Dr. Christina J. Johns


I Love Trouble (1947-48)


Starring Franchot Tone (43 at the time), Janet Blair, Adele Jergens and a small part for Raymond Burr.

Directed by S. Sylvan Simon.

Music by George Duning

Costumes (gowns) by Jean Louis

This is a long movie (2 hours) but well worth the watch. It is the studio’s try out of Franchot Tone’s for a private detective series. While Tone is usually fun to watch, I don’t think he has the same sort of edge as the noir detective Dick Powell had or the charm of William Powell.

As most of the reviewers point out, this script is straight out of the Chandler/Hammett line of novels with the suave, wisecracking detective, but it is well worth watching.

My favorite lines from the film are:

Heavy: This is a gun in your back.

Tone: Yeah, I’ve seen one before.

The filmscript was written by Roy Huggins and was based on his novel “The Double Take.” This same character, Stuart Bailey, was played years later by Efrem Zimalist Jr. in the television series 77 Sunset Strip.

Huggins created a number of the most famout TV movie series - Maverick, The Fugitive, The Rockford Files, and 77 Sunset Strip.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I did, however, stop it at one point and noticed that there was an hour and 8 minutes more to go. I was surprised. Some of the reviewers criticized the movie for the length, but it held my attention throughout.

It’s a bit amazing that the film does hold the attention since the plot is as one reviewer noted “confounding.” He said that he could not “figure out who was who in this impossibly complex story.”

This makes the film very much like “The Big Sleep,” which created a template for the detective film noir. “The Big Sleep” is also widely considered to be impossible to decipher, but completely enjoyable nevertheless.

Part of the difficulty in understanding the story line in this film is that even though Huggins adapted his own novel, and some of the scenes are lifted directly from the book, the story (according to a reviewer who had read the novel) has been speeded up and abbreviated and some of the names changed.

It doesn’t help that most of the women look extraordinarily alike. And most of them have multiple identities in the plot. One of the reviewers noted: “I thought the various babes were all the same person.” And, there are a lot of babes all with complicated histories.

Added to this is the fact that the two foreign husbands also looked just alike to me and their accents were indeterminate.

A number of the reviewers just could not accept Tome in the role of a smart mouthed, hardnosed detective. I have always thought Tome was an acquired taste, and he is truly dreadful in films which I suspect he detested.

(Note: There is one film he made with Joan Crawford, for example, where they had him dressed up in lederhosen.)

As one reviewer noted: “All the sweeping fedoras and dangling cigarettes in the world can't make Tone fit into this role.”

Tome always considered the business of film making as invasive to the private lives of the actors. He also felt that films required a totally different pace from theatre performances. I never saw him in a theatre performance, but I suspect he never quite felt comfortable with the film pace.

When he was married to Joan Crawford she (predictably) tried to take over promoting his career. Tome, however, was always more interested in theatre, even in small productions than film. It is thought that this difference between the two was one of the reasons for their divorce.

So, to me, Tome’s performances always have a “hostage” feel to them. I get the impression that he doesn’t really want to be where he is. But, he usually manages to pull off a credible performance.

When some heavies were beating up on Tone, I thought I saw Raymond Burr lurking on the sidelines. When the man spoke (he has about three lines) there was no mistaking it was Burr. This was an extremely small part and Burr would have been 31 at the time this film was made. So, he came into prominence a lot later in his life than I remembered.

All the prints of “I Love Trouble” were thought to have been lost for decades. A restored version of it was shown in a film festival in 2007, and I think this is the first time it has been shown on television (TCM). One reviewer snarked that this movie wouldn’t have received a second glance if it hadn’t been thought lost. I disagree. I think it is a fun romp even at two hours.

One of the other things I noticed in the film and then read comments about from other reviewers is the soundtrack. As one of the reviewers put it, the soundtrack tries way too hard to give the viewer advanced notice of the tone of the scene. The soundtrack tries to be “the star of the film.” It does signal lightheartedness, like when Bailey crawls out from under a bed where he has passed out and finds a beautiful babe in the bed. And it gives advance warning of danger. It seems to me that audiences in 1948 would have been too sophisticated for this. One of the reviewers thought that this soundtrack was so invasive and insulting he couldn’t watch the movie. But, for me, it faded into the background.

The film was well directed by S. Sylvan Simon. One of the reasons that name is not more familiar is that he died only three years after making the movie at the age of 41.


