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Archive for the ‘mgm movies’ Category

a 1928 Joan Crawford pantyhose adI didn’t realize it, but tomorrow morning – Wednesday, March 12 – TCM is showing three of Joan Crawford’s early performances: Our Dancing Daughters (1928) at 6:00 am, Our Modern Maidens (1929) at 7:30 am, and Our Blushing Brides (1930) at 9:00 am. The first two are silents, while the latter is a talkie. Even though I’m not really into silents (sorry!), I’m always interested in watching performances of actresses I like. They’re also rarely shown–I think this is the first time in ages that the “Our” trilogy is being aired in a consecutive block.

Our Dancing Daughters is the film that catapulted Joan to stardom, while in the second, she stars with her second husband, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. It would be the only time they would appear together in a film. According to the IMDB trivia page for Our Modern Maidens, Crawford married Fairbanks “in a well orchestrated publicity event for the film.” Which I’m not sure is true. That makes it sound as though Crawford only married him for the movie, which adds to her already tarnished image. In reality, their marriage was a real, yet passionate one. In the book Not the Girl Next Door by Charlotte Chandler, an interview with Fairbanks states, “We felt we had a lot in common, if not everything. Our backgrounds are not the same. In real estate, they say–location, location, location. In our relationship it was Sex! Sex! Sex! That was what we had in common.” Heh.

Crawford constantly called Fairbanks’ her “Prince Charming.” This only intensified when Fairbanks scared off a man who claimed he had a copy of a rather risque film Joan had made when she was financially strapped for cash. I’ve always wondered about that rumor myself. Apparently Joan had made such a film (which has either disintegrated or is currently rotting away in someone’s attic as we speak). When she told Fairbanks about it, she claimed not to have done anything terrible in it, but the fact that she was present made it embarrassing enough. The rumor is also addressed in the 60’s trashy-but-fun melodrama, The Carpetbaggers, in which the Jennie Denton character (played by Martha Hyer) is loosely based on Joan Crawford.

However, the marriage between Crawford and Fairbanks ended when she not only put her career first, but changed as a person. As Fairbanks put it, “As I knew her, her laugh changed more than any other thing about her. It grew softer, more modulated, less spontaneous…she didn’t want her background to show.” The divorce was her idea and Fairbanks assumed that they would eventually get back together again. They didn’t. Joan would go on to marry (and eventually divorce) Franchot Tone in 1935 after falling in love with him during the shoot of Today We Live (1933). Despite this, you can see Crawford and Fairbanks together, at the height of their passion, in Our Modern Maidens.

For anyone wanting more info on Our Dancing Daughters, this page includes vintage reviews and images, while this site has extensive reviews on both, Our Dancing Daughters and Our Modern Maidens.

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The movie poster for “Viva Las Vegas” (1964)I’m not a big fan of Elvis’ movies–but my father is. In fact, he’s such a fan, he has dvd’s of almost every movie Elvis has made (with the exception of Loving You, since that one is out of print) so by proxy, I now know the complete Elvis filmography and the songs that open each movie. Perhaps one day, I’ll wind up on a game show and put this knowledge to good use but for now, I’ll just write about it here.

The only Elvis movie I’ve seen in it’s entirety is Viva Las Vegas (1964), which is probably the most popular of all his films. It co-stars Ann-Margret, who at the time was being labeled as “The Female Elvis” since she not only exuded sex appeal, but could sing as well. To be honest, watching her numbers during Viva Las Vegas is somewhat painful. Her contest performance reminds me of something out of an aerobics video, but then I’m not a guy who would probably enjoy watching Ann-Margret jump around in a skimpy leotard. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’d enjoy watching Elvis jump around in a skimpy leotard either.

