Monday, April 11, 2016

THEODORA GOES WILD (1936):Unmoral and Unfit to Print!

This is my entry in the Classic Movie Blog Association Words, Words, Words! Blogathon celebrating writers in film. Click HERE for more words about words!
Who among us has not dreamed of writing a juicy best seller? Imagine the fame, the fortune, the fun! And, just because we are all quite respectable individuals here (wink wink), imagine creating a literary identity – one who says all of the things you’d never dare (at least while anyone is watching). Sounds delicious, right? It might be, just as long as you don’t get busted. Which is exactly what happened to poor little Theodora Lynn.
Meet Theodora Lynn (Irene Dunne) – prim and proper Sunday School teacher, daughter of the founding fathers of Lynnfield, Connecticut, youngest member of the stuffy Lynnfield Literary Circle – and author of The Sinner under the pen name Caroline Adams. 
Outwardly meek and mild Theodora manages to balance her compartmentalized existence with woman of the world Caroline (ducking down to New York to meet with her publisher and presumably keep an eye on the big bucks her runaway best seller is raking in) quite well until the Lynnfield Bugle, Theodora’s hometown newspaper, decides to run a serialized version of The Sinner. That’s when all heck breaks loose.
Small town Theodora visits her publisher
The old hens of the Lynnfield Literary Society are up in arms. Staining their local paper is the purple prose of The Sinner. While some of the ladies obviously find the salacious story a guilty pleasure (most noticeably Spring Byington as a delightfully hypocritical peahen who gets hers in the end), it is decried as “unmoral and unprintable.” 
The Literary Society is scandalized!
Wielding their civic power over the local press, they attempt to strong-arm the Bugle’s publisher, Jed Waterbury (played by Thomas Mitchell), into silence. He resents the self-righteous censorship, is frustrated by it and is maddened by the old gossips, but he never gives up on freedom of the press.
Thomas Mitchell as the editor of the Bugle
Meanwhile, Theodora goes positively wild. Artist and scoundrel Michael Grant (Melvyn Douglas) has discovered her true identity and invades Theodora’s neat little world in Lynnfield to toy with her (posing rather improbably as a gardener looking for work). 
Michael shows Theodora he can fit into her "normal" life
He keeps her secret, but soon he and Theodora are canoodling and the gossip machine is fired up. Michael encourages her to break free of those small town constraints and live life to the fullest (which means sleep with him).  Ah, poor Theodora, she thinks sex means love. She takes Michael’s advice and declares her love to the world as well as her secret identity as Caroline Adams. The town is shocked and Michael bolts.
Irene Dunne demonstrating her
wild side on Melvyn Douglas 
Theodora is now in full Caroline Adams mode. She follows her love to New York and plants herself in his apartment. Michael is suddenly reticent, but why? Well, it turns out he is married and his behavior is dictated by a father who is no better than those controlling ladies of the Lynnfield Literary Society. Turns out big city hypocrisy is pretty much the same as the small town variety. 
Theodora hits the big city with a vengeance and an over the top wardrobe

As the mildly wild Theodora/Caroline, Irene Dunne is a wacky delight. Somewhat reminiscent of her performance as the Cary Grant’s faux showgirl sister in The Awful Truth, she is raucous and dresses with bad taste and abandon. She plants herself wherever Michael is and has the complicit approval of the wife who wants to be rid of him. Michael’s double life soon comes to light thanks to the glaring flashbulbs of a hungry press.
Caught by the press
In the end, Theodora and Michael are united, it appears Caroline Adams will be writing a new best seller and the gentlemen of the press not only continue to serialize The Sinner, but get one hot and juicy story that is sure to sell more papers to a public hungry for a good story.

You can never go wrong with Irene Dunne in a comedy. Her playing is always light with a quality of springtime. But – will someone please describe to me what she does with her teeth or tongue. I can’t take my eyes off of her mouth (even when she is in some pretty overwhelming furs).

