neon lights at night!). While the “land” would be removed during a 1949 and it would be rebuilt in the 1970s, the sign has graced that spot ever since.

a pre-1949 look at the original Hollywoodland Sign
a pre-1949 look at the original Hollywoodland Sign

In the past decades, Hollywood has experienced both ups and downs. In 1960 it commemorated its storied history by launching the Walk of Fame. Hollywood Boulevard would experience periods of seediness and neglect, especially in the ‘80s, but by the 2000s, the neighborhood began cleaning itself up. The Dolby Theater was built to house the Oscars ceremony and a shiny new Hollywood & Highland center was created, prominently decorated with replicas of the elephants from Intolerance. Today Hollywood continues to draw tourists and TV cameras from around the world. All in all, it’s been an extraordinary evolution for an area that was once a sleepy town nestled among quiet orange groves.

–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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Win Tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: Glory” (Giveaway runs now through July 6)

Win tickets to see “Glory” on the Big Screen!
In Select Cinemas Nationwide Sun July 21 and Wed July 24

CMH continues with our 4th year of our partnership with Fathom Events – with the 8th of our 14 movie ticket giveaways for 2019, courtesy of Fathom Events!

That said, we’ll be giving away EIGHT PAIRS of tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: Glory” – on the Big Screen — starring Matthew Broderick,Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman.

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

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter on Sunday, July 7, 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.

glory fathom events

The film will be playing in select cinemas nationwide for a special two-day-only event on Sunday July 21 and Wednesday July 24 at select times. Winners will be responsible for their own transportation to the Event. Only United States entries are eligible. Please click here before you enter to ensure that the Event is scheduled at a theater near you and that you are able to attend. (please note that there might be slightly different theater listings and/or screening times for each date)

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

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

THE QUESTION:
Although not officially a classic-era film, what in your opinion makes “Glory” 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: Glory” on the Big Screen courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @FathomEvents – you can enter too at http://ow.ly/n8iP50uIABe

*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…

About the film: The heart-stopping story of the first black regiment to fight for the North in the Civil War, GLORY stars Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman. Broderick and Elwes are the idealistic young Bostonians who lead the regiment; Freeman is the inspirational sergeant who unites the troops; and Denzel Washington, in an Oscar®-winning performance (1989, Best Supporting Actor), is the runaway slave who embodies the indomitable spirit of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts. This truly classic American Civil Warm film is sure to reach you to your core. This special two-day event includes exclusive insight from Turner Classic Movies. 

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

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

Good Luck!

…..

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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The Funny Papers: Summer Drive-In Double Feature – Bachelor Flat (1962) and How Sweet It Is! (1968)

The Funny Papers: Summer Drive-In Double Feature – Bachelor Flat (1962) & How Sweet It Is! (1968)

Summertime brings back nostalgic reflections for all of us. Depending upon your generation, background, and interests, your particular memories will bring you back differently. For us cinephiles, there are classic films that harken back those carefree days of summer. It seemed more than fitting to serve up a pair of classic, silly comedies reminiscent of the old drive-in, to kick off this summer properly.[

Richard Beymer and Tuesday Weld  in Bachelor Flat (1962).
Richard Beymer and Tuesday Weld warm up on the beach in Bachelor Flat (1962).

In Frank Tashlin’s Bachelor Flat (1962), this 60’s sex comedy brings us to a beach house in Santa Monica. Starring Terry-Thomas (as Prof. Bruce Patterson), Celeste Holm (as his fashion designer fiancée, Helen Bushmill), Richard Beymer (as the law school student neighbor, Mike), Tuesday Weld (as her daughter, Libby). And amongst the character roles, there is one very charming Dachshund named “Jessica.”[

Richard Beymer, Tuesday Weld and Jessica, in Bachelor Flat (1962).
Camper trio: Tuesday Weld, Richard Beymer and “Jessica”

All the ingredients are present for a fun summer salad of slapstick: silly slapstick situations, over-sexed motives and sex stereotypes wrapped nicely in PG standards, anglo/Brit cultural stereotypes presented softly for humorous effects, and of course, a perfect California beach setting along the Pacific Coast highway. A Jack Cummings production filmed in CinemaScope, this film transports us to a colorful escape of comedy comfort food.

