IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND (1951)

 

hispanic-heritage-blogathon-2016

HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH is here once more ( Sept. 15th ~ Oct. 15th ) and in Hollywood’s Golden Era, Hispanics have been represented in a variety of ways. This month, the world of classic film blogs will feature the talents of many Hispanics in films. Two popular bloggers: ( Aurora ) ONCE UPON A SCREEN  and ( Raquel ) OUT OF THE PAST will use all platforms of social media to feature the Latino experience in films. Look for the hashtag #DePelicula on Twitter, FaceBook, Tumblr and Instagram and peruse to your heart’s content.

In Film Noir, there is nothing better than to see a man engineer his own destruction. Maybe that’s why I love the genre. Arturo de Córdova is handsome enough and believable enough to fit that bill nicely. I made several trips to the Museum of Modern Art here in NYC to see their collection of Mexican films noir last summer during their Mexico At Midnight programming. Boy did I get an education in just how Mexico handled films from their golden age of cinema, and got an eye-fullllll! ( But more about María Félix another time. )  In “En La Palma De Tu Mano” ( “In the Palm Of Your Hand” ) directed by Roberto Gavaldónde Córdova is cocksure and confident…the perfect mark.

PALM ( IIII )

He plays a psychic. A dyed-in-the-wool, crystal ball-gazing, palm-reading, sooth-saying, phony baloney. This film brings “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Nightmare Alley” to mind. I enjoy the chockful of plot “In the Palm Of Your Hand” has. De Córdova is a smooth operator.  He has a long-term girlfriend who he:

  • Sleeps with
  • Takes for granted
  • Uses to get her to funnel clients to him from her beauty salon

PALM ( VI )

It’s an ingenious idea using salon customers; after all, a beauty salon is fraught with women letting their hair down < a-hem > and revealing all sorts of secrets, which in turn Psychic de Córdova pretends he knows. Why she does this for him is anybody’s guess in film noir; love, I suppose. Actress Carmen Montejo makes us sympathize with her for loving this cad. She’s a nice girl. Love. Obsession. You know how it goes. The girlfriend lets de Córdova know of a customer who has just come into a lot of pesos thanks to a conveniently deceased wealthy husband. This is de Córdova’s “victim” who’ll pay off big.  A black widow. Ev’ry Noir needs one. 

PALM ( II ) PALM ( VII )

He’s not above lying, manipulating, bamboozling, blackmailing or sweet pillow-talking his way to get her money. This will be his last score because with her money, he can quit the phony sooth-sayer business and start anew with his girlfriend.

PALM ( III )

…And if you know film noir like I know film noir, you know that ain’t never gonna happen!

He calls the shots as he wades deeper and deeper into the Black Widow’s quicksand. The Widow is played by Leticia Palma. She’s cruelly beautiful and laughs in his face. But she has to play the game too if she wants de Córdova’s help. She gets him to:

  • Dump his girlfriend ( Cad! Bastido! )
  • Kill her nephew-in-law / lover
  • Bury him and
  • Dig him up again.

Ha!…And de Córdova thinks  he’s calling the shots.

In film noir, bad decisions dig a hole for the hero. He’s not all bad. de Córdova does show an iota of compassion to an illiterate newspaper stand lady, whose son is in the military. Director Gavaldón has good command of suspense. He crafts a wonderfully tense moment when a pesky traffic cop offers to help the runaway couple ( Palma and de Córdova ) with a flat tire…while there’s a corpse in the trunk. 

PALM ( V )

De Córdova is put through the ringer in this film. He goes from cocksure to frazzled to defeated. The hunter gets captured by the game. I will not spoil the ending for you. It is pure genius. It actually shows you fate doesn’t have to trip you up. It can stand in the corner and watch you hoist yourself on your own petard. 

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If you wish to play catch~up to explore Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage click on these banner for 2014 and 2015.