Wikipedia, IMDB



Book reviews, movie reviews, classic movie picks, classic actor picks, a discussion about all things arty. 

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The Dark Past (1948)

Posted on August 16, 2020 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (1)


The Dark Past (1948)

William Holden (1918-1981), Lee J. Cobb (1911-1976)

According to TCM, Lee J. Cobb was not happy making this film. His daily crabbiness and dissatisfaction evidently so affected William Holden (who was trying to put back together a film career after his service in WWII) Nina Foch (the female lead) started having Holden come to her trailer for breakfast. She supposedly consoled Holden and convinced him that in a few years, he would be more famous than Cobb. She was right.

Before the war, Cobb had played Holden’s father in a movie where Holden was the young “golden boy” torn between the violin and boxing (The Golden Boy, 1939). Cobb was only seven years older than Holden. The reasons for Cobb’s dissatisfaction with the production were not explained, but it was implied that Cobb might have resented Holden’s good looks.

This part was very different from the “boy next door” parts that Holden had played before the war. In this movie, he looks very much like Duke Mantee, the character Humphrey Bogart played in “The Petrified Forest” (1936).

Billy Wilder would have seen Holden in this against-type role and it may have influenced his casting of Holden in “Sunset Boulevard” (1950).

Even though Holden gets head billing, Cobb gets more screen time playing the psychiatrist taken hostage by the escaped convict, Holden, and his girl, Nina Fochs.

Holden plays a psychotic killer. Cobb plays the psychiatrist who while being held hostage psychoanalyzes Holden. And, cures him in one night.

The Dark Past is a remake of a 1939 film “Blind Alley” and based on a play by James Warwick. In Blind Alley, Chester Morris played Holden’s part and Ralph Bellamy played the psychiatrist.

This is one of the films made just after the war that was highly influenced by Freudian analysis which was thought to hold the keys to what was and still now is referred to as “the criminal mind.” What is actually being talked about (then and now) is violent criminal behavior. Even though it is referred to as “the criminal mind,” nobody tries to psychoanalyze white collar, corporate and political criminals, or believes for one second that their criminal behavior derives from some deep psychic wound.

Other examples of films based on the notion (even though simplistic) of Freudian analysis are: Psycho, Spellbound (1945), Whirlpool (1941), The Dark Mirror (1946) and Conflict (1945).

Reviewers noted the taunt interplay between Holden and Cobb’s characters as being like that of Bogart and March in a later escaped convict takes hostages film, “The Desperate Hours” (1955)

See Wikipedia and TCM,


Alma Reville, Hitchcock's Brain

Posted on August 14, 2020 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (27)


Alma Reville (1988-1982)

It’s Alma’s birthday today.

Alva Reville was an English screenwriter and film editor and a large part of Alfred Hitchcock’s brain. Charlie Champlin wrote in 1982: "The Hitchcock touch had four hands, and two were Alma's."

Alma actually started in the film industry before Hitchcock and probably would have surpassed him had she been a man.

Hitchcock, however, was smart enough to recruit her as a film editor on the first film where he had any say. And, almost immediately after that, asked her to marry him.

Of editing, she wrote 'the art of cutting is Art indeed, with a capital A, and is of far greater importance than is generally acknowledged'.

Alma wrote many scripts for her husband's films, including Shadow of a Doubt, Suspicion and The Lady Vanishes, as well as scripts for other directors, including Henrik Galeen, Maurice Elvey, and Berthold Viertel. Reville's filmography is extensive with writing credits on many films that were among the biggest of their time.

Selected filmography

Reville wrote or co-wrote many screenplays, including:

The Ring (1927)

The Constant Nymph (1928)

The First Born (1928)

A South Sea Bubble (1928)

After the Verdict (1929)

A Romance of Seville (1929)

Juno and the Paycock (1929)

Murder! (1930)

The Skin Game (1931)

Mary (1931)

The Outsider (1931)

Sally in Our Alley (1931)

Rich and Strange (1931)

The Water Gipsies (1932)

Nine Till Six (1931)

Number Seventeen (1932)

Waltzes from Vienna (1934)

Forbidden Territory (1934)

The 39 Steps (1935)

The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1935)

Secret Agent (1936)

Sabotage (1936)

Young and Innocent (1937)

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Jamaica Inn (1939)

Suspicion (1941)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

It's in the Bag (1945)

The Paradine Case (1947)

Stage Fright (1950)

I Confess (1953)


Reville, Alma (1923) “cutting and Continuity,” The Motion Picture News, 10.

