Author Archives: Vienna

LINA LAMONT FOREVER!

Jean Hagen

“…and I  cayn’t stand’im.”

 

Who can forget the whiny tones of silent screen star ‘Lina Lamont’ in Singin’ in the Rain.  Brought to life by Jean Hagen who fully deserved her Oscar nomination.

Lina was perfect on screen – as long as she didn’t talk!

I always liked her line –

I make more money than – than – Calvin Coolidge – put together!”

In an excellent current touring production of the show in the U.K., that line has been changed to;

I make more money than the Warner Brothers – and Sisters!”

Douglas Fowley, Jean Hagen, Gene Kelly

Love Douglas Fowley in his vain attempts to get Lina to talk into the microphone.

 

Jean Hagen

Jean Hagen (1923-1977) was born Jean Verhagen in Chicago. After experience in radio and the stage, her first film was “Adam’s Rib” in 1949, followed by “The Asphalt Jungle” in 1950, in which she played the sympathetic girlfriend of Sterling Hayden.

She also played James Stewart’s wife in “Carbine Williams”, a Stewart film hardly ever seen.

Presumably with no good film roles on the horizon, Jean spent the next few years on TV, as the wife of Danny Thomas in “Make a room For Daddy.”

Jean’s health declined in the 1960s and her career never reached that peak again of playing Lina Lamont.

But she will be forever remembered as Miss Lamont, who was the triple threat -couldn’t act, sing or dance!

 

 

ON THE SET 52

Scott Brady , Joyce Holden, John Lund. “Bronco Buster”. 1952. Directed by Budd Boetticher.

Haven’t seen this early Boetticher film, a contemporary western.

 

Zachary Scott, Joan Crawford listening to Michael Curtiz ( I think).“Mildred Pierce”.

 

Marlene Dietrich  relaxing in “Destry  Rides Again“.

 

 

 

Ella Raines, Robert Siodmak.  “The Suspect.”

 

 

Fred Astaire shows director George Stevens what he wants to do on “Pick Yourself Up” set in “Swing Time”.

 

Why are Bonita Granville and Ilka Chase looking so surprised?

 

Warren William, Cecil B. DeMille, Claudette Colbert .”Cleopatra(1934 ).

 

Fredric March, Margaret Sullavan. “So Ends Our NIGHT” (1941)

A World War 2 drama which is rarely seen, also starring Frances Dee and a young Glenn Ford.

 

 

Raymond Massey, Joan Crawford. “Possessed”. (1947)

 

Joan Crawford, Van Heflin.  “Possessed”.

REAP THE WILD WIND (1942)

Set in the Florida Keys in 1840, Reap The Wild Wind is a rip-roaring  Cecil B. DeMille tale of the salvage masters who “reap the harvest of the wild winds” .

Paulette Goddard is perfect  casting as the captivating , headstrung southern belle who realises that  John Wayne is not the hero she thought, nor Ray Milland  the dandy she thought him.

A fine supporting cast including a young Susan Hayward, Robert Preston, Raymond Massey, Lynne Overman, Charles Bickford.

The film received a well deserved Oscar  for special effects.

I’m sure it was a resounding hit back in 1942, with its glorious Technicolor and amazing underwater scenes.

 

Paulette Goddard, John Wayne

 

Ray Milland

 

 

SHIPWRECKERS OF THE SOUTH SEAS.

 

 

DIALOGUE GEM: KISS OF DEATH

Richard Widmark

Reminiscent of Mae West asking Beulah to peel her a grape, Richard Widmark , as the psychotic hoodlum, ‘Tommy Udo’ in KISS OF DEATH(1947), sneers at assistant D.A. Brian Donlevy who tries to get some information  from him:

I wouldn’t give you the skin off a grape.”

What a debut film for Widmark as the cackling killer. He later said,  “That damned laugh of mine. For two years after that picture, you couldn’t get me to smile!”

Fortunately Richard managed to evade gangster typecasting  in the rest of his career.

The film is remembered for the horrific scene where Udo pushed a wheelchair bound elderly woman down a flight of stairs. ( how it passed the censors, I don’t know.)

 

 

That’s some hairstyle .

