Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dancing Lady (1930)

“I've got good legs, Mr. Gallagher.”
“Yes, so I've noticed, but don't let them run away with you.” 

            When I think of Pre-code films I often think of gangster films or films where there are tough woman working their way through life like Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face or Loretta Young in Born to be Bad. There are plenty of good Pre-code musicals but the one that sticks in my mind best is Gold Diggers of 1933 which is so excellent. When I went to watch Dancing Lady I did not even realize it was made in 1933 making it a Pre-code. I found it to be a very good example of a Pre-code not so much with its story but with some of the actions and things that are said.
            Janie Barlow (Joan Crawford) is a Burlesque dancer. The show gets raided one night on charges of indecency (good lord can you imagine what people would get picked up on today! Can you imagine their shock and horror of some of the rated R films today?!) and unfortunately Janie gets picked. But before she can spend the night in jail her bail is made by a rich man with nothing better to do named Tod Newton (Franchot Tone). Tod frequents the burlesque where Janie worked and liked her and basically wanted to get with her. He takes her out to dinner after she is released and he says he can help her get to Broadway. Janie says thank you but wants to get there by herself not with his money and help. When she gets home that night she opens a letter from Tod that says what words and sayings she should not use and what types of close to wear along with fifty dollars. Janie is mortified especially because he gave her money, she goes to tear up the money but her roommate stops her since that can buy a lot of groceries. The roommate mentions before they go to bed that a stage director named Patch Gallagher (Clark Gable) is putting on a new show and also to keep dreaming because he will never see.
            Determined more than ever, Janie goes to Patch’s office the next day. In the office a woman walks out who has a part and Janie notices the woman has a southern accents so she tries it too when she is walked over to Patch. As soon as she is literally pushed out the door by the stage manager Steve Janie drops the accent and gives the guy a great attitude. For days Janie follows Patch around like a stalker just trying to talk to him.
            Tod sees how bad Janie wants a job so he writes a letter to his producer friend Jasper Bradley. Bradley immediately takes Janie into his office and sends her down to Patch for an audition. As soon as Steve finds out she is coming to them through a friend of Bradley’s they put her through the ringer and do not plan on letting her into the show. Janie says out loud she knows she is getting the brush off but they are not going to lick her and she tries harder than ever. Steve sees that Janie does have real talent so he calls Patch over. Patch gives in and gives Janie a spot in the show. He asks her if she really loves dancing and is willing to work long hours and she says she is.
            The chorus girls are not paid but Tod makes a deal with Bradley to have Janie get paid through him with her knowing about since she does not want his help. One weekend Tod takes Janie to his grandmother’s house. While out for a swim, he asks her to marry him. At first Janie is reluctant because she wants to be part of the show it is something she really wants to do. Tod asks her if the show fails then will she marry him and she says yes. In a selfish act Tod has Bradley close the show down so Janie will be free to marry him. Patch is devastated at the news but with some money he has saved up and with some help from Steve they keep the show going.
            After the news about the show and Tod selfishly closing it down, Patch goes out and gets drunk. Janie and Tod are in the same restaurant and he drunkenly tells her what happened to the show. That night Janie goes to Patch’s apartment to smooth things over. She wants the show to be a success but she wants to help it be a success she wants to be in the show again.
            Patch puts Janie back in the show and the audience raves about it when it ends. Tod asks her if she still wants to marry him. Janie says no she loves what she does too much to give it up and she does not want to change the way she is.
            What I really liked this film was how Pre-code it was. I was in heaven with all the innuendo and the sort of seductive touching. In the scene when Patch asks if Janie really wants to be a dancer in the show he tells her to get going and slaps her behind! There is a really good scene with Clark Gable and Joan Crawford where they are working out. He throws the medicine ball too hard at her and hurts her hand. They like the touch so he plays it rough with her again so he can rub another hurt out of her arm. He tries it a third time this time hitting her in the behind thinking he could touch it but she is on to him and says no and sits down. LOVED IT!! Jasper Bradley’s son works with him and the only reason the kid works with him is because of all the girls. The kid is a hound he is constantly chasing and looking seductively at them or like they are a piece of meat. The raciest part of the whole film was at the beginning when Tod spots Janie at the burlesque. The main singer lets her dress slip off her shoulder revealing a bra strap and then the whole company strips down to skimpy outfit. I in doubt can believe that this one of a handful of films that enraged the Breen office and caused there to be a push in censorship.
            I really like Joan Crawford in her early films. Her acting was great and she looked fabulous. There were scenes here and there that her acting was not the greatest but for the most part she did a good job. Her dancing… I do not even know what to say. She had rhythm but she looked so sloppy and too big. To me she looked like an awkward cow (**darting flying objects**)  Clark Gable was Clark Gable he was a rough guy with a soft inside. He (literally) played rough with Janie at first to scare her off and then fell for her hard. Crawford and Gable’s chemistry was great. I know they had a little affair going on outside the studio so I am sure that sexual chemistry carried over onto the screen. What I want to know is what one earth did women see in Clark Gable. I think he was a very good actor but there is no way in hell that I think he was handsome. Franchot Tone I really do not have an opinion of. I have seen him in two other films besides this and really has not and does not leave an impression on me. 
            Fred Astaire makes his screen debut. He plays himself just a dancer in a Broadway show. So if the question ever comes up who was Fred Astaire’s first dance partner it was not Ginger it was Joan Crawford. I think Crawford besides Joan Fontaine in Damsel in Distress is his worst dancing partner. Eve Arden makes a very small appearance as the actress who walks out of Bradley’s office with a southern accent. I love this woman so much I love her attitude and her voice.
            Dancing Lady is a very good example of what a Pre-code film consists of. The story was lackluster and unoriginal even for 1933 but the racy scenes were pretty racy and well done. Dancing Lady is a not a film I would rush out to find unless you are a fan of Joan Crawford or Clark Gable.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Saratoga Trunk (1945)

