Tuesday, December 18, 2018

White Christmas - 1954

(Another great post by guest blogger Debbie.)

We all have our favorite Christmas films (especially classic film lovers).  For some it's "It's a Wonderful Life", for others, "Holiday Inn" or "A Christmas Story".  Mine has always been "White Christmas".

Maybe it's because being a child of the fifties, I have always equated Bing Crosby with Christmas.  I loved his Christmas music, his Christmas specials on TV, all of it.  Maybe the reason is because the film is visually beautiful.  All musicals should be in color.  This one was particularly colorful.  Maybe it's Irving Berlin's wonderful songs.  Maybe it's the wonderful cast.  Besides Bing there is Danny Kaye, Rosie Clooney and the wonderful Vera Ellen.  (I loved Vera.  As a teenager I was 5'10" and weighed just over 100 pounds.  If she was beautiful that skinny, there was hope for me.)  It's probably all those things.

             The Hayne Sisters (Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen)

          Bob Wallace and Phil Davis (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye)

The storyline was great too.  Two song and dance men and two beautiful talented sisters do a show to help the men's former commanding officer (played wonderfully by Dean Jagger) to bring business to his Vermont inn.  Of course, there are lots of songs and many dance routines (be sure to check out Vera Ellen's dance partner, John Brascia, such a talented dancer!) that showcases all the lead actors' many talents.  And of course, there's romance.  The two men are bound to fall for the two sisters.  Of course they are.

      Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen

                              Vera Ellen and John Brascia

I'll be honest, one of the things I love most are the great comic quotes from the film.

Examples:  Phil Davis:  My dear partner, when what's left of you gets around to what's left to be gotten, what's left to be gotten won't be worth getting, whatever it is you've got left.  Bob Wallace:  When I figure out what that means I'll come up with a crushing reply.

Phil Davis:  We wouldn't be any good as generals.  Gen. Thomas F. Waverly:  You weren't any good as privates.

Phil Davis:  [sighs] I don't know what he's up to, but he's got that Rodgers and Hammerstein look again.  Betty Haynes:  Is that bad?  Phil Davis:  Not bad, but always expensive.

But my favorite has always been the one Bing says to Danny Kaye (Phil Davis) and Vera Ellen (Judy Haynes) after they fake an engagement to try to bring Bing (Bob Wallace) and Rosie Clooney (Betty Haynes) together.  Bob Wallace:  [to Judy] You outta consider yourself plenty lucky!  You might have been stuck with this wierdsmobile for life!  .......... So Funny!!!

Do yourself a favor, if you haven't seen this gem, do so.  If you have, watch it again!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Lady in the Lake - 1947

(As a Christmas gift to me, Debbie is covering the blog for the rest of the year.  And it's a gift to you readers as well since she has written four great posts.  Thanks, again, Debbie.)  

The last film Robert Montgomery made for MGM is an interesting one.  (I must admit, it is not my favorite Noir film Bob made, "Ride the Pink Horse" is my favorite).  But, still an interesting film it is.  Montgomery not only starred in this one but directed it as well.  The entire film was shot in the viewpoint of the central character (Philip Marlowe, played by Bob).  You are only allowed to gaze on that oh so handsome face when the character is looking in a mirror, or in the opening and closing scenes.  The remainder of the story is seen through Marlowe's eyes.  We see what he sees.

                                    Bob and Audrey Totter

                        Marlowe looking at himself in a mirror

The film was adapted from a Raymond Chandler novel.  Chandler actually wrote a screenplay for the film in 1943, but a version written two years later by Steve Fisher was used.  The film's timeline was changed from midsummer to Christmastime.  The holiday themes were an ironic contrast to the grim story line.  The opening credits are shown on a series of Christmas cards that supposedly are concealing a hidden gun.  I'll admit I've never been able to find it.  Photographs of the credits are hard to come by and not that clear.

                                        Opening Credits

The film had a great supporting cast that included Audrey Totter, Lloyd Nolan, Leon Ames, Jayne Meadows and Tom Tully.

                     Production candid of Bob and Lloyd Nolan

If you have a chance, check it out.  "The Maltese Falcon" it's not, but still very interesting and Robert Montgomery is much easier on the eye than Humphrey Bogart.

Oh, by the way, most of the movie posters show Bob with brown eyes.  This is a picky observation, but one that drives Kathy and me absolutely crazy.  Here is a rare "Blue Eyes" poster.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

That Was One Heck of a Fight

One of Bob's "Bests", Private Lives (1931), is being shown on demand on TCM.  The broadcast time for it is 5:00 a.m. CST on the 17th, a tad too early for any movie for me.  The knock-down, drag-out fight between Elyot and Amanda is definitely a classic.  Bob and Norma had great fun practicing it, I'm sure.

