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What to Watch — Nov. 16: Nothing Sacred

Turner Classic Movies will air a new Technicolor print of the Carole Lombard vehicle Nothing Sacred Nov. 16 as part of the month’s tribute to blonde actresses. The version TCM has been airing has been a rather grainy version, the color on which looks more like a black and white film that has been colorized than one that was actually filmed with the new technology. Besides being Lombard’s only color picture, it was also the first color flick to use process effects, montage and rear screen projection.

Nothing Sacred (1937)

Nothing Sacred is among Lombard’s fantastic screwball comedies, and she marked the film as her favorite. The great comedienne plays a small town girl who has radium poisoning and is destined to die. Fredric March as a New York newspaperman seeks a story on the girl and takes her to the big city to add some joy to her bleak future, all to the benefit of the paper. Lombard’s Hazel becomes the city’s sweetheart and everyone seeks to show her a good time, but she soon learns she is not actually dying, which puts the paper and the woman at risk of feeling the wrath of duped New Yorkers.

Lombard plays a great oddball in the big city as the screwball genre suited her better than any other, in my opinion. All kinds of nonsense abound as she and her doctor try to maintain the secret of her health and protect the career of the reporter she has come to love. The movie manages a happy ending, although the original script lacked one. Penned by Ben Hecht based on a short story “Letter to the Editor”, disputes between Hecht and Producer David O. Selznick led to some new writers taking over and giving us the ending that I think produced a better result than the planned black comedy.

Lombard was right to call this her favorite movie as it really shows off her talents, though I wouldn’t call it my favorite (see instead Mr. and Mrs. Smith or To Be or Not to Be). Although she was known to not be fond of March, the two got along great on this picture with all kinds of shenanigans going on off-screen. Although I have already seen this one twice, I am looking forward to the supposed improved print and seeing Lombard in at least better-looking color.

It's not all romance for a fake sick girl and an unscrupulous reporter.

  • Nothing Sacred is set for 8 p.m. ET Nov. 16 on TCM.

Source: TCM.com


Fanny (1961)

Ring a Ding Ding

Fanny (1961)

     What is it about a story of young love interrupted by life’s challenges, leaving two people forever apart but always longing, that tugs at the heartstrings? The story of Fanny might be nothing new, merely a re-assembling of plots from other classic stories (“The Count of Monte Cristo” and “Wuthering Heights” come to mind) and a story in its third screen incarnation, but it remains a somewhat unpredictable romance as one is unsure how things will unravel. I would not say grab the tissues, but, ladies, prepare to sigh.

     Leslie Caron‘s Fanny and Horst Buchholz‘s Marius grew up together in the waterfront town of Marseilles. Fanny works with her mother (Georgette Anys) as fish mongers while Marius helps run a bar with this father, Cesare (Charles Boyer). As we enter the action, it is Fanny’s 18th birthday and she has the day off to wear a sleeveless “skimpy” dress. Marius is also secretly planning to join a ship crew transporting scientists leaving port the next day for a five-year duration. For some inexplicable reason, Marius longs for a life at sea, having overblown fantasies about what exotic islands are like. Fanny has been flirting with Marius all day, but the boy is too dense to do anything about. When the girl leads on the 58-year-0ld Panisse (Maurice Chevalier) in front of him, however, Marius puts on quite the angry show that ends with the two men strangling each other. Cesare breaks up the fight between his son and his best friend/enemy.

     That night, Fanny comes to Marius as he is closing the bar and the two sneak off to the pier (the girl’s mother is out of town). Fanny declares her obvious love for the boy and proclaims she knows he feels the same, but Marius tries to resist kissing the girl in his arms as he explains his sailor ambitions. The two eventually lock lips in an exceedingly romantic moment as Marius reveals he has thus far avoided a seaward voyage because of the young woman. The next scene is Fanny’s mother returning home to find two liqueur glasses and a man’s belt at her kitchen table, Marius in her daughter’s bed. She runs to Cesare furious and the two plot a marriage between the two. When the couple arrives, they are agreeable, but hearing his father’s plans for his life visibly upsets Marius. Fanny convinces him at the last minute to board the sailing vessel by telling him she plans to marry the rich Panisse.

     Both Cesare and Fanny mourn the fleeing of the young man, but the situation worsens when a forthcoming child is discovered. Fanny’s mother insists she marry Panisse, who is all too happy to be getting a child with the arrangement as no one in his family produced an heir. Cesare learns of the situation and becomes agreeable when he is allowed to be godfather, giving him an excuse to be involved in the life of his actual grandson. Almost two years later Marius is on leave for a few hours and visits Fanny where he puts together the puzzle of the child’s origin. He is hurt and ashamed and wants to take over –and Panisse is willing to step down– but Fanny refuses despite still loving the man. Jump about 10 years ahead where the story will end. Marius has been out of contact with everyone he once knew. The Panisse’s are living happily away from the waterfront, but the child has a longing to go to sea.

    The origin of this production of Fanny can be traced back to a French play by Marcel Pagnol, which was made into a movie in both France and then America in the 1930s. Hollywood also made an adaptation called The Port of Seven Seas, but that version varied greatly from the original story. This approach was actually a translation of a Broadway musical version with book by Joshua Logan (this film’s director) and S. N. Behrman. Jack Warner opted to delete the songs from the story, however, believing that audiences had grown tired of musicals. Ironically then, West Side Story beat Fanny for best picture in 1961. The movie was also nominated for Best Actor for Boyer, Score, Editing and Cinematography.

