When I heard about The Bustles and Bonnets: Costume Blogathon being hosted by Paul at Silver Screen Classics and Gabriela at Pale Writer, celebrating costume dramas, I couldn’t wait to participate.
In recent years, I’ve developed a particular interest in costume design and have been reading up on various designers. Needless to say, I wracked my brain trying to decide which film I wanted to feature here, until I stumbled across The Toy Wife, a rather unknown pre-Civil War drama.
Based on the French play Froufrou written by Ludovic Halévy and Henri Meilhac, it was adapted for the American screen during the time when Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was large in the public conscious and in the middle of being filmed. Warner Brothers’ answer to the popularity of Mitchell’s book was the release of Jezebel starring Bette Davis. MGM too wanted to capitalize on public interest with their own antebellum story and so Froufrou became The Toy Wife.
Set in New Orleans, The Toy Wife is the story of Gilberte Brigard (Luise Ranier), otherwise known as Frou Frou. Having been raised in France, she is finally returning home with her older sister Louise (Barbara O’Neil). Frou Frou is a shallow, silly girl despite the influence of her sensible older sister. Upon her return she meets two men; the dashing Andre Valliare (Robert Young) and George Sartoris (Melvyn Doulas), an upright, responsible man who is the secret desire of Louise’ heart. Continue reading “Classic Film Review – The Toy Wife (1938) for The Bustles and Bonnets Costume Blogathon”
When a group of strangers hear the confession of a dying man who leaves a mysterious clue about the whereabouts of a large sum of cash, they aren’t convinced he’s on the level. Yet, when they suspect each other of going after the money, they pause to discuss how to locate it and also how to split it when it’s found. Talks quickly break down and it becomes, “every man (and woman) for himself!”
Next thing you know, five different groups of people are racing to be the first one to find the dough, unaware that they are being tracked by the cops who have long wished to recover the money from a robbery case. Their attempts to beat each other out lead to the involvement of other strangers and motorists as well as crazy situations that quickly become destructive. Continue reading “The Umpteenth Blogathon – It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)”
Supply Sgt. Eustis Clay (Steve McQueen) idolizes his friend and superior Master Sgt. Maxwell Slaughter (Jackie Gleason). The two men couldn’t be more different in temperament, personality or skills. Eustis is the male version of a dumb blonde. He is not the brightest of men, but has no problem running swindles, even if Maxwell often has to rescue him from trouble. Eustis never fails to scrounge up hard to find items for himself and Slaughter. He is also always full of new ideas of how he and Max can make “a million, maybe even a billion” dollars rather easily. Eustis is close to retiring from the army and desperately wants his friend to join him in an idyllic civilian life. As he tells Slaughter, “Max with your brains, and my ideas…”
In contrast, Slaughter is an Army lifer and has no desire to leave his only family. However, Eustis won’t take no for an answer. To that end he fixes his buddy up with the beautiful but very young and ignorant Bobby Jo Pepperdine(Tuesday Weld). Slaughter is not so easily convinced, especially since Bobby Jo is half his age. When she calls him Fatty and a host of other cruel names, it brings up all his past insecurities.
However, time is running out for Eustis and Slaughter’s friendship and Eustis is determined. He can not imagine life without Maxwell in it. Through thick and thin these friends stick together and balance each other out.
I had a very busy November, which means I didn’t have as much time as I usually do to sit in front of my TV. But what I did get to watch was an eclectic blend of mostly interesting movies and series. And there was that weekend I binge-watched seven Hallmark Christmas movies with my family, which is not included in this month’s tally.
novemBER 2019 BREAKDOWN
26 Films/Series Total
8 New Classics
3 TV Series
2 Christmas movies
3 Bette Davis and 2 John Gilbert films
Biggest Disappointment – John Ford: The Man Who Invented America – My expectations were high and it just wasn’t quite what I anticipated
This film condenses almost two decades of Cleopatra’s life into it’s four hour run time. In 48 BC, Julius Caesar arrives in Rome to mediate between the Egyptian queen and her co-ruling brother. Cleopatra persuades Caesar to help her regain the throne as the sole monarch. In the process, the two begin an affair which produces a son. The birth of Caesarion encourages Cleopatra in her ideas of building a world empire.
