Ingrid Bergman: Questioning Your Way to Better Mental Health

Ingrid Bergman discovers Gregory Peck (asleep) is not who he claims to be. Image: AllPosters

Ingrid Bergman discovers Gregory Peck is not who he says he is. Image: AllPosters

In the 1945 thriller Spellbound, Ingrid Bergman asks a lot of questions.

She asks so many questions, in fact, we’re willing to bet she holds some kind of cinematic record.

Bergman plays a psychoanalyst who helps amnesia victim Gregory Peck uncover details of a murder he may or may not have committed. She is convinced Peck has knowledge of an event so horrible he’s buried it in his subconscious. This is coupled with a Guilt Complex that is clouding his mind.

We (as in, yours truly) are not trained in psychiatry, so here’s the simple Wikipedia definition of a Guilt Complex:

Guilt Com·plex (noun) : an obsession with the idea of having done wrong

You need to keep this definition handy because the term “Guilt Complex” really gets around in this film. Between Guilt Complex discussions and Bergman’s questions, it’s a wonder anything gets done.

But in spite of all of this heavy-handed psychiatry, Spellbound zips along. When Peck is discovered to be impersonating a man who has disappeared – and later found dead – Bergman takes it upon herself to Sort Things Out.

Of course, she and Peck and fallen in love, and she’s convinced of his innocence. It’s hard to know what this conviction is based on, because here’s what keeps happening:

  1. Peck sees a pattern of straight lines and goes into kind of a trance.
  2. Bergman starts grilling him with questions. What does he see? What is he thinking? What does he remember?
  3. Peck snaps at Bergman and tells her to stop.
  4. Bergman asks even more questions.
  5. Peck blacks out.

Bergman is certain this means progress – and she may be right, because each time Peck is able to shake a few more memories out of the box.

So you can see why Bergman asks so many questions. It appears you have to, if you’re going to reboot someone’s memory.

Now, all of this questioning takes place in between dodging the police and mental health authorities, and hoping Peck doesn’t get any funny ideas when he sees a pattern of lines while he’s holding a straight-edge razor.

Silly Ingrid trusts Peck enough to go skiing with him near perilous cliffs. Image: lsdkjf

Silly Ingrid goes skiing with Peck near perilous cliffs. Image: Adam Mohrbacher

Spellbound is not one of our favourite Hitchcock films; however, Hitch is such a clever director and the cast is so good, it ends up a much better film than it looks on paper.

Bergman’s performance is crucial – it’s up to her to carry the film. She convinces us the answers to the mystery are so close, we can almost reach out and touch them.

Her character is unafraid to collide head on with what comes next, even if it means Peck might kill her. (Well, if she insists on asking all those blasted questions…) However, her desire to cure him is far greater than her fear of him.

Bergman also has a way of slipping into Kind Doctor Mode, the way some doctors do when they’re delivering bad news in an upbeat way. When she questions Peck, she speaks in a soft, cheerful voice and assures Peck they’ll Get To The Bottom Of This.

How can you not salute a woman like that?

Spellbound has its flaws, in our opinion, but it is a must-see for Ingrid Bergman fans – or for those who like a big helping of psychoanalysis with their thrillers.

Spellbound: starring Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Checkov. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Ben Hecht and Angus MacPhail (adaptation). United Artists Corp., 1945, B&W, 115 mins.

This post is part of The Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema. Click HERE to see the schedule.

Ingrid Bergman Blog

And the Award Goes To…

Dear Reader, over the past few months we have been nominated for a few blogging awards, each of which has been heartily celebrated with cake.

We have been saving up these awards so we could present them all in one post. BUT! We are accepting these honours with a bit of a twist.

Normally, with awards, you answer questions and then nominate other bloggers for the award.

