THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1999) Bringing Sexy Back

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One of those truisms of life is that sequels and remakes rarely equal let alone surpass their original. Not impossible, but rare. When I first watched Norman Jewison’s THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1968) I enjoyed the details of the heist, but overall felt underwhelmed. With leading actors like Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, combined with high style, I was impressed by the visuals (especially the costume design and the mod editing). But the lack of chemistry between Dunaway and McQueen (how could anyone NOT have red hot chemistry with super sexy Steve?!); it left me cold.

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Then the remake came. John McTiernan’s THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1999) took Alan Trustman’s original story that centered on a bank heist in the 1968 film and flipped it into an art heist. Rare art heist allowed for a sexier, more stylish plot vehicle to drive this remake with more clever moments of cat-and-mouse pace and better build up of sexual tension.

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Pierce Brosnan is Thomas Crown, the charming and confident billionaire playboy who collects rare paintings and crashes 100 thousand dollar sailboats, just for kicks. He’s bored in life because he’s never found an equal, as we see him relay in confidence to his therapist, who is portrayed by Faye Dunaway. When a heist at the art museum by a group of outsiders goes awry yet leaves a Claude Monet missing, it’s actually Crown who becomes the main suspect. Enter Rene Russo as Catherine Banning, insurance investigator and his greatest adversary and equal.

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Thus begins the chase of cat and mouse. But who is the cat and who is the mouse? Banning works in tandem with the police (Denis Leary and Frankie Faison as Detectives McCann and Paretti) but prefers her work as a soloist. As Banning hunts down her prey, she begins to fall for Crown as he does her. Banning is sexy, boldly stylish, empowered, clever, ambitious, supremely confident and unyielding when she goes for what she wants. They are the same.

I know full well that many of my classic film friends will respond in opposition to my assertion that this film from the late 90s could possibly surpass its classic original. But let’s take a deeper look.

The Heist:

This is no simple set-up and chase crime thriller with guns blazing. This film does a masterful job with clever editing and unexpected plot devices to keep us interested. (Warning: a few spoilers may pop up.) Even in an early scene, a Trojan horse device is literally used as a Trojan horse. All the details from the initial heist to the final reveal involve unique and thought-provoking twists and turns. One of my favorites involves a parade of men in bowler hats as camouflage.

The Style:

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It may not be the cool swinging 60s style of the 1968 film, but style it exudes nonetheless. If sexy is a style, then Brosnan and Russo bring that particular flavor of style in heavy measure throughout. Brosnan is in Bond-form for a commanding presence of athleticism and cool confidence in a classically tailored suit and the occasional similarly cut shirtless look. Fire-haired Russo is draped in bold fashions to match the boldness of her moves. One particular scene is a blush-worthy dance centered on a body-skimming dress worn by Russo that you could read the The New York Times through.

In all of the memorable scenes, Bill Conti’s music plays a key role. Obviously it serves invaluable to bring sex appeal. In other scenes, it quickens the pace and/or provides the right touch of playful whimsy.

The Players:

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The ongoing tango between the Crown and Banning characters should be constantly competitive, and electric with sexual tension. Brosnan and Russo deliver. For me, McQueen’s interpretation is appropriately cool as one would expect from him, but his interactions with Dunaway comes across as almost disinterested. As for Dunaway, the style is undoubtedly gorgeous but her coolness transcends into cold. Leary and Faison do a fine job for a sliver of lightness in character acting.

Another test for what ultimately makes the 1999 version the victor for me, is how it holds up in repeat screenings. I find myself enjoying watching the remake many times over as it has held up well. I cannot say the same for its original. (Okay Kell, brace yourself for the pitch fork frenzy of feedback from readers.)

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This has been my contribution to the “It Takes A Thief” Blogathon, hosted by Moon In Gemini, November 17-19, 2017. Be sure to read all the other entries for posts on films that ‘steal’ your attention!

 

 

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CMBA’s Banned and Blacklisted: CROSSFIRE (1947)

 

Incredibly tense, politically-charged times in Hollywood erupted seventy years ago when the infamous “The Hollywood Ten” were cited with contempt of Congress on November 24, 1947. After ten writers and directors refused to fully answer questions to the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) regarding involvements with the Communist Party, thus began the blacklisting of scores of artists in the industry. Although it is not a crime to be a Communist in this country, and the many allegations that artists were injecting Communist propaganda into their films were never proven, the witch hunt continued and wrecked the careers and lives of many.

Even those who cooperated with the HUAC, were never affiliated with the Communist Party, and/or challenged the legitimacy of the process found themselves blacklisted thanks to the rumors and whisperings from the HUAC. Even being accused of being a Communist assumed guilt in Hollywood for which there was no crime committed. The blacklisting did not end until 1960. It was a dark stain in our history.

Two of The Hollywood Ten, producer and screenwriter Adrian Scott and director Edward Dmytryk, worked together to complete the pivotal film, CROSSFIRE, just a couple of months prior to being subpoenaed to the HUAC. After several successful films, including this one, this would be their final collaboration. With the screenplay written by John Paxton, it was based on Richard Brooks’ military-influenced crime novel “The Brick Foxhole” which was originally centered on the murder of a homosexual man. Producers Adrian Scott and Dore Schary pitched a new twist to the story. For CROSSFIRE, the bulk of the story unravels the crime post-murder, and the victim is a straight Jewish man.

