CROSSFIRE: GLORIOUSLY GLORIA

GLORIA GRAHAME ( Crossfire )

[ November 28th, 1923 ~ October 5th, 1981 ]

CROSSFIRE (1947) Robert Young, Robert Ryan and Robert Mitchum, directed by Edward Dmytryk.

The testosterone level is high in this rough and tumble drama. You see those leads? But there’s another piece ot this movie; the girls they left behind.

Vulnerability. Regret. Pathos. This describes the very good performance of Gloria Grahame in “Crossfire.” The blare of a trumpet and a soft focused shot comes into focus announcing the appearance of Gloria Grahame as Ginny. Her Ginny reminds me of a young Joan Blondell. Grahame plays a dance hall girl ( to put it politely ) and the young soldier the police is searching for for murder ends up there. Mitchell is having a hard time adjusting, he’s missing his wife. Grahame could be that pretty girl-next-door, with delicate features and shoulder-length hair softly cascading onto her shoulders he could cry on.

But she’s not.

She doesn’t readily have a sympathetic ear. It’s all about the ca$h. It usually is with the men she meets in this place. He hooks up with her. They talk. She sarcastically tells him she knows she reminds him of the “girl he left behind.” He tells her, in fact, she does, This upsets her. She leaves him at the bar and goes out back to the garden patio.

Gloria’s angry and hurt. Hurt because she is no one’s wife; hurt because being a dance hall girl probably ruins her chances of ever becoming anyone’s wife. As she says: “I’ve been working for a long time.”

GLORIA GRAHAME ( IV )

She finds him corny but dances with him…close. Very close. Her arms are around him; she looks him squarely in the eyes when they dance. Slowly, softly, tentatively she puts her cheek next to his; her body is pressed up against his. We can see her let her guard down…like a street cat who learns to trust. The hard, cynical edge she’s hidden behind to protect her, is slowly melting. She finds him corny but it’s probably because she misses what she never had…one guy, one steady guy to love her. She’s letting him in. There’s something about this soldier.

She invites the soldier to her place. She wants to cook for him. She gets to play house but in a different way. She gives the soldier a key to her apartment. Director Dmytryk chooses to use a very long dissolve from her face to her apartment building. We linger on the close-up image of her face.

GLORIA GRAHAME ( II )

The next time we see Gloria she’s changed into a robe. And she’s cold and hard as the soldier’s wife and detective Robert Young are at her door. They want to see if she can serve as an alibi to the soldier’s whereabouts, but she is unwilling to help. Why? The soldier was sweet and gentle and didn’t want to use her. What’s turned Gloria against him to not want to help?

Well, she could be sore that he wasn’t there when she came back to her apartment. She could be sore that the soldier’s wife is now at her door. She could be sad and hurt at the realization that she’ll never get a decent break with a guy. She could be sore at just being used for information she could provide with no thought to her own feelings. She is all those things. No one could play sad, hurt & defiant in one fell swoop like Gloria Grahame. We see her catch a glimpse of what she could have had: welcoming home her soldier with dancing, dinner and a sweet homecoming. But alas that was not to be.

GLORIA GRAHAME ( VI )   PAUL KELLY ( %22Crossfire%22 )

And who DOES she have? She has a crazy old coot of a lover/husband, played sympa-thetically by character actor Paul Kelly; probably a shell-shocked vet from the Great War, or an officer from this war. We’re not really sure who he is. A delusional man who loves her. It’s very telling she hasn’t sent him away permanently. THAT’s who she has. Grahame does a wonderful job in this mystery, the girl-left-behind in so many ways.

Grahame does a lot with this small but pivotal role. In fact, I can’t think of another actress who could show pain and hurt and vulnerability and hardness and sexiness simultaneously besides Gloria Grahame. “Crossfire” was a good post-war noir film. All three Bobs (Young, Ryan & Mitchum ) were well-cast, ( Ryan – psychotically chilling ) and George Cooper was wonderful as the soldier.

But Gloria Grahame…she just adds that lovely edge of cold sarcasm softened by her vul-nerability. She’s a wonderful addition to this classic motion picture.

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And let me give a brief shout out to Jacqueline White, who plays the Soldier’s wife. I saw her interviewed by Eddie Muller at the TCM Film Festival in 2013 before the screening of her last movie, The Narrow Margin.”  Check out the trailer for  “Crossfire.”

 

[   H O M E   ]
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ALL ABOUT EVE

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( April 30th, 1908 ~ November 12th, 1990 )

Wisecracking. One~liners. Devastating delivery. If you’re cynical, you might say she’s played the same part over and over again. To that I say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, because over and over again, a girl’s best friend is EVE ARDEN.

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friends-blogathon-11-18-20-2016Entering Moon In Gemini’s “YOU GOTTA HAVE FRIENDS!” blogathon ( click the banner to read more entries on the nature of friendship in the movies ) Eve Arden’s name comes immediately to mind . She doesn’t have ‘Oomph’ or ‘It’ or play the bombshell. Men consider her a ‘pal.’ But I think she is sexy in her own right if you like the level~headed gal, who could drink her whisky straight and tell you like it is. There’s beauty in that. Besides, I think she IS pretty attractive. If you’re a woman, she’d be a valuable ‘consigliere’ to tell you what you need to hear, not want to hear. And while she’s pinched you if she has to with her tart tongue, she’ll bite the heads off those who try to hurt you. In movies she’s rarely in a relationship though in real life she had a husband and children. eve-arden-husband-kidsHer screen self basically travels alone, a self~sufficient, self~contained, self~aware single woman. She floats through society with the greatest of ease…unencumbered, pollinating quips, wisecracks and bon mots as she rolls along. Eve Arden made 99 movies between 1929 and 1987. Younger audiences might remember her as Principal McGee in Grease. If they were smart like the rest of us, they’d do well to explore Eve Arden in all her younger movie career glory.

