Thursday, February 26, 2009

TCM 31 Days of Oscars Contest

Even though this year's Oscars are over, Turner Classic Movies annual 31 Days of Oscars festival is still going strong, showcasing more Oscar winning movies from now until March 3rd. If you haven't already gone to the TCM University website, please do so soon before they take it down!

In honor of the 31 Days of Oscars festival, I'm doing a fun contest on this blog. I have some TCM University composition notebooks to give away and this is your chance to win one.

How to Enter
  • Watch the TCM 31 Days of Oscar Promo clip below and write down the names of 10 of the films featured in the clip.
  • E-mail your list of 10 films, the name of your favorite Oscar winning movie or performance, and your name to me: QuelleLove at Gmail dot com.
  • DO NOT post your entry as a comment.
  • Submit entry by March 3rd.

[Contest is now over. Special thank you to those who participated.]

Monday, February 23, 2009

Boxed Set Reviews: The Natalie Wood Collection

The Natalie Wood Collection is your one opportunity to own a solid piece of the ethereal star's legacy. It's a must-have for any Natalie Wood fan or anyone who collects prize box sets. The box set design is gorgeous with alternating colors of lavendar, white and purple and promotional images of Natalie Wood from Sex and the Single Girl. Each of the 6 films comes in it's own full-sized keepcase. Four of the films are new to DVD and Gypsy and Splendor in the Grass are remastered editions. You can purchase Sex and the Single Girl and Splendor in the Grass separately but all the other films are exclusive to the box set.

And now comes my confession. I am not a Natalie Wood fan. Like Frank with Doris Day, I am apathetic to Natalie Wood. I do now have a greater appreciation for The Face. I was really hoping that this box set could win me over, but in the end, I just enjoyed the movies more so than the actress.

Mini Reviews

Bomber B-52 (1957) - Karl Malden stars as airforce worker Chuck Brennan who has a gripe against Colonel Herlihy (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) and will do anything to break up Herlihy's romance with his daughter Lois (Natalie Wood), even if it means leaving the job he loves so dearly.

Thoughts - This is Karl Malden's movie and Natalie Wood just looks nice in her outfits. The flight dramas with the B-52s are excellent and suspenseful. Slow start but makes up for it quickly. My favorite film in the box set by far. The aerial cinematography is stunning.

Gypsy (1962) - Story about a stage mother whose passion for show business overshadows the needs and wants of her two daughters and her fiancee. Based on the early life of burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee.

Thoughts - Rosalind Russell carries the movie as the loony stage mom and she outshines both Karl Malden and Natalie Wood. The vaudeville and burlesque musical numbers are all top-notch. The film is beautifully remastered and the colors really pop! Visually stunning.

Cash McCall (1960) - A light-hearted corporate drama about greedy Cash McCall (James Garner) who buys companies only to dismantle them and make a profit out of the loss. He goes soft when Lory Austen (Natalie Wood) comes into his life. When the opportunity to by the Austen Plastics company arises, he jumps on the chance to win Lory back after a bad beginning to their romance.

Thoughts - I enjoyed this film. It's got a lot of flaws, especially the anti-climactic ending and Natalie Wood's matronly hair style. Yet it's stylish, light, fun and interesting. If you are a fan of Executive Suite or even Mad Men, you'll enjoy this film.

Splendor in the Grass (1961) - A coming-of-age story circa 1920s about Deanie (Natalie Wood) a young high school teen who is dating the captain of the football team and most popular boy in school Bud (Warren Beatty). They both must supress their lustful desires to align themselves with society's mores. Bud goes elsewhere to relieve himself and Deanie goes crazy.

Thoughts - This is an excellent study in gender roles and sexuality. Sexual repression and the treatment of sexual expression as viewed amongst both sexes demonstrates the unfairness of double-standards. An Elia Kazan classic! See my previous post about this film

Sex and the Single Girl (1964) - Self-help book fictionalized into a story of sex psychologist Helen Brown (Natalie Wood) who falls for tabloid reporter Bob Weston (Tony Curtis). He is planning an expose on her and to do so pretends he is his friend Frank Brodercik (Henry Fonda) who has significant marital problems with wife Sylvia (Lauren Bacall).