As for Melvyn Douglas – I can’t say I’m a fan. I don’t especially dislike him, and I must say he makes an awfully good wolf – but as a romantic leading man…well, I just feel that he’s a better wolf. I know he supported some of the very best (Garbo anyone?), but imagine the fun if Theodora went wild with Cary Grant?

My favorite performer in the film is Thomas Mitchell as the publisher of the Lynnfield Bugle. He is just aces as the man who wants to sell papers and give the public what it wants. He is so real in the way that real people were portrayed in 1930s Hollywood.
And of course, all's well that ends well
While it’s mighty fun to watch novelist Theodora/Caroline caught in the crosshairs between small town hypocrisy and artistic freedom, it’s the other writers of the story – those newspapermen – that caught my fancy. They are driven, they love their work and they never, never, ever back down to a good story. And they make it all seem like so much fun!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A HOLLYWOOD MYSTERY

Just what is going on at the Brown Derby and other various Hollywood locations in 1939? Some of my fiends on Facebook at FlickChick's Movie Playground are taking turns writing a portion of the story. It's anybody's guess how it all will turn out. Entries are posted weekly. 

Please join us on our little literary journey and see if we can guess how this puzzle will be solved!

A Hollywood Mystery
Part 1
It was a busy Saturday night at the Brown Derby. Hedda held court in one booth, Louella in another (a respectable distance apart, of course). Current King of Hollywood Clark Gable and new bride Carole Lombard had their heads together like the lovebirds they were. Clark had just finished shooting the highly anticipated “Gone with the Wind” and was looking forward to spending some much needed alone-time with his wife before going off to the Atlanta premier. Clark’s co-star Vivien Leigh and her companion, Laurence Olivier, were deep in conversation in a dark corner and a bored Paulette Goddard toyed with her luscious diamond and emerald bracelet while husband Charlie Chaplin and best pal, and past King of Hollywood, Douglas Fairbanks reminisced about the old days. Doug was with new wife, Sylvia, who Charlie only tolerated. Paulette liked her just fine, but was hoping Doug’s ex, Mary Pickford, would stroll in with her pretty hubby, Buddy Rogers, just to add some spice to the evening. Money men, producers and directors chatted about their next projects and everyone eyed everyone else to make sure they missed nothing.
Sitting below the caricatures of himself and Groucho Marx were Cary Grant and his usual date, Phyllis Brooks. Miss Brooks was a pretty blonde and a good, undemanding companion – just what Cary needed after a busy year of filming “Gunga Din,” “Only Angels have Wings,” and “In Name Only.” They were enjoying their dinner of Spaghetti and veal cutlets when suddenly a waiter ran from the kitchen out onto the restaurant floor. His jacket was covered in blood and, before he could utter a word, he collapsed, dead, right at Louella Parson’s feet. All in attendance here horrified, Hedda was steamed, and it became quite clear that there would be no desert served that night.

Management and wait staff attempted to escort everyone out of the restaurant.  Startled stars wandered out onto North Vine Street, while Louella and Hedda had to be forcibly removed before the police came. Cary and Phyllis were among the amazed crowd that lingered in front of the restaurant. Cary thought it best to go home and leave things to the police, but Phyllis wanted to stay. “Why, Phyllis?” he asked. “What can we do except get in the way?” Phyllis started to speak, but her speech was muffled by the sobs she had been suppressing.  “We can’t leave”, she managed, “not just yet. That waiter - I know him.”
To be continued…….
Submitted by Marsha Collock
Part 2
Phyllis looked up at Cary, her teary eyes held his gaze. "You see...I know him from...."
Just then a long black limousine stopped in front of them. A handsome chauffeur got out of the driver side and came around to open the passenger door. Another handsome man in a tuxedo came out and assisted Mae West out of the car. Her long satin gown was the color of moonlight in evening. "Hey Cary, what's going on? This place looks deader than a temperance meeting on St. Patrick's Day."

"A waiter was killed here tonight Mae, we were just leaving," he said, taking Phyllis's hand in his.
"Oh, I missed all the drama. Let's go to the Coconut Grove then," Mae said looking up at her date.

