Great Villain Blogathon Reminder!

Silver Screenings:

We can hardly contain ourselves!

Originally posted on SPEAKEASY:

Attention bloggers and movie fans: this is your reminder that the revelry in villainy known as the Great Villain Blogathon (links to original announcement) will begin in little more than a week (April 20th through the 26th).

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The Jackie Robinson Story

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Jackie Robinson (centre) meets baseball fans who think only white men should play baseball. Image: ossieandruby.com

There’s something in the way Jackie Robinson holds a baseball bat.

He treats it with nonchalance; it’s almost an accessory to carry while wearing a baseball uniform. But when Robinson stands at home plate, holding this same bat, he slugs the ball with a sharp crack! that happens so quickly you can hardly believe he actually hit the ball.

The Jackie Robinson Story (1950) examines the life and early career of the famed Number 42, the first African-American to play in the major leagues. The story was later retold in the 2013 film 42, starring Chadwick Boseman. While the 1950 film has a more modest budget than the 2013 version, it has one huge advantage: It stars Jackie Robinson as himself.

Now, Robinson is not what you’d call a classically-trained actor, but who cares! We get to see Jackie Robinson play baseball!

The Jackie Robinson Story is like being at a ball game, with all the sounds of a game: the whack of the ball against the bat; the roar of the crowd; the chatter in the dugout. This film was made by folks who love baseball, and they’ve not skimped on footage of Robinson hitting and stealing bases.

But the film isn’t just about the game of baseball. It’s about the concept of baseball – who the game is for and who should be allowed to play.

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Jackie Robinson starts his MLB career in Montreal. Image: The Grio

In 1947, Robinson is signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers to play for their farm team in Montreal. He is the first African-American ball player in the major leagues.

Sports reporters are waiting when Robinson steps out onto the Montreal field for the first time. They ask if he thinks there’s going to be trouble. “The only trouble I’m worried about is a ground ball to my right,” he quips.

The reporters are not asking about ground balls and Robinson knows it. He’s reminding them he has the right to play baseball.

In the scene where Robinson is initially signed by the Dodgers, the owner (Minor Watson) sits at his desk and lights a cigar as he carefully studies Robinson. For a moment, we are uncertain of Watson’s motives: does he sincerely want to hire Robinson, or is he going to humiliate him? But as Watson pointedly stares Robinson, we realize he’s analyzing the athlete, not the colour of his skin.

“We’re tackling something big here, Jackie,” Watson says. “If we fail, no one will try again for 20 years.” He tells Robinson that the going will be rough; fans will throw insults at him, and opposing players will run at him spikes first. Watson a ballplayer is needed who has guts enough not to fight back.

Robinson is that player, and he takes everything on the chin. He’s booed when he steps up to the plate. Fans shout obscenities at him and pitchers aim for his head instead of the strike zone. Yet, Robinson sells tickets. Love him or hate him, everyone wants to see him play.

The Jackie Robinson Story is a movie about breaking the colour barrier and a remarkable pioneer major league player. But it’s also a love letter to a game made better by Robinson.

The Jackie Robinson Story: starring Jackie Robinson, Ruby Dee, Minor Watson. Directed by Alfred E. Green. Written by Lawrence Taylor and Arthur Mann, Samson Raphaelson. Jewel Pictures  Corp., 1950, B&W, 77 mins.

This post is part of the Big League Blogathon hosted by Forgotten Films. Be sure to read all the contributions celebrating the great game of Baseball.

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Judy Garland’s Comedic Gifts

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Judy Garland wears her Sunday Best to impress her new fiancé. Image: denverlibrary.org

Judy Garland made everything look easy.

She could sing and dance and make you believe she flew to an emerald city in a tornado. Combined with her dramatic talents, it’s easy to forget how funny she was.

We marvelled at her comedic gifts when we screened The Harvey Girls (1946), a delightful musical-comedy Western.

Garland plays a young woman travelling from Ohio to the Wild West to marry a man with whom she’s corresponded, but has never met. On the train, she meets a group of spunky-but-respectable gals who are training to be waitresses at a Harvey House restaurant in Arizona. (These railroad-stop restaurants, established in the 1870s, are regarded as the first restaurant chain in the U.S.)