“I've seen lots of women, but I've never seen a woman like you.”

            Saratoga Trunk is based off the novel of the same name by the famed author Edna Ferber. Ferber wrote novels like Show Boat, Giant, So Big, Cimarron, and so many more that were turned into successful films. The films I have seen of her works are good but they are very much women’s stories very dramatic with happy endings. Saratoga Trunk is one of those stories but this time the woman is the one with the strings, the strength, the determination, and most amazing of all the shock value.
            Cilo Dulaine (Ingrid Bergman) has returned to New Orleans the place of her birth from Paris. Her mother has died in what Clio says is shame and disgrace. Clio’s mother had been the mistress of a rich man. The man unfortunately had to marry a respectable woman and could not be with her. The mother was so upset that her love could not be with her that she was going to kill herself when the father walked in. The father went to take the gun away but the gun went off and fatally shot him. The father’s family shunned the mother and had the mother thrown out of New Orleans. Now Clio has come to avenge her mother and wreak havoc on the town and the Dulaine family. She makes a vow that she will marry a rich man to also get back at those who hurt her mother.
            Clio along with her servants Angelique and Cupido go to the market. All the men take notice of Clio either because of her beauty or because she looks so much like her mother. While there she sees a man leaning against the bar staring at her. She likes what she sees but her servant Angelique forbids her to look at a man like that. Clio then walks over to a restaurant for breakfast and tells the owner that she wants to sit at the Dulaine table since she is a relative. At the table she sees the man from the bar again. Clio has the owner call the man over. His name is Colonel Clint Maroon (Gary Cooper). He comes from Texas and is not kindly looked upon by the people of New Orleans as they think the state is full of rough cowboys with no manners.
            Eventually Clio and Clint begin to see each other. One he wonders why he is even with Clio and tells her so. He is upset because Clio is ruining his plans he could have been in Saratoga days ago. Clint is looking to get even with a railroad company for taking his father’s land in Texas that his father had worked so hard to build. Clio asks Clint what Saratoga is like to which he replies that very rich people go to Saratoga to gamble and leisure about. As soon as Clio hears that there are rich men in Saratoga her interest in the area piques.
            In the mean time Clio continues to make life very uncomfortable for her father’s family. She goes to the same opera as they do and stares at them through her opera glasses, she walks past their house with Clint, and other things. They eventually have enough and bring in their lawyer to speak with Clio. The lawyer offers Clio a lot of money to leave New Orleans. Clio seizes this opportunity and asks for more money which the lawyer obliges as long as she leaves town. Then Clio makes more demands such as having her mother’s remains brought back to the town and buried under a white washed gravestone with the words “Beloved Wife” carved in them, and that she keep the profits from selling the house and all the furniture burned so no one can buy then and gossip about the pieces.
            Clio makes her way to Saratoga where Clint is. He had written to her to say that there is a very rich man at the hotel where he is. When Clio and Clint first see each other for the first time they pretend not to know each other so Clio has a chance with the rich man. Clint and Clio scheme together on how to get the rich man for her and revenge for him.
            I am leaving off here because the plot to me got a little confusing and I kind of stopped paying attention at this point.
            Ingrid Bergman was just a phenomenal actress. Whenever I watch any of her films no matter how many times I have seen them I am always blown over by her acting. I always say that if anyone ever wants to learn how to act all they have to do is watch any Ingrid Bergman or Myrna Loy film because they were just top notch actresses. With Bergman with every film she made you can just tell she loved being an actress she loved being in from of a camera in of an audience. And because she loved what she did she became this amazing incredible actress who could play anything. When you watch Bergman you are not watching the actress you are watching her characters. Clio Dulaine was a wicked scheming woman. There were scenes in this film where all Bergman had do was smile this wicked smile and you knew what was going on in her character’s mind. It is a smile if you have seen in countless of Bergman’s films either if she is happy or being sly but with the character of Clio Dulaine is becomes wicked. The first time she gave that smile in the film I was floored. I cannot explain why I liked it so much I just did. Ingrid Bergman is one of the reasons I became so into classic Hollywood I love her more and more with each of her films I see.
            Gary Cooper was such a handsome man. He was getting older and it looks like his chain smoking was starting to take a toll on him but the man still looked outrageously handsome. I thought his pairing with Ingrid Bergman was a little odd because she went all out with her performances especially here and Cooper kind of hung back. This is easier to understand when you have seen the film. Cooper was so good I liked how he was a rough Texan even if he did not look rough he acted like he was.
            Saratoga Trunk is not a bad film but it is long and gets a little tedious. Other than it being long and the story only so-so I have no other complaints about the film at all.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Feminine Touch (1941)