The plot is pretty standard: Elvis is Lucky Jackson, a race car driver who heads to Las Vegas in order to compete in the city’s Grand Prix race. He meets swimming instructor, Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret), and falls in love with her. There’s also a rival for her affections named Count Elmo Mancini, but since it’s an Elvis movie, you know the Count isn’t going to get her, no matter how many twists and turns the movie takes. The ending kind of throws me off though–after the car race, what ever happened to the Count? I know his car crashed, but did he die? The wedding scene is kind of hastily thrown in as well, and the closing shot consists of the separate performances of Elvis and Ann-Margret’s numbers from the contest. It’s a very rushed ending. I would have liked to see them together, one more time–but you know, this is an Elvis movie and from what I know, this one had a pretty decent plot compared to the others (I’ve seen bits of Stay Away, Joe just for Joan Blondell and let me tell you, scrubbing the bathroom would have been preferable).

The highlight of the movie is, of course, the musical numbers. I never was a big fan of Elvis’ music, but since I wind up hearing so many of the songs from the movies now, I’ve come to really appreciate it. One of my favorite musicals numbers (and I should add here, one of my favorites ever) is the lively, “What’d I Say?”, which takes place on a huge roulette wheel. While Elvis’s rendition is fantastic, the choreography and energy of the other couples involved is top-notch. I particularly enjoy the part when the one couple keeps flipping each other over (at the 2:05 mark), as well as the closing section when everyone starts dancing around the wheel. It’s moments like this that makes you thankful for Cinemascope.

Throughout the film and during this number, the chemistry between Elvis and Ann-Margret is overwhelming. I can only imagine what it was like to be on the set at the time. It’s said that Elvis and Ann-Margret had a huge affair during the making of Viva Las Vegas, but in her autobiography, she stayed relatively quiet on the whole matter, only commenting that Elvis was her “soulmate.” I think that’s tremendously classy on her part.

The song “What’d I Say” was originally written by Ray Charles as was a result of an impromptu performance. Charles had to fill up extra time during one of his nightclub shows and working off a keyboard riff and drum beat, he began improvising on the spot. Despite objections from Atlantic Records, claiming that it was too risque (Charles said the call and response section of the song was about making love), “What’d I Say” was released in the summer of 1959 and became a huge hit.

In April of ’64, Elvis’s version of “What’d I Say” was released as the b-side to “Viva Las Vegas”, but wound up doing better on the charts. “Viva Las Vegas” peaked at Number 29, while “What’d I Say” did eight slots better, making its highest showing at Number 21. It’s funny to think that “Viva Las Vegas” wasn’t a top ten hit back then, since now it’s one of his best known songs. It’s even butchered in one of those klassy Viagra commercials, which makes me cringe every time I see it on tv.

Still, “What’d I Say?” a fun song to listen to and I can’t help but do that little shaking move that Elvis and Ann-Margret do throughout the number when it pops up on my iPod. I mean, how can you not? If this song doesn’t make you want to shake it, you might be dead.

Download: “What’d I Say?” by Elvis Presley (2.8 MB) – Do not direct-link download. A new page will open when you click on the link and then download it from there.

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For the most part, my favorite guilty pleasure movies are those that MGM made in the 60’s: Where the Boys Are (1960), Joy in the Morning (1965) and my all time favorite, Come Fly With Me (1963). So it seemed natural that I would enjoy Made in Paris (1966), a movie that centers around Ann-Margret going to Paris as a fashion buyer and winds up falling in love with Louis Jourdan (see the trailer here).

I was wrong. I barely made it through the first 30 minutes and it’s my theory, that if you’re paying more attention to something trite, like filing your fingernails or staring at the ceiling and thinking about what you’re going to have for breakfast, then it’s time to switch dvd’s.