Garland is utterly charming. In an early scene, she sits on the westbound train, glancing enviously at the fried chicken the Harvey girls are eating, while she pokes at a single leftover crust in her lunch basket. Nevertheless, she spreads her napkin with a flourish over her lap and peers into her basket as though she can’t decide which imaginary delicacy to eat first.

When she arrives in town and sees her rough, unglamorous betrothed (Chill Wills), she is horrified. This man is the opposite of his letters, which are romantic and full of curlicues. She realizes she can’t hide forever from her husband-to-be, and she’s too stubborn to get back on the train, so she swallows her alarm and disappointment. But Wills ain’t no dummy; he gracefully asks Garland not to marry him.

Garland promptly joins the Harvey Girls and dons the employee uniform:

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Judy sings and serves steak in the Old West. Image: Sweethearts of the West

However.

The Harvey House is not welcome in town because it represents Manners and Keeping Elbows Off The Table. The saloon across the street, the feather-boa Alhambra, hates the starched-white Harvey House because townsfolk might turn into Respectable People. (You see, the Harvey House is to Civilization what the Alhambra could be to Vegas.)

And yet.

The Alhambra is owned by Ned Trent (John Hodiak), a smirky fellow whose greatest pleasure is sabotaging the Harvey House generally, and Judy Garland in particular.

But.

It was Hodiak who wrote those letters for Wills, the same letters that made Garland fall in love and board a train to the middle of nowhere to marry someone she’d never met.

Oh boy, we’ve gotten off topic. We were talking about Garland’s comedic talents. We’ve only time to describe one more scene, the one where John Hodiak steals all the Harvey House steaks!

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Don’t mess with Judy. Image: YouTube

When Garland discovers the famous Harvey House steaks are missing, she decides to get ‘em back. She snatches two pistols and grimly marches across the street to the Alhambra, guns drawn. She’s All Business, yet she shrieks when she accidentally drops her weapons.

Garland reaches the Alhambra as someone is being forcibly removed. She squats under the saloon-style doors, surveying the territory, pistols cocked in the air à la Yosemite Sam. She finally musters the courage to stand and enter the bar. “Stick ‘em up,” she announces, and is almost knocked flat by bouncers trying to eject another patron. “Come on,” she pleads, “stick ‘em up now.” But everyone is having too much fun to notice.

If you haven’t seen The Harvey Girls, we urge you to do so. It is a wonderful film that showcases the very amusing and charming Judy Garland.

The Harvey Girls: starring Judy Garland, John Hodiak, Chills Wills. Directed by George Sidney. Written by Edmund Beloin, Nathaniel Curtis, Harry Crane, James O’Hanlon, Samson Raphaelson. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp., 1946, Colour, 105 mins.

Leo G. Carroll: Prophet of Doom

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Leo G. Carroll (left) tells James Mason resistance is futile. Image: film-cine.com

Sometimes you discover a minor character who embodies the soul of a movie.

The 1951 WWII bio-pic The Desert Fox has a perfect example of such a character, as portrayed by British actor Leo G. Carroll.

The Desert Fox is the story of famed German General Erwin Rommel, who pummelled Allied forces in North Africa before transferring to Western Europe to prepare against the D-Day invasion. James Mason plays Rommel, a sympathetic man who’s a curious mix of strategic logic and unquestioning devotion.

As the film opens, we see Rommel is at the peak of his military success in North Africa. But his troops lack equipment and fuel because these items are being saved for the higher-priority Russian front. A frustrated Rommel does not blame Hitler for this mismanagement; he is convinced a virtuous Fuhrer is being led astray by imbeciles in Berlin.

Nevertheless, there are those who try to convince Rommel that Hitler is the reason for the problems. For example, Cedric Hardwicke is Karl Strölin, a man who tests Rommel’s views re: the function of a soldier versus the duty of a soldier. There is also Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt (Carroll), the barometric character in this film.

Von Rundstedt is a weary figure who is no longer surprised at incompetence or stupidity. He has no illusions about the outcome of the war or the state of politics in Berlin, to which he slyly alludes with caustic wit. (He refers to Hitler as “the bohemian general”, and warns Rommel that he’ll be under surveillance by “friends of the management”.)

Undoubtedly, von Rundstedt’s most meaningful scene is his last. He and Rommel are in a fortified situation room near the west coast of France. Von Rundstedt is D-O-N-E, meaning he’s done with inept leadership and self-delusion and killing. He tells Rommel that Adolf Hitler does not actually believe there will be a large-scale Allied invasion of continental Europe.