When I first saw the title The Feminine Touch I thought it was going to be a drag classic romantic comedy. Then I saw that Rosalind Russell and Don Ameche were in it along with Kay Francis and Van Heflin and figured it could not be that bad. And it was not I enjoyed the film a lot.
            Don Ameche plays John Hathaway a psychology professor in a small collage where education is put on the backburner to football. During one of his classes he finds a kid called Rubber- Legs carving his name in a heart along with John’s wife Julie’s name in it as well! John does not say much nor does he get jealous. He was supposed to pick up Julie (Russell) at the train station but he gets called into the dean’s office. Rubber- Legs takes advantage of this situation and picks up Julie saying that John had sent him to do so.
            When Julie gets to the house she tells her husband that Rubber- Legs picked her saying he had sent him to do so. John then tells her about the carving on the desk. She questions if he did anything out of jealousy. Since John was not jealous Julie gets mad and tells him just to get a reaction out of him that she saw her old fiancé when she was home and how she went out dancing with him and had a good time. John does not even react in the slightest to this news he just sits in his chair nice and calm which irritates Julie to no end.
            The next day the dean has John give Rubber- Legs the easiest test he can come up with so the kid can pass and play in the important game that weekend. John makes the test so easy but Rubber- Legs is just so stupid. John gets fed up he has fit. He has taken Julie to New York City where he plans to have his psychology book published. The next morning he regrets having dragged her to the city once he hears all the noise outside so early in the morning. Julie convinces him to stay and get his book published.
            They go to the publisher’s office together. They want to see a man named Elliot Morgan (Van Heflin) but he is not in and they are taken care of by his secretary Nellie Woods. Nellie tells John she liked the book especially the part about jealousy in marriage and suggests that John make the whole book about that. Nellie is very outgoing around John and almost completely ignores Julie which Julie does not like and becomes jealous. When John and Nellie go into her office to go over the book and sign the contract Julie is left outside. She sees a door lock with a key in it start moving and a newspaper come out from under the door. Whoever is in the next room wanted to get the key onto the paper to slide the key under the door but the door is too low and he does not get the key. Julie sees the person struggling and asks if he needs help. The person in locked in the room was Elliot Morgan he had been locked in the room by Nellie so she could be the one making the deal. He walks fast past Julie but as soon as he lays eyes on her he is very taken with her. At this time John and Nellie walk out of the room. John can see that the kind of woman his wife is might be good for Elliot since he has never known a woman to trust him. John is not worried about his wife going with Elliot but Julie is worried about the publisher and he secretary since she can see they like each other.
            The rest of the film sees Julie mad at John for not being jealous. All she wants is for her husband to jealous like she is when she walked in on John with Nellie in his arms. She even has a Surrealist-like dream where she and John are walking down a road and he punches all the guys who look at her out and she wakes up with a smile on her face thinking it was real. Eventually John does get jealous of Elliot when he thinks he asked Julie to his island in New England. Elliot does ask Nellie to marry him since he could not bear life without her.
            The funniest scene of the film is at the end when John and Elliot fight each other. The fight is too hysterical to describe except for the fact that they punch each other out. After they punch each other out Nellie and Julie exchange some words and then get into a cat fight themselves!
            I loved this cast they were all perfect together. Don Ameche was so good. I am used to seeing him as this nicely put together gentleman from Heaven Can Wait that seeing him all frazzled and not as well dressed was so funny. I love the man even more I think he was such a good actor. Rosalind Russell in my mind is the ultimate comedic actress. Her facial expressions crack me up alone. I did not really like seeing her as the jealous woman trying to get her husband to be jealous but she was just fantastic. Kay Francis I have absolutely nothing but praise for her. She looked amazing and had this wonderful tough New York City working girl attitude. Francis had a speech impediment that she was able to hide pretty well in the 1930s but later writers in Hollywood started to mess with her and give her words where her impediment can be clearly heard and in this film in a few scenes especially when she gets mad you can hear it. I think it makes her more endearing and the funny situations funnier. Van Heflin was a panic. I am so used to him as this serious guy from some of the other films I have seen him. I had such a great time seeing Heflin as this womanizing guy with a fiery attitude.
            The Feminine Touch is a very funny film with a different kind of plot but it starts getting a bit too much and becomes a little confusing. I did enjoy watching this film a lot I thought it was funny and very entertaining with a great cast and great dialogue. As of right now The Feminine Touch is not out on DVD nor is it available on Youtube. TCM played the film for Kay Francis’s day their Summer Under the Stars program. If TCM ever does play the film again definitely catch it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