 

HOLLYWOOD'S HISPANIC HERITAGE ( 2014 ) - 1HOLLYWOOD'S HISPANIC HERITAGE BLOGATHON ( 2015 )
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THE DEVIL COMMANDS ( 1941 )

 It’s so hard for me sometimes to explain exactly why I love these ‘old’ movies as I do. I have such a visceral and emotional response to these shimmering ( or murky ) B&W films whether they be “A” pictures or “B” that it’s hard to explain intellectually. Maybe words aren’t needed among us.

DEVIL COMMANDS ( BORIS KARLOFF - II )

I love THE DEVIL COMMANDS.” I love the low-budgetness of its production though well-done. It has a succinctly executed plot thanx to Edward Dymytryk. Once again, BORIS KARLOFF owns the movie he stars in. I find him compelling to watch: the sonorous resonance of his voice, its soft accent, his dark handsome looks. I can picture him with a white dinner jacket against his swarthy complexion dancing at the Mocambo, though I am romanticizing him. He probably was a stay-at-home-bookworm. Also he’s just a darned good actor. I think becuz he mostly starred in the horror genre, he might be over-looked and under-rated as an actor; Karloff has the pathos of Frankenstein’s monster, a kindly scientist and a terrifying, sadistic grave~robber. He can be soft or crazed. Hell…he’s every bit as good as Spencer Tracy.

His pathos as the grieving Dr. Julian Blair in “The Devil Commands” touches my heart. He’s rather the avuncular absent-minded professor in the beginning of this movie. We see his comfortably happy marriage to wife Helen played by Shirley Warde. She’d have certainly done Moms like Henry Aldrich’s and Andrew Hardy’s proud. She made an impression with me…very sweet. She helps him with his experiments and playfully chides him for working so hard. During Karloff’s demonstration before fellow scientists, I just loved the way he quietly asks his wife if her hair is wet when he’s about to strap her to one of his experiments. He was so soft, quiet and tender with her.

This is the hypothesis he intends to prove:

DEVIL COMMANDS ( BORIS KARLOFF ~ I )

“You will be the first people…to see the proof that the human brain gives off an impulse that can be recorded.”

But you know what else we see…we see a man spiraling down…down…down; a man turning his scientific experiments for the good of mankind…into using Science as a coping mechanism for his grief, as his wife has been killed by an out of control car.

With what, at first, could be a scientific possibility, has now gone awry as Karloff discovers that he has heard his dead wife’s voice:

“Well now I know there is a way for the dead to talk to the living.”

Skepticism hits Karloff between the eyes when his fellow scientists begin to scoff and question his sanity:

KARLOFF: “Well I believe that the human brain, the brain that invented radio, is itself the most perfect sending and receiving medium on earth.”

SCIENTIST #1: “But what if you do find a way to pierce the veil between us and them.”
SCIENTIST #2: “And let the world of the dead back in upon the living?”

SCIENTIST #1: “We don’t know what evil may be lurking behind that veil waiting to get through.”

SCIENTIST #2: “What if you let loose on humanity something much more terrible than any fear that haunts us now?”

DEVIL COMMANDS ( KARLOFF & AMANDA DUFF )

Karloff’s goose is cooked and his daughter ( played by Amanda Duff though I longed to see Anne Gwynne in this) and science assistant ( played by * Richard Fiske ) witness his discretization.

DEVIL COMMANDS ( KARLOFF & IGOR )

Faithful man-servant Karl ( played by Ralph Penney ) suggests Karloff visit the medium he uses to talk to his dead mom. ( Wha’? ) Now it’s Karloff’s turn to play skeptic but he humors poor dumb Karl. Karloff meets up with Mrs. Walters, played by the great Anne Revere. Now I might be alone in this, but I find Revere majestic in every role she plays; Mom or Mean. Even as the mother of Elizabeth Taylor, Gregory Peck or Monty Clift, I find her sternly beautiful with a Puritan/MidWestern look and a grand speaking voice. I could listen to her all day. I think Revere would have made a good Mrs. Danvers…or Lady MacBeth. As the Medium, she is debunked by Karloff but he does experience an electrical sensation from her that is the only real part of her act. Could this be love? Hardly.