Well, today we are re-gifting these awards to the bloggers who nominated us by telling you why we admire their blogs.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 1.10.48 PM

Fifty Shades of Reality is unafraid to dive into controversial topics and examine them thoughtfully. One example is this post on Human Trafficking.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 1.16.00 PM

No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen always hosts interesting discussions on art, films and life. One of our recent faves is this post describing things to love about France.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 1.26.19 PM

Wonderful World of Cinema has infectious enthusiasm for classic film – which is A-OK by us! For example, check out this wonderful birthday tribute to actress Olivia de Havilland.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 1.33.57 PM

That Other Critic never fails to make us laugh – and think, which is an excellent combination. One of our fave posts is this analysis of Adam West as the Perfect Batman.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 1.37.51 PM

Serendipitous Anachronisms is an amusing and clever blog that makes you want to see featured movies RIGHT NOW! One movie you’ll want to rush out and see is The Bat.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 1.42.35 PM

Girls Do Film is a smart, take-no-intellectual-prisoners kind of movie blog that makes you see movies a little differently. One example is this analysis of All About Eve.

But wait! There’s more!

We’ve also been asked to participate in a Three Quotes in Three Days Challenge by No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen and the fab Sarah at First Night Design.

We’re rewriting the rules on this one. Here are the three movie quotes that we use all the time in real life:

ClMhstp

LaJ9Kmo

tots

 

Announcing the Criterion Blogathon

Silver Screenings:

UPDATE: Click HERE for a list of topics that have been “taken”.

SO excited to be co-hosting this with Criterion Blues and Speakeasy. Hope you’ll join us!

Originally posted on Criterion Blues .....:

Criterion Collection animated gif

We are pleased to announce the first annual Criterion Blogathon!

The blogathon will take place November November 16th to 21st, and I have the pleasure of co-hosting with two of my favorite bloggers and favorite people: Kristina from Speakeasy and Ruth from Silver Screenings. This is not their first rodeo, as they’ve hosted numerous fantastic Blogathons. Earlier this year they hosted the Great Villain Blogathon and the Beach Party Bash Blogathon. What’s great about these two is that they turn these Blogathons into events, which is what we are planning for November.

Just last year, The Criterion Collection celebrated their 30th anniversary. That’s an amazing accomplishment for a physical media label. They began with laserdiscs, transitioned to DVDs, and now are the top boutique label for Blu-Ray/DVD. They have established credibility with their film choices, ranging from mainstream classics to some of the best art films the world…

View original 504 more words

Alice Guy: Entertaining Since 1896

Alice Guy-Blaché lksdjf ksdjf Image: Open Culture

Alice Guy: Writer, Director, Film Pioneer. Image: Open Culture

They say Alice Guy (Alice Guy-Blaché) made over 600 movies between 1896-1920.

Sure, a lot of these films were under 15 minutes, and she did have her own studio.

Even so. Over six hundred movies.

Although Guy’s work is slowly gaining more recognition through recent publications and a biopic Kickstarter campaign, she remains largely unknown.

Now, we’re not saying Guy should be popular just because she first became a director at the age of 23, or that she was head of production at France’s Gaumont Company for 11 years, or that she emigrated to America with her husband to establish their own studio (The Solax Company) in 1910 at Fort Lee, New Jersey’s fledgling film colony.

We’re also not saying she should be popular because she’s regarded as the first female director, or made movies where women had as much screen time as (if not more than) men, or that she was a filmmaking pioneer who explored the use of colour, special effects and sound.

We think she should be popular because her movies are wonderful.

Happily, Flicker Alley thinks so, too, because they’ve introduced Alice Guy: A Female Pioneer. This newly-mastered collection, streaming on Vimeo, beautifully showcases Guy’s techniques with three touching and amusing films.

Falling Leaves (1912)

lksj flkasjf klsdfj k Image: YouTube

The scientific way to prevent winter. Image: YouTube

We’ve reviewed Falling Leaves before, but we want to discuss it again because the newly-mastered version, in our opinion, makes the film fresher. This charming film is about a girl who discovers her older sister is not expected to live through autumn (“When the last leaf falls…”). The girl reasons she can prolong her sister’s life by re-attaching fallen leaves onto trees.