Alma Hitchcock: The Woman Behind the Man by Pat Hitchcock O'Connell and Laurent Bouzereau, Berkley Trade, 6 July 2004;


Chopin's Nocturne 20

Posted on August 8, 2020 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)


Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp Minor (Little Neal Dancing in my Heart).

This solo piano piece was composed by Chopin in 1930 and dedicated to his older sister. It was not pubished until 1870, 21 years after the composer’s death.

The piece was played by Holocaust survivor Natalia Karp for the Nazi concentration camp commandant Amon Goeth while she was imprisoned in Plaszow concentration camp in Poland. Karp was ordered to play and she chose this piece because it was “sad.” And, she said “I was sad.”

Goeth was so impressed with Karp’s rendition that he spared her life. When she finished playing, Goeth said “She shall live.” Karp responded: “Not without my sister.” Goeth acquiesced.

Goeth was made famous by Ralph Fiennes’s depiction of him in Shindler’s list.

See, Chopin’s Heart, Poland’s spirit, Madeleine Kearns (3/14/20)

The Nocturne was also the piece played by Holocaust survivor and famed Polish pianist Władysław Szpilman (the central figure of the 2002 Roman Polanski film “The Pianist”;) during the last live broadcast of Polish radio on September 23, 1939. While Szpilman was playing Warsaw was being besieged by the German army.

Years later, Szpilman also played this piece for German army officer Wilm Hosenfeld upon their first meeting. (In the corresponding scene in “The Pianist” Szpilman plays an abridged version of Chopin's Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23.) Hosenfeld later helped Szpilman hide and provided food to him in the last months of the war.

Movie uses of the piece: “The Pianist” “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles “The Karate Kid” “The Peacemaker” “The Innkeeper” “Mafia III” “Frantz” (2016).

Chopin’s elder sister, the sister to whom Chopin dedicated this piece, came to Paris when Chopin became gravely ill.

It was to her that he made the request to take his heart back to Poland. She did. Chopin’s heart was hidden from the Nazis during the war.

You can hear the Nocturne performed by Wladyslaw Szpilman here:


You can listen to a version by Elisabeth Leonskaja on Spotify

Jan Lisiecki performs the Nocturne on iTunes





East Side, West side (1949): JAmes Mason

Posted on August 3, 2020 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (0)



James Mason (1909-1984).

James Mason did not train as an actor. He took it up as an aside during his education.

In 1933, Mason was given a small film role by Alexander Korda in “The Private Life of Don Juan,” but Korda sacked him three days into the shooting.

In 1935, on the set of his second film, “Troubled Waters” Mason met Pamela Kellino. Pamela’s husband, Roy, was the cinematographer on the film. Mason not only became fast friends with Pamela, he moved in with Pamela and her husband and collaborated with them on several stage and screen plays.

In 1937 he had a key role in “Fire Over England” with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. Then, Korda used Mason again in “The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel, 1937.

In 1938, Mason and Pamela Kellino played lovers on the run in “I Met a Murderer.” Shortly afterwards, Kellino’s husband, Roy divorced Pamela naming Mason as co-respondent. She married Mason in 1940.

They moved to Hollywood in the 1940s, where Pamela became a popular hostess. According to her son, she had had numerous affairs. She remained in Beverly Hills with “a multitude of free-range cats.” She is described as “outspoken with unrepentant, undeviating, withering aim.”

Even after the divorce, Roy remained on friendly terms with the Masons and directed two of their later films “Lady Possessed” and “Charade.”

Mason achieved considerable success in the British Cinema (The Seventh Veil, 1945, The Wicked Lady, 1945, Odd Man Out, 1947) before coming to Hollywood.

During WWII, Mason registered as a conscientious objector. This caused his family to break with him for many years. When he was approved by a board to do non-combat military service, Mason refused. Then, the issue became moot when Mason was included in a general exemption for film work.

Mason received the best reviews of his career in “Odd Man Out” (1947) where he played a mortally wounded IRA bank robber on the run.

