Friday, September 30, 2005

The Bat Whispers

Today is Aunt Battie's last day before turning the reins of this blog back to her niece, Miss Maven.
I've enjoyed our time together here but have one last movie to entertain you with . . . or one theme, four movies, a play and two books!!
The original story by Mary Roberts Rinehart was "The Circular Staircase," 1908. It was centered around a spinster who rented a beautiful old home out in the country for the summer and had anything BUT a beautiful time of it!!
My niece, Miss Maven, would rate this as not only a "mustread" but as a "gottahave!"
Miss Rinehart wrote a play with Avery Hopwood based on this book that hit Broadway in 1920. The story was changed, simply, to "The Bat."
[Aunt Battie has often suspected that they got the idea for the new villain and change of title from her beloved Uncle Batty, for whom she was named!! See the spoiler note below!!]
The first movie version was a bootleg copy called "One Exciting Night," by no less then D.W. Griffith.
[And if anyone knows where to find a copy, please contact Aunt Battie!]
Rinehart and Hopwood then did what what would become a trend decades later. Instead of turning a movie into a book, they turned the play into a new book, "The Bat."
Again, this book is as much a mustread and gottahave as the original "The Circular Staircase."
Now we come to the movies.
This blog may be dedicated to the movies of the 30s and 40s but sometimes earlier and later versions must be taken into account to fully appreciate our golden classics of that time.
[Excuse Aunt Battie for a moment!!
I'm not usually that wordy!!]
The first version of "The Bat" was directed by Roland West as a silent in 1926 and starred his wife, Jewel Carmen, and Mary Pickford's brother, Jack, as the young couple in desperate, young love.
We also see the talented Louise Fazenda as the maid, Lizzie Allen. Fazenda was married to Hal B. Wallis, one of Hollywood's top producers.
This version is, in my humble opinion, the most faithful to the book, "The Bat."
Kamiyama Sojin was the Japanese butler. That would be politically correct casting these days but they have made him up to look blatenly gaunt and give him scenes with Fazenda's Lizzie Allen for comic relief that aren't that funny.
One major departure is changing the detective Anderson into Detective Molettie, played by Tullio Carminatti. I could see this if Carminatti had an accent and this was a talkie but as a silent . . . ?
  • On the other hand, Roland West's talking remake, "The Bat Whispers," had Chester Morris as Anderson. This is also a mustsee and gottahave but I must warn you that Morris spends a great deal of the movie chewing on the scenery!!
(Chester Morris as Detective Anderson and Una Merkel as Dale Van Gorder)
This version also changes the butler, Sojin, into the caretaker, Spencer Charters and the earlier version's Dr. Wells into Gustave von Seyffertitz's Dr. Verner.
[Don't you love his name?!]
In the book, "The Bat," the detective that Cornelia van Gorder calls in on the case is Detective Anderson. The first two versions of the movie have her calling in a bumbling city detective who were written in for comic relief. I guess the butler and maid weren't enough!
The 1959 version of "The Bat" was written and directed by Crane Wilbur and is a simpler version, in my humble opinion. It certainly has fewer characters.
(Agnes Moorehead, in one of her best-known parts,
as Endora on television's "Bewitched.")
I do recommend it because Cornelia and Wells are played to perfection by Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price. Anderson is played by Gavin Gordon, familiar to those who love early 30s movies like "Bride of Frankenstein" and "Mystery of the Wax Museum."
Surprisingly, this version doesn't have a butler. It has a chauffeur who has gone on a vacation in the book. He's played by John Sutton, who made such great 40s films as "The Invisible Man Returns," also with Vincent Price, and "Jane Eyre," with Orson Welles.
This version does have an extra detective, Davenport played by Robert Williams, but his is a "straight" role in the sense that he's not there to be comic relief. (Which is a relief to Aunt Battie!)
[Spoiler Note]
Now to the character of the Bat. . . .
Only the 1959 version with Moorehead and Price has the Bat in the same form as the play and book, with his face simply covered by a cloth to hide his identity.
The earlier versions make him out to be an outlandish-looking Bat with pointy ears that supposedly was part of the inspiration for the comic strip character, Batman.
The 1930 version even gave the Bat a limp, trying to throw people off the scent of who the Bat really is . . . .
And I'd better not tell or he'll come leave his
calling card pinned to my corpse!
Have you tried
You can contact Aunt Battie in care of her niece,