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THE ARNELO AFFAIR ( 1947 ) [ Vivian ] 

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Vivian is good friends with Ann ( Frances Gifford ) who used to be an interior decorator and who’s now a wife with a son and husband who is a workaholic. Vivian’s there for moral support and a shoulder to lean on, on her way to her own boutique, with sage advice for Ann when the frances-gifford-arnelo-affairmore attentive and slickly handsome John Hodiak starts making a play for her and feeding her grapes. Eve’s clothes are wonderfully over the top…but it’s that same devastating delivery. And even over~the~top, Eves got the frame and statuesque figure to be a clothes horse like Kay Francis. << Sigh!  >> Has Edith Head ever dressed Arden?

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“You know Ann, just give me a plate of bacon and eggs, a full pocketbook, a chinchilla coat and a man and I’m happy. I’m such a simple girl.”

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THE UNFAITHFUL ( 1947 ) [ PAULA ]

Eve Arden shows who she is from the first. Her character throws a party for herself to announce she’s back on the market:

ARDEN: “The time has come to tell you why I gave this party. Come in closer. Six years ago I committed a crime against society. I married a man. Anyway I’ve taken my punishment and I was pardoned. Or was it paroled?”

Friend: “Divorced.”

ARDEN: “Don’t be crude. Now I want to pay a tribute to the man who made all this possible. Larry Hanniford. Larry take a bow. Am I embarassing you?”

Larry: “You are.”

ARDEN: “I’m so glad.”

Larry: “Besides, I only do the paperwork. The rest I leave to the ladies.”

ARDEN: “Don’t you believe it. This morning he stood in court and made a speech that belongs to History. In twenty minutes I was a free woman. I’m now again on the open market. Do I hear any bidders? My hair is my own. My teeth is my own. Well, practically everything is my own. Speak up Gentlemen.”

Husband ( enters ): “Go on! Tell ‘em! Tell ‘em all about it! Tell ‘em how wonderful you are. Then I’ll tell ‘em a few things.”

ARDEN: “Well the corpse at the post~mortem. What’s the matter, did I forget something when I packed your things? What do YOU want!”

Husband: “I wanna sock you right in the jaw.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is our introduction to the very caustic, newly~minted divorcee Paula in “The Unfaithful.” Arden plays Ann Sheridan’s cousin~in~law. And she’s rather a bitch.

There’s a good scene in the restaurant when Arden  and her harpy side-kicks ( Peggy Knudsen and Jane Harker ) come over to give their “condolences” to Sheridan for the trouble she’s in. All they really want  is to gossip and drop innuendoes. They’re pretty transparent about it.

Friend #1 [ to Sheridan ]: “…I must say you look awfully well considering what you’ve been through.”

ARDEN: “Really Joan.”

Friend #1: “Oh, I could bite my tongue in half.”

ARDEN: “You’d have plenty left.”

She feigns leaving but stays longer to get some more dirt about this scandal. But as the movie goes on, I have to say, when the chips are really down Arden comes through. Yes she chatters on…

ARDEN: “Chris! Darling you weren’t even listing to me.”

Sheridan: “Oh I’m sorry. Would you like some more coffee?”

ARDEN: “Oh Heavens no. I’m going to meet the crowd downtown and I want those cocktails to have plenty of room.”

But I do love her heartfelt change of heart when she deeply apologizes for her behavior…in her own ‘Eve Arden-ish’ way:

“Chris. I know you won’t believe this. I’m awfully sorry about all this. Too bad we were never friends. ‘Course I know you don’t approve of me. But I don’t approve of me either.”

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Arden has a good strong scene with Zachary Scott when she has to tell him some hard truths about himself. No irony, no snide~ness. Just straight talk. Eve Arden is wonderful in this scene and director Vincent Sherman lets her have all of it:

This film deals with adultery and its extenuating circumstances; It doesnt treat the wife like she’s at the Salem witch trials. I like this movie for many reasons. Eve Arden is one of them.

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MY DREAM IS YOURS” ( 1948 )  [ VIVIAN ]

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Eve co~stars with the new girl on the Warner Brothers lot: DORIS DAY in her second motion picture. Eve is on the behind~the~scene end of show biz when talent scout Doug Blake ( the affable Jack Carson ) brings this blonde bundle of energy to the West Coast to break in to that biz called show. He bulldozes Arden to take in Day as a roomie, and puts the bite on her to also take in Day’s little boy and overgrown dog:

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Doug: “Vi, isn’t he wonderful?”

ARDEN: “Yeah, cutest little lease-breaker I ever saw. Where’s his mother?

Doug: “She’s downstairs, she wasn’t sure how you’d take this.”

ARDEN: “Yeah I’ll bet.”

He even convinces her to pawn her favorite ( and only ) mink coat to loan him the cash to put Day over. Arden’s a pal alright. Or is she a patsy? She’s a good sport about it all, ultimately looking out for Doris like a big sister… with one eyebrow raised. Arden also plays Day’s friend in “Tea For Two” in this re~working of 1920’s No No Nanette.” It’s fun watching Arden spar with Billy De Wolfe.

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MY REPUTATION ( 1946 ) [ GINNA ] 

Barbara Stanwyck is a strong woman in the movies, right? Well not in this 1946 woman’s picture. And I use strong quotes not to put the movie down in that category the way it’s usually used. But for a story specific to women who may need to give themselves permission to live again…or be responsible only to herself. Or at least Her Self FIRST. Stanwyck suffers from “DMS” = the Domineering Mother Syndrome of “Now, Voyager.” This time Mother is played by Lucile Watson, as usually played by women who look like conjugal duties clearly were a duty. Now Stanwyck doesn’t quite have the breakdown our neurotic Charlotte Vale does, but she does melt down a bit.  Stany’s a widow, feeling some built up pressure from a nice steady vanilla friend of her husband’s, two growing boys and what her social set ( and Mother ) expect of her. She can’t take it. And who does she lean on? You guessed it…her best friend Ginna played by the object of my affection: Eve Arden. And you and I and Eve Arden knows exactly ‘what~she~needs.’ 

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Jessica [crying]: “I don’t know what’s the matter with me. I seem to be going to pieces!”

ARDEN: “It isn’t only the body that breaks down, Jess. The mind can go too, you know.”