Movie poster from “Made in Paris” (1966) - Click for larger image


However, one good thing did come out of watching Made in Paris and that was hearing the theme song which ran over the opening credits. The second I heard it, I ran to my computer and tried to find an MP3 of the song. When I finally found it, I put it on repeat and fell in love. Penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, “Made in Paris” is two minutes of fantastic sixties mod pop, backed by a splendid orchestral arrangement. Trini Lopez handles the vocals and in a year, he’d go on to star in another MGM movie with a much better plot, The Dirty Dozen. Here, he’s urging us to “find your dream, find your love!” Like most Bacharach/David songs, the lyrics are sugary enough to give anyone diabetes. But it’s the song itself that’s fantastic. The best part of “Made in Paris” comes right in the middle, where the melody soars and kicks into high gear before moving back into the chorus. It’s an ecstatic musical moment, the kind that makes me want to don a pair of white go-go boots, pull on a sheath dress, tease up my hair and do the pony. I love sixties music!

When “Made in Paris” was released in January of 1966, it was somewhat out of step with the times: Simon and Garfunkel had just released “The Sound of Silence”, while The Beatles had back-to-back hits with “We Can Work It Out” and one of my favorites, “Day Tripper.  On the Billboard charts, “Made in Paris” came in at #113–it’s polished orchestral pop sound was pretty much out of vogue by then, unable to compete with the new folksy sound and electric rock. Today, it’s still a fairly obscure song, regulated to spots on Bacharach compilation cd’s and rare showings of Made in Paris which pop up on TCM every now and then. It’s a great song though and never fails to cheer me up whenever I’m feeling a bit down.

Download: “Made In Paris” by Trini Lopez (2.7 MB)

Do not direct-link download; page will open in new window and download it from there.

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Arthur Kennedy as Barney Castle

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I absolutely adore Arthur Kennedy. This is going to sound a little weird, but out of all the classic movie actors I love, he is the one I spend the most time obsessing over (watching his films, reading about, collecting memorabilia, etc.) Not only do I think he’s a wonderful actor, but he’s one of the most handsomest, attractive actors that I’ve ever seen.

What? Stop looking at me like that.

It was after seeing his performance as Jim Lefferts in Elmer Gantry (1960) that I became interested in his work and from then on, I started taping and watching every movie of his I could get my hands on. I figured it would be just a phase–after all, I went through my Joseph Cotten, Martin Balsam, and Alan Arkin phases and came out fairly unscathed. That was two years ago and Arthur Kennedy still holds a high place in my heart, only slightly challenged by my relatively newfound love for Robert Ryan. One day, I’ll bore everyone with nice, long entries about both of them in “Classic Movie Actors I Obsess Over” posts.

trial1955_small.jpgBut instead of that, I’d like to recommend for you the 1955 courtroom drama, Trial, which airs February 29 at 8 am on TCM. Set those VCR’s or DVD/DVR Recorders! Although it boasts an impressive cast that’s headed by Glenn Ford and Dorothy McGuire, it remains a relatively obscure film today. Directed by Mark Robson, Trial is the story of a young Mexican boy named Angel Chavez (Rafael Campos), who gets caught up in the murder of a caucasian girl. Racial tensions already run high through the town and the accusation against Chavez only adds fuel to the fire. Enter David Blake (Glenn Ford), a law professor who finds out that he needs more courtroom experience in order to keep his job at the University. Blake goes from lawyer to lawyer and is rejected by all–except for Barney Castle (Kennedy), who is also handling the controversial Chavez case. Working for Castle is his attractive assistant, Abbe Nyle (Dorothy McGuire), who has a somewhat shady past of her own. As Chavez’s case gains momentum and his trial begins, Castle heads off to New York City with Mrs. Chavez (Katy Jurado) to raise money for his defense fund. Soon after, Blake joins them, only to find out that Castle is using Angel as a cover to raise funds for the Communist Party. I’m not going to spoil the rest of the story for you though–you’ll have to watch it yourself.