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Acquanetta's Captive Wild Woman

Aunt Battie still here, holding down the fort for my niece, Miss Maven.
She's getting this blog ready for her Halloween Marathon next month so check back and often!
If you don't, I'll send my assistants after you--Slo, Mo, and Larry!!
I'd like to talk about Acquanetta and her 1943 "Captive Jungle Woman" role of Cheela/Paula Dupree. She was the only woman who can be associated with her own series monster, like Boris Karloff's Frankenstein Monster and Bela Lugosi's Dracula.
Acquanetta's real name was probably Burnu Davenport and was said to have been either an Arapaho Indian from near Cheyene, Wyoming and/or from a Pennsylvania mining town.
According to Robert Stewart's "Scream Queens: Heroines of the Horrors" (MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc.; New York; 1978; pages 176 - 183), Acquanetta may have been a highly-paid model back East.
She certainly had the looks to be a model but you have to wonder about what else she had to offer since she doesn't say a word in her first role as Cheela/Paula Dupree!
She has lines in the 1944 sequel of "Jungle Woman" but . . . she seems most animated in the scenes when she goes through the transformation of Paula Dupree back into Cheela, the ape.
This is still a great film to watch and I recommend at least "Captive Jungle Woman" in your collection.
The supporting cast is top-grade with John Carradine as the Mad Doctor who knows how to REALLY operate on women, Fay Helm as his nurse, Evelyn Ankers and Milburn Stone as the heroine and hero.
You also have Clyde Beatty in the circus segments--part of the fun is seeing if you can tell which shots have him in the ring and which ones are of Miblurn Stone, who later went on to play Doc Adams on television's "Gunsmoke."
You might also want to check out Acquanetta's later role's in the sequel "Jungle Woman," "Dead Man's Eyes" (one of the Inner Sanctum movies) and in Johnny Weissmuller's "Tarzan and the Leopard Woman," arguably her best movie role.
Auntie Battie would like you to check out a new movie at
If you would like to send Aunt Battie an email, please send it in care of Miss Maven at

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

First Ladies of Horror

First Ladies of Horror
Miss Maven would like to introduce her Aunt Battie:
My dear Auntie will be carrying on for me here over the next few days while I do some finishing touches to our forth-coming Movie Marathon for Halloween.
So you all behave and have a terrifyingly good time!
I am Aunt Battie, like my niece was kind enough to mention.
I would like you all to meet my assistants,
Slo, Mo, and Larry!
If I may, I'd like to take a moment in salute to all the ladies of Horror who haven't gotten nearly the press that the gentlemen have!
First is Mae Clark, she of Frankenstein fame, also had an interesting time with James Cagney.
"Ms. Clark don't get no respect!"
Next is Fay Wray, who was menaced by King Kong by day and Count Zarnoff in "The Most Dangerous Game" by night.
(She managed to keep her clothes on in both movies, which would be a miracle these days!)
She also went several rounds with Lionel Atwill in several movies (hey, she survived Kong and Zarkoff!)
We mustn't forget Gloria Stuart who went rounds with not only an Invisible Leading Man but Boris Karloff in arguably the scariest make-up in the scariest movie of her career: The Old Dark House. Not to mention being stuck with Lionel Atwill as her father in "Secret of the Blue Room."
(Lois Collier in a poster for "The Cat Creeps")
Next we have Universal Studio's Horror Triumvarite of Evelyn Ankers, Anne Gwynne and Lois Collier who stared together in Weird Woman.
(Evelyn Ankers in "Frozen Ghost" with Lon Chaney, Jr.)
(Hey, if you can become friends making a movie like that, no wonder they were fast friends for life!)
(Anne Gwynne in "House of Dracula" with John Carradine)
On to Halloween!
. . .
You might also want to check out
. . .
(Miss Maven can be reached at