Bachelor Flat (1962) Richard Beymer Tuesday Weld and Terry-Thomas
Beymer, Weld, and Terry-Thomas make a comedy of brassiere errors

The British invasion was just around the corner for America when this was filmed, so the comedic stylings of Terry-Thomas in the lead was the perfect pick. He portrays an associate professor at the local college of archeology. He dons 3 piece suits, a bowler hat, umbrella, and his signature gap-toothed grin with British charm. And for an American twist, every female student is obsessed with his polished, well-mannered restraint that they pursue him like hormonal teenagers after the Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night (1964).

Much of the plot centers around the numerous young women who chase after Professor Patterson. There’s a scene of female students anxiously awaiting his arrival in class that could be a mirror of a very similar scene in Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981), as female students crush on Harrison Ford’s Jones (also an archeology professor). While the professor stays in his fiancee’s summer beach house as she is away in Paris, his neighbor is the dreamy Richard Beymer, Mike, who lives with his dog Jessica in his camper in her parking pad. As an audience, we are supposed to believe attractive women only go out with Mike to get closer to the Professor. My fondness for Beymer’s tall dark looks, large overbite and freckles believe otherwise.

Bachelor Flat (1962) Terry-Thomas Car
Obsessed fans stop at nothing to garner the professor’s attention.

The real troubles begin when Helen’s 17 year-old daughter Libby shows up unexpectedly. Not only did Libby skip out on her boarding school (which her truancy is a bigger problem than is addressed because she may have actually missed graduating from high school) but because Helen failed to even mention she has a daughter to Bruce, her surprise visit is shrouded in further lies to her true identity.

Clip from Bachelor Flat (1962)

It all gets muddled with mixed-up identities and farces of characterizations. Additionally, a large dinosaur bone- a gem of discovery by the professor- is buried by Jessica. The hunt is on. This time the cinematic parallel takes us back to mirroring to a famed screwball comedy, with a dog named “George” in Bringing Up Baby (1937). Overall, it’s a sweet, nonsensical summer flick.


As for the second feature in this double dose at the retro drive-in, I’ll stick to the theme of 1960s comedies that tackle both battle of the sexes and the generation gap with Jerry Paris’s How Sweet It Is! (1968).

How Sweet It Is! (1968) James Garner, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald Losby
James Garner, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald Losby take a whacky summer vacation

As common for summertime classics, settings are often placed either on the beach or on vacation. In this film, we take a whacky journey with James Garner as photographer Grif Henderson, Debbie Reynolds as his wife Jenny, and Donald Losby as their son Davey on a European vacation. But, as inevitable with a good comedy, things do not exactly go as planned.

How Sweet It Is! (1968) James Garner and Debbie Reynolds
Garner and Reynolds want to make love, not war

From the very beginning scene, we see evidence plus strong innuendo that Mr. and Mrs. Henderson may be parents of a teenager, but their romantic relationship remains very healthy. Grif is worried that his father-and-son time left with his flower-child son is slipping away. Taking a gig as a photographer for the high school girls’ trip to Europe, with his son Davey tagging along as assistant, Grif intends to get his father/son trip in. But Jenny wants a European vacation too. She makes arrangements to rent a villa and unofficially join them for part of it.

The assumption is that things go awry when mom meddles. Beginning with Jenny’s first step into planning her part of this trip, she is a victim of a scam in renting a villa. And coincidentally, Terry-Thomas plays a brief role as the conman. The true owner of this palatial villa is a very handsome and suave Maurice Ronet as wealthy playboy Philipe Maspere. Nearly tapped out on funds from paying upfront to the shyster, Jenny naively accepts Philipe’s more than accommodating offer to stay at a ridiculously discounted rate.

