Madeleine Carroll’s Birthday Bash – Day 2

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It’s been a blast celebrating Madeleine Carroll’s birthday with all of you. Today we have the final tributes to this beautiful and talented British actress.

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Old Movies Nostalgia looks at the on-screen partnerships formed through Madeleine’s Frequent Movie Collaborations.

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Silver Screenings presents a Madeleine who gives villains a reason to worry in The 39 Steps.

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Movie Classics / British Film Classics presents a new-to-us Madeleine Carroll film from 1931: Fascination.

Madeleine Carroll I was a Spy 1933

Ramdon Pictures discovers Madeleine was a Belgian nurse who spied for the British in 1933’s I Was a Spy.

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Girls Do Film examines the ways Madeleine Carroll is an atypical heroine in The 39 Steps.

Thanks for joining us hosts (Dorian of Tales of the Easily Distracted and yours truly) for Madeleine’s Birthday Tribute.

How to Tell if Your Prisoner is Too Smart for You

Madeleine Carroll sees her chance to escape. Image: kdsjf eoifu asdkljf

Tip: Never allow a woman access to her handbag. Image: Explore BFI

Dear Movie Villains:

Becoming an Evil Villain is largely a matter of trial and error. As far we know, there is no correspondence course to guide you in becoming a dastardly mastermind.

With that in mind, we hope you’ll take some well-meaning advice from the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, The 39 Steps (1935)If there’s one take-away from this movie, it’s this: Know thy intellectual limitations.

In The 39 Steps, there are two people you need to defeat: The first one is Robert Donat, a bungler who believes he can outwit seasoned, professional villains.

The second one is more tricky. She is Madeleine Carroll, a smart and decisive woman who trusts no one except the blasted police.

The film, briefly, is about spies smuggling Government Secrets to a foreign power. Donat stumbles into the middle of this situation because (a) he believes what everyone tells him and (b) he thinks he can just pop into the spy business on a lark.

He ends up dragging no-nonsense Carroll into this mess, which is nearly his undoing – and is definitely the undoing of the poor, defenceless bad guys.

Dear Villain, we can tell you’re a bit anxious, and well you should be. How do you know if you have a Madeleine Carroll Smarty Pants Prisoner (SPP) on your hands? We’re glad you asked.

Who are you? Where are we going? Why do I have to go? Image: lkdsjf aoieuf sdjkf

Tip: A quizzical woman is already on her way to outsmarting you. Image: thefancarpet.com

Clue #1: An SPP will ask lots of questions, but don’t think this is the sign of a hysterical female. If you know what’s good for you, you’d better answer her with some believable baloney.

Example: In the film, villains tell Carroll and Donat they will be driven to a police station, but it quickly becomes apparent they are driving elsewhere. Carroll starts blasting the men with questions: How come they’re not going to the police station? Where are they going? Why are they going this way, not that way? You see, she’s already figuring out a way to escape and Do You In.

Robert Donat hides from the millions of coppers Carroll has alerted. Image: aksdj flkasdjf ksdjf

Tip: A woman who alerts 5 coppers will just as easily alert 5,000. Image: galleryhip.com

Clue #2: An SPP never misses an opportunity to tell the police anything. And not just one police officer, but as many as she can find.

Example: On the train to Scotland, when she first meets Donat and recognizes him as a fugitive, Carroll alerts every copper on the train – and there happen to be several to alert. Not only that, she’s gotten them so worked up they’ve phoned ahead to every train station in the U.K.

You think this person isn’t going to marshall an entire government against you, if so inclined?

In response to this threat, Carroll calls Donat a "big bully". Image: lskdjf aiefj

Tip: If a woman is calling you names, she’s not afraid of you – even if she’s in a chokehold. Image: movpins.com

Clue #3: An SPP may employ tough talk, but instead of masking an inner fear, it’s actually making her braver.

Example: While on the run, Carroll makes it clear to Donat that she doesn’t believe his so-called “spy story”:

Donat:    “Do you want them to hang me for a murder I never committed?”
Carroll:  “As long as they hang you, I don’t care whether you’ve committed it or not.”

Dear Villain, please take our advice and don’t let your ego sully your intellectual capacity. If you’ve gotten yourself entangled with a Madeleine-Carroll-type character, you need to admit defeat and back away slowly.

The 39 Steps: starring Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Lucie Mannheim. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Charles Bennett and Ian Hay. Gaumont-British Picture Corporation Ltd, 1935, B&W, 83 mins.