“This is science Mrs. Walters. There’s nothing of the occult about it!”

Karloff has shunted his daughter aside and adopts Revere as confidante/co-conspirator in his scientific exploits. He uses her for her energy, but Karloff’s motives though pure are wacky. Revere has different ideas in mind; and they have a purely financial bent. Please note the look on her face as Karloff talks of his plan to communicate with the dead. I don’t think I exaggerate that she has a look that is exalted, rapturous and down right ecstacy-filled. But her voice is cold…cold…cold when she says ( in her perfect enunciation ):

DEVIL COMMANDS ( ANNE REVERE )

“If you can do what you’re trying to do, you’ll own the world. You know that don’t you?”

Whew! Her face was intense, her eyes unblinking. I’m telling you, I watched her.

Revere is driving the bus now, taking the reins of the household. And I did think of Lady MacBeth with her control over Karloff, moving him out of town, making things easy for him to just concentrate on completing his experiments…bringing her that much closer to riches she believes await. She doesn’t allow Karloff to get medical care for Karl…now a shell-shocked victim of Karloff’s single-minded determination and experimentation. Revere pulls poor Karloff away from all he knows. When we see him two years later, his hair is unkempt and unruly. He looks disheveled. Bodies are now missing from the town.

His housekeeper Mrs. Marcy is played by the ubiquitous Dorothy Adams. Oh you’d know her if you saw  “LAURA.”  She is prompted by the town’s sheriff to investigate what’s going on in Karloff’s laboratory. ( The whole town’s talkin’. ) It will be the last thing she ever does. That whole scene with her in the lab was great; the music, her fear. Why’d she go inside that room. What the heck is under that tarp?

DEVIL COMMANDS ( I )

Poor Karloff…his single-mindedness endangers his own daughter and puts him back in Frankenstein monster mode where townspeople with torches are after him. What an eerie sight in his laboratory,  to see the bodies of the missing dead trussed up in Diver Dan helmets…the noisy whirlwind of energy centrifically forcing the bodies to lean forward. Revere is eventually and justly hoisted on her own petard, and so is Karloff as it all comes crashing down around their ears.

ISLE OF THE DEAD ( II )The Walking Dead” “The Raven” “The Mummy” “The Black Cat and “Black Friday” are among my favorite Karloff films. And you can read my guest blogger at Fernando’s Corner talk about:  “Isle of the Dead.”

 

 

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KARLOFF SUTS

Journeys In Classic Film is hosting the blogathon of TCM’s SUMMER UNDER THE STARS. ‘SUTS’ is TCM’s annual event where each day they celebrate a different movie star by showing a day of their films. Please click the banner above to see the other entries in this great event hosted by Kristen Lopez. There’s a smorgasbord of films to fill the end to summer.

 

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HIGH BARBAREE ( 1947 )

 

AUG 2016 ~ SUMMER UNDER THE STARS ~ TCM

Hi Kiddies! It’s that time of year again. TCM’s annual SUMMER UNDER THE STARS event, where every August, TCM has one full day of programming to celebrate a different classic movie star. 31 Count ‘em 31! This year the likes of Lucille Ball, Hedy Lamarr, Humphrey Bogart, James Edwards, Spencer Tracy, Charles Boyer and many more will be featured. The blog Journeys in Classic Film, helmed by Kristen Lopez, will host the TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon ( or SUTS as we vets like to call it ) where bloggers write about the day’s star. You need only click on Marilyn above, to see the other entries in this blogathon. For my contribution, I’ll be weighing in on today’s star: M-G-M’s VAN JOHNSON on today his 100th birthday. (…And it’s my sister’s birthday today too, but I can’t say the year! Hey Sis! )

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HIGH BARBAREE ( MOVIE POSTER )

HIGH BARBAREE is a romantic journey of a young couple in love; in love since childhood…in love since before they knew what “in love” meant. What a sweet movie; sweet but not saccharine…and with some of life’s hard knocks mixed in. 

