THE BEST of EVERYTHING ~ 1959

The blog: MOON IN GEMINI  is holding its WORKPLACE IN FILM & TV Blogathon this weekend. I’ve clocked in to talk about this 1959 film which I enjoy very much. I admit it’s one of thOse “comfort food” movies because of my familiarity with the movie and familiarity of characters that are pretty much archetypes ( or prototypes…or stereotypes if you wanna be a big ol’ meanie about it! )

What a Character! Ann Doran and Lurene Tuttle

My guilty pleasure is THE BEST OF EVERYTHING.”

From 16 until I retired I spent my working life earning a living in the clerical world of The Office, trying to understand and navigate human dynamics and office politics. I took Civil Service exams to work my way up, had affairs with co~workers, maintained confidences as Secretary to a few bosses, crammed all I could into one~hour lunches ~ more or less ~ (…mostly more ), and cultivated friendships that went past the bounds of 9~to~5 to include some of my best Friday night memories where we went dancing, or hung out at the Blarney Stone with games of Pictionary and glasses of booze strewn across the table by night’s end. ( I remember this time I offered my friends $50 to whoever jumped into the City Hall fountain, but that’s another story… )

The office terrain in the movie is very familiar to me. The dramatics of the life of these secretaries are drastically different from mine. Let’s take a closer look at “The Best of Everything.”

THE DISH:

“THE BEST OF EVERYTHING”

THE INGREDIENTS:

  • One ambitious blonde………………. ( HOPE LANGE )
  • One innocent brunette………………. ( DIANE BAKER )
  • One free and easy redhead….……… ( SUZY PARKER )
  • One sexually harassing boss……….. ( BRIAN AHERNE )
  • One cruelly handsome but brooding, slightly inebriated publishing agent
    ( STEPHEN BOYD )
  • One regretful blonde………………… ( MARTHA HYER )
  • One rich and oily playboy who knocks ‘em up and gets them abortions……………………… ( ROBERT EVANS )
  • One love ‘em and leave ‘em Broadway director………
    ( LOUIS JOURDAN )
  • One tyrannical terrorizing Executive Secretary who is the mistress of the company’s V.P. and accepts any crumbs of his time as he allows… ( JOAN CRAWFORD )

RECIPE:

Gently place all the ingredients into a wide colorful Cinemascopic pan ~ actually baked in New York City ~ stir gently and put in a heated oven. Sit comfortably for two hours and VOILA!!! A delicious soufflé of soap operatic portions is prepared by Chef Negulesco.

There are all kinds of things sort of wrong with this film’s message. It IS sexist. ( Hell, my description of Ingredients is sexist ). But It’s 1959 dumpling, 1959, AND the Dark Ages ( to paraphrase ‘Julie‘ in “JEZEBEL.” The film’s credits trick us into thinking we’re about to enter into the ‘World of Women In the Work Force.’ We see women come off busses and trains,

rushing around the urban jungle of NYC into office buildings, readying themselves for a day’s work; quite the opposite of the suburban housewives of “No Down Payment” or “Strangers When We Meet.” But though the women of “The Best of Everything” are more glammed up than a bunch of 1940’s Rosie the Riveters revving it up in the munitions factory, the Rosies had more of a sense of purpose for work. They were doing it for the cause. And their men were mostly at war. Here, in The Best of Everything,” work is really window dressing. Work is not a reward unto itself but a means to an end; and the be all and end all…was marriage. This is a “woman’s picture” not “Executive Suite.”

SPOILERS ~ Because if you haven’t seen this movie already, well, frankly my dear, c’mon —

Here’s a working girl…who had a boyfriend on the side with vertigo…and didn’t look like she was in a rush to marry

Look at it…wide~open prairie land.

Surveying the land is our first ‘working girl’ in white hat, gloves and pearls. She’ll meet one of the denizens of The Office. ‘Mary Agnes’ is our first intro into the working girl in action. Played by Sue Carson, she makes the most of her brief screen time in this movie. She’s a New York hoot with an accent from Brooklyn.

Plainly put she is the office gossip who’ll give us the lowdown on all the characters. She talks fast and knows the ropes around office life. Besides, she’s caught the brass ring; she’ll be married in a few weeks and will escape. Office gossip, a staple in the world of work.

There is definitely sexism involved…

MR. SHALIMAR: “Are you looking for experience Miss Bender?”  as he fondles her knee. Check.
CAROLINE BENDER: (sternly) “Of a sort, Mr. Shalimar.” She moves his hand from her knee. Checkmate!

Ageism is touched upon…

MIKE: “Don’t underestimate him, Miss Bender. Treat him with respect. Start being 55 and worried about a job that’s not even good enough for you.
CAROLINE: “Why should he lose his job?”
MIKE: “You. Young people like you. Bright young kids with drive and a flair. He’s afraid.”
CAROLINE: “Afraid of me?”

But yo…it doesn’t excuse the sexism. Brian Aherne’s Mr. Shalimar is especially egregious in the sexual harassment area. Diane Baker’s April Morrison has her moment with him in this sequence where this aging wolf (the boss with all the power) creeps up on our Mid-Western girl. She’s supposed to be taking dictation after 5:00pm. Well…

  

Ahhhhhh…bring back the days of “MAD MEN,” said the CineMaven… tongue~in~ cheek.

But director Negulesco gives Baker a nice little moment after the embarrassing scene for her character April. Shalimar’s given her cab money and a sandwich and sends her home. She waits for the elevator and thinks about what’s just happened. She goes from being mad and indignant, to feeling a bit sophisticated by his pass. Like she’s crossed some sort of line of becoming less small~town girl…to big city woman. Yes, it’s still harassment folks, but April’s a sponge soaking in all her experiences in New York City. She’s so sweet taking it all in and accepting it.

