THE OX~BOW INCIDENT ( 1943 )

 

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“MIRIAM…”

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OSCAR’S BACK…AND THE LADIES’VE GOT HIM!!!

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This is the fifth annual ’31 DAYS OF OSCAR Blogathon’ hosted by bloggers Kellee of “Outspoken & Freckled”, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club” and Aurora of “Once Upon A Screen.” This is the place for one’s work to be seen and read, so I made sure to get my butt in gear for this blogathon. We classic film fans enjoy the yearly Oscar telecast where we cheer and jeer at the winners in a variety of categories. With this blogathon we all get to cover the waterfront on those who’ve won or were snubbed by the Academy. Thanks ladies for giving us a place to hang our soapbox.

Now you might think my entry is as long~winded as the Oscar telecast itself. But I think my writing about a movie that should have won an Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of 1943 deserves the depth and breadth of examination. So, take your shoes off, grab a sarsparilla, whiskey and some beef jerky and beans…and let me take you back to the Old West.

Here are the nominees for Best Picture of 1943:

casablanca-1943 for-whom-the-bell-tolls-1943 heaven-can-wait-1943 human-comedy-1934

in-which-we-serve-1943 madame-curie-1943 more-the-merrier-1943 song-of-bernadette-1943 watch-on-the-rhine-1943

The winner of course was “CASABLANCA” a towering classic that I love. But my choice for Best Picture of 1943 would be THE OX~BOW INCIDENT.”

I admit…I’m head scratching at some of the nominees for 1943, but for others I can see why…the romance, the war, the toll on families. But I make my choice for this Western because of its look at Society. What makes a Society? What are the components? What makes us civilized? What makes us pass or fail as a body in the human community? Of all the films that were nominated in 1943, I think “The Ox~Bow Incident” is a stellar example of its sweeping nature of the examination of Society. Sit back. Relax. Are you comfy? Have that cuppa cuppa at the ready. C’mon…take a look with me at WILLIAM WELLMAN’s masterwork. This film is mighty powerful stuff.

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AN IMMOVABLE OBJECT MEETS AN IRRESISTIBLE FORCE:
Justice vs. Vengeance, the Group vs. the Individual

It is 1885 in Nevada. And three factions race hellbent towards each other to make the most tragic of perfect storms:

A. The Mob
B. The Law
C. The Rustlers
D. The Innocent Bystander

oxbow-xxvioxbow-xviRancher Larry Kincaid ( FRANK ORTH ) has been shot in the head and rustlers have stolen his cattle. This is the impetus for events that unfold. Kincaid’s best childhood friend Jeff Farnley ~ played by gangster bad-guy MARC LAWRENCE ( who fits pretty good in the Western genre ) ~ is angry and wants to catch the Rustlers. Inside the posse are followers and instigators and thrill~seekers.

* * * * *

( A )  THE MOB ~ ( THE GROUP )

oxbow-xixThe posse quickly turns into a Mob. It doesn’t take much for this to happen. First off, they are not sworn in by any duly appointed representative of The Law. Deputy Mapes might as well have been played by the swarthy Steve Cochran for all the good he does. ( The deputys played by actor DICK RICH ). Every one’s blood is boiling ~ especially Farnley’s ~ there’s been some drinking and there seems to be nothing else to do in this town. When justice is abandoned and vengeance sets in…you’ve just gone from posse to mob in a microwave moment.

oxbow-viiThere’s one really hateful S.O.B. in this mob named Smith ( played by PAUL HURST  ). He is downright giddy about the proceedings. HE is the first to mention they ought to just go and get these Rustlers and not wait for the law. He occasionally takes a rope and pretends to put it around his neck, mocking the ‘necktie party’ to come. Out of everyone, I really despised his hateful glee. When the saloon keeper offers the mob a drink in an effort to get them to wait for the law, the first one up the steps is Smith. But he stops dead in his tracks when the saloon keeper says the drinks will not be unlimited.

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The mob moves as a unit or should I say…organism;  a slimy, yellow-bellied blob monster. When a bystander’s partner is shot, they surround the wounded man. When an escaping Rustler is shot, he is surrounded to watch how he takes a bullet out of his leg. Life’s like a live inter-active movie to this group.

oxbow-xxxiThe bloodlust of the group is palpable. When they catch up to the Rustlers, I imagine every man in that mob is aroused at the prospect of engineering and watching the hangings, just as much as the men were aroused in Jodie Foster’s rape in “The Accused” whether they took their ‘turn’ or not. The Mob instigate events and watch them play out. And the one woman with them? She is played by the great JANE DARWELL. Being part of this mob is probably the only thrill her character, Jenny Grier, has had in a very long time, being long past desirability. It’s sickly funny to see her paired off with Smith, giggling on the side like deadly mischievous school children. I would have gladly shot them both myself.

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DEPLORABLES ( same sentiments…different century )

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Mobs need leaders, and the self-proclaimed leader of the pack is one Major Tetley played chillingly  by FRANK CONROY. He fills the vacuum and moves right in to direct this mob. What did we used to say as kids: Who died and made you King?!” I watch him throughout. Barking out orders,  rigid…ramrod straight in his physique and mindset…all in that confounded Confederate uniform that sausages him in too tightly. Its now 1885, the Civil War was some twenty years before. The two cowboys Gil and Art don’t trust him:

GIL: “And that renegade Tetley. Strutting around in his uniform pretending he’s so much. He never even saw the South ‘till after the war. Barely long enough to marry the kid’s mother and get run out of the place by her folks.”

ART: “I figure there was something funny about him dressing up like that.”