     Despite the Academy’s apparent favor of the camerawork, I did not care for the cinematography in Fanny. There were times when fast zooms or camera sweeps make me think I was watching a cheesey 70s horror film starring Vincent Price. Director of Photography Jack Cardiff also used a lot of close ups on Marius and especially Fanny’s face as they looked directly into the lens. It gave an intimate feel to the moment, drawing the viewer into the action, but it was sometimes employed even when the characters were not looking at one another. It was also hampered greatly, I feel, by a soft focus lens used exclusively for Caron. I have never been a fan of that approach typically used for close ups of women’s faces to make they look “more beautiful.” I always find actresses more attractive when I can see the details of their faces. Alfred Hitchcock was also an anti-soft focus guy. I seem to recall an argument with David O. Selznick over using it for Joan Fontaine in Rebecca … but that’s another story.

  • Fanny is set for 5:15 p.m. ET April 25 on TCM.

Source: Ben Mankiewicz

Feature: Halloween Flicks to Watch

We are fewer than two weeks out from my favorite holiday, so I think it is about time I bring up some upcoming, halloween-appropriate showings on Turner Classic Movies. Essentially what I have done below is gone through the TCM lineup and noted the one’s I’ve seen, which has caused me to realize I am not as well versed in classic horror as I thought. Ryan would be the authority on horror films past and present. In fact, we recently enjoyed Die! Die! My Darling from an old TCM recording, so look for a review of that next.

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Up first is Arsenic and Old Lace. I know what you’re thinking: That’s a comedy, you fool. You would be correct, but it is a comedy full of poison, insanity, and best of all murder! Ryan would certainly name Arsenic and Old Lace as his favorite Cary Grant movie, and oddly, in the numerous times we have watched this one, I have only maybe once made it through without falling to sleep. That is not, of course, to say this flick is dull. Far from it! I use it as my benchmark for Grant’s screwball comedy phase. To sum it up, Grant’s two old aunts like to invite lonely men to their table for tea and arsenic before burying them in the basement. Add in another relative who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt and uses the stairs to reenact the charge on San Juan Hill, and you’ve got a rip-roaring good time as Grant tries to save his family from prison.
The feature is set for 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20.

Nosferatu (1922)

TCM has Nosferatu planned for this weekend. I will admit this one also found me falling to sleep, but Ryan owns it, so it must be good, right? It is a 1922 silent picture is from one of Germany’s most well-known directors, F. W. Murnau, and follows a woman who tries to end a vampires plague of death. I like to think of this as the original Dracula movie, and is in fact an adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel. What I have witnessed of this film are some fantastically creepy and visually impressive moments. The monster himself is the stuff nightmares are made of and the style of filming — German Expressionism — I always find appealing in its uniqueness.
Look for it at noon Sunday, Oct. 24.

Rebecca (1940)

I am always delighted to talk about Alfred Hitchcock, and 1940’s Best Picture winner receives nothing but my praise. Rebecca was Hitchcock’s first film produced in the U.S. and the director managed to find considerable freedom on this one because producer David O. Selznick was too distracted with Gone with the Wind to crack down on Hitch’s creative vision as he would on later works. Rebecca takes black and white cinema to new heights. It is a visually very impressive piece with great undertones that managed — in Hitchcock’s special way — to slip past the censors. In this rather creepy tale we have a young woman who marries a wealthy man whose first wife’s death remains a mystery to the “new Mrs. DeWinter” (the character doesn’t have a first name). I even considered naming this blog after the DeWinter mansion: Manderley.
Expect it at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 28.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

I never considered Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  a horror film until Columbus’ summer movie series featured it as a late night thriller. I suppose a rat for dinner is rather disturbing. Being the only picture Hollywood rivals Bette Davis and Joan Crawford actually did together, it illustrates severely the two most differing characteristics between the duo: Bette Davis is talented and Joan Crawford aged well. Davis was frightening looking enough in her old age but as a former child star who never coped with her loss of fame, she really puts Crawford through the psycho wringer. Crawford certainly comes off as a sympathetic character despite what I would say is a reversal of the roles in real life.
Check it out at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 30.

Cat People (1942)

This next one is pretty much a joke. Cat People was the film for Simone Simon, who would go on to make a sequel to the mediocre flick. As I recall it, a beautiful young woman comes into a man’s life but she has a strange affinity for cats. I believe she might later turn into a panther, but the most important thing to remember about this flick is that it is good for a laugh.
Laugh along at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30.

Freaks (1932)

On the last day of the month and the official Halloween holiday, TCM brings us a movie that has typically been considered a horror film, but that really evokes only sympathy from my perspective. Freaks came out in 1932 and features a cast full of “circus freaks” including conjoined twins, a “human torso”, and dwarfs (including one of the lollipop gang in The Wizard of Oz). The film takes place in a circus setting where the strong man and what I’m remembering as a trapeze woman are the only “normal” of the crew. Those normal folk eventually incur the wrath of the freaks. Perhaps what people find frightening about this one is the potential to be attacked by deformed individuals.
Get Freaked at 6:15 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 31.

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