Monday, September 26, 2005

Billie Burke reflects on her long Hollywood career in "With a Feather on My Nose," Crowell~Collier Publishing Co., New York, 1949, page 258:
(Courtesy of
. . . My favorite role was in The Wizard of Oz, directed by the great Victor Fleming, in which I played Glinda, the Good Fairy. I never played such a being on stage, but this role is as close as I have come in motion pictures to the kind of parts I did in the theater.
(Courtesy of
I recall Ray Bolger in that film. He was the Scarecrow. Day after day as the shooting went on I waited for Ray to dance. Finally I asked when.
"Dance?" he said, amazed. "Dance? Why, I'm a professional dancer. That's what I do. I'm a dancer. So of course I don't dance."
And he didn't. My parts in pictures have been something like that.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

To Have and Have Not

Lauren Bacall wrote about her first film scene in her first movie, To Have and Have Not in "By Myself" (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.; New York; 1979) on page 94:
. . . Howard [Hawks, the director] planned to do a single scene that day--my first in the picture. I walked to the door of Bogart's room, said, "Anybody got a match?," leaned against the door, and Bogart trew me a small box of matches. I lit my cigarette, looking at him, said "Thanks," threw the matches back to him, and left. Well--we rehearsed it. My hand was shaking--my head was shaking--the cigarette was shaking. I was mortified. The harder I tried to stop, the more I shook. What must Howard be thinking? What must Bogart be thinking? What must the crew be thinking? Oh God, make it stop! I was in such pain.
Bogart tried to joke me out of it--he was quite aware that I was a new young thing who knw from nothing and was scared to death. Finally Howard thought we could try a take. Silence on the set. The bell rang. I"Quiet--we're rolling," said the sound man. "Action," said Howard. this was for posterity, I thought--for real theatres, for real people to see. I came around the corner, said my first line, and Howard said, "Cut." He had broken the scene up--the first shot ended after the first line. The second set-up was the rest of it--then he'd movie in for close-ups. By the end of the third or fourth take, I realized that one way to hold my trembling head still was to keep it down, chin low, almost to my chest, and eyes up at Bogart. It worked, and turned out to be the beginning of "The Look."
Just think.
On such little things are great careers made.
Just think what Lauren Bacall could have done
if she could have just batted her eyelashes like
Miss Maven has known how to do
since childhood!!
. . .
Miss Maven can be reached at

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Sam Goldwyn

Sam Goldwyn, the Hollywood producer, had quite a reputation with the ladies according to Goldwyn (by A. Scott Berg; Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.; New York; 1989). On page 122:
Goldwyn's clumsy manhandling of women especially amused Charlie Chaplin. One day in New York, he conspired with theatre owner Sid Grauman on an elaborate practical joke. Charlie told Sam he had a beautiful girl to whom we wanted to introduce him, someone rich and pretty but quite shy. Chaplin suggested carriage ride around Central Park that evening. He and his mystery lady, wearing a dark veil, picked Goldwyn up at his new apartment at 125 East Sixty-third Street. In the warm evening, the three of them rode in the hansom cab through Central Park, the girl saying little. Goldwyn kept trying to loosen her up by putting his arms around her. When he started to nuzzle her, she threw back her veil, revealing Sid Grauman in drag. Grauman and Chaplin never forgot the incident. Neither did Goldwyn. He turned crimson whenever Chaplin retold the story, which he seem to do at any dinner party at which Goldwyn was present.
Sid Grauman is in the middle of the picture,
behind the Marx Brothers as they leave their
prints at his Chinese Theatre.
With friends like that, no wonder so many celebrities
have so much business with psychiatrists!
It's sheer self-defense!
. . .
Miss Maven can be reached at