How Sweet It Is! (1968) Donald Losby
Davey tries to impress his girlfriend with Free Love protesting

While there is a very soft take on the generation gap and counterculture focus, the bigger theme is a good old-fashioned romantic comedy. Conflicts arise for both Grif and Jenny as others compete for their affections, while they attempt to prove they are both still very much attracted to each other. There is an implication they are each dealing with a middle-aged crisis of sorts, with each thwarting off pursuers while simultaneously proving their own “sexual mojo prowess.” This seems a bit on the absurd side to me considering how young and attractive both are. In 1968, Garner is a ridiculously handsome age 40 and Reynolds is adorable as ever at an incredibly fit age of 36.

Clip from How Sweet It Is! (1968)

One of the funniest ongoing bits come every time Reynolds flashes her bikini in various situations, creating lusty havoc wherever she goes. Yes, mom still “has it.” Another favorite for me is a small part portrayed by Paul Lynde, as the ship’s purser. I’m an enormous fan of his scene-stealing work, so even his very minor roles can bring magic. The man had a natural instinct for comedy. On deck, Lynde’s character is a flustered and scolding type, calling out everyone as “animals.” Later we find him in a brothel, of all places, disapprovingly referring to the others as perverts. All in all, this film is an entertaining trip from reality.   

How Sweet It Is! (1968) Paul Lynde
Paul Lynde delivers his hilarious characterizations both at sea and on land

The Rom-Coms of the 1960s such as these tackled generational clashes and coming-of-age within the counterculture but with a far lighter touch than the harsh realities of the world around them, including the Vietnam War. As an escape, several of these films took an extreme redirection towards the silly romantic comedies and parodies. I’ve written about this subgenre before, which you can read HERE, or explore the CMH site for more comedies and quotes within this category. Meanwhile- see you at the retro drive-in!

–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.

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Cooking with the Stars — Montgomery Clift’s Crabmeat Rarebit

Cooking with the Stars — Montgomery Clift’s Crabmeat Rarebit

Montgomery Clift Headshot
Montgomery Clift

If you’ve read my Cooking with the Stars column in the past, you may know that I usually choose the actors and recipes that I review for a reason. Most of the time it’s because I want to honor a legendary star on his or her birthday or celebrate a particular time of year, but this time around I’ll be changing things up a bit. For June I’ll be celebrating a birthday that means more to me than all the rest, but it isn’t because of a classic film star.

June 19th marks the birthday of my biggest supporter and my best friend: my sister, Diana. She adores classic cinema nearly as much as I do, and the time that she spends giving me feedback and editing my posts makes much of what I do possible. For those reasons and many more, I’ve known for quite a while that I’d use this month to pay tribute to her, but at first, my idea was to write about one of the many stars who shares a birthday with her like Pier Angeli, Louis Jourdan, or Gena Rowlands. However, the more I thought about doing this, the more I realized that she isn’t as big of a fan of these stars as she is of some others. Above all else, I wanted to write about someone whose work makes her the happiest, so ultimately, I decided to honor my sister by examining the legacy and testing out a recipe of an actor who means the world to both of us: Montgomery Clift.

Montgomery Clift, Lois Hall in Dame Nature (1938).
Montgomery Clift, seen here with Lois Hall in the Broadway production of Patricia Collinge’s Dame Nature in 1938.

Edward Montgomery Clift was born on October 17, 1920, in Omaha, Nebraska to William Clift, the vice-president of the Omaha National Trust Company, and his wife, Ethel. Monty had two siblings, a twin sister named after their mother (though she went by Sunny) and an older brother named after their father. Clift’s mother, who was adopted, believed that she was descended from northern American aristocracy. She devoted a great deal of time, as well as the family’s money, to search for the truth about her heritage and raise her children in a life of luxury. Monty and his siblings spent their childhood traveling through Europe, becoming fluent in three languages and receiving the best private education that money could buy.