Out of the shadows a lone figure walked up to the two couples. He smelled of alcohol and was hiding something in his pocket. He stopped and swayed a little on his feet. 
"Any a youse got a quarter for some coffee?" He slurred. Mae took a quarter out of her beaded hand bag and gave it to him. "Thanks lady." He handed her a folded note and said, "You'll want to read that, it's important" as he walked back into the shadows.


To be continued…….
Submitted by Tracey Witt
Part 3

And, earlier that day….

Charlie Chaplin steered his Pierce-Arrow south on Vine and turned left onto Sunset Boulevard.  He swerved around the corner to view scores of hopeful actors lined up outside of Chaplin Studios.  They were all there for the same purpose -- to audition for a handful of small parts in Chaplin’s new controversial film, The Great Dictator.  The crowd of actors moved away from the studio gate and allowed the pale blue convertible to pass -- the aspirants all stretching to catch a glimpse of the great Chaplin.

Once inside, Carl Voss waited patiently as other actor’s names were called before his. “Another cattle call.  It never ends,” said Carl to a familiar looking mug in the next seat.  There were so many actors, and so few roles.  Chaplin, forever the perfectionist, took his time, hand selecting his choices for even the smallest of parts.  The hours passed and still Carl waited.  He knew he would soon have to leave if he was to be on time for work or he would pay the consequences. 

Like other actors, Carl had to support himself between gigs.  After all, he hadn’t had a paying part since his bit role in Little Miss Broadway, and that was months ago.  The sweet Shirley Temple film had helped to launch Phyllis’ career to the next level.  So much so, that she had moved on to a better social circle and left poor Carl flat -- brokenhearted and struggling.  Phyllis really thought she was the cat’s meow since she caught Cary Grant’s eye.  She was all dolled up and rubbing elbows with the right crowd now.  Grant not only had the looks; he had deep pockets.  Carl felt double crossed, but he still carried a torch for Phyllis and he wouldn’t give up.  Carl felt sure that this new film would bring him a perfect opportunity and his life would take a new direction.  If Chaplin only knew about his past he would know that Carl was made for this picture. So much was riding on his success.  Carl just needed one good break so he would no longer have to wait tables at… The Brown Derby.  Sure, it helped pay the bills, and it allowed him to network with some of Hollywood’s highest royalty, but Johnny, the abusive head waiter, seemed to have some kind of beef with Carl.  It started over a waitress named Betty.  Johnny had eyes for the little brunette tomato who liked to flirt with Carl even though she wasn’t Carl’s type.  Carl had to get out of there.  He wasn’t going to take it anymore.  Just one lucky break was all he needed to steal the show.  Then Phyllis would come back.  He knew it.

The clock ticked.  It was now 4:27.  Carl would have to leave soon if he were to race the 2 blocks to The Derby and still sign in before 5:00.  He desperately wanted a part in Chaplin’s new film.  Carl opened his portfolio and removed a small piece of stationery.  He carefully crafted his note and then made his way to the receptionist’s desk.  “Hello, my name is Carl Voss.  Miss West asked Mr. Chaplin to see me today,” he said to the efficient looking woman behind the desk.   She looked back at him with an expression of disinterest.  “Mr. Chaplin is currently engaged in the last audition of the day.  You’ll have to come back tomorrow,” she said.  “Please,” Carl urged, “I wonder if you would be so kind as to give Mr. Chaplin this note.  Please!”

Carl ran out the door and hurried up Sunset Boulevard toward Vine.  Then – a lucky break.  A jalopy slowed and blasted the horn.  “Hey, Hotshot! You headed to work? Hop in.  I’ll give you a ride!”  It was Carl’s old pal Alan – another aspiring actor/waiter.  “Aw go chase yourself!” Carl called back laughing.  Carl and Al were chums from way back.  Phyllis had introduced them at an audition and they ended up sharing a bungalow for a while.  Al was a swell guy even if he had done some time in the big house – something about getting even with a guy for not paying some gambling debts.  Carl didn’t want anything to do with it.  But hey, sometimes it’s good to have a pal who’s packing heat.  Carl vaulted into the car and they sped toward the Derby making it to work with time to spare.