Friday, September 23, 2005

Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles

Joseph Cotten writes about a radio studio encounter he had with Orson Welles and Ray Collins in his autobiography, "Vanity Will Get You Somewhere" (Avon Books, 1988) on page 33:
We [Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles] were rehearsing for one of CBS's "School of the Air" series (this one was about rubber trees in the jungle), when a couple of the lines suddenly took on a double meaning and very rude connotations. Instead of biting our tongues and ignoring the moment, Orson and I lost control and broke into choirboy giggles. Knowles [Entrekin] stopped the rehearsal and warned us. He used words like schoolchildren, nonprofessional, and bad manners.
"I see nothing funny about the line 'barrels and barrels of pith,'" he said. Thick silence in Studio Two. Eyes of all actors remained glued to their scripts. Knowles continued, "WIll Mr. Cotten or Mr. Welles please tell us what is funny about the line 'barrels and barrels of pith' so that we may all join in with their laughter?"
The atmosphere of the studio made Grant's Tomb seem like a boiler factory, and then Knowles made the mistake of the day. "And now, ladies and gentlemen, if indeed that is what we all are"--glares at you know who--"we will now go back to the beginning of the scene."
(Courtesy of
Back to the beginning we did go, and when Ray Collins read the line, "Barrels and barrels of pith," there was an explosion of laughter in Studio Two at CBS that would have rocked the very timbers of Madison Square Garden. Ray Collins himself never finished the word pith. His manuscript simply slid from his helpless fingers. Most of the other actors doubled over, the sound man hid behind his bulky equipment, the orchestra sought refuge in the shadow of the bass fiddle, and the two culprits fled the building in hysterical tears.
After a few days, when Knowles's face had lost its angry crimson color, he allowed it to smile as he shook hands and accepted apologies.
It was a damaging experience for Orson and me, however, as we were now considered an unreliable influence and were never cast in parts on the same show. It was not until some years later when CBS gave Orson his own show that we worked together on the air again.
. . .
Miss Maven may be reached at

Thursday, September 22, 2005

John Ford

Mary Astor wrote about John Ford's directing techniques in "Hurricane" (1937) in her autobiography, "A Life on Film" (Delacorte Press; New York; 1967, 1969, 1972).
(Courtesy of
Pages 134 - 135 included a section about "a very small Polynesian child" who made a bigger splash as various Chan sons in the Charlie Chan series~~Layne Tom, Jr.!
(This still of Layne Tom, Jr., as Charlie Chan, Jr., with Warner Oland as Papa Chan and Keye Luke as Lee Chan is courtesy of
I saw him do a wonderful piece of direction with a very small Polynesian child playing one of the native boys who were helping in Jon Hall's escape. The boy was being severely, harshly questioned by Ray[mond] Massey as to his activities. And Ray could look very severe and frightening as he shouted, "Where were you, boy?"
The close-up of the child was to be all big eyes and a lie in just word, "Fishing." A lie, and a frightened one. And John [Ford] stood close to the boy ad repeated over and over two musical notes, about a fourth apart--like C to F--"Fish-ing." "Fish-ing." And the boy would say it, and then John, and sometimes the camera would be going and sometimes not, according to his hand signals behind his back. And finally it was all big black eyes and the whooper of a lie, "Fish-ing."
. . .
Today somebody would call Child Protective Services on them!
Maybe we should have "sic'ed" some of Charlie Chan's OTHER sons on them, instead!
. . .
Miss Maven may be reached at

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Joan Crawford

Bob Thomas wrote in his biography, "Joan Crawford,"* that
(Courtesy of
. . . At least Grand Hotel would place her in proximity with [Greta] Garbo. Joan had few idols--Garbo was one. Joan revered the Swede's dramatic intensity, her aloof detachment from Hollywood, her air of mystery. In 1931, when Joan was trying to escape her flapper image and develop a new screen style, she had tried to emulate the Garbo mystique. She wore her hair in the same long, straight style, affected slinky dresses, possed languidly, and answered interviewers' questions enigmatically. After several months the phase passed, Joan realizing that she could not succeed as a Midwest version of the divine Garbo.
Joan often recollected how she had uttered a cheery "Good morning" each day as she passed Garbo's dressing room on the way to work. For three years she heard no response. then one day Joan was in such a hurry that she forgot her usual greeting. she heard Garbo's door open and then the baritone voice intoning, "Allooooooo."
. . .
*Simon and Schuster, New York, 1978, page 83.
. . .
Miss Maven can be reached at

