In order to marry his hometown fiancee, gambling dancer John “Lucky” Garnett (Fred Astaire) heads to New York to make $25,000. His friend and sidekick Pop (Victor Moore) follows him like a faithful dog. On his first day in the city, Lucky has an unfortunate first meeting with Penny (Ginger Rogers), a dance instructor. Not only do Lucky and Pop almost get Penny arrested, but they also cause Penny and her friend Mabel (Helen Broderick) to lose their jobs. Even though Lucky convinces Penny’s boss (Eric Blore) to re-hire her, she is not so easily won over.
But Lucky is in luck because he and Penny are now dance partners. The more time they spend together, the more they begin to fall for each other. However, both try to resist their mutual attraction. Lucky has not forgotten his purpose for being in New York, even though he never mentions it to Penny. As for Penny, her long time admirer Ricky Romero, continues to propose to her despite multiple rejections. Meanwhile Pop and Mabel connive to see Lucky and Penny end up together.
As I searched for my film choice, I found The Night of the Iguana which just happens to star not only Kerr, but also Gardner, and Burton. Both books also referenced this film as it was an important one for both Gardner and Burton though for different reasons. The Burton-Taylor affair had taken the world by storm and the notoriety followed them to the set of this film. As for Gardner, this picture is often ranked as one of her best performances. Continue reading “Deborah Kerr Blogathon -The Night of the Iguana (1964)”
Juliete Hardy is a sensually precocious young woman without anyone to love her. She has been raised in an orphanage and taken in by the Vigier-Lefrancs. Her reputation in St. Tropez is well-known. Madame Vigier-Lefrancs finally threatens to return Juliete to the orphanage after she catches her chatting in the nude with the wealthy but older Eric Carradine.
But Juliete only has eyes for Christian Tardieu, the eldest son and breadwinner of the Tardieu family. Because of this she refuses to commit to Carradine and also spurns the advances of Christian’s quiet but steady younger brother Michel. Christian promises to take her with him when he goes back to Marseilles if she will spend the night with him. But when he breaks his promise he sets into motion Juliete’s revenge. It is a revenge that will entangle Juliete with all three men and almost cost her a chance at the love she yearns for. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -And God Created Woman (1956)”
Cary Grant is the quintessential leading man in both dramas and comedies. But I prefer his comedic films. He had a skill for appearing silly while also still being suave and sophisticated. One of my favorite among his comedy films is Topper. Made just as his star was hitting it’s peak, it is the last film in which he ever played a supporting role.
George and Marion Kerby are a socialite couple with few responsibilities. They live a fast, lively and glamorous life. One of the few drags on their carefree life is the annual board of directors meeting at a bank George owns. Once a year, he is forced to attend by the bank manager Cosmo Topper.
After a night of partying followed by the board meeting the next morning, George and Marion are killed in a car wreck. They are perplexed as to why they remain on earth instead of immediately going to the afterlife. Marion believes it is because they haven’t done anything that would earn them a spot in heaven. So they decide that they must accomplish one good deed. They settle on liberating their bank manager, Mr. Topper from the rigid and regimented life enforced by his wife.
Topper finds his life unwillingly and completely turned upside down by his ghostly friends. But before long, he begins to see the benefit of allowing a little joy and fun into his mundane existence.
I watch many more films than I have time or interest to review. So, I am trying something a little different this month. I thought I would share the list of (new to me) classic films I watched during the month and my brief impressions of each. Let me know what you think.
Without Honor (1949)-An unexpectedly intriguing drama about an adulterous wife who accidentally stabs her lover. Meanwhile, her vindictive brother-in-law tries to ruin her marriage. Laraine Day is an underrated actress in my opinion. Here she stars and gives an excellent performance.
Johnny Rutledge (William Holden) is rootless bachelor who works for a traveling medicine show. When his employer is arrested, Johnny finds himself cooling his heels in a small town, while awaiting his employer’s release.
While out fishing he comes across a small cabin where the five young Chalotte siblings live. The oldest child confesses that his parents are dead and he is trying to keep the family together. Johnny feels sorry for them, but explains to young January that he can’t stick around to help. Past experiences have left him with a distaste for anything resembling roots or commitment. Still Johnny finds himself drawn to these children named after the months of the year. He also finds himself more and more intertwined in their lives.
Arsène Lupin -The Gentleman Thief of French Literature
The gentleman thief is a much beloved character in both literature and film. Arsène Lupin is one such character, first birthed by the pen of French writer Maurice Leblanc in the early 1900’s. Over the course of the next two decades Leblanc published many novellas, novels and even plays featuring his popular creation. These stories were contemporary with another, perhaps more famous, thief and master of disguise, that of the English gentleman Raffles. Without the underrated gift of classic film, I might never have heard of or been introduced to either.