Schary was concerned the anti-Semitic messaging would be a red flag, gaining unwanted attention from the HUAC. As it turns out, he was right. Interestingly, another film with anti-Semitism themes, Elia Kazan’s GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT was released later the same year with even more critical acclaim as that year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture.

Despite a tight budget and shooting schedule, plus tackling a controversial script under watchful eyes, CROSSFIRE (1947) remains one of RKO’s if not perhaps of any studio’s best film noirs. Beginning with a murder, we are then introduced to Robert Young as the serene, pipe-smoking Finley, who is investigating the case, followed by a slew of potential suspects, friends and foes, of which many are military. We discover that not only was the victim Jewish, but that appears to be the only motivation for his demise. Finlay is hunting down a madman whose rage lurks just below the surface and whose deep bigotry results in murder.

With a headlining trio of three swell Roberts- Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, and Robert Young- the casting offers unforgettable performances. Mitchum and Young represent a calm front of tag-teaming good guys, fleshing out demobilized soldiers with possible ulterior motives. Robert Ryan plays Montgomery, the bigoted monster of intermittent restraint of rage, to perfection. A role he performed so well he earned an Oscar nom, that also typecast him for a majority of his career.

The supporting cast is outstanding, as well. Sam Levene, Paul Kelly, Steve Brodie, Jacqueline White, and Gloria Grahame to name a few. In her first role with RKO following a brief stint at MGM, Grahame is a stand-out and it earned her an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Like Ryan, this film set the mold for many more-naughty-than-nice roles to come. What really drives this film in addition to these performances is the phenomenal cinematography from J Roy Hunt. When one gushes about the glowing beauty of light and dark shadows of a great film noir (as I often do), CROSSFIRE is a perfect example.

For me, one of the most powerful moments comes when a potential witness for the police faces a moral dilemma. He questions whether he should help the police capture Montgomery when he wasn’t directly affected by Monty’s anti-Semitism. Finlay gives him a rather convincing speech about his own Irish grandfather who faced similar treatment as a new immigrant. It’s powerful because Finlay must convince the apathetic soldier that anyone can be the target of bigotry so none of us can afford to look the other way.

History is a mixed bag for Edward Dmytryk. His talents are rarely disputed. After serving time for his conviction as part of The Hollywood Ten, he experienced regret. He faced the HUAC again in 1951 and recanted his initial defiance. Between his prison time with subsequent blacklisting, and his public distancing from The Hollywood Ten, he made a couple of films in the U.K. Then, Stanley Kramer gave him a chance to transition back to Hollywood. He went on to make many more films in Hollywood for the rest of his career, including winning an Oscar for THE CAINE MUTINY (1954).

Some say he was able to save his career by recanting. Some say he sold out. Fast-forward seventy years later and what have we learned from this? Where does history judge all of those involved in the blacklisting, the HUAC, victims and perpetrators alike? Some have stated “it was a different time” and “people were protecting their jobs to support their families” in sympathy for those that did not defy the HUAC or even named names. Yet many modern-day Americans find it incredulous to believe it took so long to stand up to the HUAC when no actual crimes were committed by those targeted. With hindsight, the wrongs of that ‘Red Scare’ witch hunt seem obvious.

Hateful intolerance remains a presence. We live in precarious times today that reveals an alarming buildup of bigotry and nationalism similar to previous historic levels. Wedged between the nazi horrors revealed in the Nuremberg trials and the onset of McCarthyism, CROSSFIRE’s take on the dangers of bigotry was topical then yet remains relevant to this day.


*This post was my contribution to the CMBA Fall 2017 Blogathon, Banned and Blacklisted, Nov. 15-19, 2017. As a proud member of the Classic Movies Blog Association, I feel privileged to participate and encourage you to read the other entries.

Announcement: 6th Annual WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON

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Announcing the SIXTH ANNUAL What A Character! Blogathon
December 15-17, 2017

When you think about your very favorite classic movies, what makes them your favorites? The films worth watching multiple times, endlessly discussing, or just chilling out with…what makes them the cinematic equivalent of comfort food? Sure, great writing is key, but those lines are just words without the right actors delivering them. Beautiful costumes are great, but without the right actors wearing them, they’re just clothes. Stunning, authentic art direction and set design are wonderful, but empty, without the right actors inhabiting that world. And gorgeous cinematography can only hold your eye for so long, without the right actors being lit. And so on.

Chances are, it’s not just the perfect leads that win your go-to films their place in your heart — it’s their pals and sidekicks as well. The wise-cracking best friend or fellow chorine, cranky boss, sympathetic bartender, confirmed spinster secretary, intrepid cop, jealous girlfriend, second-in-command racketeer or bomber pilot, workaholic director…faces familiar from their appearances in many films over the years, their names — not so much. To take a couple obvious examples, what would Casablanca be without Dooley Wilson, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Conrad Veidt, S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Madeleine LeBeau, John Qualen, and Leonid Kinskey? How about My Man Godfrey without Alice Brady, Eugene Pallette, Gail Patrick, Jean Dixon, Alan Mowbray, and Mischa Auer? Probably pretty good films, but just not the same, not as lovable, not as classic.

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Ritz 3 Alice Brady Carole Lombard William Powell My Man Godfrey

Thus the objective of the What A Character! Blogathon has always been to shed the spotlight on these lesser-known but equally talented thespians, whose names usually appeared below the title, but who always elevated any kind of material from Oscar-winning to the most tired, often without saying a word. Please join us- Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club/ @Paula_Guthat, Aurora of Once Upon A Screen/ @CitizenScreen, and yours truly Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled/ @IrishJayhawk66 – for the SIXTH year in a row of paying tribute to the versatility and depth of supporting players.
If a salute to lesser-known but essential Hollywood thespians is right up your movie alley, please review the guidelines below, then leave me a comment below.