Rafael Campos and Glenn FordDorothy McGuire, Katy Juardo, Arthur Kennedy
The cast of Trial: Rafael Campos, Glenn Ford, Dorothy McGuire, Katy Juardo and Arthur Kennedy

Trial is directed by Mark Robson, a director who has been forgotten over time except by die hard classic movie fans. But one look at his filmography and you’ll see that he directed many important classics: Peyton Place, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness and The Harder They Fall as well as the late-60’s cult classic, Valley of the Dolls. Despite it’s obscure status, Trial is probably one of his best works. Before filming, Robson insisted his actors attend rehearsals and I’ve noticed that it always pays off in the end, especially in an ensemble movie like Trial. Everyone works off one another seamlessly and the dialogue is sharp. It’s as though you’ve stepped into a real-life situation, not a Hollywood movie.

And of course there’s Arthur Kennedy. As the slick, manipulative Barney Castle, there’s no doubt that he has the best role in the movie. There are so many facets to his character. At first, he comes across as the overbearing lawyer who seems to have Chavez’s best interests at heart. But by the time Blake arrives in New York City, Castle’s cover is blown: he’s really a card-carrying Communist who only cares about raising money for the “All People’s Party.” When Blake finds out, he’s livid. He argues that the majority of the All People’s Party are Communists, to which Castle flippantly replies that it’s actually “about 60% and some of them are cheating the party out of it’s dues.” Blake tells him he wants none of the Party’s money for Chavez’s defense fund and without missing a beat, Castle sneers, “You want nice honorable American money, not dirty Commie money.” He’s heartless. It suddenly becomes clear: Angel Chavez has ceased to be a human being. He’s strictly a commodity. Castle has dollar signs for eyes and he’s completely soulless. Kennedy plays the character to the hilt, making him equal parts despicable and smarmy.

Barney Castle, crowd charmer

The backdrop of the Free Angel Chavez rallyHowever, it’s Kennedy’s performance at the “Free Angel Chavez” rally that shows the true test of his acting skills. With banners boasting messages like “Peace” and “Freedom”, Castle works the assembled crowd of thousands before him like an old pro, winning them over with his charm and charisma, but not before launching into what he calls (in private, of course) “The Sea of Green bit.” He asks the entire audience to hold up one dollar bills, and then tells them to close their eyes, promising the money will still be there when they open them back up. He’s lying of course. A man like Barney Castle has never told a truth in his life. And when the disgruntled crowd finds out that they’ve been had, Castle just laughingly tells them, “Don’t trust anybody!” and they eat it up. It’s amazing to watch Kennedy work the volunteers that quickly move around to collect the money. He hustles them, quickly moving back and forth from each side of the stage, while clapping his hands to encourage them. It’s an amazing performance to watch–one that simultaneously impresses and angers you.

Taking on a such a role in the 50’s was fairly dangerous: thanks to McCarthyism, Communist paranoia was still rampant. The liberal Kennedy once donated money to the New York Post, supporting editorials that lambasted McCarthy for all the damage he was doing. After seeing his name attached to one of these anti-McCarthy advertisements, a man contacted Kennedy thinking he was giving money to the Communist Party. Luckily, Kennedy’s cousin was a leading man in the New England chapter of the FBI and this cleared him. Or was it the fact that he was Irish and served in WWII’s Motion Picture Unit? It seems that other liberal Irish actors who served in the war (Gene Kelly and Robert Ryan first come to mind) also escaped the era unscathed based on the fact that they were Irish and Catholic, therefor no Irish Catholics could ever be Communists. The mindset of that era boggles my mind sometimes.

Barney Castle, working the crowd into a frenzyRobson was what Kennedy called “his lucky rabbit’s foot”. This would be his third Robson-directed performance to be nominated for an Oscar, the other ones being Champion (1949) and as a lead actor, Bright Victory (1951). Kennedy would lose the Oscar to Jack Lemmon for Mister Roberts, and would be nominated for one more Robson directed picture, Peyton Place (1957). His final supporting actor nomination came for his turn as a philandering husband in Vincent Minnelli’s Some Came Running (1958). However, Kennedy did win the Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for Trial, so it was nice to see that the Hollywood Foreign Press recognized his outstanding work as Barney Castle. I’m not sure if any other actor could pull such a smarmy characterization off like Kennedy did. There was something so real about him. It wasn’t just in the delivery of his lines, but the expression on his face, the movement of his body–not to mention his arrogant nature. By the end of the film, Castle turns out to be such a horrible person, you’re practically hissing at the screen.