Now’s a good time to take a look at the threesome of “The Best of Everything.” Hope Lange, Diane Baker and Suzy Parker come from a long line of cinematic triumvirates:

 ♥   ♥   ♥     ♥   ♥   ♥

BLONDE AMBITION ~ ( HOPE LANGE as Caroline Bender )

Lange’s working until her betrothed ( Brett Halsey ) comes back from a business trip to marry her. But there’s an earnestness to her approach to work. She wants to do a good job, learn all she can. We see her toughness when she squares off against Executive Secretary Amanda Farrow, played

with easy imperiousness by legend Joan Crawford. She faces her with snarky retorts.

MISS FARROW: “Caroline? When I buzz twice it means I want you for dictation.”
CAROLINE: “Excuse me. I didn’t know.”
MISS FARROW: “Makes one wonders what they DID teach you in college.”
CAROLINE: “Guess I forgot to take the course in buzzers.”

Feisty. Lange is easy on the eyes and easy to get along with, garnering two roommates within the blink of a New York minute. And 1959 girl~talk ensues. The sexual revolution is just around the corner:

CAROLINE: “Well I don’t know. If Eddie hasn’t married by the time I’m twenty~six I may take myself a lover.”
APRIL: “Really? At twenty~six I guess you’re right. If you’re that old you have a right to live.
CAROLINE: “If my mother heard me talk about love so casually I think she’d die.”
APRIL: “My mother never talks about love in any way. She’d no more tell not to have an affair than she’d tell me not to go out and steal a car. She knows I wouldn’t think of it.”
CAROLINE: “But you do think of it.”

APRIL: “Think about it all the time.”

She’s attracted to the company’s handsome teen magazine editor (Stephen Boyd) who drinks a lot. Their relationship is rocky because they both want different things for her. He practices armchair psychology with Lange, trying to sway her from a career in publishing to get her back on track to a career that really counts, being a wife and a real woman and maybe be a part of his life.

MIKE: “Don’t you get caught, Caroline. Get out while you can. Work six months, prove whatever you have to prove and marry the med student, or law student and love happily ever after.”
CAROLINE: “I plan to.”
MIKE: “No business career, no fame, fortune? No ambition?”
CAROLINE: “None.”
MIKE: “How wonderful.”

See…no need to worry about her. She’s got a fiancée, plans for her future with him…while working nights to read manuscripts:

Lange is a good solid actress in the Eva Marie Saint mold of reality~based acting. Okay okay, you may think I say this because they’re both blondes, but not really. Lange has three breakdown scenes she pulls off believably without going over the top. As smart as Lange’s Caroline Bender is, she is still kicked in the gut when she finds her fiancée has married someone else:

CAROLINE: “How do you stop loving somebody when they’ve stopped loving you?”

MIKE: “The man you’re engaged to? Well, this calls for old Dr. Mike’s favorite prescription. Two scotches, straight.”

The movie follows her journey and growth.

♠  ♠  ♠    ♠  ♠  ♠

MARY AGNES: “And take your time. Farrow never gets back ‘til 3:30.”
CAROLINE: “She doesn’t?”
MARY AGNES: “Of course not. She’s an executive.”
CAROLINE: “How does she get any work done?”
MARY AGNES: “Executives don’t do the work. The higher up you get, the less you have to do. Unless you’re the top man. Then you have to make decisions. The ones just under the top have the best deal. Funny about Farrow. She always wants someone like you. You know, sophisticated.”

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THE ( INNOCENT ) BRUNETTE ~ ( DIANE BAKER as April Morrison )

‘April Morrison’ is the nice, sweet, wide~eyed innocent from Colorado who longs for love in The Big City.

APRIL: “It’s wonderful to be in love, isn’t it?”
CAROLINE: “Yes it is.”

APRIL: “I’m in love too.”

CAROLINE: “What’s his name?”
APRIL: “I don’t know. I haven’t met him yet.”

You will honey. You will.

As a secretary…she’s a little scattered, but can do her job. I already showed you how smarmy hambone publishing exec Brian Aherne makes a crude pass at her. He plants a kiss on her and she convincingly recoils from. Her next encounter is something else again. A kiss from an old wolf like Mr. Shalimar is no match to her run~in with a good~looking, smooth~talking, spoiled, oily~haired cad named Dexter Key…played by a good~looking smooth~talking, spoiled, oily~haired young future Paramount producer: Robert Evans. Trouble really enters Diane Baker’s world with this guy.

APRIL:     “Did you ever make a girl pregnant before?”
DEXTER: “Not that I know of.”
APRIL:     “You mean some girls became pregnant and didn’t tell you?”
DEXTER: “Some girls don’t.”

His Dexter is a playa; kisses the girls and makes ‘em pregnant. At least he was gentlemanly enough to get them to a “doctor” before skulking away. I was especially shocked at 1959’s suggestion of an abortion. It’s a painful watch seeing Baker’s sweet naive character go down that well~worn road. She was not alone in 1959. She’s not alone in 2017.

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“I always have a sandwich with my boyfriend at a mutually convenient place, like Grand Central. While I’m working on the nightgown, he’s saving up for the furniture. French Provincial. Both rooms. See ya later.”

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EASY BREEZY RED-HEAD ~ ( SUZY PARKER as Gregg Adams )

“All I want is a man who’ll love me. For a little while. My mother was married three times. Each one I’d start calling Dad. Then off he’d go. It was confusing at irst, but then I bean to look forward to the change. And now the only thing I want is to be free. To have no ties. To have, to hold and then to let go.”

‘Atta girl!!!!

I have to admit Gregg Adams ( as played by the gorgeous Suzy Parker ) is my favorite character. She’s an easy breezy fast talker; beautiful, glamorous…and doesn’t really care about her job. ( Things I wish I were ). The job is a means to an end for her real dream: a career as an actress.