As the stock market crashed in 1929, however, so did the privileged life of the Clift family. They were forced to move to New York while William slowly but surely recuperated his losses, and by the time Monty reached young adulthood, the family could afford to send his brother to Harvard and his sister to Bryn Mawr. College life wasn’t as fit for Monty, who joined a summer stage production instead of continuing his education; this was successful enough to result in his debut on Broadway in 1935. In the following years, Clift developed a prolific career on the stage in roles written by true visionaries such as Tennessee Williams, Moss Hart, and Thornton Wilder, opposite talents like Alla Nazimova, Fredric March, and Tallulah Bankhead. In 1939, Clift participated in one of the United States’ very first television broadcasts as part of the cast of Noël Coward‘s Hay Fever and later followed up that success with an appearance in 1941’s There Shall Be No Night, which won the Pulitzer Prize.

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951)
Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in a scene from A Place in the Sun (1951). Audiences clamored for Clift and Taylor as soon as they graced the silver screen together, and they were dubbed “the most beautiful couple in Hollywood”

Clift suffered from dysentery the following year, which rendered him ineligible for service in World War II. This exception gave him the opportunity to travel to Hollywood, where he snagged his first role opposite John Wayne in the seminal western Red River (1948). Clift displayed a gifted and uninhibited persona that would change the way that actors would perform for generations to come from the first moment he appeared onscreen, popularizing a unique acting style that would eventually be known as the Method. Next, he made The Search (1948), one of my personal favorite films of Clift’s where he portrays a soldier who rescues a child who has survived a concentration camp. The feature was made after Red River (1948) but released first, which technically made Clift one of only six men to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his debut performance. He lost the Oscar to Laurence Olivier‘s portrayal of Hamlet (1948), but it was only the beginning of his incredible career in pictures. His next few characters were morally ambiguous, even teetering on the precipice of villainy in films such as The Heiress (1949) and one of his most critically acclaimed movies, A Place in the Sun (1951). He portrays George Eastman in the latter film, an opportunistic drifter who attempts to murder his pregnant girlfriend, played by Shelley Winters, in favor of an alluring heiress played by Clift’s dearest offscreen friend, Elizabeth Taylor. Monty was nominated once again for an Academy Award, and this time he was the fan favorite to finally win. Charlie Chaplin called A Place in the Sun (1951) “the greatest movie made about America”, and Clift even received a vote from his rival Marlon Brando, but it was Marlon who would ultimately take home the gold for his iconic role in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).

Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra on the set of From Here to Eternity (1953)
Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra on the set of From Here to Eternity (1953). Both Clift and Sinatra would be nominated for Academy Awards for their performances in this film, but only Sinatra would win.

Montgomery Clift kept himself busy throughout 1953 with three highly successful pictures: Alfred Hitchcock‘s I Confess (1953), Indiscretion of an American Wife (1953), and what’s perhaps known as his masterwork, From Here to Eternity (1953). While most people involved with the project believed that Clift was wrong for the latter part of Robert E. Lee Prewitt, a soldier who faces prejudice from his superiors after refusing to participate in their regiment’s boxing team, his performance would earn him yet another Oscar nomination. Monty took a break from acting after that, which led to a grand build-up for Raintree County (1957), his first Technicolor film and his second on-screen pairing with Elizabeth Taylor. However, production came to a halt on the evening of May 12, 1956, as Clift was involved in a near-deadly car accident on his way home from a dinner party hosted by Taylor after falling asleep at the wheel of his car and crashing into a telephone pole. Close friend and fellow actor Kevin McCarthy witnessed the accident and drove back to call Taylor, her husband Michael Wilding, and Rock Hudson for help. As soon as they arrived on the scene, Taylor entered the car and crawled into the front seat, removing two of Clift’s front teeth from his throat and saving him from choking. Hudson then pulled him out of the car and the group shielded him from the press until an ambulance arrived.

Montgomery Clift on the set of The Misfits (1961).
Montgomery Clift on the set of The Misfits (1961).

