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.

 

Classic Film Review – Les Misérables (1935)

Les Misérables is Victor Hugo’s fictional masterpiece of commentary on law versus grace and the power of redemption. It has been adapted for the screen several times. The latest adaptation is set to air on PBS very soon.

I was fortunate enough to see the stage play on Broadway and it is one of my favorite musicals. I’ve also seen the 1998  and 2012 feature films, which I thought fell a bit short of in capturing the soul of the story I saw on stage. When the opportunity arose to view the first big screen adaptation made, of course, I had to watch it to see how it compares.

SUMMARY

Our tale is set in nineteenth century France. Jean Valjean receives an unjust prison term for a minor offense. It is while in prison he first comes into contact with the merciless Javert who eventually becomes a policeman.

After his release, he encounters a compassionate priest who challenges him to show the same mercy he has given Valjean. This changes the course of his life. Valjean assumes a new identity and leads an exemplary life. His financial success allows him to be generous with others, but from a distance.

Then another life-changing encounter occurs when Fantine, a young woman fired from his factory, dies and leaves her young daughter behind. At the same  time  the rigid Javert, has been searching for Valjean for a long time over another infraction of the law he loves so much. Valjean is barely able to escape with his new daughter Cosette. They head to Paris where they hide out for many years.

Years later a grown Cosette falls in love with the young revolutionary Marius. Marius’ group is under surveillance by none other than Javert. This brings Valjean and Javert into one last confrontation with a surprising ending.

For my full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

 

April 2019 Quickie Reviews

April was pretty busy for me as I watched 35 titles. Among these, one was a new theater release, one was a new Netflix release, one was a documentary. I saw six silent films, twenty two new to me classic titles including one foreign classic, re-watched six films for at least the second time and viewed three television series.

TCM chose to honor Greta Garbo this month, so I was able to catch seven of her films (including the documentary). My favorite of those was Love, a remake of Anna Karenina with John Gilbert. But I also discovered that I enjoy watching her opposite Nils Asther as well.

Kay Frances was also honored for a day this month and I saw six more of her movies. She was definitely at her best in the pre-code era.

Garbo and Asther in The Single Standard
Photo Source: IMDb.com

Some of my favorite discoveries this month include Garbo and Asther in The Single Standard, the silent film Souls for Sale, the BBC’s mini-series Mrs. Wilson, The Teahouse of the August Moon and Kay Francis in The House on 56th Street. Continue reading “April 2019 Quickie Reviews”

Series Review – The Hour (2011-2012)

I’ve long been a fan of actress Romola Garai as well as British period dramas, so I was thrilled when I discovered the BBC series The Hour. Not only does it feature Garai in a leading role, but it also co-stars Ben Whishaw and Dominic West. The Hour is a tautly written political and newsroom drama set in 1960’s London.

SUMMARY

Bel Rowley (Garai) achieves her dream when she is tapped to be the producer of a televised news program for the BBC called The Hour. Joining Bel are experienced foreign journalist Lix Storm (Anna Chancellor) and Bel’s best friend and fellow journalist Freddie Lyon (Wishaw). Also, new to the team, is the well-connected and handsome Hector Madden (Dominic West) who serves as “the face” of The Hour.

Together, along with the rest of their team, they present their weekly news program covering current events both national and international. But the investigation and presentation of this news is a fine balancing act. Not only are they constrained by the need to present proof in their stories, but also by an advisor from Westminster who wishes to censor any information not favorable to the government.

For my full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

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)”

March 2019 Quickie Film Reviews

This month I actually made it to the theater for a new release. Of the thirty two films I watched in March, seven of those were re-watches, six were modern movies, three starred Marion Davies, two with Frederic March, two silents one documentary and one foreign film.