First of all, the mastering on this film is lovely. We can more clearly see the detailed sets, including a window that reveals rapidly falling leaves as the family receives the bad news about their eldest daughter.

This new version also emphasizes the complexity of Guy’s scenes: Characters in the background are frequently involved in a different activity than those in the foreground. This was a pioneering technique for the period, one that is common in Guy’s films.

Canned Harmony (1911)

ksdfj aslkdfj Image: laksjd f

Who, me? I’m not doing anything. Image: Harpodeon

Canned Harmony is an unrestrained comedy about a young couple who want to get married – BUT! – the girl’s father opposes the engagement. Not only does the musical father disapprove of the boyfriend’s musical ineptness, he deplores the young man’s lack of facial hair and curly locks. (Trademarks of a “real” musician, we assume.)

However, the boyfriend is resourceful. He dons a wig and sticky facial hair, and triumphantly returns to his girlfriend’s house posing as “Signor Tremelo, the great violinist”. He then gives a faux performance on a violin while his girlfriend plays a phonograph hidden under the table.

Tellingly, the disguise changes the young man’s demeanour; he is more flamboyant and confident in the presence of the girl’s beaming father.

Guy proves she’s every bit a comedic master, not unlike a Buster Keaton. She was merrily unafraid to construct an outrageous scenario, then run amok with it.

A House Divided (1913)

kasdfn jasdhf Image: alkdsj f

Drawing the battle lines. Image: Women Film Pioneers Project

Misunderstandings nearly lead to divorce in the comedy A House Divided. When a husband and wife each suspects the other of having an affair, they hire a lawyer and sign an agreement whereby they “live separately together”. This means they must not communicate with each other, except through notes and letters.

As these notes increase in frequency, they become more ridiculous. For example, the distraught wife, in outlining her unhappy marital state to her mother, pulls out all the notes the pair have written to each other. One of them says, “Please pass the butter.”

During a dinner party, the wife hears someone breaking into the basement. She calmly hands a note to her husband: “There is a burglar in the cellar. You must catch him without disturbing the company.”

A House Divided proves Guy to be a clever and empathetic filmmaker. She doesn’t take sides with these characters; she leaves them to be who they are.

Sadly, Alice Guy’s filmmaking career was short-lived. By the early 1920s, many film studios had moved from New Jersey to California, and Guy returned to France. In 1953, she was awarded the Legion of Honor.

If you would like to see more of Alice Guy’s work in a newly-mastered format, you must see Alice Guy: A Female Pioneer.

Alice-Guy

Alice Guy: Female Pioneer Presented by Flicker Alley and the Blackhawk Films® Collection (and Ms. Guy herself)B&W, 46 mins.

This post is part of The Anti-Damsel Blogathon co-hosted by The Last Drive-In (Saturday) and Movies, Silently (Sunday).

anti-damsel-stanwyck 

John Barrymore: How to Suffer Nobly for Art

John Barrymore suffers for his Art. Image: YouTube

See how John Barrymore labours for The Theatre. Image: YouTube

We (as in, yours truly) have an affinity for outlandish characters – whether in real life on on the screen. One of favourite oversized movie characters is the fictional Broadway producer Oscar Jaffe, as played by the legendary actor John Barrymore.

You’ll find Jaffe in the comedy Twentieth Century (1934), a film adaptation of the play by the same name that was reworked from the unproduced Napoleon of Broadway, a play based on a certain Broadway producer.

Twentieth Century is about a successful, egocentric impresario who discovers a lingerie model (Carole Lombard), and casts her as the lead in his new play. However, after a profitable but tumultuous three-year business/romantic relationship, Lombard suddenly flees to Hollywood to become a movie star.

Without his talented and lucrative leading lady, Barrymore’s productions start to deteriorate, and he realizes he must woo Lombard back to New York if he’s going to become commercially profitable again.

Much of the movie takes place on board the spiffy Twentieth Century, the glam New York-Chicago train service that operated for 65 years, starting in 1902. (Get this: passengers actually walked on freshly-laid red carpet when boarding the train.)