Thoughts - I was disappointed in the movie. It could have been a lot better. It was slow-paced, bizarre and silly to the point of confusing. Maybe this will grow on me, but for now I think Pillow Talk (1959) seems like a much better movie with a similar conceit.

Inside Daisy Clover (1965) - 15-year old Daisy Clover (Natalie Wood) is a foul-mouthed, scrappy tomboy living in poverty. Her talent for singing finds her in the seedy show business of 1935's movie industry. As she gains fame, her life falls apart. She leans on leading man Wade Lewis/Lewis Wade (Robert Redford), who is as equally as disturbed as her.

Thoughts - This film salvaged Natalie Wood for me. She does a superb job as a disturbed teenager and the melt-down scene in the studio is beautiful. This film is not nostalgic for the 1930's, rather it's a look at the movie business of the past in an avant-garde way that only a good mid-1960s film could accomplish!

Purchasing Links
(Stimulate that economy with a nice fat juicy purchase)

Please make sure you go to Sarah's Cinema Splendor blog. She is the ultimate Natalie Wood fan and will surely be posting a review of this box set soon. Watch that space!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hot Toddy ~ Sterling Hayden

Stats: b. 3-26-1916 - d. 5-23-1986. 60 feature films from 1942 to 1982. Quit the movie business temporarily to sail to the South Seas with 4 of his kids. His autobiography Wanderer (1963) is still in print.

Rating based on level of excellence: 5 out of 5 Humunahs!

Hotness Factors: Rockin' physique, bad boy demeanor, beautiful blonde hair, sexy lips. Advertised back in the day as The Most Beautiful Man in Movies. He's the type of guy who may be interested but he's not about to show it, and that drives women wild!

Chicks He Digged: First he married actress Madeleine Carroll but they divorced after 4 years of marriage. Then he married Betty de Noon. They couldn't make up their minds whether to stay together or not. They married and divorced 3 times within 11 years, having 4 children along the way. Hayden finally settled down with Catherine Devine McDonnell with whom he had 2 children and they stayed married for 26 years until his death in 1986.

For Optimal Hotness Watch:

The Asphalt Jungle (1950) ~ Sterling plays Dix Handley, an ex-convict who is part of a complex heist to rob a jewelry store. He wants to start a new life and you root for him to get away with his crime. His devoted gal stands by his side.

The Killing (1956) ~ Sterling Hayden plays Johnny Clay, an ex-convict who is part of a complex heist to rob a horse racetrack. He wants to start a new life and you root for him to get away with his crime. His devoted gal stands by his side.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If Jeff Bailey from Out of the Past (1947) were on

Baby, I don't care.

30-year old man
Bridgeport, California
seeking women 23-25
within 100 miles of Bridgeport

Relationship: Never Married
Have Kids: None
Want Kids: Someday (3)
Body Type: Rugged
Height: 6" 1'
Smoke: Regularly
Drink: Regularly

About Me and Who I'm Looking For

I recently came out of a bad relationship with a dangerous woman. When she murdered my ex-partner and I discovered she was carrying stolen money, I knew I had to move on. I need someone who isn't like a leaf blowing from one gutter to another. And one that isn't awfully cold around the heart. She has to love fishing, be kind and want to live a quiet life in a cottage with me and our children. I deserve a break.

In My Own Words:

For Fun: Fishing on mean rivers, imbibing drinks and not paying for them and smacking seedy nightclub managers.
My Job: Pumping Gas. It's decent work.
Favorite hot spots: San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Bridgeport, Acapulco

About Me

Best Feature: Chin Dimple
Sports and exercise: Chasing people
Education: Street smart
Occupation: Gas Attendent/Other
Income: $5k per job
Turn-ons: Danger & Excitement and Calmness & Security
Turn-offs: Murder, Back-stabbing, Theft, Deceit

About My Date

Hair: Blonde, Dark blonde, Red
Eyes: Flirty ones with long eyelashes
Height: 5'0" to 5'6"
Body type: Slender
Smoke: Regularly
Drink: Social Drinker or Regularly
Have kids: None
Want kids: Someday