Let me capture this sequence for you of how we’re introduced to Gregg Adams.

 

Oh man…look at her!! She goes on auditions during office hours, blows off the director, catches taxis, and her gal pals at work cover for her. What more can you ask for in a glamour working girl. She lives by the skin of her teeth. And when she’s not hired at the audition, she doesn’t care. At least she pretends NOT to care. In a scene that pre~dates “Breakfast at Tiffany” she tells her truth to the alley cat:

“You know something kitty, I wanted that part like hell.”

It’s a facade. Parker has it interesting because she’s playing this character Gregg on a couple of levels. Parker is an actress who plays an actress who can’t act. You might think her descent into stalking is a bit of a leap, but I can buy it ‘cuz she’s like the hunter captured by the game.

FaceBook poster Stephanie Kreps writes on Suzy Parker:

“Yes, she is so beautiful and a pretty good actress. This movie was like watching a 50’s version of “The Devil Wears Prada.” The great difference, of course, was that the women were not yet ‘woke’ to their rights as far as sexual harassment or equality in the workplace. The happy ending was not a better job or moving up in their careers but learning their place and getting married or at least the promise of that. Even the most successful woman, Joan Crawford’s role, was seen as a sad loser because she had no real relationship with a man. Many of the men were users and cads. The woman’s job was to find one who wasn’t and nab him.”

You see, Gregg has an affair with the Broadway director who has turned her down for a role. He’s played by that continental dreamboat, Louis Jourdan. She becomes obsessed with him I s’pose ‘cuz it’s all mixed up with having an affair with your boss. She’s too blind to see he uses ye olde casting couch to bed actresses as fast as he can cast ‘em. The Gregg Adams’ character’s motivation might be explained better in the book, but I take things at face value in movies. I’ll take the leap with you, as long as the ‘shark’ doesn’t jump too high. As I say, Gregg becomes unhinged by her obsession for Jourdan ( attending rehearsals after she’s been fired, going through his garbage… ). It’s painful to see him literally kick her to the curb as she claws to hang on. She seems like the confidant type to bag a millionaire based on her looks and banter. But underneath…vulnerable. And tragic.

♣  ♣  ♣    ♣  ♣  ♣

HE:    Uhhhh, Miss…
SHE:  St. John. Bobbi.

Along with Midge in Vertigo is my other patron saint of working girls, ANN DORAN. She’s all manner of sidekick and Gal Friday. She has a lovely five minute scene with Van Heflin in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” as Kirk Douglas’ secretary. She goes from cynical to interested to concern to skeptical in a seamless blink of an eye. Looks like she can handle anything Heflin or any man throws at her. Ahhhh, if only our three smart girls could. ( I’ll go into Doran’s scene more in~depth at a later date. )  

♣  ♣  ♣    ♣  ♣  ♣

We see the different approaches to work for our three musketeers. Well…to be honest, the different approaches to love. But we do see how work has…worked out for two other women who’s been at the company: Joan Crawford and Martha Hyer. Both of them heads of their department. And both of them in various stages of being/or having been with married men.

Crawford is a bit of a stone~cold bitch in this film but I may have to amend that; is she really a bitch? Isn’t she just as any male boss would be: demanding expectations. She expects her Secretary(s) to be professional. Crawford does seem to have it in for Lange’s character. Perhaps Lange’s is a younger version of herself with potential to replace Crawford in the company. It was great to see this Lange’s moxie in the face of Crawford’s jibes and digs.

Lange not only holds her own with Crawford, but with two love interests as well. Seems her ex~fiancée ( Brett Halsey ) wants to resume his relationship with her.


“I will not become your mistress!!!”

And the second ( potential ) love interest from the publishing company wants her for himself. Or at least warns her of the pitfalls of working for work’s sake. It’s the dangerously handsome Stephen Boyd as Mike Rice, and he keeps trying to dissuade her from working, suggesting she settle down and marry.

MIKE: “Don’t you get caught, Caroline. Get out while you can. Work six months, prove whatever you have to prove and marry the med student, or law student and love happily ever after.”
CAROLINE: “I plan to.”
MIKE: “No business career? No fame? Fortune?”
CAROLINE: “None.”
MIKE: “How wonderful.”

Sheesh! It’s almost as if something’s wrong with a woman who wants to work. They have tiffs about this very thing, but he’s also there for her, in a chivalrous way, when her fiancée breaks her heart and Boyd takes her out for a bender. He’s a good guy; just a product of his time…women should be married.

“I have one small corner of your life. I’ve never asked for more. And I will not settle for less. Now you and your rabbit-faced wife can both go to HELL!”

Is the movie’s underlying message if you stay at a job too long, it turns a woman into a harridan like Crawford? [ She’s a ball buster, but you hear her on the phone with her head-of- the-company-married-lover-asking-for-more-time-together. Been there, done that ]. Martha Hyer is the other example of a working girl. She heads the fashion department, has had an affair with a married man who seems sincerely into her as we watch him look at her longingly, and follow her around to iron things out. Nice wistful romantic music is also played underneath their scene.

SIDNEY: “How’s your baby?”
BARBARA: “Fine. How’s your wife?”
SIDNEY: “Fine, too. She’s in Nantucet for the summer. Have dinner with me.”

BARBARA: “I’m the girl that wants to get married again, remember? The girl for whom an affair with a married man, is not enough.”
SIDNEY: “Have dinner with me. Just dinner.”

BARBARA: “Why Sidney? Because your wife’s gone for the summer?”
SIDNEY: “No. You know that’s not why.”

She has quiet reserve but you can tell this affair has broken her. I understand much of Hyer’s role in the film was left on the editing room floor. A shame. I’d have liked to have seen more of her story ~ home and work. ( Sidney is played by Donald Harron.