One Romantic Night (1930)

One Romantic Night, starring Lillian Gish in her first talking film, has all the problems of early sound films: the voices are either too low or too high and most importantly the actors seem very uncomfortable having to speak their lines. Gish was one of the greatest actresses of the silent era but here in her first films she seems out of her element. The ridiculous story and the casting of a very effeminate Rod La Roque as one of the love interests completely brings down the film along with several other elements as well.
             Prince Albert (La Roque) has been invited to the home of a Princess Alexandra (Gish) to propose to her. Albert is a partygoer who can stay out all night and has several women on the side. He does not want to marry Alexandra any more than she wants to marry him. Alexandra tells her mother Princess Beatrice (Marie Dressler) her feelings about Albert and getting married but her mother will not hear any of it. Beatrice is hell bent on having her daughter married to royalty since their family has lost their own throne. Albert and Alexandra go for a walk in her garden. She knows that he does want to marry her and she flat out asks him if he is going to propose and if he is not if they can still be friends since they have been since they were children. Albert agrees to them being just friends.
            Alexandra’s two younger brothers are tutored by a young man named Dr. Haller (Conrad Nagel). Haller is in love with Alexandra. She does not know it but her brothers sure do. Beatrice is getting worried about her daughter and Albert. She comes up with the plan to make Albert jealous for him to want to be with Alexandra. By this time Alexandra has found out that Haller likes her so when her mother suggests that she go with Haller to the dance that night she is hesitant but goes along with the plan. All through the dance Albert cannot keep his eyes off Alexandra and becomes extremely jealous of her with another man. Haller does not realize he is being played. He is happy just having the princess’s attention and having her in his arms. At dinner Haller sits next to Alexandra and Beatrice freaks out. The guests do not understand why because Haller after he keeps them entertained with his talk of astronomy.

            Beatrice has coffee held just for the family in a small room. She plans it for Alexandra and Albert but Haller walks into the room with the prince. Beatrice has had enough and fakes being sick to be taken away from the situation. The only person who approves of Haller and Alexandra together is her uncle who is a bishop and believes she should love and marry anyone she wants. When Albert comes back after attending to the queen he starts to berate Haller. To make the argument stop Alexandra kisses Haller. That night when Alexandra is in her room packing to runaway with Haller, Albert comes in. He takes the princess in his arms and kisses her and tells her he loves her. She responds by saying she is mad at him for the way he treated Haller.
            Alexandra does not wind up running away with Haller. The next morning he decides to leave. Haller tells Alexandra he was going to leave without saying goodbye and also that when she kissed him the night before that she did it out of pity not love. The bishop says to him when Alexandra leaves that he had worshipped the princess from afar just like one of his stars for so long and when he got close to her the star around her faded.
            Beatrice gets a telegram saying that Albert is to be married to another princess from a far off place. Eventually Alexandra finds out the telegram and the marriage are lies when Albert comes to her window that night. He tells her he made the telegram up to make her jealous.
            I am sure you can guess that unfortunately Lillian Gish runs off into the sunset with Rod La Roque.
            Lillian Gish was a very good actress but as I said at the beginning she seemed very out of her element speaking in a film. I think before I ever saw Gish in a silent I had only ever seen her in Night of the Hunter where she is so amazing but that was one of her later talking films. I have yet to see any other of her sounds films, from what I hear she got better the more she made. Gish seemed very awkward but I am not sure if it was that the characters were awkward or the acting was by all of them they all seemed so nervous. It was funny to see her in one scene make a motion like she used to in her silents- after Albert kisses her she backs away with wide eyes and puts her hand to her mouth. I loved that because it felt for a split moment I was watching one of her silents. Gish by this time was thirty-seven she seemed so unbelievable as a young naïve princess. Conrad Nagel was very good. I have heard of him before but I have never seen him in a film before this. Rod La Roque was just a terrible choice to play Albert. I was so mad Alexandra wound up with this feminine looking man. La Roque was an awful actor I have seen him in a film before and I remember I did not like him in that one either. Marie Dressler was also a terrible choice for Princess Beatrice. She was such an ugly woman and she acted way too over the top. The over the top acting and the character did not suit her at all.
            If you listen real closely you can hear the camera pounding away in the background when a scene is quiet. That was a big problem during early sound as well as the audio balance. The voices as I mentioned were too low or too loud as well as the background noises.
            One Romantic Night is not the greatest film. I sat through it just because of Lillian Gish and I am will tell you to only sit through this film if you like her and nothing more. Do not go crazy looking for One Romantic Night, though, no matter how much you like Lillian Gish, take your time and drag your heels.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Silent Sundays: Haunted Spooks (1920)

“We must make the house too hot for them- drive them out- and the place is ours.”

