Saturday, February 4, 2017

Jack Carson and Doris Day have a... Romance on the High Seas (1948)

In 1948, Doris Day wasn't yet a star. At age 23, she had found success with the Les Brown Band thanks to her hit recording of "Sentimental Journey" and she became a regular on Bob Hope's radio show. Oddly enough, though, her career was also coming to a stall. She had divorced her violent first husband Al Jorden in 1943 and she would be divorced from her second husband, George Weidler, by 1949. Day was ready to give up and leave Los Angeles when her agent Al Levy persuaded her to go to a party at composer Jule Styne's house. Styne and his partner Sammy Cahn loved Day's voice and urged her to audition for the movie they were working on: Romance on the High Seas.

Warner Bros. had been having difficulty in finding their leading lady for the film. Their first plan had been to borrow the queen of musicals, Judy Garland, from MGM. When that didn't work, they tried to get Betty Hutton from Paramount, but she had to opt out due to pregnancy. In a wonderful 2012 video for TCM, Day recalls auditioning for director Michael Curtiz -- she claims, though, that at the time she thought she was just helping another actor audition for a part! Other sources say that Curtiz had the singer perform something to convince him she could carry a musical. When she broke down midway through "Embraceable You" due to the issues in her personal life, Curtiz was won over by her fresh looks and authenticity.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

In Praise of Cary Grant.

When you think of The Philadelphia Story, your first thought is likely of Katharine Hepburn. Who can blame you? Hepburn had a stunningly powerful cinematic presence, and The Philadelphia Story is without a doubt her film – playwright Philip Barry wrote it for her, after all. However, in order for the movie to be successful, Hepburn needed to be matched with two actors who wouldn’t be totally devoured by her. On Broadway, she had Van Heflin and Joseph Cotten (can I travel back in time to see that?); on film, she wanted Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy, but what she got was just as wonderful: Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant.

As Mike Connor, the jaded reporter who becomes enchanted by Hepburn’s socialite Tracy Lord, Stewart won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Hepburn was nominated for Best Actress and Ruth Hussey, playing Stewart’s quick-witted photographer girlfriend Liz, found herself nominated for Best Supporting Actress. The odd man out here is Cary Grant, a statement that feels so wrong to type. Not only was Grant ignored by the Academy, his performance in The Philadelphia Story isn’t often given the recognition that it merits.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Lombard and MacMurray fall head over heels in... Hands Across the Table (1935)

Crafted around the comedic talents of Carole Lombard, Hands Across the Table is a charming romantic comedy that contains a trio of sensitive, fabulous performances from Lombard, Fred MacMurray, and Ralph Bellamy. This film marked the first pairing of Carole and Fred, although she originally wanted Cary Grant (scheduling conflicts made it impossible). Lombard had heard of MacMurray before, but not as an actor -- she knew him from his saxophone playing in nightclubs! The duo would make three more films together: The Princess Comes Across (1936), Swing High, Swing Low (1937), and True Confession (1937). Personally, this is my favorite of their pictures.

Regi Allen (Lombard) and her friend Nona (Marie Prevost) are practically pushed out of the busy city subway as they make their way to their jobs at the ritzy Savoy Carlton Hotel, where they work as manicurists. Upon arrival, Regi is informed that room 1502 needs her; knowing that that suite is particularly pricey, Regi asks her boss if the occupant is married. You see, our heroine has one goal in life: marry rich. It looks like she may get her wish when she meets Mr. Room 1502, Allen
Macklyn (Ralph Bellamy) -- they immediately hit it off, although Regi does hesitate at first when she realizes that Allen is in a wheelchair. Noticing a picture of a dashing pilot, Regi asks if it's Allen's brother, but he replies that it was actually him. He used to fly, hinting that it was a plane crash that put him in the wheelchair. Things have clearly been depressing for Allen ever since. On her way out, Regi is told by Allen's butler that it's been a long time since he has heard his employer laugh like that.

Monday, January 9, 2017


This photo of Audrey is basically how I'm feeling. Nine days into 2017 and I'm just now publishing my first post of the new year. In my defense, things have been a little crazy for me and also I just felt real lazy. My college's winter break is almost a whole month long, which is nice but also makes it difficult to return to school mode when the time comes. This time around, I'm really feeling sluggish. Hopefully this changes soon because I've got some interesting things coming down the pipeline. In a few weeks, I should be hearing back about my graduate school application, and I might have the opportunity to contribute one or two guest posts to the blog of my beloved IU Cinema, one of the greatest resources my college offers. My family is also talking about vacationing in San Francisco this summer, so I'm becoming pretty excited over that. (Vertigo locations and Walt Disney Family Museum, here I come!)

Every new year, I try to establish a few new things that I want to do with my blog, but honestly, I don't think I ever follow through on them. I was supposed to do a series on old TV shows, dig into Ida Lupino's filmography, and although I said this in an anniversary post and not a "New Year" one, I also said I wanted to discuss more current films (re: post-1970). I think I'll still try to do at least one of these ideas, but I'm not going to fully commit to them, at least not yet.

There is one thing I'm totally committed to, however: my upcoming Doris Day blogathon! She's kind of the best and after the devastating loss of Debbie Reynolds, I'm trying to appreciate the amazing artists we still have from classic Hollywood. This has inspired me to go back to writing letters to a few of those stars. For a year in high school, I sent out about a dozen letters and only received two responses, which probably caused me to give up doing any more. I wish I had kept at it, especially since one of those initial letters was to Ms. Reynolds, so 2017 is the year of maximum letter-writing!

Until next time,

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye, Debbie.