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MR. SHALIMAR: “Ahh Miss Bender. I’ve just been talking to Miss Farrow. You are no longer a typist here.”
CAROLINE: “Well I’ve worked very hard—”
MR. SHALIMAR: “You are now a Reader.”
CAROLINE: “A what?”
MR. SHALIMAR: “A Reader. You’ll get a raise. I fought for you upstairs and managed to get you $20 more.”
CAROLINE: “$20 more a week?” MR. SHALIMAR: “No,  not a week, a month. Oh perhaps it isn’t very much, but think of the honor.”

I’d actually think of calling H.R. and find out what the male Readers get ( if there ARE any ) but oops…it’s 1959. She runs into her nemesis Miss Farrow.

MISS FARROW: “I told Mr. Shalimar that you were not qualified, Miss Bender. You’re too soft. I don’t think you could stand up to a writer and say: ‘Your work is no good.’ I don’t think you have the guts.”
CAROLINE: “Thank you for your confidence in me.”
MISS FARROW: “I call them as I see them.”

CAROLINE: “I’m beginning to think you’re right not to like me, Miss Farrow.”

To get Miss Farrow’s respect is a hard row to tow. She might’ve wanted someone like Caroline ( …what did Mary Agnes say: “Funny about Farrow. She always wants someone like you. You know, sophisticated” ). But faced with the person she used to be when she started out, she might just be seeing pitfalls ahead for Caroline.

♣  ♣  ♣    ♣  ♣  ♣

Near the end of the movie there’s a big wedding reception for one of the gals ( …the chatterbox from early in the movie ) The brass ring: Marriage. [ An interesting side note: The movie definitely had parts filmed in New York as I recognized. And when Lange and Boyd attend the reception, they’re walking onto the grounds of the public housing development I used to work in, Jacob Riis Houses, along the FDR Drive. When they walk into the apartment…THAT is definitely a movie set. No project apartment is that big ]. What does work mean to a person. It provides freedom and independence and a means to make one’s way in the world.  You’ll see many other entries from bloggers in this blogathon where the crux of the matter is more work~related. I like a post I wrote two years ago on His Girl Friday where we spend the bulk of the film INSIDE the job, and see Roz Russell at work. Admittedly with “The Best of Everything” work is pretty much tangential, the bulk of its story a shiny, glossy microcosm of human relationships dealing with sacrifices, compromises, self-worth, and most importantly…finding love. 

             

I think this is a great idea for a blogathon Debra, and for you folks out there, there are some more bloggers who tackle the Job of Work. Just click on the banner above to read more. Thanks for reading and thanks for including me, Debbie.

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‘TILL DEATH US DO PART

Oy vey!!! He leaves the toilet seat up. She wears too much perfume. He never asks directions. She’s always late. You want his money. He wants your sister. Poison? Driven to suicide or just a bullet in the brain? Do you do it yourself? Or do you get someone to help you?  Trust is never as important as it is when murder is involved. You must kill her. You must kill him. And if you don’t do it yourself, you must trust your accomplice.  Is love a many~splendored thing?

Hell…what’s LOVE got to do with it.

I got the idea of murder listening to the episode: “WIVES IN PERIL” by the ANY LADLE’S SWEET THAT DISHES OUT SOME GRAVY podcast, hosted by two very lovely ladies: Danielle Smith and Megan McGurk. You can find them on FACEBOOK. I thought this would make a good topic bloggers could really seek their teeth into. Well they certainly did. There are many tried and true favorites here and a couple of new movies I’ve never heard of. Below is the directory of bloggers who decided to write of mayhem and murder and marriages gone wrong. Thank you for reading, and a big THANK YOU to the bloggers who make a blogathon what it is.

And now…MURDER: 

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FIVE STARS BLOGATHON

Today has been designated National Classic Movie Day. ( We classic film fans made this OUR “Executive Order”!!! ) Hosted by the Classic Film and TV Cafe blog, we were given the task to name our five favorite movie stars for the FIVE STARS BLOGATHON. Siiiigh! It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it.

If you quickly scroll down this page, you’ll see who my favorites are. But I do hope you take a moment to see why they are. I admit, there is no rhyme or reason to my five favorite movie stars. Oh I’ll try to give a modicum of rational reasons for the why of my list…you know, just to appear adult and academic. But my five favorites are my five favorites because of my visceral emotional response to them. Shall I begin?

BETTE DAVIS

Get outta her way!

It’s easy to put her at the top of my favorite favorites list without fear of changing my mind. She’s fireworks and volcanoes. She’s a force of nature. Look over her body of work. She can make you cry in “Dark Victory” or “Now, Voyager” or cut you to shreds with a glance ( “The Little Foxes” ). She commands and dominates the screen. You ARE compelled to watch her. She’s my Queen of Classic Films.

( “The Letter” “Marked Woman” “Jezebel” “All About Eve” )

Recently loving THIS video tribute to Davis:

 

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CLARK GABLE

The King. You’ll take it…and like it.

I ain’t gonna lie, I respond to Gable’s virility. Pure and simple. Cary ~ suave like butter / Flynn ~ dashing, beautiful to look at / Colman ~ gentleman extraordinaire. But Gable? Honey, please. He is alpha male, masculine, confident, take charge, with that roguish smile of his. But I’ve seen him in movies when he can be slayed by a woman < Myrna Loy, Loretta Young, Vivien Leigh > they unleash his vulnerability. Don’t make him mad, though; you’ll have a bear on your hands. Don’t get me wrong, “It Happened One Night” was fun…but c’mon. I think his performance in “Gone With the Wind” is his great one, and it’s tragic he didn’t win an Academy Award for this meaningful, long~lasting work. Because of an annual movie~star poll in 1938 hosted by columnist Ed Sullivan, Gable was good~naturedly named the King of Hollywood. I think his 30~year career in Hollywood bears this out. Clark Gable IS…The King.