GIL: “Sure. Why do you suppose he’d be living in this neck of the woods if he didn’t have something to hide.”

oxbow-xxiCheck out the look of hateful disappointment, no wait…the  contempt Tetley has for his own son. Can anyone spell ‘loathing’? He thwarts every plea to wait for the Law. He needs this…wants this to happen. But it’s even worse. This obstinate b*stard has another agenda he uses the mob to satisfy: Making a MAN of his son played with softness, empathy and compassion by WILLIAM EYTHE.

* * * * *

( B ) THE LAW

oxbow-xxvThe one lone voice of reason is Arthur Davies. He is played by the wonderful HARRY DAVENPORT. I love his soft, wispy, white hair and whiskers. I love the flat affect of his voice. He tries to stop the mob. He sends cowhand Gil Carter for the Judge since the Sheriff is out of town. He doesn’t mind a posse, but he knows things are spiraling quickly out of control. When he sends Gil to get the Judge, he warns him NOT to talk in front of the Deputy (the ‘Steve Cochran look-a-like’ guy). I guess he knows what kind of man the Deputy is. And it isn’t the good kind.

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But the Law kind of fails Society too. The Judge ( played by MATT BRIGGS ) tries to petulantly weasel out of his responsibility, ( Doggone it, it’s the Sheriff’s job, not mine! ) He reluctantly faces the mob and half-heartedly gives them a lecture about law and yadda yadda yadda.


Davies still tries to persuade Farnley not to go off half-cocked. But I’m afraid he’s fully cocked. Farnley’s declaration:

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“Yeah, I know who’s going to take care of it. ME! I tell you now, whoever shot Larry Kincaid ain’t coming back here for you to fuddle with your lawyer’s tricks for six months, then be led off because Davies and some other whining old woman claim he ain’t bad at heart. Kincaid didn’t have six months to decide if he wanted to die.”

Uh…I’d say his position is pretty clear. And things haven’t changed too much these days. ( #RUSHTOJUDGEMENT

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If this is going to be the way it’s going to be, the Law invites Spirituality in to the mix. I love the way Sparks was used in this film. LEIGH WHIPPER portrays Sparks. Looking at his bio in IMDB, the actor was born in 1876 in South Carolina. I daresay he probably has witnessed some lynchings in his own life. It was good to see a person of color included in the movie as part of late 19th century. Wellman treated his character with respect. This film was made in 1943. Wellman didn’t have Whipper tap dancing or speaking broken English or mugging for the camera showing 65 teeth. ( Brings to my the dignity he accorded Clarence Muse in 1931’s Safe in Hell” a happy~go~lucky but dignified porter ). He represented some sort of religion, spirituality. And Lord knows that whole group is going to need prayer. 

The mob is very clear on what it’s going to do. It kind of hurt me to see the old man ( Davenport ) run a little ways down the street, calling after them. As the mob rides off, The Law rides off after them in an attempt to keep some semblance of law and order within the group. Even with the Rustlers captured…The Law keeps on pitching. Davies even tries to use one of the Rustler’s letter to dissuade the mob from its inexorable intent.

He will fail.

* * * * *

( C ) THE RUSTLERS ~ ( THE INDIVIDUAL )

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oxbow-xviiiOh, what a motley crue this doomed trio is. One arrogant, one drunk and one sincere. It is sad to see the realization wash over their faces when they see where this is heading…they are going to be hanged. Watch how they each handle this realization. FRANCIS FORD ( yes, THAT director’s older brother ) is the old man…sputtering. He doesn’t know what the heck was going on. They could’ve really let this old coot go.

But they don’t.

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The arrogant man makes me sit up and take notice. Yeah, he’s full of spit and vinegar and machismo. Of course, he is Latino. Juan Martinez, is played by the towering ANTHONY QUINN. HE looks at his accusers with contempt. HE is not trying to rationalize and reason with this den of vultures. HE is not going down without a fight. HE patently is NOT going to talk. I’m sure the mob looked down on him b’cuz they thought of him as a dirty Mexican. When Jenny Grier realizes he speaks English she says:

“So…he speaks American.”

Martinez replies:

“And ten other languages my dear. I don’t tell anything I want to in any of them!”

HA!! When he says he can speak ten languages, I laughed! NOW who is the Savage?? He cleans out his own leg wound (!) commenting to Major Tetley about his son:

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He’s very polite, but he’s no stomach for blood, ey?”

That sends a dagger through Tetley’s heart; someone noticing his son was weak. Martinez also throws the knife at Farnley’s feet. He was not going down without a fight. I loved him.

But he is going to hang.

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The kindly man of the bunch was DANA ANDREWS as Don Martin. He broke my heart.

“Speak up man. You’re taking it like a woman,” says Maj. Tetley.

Another time, Wellman doesn’t even show Jenny Grier who delivers her line off-camera:

“Keep your chin up. You can only die once, son.”

How cruelly consoling!

The Rustler’s goal is to slow things down:

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MARTIN: “Listen, why don’t you stop this farce and take us in if you think we had anything to do with it?”

But The Mob’s goal is to speed things up:

FARNLEY: “You want time and the Sheriff to get here and the job not done?”

The Law now speaks with resignation:

DAVIES: “They won’t come in time.”

TETLEY: “I believe you’re right, Mr. Davies, though I doubt if you want to be.”

The Mob does show one infinitessimal shred of pity for poor Don when he begs:

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“I’ve got to write a letter. If you’re human at all, you’ll give me time to write a letter!!”

Thank Heaven for small favors…The Mob will wait to hang them, especially realizing the Sheriff won’t come in time anyway. The vulturous mob needs to eat and raids the Rustlers’ knapsacks for food. So Don writes…the old man is clueless…and Martinez eats a hearty meal.

