Classic Hollywood stars react to the summer

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ll be familiar with Classic Hollywood Stars React and more recently, 31 Days of Summer Movies. And because it’s July (hurrah!), I decided to combine the two, so here is Classic Hollywood stars react to the Summer! Because I’m crazy.

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Red Dust (1932, dir. Victor Fleming) – Jean Harlow enjoys a bath in the rain-barrel, in one of the most iconic scenes in all of Pre-Code!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mogambo (1953, dir. John Ford) – In the 1953 remake of Red Dust, Ava Gardner (playing Harlow’s role) kicks off the movie in a similar fashion!

 

 

 

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The Lady from Shanghai (1947, dir. Orson Welles) – Despite its convoluted plot, intrigue and double crosses, the summer-y goodness of The Lady from Shanghai is delicious…

 

 

 

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The Seven Year Itch (1955, dir. Billy Wilder) – Not the most famous scene from the film, but that one was too obvious. Instead, here’s this one!

 

 

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Rear Window (1954, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) – The couple sleeping on the balcony is such a mood…

 

 

 

 

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To Catch a Thief (1955, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) – Because obviously. My ultimate summer movie! <- Look!

 

 

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FAVORITE ANGRY MAN #7: Juror 6 (Edward Binns)

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Though he is perhaps, along with Juror 2, the most unassuming member of the panel, his emotional intelligence sets him apart. His quiet, unremarkable nature is a welcome contrast to the more empathic attitude of the louder jurors. A house painter by trade, Juror 6 is aware that a more qualified person should be in his position, but nevertheless, he offers his opinions and stands up for his colleagues when needed. More importantly, his ‘not guilty’ vote finally splits the room.

Theresa Harris’ Hollywood

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Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix show, Hollywood, is not only a guilty pleasure for classic film afficionados, but it is also a reminder of how far Hollywood has come and how far it still has to go. Soppiness aside, Hollywood is a revisionist tale that, unrealistic as it may be at times, shows you how Hollywood could and should have been all along. It is meant to be unrealistic and overly sentimental for a reason. Tinseltown’s treatment of all minorities has always been an issue and sadly, it remains that way to a certain extent and Hollywood makes no apologies as to how it wishes it could have rectified that. I, for one, appreciate it, even though I find its dismissal of Pre-Code to be strange at best. If anything, those five years could have saved Hollywood from what it became, and yet Murphy makes no reference to it at all. Baby Face (1933) alone deserved a mention. And so did Theresa Harris. Her Chico, Barbara Stanwyck’s best friend in the film, may have been her biggest role, but the amount of times the words ‘maid’ and ‘uncredited’ show up under her filmography is a sad testament to how problematic Hollywood has always been. Theresa Harris was one of the many African-American actors who sadly never got to rise above the stereotypes. Her filmography was extensive (Hold Your Man (1933), I Walked with a Zombie (1943), Out of the Past (1947), among many others…), she was a versatile actress, singer and dancer, she worked in all the major studios with nearly all the major stars and yet, she never got her due. Later in life, she said ‘I never felt the chance to rise above the role of maid in movies. My color was against me. […] My ambition was to be an actress. Hollywood had no parts for me.’. Maybe Theresa Harris could have been Camille Washington (Laura Harrier). We can only dream…

SCREENPLAY BY: DeWitt Bodeen

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It’s Pride Month and we are celebrating it here at the Garden! This year, the June edition of SCREENPLAY BY is dedicated to one of the many LGBTQ+ storytellers from Hollywood’s Golden Age, horror master DeWitt Bodeen.

Born in Fresno, California in 1908, DeWitt Bodeen started his career as an actor and playwright, achieving relative success with his plays Escape to Autumn and Embers at Haworth. He began working as a reader in Hollywood and, when one of his plays caught the attention of producer Val Lewton, he was hired as a researcher and then script writer at RKO. His first credited screenplay was Cat People (1942, dir. Jacques Tourneur), which I covered here, the first of a string of horror pictures during Lewton’s run as producer. Then came the screenplays for The Seventh Victim (1943, dir. Mark Robson) and The Curse of the Cat People (1944, dir. Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise), followed by The Enchanted Cottage (1945, dir. John Cromwell), marking his departure from the horror genre. His adaptation of John Van Druten’s play I Remember Mama (1948, dir. George Stevens) was his last big film success of the decade before moving onto television, where he spent most of the 1950s, before returning to film in the 60s and earning a BAFTA nomination for Best British Screenplay for Billy Budd (1962. dir. Peter Ustinov). Sometime in between that, he met actor Val Dufour. Though definitive sources are hard to find, it is believed that the two were a couple during this period and, if so, it is probably safe to assume that theirs was one of the many LGBTQ+ love stories from Old Hollywood that had to be kept under wraps. Looking back, it is perhaps no coincidence that Bodeen’s most iconic work is eerily metaphorical. Maybe, like Cat People’s Irena, DeWitt Bodeen lived in the shadows.

