TORCH SINGER (1933)

 

Who knew. I didn’t – Claudette Colbert could sing -sort of! Definitely not dubbed . Her voice goes from quite deep to quite high. A touch of Dietrich?

 

 

I love that song! ( by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger.)

I only really know Claudette’s  films post the production code when she was the leading lady in the Norma Shearer/ Irene Dunne mold , always the classy sophisticated leading lady.

Her image,pre-code, gave her varied opportunities  from playing a seductive “Cleopatra “ to an evil Empress Poppaea In “Sign of the Cross”.

And in “Torch Singer”, she is a an unmarried mother, ‘Sally Trent’ who gives up her child and then becomes a successful singer who enjoys a hedonistic life style, calling herself ‘Mimi Benton’.

 

When you think of the  Colbert persona from 1935 onwards, she was rarely seen smoking or drinking, both of which she does in abundance in “Torch Singer”!

 

Claudette at the start  of the film, a young chorus girl who has been left by the father of her child. She meets Lyda  Roberti, another expectant mother. To save money , they share a flat with their two babies.

The first anomaly in the film – Lydia Roberti makes a welcome if fleeting appearance , but suddenly disappears from the film. We are only told later that she left town with her baby to marry someone back home.

And then I began to wonder if the version I saw had scenes cut. There would surely have been a farewell scene between Claudette and Lyda.

 

Lyda Roberti

 

Claudette has to give her baby up for adoption after a year, as she can’t manage on her own.

Then when we get one of these Hollywood montage scenes where she is seen singing in a small cafe, then a slightly larger place, and then in a flashy nightclub with an orchestra behind her! – all in one minute flat!

Claudette Colbert, Mildred Washington.

She has a swanky apartment and a maid ( played by Mildred Washington) whom she treats as a friend, reminiscent of Mae West and her maids  in “I’m No Angel”.

It was sad to read that Mildred Washington died in 1933 at the age of 28.

Claudette  delivers the songs well. And wears some gorgeous gowns by Travis Banton.

 

 

For once Ricardo Cortez plays the good guy who loves Mimi. He runs a radio station and Mimi, by a silly sequence of events, ends up as ‘Aunt Jenny’ who tells stories and sings to children over the air waves. There’s nice irony as she stands before the microphone with a drink  and cigarette in her hand.

Mimi decides to use the radio show to try and find her child who was adopted 4 years earlier.

 

 

 

David Manners has only a few scenes as the boyfriend who went abroad not knowing  Claudette’s character was expecting his baby.

It might be pre-code, but the ending is the typical one you would expect. He convinces her to marry him and raise their child together.

The fact that the child has been adopted for 4 years isn’t even addressed . He gets the child back.  Bad writing, or again, were some scenes cut?

Also, the second last scene has Ricardo driving Mimi to David Manners’ house. He is seen waiting in the car for her. But the last scene is Mimi re-united with her child and deciding to stay with Manners.

i guess Ricardo is still waiting outside!

 

“Torch Singer” is one of 6 films in the set, Pre-Code Hollywood Collection.

I must try and see more of Claudette’s pre-codes. She made an amazing 19 films from 1930 to 1933. One on You Tube is “Young Man of Manhattan”(1930) in which she costars with her first husband, Norman Foster.

I’ d also like to see MANSLAUGHTER, THE WISER SEX, SECRETS OF A SECRETARY and TONIGHT IS OURS.

Charcoal Drawings

These charcoal drawings were found in a flea market in France. Can anyone identify the artist and the second subject. Could the first one be Ginger Rogers? If it is Ginger, it looks like 1940s period.

I’ve tried searching under French artists but with no luck.

 

 

2F3C52AE-DDF4-457F-ADDD-589D6A393564

 

The artist’s signature.

FILM CIGARETTE CARDS

I bought the above page of cigarette cards of Irene Dunne a long time ago. Someone must have put them together from different sets.

Collectible cards were issued by cigarette manufacturers to stiffen packaging and advertise brands, The cards featured many different subjects, starting in 1875 and carrying on through the 1940s.

Hundreds of film star sets were issued in the UK in the 1930s, but I was surprised to read they were virtually non-existent in America. ( American companies concentrated on sports stars.)

Presumably with the cooperation of the various film companies, these little cards became  very collectible, especially full sets. And there could be as many as 54 cards in a set – so that’s 54 packs of cigarettes!

Albums to store the cards in were available from tobacconists – for a penny !

Jean Harlow

Each set had a title – “Film Partners”; “Portraits of Famous Stars”; “Stars of Screen and Stage”; “Champions of Screen and Stage”: “Shots from Famous Films” etc

In 1939, one set was called “My Favourite Part”, all of which I’m sure were written by the studio publicity dept.