The Arsène Lupin character also made appearances in television, stage and over twenty films. It is the pre-code 1932 version starring the Barrymore brothers, Lionel and John that I fell in love with. According to an introduction given by Dave Karger for this film on TCM, the Barrymore brothers were highly regarded by the two most important men at MGM during the early Thirties. Louis B Mayer believed Lionel to be one of the best actors of his time, while Irving Thalberg felt the same about John. When John’s contract with Warner Bros. expired, MGM snapped him up. He was cast with Lionel in Arsène Lupin, the first of five films in which the brothers would appear together in the years 1932-1933. Of those five only one would also star their equally famous sister Ethel. Sadly, after 1933 there would be no more films co-starring Lionel and John. Continue reading “Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon -Arsène Lupin (1932)”
Though long gone, Judy Garland is still famous for her singing voice and her film musicals. Of her forty film credits, there are only three in which she does not sing or dance. The first of these three is The Clock and it proves that Judy was a talented actress in her own right, even without her musical skills.
Joe Allen (Robert Walker), a country boy turned soldier, arrives in New York City for a 48 hour leave. Immediately, he is overwhelmed by the hustle and bustled of the city and seeks to lessen the effect by making conversation with strangers. While taking refuge in the train station, an accident brings him and Alice Mayberry (Judy Garland) together. Though she has other plans, he convinces her to pass some time with him. Feeling compassion for this soldier Alice first allows herself to be talked into a walk in the park, then an afternoon at a museum and finally a dinner date. Alice’s roommate warns her not to fall under the spell of a man who will soon be shipping out.
Alice tries to resist and a few awkward moments and misunderstandings tempt her to abandon Joe. But neither one can deny a strong connection and many things in common. Despite differing plans for their futures, the pair find themselves in love. An accidental separation leaves them both desperate to find the other. Unfortunately, they haven’t even exchanged last names, so their odds of finding each other before Joe leaves the city are very low. By chance, they meet again and are so overjoyed and relieved that they decide to get married. But they have less than 24 hours to complete all the necessary steps so that a judge can marry them. And as Shakespeare wrote, “the course of true love never did run smooth.”
Bringing Up Baby was my first introduction to the world of classic film. It was also my first experience with the screwball comedy genre as well as Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. With such an auspicious initiation, is it any wonder that I not only adore classic films, but that both Grant and Hepburn along with the screwball comedy genre remain my very favorites. No matter how many (countless) times I watch this picture, it never fails to entertain and to lift my spirits.SUMMARY
David Huxley is a paleontologist who is THIS close to completing the skeleton of a Brontosaurus. He just lacks installation of the final bone (the intercostal clavicle) and funding in the form of a million dollar donation by the wealthy Mrs. Carlton Random. He is also one day away from a marriage of convenience to the dull and practical Alice Swallow.
David’s meeting with Mrs. Random’s attorney, Mr. Peabody, is unfortunately disrupted by Susan Vance. After a meet cute filled with confusion, theft and mishaps, David is forced to reschedule his meeting for that same evening. However, David’s bad luck continues as he once again runs into Susan who once again ruins his meeting.
Susan, however is besotted and decides David is the man for her. Believing him to be a zoologist, Susan tracks him down to request his help. Her brother has sent a tame pet leopard as a gift for their aunt. Despite David’s refusal to help Susan deliver ‘Baby’, Susan coerces him by promising to speak to Mr. Peabody on his behalf. Unknown to David, Mrs. Random just happens to be Susan’s aunt.
David and Susan head off to the family’s Connecticut farm to deliver Baby. But Susan being Susan, everything that can go wrong does. Add in the family dog George who buries the intercostal clavicle, an escaped killer leopard, a visit from a family friend who is a big-game hunter and Susan’s introduction of David as a man recovering from a nervous breakdown and you’ve got the recipe for one of the funniest movies ever.
Not too many years ago, I happened across a Ginger Rogers film I had never seen or even heard of before. Romance in Manhattan turned out to be not only a lovely little movie, but also became one of my favorites. As much as I love the pairing of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce others to this lesser known charmer which co-stars Ginger with Francis Lederer.
Karel Novak (Lederer) has worked hard to achieve his dream of immigrating to America. A native of Czechoslovakia, he meets all the legal requirements for entry. However, upon his arrival he learns that one of those requirements has changed and he is to be deported back to his home country.