Mr. Davies ( DAVENPORT ) keeps quietly pitching, trying to get someone to read Don’s letter so they can SEE his innocence. He’s still trying to stop the mob…get it to wait for the Law. No one will read it; not even Gil Carter. ( More on Carter later. )

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“Won’t you even read it? Is it because you’ve made up your mind or because you believe everybody else has and you’re afraid to stand up for what you feel is right?”

Looks like the Law is trying to get some men on its side like Will Kane in “HIGH NOON.”

The individual must cry out and rail against the tide…against the wind, even if it means getting swept away. Even if it means drowning. Don and Mr. Davies have that in common. These two lone men try to stop the inevitable. Don wants to survive to go home to his family. Mr. Davies wants the Law to survive.

But even in the midst of the inevitable, Don Martin STILL has the wherewithal to speak up for his dignity. Where Martinez willfully would NOT speak, Don Martin shouts volumes. I love how Don gets in their faces yelling:

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“What right have you got to show my letter…All I asked you to do is make sure it was delivered…It’s enough to be hanged by a bunch of bullying outlaws without having your private thoughts handed around to them as a joke…I don’t care what you were doing. I didn’t write that letter to be passed around. It’s none of these murderers’ business…give me my letter!!”

Not only is he to be hanged, but humiliated. A shame.

There IS one more component to the symbiotic relationship between lynch mob and rustlers.

* * * * *

( D. ) THE INNOCENT BYSTANDER ~ ( NEUTRALITY )

It didnt work for Neville Chamberlin, either.

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HENRY FONDA and sidekick HENRY MORGAN are innocent bystanders Gil Carter and Art Croft who get swept up by the tide of the mob. They feel they have no choice. In fact, Art lets Gil know that if they make too much of a fuss, there may be a noose around their necks as well. Gil doesn’t approve but he keeps a watchful eye on things. His inactivity ~ is he us, the audience…watching events at the safe dark distance of the local bijou?? When sides have to finally be chosen…

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oxbow-xxviiI won’t beat too much of a dead horse on the classic film consensus about how good Fonda’s portrayal. Let me just say he was wonderfully understated and seething. He is us, the audience.  Henry ”Dragnet” “MASH” Morgan is a good Greek chorus, too. Fonda’s silent meeting with ex~girlfriend played by MARY BETH HUGHES was poignant. Sort of a non~sequitur in these parts, don’cha think. Why stick this moment into a film about a lynch mob.

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oxbow-xxxWhy. Perhaps to show something of how human relationships change; how Hughes’ character might have been one way at one point in her life, but found a man willing to marry her…even with knowing her past. In Fondas and Hughes scene neither one of them could speak openly because they were being watched by the mob and her new husband. (Nothing is private with a lynch mob. Everythings worked out in front of everybody. Sometimes less is more.) Brave man, that husband of hers as he faces the mob; many of the gents “knew” his wife very well and purposefully faced Fonda. But the husband was strong and self-assured when he quietly let them ALL know things have changed; there would be boundaries with his new bride.

But after theyve gone….its now time to take sides in this lynchin’ thing.

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Sharpe is the first man who crosses over wanting no part of this decision to hang these men…six other men stand with him. Interesting and wonderful thoughts went through my head as I thought of the Jim Crow South. Sharpe is in the center…the focal point. I’ll love William Wellman forever for that image.

Gil can take it no more when he sees Don struck while his hands are tied behind his back. He barrels into the attacker and the mob starts to fight each other. Gil has taken a stand. But too late. Tetley fights for order before the hanging. (  Reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove  ~  “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!” ) He needs this to happen. Somehow this hanging is all tied up with some “weakness” about himself that he loathes sooooooooooooooooooo much, he must beat it out of his son. Martinez picks up on it. And Tetley even says it aloud to his son:

“I’ll have no female boys bearing my name. You’ll do your part, say nothing more!”

I suspect he was really talking to himself. The worse thing a man could be in the wild wild west is…be less than a man. Or produce a son like that. 

Yes, yes…the Gil-reading-the-letter-moment is poignant, a heartbreaking an iconic shot by Wellman. ( Click photo to hear the letter. )

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“There can’t be any such thing thing as civilization unless people have conscience.”

But there are two smaller moments I like even better: One…when the lynch mob slowly rides away from the scene of their murder. As the horses saunter up the hill around the mountain, Gil (FONDA) takes one last look at the three men hanging. He shudders and shakes his head as he passes the bodies. The second moment comes in the bar after its all said and done.

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As Gil reads the letter, we get a shot of Farnley. This got to me even more. I think we see a man recognizing the enormity of what he’s done. And that he’s going to pay.

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IF Hollywood were more courageous, they would have given THE OX~BOW INCIDENT the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1943. No telling where America would be now if Hollywood lead the way in showing us how to aspire to be our better angels. Yeah yeah…I know what Goldwyn said about messages and Western Union. But I think movies and the Media can construct HOW people see the world. I think the Academy missed a big chance back in ’43. The media missed a big chance now, during the recent presidential campaign as well. Funny how history repeats itself.

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“God better have mercy on ya. You won’t get any from me.”

 

William Wellman weaves a seamless tale in this film full of civic lessons without clobbering us over the head. I’m newly appreciating his mastery of genres ( gangster, pre~code, comedy, adventure, war film and social issues ~ of which my friend Wendy wrote an excellent write~up ).

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Join our hostesses for this 31 Days of Oscar blogathon and read others’ picks for that coveted Oscar. The Academy Awards are coming up and as Ive done since Sidney Poitier and Julie Christie won their Oscar, I will be watching with rapt attention cheering and booing every decision they make. The Oscar telecast is February 26th: HERE are the nominees.