Myrna Loy said, “It’s a real joy to be reunited with Clark Gable In “Too Hot To Handle” after the fun we had in ‘Test Pilot’.

In this new film I play a modern woman aviator,self reliant and with a subtle sense of humour.”    

Myrna Loy.

 

A young Judy Garland was quoted on her favourite part:

”I’ve always liked unusual things and that’s why my part in “Wizard of Oz” is my favourite so far……I have an opportunity for singing too and the picture is in Technicolor. But I’m quite young yet, so I’ve time to have plenty more favourite parts.”

 

 

By 1940, with Britain at war, the UK government banned the cards as a waste of valuable paper.

 

 

Robert Donat

 

Claudette Colbert, Henry Wilcoxon

 

William Powell

 

 

 

When this card was issued, Loretta Young was 22 and lived with her mother and sisters. Her real name was Gretchen Belzer.

 

The “Turf” set look a bit odd with the large heads.

M

 

 

The two pages below are the only other cigarette cards I have:

(I see there are two of the same card of Paul Muni here.)

 

Katharine Hepburn’s card says she is shortly to star in JOAN OF ARC.

Still collectible, full sets can be found for sale on the net and elsewhere.

 

 

RICHARD EGAN 1921-1987

Richard Egan

Not a bad start to your film career when you play Joan Crawford ‘s husband in your third screen outing. That’s what happened to Richard Egan. He’s only in THE DAMNED DONT CRY (1950) for a few scenes, but he comes over well as the hard working husband whom Joan Crawford leaves when their son is killed.

Richard Egan, Joan Crawford

Contracts at Universal and Fox kept Richard busy in the 1950s. Occasionally he would get star billing – TENSION AT TABLE ROCK, SEVEN CITIES OF GOLD (his name above Anthony Quinn) and LOVE ME TENDER (initially billed above Elvis Presley!), GOG (a poor Ivor Tors film) and SLAUGHTER ON TENTH AVENUE .

He also starred in two films I’ve love to see  – SECRET INTERLUDE and VOICE IN THE MIRROR.

 

With Beverly Michaels in WICKED WOMAN.

The statuesque Beverly Michaels was the Wicked Woman. Richard – and Percy Helton – fall under her spell!

 

Richard, plus Herbert Marshall and Constance Dowling had little to do in GOG,  a pseudo-scientific story involving robots which looked like early versions of Daleks! It’s on You Tube.

 

With Jane Russell. UNDERWATER!

He costarred with Jane Russell in UNDERWATER! and THE REVOLT OF MAMIE STOVER. And he had a substantial role in VIOLENT SATURDAY.

 

Richard played an alcoholic in VOICE IN THE MIRROR, with Julie London as his supportive wife.. Has anyone seen it?

 

With Julie London. Voice in the Mirror.

 

SECRET INTERLUDE ( also known as The View From Pompey’s  Head) sounds intriguing too, with Richard as  New York lawyer who returns to his southern roots to investigate a washed up writer (Sidney Blackmer). The strong cast included Cameron Mitchell, Dana Wynter and Marjorie Rambeau.

 

SLAUGHTER ON TENTH AVENUE gave Richard a strong role as a crusading district attorney out to reel in racketeer,Walter Matthau . Charles McGraw is in support as a detective and Jan Sterling and Julie Adams costar. The use of Richard Rodgers’ dramatic theme music gave the film great atmosphere.

 

It could be argued that Richard’s roles in SPLIT SECOND and VIOLENT SATURDAY , (although the former gave him a relatively small role and the latter a much larger one,) were similar.

In Split Second, he’s a doctor who puts himself in danger trying to help his estranged wife (Alexis Smith) who is being held against  her will by gangster Stephen McNally.

Even in small roles, Egan always impresses me with his quiet, natural, assured performance – helped of course by that wonderful deep, resonant voice he had. He comes into the suspenseful thriller, Split Second, almost two thirds of the way through the film, and immediately becomes part of the ensemble, someone you pay attention to. He knows his wife has been unfaithful to him but he still will help her in any way he can, though he makes it clear he is over her.

 

Richard’s role in  Violent Saturday is much bigger though he isnt really part of the main plot of a deadly bank robbery in a small town.

But he is drawn into the drama when his wife (Margaret Hayes) is killed during the bank holdup.

His character in Violent Saturday is wealthy but drinks too much while trying to save his marriage. When it looks as if he and his wife may patch up their marriage, her sudden death is a terrible shock.

 

With Margaret Hayes

 

With Virginia Leith.

In this scene with Virginia  Leith , in the aftermath of hearing of his wife’s murder, Richard , almost talking to himself, speaks about the plans they had that morning and how everything was changed in an instant. It’s an emotional moment and Richard conveys the anguish very well.  His subdued underplaying in this scene is memorable.