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pillow Talk @ the Brattle

On Wednesday, some friends and I got together to see one of my all-time favorite films Pillow Talk (1959) on the big screen. My fellow co-worker Frank, a notorious Doris Day-hater, was not invited. The idea of the get-together started as far back as March of last year. That's when I had my tricked out, movie night showcasing Pillow Talk and a couple of other '60s sex comedies (see my post about that here). A few of my friends couldn't make the movie night and I was determined that I would share this film with them if it was the last thing I did! Fast forward to February 2009 and the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square just happens to be showcasing Pillow Talk as part of their fourth annual Great Romances event. Finally! Not only could I see my darling film on the big screen, but I also got a chance to drag those slackers, err friends to see it with me.

And they all came! Gina and Lisa R. were Pillow Talk virgins and H. had seen the film before. Kevin, who had been at the original movie night, came along with his friend Lisa D. One friend, Hazie, couldn't make it (we missed her!). And of course, Frank was not invited.

Lisa R., Kevin and Gina buying tickets for the show

H., Gina, Lisa R., Kevin and Lisa D. participating in some pre-show bonding.

The audience reaction to the film was better than I expected. Pillow Talk is a funny movie with lots of sexual innuendos and silly moments that make it fun to watch. The best part was seeing how much my friends enjoyed the film. They laughed throughout the movie and I was on cloud nine!

Lisa R., Gina, H. and moi after the show

One of the great parts of watching a favorite film with friends, are those little things that a friend will notice that I hadn't until then. For example, the best joke of the film is the shot of Rock Hudson carrying wood. So sly, so underhanded, so obviously sexual, yet so subtle. I went years without noticing it until Kevin pointed it out to me. Kudos to Kevin!

And a big thank you to my friends for so graciously joining me for a night of fun that only a good '60s sex comedy can provide.

Frank wasn't invited.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Parrish (1961) & Susan Slade (1961)

Parrish (1961) is a coming-of-age soap which follows young Parrish's (Troy Donahue) transition into manhood. Parrish relocates with his mother Ellen (Claudette Colbert) to Connecticut's Million-Dollar-Mile; a stretch of land boasting various tobacco farms. These farms produce some of the finest tobacco leaves that are used as wrappers for top-notch cigars. Parrish enters the world of tobacco farming and learns how the business works. He discovers the underhandedness of the business and what it is to be ethical and fair. He falls in love with field worker Lucy (Connie Stevens) who is a little to quick to become intimate with him. Then he falls into rebellious rich girl Alison's (Dianne McBain) snare. She sees Parrish as an opportunity for a continued life of wealth and pleasure. Finally there is quiet and wholesome Paige (Sharon Hugueny), daughter of tobacco tycoon Judd Raike (Karl Malden) and the only one of the Raike siblings who hasn't inherited her father's greed. Things get complicated when Parrish's mother marries Judd Raike and Parrish becomes part of Raike's dirty business.

There are two reasons you should watch this film. Karl Malden and Claudette Colbert. Karl Malden turns over a wonderful performance as angry man Judd Raike who's greed and desire for control are so overpowering that he will plow over anyone in his way, including his own kin. Malden excels in bad-guy roles, yet he can be genuine playing nice-guy characters too. He just has incredible range. Parrish happens to be Claudette Colbert's last feature-film role. She looked as beautiful as she did almost three decades earlier in the milk-bath scene in The Sign of the Cross (1933). It's quite a delight to watch her in this movie.

Susan Slade (1961) is another coming-of-age soap in Delmer Daves/Troy Donahue style. Similar to Parrish, it follows the story's title character, played by Connie Stevens, as she blossoms into womanhood. After spending 10 years in Chile, the Slade family is returning to the US. On the cruiseliner, Susan meets a young man, Conn White (Grant Williams), who is on his way to Alaska for a mountain climbing expedition. They fall in love and the close quarters of the ship speed up their romance and they become intimate very quickly. They separate once they arrive in California, but Conn promises that he will return to her after his expedition so they can marry. Susan writes to him everyday, longing for the day that he will come back to her and the baby she is carrying but he never returns. Now it is up to the Slade family to figure out how to protect their family and the future life of the baby from a less-than-understanding society. Oh and Troy Donahue is somewhere in their too.

