Moontide (1942)

Moontidemoontide poster
Directed by Archie Mayo
Written by John O’Hara from the novel by Willard Robertson
1942/USA
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
First viewing/Fox Film Noir DVD

My agent had told me that he was going to make me the Janet Gaynor of England – I was going to play all the sweet roles. Whereupon, at the tender age of thirteen, I set upon the path of playing nothing but hookers. — Ida Lupino

It was a little hard getting used to Jean Gabin speaking English!  This early film noir is recommendable for its beautiful cinematography.

Bobo (Gabin) is a hard-drinking dockworker with a violent temper and prone to blackouts. His “friend” Tiny (Thomas Mitchell) is Bobo’s self-appointed babysitter.  As the story opens, Tiny is urging Bobo to go to San Diego for work but Bobo drinks on.  Once again Bobo is completely blotto.  When he comes to, he is sleeping in a waterside bait shop owned by some friendly Chinese who offer him work.  He learns that one of his drinking companions from the night before has been strangled.

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While walking on the beach with night watchman and homespun philosopher Nutsy (Claude Rains), Bobo spots a girl walking into the sea fully clothed.  This is Anna, a “hash-house dame”.  Bobo rescues her then lies to the police to prevent them taking her in for attempted suicide. Marie’s domestic care begins to ground Bobo’s life and he asks her to marry him.  But Tiny is not about to lose his meal ticket, and takes drastic action.

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This movie had real potential and perhaps if Fritz Lang had stayed on the project until completion it would have realized it.  As it was, he was replaced by Mayo with three weeks left due to disagreements with Darryl F. Zanuck.  According to the commentary, Gabin was none too pleased with Zanuck’s approach to the material either.

None of this discord was fatal and Moontide, if not great, is very watchable.  The cinematography is innovative and stunning.

Hollywood wasn’t really for Gabin and by 1943 he had returned to Europe to fight with the Free French.

Charles G. Clarke was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White for his work on Moontide.

Clip – Bobo’s bender – Sorry for the Russian overdubbing but you can see the crazy camera work

George Washington Slept Here (1942)

George Washington Slept HereGeorge washington slept here poster
Directed by William Keighley
Written by Everett Freeman from the play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart
1942/USA
Warner Bros.
First viewing/Warner Archive DVD

Moving Man: You know what that dame told me? “George Washington slept here.”

Moving Man: Yeah? I guess that’s what drove them to Valley Forge.

This is another one of those wacky non-stop stage comedies adapted for the screen. It is over the top, but pretty funny.

Bill Fuller (Jack Benny) and his wife Connie (Ann Sheridan) are evicted for the umpteenth time from their city apartment because of their untrained little dog.  Connie is quite the antiques collector and longs for a home of her own.  Although Bill hates the country, she can’t resist the impulse to buy a dilapidated old house where George Washington once allegedly slept.

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Connie’s real estate smarts are not of the best and the couple immediately discovers that the well on the property has gone dry.  The local they put in charge of renovations (Percy Kilbride) is a bottomless pit of supply needs.  Their access road goes through a neighbor’s property and he refuses to let them use it.  Then Connie cannot say no to visits by her bratty nephew and rich uncle (Charles Coburn).  With Hattie McDaniel as the Fuller’s sassy maid.

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It’s a stretch to suspend disbelief for this one but once this is accomplished, it’s an enjoyable romp.

The only thing I knew about Ann Sheridan before I started this blog was that she was known as the “Sweater Girl”.  She is really so much more.  She’s very adept at comedy and always lends a down-to-earth presence to her characters.

Though this was not his first film, Jack Benny started Percy Kilbride (“Pa Kettle”) on his Hollywood career by insisting that he reprise his role in the stage play.  His deadpan delivery is priceless.

George Washington Slept Here was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White.

Trailer

 

 

My Sister Eileen (1942)

My Sister Eileen my sister eileen poster
Directed by Alexander Hall
Written by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov from their play based on stories by Ruth McKenny
1942/USA
Columbia Pictures Corporation
First viewing/Netflix rental

[last lines] Subway Builder: Hey Moe, I think we made da wrong toin!

