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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IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND (1951)

 

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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.

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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

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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. 

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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.

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…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. 

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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.

 

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ANNE OF THE INDIES

In memory of Maureen O’Hara, scroll to the very bottom of page.

“We put our hands to a bargain. To make my hand good, I’ve been spread eagle, flogged. I’ve called red-handed cut-throats my friends. I’ve stood by and watched murders and worst…and that’s not all. With daily and nightly prospects of the plank at my back, I crawled; made myself agreeable in all ways to the vilest harshest she-monster that ever came out of the sea! And I think all the oceans never wash me clean again!” – A man describing Capt. Anne.

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SWASHATHON ( Banner #2 )There have been pirate movies in the recent past like “Cutthroat Island” (1995), “Cabin Boy” (1994) and my very own personal favorite “Swashbuckler” (1976) which I saw four times at Radio City Music Hall. Oh yeah, I can’t leave out Johnny Depp ( even if I WANT to ) cornering the pirate market in his trilogy as Jack Sparrow. So when I read that the Movies Silently blog would helm a Swashathon in honor of the 100th anniversary of actor Douglas Fairbanks’ debut in motion pictures, I knew I wanted in. No denying, Fairbanks was the first and one of the greatest swashbucklers in movies. What boy didn’t want to be a pirate? Try out feats of derring-do, sword fights, rescuing ( and/or conquering ) beautiful damsels-in-distress and dubloons; lovely gold dubloons. But is a girl’s fate only to be the damsel-in-distress? ( See this past summer’s ANTI-DAMSEL BLOGATHON ).

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I finally saw a movie I’ve been waiting to see for about thirty years. My old college class- mate told me long ago of a female pirate movie called “ANNE OF THE INDIES.” He told me this before DVDs, before VCRs, before cable tv. I’ve been waiting ever since to see it. And I finally have.

ANNE OF THE INDIES” (1951) Jean PetersLouis JordanDebra PagetThomas Gomez,  Herbert Marshall. DIRECTOR: Jacques Tourneur.

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JEAN PETERS. She wasn’t one of the those top 1950’s femmes who sucked up all the oxygen out of fan magazines. She was a good solid serious actress. She’s different in each film I’ve seen her in. In “Captain from Castile” she’s wild. In noir thriller “Pick-up On South Street” she’s sullen. In “Niagara” she’s a playful 1950’s housewife on a belated honeymoon.  In “A Blueprint for Murder” she is reserved, restrained and in control. In “Take Care of My Little Girl” she’s a snooty snotty sorority b*tch. In my Swashathon contribution – “Anne of the Indies” – Jean is a little bit of everything…sexy, vulnerable, sullen, reserved and fiery. To me, she even looks like a cross between Elizabeth Taylor and Mercedes McCambridge. I’m trying to think of other actresses of the time who could have gotten into this feminine tomboy role other than Maureen O’Hara. I’m coming up blank. And no, I don’t want to see Debbie Reynolds with a sword.

I hope Peters had fun making this movie ‘cuz she’s so danged serious most of her movie time. She has the chance to work with the great Jacques Tourneur of “Cat People”-“I Walked With a Zombie”-“Out of the Past” fame. As Captain Anne Providence she’s no panty waist. When the movie opens she’s being tended by the ship’s doctor ( Herbert Marshall ) for a wound. She doesn’t cry. She’s a tough cookie.

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                    Peters:       “It’s only a scratch.”
                    Marshall:  “Oh you’ll bear a scar.”

                    Peters:       “I bear many scars from the English.”
                    Marshall:  “This one will mar your beauty.”

                    Peters:       “Save that  for the wenches!”

Her education is spotty at best; she can read maps but not words and she’s a bit defen-sive about it. ( She needn’t have been. Education for women was not a top priority back then. But she did get to travel ). She has closed off her emotions. But the capture of the handsome and dashing suspected spy played by Louis Jourdan awakens a whole slew of emotions I don’t think Peters’ pirate bargained for.

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LOUIS JOURDAN ( NAPPING... )Before Belmondo, Depardieu, Trintignant and ( Whew! ) super pretty boy Alain Delon, there was Louis Jourdan.
( Yeah yeah, I know: Chevalier and Boyer and Gabin but really, c’mon…) He does well in this role as Captain Pierre Francois LaRochelle and not every actor can seem believable in a puffy shirt  (Jerry Seinfeld that means you!) and spouting pirate dialogue. He’s sincere in his lovemaking and sincere in his anger. Maybe it’s his continental accent. Jourdan appeared in “The Paradine Case” “Madame Bovary” “Letter From An Unknown Woman” and “Gigi” and let me tell you, here in “Anne of theANNE OF THE INDIES ( VI ) ANNE OF THE INDIES ( IX )Indies” he is just drop dead gorgeous. No wonder Peters loses her heart. So of course, she’s first got to have him flogged and whipped within an inch of his life, and then she tends to his wounds after. Well, you know the old movie adage: I love you / I hate you: which means I hate I LOVE you.” Peters is attracted to him and uses him for information AND to find out how Frenchmen make love. ( How else is a girl supposed to know? ) My impression is that she’s probably been dealing with some pretty rough trade in her travels on the high seas, and wants a taste of tenderness and being treated like a lady.

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“You’re Captain because I made you Captain. I was a fool to think a wench could be other than a wench. What I made, I can blast!!”