Again Arden is the urbane friend, fancy apartment. Shoulder to lean on. But this time the script actually has her as married…to the ubiquitous John Ridgely. And she’s not the domineering wife either. He good~naturedly tolerates her but keeps her in check. Arden is quieter in this movie. She invites Stanwyck out to their ski lodge to spend a weekend. Fresh air and downhill skiing will take the ‘edge’ off of what ails you. ‘Meeting cute’ will take care of the rest.

It’s a cinch that Stanwyck can’t talk to the dames in her tony set. Arden is outside the she~wolf pack.

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ANATOMY OF A MURDER” ( 1958 ) [ MAIDA ]

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This is a great courtroom drama from Otto Preminger, starring James Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara and Arthur O’Connell. Good cast, good story. Eve Arden plays Maida the office Secretary for James Stewart’s Paul Biegler. You can see she’s the chief cook and bottle washer for Stewart’s law office. She’s his quiet supportive cheerleader sitting in the courtroom. And quietly, good~naturedly admonishes him.

“If this refrigerator gets any more ish in it, it will swim upstream and spawn all by itself.”

~  OR ~

Paul:  “You’re fired.”

ARDEN: “You can’t fire me until you pay me.”

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Click here –> Anatomy of a Murder (1959) from Aitor Garcia on Vimeo.

She’s not harsh or brash. She downplays the brightness of her delivery.  She’s quieter. She doesnt have to punch these lines because we already know who she is. In my mind, I like to think of her Maida, and Jimmy Stewart’s Paul Biegler having a quiet drink in their office or at the local inn listening to jazz after a trying day in court.

…And then having some quiet comfort together back in her apartment. She’s a pal. She’s a woman. She’s in your corner. She’s a friend.

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STAGEDOOR ( 1937 ) [ EVE ]

In a sea of beautiful girls with quick quips and wisecracks, Eve Arden stands out with her cat, her champagne voice and the effortlessness of skill.

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A pleasant little foursome. I predict a hatchet murder before the night’s over.

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And of course…

MILDRED PIERCE”  ( 1945 ) [ IDA ] 

eve-arden-xxviiiThis is the creme de la creme of friendship with this film. ( Arden works again with Crawford in 1950Goodbye My Fancy” ). Eve plays Ida, the first person to give Joan Crawford’s Mildred Pierce a job as a waitress. She shows her the ropes and guides her. When Mildred branches out with her own franchises, who’s right there helping manage her businesses? And who’s there to advocate for the waitresses when she has to tell Mildred Veda is borrowing money from them? Ida sees Monty Beragon for the  heel he is before Mildred…is ready to admit it. Ida drops some lovely words of contempt on Monty for good measure. And she has a wonderful retort for Wally’s admiring ogle. I present IDA:

  • “Leave something on me. I might catch cold.”
  • “When men get around me, they get allergic to wedding rings.”

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  • Monty: “Oh I wish I could get that interested in work.”
    ARDEN: “You were probably frightened by a callus at an early age.”
  • “Oh men. I never yet met one of them that didn’t have the instincts of a heel. Sometimes I wish I could get along without them.”
  • ARDEN: “Laughing boy seems slightly burned at the edges. What’s eating him?”
    Mildred: “A small green~eyed monster.”
    ARDEN: “Jealous? That doesn’t sound like Wally. No profit in it ~ and there’s a boy who loves a dollar.”
  • “Personally Veda’s convinced me that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young.”

       

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G
ee…a great collection of the 1940’s right here in “THE DOUGHGIRLS.”

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She floats above the fray of everyday heartache. She’s smart. She’s a business woman. She’s wise. In most of her appearances she’s not the bombshell who gets home and hearth. It’s not that she doesn’t want it. What does Ida say in “Mildred Pierce” that when men get around her they see her as a pal. Well I for one would be glad to have her as a pal. I’ve said it before and I say it, Eve Arden is the best friend a girl could have.
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D’ya want to read about some other great friendships in classic film? Well just click on Bob & Bing and read many more entries. And if you want to read a more in~depth view of Arden’s performance as Ida in “Mildred Pierce” read the blog post at Once Upon A Screen. Thank you Debra for hosting and sharing this great idea for a blogathon. Hmmmm…think I’d better call my best friend now.

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A FACE IN THE CROWD ( 1957 )

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One of my favorite films is “A FACE IN THE CROWD.” Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau were wonderful. In fact, I enjoyed every one’s characterizations and Elia Kazan’s message of cynicism was spot on. Power brokers…false prophets… charlatans…snake oil salesmen and demagogues. Oh my. This film is more relevant today than ever before, especially as we head two days from electing a new President.

face-crowd-3a-face-in-crowd-griffithIt was not
hard for me to reconcile
the warm
folksy Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry persona, with the megalomaniac he becomes in “A Face in the Crowd.” Maybe his Lonesome Rhodes was Sheriff Taylor on steroids. Griffith gives a strong performance in this his first film. His lusty heat obliterates all thoughts of
 Opie and Aunt Bee and Barney and Goober/Gomer Pyle, for me. If that big big laugh of his isn’t indicative of a large…a-face-in-crowd-andy-griffithuhm….‘appetite’, then I don’t know my megalomaniacs. Andy Griffith Rhodes wallows in his power; he revels and rolls in it like a pig in  **it. He is besotted with it. But when he gets in the least little trouble he calls for his Marcia again…suckling her for comfort and reassurance.

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But Lonesome Rhodes was also a drug for Marcia! Marcia! Marcia! as well. Behind every great man is a great woman, right? Here, the woman “makes” the man…in more ways than one. Patricia Neal is so good as career girl Marcia Jeffries, who tries to further her  

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career when she finds Lonesome Rhodes in a local hoosegow and has the idea to make him a tv personality. She discovers this diamond in the rough…polishes him and becomes drunk for him. She struggles the further things go along. When success and more powerful men come a-callin’ on Lonesome she is iced out, as women sometimes are. After all her help in creating him ( and sleeping with him ), she finds he’s married a pretty little vacuous majorette named Betty Lou played by pretty as a summer’s day Lee Remick in her first

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movie. It’s a blow to Marcia as though she is the “wife” who has helped her husband through medical school…only to be cast aside like a used Ace bandage, while he takes up with a younger, prettier nurse. Marcia gets him this far and now Lonesome Rhodes is feeling his oats and making decisions. What’s that line in “All About Eve” about the piano thinking its written the concerto? I’m a little torn about this. Why shouldn’t one be in control of their own image? Sure, why not. I do think Lonesome was two steps ahead of those who wished to co-opt him. But he begins to believe the hype and gets drunk with power. You cannot control a heat-seeking missile.

