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.
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.
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)”
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)”
Alfred Kralik is the longest serving employee at Matuschek and Company in Budapest, Hungary. Personally taken under the wing of Mr. Matuschek, Kralik has worked his way up the ladder to become the store’s top sales clerk. He is joined by his four other fellow employees Vadas, Flora, Ilona, his good friend Pirovitch and the errand boy Pepi who have all formed a special camaraderie with each other. They aren’t just co-workers but a family of sorts.
But things begin to change and upset Kralik’s life of routine. First, Matuschek hires the beautiful but snippy young Klara Novak. Kralik and Klara do not get along. She constantly challenges his authority and he resents her rudeness to him. Then, Kralik’s formerly close relationship with his employer shows some fractures. He cannot fathom why Mr. Matuschek is suddenly treating him so coldly. The one bright spot in Kralik’s life is his growing closeness with his anonymous female pen pal. Though he has never met her, he begins to fall for her, recognizing her as a kindred spirit. Just when Kralik believes he is getting a raise, he is unexpectedly fired instead. On the same night, he goes to meet his pen pal and discovers Klara waiting in the same restaurant. Things look pretty bleak for him. But Christmas is a time when anything can happen.
Three wealthy but lonely older men invite strangers into dinner on Christmas Eve. Displaced Texan James Houston and Jean Lawrence, a teacher join not only George, Chad and Michael, but also their housekeeper, former Russian countess Madame Tanya for a surprisingly merry Christmas. The three older men form a strong bond with the young James and Jean and act as matchmakers for the new couple.
As months pass, those bonds grow tighter and transform not only the lives of the elderly men, but also Madame Tanya. They become a family of love if not blood. When the three men pass away, they continue to watch over Jean and James from the here after, determined to see them happy. But James rise to instant fame as a singer brings with it many temptations and challenges his relationship with Jean. Will the men’s supernatural guidance be enough to keep them together? Continue reading “Classic Film Review – Beyond Tomorrow (1940)”
Don’t you love a good serendipitous moment? I wasn’t sure I would participate in this blogathon as much as I love the concept of it. The month of November is already pretty busy for me, and I wasn’t sure that I would have time to watch two films for one blogathon. But then I happened to watch a movie I wouldn’t have normally been interested in. I went into the viewing of She’s Working Her Way Through College knowing nothing at all about it, only to discover it is a loose musical remake of The Male Animal. Well, with the stars all aligned, I realized that now I HAD to participate in Phyllis of Phyllis Loves Classic MoviesThe Remade What? Blogathon!
The source of this story was a hit Broadway play written by James Thurber and Elliott Nugent titled The Male Animal. The basic premise of both films feature the trials of an underpaid and underappreciated English professor who teaches at a midwestern university. The university’s financial and spiritual reverence of the sports department is a thorn in the professor’s side. The professor believes some of the school’s resources should be shared with the education departments. He butts heads with the head of the school board over this. Continue reading “They Remade What?Blogathon: The Male Animal (1942) & She’s Working Her Way Through College (1952)”
The Wilkins family is your typical American family. Traffic cop judge Harry Wilkins (Edward Arnold) shares a happy and balanced marriage with wife Edie (Mary Philips) and their two daughters Ruth (Joan Caulfield) and Miriam (Mona Freeman). The only conflict in their household generally arises from teenaged Miriam’s passion for political causes. Not to mention her general meddling in the lives of her family members. For her part, Ruth is a mature young woman, ready to settle down to marriage and a home of her own with her long term beau, Albert. Continue reading “William Holden Blogathon -Dear Ruth (1947)”
There is no disputing the fact that Bette Davis is one of the most talented actresses to ever work in Hollywood. Her success can be partly attributed to this talent and partly to her passion for her craft. With Davis, career always came first.
I cannot deny Bette Davis is quite the screen presence. Watching her on screen is like watching a force of nature. No matter what role she filled, whether the character was reserved and demure or aggressive and larger than life, Davis always imbued them with a backbone of steel, an unwavering stance against compromise and an inner intensity which was shown in her eyes. There is a line from The Philadelphia Story which Jimmy Stewart’s character says to Katharine Hepburn’s haughty heiress, “(There is) a magnificence that comes out of your eyes, in your voice, in the way you stand there, in the way you walk. You’re lit from within, Tracy. You’ve got fires banked down in you, hearth-fires and holocausts.” I’ve always thought this line was the perfect description of Bette Davis.
With all that being said, as much as I admire Davis, she is not on my list of favorite actresses. Much like a strong kick in the pants, I must take her in small doses or take the risk of being completely overwhelmed. Still, I have worked my way through a large portion of her films. So, when I ran across Winter Meeting, I was shocked to realize that there was a Davis film I had never heard of before. Of course, my interest was immediately piqued and it became my choice of entry for this year’s Bette Davis Blogathon.Continue reading “Bette Davis Blogathon -Winter Meeting (1948)”
World War II is over. Juliet’s war time series has been turned into a book with great success. Her editor and close friend Sydney is pushing her for new content to publish. But Juliet is lacking inspiration. Her imagination is as worn and grey as her flat in London.
Unexpectedly, she receives a letter from Dawsey, a stranger from the Isle of Guernsey. He is in possession of one of her old books by a favorite author. Her margin notes in the book inspired him to write her with questions. In their correspondence he mentions the island’s book club oddly named The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Before she knows it, Juliet is corresponding with several other members of the society. Their letters spark an idea for a new book using the group’s story of their resistance of the German occupation during the war.