                   Bob and Norma Shear in Private Lives (1931)

Bob banged his head preparing for the big fight, and may or may not have been knocked unconscious.  The clipping below reportedly shows the damage to Bob's noble forehead from the fight.  Could be!  

Thursday, December 06, 2018

George H. W. Bush, 1924 - 2018

We certainly lost a great man this week,  so few like him remain. 

He was a kind and gentle man who still went all the way to the very top, the Presidency of the United States.  To say that he was of a different time is so sadly true.  
              Senator Bob Dole (95), fellow WWII veteran, gives the
                perfect homage to his President and friend, George
George is back in Houston now.  After 10:00 a.m. CST services at his church, St. Martin's Episcopal, he will be taken by train to his internment at the Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.  The train will travel slowly through several small towns before arriving at Texas A & M at 3:45, with internment at 4:15. 

Presidents are required to plan out their state funeral when they first take office.  One last job done well.  Thanks, George. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

What Does Bob Have in Common with Alan Ladd, Robert Redford & Leonardo Dicaprio?

Gosh, but I was excited when I first ran across this listing for Amazon Prime.  Season 6 of Bob's show, a season he acted in two of the episodes, and they actually have it for viewing.  I mean, I had thought only a handful of his shows were even in existence.

 On Feb. 7, 1955, Bob portrayed alcoholic Bob Birnam in "The Lost Weekend", the role Ray Milland did so well in the 1945 movie version.  A chance to see 50-year-old Bob meet the challenge of a live television performance ... just fantastic! 

           Bob and Leora Dana in RM Presents:  The Lost Weekend

He also had the feature role in "The Great Gatsby" which was shown Feb. 7, 1955.  Now that I'd really, really love to see.  I mean, just how would his performance compare with the movies Jay Gatsbys:  Alan Ladd, Robert Redford, and Leonardo Dicaprio.  I'd put my money on Bob.

But, then I scrolled down my computer screen and saw that "Season 6" at Amazon means two measly episodes.  And, of course, neither of them have Bob in them.  Oh, Shuckie Darns!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Another Thrilling Day at the Studio

Ran across this wardrobe test photo of Bob a while back.  Ah, the perfectly dressed and handsome lad was he.  You can tell he'd rather be most anywhere else but the studio playing dress up. 

Below is a still from Live, Love and Learn (1937) with Bob wearing the same outfit.  Note the hankie in his suit pocket is in exactly the same position.  Now that's planning out a movie to the smallest detail.  Love the hat. 

         Helen Vinson (Lily), Bob (Bob) and Barnett Parker (Alfredo)

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

An Evening With Lucky & Pauline. How Nice!

Real life can be too darn distracting at times...  Meanwhile, Hide-Out (1934) is finally out on DVD!!  Very good.  It was just released Nov. 13th, so I'm not behind too much.  Still a few Bob movies out there to save.  Personally, I'd like to see a decent copy of Unfinished Business (1941).  It was shown at a Gregory LaCava retrospective in Los Angeles a few years back, so it exists!  And when Letty Lynton (1932) is finally dug out of its legal morass, it really needs to be a remastered copy!  After such a long wait, we deserve it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Thursday, November 15, 2018

And Just How Can I Get a Tour Ticket?

"SO YOU WANT TO VISIT A MOVIE STUDIO...Well, then, why not take a personally conducted tour through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.  The accompanying pictures show what you would see on the studio lot in Culver City, California. 

PICTURE 5.  As we head for the sound stages we pass the studio barber shop, where Robert Montgomery reads the paper as he gets a shampoo from barber Carl Renner and a nail trim from manicurist Lola Bardsley."

(I wonder if the barber had to sign a non-disclosure clause or if he just knew not to cross Eddie Mannix.)  

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

I Wonder Who Picked Up the Tab

 Love this photo.  It appears some small photo concern took the photo and decided to try for a few extra dollars selling it as a souvenir of Hollywood.  It is 10x13 inches and the parties are identified in the photo's background.  I somehow wonder if they made any money off it since such items would seem to be rather pricey for the average movie fan in 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression and all. 