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Walter Matthau is Mel Miller, who works with Patricia Neals character, but sees through Lonesome. Hes kind of sweet on her. Hell be her Rock of Gibraltar at the end, but for now he watches her indignities from the sidelines.

Alas and alack ( especially alas ) no one is really indispensable; everyone is  replaceable as we shall see. Lonesome’s elevator ride after his final broad cast was a great metaphor for Kazan to use for his descent. Why, there’s even a new Lonesome Rhodes just waiting in the wings at the ground floor. Not to worry. I’m sure Lonesome Rhodes 2.0 will be doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Might be human nature at its worst. A shout out to a good smarmy performance by Anthony Franciosa. As press agent hell tell anybody what they want to hear…put em over on the gullible American public and get his 10% for doing so.

I find the movie ends in two beats: ( Spoilers! )

  • Marcia faces her “addiction” to Lonesome with all the strength she can muster. And even with the help of colleague Mel Miller ( a  solid performance, by Walter Matthau ), she still finds it a little hard to leave Lonesome.
  • Secondly, Lonesome screams into the night like King Kong having a tantrum. This time, his call will go unanswered. I loved how Kazan ends the movie with his screams.

 

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We end the movie with Marcias struggle. She walks away a changed woman: battered, bruised, but changed. She learns something about herself and people…while Lonesome remains the same. Rhodes screams into the night air of New York City, the city that never sleeps…the city that ( sometimes ) doesn’t care, the city that swallows his screams and blends it with the cacophony of noises in the night. Lonesome is alone with applause machines applauding his screams, applauding his slide. You know what they say:

“Whom the gods would destroy…they first make mad.”

 

(   H  O  M  E   )
 

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ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN ( 1958 )

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Yes, you’ve seen THE ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN about as many times as I have, though I may have the jump on you being a Baby Boomer and have been watching old sci~fi films a little longer than you. I hope with this Halloween post here,  you’ll let me take you through this great ol’ cult classic through my own bloodshot, candy corned eyes. I’ll be all over the map, not in much chronological order. But no matter. You know this movie…you’ve seen this movie…and you’ll know what I’m talking about ‘cuz therell be spoilers galore:

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Allison Hayes ( as Nancy Archer ) is a married, wealthy, alcoholic woman~on~the~verge~ of~a~nervous~breakdown because of her husband Harry’s affair with Honey. AND to top it off, she claims she’s seen an alien.

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She’s become a bit of a laughing stock in town…to be pitied and tsk’d tsk’d!

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She has a waist like a wasp, and dig those crazy striped peddle~pushers she’s wearing. Her make-up’s on pretty 1950’s thick. She reminds me of the Queen Onfale from “Hercules Unchained.” Her husband Harry does the typical move of telling her EVERYthing is her imagination. He tries to smooth and cajole her into not believing what she sees and feels. She just cant quit him.

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Seems like there’s is one crazy tv channel in this one horse town. What kind of news broadcasting does KRKR-TV do? It’s geared specifically to Nancy and her alien sighting:

“Was he pink with big ears and tusks…Nancy Archer finally found a man from out of this world who will love her.”

What the??? Journalism pre-Fox News.

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attack-ivNancys nemesis Honey ( Yvette Vickers ) is the girl Harry is coo-coo for coco puffs about. Yvette has that Joey Heatherton Tuesday Weld Eartha Kitt Gloria Grahame  Lola Falana c’est si bon petite feline vibe thing going on. These gals are fighting over Harry. Harry? Actor William Hudson plays the prince of a prize; just a lying cheating husband who wants his Honey and Nancys money. ( You can do better girl!! ) The only one loyal to Nancy is her butler Jess ( played sympathetically by Ken Terrell. ) Hes as loyal to her as Max is to Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.

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Sheriff Dubbit and Deputy Charlie go out to investigate Nancys story but find nothing. The deputy is no help being the corn~pone comic relief cross between Wally Cox and Earl Holliman. He does take Honey out for a whirl on the dance floor later when he should be doing police business.

As Nancy and Harry drive out of town to see if they can spot the man in the flying saucer who she saw earlier, the landscape looks like they’re driving on the moon. I love day-for-night shots  in these old 50’s movies with crickets chirping in the background to lend authenticity. But what kind of non~self respecting woman would run TOWARDS an alien space ship? The kind who really needs to prove to her husband she’s not alcoholically mendacious. And what kind of weasel of a husband would drive away like a bat outta Hell in a Jetsons convertible and not stay and save his wife? A weasel. He hightails it back home…packs a bag…fights the butler and picks up Honey Bear ( Yvette Vickers ) he’s been making time with. It all looks so tawdry, and low-budget. I love it.

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Nancy fights for her life from the alien attack. Actually it doesnt really look like much of an attack because this thirty foot giant moves as slow as molasses. He goes for her diamond
( Kardashian style ) but at least he takes her home when its all over, which is more than I can say for Harry. He’s left her on the roof of her pool house. And Nancy’s in a state of shock..stone cold sober.

Harry’s still a prince of a fella. When he goes into Nancy’s room to give her an overdose of medication so he can finally be rid of her and get her money, he turns on the light and sees Nancy’s hand is GIGANTIC. A gigantic papier maché hand. The Nurse is cross-eyed with blood~curdling screams behind him:

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NURSE: (screaming) “Some thing’s happened to Mrs. Archer!!!!”
DOCTOR (calmly): “Astounding growth!”

That Harry was in the room with that big fat hypodermic needle is not even addressed. 