To be continued…..
Submitted by Elaine Mosher
PART 4
Mae was not in the least bit surprised by the inebriated stranger who had staggered over to her as she stood outside The Brown Derby with her date, Roy, Cary Grant and his starlet of the month Phyllis Brooks.  She was accustomed to having strangers approach her for an autograph, a hand out, even asking for a small part in one of her movies.  She took the note with her gloved hand and stuffed it in her beaded purse which had just enough room in it for some lipstick and a gold compact. The purse had been a gift from W.C. Fields. He had it sent to Mae after the movie, "My Little Chickadee" had finished filming its last scene.

It was that horrid man's attempt at an apology for the way she had been treated by Universal. The nerve of those big shots they had the gall to give both Mae and Fields equal screen writing credit for the movie. Everyone in Hollywood knew that Mae had written the original screenplay.  Now after waiting for an hour in her limousine for traffic to clear and start moving all she wanted to do was go home...she had a note to read. 

"Phyllis darling," "Calm yourself" said Cary with concern in his voice. "What did you mean when you said,"  "I know that waiter from"... after what seemed like an eternity they had finally arrived at her modest apartment in Burbank. Phyll, as Cary liked to call her, nervously paced the living room floor while smoking a cigarette. "He is, I mean, he used to be my husband." she sobbed.  


Instead of going straight to The Brown Derby from the auditions, Al had made a stop to talk to an "acquaintance" of his. Carl, was impatiently waiting in the car for Al to finish talking to the beefy guy in the pin stripe suit. The guy’s name was Mick De La Rosa.  Carl had seen him hanging around the back entrance of The Brown Derby. Waiters had set up a couple of tables and chairs outside and would take their breaks in the smelly alley.  Al was a swell guy but the crowd he hung out with made Carl’s skin crawl.  After waiting for 30 minutes Carl jumped out of the car and hurriedly made his way to The Brown Derby...

To be continued……
 Submitted by Tina Cosio
Part 5
Solitude.  Sometimes all a girl wants is some alone time.  


Mae West had sent her insistent beau of the evening off to his own devices.  Having slipped into a comfortable, yet showy kimono Mae surveyed her luxurious art deco living room with satisfaction.  She had worked long and hard for her success, and she enjoyed it.  The bear rug, three paneled mirror and meticulously cared for porcelain knick-knacks were signs that she had made it.  The small beaded bag she had taken with her for the evening's entertainment lay on the silken upholstered divan.  Inside was the start of something big.  She could sense it.  She was never wrong.  Slowly she poured herself a glass of perrie in a Waterford cut glass and circled the bag as if circling an admiring swain.  Anticipation was often the greatest part of pleasure.

Barely an hour had passed since the scene out front of the Brown Derby.  The well-dressed coterie Hollywood's elite shell-shocked and wondering how to react in front of the press and the police with no script to follow and no director to provide motivation.  If only she could have gotten inside to see the body.  Surely the radio would have the story by now.  The top-of-the-line Crosley model 639M had a console to match Mae's luxurious taste and worked at the push of a button with no muss or fuss.

"It appears that the murdered man was not an employee of the restaurant after all, despite his attire.  According to police sources no identification was found on the body.  Witnesses are being unco-operative at the present time.  Sources close to the scene have disclosed a possible gangland connection to the incident.  We will update you with further news should it become available."

Mae turned the radio off and stretched out her full 5' frame on the antique lounge.  Another sip from the chilled glass and now to see what Henry  had to say for himself.  She was the only one of the group, too spellbound by the trouble to recognize dear old H.B. Warner on one of his toots.  Mae shook her head.  Warner was getting lots of work these days, why would he risk it in such a way?

The note was slightly crumpled from having been quickly tossed into the crowded bag.  The writing, however, showed an educated and practiced hand.  It read ...

"When is a marriage not really a marriage."

More hastily scrawled at the bottom, as if an afterthought:

"Someone likes to gamble."