This is a madcap “laugh a minute” comedy filled with kooky characters that chronicles the adventures of two poverty stricken would-be career girls in New York.  It is based on autobiographical pieces published in the New Yorker magazine.

Ruth (Rosalind Russell) and Eileen (Janet Blair) Sherwood are sisters from Columbus, Ohio who arrive in New York City with $100 between them.  Ruth hopes to find work as a writer and Eileen has her sights set on the stage.  They move into the basement apartment from hell as they set out to find their fortune.  Their window puts them in ear and eye range of the sidewalk, blasting for a new subway line rocks the apartment from early morning until midnight, and a faulty door lock has a series of odd balls dropping in day and night.

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Both of the women are getting nowhere in their chosen professions but Eileen, a man magnet, at least does not have to subsist on pasta and bread like older sister Ruth.  Ruth starts having success first, however, when she meets a man (Brian Ahern) who is trying to bring the “Manhattaner” magazine up-to-date with some human interest stories.  With George Tobias as the sisters’ Greek painter-landlord, Allyn Joslyn as a womanizing reporter, and June Havoc as the former tenant.

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This is funny, if hectic, and Rosalind Russell handles the comedy expertly.  It is all a little too much but does get the flavor of small town girls starting out in the big city with dreams and some talent.

My Sister Eileen was remade in 1955 with Betty Garrett and Janet Leigh. Rosalind Russell reprised her role as Ruth in 1953 in the Leonard Bernstein Broadway musical Wonderful Town; Edie Adams played Eileen.

Rosalind Russell was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in My Sister Eileen.

Clip – Three Stooges Cameo (the best I could do)

I Married a Witch (1942)

I Married a Witchi married a witch poster
Directed by René Clair

Written by Robert Pirosh and Marc Connelly from a story by Thorne Smith
1942/USA

René Clair Productions/Cinema Guild Productions/Paramount Pictures

First viewing/Hulu Plus

J.B. Masterson: Will you try to be a little more pleasant, at least until after the wedding?

Veronica Lake is more animated than usual in this Hollywood fantasy-romance from French emigree René Clair.

In the 17th Century, Puritan Jonathan Wooley (played by Fredric March in all his incarnations) denounces a girl and her father as a witch and sorcerer.  Before being burned at the stake, the daughter Jennifer curses Jonathan and his descendants to suffer from bad marriages.  The bodies are buried under an oak tree where the roots hold their spirits fast for 270 years.  The curse is effective though and we see succeeding generations of Wooleys plagued by marriages to shrews.

Finally, the spirits escape and are incarnated into the bodies of Cecil Kellaway and Veronica Lake.  The father, Daniel, is a thoroughly malevolent character who delights on setting buildings on fire etc.  Jennifer is still fixated on getting revenge on the latest iteration of Wooley, Wallace.  She begins the attack at a pre-wedding party for Wallace, now running for governor, and his horrible fiance Estelle (Susan Hayward).

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After thoroughly mucking up the celebration, Dad suggests that Jennifer torture Wallace by making him fall in love with her.  She concocts a portion for the purpose but accidently winds up drinking it herself.  The rest of the story consists of her comical attempts to “help” Wallace and Dad’s efforts to foil her plans.  With Robert Benchley as Wallace’s friend.

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I enjoyed this one for what it was after having looked forward to seeing it for years.  My reaction may have been tempered by my expectations.  Not bad, though and Kellaway is absolutely delightful.

Legend has it that Lake was so mean to March on set that he took to referring to the film as “I Married a Bitch.”  None of this discord appears on the screen.  Producer Preston Sturges had wanted to reprise Lake’s pairing with Joel McCrea in this film but McCrea refused to work with her again.  Poor Veronica, what a career she might have had if modern psych meds had been available!

Roy Webb was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

Joe Dante on I Married a Witch – Trailers from Hell

For Me and My Gal (1942)

For Me and My Galfor me and my gal poster
Directed by Busby Berkeley
Written by Richard Sherman, Fred F. Finklehoff, and Sid Silvers; Story by Howard Emmett Rogers
1942/USA
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
First viewing/Netflix rental

Harry Palmer: You think anything’s going to stand in the way of us playing the Palace this time? Oh no, not even a war.