Here is the shopping list of supplies needed to keep a buxom fifty foot woman in check:

  • meat hooks
  • 4 lengths of chain
  • 40 gallons of plasma and
  • an elephant syringe

Sounds about right.

Nancy’s family doctor, Doctor Cushing consults specialist Doctor Heinrich von Loeb whose diagnosis is a totally garbled jumbled mess of incomprehensible pronounciations. In other words, I never understood not one word of what the hell he was saying.

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Apparently there’s also only one night club in this one-horse town and Harry and Honey have no shame being seen there together even after Nancys public breakdown. What I only just now noticed this one~billionth time seeing the movie is while Harry and Honey are talking, there is a couple dancing behind them that have really cool and smooth moves. Look at ‘em go, 50’s~style next time you watch.

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Now that Nancy is Gigantic, the Sheriff and Jess~the Butler can do some retroactive police work and go out to see if they can find the source of those giant footprints by Nancys pool house. Jess suggests they call for help but the sheriff nixes that idea, not wanting outside interference. Either the Sheriff is a maroon or something tells me the budget couldn’t stand for more actors. The spaceship is out on the middle of nowhere, in day~for~night shots, hovering like a giant pearl in the middle of the field with its doors wide open. So of course The Sheriff and the Butler walk inside the steamy spaceship. They fear no extra~terrestrial microbes here in the desert air. Listen, my curiosity is as strong as the next Earthling…but Im not walking willy nilly into a sauna~like spaceship even if the door is open. ( Stranger Danger ).

I guess the morphine wears off and Nancy wakes up. She is none too happy!!!  [ “Do these reams and reams of bed sheets make me look fat?” That astounding growth thing. ] These two hick doctors thought they could handle this fifty-foot giant by themselves and are only just now calling for outside help. Hippocratic, schmippocratic, you need help, you quacks!

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DOCTOR: “MORE MORPHINE!!!”
NURSE:   “SHE’S LOOSE, SHE’LL TEAR THE ROOF OFF!!!!”

I love that we dont see a full shot of Nancy except through reaction shots by these horribly valiant actors. Or is that valiantly horrible actors? In any event, Im dying to SEE Nancy.

attack-xiiii

When Nancy breaks through the roof all slo-mo and everything, she looks quite majestic
( and transparent ) to me…and she has turned into a blonde. Scientifically speaking folks, did the pituitary malfunction change her hair color as well as her shoe size? Revlon might look into this.

DOCTOR: “She’ll tear up the whole town until she finds Harry.”
DEPUTY DOPEY: “Yeah, and then she’ll tear up Harry.”

attack-xii attack-vi

attack-xxi
Man’s worst fear…a giant woman

 

There’s something sexy and powerful about watching Nancy stride through the country side and tearing off the roof of the club to find Harry. She kills Honey easily because instead of running for her life, Honey hides under a table in the club and screams her head off into the camera, crushed by falling debris. And now…for Harry. attack-viiThe Dopey Deputy is not willing to shoot a woman, but Harry sure is. Nancy’s gigantic papier~maché hand reaches through the hole in the roof and wraps itself around him as she picks him up out of the club. When she holds him up in the air in that bedsheet bikini of hers…she’s awe-inspiring. It’s a low-budget film, so I won’t quibble about the thread count of those sheets. Suffice it to say it’s a very empowering moment for all those wives who’ve been done wrong.

Giants are none too bright as they walk near power lines with their giant steps. Youd think theyd avoid them. The sheriff gets one good lucky shot off and hits the power line which  brings Nancy down. She is still holding her crumpled up doll of a husband in her giant man-size hands. [ Shades of Ellen Berent? “I’ll never let you go. Never. Never. Never”?? ] It’s only fitting the doctor, who has known Nancy since she was a little girl, have the last line in this classic:

attack-xxviii

“She finally got Harry all to herself.”

Directed by Nathan Hertz, the film is nothing like the movie poster at the top of my review. Nancy is not some giant behemoth attacking the world. She is not a menace to society or a danger to rush~hour traffic. She is a menace to herself. She is single~minded in her path of destroying herself. She wants her husband back. I could say the film is a parable about unloved housewives of the fifties and their outsized love to hold on to their men; or women being silenced by the patriarchal power structure; or a film where Men’s worst fears are realized: a woman who is too big for him. But why spoil it with psychobabble. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is just a plain fun. But its not a movie I laugh at. Oh no. I feel terribly terribly sorry for poor mixed up Nancy Archer.

 

 

P.S. And even though I missed entering my submission here in the: KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES Blogathon doesn’t mean you have to miss reading any of the entries. Check ’em out.

 

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PITFALL ( 1948 )

PITFALL ( I )PITFALL ( III )PITFALL ( II )PITFALL ( IV )Husband                     Wife                         Mistress                   Creep

PITFALL is taut tense quiet drama and I like how it plays out. You think it’s going to go one way and director André De Toth takes you in a different direction.  For Dick Powell who plays John Forbes, your average, postwar, 9-to-5, Everyman, Insurance man, what happens outside his marriage comes crashing into his suburban home like a tsunami. (Gosh, insurance guys sure lead fascinating lives; remember Walter Neff?) Powell’s a hero to his son, a good provider to his wife, but his life is in a rut. Then Lizabeth Scott falls into his lap.

PITFALL ( V )RAYMOND BURR is Mac, the private investigator Dick Powell sends out on Lizabeth Scott’s case and he’s developed a hankering for her, to put it mildly. He’s just a guy who can’t take “No.” Basically he’s a one-track minded terminator, obsessed with Scott beyond all rhyme and reason. He’s having that relationship with her all by himself. In fact, Burr spends much of the late 40’s and 50’s not getting the girl. Scott wants no part of this hulking brute. Any girl would take a ten-foot pole and vault as far away from him as possi-ble. Visiting her in the shop where she works, he has free rein to sit and watch her model clothes for him as long as his cash holds out. All perfectly legal. All perfectly “Eeeeew!” I told you he was a creep.