  • Let at least one of the hosts know which character actor is your choice.
  • Don’t take it for granted we know exactly who you are or where your blog resides – please include the title and URL of your blog, also your Twitter handle if you have one.
  • We will not accept repeats (previously published posts), or duplicates, since there are so many greats worthy of attention, but your choices are not limited to classics. You can choose any character actor from any era and from the medium of television, which has featured talented regulars since the beginning, and continues to do so.
  • Publish your WAC! post on either December 15, 16, or 17, 2017. Let us know if you have a date preference; otherwise, we’ll split publicizing duties equally among the three days.
  • Please include [one of] the WAC! 2017 event banner[s] included in this post on your blog to help us promote the event. Please also include the banner in your What A Character! post.
  • Please send any of us the direct link to your post once you have published it. Searching on social media sites can lead to missed entries. My contact info: prattkellee@gmail.com / twitter~ @IrishJayhawk66 ~or, simply leave a comment below
  • HAVE FUN and spread the word!

Thank you to TCM for the tagline inspiration and to all you bloggers and film fans for your ongoing participation and support for six years running!

Participating blogs and their choice of actors:

Caftan Woman – John Alexander

Movie Movie Blog Blog – Bruce Altman

Taking Up Room – Eve Arden

The Last Drive In – Martin Balsam

Old Hollywood Films – Beulah Bondi

Wide Screen World – Alan Hale, Sr.

The Old Hollywood Garden – Edward Everett Horton

Real Weegie Midget Reviews – Ian McShane

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood – Agnes Moorehead

Wolfian Classic Movies Digest – Eugene Pallette

Carole & Co. – Nat Pendleton

Outspoken & Freckled – ZaSu Pitts

The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog – Michael Ripper

The Dream Book Blog – Elizabeth Russell

A Shroud of Thoughts – William Schallert

Cinematic Scribblings – Haruko Sugimura

Hometowns to Hollywood – Clinton Sundberg

Once Upon a Screen – Mary Wickes

Silver Screenings – European Character Actors in Casablanca

Silver Scenes – TBA

~Kellee

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9 to 5 (1980)… has the workplace really changed?

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In the thirty-seven years since Colin Higgins’ Nine To Five (1980) was released, it’s easy to reflect upon this comedic view on feminism and the office workplace and note the changes. The typewriters and other technologies (or lack thereof), the clothes, hairstyles, cars… they all seem dated to the modern eye. But look deeper. The messages being pitched in this film, the struggles of the main characters, and even of the supporting characters, well, they rage on.

There are many films that have been set in the office workplace. But this film stood out for me. Perhaps based on timing, as I was the highly influential age of thirteen when it released. The second-wave feminism of the sixties and seventies challenged the status quo in the battle of the sexes: Billy Jean King, Title 9, NOW, Roe vs. Wade, the ERA and many more influencers shaped our emerging cultural awareness. Then 9 to 5 came along to challenge sexism and the battle for women’s equality in the American trenches… the workplace.

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Not presented as some radical documentary or anything serious whatsoever, 9 to 5 is a comedy. But the message remains clear as a bell, through the laughter. What strikes interesting is not only that it’s a comedy but I would go further to say it’s a slapstick comedy that fits a formula and styling not unlike a true classic comedy, common several decades prior.

Comedy serves a great purpose to drive the messages home thanks also to a talented cast. Our main characters are Lily Tomlin as the hardworking, single mom and career woman Violet Newstead, Jane Fonda as Judy Bernly, is the meek housewife entering the workforce for the first time, Dolly Parton as the curvy, country- gal and secretary, Doralee Rhodes. Then there’s the boss, Dabney Coleman as Frank Hart. Or as he is better known, “a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”

The trio are an unlikely threesome, each with very different backgrounds so they don’t connect immediately. Their only true connection is not only the company they work for, but the insufferable pig in charge, Mr. Hart. Despite initial misperceptions of one another, they soon bond in being victims of Mr. Hart and his domineering, sexist ways. The pace picks up nicely when Violet mistakenly believes she has accidentally poisoned the boss. In a state of panic, they rally together in crime. No actual poisoning, their true crime turns to kidnapping- to buy time and prove he is embezzling company funds. In the end, the threesome survive and thrive, as do the rest of the staff and the company as a whole under these ladies’ leadership, and of course the villain gets his comeuppance.

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There are some very appealing reasons to enjoy this often overlooked film…

Girlfriend Friendship:

Unlike so many comedies regarding battle of the sexes, 9 to 5 takes its time to show female friendship, based on how three very different women start off in typical office dynamics. Initially, their differences keeps them apart and whets the water cooler chat. Violet judges Judy (she’s ‘just a no-job-experience housewife’ whom she’s burdened with training, and she mocks her outdated clothing). As Violet and other staff have already judged and assumed the worst of Doralee (she must be shtupping the boss because she’s well-endowed), Violet convinces Judy to believe the same. Because of their common enemy, the three realize just how wrong they were about each other.

So many light comedies prefer to keep women in the catty zone, always competing for the man. It’s often men who are highlighted as the adventurous buddies. This film flips that stereotype. When women move past the barriers of judging each other and trust/support each other instead, they make HUGE accomplishments.