In that moment, the whole of WWII unfurls before us like a banner. Here is the actor Carroll, as von Rundstedt, clad in the costume of a once-great army that shocked the world with dazzling military prowess. But now, in its place, stands an isolated Field Marshal with the pallid demeanour of a prisoner of war.

It’s over for him, and for Germany. There’s no more conquering to be had.

The phone rings; it’s Berlin requesting updates, and they’d better be good. Von Rundstedt gamely tries to persuade his superiors to station more troops near the beaches where he (correctly) assumes the Allies will land. When he is asked for another suggestion, he snaps in frustration and his words are like gunfire: “Make peace, you idiot!”

We dare not believe the consequences of those four sharply-spoken words. Von Rundstedt calmly places the receiver in the cradle, as though he had just spoken to his adjunct about a routine errand. He picks up his hat, drapes his coat over his arm, and tells Rommel that within 24 hours he will be named his successor.

Carroll exits the scene and is gone. But he’s not just gone from the scene, he’s gone from Mason, from the movie, from us. “Come back!” we want to cry, but it’s too late. His character has just told Berlin to surrender. There’s no rebounding from that.

Now the movie feels small and narrow without Carroll; his abrupt disappearance weighs on us and follows us from behind. For the first time, we feel actual despair and a little panicked.

The Desert Fox is an absorbing examination of war and deception, and the collapse of a military empire. Leo G. Carroll, in his brief scenes, underscores this tale brilliantly.

The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel starring James Mason, Cedric Hardwicke, Jessica Tandy. Directed by Henry Hathaway. Screenplay by Nunnally Johnson. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 1951, B&W, 88 mins.

Ginger Rogers, Ace Detective

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 Ginger Rogers can’t believe her luck sometimes. Image: What Ginger Wore

Tell us this is not one of the best opening scenes ever:

It is night on a deserted street in New York. The camera is positioned as though you were leaning out a window of an apartment building, looking down at the sidewalk.

There is a scream and a man’s body falls, from above you, onto the pavement.

This, in our opinion, is the best kind of introduction to a movie. No chit chat, no how-do-you-do nonsense. Let’s just get down to business of murder.

Such is our introduction to A Shriek in the Night (1933), a clunky but charming pre-code murder mystery/comedy. The premise is something that wasn’t new then and is still familiar today: a rich man who may have shady dealings with criminals meets an unexpected end.

Fortunately for the police (and for the deceased), a newspaper reporter (Ginger Rogers) is On The Case. She had been investigating the man’s ties to the underworld but, now that he’s dead, she realizes she’s got a Bigger Story.

Except.

Her ex-boyfriend (Lyle Talbot) works for a rival newspaper. Talbot may not be as smart as Rogers but he has an audacious charm – and scoops her front page story to publish it in his own newspaper!

Despite this treachery (or because of), Rogers is determined to solve the mystery while trying to out-maneuver Talbot. BUT! Sinister forces discover Rogers is snooping around and, naturally, they feel they must dispose of her.

This movie was made in 1933 and, frankly, you can tell. Some of the dialogue is stilted and the scenes aren’t staged as smoothly as we’d like. However, A Shriek in the Night is still a barrel o’ fun. It winks at famous detectives (e.g. Philo Vance) and pays tribute to the popular detective magazines of the day.

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Lilian Harmer loves to read about grisly murders before going to sleep. Image: Old Films in Pictures

A good movie detective, like any detective, needs brains and guts. Rogers has both, and is très amusing in a smart-alec kind of way. In one scene, the lights suddenly go out in the rich man’s apartment. The maid (Lilian Harmer) shrieks.

Harmer: “There’s a man in the apartment!”

Rogers: “He’s a friend of mine. Keep your hands off him.”

There’s also fantastic Gangster Speak in the script. Look at this note sent to one of the characters:

“You don’t know me but I know you – and you and the mob that pinned the rap on Denny Fagan are going to get what he got – the juice.”

(Getting “the juice” means going to the electric chair. Fantastic stuff, no?)

Rogers and her nemesis, Talbot, have great chemistry; an entire movie could be made from their banter alone. One evening, Talbot arrives at the rich man’s apartment with plans to stay the night so he can protect Rogers and Harmer. An amused Rogers asks him not to wake her if he needs saving, then tells him not to drink all the scotch.