One of Mason’s early films in Hollywood was “Madame Bovary” (1949). Many of the films Mason did during this early period were not successful. Then, he was cast as General Rommel in “The Desert Fox” (1951). Even though Mason had refused for years to sign a studio contract, he agreed to sign with 20th Century Fox for seven years at one film a year, in order to get the part of Rommel.

In 1951, Mason did another film written by his wife and directed by her former husband, Roy Kellino (Lady Possessed, 1951). In 1953, he did the very successful “Julius Caesar” with Marlon Brando.

In 1954, Mason did another film written by Pamela Mason and directed by his father in law, “Charade.”

Mason did numerous plays on television and in the 1960s settled into supporting roles.

One of Mason’s last roles was as the corrupt lawyer Ed Concannon in “The Verdict” (1982) with Paul Newman.

Mason, along with his wife Pamela, was an ardent animal lover. They especially loved cats. He and Pamela wrote a book about their cats “The Cats in Our Lives,” published in 1949. Mason wrote most of the book and illustrated it.

Mason was married to Pamela from 1941 – 1964. Wikipedia notes that Pamala Mason was active in the Hollywood social scene and was “frequently unfaithful” to her husband. Her son confirmed this. In 1962, she initiated divorce proceedings against Mason, claiming adultery on his part. There was a $1 million divorce settlement. Mason was married to Australian actress Clarissa Kaye from 1971 until his death. He often used his power to get Clarissa parts in his movies.

Mason wrote an autobiography “Before I Forget, 1981.”

Mason left everything to his second wife although the will was contested by his children with Pamela Mason. Clarissa Mason left her assets to the religious guru Sathya Sai Baba, when she died in 1994. Clarissa also left the guru Mason’s ashes. Mason’s children later sued the guru and got the ashes back.


Pamela Mason was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist and banker who became president of the Gaumont British Picture Corporation in the early 1920s. She married cinematographer Roy Kellino in 1934, at the age of 18.

Pamela’s novel “Del Palma, 1948, was the basis for the film Lady Possessed. Another novel in 1968 was “Marriage is the first step toward Divorce.

Other famous Mason movies

• The Desert Fox

• A Star is Born

• 20,000 Leagues under the Sea

• Lolita

• North by Northwest

• Journey to the Center of the Earth

• Julius Caesar

• Heaven Can Wait

• The Boys From Brazil

Sources: Wikipedia and IMDB


East Side, West Side (1949)

Posted on August 2, 2020 at 9:10 PM Comments comments (0)



It’s always such a pleasure to come across a black and white movie I haven’t seen. “East Side, West Side” is one of them.

The cast itself is enough reason for watching. Barbara Stanwyck, James Mason, Van Heflin, Ava Gardner (looking absolutely stunning), Cyd Charisse, Nancy Reagan, Gale Sondergaard, William Conrad, and William Frawley among other faces familiar from later television programs.

The music is by Miklos Rozsa, cinematorgraphy by Charles Rosher.

The costumes are by Helen Rose.

When I was a teenager, Pamela Mason, James Mason’s wife, was making the rounds of the shows like Merv Griffin, talking openly about what a skunk and womanizer James Mason was. While talk like this is now commonplace, it was mildly shocking in the 1960s and highly entertaining. From what Pamela Mason said the role James Mason played in this film was tailor made for him.

Not only is he a womanizer, he whines to Stanwyck that he’s an “addict” who can’t control himself. Evidently, the appeal of addiction as an explanation of cruelty didn’t start with the rehabilitation industry in the 1970s.

Married to Barbara Syanwyck, Mason has an affair with Ava Gardner. Mason goes back to Stanwyck (and she forgives him) but he just can’t stay away from Ava (who could?). Stanwyck finally realizes that a man like Van Heflin is much better for her than a jerk like Mason, but not without a struggle.

In the final scene, Stanwyck has walked out (we presume to go to Heflin) and Mason stands staring at himself in the mirror. I couldn’t help wondering how much Mason (the actor) realized he was staring at himself rather than the character he was playing. In the final shot, we see Mason from behind. He is alone, leaning against the patio door jamb, staring off over the East River.

If Pamela had been there, she would have probably encouraged him to jump.

Stanwyck and Heflin are great together. This was the last of three movies they made together. The others are: “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” (1946) and B.F.’s Daughter (1948).

Stanwyck and Heflin have a chemistry that’s nice to watch. It’s more about friendship than sex. That’s perfect for the roles they play in this film. Ella Smith in “Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck,” describes them as “an excellent screen team” and “extremely natural together.”

