On "No Down Payment": Anne said...This is what makes me wonder if Jeffrey Hunter and Patricia Owens'scharacters had even consumated thier marriageThe kid's got a broken radio, Jeff pulls out a screw driver and sets to work.Tony Randall gets smarmy with Jeff's wife and he's a frozen bystander...if Tony was mashing a radio, I think Jeff's character would have sprun into action. March 9, 2013
On "Trooper Hook": Vienna said...Wonderful review ! I haven't seen TROOPER HOOK for a long time but hope it becomes available on DVD. You describe Joel and Barbara's characters so well. An unusual role for Barbara. I guess she chose to do it for that reason. March 11, 2013
Anne said...Thank you for writing about this little gemOne can see this film on the encore west channel now and then and it's astonishingly good. With a budget not enough for a modern office pastry cart, it shows what can be done with excellent writing and acting....and directing. I love how we see the tiny stage from afar, then we see it though Nanches legs, we are right behind him, and we now know he's on their trail...it makes him almost a gonzilla of a threatChildren: let Mr. McCrea and Ms Stanwyck show you how it's done.They are hotter across a dusty feed store than many buck necked couples in love scenes today.March 7, 2013
On "Any Number Can Play": Vienna said...I love this film. Great cast, though I hate seeing Audrey Totter so totally wasted. All Audrey seemed to do was stand around with a glass in one hand and cigarette in the other.I thought Alexis Smith did well ,playing a woman whom I 'm sure was meant to be older than Alexis who was probably about 30 at the time.Great to see Mary Astor though,again, what a small role. And Marjorie Rambeau is always a joy.It could have been a play, with the only sets the gambling club and Gable's house.An unusual role for Gable and he was convincing.March 1, 2013
On Anita Sharp-Bolster: Vienna said...I've just see Anita in THE LONDON BLACKOUT MURDERS and she is so good as another battle-axe character , but with a touch of comedy . Nice tribute. Thanks.http//:dancing lady39.wordpress.com February 2, 2013
On Victor Jory - On Stage and Screen: Vienna said...Thanks for great tribute to Victor Jory whom I like, especially in a couple of films where he isn't the villain! In FIGHTING MAN OF THE PLAINS, Victor does his best to help Randolph Scott and becomes a good friend to Scott's character. Such a contrast to Victor's usual roles. I also liked him in a little B, THE UNKNOWN GUEST where he is the leading manI had no idea Victor and Alexis Smith did two plays together - thanks for the information. Oh to have seen them!January 24, 2013
On And Then There Were None: Ryan said...I bought this years ago on DVD, and it's still my favorite movie version of this story. The cast was perfect, and to tell you the truth, though I love the book, I almost prefer this ending. I think it's the hopeless romantic in me.February 19, 2013
Lincoln’s Birthday, having been usurped by the all-purpose Presidents Day, is no longer the block on the calendar it once was, but with the many references to President Abraham Lincoln during the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Honest Abe seems to be more in the news than ever.
The connection between Lincoln’s legacy in popular history as it pertains particularly to African-Americans remains at the front of his memory. Today on the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, we have this clip below from “Holiday Inn” (1942) to examine one Hollywood interpretation of that relationship.
The clip is cringeworthy camp. I can remember broadcast television showings where this scene was omitted, and not just to fit in more commercials. It is, after all, a bit uncomfortable to watch. Leaving it out may make watching this otherwise lighthearted froth of a movie less offensive, but leaving it out is a lie. By watching the scene carefully, we can learn a bit more about a wartime era when our armed forces were still segregated, when popular entertainment leaned heavily on exaggerated stereotypes.
The song is pleasant, another one of Irving Berlin’s patriotic tributes to his adopted country that make up this movie. As illustrated by the photo above, it was also released on a 78rpm. Listen only to the song and you have a stirring tribute in a big band flourish, and Bing Crosby’s steady baritone.
Open your eyes to watch the film clip, and you must really open your eyes to some other things. The stars in blackface, giving it their all as it once was performed in hokey minstrel shows from the 19th century up through the middle 20th century in vaudeville. The chorus in “mulatto” makeup and costumes meant to turn Holiday Inn into a cartoon plantation setting where happy slaves evoke the name of their savior, Abraham.
The only thing more ridiculous looking than Bing Crosby in this scene is the unfortunate Marjorie Reynolds, who bounds out like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Topsy” having just ingested some mind-altering substance. It may be laughable, but becomes all the more embarrassing when one realizes this performance is not meant as an insult, but intended as good-natured parody. The condescension in this scene does not seem to be apparent to Bing or Marjorie, the chorus, or the director or studio.
We see it. Many others saw it as well in the era when the film was made; not everyone was so blind. This kind of entertainment was already on its way out. The explanation in the plot for the use of blackface was to hide Marjorie Reynolds from being recognized by Fred Astaire, but the “cover story” if you will, is just to give credence to a typical Lincoln’s Birthday minstrel routine that was now becoming passé. This scene is a museum piece in more ways than one. The “Abraham” number was reused as an instrumental piece in “White Christmas” (1954) some 12 years later, for a fast-paced dance featuring Vera-Ellen. A big production number in “White Christmas” also salutes the days of minstrel shows. Nobody wears blackface.
But keep watching the original “Abraham”. Louise Beavers turns the scene on its ear. The warmth and sincerity she exudes singing to her children is what makes Bing and Marjorie all the more silly. She has dignity, and this was Abraham Lincoln’s great gesture to his fellow Americans of every race, the idea that human beings were born with innate dignity, and nobody could take it away from them, even if they took away their freedom. People can only give up their dignity willingly, which is what Bing and Marjorie are doing in this scene.
No matter that Miss Beavers has only a couple lines to sing in a movie that is a musical; no matter that one line includes the word “darky.” She’s got dignity to spare, which is good because Bing and Marjorie can really use some help to save this number.
I like to think that director Mark Sandrich saw that too, and that was his intention, this striking and moving comparison between the black lady and the white stars in blackface. Perhaps not, perhaps he was as blind to the dignity as he was to the indignation. But the studio left the scene in, and now so does cable television.
Have a look at the clip of “Abraham” below. Enjoy the song, but don’t close your eyes.
Meet Me in Nuthatch - A publicity stunt to attract tourists to a small dying town results in the entire community turning the clock back to 1904. It is local Christmas tree farmer Everett Campbell’s idea, after watching the film “Meet Me in St. Louis,” his young daughter’s new favorite movie. What begins as half practical joke and half desperate ploy initiates the rebirth of Nuthatch, Massachusetts. Tourists do come, along with the media. To Everett’s dismay, his campaign to save their community results in also attracting representatives of a chain of theme parks who want to buy Nuthatch 1904. Everett now stands to lose his town in a way he never imagined, and the community is divided on which alternate future to choose. A local drug dealer, the longtime enemy of Everett, may hold their future in his hands unless Everett can pull off his most spectacular, and dangerous, practical joke.
“…a comforting, pleasant read that stays with you even after the last page is turned. After finishing the book, I found myself still musing about the relationships and how they'd changed and progressed. This book was a nice, hot chocolate sort of read.” Grace Krispy, "MotherLode" blog book review.
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