As amusing as the train scenes are, our favourite parts of the movie take place in Barrymore’s theatre, as he prepares his actors for his newest production.

Our introduction to Barrymore’s character is a display board outside the theatre:

Mr. Oscar Jaffe announces a new play
Personally Supervised by Mr. Jaffe
with a typical Jaffe Cast
to be presented at the Jaffe Theatre
The Play: “The Heart of Kentucky”
An Oscar Jaffe Production is a guarantee of wit and genius in the theatre.

With such a build-up, we can’t wait to meet this guy. And when we do, we’re not disappointed.

Barrymore’s Jaffe has affected mannerisms, such as his use of a quill pen and placing a plaid scarf around his neck just so. He walks with a cane even though he doesn’t limp.

It’s worth noting that Barrymore’s hair is almost never under control in this film, which may be symbolic of his unruly nature. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Barrymore is not impressed with Lombard's new boyfriend. Image:alkdj f

Barrymore (right) is unimpressed with Carole Lombard’s new boyfriend. Image: Acidemic

When Barrymore arrives at the stage where his actors are assembled, he delivers a Motivational Speech. In this speech, he tells us everything we need to know about his character.

“Before we begin,” he says solemnly, “I want you all to remember one thing. No matter what I may say, no matter what I may do on this stage, during our work, I love you all. And the people who have been through my battles with me will bear me out in testifying that above everything in the world, I love the theatre and the charming people in it.”

Oh boy. You know you’re dealing with a real piece of work with a speech like that.

His magnanimous stance is short-lived, however. When someone disagrees with him, he pronounces Judgment: “From now on, I close the iron door on you.”

Barrymore plays Jaffe with a straight face, but there’s something about his performance that almost winks at us. You think I’m kidding about this character? he seems to say. I’ve known dozens like him.

Barrymore’s Jaffe is smart and quotable, and makes a monumental display of his Suffering. For instance, when he’s told blackboard chalk is impossible to buy at midnight (!), he grimly closes his eyes as if summoning Inner Strength. “No cooperation from anyone,” he sighs miserably. “Never mind. I’ll carry through alone.”

There is much to admire about Twentieth Century – script, casting, sets – but we guarantee you’ll adore Barrymore’s performance as a self-absorbed egotist. If you’ve never seen a John Barrymore film, you must make time for this one.

Twentieth Century: starring John Barrymore, Carole Lombard, Walter Connolly. Directed by Howard Hawks. Written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Columbia Pictures Corp., 1934, B&W, 91 mins.

This post is part of The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Hollywood. Click HERE to see the schedule.

blogath

Teresa Wright: Film Noir Superhero

Teresa Wright ... Image: alksdjf

Poor Joseph Cotten has no idea with whom he’s dealing. Image: DVD Klassik

Spoiler Alert!

In Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, Teresa Wright does something no law enforcement agency is able to do.

She handily dispenses with a dangerous villain and makes The World A Safer Place. (Get this: She does so while wearing classic leather pumps and tailored outfits.)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) is Hitchcock’s attempt to scare the pants off cozy, middle-class America – if such a thing existed during WWII. The film is about a psychopath (Joseph Cotten) who hides from federal agents by staying at his sister’s home in a small California town. The family is enamoured with Cotten because he brings them expensive presents and always finds flattering things to say.

Wright plays Cotten’s niece, a smart young women with an affinity for her uncle. They both have the name “Charlie”, along with a peculiar bond that is best left unanalyzed. Additionally, Wright is convinced she has a telepathic ability to communicate with her uncle.

Unhappily for Cotten, this nearly proves to be true.

When he first arrives at the family’s home, Cotten’s odd behaviour stirs Wright’s curiosity, but she pushes these feelings aside lest they taint her admiration. However, when a handsome law enforcement agent (Macdonald Carey) tells her Cotten is a murder suspect, she starts researching her mysterious uncle. She’s determined to prove the agent wrong, but evidence to the contrary soon becomes overwhelming.