Karel can’t bear the thought that he must return home. Leaving his belongings and money behind, he escapes into New York City, where he is certain he will find work. However, the only luck Karel has is meeting the kind and compassionate show girl Sylvia Dennis (Rogers). Sylvia is the sole caretaker for her younger brother Frank (Jimmy Butler) and is barely making ends meet herself. But she offers Karel food, a place to sleep and help in finding a job.
As weeks and months pass, Karel becomes a welcome addition to the lives of Sylvia and her brother Frank. Karel finds a job as a taxi driver and helps contribute to the household. He also manages to befriend police officer Murphy (J. Farrell McDonald), despite living in fear of discovery and deportation.
Sylvia and Karel begin to fall for each other, but Sylvia prefers to marry a millionaire. She is sick of poverty and seeks security for herself and Frank. This desire becomes even more important when both she and Karel find themselves out of work just as social services threaten to take Frank away from her. Karel however, is convinced that love will find a way and proposes to Sylvia. But their problems are far from over. A shady lawyer reports Karel’s immigrant status and Frank is taken from Sylvia. But with a little help from Officer Murphy, Karel and Sylvia may just have a chance.
In today’s climate, it would be easy to politicize a film like Romance in Manhattan. Especially as it features the story of an immigrant whose dream of America motivates him to break the law when one subjective requirement threatens to obliterate his hope and sacrifice. But in my opinion, this would be a mistake, because you might miss the sweetness of this story and it’s characters.
This film came at a time of transition in Ginger Rogers’ career and is one of five films she made in 1935. Ginger already had numerous credits to her name, but mostly as a supporting or character actress. However, prior to the release of Romance in Manhattan, she was paired with Fred Astaire in two of the nine films in which they would appear together. Her star was just starting to rise. Within the following several years she appeared in six more films with Astaire and also branched out into serious dramatic roles, one of which (Kitty Foyle) won her an Oscar.
Ginger’s portrayal of Sylvia Dennis is one of my favorite’s. Sylvia is practical and realistic, but she has not allowed the challenges of life to harden her or make her cynical. She has retained her innocence but is also wise to the ways of the world. Though Sylvia has little, she doesn’t think twice about sharing it with someone who has even less. And even though she espouses a desire to marry wealth, Sylvia doesn’t really fit the definition of a gold-digger. She is playful yet sincere in her wish, but when it comes down to it, she realizes that love is more valuable. Rogers never overplays her performance as Sylvia, keeping it genuine with an underlying sense of humor. In her capable hands, Sylvia is a believable depiction of an average, quietly heroic, every day American.
As much as I love Ginger Roger’s portrayal of Sylvia though, this is really Francis Lederer’s film. From his first appearance onscreen he draws you in to the heart of Karel Novak. You feel his excitement, disappointment, determination and every emotion in between in his pursuit to become an American. His earnestness, innocence and optimism help you to experience the poignancy of his plight. Here is a man who truly wants to follow the laws of his adopted country, but who also refuses to allow his inability to meet one subjective requirement make all his sacrifice for naught. Even though he begins with nothing and needs every spare penny, Karel willingly contributes to the Dennis household. He also risks the threat of deportation in order to keep Sylvia and Frank together, willing to give up his dream for their sake. I particularly appreciate how his immigrant perspective helps Sylvia to see her native country through new, appreciative eyes.
Romance in Manhattan also benefits from the performances of Jimmy Butler and J Farrell McDonald as Frank and Officer Murphy. I’m not familiar with Butler’s other work, but his portrayal of Sylvia’s brother is quietly convincing. Unlike some child actors, his personality doesn’t overpower the part, but he doesn’t disappear into it either. Butler really makes Frank his own. It is a shame that he died young in combat in WWII. It would have been interesting to see what he might have done as an adult actor.
McDonald was a familiar face to me as he should be. In his career he amassed over 300 credits in small parts (some uncredited). Here he has the chance to shine as a soft-hearted Irish cop who doesn’t let the law crush an otherwise good man. And of course, what 1930’s film would be complete without the presence of Donald Meek? Sadly, he doesn’t appear until the end of the picture. But it’s still a pleasure to see him play a small role as a minister.
Romance in Manhattan celebrates self-sacrifice, compassion, human kindness, understanding and love. It’s focus on these attributes reminds us not only of the best qualities of America but also of mankind.
Unfortunately, this film rarely airs on TCM. But it is available to rent through Amazon, iTunes and Vudu. Or you could always buy the DVD like I did.