            Haunted Spooks is nice short silent film running only twenty-five minutes long. More goes on in these twenty-five minutes than most hour long films!
            A girl’s (Mildred Davis) grandfather has just passed away and he leaves his plantation home to her on the condition that she is married and spends a night in the old house. The Girl is supposed to be only sixteen years old. She tells her lawyer she has “nothing but a Ford and a phonograph.” The Girl’s uncle was never really a schemer but he wants the house and turns into one.
            A boy (Harold Lloyd) is in love with a rich girl who constantly has rich men crawling all over her. At a party he literally fights off another guy for the girl. She tells the two men that whoever is the first to ask her father for her hand she will marry. The men run to the house trying to get to her father. The Boy lets the other guy go in guns blazing to the father while he sits back and watches things not so smoothly unfold. The Boy gets to the father eventually and the father says he can marry the daughter. Unfortunately when The Boy gets to the girl she is already with another man. Heartbroken The Boy then tries to kill himself in various ways: the first is with a  gun he picks up off the street but he cannot get himself to pull the trigger, second he tries to be hit by a tram car but the car veers away onto another track, third and fourth he tries to drown himself but on the first attempt the lake is too shallow and the second he winds up in a boat, finally he tries to be hit by a car but the car keeps moving away from him. The owner of the car happens to be The Girl’s lawyer. The Boy says something about how he just lost the love of his life and the lawyer immediately grabs him for The Girl.
            Boy and Girl get married. She has filled her old car up with some belongings which include a few chickens and ducks. The Boy being nice drives the car but the whole way there he is being poked at by the animals in the cage! To make things worse chickens that were wondering the road start flying in his face!
            When the newlyweds get to the house there is a big thunderstorm. The Uncle and his partner (never mentions if the woman is his wife or mistress or girlfriend) make up a story that the house is haunted. He tells his superstitious black servant that every few years ghosts come up out of their graves and haunt the house. The servant in turn goes and tells the other superstitious black servant that there are ghosts in the house and they all run. As soon as Boy and Girl walk in the house they see the “ghosts” wandering around the house. Frightened they run all over the place and hide wherever they can.
            Eventually the uncle and his partner are found out and kicked out. Thinking that the “ghosts” of have The Boy sees what looks like dismembered legs walking out of a room and his hair literally jumps on edge going straight into the air! The legs were only the little boy servant who got scared and hid in the pants.  Boy and Girl not even knowing each other’s name go off to bed in peace.
            I loved Haunted Spooks. Harold Lloyd was so funny in this. I was cracking up when he got scared of the pants and his hair stood straight up. If the story seems familiar to you in a way it is probably from either the 1927 or 1939 version of Cat and the Canary depending which one you have seen. I have seen the 1939 version with Paulette Goddard and Bob Hope. As soon as I read the plot of Haunted Spooks where the couple had to spend just one night in a haunted house I immediately thought of Cat and the Canary. I am sure the 1927 version was inspired by Haunted Spooks. Haunted Spooks is a very funny and very entertaining silent film. Actually I was honestly and literally laughing from the first credit to the very last scene. The opening credits are a panic giving a description of the Boy, Girl, and Uncle and funnily telling where the story takes place. Highly recommend seeing Haunted Spooks if you can find, Harold Lloyd and the plot are so funny. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Slightly Dangerous (1943)