This is not a film I would recommend to folks that did not like A Summer Place (1959). Both films are very similar in how they deal with premarital sex and teenage pregnancy. They also both star Troy Donahue and Dorothy McGuire. If however, you liked A Summer Place, you would enjoy this. The cinematography is beautiful and lush; candy for the eyes. The story is over-the-top in the only way a good soap can be. Also, if you happen to be a fan of Peyton Place (1957), this is right up your alley!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Rome Adventure (1962)

Rome Adventure (1962) is a little treasure. It's a wonderful escapist romance filmed on location in Italy. No really! In Italy. Not painted backdrops or spliced in documentary footage, but real locations. Watching this film felt like I was just took a vacation in 1960's Italy.

This film is Suzanne Pleshette's first major film role. She plays Prudence Bell, a sheltered New England librarian who is about to be fired for letting a student read a controversial novel Lovers Must Learn. She decides to quit instead and to escape to Italy to find romance. The film is based on the novel Lovers Must Learn and the book itself is a catalyst for the plot in the movie. I would not consider this a sex comedy or a full-on drama. It's a romantic movie with both comedic and dramatic moments.

Prudence sets sail on a cruise liner to Italy (oh how I wish I could do that!). On the boat she meets boring and love-lorn etruscologist Albert (Hampton Fancher) and suave debonnair Italian man Roberto (Rossano Brazzi). Neither of the two men are able to win over her heart, like American art student Don (Troy Donahue) who wines and dines her and whisks her off for a romantic vacation to Lake Maggiore. Yet Don is tangled up with Lydia (Angie Dickinson), a rich brat who abandoned him for another man, only to come back to Don when she needs his help. The people in Lydia's life are all pawns in her game and she sets out to destroy Prudence's innocent love for Don.

Angie Dickinson mere presence is the best part of this movie. She is the sexpot who is the complete opposite of Prudence. Her character serves to show the fundamental differences between a good girlfriend and a bad one. Plus they give her a beautiful apartment and an awesome wardrobe!

Like Palm Springs Weekend (1963), the music in this film is notable. The musical score is by Max Steiner. The main theme is the Italian song Al Di La and famous Italian vocalist Emilio Pericolo sings it in one of the romantic scenes. Variations of the theme song follow the two lovebirds throughout the movie.

Famous jazz trumpeter Al Hirt (aka "The King of the Trumpet") has a small role in the film. He plays a jazz trumpeter (no kidding!) who has a beautiful yet dangerous girlfriend. My favorite scene in this movie is when he introduces his girlfriend to Don and Prudence. In his introduction, he has her reveal the knife she carries strapped to her thigh. He says that he doesn't know whether she'll leave him or kill him. Prudence is horrified and Don is both fascinated and confused. The whole scene just made me laugh.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Palm Springs Weekend (1963)

Palm Springs Weekend (1963) is a follow-up to the classic Where the Boys Are (1960). Both explore the antics of college students on spring break. The tag line for Palm Springs Weekend pays homage to the original when it declares, It's Where the Boys Are, and the Girls Are. A college basketball team heads to Palm Springs, Nevada and much to their dismay, their grumpy coach has followed them. The captain of the team Jim (Troy Donahue) is reluctant to go on the trip at all while buddy Biff (Jerry van Dyke) is ready for the ladies! On her way to Palm Springs too is Gail Lewis (Connie Stevens) a beautiful teenager trying to pass for a wealthy 21-year-old Hawaiian student. She has two romantic rivals. First is cowboy/Hollywood stunt-man Stretch (Ty Hardin) who has a kind heart. Then there is jaded, rich boy Eric (Robert Conrad) who is on the path of self-destruction, all to get the attention of his negligent father. Meanwhile Jim is romancing townie Bunny (Stefanie Powers) whose father just happens to be the Sheriff (yikes!). The standout of the movie is Amanda (Zeme North), the plain Jane, tomboy who is just plain boy crazy. She's got her eyes set on Biff, who is both scared and intrigued by this petite little fireball. She finally snags him when she gets a full make-over (of course!).