Also discussing Stanwyck's work in East Side, Smith says that it is “particularly subtle, playing a quiet character who keeps her emotions in check. There is nothing showy or flamboyant about what she does, but she manages to convey her inner turmoil.” As Smith writes, "She has a way of holding tears or strong emotion back - and then letting her voice break on the last word of a line.....The technique is a standard one, but difficult to do; unless it is supported by real emotion it will not convince."

Stanwyck looks great in the dresses designed by Helen Rose, but nobody can wear clothes like Ava Gardner. I can’t imagine facing a more threatening “other woman.”

Gardner had already made her breakout film “The Killers” with Burt Lancaster by the time this film was made, but she was still not a leading lady. She held her own, however, against Stanwyck.

The one scene they have together is electric and it is a pleasure to watch the two of them circling around each other.

Stanwyck in their scene, plays so well the woman with inner strength. Her confidence in her jerk of a husband says more about her than about him. Even though she is completely deluded by his charm and his promises, you never lose respect for her.

Gardner plays a wonderful, ruthless other woman, ready to fight to the death for a man she knows is just as unprincipled as she is. She even tells him how weak he is and delights in manipulating him. But, when Stanwyck delivers her final speech to Gardner, you also can see just the right touch of vulnerability, doubt in the icy Gardner. As I said, it’s just beautiful to watch the two of them.

This is another scene in which you wonder how much of the drama was based on real feelings. Gardner and Stanwyck’s husband Robert Taylor, had engaged in a torrid affair when they worked together on Gardner’s previous movie “The Bribe (1949). It’s not known whether Stanwyck new about the affair or not, but Stanwyck doesn’t strike me as a woman who misses much. She and Taylor divorced the following year.

Mason, at this time, was a big star in England. He came to Hollywood, but refused to sign a contract with a studio fearing he would be typecast. He was uncomfortable attempting an American accent in this film and was criticized for his voice in this picture. There is a scene between him and Stanwyck in which he says something like: You convinced me to read poetry and I convinced you to watch sports. It’s jarring because you can’t imagine James Mason drinking beer at a sports arena. But, by and large, he pulls it off. I would have cut this particular dialogue, though.

And evidently, Mason wasn’t the only one uncomfortable on the set. Cyd Charisse was playing her first straight dramatic role. She plays the woman in love with (and eventually dumped by) Van Heflin.

Gale Sondergaard was only 50 when she played the part of Stanwick’s mother in this film. Stanwyck was 42. This was the last role Sondergaard played in a film for 20 years. She refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and was blacklisted along with her husband, producer-director Herbert Biberman.

Bill Frawley (of I Love Lucy fame) plays the bartender. Frawley became impossible to cast in films because of alcohol problems. Lucy, however, believed in him and stood up for him to cast him in her long-running series. She was a good egg, Lucy. Too bad about her own jerk of a husband.

This is a clever script written by Isobel Lennart and like so many good films of the era, it was based on a novel (by Marcia Davenport).

Of course, the bad girl, Ava Gardner, has to be killed, but both Stanwyck and her husband are suspects. It is here that the detective expertise (recently used in the war) of Van Heflin comes into play to save them both and prove Heflin a good guy.

There’s a wonderful scene where Heflin suddenly starts acting like a drunk to trap the real killer, an enormous blond model played by Berverly Michaels. Heflin and Michaels get into a slugging match (that’s right I said a slugging match, a slugging in the face match) in the front seat of a car. In the film, Heflin wins and knocks Michaels out, but if it was real life, I would bet on the blond.

According to IMDB, Greer Garson, Fred MacMuray and Claudette Colbert were considered for the leads.

The film was directed by Mervyn LeRoy who reportedly loved working with Stanwyck. He said she was one of the easiest, most cooperative and most professional actors he ever worked with. Stanwyck started off poor, without parents, and worked herself into a career in films. She never lost the work ethic she established on her way up and maintained a career long after her contemporaries had stopped working.


Perfect Strangers (1950)

Posted on July 24, 2020 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)


Starring: Ginger Rogers, Dennis Morgan, Thelma Ritter, Margalo Gillmore, Anthony Ross and others.

