Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Marriage and the Movies: A History - A Free Online Course by Jeanine Basinger

 Thank you to of Crítica Retrô for the heads up about this!

Wesleyan University is offering a free 5-week course called Marriage and the Movies: A History taught by professor Jeanine Basinger, author of I Do and I Don't: A History of Marriage in the Movies. I reviewed the book back in November.

This 5-week course starts on April 21st and features 10 films, 22 lectures and you are expected to do about 4-6 hours of classwork a week. I'm not sure about credits but you do receive a Statement of Accomplishment after you complete the course.

This looks like a wonderful online course for classic film fans so I highly suggest you check it out!

Here are the films in order of how they appear on the syllabus:
Wild Orchids (1929)
Made for Each Other (1939)
The Marrying Kind (1952)
Adam's Rib (1949)
Brief Encounter (1945)
Vivacious Lady (1938)
Suspicion (1941)
Since You Went Away (1944)
Heartburn (1986)
The War of the Roses (1989)

You can find more information about the course here including the full syllabus. There is a short video of Jeanine Basinger discussing the objective of the class too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ Brother Rat (1938) and Brother Rat and a Baby (1940)


Many moons ago I caught the tail end of the film Brother Rat (1938) on TCM. I was particularly drawn by the film's youthful cast, the collegiate setting and the slapstick humor. When I went to search for a way to watch this film in its entirety I discovered that the film and its sequel Brother Rat and a Baby were not available on DVD. I immediately went to the Warner Archive Twitter and Facebook pages and asked if these films were going to be future releases but did not get any response in the affirmative.

Fast forward months later and the Warner Archive released both films on DVD-MOD. Boy, was I excited! This was an opportunity to watch both of these films and to add to my repertoire of classic collegiate movies.

Brother Rat was a successful Broadway play written by and about cadets at the Virginia Military Institute, affectionately referred to as the "West Point of the South". The term "Brother Rat" refers to upperclassmen at the school. Freshman are referred to as just "Rats"and it's expected of them to be at the beck and call of the Brother Rats. The young Rats endure hazing and are given embarrassing and menial tasks in order to earn respect when they advance to Brother Rat status. The Broadway play starring Eddie Albert in the title role of Bing Edwards was such a hit that Warner Bros. got rights to the script and acquired Albert to reprise his role. This would be Eddie Albert's screen debut. Warner Bros. also retained Broadway actor William Tracy (or Tracey depending on the billing) for his role of Misto Bottome, a freshman Rat who desperately seeks approval from the older Brother Rats.


The play and the movie have somewhat different story lines. Brother Rat (1938) focuses more on the character Billy Randolph in order to showcase Wayne Morris whom Warner Bros. was grooming to become a big star. Billy Randolph (Wayne Morris), Bing Edwards (Eddie Albert) and Dan Crawford (Ronald Reagan) are roommates at VMI. Billy Randolph is the son of a wealthy publisher who is careless with his money (and other people's money too), is always breaking VMI rules and is completely smitten with the Southern debutante Joyce Winfree (Priscilla Lane). He's tireless in his efforts to woo her even though he's up against her disapproving grandmother and another rival suitor and fellow cadet. Bing Edwards is having much better luck in his romantic life with his sweetheart Kate Rice (Jane Bryan). In fact they are secretly married and expecting a baby! Edwards must keep their marriage and their future baby a secret from VMI until commencement. Edwards is also a talented pitcher and expected to win the big baseball game. He's also expected to pass his Chemistry test so he can graduate. Needless to say there is a lot of pressure on Bing Edwards and he's not handling it all very well.


Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan are the third couple in this scenario. Their real life romance which started with this film and lead to an engagement during the filming of Brother Rat and a Baby, eclipsed the other stars including Wayne Morris and Priscilla Lane who have top billing. Ronald Reagan's Dan Crawford is a level-headed cadet who loves to play baseball and spends much of his time trying to put out the fires started by Billy Randolph. Jane Wyman plays the nerdy and bespectacled Claire Adams. She has a knack for Chemistry and hides the fact that she's really Claire Ramm, daughter of Colonel Ramm one of the superiors at VMI. Claire is smitten with Dan but he's not quite sure about her. However, she wins him over with her tenacity and her clever solutions to his roommates' problems.

Brother Rat (1938) follows the story of Billy, Bing and Dan as they navigate collegiate life in their final year at VMI and also explores their romantic lives and their stints as top level Brother Rats and talented college level baseball players. It's interesting to note that the focus here is on baseball whereas so many collegiate films before and after this one have showcased football as the ultimate college sport.

Brother Rat (1938) was so popular that it spawned an original sequel. While listening to the Warner Archive podcast, I learned that sequels during this time era were very rare. Productions either resulted in stand-alone films or serials. Warner Bros. must have seen a really good opportunity to bring back all the top stars of their box office smash and gave birth to Brother Rat and a Baby (1940).

