Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon – A Tribute to Carole as a Dramatic Actress aka How Carole Lombard Won Me Over

Carole Lombard is much lauded for her skills as a comedienne, but not as much so for her dramatic performances. Perhaps, it is for this reason, that it took a while for her to grow on me.

Photo Source – Film Noir Photos

Screwball comedy is my favorite genre, and Carole is one of its’ heroines. But when I viewed her popular films, like My Man Godfrey, Twentieth Century and Nothing Sacred, I felt I must be missing something important. To me, her performances were shrill, occasionally manic and sometimes painful for me to watch.  And yet, everyone raves about her talent.

That many people can’t be wrong. So, I kept at it. I continued to work my way through her films. And along the way I discovered something. I must be a bit contrary, because I appreciate Carole most in her dramatic roles and her less popular comedies. Continue reading “Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon – A Tribute to Carole as a Dramatic Actress aka How Carole Lombard Won Me Over”

#PayClassicsForward Christmas Challenge 2019

Once again Aurora over at Once Upon a Screen is challenging everyone to pay it forward this Christmas by choosing classic film recommendations utilizing the Twelve Days of Christmas theme.

I’ve decided to stick as close to that theme as possible by creatively interpreting the lyrics of the song. I didn’t have as much time as I would like to elaborate on all the films and actors who are named in this post. But hopefully, they will pique your interest enough to discover them for yourself. Continue reading “#PayClassicsForward Christmas Challenge 2019”

Clark Gable Blogathon – But Not For Me (1959)

Second only to Cary Grant, Clark Gable is my favorite actor. As such, I’ve made it a point to a watch as many of his films as I can. I had seen every one of his credited films with the exception of But Not For Me.  As much as I wanted to be able to say I had seen all of his movies, I put off watching this particular title, because my expectations of it were very low. However, when the Clark Gable Blogathon rolled around this year, I knew now was the time to complete my exploration of Gable’s filmography. Fortunately for me, it was a better experience than I anticipated.

ABOUT THE FILM

After a long, successful career as a theater producer, Russ Ward is considering retirement. Because along with a string of hits, he also has a long list of expenses which include alimony to his ex-wife, a fancy apartment he has no time to enjoy and the renovation of a theater which is not likely to recoup his investment. His latest theatrical endeavor is foundering, thanks to his friend Jeremiah, a burned out, washed up, alcoholic playwright.

When he breaks the news to his long-suffering, faithful, young secretary Ellie, she decides to finally confess her love for him.  Her earnest sincerity sparks Russ’ creative imagination. Using their relationship and her words, he convinces Jeremiah to re-write their play in a situation of art imitating life. Though Ellie is happy that she finally has Russ attention (and the leading role) all is not smooth sailing. Russ still has to manage Jeremiah’s reluctant come-back and his ex-wife’s financial demands and verbal zingers, while securing financing for the play. In addition, Ellie has her own admirer who is cast in the role of leading man on stage but who also wants to be leading man of her life. Continue reading “Clark Gable Blogathon – But Not For Me (1959)”

Rosalind Russell Blogathon – Tell It to the Judge (1949)

Rosalind Russell is one of the under-rated talents of classic film, in my opinion. In her forty year career, she played opposite some of Hollywood’s most popular leading men, appeared in more than one hundred films in a mix of genres and  was nominated for an Oscar four times. She also appeared on stage multiple times and even won a Tony Award.

But for some reason, she’s not often listed as anyone’s favorite actress or ranked among the great actresses of her time. Well, thanks to Crystal of In The Good Old Days of Hollywood, Russell is getting some well-deserved recognition and remembrance with her very own blogathon.

I’ve seen many of Rosalind Russell’s films knowing I can always count on her to give her best in any performance. Of course, she’s excellent in dramatic roles, but I often think she is overlooked as a comedienne and not just because of her stand-out role in My Girl Friday. I recently ran across one of her lesser known films Tell It to the Judge and found it to be an absolute delight. Continue reading “Rosalind Russell Blogathon – Tell It to the Judge (1949)”

Joan Crawford Blogathon – They All Kissed the Bride (1942)

When mentioning popular actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Joan Crawford’s name is always in the mix. Though it has been said she relished her movie star status, that does not negate the fact that she also had talent. She may not have been one who preferred the work over the celebrity like her rival Bette Davis, but no one can deny she was dedicated to her career.