HIGH BARBAREE ( III )

I’m starting to like Van Johnson the more and more I see of him. He’s attractive, a big beefy guy. I love his voice and boyish good looks. I’m attracted to his earnestness most of all. I don’t know that he has edge, but definitely earnestness. He’s got the perfect partner with M-G-M girl-next-door, June Allyson. She’s pretty as a picture with the right hint of tomboyishness, femininity and yes, sexiness. ( I know…I know: June “PETER PAN-COLLARED” Allyson? Yeah…it’s the husky voice thing. ) I really saw something underneath Allyson’s wholesome sheen: her determination and sex appeal. Now I’m not suggesting they’re Lunt & Fontanne, Leigh & Olivier, Tracy & Hepburn or Hume Cronyn & Jessica Tandy. And no, they don’t have the sizzle of Ladd & Lake. But Van and June fit each other like a hand in a velvet glove. It is an easy, comfortable to watch in the films they made together: ( “Two Girls & A Sailor”  “Till Clouds Roll By”  “The Bride Goes Wild”  and “Too Young to Kiss” ).

HIGH BARBAREE ( II )HIGH BARBAREE - II

A flashback is used for this story of old Ameri-cana; a bu-colic child-hood from another era. And it was your typical take of a girl and boy in love: he leads, has adventures…and she follows, adoringly – giving him the unending encouragement that he can do ANYthing. No, she doesn’t receive the same support and validation that life is her oyster. He doesn’t prop her up with cries of “You can do it Nancy!” Oh boy, is this ever another time. ( Or is it? ) But it’s all good. Because she’s his cheerleader, he’ll love her all the more. See how that works? Its a win-win situation, no? Hey…every couple falls in love their own way. The fact that she joined the military makes me think there’s some independence to her.

HIGH BARBAREE ( I )  HIGH BARBAREE ( V )

Thomas Mitchell is the very facile and engaging Uncle Thad, an endearing old windbag with a Peter Pan complex, telling tall tales of the sea to his hero-worshipping nephew. I am struck by the character Tangaros ( Al Kikume ). He makes me think of the regal bearing of a Rex Ingram I especially like the Mother ( played by Geraldine Wall ). She wasn’t the apron-wearing type of Mom like Mrs. Hardy. She was cool, calm and collected with a calming voice and a bearing that makes one think she could have had her own life ( read: career ) if she hadn’t chosen to fall for a country doctor ( Henry Hull ). My favorite scene in the entire movie is her playing the piano with her son, played as a youngster by Jimmy Hunt ( before he saw “Invaders from Mars” ). Finally a Hollywood casting agent got it right in picking the right child star to play the adult star as a kid. The little boy’s wonderment of the “G” key of her piano was so nicely done. What does this mean? See the movie.

HIGH BARBAREE ( IV )

I didn’t expect the movie to show the down side of life:

 Puppy love torn apart

“What-do-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up” dreams deferred
   for “The Good Responsible Profitable Adult Life Of A Grown-
   Up Who Wants To Get Ahead” reality

Competition from a sleek blonde ( Marilyn Maxwell ) – Is it
   only in movie fables that warm apple pie can compete and
   win out over a sizzling tall drink o’ water?

 Burying men at sea

HIGH BARBAREE ( VI )

What is sadder still is seeing Van’s character face reality; he’s carried a tale from boyhood into manhood during a life and death situation. Van Johnson puts across the dramatic moments of the film very well. The camera, steady on Johnson, tears welling up in his eyes… is a great dramatic moment for him. The movie has the bittersweet sensibility of “The Human Comedy.” It’s the kind of movies they did so well in the 40’s. Nothing fancy, no trickery, not auteur-y. Pretty linear. A sweet story of a boy and girl in love.

