THE OX~BOW INCIDENT ( 1943 )

 

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“MIRIAM…”

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

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

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

Here are the nominees for Best Picture of 1943:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

( A )  THE MOB ~ ( THE GROUP )

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

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

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

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

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DEPLORABLES ( same sentiments…different century )

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

( B ) THE LAW

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

He will fail.

* * * * *

( C ) THE RUSTLERS ~ ( THE INDIVIDUAL )

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

But they don’t.

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

“So…he speaks American.”

Martinez replies:

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

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

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

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

But he is going to hang.

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

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

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

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

How cruelly consoling!

The Rustler’s goal is to slow things down:

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

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

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

The Law now speaks with resignation:

DAVIES: “They won’t come in time.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

( D. ) THE INNOCENT BYSTANDER ~ ( NEUTRALITY )

It didnt work for Neville Chamberlin, either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

[   H O M E   ]

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FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN ( 1943 )

I believe in monsters. Don’t you?

UNIVERSAL PICTURES BLOGATHON ( Abbott & Costello )

If they didn’t exist, how could Universal Pictures be able to feature them as a hallmark of their brand? Why, in this blogathon alone there are several entries covering monsters. If you click on The Universal Blogathon banner you will find those entries and many other genres for this Halloween weekend. This is the way you end an October. I’m doing a double whammy. First I talk about the schlocky “Cult of the Cobra” and I’m going to continue the thread of the monster genre with my entry: FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN.”

 

Starting from 1931 –>1935  –>1939  –>1941 –>1942 –>1943 –>1944 –>1945 there has been a river of sequels that flow through the horror genre at Universal Pictures. (Wikipedia gives nice detailed descriptions of each of these movies):

FRANKENSTEINBRIDE OF FRANKENSTEINSON OF FRANKENSTEINWOLFMANGHOST OF FRANKENSTEINHOUSE OF FRANKENSTEINHOUSE OF DRACULA

Just don’t try and do a geneaology chart linking up Colin Clive with Basil Rathbone with Lionel Atwill with daughters of, and sons of…well, you know.

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN

I think “Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man” is a good representation of the genre and has a solid cast including Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi, Patric Knowles, Ilona Massey, Dennis HoeyLionel Atwill, and Maria Ouspenskaya, who don’t play the movies for laughs. They’re not giving us the snide-eye wink. And if they can play it straight, I can give them my belief. Let me give you the jist of the plot:

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN ( XXIIIII )

Grave robbers disturb Lawrence Talbot’s ( Chaney Jr. ) final resting place. The combination of the full autumn moon and wolfbane ensures Larry turning into his old curséd self again. Lycanthropy rears its furry face. He escapes the tomb and kills a police officer. When he changes back to Talbot, he finds himself in hospital. In charge of his care is Dr. Frank Mannering ( Knowles ) which makes me smile because he was in the original ( “The Wolf Man ) with Chaney, but played a different character. And he’s one of my ‘go-to’ boy-next-door types ( born 11-11-11 for trivia f.y.i. ). Back to the story…

Dr. Mannering is convinced Larry needs psychiatric help because of statements like this:

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN ( XXI )

“But he doesn’t understand. There’s a curse upon me. I change into a wolf.”

Sadly, it takes three men to put a strait jacket on Talbot. The struggle is a sad scene to fade out on.

Larry Talbot ~ The Wolf Man. It never ceases to amaze me to watch his transformation 1940’s-style.  And it’s ultimately this that is the sad and tragic thing to me about him.

LON CHANEY Jr. FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN

Imagine your body betraying you. Imagine an insatiable and uncontrollable bloodlust taking over you, compelling you to do things against your will. Imagine your only peace is death. This is what he suffers through and wants to avoid at all costs.

It’s Old Home Week for Larry. He’s now the man-killing wolf man, running for his life as the townspeople chase him with their usual arsenal of mass destruction: lanterns, lit firewood, yelling and arm-waving. During the chase, Larry falls through a crevice into some sort of underground, torched and frozen rubble of what looks like…a laboratory. And encased in ice…shaken but not stirred, is the Frankenstein monster.

