HITCHCOCK AND HERRMANN: The Parting of the Ways

Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann (1911 – 1975) wrote the score for Citizen Kane,The Day The Earth Stood Still and Taxi Driver, among many other fine scores from the  1940s through the 1960s.

And for a decade beginning in the mid 1950s, he was Alfred Hitchcock’s musical collaborator. Herrmann has been described as Hitchcock’s musical alter ego. His music became a key component of the films.

His composing skills added so much to the romanticism of Vertigo, the thrill- a-moment, repetitive vibration in North By Northwest or the screeching strings of Psycho. Continue reading

Quote of the Day: RED HEADED WOMAN

Jean Harlow plays ‘Red’ because – well, the title tells you why….just a pity it’s not in colour.

Describing Red’s character ( accurately),

THERE’S A DAME STRICTLY ON THE LEVEL, LIKE A FLIGHT OF STAIRS.”

Jean’s character in Red Headed Woman is so irredeemable, there is just  nothing to like about her. But she does it so well!

There are still a few Harlow films I need to catch up on.

Jean Harlow, Chester Morris.

 

THE WOMAN ACCUSED (1933)

There’s one scene in THE WOMAN ACCUSED which is breathtaking in its brutality. CARY GRANT is a  lawyer who goes to see JACK LA RUE who plays a killer for hire. La Rue has lied to the District Attorney about Cary’s fiancée,NANCY CARROLL who is accused of killing her ex- lover, LOUIS CALHERN

When La Rue makes it clear he won’t change his testimony, Cary takes out a rawhide whip  from under his jacket and proceeds to flog La Rue all over his body.. La Rue cries out in pain and falls to the ground. I counted nearly 10 blows. Blood flows from the cuts the whip inflicts.

And this from Cary Grant!

Cary then drags La Rue back to the D.A.’s office where a sobbing La Rue confesses his lies.

The D.A. doesn’t  bat an eye at the state La Rue is in.

Definitely a scene that would never have been allowed after the Production Code came into force.

It’s not a great role for Cary though he and Nancy Carroll , in their second film together, are a good team.

I’m still wondering why Paramount didn’t hold onto the lovely Nancy.

LOUIS CALHERN has a few good scenes as Nancy’s ex-lover who won’t take no for an answer when she says she is going to marry Cary.

He threatens that he will have Cary killed – he has already used Jack La Rue to get rid of someone. In her presence, he phones La Rue and tells him what he wants done.. Nancy grabs a heavy ornament and hits him. The blow kills him.

 

Louis Calhern, Nancy Carroll.

 

The other main character is JOHN HALLIDAY , a lawyer friend of Calhern. He is determined to prove Nancy killed Calhern.

 

John Halliday

 

John Halliday, Nancy Carroll, Cary Grant

There are some good scenes aboard a boat (Cary’s in costume for a fancy dress party.) Halliday has followed them and suggests a mock trial, with Nancy as the accused. Soon the lines between play  acting and the real events gets blurred.

 

Cary Grant, Nancy Carroll

 

Irving Pichel

I was impressed with the actor playing the District Attorney. Played by IRVING PICHEL  who was in quite a few films as well as directing ( SHE, THEY WONT BELIEVE ME).

Nancy Carroll,Norma Mitchell

Someone else who made an impression ,though she was only in a few scenes , was NORMA MITCHELL who plays Nancy’s maid who has been with her for many years.

Norma was a stage actress and this was the first of only three films she made.

 

Jack La Rue, Cary Grant

The Woman Accused came from a series in Liberty magazine in 1933. Spread over four weeks in the magazine, 10 well known authors contributed to the story.

Paramount’s publicity  for the film had the authors appearing on screen over the opening credits. They included Zane  Grey and Vicki Baum. I havent read  the magazine story, so don’t know how much was used in the screenplay.

Although the story is intriguing, the pace of the film made it feel long at 73 minutes.

 

DECOY starring Beverly Garland

A TV series I had never heard of, DECOY, ran for 39 half hour episodes   in 1957/58. It starred BEVERLY GARLAND and was made and shot in New York.

Now released on DVD in three discs, each of which contain 13 episodes, the picture quality  is fine but the sound is poor ( maybe due to pressing so many episodes on one disc).