By definition, this film is a sex comedy. It pitches girls against guys and deals primarily with sex, although there is no actual sex in the story. The differences between how men and women perceive romance and commitment are explored in a light-hearted, screwball comedy kind of way. For more information on sex comedies, I highly suggest reading the excellent three-part series on the history of this subgenre found on the blog A Shroud of Thoughts.

This is by far my favorite of the four films in the Warner Bros. Romance Classics Boxed Set. I wanted to watch it again almost immediately after first viewing. I can understand this kind of film may not be to everyone's taste, but give it a try if you can. It's supposed to be fun and silly! Once you understand that, you can open yourself up to enjoy it.

Music and it's effect on youth culture is at the center of this story. My favorite scene in the film takes place at the record store where Bunny and Jim meet. All the kids break out into dance right in the middle of the store. I wish this could happen in real life. I dream of the day that I walk into a Borders and head to the music section only to see a bunch of teenagers rockin' out to their favorite tunes. I dream of that day!

This film is not a musical, but the music in this film is notable. The title song Live Young is sung by star Troy Donahue over the opening credits. It's a fun, light catchy tune that sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Also, The Modern Folk Quartet performs Ox Driver in the scene at "Jack's Casino". Both songs are excellent and worth watching... err... listening for.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Boxed Set Review: Warner Bros. Romance Classics Collection

The Warner Bros. Romance Classic Collection is a true delight. It's a time machine that transports you to a bygone era and fills you with nostalgia. If you expect a gourmet meal you'll be disappointed, but if you expect delicious candy, you will be thrilled. This boxed set captures the youthfulness of the early '60s with films that spoke to the youth of that generation. It's the living end! Also, the films have been digitally remastered giving them a visual vibrancy that age had once taken away. I just spent a lovely weekend watching the movies in the set.

It contains 4 films starring '60s heartthrob Troy Donahue. First there is Palm Springs Weekend (1963), a hilarious madcap sex comedy geared towards the college-bound. Then it is followed by three coming-of-age stories marking the 2nd, 3rd and 4th time writer/director Delmer Daves teamed up with actor Troy Donahue, the first being A Summer Place (1959). There is Parrish (1961), a soap about a young man torn between three women in Connecticut's Million-Dollar-Mile. Then there is Rome Adventure (1962), a fun escapist movie about a young New England librarian who flees to Italy to find love. Finally there is Susan Slade (1960), a soap about an unmarried young woman who holds a secret that could destroy her romantic and social life. Posts on each of the films are to come.

I find that a lot of classic film fans don't like the movies from the '60s, which in my opinion is an utter shame. Such wonderful movies have came out of this era. It is important to regard these films within the context of the time they came from. Sex comedies and coming-of-age soap operas were escapist vehicles for teenagers and young adults in the '60s. They spoke directly to young audiences in ways that films from previous decades hadn't been able to.

I would recommend this boxed set to anyone who has an open mind and is willing to give films from the 1960s a try. They are all fun and enjoyable to watch. My only complaint about this boxed set is that all the films star Troy Donahue, someone who I've always thought was just bleh. But it is made up for with the likes of such fine personalities as Angie Dickinson, Connie Stevens, Suzanne Pleshette and Stefanie Powers.

Purchasing Links (Support the economy! Buy!)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Good Heavens: Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)

John Huston's Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) stars Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr. And that's it. It's just Mitchum and Kerr through the whole movie, with the exception of some "Japanese" and American extras. Mitchum plays Mr. Allison, a marine who finds himself on a deserted island. He's spent days at sea and is exhausted but happy to be on land. He comes across Sister Angela (Deborah Kerr), a nun left behind by others and the sole inhabitant of the island. They stick together and battle to survive. So much time alone together leads to romantic feelings which Sister Angela must supress as she is about to take her vows. They contemplate whether they will be saved by the Americans, killed by the Japanese who keep returning to and abandoning the island, or if they will live for years and years, alone on the island.