I don’t know if it all should have really worked at all, but emotionally, I enjoyed the movie. I came away with wanting to give Van Johnson’s career another look too. ( That can either be seen as a good or bad thing; but I like him. ) As a filmmaker, I probably should have been checking out Jack Conway’s directing style. But usually my first impression of a movie is its telling of the story.

HIGH BARBAREE ( VII )

“High Barbaree” is certainly rich in adventures for the young boy to help shape him into the man he is to be. ( That “G-note road” scene between mother & son is small but particularly poignant to me. Even Mom senses something special about her little boy. ) 

HIGH BARBAREE - I

In a lot of my classic movie-viewing, I don’t have to go all-Hollywood with a happy ending but boy, I really hope for one in this movie. Im telling you, see the movie and you’ll know what I’m talking about. 

 

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GUEST IN THE HOUSE ( 1944 )

ANNE BAXTER ( SUMMER UNDER THE STARS )

For some reason Anne Baxter stays under my radar. Oh I know, the fault lies within me. I like my stars sparkly and bedazzled and volcanic most times. Well hopefully with TCM featuring Miss Baxter’s films for their Summer Under the Stars series, I can broaden my horizons with her work. My write-up today is part of a blogathon being hosted by Kristen Lopez of Journeys Into Classic Film. Here is where you’ll find other great entries for stars featured this August on TCM. Let me tell you about “GUEST IN THE HOUSE.” No, it’s not one of her films featured today, but perhaps I can pique your interest to seek it out.

You already know Anne Baxter’s Eve Harrington in “All About Eve.” Thank heavens I saw “All About Eve” before this film. If I hadn’t, I might never watch an Anne Baxter movie again. In “Guest In the House” she plays one of the most unsettling, infuriatingly galling characters I have EVER seen in a movie. She’s creepy and insidious and deadly. I despise her.

GUEST IN THE HOUSE ( V )

Evelyn checks out Douglas’ work, while he checks HER out

Anne Baxter plays Evelyn Heath, a recently discharged patient from a mental hospital.
( Pay no attention to the
Red Flag here. ) She is the fiancee to young Dan Proctor ( actor Scott McKay ) the doctor at the institution Evelyn was in. This type of “meet-cute” no one needs. He introduces her to his family; the way she greets them is oddly unsettling. Her affect is kind of off; she’s dramatically breathless. Yo Evelyn! Relax. Sheesh! Evelyn is aware of what she is doing. She keeps a diary, which serves as a great device for letting us know what’s going on in that twisted little head of hers ( via a 1940’s voice-over, of course ). She willfully destroys the peace, tranquility and equilibrium in the household she’s been introduced to.

The Proctor family is a happy bunch, laughing, playful, kibbitzing with each other until this beautiful, wounded, damaged cancer infects them. The family consists of Ralph Bellamy as Douglas Proctor ~ the artist-husband, Ruth Warrick ( playing Ann Proctor ) his wife, and their two kids. Also part of the family is Aunt Martha, played by the indomitable Aline MacMahon. She’s the Matriarch of this whole brood. Mother Courage.

One by one, Evelyn picks off family members. Getting her fiancee out of the way first is a piece of cake. Its wonderfully infuriating to watch her play him like a violin as you do with a man in love. She makes him jealous…gets mad at him becuz he’s jealous…then forgives his jealousy because its so cute how he loves her. ( ??!! ) She convinces him to go away so he can come back to her later. He buys the ruse and leaves her with his family. In fact, she sticks psychological pins in the entire family and revels in watching them twist. She always says something a little left/right of center, or drops an “unintended” innuendo here and there, and then retreats behind a wall to watch, or behind her illness. She makes my skin crawl.