Mae smiled softly and hummed a little tune.  A phony marriage?  Gamblers?  Wouldn't the police like to know?  Well maybe she'd tell them, but maybe first she'd do the Torchy Blane act and bring the cops the solution to this crime on a silver platter.  There wasn't anyone in this town she didn't know and nothing Mae West couldn't do.  Plus, she had just the outfit for a lady detective!

To be continued……

 Submitted by Patricia Nolan-Hall
Part 6:
Cary cradled Phyll in his arms.  "Is there more that you want to tell me?" Cary gently asked her. 

Phyllis wanted to forget everything she had ever known about her ex-husband. The memory of the days of being in love with him and living the good life had been erased by the events preceding the end of their marriage. He had become involved with unsavory characters who were a threat to her career as well as her life. She did not want to reveal his real identity, but she did feel some obligation to tell Cary more. After all, they had just seen him murdered. And, Phyllis had as many questions as answers.

"I'm not sure what to tell you," she began. "You see, my own life is in danger if I tell all that I know. Bill, my ex, was known by the elite of the Hollywood community early in his career; he was much older than I and knew some of the most elite stars in Hollywood. I don't know much about his life before me. But his star had faded, and many of his so-called friends had forgotten him. He was devastated that he could no longer get work in Hollywood and began to drink heavily and gamble. His drinking led to...well, let's just say, I divorced him so that I could go on with my life. I suppose I should have kept in touch with him, but I didn't, and now ... well, now I may not ever know what really happened to him...or who he was involved with. Oh, Cary, what should I do?"
To be continued...
Submitted by Linda Thacker




Thursday, February 25, 2016

the Epic Oscar Snub of Robert Preston in "Victor Victoria"


Entertainment-wise, there are just some things I can't see to get over. 

For example, Lucy and Desi's divorce.

Growing up with Lucy and Ricky, I mean Desi, they seemed a lock to be in love forever. Ricky said "I Love Lucy," right? And we all knew Ricky and Desi were one. Until his death I kept hoping for a reunion. 

And then there was the breakup of Sonny and Cher. I guess "I Got You, Babe" was only temporary. 

However, the really big thing that I just can't seem to get over is Robert Preston's loss for Best Supporting Actor for his BRILLIANT performance in 1982's "Victor Victoria." 

Robert Preston had a personality and presence made for the stage. Close up, it was almost a bit too overwhelming for the screen. However, actor and role combined perfectly in Professor Harold Hill, the con man extraordinaire from "The Music Man"



Once Preston was able to recreate his signature role on film, the audience got to see Preston in his true element - charming, playful, energetic and enthusiastic. Harold Hill freed him from "B" roles in "B" films. He was no longer the baddie or the stooge to the leading man. While he still might be a bit of a baddie, he now added a wink. He was now the star.

After "The Music Man," Robert Preston never failed to fill the screen at the expense of all others. After his early death as the father in "All the Way Home," the loss of his "being" was felt for every remaining moment of the film. 

By 1960, this actor whose first movie career spanned 1938 through the 50s when he headed east to Broadway and appeared in a string of hits, was finally getting his due. He appeared sparingly in films in the 70s, preferring to concentrate on the stage, but his performances were always worthy of the star status of Harold Hill.

In 1981 he hooked up with Blake Edwards for the memorable "S.O.B.," which lead to the role of Carroll "Toddy" Todd in Edwards's 1982 comedy, "Victor Victoria."

Toddy was such a wonderful role for Preston. He of the testosterone plated voice and the uber-masculine hairline, playing a flamboyantly gay man was genius. He jumped in with both feet and gave a fearless and joyful performance. He was audacious and hilarious and never held back. Plus - he looked great in a tux or a gown.

Underscored with a golden and burnished humanity that glowed like a warm fire, it was a performance that lifted the film, capped a long and memorable career and was deserving of that little gold man. No disrespect meant to Lou Gossett, Jr. (the winner that year), but Robert Preston was robbed.

That was the very last time I was emotionally invested in rooting for a winner. Now, I sit back and watch the show and try not to care who wins. This year I will repeat my dispassionate performance in front of the TV. I really do want Leo to win for "The Revenant," but I will allow Oscar (that dirty dog) no more heart breaks for me. 