Everyone has those days where they dream about getting out of their hometowns and becoming someone. Becoming someone not necessarily famous just someone besides themselves. I am sure we all have the dream of packing up and moving to Hollywood and becoming a famous actress/actor by chance. Or becoming a famous author having written a popular book or two. In the 1943 film Slightly Dangerous (which I have no clue why it is titled so there is nothing dangerous about it) the gorgeous Lana Turner plays a young girl who gets fed up with her life and becomes someone else. Along with all the consequences that come with being the new person.
            Peggy Evans (Turner) has lived in Hodgekiss Falls all her life. She has no family and has been working in the same chain store for three years. She receives an award for being on time over one thousand days. This reward puts Peggy over the edge she realizes that her life comes down to having been on time to a mindless job over one thousand days. Peggy works behind the ice cream counter with another girl. She tells the girl she knows where everything is so well she could do it blindfolded and she does! Customers begin to clamor around to see what is going on. Peggy makes a banana sundae to perfection with the blindfold on. The new store manager Bob Stuart (Robert Young) comes over to see what the commotion is about. She does not take her blindfold off asking why she should she did not harm anybody. Bob makes her come to his office. When she does come into the office Bob goes to lay into her but as soon as he sees Peggy’s beautiful face he is stunned speechless.
            In the office Peggy realizes she does not want to be herself anymore, she does no longer wants to be Peggy Evans she wants to run away and be someone else. That night Bob goes to the boarding house where Peggy has been living. The landlady is beyond upset having found a note from Peggy that sounds like a suicide note. The police question Bob asking him if he knows where Peggy could be. When he is read the letter he thinks he drove Peggy to kill herself and is wracked with guilt the whole night.
            Meanwhile Peggy is absolutely fine walking along the street of New York City. She walks in front of a store window that advertises they can completely makeover any girl. Peggy asks the doorman how much one of the makeovers costs and he says one hundred and fifty and brushes her away thinking she is a person the store would waste time on. Peggy sneaks into the store and comes out with platinum blonde hair and a beautiful new suit. As she walks down the street she thinks about a new name to go with her new name. While walking Peggy sees a sign for an advertisement company and goes to the building looking a job when she is hit in the head with a paint can and knocked out. She brought to the office of the boss Durstin. When Peggy sees what has happened to her new clothes and her hair with paint all over her she screams and panics. Durstin asks her her name but she cannot decide on which she wants. He says that she can stay with him for a while until they can identify her. They put her picture in the paper all over the country.
            Back in Hodgekiss Falls, Bob has been wracked with guilt that he caused Peggy to kill herself. He gets a call the next morning telling him to come to the office. When Bob gets to the store he sees the girls are all striking wearing blindfolds and just giving things away. The head of the chain store is in Bob’s office. He is worried that the story of Bob possibly driving one of their girl to suicide might put a blemish on the company. As the head is talking Bob looks down at the paper he sees Peggy’s picture in the paper and gets all excited. He says he can bring Peggy back and prove she is still alive that he did not make her kill herself.
            Durstin does everything he can to try to help Peggy remember who she is since she is faking amnesia. He tells her she might be an heiress which gives her a great idea. Peggy goes to the library and looks in the newspapers looking for missing persons cases. She finds the perfect one a little girl named Carol Burden whose father is a millionaire. Carol went missing when she was seven years old. The girl would be exactly Peggy’s age by that time. Back at the office she plays up Durstin and the girl’s father Cornelius Burden.
            Down in the lobby of the building is a barrage of people thinking Peggy is their long lost sister or wife or friend. Bob is the only one who knows who she truly is and tries everything he can to get to her but his efforts are thwarted.
            As soon as Peggy meets Burden she becomes afraid of what she has done and tries to back out but Burden says he is going to make sure she and Durstin who printed a story before he heard the news himself are put into jail. Peggy is taken to the Burden mansion outside town. Peggy tries to get away by climbing out the window but two guard dogs keep her from doing so. Burden and the maid Baba put her to a test to see if she really is Carol. Peggy is tortured by the idea of being found out and the pressure of having to guess what doll Carol used to carry around with her all the time. She second guess her actions to this point and actually wishes she was back in Hodgkiss Falls. Luckily she uses her powers of deduction correctly and finds the right doll.
            Bob tries to get into the mansion to see Peggy. He catches a glimpse of her in the house but that is all he gets when he is promptly kicked out of the house by the bodyguard. Bob gets another chance to see Peggy when Burden takes her to the opera. By this time Peggy is beginning to feel bad about her lie because Burden is such a nice sweet man. Her thoughts are made worse when she hears her name yelled out by Bob at the opera. Bob nearly falls into the audience below trying to get Peggy’s attention.
            After the opera Bob is at a restaurant drinking to calm his nerves. He sees Peggy and Burden walk in. He takes notice that Peggy touched a flower pot leaving her finger prints behind. Bob takes a pencil and marks the print out. A while later Burden throws Peggy a party to introduce her to people. Bob sneaks in and gets to Peggy. He speaks alone to Peggy and Burden and lies saying he has a marriage certificate saying that he and Peggy were married. Bob says she probably does not remember because her amnesia always went in and out over the years. He proposes that he and Peggy go back to Hodgekiss Falls to jog her memory. She goes and tells Burden to stay behind it will be better.
            Peggy makes the most of her current situation with Bob. They stop at a restaurant on the road where she runs to the bathroom, goes out the window, and steals a tube from the car so it will not run forcing them to be stranded. After dinner when Bob finds the car will not work the owner of restaurant says they can stay in the little motel he runs next door. The two of them in the room try to make the other feel uncomfortable but Peggy wins out.
            Burden in the meantime puts in a call to Hodgekiss Falls and finds out about Peggy. During the night having had enough of Peggy’s games, Bob calls Burden to come and get her. When Burden comes by he is mad. Baba has come along and tells Peggy that they know about her but that she cannot run away again because Burden likes having someone to take care of again and really likes Peggy.
            The ending is all nice and cute with Peggy finding a new place in the world and has Bob as her boyfriend. Not husband because the marriage certificate was fake.
            Lana Turner was adorable! So many people wind up just concentrating on her looks and not her acting which is a shame because she was a very good actress. I loved her voiceovers when she was walking down the streets of New York City trying to come up with her new name and when she was using her power of deductions. I cracked up when she was crying and freaking out when she saw the paint ruined her new dress and her hair she was so funny. I just loved Turner in this film she was so good. Robert Young I first saw when he was in The Bride Walks Out with Barbara Stanwyck but I barely remember him his part was not that big and it has been quite some time since I last time I saw the film. I do remember thinking he was handsome in that film and I thought he was quite handsome here as well. I thought Young was excellent he was silly and all over the place yet composed and not over the top. Lana Turner and Robert Young looked great together and had perfect chemistry.
            Slightly Dangerous is a cute film with a fun story. It is a mistaken identity plot which I usually hate but this was not bad because it was done right. I was proud of myself with Slightly Dangerous because sometime I get bored watching some films no matter how good they are and I get distracted and with this I was not I kept my eyes glued to the screen the whole time. Slightly Dangerous is a good film I recommend seeing especially for Lana Turner.