This post is part of the MADELEINE CARROLL Blogathon, hosted by Tales of the Easily Distracted and yours truly. Click HERE for a list of all participants. Madeleine-Carroll-Blog-4_fix

Madeleine Carroll Birthday Bash – Day 1

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What a terrific start to the Madeleine Carroll blogathon! We have a wonderful selection of tributes for the birthday girl today.

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Co-host Dorian, of Tales of the Easily Distracted, looks the Madeleine Carroll – Bob Hope partnership in My Favorite Blonde.

Madeleine Carroll Secret Agent

Once Upon a Screen pays tribute to Madeleine as the original Hitchcock blonde, in Secret Agent.

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A Person in the Dark shares memories of one of Madeleine’s biggest fans, a man named John: You Stepped Out of a Dream.

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Wide Screen World looks at Madeleine’s regal and dreamy-eyed performance in The Prisoner of Zenda.

Madeleine Carroll The General Died at Dawn

Speakeasy looks at the “beautiful music” Gary Cooper and Madeleine Carroll could have made together in The General Died at Dawn.

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Caftan Woman joins Madeleine Carroll and Dick Powell in the little-known musical gem On the Avenue.

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Critica Retro provides some fascinating backstory to the John Ford – Madeleine Carroll film, The World Moves On.

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Wolffian Classics Movies Digests praises Madeleine, who was once the highest-paid actress in the world, as The Queen of the British Cinema.

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Bunnybun’s Classic Movie Blog shares memories of a childhood hero, who happens to be My Favorite Blonde.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for the Grand Birthday Finale!

The Madeleine Carroll Birthday Bash!

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“Ronald, quit photobombing my portraits.” Image: allposters.com

Yay! We’re so excited for the two-day Madeleine Carroll Birthday Bash that starts tomorrow. Madeleine is an actress we’ve long admired, and we feel it’s time to honour her life and achievements.

All the details of this blogathon are posted at Tales of the Easily Distracted HERE.

Yours truly will be posting a recap of the day’s posts on the evenings of February 26 & 27. Be sure to check out all the entries – they promise to be FA-BU-LOUS!

If you’d like to join the fun, it’s not too late! Just let us know in the comments below.

The participants:

Blog Movie
Tales of the Easily Distracted My Favorite Blonde (1942)
Silver Screenings The 39 Steps (1935)
Font & Frock Honeymoon in Bali (1939)
Speakeasy The General Died at Dawn (1936)
Movies, Silently The First Born (1928)
Caftan Woman On the Avenue (1937)
Flick Chick A Fan’s Love Letter to Madeleine
Crítica Retrô Crítica Retrô
Wide Screen World The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
Girls Do Film The 39 Steps (1935)
Citizen Screen Secret Agent (1936)
Old Movies Nostalgia Madeleine’s Movie Collaborations
Movie Classics Fascination (1931)
Mildred’s Fatburgers The Fan
Margaret Perry I Was A Spy
wolffianclassicmoviesdigest Favorite Blonde, 39 Steps, Honeymoon Bali
Bunnybun’s Classic Movie Blog MC, as Bunnybun’s Fave Movie Blonde

 

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Directing Giants, and Tragedy, in Boys Town

Mickey Rooney (right) tells Spencer Tracy how Things Are Going To Be Around here. Image: britannica.com

Mickey Rooney (right) tells Spencer Tracy how Things Are Gonna Be Around Here. Image: britannica.com

*Spoiler Alert*

There’s a sneaky trick director Norman Taurog uses in the MGM drama Boys Town (1938).

Two of MGM’s biggest names, Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney, star in this film about a socially conscious priest (Tracy) who creates a refuge for troubled and homeless boys. The film, based on a true story, examines the efforts of one Father Flanagan, founder of the Boys Town community that is still around today.

As Boys Town grows in size and reputation, a convicted criminal asks that his delinquent kid brother (Rooney) be taken to Boys Town in the hopes of reforming him. Tracy hunts the kid down and finds him in the middle of a poker game. The players stand when Tracy enters the room, and politely address him as “Father”. Rooney, on the other hand, puts his feet on the table and blows cigarette smoke at the priest.

Here is the start of an on-screen power struggle between these two MGM giants, and we can hardly wait for the big showdown: The calm, determined Tracy vs. the feisty, determined Rooney.

But director Taurog, the sneak, has other plans.

In the middle of all this, we are introduced to an adorable little boy named Pee Wee (Bobs Watson), a short, roundish kid with an infectious smile. He is one of the few children at Boys Town who actually like Rooney; for some reason, he sees something noble in him. That’s the kind of kid Pee Wee is.