I had assumed that THE NAKED CITY was the first TV series to be shot entirely in New York, but Decoy got there first. Naked  City was described as the first network series filmed entirely in New York. Not true, but inserting the word ‘network’ meant they were technically correct as Decoy  was an independent production.

A big role for Beverly Garland (1926 – 2008) who handled it very well, being in almost every scene , as Policewoman Patricia ‘Casey’ Jones who is invariably undercover on assignment to different branches of the NYPD.

The show’s opening titles say that it is “Presented as a tribute to the Bureau of Policewomen, New York City Police Dept.”

(This bureau was disbanded in 1973, the same year that patrolmen and policewomen were renamed Police Officers.)

The show is reminiscent of Dragnet, a  police procedural based on actual cases.

We learn very little about Casey’s personal life, and never see her with fellow policewomen. Unusually, there are no other regular cast members .

In the above photo, Casey is in uniform, but for most of the show she is undercover. Typical of the times, Casey smokes a lot.

Beverly also does voice-overs during some episodes ,either commenting on a scene or explaining some action.

More disconcerting is that she, at the end of some episodes, speaks directly to the camera, summing up the case or commenting on a character. This device, called ‘breaking the fourth wall’, added to the documentary style but it was not a good idea.

It’s fascinating to see her on the streets of 1950s New York. I spotted a Times Square marquee which featured FIRE DOWN BELOW, with THE BROTHERS  RICO. Another cinema had BAND OF ANGELS.

Other locations included Madison Square Garden, Grand Central Station,Brooklyn Bridge. The production company couldn’t afford to have streets roped off, so they kept the cameras hidden as much as possible.

Policewomen back then had their gun and handcuffs in their handbag slung over their shoulder. But there was very little gunplay in the show.

In one episode, Casey is forced to kill a gangster – the first time she has killed anyone. There’s no discussion afterwards on how she feels or how she’s affected by the shooting.

The only piece of personal history we learn about her is that she had a boyfriend who was killed in the line of duty .

Her  tough undercover cases include basketball  game fixing, drug addiction, murder in a women’s prison.( One of her aliases is called ‘Beverly’.) The plots are noirish in nature and the pace is fast.

Interestingly, in the 25 episodes I’ve watched so far, there is hardly a Hollywood face to be seen. Presumably it was too expensive ( or considered unnecessary) to bring actors from California.

The few faces I’ve recognised so far include Ed Asner, Albert Dekker,Ludwig Donath and Dick Davalos.

It was a great role for any actress , playing so many different characters. Beverly  took on the role and made it her own. She brought sympathy to the role, as Casey cared about the people who were in trouble and tried to help them.

There’s no hint of sexism – Casey is obviously a skilled and experienced officer in the undercover work she does.

The documentary style didn’t exactly work for me. Although the stories were well written ,  I would have much preferred it if there had been cast regulars in support of Beverly and a little bit more time time spent on Casey outside of the job.

Maybe if the series has been picked up by one of the networks, it could have continued. Or maybe the similar Naked City ,starting in 1958 , took Decoy’s place.

DECOY had fallen into the public domain. Some episodes have been available over the years, but it is good to have the whole series. Just a shame about the sound quality. The box set contains a 14 page booklet, with brief summaries of every episode and articles and pictures. Priced at just under £12, the set is  a bargain from Film Chest media group.

Beverley’s film career was relatively short and she featured mainly on television.  But, with Decoy, she will be remembered for being  in the first crime drama series to headline a woman.

 

Beverley’s husband was in real estate and they opened a hotel near Universal Studios.  It’s now just called The Garland.

 

 

I don’t know why Beverly wasnt more successful in Hollywood.

She continued guest starring in many TV shows, and was Fred MacMurray’s wife for three seasons of  My Three Sons.

Beverly with Fred MacMurray in the TV Series, MY THREE SONS.

ON THE SET 32

James Stewart, Thelma Ritter. REAR WINDOW

 

Gail Patrick, Cary Grant. MY FAVORITE WIFE

 

Clark Gable, Lana Turner. BETRAYED.

 

Frank Sinatra, Ethel Barrymore, Doris Day. YOUNG  AT HEART.

 

Judy Garland, Van Johnson. IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME.