The movie is filmed on location and not in a studio. Both actors are really in the elements and had to be very physical in their roles, especially Robert Mitchum. It doesn't surprise me that Mitchum and Kerr were chosen for this movie. I have always had the impression that neither of them were scared to get their hands dirty; no matter how elegant they might have appeared otherwise.

Lee Server's biography Robert Mitchum: "Baby, I Don't Care" has some really interesting behind-the-scenes information on this movie. Mitchum had been filming in Tobago for four months on the set of Fire Down Below (1957). He was relieved to be back home in America when his agent told him he had that he had to go back to Tobago to film Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison with John Huston. Initially he was thrilled to get such a good part, until he found out he was second pick after Marlon Brando, who had turned it down. Things weren't off to a good start.

The opening scene of the movie shows Mitchum in a raft. He's dirty, exhausted and sunburnt. The morning they shot that scene Mitchum had gotten drunk and din't want to come out of his tent. Director John Huston was not having it and to get back at Mitchum he put him on that raft for nearly 2 hours in the harsh sun. So any delirium you see on Mitchum's part in that scene, is authentic. Despite the initial feud, Huston and Mitchum got along very well after that.

Mitchum and Kerr hit it off too, although not romantically. Mitchum had much respect for Kerr, who could hold her own on set. Both had gotten sick with dengue and Mitchum had gotten hurt numerous times, putting his life in danger. Kerr was put in horrid conditions but never complained. Nothing like mutual suffering to bring two people closer together.

Also, because there was a Catholic nun in the story, the Legion of Decency had sent an inspector to Tobago to monitor shooting and to approve or disapprove of anything that went on with the storyline. At one point, Huston, Kerr and Mitchum had gotten so fed up with the inspector that they decided to pull a prank on him. They set up a fake scene in which Kerr and Mitchum grope each other and kiss passionately, all the while Kerr dressed in a nun's habit. Of course the inspector had a fit, much to everyone's amusement.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Attending TCM University

This year's 31 Days of Oscars, the festival hosted by Turner Classic Movies, is by far the best they've done. The clever folks at TCM came up with a University theme in which they grouped movies into courses and those courses into departments. Wonderful! This suits me quite perfectly. When I graduated with my Master's last year, I felt as though there was a big void left in my life. No more night classes, no more homework, no more bonding with other students, no more learning. I have since filled the void by watching, studying and writing about classic films, all of which has translated into putting more of an effort into this little blog of mine. So I think I may be the perfect candidate to study at TCM University.

You may not know this about me, but before I went into book publishing I wanted to become a zoologist! So I would love to go back to my roots and take this course:

Wednesday February 11th
Department: Zoology
Course Offering: Principles of Animal Behavior

  • 8:00 PM Never Cry Wolf (1983)
  • 10:00 PM Lassie Come Home (1943)
  • 11:45 PM National Velvet (1944)
  • 2:00 AM The Jungle Book (1942)
  • 3:45 AM The Day of the Dolphin (1973)
  • 5:30 AM Mighty Joe Young (1949)

So please do me a favor and attend at least one of these year's courses in TCM University. Click on the banner below to go to the official TCMU website. Also take the opportunity to sign up for the TCM Fan Community which is currently in the works. Besides, there are lots of fun things to do on this site, it's very interactive. So check it out!

Friday, February 6, 2009

I Heart Bobby Darin ~ Captain Newman, MD (1963) and the Academy Award Nomination

It's that time of year. The 81st Academy Awards are in a few short weeks and everyone is a buzz with Oscar fever. To honor the Oscars I wanted to talk about something very few people know about. Bobby Darin's Academy Award nomination. Yes, Bobby Darin, singer of classics such as Splish, Splash, Mack the Knife and Artificial Flowers, was nominated for his role in Captain Newman, MD (1963). This was the line-up:

1964 ~ Best Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Bobby Darin in Captain Newman, MD
  • Hugh Griffith in Tom Jones
  • John Huston in The Cardinal
  • Melvyn Douglas in Hud
  • Nick Adams in Twilight of Honor

Bobby Darin would lose to Melvyn Douglas to that year, but I believe that being recognized by the Academy for his performance solidified him as a talented actor. Most people think of Bobby Darin as a singer or the other half of the Bobby Darin & Sandra Dee marriage. Some might even think of him as a TV personality who had a knack for entertaining. I think of him as an actor.