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple Black brought a new perspective to Orson Welles' reputation in her autobiography, "Child Star" (McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1988).
She wrote about a croquet match that was part of a publicity layout on pages 284 - 285:
(Courtesy of
"Did you hear my [radio] program about Martians [War of the World]?"
"Yes," I stroked my ball and scowled. It had stopped wide of the final wicket. "Nelson Eddy was why I listened."
Welles turned and leaned on his mallet, waiting. My evening routine included listening to Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. I explained but when guest Eddy came on to sing, I switched stations and stumbled on his.
"Did you believe my program?" he asked, striking a pleasing pose for our photographers.
"No, I knew it wasn't true."
Taking careful aim, I knocked his ball slightly away from the mouth of the final wicket, leaving mine in good position.
His return shot caromed my ball away into a difficult lie.
"How did you know?" he asked.
Engrossed with my final chance, I said nothing and concentrated. I missed.
"Well," I replied resignedly, "if men from Mars had come here, why would just your program be broadcasting the news? That didn't make sense, so I didn't believe it."
And Orson Welles had the reputation
as an enfant terribles?!
Plus you have to wonder about all those adults
who were so terrified by his broadcast!
. . .
(Miss Mave can be reached at

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sleuths of the Silver Screen - Philo Vance

Philo Vance
Needs a Kick in the pance.
(by Ogden Nash)
~ ~ ~
I have that on a lithograph of a Bob Pudim pen and ink of William Powell being kicked by none other than Sherlock Holmes that I bought in 1982, some years before I saw my first S.S. Van Dine mystery with his famous detective.
I have since seen Powell as Philo Vance plus Warren William, Paul Lukas and . . . are you sitting down? . . . Gracie Allen.
(Courtesy of
Van Dine had written "The Gracie Allen Murder Case" for her--and sans George Burns at that!
She played against Warren William as Vance, repeatedly calling him "Phido."
Truth to tell, the only people that I know who collect it are Gracie Allen fans and Philo Vance movie fans.
(Courtesy of
Even Basil Rathbone played Vance in The Bishop Murder Case (and not that well!) before he scored in his best detective role as Sherlock Holmes in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" in 1939.
["Hound . . ." is a movie that I plan to cover next month in my Halloween Movie Marathon.]
(Courtesy of
William Powell turned out to not only be the most loved Vance but most of us consider his "The Kennel Murder Case" as THE Philo Vance Mystery Movie.
His earlier forays in the role, in "Canary . . . ," "The Greene . . . ," and "Benson Murder Case," were each worth watching but just not quite as much fun as "Kennel . . ."
Bottom-line has William Powell, S.S. Van Dine's talent and movie-making coming together at the perfect moment for a perfect crime.
And sleuth of the silver screen!
. . .
(Miss Maven can be reached at

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Citizen Kane

Pauline Kael wrote "Raising Kane" (Limelight Editions, New York, 1984, page 17) about Orson Welles' making his classic "Citizen Kane."
She quotes William Alland's discription of the process in a magazine interview of the Directors Guild of America:
There was one scene which stands out above all others in my memory: that was the one in which Orson broke up the roomful of furniture in a rage. Orson never liked himsself as an actor. He had the idea tat he should have been feeling more, that he intellectualized too much and never achieved the emotion of losing himself in a part.
When he came to the furniture-breaking scene, he set up four cameras, because he obviously couldn't do the scene many times. He did the scene just twice, and each time he threw himself into the action with a terror I had never seen in him. It was absolutely electric; you felt as if you were in the presence of a man coming apart.
Orson staggered out of the set with his hands bleeding and his face flushed. He almost swooned, yet he was exultant. "I really felt it," he exclaimed. "I really felt it!"
Strangely, that scene didn't have the same power when it appeared on the screen. It might have been how it was cut, or because there hadn't been close-in shots to depict his rage. The scene in th picture was only a mild reflection of what I had witnessed on that movie stage.
. . .
Orson Welles would probably have to
have sprayed blood from his hands all
over the screen to get reactions
from a lot of people.
Or to be thought of as a good
movie-maker today.
Sad, isn't it?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Wizard of Oz