So. While we’re distracted by the Tracy-Rooney rumble, the cutest kid in the film gets hit by a car.

It happens after Rooney’s character decides to run away from Boys Town. Pee Wee sees Rooney, suitcase in hand, and chases after him. The child catches up with him and pulls on his sleeve, pleading, “We’re going to be pals, ain’t we?” Rooney, nearly in tears, pushes the child to the ground and tells him to go back. He then storms across the highway, and Pee Wee, caught in the tail wind, is too upset about his hero to think about oncoming traffic.

In an instant, two of MGM’s über celebrities are virtually reduced to supporting players in one of the most shocking scenes in the film.

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Norman Taurog (right) on the set with Rooney. Image: A Certain Cinema

The accident scene is, frankly, a sucker punch, but it doesn’t feel contrived because Taurog lets the story of Boys Town unfold organically. He doesn’t tell us what the characters are like, he shows us what the characters are like. In doing so, he quietly pulls us into their world.

He’s sly when pricking our conscience about street kids. For example, in the opening scene, a prisoner on death row delivers a lengthy but riveting monologue about his desperate childhood. In another scene, a distraught child accuses Tracy, “I thought you said if we were good, everyone would want to help us.”

Whoa. This stuff ain’t sugar coated.

The director also plays with the different personalities in Boys Town, and we start to feel like we personally know these kids. Taurog isn’t turning the movie into a vehicle for Tracy or Rooney. He’s presenting a community, much like Boys Town itself.

Taurog, nominated for best director, did not win the Academy Award that year; he lost to Frank Capra for You Can’t Take it With You. However, Boys Town did win two Oscars (Best Actor and Best Original Story). It’s a movie we hope you’ll add to your Must-Watch List.

Boys Town: starring Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Henry Hull. Directed by Norman Taurog. Written by John Meehan and Dore Schary. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp., 1938, B&W, 93 mins.

This post is part of the 31 DAYS OF OSCAR Blogathon: Pictures & Directors, hosted by Paula’s Cinema Club, Outspoken & Freckled and Once Upon a Screen. Click HERE for a list of all participants.

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Announcing the Great Villain Blogathon 2015!

Silver Screenings:

They’re ba-a-ack!

Originally posted on Speakeasy:

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The first Great Villain Blogathon in 2014 was such a fun and huge event that, in the tradition of the greatest movie villains, we threatened promised to return and wreak havoc again with another event celebrating cinema’s biggest cretins.

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We cordially invite you to participate in the Great Villain Blogathon 2015. Pick a movie villain to write about and join us in this dissection of the dastardly and depraved, this survey of the stinking and spiteful, this audit of hateful and heinous characters.

Your hosts are Ruth of Silver Screenings, Karen of Shadows & Satin and Kristina of Speakeasy, and The Great Villain Blogathon happens APRIL 13 – 17, 2015.

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You may write on any Big Bad from any era, country and genre, whether they were dictators, outlaws, criminals, politicians, mistresses, monsters, slashers, gangsters, mama’s boys, hammy and backstabbing actresses, artificial intelligence, aliens, wicked stepmothers, or any…

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‘Godfrey’ Screenplay Skewers the One Percent

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Poor Gail Patrick (left) thinks she can outwit William Powell (right). Image: Cineplex

Sometimes Hollywood is a bit much, really.

Filmmakers know that we, the masses, enjoy send-ups of rich people. We love it when we can feel intellectually superior to the dim-witted characters on the screen.

The joke is on us, of course. Many of these Hollywood films are made by rich people skewering their own kind, so we can buy tickets to laugh at them – thereby making them even richer.

But once in a while there is a script that makes us forget all of that by offering a deeper message. One such film, for us, is the 1936 screwball comedy, My Man Godfrey.

Godfrey (William Powell) is a “Forgotten” (read: homeless) man who lives with other Forgotten Men in a New York City landfill. One night, limousines arrive and lavishly-dressed rich people, involved in a scavenger hunt, invade the landfill to collect some of these Forgotten Men.

The movie’s not even five minutes old and already the script has smacked us upside the head. It’s significant that homeless people are living in the landfill. (In the landfill. In a first world country!) Even the 1930s term Forgotten Man is cosmetic, intended to mask a societal problem. The phrase is almost quaint and faintly amusing – as though one had left a pair of gloves at the polo club.