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN ( II )

Here is where we tie in and hitch our wagon to the other Monster mythology. What I want to know is what would possess Larry to dig out this unfortunate creature. It’s not human. Chances are it cannot speak. Why? I’m willing to forego any questions if it gets me here:

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN ( XX )

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOMAN ( XXIII )Larry and Maleva seek out Dr. Frankenstein. Maleva? ( Maria Ouspenskaya ). Oh yes. The old gypsy woman is back on board in this sequel. She still feels guilty that her son, Bela, caused Larry to become a werewolf. If she looked closely at the Monster she would see it’s her dead son Bela. But I’m not bringing reality into this. Maleva thinks Dr. Frankenstein might be able to help Larry find release. The good doctor is dead. But, he’s got a lovely daughter ( Ilona Massey ) and she does have access to her daddy’s lab records…..

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Wine and dine the daughter of Frankenstein. But she wants to forget her legacy too.

There is a three-pronged tale going on here; tangled skeins of plot criss-cross each other. It’s complicated. People are working at cross-purposes and I like the dramatic tension of that. At the heart of the film is The Wolf Man. He wants to die. He can’t make it any plainer than this. But on the other hand there’s Doctor Mannering; a man of science he’s promised to destroy the Monster but can not bring himself to deny Science. Maybe he has a key to something the good Dr. Frankenstein missed in his experiments. And what are the Monster’s wants? He’s controlled by just impulse. I don’t know that he WANTS to kill, but just can’t help be too rough with people. And the fear factor. The townspeople fear him, his brute strength, his being made from the Dead. They practically kill themselves running all over each other to get away from him.

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN ( XXXI ) FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOMAN ( XXIIII )

Inspector Owen: “What happened to Talbot? Did he die?”
Dr. Mannering:   “No. He tore off his strait jacket during the night and escaped.”
Inspector Owen: “Tore off his strait jacket? How?”
Dr. Mannering:   “Bit right through it. Tore it shreds with his teeth.”
Inspector Owen: “With his teeth?”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN ( V )

Larry Talbot:     “You think it would do any good to put me in a lunatic asylum?”
Dr. Mannering: “You know that’s where you belong. It’s the only thing to do.”
Larry Talbot:     “No, that wouldn’t do any good. I’d only escape, again, sooner or later.”
Dr. Mannering: “We might be able to cure you. Might prevent you–”
Larry Talbot:     “I only want to die. That’s why I’m here. If I ever find peace, I’ll find it here.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN ( XXX )Larry Talbot: “But that’s the secret of life. What good does it do me? I’m not interested in life. I wasn’t created artificially. I’m a human being. I’ve got real blood in my veins. What can we do to end MY life?!”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN ( XI )

Maleva: “He’s not insane. He simply wants to die.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN ( XXIIIIIII )  FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN ( IX ) FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN ( XXIIIIIIII )

Dr. Mannering: “I can’t do it. I can’t destroy Frankenstein’s creation. I’ve got to see it at it’s full power!!”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN ( VII )
Life and Death ~ Two sides of the same coin

I’ve got two favorite scenes in the movie. Yes, of course one is when the two actually brawl. The Jets and the Sharks were never like this. The Monster has a friend in Larry Talbot. But when Larry changes into the Wolf Man, all bets are off and it’s a battle royale in the laboratory. ( Laboratories never come out intact in these kind of films ).

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN ( XXXV ) FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN ( XXX IIII )

But my favorite favorite comes during the Festival of the New Wines scene. Ho boy, what a scene. It all starts out okay with much singing and dancing. Don’t ask me where they got the orchestral arrangement from or the full-blown chorale singing. It sounded like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was up in that village. I told you, I don’t ask questions; I just accept there’s a musical number in a horror movie ( ?!! ) Larry gets a bit testy and high-strung with some of the song’s lyrics and tries to bust up the party, just causing a scene and looking out of a place in his double-breasted suit and long pants.

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN ( VIII )

Then all hell breaks loose when the Monster comes to town. My God, people lost their minds screaming and running and jumping and trampling each other. They could easily outrun him; I don’t think the Monster could run faster than a toddler, but it’s mayhem. There’s a shot that I just played over and over again. Director Roy William Neill has the camera behind Lon Chaney Jr. and it’s on a crane. The camera rises behind him over his shoulder sort of shaky like to see in the distance, the Monster.