 

 Fantasies Become Reality:

There is a delightful fantasy segment where each of the ladies describes how they’d like to seek revenge on Hart. Timid Judy, who is especially vulnerable now as her husband just left her for his secretary, expresses bold confidence in her fantasy as a wild game hunter. Hart is the target and Judy is well-armed on the hunt with an enormous gun. Classic slapstick is alive and well in this very funny, and rather cartoonish scene. We see Judy blossom in self-esteem throughout the film and the audience knows this is greatly due to their supportive friendships as they go through wild adventures.

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Doralee describes her fantasy where she turns the table on Hart, giving him a healthy dose of his own sexual harassment medicine. Being a country gal, she’s a rodeo star of a boss, lassoing and hogtying him when he politely and repeatedly refuses her inappropriate advances. I always wonder what men thought of this scene when it came out back in 1980. Surely, it would make for great- if not entertaining- training material for HR sexual harassment requirements.

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Violet waxes Snow White for a mock Disney spin on her twist of revenge. She may look the spitting image of Snow White, even down to the animated woodland creatures hovering nearby, but Violet’s fairy tale turns ‘Grimm’ as she poisons Hart in her fantasy. Classic slapstick shtick includes a metal spoon eaten away instantaneously by stirring poison and steam in the shape of skull and crossbones. Ultimately, all three land up fulfilling their fantasies to a certain degree. Judy fires (although misses) a gun at Hart. Doralee hogties Hart. And Violet pours poison (accidentally) into Hart’s coffee.

Words, Words, Words:

I think the writers had fun with this one.

+The main characters’ names were somewhat similar to their respective actors, i.e. Violet= Lily (Tomlin).

+Dabney Coleman’s Frank Hart has no heart.

+In 9 to 5, the company’s name is “Consolidated Industries” which I immediately drew a parallel to the dysfunctional office relations in Billy Wilder’s THE APARTMENT (1960), with the company name of, “Consolidated Life of NY.” Likely a mere coincidence of a common word with no connection whatsoever, but that’s how a movie fanatic’s brain works.

+As words go, the 9 to 5 theme song, written and performed by Dolly Parton, became a number 1 hit (Billboard Country Chart), earning Parton an Academy Award nomination, four Grammy Award nominations with two Grammy wins.

+I think my favorite line came from Dolly Parton’s Doralee. At one point when she’s pushed to her limit with Hart’s wolfish behavior, she threatens him. She says she has a loaded gun in her purse and tells him, “turn you from rooster to a hen, with one shot!” as she points directly to his crotch.

Cast:

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The casting is superb. The lead actresses clearly worked well together because that’s apparent on the screen. This was Dolly Parton’s first theatrical feature debut and I think it was the perfect vehicle for her. Tomlin and Fonda were much more experienced on-screen and their comedic chemistry still clicks to this day. The two co-star in the highly amusing and popular show “Grace and Frankie,” currently enjoying its 3rd season release on Netflix.

Coleman was the perfect choice for Frank Hart. Coleman was at the top of his fame with a string of successful features in the early eighties. He excelled at playing scoundrels with a flair for comedy. Many claim this was one of his most memorable roles. There are solid character actors here, as well, including Elizabeth Wilson, Marian Mercer, Peggy Pope, Henry Jones, Richard Stahl, plus a nice cameo from Sterling Hayden as the big boss, Tinsworthy.

If you haven’t seen this film in a long time, I recommend you take another look with fresh eyes. The comedy structure plays like so many of the classics. Look past the outdated styles and technologies, but ponder the bigger question on equality in the workplace. Has it changed so much in these nearly four decades? Isn’t there still a glass ceiling for most and continued unequal pay for equal work? But don’t let that get you down. It simply means we have more progress to accomplish. In the meantime, cherish those friendships- they can be empowering.


This was my contribution to the Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon, hosted by Moon In Gemini, August 18-20, 2017. Follow her site for daily updates with all the participating writers.

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She Kills Her Husband Once but THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, 1946

The postman always rings twice doesn’t refer to a mail carrier’s methodology of delivery in this 1946 film noir directed by Tay Garnett, starring John Garfield and Lana Turner. This is film noir, friends, so we are addressing the subject of dark and dirty crime. Not just any crime but murder. Mariticide, to be exact.

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Mariticide is the act of killing one’s husband. Not exactly a new concept in film noir. As a matter of fact, many parallels can be drawn between this film and Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944). In THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946), the title alludes (spoilers ahead!) not to the beginning fiery heat of two lovers, not to the detailed steps of planning the murder of a spouse, but moreso to the aftermath and ironic justice in how this ill-fated romance ends.

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Many crime stories and film noirs focus on the tension, motivation and players that lead up to or explain the crime. While THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946) does a marvelous job in that arena, a good chunk of the story focuses on good ole karma that comes along not on the first ring, but on that second ding. I’ll save those scrumptious details for you to savor when you watch the film.

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning and chat about the sparks that brought this doomed couple of criminal lovers together. John Garfield as Frank Chambers is perfection as the casual drifter who floats in to the Twin Oaks roadside diner on a breeze. Actually, he wanders in via hitchhiking with the local district attorney (who lives closeby and will become a key factor in his undoing) and is soon greeted by the local motorcycle cop who is often witness in rather inconvenient ways.