I was already impressed with his performances in Pressure Point (1962), State Fair (1962) and Come September (1961) . I watch If a Man Answers (1962) several times a year! He could play a loveable cad or a Nazi sympathizer. He could be funny and charming or he could be angry and disturbed. So I was really happy when Captain Newman, MD (1963) came out on DVD. I got a chance to watch what was honored to be his best performance on screen.

Captain Newman, MD is a wonderful little film. It's not driven by one plot, rather several smaller plots that involve the various characters. Gregory Peck starts as Captain Newman, head of Ward 7, a psychiatric ward at an army hospital. Captain Newman is kind and genuinely cares for his patients, who are all WWII soldiers deeply disturbed by what they've seen and experienced on the battlefield. Newman gathers the best staff to take care of his patients including Corporal Laibowitz (Tony Curtis) and Lieutenant Corum (Angie Dickinson). We follow them as they deal with three of the worst cases. There is Colonel Bliss (Eddie Albert) whose seen all his men die and becomes withdrawn and violent, Captian Paul Cabot Winston (Robert Duvall!) who feels shame for his cowardice as a POW, and Corporal Jim Tompkins (Bobby Darin) who survives a harrowing plane crash only to see his best buddy die.

The scene that got Bobby Darin his nomination was done in one take (according to David Evanier's book Roman Candle). Captain Newman gives Tompkins flak juice (sodium pentothal) which puts Tompkins in a subconscious state where he reveals the details of his last mission. Darin throws his whole body into the scene. He's lying there, eyes closed, his body writhing as he goes from happy moments to harrowing ones. It's amazing and heart-wrenching to watch (although my pictures look a little silly).

I highly admire Bobby Darin. He did so much with his short life. Knowing he didn't have long to live, he lived life to the absolute fullest and wasted no time pursuing his dreams!

I recommend that you watch Captain Newman, MD (1963). Below is the trailer of the movie from the TCM Media room. It gives you a little taste of the mixture of drama and comedy that make up this film.

And remember, that Turner Classic Movies is in the midst of their 31 Days of Oscars Festival. More on that to come! In the meantime, visit the TCM University for more details (click on the banner below).

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Why I'm Not Participating in the Blog Appreciation Awards...

Premio Dardos, Superior Scribbler Award, I Heart Your Blog Award, etc. All of these awards are spreading through the blogging world like wildfire. I've gotten a couple of recognitions. A Premio Dardos from All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!, another one from Here's Looking Like You, Kid and a Superior Scribbler Award from Robert Frost's Banjo. I'm very honored that these fellow bloggers chose to recognize me and I would recognize them right back if I were to participate.

So why am I being such a shmuck and not participating?

It's like if you were to ask a mother who had 20 children to chose 5 of her favorites. Impossible! I really have a passion for blogs. I love them and I read many. Most of what I read are classic film blogs, but I also read general film blogs, vintage blogs, cooking blogs and craft blogs. I get so excited in the mornings when I have 30 blog posts to read and I enjoy savoring them along with my morning coffee or breakfast. There are so many great blogs. Even the bad blogs are good. My friends on Google Reader are probably cursing the day they let me start sharing posts with them!

So although these awards seem like they would be including, I would feel like I would be excluding. I already feel like I exclude with the memes. If I say "tag yourselves", others may not feel like they are being tagged. But if I tag specific people, others may be offended that they weren't included. If I were to buckle down and chose 5 blogs for whichever award, in a sense I'd be forming a clique. It's sort of a message to others that you don't belong. Or what if that blog already has received that award once or twice, or was the blog to give me the award in the first place? Should I award that blog for the recognition they have given me or should I exclude them because they have that recognition already?