Talbot takes charge of the Monster, gets him in a wagon. ( No, we don’t actually see the Monster raise his ton of weight into the wagon…or bend his knees even ). But he’s up in that wagon and Larry hauls ass. The team of horses bolt through the set…the town, barrels of wine fall out, knocking down sets, with people screaming and running; the sound is incredible in this sequence. This short burst of an action sequence may not rival “The Hurricane” “Green Dolphin Street” “San Francisco” or “The Rains Came.” But it’s cool and dramatic.

Here is the movie trailer:

UNIVERSAL PICTURES BLOGATHON ( Sherlock )I do wish Boris Karloff had played The Monster since I always like originators but honestly there’d be nothing for him to do in this film. He’s not eliciting any pathos as he did in the first two Frankenstein pictures (“Frankenstein” “The Bride Of Frankenstein”). Bela Lugosi plays him this time, and all he really has to be is just there. That said, I like this movie and how seriously it takes itself – not in a self-important way but in a way true to itself. I was engaged by the goings on and the intersecting plot lines. Good production values. I was touched by the poignancy of The Wolf Man truly wanting to die. And what a promising monster mash-up to have these two monsters meet. It’s like “King Kong vs. Godzilla.” Or Bette vs. Joan in  “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.” Today is the first day of the Universal Blogathon. Elementary, if you click on Holmes and Watson you can read some more great entries that will give you chills and thrills this Halloween weekend. Have fun!

(  H O M E  )

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MY FAVORITE FILMS OF 1943

“A GUY NAMED JOE” – ( Victor Fleming )

( 1943 ) A GUY NAMED JOEI’ve read that Dunne and Tracy didn’t get along that well during the making of this movie, but pros that they are, it doesn’t show. I believe them as a mature romantic couple. They’re both pilots and when Tracy dies and is allowed to invisibly come back to earth to help a young pilot ( Van John- son ) he gets more than he bargained for when Johnson makes moves on Dunne. I like that Tracy’s infallibility has carried over into his afterlife as an angel. He’s not allowing Dunne to move on with her life without him. I have to admit, I do like the edginess of that. I think Dunne is a great partner for Tracy; but she, like Myrna Loy, is a great partner for any leading man.( 1943 )  A GUY NAMED JOE And she’s settling in quite nicely into the 1940’s; her maturity is very becoming. I love her look in this movie. Her singing “I’ll Get By” gets me every time. The lesson here is how to love, how to let go, and how to move forward to love again. When Tracy learns his lesson and tells Dunne “I’m moving out of your heart,” I feel sad just typing the line.

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“CABIN IN THE SKY” – ( Vincente Minnelli )

( 1943-A ) CABIN IN THE SKYI prefer this film better to its sister film ( “Stormy Weather” ) because the story is a stronger one. Here you’ve got Heaven and Hell fighting for the soul of a gambler who gets a chance for redemption after he’s shot and killed. Lucifer testing him with  Temptation in the guise of the breathtaking Lena Horne is just not fair;  it seems rea-sonable one might risk his soul for her. But the Righteous Ethel Waters is a formidable opponent. John Bubbles does a fantastic snazzy dance routine and Ethel Waters holds her own when she dances with him. Here’s the first big musical…all-Black musical since 1929’s “Hallelujah.” ( I’ll give “Stormy Weather” an honorable mention. Give you a chance to check out Lena Horne again. )

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“CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN” – ( Edward Dmytryk )

( 1943-A ) CAPTIVE WILD WOMANMad scientists play God again.  SIGH! Will they EVER learn? Gee, I hope not. Charles Laughton made a woman out of an ape in “Island of Lost Souls” with disastrous results, so John Carradine perfects the processssssss, why? I dunno. All I know is Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting dif- ferent results. But if ape transfor-mations result in the beautiful and exotic Acquanetta…why not take a chance? You know, for science. I find it all great fun. I love Universal monster movies. But you know that already. 🙂

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“THE CONSTANT NYMPH” – ( Edmund Goulding )

( 1943-A ) THE CONSTANT NYMPHIf a movie just wrecks you and makes you weep…that’s a good criteria for “a favorite” right? I like movies about creativity and the muse that inspires and supports the artist. Though you might marry a stunning ice princess like ( Alexis Smith ), you STILL need some one who speaks and shares your creative language. Concert pianist Charles Boyer really vibes with his young ward Joan Fontaine, but he must find the heart in his composi- tions. You might not like Korngold’s bombastic music ( I do ) but the movie does have heart, and it broke mine. Boyer discovers too late  he had what he needed all along in Fontaine. And in this movie, Joan Fontaine finally won me over.