"The Wizard of Oz" originally had a surprise for movie lovers!*
Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion are on their way to the Witch's Castle when they are attacked by blue and white insects that she has sent . . . Jitter Bugs!
Anyone the little blighters bite immediately are stricken with doing the dance known as the jitterbug!
DOROTHY: Did you hear what I just heard?
LION: That noise don't come from no ordinary bird.
DOROTHY: It may be just a cricket
. . . Or a critter in the trees.
TIN MAN: It's giving me the jitters
. . . In the joints around the knees.
SCARECROW: I think I see a jijik
. . . And he's fuzzy and he's furry.
. . . I haven't got a brain
. . . But I think I ought to worry.
TIN MAN: I haven't got a heart
. . . But I've got a palpitation.
LION: As Monarch of the Forest
. . . I don't like the sitchy-ation.
DOROTHY (to Lion): Are you gonna stand around
. . . And let him fill us full of horror?
LION: I'd like to roar him down . . .
. . . But I think I've lost my roarer.
TIN MAN: It's a whozis.
SCARECROW: It's a whozis?
LION: It's a whatzis.
SCARECROW: It's a whatzis?
TIN MAN: Whozat?
LION: Whozat?
DOROTHY (singing chorus):
Who's that hiding
In the tree top?
It's that rascal
The Jitter Bug.
Should you catch him
Buzzin' round you,
Just look out for
The Jitter Bug.
Oh, the bees in the breeze
And the bats in the trees
Have a terrible, horrible buzz
But the bees in the breeze
And the bats in there trees
Couldn't do what the Jitter Bug does.
So be careful
Of that rascal.
Keep away from
The Jitter Bug.+
+Copyright (C) 1938, renewed 1966 Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, Inc. Copyright (C) renewed 1967 Leo Feist, Inc. Rights throughout the world administered by Leo Feist, Inc.
. . .
*by Aljean Harmetz, "The Making of 'The Wizard of Oz,'" Delta (Dell Publishing), New York, 1977, pages 83 - 85.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Fashion in Film - Evening Gloves

I have been a fan of Judith Martin (aka "Miss Manners") for quite a while! She's funny as well as informative!
She once fielded a movie question about evening gloves that I think you might enjoy from her book, "Miss Manners(R)' Guide to Rearing Perfect Children" (Penguin Books, 1984, Page 252):
(This isn't the outfit in question but it's as close as I could come!)
Dear Miss Manners:
Having watched a delightful movie with Loretta Young and Ronald Colman, we were stumped by the young people asking why Miss Young wore almost shoulder-length white gloves when in evening dress. Those of my age saw nothing odd in it, but the young people were truly curious as to the reason for such attire. Certainly it was not for modesty, for the dresses were extremely low-cut.
We do not mean to imply that your age is such that you would have worn such gloves, but think that you probably will know the reason, if anyone does.
Gentle Reader:
Miss Manners is hurt that you think she would not have worn such gloves. You never know when you will insult people, do you?
The reason for the gloves is immodesty, a principle that young people, brought up to run about half-naked, do not understand. The idea is, the lower the dress, the higher the gloves. Miss Young very properly did not want to put on an extremely low-cut dress only to have people stare at there bare elbows.
. . .
Miss Maven wouldn't want just anyone looking at HER bare elbows, either!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Lady Sleuths of the Silver Screen - Sarah Keate

Lady sleuths in movies date back to the silent era of Hollywood.
D.W. Griffith, himself, made a silent--and definitely unauthorized!--version of Mary Roberts Rinehart's Broadway play, The Bat.
Ms. Rinehart wasn't the only American writer whose works made the transition to the silver screen.
Mignon Eberhart has not only been called Rinehart's successor but America's Agatha Christie.
At least four of her books have been made into movies, usually with her amateur sleuth, nurse Sarah Keate. Her first book, The Patient in Room 18, was published in 1929 and ironically the seventh movie made from Eberhart's novels!
While the Patient Slept (1930) was her second novel but the first Sarah Keate mystery to be made into a movie in 1935.
Our nurse/sleuth was described by Eberhart as 40ish, a spinster and red haired with a weak spot in her heart for Detective Lance O'Leary. I don't remember ever reading his age but he's definitely younger!
In While the Patient Slept, Nurse Sarah Keate is hired to take care of old Mr. Federie, who is out like a light during the movie. The plot of greedy relatives who each have reasons to see him pretty much follows the novel.
Nurse Keate is stuck with not only sneaky relatives but disappearing evidence and . . . dare I say it so close to Halloween?! . . . a possible ghost or two!
Fortunately, Aline MacMahon was cast as Sarah Keate because she's an excellent actress who fits the role. The rest of the cast are excellent character actors who help bring a suspensefull novel to the screen, except . . . .
There is no way to put this but . . . while Guy Kibbee is a great foil as Lance O'Leary for MacMahon's Keate, he's way over the hill as the police detective.
Over all, Maven not only rates this mystery as a "mustsee" but as a "musthave." It's not only an old-dark-house type of movie but one that is perfect for those of us who love 'em with cold rainy weather!
So keep an eye out at Turner Classic Movies for the next time they show this classic from the Golden Era of Hollywood!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Life Begins for Andy Hardy