However, the movie soon gets tense as Rogers finds herself alone with the murderer – and it’s not anyone we suspected. We, as the audience, are genuinely fearful for Rogers. How will she escape?!

A Shriek in the Night may not be the slickest mystery ever produced, but it’s still a terrific film – and an excellent showcase for both Ginger Rogers’ and Lyle Talbot’s comedic talents.

A Shriek in the Night: starring Ginger Rogers, Lyle Talbot, Harvey Clark. Directed by Albert Ray. Screenplay by Frances Hyland. Allied Pictures Corp., 1933, B&W, 70 mins.

This post is part of the Sleuthathon hosted by Movies, Silently. Be sure to read all the other fabulous contributions in this Celebration of the Big-Screen Detective.

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The Femme Fatale Troubleshooting Guide

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Robert Mitchum believes everything Laraine Day says, the poor slob. Image: ciakhollywood.com

Being a Femme Fatale is easy. Really – all you need are semi-presentable hair and wardrobe, along with an imperial ego.

It’s when things start to slide off the rails that a gal needs a little help. Fortunately, a Femme Fatale troubleshooting guide exists in the 1946 film noir The Locket.

The Locket is the kind of film that doesn’t follow the rules. For example, it embeds flashbacks within flashbacks, and presents so many plot twists that a person ought to wear a seatbelt when viewing it. (At one point, we nearly jumped from our chair and involuntary exclaimed, “GET OUT!”)

The plot, briefly: On the day of his wedding, a wealthy young man is visited by a stranger (Brian Aherne) who claims to be the ex-husband of the bride-to-be (Laraine Day). The stranger relates a troubling story about this woman, one that involves yet another man from her past (Robert Mitchum).

The film revolves around the wholesome-looking Day, who gives an incredible performance as a woman who knows how to play all the angles. This makes her one of the great Femme Fatale figures, because she has Technique. She is able to remove herself from sticky situations by ducking behind innocent bystanders.

Let’s examine Day’s technique. Are your pencils sharpened? Let us begin.

1. Always deflect blame. This is easier if you have a man who can absorb it for you. Remember, nothing is ever your fault.

2. Don’t flinch if an unwanted old flame suddenly reappears. Apply your prettiest smile to your face and say how thrilled you are to see him. Ask him to stay for a drink. Show everyone that you are the Bigger Person.

3. If a man from your past commits suicide, be sad and patronizing. Shake your head and wonder aloud about his emotional state. Be careful to not overdo it, though, or people might get the wrong idea about your history with the deceased.

4. If a man accuses you of a crime, act as though he’s gone soft in the head. Ask him if he’s feeling tired or stressed. If he persists with his story, put him in a mental hospital. Here you can be the Brave Woman who tearfully asks doctors if there’s Any Hope.

5. If your man tells you that an old beau has been to see him with wild stories of your past, admit to only innocuous facts. When you tell the story to your man, smile innocently, kiss him and place your head on his shoulder. “You don’t suppose he’s still jealous?” you might ask, as though you hardly dare entertain the notion.

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Tip: Don’t take offence to portraits like this. Image: mubi.com

Bonus Point: If your man paints a less-than-flattering portrait of you (see above), pretend there’s no weird subtext. Refer to it as Art and boast about your boyfriend’s talent to every rich person you meet. You never know who you might meet while you’re networking.

Even if you’re not interested in becoming a Femme Fatale, The Locket is required viewing. Not only does it have a clever script and inspired casting, it features a stunning performance by an underrated actress.

The Locket: starring Laraine Day, Brian Aherne, Robert Mitchum. Directed by John Brahm. Screenplay by Sheridan Gibney. RKO Pictures Inc., 1946, B&W, 85 mins.

 

Flyboys in Love and War

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Flyboy Richard Arlen (left) is comforted by best pal Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers. Image: My Pretty Baby Cried She Was A Bird

The film that won the first Academy Award for Outstanding Picture was an ambitious drama about two American aviators who become bosom pals during World War I. These two men (Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers and Richard Arlen) form a strong friendship – even though they both love the same woman.

Wings was a big-budget, high-tech spectacle, costing $2 million US (in 1927 dollars!). It was the second-highest grossing film of the year, after The Jazz Singer.