[   H O M E   ]

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CLASSIC FILM REMINDERS ~ 2016

HI THERE AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

My blog’s third birthday is today…I thought I’d show you some Classic Film Reminders I ran into on my travels in 2016.

If you go  —–> here <—– you’ll see the classic film reminders I saw in 2015; you know…things you pass along your travels that remind you of classic films. Well below are reminders I had in 2016. Hope you’ll follow along with my blog in its third year and hope it continues to be entertaining for you:

classic-film-reminder-alex-trebek-i           classic-film-reminder-vertigo
Who’s picture is that in the corner?   What movie does this remind me of?

              

classic-film-reminder-coney-island          classic-film-reminder-graduate
I walked in and saw this on screen?                 Someone dropped this book…

             

classic-film-reminder-videomaker-i  classic-film-reminder-videomaker-ii
   I was in shock when I opened up my new issue of Videomaker.
Here’s why.

classic-film-reminder-vivien-leigh    classic-film-reminder-theresa-at-tiffany-iii
Hark, who is she in that photo?           No breakfast here…

 

classic-film-reminders-carmen-miranda  classic-film-reminder-coffee-gable
I can see who this is. Can you?                  Who?

         

classic-film-reminder-paulette-goddard-long-shot
I have passed this NYU building in the Village a million times and never
noticed the plaque on the bottom left. Go on…zoom in.

            

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Imagine my unexpected

surprise to see a black & 
white movie playing in the
aisle

 

 

 

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Read about this Austrian restaurant in      What sparked my attention? Click on menu
the neighborhood

 

Click on each photo above to see a close~up of what Classic Films I was reminded of. If YOU have a classic film reminder that you’ve run into on your travels, why don’t you send them to me. I’d love to share them. Send them to cinemavenessays@gmail.com. Thanks for reading.

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BLOGATHON DIRECTORY ~ 2016

 

If you’re looking for some reading material, look no further. These bloggers, either alone or in a collaborative effort, have hosted blogathons throughout 2016. This is no mean feat putting these blogathons together, trust me I know. Lots of coordinating of time and e~mails with bloggers and co~hosts. Some listed below of are perennial favorites, while others are one time events you should jump on. I’ve tried to link you to each blogathon’s wrap~up page, but if there is none, I’ll direct you to Day 0ne of the blogathon and you can search for the rest on your own. ( I think I did the hard part ~ L0L! ) If I’ve gotten your link wrong or left out your blogathon, do let me now. I know our lives get mighty busy during the year. If you have any time to chill out and relax, here’s some reading to keep you informed and warm with memories of some great films:

 

blogathon-backs-stage-1-15-18-2016 blogathon-barbara-stanwyck-1-19-20-2016 blogathon-france-on-film-ii-1-8-9-2016 loretta-young-blogathon-ii blogathon-o-canada-2-1-5-2016 blogathon-buster-keaton-2-7-8symbiotic-collaborations-von-sternberg-ii blogathon-a-kiss-is-just-a-kiss-2-13-14-2016blogathon-acting-black-blogathon-215-17-2016 blogathon-flash-blogathon-2-18-22-2016  blogathon-movie-scientist-iii  blogathon-valentino-3-27-2016blogathon-in-like-a-lion-228-31 blogathon-classic-quote-blogathon-3-4-6-2016blogathon-31-days-of-oscar-blogathon-2016 blogathon-oscar-snubs-2-26-28-2016 blogathon-the-dot-blogathon-ii-3-11-13-2016blogathon-tv-sidekicks-3-6-8-2016 blogathon-marathon-stars-3-10-12-2016blogathon-favorite-tv-show-episode-3-25-27-2016  blogathon-bette-davis-i-4-3-5-2016blogathon-book-to-cover-4-8-10-2016 blogathon-blogathon-from-another-world-49-10-2016 blogathon-golden-boy-william-holden-4-15-17-2016 blogathon-star-studded-couple-4-22-25-2016 blogathon-audrey-hepburn-5-3-4-2016 blogathon-disability-in-film-5-13-15-2016blogathon-words-words-words-4-11-15-2016blogathon-gotta-dance-5-25-2016 blogathon-the-great-katharine-hepburn-5-12-14-2016 blogathon-great-villain-ii-5-15-20-2016  blogathon-five-movies-on-an-island-5-16-2016 blogathon-animals-in-film-5-26-28-206blogathon-ice-cream-social-ii-5-20-23-2016 blogathon-athletes-in-film-6-4-5-2016 blogathon-reel-infatuations-ii blogathon-sex-blogathon-6-19-21-2016blogathon-natures-fury-blogathon-6-18-20-2016 blogathon-royalty-on-film-6-2-5-2016 joan-crawford-blogathonii-7-28-30-2016order-in-the-court-second-sight-cinema

ray-harryhausen-blogathon-7-10-15-2016 sword-sandal-blogathon-i-7-8-10-2016 british-invasion-8-5-7-2016blogathon-classic-movie-history-project-i-8-5-10-2016 olivia-dehavilland-blogathon-7-1-3-2016 film-noir-blogathon-8-12-14-2016 barrymore-trilogy-blogathon-8-15-17-2016 blogathon-ingrid-bergman-ii-8-27-29-2016

back-to-school-blogathon  blogathon-margaret-lockwood-9-13-15-2016  sci-fi-movies-of-1950s-blogathon-9-26-28-2016 dual-roles-blogathon-930-1022016 learned-from-movies-10-1417-2016monty-python-blogathon-10-1-3-2016  hollywood-on-hollywood-blogathon-10-17-21-2016

hail-to-the-chief-10-28-11-1-2016 joel-mccrea-blogathon-11-4-6-2016  grace-kelly-blogathon-11-12-2016great-imaginary-blogathon-1111132016 circus-blogathon-11-12-13-2016 friends-blogathon-11-18-20-2016 cartoon-2016-blogathon cary-grant-blogathon-i kirk-douglas-blogathon-champion

agnes-moorehead-blogathon-12-4-6-2016  john-wayne-blogathon-12-9-11-2016  vincente-minnelli-blogathon-12-16-18-2016what-a-character-2016-12-16-18-2016  bogart-blogathon-12-20-23-2016