( “Mogambo” “Red Dust” “The Hucksters” “Gone With the Wind” )

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DORIS DAY

…And what’s wrong with feeling good?

I love her. Wanna make sumthin’ out of it?!!! She makes my heart smile. She’s sunshine. She has an ebullient, warm, happy presence that uplifts me. Doris Day is one of those rare multi~talented actresses. She could do it all: sing, dance, do comedy, do drama, all pretty convincingly…and with great box office success. She could be the businesswoman in the office or the Mom at home. I do wish the studio cultivated her a bit more in the dramatic tract of things. It might’ve stretched her career just a bit. Can you deny she stood toe~to~toe opposite the great Cagney? But I can’t kick, there were plenty of actresses burning up the screen with their thespian gymnastics. You know Doris Day started off as a big band singer and parlayed that into a movie career. But you can’t just put over a song, you have to put over a characterization in the movies, and Day could do that too. She is one of my two favorite singers ( Ella Fitzgerald is the other ~ one of Day’s too, I understand ). Doris’ voice is a warm sultry maple syrup of seduction. I melt. At the TCM Film Festival one year they showed “Calamity Jane.” It’s not one of my favorites of hers, but I can always see Doris on screen and I was going to sit at the screening with a row of friends who are just as wild about Doris as I am. As much as I already loved Doris, I gained even more respect for her from that film. She literally OWNED the movie. Doris Day is a wonderment to watch. Like I said, she makes my heart smile.

( “Send Me No Flowers” “My Dream Is Yours” “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” “Pillow Talk” )

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CARY GRANT

Put your head on my shoulder.

Is there any doubt he’d be on any classic film fans’ favorites list? He’s gorgeous to look at ( I realize I always lead with the looks. Hey, I got eyes, ain’t I? ); suave, sophisticated…and that brush of an accent sends me. He’s charming. As for his acting he makes it all look so easy, which might be why he’s so under~rated. He handles comedy and drama with equal aplomb. He doesn’t beat you over the head with a sledge hammer. I don’t think many of his contemporaries has as light a touch with comedy as Cary Grant. He could bandy about words ( “His Girl Friday” ) or go all out ( “Arsenic and Old Lace” ). But welling under that good will is the dark side of Cary Grant. Think of him in “Suspicion” or “Mr. Lucky” or “Only Angels Have Wings.” I was mad at him for quite a while after I saw how cold and mean he was to Ingrid Bergman in “Notorious.” He has the ability to laugh at himself; be silly if he has to. Look at him in “The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer.” He also cuts quite a romantic figure falling head over heels for Deborah Kerr, Carole Lombard or the exquisite Grace Kelly. Ladies…can you imagine walking into a room on the arm of Cary Grant? We’ll start there. I love the look of him, the sound of him, the Capricorn of him ( we share January 18th birthdays ). Yes, I love Cary Grant. He’s one of my favorites.

( “The Awful Truth” “Charade” “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” “In Name Only” “Holiday” )

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BARBARA STANWYCK

She could kiss you or kill you.

She’s Brooklyn, and that might explain everything. The reputation of being from there faintly permeates many of her performances. I adore her. She’s strong, she’s smart, has street~smarts and a tough veneer. She’s tough and gentle. Stanwyck’s approach to acting is very natural. It’s not Acting. She sounds like she’s merely speaking. And she’s kind of an Everywoman. Perhaps not in the way a Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper is, but check it ~ She’s as home on the range, as in a swanky night club or in a prison or in a boardroom. Like the best, Stanwyck can play comedy or drama in equal measure. Her lithe body has a ramrod straight posture which lends to her walking with a purposeful stride, owning the room…the scene. ( Watch Stanwyck’s walk the next time you see her ). Whether she’s getting a man to kill her husband or giving up her daughter for a better life…whether she’s pleading for John Doe NOT to jump off the roof or throws a pair of scissors at Judith Anderson’s face I find her acting natural and believable. She’s very attractive, in an approachable, non~bombshelly way. Her most closely matched contemporary is Bette Davis and I always have them battle it out in my mind for Supreme Diva. But I needn’t compare the two ~ as I almost did for this blogathon; scrapped that entire train of thought ~ there’s room enough for both actresses. I had the pleasure of actually seeing both women in person at two separate events. I saw them with my own very eyes. ( One, at a John Springer event and the other, honored at Lincoln Center. ) Those images are burned in my memory.

When she’s on the screen…the world comes to a halt. At least my world. When I need the courage to walk into a crowded room alone, my go-to gal is Barbara Stanwyck. Maybe it’s the Brooklyn in her.

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers”  “Walk on the Wild Side”  “My Reputation”  “Meet John Doe” “East Side, West Side” “The Gay Sisters” “Double Indemnity

* * * * * * * * *

One of the things that strikes me about my favorites is that I kind of forget all except Doris Day are no longer with us. Seeing them in the movies, they seem so vibrant and alive and present. I know they are more than the adjectives and cliches I’ve ascribed to them as they loom so large on screen with the best lighting, hair, make~up and clothes. ( Are you sure Cary wasn’t born in a tux? ) No, these are fully formed human beings with foibles like the rest of us. It’s a little hard to think of them as not perfect. It’s a little hard to think of them as gone. But you know what they say…

There are loads of other writers who talk about their five favorite stars. Go on over to the blogathon and check ’em out. And if you have time to drop me a line below on this National Classic Movie Day, tell me who are YOUR five favorite movie stars. Thanxxxx again for joining me on the Couch.

 

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CONSTANCE FORD: A DISH…BEST SERVED COLD

Sexual repression is a villanous thing.