You might be wondering what $2 million could get you in a black & white silent movie in 1927. Paramount, the studio backing the film, may have wondered the same thing.

Turns out you get a lot for $2 mill. Wings has breathless adventure, engaging characters, and Clara Bow (yes, that Clara Bow). But the most impressive scenes are those that capture the marvel of human flight. (Let us not forget that Charles Lindbergh made his famous trans-Atlantic flight in May of 1927.)

Because Wings is about aviators and aerial battles, there is no shortage of fascinating footage shot in the air. Indeed, many battle scenes look like sky dances.

We – as in, yours truly – are no aviation expert, but we’ve compiled a list of “Get Out!” aerial shots from the film:

  • planes colliding mid air and falling to earth.
  • a pilot struggling to free himself from an upside-down plane.
  • planes taxiing and taking off from a runway, as filmed from above.
  • planes dropping bombs and destroying buildings – filmed through bomb bay doors.  

This kind of footage is humdrum today, but director William A. Wellman was giving audiences a wildly innovative film in 1927. In fact, you’ll swear the actors themselves are flying the planes.

Wings glorifies flight but not war. In one disturbing scene, a pilot is shot while trying to dodge enemy planes; his lifeless body slumps in his seat, blood spurting from his mouth. As another pilot (a young Gary Cooper) warns us, “Luck or no luck – when your time comes, you’re going to get it.”

(Hint: Cooper is telling us to have tissue handy. You thought you could watch this film dry-eyed? Uh-uh.)

As thrilling as the aerial scenes are, and as condemning of war as it is, there are two overriding themes in Wings.

The first theme is friendship and the sacrifices a man will make for his best friend. Rogers and Arlen both love the same woman, but the bond between them is much stronger than the love either of them feels for this gal. (If you’ve seen Wings and have thoughts about the nature of this friendship, please share.)

The second theme is redemption. There is an incredibly moving scene where one character extends almost unfathomable forgiveness to another character. It is so powerful, even we the audience feel absolved. (Tissue Alert!)

In our opinion, Wings not only deserved to be named Outstanding Picture, it deserves the honour of being the first recipient of that award. It set a high standard for Best Picture nominations in all the years to follow.

Wings Nominations (1929):

  • Outstanding Picture (won)
  • Best Effects, Engineering Efforts (won)

Wings: starring Clara Bow, Charles (Buddy) Rogers, Richard Arlen. Directed by William A. Wellman. Screenplay by Hope Loring and Louis D. Lighton. Paramount Famous Lasky Corp., 1927, B&W, 144 mins.

This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen,  Outspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club during the month of February. Be sure to read all the other fabulous contributions.

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Sidney Lumet Directs 12 Angry Men

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These cheery jurors duke it out while deciding a verdict for a murder trial. Image: dvdbeaver.com

We wish Sidney Lumet had won the Best Director Oscar for the 1957 ensemble drama 12 Angry Men.

The poor slob didn’t have a chance. The Bridge on the River Kwai was the juggernaut that year, winning seven out of eight nominations. A black and white movie about twelve men talking in an meeting room is no match for a sweeping technicolor war epic.

Lean deserved an Oscar, in our opinion. But we like to think, had 12 Angry Men been released any other year, Lumet would have scored the top prize.

Now, we weren’t kidding about the premise of 12 Angry Men. This really is a movie about jurors debating whether an 18 year-old teenager is guilty of murdering his father. There are no car chases, no romantic interludes, no gun fights. These men sit at a boardroom table and talk.

And yet.

This movie is so riveting, you cannot take your eyes from the screen. It has a brilliant screenplay with a perfect cast, e.g. Henry Fonda, Jack Warden, and our fave, Lee J. Cobb. It also has a director who pulls you into the screen and makes you feel as though you’ve been sequestered in the same room as the jurors.

The movie opens as the trial judge finishes giving his instructions to the jury. As the jury leaves and the courtroom empties, Lumet’s camera moves in close and isolates the defendant. He’s little more than a frightened boy who looks as though he should be sitting in math class instead of a murder trial.

The remainder of the film, which centres on the jury’s discussion, is set in a hot, airless boardroom. It has a large table, uncomfortable wooden chairs and a fan that doesn’t work.