Shadow of a Doubt has a top-notch cast, including Patricia Collinge, Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn. Joseph Cotten gives one of his best performances as the evil Uncle Charlie, complete with chilling stares and menace-laced taunts.

Some say this is Cotten’s film, but we disagree. We feel this film rests squarely on Wright and her transformation from adoring niece to fed-up adversary.

Teresa Wright lkjdf ksdj Image: laksdjf ksdjf

Teresa Wright: Superhero in Vera West couture. Image: This Distracted Globe

Wright has an extremely expressive face; it’s almost as though we can read every thought that enters – and leaves – her mind. This is crucial when a character like hers undergoes such a fundamental shift in worldview.

Not only that, Wright holds her own against Cotten, the acting veteran. He’s charismatic and compelling, but she doesn’t shrink in his presence. Even after he’s cajoled and insulted and threatened her, and she’s collapsed in tears, she remains a stubborn, defiant presence on screen.

A good example of this is when Cotten learns he’s no longer considered a murder suspect. Look at his smugness now! He has the condescending confidence of a man who can’t lose. Even though the law enforcement agents have left town – and left Wright to fear for her life – she still accuses Cotten with every withering glance. In these scenes, Cotten does most of the talking, as if to conquer her accusatory silence.

Finally she snaps and puts a stop to his endless crowing: “Go away, or I’ll kill you myself.”

That’s exactly what happens, in the end, although the film portrays this incident as an accident.

Is it?

If you haven’t seen Shadow of a Doubt, you’re in for a real treat. All the performances are riveting, but none more so than Teresa Wright’s.

Shadow of a Doubt: starring Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, MacDonald Carey. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, Alma Reville. Universal Pictures Company, Inc., 1943, B&W, 108 mins.

This post is part of the Summer Under the Stars Blogathon co-hosted by Journeys in Classic Film. Click HERE to see the schedule.

Teresa Wright TCM

Sounder: The Anti-Blaxploitation Film

ajdsf alksf  Image: lakdsjf

Paul Winfield (left) doles out fatherly advice. Image: oscarmovs.com

“Son, don’t get used to this place.”

This advice is from a sharecropping father to his eldest son in 1930s Louisiana – and if you guessed these people are black and poor, you guessed right.

The father’s statement has dual meaning: Don’t settle for being a sharecropper, and don’t settle for being a poor black man in Louisiana.

The line is from the 1972 drama, Sounder, a thoughtful and moving film about family, poverty, and being black. Especially about being black.

A little background: In the 1970s, a new sub-genre of film emerged, called Blaxploitation. These were films intended for urban African-American audiences, but were often criticized for perpetuating stereotypes. (You can find a list of blaxploitation films here.)

While Sounder is a movie about being black, it is not an edgy look at life on the mean streets of a large city. In fact, Sounder has often been called an “anti-Blaxploitation” movie due to its focus on a hard-working rural family. It’s based on the lyrical and haunting Newberry Award-winning novel by William H. Armstrong.

Initially, there weren’t high hopes for the film. Variety magazine, at the time, said Sounder would “test whether the black audience will respond to serious films about the black experience rather than the ‘super black’ exploitation features.”

The plot: A poor sharecropper (Paul Winfield) is arrested for stealing meat from a smokehouse. He is quickly arrested and sent to a hard labour camp, leaving his wife (Cicely Tyson) and their three children to plant and harvest the year’s crops.

Sounder is the name of the family’s dog, who is a symbol of the father’s impulsiveness and, by extension, the family’s suffering.

Both Tyson and Winfield were nominated for Oscars, and rightly so. Tyson portrays a strong, determined woman who says more in the tightening of her lips than other actresses say in a page of dialogue. We feel Tyson’s weariness, her fear and her sense of rage. She makes us wonder if, given similar circumstances, we would soldier through half as well.

Winfield is magnetic as a charming man who truly loves his wife and children. He’s quick to laugh but also quick to sink into depression. He’s complex, but never unsympathetic. As he’s arrested for the theft of the meat, his face shows regret, but his body language says, There’s nothing I can do now.