Of course this review might be somewhat biased since I’m such a huge fan of Arthur Kennedy. I could rattle off at least 10 other films where I think he put in outstanding work, but I won’t. I’ll save those for other posts. But if you’re into well-written and acted courtroom dramas from the 50’s or want to see one of Hollywood’s most popular supporting actors doing some of his best work, I wholeheartedly suggest you give Trial a chance. And if you don’t like it, you can come here and tell me that I have lousy taste in movies.

Information about Kennedy taken from Arthur Kennedy, Man of Characters by Meredith C. Macksoud, with Craig R. Smith and Jackie Lohrke. One of my all time favorite biographies!

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I’ve come to realize that part of the problem of updating this blog is, well, me. For the past few entries, I’ve been trying to write substantial entries and it’s slightly hard because I’ve been trying to supress my somewhat rough-around-the edges nature. Combine that with the fact that like, two people, visit this on a daily basis (not counting the person who found this site by looking up the phrase “Trog stories + spanking”. Seriously, are there people looking for that kind of stuff? If you’re still hanging around–who are you? And are there really stories like that? Really? Joan Crawford delivering a good ol’ fashioned wallop on Trog’s furry behind? Let me know who you are and where the goods are to be found. Not that I’m interested in that kind of stuff. Really.)

Anyway, I found that I can’t be that kind of blogger anymore. It’s like a “nightclub hostess” (wink wink) trying to reinvent herself as a grand lady. You can take the girl out of the nightclubs, but you can’t take the nightclub out of the girl. So if there’s a shift in narrative, you now know why. Congrats, give yourself a cookie.

Original movie poster for The Dirty DozenWhich leads me to something that both Paris Hilton and I have in common (it’s not a sex tape, appearing in movies that leave theaters empty or performing in burlesque shows with the Pussycat Dolls–although the latter kind of sounds like it would be fun, as long as I don’t have to take it all off): making lists. I know a lot of people say lists are for lazy people and I know that others out and out despise them, but I love them. And with that, I give you 5 Good Reasons on Why The Dirty Dozen Isn’t Just a Movie For Guys. It’s on TCM tomorrow night–Thursday, February 21st at 8 pm–and if you’re a girl who has ever skipped over this because you’re thinking about that scene in Sleepless in Seattle where Tom Hanks and some other guy are crying over this movie, while Rosie O’Donnell and Tom Hanks’ real life wife (her name escapes me now. I’m not even sure if it’s those two. I saw that movie when I was a teenager. I can barely remember what happened yesterday) are bawling over An Affair to Remember, it’s time to clear your memory and start fresh.

(For the record, I would watch The Dirty Dozen over An Affair to Remember any day. I’m not that big on chick flicks, mainly because I wind up crying and I HATE crying in front of other people. You should have seen me after The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. You would have thought my dog just died. I usually have to lie that I’m getting something to drink and then run into the kitchen so I can bawl silently into a dishtowel and dishtowels aren’t tissues. They really leave your skin raw. Towel burn. It’s a really unattractive look.)

Anyway, 5 Good Reasons Why The Dirty Dozen Isn’t Just a Movie For Guys:

Kicking ass and taking names!1. Lee Marvin. Not only is he an awesome actor, but he’s probably the granddaddy of men with prematurely grey hair (Oh please, everyone swoons over Anderson Cooper and his grey hair. Lee Marvin totally beat him by what? 30 years? Take that, Anderson). Director Robert Aldrich originally wanted John Wayne to take on the Major Reisman role, but The Duke turned him down and went on to make The Green Berets instead. And since Aldrich has a knack for using the same actors in his films, Lee Marvin took the role instead. To which I say, Thank God! I have nothing against John Wayne, but Lee Marvin has that quiet intensity. He doesn’t come out and say he’s going to kick your ass, he just does it. And that’s hot.

