Showing posts with label Anne Shirley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anne Shirley. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sorority House (1939)

Sorority House (1939)

Alice Fisher (Anne Shirley) and her father Lew (J.M. Kerrigan) live simple lives. Mr. Fisher runs a humble grocery story and his bright daughter helps him with the ins and outs of the business. Attending Talbot University is a pipe dream for Alice until her father surprises her with a selfless gift. He sacrifices what little money he has for two years tuition so Alice can fulfill her dream. Once at college, Alice immediately gets caught up the social politics of sorority culture. Being part of a good sorority, like the Gamma House, ensures a proper standing in campus culture.

Anne Shirley and J.M. Kerrigan in Sorority House (1939)
Anne Shirley and J.M. Kerrigan
"I'll miss your brains." - Mr. Fisher to his daughter Alice

Alice rooms with two very different coeds. First there is Dotty (Barbara Read), a wise-cracking dame who befriends Alice and rejects sorority culture because she's been rejected herself. She refers to fellow rejects as dreeps (a dreary college girls who weep). Then there is Merle (Adele Pearce, later known as Pamela Blake) who has drunk the sorority Kool-Aid and wants nothing more than to be a member of the Gamma House. Alice and Merle soon discover the downside of sorority rushes. Merle becomes the target of powerful Gamma sorority ice queen Neva (Doris Jordan, later known as Doris Davenport). Alice gets a boost from medical student Bill Loomis (James Ellison), a big man on campus who has a lot of sway with the Gamma girls. However, Alice starts to lose sight of her values and the simple lifestyle her father taught her, as she gets caught up in the tangle of campus life.

Anne Shirley, Barbara Read and Pamela Blake in Sorority House (1939)
Anne Shirley, Barbara Read and Pamela Blake

"That doesn't sound very democratic to me." - Alice
"Whoever told you college was democratic? - Dotty

Directed by John Farrow, Sorority House (1939) is a collegiate drama released by RKO. Based on a story by Mary Coyle Chase, the script is injected with a poignant social message by screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. As I do with many of Dalton Trumbo's works, I had quite a strong reaction to the story line and characters. At one point I felt the urge to slap Alice across the face and burn the Gamma House down to the ground. The story hooks you from that initially emotionally heartwarming scene so when the kick in the butt comes at the story's climax you feel it. Sorority House isn't just your run-of-the-mill collegiate fluff. It's a story with an important social message. It warns against the dangers of groups like sororities that do a lot of damage when they exclude or try to control others behaviors. The moral of the story: "live and let live."

"The essence of success is a good start." - Mrs. Scott (Elizabeth Risdon)

I particularly enjoyed the performances by J.M. Kerrigan and Anne Shirley. Poor James Ellison has a rather weak role as Alice's boyfriend. He's really there for the plot and doesn't add much more to the movie which is unfortunate. Actresses Veronica Lake and Marge Champion have bit roles as coeds. I wasn't able to spot them but maybe someone with a sharp eye can. Chill Wills has a brief role at the start of the film.

Anne Shirley and James Ellison

1930s era Sorority House
The Gamma girls

I have absolutely no interest in modern collegiate life so I live vicariously through these old movies. Sorority House has it's silly and somewhat backwards moments (like Mr. Fisher telling Dotty she might not become an Abe Lincoln but she could be the mother of a future president). However, I loved it's overall message. If you're looking for a good double bill, I recommend Sorority House (1939) with RKO's Finishing School (1934), both available from the Warner Archive Collection.

Sorority House (1939) is available on DVD-MOD from Warner Archive. You can purchase the DVD from the WB Shop. Use my buy links to shop and you will help support this site. Thanks!

 Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me a copy of Sorority House (1939) to review!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Anne of Green Gables (1934)

Anne of Green Gables (1934)
Anne Shirley and O.P. Heggie in a publicity shot for Anne of Green Gables (1934)

"I cannot imagine my red hair away. I do my best but it's no use. It will be my lifelong sorrow." - Annie Shirley

It's the film that gave actress Anne Shirley her name.