Cicely Tyson dlakfj dkjf d Image: lskdjf klsd

Cicely Tyson keeps her anger in check. Image: mubi.com

It’s easy for us to say Winfield’s character should not have stolen the meat for his family. But the larger context of the film alters our view. While the family lives on lush Louisiana farmland, they’re practically starving. They’re a study of stark poverty in a rich landscape.

And this family toils. It’s rare to see characters in a film who work as hard as these people do. But it’s not enough. No matter how hard they work, they cannot change the fact they are poor and black.

Sounder is not a comfortable film. Although it has artful cinematography and feels authentic to the 1930s, it’s not intended to make us feel better about the family’s fortunes – or anything else.

With this in mind, it’s surprising that the movie was a box office hit. It was the 15th highest-grossing film of 1972.

Aside from the two Oscar nods for acting, Sounder was also nominated for best adapted screenplay and best picture. But filmmakers went home empty-handed because 1972 was also the year of another cinematic exploration of American life: The Godfather.

Sounder is not a light-hearted viewing experience, but it is a worthwhile one. A film about a poor black rural family is not a theme Hollywood visits often, which means Sounder should be on your Must-Watch List.

Sounder: starring Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, Kevin Hooks. Directed by Martin Ritt. Written by Lonne Elder, III. Radnitz/Mattel Productions, 1972, Colour, 105 mins.

A Word About Fräulein Maria

laksdjf sdf Image: kdsfj

The pre-Hollywood Captain von Trapp and Fräulein Maria. Image: br.de

Nine years before Hollywood unleashed the world’s greatest schmaltz-fest known as The Sound of Music, German filmmakers released a biopic of the famous von Trapp family.

Die Trapp-Familie (1956) is a more down-to-earth telling of the Fräulein-Maria-vs.-the-von-Trapps story. It set the basic template for the later Hollywood version, although neither film is an exact re-telling of actual events. (One could argue the German version is a smidge more factual.)

If you’re not familiar with the movie version of this story, it is set in Austria in the mid 1920s. (The Hollywood version takes place on the eve of the Austrian Anschluss in 1938.) A young woman named Maria (Ruth Leuwerik) is a happy, non-conformist novitiate living in a Salzburg convent, when she is suddenly dispatched to work as a governess to seven children. The children have a history of making their governesses quit; they’ve gone through a remarkable 26 governesses in only four years.

Although Fräulein Maria is charming, she is also one hard-boiled egg. Not only does she win the children’s affections, she discovers their widowed father (Hans Holt) has fallen in love with her.

There are several differences between the German and Hollywood films. In Die Trapp-Familie, Maria is already a teacher at the convent, so her new job as governess is a logical choice. She also uses religious language; for example, she often says “God’s greetings” when meeting people.

The German version touches on von Trapp’s loss of wealth during the Depression and the family’s difficulties in emigrating to America, developments left untouched by the Hollywood version.

A notable difference between the two films is the treatment of Nazi occupation. In the German version, filmmakers carefully tiptoe around the subject, which was likely still a raw topic with German audiences. Hollywood, on the other hand, torques the Nazi occupation to expertly amp the film’s tension.

Of all the differences between the two films, the most striking is language.

lkaj dsfaks f Image: alskdjf

Maria and the children wow ’em in concert. Image: YouTube

It’s weird to see this familiar Hollywood story told in German, which is strange in itself because German would have been the family’s mother tongue. By contrast, the Hollywood version uses such over-the-top British enunciation, it has to continually remind you these people are Austrian.

The German film allows us glimpses into the zeitgeist of post-war Germany. In one scene, von Trapp is told by a well-meaning friend, “A little unhappiness in childhood is the best preparation for life.”

The version we watched also had flawless translation that explained the script’s cultural references that may not be familiar to English audiences. For example, early in the film Maria asks her class for examples of words starting with the letter “D”. Some of the children give words that the translation politely describes as “expression[s] of anger”, which not entirely appreciated by the religious Maria.