 

Hitchcock, Gregory Peck, Ann Todd. THE PARADINE CASE.

Dont sneeze!

 

James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock. VERTIGO?

 

Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock. SUSPICION.

 

Wally Cox,Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin.SOMETHING’s GOTTA GIVE.

 

Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Cyd  Charisse.

20 Years of GUNSMOKE

I’ve been watching the long running series, GUNSMOKE, over the past few months. I’m up to season 7 and still have 13 to go! Yes, this show ran for 20 years from 1955 to 1975.

JAMES ARNESS ,as Marshall Matt Dillon, appeared in 635 episodes ! Milburn Stone  as Doc Adams wasn’t far behind, with 604 episodes.

 

John Wayne introduced the very first episode in 1955, not a bad way to begin .

What  makes a show run for that length of time. I put it down to James Arness who is so well cast as the incorruptible law officer of Dodge City. Plus a regular cast that included Milburn Stone, Dennis Weaver as Chester and Amanda Blake as Kitty.

That foursome worked so well together, though I know quite soon now that Dennis Weaver leaves the show, though it hasn’t happened yet.

 

If there are any diehard Gunsmoke fans out there, I’d welcome any comment on the following.

Why is Chester’s bad leg never mentioned. Surely somebody, sometime could reference it.

Also, why does Chester not have a badge or a gun. He is obviously Matt’s deputy and quite often goes out with him to track down villains.

Matt and Chester are friends. Couldn’t Chester call him Matt.

Matt must carry a small spade in his saddle bags – he quite often has to bury people he’s forced to kill while out on the prairie.

Dennis Weaver and Milburn Stone have some good scenes together. Stone is the taciturn doctor who is always popping into Matt’s office for a coffee. Weaver, as Chester, is a bit of a hypochondriac and always quizzing the doc about his symptoms.

 

Gunsmoke made the cover of a lot of issues of TV Guide.

 

 

Amanda Blake

I love how Kitty always has a vacancy in the saloon for any girl who comes into town – and they can always start the next day!

Matt must have walked into the Long Branch saloon ( which Kitty owns – she did have a partner but he just disappeared) a thousand times and said, “Hello,Kitty.”!

 

 

 

Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone, Dennis Weaver

 

The opening of every episode. . The man in black is never identified.

The show so far has been quite violent. Frequently there are more than one shooting per episode. In fact, it was season 6 before there was an episode in which nobody died.

None of the four principals smoke, which is pretty amazing for the time.

 

The four stars on the set.

 

Publicity shot of Dennis, Amanda and Milburn

Coffee seems to be their favorite drink. In the first season, when Matt comes into the Long Branch, he and Kitty have a coffee. Later, they remember they are in a saloon and they change to a beer or even a whisky!

 

Would Miss Kitty ride side saddle. Doesn’t seem right.

 

Glenn Strange as Sam the bartender. Glenn became a regular in Season 7, though I spotted him playing the same role  in one episode of Season 6 –  though he  was called Fred!

 

James Arness, Amanda Blake.

Was there a romance between Matt and Kitty. They were only ever portrayed as being close friends, though in one episode of Season 7, guest star, Dianne Foster blames Matt for the death of her husband and targets Kitty whom she refers to as ‘Matt’s girl.’ – there’s no denial.

 

 

Up to season 6, the episodes were a compact 25 minutes. After that they changed to an hour.

So far I prefer the shorter episodes which concentrated on Matt, Chester, Kitty and Doc. Now there are plot lines that leave Matt and the others absent from the screen for a quite a few scenes.

 

Guest stars so far have included so many well kent faces — John Hoyt, John Dehner ( who had been in 4 episodes so far), Paul Fix, Royal Dano and Ben Cooper ( looking not a day older than he did in Johnny Guitar almost a decade earlier.)

In one episode there was the odd pairing of Gene Nelson and Harry Lauter as brothers.

In another, Claude Akins, Robert Wilke and Ted de Corsia were a trio of killer commancheros.

Dabbs Greer

Dabbs Greer had a recurring role as Mr.Jonas, the store keeper.

 

Buddy Ebsen.      George Kennedy.

 

The original Matt Dillon ( William Conrad on radio).

William Conrad

 

All in black and white so far.More to come!