I don’t know how I missed this enjoyable musical until now.

The action starts in 1916.  Jo Harding (Judy Garland) is in Jimmy Metcalfe’s (George Murphy) vaudeville act.  Jimmy is clearly in love with her.  Self-absorbed headliner Harry Palmer (Gene Kelly) recognizes her talent and sets about stealing her and more from Jimmy.  She can’t stand him at first but Harry also has the gift of the gab and Jimmy sees the writing on the wall and lets her go.  Jo falls deeply in love with Harry, whose main interest is not romance but opening at the Palace Theater in New York, the mecca of all vaudeville performers.

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Jo and Harry are relegated to playing the sticks for far longer than Harry had anticipated. He briefly flirts with a chanteuse (Martha Eggerth) who could be his ticket to the big time. But when she offers him a solo break he decides to be loyal to Jo.  Then a draft notice conflicts with their golden opportunity to finally play the Palace.  Harry makes the wrong choice and could lose Jo for good.

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The first half of this picture is crammed with delightful musical numbers.  Gene Kelly is absolutely stellar in his film debut and Garland looks lovely in her first “adult” role at the ripe old age of 19.  My favorite of the many great numbers is Gene Kelly’s dance as a hobo/clown in his solo act at the very beginning.  The movie slows down in the second half as the plot concentrates on the love story and some pretty forced patriotic material that was apparently tacked on after Pearl Harbor.  Still, anybody who likes musicals of this era should love this one.

Roger Edens and George Stoll were Oscar-nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.

Judy Garland and Gene Kelly sing and dance to “Ballin’ the Jack”

The Black Swan (1942)

The Black Swan black swan poster
Directed by Henry King
Written by Ben Hecht and Seton I. Miller from the novel by Raphael Sabatini
1942/USA
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

Jamie: In Tortuga when a woman slaps a man’s face, it means she wants him to grab her, over-power her, and smother her with kisses. I understand in Jamaica a gentleman must refuse such overtures.

The pictures I am posting do not do justice to the Technicolor glory that is this swashbuckler.

When pirate chief Henry Morgan (Laird Cregar) is named Governor of Jamaica his crew splits up.  Jamie Waring (Tyrone Power) and Tommy Blue (Thomas Mitchell) remain loyal and go with Morgan to run Jamaica.  Rapscallion Capt. Billy Leech (George Sanders with curly red hair and a bushy beard) continues to plunder the Caribbean.  When Morgan arrives in Jamaica, the former Governor Lord Darby (George Zucco) sabotages his rule (and enriches himself) by providing inside information on British treasure ships to the pirates. Jamie falls in love with Lord Darby’s fiery daughter Lady Margaret (Maureen O’Hara) who won’t give him the time of day.

black swan 1 Margaret is about to be married to one of Lord Darby’s shady henchmen and Jamie abducts her when he sets out to bring Capt. Billy to justice.  Plenty of sea battles and sword fights ensue with a generous dollop of Hollywood romance thrown in for good measure.  With Anthony Quinn as Capt. Billy’s right-hand man.

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This is a classic pirate movie with all the trimmings and it looks simply stunning.  Laird Cregar is super-flamboyant and enjoyable as the heavily bewigged Henry Morgan. If it weren’t for his voice, Sanders would be unrecognizable.  As it is, he does well with a red-blooded part, so uncharacteristic of his many effete roles.  The score is really stirring.  If you like this kind of thing, I recommend it.

The DVD I rented had a wonderful commentary by Rudy Behlmer with Maureen O’Hara. At age 83, she was a trove of information and seemed like a really fun person to know.

Leon Shamroy won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Color for The Black Swan.  The film was also nominated for Oscars for Best Effects, Special Effects and for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Alfred Newman).

Trailer

Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942)

Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin BlakeSon of Fury Poster
Directed by John Cromwell
Written by Philip Dunne from a novel by Edison Marshall
1942/USA
Twentieth Century Fox
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

Eve: You will go! If you stay out of pity, I will throw myself in sea.