Crawford most often played modern women in dramatic films. Occasionally, she would step outside of her normal milieu. But she did seem most at home in dramatic roles. However, she was capable of more as she proves in the comedy They All Kissed the Bride.

SUMMARY

Margaret Drew rules her world with an iron fist. This includes her family trucking business as well as the lives of her mother and sister. She exhibits little softness or human emotion, barking demands like an automaton whose sole concern is efficiency and a healthy profit margin. She further erases any hints of femininity in her choice of name, going by her initials M.J.

The current thorn in M.J’s side is writer Michael Holmes, whose former exposes have seriously impacted other companies’ bottom lines. M.J. is determined to use all legal avenues at her disposal to stop the publication of his book about her father.

When M.J meets a charming stranger at her sister’s wedding, she begins to experience strange emotions for the first time. Though she tries to ignore her physical reactions to this man who keeps popping up, she can’t completely control them. Matters are made worse when she discovers the man who makes her weak-kneed is actually Mike Holmes!

For his part Mike is intrigued by the challenge M.J. presents. Deciding she needs to be humanized, he alternately sweet-talks, goads and even bribes her at their every meeting. Can these two opposites find common ground?

MY THOUGHTS

Crawford is an odd choice in a role originally slated for Carole Lombard. But when Lombard died, the part was re-worked to better suit Crawford who donated her salary to the Red Cross in Lombard’s name.

Photo Source: IMDb

The opening scenes of They All Kissed the Bride seem to present a familiar Joan Crawford, stiff hair to match her stiff personality. A real ball-buster. Before long however, it segues into a surprisingly charming comedy about a woman learning to accept all aspects of her nature, without viewing them as weaknesses.

Though I admire Crawford, she has never been a personal favorite of mine. Perhaps, because I prefer romantic comedies to dramas as a rule. However, she exhibits not only a softer side of the character, but also of herself as an actress in this film. I was surprised by how well she handled the comedic portions of the story. She even managed to make M.J.’s perplexity over her literal weak knees convincing. As she transforms from M.J. to Maggie (Mike’s name for her), she becomes downright endearing and appealing.

Supposedly, Crawford insisted on Melvyn Douglas being cast as her romantic interest in their fourth and final film together. It proves to be a wise choice. Douglas had a deft touch when it came to light comedy. Once again, he perfectly fills the role of a man with a creative temperament who finds himself intrigued by his uptight leading lady.

Mike Holmes has the potential to come across as selfish or a bully. However, Douglas is able to portray him as a man who doesn’t just challenge M.J. He also believes in her potential to be better. While he may take advantage of her at times, it is never with ill intent, but always for her benefit, though Maggie can’t always see that. Thanks to Crawford and Douglas rapport, I believed that these two opposites actually could attract.

But lest you think that Joan Crawford and Melvyn Douglas are the only attractions of this film, let me mention that they have a talented supporting cast. Old stalwarts, Roland Young and Billie Burke have important roles as M.J.’s right-hand legal advisor and her mother. Burke plays her usual flighty part, but with a surprising character twist towards the end. Then there is Allen Jenkins as a Drew Trucking employee, close friend and informant to Mike Holmes. Jenkins could occasionally over act his parts, but he is perfectly cast here. All the while he is giving Mike insider information on the company’s practices, he also unknowingly provides M.J. with first hand knowledge of her employee’s experiences with her rigid company rules.

Though They All Kissed the Bride will never be considered one of Joan Crawford’s best films, I would definitely consider it an under rated one. Giving her an opportunity to play both drama and comedy it proves that she is more versatile than she often gets credit for being.

 

William Holden Blogathon – Meet the Stewarts (1942)

Last year I had the honor of participating in the William Holden Third Golden Boy Blogathon. Although Holden has never been a personal favorite of mine, I’m so glad I did, because I discovered Dear Ruth, which is a delightful, lesser known rom-com. With such great luck, I decided to join in again this year, and chose another one of Holden’s lesser known comedies, Meet the Stewarts.

SUMMARY

Although he is in love, Michael Stewart is reluctant to marry Candace Goodwin. You see, Candy comes from a wealthy family and Michael is strictly middle class. He worries about their financial compatibility and has real doubts as to whether Candy can stick to a budget. But Candy is insistent, so they marry only after her father vows to cut her off without a dime.