This is my entry in the Oscars Snubs Blogathon, hosted by The Midnite Drive-In and Silver Scenes. Click HERE for more great overlooked performances by that gold-plated so-and-so.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Kiss is Just a Kiss: Charlie ♥s Edna Forever



A kiss is just a kiss. True, but it depends on whether you are the kisser or the kissee or - as are we movie-goers, an observer.

Now, kisser and kissee could be steamy and passionate...

Or, they could be innocent and chaste.

As a kisser (or kissee) I shall keep my preferences to my self (of course if Cary Grant is either one... oh, but I digress...).

No, we are here as observers, and as an observer it is the romantic kiss that pleases me most of all. You know, the kiss that is not quite innocent, but not quite lusty, coming just at the dawn of of love. Like a flower opening to the sun, it is full of promise and joy. It is the end of single and the beginning of plural, and, for me, there is no sweeter plural than Charlie Chaplin and his lovely leading lady, Edna Purviance.



  Charlie and Edna Forever

Before Edna, Charlie was a troublesome tramp. Once Edna entered the picture (and Charlie's real life for a time), the Little Fellow became a sweeter,gentler character. The Tramp still had tricks, but Edna awakened the romance in his soul.

Best Kisses
Charlie ardently pursued Edna through 34 films from 1915 through 1923. Here's some of their 5-star smooches:

The Immigrant

Charlie and Edna are two poor immigrants who find love and luck in the land of liberty.

Behind the Screen


Charlie and Edna find love at a movie studio (even through he thinks she might be a boy).

A Burlesque on Carmen
As thwarted lover Darn Hosiery, Charlie gives his Carmen the kiss of death (sort of).

But enough observing. Sometimes, lovers need privacy...



And just in case you want to try kissing Charlie for yourself (sort of), here's a cute little game. See how many kisses you can steal!



This is my entry into the Kiss is Just a Kiss Blogathon. Put some oomph into your Valentine's Day and head on over to Second Sight Cinema for more super smooches.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Safe in the Dream of Cinema

In a dream, in a place and time that never changes, in a piece of film, that is my safe place. No matter how uncertain the world, I can count on:

C.C. Baxter and Miss Kubelik playing gin
The Little Tramp's joy at realizing the Blind Girl can see
Eve Kendall recommending the trout to Roger Thornhill
The super shine of the floor (not to mention the starry sky) as Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell tap to Begin the Beguine
Norma Desmond's cigarette holder

They are always there, always a comfort when things turn topsy-turvy. That's how it is with classic movie lovers, and like genies we can disappear into the magic lantern that is the world of cinema. 
Safe inside our enchanted bottle, we can count on the fixed, repetitive nature of film as an occasional escape from the onslaught of the unknown. 

Like many movie lovers, I tend to gravitate towards the well-known-to-me comfort of a film I have seen many times when feeling the need for escape. However, as I read the posts of other classic film bloggers, knowledgeable Facebook folks and other internet cinephiles, I realize that I also tend to resist watching some must-see classic films. 

I was recently inspired by Leticia at Critica Retro, who listed her 2016 list of classic films she must see. Brave girl! Because I can't quite commit to 12 films, I am going to try to see 6 classic films this year that I have managed to avoid because they are either slightly out of my comfort zone or for some other crazy resistance:

The Lost Weekend
This is already waiting on my DVR. Although Billy Wilder is tops in my book, I tend to avoid films about drinking. But, I have been convinced it is worth watching.

How Green Was My Valley
I know, I know.... I'm on it.

Gun Crazy 
I'm actually excited about this one. I'll do it this time!

L'Age D'Or
I'm kind of afraid, but I'm going in......

The Palm Beach Story
Why have I resisted? Probably because, for some reason, Preston Sturges makes me a little nervous. I'm not sure why, but I think it's for no good reason.

To Have and Have Not

I generally do not like Hawks, Hemingway, or Bogart and am not over the moon about Bacall, but it's a classic, right? 

Wish me luck!