This is an OK costume drama notable for a unique chance to see George Sanders boxing bare-chested.

It is sometime in the 18th Century.  Young Ben (Roddy MacDowall)  is being raised by his humble grandfather to become a blacksmith.  The other children tease him because he has no name.  One day, Sir Arthur Blake (Sanders) comes into the shop, announces that Ben is the illegitimate son of his deceased older brother and the gunsmith’s daughter, and takes Ben away to live with him ostensibly to be educated.  Instead, Ben is made an indentured servant and treated even more cruelly than the rest of the heartless Sir Arthur’s minions.  He grows up to be Tyrone Power.

Sir Arthur’s daughter Isabel (Frances Farmer) lusts after the handsome Benjamin and eventually falls in love with him.  Finally, he can bear his mistreatment no more and attacks Sir Arthur.  Now he is a fugitive.  He escapes as a seaman on a vessel headed on an around the world voyage.  He meets fellow seaman Caleb Green who tells him of a fortune in pearls to be found off the coast of a South Sea Island,  They detour the ship and go AWOL on the island.

son of fury 2 The islanders had previously been visited by Spaniards who abused them and are hostile to the two adventurers.  But when Benjamin shows them the scars on his own back the locals accept them with open arms.  Benjamin is promptly enchanted by the beautiful islander he calls “Eve” (Gene Tierney).  He declares her his bride since no one knows when another ship will arrive to take the pearl hunters back to England.

Their ship does come in and the rest of the story is devoted to Benjamin’s adventures as he seeks to redeem his rightful inheritance courtesy of the treasure trove of pearls he brings with him.  With Elsa Lanchester as a prostitute who helps Benjamin escape.

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This is alright but I didn’t find it gripping.  This kind of thing isn’t usually for me though and those who like costume dramas will find this a very polished one.

This was the last film Frances Farmer made before alcoholism and erratic behavior caused her parents to commit her to a series of insane asylums.

Trailer

 

Bambi (1942)

Bambibambi poster
Directed by David Hand et al
Written by Perce Pearce, Larry Morey et al from the story by Felix Salter
1942/USA
Walt Disney Studios
Repeat viewing/Netflix Rental

 

Young Bambi: What happened, Mother? Why did we all run?

Bambi’s Mother: Man was in the forest.

What is it about the folks at Disney and separation anxiety?  This beautifully drawn animated feature takes it to a whole new level.

The fawn Bambi’s father is the Prince of the Forest and Bambi will inherit that title when he grows up.  We see him getting to know new friends in the forest, including the rabbit Thumper, the skunk Flower, and Friend Owl.  The woods are populated with a host of birds and small mammals.  The deer enjoy a life without animal predators.  Everybody sings and plays.

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Spoiler alert.  Then one day, Bambi’s mother takes him to the beautiful meadow.  She warns him that it is very dangerous because there is no way to hide from Man.  Bambi gets to know the female fawn, Faline.  Soon enough, poor Bambi’s mother is shot and killed by hunters.  Bambi goes off with his father, who really hasn’t been in the picture up to now.  Bambi grows up to be a fine young buck.  He pairs off with Faline.  Then come more hunters.  They almost get Bambi.  He survives to confront a massive, very scary forest fire,  Faline is attacked by savage dogs.  Then all of a sudden the circle of life is complete and Bambi is presiding over the birth of twin fawns.

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I haven’t seen this movie since I was a child myself and I didn’t have any desire to see it again until now.  It may have permanently scarred me.  How could Disney do this to us?

The first part of this movie is animated to appeal to very small children.  It has the kind of gentle sweetness that pre-schoolers would like.  All the children go merrily along identifying with Bambi and then they lose their mother?  I’m sure all the events after that are meant to provide drama and excitement but I thought they would be pretty horrifying for someone small.  The animation can’t be faulted though and there is a kind of realism behind the anthropomorphized creatures that is very nice.  The music is pleasant too.