The Stewarts are blissfully happy, but challenges quickly arise when they must furnish their house. They go over-budget, but Candy assures Michael they can economize elsewhere. Little does he know that this is the beginning of a pattern in their marriage. Not only does Candy have no concept of how to manage money, but she has no practical house skills either. After a disastrous joint dinner with both of their families, it is also clear that neither family has much faith in their ability to make the marriage work. When the strains of real life finally catch up and overwhelm them, will they be able to stay together? Continue reading “William Holden Blogathon – Meet the Stewarts (1942)”

Doris Day Blogathon – It Happened to Jane (1959)

Blonde romantic-comediennes are a staple in Hollywood films. Names like Reese Witherspoon, Meg Ryan, Goldie Hawn, Carole Lombard and Jean Harlow immediately come to mind. And every single one of them is a talent with many popular rom-coms under their belts. However, perhaps none is so affiliated with this genre as Doris Day. She had what might be the best comedic run of any actress in film history beginning with her first romantic comedy It Happened to Jane in 1959 running  through her last onscreen appearance in With Six You Get Eggroll in 1968.

I grew up watching the Rock Hudson and Doris Day trio of rom-coms.  I absolutely adored them and still never get tired of watching them. Then I discovered her one outing with Cary Grant (who is a personal favorite) in That Touch of Mink. Next I fell in love with The Glass Bottom Boat, with co-star Rod Taylor, which I reviewed for last year’s Doris Day Blogathon.

Continue reading “Doris Day Blogathon – It Happened to Jane (1959)”

Fondathon – Sunday in New York

JANE FONDA
Photo: Public Domain

No matter what entertainment medium you favor, you can find family acting dynasties. The Fonda family is one which is well known to those who enjoy Hollywood films. Henry Fonda is the patriarch of this family of actors which includes his son Peter Fonda and grandchildren, Bridget Fonda as well as Troy Garrity. But it is Jane Fonda who I would like to focus on today.

Regardless what you think of her politics, Jane has made a name for herself outside the shadow of her father. With a career now spanning over five decades, fifty film credits, seven Oscar nominations (with two wins) she remains an active participant in the film community today.

Jane is also known for her many exercise videos, with her first one, Jane Fonda’s Workout becoming the highest-selling VHS ever. She has been married to a director (Roger Vadim), an activist (Tom Hayden) and a billionaire businessman (Ted Turner) and has two children. Continue reading “Fondathon – Sunday in New York”

Jean Simmons Blogathon – All the Way Home (1963)

Jean Simmons & Robert Preston
JEAN SIMMONS

When discussing talented or famous film actresses of the classic film era, Jean Simmons is not a name that comes up as often as it should. Often those with larger screen personas get all the attention. I myself have been guilty of overlooking her work. And yet, she appeared in some very successful films, was twice nominated for an Oscar and continued working until she died in 2010 racking up almost one hundred film credits. So I’m absolutely thrilled that she is receiving some well deserved attention with the Jean Simmons Blogathon.

In choosing one of Jean’s films to write about, I discovered that I have seen more of her movies than I realized. Despite being a beautiful woman, she has the talent of disappearing into her roles. What’s amazing is that she accomplishes this without any drastic changes to her appearance. Instead she actually BECOMES her character.

I have a few personal favorites among her pictures, and she has several famous film titles to her credit. But I wanted to choose one that I had not seen and also which I felt is a bit more obscure among her fans. That is how I found myself watching the 1963 film, All the Way Home. Continue reading “Jean Simmons Blogathon – All the Way Home (1963)”

Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon – Lady of Burlesque (1943)

Barbara Stanywck is one of my top five favorite actresses. There was no role or genre she didn’t do well, from film noir, to comedy to historical dramas to weepies and more, she brought authenticity to all of her films.

AMONG THE BEST

Starting out in film she had a similar background to contemporary Joan Crawford. Like Crawford she often played working class girls . But unlike Crawford whose characters clawed their way into wealth and respectability, often through their relationship with men, Stanwyck’s characters achieved their goals through their own grit and independence, while also displaying vulnerability. Continue reading “Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon – Lady of Burlesque (1943)”