Friday, August 24, 2012

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

“It is with me now, so many years later. And it makes me think of so much that is good, that is gone.”

            How Green Was My Valley was originally bought by 20th Century- Fox with intentions to make it a four hour rival to Gone with the Wind. While I liked How Green Was My Valley I thank God that this film was not made into a four hour epic like Gone with the Wind. At two hours and fifteen minutes the film with its subject of unionism and poor people working at a mine in Wales in the late 1800s was long enough to drive me a little crazy after a while.
            The story is told as a flashback by Huw Morgan (voiced by Walter Pidgeon). He is leaving his small Welsh town where so much happiness and heartbreak has happened in his life. Huw (younger Huw is played by Roddy McDowell) was the youngest of seven children with three much older brothers and one older sister named Angharad (Maureen O’Hara). His older brothers work with the father in the local coal mine. The first memories Huw recalls are of his older brother Ivor (Patric Knowles) getting married to a young woman from the next village named Bronwyn and the new pastor of the local chapel, Mr. Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon), and Angharad locking eyes at church. When Huw first sees Bronwyn he immediately falls in love with her he thinks she is the prettiest thing he has ever seen. At the church after the wedding Mr. Gruffydd throws rice at Angharad to get her attention.
            At the coal mines the wages have gone down. The older brothers say that the wages will continue to go down because men are coming from other areas where they cannot find work. They say there needs to be a union but the father does not want to hear it. Since the father will not listen three of the older brothers leave the house to live in a local inn. The men in the mine go on a strike of the mine that lasts for twenty-two weeks. The men oppose Mr. Morgan because he opposed the strike. Mrs. Morgan hears of a workers meeting on a hill. The weather is terrible with snow blowing furiously but she goes to the hill and lets everyone know that if they so much as harm her husband they will have her to deal with. On the way home Mrs. Morgan and Huw fall in a small lake. Mother and son are saved and survive the bitter coldness but both are laid up for months because their legs were frozen solid. Mr. Gruffydd comes to the house and tells Huw to have faith that he will walk again. In the spring time the mother finally comes downstairs after being in her bed for months and Huw is finally ready to go outside. Mr. Gruffydd comes to take the boy out for a walk in the valley.
            With the help of Mr. Morgan and Mr. Gruffydd the strike ends and the men go back to work. Unfortunately there are more men looking for work than there are positions. Wales is in a bad economic situation. Two of the older brothers see that this bad situation will not end soon and they tell the family they are traveling to America to seek work.
            One day the head of the coal mine comes to the Morgan house. He asks Mr. Morgan if it is alright if his son can come and call on Angharad. Mr. Morgan says that the son can come and ask for his daughter himself. The son comes over and he is an arrogant ass. Angharad does not want to be with the son she loves Mr. Gruffydd. She goes to the pastor to talk to him. He loves her deeply as well but he tells her he does not want her to live in the poverty he lives in where he depends on the kindness of the community. He does not want their children to have to wear worn old clothes from other children. He tells her he chose to live in poverty she did not and she does not have. Very unhappily Angharad marries the son.
            Huw gets into a national school and is the first of the family to do so. His first day of school does not go well. As soon as he walks in the young arrogant teacher is awful to him snobbily picking on him for being late and for being from a coal mining town. An older boy picks on him and beats him up. When Huw gets home his father calls two of the neighbors to come over to teach him boxing. The boxing works but the teacher comes out during yet another fight Huw has gotten into and beats the poor kid until he faints with his walking stick. Huw tells his brothers not to go to the teacher but the two men who taught him boxing go to the classroom the next day and pretend to be giving boxing lessons to the class and knock the bastard teacher out teaching him a good lesson.
            An accident at the mine happens one day. Unfortunately Ivor was caught in the cave in and he died. He left behind Bronwyn and a new baby. Huw not much later is asked by his father if he wants to go on to the second level of school where he can have a proper education and go to college. Since the death of Ivor he has chosen to work in the mines. Mr. Morgan is so upset he goes out drinking all night. As Bronwyn is leaving she says aloud how lonely she in the house without Ivor. She says that every night she lays out his clothes like he still alive. Mrs. Morgan has Huw go over the Bronwyn’s house and proposes that he live with her so she is not so lonely anymore and she can lay out his clothes. As he speaks to her his voice cracks because he is trying to act like a grown up but he is still the little boy with a crush on his sister-in-law.