2. The credits. I know you’re thinking, “The Credits?” But Robert Aldrich has a knack for making the credits into a work of art (also see: The Flight of the Phoenix and Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte). As Reisman walks past “The Dirty Dozen”, the names of the cast roll past the screen. Okay, they’re not in order of how he announces them, but it’s still visually pleasing. It really grabs your attention and as someone with undiagnosed ADD, this is important. Of course, credits alone aren’t going to make the movie. It helps that…

3. The Dirty Dozen a really funny movie. Originally, it was supposed to be a flat-out adventure movie. Aldrich and Lukas Heller (who co-collaborated on many of Aldrich’s scripts) remade the movie into a comedy/action picture. And it works! Would The Dirty Dozen be legendary without Donald Sutherland impersonating a General or without the Dozen taking on Col. Everett Dasher Breed’s (played by one of my favorites, Robert Ryan) squad in a war game? Oh, hell no. When I first watched it, this exchange between Reisman and the psychopath Maggot (Telly Savalas) completely won me over:

Reisman: Any questions?
Maggot: Sir? Do we have to eat with N******?

(Maggot is then jumped by Jefferson (Jim Brown) while Reisman leaves the room. He closes the door and you can hear a huge fight beginning to break out.)

Sergeant Clyde Bowren (Richard Jaeckel): What’s going on, sir?
Reisman: Oh, the gentleman from the South had a question about the dining arrangements. He and his comrades are discussing place settings now.

Now, that’s original screenwriting. It was also my first clue to how The Dirty Dozen wasn’t just an ordinary war movie. Good dialogue wins me over and if you can make me laugh within the first half hour of a war movie, then you’ve probably earned a spot on my all-time favorites movie list. Good job.

4. It boasts great performances by the other cast members: Ernest Borgnine, George Kennedy, Ralph Meeker and Richard Jaeckel (all favorites of Aldrich) give good, solid performance as higher-ups in charge and as members of the Dozen, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker (who really doesn’t like to be pushed and he’ll be happy to tell you that–repeatedly) and in a bit of WTF? casting, Trini Lopez (according to the trailer, his character Jiminez is “filled with hate”, which he’s totally not. He’s the only member of the Dozen who cracks a smile. Give the man his guitar strings!), Of course, there’s also John Cassavetes as the somewhat insane, crazy eyed Franko. He was the only cast member to receive an Oscar nomination (Supporting Actor, lost to fellow Dozen cast member George Kennedy for Cool Hand Luke), which is a shame. The Academy could have certainly started giving out group nominations, which is exactly what this cast deserves.

5. The climatic scene where The Dozen finally infiltrate the Nazi castle. It’s the whole point of the story, but it’s sure fun to get there. This is where the majority of the action lays and while it’s exciting, it’s also heartbreaking to see the members of The Dozen go down one by one. I’m not going to say which ones live or die. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself going “NO!” as each member gets killed. You can thank that reaction to good character development. borgnineryan.jpgIf Aldrich and Heller had just left the script as it was, you probably would have a had a bunch of cardboard cutouts and you wouldn’t have cared if they lived or died. But by the end of this movie, you feel for each of the guys. You cheer them on. During the war games section, you’re rooting for them to show up the tyrannical rule of Col. Breed. Once unified by their hatred for Reisman, they’re banded together by the end using the “mess with one of us, and you mess with ALL of us” philosophy (this theme would be further explored to a much more violent extent in Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 western classic The Wild Bunch. Oddly enough, Borgnine and Ryan could thank The Dirty Dozen for their roles in that movie–they were both cast on the strength of their performances in this film).

And of course, I failed to mention that the final moments of this movie have a really, really awesome explosion scene. I know how odd it is for me, as a woman, to cheer on this type of movie making–but I can’t help it. I love a really good explosion scene. Other ones of note are in Castle Keep (1969) and Catch-22 (1970). The dynamite factories must have been working overtime in the late 60’s/early 70’s.

