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.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Another Mystery Solved ... MGM Did Not Do It!

It is always great to run across a "new" photo of Bob.  The photo below is definitely not in the best shape, but still interesting, and it is Bob after all. 

Tried touching it up some.  At lease we know for sure it is an original silver gelatin print by the splotchy appearance of the slacks!  It doesn't look like your standard MGM photo.  Besides, if it were, there would probably be a lot more of them around.  MGM never thought small!  So, it was a mystery until ...

I ran across this 1938 publication of the Screen Actors Guild.  Check out the rather distinctive painting or print in the background.  Definitely a sister photo.  And it is no wonder it's not an MGM photo.  They wouldn't be sending out a photographer on behalf of SAG!