Tuesday night was not an easy one. When my sister texted me that Debbie Reynolds had died, I felt strangely numb. Of course I was deeply saddened, but the news didn't seem to sink in until five minutes later when I found myself bawling my eyes out. This probably seems weird, maybe even melodramatic, especially for someone who never even met Debbie Reynolds. While it's certainly true that I didn't come face to face with Ms. Reynolds, the open and frank way that she lived her life made her feel like a great friend to me. The woman didn't pull any punches on any subject, and the sheer delight that she took in acting made it clear to audiences that we weren't seeing Debbie Reynolds the Actress, but rather Debbie Reynolds the Person. She never put up a wall between herself and her fans. What you saw was what you got, and what we got was totally and magnificently fabulous.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Announcing the Doris Day Blogathon!

Doris Day has become one of the 20th century's greatest entertainers, so imagine my surprise that she hasn't been given her very own blogathon! Since Ms. Day is one of my absolute favorites, obviously that had to change, so I invite you to join me in celebrating the triple threat on April 1-3, 2017!

I know, it's four months away, but that just gives you four months to prepare, right? (I also kind of wanted to make sure I announced this blogathon before anyone else could. It's happened before, so you can't call me paranoid. Just kidding, you totally can.) Although it's some time away, April 3rd is Doris's birthday... and she's still with us!

Here are the rules:
You can write about anything relating to Day -- her films, her music, her personal life, her work with animals, her role as a style icon, the list goes on! I also won't limit how many posts you want to do.

Because there is so, so much you can write about, I'd prefer no duplicates. Sorry guys, it's first come, first serve.

You can post on any of the three days of the blogathon, or you can post early! I only ask that you be sure to send me your link and I'll try to post it as soon as possible. Also, since the blogathon is in April, if you would like me to send you an email to remind you a week or so in advance, please provide that in your comment.

Now grab a banner, spread the word, and I'll see you in April!

List of Participants:
Love Letters to Old Hollywood | The Pajama Game (1957)
Cinema Cities | Calamity Jane (1953)
Back to Golden Days | Pillow Talk (1959)
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies | the friendship between Day and James Garner
Champagne for Lunch | Move Over, Darling (1963)
Critica Retro | Young at Heart (1954)
The Wonderful World of Cinema| a tribute to Day
Crimson Kimono | The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
The Old Hollywood Garden | Lullaby of Broadway (1951)
Old Hollywood Films | Love Me or Leave Me (1955)
Reelweegiemidget Reviews | With Six You Get Eggroll (1968)
Whimsically Classic | It's a Great Feeling (1949)
Christina Wehner | a tribute to Day's singing
LA Explorer | On Moonlight Bay (1951) and By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)

With love,

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Gene and Cyd miraculously meet in... Brigadoon (1954)

If you asked me to name my top twenty list of the most romantic films I've seen, I could say a few of them right off the bat: Notorious, An Affair to Remember, The Thin Man (seriously!), Love Letters, Casablanca... and Brigadoon. I have a feeling most of you would disagree with me on that last one. Poor Brigadoon is used to it -- the film has been battered around ever since it was first released in 1954. Actually, Brigadoon's troubles began from the very start of production.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Vincente Minnelli Blogathon is here!

My first blogathon has arrived, and I'm excited to say that it looks like it's going to be a success! Seeing the love for Mr. Minnelli is amazing. I want to thank everyone who was generous enough to participate, and thanks to all of the readers who are going to help make this blogathon fun and great!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

John Wayne and Lucy Ricardo.

After the sensational success of I Love Lucy's first three seasons, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball wanted to hit the big screen. While Ball had been the self-proclaimed Queen of the B's, the studios never really knew how to best illustrate her talent. Arnaz, meanwhile, was hardly given a chance in Hollywood. After the fateful Too Many Girls, the film that introduced him to Lucy, Desi was only in a few more movies before I Love Lucy, partly because he had enlisted for WWII and partly because, like his wife, he wasn't handled properly. Once television made them instant icons, the powerful duo looked to Hollywood to expand their empire. It probably didn't hurt that they were returning to Tinseltown as huge successes, either.

Released in 1954, The Long, Long Trailer proved that audiences were willing to pay to see the couple that they could just as easily see for free in the comfort of their living rooms. MGM studio head Dore Schary offered Lucy and Desi an irresistible two-picture deal: the first film would be shot at Desilu's studios, increasing their profits and giving the company a chance to slide into producing feature films, and Desi would produce the movie, which would make it a joint production of
MGM, Desilu, and Zanra, another Arnaz-Ball company. The deal wasn't entirely one-sided, of course -- MGM would receive lots of publicity in the fourth and fifth seasons of I Love Lucy, courtesy of the Ricardos and the Mertzes going to Hollywood while Ricky shoots a film for MGM. With this plotline, a multitude of stars were able to stop by, including many friends of Lucy and Desi: Eve Arden, William Holden, Van Johnson, Hedda Hopper, Cornel Wilde, Harpo Marx (Lucy's favorite Marx brother), Richard Widmark, Rock Hudson... and John Wayne.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

10 days until the Vincente Minnelli blogathon!

It's true! Just ten days until my first blogathon! I've been incredibly pleased with the turn-out so far, especially because I've never hosted, so thank you to everyone who has signed up! I'm super excited to read your entries.

If you're reading this and you decide "Hey, I'd love to help celebrate Vincente Minnelli," you can still drop me a line. Feel free to comment on this post or on the original announcement post. I'll be accepting participants until the very last day of the blogathon (Dec. 18th)!

If you can't participate, please help spread the word through whatever social media you use, and if you have a blog, please consider posting one of my banners to help me advertise. I'd appreciate it greatly!

But wait, there's more! At the end of my Minnelli blogathon, I'll be announcing my next blogathon! Yep, I haven't even hosted my first one yet and I'm already thinking of my second -- it's fun stuff. It'll take place in April and it may or may not be for someone's birthday... but that's all I should say for now.

With love,