RUTH ROMAN / TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY ( 1951 )

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[ 12 / 22 / 22  ~  9 / 9 / 99 ]

There’s nothing like diving into a series of films in one fell swoop to watch the breadth of a talented performer or director. I did this with RUTH ROMAN. I call her The Mighty Roman. I find her a very commanding presence. Her darkness could be part of it. She’s sable; with a dark touch of Dana Wynter Suzanne Pleshette Gail RussellGail Patrick Jean Simmons / Barbara Rush~thing going on…all rolled up into one fierce package. Someone in my FaceBook group mentioned another actress who did not have the chops to stare a man down. Well Ruth certainly can. My  God its withering. ruth-romanThere’s a touch of danger in her. Her performances are believable and with conviction. I’m not quite sure why she really wasn’t a bigger star. Why couldn’t she truly break out though she’s done 60+ films. Could it be she was more character actress than leading lady?

Well I’m going with that and nudging Ruthies name as a participant in the “WHAT A CHARACTER!” blogathon. To be included in this peren nial favorite, now in its fifth year, is a big deal for my little blog. Hosted by Aurora of “Once Upon A Screen”, Kellee of “Outspoken and Freckled” and Paula of “Paula’s Cinema Club” this blogathon shines a spotlight on those somewhat unheralded in our cozy little classic film community. So let me showcase the Mighty Roman here and later talk about one of my favorite films of hers “TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY.”

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Ruth Roman is a Yankee, a New Englander born in Revere, Massachusetts in 1922 ( though different sources cite different years for her birth ).  She studied acting at the Bishop Lee Dramatic School and cut her teeth with the New England Repertory Company before heading out to Hollywood. She tooled around in bit parts in ‘uncredited girl’ roles young actresses are wont to do before getting her break by studio head Dore Schary to appear opposite relative newcomer, Kirk Douglas in CHAMPION.”

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Roman plays housewife to dopey Glenn Ford in “YOUNG MAN WITH IDEAS.” She tones it down. For me it’s a crime to see her wearing an apron, running after three kids and puttering around the house, when she seems like she should be in a board room…but I went with it. Next up she’s a glamorous Nancy Drew trying to figure out if Richard Todd is indeed a murderer in “LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE.” I enjoyed this movie. While in my kitchen I heard the familiar voice of that other tigress, Mercedes McCambridge and ran into the living room to confirm it. Yup. It was her. I love that crazy McCambridge and her staccato delivery. Ruth is a good girl in this; falling in love…and then in fear. She’s light, easy…witty and clever with black shining eyes.

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Ruth does another turn as a good girl in Hitchcocks masterpiece of double trouble: “STRANGERS ON A TRAIN.” Ruth doesnt have much to do in this Hitchcock classic but be the supportive girlfriend. And see…she can be that way too. Again I think she tamps it down to make it plausible for Farley Granger to get a girl like her. ( He really is more suited to a Cathy O’Donnell-type ). But thats okay Ruthie. Youre in a Hitchcock film. Hell, what blondes can do, so can brunettes.  

Roman had a real~life drama on her hands when the cruise ship she was on sunk. In 1956 returning to the States from Europe, the Andrea Dorea collided with MS Stockholm. Roman ran back to her cabin to grab her three year old little boy and put in a lifeboat. The boat took off before Ruth could board it. She got on another lifeboat and was reunited with her son via the Ile de France. Dont know if her career could ever compare to that.

If my preference is seeing Roman on the mean side ~ ( hey, what can I tell ya? ) ~ thenINVITATION” satisfies my need. Starring Dorothy McGuire and Van Johnson, Roman plays Johnson’s ex-fiancee ( Maud ) who is dumped so he can marry McGuire. Roman does not suffer loss easily and is a stone cold bitch when she discovers Johnson only marries McGuire because shes dying. Oh yeah, she makes sure she knows this:

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“Oh, don’t worry, I just happened to be in the building, and dropped into his office. Oh, he’s still yours, at least for the time being. I told you, remember, the day of your wedding, ‘I don’t give up so easily.’ Remember? I said, ‘The first round goes to you, or your father’s money … You can have Dan,’ I said, ‘for about a year on loan.’ And that’s why you’re really here, isn’t it?  Because the year’s dwindling out fast. Only a couple of months left, and you’re scared to death. Well, Ellen, do you think I have given up?”

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I’ve only seen pieces of “THREE SECRETS” many years too long ago. One of my friends has reviewed this film in his cozy corner of my blog. Tell me THIS doesn’t whet your appetite. Roman is comfortable in westerns as proof is in the sasparilla of “BELLE STARR’S DAUGHTER” “COLT .45 “REBEL IN TOWN”, the famed Anthony Mann’s THE FAR COUNTRY” with James Stewart and “DALLAS” with that lovely stalwart tall drink of water…Gary Cooper. Also in the cast, waiting in the wings, is the other side of midnight: Steve Cochran. She worked with the dark, handsome and dangerous Steve Cochran in a film I’d like to look at in detail. “TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY.”

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I had never heard of this movie, didnt know what the heck to expect; its better that way. I was pleasantly surprised. TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY reveals a couple of layers I enjoyed.