Bambi was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Sound, Recording; Best Music Original Song (“Love Is a Song”); and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

Clip – Spring is in the air

 

Woman of the Year (1942)

Woman of the Yearwoman_of_the_year_poster
Directed by George Stevens
Written by Ring Lardner Jr. and Michael Kanin
1942/USA
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
First viewing/Netflix rental

Sam Craig: I don’t want to be married to Tess Harding any more than I want you to be just Mrs Sam Craig. Why can’t you be Tess Harding Craig?

Tess Harding: I think it’s a wonderful name.

This was the first of the nine pictures in which Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy were paired and the beginning of one of Hollywood’s most iconic love affairs.  Their chemistry fairly explodes from the screen.

Tess Harding (Hepburn) is multi-talented, multi-lingual and knows everybody who is anybody.  She is a political columnist on a New York paper.  During a radio interview she is asked who will win the World Series and replies that people should put such frivolous things as sports aside for the duration.  Sam Craig (Tracy), the sports columnist on the same paper, is mightily offended by this and the two start sparing in their columns.  But when Sam actually meets Tess the attraction is instantaneous.  He asks her out to a baseball game and she falls for him too.  After some very romantic scenes they marry.

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Married life is nothing like what Sam expected or wanted.  Tess is in such demand that they can hardly get a moment alone together, even on their wedding night.  And Tess, despite her true love for Sam, doesn’t seem to understand that there are two people to take into account now.  The final straw comes when she adopts a little Greek refugee without asking Sam about it.  Can such a marriage ever work out?  With Fay Bainter as Tracy’s aunt.

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I had seen so many clips from this film in documentaries that I was sure I had seen it before.  Not so and it has become a new favorite.  I hope Tracy’s wife didn’t see it since it is very clear that the two are madly in love.  This is one of those rare romantic comedies that is also mature and intelligent at the same time.  I absolutely loved it.  Highly recommended.

Woman of the Year won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Screenplay. Katharine Hepburn was nominated as Best Actress.

Tracy and Hepburn meet for the first time in a movie

You Were Never Lovelier (1942)

You Were Never Lovelieryou were never lovelier poster
Directed by William Seiter
Written by Michael Fessier, Ernest Pagano, and Delmer Davies from a story by Carlos Olivari and Sixto Pondal Rios
1942/USA
Columbia Pictures Corporation
First viewing/Netflix rental

Lita Acuña: Just think papa, you’ve been married longer than we’ve lived!

Eduardo Acuña: I consider that a very fortunate coincidence, my dear.

The plot could not be more inane but the songs and dances are very nice.

The irascible nightclub owner Eduardo Acuña (Adolphe Menjou) has four daughters.  He intends to strictly inforce the family tradition that the girls will marry in order by age. Unfortunately for the two youngest girls, who both have longtime fiances, their older sister Maria (Rita Hayworth) has never met a man who captured her imagination.  Acuña himself starts to send Maria anonymous love letters and boxes of orchids every day to get her in the proper mood.

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In the meantime, dancer Robert Davis (Fred Astaire) has gone broke playing the ponies and tries desperately to get an audition with Acuña who takes an instant dislike to him. Robert grabs the orchids one day and delivers them to the house.  When Maria spots him it is love at first sight.  Glad that Maria is in love but disgusted by her choice, Acuña bribes Robert with a job at his club to disillusion the girl.  Needless to say, Acuña is stuck with a son-in-law not of his choosing instead.  With Xavier Cougat and his orchestra.

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The film is blessed with a couple of great standards (“I’m Old-Fashioned” and “Dearly Beloved”) and other good songs, fantastic dancing, and beautiful sets and costumes. Musical lovers need no more for an entertaining romp.  Unfortunately, the movie has one of those “idiot” plots that would fall apart like a house of cards if even one of the protagonists acted like a normal human being for five minutes straight.  It’s also the kind of story where love turns on and off on a dime that I find particularly irritating.  I enjoyed the film any way.

You Were Never Lovelier was Oscar-nominated for Best Sound, Recording; Best Music, Original Song (“Dearly Beloved” by Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer); and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (Leigh Harline).

Fred Astaire sings “Dearly Beloved”