I can’t say that Ginger Rogers is my favorite classic movie star, but she turned in some solid dramatic performances in addition to her song and dance movies with Fred Astaire. She’s not the most riveting actress, and I have to agree with the New York Times critic, Bosley Crowther, that she and Morgan were a bit “dreary” in this film, but it’s still a good watch.

In this courtroom drama, Rogers and Morgan are jurors in a murder case where a married man having an affair is on trial for killing his wife. Morgan who is married, and Rogers also fall in love and there is a parallel with the case.

This leaves a lot of room for debate about whether having an affair makes one a bad person and whether people can maintain a presumption of innocence in the face of bad behavior. There’s a lot of good courtroom material. Rogers and Morgan try not to be selected for the jury while Ritter wants to be selected to make some extra money. Margalo Gillmore plays a wealthy woman who has decided that the defendant is guilty because she doesn’t like his face. Thelma Ritter, playing her usual working class housewife, can’t make up her mind because she “wasn’t there.” I especially like the scene where the bailiff instructs a room full of silent jurors for the umpteenth time to not discuss the case. The minute he closes the door there is an immediate outburst of loud discussion.

It's a clever script idea based on a 1939 Ben Hecht – Charles MacArthur play “Ladies and Gentlemen.” The sequestered jury conceit is a good one and provides a platform for a lot of small parts like that of Thelma Ritter, and Margalo Gillmore. I also liked the character played by Anthony Ross. Ross is a man on the make, trying to move on Rogers. When he sees that Rogers has eyes only for Morgan, though, he straightens out and behaves like a friend. Like most things in the movies, it would be nice if life were actually like this. Ross, though, plays a totally convincing jerk and a totally convincing nice guy.

The movie doesn’t seem to have been a hit in 1950. Bosley Crowther described it as a “modest entertainment” and “an obviously hacked out affair which turns on a bit of terminal plotting that is flatly mechanical and contrived.”

If I had a criticism of the script it’s that Rogers and Morgan fall in love too quickly, but even so, I think it works.

Crowther considered the juror love affair and the domestic murder “the limits of plausibility” and “unmistakably stretched.” He also found Morgan and Rogers “dreary” but the fellow jurors “remarkably entertaining,” “the minor salvation.”

Among the minor salvations are the judge played by Paul Ford and Harry Bellaver as the Bailiff.






Three on a match (1932)

Posted on July 19, 2020 at 5:45 PM Comments comments (0)


Three on a Match (1932)

Directed by Mervyn LeRoy

Starring - Joan Blondell, Bette Davis, Lyle Talbot, Humphrey Bogart, Allen Jenkins, Edward Arnold, Warren William

Glenda Farrell plays a small part which is uncredited as Vivian’s friend in prison. Jack La Rue, Ann Shirley and Jack Webb are also in the film in small parts.

Gowns by Orry-Kelly

The little girl with the best grades winds up in the worst circumstance in later life. Her two friends try to help her.

This is a pre-code drama with Ann Dyvorak as a married woman, not only running away with Lyle Talbot, but taking her child with her. She becomes a coke addict and eventually commits suicide to save her child.

Dvorak was the last of the women to be cast. At the time of the realease of the film, the Lindbergh kidnapping was in the news and the kidnappers had not been caught. The film did not do very well however, and cinema owners were told to focus on the cast in their marketing and not to even mention the kidnapping. The reviewer for the NYT called the film “tedious and distasteful” as well as “unintelligent.”

This was Bogart’s first released film as a bad guy. You can understand why they kept casting him as such. He has a murderous stare and tries to get the other bad guys to kill the kid as just a part of doing business.

The film uses young actors to portray the three girls in grammar school (this is where Ann Shirley comes in). And then there is repeated use of news footage montages to mark the passage of time. Some people found these montages clever, but I thought they got a bit tedious.

According to an article in TCM

• This film was made at a time when Warner Brothers was basically running a factory assembly line of movies in the early thirties.

• Blondell, Davis and Bogart were relative newcomers who only became famous later.

• Davis and Blondell had only supporting roles.

• Davis later complained that the director, LeRoy, spent the entire shooting talking about what a great dramatic star Blondell was going to be and virtually ignored Davis. She also experienced unwanted sexual advances from Williams who was known for such behavior.

• Davis resented this “bland sister” part and felt that she was never going to get away from these roles. It’s almost tempting to wonder why her character was even included in the story.