Anne of Green Gables (1934) stars Anne Shirley as Anne (with an "e") Shirley, the protagonist of L.M. Montgomery's beloved series of books. It was a surprise hit for RKO who had secured the rights to the story but severely underestimated its potential. Directed by George Nicholls Jr. and with musical direction by Max Steiner, this is a charming adaptation that gives us a brief taste of the world of Anne of Green Gables. I say that because this 78 minute film can only capture so much of the idyllic fictional town of Avonlea and its residents. Reading the book and devouring the TV mini-series will give you much more. (And if you're a weirdo like me you also watch the Anne of Green Gables animated series for kicks.) It's not a faithful adaptation but Anne Shirley does a marvelous job with her role and you can't help but want to reach through the screen and hug O.P. Heggie who plays Matthew Cuthbert.

O.P. Heggie in Anne of Green Gables (1934)
O.P. Heggie in Anne of Green Gables (1934)

Brother and sister Matthew (O.P. Heggie) and Marila Cuthbert (Helen Westley) live at Green Gables. They are getting on in years and could use some help around the house and on the farm. They send for a boy from an orphanage. Not only do they get a girl instead of a boy, they also get a lot more than they bargained for with the energetic Anne Shirley. She's got a crazy imagination, a mouth that keeps yapping away and bright red hair. And she's also got the biggest heart. We follow her adventures as she adjusts to life in Avonlea, has a less than stellar start with future beau Gilbert Blythe (Tom Brown) and befriends her bosom buddy Diana Barry (Gertrude Messinger).

Anne of Green Gables (1934)
Helen Westley, Anne Shirley and O.P. Heggie in Anne of Green Gables (1934)

Anne Shirley is one of the most beloved and complex characters of fiction for a reason. She is the embodiment of individuality and gives us all license to our weird quirky selves. We love Anne for her wild ideas, her flowery language, her love of people, her rambunctiousness, her red locks and even her fragile ego. Anne energizes everyone around her. She breathes life into Matthew and Marila who up until that point were just going through the motions. We see her breathe new life into them and into others too.

Readers of the novel and the audiences of the many adaptations of the story can’t help but see Anne as their own bosom friend. But it goes beyond that. Anne is a character many young women admire. Not only do we want to be Anne, we want to fall in love with Gilbert, be friends with Diana, hug Matthew and please Marila. And we want to frolic around Prince Edward Island too.

Anne Shirley is full of spirit even though she comes from rather dire circumstances. Everything seems to be going against her. She’s an orphan who doesn’t seem to be wanted by anybody. Her red hair doesn't help matters either. Even the Cuthberts aren’t quite sure what to do with her, although they are quickly won over. The system tries to break her down but her personality withstands it all.

Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables (1934)

I’ve always had a deep love for Anne of Green Gables. The novel by L.M. Montgomery is one of my favorites and the character of Anne Shirley is one I keep close to my heart. Matthew Cuthbert is also very special to me. I consider him the sweetest character in all of fiction. For those of you who were affected by his storyline in the novel, you’ll be happy to know that it’s altered in this film to save you some heartache.

Anne of Green Gables (1934) gives you a glimpse into the world of Anne and Avonlea. It’s really an appetizer more than a full course. Because it’s such a short film much is missing but the essence is still there. Tom Brown adeptly plays Gilbert Blythe, a romantic character who rivals Austen’s Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice for devotees. There are lots of great performances in this film most notably the leads Anne Shirley, who embodies the spirit of the character, O.P. Heggie, whose facial expressions as Matthew are spot on, Helen Westley as the tough Marila and Sara Haden as busybody Mrs. Barry.

Tom Brown in Anne of Green Gables
Tom Brown as Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Green Gables (1934)

Anne of Green Gables (1934) captures all the charm of the original story. What it lacks in plot it makes up for in ambiance. This film s is available on DVD-MOD from Warner Archive.