 

Richard Widmark (1914-2008) went to Princeton High School in Princeton, Illinois.  The newspaper highlights Widmark being a local. ( The film was only screened in his home  town after he had been Oscar-nominated).

 

Victor Mature, Patricia Morison

I was interested to read that Patricia Morison played Victor Mature’s suicide driven first wife in the film, but her scenes were cut from the final print.

 

KISS OF DEATH

SHADOWS

Always looks interesting – low-key lighting creating silhouettes and dark SHADOWS.

 

Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell ‘Begin the Beguine’ in “ Broadway Melody of 1940”.

 

There is a lot of digging going on in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” A Boris Karloff look-a- like in Raymond Massey, with his sidekick Peter Lorre.

 

Nobody gets the better of Dan Duryea  . Not true . Lizabeth Scott hangs him out to dry in “ No Time for Tears.”

 

Charles Boyer, in the shadows, watches Jean Arthur being assaulted by Ivan Lebedeff in    “ History is Made at Night”. Don’t worry, Boyer to the rescue.

 

Lyle Bettger is in THE VANQUISHED (1953), under its previous title, ROCK GRAYSON’S WOMEN.

(Rock  Grayson was played by John Payne.)

 

The star cast of  “ The Shining Hour”.    Robert Young, Fay Bainter Joan Crawford, Margaret Sullavan , Melvyn Douglas.

Haven’t seen this one.

 

Robert Montgomery,Lloyd Nolan, Audrey Totter.LADY IN THE LAKE.

 

George Sanders, Lucille Ball. LURED.

Sanders’ shadow is huge and menacing even though Lucille has the gun.

 

Vincent Sherman, Rita Hayworth. AFFAIR in TRINIDAD.

Love these facial silhouettes.

 

Humphrey Bogart

 

Popular 1927 song by Al Jolson, Billy Rose, Dave Dreyer. Recorded by many singers over the years.

 

Victor Jory playing “The Shadow”.

 

THE  THIN MAN………THE UNTRACEABLE.

The Thin Man was actually the character ‘Clyde Wynant’, but subsequently the ‘Nick Charles’ character was referred to as The Thin Man.

 

BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE

I was sorry to hear that L.Q.Jones (1927-2022) had passed away . I always remember him in the Randolph Scott western, “Buchanan Rides Alone”.(1958)

Born Justus McQueen, L.Q. took his screen name from the character he played in his first film, “Battle Cry”(1955).

 

 

 

Randolph Scott plays Tom Buchanan ,an army mercenary who has left Mexico after making enough money to return to his home in West Texas and buy a ranch .

He rides into the border town of Agry – where everything costs $10 – a whisky, a steak, a hotel room.

The town is run by the Agry family – the town sheriff is Lew Agry (Barry Kelley) ,the  only judge in town is Simon Agry (Tol Avery) and the brother who’s not so smart, Amos is played by Peter Whitney.

And there is Abe Carbo ( Craig Stevens), the well groomed enforcer for the judge.

 

Buchanan makes three mistakes- he rides into Agry; he has a money belt containing $2000: and he helps a young Mexican, ‘Juan de la Vega’ (Manuel Rojas).

There is never going to be justice for either of them. The judge and the sheriff plot against each other. Buchanan is relieved of his money and rather than hang the Mexican for a killing, the judge sends a ransom request to the Mexican’s well off family.

 

 

Barry Kelley as Lew Agry 

 

Tol Avery as Simon Agry 

 

Peter Whitney as Amos Agry 

 

Craig Stevens as Abe Carbo

 

L.Q.Jones, Randolph Scott

L.Q. Jones , as ‘Pecos’, along with Don C.Harvey ( as ‘Lafe’) are hired guns for the duplicitous sheriff. Pecos and Lafe are sent to kill Buchanan but Pecos can’t do it as he is also from West Texas. So he shoots Lafe instead!

 

L.Q.Jones

Pesos speaks over Lafe’s grave. ( they are looking up because the body is hitched onto to the top branches of a tree.)

L.Q.Jones, Randolph Scott

Pecos: “I’m sorry it was me who stopped your clock….when it come down to choosing between you and Buchanan, well, I just had to choose Buchanan on account of he’s a West Texan.”

 

 

Randolph Scott, Craig Stevens

A good shoot-out at the end of the film. I’d have liked Craig Stevens to have more screen time.