I really loved revisiting some great classics likes Design for Living, The Bitter Tea of General Yen and Valley of the Kings. My three favorite discoveries this month were the comedies The Reluctant Debutante with Sandra Dee and Rex Harrison and Bedtime Story with Loretta Young and Frederic March. I also fell hard for the western Kit Carson. Continue reading “March 2019 Quickie Film Reviews”

Classic Film Review – The Quiet Man (1952)

John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara are one of the under-rated screen couples of classic cinema. Together they made five films, three of those with legendary director John Ford. One would think that three such stubborn, opinionated and temperamental people might find it hard to create such a charming, sentimental picture like The Quiet Man. But that is exactly what they accomplished.

SUMMARY

After decades of living in the America, Sean Thornton is returning to his birthplace in the little villiage of Innisfree, Ireland. Most of the villagers are happy to welcome home a member of the Thornton family, with the exception of Will Danaher, the local squire.  Sean and Danaher get off on the wrong foot after Sean purchases the little cottage where he was born out from under Danaher. Making matters worse, Sean also takes a liking to Danaher’s fiery-tempered sister Mary-Kate.

While the villagers welcome him, Sean must adjust to the Irish customs and traditions honored in Innisfree. Nowhere is this culture shock felt more than in his courtship of Mary Kate. Of course, Danaher refuses to make it easy for him. And Mary Kate runs hot and cold. But Sean is assisted by the local matchmaker Michaeleen Flynn, Father Lonergan and the Reverend Playfair in adapting to his home country and in winning Mary Kate’s hand.

For the full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

 

 

 

 

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)”

Series Review – Anna Karenina (2013)

SUMMARY

Though the source novel is long and much more complex, most adaptations, focus on the character of Anna Karenina herself. Anna is married to the much older Count Karenin. She is content in her marriage until she meets the dashing bachelor and ladies man Count Vronsky. He is immediately smitten, but for the sake of her young son and her standing in society, Anna resists his overtures.

However, Vronsky’s attentions in the face of her husband’s neglect encourage Anna to believe that she is in love with Vronsky. Defying convention, the two run away together. Though they are very much in love, their romance comes at great cost to Anna. Not only is she isolated from her beloved son, but she is also shunned by most of society. The disparity in society’s reactions reveals their hypocrisy. Doors are closed to her but Vronsky meets less judgment and resistance. Anna becomes more and more desperate to hold on to Vronsky. Her doubt and jealousy drives a wedge in their relationship.

Unlike other adaptations, this version also includes the parallel story line of Konstantin Levin and Anna’s family friend Princess Kitty. Levin is in love with Kitty, but she has eyes for Vronsky and refuses his marriage proposal. Heartbroken he returns to his country estate and Kitty travels abroad. Kitty eventually matures and accepts Levin’s second proposal. But her prior rejection creates a wall between them in their marriage. Kitty learns to love her new husband, but he is wary of being too vulnerable with her.

These two couples navigate the complexities of their relationships and provide a opposing portraits of passion and love.

For the full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

 

Classic Film Review – Operation Mad Ball (1957)

Don’t you love it when you take a chance on a movie you’ve never heard of and end up loving it? Such is the case for me with Operation Mad Ball.

SUMMARY

WWII may be over, but there is a group of men still stationed at an American medical base in France. Among these are Captain Lock (Ernie Kovacs) and his nemesis Private Hogan (Jack Lemmon). Lock is a by the book sort of Captain who is unpopular with the other enlisted men. Pvt. Hogan, however, is a man with a glib tongue and quick mind. He is well-liked by his fellow soldiers, especially for his attempts to make life more fun on the base.

Also stationed on base is a group of female nurses, many of whom are officers. When a fellow private falls for a nurse, Hogan uses it as an excuse to play Cupid, by planning a ball. However, this is easier said than done. The machinations the men go through to secretly secure the site and the resources rivals a legitimate complex military mission. This is complicated when the base’s commanding officer Colonel Rousch (Arthur O’Connell) starts planning his own party for the same night. Hogan also needs to continually keep one step of Lock who is determined to finally catch him breaking Army regulations. Continue reading “Classic Film Review – Operation Mad Ball (1957)”