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He soon meets Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway), owner of the cafe, and they quickly conduct a job interview via on-the-spot character reads. Note: we will discover later that Nick fails miserably at both job interviews and character assessments. After Frank confidently and casually pushes his loosely tied commitment for the position, Nick dashes off to greet a gas customer outside as Frank is introduced to his platinum blonde doom aka Mrs. Smith inside. We meet Lana Turner as Cora Smith in a memorable character debut where the camera follows her from her ‘accidental’ lipstick drop and roll to the slow pan up her legs to her petite frame in iconic ivory shorts, crop top and turbin.

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The heat and tension is palatable from the very first exchange. Frank wastes no time in making his move. But first, and what plays out as a very interesting foreshadowing, is the power struggle gauntlet is thrown down upon their very initial exchange- over lipstick, no doubt. Before their first first kiss, which Frank plants boldly and rather assumedly, Frank issues the challenge of who is in charge. Cora plays her best game of sexy meets coy to lure Frank close to the flame via handing her the fiery red lipstick. But watch Frank pause, lean back and challenge Cora to come to him. She succumbs allowing Frank to think this was his game. But is it? This initial exchange was the true precursor and warning for them both.

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Through a botched attempt to run away, Cora symbolically morphs from pristine and crisp white to dirty, sweaty, and dusty hitchhiker as she has a change of heart. This is not how she planned. They go back. Narrowly escaping Nick’s discovery, Frank has an opening to leave. But as countless film noir anti-heroes eventually do, he ignores any instinct to do the right thing. Frank: “Right then, I shoulda walked outta that place… She had me licked and she knew it.”

After initial and seeming resistence, we later learn that she was actually the one strategically in charge all along. And he acted helpless in acting better on his own behalf. Once the hooks were firmly embedded deep, even the red flag of ‘if you truly love me, you’ll murder for me’ couldn’t stop her quest to fulfill her ambitious needs to “be somebody.” Cora challenges Frank: “Do you love me? Do you love me so much that nothing else matters?”

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Watching this trainwreck of an excuse for love unfold, as the audience we see the red flags, the road signs of dangerous curves up ahead… everywhere. From our lofty tower of wisdom, we see the mistakes, the grave errors in judgement. While this film spends a good chunk of time and detail serving justice post-mariticide in an ironic twist of fate for these two with a one-two punch, the fascinating components remain the motivations and evolutions of behavior.

Why this film remains a classic, besides enjoying the sexual tension sizzle off the screen and the nail-biting moments of thrills and suspense, what keeps us riveted as the voyeurs to this obsessive, dysfunctional romance is the undercurrent of self questioning, playing out in our own hearts and heads of how obsession can turn oneself against their own morality. Where is that line drawn? What does it take to push someone over the edge? This film ultimately begs the question: if a smart, non-commitment, non-romantic type like Frank can fall into such a deep, tragic trap, could something like this happen to anyone? Yes, perhaps even you?

I think that is what is at the heart of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946). Even the sharpest cynic can blunder and fall prey. Not that murder is a very likely result, but I wager to guess that a significant number of people have experienced a type of obsessive love that has altered their judgement in morality, which was not in their own best interests. So, let that mail courier ring your doorbell twice, even three times. But watch out for the Lana Turner cunning beauties of the roadside cafes. More importantly, watch out for the little voice in your heart and head whenever you hear it crying out “NO!!” – sometimes it’s important to listen.

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This post was my contribution to the ‘Til Death Us Do Part Blogathon on CineMaven’s Essays From The Couch. As this is sure to be a rousing assembly of blog posts of spouse-murdering twist and turns, I encourage you to read all the other contributors!

 

 

 

31 DAYS OF OSCAR BLOGATHON- Day 2

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Taking the baton from fellow co-host Aurora of Once Upon A Screen, who brought us the initial round of blogger contributions yesterday, today I pick up on the second day of the 31 Days Of Oscar Blogathon. Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club will pick up the final day tomorrow. Explore all three days for three days for the best in the blogger biz for everything Oscar.

Just a reminder, this is our 5th year hosting this event in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies network’s month-long event to honor the Academy’s Oscars. TCM is showcasing this year’s special programming in alpha order. Click here for more info: TCM’s 31 Days Of Oscar

Now, onto today’s lineup!

Pop Culture Pundit takes a look at the brilliance of PURPLE RAIN: A Traditional Musical With an Anti-Traditional Score.

CineMaven’s Essays From The Couch presents Jeff Lundenberger as guest blogger as he goes deep in the Best Actress field of 1950 with, And The Winner Is…

Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews discusses the beauty and bleakness of existence in The Diving Bell and Butterfly (2007)

Wolffian Classic Movies Digest explores the unforgettable oblique angles and visual styles of Cinematography in THE THIRD MAN.

Weegie Midget swoops in for a caped landing with Best Actor Oscar Winners in Superhero Movies!

Blogged Of The Darned enjoys life’s banquet in 3 Beekman Place- The Art Direction/ Set Design of AUNTIE MAME. I promise you won’t starve to death when reading this one.

I will continue to add more posts later today so check back for more blogger bliss! And to all the participating writers and readers alike, Aurora, Paula and I cannot THANK YOU enough for your continuing support!

…Kellee

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5th annual 31 DAYS OF OSCAR BLOGATHON!

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Welcome to the 31 Days of Oscars Blogathon redux for the fourth time, making this the fifth installment of our grand celebration of all things Oscar.

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Aurora of Once Upon A Screen, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club and yours truly, Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled started this event to coincide with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar marathon. For 31 days TCM spotlights the movies and players that have made a legend of the golden statuette and this blogathon is our way to pay tribute to the network and the movies we love. We hope you join us in the effort.