Here is where we meet the jurors, all of them white and male but very different in temperament. Included in this bunch is a stock broker, a salesman, a house painter, and a high school coach.

What we don’t realize is that Lumet has already started toying with us via camera angles. He consistently keeps the height of the camera in two positions: (A) as if you were seated at the table with the jurors; and (B) as if you were standing near the table with the jurors. He creates intimacy by never letting the characters get too far away from us.

He’s also forcing us to form quick opinions of these jurors, but we’ll get into that later.

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Lee J, Cobb (centre, with arm raised) wishes to re-enact the murder with Henry Fonda (left). Image: The Last Honest Man

The judge has instructed the jury to reach a unanimous verdict. Eleven men think the defendant is guilty; one (Fonda) does not. The other jurors become frustrated with Fonda; Warden, for instance, has tickets to a ball game and wants to quickly dispense with the matter.

As the jurors discuss the case, they reveal their personalities. Lumet has the actors unwrap each character slowly, giving them space to examine their values and prejudices. Even minor characters with few lines are notable by their silence. (Lumet often includes two men in his shots, and the one who’s listening sometimes says more than the one who’s speaking.)

On the surface, the men’s discussion centres around evidence presented at the trial, but what we’re really examining is the men and their motivations.

As the discussion unravels, the jurors divulge the truth about themselves and we realize this is what we’ve been expecting all along. What we didn’t expect, though, is how our opinion of these characters is changing.

Do you know why this movie is so riveting? It’s this: Just as the jurors see the defendant in a new way, we see the jurors in a new way. They mirror what we are experiencing as we watch the film. Lumet has cast us, the audience, as these men’s jurors.

This is Lumet’s gift to us. He hasn’t merely entertained us; he’s given us a chance to expand our thinking.

12 Angry Men Oscar Nominations (1958):

  • Best Director (lost to David Lean)
  • Best Picture (lost to The Bridge on the River Kwai)
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (lost to The Bridge on the River Kwai)

12 Angry Men: starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley. Directed by Sidney Lumet. Written by Reginald Rose. United Artists Corp., 1957, B&W, 93 mins.

This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen,  Outspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club during the month of February. Be sure to read all the other fabulous contributions.

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Don Ameche: An Ideal Husband

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Alice Faye (left) changes her wardrobe to impress Tyrone Powers (right). Image: The Best Picture Project

*SPOILER ALERT*

Do you ever have the urge to grab a character’s shoulders, shake them thoroughly and shout, “Grab a brain, you moron!”

We had that overwhelming desire when we screened the 1938 musical Alexander’s Ragtime Band. This film pretends to look at the rise of ragtime during the early twentieth century, but it’s really a thinly-woven love story. It’s a romance, frankly, that doesn’t quite work for us.

1930s heartthrob Tyrone Powers plays an inflexible, unlikeable violinist who becomes the leader of a ragtime band. (Alexander’s Ragtime Band – surprise!) He reluctantly hires singer Alice Faye, a woman with gorgeous vintage handbags and lots of feathery clothes.

Faye and Powers fight. A lot. We presume this fighting signals romantic tension between the two; it’s hard to tell otherwise. After an argument about her wardrobe, Faye agrees to shed the feathers so that Powers will fall in love with her…

…proving that Faye’s character is kind of a moron.

We fail to glimpse what, exactly, she sees in Powers. He orders everyone around and is Never Wrong About Anything. We (as in, yours truly) cannot imagine living with such a controlling person. However, we suppose there’s a reason why they make ties of different colours.

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Powers bosses someone around off camera, while Don Ameche (seated) feels sorry for the poor slob. Image: Coffee Coffee and More Coffee

But get this. The band’s pianist (Don Ameche, see above) is a handsome, witty and good-natured soul. He is the Anti-Powers. One scene clearly illustrates the difference between these two men: Ameche defends Faye and Powers abruptly fires him for it.

When Faye becomes a big star on Broadway, Powers goes to World War I to sulk because, you know, she’ll be more famous than he. While he is away, Faye marries Ameche but the relationship doesn’t stand a chance. As long as Powers is alive and making everyone miserable, Faye won’t be happy with anyone else. And Ameche knows it.

In one surprisingly touching scene, Ameche suggests to Faye that they end their marriage. It is late at night and they are in the bedroom; Faye is in bed propped up with pillows while Ameche hands her a glass of warm milk. He himself holds a much stronger drink.

