Hollywood isn’t often noted for its’ successful marriages. However, writer Robert Riskin and actress Fay Wray were one of the exceptions. The two were married for thirteen years until his death parted them.
Their daughter is publishing the book Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Affair. I am participating in The Fay Wray and Robert Riskin Blogathon honoring these two Hollywood stars and the book hosted by Aurora of Once Upon a Screen and AnnMarie at Classic Movie Hub.
One of the things I am always bemoaning about our modern films is the lackluster, disappointing dialogue. Classic films were full of snappy one liners, rapid fire conversations full of double entendres and attraction disguised as insults. They were witty and smart, but could also be cutting and sharp. It is rare to run across this verbal brilliance in new releases. Which is why I wanted to focus on Robert Riskin for the sake of this blogathon. Continue reading “Fay Wray and Robert Riskin Blogathon – Platinum Blonde (1931)”
Don’t you love a good fairy tale? I certainly do. But you can only watch so many versions of Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast. Sometimes a fairy tale with a new story and fresh perspective is needed. And that’s just what Penelope offers.
A long time ago, a witched cursed the Wilherns. The first daughter born into this wealthy family would be born with the face of a pig. The only way to break this curse is for her to be accepted by one of her own kind – a blueblood. After many generations of sons, Penelope becomes the unfortunate bearer of this cruel curse.
Ashamed of her daughter, Jessica Wilhern has hidden her away in the family home for most of Penelope’s life. But in recent years, she has been working with a professional matchmaker to find an aristocratic man willing to marry Penelope and break the curse. Edward Vanderman, the most recent man to reject the sweet natured “pig-girl” has teamed up with Lemon, a journalist holding a long-standing grudge towards Jessica. They hire Max Campion, a gambler they believe to be a fallen blue-blood. Max agrees to secretly snap a picture of Penelope for a pay-off thousands of dollars.
But Penelope is gun-shy and doesn’t show herself to Max right away. Instead he is forced to make multiple visits to the Wilhern mansion. With a one-way mirror between them, Max and Penelope develop a friendship through many conversations. However, the individual plans of Jessica Wilhern, Edward, Lemon and Max all go awry when Penelope finally decides to run away from everyone’s plans for her. What will happen to a girl who has lived in seclusion all her life, when she finally discovers the world? Can the curse truly be broken or will Penelope find another way?
To read the full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.
I love a good meet-cute. You know, it’ the moment where two characters meet for the first time. In most films, the meet cute sets the stage and the tone for all that is to follow. It immediately tells you what type of relationship the two characters will have as they get to know each other better. Some meet-cutes are in fact cute, others are antagonistic. Meet-cutes are actually one of my favorite moments in a film.
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”
After fifteen years of marriage and two children, Sergey and Olga have grown apart emotionally. Their life has become a matter of routine and duty. When Olga finds her husband’s profile on a dating website, she decides to connect with her husband using a false identity. Sergey quickly becomes enamored with the mysterious woman named Emma.
Meanwhile, in their real life Olga is torn over her husband’s “infidelity” but believes their marriage is worth saving. The more she reaches out to her husband, the more distant he becomes. However, her virtual identity as Emma gives her new insight and understanding into her husband while also exposing the failures in their marriage. The more Olga pretends to be Emma, the more “Emma” impacts Olga’s life. But when Olga finally regains her sense of identity, will she still feel her marriage worth saving? Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday – I Love My Husband (2018) Russian Series”
Have you ever watched a movie that took you by surprise? Perhaps, it turned your expectations on end? Or maybe, you went in knowing nothing about the film and found yourself responding to it rather strongly? Such was the case for me with Nurse on Wheels, a British comedy starring Juliet Mills, daughter of John Mills and sister to Hayley.
I grew up with the Disney films of Hayley Mills and hold very fond memories of them. It was for this reason alone that I took a chance when I saw Nurse on Wheels show up in the TCM schedule recently. I had never seen Juliet Mills in a film before and knew absolutely nothing about Nurse on Wheels. I expected I might like it, but didn’t guess that it would be my favorite film discovery of the year.
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.
I have always been a fan of romantic comedies. I can appreciate a good drama, mystery or even tragedy, but it is the romantic comedy which I found myself drawn to over and over again. Perhaps it’s because in a world of uncertainty and chaos, I love escaping into a film that can make me smile. I love knowing the ending will always be happy, even if real life isn’t.
Many classic film fans are familiar with some of the more famous examples of this genre. Titles like Bringing Up Baby, The Lady Eve, Pillow Talk, My Man Godfrey, His Girl Friday, It Happened One Night are instantly recognizable and re-watchable. But being a fan of classic rom-coms means I’m always on the lookout for unheralded, but just as enjoyable films. It’s always a risk watching a film I’ve not heard of before, but definitely well worth it when I discover a new favorite. I’d like to share some under-rated and lesser known classic rom-com films. Continue reading “Twenty of the Most Under-Rated Classic Romantic Comedies”
Maria Laura, aka Mala, is an aspiring actress whose outspoken views make it difficult for her to win roles. Fortunately, her roommate Kika is understanding as to why she is behind on her rent. Kika is also convinced her boyfriend is cheating on her. She coerces Mala into flirting with him to determine if he will be faithful. Though reluctant Mala is also successful and eventually word gets around about her unusual talent. Before she knows it, she is earning good money testing the loyalty of other women’s boyfriends.
However, when she finally lands a major role in a television series she is ready to leave her odd career behind. But the producer only agrees to guarantee the part if Mala will seduce her ex as a means of revenge. There is just one problem. Mala has already had an unfortunate encounter with wealthy businessmen Santiago and they can’t stand each other. Still, Mala’s big break depends on making Santiago fall in love with her so that she can break his heart. Further complications arise when she develops conflicted feelings towards him and her unpleasant task. Will Mala be convincing enough to snag the heart of this wealthy bachelor? Even more importantly, will she be able to protect her own heart while doing so?
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.