Rather than hosting the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon for the entire month of February, as we’ve done in the past, we will host all entries the weekend before the Oscars this year. That is from Friday, February 17 through Sunday, February 19, which leaves Oscar weekend free for last-minute movie-watching. We’re also combining all topics this year and simply presenting them over the three days. Any Oscar-related topic is fair game. We are not limiting this event to classic film fare as we’d like to see entries covering the entire 89-year history of Oscar, including this year’s nominees. To help get you motivated here are the categories we’ve used in the past…

-The Actors
-The Directors
-The Motion Pictures
-Oscar Snubs
-The Crafts (music, costumes, etc.)
-New Idea – Oscar Controversies
Most of you know the drill, but as a reminder, adhering to the following would be appreciated:

Let us know what your desired topic is by leaving a comment on any of the host blogs.
Include the title and link to your blog in the comments area.
Advise if you have a date preference – Friday 2/17, Saturday 2/18 or Sunday 2/19
Include the event banner on your blog and in the entry post to help us promote the event.
Restrictions – just two:

-Please do not submit previously published posts
-No duplicates to ensure we cover as much of the Oscars as possible
We look forward to hearing from you and to reading your entries. As many entries as you want, actually, so get to it!

Until then, here’s to Oscar, to TCM and to YOU!

Happy blogging…

NOTE: Starting on February 1st TCM will feature Oscar winners and nominees in alphabetical order, which should make it easy to set your DVRs favorites. Be sure to check out the schedule. The Oscars will be broadcast live on Sunday, February 26 on ABC.

Participating Blogs & Chosen Topics:

Thoughts All Sorts – The Piano (1993)

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies – Timeline of Award-winning costumes (1961 to 1977)

Once Upon a Screen – The Horror of Oscar

Wolffian Classic Movies Digest – Cinematography in The Third Man (1949)

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood – Judith Anderson’s Snub for Rebecca (1940)

The Old Hollywood Garden – 1943 Best Actress Nominees

Once Upon a Screen – Conrad L. Hall and Cinematography in Road to Perdition (2002)

Cinematic Scribblings – Day for Night (1973)

4 Star Films – (Some) Nominated actors who never won an Oscar
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Joan Blondell, Shining Star Forced to be a Satellite

“I don’t know what the secret to longevity as an actress is… maybe it’s the audience seeing itself in you.” … Joan Blondell

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Joanie should know. Joan Blondell, born Rose Joan Blondell on August 30, 1906, in NYC, lived her entire life performing on stage and screen. She died of leukemia on December 25, 1979 in Santa Monica, CA. It is bittersweet to honor this remarkable woman so close to what will be the 37th anniversary of her death this Christmas day.

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Joan was born to entertain audiences. She cut her teeth working with her comic parents on the vaudeville stages from age three to seventeen, while educated at the Professional Children’s School. She was a seasoned pro by the time she transitioned to the Ziegfeld Follies and then onto the Broadway stage.

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It was a Broadway production that paired her with James Cagney, which lead to five more celebrated film features, starting with John G. Adolfi’s SINNERS’ HOLIDAY (1931) where they reprised their stage roles. The other Blondell/Cagney paired films that followed are:  William Wellman’s OTHER MEN’S WOMEN (1931), William Wellman’s THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931), Howard Hawks’ THE CROWD ROARS (1932), Lloyd Bacon’s FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933), and HE WAS HER MAN (1934). The chemistry sizzle on the screen was visible between these two talents, making for memorable performances that launched both of their careers into an explosion of roles in the Pre-Code era. While they supposedly kept their romance limited to the screen, Cagney said she was the only woman other than his wife he ever loved.

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But to give you some perspective on just how much Blondell worked starting with the early talkies of the Pre-Codes and throughout the duration of the 1930s, she was in over fifty films during that decade alone. Most of this ridiculously busy schedule could be attributed to her contract with Warner Brothers. They kept her working fast and furious in roles at a time when being employed was a very good thing. And she enjoyed her WB family of co-star friends and filming crews immensely. The problem was, while she found herself in-demand and in work, she was not only typecast but stuck below the top tier of the marquee.

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While others demanded more and knew how to cause ripples within the political studio system in a persuasive way (like her good friend Bette Davis), Blondell thought of her job as a job. Joan punched the clock and went home when the job was done. She worked extremely hard, acted consistently professional, but didn’t desire to play the ambitious game.

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Working free of the studio playbook in the 1940s and 1950s, the work was less frequent and the pace less brutal; yet offered some meatier roles, such as Gail Richards in TOPPER RETURNS (1941), Aunt Sissy in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (1945), Zeena Krumbein in NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947), and Annie Rawlins in THE BLUE VEIL (1951) for which she was nominated for An Oscar, Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Even still, she struggled to garner critical acclaim in a way that moved her name up to the leading lady, mega star status.

The 1950s ushered in the television age and Joan Blondell was determined to be a player. The frequency of roles kept her busier but yet again, she found herself working harder, not smarter in struggling to move her name to the top position in billing.

The 1960s and 1970s brought memorable roles such as Jenny in SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL GUNFIGHTER (1971), Lady Fingers in THE CINCINNATI KID (1965), Sarah Goode in OPENING NIGHT (1977) and Dolly in THE CHAMP (1979). Her TV work continued with roles such as Lottie Hatfield in “Here Come the Brides.” Fans unaware of her saucy and leggy days as a Pre-Code platinum blonde may know her more for her later work such as Vi in GREASE (1978) or caught her in reruns from retro TV networks such her bit parts in 50’s TV westerns, Starsky and Hutch (1976), The Love Boat (1978), Fantasy Island (1979) and so much more.

