IRENE DUNNE IN CONVERSATION

Irene Dunne

I loved listening to a phone interview with IRENE DUNNE from 1971. Irene was talking to a Chicago radio host,Chuck  Schaden and it was fascinating to hear her views:

 

I was in the original SHOW BOAT company and played a few times  in New York, and then came to Chicago, the Illinois theatre – with Helen Morgan and Charles Winninger.

I think it was a magnificent play. I did the picture a few years later – I didn’t think it compared with it.”

 

”There was a retrospective recently and they showed 16 of my films and I would say that CIMARRON was the only film that did not stand up. It was just a little hammy! Though it wa such a tremendous success in those days.

But the others – all those that I made with Cary Grant and Charles Boyer – they held up beautifully.

THE AWFUL TRUTH and MY FAVOURITE WIFE were very good films, directed beautifully by Leo McCarey who was one of the outstanding directors.”

 

”They wanted to start the series with CIMARRON but I had not seen it in many years, and I said , oh please, don’t do it – let’s start with something lighter.”

 

”I loved making LOVE AFFAIR. It was made during the Christmas holidays and we had a great time – it was a joy to make.
And I loved working with Spencer Tracy on A GUY NAMED JOE -a magnificent actor.

Van Johnson was out of the film (A Guy Named Joe) for ten weeks  and during that time I started another film, THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER, so I was riding on a bicycle between the two films.”

I REMEMBER MAMA was almost my favourite film because it was a character part and I had never really done that before.

 

”I managed to get away from the seven year contract after RKO, and then I could do pretty much as I pleased. Claudette Colbert, who was my next door neighbour for many years, I think she and  I  were the first freelance players.”

 

”I enjoyed my career but as I look back on it, I wish I’d had more time – I made pictures rather close together.

I think my batting average was quite good and I decided to leave it at that…..I still see my friends Loretta Young  and Rosalind Russell. I’m going to see Katharine Hepburn tomorrow night – I have already seen her in COCO. 

She and I came out to a Hollywood at almost the same time – we were on the same lot at the same time.”

(Hepburn did COCO from 1969 to 1971. Unless Irene meant she was going to meet Katharine in person, she may have been referring to Katharine’s 1971 film, THE TROJAN WOMEN.)

 

Some Irene Dunne photos:

 

 

Dorothy Lamour, Irene Dunne. HIGH WIDE AND HANDSOME.

Dorothy and Irene performing “Allegheny Al” by Kern and Hammerstein.

 

 

Irene Dunne, Cary Grant.

 

Charles Boyer, Irene Dunne.

 

 

Irene Dunne, George Stevens. I REMEMBER MAMA.

 

Irene Dunne, Loretta Young.

 

Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell.

 

 

Irene and her husband Francis Griffin.

 

ON THE SET 44

James Stewart, Thelma Ritter. REAR WINDOW.

Nurse and patient.

 

Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, George Cukor.GASLIGHT.

 

Howard Hawks, Jane Russell, George Winslow, Marilyn Monroe. GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES.

 

Busby Berkeley, Ruby Keeler, James Cagney. FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933).

Looks  like a  rehearsal for ’ShanghaI Lil’.

 

 

Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn. .STAGE DOOR.

 

Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. STATE OF THE UNION (1948)

 

 

Ann Blyth, Gregory Peck. THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS.

 

Barbara Stanwyck, Director Allan Dwan. CATTLE QUEEN OF MONTANA.

 

 

Director Delmer Daves checks out the scene, with a bandaged Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the set of DARK PASSAGE.

 

 

Eleanor Parker, Robert Taylor, Director Robert Pirosh on location in Egypt for VALLEY OF THE KINGS.

 

Valley Of The Kings. Eleanor Parker in costume, Robert Taylor.

 

LETTERS FROM HOLLYWOOD

 

A superb new book by Rocky Lang and Barbara Hall gives us over 130 communications from Hollywood’s filmmakers, covering 50 years of film history.

I hope a volume 2 might be in the works!
Here are some samples:

 

John Barrymore writes a note to Edward G. Robinson ,praising his performance in 1932’s SILVER DOLLAR, calling it – “a superlative piece of cumulative natural acting and made one proud to be in the same game!”