DICK POWELL ( PITFALL )

I like DICK POWELL as John Forbes. He gets all caught up in a web of his own making but I do feel sorry for him. It’s not that he does not love his wife; he does. He’s just frustrated and bored with the routine and predic-tability of his own life. He did not look for this; doesn’t initiate it. Yes, lying by omission is still lying. Yes, he should have gotten a hobby. Yes, he could have said no, but…c’mon.

“I guess I’m a little out of practice. I never quoted anything but statistics. I’m a little unsure of  myself whenever I crawl out of my briefcase.”

WHO’S DRAWING OUT WHOM?

PITFALL ( VII )

Forbes takes inventory of the items Mona Stevens received from her ex-boyfriend who’s now in jail for embezzlement. LIZA-BETH SCOTT plays Mona and if you know anything about Lizabeth in the 40’s, you know she rarely caught a break! As Forbes investigates her, he is strictly about business. Says Mona about her ex:

“He was just too much in love with me. He wanted to do things for me and he didn’t have the money. So he went out and got some…I liked him mostly because he was nice to me. Very few men are. That means a lot.”  

( RULE #1 – HOOK THE HERO WITH YOUR TALES OF WOE )

Forbes warms up to her when he sees she’s not a bad egg; she is not a femme fatale in the strictest sense of the word. She just got caught up in something herself. It’s the begin-ning of getting-to-know-you. Mona offers Forbes a life raft out of his sea of boredom. She lets him have a ride on her ill-gotten gains of a boat before he confiscates it, and he gets a brief glimpse of how the other half lives; a respite from his ordinary existence. I think they recognize they’re each caught up in life’s circumstances. She invites him to a home-cooked meal where one thing leads to another. See…he just falls into it.

GUILT – THE GREAT MOTIVATOR

PITFALL ( VIII )
Maybe moguls got JANE WYATT confused with Jane Wyman due the similarity of their last names. Wyatt did not get all the meaty roles Wyman or Dorothy McGuire were offered, but she was a fine actress as well – ( I love her voice ) and it shows here in “Pitfall” as Sue Forbes, John’s wife. As Sue she is pretty, competent and has a sense of humor; she tries to sensibly cajole him out of his doldrums. She seems like a true partner in that marriage; someone who can go to a PTA meeting or country club, and is probably a good bridge partner. ‘The Wife’ usually is a thankless role in movies, painted as nag, shrew, harpy. But not here. ( Anne Archer in “Fatal Attraction” comes to mind. )  As Sue, she’s not too busy for her husband and accepts her adult responsibility. Yes he strays, but we can see there’s nothing really wrong with Sue.

 

ENDING WHAT NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEGUN

PITFALL ( IX )

After she accidentally discovers he’s married, he breaks off the affair.

________________

JOHN: “I’ve done something I’m terribly ashamed of. I’d like to make it up to you.”

MONA: “Well if you think I’m going to stand in competition with a wife and child…even I’ve got more sense than that.”

JOHN: “What’s going to happen to you?”

MONA: “What do you care, really. Honestly Johnny, aren’t you a little relieved to get out of it this easily. This is the set up Johnny. This is the kind of girl you’ve always dreamed about. I’m going to let you off without an angle. I could be nasty. But I’m not going to be.”

JOHN: “Why?”

MONA:  “I don’t know. But I’m not going to be…what happens to men like you, Johnny? If I had a nice home like you did Johnny, I wouldn’t take a chance with it for anything in the world.”

JOHN: “I’ll do anything I can.”

MONA:  “Will you really? Alright. Then go home. Stay there.”

JOHN:  “Alright. If that’s the way you want it.”

MONA:  “If that’s the way I want it? Have you got any other ideas?”

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It’s a clean break. A sad one. Hurtful. John gets away “scott”-free. He’s learned his lesson and is now back in the fold, content with what he has at home.

Uhmmm…not so fast.

BLACKMAIL MAKES STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

PITFALL ( XII )What intrigues me about this film is that it’s not just your usual married-man-cheats-and-slinks-back-home-feeling-guilty sort of thing. There are tangible consequences, not just emotional ones. His outside actions intrude on his home life ( again, like in Fatal Attraction” ) and in a big way. Big as in RAYMOND BURRThe conflict between the two men is an in-teresting dynamic and it puts Forbes in a pickle. They both like Mona. One offers protection, the other – his obsession. How can John protect Mona against Mac without his wife finding out about the affair? And if pounding  Forbes to a pulp won’t keep him from Mona, ( John has to lie to Sue about why he was beat up… )  Mac decides to create a human heat-seeking missile out of Mona’s ex, Smiley, ( Byron Barr. ) And Smiley heads straight to Forbes’ house after being released from prison. It all comes to a head.

PITFALL ( LOGO SHOT )

Sue tells John:

Conscience? You make it sound like a dirty word. You worrying about your filthy little conscience… you’re not going to the police. You lied once. It came to you easily enough then. You’ve got to lie now. I mean this Johnny, if you drag this family through the dirt I’ll never forgive you!

Lots of compromises in “Pitfall.” Everything is not tied up in a nice tidy bow. That only hap-pens in the movies.

CineMoral: If your husband gets a beat-down and doesn’t report it to the cops…he’s having an affair.

You can read a more in depth look at Raymond Burr in “Pitfall” here: at the Caftan Woman blog that covered his performance in this movie for last April’s GREAT VILLAIN BLOGATHON hosted by Speakeasy, Silver Screenings and Shadows and Satin.

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NORA PRENTISS ( 1947 )

How would you like a little film noir in your adultery?  Yes…there will be SPOILERS:

NORA PRENTISS ( I )Nora Prentiss kneels before the ashes of her dreams of  home, hearth and a husband of her own

NORA PRENTISS is really a showcase for Ann Sheridan. Director Vincent Sherman gloriously holds the camera on her many times, to which I, as a Sheridan fan say “Yay!” She’s excellent. As Nora Prentiss, she hadnt sign up for this. Shes not a bad guy; no vixen or femme fatale or Vamp. She wants to be married, have kids, live out in the open. It gets increasingly dark for her too. She soon sees hes not any closer to divorce and this is not working out for her in an open way.