One of the big Kahunas of blogathons is now in its fourth year. The ladies of Silver Screenings, Speakeasy and Shadows and Satin host THE GREAT VILLAIN BLOGATHON 2017. ( Why do the loveliest ladies come up with the most dastardly blogathons?? )  Villainous behavior of all stripes can be found here in their past three years:

I’ve covered my very small share of baddies for this blogathon. There was my homicidal heroine Annie Laurie in “Gun Crazy” and the Eeeeew~inducing pathological racism of Verne Coolan inThe Devil’s Doorway.” 

   

I usually like my femmes fatale on the hot side ( Ava Gardner / Lana Turner in “The Killers” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice” respectively ). Or there’s the cool~thinking customer that is my favorite lethal lady in my favorite film noir ~ Jane Greer in “Out of the Past.” But it’s those blondes like Ann Savage, Leslie BrooksJean Gillie or Helen Walker that a fella has to watch out for. Okay okay, brunettes and redheads should be steered clear of as well. 

For my entry, it’s 1959 and the cusp of the sexual revolution is still a few years away. America inches towards it with one foot in the sexual mores of the post~war Eisenhower era where good girls and bad are separated by a ‘thin membrane.’ The other foot wants to explore its dainty toes in sexuality for sexuality’s sake.

  

America is “Mom and Apple Pie”…at least that’s the image. Mothers are supposed to be a loving, nurturing, guiding force in her children’s lives. They’re to give a good positive view of the ‘facts of life’. I think we can safely discount the psychically destructive maternal instincts of movie moms like Gladys Cooper in “Now, Voyager”, Shelley Winters as Ma Barker in “Bloody Mama” or the bizarrely sensuous performance of Piper Laurie in Brian DePalma’s 1976 hit…“Carrie.” 

We’ve seen cold or lukewarm wives before in movies ( Joans Crawford or Bennett ) busy with their children and committees and house and everything that does NOT have to do with having sex with their husbands ( or DOES

  

have to do with allowing their sons to become mindf*cked assassins. But that’s Xtreme Parenting to say the least ). In my entry’s case, mix in racism…and classicism…and some skewed view of sex and you have a recipe for drama and disaster, a delicious combination. This time I thought it’d be fun ( fun for whom I haven’t figured out yet, but I AM kind of lookin’ at YOU ) to give a side~eyed glance to a sexually repressed villain who rains on every parade of romantic impulse and Ideal of Love. CONSTANCE FORD in Delmer Dave’s 1959 hit: “A Summer Place” is that villain.

Now I’m not a psychiatrist, nor do I play one on this blog. But it doesn’t take a hill of Freuds to see Constance Ford in this movie is cold, calculating, puts on airs and is contemptuous of anything that’s not the strictest of decorum. Why? If I hazard a guess she might be jealous of the closeness between her husband and daughter…no doubt precipitated on her having no relationship with her husband at all. Perhaps she really is just in it for the money. Ford squashes every natural instinct her daughter wants to explore because of some deep~seated inhibition in herself. I told you, I’m no psychiatrist…and you’re not getting me to lay on the couch to explore why I love her so. She’s so twisted in this.

Yeah, I’m in it for the crazy.

In this glossy romantic melodramatic we have a two sets of couples whose past history is inter~twined.

Dorothy McGuire / Arthur Kennedy are one set of married couples with a son: ( Troy Donahue )

 

Richard Egan / Constance Ford are the other married couple with a daughter: ( Sandra Dee )

McGuire and Egan were lovers in their youth but class kept them from getting married.

It seems their children will be mirroring their “young love” themselves…loving glances through the window.

As for their partners, I think on some level each of them knows they were second choice in their spouse’s life. Kennedy takes to the bottle to blunt his pain. For Ford…withholding is her way of coping and scheming. One person’s dysfunction is another person’s straight~up villain and Constance Ford is a villain of Love. Lets trace her steps throughout the film and see a couple of examples of how her repression takes hold of a situation and turns it into recriminations and ashes.

* * * * *

We see right off the bat she’s the type that puts on airs, concerned about appearances.

DEE: “Daddy do I have to?”

EGAN: “Have to what?”

DEE: “Wear this midi blouse to shore like a twelve year old. And she said I had to wear this armor plated bra to flatten me out. And a girdle. She says I bounce when I walk. Do I? Do I?”

EGAN: “In a pleasant and unobjectionable way.”

[First of all – first, second and third of all I’m not asking my Dad if I bounce.]

EGAN: “Molly has a lovely healthy figure. Why do you try to destroy that?”

FORD: “I don’t want her stared at.”

EGAN: “So you insist on de~sexing her, as though sex was synoymous with dirt.”

FORD: “When we arrive at the inn I want her to look completely modest.”

DEE: “She means like a boy. Like a pancake. This thing even hurts. And I couldn’t blast my way into this cast iron girdle with dynamite.”

EGAN: “I think we’re past the point of pretending we’re something we’re not.”

FORD: “We charter a whole yacht to arrive in Pine Island in style–”

EGAN: “The yacht was your idea. The point is they’ll be people on the island who remember me when. And I’m not putting on any dog.”

* * * * *

The two couples meet on Pine Island. They say you can’t go home again; especially with the wife. Constance Ford doesn’t realize that to the wealthy Arthur Kennedy, she’s nouveau riche so he’s not really bound to respect her anyway. Besides, her husband was once his rival. He goads her with embarassing sexual innuendo:

KENNEDY: “You’ll find Pine Island a strange place Mrs. Jorgensen. We’re all frightfully snobbish here. We tend to be anti~everything except ourselves. I like to think of the island as a perverted Garden of Eden where the pines and the salt air seem to act as an aphrodisiac.”

FORD: “As a what, Mr. Hunter?”

McGUIRE: “Bart, shall we change the subject.”

[ I love that Constance wears fire-engine red, but she’s not hot~to~trot! ]

* * * * *

There’s a ghastly fight between Ford and Egan about their daughter. All she did was let a boy kiss her, but Ford goes full tilt with accusations. Egan’s salvo lands with such vicious devastating accuracy, I almost felt sorry for her. But as we’ll see, she deserves every blow.