One of the rich people (Carole Lombard) quickly realizes the callousness of her mission and apologizes to Powell. He insists he be the Forgotten Man on her Scavenger Hunt List and so, with gratitude, she offers him a job as her family’s butler.

It’s here we get to see a wacky rich family who are alarmingly out of touch with society (i.e. the Depression) and the suffering of others. But they are not without their charm. For example, the father (Eugene Pallette), in summarizing the family’s finances, declares, “[Y]ou people have confused me with the Treasury Department.”

Witty lines, interesting characters, a social message. This is a script that could be nominated for an Oscar.

Which it was.

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The morals of the idle rich. Image: tumblr

The script has assigned Powell’s character the voice of reason, the one who tries to keep everyone grounded. We learn this early in the film, when Powell, rumpled and unshaven from landfill living, accepts the job offer from Lombard, all sleek in her Travis Banton gown.

Powell: “Just one question.”

Lombard: “What.”

Powell: “Where do you live?”

Lombard: “1011 Fifth. It’s funny – I never thought of that.”

Powell: [with a sardonic laugh] “No, you didn’t.”

Throughout the film, Powell tries to reconcile his new life as a butler with his former life as a Forgotten Man. Lombard’s older sister (Gail Patrick) discovers Powell has a secret past which she’s determined to uncover. In the meantime, she never lets Powell forget she’s a Superior Being because she has access to more money.

Powell’s character isn’t bedazzled by riches, and he scorns people who are. “I wanted to see how a bunch of empty-headed nitwits conducted themselves,” he says. “My curiosity is satisfied.”

My Man Godfrey was nominated for six Academy Awards, but went home empty-handed. It was beaten by The Story of Louis Pasteur in the categories of Best Picture and Best Screenplay. However, a person can’t blame the Academy; it would be difficult for any film to run against the guy who developed pasteurization.

Yet, we like to think the still-relevant My Man Godfrey was a close second.

My Man Godfrey: starring William Powell, Carole Lombard, Alice Brady. Directed by Gregory La Cava. Written by Morrie Ryskind, Eric Hatch, Robert Presnell, Zoë Akins. Universal Productions Inc., 1936, B&W, 95 mins.

This post is part of the 31 DAYS OF OSCAR Blogathon: The Crafts, hosted by Paula’s Cinema Club, Outspoken & Freckled and Once Upon a Screen. Click HERE for a list of all participants.

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Buster Keaton: Animal Rights Activist

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Buster Keaton with his best friend. Image: Britannica.com

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a herd of cattle were suddenly turned loose in a major city?

Really? You’ve never wondered about that?

Well, if you have pondered this, then you must see the 1925 Buster Keaton comedy-western, Go West. You’ll be delighted with a glorious scene where Keaton frees 1,000 head of cattle from a train in downtown Los Angeles.

It’s funny to see the newly-freed cows and bulls milling about; they visit a china shop (ha ha – get it?), a dress shop and a Turkish bath. They also wander into a barber shop, where a stray cow licks the shaving cream from a terrified customer’s face.

Even if you don’t care for the ol’ bovine-in-the-big-city schtick, you’ll still enjoy this film about a young man (Keaton) who ends up working as a ranch hand in Arizona. The film’s title, Go West, is from the famous quotation, “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country”, commonly attributed to author Horace Greeley c.a. 1850.

Keaton’s character doesn’t have friends (he’s referred to as “Friendless” in the credits), nor does he care. He accepts good luck and bad, equally, with that stoic face.

His fortunes change, however, during a round-up on the ranch, when Keaton removes a stone from a cow’s hoof. Here he gains his first real friend – a cow named Brown Eyes. This grateful cow develops a little “crush” on Keaton, and refuses to leave his side. Keaton repays this loyalty by saving her from the branding iron, and by chasing coyotes away from the barn at night.

But when the owner of the ranch (Howard Truesdale) decides it’s time to ship his 1,000 head of cattle – including Brown Eyes – to the stockyards, Keaton’s equanimity vanishes. When his best efforts to shelter her prove futile, he decides to stow away on the cattle train to protect his best friend.

Keaton is told to smile when he calls someone a cheat. Image: lsdkjf jdks

Keaton is told to smile when he calls someone a cheat. Image: blu-ray.com

Go West is a delightful film, written and directed by the rubber-limbed Keaton. His character’s circumstances are rather dismal, but Keaton never lets us pity him. This determined young man is so oddly charming, it’s hard to believe he isn’t the most popular person in town.

As director, Keaton is superb. He sets up his shots for maximum comic effect, and threads running sight gags throughout the film. He also includes innovative camera angles, such as the view from atop a charging bull.