“What you do say we call this marriage off?” he asks her, a little too casually. He sits on the bed, leaning towards her, but he stares into his drink as though he can’t bear to see her reaction.

Faye The Moron admits she is still in love with Powers, so dear Ameche comes to the rescue. Immediately he’s alleviating her guilt. He tells her a bunch of nonsense about how they shouldn’t pretend things they don’t feel.

See? Even in divorce, he’s a wonderful husband. When he sees she’s miserable, he hands her a proposal of divorce along with a glass of warm milk.

But here’s the thing. We know darn well that as soon as Faye marries Powers, she’s going to try to turn him into Don Ameche.

Oh well. Even though is a bit flat, this film is still worth watching for several reasons, including songs by the great Irving Berlin, musical numbers by a young Ethel Merman, and a staggering number feathery costumes.

It’s too bad, though, that in the end, Alice Faye’s character choses an autocratic band leader over a witty, kind-hearted pianist.

Irving Berlin’s Alexander’s Ragtime Band: starring Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, Don Ameche. Directed by Henry King. Written by Kathryn Scola & Lamar Trotti. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 1938, B&W, 105 mins.

Announcing the Great Villain Blogathon!

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Image: barbarastanwyck.tumblr.com

Whee! Here’s an exciting announcement courtesy of Kristina at Speakeasy:

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

So said one of the greatest movie villains ever, but many classic films have convinced us quite thoroughly that evil does indeed exist, and usually in the form of a compelling, riveting, powerful character, a villain brought to life by superb writing and acting, then seared into the memory of movie fans.

And so we announce that you are cordially invited to participate in the Great Villain Blogathon, a celebration, an examination, a rumination on your choice of classic movie menace, whether monster or family member. Whether human, fantastical, alien, mineral or animal, whether on horseback or spaceship, clad in toga, trenchcoat or cardigan, whether mantrap, mild mannered or commanding vast armies, write up a post on your favorite movie baddie, doer of dastardly deeds or offender of moral order.

Your co-hosts in this exploration of villainy are:

Ruth of Silver Screenings  925screenings [at] gmail.com

Karen of Shadows & Satin  thedarkpages [at] yahoo.com

Kristina of Speakeasy  mail.speakeasy [at] yahoo.com

If you wish to take part, please leave a comment or send an email, help yourself to one of these banners to paste up on your blog, and prepare to share who you think is filmdom’s worst.

This event will unfold over the week of APRIL 20 – 26, 2014, so if you want to post on a certain day make sure to mention that, otherwise you will be assigned a date.

Here’s the lineup so far:

 