FORD: “Well your daughter didn’t waste any time. She’s let their boy kiss and maul her her very first night here.”

EGAN: “Where were they?”

FORD: “Down below me in the garden.”

EGAN: “If they had anything to hide do you think they’d do it right under your window?”

FORD: “Are you defending her cheap behavior?”

EGAN: “Cheap?! A girl kissing a boy in the moonlight? You know Molly is as decent as this boy seems to be.”

FORD: “No decent girl lets a boy kiss and maul her on the very first night they meet. I suppose it’s your Swedish blood in her. I’ve read how the Swedes bathe together and have trial marriages and free love. I’ve read all about that. Anything goes.”

EGAN: “So now you hate the Swedes. How many outlets for your hate do you have Helen? We haven’t been able to find a new home because of the multiplicity of them. We can’t buy near a school because you hate kids, they make noise. And there can’t be any Jews or Catholics in the block either. Oh yeah, you can’t be anywhere near the Polish or Italian sections. And of course Negroes have to be avoided at all costs. Now let’s see…No Jews, no Catholics, no Italians, no Poles, no children. No Negroes. Do I have the list right so far? And now you’ve added Swedes. And oh yes, you won’t use a Chinese laundry because you distrust Orientals. And you say the British are snobbish, the Russians fearful, the French immoral, the Germans brutal and all Latin Americans lazy. What’s your plan? To cut humanity out? Are you anti~people and anti~life? Must you suffocate every natural instinct in our daughter too? Must you label young love~making as cheap and wanton and indecent? Must you persist in making sex itself, a filthy word!!”

He’s verbally pummeled her and Ford is sent out the room reeling.

To Daddy’s defense and rescue is daughter Dee, probably doing what she’s always done…bargaining and negotiating. Somewhat a surrogate, too?

DEE: “Fight with me if you have to Momma, but not Poppa, please. This is the first real vacation he’s ever had. Lets not wreck it for him.”

FORD: “Look who’s talking. After that disgusting public display in the garden.”

DEE: “It wasn’t a public display.”

FORD: “The night watchman caught you at it.”

DEE: “We weren’t doing anything wrong.”

FORD: “What if he tells everybody. Must you parade before open windows like a, like a strip teaser.”

Is perhaps the goal to have her daughter marry well…be financially set for life? Her motherly advice continues. She’s worried about appearances.

FORD: “The way to get accepted here on Pine Island is certainly not by prancing past open windows and giving away cheap kisses behind the inn. And don’t you ever underestimate the value of a decent reputation. If we’re to be around and allowed to live here it is because we conducted ourselves properly. I’ve got nothing against this boy. Comes from a good family. He’ll undoubtedly inherit this place. You could do worse. You have to play your cards right. You can’t let him think that your kisses come cheap. You’re a good girl, I know that. But you’ve got to use your head. You’ve got to remember that you have to play a man like a fish. You have to make him want you and never betray that you want him. That’s what’s cheap ~ wanting a man. Love should be more than just animal attraction. Now you must promise me that you won’t let him kiss you again until I say it’s time.”

Dee goes into her father’s bedroom to console him. This could be sort of unseemly and I’m trying not to put my 21st century subtext on this. This might be part of the problem, being each other’s confidante. But it’s a good ( if slightly uncomfortable ) father~daughter moment.

DEE: “Why do you and Momma stop sharing the same room?”

EGAN: “She wanted it that way.”

DEE: “She’s anti~sex. She says all a boy wants out of a girl is that and when a girl marries it something she has to endure. I don’t want to think like that Poppa. She makes me ashamed of even having a body. And when I have a naughty dream at night she makes me feel like hanging myself. How can you help what you dream?”

EGAN: “You can’t. And don’t let her spoil yours. Remember this, we’ve got only one great reason for living: to love and be loved. That’s our sole reason for existence.”

DEE: “But she doesn’t love you and she doesn’t love me.”

EGAN: “I think her heartache is she doesn’t know how. And more is I, apparently, couldn’t teach her.”

[ The soft nursery fairy tale music takes the edge off the scene ~ that’s my boy Max Steiner…guiding us through ]

* * * * * 

As is human nature, what our parents want for us…we often do the exact opposite. Donahue and Dee are falling in love. They go sailing and have a boating accident. Coast Guards are called to look for these two kids. Parents are on the beach worried. ( One parent, I think…is seething. )

[ Don’t try it. She will not be consoled or comforted. Constance is pissed! ]

FORD: “What’ve you got to say for yourself?”

DEE: “We capsized and spent the night on the beach.”

FORD: “I imagined as much. Come with me.”

We’ve all had to face the consequences of coming home after curfew; our folks waiting up for us. But the next scene is quite harrowing. Ford shows she does not believe her daughter and will go to great lengths to get “the truth.” It is not truth Mom wants.

FORD: “This is Dr. Matthias. I sent for him from the main land. I want you to take off every stitch that you’ve got on and let him examine you.”

DEE: “But we haven’t done anything wrong Momma. We slept all night.”

FORD: “I’m not asking you for the truth because I know you’d lie. So I’m having him examine you completely and make his own report.”

DEE: “NOOO!!”

FORD: “You have disgraced me enough. Now do what I say.”

This is a really a disturbing scene. It damages their relationship beyond repair. But that matters not to Constance.

* * * * *

Because Egan is out of town he cannot protect his daughter. A number of things ensue in his absence. Ford invades her daughter’s privacy, along with shredding her trust thanks to that GYN report. Dee runs away after her physical exam. Again, we have the authorities involved in these people’s lives ( if not by sea now by land ). The Sheriff tries to piece together what’s happened so everyone is herded into one room like a Nick & Nora investigation scene. There really only is one suspect: Constance Ford.