"Life Begins for Andy Hardy"
Does that take you back in time?
Main Street, USA, in the thirties and forties?
Few movie series were quite as quintessential America as the 16 Andy Hardy films with Mickey Rooney as our juvenile hero . . . even well into his twenties!
M-G-M based the first Hardy movie on a Broadway play called Skidding (1928) by Aurania Rouveyrol (and if you can pronounce that name than you're a better man than I am!).
"A Family Affair" stared Lionel Barrymore as the father, Judge Hardy; Spring Byington as Mrs. Hardy; and Sara Haden as her sister, Millie. Cecilia Parker played Andy's sister, Marian; and Julie Haydon was Joan, his sister that was dropped after the first entry.
(Lewis Stone)
Come to think of it, Judge Hardy morphes into Lewis Stone and Mrs. Hardy is a clone of Fay Holden after the first one! Hey, how did M-G-M learn how do to this back then?!?!
Each one revolved pretty much Andy getting into trouble and then getting himself out of it, usually with the help and/or support of his family and especially Judge Hardy. Part of what made these movies fun to watch was seeing the wonderfull sets, clothes and cars. How could you pass up a couple of young people back then in their innocence of young love's struggles?
Hey, how could you pass up the burger joints, dances and ice cream parlors--forget young love!!
"Life Begins Andy Hardy" is a good entry in the series that Maven rates as at least a "wannasee," possibly keeping in your video collection.
(Judy Garland as Betsy Booth and Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy)
Andy has graduated from high school and wants to earn some money before going off to college . . . and I suspect wanting to try his wings in "the real world" on his own. Andy runs smack into trouble when the roommate he gets in New York ends up with trouble that makes Andy realize that the place for him is college.
"Life Begins . . ." also stars Judy Garland as Betsy Booth, a sort of junior Polly Benedict, Andy's girl friend up to this movie who was played by Ann Rutherford.
For all of you character actor watchers, see if you can see Ralph Byrd as Doctor Gallagher. This was after he had played Dick Tracy in several Republic serials!
This "episode" of the series will be on Turner Classic Movies late tomorrow night at 3:30 (EDT). Just be sure the popcorn's fresh and the sasparilla's cold!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Greta Garbo

There are several Greta Garbo movies coming on Turner Classic Movies tonight. You can catch "Anna Christie" at 8:00 P.M. (all times are EDT), the German version of "Anna Christie" at 9:45, plus "The Divine Greta Garbo (a 1990 documentary) at 5:30 am.
Roland Flamini discusses the beginning of Greta Garbo's career at M-G-M in his book, "Thalberg: The Last Tycoon and the World of M-G-M" (Crown Publishers, Inc.; New York; 1994; pages 93 - 94):
[Irving] Thalberg had not at first been impressed with Garbo. She was overweight, her hair was worn in a style that made her look matronly, and her teeth needed fixing. Her first test had not been encouraging, and he wondered aloud to his associates what had possessed [Leo B.] Mayer to give her a contract. As with Norma [Shearer, Thalberg's wife], a second test saved Garbo from oblivion. [Mauritz] Stiller had persuaded Thalberg to try again, and this time Thalberg was more favorably impressed. He sent her to the studio dentist and the studio hairdresser, and he recommended a strict diet.
After waiting ten weeks, Garbo was one day summoned to Thalberg's office. He handed her a large brown envelope. "Here is the script for The Torrent," he told her. "Go to your hotel and study the role of Leonora." Garbo meekly took the envelope from his hands and without a word turned around and went to her hotel. It was her one display of total obedience in a Hollywood career spanning fifteen legendary years and twenty-four films.
ONE display of total obedience in the fifteen year of such an incredible actress?
I sudder to think of the near- to no-talents today who have all sorts of prerequisites written into their contracts before they ever get NEAR a set!