It is a unique photo of Hollywood royalty.  Douglas Fairbanks was at the top for a very long time, and his son Jr. is well on his way to a successful career of his own.  And Mrs. Fairbanks Jr. (Joan, of course) is rather successful on her own.  Bob Montgomery is doing okay for himself and there's that new super hot property, the young Mr. Gable.  

For a closer look at the couples, first we have Bob and Betty.  Betty is seldom smiling in such photos.  Was she uncomfortable in the group, or in front of a camera? 

Bob and Betty were rather formal in public.  The main physical contact is Betty holding onto Bob's arm.  That's why it is a bit strange seeing Bob's hand on Jr.'s shoulder.  They were best buds at this time, a little "bromance" going on!

Joan and Doug Sr. were definitely not a couple. 

This is the couple that had much of the country wondering.  As in, "Are you kidding me?"  Ria was 17 years older than Clark and not the hot blonde you would expect to be at his side.  (Excuse my cattiness ... just a tad envious!)

Thursday, November 08, 2018

To Beard or Not to Beard ...

TCM will be showing SIX Robert Montgomery movies this month!  That's just great of them.  The more Bob's movies are shown, the more chance there is for some fortunate soul to discover our wonderful Mr. Montgomery.   And it's a good variety of some of his better movies, from war movies to a fantasy (Jordan) to a comedy/mystery (Fast and Loose).

Do note the beard on Bob in this still from Hell Below (1930), the first movie being shown.   I have on occasion voiced my dislike of the mustache he wore in Trouble for Two (1936).  (As in why mess with a perfectly handsome face!)  But, the mustache and beard combination seems to work much better for Bob.  I bet it took him just a few days to grow it. 

                     Bob and Walter Huston in Hell Below (1933)

Bob gets to demonstrate his beard-growing talent again in They Were Expendable (1945), the next movie being shown.  That's quite a full beard he has.  Yes, a multi-talented man was our Bob.

   Ward Bond, Bob and John Wayne in They Were Expendable (1945)

All six movies and their show dates and times (all EST):

                Nov  9  - Hell Below (1933) at 1:45 p.m.
                Nov 10 - They Were Expendable (1945) at 5:45 a.m.
                Nov 12 - When Ladies Meet (1933) at 10:45 a.m.
                Nov 17 - Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) at 8:00 p.m.
                Nov 25 - Fast and Loose (1939) at 4:30 a.m.
                Nov 30 - The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1937) at 9:30 a.m.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Mark December 1st on Your Calendar!

A tad late Happy Birthday to Mr. Joel McCrea, born November 5, 1905 in Pasadena, CA.  A cowboy at heart, when Joel married actress Frances Dee, the young couple moved to his new ranch house near Moorpark, CA.  The ranch was quite large initially, much of it being sold off during the housing boom in the late 50s and early 60s.  (Mr. McCrea was a very wealthy man.)  The couple remained married until his death in 1990, a mere 57 years later.  

To find out more about the ranch, check out this site, McCrea Ranch Foundation.  Be sure and check the upcoming events.  A tour of the ranch sounds like great fun.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween - "Night Must Fall"

This post will focus on the two stars of the film, Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell.

     Robert Montgomery & Rosalind Russell as Danny and Olivia

Rosalind Russell (Olivia Grayne)  Born Catherine Rosalind Russell on June 4, 1907 in Waterbury, Connecticut.  After working as a model and on the stage, Russell moved to Los Angeles in the early 1930's.  She was hired initially by Universal Studios but was unhappy there.  She set her sights on MGM and was given a contract there where she played mostly sophisticated "other women" at first.  "Night Must Fall" was a welcome change of pace for her and she worked well with Robert Montgomery.  They had already starred together in 1934's "Forsaking All Others" and in 1936's "Trouble for Two".  She went on to do "Live, Love and Learn", also in 1937, and in 1939 she and Montgomery starred in "Fast and Loose".  She also was one of the stars of 1939's "The Women" and was able to show what a wonderful comedian she was.  This was showcased in 1940's "His Girl Friday" with Cary Grant.  Russell's career continued into the 1970's.  She died November 28, 1976 at the age of 69.

                          Rosalind Russell as Olivia Grayne

Robert Montgomery (Danny)  As most of you already know, Henry Montgomery Jr. was born May 21, 1904 in Fishkill Landing, New York.  Having seen the stage version of "Night Must Fall" on Broadway he was determined to play Danny on film.  Having been pigeonholed by MGM as a light romantic lead, L.B. Mayer was not interested in casting him in such an unusual dramatic role.  Montgomery badgered Mayer into doing the film and giving him the role.  Some say Mayer (who was not particularly fond of Montgomery) did so hoping he would fail in the role.  Just the opposite was true as Bob was nominated for an Academy Award for his work.  His performance was remarkable.  He was so charming and yet so sinister.  He could be conflicted to the point where you feel sorry for him and turn into ice cold evil when Olivia confronts him as being the murderer.  Montgomery had a long career in Hollywood (in film), in New York (in television and directing on Broadway), and also in the Navy during during WWII.  He died on September 27, 1981.  He was 77.