BLOG NAME MOVIE/THEME DATE
Shadows and Satin Dan Duryea / Scarlet Street 4/20/2014
movies, silently Mabuse / Dr Mabuse the Gambler 4/20/2014
Moon in Gemini Waldo Lydecker / Laura 4/20/2014
Stardust Porter Hall as Herbert MacCaulay / The Thin Man 4/20/2014
I Love Terrible Movies Mocata (Charles Gray) / The Devil Rides Out 4/20/2014
Captian Video Ming the Merciless/Flash Gordon movies x3 4/20/2014
Speakeasy Henry Fonda / Once Upon a Time in the West 4/21/2014
Lasso the Movies Maleficent / Sleeping Beauty 4/21/2014
Film Grimoire Death / The Seventh Seal 4/21/2014
Girls Do Film Margaret Hamilton / The Wizard of Oz 4/21/2014
OCD Viewer Kjell Nilsson / The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2) 4/21/2014
Claytonology Rasputin in Nicholas & Alexandra + Rasputin & the Empress 4/21/2014
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear Henry Brandon / Babes in Toyland & Our Gang Follies of 1936 4/22/2014
The Cinematic Packrat Child Catcher / Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 4/22/2014
Caftan Woman Andrea Spedding / The Spider Woman 4/22/2014
Hard Boiled Girl Richard Widmark / Kiss of Death 4/22/2014
Mildred’s Fatburgers Geraldine Fitzgerald / Three Strangers 4/22/2014
They Don’t Make ‘em Like They Used To Steve Cochran / Private Hell 36 4/22/2014
The Deja Reveiwer Dick Jones and Clarence Boddicker /RoboCop, Loki /The Avengers, Bob Parr’s boss /The Incredibles, The Grim Reaper /Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Wet Bandits /Home Alone, Greedo /Star Wars, the Corleones /The Godfather Part II 4/22/2014
Mike’s Take on the Movies Eli Wallach / The Magnificent Seven 4/23/2014
Once Upon a Screen Lionel Barrymore / It’s a Wonderful Life 4/23/2014
Movie Lottery Bela Lugosi / The Human Monster 4/23/2014
Film: Take as Directed Gary Oldman / Léon 4/23/2014
Unrequited Love Satan / The Exorcist 4/23/2014
CJC Leach The Ring / Lord of the Rings 4/23/2014
Film Fare Cary Grant / Suspicion (as per Hitchcock’s intent) 4/24/2014
Silver Screenings Angela Lansbury/The Manchurian Candidate 4/24/2014
Old Movies Nostalgia Orson Welles / The Third Man 4/24/2014
A Shroud of Thoughts Henry Frankenstein in the Hammer Films 4/24/2014
Let’s Go to the Movies The Joker / The Dark Knight 4/24/2014
Speakeasy Terence Stamp / Superman II 4/25/2014
A Small Press Life Gene Tierney / Leave Her to Heaven 4/25/2014
Marlee Walters Moriarity Incarnations 4/25/2014
Portraits by Jenni Conrad Veidt / A Woman’s Face 4/25/2014
Movie Classics Laurence Olivier / Richard III 4/25/2014
The Great Baz Necessity of Villains featuring Basil Rathbone 4/25/2014
Shadows and Satin Clark Gable / Night Nurse 4/26/2014
Tales of the Easily Distracted Anthony Perkins / Psycho 4/26/2014
Once Upon a Screen Mitchum / Cape Fear ‘vs’ Night of the Hunter 4/26/2014
Outspoken & Freckled Orson Welles / The Stranger 4/26/2014
Motion Picture Gems Robert Ryan / Billy Budd 4/26/2014
Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence Claude Rains / Notorious 4/26/2014
Two Heads are Better Than One Raymond Burr / Rear Window 4/26/2014
Frisco Kid at the Movies Al Pacino/ Devil’s Advocate 4/26/2014
The Cinematika Dennis Hopper / Blue Velvet 4/26/2014
Classic Movie Man Joseph Cotten / Shadow of a Doubt
furious cinema Rutger Hauer / The Hitcher
The Vintage Cameo Bette Davis / Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Destroy All Fanboys Ann Savage/ Detour
Viking Samurai Peter Sellers/Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu
Journeys in Classic Film Terence Stamp / The Collector
Critica Retro Peter Lorre / The Man Who Knew too Much
Nitrate Diva Robert Montgomery / Night Must Fall
Virtual Virago Laird Cregar / Hangover Square
Forgotten Films Butch & The Woim /Our Gang
Forgotten Films William Zabka / The Karate Kid, Back to School, Just One of the Guys
Carole & co C. Aubrey Smith / No More Orchids
Classic Movie Gab Broderick Crawford / All the King’s Men
The Last Drive In Gloria Holden + Gloria Swanson as sympathetic anti-heroes
The Last Drive In James Caan / Lady in a Cage
The Midnight Palace Olga Baclanova / Freaks
1001 Movies I (Apparently) MUST See Before I Die David Carradine / Kill Bill
The Laydee Eve Robert Walker / Strangers on a Train
Faded Video Labels Orson Welles / Touch of Evil
Twenty Four Frames Michael Powell / Peeping Tom
The Girl with the White Parasol Vincent Price/ Dragonwyck
The Man on the Flying Trapeze Otto Kruger / Saboteur
Cary Grant Won’t Eat You Charles Boyer / Gaslight
Mildred’s Fatburgers Anton Walbrook / Gaslight (original version)
Dan Michael Gough / Konga
Judith Anderson / Rebecca
Silver Scenes Professor Fate / The Great Race
The Joy & Agony of Movies John Huston / Chinatown & Al Pacino / The Godfather, Pt 2
Mad Woman and Muses Bette Davis / The Little Foxes
The Great Katharine Hepburn Disney villainesses
Pre-Code.com Imhotep / The Mummy
Movie Fanfare 1966 Batman movie/ Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith, Lee Meriwether and Cesar Romero 4/25/2014