November 2009


Audrey Hepburn and William Holden’s second movie venture, Paris When it Sizzles, is a charming tale with a sort of plot within a plot aspect.

Directed by Richard Quine and released in 1964, Paris reunited Holden and Hepburn, who had not worked together since 1954’s Oscar winning Sabrina.

Paris opens with producer, Alexander Meyerheimer (Noel Coward) dictating a memo to be sent to his writer Richard Benson (Holden) who is supposed to be creating the next great screenplay. But when we first see Benson, we see him suntanning and drinking vodka on his sunporch. He has the title The Girl Who Stole Eiffel Tower, but that is about it.

In arrives Gabriel Simpson (Hepburn) as his new typist. Together they have to produce a full movie script in two days.

 

Richard and Gabriel get caught up their writing

As they start to brainstorm, many uncredited guest stars appear in their thoughts as they play out different versions of Benson’s movie. It seems as though every movie genre, from western to horror, makes an appearance in their musings. As the play out the scenes in their heads, Richard and Gabriel become the leading man and woman.

 

Richard and Gabriel, or Rick and Gaby, their characters in the movie within the movie, do not end up getting much work done at first, but a fine romance does develop. Although their characters may not have a happy ending in Benson’s story, the “real” Rick and Gaby are able to dance off into the Parisian sun. Benson at first sends her away but after she conveniently leaves her pet bird behind, he has to come and find her. He frankly tells her he loves her and then they set off to rewrite the awful script they had finished the night before.

Although this movie did not too all that well in the box office, I do think it is quite charming and fun. It was shot on  location and boasts a beautiful Parisian setting.

Hepburn is great as usual; guest star Tony Curtis plays he various uncredited roles fantastically. Unfortunately, like his onscreen character, Holden also had a drinking problem. The problem seemed to escalate while on set; it is said that Holden fell for Audrey when they filmed Sabrina and had never really gotten over her.

If you are an Audrey fan, this movie, while most definitely not her best, does deserve a viewing.

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In honor of Rock Hudson’s birthday I wanted to write a piece on two of my favorite Rock Hudson films. Hudson partners with Doris Day and Tony Randall in these films.

Probably their most popular film together is Pillow Talk. In the plot, Jan (Day) and Brad (Hudson) share a party line. Jan is fed up with Brad typing up the line all day talking to his many girlfriends. They meet by chance and Brad figures out who she is when he overhears her talking about him. Since he knows that Jan only knows his voice, but not what he looks like, he uses a fake Texas drawl and tries to win her over like he has all the other women. Their mutual friend Jonathan (Randall) is caught in the middle of everything. Of course Jan is furious when she finds out his true identity but she has already fallen for him. But before she gives in to his charm, Jan, who is an interior decorator, gives Brad’s apartment a horrible makeover.

Hudson was hesitant to do this film at first because he had not done much comedy. But the script eventually won him over, and Pillow Talk went on to do very well with audiences.

Another film they made together is Lover Come Back. Hudson and Day play rival ad executives. Jerry Webster (Hudson) uses sex and alcohol to get accounts and Carol Templeton (Day) is tired of losing clients to him. She has heard about his exploits but never met him. She sets out get him disbanded in the ad world. Meanwhile, since Webster had promised a girlfriend of his a spot in a commercial, he casts her in a commercial for a fake product. The commercial accidentally gets released. To keep his job, Webster has to create the fake product to go along with the commercial. When Templeton hears about the top secret product, called VIP, she sets out to win over the product’s creator and the ad account for herself. Webster intercepts her when she comes to visit the creator’s lab and pretends to be him. He is able to keep her occupied while the real creator makes VIP.

Webster’s deadline approaches quickly and when VIP is finally ready, he does not even take the time to ask the scientist who created VIP to explain what it it. At the product presentation, everyone thinks it is just a mint, but VIP is really pure alcohol in candy form. Since VIP tastes so good, those at the meeting eat all they want and many wake up the next morning in places they do not recognize. Webster and Templeton wake up in Maryland and married. Templeton is furious once again and annuls the marriage. But as her housekeeper says as she calls to inform Webster he is about to become a father, “there was one thing she couldn’t annul.”

Most people think that Lover Come Back is the best of the Hudson/Day films and I would probably agree. Both of these films are full of witty humor that makes viewers laugh at every turn.

…that I finally get to watch TCM’s original documentary, Hollywood’s Greatest Year: 1939!! The special is just now1939coming on TCM so for those who do not have TCM or have not gotten to watch it either, here it is a running recap.

From films such as Gone with the Wind to Wizard of Oz to Wuthering Heights, 1939 is arguably the greatest year in cinematic history.

The documentary opens up with vintage footage from the Oscars ceremony from that year. It then discusss how efficient Hollywood was back then. Studios could churn out a 100 films if needed and they really connected with the audiences of the day. The documentary then discussed the various movie studios and their respective 1939 films.

MGM Studios and Louis B Mayer were the big winners in 1939. The studio owned such stars as Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, and Myrna Loy.