We were so impressed by this translation, and the care that went into it, we asked our friends at Smartling (developers of translation software) about the business of cinematic translation. Their own blog explains the challenges of translating for the cinema, including using minimal text and ensuring no more than two lines appear at the bottom of the screen at any given time.

We feel Die Trapp-Familie is an excellent example of translation that pulls the viewer into the film, even if it does sidestep some difficult history. (Incidentally, this film was so successful, a sequel was made two years later: Die Trapp Familie in Amerika.)

If you are interested in the von Trapp story but want a more authentic-feeling film, then you’ll enjoy Die Trapp-Familie.

Die Trapp-Familie: starring Ruth LeuwerikHans HoltMaria Holst. Directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner. Written by George Hurdalek and Herbert Reinecker. Divina-Film, 1956, Colour, 106 mins.

The Man-Crazy Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple falls for Cary Grant – and who can blame her? Image: laskdjf askjdf d

Shirley Temple falls for Cary Grant – and who can blame her? Image: Miss Shirley Temple

In 1947, Shirley Temple was 18 going on 19 and struggling with a difficult marriage.

Her career was faltering, too. She was no longer the winsome child star who had charmed millions of moviegoers during the bleakest years of the Depression. She was now one of many talented young actresses in Hollywood.

But Temple wasn’t a seasoned pro for nothing, and if you watch films from the last years of her movie career, you can’t detect the off-screen pressures she must have faced. She was a hard worker, starring in three (three!) films released in 1947: Honeymoon, That Hagen Girl and, one of our personal favourites, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer

Now, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer is one of those films that suggests you leave your critical thinking skills at home. However, it does deliver hearty laughs in return.

The film stars Cary Grant as an affable painter of contemporary American life. He is one of those fellows who’s always in trouble, usually with women. However, his real headaches begin when he gives a lecture at the high school Temple attends, and discovers Temple has developed a sudden, fierce crush on him.

After the rousing lecture, Temple rushes to meet Grant in the school hallway, and introduces herself as a representative of the school newspaper. She fawns over Grant and gushes over the Suffering Of The Artistic Soul. While the uncomfortable Grant tries to make a polite getaway, Temple immediately starts grilling him on his love life. This makes Grant wonder what kind of newspaper the school actually publishes:

Temple: “Oh, all the students read it.”
Grant: “I’ll bet they do!”

Grant is Not Interested in Temple for many reasons, including her age. Yet, their scenes sparkle with on-screen chemistry, the way scenes do between two professional actors.

Myrna Loy also stars as Temple’s accomplished older sister, a judge who is well aware of Grant’s reputation. She considers the remote possibility of Temple dating him as odious: “I’d just as soon my sister were going out with an actor.

Although the cast includes the ultra-fab Rudy Vallee and Ray Collins, it’s Temple’s charismatic performance that elevates the film and, ironically, makes Grant and Loy even more culturally significant.

sdfj skdfj  Image: Doctor Macro

Myrna Loy (left) is not amused by Grant’s protestations. Image: Dr. Macro

The term bobby-soxer was popular during the 1940s and 1950s. Bobby socks (short socks that reach just above the ankle) became fashionable during WWII and, after the war, were often worn with saddle shoes. This style was especially popular with teenage girls and young women.

More importantly, the bobby-soxer crowd made big stars out of singers like Frank Sinatra and actors like Van Johnson. Just like today’s teenage girl demographic, these young women could elevate a performer’s status to über-stardom.

By portraying a bobby-soxer, Temple was endorsing the longevity of Grant and Loy. It’s telling that Loy is not cast as Temple’s mother, but her older sister, and Temple’s crush on the 40-something Grant only enhanced his status as a romantic leading man.

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer was a profitable film for RKO; it tied with The Egg and I as the second-highest grossing film of 1947. It also won a screenwriting Oscar.

Grant and Loy may have gained street cred with the younger set in this charming film, but it did not save Temple’s film career. By 1950, she was out of the movies and her troubled marriage – but had embarked on other challenges in her remarkable life.

