Author Archives: Vienna

SAMMY CAHN: WORD WEAVER

Sammy Cahn

 

 

I love the story that lyricist SAMMY CAHN tells of when he was Oscar nominated (with composer Jule  Styne ) for Best Song,  “Three Coins In a Fountain”.

Sammy was living in the same road as Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Humphrey Bogart, all of whom were also nominated for Oscars in 1955.

But only Sammy won! He received a telegram from the others which said, “Thanks for not letting the street down!”

 

Humphrey Bogart.THE CAINE MUTINY.

 

 

Judy Garland.A STAR IS BORN.

 

Bing Crosby (with William Holden) for THE COUNTRY GIRL.

 

Sammy Cahn (1913-1993} won 4 Best Song Oscars. The others were “All The Way”, “High Hopes” and “Call Me Irresponsible” – music by Jimmy Van Heusen. Cahn and Van Heusen wrote many songs for Frank Sinatra.

I have fond memories of seeing Sammy Cahn doing his one-man show in London. He was a terrific raconteur and one of his stories was about collaborating with composer Jule Styne for the first time.

Styne played a melody, and after a few minutes, Sammy turned to him and said, “It seems to me I’ve heard that song before, It’s from an old familiar score..”

Styne said, “What are you, a tune  detective?”

 

(”Word Weaver” was a phrase used in one of the tributes to Sammy Cahn on his death.)

 

 

 

 

The June Allyson Show

THE JUNE ALLYSON SHOW ran from 1959 to 1961 under the banner of ‘Four Star – Pam Ric Productions. (Pamela and Richard were the names of June and Dick Powell’s children.) There were 57 half hour episodes. June  appeared in about two dozen.

June was only the third star after Loretta Young and Jane Wyman to host her own series.

Lots of familiar faces are in the episodes.

 

Bette Davis

Some of the episodes are on You Tube and I watched a few.

In one, Bette Davis played a schoolteacher who takes in her niece (Sandy Descher) who is suspected of killing her parents. Her school don’t want her to attend. Lief Erickson plays a friend of Bette’s who investigates when the girl goes missing.

 

June Allyson, Steve Brodie

In another episode June plays a nurse looking after young Ron Howard who goes missing. Steve Brodie is a sympathetic cop who searches for the boy.

 

Ginger Rogers

Ginger Rogers plays a writer struggling to come up with ideas. She rents  a summer house and meets a young man [Paul Walter Carr) who is a fan of her books. He wants to interview her for his school paper.

Paul Walter Carr

They spend time  together, he teaches her to ride and fish. She gets writing again – about him, but realises she is being unfair to the young man who has fallen for her.

She leaves again for New York knowing she won’t use the story.

 

June Allyson, Dick Powell

June and Dick play a couple who find solace in each other though they are married to others.

 

Ann Harding

In another episode it was good to see Ann Harding playing June’s mother in law. June’s character has  been widowed and Ann must convince her that she must start a new life.

 

Frank Lovejoy

One episode has Frank Lovejoy as a bank robber who seeks refuge in the home of Brian Donlevy, Sylvia Sidney and Margaret O’Brien. How will they deal with the intruder who is injured? They want some of the stolen money!

 

 

 

My favourite episode of those I’ve seen features Edgar Bergen, Stephen McNally, Lyle Bettger and Darryl Hickman.

Four men on a shooting trip in the forest.McNally is bitten by a wrattler and sends Bettger and Hickman back to where they parked their car . He tells Bergen to give him first  aid.

All three men have a grudge against McNally. Will they help him.

 

 

I also caught an episode of THE DICK POWELL SHOW on You Tube. Called ‘Special Assignment’, what a star cast it has, and a good story too.

Lloyd Nolan is s a rich man who is dying. he has no family and employs detective Dick Powell to visit 5 of his friends to find out if they are genuine  friends  or just after his money..

The people the detective has to see include Barbara Stanwyck, Mickey Rooney, Edgar Bergen, June Allyson and Jackie Cooper. Each have their own story and connection to the Lloyd Nolan character.

 

 

MORR KUSNET

Born Morris Kusnetzov in New York, Morr Kusnet  (1908 – 1990) was a commercial artist who provided newspapers with portraits of film stars.

By 1935, Morr was  doing magazine covers , and as late as 1963, he did a cover of Carol Burnett for TV Guide.

Here are some examples of his work. There was mention on pulp artists.com of a charcoal drawing he did of the 12 ANGRY MEN, but I haven’t been able to find a copy.

I’m not sure if he was ever employed  by any of the studios  , or just freelanced.

A fine artist.

 

 

Myrna Loy, Clark Gable

 

Mary Beth Hughes. 1941

 

Claudette Colbert, James Stewart

 

 

Hedy Lamarr, Robert Taylor

 

Ann Sothern as ‘Maisie’. UNDERCOVER MAISIE 1947

 

 

Hepburn and Tracy. ADAM’S  RIB

 

Doris Day, James Cagney. LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME

 

Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen. FORBIDDEN PLANET

 

Lucy and Desi

 

 

 

Morr Kusnet

LOUELLA GETS IT WRONG

Paulette Goddard was hotly tipped to be Scarlett O’Hara and even given a Technicolor screen test. She was under contract to David O. Selznick and made YOUNG AT HEART for him in 1938.

But, then, as happened  with other Selznick players, she was loaned out to MGM for FINISHING SCHOOL (1938) and THE WOMEN (1939} (which gave Paulette one of her best roles.)

Vivien  Leigh was a latecomer in the race to become Margaret Mitchell’s Southern Belle. And it must have been quite a shock to Paulette when she lost the role.