                             Robert Montgomery as Danny

"Night Must Fall" is a wonderful film.  It was one of the first psychological thriller and will remind you of Hitchcock's work.  In my opinion, the stage play actually did a better job of focusing on the relationship between Danny and Olivia.  She is afraid of him and suspects that he is a murderer but at the same time is attracted to him.

                    Montgomery and Russell as Danny and Olivia

She at one point feels sorry for him because it is obvious he is disturbed and afraid of what he has done and that he might get caught.  She goes as far as lying for him at one point.  The end of the play has her trying to take the blame, but he won't let her.  He even kisses her goodbye before the police take him away though he had just earlier told her he was going to kill her.  All that has changed in the film.  I guess MGM couldn't abide such a strange relationship and had to clean it up with the ending they came up with.  It would have been much more effective had they stuck to Emlyn Williams story as written.

                    Russell and Montgomery as Olivia and Danny     

This was the film that turned me into a rabid Montgomery fan.  And, as I jokingly like to say, if you can fall in love with a guy carrying a head in a hatbox, well, that's some actor!!!!

Hope you have a Happy Halloween, and do yourself a favor and watch "Night Must Fall"!

(Thanks very much to guest blogger Debbie for this excellent four-part series on NMF.  Gee, you'd think she liked it!) 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Happy Halloween - "Night Must Fall" - Supporting Cast**

"Night Must Fall" had a variety of mostly English supporting cast.  Several of these performers appeared in the London stage version and a few were also on the Broadway stage in the New York production.

Kathleen Harrison:  (Emily Terence)  This wonderful actress provided the comic relief in this very suspenseful film.  Born February 23, 1892 in Blackbum, Lancashire, England she began her career on the stage in the UK in the 1920s.  Her film career started as early as 1915, but her films made in the US started in the 30s and included "Night Must Fall", of course in 1937, "Gaslight" (with Dame May Whitty) in 1940, and her scene stealing performance in 1951s version of "A Christmas Carol".  Harrison died December 7, 1995 at the amazing age of 103 in Merton, London, England.

                           Danny and Emily (Kathleen Harrison)

Merle Tottenham:  (Dora Parkoe) Born January 22, 1901 in Quetta, British India, this character actress did most of her work in British films but did appear in "The Invisible Man"1933, and of course in "Night Must Fall" in 1937.  Tottenham died on July 18, 1958 in Bexhill, East Sussex, England.  She was 57.

                                  Dora (Merle Tottenham)

Matthew Boulton:  (Inspector Belsize) Born January 20, 1893 in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England was a British stage and film actor.  He was a character actor, who often played police officers and military officers.  Having established himself in the theatre, he began taking supporting roles in films including an appearance in Alfred Hitchock's "Sabotage" 1936.  He subsequently emigrated to Hollywood where he worked for the remainder of his career.  His films in America include beside "Night Must Fall" 1937, "None but the Lonely Heart" 1944, and National Velvet" 1944.  Boulton died on February 10, 1962 in Los Angeles, California.  He was 69.

   Danny, Olivia, The Hat Box & Inspector Belsize (Matthew Boulton)

Alan Marshall:  (Justin Laurie) Born January 29, 1909 in Woolabra, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, he began is career on Broadway but was spotted by a studio scout while performing in a play in New York and was asked to do a screen test for Selznick International Studios.  He had a long career and worked for many different studios mostly as a loan out.  He made "After the Thin Man" 1936 and "Night Must Fall" 1937 for MGM.  He made "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" 1939 for RKO.  At Columbia, he made "The Howards of Virginia" 1940 and "Lydia" 1941.  He had a nervous breakdown in the early 50s and did not work for several years.  One of his last films was "House on Haunted Hill" 1959.  Marshal died on July 9, 1961 in Chicago, Illinois.  He was 52.

                          Olivia and Justin (Alan Marshall)

The last NMF post will be focused on the two stars, Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell.  Don't miss it!