But MGM’s brightest star during this time was Mickey Rooney. Babes in Arms was his feature film in 1939, which also starred Judy Garland. Mickey had starred in several Andy Hardy films by 1939 and was hugely popular. Many female stars, such as Lana Turner, first starred as one of Andy Hardy’s lady loves before going to bigger fame later.

Judy Garland was one of MGM’s home-grown talents and she won the role of Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, even though Shirley Temple was also considered for the role. One of MGM’s first forays into technicolor, Wizard was a huge success and gains new fans everyday.

Wizard catapulted Judy into even bigger fame and before the year was up, she had been cast in another one of Mickey’s movies, Babes in Arms. This is one of my first-watched and favorite musicals.

Another movie studio mentioned is Warner Bros. WB featured films that had more tommy-guns than satin and lace. Their bread and butter was crime and drama. Its gritty stars James Cagney, Humprey Bogart, and Bette Davis all made great dramas during this time. Errol Flynn was also a major star that brought class and strength to the western genre in Dodge City.

Bette Davis truly had a banner year in 1939. She starred in Dark Victory, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Juarez, and The Old Maid . As the documentary stated, most actors would be happy with these films during their entire career, but Davis accomplished all of these films in just one year. Davis was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for Dark Victory but lost out to Vivien Leigh for Gone with the Wind.

Universal Pictures needed a great film to help themselves right their ship. They chose to go the route of the monster movie and produced Son of Frankenstein.

Frank Capra made his mark in 1939 by directing the great drama Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Jimmy Stewart gives one of his greatest performances in this movie about a naive senator who makes a difference in government. This movie did draw controversy for its political tones, but Capra refused to shelve it. This one is a must-see for sure.

Howard Hawks, who like Capra worked for Columbia Pictures, worked twice with Cary Grant in 1939. He directed Only Angels Have Wings for Columbia. For RKO Pictures, Hawks also worked on Gunga Din, which is considered to be one of the best action films of the year. Gunga Din stars Grant and Douglas Fairbanks and was one of the most expensive films RKO ever made.

20th Century Fox Studios was only four years old in 1939 but already had stars like Henry Fonda. The studio owner focused on getting and keeping director John Ford. Ford was instrumental in making the great western Stagecoach starring John Wayne as Ringo Kid. Ford had to fight to cast Wayne, who was a newcomer to Hollywood at this time. Of course we all know that Wayne went on to create many other great westerns throughout his career.

Wuthering Heights was one of 1939’s more ambitious films. Many said that the story of doomed lovers was unfilmable.

Perhaps the best known film of 1939, Gone with the Wind certainly became producer David O. Selznick’s legacy. It is said that Selznick liked to make the big decisions himself, but when it came to GWTW he knew that casting Rhett Butler was out of his hands. He had to rely on MGM’s consent to loan out Clark Gable for the role. Selznick took a gamble in casting a relative unknown in Vivien Leigh. But that risk paid off in huge dividends.

GWTW truly challenged the ideas of studio budget, size, running time, and censorship. Also, unlike other films of the time, women were really the focus even though it can also be considered a war film.

The momentum of the studios came to halt after Pearl Harbor when studio were forced to sell off their theater chains. Television then came to more available and 1939 was one of the last big producing years for these studios.

With all types of genres covered, stars that were already big box-office draws to unknowns that made their mark immediately onscreen, and films that appealed to all human emotions, 1939 was truly the apex of cinema history.

For more in 1939, visit TCM and check out http://www.tcm.com/thismonth/article/?cid=240778&mainArticleId=238944.

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CountryGirl

Grace and Bing in The Country Girl

Still admired today for her beauty and dignity, Grace Kelly was born on this day, November 12, in 1929 in Philadelphia.

Grace wanted to act from a young age. She studied drama at New York’s America Academy of Dramatic Art. Before moving to Hollywood to pursue a film career, she worked as a stage actress and also a model.

After appearing in High Noon with Gary Cooper, she appeared in Mogambo alongside Clark Gable and Ava Gardner and earned Best Supporting Actress nomination. (This is one film that is now on my “must watch when able” list!)

Her work in High Noon garnered her the attention of director Alfred Hitchcock. He sought after her to be one of his leading ladies. Working with famed costume designer Edith Head, Hitchcock made Grace into his ideal blonde bombshell leading actress.

Grace worked with Hitchcock on three films, first Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart, then Dial M for Murder with Ray Milland, and then To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant. These three are some my favorite Hitch films and definitely deserve a viewing if you have never seen them.

Grace went a completely different avenue in The Country Girl. Starring with William Holden and Bing Crosby, she plays the wife of an alcoholic actor (Crosby) who starts to fall in love with the director (Holden) who is working with him. This movie is surprisingly good and viewers see both Grace and Bing Crosby in a very unusual type of movie for them. They both give great performances and after I did watch this film it became one of my favorites.

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Grace and William Holden attending the Oscars

Grace won the Best Actress Oscar in 1954 for The Country Girl beating out Judy Garland who was nominated for her comeback role in A Star is Born. Crosby was nominated for Best Actor but lost to Marlon Brando for On the Waterfront.

Later the two reunited in High Society which also starred Frank Sinatra. This film is the musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story.