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She worked right up until the end, even while battling the Leukemia that ultimately took her life in 1979, with her last role being Aunt Coll in THE WOMAN INSIDE (1981), released posthumously. With 160 acting credits to her name, and after publishing her popular 1972 autobiographical novel “Center Door Fancy,” Joan never quit.

Married three times, divorced three times, her first husband famed cinematographer George S. Barnes (m. 1933-1936) was a decision reflecting her “naive sophisticate”(as James Cagney called her) ways of a younger Joanie, fresh in her film career. Emotionally dysfunctional, this relationship was fated for disaster. Barnes was still married to his third wife as their romance grew and he assured her the marriage was on paper only and would be ended swiftly. During this time of officially divorcing his third wife and marrying Joan (he went on to marry for a total seven times), she became pregnant and he arranged for the termination. Their son and only child from the marriage, TV producer/director Norman Scott Barnes was born in 1934 but later changed his last name to Powell in 1938 when Barnes relinquished all parental rights and he was adopted by Joan’s second husband.

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Her second marriage to actor Dick Powell (m. 1936-1944) was more stable but tepid in romance. In addition to adopting Norman, they had a child together, Ellen Powell, who is known for her makeup department work in film and tv, such as her Emmy nominated work in hair styling.

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Joan and Dick made ten musicals together. But after they both had grown weary of the incessant typecasting of formulaic musicals each began over a decade prior, just as they attempted to move their careers in more dramatic roles, their marriage also became stagnant. Right up until the time Dick left Joan for actress June Allyson. In this same pivotal year Dick Powell left one marriage for another, he left his sugary musicals and boyish charm behind with MURDER MY SWEET (1944), launching a dramatically different type in his cinematic world with film noir and never looked back.

Her last husband (m. 1947-1950), producer Michael Todd was said to be physically abusive and a financial mess, thanks to heavy gambling and repeatedly poor investments. She found this relationship to be her most passionate. Great for the bedroom initially but later his behavior revealed itself into abuse. His chaotic ways also wiped out her savings. So she continued to work for the next three decades-because financially she had to.

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She wasn’t always lucky in love or ambition, but certainly made up for it in talent, enduring work ethic and generosity of spirit. Time after time, this unforgettable performer played second-fiddle, the rapid-fire, sharp-tongued best friend, the second lead, the snarky office gal, the lingerie-clad roomie, the sharp opportunist, the frowzy, lovable saloon owner, the gangster’s girlfriend, the wise aunt, and the down-to-earth, tell-it-like-it-is scene-stealer. She was all these nuances of woman and more. She mastered tv and film, Pre-Codes, dramas, and comedies. But she never truly reached the well-deserved splendor of consistent top billing.

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While I admire the entire breadth of Joan Blondell’s work, I am always biased towards her early days of Pre-Codes. You couldn’t find a better pair of sexy gams in those Busby Berkley musicals and she delivered such hilariously sassy lines with the perfect punch. Take a look at her delicious delivery of “As long as they’ve got sidewalks, YOU’VE got a job!” as she proceeds to kick the woman out the door, right in the tuchus, in Lloyd Bacon’s FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933) or her haunting “My Forgotten Man” in Mervyn LeRoy’s THE GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933. There are too many to list here (because the woman was a damn work-horse during those years!) But no matter how small the role, Joan Blondell made it her own and she made it memorable. So yes, Joanie, you did know the secret to longevity as actress, and perhaps your greatest role in life was that of survivor- a role this audience member and countless other fans can relate.

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*This was my contribution to the What A Character! Blogathon, hosted by Aurora of Once Upon A Screen, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club, and yours truly. Please review all three days for a recap of fantastic character actor tributes… THANK YOU & ENJOY!! 🙂

day one: kellee

day two: aurora

day three: paula

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Victor McLaglen – A Man as Big as the Screen

*The following is a guest post by my husband Gary, aka Santa on twitter as @SantaIsThinking

I signed up for the What A Character! Blogathon to write a post on one of my favorite character actors, Victor McLaglen (pronounced Muh-clog-len, not Mack-loff-len) because he appears in my favorite movies, adorns one of my walls at home, and reminds me in so many ways of my dad.

As I did research on him I realized that plenty had been written on him so what could I possibly add to that? He’s very loved by so many. So I decided, as I sit here with a Guinness, to focus on two things that I find most interesting about him, his adventurous youth and his big screen (grin) charm. vm-image-1

Victor Andrew de Bier Everleigh McLaglen (10 December 1886 – 7 November 1959)

His Adventurous Youth – Boers, Boxing, and Baghdad

Victor McLaglen was big enough at 14 to enlist in the English Army to fight the Boers. (Sounds like a young English lad’s dream, until he was found out a short time after and had to exit the Army.) When he was 18, he moved to Canada, became a wrestler and a boxer and toured with circuses, vaudeville and Wild West shows.

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He fought under his own name and took on the nickname ‘Sharkey’ McLaglen. In 1909, he survived a 6-round exhibition bout with heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. Commenting later on the fight, “He never knocked me down . . . but he sure beat the livin’ be-Jesus out of me.” In 1918, he was named the heavyweight champion of the British Army. For the record, Victor’s lifetime boxing record (as far as is known) was 11-6-1, with 9 KOs.