NORA PRENTIS ( VII ) NORA PRENTISS ( V )

The He is played by Kent Smith. At first I was upset with him, the husband character ( Dr. Richard Talbott ). I thought he was a coward. He wanted to have his cake and eat it too. I almost couldn’t believe why she even fell for him in the first place. ( Dry, boring, dull. ) But then something clicked in me. (Like first hating reading Willa Cather’s “My Antonia” and then loving reading “My Antonia” in the tenth grade). A switch flipped, a lightbulb went off and I thought “0hhhhhhh, this is a movie about what happens when a man spirals down a devastating path…” Got it. Nora is the object of affection…but the movie is about him; THAT was the examination. Like Tyrone Power in “Nightmare Alley” Kent Smith’s character reached for something, going about it the wrong way…and down down down he goes.

NORA PRENTISS ( VI )

Dr. Talbott’s not fun-loving anymore. He has them hiding in dingy hotel rooms, not going dancing or being seen in public. He’s living like a fugitive; he is a fugitive. Kent Smith does a grand job in the movie. I feel his desperation. He’s like Ray Milland in “The Lost Weekend.” Tattered, torn, unshaven, unkempt; looking like a wild man… irrational. “Don’t leave me!”but not letting her go; making every mistake in the book to do what he has to do to keep her. Getting deeper and deeper into the mess he’s made of his life. Car crash, fire, disfigurement and a murder trial. Kent does a very good job of showing us The Descent. Isn’t that what film noir is about?

There must be something about confessing to an extra-marital fling that is a fate worse than death. In Nora Prentiss” adultery is film noir. The Husband in this drama has much in common with our boy from DETOUR”.  Neon lights, rain-soaked streets, living in the shadows. I don’t mean to constantly compare this film to other movies; it’s just that the journey, the fall is so similar. The look of this film? Awww hell… all praises belong to Master Cinematographer: JAMES WONG HOWE. ( Look him up…you’ll faint at his credits ).

NORA PRENTISS ( James Wong Howe )     James Wong Howe and Vincent Sherman

slacks-sheridan
Vincent Sherman and Ann Sheridan…yeh

 Just a couple of points to get off my chest:

*  Why do Movie Wives ( Rosemary DeCamp in this case ) act like cold fish and then are surprised when their husbands lose interest and get attracted to another woman.

NORA PRENTISS ( IV ) NORA PRENTISS ( II )

*  I love the montage of their affair progressing. Who knew Kent had it in him. I liked that the movie didn’t make Sheridan out to be a gold-digger.

*  I loved Robert Alda waiting in the wings for Sheridan. He plays a nice guy.  Hes on the sidelines falling for Nora as well.

*  John Ridgely is in the movie…as he is in every movie ever made in every studio ever existed.

*  Sheridan puts a lot of emotion into that second song she sings. I love her close-ups. Tears, emotion-choked voice. ( I want to believe that’s Sheridan singing. Does anyone know? )

*  And back at the ranch…Kent’s not eating…pacing around..drinking. It reminds me of Carmen Jones ( here I go again ) when Dandridge is out hotfooting it around town and Belafonte has to stay cooped up in a hotel less the MPs find him. Kent even starts to look like the Geek Tyrone Power played in “Nightmare Alley.” Kent’s downward spiral is a sad fall from grace to see. He doesn’t help keep a girl. He becomes jealous, possessive. No body signed up for this.

NORA PRENTISS ( III )

*  Great car crash.

*  I love 1940’s fashion. ( Whaddya want…I’m a girl ).

*  I love Rosemary DeCamp at the trial.

*  The last shot of Kent Smith in this movie is truly disturbing.

*  FRANZ WAXMANFranz Waxman’s music – dark…doleful…mournful, moving. But that music at the end of the movie is particularly poignant as she walks down the courthouse steps knowing she was leaving her love in the hands of fate. The music’s dirge-like melancholy is beautiful and creates and fits the mood of the film perfectly.

Okay ohkaaaaaaaay…so John Ridgely wasn’t in every movie ever made. But it seems so.

See the movie trailer here:

 

CineMoral: If you need a doctor and he says he’s married…change doctors. And fellas…if you can’t handle the Ooomph, get outta the kitchen.

 

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A FAREWELL TO ARMS ( 1932 )

I gave this movie a chance and I enjoyed it. Yes….there will be tears.

I have to admit A FAREWELL TO ARMS is equal parts Gary Cooper’s performance along with Helen Hayes’ because without Fredric there’s no Catherine and vice~versa. No doubt he is a tall quenching glass of water, but in general I feel Hayes acts rings around Cooper’s halting/hesitant/stilted delivery. I lean towards her, but I believe working with Hayes upped Coop’s acting game.

farewell-iii

[ Parting…is such sweet sorrow, and how the heck tall ARE you?  ]

 

~ CAME THE DAWN ~

Maybe it was the “First Lady of the Theatre” moniker that put me off her initially; you know…all that “AHHKTING” and stodgy theatrical hijinks I imagined she had. 0R it could have been my first memories of Hayes as that little cotton-topped older lady in “AIRPORT” 1970. But a light switch finally turned on in my brain and out of the darkness of my blindness, entered Helen Hayes.

My silly biases have disappeared watching Hayes play Catherine Barkley, the Nurse in Frank Borzage’s romantic “A Farewell to Arms.” I thought she was very subtle in her acting~style; probably moreso than some of my pre-code faves ( who shall remain nameless in light of Hayes brilliance ). She’s as cute as a button and though she doesn’t have the, shall we say “sensual bling” of a Bow, Harlow or Louise Brooks, still waters do run very deep.

A FAREWELL TO ARMS ( I )

~ Florence Nightingale never covered THIS in the Nurses’ Manual ~

Catherine represents those young women a decade-plus into the 20th century’s beginnings who will bob their hair, seek The Vote and want just a touch more autonomy in their lives. ( Dont worry, they’re still a million and a half light years from burning their bras. ) She’s a little more interesting for me to watch. She’s left her small-town and is out in the world at large. Catherine leaves her provincial thinking back home, too. After all, she’s mending and healing war’s broken bodies. No, it’s not a pre-requisite to throw caution to the wind; but ‘saving’ herself for marriage is something she now questions as she speaks of her dead fiancee:

“If I had to do it all over again, I’d marry him. Or… anything.”

