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
We continue our look at a couple of views of “true life” movies with “Roughly Speaking” (1945). Directed by Michael Curtiz, this fast-paced film with breezy dialogue punctuated by clever quips from leads Rosalind Russell and Jack Carson has similarities to “The Crowd” (1928) which we looked at last Thursday. The differences have to do more with tone and outlook than with basic content.
Unlike the spare, almost allegorical modern Everyman tale of “The Crowd”, “Roughly Speaking” is a cluttered scrapbook based on the memoir of Louise Randall Pierson. Both films study lives of trial and struggle, and bad breaks. “The Crowd” is somber, sensitive, and artistic. “Roughly Speaking” is more rollicking, uplifting, and though it covers some crucial episodes in time, is lighter fare.
Rosalind Russell’s character begins life as a daughter of a well-to-do New England patriarch in the early days of the 20th Century. When Father dies leaving debts, Miss Russell hitches her star to secretarial school (where the prim lady dean reprimands her for wearing a skirt that shows her ankles) and begins a wild ride of feast and famine for the next several decades.
A typically robust and hearty Alan Hale has a brief role as her first boss, who doubts a woman can do the job of typing letters in his shipyard office, but when she high kicks his hat off, he gives her a leg up in the business world. So to speak.
This occurs in New Haven, and when she and her roomie at the boarding house (where not a toilet is seen -- see the last post on “The Crowd”) date some Yale men, we hear the first of several choruses throughout the movie of the Yale fight song. You’ll have it memorized by the end of the film.
Her first beau proposes marriage, but she is a feminist and wants to support herself and does not want to quit her job when they marry. Her work ethic will come in handy in later years when she’s broke most of the time.
Her husband is a banker, a bit of a quiet drudge, but very stable, at least until he decides, after their fourth child is born, that he doesn’t love her. He leaves her, and we hear no more of him for the rest of the movie. But in the ebullient early days of the 1920s, Russell meets a new beau, played by Jack Carson with that wonderful deft way he had of playing both a good guy and a rogue. Mr. Carson doesn’t mind that she’s an independent woman or that she has four kids. He is a lazy loafer who needs a good woman to make him shape up, which is what happens. They have a great chemistry on screen and play well off each other. They look like they’re having fun.
One business booms, then busts. A lot happens in the parade of years. One of the children has polio, and we see her struggle with early paralysis to later being able to walk with a brace and a cane. Another baby is born. They move constantly to either better, or cheaper, digs according to their circumstances. The family is close and extraordinarily happy, joking at just about everything, even their bouts with poverty. Miss Russell and Mr. Carson get grayer in that artistic manner of the movie makeup artist.
A newsboy brings a big black headline to their porch that announces the Great Depression, and we have the stoic comment by Carson, “I guess the party’s over.”
But there is still the underlying all-American optimism that makes them bounce off the canvas, continuing to feed on the faith they have in themselves and their own ingenuity over a montage of “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” and “We’re In The Money.”
Finally by 1939, Carson gets a break, a job on the planning board of the New York City World’s Fair of that monumental year, but the rejoicing doesn’t last for long. At Russell’s 50th birthday party, where all the grown kids come home to help her eat cake and sing the Yale fight song, Rosalind Russell looks up from blowing out her candles to notice out the window over the fairgrounds that the Polish pavilion has turned off its lights. It’s a brief, but quietly dramatic moment in the film.
Young people seeing this film for the first time might not be aware of the significance of the statement, but it signals the beginning of World War II when Germany invaded Poland. Of all the foreign nations which sent exhibits to the New York 1939 World’s Fair, themed “The World of Tomorrow”, many Europeans could not return home once the war started. They were stuck there on the fairgrounds, in their native costumes, no longer trying to drum up business for countries that suddenly no longer existed.
Again, the wry comment by Carson, “Well, there goes the world of tomorrow.”
But the war puts the whole family on active duty. Who is not in the service is working in the shipyard. Miss Russell works in the office, as she did so many years ago, and Mr. Carson is a welder.
We have the final iconic scene where the boys are leaving at the train station, and the youngest, just 17, hands Mother and Father the permission slip for him to join the service. They have to put on their reading glasses now, and the makeup department has colored their hair completely gray. Russell and Carson capture beautifully the heartache and tension of the moment.
Afterward, the two aging empty-nesters sitting on the bench in the train station while the camera pulls back and they are lost in that crowd that threatened to swallow James Murray in “The Crowd”, argue about what would be the next business to start, a farm perhaps, and the movie ends in a hectic, though buoyant way.
This is the main difference between “The Crowd” and “Roughly Speaking,” the despair of one and the optimism of the other. One wonders how Murray’s character in “The Crowd” would have dealt with the Great Depression or World War II. Perhaps like the real-life actor who played him, he would have been long dead by then, crushed by his own inability cope.
Happier circumstances awaited Rosalind Russell, who after several years of comedies and minor dramas, this film began a turning point in her career where she was offered much stronger roles.
One might conjecture that “The Crowd” was made during generally good times, and during eras of political stability and a fair amount of prosperity, it’s easier to look at the hard side of life. During the Great Depression and the war, the movies were less eager to take a grim stance. Optimism was what was needed, or at least that’s what the movie studios perceived. After the war, movies got realistic again, but that was okay. We could take it by then.
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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