He returned to Britain in 1913 and enlisted in the Army, then served as captain (acting) with the 10th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. Besides serving in WW1, other early chapters in his life included serving as a bodyguard for an Indian Rajah and later as Provost Marshal (head of Military Police) for the city of Baghdad. In the 1920’s, he was off to Hollywood.

His Career – Big Screen Grins and Bromance

Though a big man at 6’ 2 1/2” and broad-shouldered, it was his roguish charm and big toothy smile that took up most of the big screen. He often grinned and fought his was across the screen with the biggest Hollywood stars of the day (including Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, John Wayne, and Maureen O’Hara). The ease and charm with which he interacted with his co-stars served to compliment and enhance their own substantial on-screen charisma.

Victor appeared as MacChesney, in the original bromance adventure movie Gunda Din (1939). The chemistry he had with Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks is why this film is in my top 5 films of all time. His comic timing and dialogue delivery was on par with his co-actors. If you’ve not seen it, rent it or buy it. And if you have seen it, might be time to watch it again (so says my Guinness). As you watch these three British sergeants and their native water bearer take on a murder cult in colonial British India, you’ll see a “best buds” heroic action movie DNA that has been passed down and continues to make ripples through many more modern flicks (and not just that poor Temple of Doom movie.)

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In The Quite Man (1952), McLaglen (now late in his career) played the role of Squire “Red” Will Danaher, resident loud-mouthed brother to Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara.) In it, Victor squares off with Sean Thornton (John Wayne) over his sister, a farmstead, and that ornery Irish pride. It’s got romance, drinking, brawling, and… brawling. And the extended cast is a who’s who of some of the best character actors of the day. By the time this was filmed, Victor was 64, but he still gave John Wayne a run for his money with his hulking physical presence and personality (though John Ford and Wayne did have to take it easy on him during filming). His performance got him his second Academy nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

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This post isn’t an exhaustive overview of McLaglen’s life and family; others have done a better job of that. Rather it’s a feel-good loving tribute to someone I love watching on film. But if you want a few other notable movies to watch to get his range, try The Informer (1935) for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) another great pairing with Ford and John Wayne and The Lost Patrol (1934). The last Pre-Code feature has Boris Karloff in it and is a great survival story.

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McLaglen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960. I discovered his films in the early 70’s with my dad and continue to re-watch them today with my Irish wife. That lovable, hard-nosed character actor will always have a place in my heart…and I hope he can find a place in yours.

This is my entry to the 2016 What A Character! Blogathon, hosted by Kellee at Outspoken & Freckled, Aurora at Once Upon A Screen, and Paula at Paula’s Cinema Club, taking place all this weekend. Check all three day’s of posts this weekend for other fascinating character actor profiles. Catch me as @santaisthinking on Twitter.

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It’s here! 5th annual WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON: Day 1

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The day has finally arrived to honor those unsung heroes of the silver screen, the character actor. For the 5th year, the classic film obsessed trio of Aurora aka @CitizenScreen of ONCE UPON A SCREEN, Paula aka @TCM_Party & @Paula_Guthat of PAULA’S CINEMA CLUB and yours truly, Kellee aka @Irishjayhawk66 of OUTSPOKEN & FRECKLED bring you this film community tribute to the marvelous scene-stealers.

DAY ONE:

Movies Silently profiles the popular character actor known for his soothing voice, EDWARD EVERETT HORTON in one of his early talkies, After The Silents: LONELY WIVES 1931.

The Wonderful World of Cinema explains How Arthur Kennedy Changed My Cinematic Life.  As Virginie writes, “Arthur Kennedy was Arthur Kennedy, he couldn’t have been anybody else and nobody could have been him.”

Real Weegie Midget Reviews revisits a tribute post with Looking Back at the Actor, the Voice and Movies of ALAN RICKMAN.

Jack Deth, as guest blogger on Paulas Cinema Club, offers up a “Shot and a Chaser” of two works of M. EMMET WALSH:

As he summarizes, “Though I was well-versed in Walsh’s work prior to these initial meetings, it’s these two roles which reached out, took hold, and shook me to this actor’s grossly underestimated talents.”

Then, Theresa of CINEMAVEN’S Essays From The Couch takes on a “Mighty Roman”, RUTH ROMAN, in her performance in “Tomorrow Is Another Day” 1951. 

As she describes Roman, “There’s a touch of danger in her. Her performances are believable and with conviction. I’m not quite sure why she really wasn’t a bigger star.” Read more to see what Theresa unveils.

Next, Thoughts All Sorts examines the many character lives of MICHAEL WINCOTT.

As this blogger aptly scribes on Wincott, “There was something about him that just drew me in…Or, maybe it’s just that he’s a great artist, understated but vital.” We couldn’t agree more.

Next up, The Last Drive In views All Kinds of Observable Differences in the World of RUTH GORDON for us.

As this blogger writes, “There’s a vast dimension and range to Ruth Gordon’s work both her screenwriting and her acting, the effects leave a glowing trail like a shooting star.” Amen to that!


I will continue to update this list throughout the day and don’t forget to look on twitter for contributor shout-outs, too. So check back frequently! These participating writers continue to educate and dazzle us so I encourage you to not only read, but give lovely feedback, to these fine folks.

Look for day two and day three of this mega blogging event via my co-hosts, Aurora and Paula… much more to enjoy throughout the entire weekend!

A huge THANK YOU to all the contributors and my cinematic charming co-hosts! … Kellee

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