Edward G. Robinson

 

Tallulah Bankhead to David O. Selznick In 1936:

“I feel it is only fair to tell you I will not make any more tests,either silent or dialogue, for Scarlett O’Hara , on probation.”
(Selznick has refused to guarantee her the role.)

Tallulah Bankhead

 

In 1939, Alfred Hitchcock, having signed with David Selznick, wrote from his home at 153 Cromwell Rd, London to Daniel Winkler of the Myron Selznick Agency, asking him to find a house for his family, including a pool for his ten year old daughter,Pat – and a nice flat for his assistant, Joan Harrison.

 

A lovely note from Fred Astaire to David Selznick in 1940:

“Phyllis and I have just seen “Rebecca” and really had to write this note to express how really great we think it is.

We thought  nothing could ever follow “Gone”, but this one certainly  does…..  Joan Fontaine’s performance absolutely amazing.”

Joan Fontaine

 

Tyrone Power to Darryl Zanuck In 1944. (Power was a Marine Corps Officer/pilot.)

”I see from the billboards that you  are not suffering any acute manpower shortage…….I trust there is still a place for me.”

 

 

Raymond Chandler , himself an alcoholic, to Charles Brackett, writer with Billy Wilder of “The Lost Weekend.”

”I haven’t the slightest doubt that it is the best picture I am likely to see this year……..the performance by Ray Milland is the finest piece of sustained acting I have ever seen in ages, and I never expected him to bring it off.”

Ray Milland

 

Alan Ladd’s letter of  thanks to Director George Stevens in 1951:

”I would like to repeat again how honored  I was being in your capable hands during the making  of  SHANE.”

Alan Ladd

 

Joel McCrea to Sam Pekinpah in 1962 after the making  of “Ride The High  Country.”

”It was a pleasure to do a picture with a man who can write, direct and knows the West…….I expect to hear big things about you in the years ahead.”

Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea

 

And my favourite:

RKO head Pandora Berman to Director Mark Sandwich regarding difficulties with Ginger Rogers before the start of filming CAREFREE:

”I refer specifically to a conversation you had with Lela (Rogers) in which you told Lela that if Ginger didn’t learn to improve her singing and dancing, she would at some future date find herself in great difficulties in the picture business…….

And the numerous times in which Ginger has been made to feel that she is of less importance to any given picture than Fred Astaire.”

Mark Sandwich directed five of the Astaire/Rogers films but ‘Carefree’ was his last picture at RKO. Ginger as we know went on to win an Oscar.

Ginger Rogers, Irving Berlin, Fred Astaire

 

RUDY BEHLMER (1926-2019)

Rudy Behlmer

RUDY BEHLMER, film historian extraordinaire, died on September 29th, 2019, aged 92.

Mr. Behlmer was known for his memorable books;  his audio commentaries on dvds ; liner notes for film music recordings ; and contributions to documentaries on Hollywood’s Golden Age.

 

He co- wrote THE FILMS OF ERROL FLYNN in 1969, admitting that “Warner Brothers was my favourite studio.”

(Was “The  Films of Errol Flynn” one of the first of the great Citadel ‘Films Of…’ series?   I know that also in  1969 there were two other releases – “The Films of Jean Harlow” and The Films of W.C. Fields”)

 

After doing an in depth article about DAVID O. SELZNICK for ‘Films In Review’,  he met the famed producer and subsequently was given access to Selznick’s papers which were in storage at the time (1960s).

The result was the 1972 publication, MEMO FROM DAVID O. SELZNICK which was a fascinating read .

In an interview with fellow historian Frank Thompson, Behlmer said, “I took home a few boxes ( of the Selznick papers) and spent the next two and a half years (on the book)…..in my spare time – I had a full time job ………I was always fascinated  by primary source material – this is what was happening at the time it was happening.”

I  had started going to the Academy library around 1958 – it was a goldmine – such a great resource.”

Behlmer also met his wife at the Academy (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences In Los Angeles).

 

Another great book by Rudy Behlmer is INSIDE WARNER BROTHERS (1985). One can only be grateful to Warner Brothers  for allowing the author access to their records.