Whether Paulette’s ongoing relationship with Charlie Chaplin influenced Selznick’s decision is unclear – as Louella says  in her piece, it wasn’t known if Goddard and Chaplin were married. And that was a big deal in 1938.

STREET OF CHANCE (1942)

The plot of Paramount’s  STREET OF CHANCE is implausible  but so well told that you overlook the flaws.

BURGESS MEREDITH is ‘Frank Thompson ‘ who is hit on the head by some falling debris from a building site. When he wakes up he wonders why he is in a part of town (New York) which he never frequents. And why do the initials ‘DN’ appear in his hat and cigarette case.

 

 

This is the first film to be  based  on a book by CORNELL WOOLRICH (“The Black Curtain”)and if you know this author, you know to expect mystery, suspense  and the very essence of noir nightmares.

’Thompson’ does the natural thing and goes back home, only to find his wife ‘Virginia’ (LOUISE  PLATT) has moved. Given her new address by their landlady, he finds her using her maiden name and claiming he disappeared a year earlier.

Louise Platt

They are reconciled quickly, after he says he only remembers leaving for work that morning. A whole year of his life is gone. But he doesn’t see a doctor, which seems the obvious move.

Second  implausability – the next day he goes to the office where he had been employed and is given his job back right away. Hardly any questions asked!

Leaving  work that night, he sees a stranger staring at him – it’s SHELDON LEONARD, so gangsters and hoods spring to mind.

Acting instinctively. Frank  hops a taxi which stops at a red light. Suddenly the Leonard character is pounding on the taxi window- with a gun! But he gets away.

When he feels his wife may be in danger, Frank makes her go to her mother’s, with the quote,

When a man falls in quicksand, he doesn’t reach up and pull those he loves  down with him.”

 

Burgess Meredith, Claire Trevor.

He goes back to where he was injured in Tillary street ( great Paramount New York set),  hoping someone  will recognise him. Someone does. It’s half an hour in before we see CLAIRE TREVOR  (‘Ruth Dillon’)who spots him from an upstairs apartment window.

Ruth rushes out, saying, “Danny, you crazy fool. What are you doing in the open street like this?”

Of course, Frank hasn’t a clue who she is or what she’s talking about. And is more than a little embarrassed when she says, “Aren’t you going to kiss me?”

The plot deepens as Frank realises than in this other life he is accused of murder.

Burgess Meredith is such a good actor, when he sees the newspaper clipping that covers the murder, he silently looks at his hands and face in a mirror, obviously thinking, ‘Am I a killer?’

Without revealing his amnesia to Ruth,  Frank tries to find out what has been happening in the past 12 months.

Although only 74 minutes, ‘Street of Chance’ is full of action and has a satisfactory conclusion, with a good twist.  The dialogue doesn’t crackle,  but Jerome Cowan gets a juicy line,

I think I’ll take a bath and curl up with a nice warm revolver.”

 

And Sheldon Leonard ‘s character is a cop, not a gangster , a neat twist.

 

Frank finally admits to Ruth,

I don’t love you. I’ve only known you two days.”

That takes the wind out of her sails.

He attempts to explain the unexplainable,

There was an accident and somehow I became Danny Nearing. I built up a life as Danny Nearing.”

Another implausibility . Danny turns up out of nowhere and there is no suggestion or discussion on attempts to find out who he was. Or who knows, maybe there are some  scenes missing from the film. I’d have found a flashback interesting when ‘Danny’ first appeared.

 

Also in the cast and tied up in the murder are FRIEDA INESCOURT and JEROME COWAN.

 

ADELINE DE WALT REYNOLDS doesn’t speak a word in the film, but plays an important part.

This actress was born during the American Civil War and died aged 98 in 1961.

She graduated with honours in French from Berkeley University at the age of 68!! (And also took acting lessons.)

She was 78 when she made her first film in 1941, COME LIVE WITH ME, playing James  Stewart’s grandmother.

She was the oldest  member of the Screen Actors Guild.

Her last film was THE TEN COMMANDMENTS in 1955. But was still making TV appearances till 1960.

I think we are going  to have to start looking out for Adeline. It’ll be like looking for Bess Flowers. Blink and you may miss Adeline in films like A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, THE CORN IS GREEN, STARS IN MY CROWN, WITNESS TO MURDER

 

Claire Trevor has been described as a ‘shady lady’ and a ‘femme fatale’ in Street of Chance. She isn’t either. She’s in love with the man she knows as Danny and tries to protect him.

Louise Platt, whom I only  know from STAGECOACH, impressed in the few scenes she was in. She and Claire Trevor ( also in Stagecoach) didn’t have a scene together.

Louise was only in Hollywood for 4 years , and Street of Chance was her final film before returning to the stage.

Claire Trevor was very good, as always. But my highest praise goes to Burgess Meredith who showed just how good an actor he is. He inhabits the character whose life is spinning out of control with such depth and pathos.

 

This movie has so much to applaud, I’m glad I discovered  it on You Tube, though it badly needs a Blu-ray and dvd release.

 

I happened to watch THE CROOKED WAY (1949) shortly after Street Of Chance. The Crooked Way has a similar amnesia theme and stars John  Payne. It made me realise what’s missing in Street  of Chance In order to make it a stand-out Noir is the incredible cinematography of JOHN ALTON who, for me, makes The Crooked Way better than it really is.  His shimmering shadows are so much a part of the drama.

But John Payne, in a way like George Raft, just isn’t a good enough actor to convey the feeling of someone whose world is turned upside down. ( though he did pull it off in 99 RIVER STREET where the main emotion of anger was maybe easier for him to convey.)

Leave it to Burgess Meredith to command the screen. He deserved an Oscar nomination at least.

Lastly, Paramount should have kept the original title. THE BLACK CURTAIN.