THE BOY CAN ACT

STEVE COCHRAN plays an ex-con just released from prison. I always liked Cochran…his lush deep dark looks and tough guy persona. But thats not quite what I got in “Tomorrow…” ( no tough-guy, but still killer looks. ) See, hes been in prison for eighteen years since he was a thirteen-year old boy. So his new life on the outside is really quite an adjustment. And Cochran plays his character as slightly emotionally stunted. He never waivers from that, and it’s always subtly evident; this is a testament to his ( very under-rated ) acting. He pulls it off. ( His dark humor in “Deadly Companions was an eye-opener as well. ) There was a boyishness to him in “Tomorrow…”. He is hurt, defensive, mistrustful. There is a sweetness to him that endeared him to me.

Now remember, he was thirteen when he went into prison eighteen years ago. When it dawned on my thick skull what that “really” meant, I confess it quickened my pulse a bit, seeing how good Cochran looks. And the first woman he falls hard for?

Brittle, hard as nails, bottle blonde Ruth Roman. Mama mia!! The poor lug doesnt know what hit him. Sometimes ten cents a dance is a high price to pay.

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Hes socially awkward, and sweet as well; and that makes for an apt pupil. She sees “something” in this young man. Uhmmmm…mostly, she sees a patsy.

A STAGEDOOR JOHNNY….WITH NO BAUBLES, BANGLES or BRAINS??

Using his prison pay, he buys her a gold-plated watch. She cant let herself be soft; its a hard cold cruel world for a blonde alone. With a twist of fate and Ruthies lies, they are now on the run.

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ON THE LAM

This is some kind of wildly subversive Hitchcockian plot twist. Not only is Cochran, ‘the wrong man’ but he think he IS the man. “Tomorrow Is Another Day” is a unique “on-the-lam” tale because shes tricked him into thinking he must run. He never wants to go back to prison, hes never really ever able to breathe comfortably, he thinks she’s going to tell on him…so hes always on edge. Not the fey-jittery-Farley Granger-edge, but a darker weightier edge. Shes actually kind of holding him hostage with her secret. You feel sorry for him.

The laughs on her when she realizes shes hitched her little caboose to a convicted murderer. Into the frying pan.

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Theyre on the lam. They change clothes and hitch rides. Theyre not out in the open. They do a lot of walking, and hopping on trains. They talk. Hes a survivor in this environment. They register in a seedy motel as man and wife with phony identities. Ruth still holds Cochran at arms length. “Dont get any ideas, Buster” is easier said than done; shes warming up to him. TOM'W ( I )In spite of herself, she slowly falls for Cochran. In an effort to disguise herself from The Law, Ruth dyes her blonde hair brunette. Yay!!! Finally! Its Ruth Roman, dark and lovely as she should be, like we know and love her. Cochrans man/boy gets plenty of ideas. After all, theyre now married ( if in name only )…it has been eighteen years…and it IS Ruth Roman. Ruth turns girlish, asks him if he likes her new hair color. He does. He likes her. He loves her. The wait is over…they really become man and wife here.

TRUST…THE BEGINNING OF LOVE

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Now a brunette, her glam toned down and her softness revealed, Ruth and Cochran catch a break by helping migrant farmers Ray Teal and wife Lurene Tuttle, one of my favorite character actresses. ( See my contribution about her for the 2014 ‘What A Character blogathon at the Once Upon A Screen blog. )  Ruth has softened considerably and Cochran seems more at ease. She’s toned down her hardness and he takes the lead a bit more in their new life together. Even if she has to scold him she never pulls out the beeyotch card, but does it a maternal wifely way. They live the life of lettuce pickers in a small itinerant California community. Whoa! This is far afield from the bright lights of a 40-watt dim and dirty dance hall, and Ruth takes to it. It was easily and subtly done to watch her warm up to Cochran and gain his trust. He begins to trust. She’s wifey now in a little wooden shack…making dinners, sewing patterns, and pregnant to boot. They’re both able to exhale.

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AS USUAL, GREED REARS ITS GREEDY, UGLY HEAD

Cochran’s true identity is discovered by Tuttle and Teal ( sounds like an old vaudeville team, doesn’t it? ) and trust begins to break down with everybody. I love Lurene Tuttle’s acting here. Her character is in conflict about a choice some might find easy to make. That she struggles with this choice, is a testimony to her.

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I have waaay more Ruth Roman films to discover, but I’ve got a good head start. “Tomorrow Is Another Day” weaves a tale of folks trapped by circumstances. Showing the growing love of two distrusting people was an added bonus for me. I heartily recommend this film to you. The Mighty Roman is in good company with other character actors and actresses who rarely get the spotlight. Want to read about ’em? Click onto Aline MacMahon. and Guy Kibbee and read about other great character actors. Start with Day 3 and work your way back to Days 1 and 2:

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( HOME )

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I WALK ALONE

I MET SPARTACUS!

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Yep, I actually met Kirk Douglas. My friend Chip Duckett was getting memorabilia autographed for a giant AIDS ball being held in Vienna he helps brings talent to. He invited me along to Barnes & Noble with him for a Kirk Douglas book signing. ( “Let’s Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning.” ) Chip was going to get some Kirk memorabilia autographed. I wasn’t going to buy the book just go along for the ride. The seriousness of WHO I was actually going to meet struck me when we were taken to the bookstore’s “green room” ~ a storage room of books ~ to actually meet him, thanks to one of Chip’s connections at the store. We were going to meet him before the formal book signing began. Just before the B&N guy knocked on the door, Chip gave me one of his Kirk memorabilia items to have something in my hand. Wha’? The door opened and  there was Kirk Douglas sitting at a table. I knew I was going to see him, but I didnt know I was actually going to MEET him.