I think, that if you really want to recognize someone's blogging achievements, you can do it without a forwarded blog appreciation award. So in lieu of awarding 5 blogs, I'm providing you with a list of 5 things to do to give props to those blogs which you truly believe have merit.
  1. Read that blog faithfully
  2. Comment thoughtfully and regularly
  3. Post a link to that blog on your blog if it's relevant
  4. Tell others about the blog
  5. Give a shout out to that blog in a post or in some other way.

I'm going out on a limb here. I'm sure I'll get some backlash. So please be kind and respect my opinion. And don't take any of this as judgement on anyone else's actions.

My last thought to share with you is that blogging is wonderful. There is a freedom in blogging that you won't find anywhere else. You can write what you want, when you what, how often you want and others will read it. You are your own editor. That kind of freedom can't be bought in the publishing world and in the blogging world it's free! And bloggers love to read other blogs and what results from that is a wonderful sense of community that we should cherish and enjoy.

[UPDATE]: I've received so much positive feedback from this post, I decided to leave it up after all. I almost didn't post this but I'm glad I did. Erica from Erica's Blog really enjoyed it and mentioned this in one of her posts! Thank you Erica!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Good Heavens: Leave Her to Heaven (1946)

John M. Stahl's Leave Her to Heaven (1946) is a brilliant film with an amazing capacity to disturb. That's mostly due to Gene Tierney's wonderful performance as Ellen, an obsessive woman who will destroy just about anyone in her path. Ellen meets author Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) on a train and is captivated by him. He resembles her recently deceased father in appearance. Her stare is so wildly intense, we get our very first glimpse of her mania. We get numerous hints along the way, but poor Richard is oblivious to them. He falls victim to her snare and she traps him. I'm sure the thought never crossed his mind that this delicate beauty could be... the spawn of SATAN!

There are a few scenes in this film that I believe are just superb in their power to unnerve. They all involve Gene Tierney, because really this is her movie. Even Cornel Wilde just seems like an accessory. Tierney is really the star.

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!

Ellen's Father's Funeral

Ellen and her family have traveled to Jacinto to bring her father's ashes to the family estate. Ellen and her father had made a pact to have their ashes scattered on a nearby mountain. Richard looks on as Ellen scatters the ashes as she rides a horse on the mountain side. This scene has the incredible ability to send shivers down my spine. Tierney's face is so regal, frozen, almost triumphant. Now that she has thoroughly destroyed her victim (her father), she's got a fresh new one to play with (Richard). The shot of her recklessly throwing around the ashes is forever burned into my brain.

Danny's Drowning

Many fans of this movie will agree that this is by far the most disturbing scene in this film. Obsessive types like Ellen are not dangerous when they are in complete control of their situation. If everything is as they desire it to be, they are happy, almost normal. But when change comes and they lose their control, their evil emerges and they will do anything to get back to that happy place. For Ellen, it's to destroy Richard's crippled brother Danny (Darryl Hickman) who is threatening to steal away some of Richard's affection and attention. She encounters the perfect situation for Danny to drown, and as he flails in the water, she stays completely still. It's unlikely you'll ever forget the shot of Gene Tierney's frozen face, her eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses, as her character Ellen waits for this poor boy to die.

Ellen's Miscarriage

Ellen can't get over Richard's growing attachment to her cousin/sister Ruth (Jeanne Crain) and his increasing detachment to her, so she decides having a baby is the solution! Right. The thing is, that unborn baby is already causing inevitable change that Ellen can't handle. So she stands above a staircase, digs one of her shoes underneath a bit of carpet and throws herself forward. I don't think I need to elaborate anymore. We already know the women is pure evil.

Ellen's Death

Ellen is the 1940's Classic Film equivalent of a suicide-bomber. She's perfectly content to die as long as she can leave complete and utter chaos in her wake. So when Richard finally gives up on Ellen, she goes back to the one person left whom she knows she still has control over. That person is ex-fiancee Quinton, played by Vincent Price, who is a true delight in this film. Ellen orchestrates her death and plots out an elaborate scheme that makes Richard and her cousin Ruth pawns in her game. You think her death would be a resolution, but oh no! Even from the grave she still holds control over people.

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