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“CRY, ‘HAVOC’ ” – ( Richard Thorpe )

( 1943 ) CRY HAVOCI like ensemble casts: “Stage Door” “The Women” “So Proudly We Hail” “Tender Comrade.” Women are serving in war as nurses and we’re right in the bunker with them in “CRY, ‘HAVOC’.” Some are wise-acres while others are glamour girls, and others still – naive innocents. War takes its toll on the women and Margaret Sullavan has to corral all these different personalities into a cohesive unit. It’s interesting to see 30’s blondes Joan Blondell and Ann Sothern in the same film. To the uninitiated, Blondell and Sothern might seem the same person. ( Pssst! Frances Gifford is in this too. ) Some girls took care of the homefront and let no one sit under their apple tree. But other gals were AT the front…and this is their story.

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“FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN” – ( Roy William Neill )

( 1943 ) FRANKENSTEIN-WOLFMAN

Now what could be better than teaming two film giants?  Bette Davis meets Joan Crawford. Katharine Hepburn meets Spencer Tracy. Frank Sinatra meets Bing Crosby. And now “FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN.” Even a classic fan who’s a purist at heart feels it might’ve been more accurate if Karloff had played the Frankenstein monster, but hey, why quibble. Having Lugosi is close enough ( he’s a monster in his own right as Count Dracula. ) Again, I love the Universal monster movies.

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“THE HARD WAY” – ( Vincent Sherman )

( 1943A ) - THE HARD WAYI like Ida Lupino when she’s soft and kind ( “On Dangerous Ground” “De- votion” ) but I do love her when she’s hardboiled as she is in “The Hard Way.” This is one of those Warner Bros. rags-to-riches, climb-to-the-top musicals. Everything she does she does for her kid sister. ( See Cagney: “City for Conquest.” ) This allows Joan Leslie to remain sugar and spice while she reaps the benefits of Ida’s gnawing, gnashing, climbing and putting her own happiness on the back burner. All the familiar tropes are in this story. And it’s all Ida. (I wonder what it’d look like if she used her drive for good in a job of her own…)

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“THE HUMAN COMEDY” – ( Clarence Brown )

( 1943 ) THE HUMAN COMEDY

One of the few times you can see Mickey Rooney at his least rambunctious screen persona. He does a very good job in this warm, all-American film about one family in a small town. We see how they deal with everyday life, while the war rages on. And, unfortunately, war does touch them. Lots of beautiful moments with a wonderful cast. The movie is poignant and sad. We’re all in this together. I love how Rooney states: “If my brother dies, I’ll spit at the world. I’ll hate it forever.”

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“THE OX BOW INCIDENT” – ( William Wellman )

1943 - OX BOW INCIDENTSimply & utterly devastating. A lynch mob catches three cowboys they believe killed a rancher friend and events take on a life of their own. The mob becomes judge and jury. The lynching is done for several reasons:

  • “justice.”
  • make son ‘a man.’
  • thrill.

Henry Fonda tries to stop the juggernaut of injustice and Dana Andrews gives an impassioned plea before he’s sentenced to death; he also leaves a heartbreaking letter to his widow. Though my heart belongs to “Casablanca” I would have given the Best Picture Academy Award to “The Ox-Bow Incident.” The importance of this message is still relevant today.

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“SHADOW OF A DOUBT” – ( Alfred Hitchcock )

Teresa Wright And Joseph Cotten In 'Shadow Of A Doubt'Evil comes to visit the typical all-American family. Joseph Cotten is wonder-ful as the serial killing Uncle Charlie. He can barely contain his sinister cynicism. But it’s Teresa Wright who carries the film and saves the day. She bears the weight of Knowledge and it puts her own life in danger. I just love her. She must protect her family against the evil within.

Before I forget, there’s a pivotal scene in the town’s bar where the scales are torn from Wright’s eyes and she sees her uncle for who he really is. But also in that scene is the unsung Janet Shaw as the bar’s waitress. She just nails it. (Be careful what you wish for.)

JANET SHAW ( Believe Me )

Hitchcock unpacks suspense like no other director. I love this film.

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