He looked old and small. I hung back while Chip introduced himself and chatted with him briefly while he got his memorabilia signed. After Chip was done, he introduced me to Kirk Douglas. Yo, you can be all nonchalant meeting a legend if you want, but I’m telling you straight up…I am a fangirl.

Mr. Douglas started to stand to greet me. The full import of who he was was hitting me dead in the face as he rose up. What the hell happened to that old and small man, because all of a sudden, in those few moments he didn’t seem as old and small as I initially thought. As he was standing up I said “Sir, please sit. You don’t have to stand for me.” And he said “Of course I do. I always stand for ladies.” ( Thats me guys…a lady!! L0L! ) We shook hands and I gave him Chip’s memorabilia, stammered innocuously and then stepped back.

I attended the book~signing ~ ( yeah, I bought the book a little later ) ~ met him again in that book signing factory line sort of way that handlers handle it. He smiled at me with recognition. Don’t worry, I didnt linger. I kept it moving.

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He was a major star my entire lifetime. When I met him, of course I had seen so many of his films already. When I saw SHADOWS and SATIN was throwing a birthday blogathon for Kirk’s 100th, well, how could I not…

You’re going to see a lot of great films covered in this blogathon. I’m going to look at an early-in-his-career-Kirk Douglas-film, before his teeth were clenched in stone. So far he’d done The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Out of the Past” “Mourning Becomes Electra.” I will cover his fourth film, 1948s I WALK ALONE.”

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With  “I Walk Alone” comes Kirk Douglas’ first of seven screen pairings with fellow newcomer BURT LANCASTER ( this being his fifth movie ). RIght from the beginning, their chemistry was dynamite; I find them to be as evenly matched as any two stars were. ( Well maybe with the exception of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn ). They’re 

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more closely associated with each other ( their pairings also include: “The List of Adrian Messenger” [ 1963 ] and “Victory at Entebbe” [ 1976 ] ) than they are with their leading ladies ( though who can argue Burt with Ava and Deborah Kerr or Kirk with Lana and Kim and Jean Simmons ). If they ever were to really get into a fist fight, I don’t know who’d win…but I do know they’d each give as good as they got.

“I Walk Alone” is the story of a man released from prison after fourteen years, expecting to become half owner of a successful night club he invested in ( before going to the slammer ) with his old rum-running buddy.

He is in for a rude awakening.

i-walk-alone-kirkKIRK DOUGLAS is the old pal, Noll ( nicknamed ‘Dink’ ) and Douglas plays him as far from scared little Walter O’Neill as you or Martha Ivers could get. Noll is mucho suave-aaaay. He can talk his way out of, or smooth over anything. He’ll use the night club’s chanteuse to pump Frankie for info, while continuing to string her along in their romance. He’ll hook up with an ice queen socialite to further his business and social standing. He’s not above blackmailing an old friend. Noll will do or say whatever it takes. He is ambitious. He is a smooth operator.

i-walk-alone-burtQuite the opposite personality is BURT LANCASTER as Frankie Madison. He’s been cooped up for fourteen years. ( “FOURTEEN YEARS!!!!” he says tightly…and with reason ). Oh, he doesn’t look any worse for the wear having been in prison. He’s tall, fills a suit nicely…a big strapping fella. ( I think it should be de rigueuer for Burt Lancaster to wear a t-shirt in every movie from 1946 – 1952! But I digress ). Lancaster’s Frankie, is a man of few words…very defensive, sensitive and coiled as tightly as a snake. Where Noll is cool as a cucumber, Frankie is a hothead. He’s a bit awkward socially, being out of practice for so long. Noll’s Socialite Gal Pal, Alexis Richardson. speaks to him:

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SOCIALITE: “You know, you’re quite an attractive man.”
FRANKIE:    “Keep going.”
SOCIALITE: “How far do you want me to go?”
FRANKIE:    “I’m at the plate. You’re doing the pitching.”

The socialite is played to an Alexis Smith-ish fare-thee-well by actress KRISTINE MILLER. But that interaction ends poorly with her wanting Frankie thrown out of the club:

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“You looked like a man who might have three or four interesting sentences to say. You’ve said them. Goodbye!!”

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Well…he was out of practice.

Frankie’s wined and dined by club chanteuse: Kay Lawrence played by LIZABETH SCOTT, whose been sent by Noll to wine and dine Frankie. Noll tells her:

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“That’s why men take women to dinner. So they’ll have someone to talk about themselves to.”

Kay goes along with it, but gets mangled in Noll’s machinations because of her love for him. And there’s the usual requisite tension between two women competing for the same man. Alexis wants to marry Noll:

“You’re so utterly no good I should marry you.”

…If you call that love.

( ASIDE: Kristine Miller shared screen~time with Lizabeth Scott in “Desert Fury” and “Too Late For Tears” ).

i-walk-alone-kirk-lizabethFrankie realizes the ruse to pump him for information and unjustly lambasts Kay. He trusts no one except the book~ keeper Dave. He lumps Kay in with all the snakes. She finally sees what a user Noll really is when he tells her he’s marrying the Socialite:

“You love me but you’re marrying her?”

[ Oy, #IFIHADADIME! ]

The jig is up for Noll and Kay when Frankie realizes hes been played like a cheap fiddle.

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“The oldest trick in the world. You want to pump a guy, use a woman. And I grabbed.”

I love Lizabeth’s display of pouty anger when she tells off Douglas’ slimy caddish character since she was not in on his scheme.

NOLL:   “You’re in Frankie’s league now.”
KAY:      “I couldn’t ask for better company.”

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She sides with Frankie ( when she finally gets him to trust her again ). Look, I know this romantic coupling is pretty quick and just a plot contrivance. But I say, in the scheme of 40’s films, relationships happen at the speed of a writer’s Underwood.