It’s those ‘…or anythings’ that’ll get you every time, girls.

As in Cinderella, the Lieutenant ambulance driver ( Gary Cooper ) and the nurse meet “cute”…during an air raid – Fredric with a veritable “slipper” in his hand.

A FAREWELL TO ARMS

May I show you something in a Size 3?

 

When next they meet, the Lieutenant steals the nurse from his buddy, Major Rinaldi (played by Adolphe Menjou) who had his “eyes” on her first. Neither mens intentions were quite honorable toward Nurse Catherine. But Fredric wins out. His gentle, insistent, full court press muffles the cries of protest from Catherine. Resistance is futile. ( Resist… really? A FAREWELL TO ARMS ( II )It’s Gary Cooper for cornsakes…and besides there’s a war going on; it’s practically a girl’s sacred patriotic duty to make hay. ) Afterwards, Fredric is concerned about her “afterwards”, but she is surprisingly resigned to having given up the “coin of the realm”. He seems more concerned than she, though I think she feigns her carpe-diem attitude. ( Note: his concern comes “after.” ) Sent to the front, he drives his ambulance BACK to see her to make sure she understands that this was not a mere one-nite stand. It’s his coming back to her that I think their emotional tale starts.

The young lovers both have BFFs who are adamantly opposed to their relationships. ( Makes me think of Rob Lowe’s and Demi Moore’s best friends in “About Last Night” yes, a decidedly un-classic film which has no business in this post.  )

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Cooper, Menjou, Philips and Hayes

 

When I first saw Adolphe Menjou as the Italian Major and head doctor in charge, I scratched my head. Huh??? Wha’?? What in the name of Central Casting is this? But I must say he did grow on me by the end of the movie, even with his phony baloney Italian accent. And I loved how he called Fredric “bebe.” Rinaldi can’t believe he’s losing his ol’ running buddy to love. When he tries to cheapen Catherine in Fredric’s eyes to get him back, the lieutenant will have none of that. Menjou’s Captain Rinaldi is instrumental in separating the lovers. Sheesh, with friends like this… He later comes to understand their love is true and deep. But Catherine’s good friend is fellow nurse Ferguson never seems to understand. Shes played by Bogie’s ex-wife Mary Philips…who also played Gene Tierney’s mother in “Leave Her to Heaven.” ( How’s THAT for bits of trivia from the CineMaven. ) Ferguson seems so stuck up from the get-go.  She’s deeply opposed to Catherine’s relationship even more vehemently than Rinaldi. ( When Fredric looks for Catherine later in the film, Fergie is of no help at all. Can’t she see that he came back for Catherine? Ack! ) Why is Fergie sitting on the sidelines while “hook-ups” are happening all around her. Is there more beneath her friendship?

~ LOVE’S PATH ~

It’s interesting to see Catherine and Fredric travel their individual paths on that same road of love. 

Catherine and Fredric are sweet and loving and tender to each other ~ friends and conventions be damned. They’re just so plain cute together without being saccharine. ( Maybe it’s that living-together-thing. ) And when they have to part, even if Fredric has only twenty minutes before train time, he spends it with her. They live a lifetime in their little room. They live a lifetime in each other’s company. “I wish we could do something sinful. Eveything we do is simple and right,” says Catherine. How could loving each
( 1932 ) FAREWELL TO ARMSother be sinful? It’s pre~code. And in whose eyes? ACK! Beats me. But they’re going to pay a terrrrible price for this love. One of the Hayes moments I really enjoyed was her merely reading aloud a letter she’s writing him. She paints a beautiful picture of a house she’s rented and we hear her voice-over while director Borzage pans around the squalid little room. Hayes reads the letter so matter-of-factly without the least bit of an actress-y hint she’s already memorized what she’s supposed to be ‘reading’ to the audience. That small moment caught me. It’s a small thing I know, but it shows something to me of Hayes’ gift.

As Catherine, she’s going to rough it alone, wait for him to come back from the front. When she finds out her letters have never even reached him…

Fredric’s worried about not hearing from her. He knows something’s wrong. What initially started out as just a conquest, quickly turned into love for him. And truth be told, it turns out to be more than just love. It’s some kind of symbiotic oneness they have for each other. Fredric risking every-
farewell-ithing to leave his post to go back to her astounds me. He was like, “I’m leaving the Army and I’m going home.” Huh? What the… Yup, he was just going to leave and go home. See, this is the SECOND time he’s going back to her; he doesn’t care how far away he is from her…he has to get back to her. Simple. And that just plain kills me. Today, girls are wondering why he hasn’t called, texted, Instagrammed or FaceBook’d her, where “A Farewell to Arms” has the Lieutenant going through battle in, literally, the opposite direction of the war, just to get back to her…

Director Frank Borzage has some fantastic camera work, rather unexpected for me to see in the 1930’s when many were just doing long shot ~ medium shot ~ close-up. He also has his finger on the pulse of what is romantic…what is love, viscerally making us feel its ache. He’s well~practiced in it if you‘re familiar with his work. ( Moonrise, History Is Made At Night, 7th Heaven really just to name a few ).  If you read my friend’s thoughts on why this film is one of her favorites for 1932 ( scroll down and read —> here <— ) she gives a nice account of what Borzage captures. 

 farewell-iv farewell-v

“Please don’t die.” 

Here is where IMHO Gary Cooper shines. The praying against all hope that his little prayers would be answered in that big, wide, war-crazed world. A simple request. I was stunned by his tears and the unseeing look in his eyes as he ate his bread in the little bistro. All around him celebrated war’s end, while Catherine lie in a hospital. I can’t truthfully say Cooper touched me like this for the rest of his career.

I wanted a happy ending here so badly, it hurt. My throat was burning. Fate and Hemingway had different ideas.

 

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