It’s also interesting to mention that Aldrich was repeatedly told “Save the women, get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture and Director” and he refused. His answer was “War is Hell”. It’s a pretty fair conclusion. The Nazis didn’t discriminate gender when they were throwing Jews into the concentration camps, did they? There’s a reason Robert Aldrich is my favorite director and his decision to keep the final scene intact is one of them.

So there you have it. A somewhat short list (I actually could have gone on forever, but I didn’t want to give all the good stuff away) of why I love The Dirty Dozen. You don’t have to be a guy to enjoy this movie. No, you just have to be someone who enjoys good moviemaking, great character development, witty dialogue and have a sense of humor while your at it. Movies shouldn’t be gender-specific. True movie lovers ignore genres and look for a substantial plot instead. And if you limit your genre watching, you’ll grow stagnant! And who wants to do that?

And come on, what woman doesn’t like to sit around and watch a bunch of guys kicking ass? The guys that make up The Dirty Dozen are MEN–give me that over the modern, sensitive pretty boys any day*.

*Okay, I wouldn’t go for any of the nutjobs like Maggot or the rapists. But Bronson’s Wladislaw wasn’t that bad. He shouldn’t have gotten caught doing what he did, that’s all. And I’m sure Jiminez would sing you love songs. Maybe. Unless he got really ticked off and decided to strangle you with a guitar string.

Tomorrow, Why I Love Clifton Webb.

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woman of the year

Without Love (1945) was the first Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn movie I saw when I began my classic film phase and I loved it upon first viewing. Unlike a lot of the romantic comedies made today, I thought it was sophisticated and funny, with just enough drama to keep me wondering how it was going to all turn out. Of course the great supporting performances by Lucille Ball and Keenan Wynn helped, but after Without Love, I was hooked on the Tracy/Hepburn pairing. Who wouldn’t be? They had incredible chemistry together. Even when their characters weren’t in love, they looked at each other with such love and adoration in their eyes. It’s hard to resist a pairing like that.

Like a lot of classic movie fans, I favor Tracy and Hepburn’s romantic comedies. Adam’s Rib, Pat and Mike and Desk Set are my favorites, while the aforementioned Without Love and the rarely seen State of the Union follow closely behind. I’m not too big on their dramas, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is just okay. It’s depressing to see Tracy in his final film, and I’m not too big on social message pictures either.

One of the last Tracy/Hepburn movies I saw was oddly enough, their first pairing: Woman of the Year (1942). I was ecstatic to see it scheduled on TCM because I figured I would love it.

I was wrong.

Maybe I should correct myself: I loved it until that final scene where Tess Harding (Hepburn) makes a total and complete fool of herself in that kitchen. It’s absurd and infuriating that such a smart, brilliant woman would be a total disaster. I can understand Tess’s inability to cook, because I’ve encountered some people like that in my life. But when they close up on the scene of an overflowing waffle maker? Forget it. They lost me. Anyone would be smart enough to know that the batter was overflowing. But not Tess Harding! She’s absolutely incompetent! And boy, does George Stevens want you to know it.

The original ending was to be Tess and Sam Craig (Tracy) at a baseball game, where her enthusiasm for the game overpowers his. She begins yelling and screaming at the players on the field, overshouting Craig. Test audiences hated it. As the producer, Joseph L. Mankiewicz put it: “The average housewife was going to look up at this beautiful, brilliant accomplished goddess up there on the screen and well, hate her guts.” I’m not sure why they would, although perhaps housewives would feel threatened at seeing someone ‘have it all’. Thus, the new ending was written and filmed, causing test audiences to go nuts for the picture. Hepburn hated it. She hated seeing how the strong woman finally “got hers” and I have to agree. As someone who broke the mold and –gasp!– wore pants, Hepburn had to be dying inside at seeing her character made such a fool of. And it bothers me to see such a strong, confident woman being reduced to something that should be laughed at. How dare Tess become an enthusiastic baseball fan! Who does she think she is?