Admittedly Jean Peters is no Maureen O’Hara in the swordsplay department ( who is? ) but she looks good doing what she does. She mixes it up with the head pirate of pirates: Blackbeard. Blackbeard is played with gusto and zeal by the great Thomas Gomez. Gomez’s Blackbeard mentored her – taught her everything he knows about the pirate business. She beats him in a duel ( that I suspect he “let” her win ) and their good-natured fun turns serious when Blackbeard strikes Jourdan. In defense of Jourdan, Peters strikes Blackbeard…in front of all the pirates. Nah, not a good move.

Now they are enemies.

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Plot direction shifts quickly in “Anne of the Indies” and I like that. There’s more betrayal to go around when Jourdan is revealed to have made a bargain with the Devil ( the British ) which leads him to become an enemy of Captain Anne. Jourdan does a good job; he’s handsome and masculine and fits in with the time period. He looks good in the puffy shirt too as I already mentioned. He’s convincing as a paramour of Captain Anne…so it stands to reason that Peters has good reason to be ‘a woman scorned’ when the lovely Debra Paget arrives on the scene and is introduced in the film. It sends Peters over the edge. After all, she may be a pirate…but she IS a woman.

The fifties belonged to a few stars: Elvis, Debbie, Kim and of course, Marilyn. But one who is not talked about too much but who put a smile on men and boys’ face from the 50’s, and who was definitely one of the princesses of the time is Debra Paget. ( “The Ten Commandments” “Love Me Tender” “Demetrius and the Gladiators” “Broken Arrow” “Prince Valiant” and her debut in 1948’s “Cry of the City” ).

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It seems Paget was the sweet voluptuous young thing in EVERYthing in the fifties. Just the sort of girl men want to marry. Paget and Peters are two opposite ideals in “Anne of the Indies”:

  • One, your typical fifties wife: compliant, soft-voiced, not too many serious thoughts in her head other than how to please her husband.
  • The other – strong, independent, edgy…speaks her mind, travels to exotic locales and is in charge, though being in control and being in charge are two different things.

Seeing Peters in the role of Captain Queen doesn’t seem odd to me. I was a teenager during the bra-burning, Women’s Libbing, Gloria Steinham, Ms. Generation era. But really, should she look too strange to 1951 audiences if they were used to the strong women of the forties like Stanwyck and Davis and Crawford and Hepburn? She didn’t really look strange to me but I have to admit, Peters’ Other-ness is definitely accentuated next to Paget.

These two have a nice face-off that is worthy of Crawford & Blyth and Davis & Hopkins. Paget doesn’t cower or back down in the face of Peters. She’s no wallflower. And the two women have a wonderfully spirited exchange:

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PETERS: “So you’re his notion of a mate for life.”
PAGET:   “If you intend to cut my throat, cut it now and be done with…”
PETERS: “Cut your throat? What do you take me for?”
PAGET:   “A disgrace to our sex.”
PETERS: “His words?”
PAGET:   “No, mine. He spoke no ill of you. He pitied you.”
PETERS: “PITY?! He dared to pity me, the treacherous scum!”
PAGET:   “Before you blackguard him, I ask you to remember he is my husband.”
PETERS: “The best you could get for yourself?”
PAGET:   You couldn’t get him.”

Peters SLAPS Paget.

PETERS: “And you’ll never have him again.”

It’s here where Peters reveals her plan to pimp out Paget; she’ll get a pretty penny for this princess from each and every man in all the Carribbean. I have to tell you, when I heard Peters go there I howled because I didn’t expect it. I thought it was a perfect bold move worthy of any pirate captain but moreso as a woman scorned. Paget could only ask:

  “Were you born in the gutter or did you choose it?!”

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Ow!!! Burn.

Peters may have the power but down deep ( or not so deep ) she’s hurt by the man she trusted ( which sometimes happens to us girls especially if he’s French ); the dashing Frenchman made unkept promises. I was kind of stunned when Paget was actually taken to the slave market and put on the block!! Whoa! Peters plays the role perfectly showing pride, bravado, hurt, defensiveness and wearing pirate togs very well. When I saw Jourdan come on the scene I wondered…how long will it be before Peters gets into a dress. ( When she does…it serves to remind us of her beauty ).

When she and Jourdan meet again, Peters holds all the cards at this point. He asks her to spare Paget’s life. Uh-unh. ( SMH! )

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“Why should I spare her? Why shouldn’t I give myself the pleasure of watching your face while I…I let the men of my company throw dice for her.”

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And when Jourdan think he’s insulting her, Peters’ retort is a zinger:

JOURDAN: “You like to play the man, then act one.”
PETERS:      “But I’m a woman as you’re so fond of reminding me. You should have thought of that when you betrayed me. Now I’m making sure that your last thoughts will be of me.”

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There’s more to the story but I’ll let it unfold for you; I haven’t given it all away. And my words can’t do justice to this rousing adventure. You’ve got to see Anne of the Indies for yourself. I like it. It’s lively, there are fights, there is romance and the tension between the two women…and it is just plain wonderful to see Jean Peters running and jumping and being in charge of a bunch of scurvy pirate guys. There are more entries for this SWASHATHON. Just unbuckle your swash and click here…but make sure your pants don’t fall down:

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As I said, she’s no Maureen O’Hara, but you know what…Jean Peters doesn’t have to be. Being Jean Peters is more than enough.

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To Maureen O’Hara – what can I say. For my memories on seeing a great star, click below:

MAUREEN & DUKE
August 17th, 1920 – October 24th, 2015

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