 

Randolph Scott, Craig Stevens

One feels Carbo has been biding his time. Agrytown is getting a new boss, I expect its  name will change.

At the end of the film, Carbo to Buchanan:

“I’d advise you not to stay here. Like you say, this is my town now.”

Buchanan replies: “Mr. Carbo, you can have it.”

Carbo gets the last line: “Don’t just stand there, Amos, get a shovel.”

 

 

Like  his character in “The Tall T”,  Scott as Buchanan has no dark history, no scores to settle. He simply picked the wrong town to pass through on his way home. 

A better ending would have been Buchanan and Pecos riding out together. Instead Buchanan rides out alone.

Unusually, there is no romantic interest for Buchanan. But the film moves along so well, a female lead wasn’t missed.

I liked Manuel Rojas (1926-1997) as the young Mexican. According to IMDB he was married to Martha Vickers for ten years. He only made a few movies.

A Scott-Brown production, directed by Budd Boetticher, with locations in Tucson, Arizona.

L.Q.Jones was active in Hollywood, films and TV, from the 1950s through to 2006. He appeared in Randolph Scott’s last western, RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962), but playing a far less likeable character and no friend of Scott.

 

L.Q.Jones, Randolph Scott . BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE

 

 

 

 

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE

New from The Criterion  Collection in October, 2022, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE , in both dvd and blu-Ray. ( website, criterion.com)

I like this cover, designed by graphic artist ,F.Ron Miller. ( though Priscilla Lane isn’t featured.)
Extras include an audio commentary plus a radio broadcast with Boris Karloff ( who originally starred in the Broadway play) – his part was played by Raymond Massey in the film.

Though filmed in 1941 and ready for release in 1942, the picture wasn’t seen by the public until 1944 as there was a contract banning the film’s release until the Broadway production finished.

Priscilla Lane had married in 1942 and only made three more films after Arsenic and Old Lace.

 

Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane

 

Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre

 

Cary Grant

Not “What’s in the box”, but “What’s in the window seat”

Great cast including  John Alexander (Charge!),  James Gleason and Edward Everett Horton.

THIS ‘N THAT 28

…….Re-reading “Inside Warner Brothers” by Rudy Behlmer who ends his introduction to the book with this paragraph:

“Anyone interested in the making of films can only be glad that Warners saved their carbons, for it is one thing to read or listen to reminiscences of someone noted in his field, selectively recalling what happened many years before – with all the attendant inaccuracies and imbalances – but it is quite another when one is able to assess film history recorded at the time the events occurred, with the drama of the moment intact.”

For example: 11 January 1935. To Hal Wallis from Jack L.Warner:

“I overheard a typical Mike Curtiz-Harry Joe Brown squawk about not wanting to use Errol Flynn in ‘The Case of the Curious Bride.’ I hope that they did not change you because I want him used in this picture, first because I think it is a shame to let people like Curtiz and Harry Brown even think of opposing an order from you or myself and, secondly, when we bring a man all the way from England , he is at least entitled to a chance and somehow or other we haven’t given him one.”

 

20 February, 1935: From Warners to William Randolph  Hearst:

“We are going to produce “Captain Blood” with Robert Donat. Would Miss Marion Davies  be interested in playing in this important picture? There is an excellent part for her.”

 

So, in these two memos we learn quite a lot. Jack Warner wants everybody to know that he ( and Hal Wallis) are not to be argued with!  And maybe he sees a future asset in Errol Flynn!

From the second memo, we see how casting  can change.

Errol Flynn. The Case of the Curious Bride

Flynn did appear in “The Case of the Curious Bride”, but in a very brief, non-speaking part.( Warren William played Perry Mason.)

Olivia De Havilland, Errol Flynn. CAPTAIN BLOOD.

 

Robert Donat, Marion Davies.

 

 

…….John Howard was interviewed at the time Lost Horizon was restored by Robert Gitt of the American Film Institute. Howard , in 1986, commented:

“For the past 17 years I have been teaching English in a progressive high school in the San Fernando Valley. …I never dreamed one day this movie would be restored and re-released….I vividly remember testing for the role of Ronald Colman’s brother. David Niven and Louis Hayward  both thought they had the part, for I wasn’t English.