The whole ending shows you how different society was in those days. Nowadays, most guys I know love it if their girlfriends/wives are interested in sports. It’s sexy, not threatening. But in the 40’s, the woman’s place was in the home and kitchen and to have Tess become a sports fan whose love for the game overshadows her husbands? Well, that certainly wasn’t ladylike!

How times have changed.

So you don’t get me wrong (and I have to phrase this carefully, so it doesn’t come out sounding wrong), I have no problems in making a man happy. In my past relationships, I’ve always gotten a kick out of doing something good for a boyfriend. That’s part of the give and take in relationships. So maybe that’s why my perfect Tracy and Hepburn relationship is summed up in Pat and Mike (1952). Ten years later and now she’s the star athlete. The tide was already turning.

What I love about this movie is that Tracy doesn’t look down at Pat because she’s into sports. If anything, that’s what interests him–granted, it’s because he can make money off of her, but without the sports, Pat would just be another woman. It’s her domineering fiance, Collier, that makes her uncomfortable. Just one glance at him and Pat is suddenly losing at every single game, whether it be golf or tennis. I also find it interesting that while being an athlete, Hepburn’s Pat is much more feminine than many of her other characters–love is a big deal for her. She doesn’t give Collier any sort of big, feminist speeches–even when she jumps off the train, it’s more free-spirited than an act of major defiance.

The gender balance shifts when Pat beats up the thugs that are harassing Mike– while an entire audience watches, of course. It’s one thing to be a great female athlete, it’s another to turn the tables and have a woman defend the man. How humiliating!

Even in the jail scene (featuring a hilarious Charles “Buchinski” Bronson as one of the thugs), Pat’s vocal manner is soft and delicate, almost as though she’s describing a play she had just watched. Since Mike’s ego has been bruised, Pat now knows it’s up to her to make things right. And this is why I love the ending: Mike has to be her savior, her knight in shining armor, her man, just to make him feel better. It lets him know that she really does love and respect him and it’s really sweet. Hepburn’s Pat just wants to make him happy, just like Tess in Woman of the Year. Only this time she gets to keep her dignity intact.

I write this because Woman of the Year was playing on TCM this weekend and I tried to give it another chance, only to get all riled up at the ending. The best I can say about the infamous kitchen scene is that without it, the public probably wouldn’t have wanted to see anymore Tracy and Hepburn films. And that? Would have been a tragedy. Hepburn’s dignity was traded in for better stories, such as Adam’s Rib and Desk Set, which allowed her to be smart and succumb to Tracy’s masculine charms. Sure, the public loved to see Tracy stick out his big bear paw and smack Hepburn down. I like to see it too. That’s what made their films so charming. I just don’t like to see it at the expense of someone’s dignity, no matter how funny it may seem, that’s all.

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Commercials are getting worse and worse these days, especially those sandwiched between the various court and talk shows that litter daytime tv. One of my guilty pleasures–when I’m not watching a good movie–is watching Judge Mathis. And that’s when I saw this brilliant commercial for J.G. Wentworth, a place that will give you quick cash for a winning lawsuit:

That’s right. It’s a Network (1976) parody. The first time I saw it, I was a bit dumbfounded, the second I couldn’t stop laughing and by the millionth, I was completely bewildered. Honestly, what marketing genius thought: “Hey! You know what we should do for our next ad? Make a parody of the ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!’ scene from Network. What a GREAT IDEA! And while we’re at it, let’s get some horrible actors to open the windows and scream some lines.” Kudos to the guy shaking his hands at the end. Seriously, give this man an Oscar!

What are the odds that a movie about commercialism, ratings drama and network broadcasting would spawn a commercial that parodies one of the most pivotal scenes in the entire film? It’s so absurd, it could be playing at the end of the film along with the news report about Howard Beale’s death and the cereal commercials.

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