            The two older brothers still left in the house are left go from the mine because they had some of the highest wages. They too decide to leave to seek jobs outside the country. Huw takes a map and draws lines from Wales to where the brothers are scattered all over the world. One brother is in New Zealand, another in Canada, and another in a far off remote country. Angharad has been in Cape Town with her husband but has come back to Wales by herself. The head maid of her husband’s house has been with the family for thirty-seven years and makes poor Angharad nervous beyond measure (she is remarkably like Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca). The wicked old maid spreads rumors that Angharad and the husband are most likely getting a divorce and that she is in love with Mr. Gruffydd. As time goes on the rumors turn to poison and spread throughout the valley. The deacons call a meeting at the chapel to throw Mr. Gruffydd out of the church and to denounce Angharad. Mr. Gruffydd who is a spiritual man more than a preacher winds up denouncing the deacons and the parishioners for their sins of not being kind to others and only seeing the worse in people not the good. He is furious that the villagers have the nerve to accuse him behind his back but not to his face. He walks out of the meeting and so does Huw.
            In the dark night the whistle at the mine screeches and screeches a warning call that something is terribly wrong in the mine. Even Angharad comes running from her house beyond the hills. All the villagers run out at the sound and they see a huge explosion coming from down below. Mr. Morgan went down into the mine. He does not come up with the rest of the men. Mr. Gruffydd, Huw, and two other men who are loyal to Mr. Morgan go looking for him in the flooded mine. They mind him trapped between rocks and debris. Huw goes to his father and Mr. Morgan winds up dying with his arms around his boy.
            The ending of the film has Huw reminiscing to the times when his family was all together when his brothers and sister still lived at home and they were all happy. He pictures all four of his older brother walking across the valley to come and greet him.
            This film was so beautiful in so many ways. All the actors were excellent in their roles. Maureen O’Hara is barely in it and she is on the cover of the DVD. Whatever scene no matter how small it was she was radiant. O’Hara was twenty-one years old when she made this film and goodness was she beautiful. Walter Pidgeon played such a wonderful character and did such a magnificent job I cannot think of anyone else that could have done better. I really liked how Mr. Gruffydd was a more spiritual preacher he was not a traditionalist he saw God was everywhere and loved everyone no matter what their sins were which was very unusual for the time. Patric Knowles is not in the film very much he plays the oldest brother Ivor. He did not have many lines either but good lord when he was in a scene he was so handsome! The moment he came on the screen I could not get over how good looking he was! His character was very sweet and very nice. He ran the town choir and was invited to perform in front of the Queen in London and when he reads the note he is adorable. Donald Crisp and Sara Allgood played Mr. and Mrs. Morgan. I liked both of them a lot. Again the casting was excellent. And just to think if the film had been made into the epic proportions it was originally intended to be Tyron Power was up for a main part and Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Oliver were considered for parts. THANK GOD all three were not cast!
            John Ford got some beautiful shots and made such a moving film. Shot I could not get over is when Mrs. Morgan finds out that Ivor died. She just leans against the doorway with the saddest blank stare. Ford filmed her in full body shot and then he pans the camera down and films her looking up. The shot and Sara Allgood’s acting just made an incredible shot it was so sad that I found myself tearing up a bit.
            How Green Was Valley is a good film but I felt it a little bit too long with its subject of unions and a once large happy family growing apart from the coal mine. I mean I understand it was long to get the whole story in and it the screenwriter did a great job but for me it was a little too long. I did like the theme of this family going through so many hardships and always managed to move along to another day. How Green Was My Valley is an excellently directed and acted film that is definitely worth giving it a try if you can find it.