GUEST IN THE HOUSE ( IIII )

For Evelyn’s next victim, we must look to Douglas’ model Miriam. She’s played by the statuesque Marie (“The Body”) McDonald. Evelyn visits his art studio and makes a couple of wisecracks to McDonald. “I would die before I’d pose like that.” The model is free and breezy because she has nothing to hide. Then this little snip of a mental patient comes in, tosses some veiled apsersions and makes McDonald annoyed and upset. It sort of pushes Douglas & her together. He takes Miriam down to the beach to calm her nerves and they go into town to relax and shake off the funk she’s now in, thanks to Evelyn.

But coming home late together and being slightly tipsy heightens all sorts of suspicions of impropriety. McDonald has to quit this gig and leave the house.

For me, Evelyn’s most insidious turn is with the young daughter. When the two meet for the first time on the staircase, the child is taken with Evelyn’s beauty, wants to touch her. But as the child reaches for her, Evelyn recoils as though she were faced with a hot poker. ( What the… ). Its not fair, and downright hateful for Evelyn to twist a young mind like she does. She put thoughts into the child’s head that she hadn’t the maturity to process. Yeah, a perfect victim perhaps, but difficult to watch. Evelyn makes an ally of the child, wooing the little girl into her web. Its discomfitting to watch her ‘groom’ this child. Later when the child adopts some of Evelyns neuroses, Im in utter shock and it’s one of the last straws for Ann.

GUEST IN THE HOUSE ( III )Evelyn’s last point of attack is wife Ann ( Ruth Warrick ). Warrick does not play her usual imperious self in this movie the way she was in “Daisy Kenyon” or “Citizen Kane.” She’s playful and easy-going at the beginning of the movie before Evelyn’s poison courses through her shoulder pads. As the plot progresses, Ann goes from her happy self to doubting suspicions she’ll harbor after little Miss Iago gets through with her. The playful-ness dries up and alcohol starts to flow. Evelyn plays them all so well she’s even driven Douglas into her arms as a Muse to replace Miriam. Ann seeing how chummy these two now are, leaves her home. Douglas new assignment is to paint a mural for the chapel, but the painting is causing him frustration. He can’t get a handle on it. He doesn’t realize it’s difficult to paint evil.

GUEST IN THE HOUSE ( VI )

Evil. Too overblown a word? Naaaaah. She IS evil, and does a wonderful job at turns being coquettish, playing the victim, seductive, sadistic, frightened, manic…straight~up living in a fantasy crazy. I’m just thinking by 1944 have I seen a female be this psychologically destructive in a film? I can’t say as I have. Ill say Anne Baxter does it first…and does it well. Im checking out her filmography and noting the varied roles she played throughout her career. I think she was among the finer, younger leading lady / character actresses from the classic era. Today will be a great day for me to visit her work ~ and put her on my radar.

Click here for TCM’s complete listing of films this month. And now…have a very unsettling experience with “Guest in the House” but, don’t overstay your welcome:

 

 

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Day 1 – HOT AND BOTHERED: The Films of 1932

CHECK OUT DAY 1 of our “HOT & BOTHERED BLOGATHON: THE FILMS OF 1932.”

Once upon a screen...

WE’RE HERE to bring you the rich, the notorious and the dregs of society.  We offer you high brows and low lives.  We illustrate the worst of the human condition and the high enjoyment of sin.  We bring you attitudes and words that define the pre-code era and Images and characters that ushered in filmdom’s golden age.  We have it all in debauched glory offered by bloggers far and wide for your entertainment.  Prepare to be HOT & BOTHERED.

HOT and BOTHERED Marlene

The HOT & BOTHERED: The Films of 1932 Blogathon is as fun an event as I’ve ever hosted made extra special by the fact that my co-host is the passionate, Theresa Brown of CineMaven’s Essays From the Couch.  Always ready for a classic film discussion, Theresa brings unbridled energy to classic movies at every turn.  Sadly, as is all too often the case of late, I’m really just along for the ride.  The gorgeous…

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