• LeRoy later wrote an autobiography and admitted having told the press that he didn’t think Davis was going to make it as an actress. “She’s been cold to me every since.” He said.

• It was three years after this film before Davis gave her breakout performance in “Of Human Bondage.”

• It would take Bogart until 1936 and “Petrified Forest” before he got any critical acclaim.

Sources: TCM, Wikipedia, IMDB





The Bribe (1949)

Posted on July 13, 2020 at 6:50 PM Comments comments (0)

The Bribe (1949)

Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton, Vincent Price, John Hodiak, Samuel S. Hinds (doctor)

Directed y Robert Z. Leonard and uncredited Vincente Minnelli

Based on a short story by Frederick Nebel. Screenplay by Marguerite Roberts.

Despite the stellar cast, this film was not a hit with the public or the critics when it came out. Bosley Crowther called the film “…as lurid as it is absurd.” Crowther argued that if the film didn’t have big name stars in it, it would be low man on a “grind house triple bill.” He also argued that blowing up everything in the end is the “one appropriate move in the whole show.”

Time Out called the film a “feeble thriller.” “Taylor” the reviewer said “isn’t up to the moral dilemma.”

The Bribe is a convoluted tempted cop story, and the plot is difficult to follow. Robert Taylor was said to have told Ava Gardner that it was one of the worst films he ever made. The two of them, according to Gardner, got a four-month affair out of it though. Gardner talks about the affair in her biography.

Vincent Price and Charles Laughton play the bad guys. The book, Cult Movies, called them “splendidly hammy villains.”

There’s not much surprising about Price’s portrayal of one of the bad guys. What is surprising and ultimately very distracting is Laughton’s performance as a doddering villain/dupe with bad feet. It reminded me of something I read about the ill-fated filming of I, Claudius, in 1937. Laughton worked and worked, but just couldn’t find a Claudius that suited him. He complained that he is couldn’t find the part. His performance in The Bribe looks like he couldn’t find a character he was happy with or was even interested in. It was difficult for me to follow the plot because I spent so much time watching what Laughton was doing, or not doing. His performance in “Jamaica Inn” is similar. Laughton just seems to be acting in another movie from the rest of the people on stage.

Robert Taylor (1911-1969) who plays the cop tempted by Ava Gardner was one of the most popular leading men of his time. He began his career in films in 1934. His performances in Waterloo Bridge (1938) with Vivian Leigh, and in Camille with Greta Garbo are my two favorites. Taylor was married to Barbara Stanwyck from 1939-1951. A chain smoker, he died of lung cancer at 57.

Sources: Wikipedia, TCM, IMDB


Lady of Shanghai

Posted on June 30, 2020 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)


Lady of Shanghai (1948)

Starring Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Everett Sloane, Glenn Anders

Directed by Orson Welles

Screenplay by Orson Welles based on a Sherwood King novel, “If I Die Before I Wake.”

Orson Welles had trouble getting along with Hollywood studios from the beginning of his career. Lady of Shanghai (1948), was no different.

Studio head Harry Cohn was so obsessed with Rita Hayworth he had her wiretapped. When the studio gave Welles Hayworth to develop “Lady of Shanghai” around, they evidently wanted something like “Gilda.” Welles did not give them a “Gilda.”

Hayworth was famous for her long red hair. The first thing Welles did was to get her hair cut short and dye it blond. This set him up in opposition Harry Cohn from the very beginning.

But, Welles had been guaranteed artistic license on this film. Cohn said afterward he would never again allow anybody to be actor, director and writer in one film because he couldn’t then fire them. He must have wanted to fire Welles many times during this production.

Welles had been married to Hayworth, but they were estranged at the time of the making of “Lady of Shanghai.” Hayworth nevertheless agreed to be in the film. Some thought Welles’ interpretation of her character in the film was a devastating portrayal of Hayworth herself. Some found it uncomfortably personal and vicious. Cohn thought the film would ruin her career and shelved it for a year.

Cohn instructed Welles to insert “glamour” shots of Hayworth. And because of the success of Hayworth singing in Gilda, he made Welles insert a sequence in which Hayworth sings “Please don’t Kiss Me.”

And Hayworth’s treatment wasn’t the only thing studio bosses objected to. When the first version of the completed film was shown to bosses, Cohn is said to have stood up and offered anyone in the room $1,000 to explain the plot to him. TCM film noir commentator, Eddie Muller, called “Lady from Shanghai” a “train wreck.”