The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer: starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple. Directed by Irving Reis. Written by Sidney Sheldon. RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., 1947, B&W, 95 mins.

This post is part of The 1947 Blogathon co-hosted by Shadows & Satin and Speakeasy. Click HERE to see today’s fab entries.

1947d

The Algonquin Table of the Old West

Gordon MacRae's pimped-out surrey, with a fringe on top. Image: lsdkjf askdjf

Gordon MacRae’s fully-loaded surrey, with a fringe on top. Image: Los Angeles Times

You would have a skewed view of life if you only watched musicals.

For example, look at the recently-restored Rodgers and Hammerstein western-comedy musical, Oklahoma! (1955). This film is about a group of farmers and ranchers in turn-of-the-20th-century Oklahoma, who hold a box lunch social to raise money for the schoolhouse roof.

This film makes it look like these farmers and ranchers have nothing to do but sing and dance and make merriment. In one scene, a train pulls into the station and everyone on the station platform suddenly – and without warning – leaps into a impromptu hoedown.

The rustic Oklahoma in this film looks gla-mor-ous. Men’s tailored shirts are neatly pressed, and women’s Orry-Kelly gowns dresses are made of sumptuous fabrics. Life is so effortless, folks do their chores while wearing crisp, white clothes. There’s not a drop of sweat in sight.

You’ll notice a lot of dancing in this Oklahoma, even interpretive dance where themes of innocence and exploitation are examined.

The villain in this neck of the woods is played by Rod Steiger, a surly and vaguely creepy man who is the only one in the film with grime on his clothes. He lusts after young Shirley Jones (in her film debut) and resents the cowboy Gordon MacRae for wooing her.

You could be forgiven for thinking these are simple, unsophisticated folk. Indeed, the film opens with MacRae (in a glorious CinemaScope tracking shot) riding his horse along a row of corn, underneath a dazzling blue sky. He sings about the beautiful morning and a “bright golden haze on the meadow”.

Basic, wholesome people living a basic, wholesome life? Not so fast, partner.

The marvels of Kansas City. Image: alksdj faksdj f

The marvels – wholesome and unwholesome – of Kansas City. Image: Dusted Off

What really makes this film, besides the wardrobe and the scenery, is the song lyrics. The clever lyrics easily outpace the script in wit and innuendo.

Notably, the songs seesaw between the conflicted feelings of the characters. For example, a man sings about his visit to Kansas City and, alternating between amazement and disapproval, he describes life in the prosperous, fast-growing burg:

Everything’s up to date in Kansas City
They’ve gone about as far as they can go!
They went and built a skyscraper seven stories high
About as high as a building ought to grow.

He then goes on to detail, with a twinkle in his eye, various other sights including a burlesque show.

In another scene, MacRae confronts the surly Steiger with a song that swings between threats and flattery. MacRae suggests no man will be more highly praised at his own funeral than Steiger himself:

He’s looking oh so pretty and so nice
He looks like he’s asleep.
It’s a shame that he won’t keep,
But it’s summer and we’re running out of ice.

That’s a bit twisted, no? MacRae is taking chances, singing this kind of stuff to the temperamental Steiger.

In another scene, Gene Nelson proposes to his girlfriend (Gloria Grahame), although she doesn’t really want to settle down. After the he proposes, Grahame replies:

But if a wife is wise, she’s gotta realize
That men like you are wild and free …
Stay up late and don’t come home till three
And go right off to sleep if you’re sleepy.
There’s no use waiting up for me!

Oklahoma! won Academy Awards for Best Music and Best Sound, and raked in $6.8 million at the box office that year. We think you’ll enjoy this cheeky, light-hearted tribute to the 46th state of the union.

Oklahoma! starring Gordon MacRae, Gloria Grahame, Gene Nelson. Directed by Fred Zinneman. Written by Sonya Levien & William Ludwig. Magna Theatre Corp., 1955, B&W, 145 mins.