Anne Of Green Gables (Mod) from Warner Bros.
Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received Anne of Green Gables (1934) from Warner Archive for review.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Government Girl (1943)

Washington, D.C. during WWII was a hectic place. The new jobs created to support the war effort drove many to the nation’s capital. The influx of people caused a housing shortage that had workers and hotels scrambling. And with so many men away on duty, D.C. became a 10-women-to-every-man kind of a town leaving single gals with few options. The “government girls”, who took on a variety of important roles, were crucial to war effort’s success.

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What better way to examine chaos than with a screwball comedy? The film Government Girl (1943) is a humorous look at this moment in history. It was directed by Dudley Nichols, produced by RKO and adapted by Nichols and Budd Schulberg from a short story written by Adela Rogers St. John. Olivia de Havilland stars as Ms. Elizabeth Allard, AKA "Smokey", a “government girl” living and working in D.C. She’s booked a honeymoon suite at a hotel for her best friend May (Anne Shirley) and her soon-to-be-husband Sgt. Joe Blake (James Dunn). Joe only has 24 hours to get married, have quick honeymoon and be back on duty, so they are on a time crunch.

Anne Shirley and Olivia de Havilland in Government Girl (1943)

Unbeknownst to Smokey, the hotel gave their suite to Ed Browne (Sonny Tufts) a mechanic who has been hired by the government to do important work for the Air Force. When Smokey finds out the gentleman who lent her his ring so that her friend May could get married with one has the suite, they begin to butt heads.

Sonny Tufts in Government Girl (1943)
Sonny Tufts in Government Girl (1943)

And they keep butting heads when they eventually find out Smokey, or Ms. Allard, is really Ed Browne’s new secretary. He thinks she’s the one who was getting married. But really she’s a single government gal who already has two suitors, which is virtually a miracle in a town with an imbalanced ratio of men to women. Ms. Allard becomes Browne’s Girl Friday, helping him with important government work and championing for him when crooked government types try to screw him over.

Olivia de Havilland, Sonny Tufts and FDR.

This movie had a lot of potential but never quite realizes it. I read that Olivia de Havilland got stuck doing this film for RKO because of an arranged loan out from Warner Bros. What would follow was a difficult battle with Warner Bros. over her contract. Would the film have been better if circumstances for de Havilland were different? Male lead Sonny Tufts was being groomed during WWII to be a replacement star. With so many actors on duty and away from Hollywood, film studios needed more leading men. Tufts didn’t quite make the splash they were hoping for.

Government Girl is a quirky and funny movie but ultimately falls flat. The More the Merrier (1943), a Columbia picture starring Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn, is from the same year, deals with the same topic but is much more entertaining. If you are interested in the topic of American life during WWII, I suggest you watch Government Girl and then The More the Merrier to achieve a better experience. 

Agnes Moorehead and Jess Barker in Government Girl (1943)
Agnes Moorehead and Jess Barker in Government Girl (1943)

Notable appearances in the film include Agnes Moorehead as the villain Mrs. Right, Harry Davenport as Senator MacVickers and Una O'Connor as the honeymoon-wrecker-landlady. I love Anne Shirley but I thought her role as the daft but loveable May was a little too similar to Joan Fontaine’s portrayal of Peggy in The Women (1939). I’m not sure why I made that comparison while I was watching the film but perhaps it has something to do with Fontaine and de Havilland being sisters.

The main reason I watched the film is because I’m interested in the D.C. housing shortage during WWII. I’ve lived in cramped quarters all my life so I enjoy watching films about similar situations. The More the Merrier (1943), it’s remake Walk, Don’t Run (1966), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) and Buster Keaton’s Scarecrow (1920) are some of my top favorite movies partly for that reason.

One final note: fans of 1940s fashion will want to watch this for the excellent outfits worn by Olivia de Havilland, Anne Shirley and Agnes Moorehead.

Government Girl (1943) is available from Warner Archive on DVD-MOD.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received Government Girl (1943) from Warner Archive for review.

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