 

Another Behlmer book – MEMO FROM DARRYL F. ZANUCK.

And another excellent read , AMERICA’S FAVORITE MOVIES.

 

An interesting You Tube interview on film music had Behlmer discussing composer Erich Korngold:
When Korngold  came over to Hollywood at the request of Max Reinhardt to do A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, he had never done a film score – of course it wasn’t his score, it was Mendelson music. But he learned very quickly – he brought in concert musicians because they are doing symphonic scoring.

As a result of that, the whole music dept at Warner Brothers upgraded. They realised  that big films like CAPTAIN BLOOD, ROBIN HOOD needed big music support.

The Warners philosophy became that the music is foreground, though it never interfered with the dialogue.”

 

 

i love his description of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD:

    “The characters ,costumes,castle and forest are idealised, but then the film is not a document of medieval life, rather it is a fairy tale illustrated by Technicolor.”

 

Rudy Behlmer was a charter member of the American Film Institute and helped found the Film Music Society.

His papers are at the Margaret Herrick library at the Motion Picture Academy. Like the Selznick archives, they are not available on line. What a treasure trove they must be.

We can only be grateful that Mr Behlmer shared his love of classic Hollywood with us.

His long discussion with Frank Thompson can be heard at http://www.thecommentarytrack.com

CLAUDETTE THUMBS A RIDE

Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert

It’s one of the famous scenes from IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT(1934).

Clark demonstrates his skill in thumbing a ride, but it doesn’t work.

 

Claudette tells him, l’ll stop a car and I won’t use my thumb!”

 

She is immediately successful and they get a ride from Alan Hale in his Model-T.

Clark is suitably chastened as Claudette says, “Well, I proved once and for all that the limb is mightier than the thumb.”

Game, set and match!

 

The film won all the major Oscars in 1935. Claudette was due to go on vacation to New York and decided not to attend the ceremonies at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

In the early years of the Oscars, the award presentations were a much smaller event. The story goes that when Claudette’s name was announced, Columbia sent people to the train station, she was hustled into a limousine and rushed to the Biltmore.

 

Shirley Temple, Claudette Colbert

Still in her travelling outfit, Claudette accepted her Oscar from Shirley Temple.

It’s also said that the ‘Super  Chief’ to New York was held for her!

 

Clark Gable’s Oscar was sold to Steven Spielberg for $600,000 in 1996. The director then gave the Oscar to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The following year, Claudette’s Oscar also went to auction, with a starting price of $80,000, but there were no bids.

It was returned to Claudette’s  estate. Claudette’s closest companion for 20 years was Helen O’Hagan who was Claudette’s sole executor and main beneficiary.

(Any Oscars up for sale after 1950 have to be offered back to the Academy for a fee of $10.)

It Happened One Night was up against 11 other films for Best Film, including THE THIN MAN, CLEOPATRA, IMITATION OF LIFE, VIVA VILLA.

Clark’s competition were William Powell and Frank Morgan ( don’t know why there were only three nominees.)

Claudette won over Bette Davis, Norma Shearer and Grace Moore.

 

TIME MAGAZINE COVERS

Bob Hope. 1943

Artist BORIS CHALIAPIN (1904-1979) had his portraits  on the cover of Time Magazine an incredible 400 times from the 1940s and 1970.

Amongst the famous people on the Time cover over the years, Hollywood was well represented.

 

Greer Garson. 1943 Madame Curie.

 

Ingrid Bergman. 1943. FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS.

”Whatever Hollywood bell tolled for, she rang it.”

 

 

 

Jean Simmons. 1948. HAMLET

 

Olivia de Havilland. 1948. THE SNAKE PIT

 

Deborah Kerr. 1947

 

Gregory Peck. 1948

 

Kim Novak, Susan Strasberg, William Holden. PICNIC.

 

Katharine Hepburn. 1952. PAT AND MIKE.

 

Rosalind Russell. 1953. Broadway’s WONDERFUL TOWN.

 

Marlon Brando 1954. DESIREE

 

Marlyn Monroe 1956

 

Many of Boris Chaliapin’s paintings are held at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Museum – http://www.npg.si.edu

I found this beautiful study of Marlene Dietrich on the website.

Marlene Dietrich.