It’s rather easy to rattle off the most well-known films of famous silver screen stars. And I’m rather glad those movies are still bringing attention to faces who are no long with us, but who contributed greatly to the popularity of moving pictures.
However, it would be a shame not to dig deeper into the filmography of these stars as there is much of their work that is just as deserving of attention. Some, because of the quality of the production and others simply for great entertainment value.
It’s only in recent years that I’ve developed an appreciation for silent film, much less for the people who made up of the world of early Hollywood.
John (“Jack”) Gilbert was one of silent film’s success stories but also one of Hollywood’s great cautionary tales. He was a real star. But not the kind affixed in the firmament. Gilbert was more like a shooting star; a man who toiled unnoticed for years, slowly climbing his way up, until he flashed brilliantly across the screen for a handful of years before experiencing a sad descent. Continue reading “Book Review – John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars by Eve Golden”
George Sanders was one of classic Hollywood’s most popular character actors who was occasionally cast as the leading man. He often played elegant, suave villains whose acerbic wit made his performances memorable.
Can you believe that it is only in recent years that I have gained a deep appreciation for Jack Lemmon’s skill as an actor? And yet despite my new found sense of awe, I really don’t know much about the man himself.
You would think this would lead me to discover more about him through a typical biography or documentary, but no. Instead, I picked up a book written by his son Chris Lemmon.
A Twist of Lemmon is exactly the type of book I love to read about a celebrity I respect. Just about anyone willing to diligently research can write a good biography. But it is rare to get the personal perspective from the subject’s friends or family, which is exactly what I’m interested in. And it is a quick little read at under two hundred pages. Continue reading “Book Review – A Twist of Lemmon by Chris Lemmon”
I grew up with old school Disney. Though I never understood the appeal of Mickey Mouse, I adored Donald Duck. And thanks to a well-stocked local video store, I also watched many of Disney’s live action movies from the 1950’s on. Films like Shaggy Dog, Pollyanna, Swiss Family Robinson, The Apple Dumpling Gang, The Monkey’s Uncle and others offered wonderful family entertainment for a girl whose mother was very careful about what she was allowed to watch. To this day these films also hold a high nostalgia factor for me. Which is why when choosing a film for the James Garner Blogathon, I had to pick The Castaway Cowboy.
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.
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.
Once again Aurora over at Once Upon a Screenis 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”
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 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)”
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.
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?
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.
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.