Welles wasn’t much more liked by his actors than he was by studio bosses. Everett Sloan who puts in a wonderful performance as the sleazy and creepy husband had to go so far as refusing to wear the braces Welles had constructed for his character. Sloan complained that the braces were extremely painful. In the film, he uses two canes and a riveting walk.

Similarly, Glenn Anders found Welles to be difficult. He said that Welles bullied him relentlessly. Welles maintained, of course, that this treatment just pushed Anders to give a more nervous and edgy performance. Whether Anders or Welles is responsible, Anders is impossible to take your eyes off in the film. He appears and appears again like a bad dream.

Like he did with many of his films, Welles had walked off the post-production process before it was completed. As with “The Magnificent Ambersons” the ending was substantially changed by the studio. Welles had been so involved in the famous final sequence where Hayworth and her husband kill each other in a shootout in a house of mirrors, he helped construct and paint the set. But in his final version, this scene lasted 10 minutes. The studio cut it down to 4.

I have always wondered why I didn’t particularly like “Lady from Shanghai.” It was interesting to read that others didn’t like it either. But, this “train wreck” has some stunning scenes (like the fun house scenes at the end) and is worth another view.

Oh, just a note, the dog seen with Hayworth on the yacht belonged to Errol Flynn. Welles rented Flynn’s yacht for the film and Flynn stipulated in the contract that the yacht couldn’t be used unless he was present. When Flynn went off on a toot, filming had to shut down until they found him.


Accisents Will Happen (1938)

Posted on June 28, 2020 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (0)


Director: William Clemens

Writers: George Bricker and Anthony Coldeway (screen play) from a story by George Bricker

Starring: Ronald Reagan, Sheila Bromley, Gloria Blondell, Dick Purcell

Ronald Reagan as an insurance fraud investigator with a greedy wife who gets involved with a big fraud gang.

I had no idea Joan Blondell even had a sister until I happened on this film. The lesser-known sister, Gloria, made something like two dozen Hollywood features. In the 1940s she played the voice of Disney’s Daisy Duck. She did television in the 1950s (I love Lucy and The Life of Riley)

The sisters started off as part of a vaudeville troupe “The Bouncing Blondells.”

Ronald Reagan was 27 when he made this movie, but he looks much younger. He plays pretty much his standard part – smart, cocky guy.

Shiela Bromley as the greedy wife is probably the most impressive of the actors. She had small parts in a great many Hollywood movies and then went on to do a lot of television.

This is an unambitious, but well put together B film. The honest young insurance man gets done badly by his wife and has to take on the insurance fraud gangs to get his reputation back (and a better girl).

Sociologically, the notable part of the film is a sequence involving just one of the numerous insurance fraud schemes. The fraud schemes organized by the gang involve hiring people to jump out of a car before it goes over a cliff, falling down a set of outside stairs in a bus and other faked car accidents.

But, one of these schemes illustrates just how casual and heartless the racism of the time was in films. This is the only one of the schemes to involve a person of color, the only one where the person hired is a dupe or portrayed as an object of fun (except a guy who pretends to be drunk).

The first scene to set this up is in a doctor’s office where the doctor is fooling with a wooden brace. A black man is sitting in a chair. The doctor puts the black man’s arm in the brace and starts to use a hammer to break the arm. The black man objects. The gang member says: You signed up for this job. The black may says, Yeah, but I changed my mind. The gang member offers him more money and the black man agrees asking for the doctor to break his arm gently.

Then, we see the black man standing on a street corner, waiting for a car driven by one of the gang members to come down the street. He walks right in front of the car and is sideswiped. He then gets up and complains loudly about his broken arm.

This incident involves the only real physical harm that comes to any of the stooges hired by the gang. The other people are playing parts, or in one case, an acrobat who knows how to fall.

It’s painful to watch the doctor swing the hammer as he tries to come down on the black man’s arm, and it’s disturbing to watch the man be sideswiped by the oncoming car. It’s also notable that the black man is portrayed as somewhat stupid and overly impressed by the money. The other stooges are cynical, playing a part, people obviously used to acting as stooges.

Article about racism and the early Hoillywood films.


Note: I have to correct part of the post from yesterday. Peter Lorre did have dialogue in the film just at the end right before he is hit by a truck and killed.