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I know things like this can make or break one’s enjoyment of a classic film. But I don’t mind the shorthand in these old movies. I know it doesn’t make psychological sense for the script, but it sure gets things moving a lot quicker. I like Lizabeth Scott in this film. Yes, she’s stiff and wooden, down to her walk and her hairstyle. I know the voice they dubbed was wrong for her and her singing stance was all stiff. But a better pal a guy couldn’t have in the 40’s ( depending on the film’s budget ) than Lizabeth Scott. ( Ella Raines is a different vibe…she’s not really The Victim ). So Scott is part of the triumvirate and Im fine with that. Kay and Frankie are now an “item.” She falls for the right wronged man.

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Poor Frankie. It’s like he is stuck in a time warp… when  handshakes were as bonding and binding as a contract. A Promise meant something before he went to prison. Well he’s going to make Noll live up to his promise of fourteen years ago, ( “FOURTEEN YEARS!” ) by using some muscle. He’s going to take what’s his. He speaks to his old pal Nick Palestro to help round up the gang. I thought it was a great casting choice to have MARC LAWRENCE play the gangster Nick Palestro. He was such a staple in 30’s movies when he played “The Gangster.” ( When I see Lawrence in “The Man With the Golden Gun” or Diamonds Are Forever ~ I smile at the nod ).

It’s with Palestro we see that times, they are a-changing; that the old gang just ain’t what it used to be. Nick is a businessman now who owns a car lot. He’ll assemble some new boys, but things are not the same he tells Frankie. When Frankie and the boys meet Noll, Dave is asked to show Frankie “the books.” This was a sad scene to me on a couple of levels…time passing Frankie by, Noll’s lies, the book~keeper’s betrayal. That cut Frankie to the quick. The shame and humiliation Frankie suffers in front of EVERYone was tough to watch. I felt embarassed for him. He’s like a caged animal. The day of the old-time gangster in spats and Tommy gun is gone. The books are cooked and Frankie’s fight is with an amorphous enemy. He rails against The Corporation. Noll leaves him no dignity. It was sad to watch his powerless rage.

mazurski-chokes-walk-aloneCheck out the men who watch him ( especially that wiseass guy ). Think of those soldiers who came back from the war, having difficulty adjusting to Society. Cagney’s film The Roaring Twenties comes to mind. Frankie now wants to settle the score…but it seems he’s the only one living in the past. A relic. And now the ultimate indignity…getting a beatdown, by the one and only: Mike Mazurki.

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Who is this Dave, the book~keeper?  Well its WENDELL COREY. And this is his second movie ~ ( the first being “Desert Fury ). I was never really a big fan of his; his skeletal features and pale blue eyes kind of pushed me away. But…he did have a great speaking voice…and he really could handle Stanwyck in “The Furies.” Hmmm…let me think about this.

Okay!! I’ve settled it in my mind.

I am now totally coming around to Wendell Corey. ( Welcome to CineMaven’s Van Heflin Club, Mr. Corey. Step right up .) Now, maybe not with lust in my heart, ( I’ve got to see him in a t-shirt ) but with some hard core respect for this fine Actor, I’m coming around. With “I Walk Alone” I do think he was the heart and soul of the movie. My heart goes out to him, Corey’s Dave, the bookkeeper…and he’s really caught in the thick of things between these two old friends. Dave was torn between his heartfelt loyalty to Frankie…and the “hooks” Dink had into him: forgery. Corey plays Dave wonderfully. We see a beaten man, heavy with the weight of guilt and resentment. It is weighing him down. Frankie says,

“You’re two years older than me and I’ve been in jail. You look ten years older than me!!”

When the inevitable happens, ( and you’re a movie buff…so you know what will happen), it springs Frankie into action. It takes him OUTSIDE his Self to think about someone else. And goes to action he does. I think this is a testimony to how Wendell Corey plays Dave. ( Kent Smith would’ve played him differently and we might’ve cheered for his demise…but that’s for another thread ). 

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I really like “I Walk Alone.” Kirk Douglas is the son of a bitch you love to hate. Burt Lancaster is the hero you want to root for. And Lizabeth Scott ~ the girl you want to love. When the movie finished it felt like a satisfying meal. The film feels to me like the quintessential nineteen forties movie in style and dress and dialogue. It has all the archetypical characters you could want to have; all the characters that were perhaps already old hat by the late forties: The Big Lug, The Girl, The Smooth Operator, The Strong Arm, The Snot-Nosed Up & Comer, The Bored Socialite, The Erudite Servant/Restauranteur. Is this movie officially a film noir…I’ll leave that to wiser movie buffs to define.

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I think audiences knew they had a tiger by its tail with this intense young actor. Kirk Douglas would prove his star power time after time in film after film. Click on the blogathon’s banner to read accounts of others’ favorite Kirk Douglas films. Not many people live to be one hundred years old. Douglas is one of them. He’s tough and tenacious. I think he will give Father Time a real run for his money. Kirk Douglas is someone still with us, that is a connection to the golden age of Hollywood we love.

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You know, after I got my autographed book by Kirk Douglas, I couldn’t wait to go up to my parents house and show them the book. My father is more the movie buff. Maybe this was his reaction when I brought home from school, an ashtray I made of clay in the fourth grade…but I cant quite remember my father ever smiling so broadly and with awe before.

“Whaaaaaaat?!! You met Spartacus???”


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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.”

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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.

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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.”

 

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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.

♠  ♠    ♠  ♠

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.

♠  ♠    ♠  ♠

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.

♠  ♠  ♠  ♠  ♠

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.

♠  ♠    ♠  ♠

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.

♠  ♠    ♠  ♠

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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