**Part 3 of the "Night Must Fall" series was written, of course, by guest blogger Debbie.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Happy Halloween! "Night Must Fall" - Dame May Whitty (Part 2 of 4 by Guest Blogger Debbie)

As a lot of you already know, this was originally a stage play written by Emlyn Williams and first performed in 1935.  The 1937 film contained some of the original players from the London stage production of 1935 and the New York production of 1936.  The most important of these was the wonderful Dame May Whitty.

Born in 1865 in Liverpool, England, Whitty was a stage actress and made her Hollywood debut in "Night Must Fall" in 1937 at the age of 72.  She played Mrs. Branscom the bitter, fussy, self-pitying owner of Rose Briars, the country place where the story takes place.  Whitty was in the cast of some very successful films such as "The Lady Vanishes" (1938), "Suspicion" (1941), "Mrs. Miniver" (1942) and "Gaslight" (1944).  She was nominated for an Oscar twice.  Once for "Night Must Fall" and then again for "Mrs. Miniver".

She died in 1948 at the age of 82 in California, having never left the US after coming to this country for the role of Mrs. Branscom in "Night Must Fall". 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Happy Halloween! Night Must Fall - 1937

(A four-part series on the movie Night Must Fall begins with this post.  Guest Blogger Debbie is the author, so kindly filling in for sicky blogger Kathy.  Blame the small print on me!) 

"Night Must Fall" is a 1937 film adaptation of the play by Emlyn Williams, adapted by John Van Druten and directed by Richard Thorpe.  It stars Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell and Dame May Whitty.  A critical success, "Night Must Fall" was named best film of 1937 by the National Board of Review.

The story revolves around the disappearance of a woman from the local hotel.  It takes place at Rose Briars, the English country home of Mrs. Bransom, an elderly invalid, her niece Olivia, and their two servants, Dora her maid and Mrs. Terrance, the cook.  The appearance of Danny, the boyfriend of Dora, who happens to work at the hotel, starts the thriller in motion.

Danny is a charming liar who immediately makes Olivia uneasy, but makes a point of charming Mrs. Bramson into hiring him.  Then they find out that the missing woman has been murdered but her head is missing.  The fact that Danny has in his possession a hatbox adds to the suspense.   

If you haven't seen this film you must.  It is one of Robert Montgomery's finest performances and one of the few he was proud of.  He actually had to fight MGM to get the role as he had been pigeonholed  by the studio as a light romantic lead.  

My next three posts will discuss the wonderful cast of this film.

Do yourself a favor and watch this film.  Maybe for Halloween????????

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Dying one cough at a time ...

See comments, please.  Hey, my shortest post!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

My Man Dabney's Older Brother Johann

            William Powell in The Baroness and the Butler (1938)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Visit From Father

ABC Photo Release: Elizabeth Montgomery (second from left) and make-up man Rolf Miller (left), enjoy the moment as Elizabeth's father, former film star Robert Montgomery and his wife, visit the set and cast an eye at a papier-mache model of a pig's head which figures in the story, "This Little Piggie," which will be telecast on the ABC Television Network's "BEWITCHED," Thursday, Feb. 18 (8:30-9:00 p.m., EST).

There is no year given for the photo, but 1964 is my best bet.  The episode mentioned is not listed on IMDB for Bewitched.  But Feb. 18 was a Thursday in 1964, and it is right for the age of Mr. Montgomery in the photo.  I have also seen an ABC release stating he would be the guest on the season's opening show of Bewitched, but sadly that never happened.  Would love to have seen older Bob do an acting gig!

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

My Favorite Butler

          Bob as Raymond Dabney in The Man in Possession (1931)

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Bob's Final Scene ...on the Cutting Room Floor!

Just love heralds, the nice four-page ones.  Mini-pictorials of the movies, they made great souvenirs for the movie fan.  I have not run across a U.S. version of the herald for The Gallant Hours (1960), but the German one is nifty.  Der Admiral ... certainly fits the cover photo of Cagney as Admiral Halsey in his uniform with all the stripes and ribbons. 

On the back page, you will probably recognize the scene at top wherein the Juniors Cagney and Montgomery were cast as young marines who have a chat with Halsey.  And, frustratingly so, the lower left shot is not in the final cut.**  Our man Bob, appearing in his real uniform as a Captain in the USNR, is shown shaking hands with Halsey/Cagney.  What a great scene to have closed out his movie career!

**The movie uses a shot made from behind Bob so you just see the outline of his head and shoulder.  I'm guessing Mr. Montgomery decided it might have had a jarring effect on the rather dramatic scene.