He’s also famously unafraid to place himself in harm’s way. In one scene, he realizes the cattle train is out of control, so he runs along the top of the train and leaps into the engine room. (It’s reminiscent of his masterpiece, The General, released the following year.)

Keaton isn’t a large-scale animal rights activist in this film; he’s intent on saving one animal, not the entire herd. But there is that glorious scene of freeing those poor bovines: When the train arrives in L.A., Keaton methodically slides open the bars on each cattle car and the animals, sensing their Big Chance, spring loose. Director Keaton captures the escape in such a way that we know how these cattle feel: free at last!

Go West isn’t one of Keaton’s most famous movies, but it ought to be. It’s a must-see film that shows us why Keaton became a legend in the first place.

Go West: starring Buster Keaton, Howard Truesdale, Kathleen Myers. Directed by Buster Keaton. Written by Buster Keaton (& Lex Neal). A Metro-Goldwyn Production, 1925, B&W, 54 mins.

This post is part of the BUSTER KEATON BLOGATHON, hosted by Silent-ology. Click HERE for a list of all participants.

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Gregory Peck vs. David Niven & The German Army

This post is part of the Dueling Divas Blogathon. *SPOILER ALERT*

David Niven, centre, starts in on Gregory Peck. Image: britannica.com

David Niven (centre) constantly needles Gregory Peck (left). Image: britannica.com

We never tire of the WWII adventure The Guns of Navarone (1961), a grand spectacle of a film based on the Alistair MacLean novel that was gleaned from actual events in the Aegean Sea in 1943.

The film is about a British-led team sent to the (fictional) island of Navarone to blow up powerful ship-sinking guns the Germans have installed high in a rocky seaside cliff.

Here’s what these guns look like:

The guns of Navarone. They are Fierce! Image: GoneMovie.com

The guns of Navarone. Fierce! Image: GoneMovie.com

In our opinion, these guns ain’t nothin’ compared to the growing hostility between the two main characters, Gregory Peck and David Niven.

Early in the film, we (the audience) are told the Navarone mission is believed to be too difficult to succeed. Indeed, the mission proves to be an exercise in frustration, especially for Peck, an even-tempered fellow who tries to accept his circumstances with wry humour.

However, Peck’s nemesis, Niven, is the team’s explosives expert – in more ways than one. He’s a sarcastic, smug fellow who’s never short of complaints. It’s clear he has no respect for Peck, and often addresses him as “Captain Mallory”.

However, as the film progresses, and tensions tighten, Peck becomes increasingly irritable. Still, he’s able to keep most of his emotions crammed in, even when the accusatory Niven sneers: “You’re rather a ruthless character, Captain Mallory.”

Gregory Peck is in the mood to use this thing. Image: IMDB

Peck is in the mood to use this thing. Image: IMFDB

The situation ignites when an angry Niven discovers the team has been betrayed and, when he correctly guesses who the offender is, he demands an execution. But Niven isn’t going to do the killing. Oh no – he’s too delicate for that. He flippantly suggests Peck do it, then reminds Peck that the betrayer must be killed if they are to destroy the German guns.

The betrayer is shot, leaving a seething Peck with a slightly-shaken Niven.

Here’s the scene – the spike – we amateur seismologists have been watching for; the smackdown that’s been rumbling beneath these two since the mission began. When it erupts, it is terrific. Peck spews a most un-Gregory-Peck-like speech: a bitter, menacing tirade that floods the scene with red-hot frustration.

“Now,” Peck says to Niven, “you know that when you put on a uniform and learn how to do it, it’s not hard to kill someone. Sometimes it’s harder not to. You think you’ve been getting away with it all this time, standing by. Well, son, your by-standing days are over. You’re in it now, up to your neck!” [shakes his pistol] “You’ve got me in the mood to use this thing…and if you don’t think of something, I’ll use it on you.”

He’s snarling by the time he’s done, Peck is; we can feel his rage through the screen. We wonder what’s taken him so long.

If you’re a fan of high-adventure WWII films, we urge you to see The Guns of Navarone. It’s a powder keg of a story with a tremendous cast led by two professionals whose on-screen rivalry is one of the best on film.

The Guns of Navarone: starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn. Directed by J. Lee Thompson. Written by Alistair MacLean and Carl Foreman. Columbia Pictures, 1961, Colour, 157 mins.

This post is part of the DUELING DIVAS Blogathon, hosted by the lovely and talented Backlots. Click HERE to read more about Divas and their Duels.

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