 

 

With Dorothy Malone in TENSION AT TABLE ROCK.

As gunslinger Wes Tancred In Tension at Table Rock, Richard had a good role as a gunfighter who wants to escape his past but finds  himself  in a town with lots of problems, all  violent. He finds himself helping a struggling sheriff (Cameron Mitchell) whose wife is Dorothy Malone.

There are similarities in the plot to Shane. Tancred  is an outsider who is forced to move on at the end of the film.

 

In 1970, Richard costarred with Barbara Stanwyck in a TV movie, “The House That Would Not Die.” I had a look at it on You Tube but wasn’t impressed. Barbara and her niece have moved into a haunted house and Richard  is her neighbour who helps solve the mystery.

 

With Jane Wyman

And Richard even did a Disney movie, Pollyanna, though he and Jane Wyman were very much in support of young Hayley Mills in the lead.

He did have top billing in A SUMMER PLACE, but again, Richard and Dorothy  McGuire were in the shadow of the younger stars, Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue.

 

When film roles got fewer, Richard guested on several TV shows, then got his own modern day western series , EMPIRE which ran in 1962/63 . As ‘Redigo’, ranch foreman, Richard had Terry Moore , Charles Bronson and Ryan O’Neal in support.

 

According to IMDB, Richard went back to the stage from 1974 to 1982, and then took a part in the TV soap, CAPITOL. I haven’t been able to find out what stage work he did during that period in the 70s.

 

 

Richard was married to actress Patricia Hardy from 1958.

 

Described by some as bland, boring or wooden, I think Richard Egan was solid (not stolid!) in every film I have seen him in.

 

ON THE SET 42

Edward G. Robinson and Michael Curtiz and the sailors  of THE SEA WOLF. No sign of Ida Lupino or John Garfield.

 

Clark Gable and Norma Shearer . “IDIOT’S DELIGHT.”

Could be Norma’s stand-in  behind her.

 

Taking it easy between shots. Barbara Stanwyck and Clark Gable. TO PLEASE A LADY.

 

Great shot of Cary Grant on top of the roof in TO  CATCH A THIEF.

Hitchcock is up there on the scaffolding.

 

 

Grace Kelly . “To Catch a Thief.”

 

Aldo Ray and Peter Ustinov visit Cary Grant on the set of TO  CATCH A THIEF. (Ray and Ustinov in costume for MY THREE ANGELS.)

 

Tay Garnett, John Garfield, Lana Turner. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE.

 

Raoul  Walsh In jacket. Alan Hale, Ida Lupino, George Raft. THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT.

 

Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda visit Joan Crawford and James Stewart on the set of THE GORGEOUS HUSSY.

James looks a bit uncomfortable in that get-up!

 

Howard Keel, Robert  Taylor, Ava Gardner. RIDE VAQUERO.

ANNE JEFFREYS :RIFF- RAFF (1947)

Pat O’Brien, Anne Jeffreys

Watching RIFF-RAFF, a typical RKO release of the period,  I was impressed by Anne Jeffreys who plays a nightclub singer down in Panama , opposite a rather overweight  Pat O’Brien as a private detective/Mr. Fixit called Dan Hammer – with some similarities in character to Kiss Me Deadly’s Mike Hammer.

The plot involves a missing map which has details of a valuable oil field. Those looking for it include Jerome Cowan and Walter Slezak.

Percy Kilbride adds a light touch as Hammer’s personal cab driver.

It’s  well directed by Ted Tetzlaff, especially the opening sequences, but there is only so much he can do with a routine script.

I enjoyed Anne Jeffreys’ singing of ‘Money is the root of all evil’.

I was surprised to read that O’Brien was only 48 when he made this – he looks much older and any romance with the 25 year old Jeffreys just doesn’t work.

It’s a mystery why RKO didn’t hold onto Anne Jeffreys, an attractive blonde with a lovely singing voice. Anne’s career after 1948 was on stage and television, including the tv series “Topper” (1953-55), costarring with her husband, Robert Sterling.

Anne was most active from  1945 to 1948, during which she made three westerns, including two with Randolph Scott; two thrillers with Lawrence Tierney –  Dillinger and Step by Step; and two Dick Tracy films, as Tess Trueheart.

(Anne died in 2017, aged 94. She had been married to Robert Sterling for over 50 years.)

Robert Sterling, Anne Jeffreys.

 

With Randolph Scott In RETURN OF THE BADMEN

For me, Riff Raff needed another leading man, like Bob Mitchum who would have been more believable .

Warner Archive brought out the dvd in 2015, but I have a Spanish issue from 2013  which came  in a case and with a booklet essay (which I couldn’t read!).