Eventually she travels to Rome where she is very unpopular with the people due to her influence with Caesar. She meets Marc Antony, the general of Caesar’s army, who helps her return to Egypt after Caesar’s assassination.
Even though Caesar named Octavian as his successor, the Roman Republic is split among Octavian, Lepidus and Marc Antony. Octavian and Marc Antony eventually neutralize Lepidus’ power. Their power struggle forces Marc Antony to turn to Egypt for support where he meets Cleopatra again. The two fall in love and begin an affair which is ultimately the downfall of them both. The film ends with their deaths in 30 BC.
Grace Kelly was a popular and talented actress beloved by her public. But she became even more loved by a larger public when she became the Princess of Monaco.
According to The American Film Institute, MGM decided to capitalize on Kelly’s relationship with Prince Ranier by casting her as Princess Alexandra in the film The Swan. They even co-ordinated the release date of the film with that of her wedding. Helen Rose who costumed Kelly for this film also created her famous wedding dress.Talk about a genius marketing move by the studio! Because of this, The Swan is a good example of life imitating art.
THE SWAN SUMMARY
Princess Alexandra is her family’s only hope of regaining their royal eminence, generations after losing their throne. Her desperate mother, Princess Beatrice hopes to marry her off to Crown Prince Albert, who is travelling Europe in search of a wife.
When Albert arrives for a brief visit, Beatrice does all she can to throw the two together. But Albert mistakes Alexandra’s awkward shyness as disinterest and coldness and undertakes to avoid her.
Distraught, Beatrice talks her daughter into publicly flirting with the family’s tutor, in an effort to make the Crown Prince jealous. But her plan backfires in ways she can’t forsee.
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)”
Sometimes all the stars align just right and you get a thing of great beauty. Perhaps, that is how those involved in the making of To Catch a Thief felt. I doubt many pictures had a crew as simpatico as this one. Director Alfred Hitchcock admired both Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. He had worked with both actors several times, but never together. Kelly and Grant both appreciated the director. And thanks to this film, Kelly and Grant remained lifelong friends.
Matching the natural beauty of Grant and Kelly is the vibrantly magnificent views of the French Riviera where the film is set. Add in the fashionable, yet classic costumes designed by the award winning designer Edith Head and you have one of the most visually gorgeous films I’ve ever seen.
Grant is John Robie, a retired jewel thief living a comfortable life in the south of France, until a new round of burglaries is attributed to his alter ego The Cat. The local police believe that Robie has returned to his life of crime. To make matters worse, Robie’s former compatriots in the French Resistance share that believe. Robie decides the only way to clear his name is to catch the thief who is posing as him.
With the help of an insurance investigator, Robie begins shadowing those who might be targets of the jewel thief. His mission is complicated by American heiress Francie Stevens. Francie inserts herself into his life and constantly interrupts Robie’s private investigation. But Francie’s motives aren’t exactly what they appear to be. Engaged in dual games of cat and mouse, there is more at stake than Robie’s personal reputation.
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.”
In The Sheik, Lady Diana Mayo is an aristocratic orphan visiting the African town of Biskra. With only her brother to guide her, she has become wild, independent and naively fearless. Diana plans an extended tour of the desert with no one other than a local guide to protect her. Her local fellow British aristocrats warn Diana about the dangers to a local single woman travelling alone, but they she ignores them.
The night before her departure, Diana visits a local casino. To her dismay, she is denied entrance because of a private party for a young sheik. In defiance, Diana disguises herself and sneaks into the casino. It is not long until she is discovered by the Sheik, Ahmed Ben Hassan. Though he expels her, she has also caught his eye. Diana finds him equally fascinating.
Not long after she heads into the desert, Diana and her guide are surrounded by what appear to be Bedouin warriors. But, as she soon discovers, it is Ahmed. He quickly abducts her, whisking her away to his desert camp. Ahmed has his own plans for Diana, but she refuses him at every turn. It is a battle of the wills and wits. The sheik is accustomed to immediate obedience but Diana is not about to surrender her independence.
Though, she attempts to escape, eventually Diana accepts her gilded prison. But she still refuses to yield her heart to Ahmed. Just when she finally comes to terms with her emotions towards the Sheik, she is kidnapped once again by a bandit with nefarious purposes in mind. This forces both Ahmed and Diana to face the truth about their relationship. Will the Sheik recapture both Diana and her heart?