After over two months of recovery and plastic surgery, Monty returned to finish Raintree County (1957), but he had become heavily dependent on alcohol and painkillers. Clift continued to work in Hollywood after his accident, still excelling as an actor despite his off-screen complications in films like The Young Lions (1958), which he considered his favorite performance. He stated, “Noah, from The Young Lions (1958), was the best performance of my life. I couldn’t have given more of myself. I’ll never be able to do it again. Never.” Some of his other later successes include Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), The Misfits (1961), and Judgment at Nuremberg (1962), for which Clift received his final Academy Award nomination. His final film was The Defector (1966), a Cold War thriller which gave Monty some favorable reviews. Despite his poor health due to substance abuse combined with his previous conditions, Elizabeth Taylor specifically chose him to star opposite her in Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967). However, on July 23, 1966, before filming began, Montgomery Clift passed away from cardiac arrest in his home at the age of forty-five. His funeral lasted only fifteen minutes and was attended by a hundred and fifty guests, including the likes of Frank Sinatra and Lauren Bacall. He was laid to rest by his mother in Friends Quaker Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Montgomery Clift’s Crabmeat Rarebit

From what I can tell, this recipe is dated around 1949 to 1950, shortly after the release of The Heiress (1949) as it gives the film a mention: “The Heiress (1949) has just about made a major star out of Monty, but he still prefers to live in his walk-up Manhattan flat and do all of his own cooking in a small, room-for-one kitchen. His Italian coffee is out of this world, but he calls Crabmeat Rarebit his favorite recipe because ‘I like seafood, and this is an unusual seafood dish.'”

  • 2 – cups top milk or cream
  • 3 – tablespoons flour
  • 3 – tablespoons butter
  • ½ – teaspoon salt
  • ¼ – teaspoon pepper
  • 1½ – cups crabmeat, fresh or canned
  • 1 – tablespoon celery, diced fine
  • Buttered toast (I used four slices total)
  • 3 – tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Parsley, to taste
  • Combine top milk or cream, flour, butter, and seasoning in a saucepan. Cook until thick, stirring frequently.
  • Stir in cooked crabmeat and celery and continue cooking until mixture is piping hot.
  • Pour over toast slices, top with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Serves 4.

Montgomery Clift’s Crabmeat Rarebit
My rendition of Montgomery Clift’s Crabmeat Rarebit.

This recipe doesn’t specify what kind of toast to use, but I would definitely recommend using a type of bread with some weight to it. Instead of picking a regular loaf of sliced white bread off of the grocery store shelf as I would normally do when making toast, I headed over to the bakery and grabbed some ciabatta rolls for this recipe, which I cut in half and toasted. I’m so glad that I made that call because this dish ended up being absolute heaven!

The sauce is really luscious and thick and the bread that I chose didn’t get soggy like a normal white bread would or disintegrate under the weight of the crabmeat. The celery and parsley add that bit of freshness that this dish really needs and keeps it from being too rich, and altogether I think it’s perfectly balanced. Part of the reason why I adore writing these articles is that I love trying food that’s out of my comfort zone. I’ve probably eaten crab less than five times in my whole life and I’ve never had rarebit. I didn’t think that hot crabmeat would be something that I would enjoy, but Montgomery’s recipe really surprised me. It was out of this world, and it’s moments like those that make this column worth every bit of effort.

The combination of toast with the buttery sauce and the soft texture of the crab actually made me think of breakfast and brunch, and as strange as that might seem when you look at the ingredients, I think this is really a perfect meal for any time of day. I would definitely give this recipe four out of five Vincents, because as incredible as the taste of Clift’s rarebit is, it’s really not something that I can see appealing to the masses. I have enough crab left over to make this again and I probably will, but crab is a pretty pricey ingredient that I can’t see myself eating often, and I wouldn’t say that it’s worth buying just to make this casual dish on any sort of regular basis. At the end of the day, I would absolutely recommend trying this outstanding meal, but you probably won’t want to make it and eat it over and over again.

Cooking with the Stars Recipe Rating – 4 out of 5 Vincents:

Vincent Price Rating
Montgomery Clift’s Crabmeat Rarebit gets a well-deserved 4 Vincents!

–Samantha Ellis for Classic Movie Hub

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

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