In 1956, Grace married Prince Rainier Grimaldi III of Monaco and effectively became “Princess Grace” of Monaco. She left her acting career behind for her family. She and her husband had 3 children, Carolina, Albert, and Stephanie. She passed away in 1982 after her car ran off the road in cliffs of Monaco.

Grace Kelly will always be remember for her timeless roles, beauty and fashion sense. Many books have been written about her lavish wedding and wedding gown.

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Grace on her wedding day

zacI just found the trailer for the upcoming movie Me and Orson Welles. Since I mentioned Welles in the previous post I thought I would give you all a look at the trailer too.

I am interested to see how well this movie portrays the time period and Welles’ nature. The movie is about a teenager’s being cast in one of Welles’ shows in 1937 and his experience with the stage. It looks promising…..

LongHotSummerI happened upon The Long Hot Summer one evening and decided to go ahead and watch it. This movie has been near the bottom of my “must watch when I have time” list but only because there are so many others that I also want to watch. Either way, I am glad I did sit down and give this one a chance.

The Long Hot Summer starrs Paul Newman as Ben Quick, a man accused of arsony and chased out of town, and Joanne Woodward as Clara Varner, the unmarried daughter of the richest family in town.

Orson Welles also starrs in this movie as Will Varner, the patriarch of the Varner family. Welles is fantastic in this movie and his character is just crotchety enough to be believable. Angela Lansbury plays Varner’s female friend in the town who is constantly after Varner to finally marry her.

After Ben wanders to the Varner place in search of a job, Varner aggrees. But he has the intention of getting Clara to marry Ben and stop being the town’s old maid schoolteacher. Varner’s son Jody (Tony Franciosa) is married but with no ambition in life. Varner is anxious to see his grandchildren before he dies and is willing to manipulate whomever he can to get his way. He thinks Ben has drive and would be a right fit for the family.

Clara of course has no interest in Ben at first. She is somewhat interested in Alan Stewart (Richard Anderson) and thinks Ben is too common. But Stewart is still tied to his widowed mother and will not make a committment to Clara.

Throughout the movie Jody starts to resent Ben for undermining his position in the family business, which is pretty much owning the entire town. The stress gets to him and he sets a barn on fire that almost kills his father. When the townspeople see the smoke, they automatically think that is it Ben who set the fire. They try to come after him but Varner saves him by saying that he set the fire with his cigar.

Much to Daddy Varner’s delight, Clara does fall in love with Ben in the end and does not let him leave when he wants to move on to the next town.

The plot of this movie was simple but the emotions portrayed were great. Welles’ portrayal of Varner reminded me much of my old grandfather with his deep South accent and gravelly smoker’s voice.

Newman and Woodward have definite chemistry throughout and were great choices for these roles. The secondary characters were also well cast.

I love old trailers and their giant headlines and announcer voices:

Vivien Leigh was born in Darjeeling, India on a Wednesday evening on November 5, 1913. Her father was born in England but he moved to India at the age of 22 in search of a life of adventure. The family moved back to England when Vivien was six years old.

She was educated in the Covenant of the Sacred Heart and showed poise from a young age. Her first appearance was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream on stage.

She later attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Shortly before going to the RADA, she met and began a relationship with Leigh Holman. They married in 1932 and had their first child in 1933.

In September of 1934, Leigh attended a production of Theatre Royal where she saw Laurence Olivier perform for the first time. Leigh was starstruck at once and even remarked to a girlfriend that she would marry him some day. As she continued acting in small roles, Leigh did get the chance to meet Olivier.

They finally had a chance to act together in 1936 in Fire Over England. Their relationship grew as they spent time on and off screen.

During this time, Leigh  heard about the search for an actress to portray Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. She was confident that she would play Scarlett and did in fact win the role and went on to win Best Actress in 1940. The filming of the movie was tempestuous for the actors with a change at director from George Cukor to Victor Fleming. (The switched films, from the Wizard of Oz to Gone with the Wind.) Leigh struggled with the long hours of filming on set and having to spend time away from Olivier.

Leigh is probably best remembered at Scarlett but she starred in several other well-known films. She starred opposite Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and won a Best Actress Oscar for her role as Blanche in 1952.

Another great film of hers is Waterloo Bridge also starring Robert Taylor, as Roy. She plays, Myra, a ballerina who meets a soldier during WWII. They fall in love but he is called to the fight before they are married. When the papers mistakenly list him as KIA, Myra becomes depressed a turns to prostitution. After returning from the front, Roy sees Myra at the bus station as she is trying to pick up soldiers and thinks she is there to greet him. She tries to hide her past from Roy and his family but is consumed with her guilt and throws herself in front of a truck.

Leigh is said to have suffered from bipolar disorder throughout her lifetime. After a short but bright film career, Vivien Leigh died from a bout of tuberculosis at the age of 53.

Leigh was nominated only twice in her career for a major award, but both times she won the Oscar. She was a major part of two of the best films of Hollywood Golden Age with her roles in Streetcar and Gone with the Wind.

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Leigh on the set of Gone with the Wind

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