Frank Capra wrote in a line that the brother had been educated in Canada, and I won the role. However , it did take several screen tests before the final approval.. One of them was with a young Mexican girl  named Rita Cansino.  Columbia had just put  her under contract  and soon changed her name to Rita Hayworth.  Margo did the role in the movie.”

(Rita Hayworth , born in New York, was not Mexican. Her father was Spanish  and her mother Irish/American. Rita took the name ‘Hayworth’, her mother’s maiden name.)

After its initial release in 1937, LOST HORIZON was severely edited from its original 132 minutes , till at last in the 1980s, the missing scenes were mostly reinstated and viewers could see the original version.

 

John Howard, Margo, Ronald Colman

 

Quiz photos.

Who are the two ladies and what film are they on the set of?
(That’s some carpet.)

 

 

Lauren Bacall looking very happy. Why so?!

THREE LITTLE WORDS: The songs of KALMAR & RUBY

 

“Three Little Words” (1950) has always been one of my favourite musicals, mainly because I love the songs of Bert Kalmar (1884-1947) and Harry Ruby(1895-1974).

Kalmar wrote  the words and was played by Fred Astaire , while composer Harry Ruby was Red Skelton in a rare semi-serious role.

Despite the usual liberties taken by Hollywood , this biopic had some truth in it – Ruby loved baseball , and Kalmar was an amateur magician and had been a dancer in his youth.

They were a songwriting team for nearly 30 years, and THREE LITTLE WORDS is a fine tribute to their songwriting skills.

They wrote for the Marx Brothers in “Animal Crackers” and “Duck  Soup”, including Groucho’s ‘Hello ,I Must be Going” and “Hooray for Captain Spaulding”.

Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby

 

A  great song, “Nevertheless” ( written in 1931) is sung in perfect harmony by Astaire and Skelton.

 

Though written in  1923, “Who’s Sorry Now” first reached the screen in 1946’s “A Night in Casablanca “ sung by Lisette Verea.  Gloria deHaven (playing her mother, Flora deHaven) sings it in “Three Little Words”.
It was recorded by many singers, and in 1958 Connie Francis had a top ten hit with it.

For  this song, Ted Snyder wrote the music.

 

This song lists a Herman Ruby as one of the writers. I couldn’t find out if he was related to Harry Ruby.

 

Debbie Reynolds, Carleton Carpenter.

Debbie Reynolds ( in her first film) sings ‘I wanna be loved by you’ to an uncomfortable Carleton Carpenter. But Debbie is dubbed by Helen Kane (1904-1966) who had first sung it in the 1928 stage musical, “Good Boy.”

A nice touch to have Helen reprise her trademark song.
(Helen Kane’s “This Is Your Life” in 1958 ( available on You Tube) has Helen singing the iconic song, with Harry Ruby at the piano.)

Harry Ruby’s “This Is Your Life” is also on You Tube.

Helen Kane with Debbie Reynolds on the set. Helen was said to be the model for cartoon “Betty Boop”, with her famous ‘boop-boop-a-doop’.

 

Vera-Ellen as ‘Jessie Brown’, Bert Kalmar’s wife. Vera- Ellen was dubbed  by Anita Ellis.

 

Arlene Dahl  plays silent star Eileen Percy who married Harry Ruby in 1936. Arlene sings ‘I Love You So Much.’ in a lovely production number.

 

Arlene Dahl, Red Skelton, Harry Ruby, Fred Astaire, Vera -Ellen

 

Harry Ruby, Red Skelton

Harry Ruby was a baseball fan and in this  shot  from the film  he is seen with Red Skelton.

 

 

 

R.I.P. JAMES CAAN

James Caan

I’ll always remember James Caan (1940-2022) as ‘Mississippi’ in “El Dorado” (1966).

James was 27 and costarring alongside John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. It was only his fourth film after several years in TV roles. He had previously worked with Howard Hawks in “Red Line 7000” in 1965.

Mississippi  was bold enough to reveal his real name – Alan Bourdillion Traherne). He was deadly with a knife but  useless with a gun. And he wore a very unusual hat.

Only two weeks ago I watched a 2021 movie , “Queen Bees” ,in which James costarred with Ellen Burstyn. He was quite stooped ( back problems I understand), but the charisma was still there.