The cast of Brother Rat and a Baby (1940) Source

Brother Rat and a Baby picks up the story several months after the three roommates graduate from VMI. Billy Randolph is at his dad's publishing company and getting into problems with the law. Dan Crawford is working hard and trying to keep out of trouble so he can have a bright future. Bing Edwards is a baseball coach whose new baby is causing him and his wife Kate much joy and consternation. Their baby was named Commencement because of the key moment in Bing's life in which he was born and also upon Dan Crawford's suggestion. Commencement (played by infant actor "Peter B. Good") is a happy little boy who loves shiny objects and has a propensity to swallow them. Quarters, diamond rings, etc. He causes much chaos which only exacerbates the chaos already being created by Billy Randolph.

It's difficult to explain the plot of Brother Rat and a Baby because it's all over the place! Billy Randolph is still trying marry Joyce and Claire is still after Dan. Billy gets Bing an opportunity to be a baseball coach at VMI but the baby and Billy cause a lot of problems along the way. It's definitely not a collegiate film which may be a reason why it wasn't as popular as Brother Rat (1938). The plot is unnecessarily complicated and feels rushed. Some of the dialogue is delivered at such a rapid pace that I had to rewind and play key moments again in order to hear everything that was said! This film tries very hard to be a screwball comedy.

There is an interesting appearance by Humphrey Bogart's third wife Mayo Methot has a small role in Brother Rat and a Baby as a sour-faced woman on a bus whose diamond ring is swallowed by Commencement. Those of you familiar with Bogart's life will know that his relationship with Methot was very volatile.

There are a couple of rather risque moments in the films which I found to be welcome curiosities. In the first film we find out that Kate and Bing are expecting a baby. We immediately assume they are unmarried. However, it’s only a good 10 or so minutes later that we find out that Kate and Bing were secretly married. My mind was reeling the entire time wondering how they got this past the censors. The delay of information proved to be quite titillating and a clever way to be both Hays Code friendly and suggestive. In the second film, there is a scene in which Claire’s father Colonel Ramm interrupts couples Billy and Joyce and Dan and Claire in what seems to be a more sexually suggestive situation that it really was. In fact, Dan and Claire (Reagan and Wyman) come out of a bedroom with their hair and clothes in disarray after playing with baby Commencement. However, Colonel Ramm interprets this as something very different which adds some spice as well as humor to the scene!

I made the unfortunate decision to watch both of these films right after watching a film noir masterpiece.  I still had the noir in my mind and started to have unrealistic expectations. I set the Brother Rat films aside for a few days and then picked them up again. They were much more enjoyable on my second viewing.

Brother Rat and Brother Rat and a Baby are light comedic fare. They are perfect for anyone who is a fan of the era, a fan of any of the cast members and Brother Rat especially should be a must-see for anyone who likes collegiate films.

Brother Rat (1938) and Brother Rat And A Baby (1940) are available on DVD-MOD from Warner Archive. You can also purchase them at the TCM Shop.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received the Brother Rat movies from Warner Archive to review.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

God Speed Stanley Rubin (1917-2014)

Stanley Rubin (1917-2014)
Producer and Screenwriter Stanley Rubin passed away on Sunday at the age of 96. According to his wife of 59 years, actress Kathleen Hughes, he died in his sleep of natural causes. The news of his death made me very sad but I'm glad to know he lived such a long life and that he died peacefully.

Last year at the TCM Classic Film Festival I had the honor of attending a screening of Stanley Rubin's film River of No Return (1954). It's an understatement when I say this was one of the most memorable and moving film experiences of my life. I still tear up thinking about it. You can read my in-depth post about Leonard Maltin's interview with Stanley Rubin at that screening here.

River of No Return (1954) is very special to me and I'll be forever grateful to Stanley Rubin for that fine film. Rubin was such an interesting fellow. He attended UCLA in 1933 and left just a few credits shy of graduating. Rubin had an amazing business opportunity he couldn't pass up and then went on to have a successful and long career in the industry as a screen writer and producer in TV, radio and film. He was the first person ever to receive an Emmy. Besides River of No Return, he produced the film noir classic The Narrow Margin (1952).  Rubin has worked for Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios, Columbia Pictures, RKO, 20th Century Fox, MGM, CBS, NBC and he was also an independent film producer.

Stanley Rubin might his wife during the production of River of No Return and that film marks the anniversary of their meeting and relationship. He was the mediator between temperamental director Otto Preminger and actress Marilyn Monroe during the filming of River of No Return and faced many challenges on location as they filmed in the Rocky Mountains' Athabasca River.

Rubin's exit of UCLA just shy of graduation is the perfect example of how life happens when you are making other plans. Stanley Rubin returned to UCLA in 2005 to finish his degree and graduated in 2006.

How wonderful is that graduation photo?! I admire Rubin greatly for both taking advantage of a good opportunity for his career and also for finishing what he started at UCLA so many years ago.

Below are some photos I found earlier this morning on my camera. They are from Leonard Maltin's interview with Stanley Rubin and his wife Kathleen Hughes last year. I really wish I had taken video but I have an audio recording of that interview that I will indeed treasure forever.

God Speed Stanley Rubin!

Further Reading and Sources:

Emmy Legends website video interview with Stanley Rubin
L.A. Times Obituary
Leonard Maltin interviews Stanley Rubin at TCMFF
Stanley Rubin Bio IMDB
TCM's bio on Stanley Rubin for TCMFF 2013

Popular Posts

 Twitter   Instagram   Facebook