FORD: “When I insisted on her having a complete physical examination, she became quite hysterical. Obviously I had to find out what happened out there. I had to be sure.

TROY: “We gave you our word!”

[ Getting that GYN home visit was sooooo not the way to go, Ma! ]

FORD: “She’s always been a difficult child. We had words. I locked her in the room and later when I knocked, she was gone.”

SHERIFF: “So you went looking for her. And that’s when you met Johnny here and he threatened to kill you.”

FORD: “That is correct.”

SHERIFF: “You don’t deny that, son?”

TROY: “No Sir.”

EGAN: “I wouldn’t have blamed you if you had.”

FORD: “Of course you wouldn’t. It would make it easier for you to sneak off and sleep with his harlot of a mother.”

Whooft! That is quite a deflection. Ford might have a point…but not at THIS moment when her daughter has run away in shame. B.S. is called on Ford by both McGuire and Kennedy:

McGUIRE: “You seem to have an infinite capacity for hurt. First you try to destroy your daughter. Now our son.”

KENNEDY: “As soon as Molly is found and I’m sure she will be, I suggest you vacate these rooms as swiftly as possible.”

FORD: “Don’t tell me that you’re on their side?”

KENNEDY: “Lets merely say I’m not on yours.”

Do I hear strains of “You, you SHOPGIRL!!” The headlines scream dirty laundry. 

* * * * *

Who hasn’t kept a diary. And who wouldn’t be upset one’s diary of private thoughts was rifled through by one’s Mom. Dee is faced with this:

FORD: “I thought I told you not to write to him. After all, it is rather bad form to write to the sone of your father’s mistress. You mustn’t ever forget what kind of a woman she is. And his father,  although he comes from a good family,  is a drunkard.”

DEE: “Well that’s got nothing to do with Johnny.”

FORD: “Darling, there is such a thing as bad blood. It’s a scientific fact that—”

DEE: “Johnny’s not bad. He’s gentle and good.”

FORD: “He may not show it yet, but if you read between the lines of his letters…”

DEE: “Have you been reading his letters?!!”

Uh boy.

* * * * *

The most famous set-piece is this scene called “Merry Christmas, Momma.” If you’ve seen the movie you know the scene. I’ll let it play out for itself.

 

* * * * *

This goes beyond the usual Mother~Daughter conflicts. There’s something pathological about Constance Ford’s behavior towards her daughter. Could she see her as a rival? Look, we’re all victims, products of our upbringing. Her advice from her own Mother is one laced with how to manipulate the situation for her financial advantage; and one way is to cut out the separate bedroom bit. Constance Ford does all she can to tear down the trust of her daughter with accusations of being a slut, having a doctor check her daughter’s virginity, smacking her across the face where she tumbles over a Christmas tree like a tumbleweed, and just all around trying to thwart her daughter’s having a healthy positive self~esteem. And what’s wrong with sleeping with Richard Egan, I ask you! Even her lawyer talks turkey to her in a way she’ll understand.

FORD: “The very thought of my daughter spending two weeks under the same roof with my husband and that harlot.”

ATTORNEY: “Mrs. Jorgensen let me warn you, the use of that term is no longer legally defensible. She is, in the eyes of the law ‘his wife’.”

FORD: “That does not alter the fact that she IS one. Utterly lacking in morals. Her son will be there too. Heaven knows what kind of license they’ll encourage or permit.”

ATTORNEY: “Mrs. Jorgensen let me warn you, if you attempt to block the court order, your husband might well stop his alimony payments. Are you willing to chance that?”

“It’s as though the court was forcing me to commit my daughter to a, house of sin.”

Unrepentant ’till her last scene.

I like this film. I don’t treat it as campy at all. It deals with issues of finding happiness and being in love. This film was probably for the drive~in crowd but I enjoy the mature love and desire between Egan ( 38 ) and McGuire ( 43 ). The young love between Donahue and Dee was gorgeously angst~ridden against the deep blue sea. And Constance Ford gives a good solid performance. No, she’s not likable, nor is she supposed to be. She plays it well. Always stays within herself. She’s like a coiled snake…and venomous too with her lashing out. I don’t know if she can even help herself.

 

She’s in an emotional trap of maybe even her own mother’s making. ( We might have just a scintilla of pity for her when she’s on the telephone with her mother, whose pretty much a blonde cash register ). I don’t forgive her all her unpleasantness to those around her. All in all, Constance Ford is the fly in the ointment of young love and love rekindled. A good bad counterweight to it all.

If you’re feeling bad about your own life…you need only to read the other entries for this year’s GREAT VILLAIN BLOGATHON to be grateful that none of the bloggers’ choices are people you know.

(  VILLAINS 2017-Day 1  )  (  VILLAINS 2017-Day 2  ) (  VILLAINS 2017-Day 3  )
(  VILLAINS 2017-Day 4  ) (  VILLAINS 2017-Day 5  )

…and by the way, let’s get our Constances straight

    

[   H O M E   ]

 

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

ALL ABOUT EVE

eve-arden-i
( 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.

  eve-arden-iiiiiii eve-arden-ii

♠  ♠    ♠  ♠

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.

♠  ♠    ♠  ♠

THE ARNELO AFFAIR ( 1947 ) [ Vivian ] 

eve-arden-iiii eve-arden-iii eve-arden-xxvi

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?

eve-arden-the-arnelo-affair

“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.”

♠  ♠    ♠  ♠

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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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.

PALM ( IIII )

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

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

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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. 

PALM ( II ) PALM ( VII )

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

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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. 

PALM ( V )

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

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

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

 

HOLLYWOOD'S HISPANIC HERITAGE ( 2014 ) - 1HOLLYWOOD'S HISPANIC HERITAGE BLOGATHON ( 2015 )
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