He died in 1988 at the age of 79.

FAVORITE ANGRY MAN #8: Juror 11 (George Voskovec)

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One of the fairest members of the panel, Juror 11 is the only one who was born outside of the United States. His ‘foreignness’ makes him stand out and he faces some hostility from some of the other jurors throughout the film but nevertheless, he stands his ground. He respects and appreciates the legal system in America and gives his point of view based on justice and democracy. He is polite, he reasons well and believes in doing what’s doing. He may also have been responsible for Juror 7’s change of heart, after their interaction, in one of the movie’s most under-appreciated moments.

Happy Kate Day!

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It’s Katharine Hepburn’s birthday! And we are all in quarantine! Woo! If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you will have seen my ‘Classic Hollywood stars react to the quarantine’ series – if you haven’t, do, I’m hilarious – so because it’s May 12th, here is the Katharine Hepburn edition! Some of her lockdown-appropriate movie quotes to get you by:

‘Henry, I have a confession. I don’t much like our children.’ The Lion in Winter (1968)

‘No, just go. As though you were only going into the next room.’ A Bill of Divorcement (1932)

‘Have some tequila, Peg.’ Desk Set (1957)

‘Oh Charlie, we’re having our first quarrel.’ The African Queen (1951)

‘Well, you don’t expect to be watching me every minute… out of every… twenty-four hours… out of every day, do you?’ Pat and Mike (1952)

‘I’m going crazy. I’m standing here solidly on my own two hands and going crazy.’ The Philadelphia Story (1940)

‘Good and drunk!’ Holiday (1938)

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Happy 113th Birthday, Kate ❤

SCREENPLAY BY: Donald Ogden Stewart

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American society was a hot topic in 1930s and 40s soph-coms (yes, I’m still trying to coin that) and none was more deliciously scathing than The Philadelphia Story (1940, dir. George Cukor). And while Donald Ogden Stewart’s Oscar-winning screenplay may have been his masterpiece, his career was as prolific as they come.

Born in Columbus, Ohio in 1894, Donald Ogden Stewart graduated from Yale in 1916, after which he served in the Naval Reserves during World War I. He began writing after the war, and, after writing a parody of H. G. Wells’ The Outline of History, became a member of the Algonquin Round Table. His fellow Algonquinians included Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway (who supposedly based the character Bill Gorton in The Sun Also Rises on Stewart), Robert Benchley and George S. Kaufman. Upon his arrival in Hollywood, he started adapting plays into scripts (including Kaufman’s Dinner at Eight (dir. George Cukor) in 1933, for which he provided additional dialogue). During the 1930s, he wrote such screenplays as Manhattan Melodrama (1934, dir. W. S. Van Dyke), Holiday (1938, dir. Cukor), Love Affair (1939, dir Leo MacCarey) and in 1940, he adapted Philip Barry’s play The Philadelphia Story, for which he won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. After that, he wrote A Woman’s Face (1941, dir. Cukor), Keeper of the Flame (1942, dir. Cukor), Without Love (1945. dir. Harold S. Bucquet), also adapted from a Phillip Barry play, Life With Father (1947, dir. Michael Curtiz), among others. If you’ve been following my SCREENPLAY BY series, you won’t be surprised by what happened next: he was blacklisted in the 1950s, moved to England as a result and never came back. Whatever writing contributions he made after that, they all went uncredited. His memoir By a Stroke of Luck was published in 1975, five years before he died at the age of 85.

FAVORITE ANGRY MAN #9: Juror 10 (Ed Begley)

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Bigoted, close-minded and irrational, Juror 10  (Ed Begley) bases his vote on his personal opinions about ‘those people’, of which ‘the boy’ is one. He regularly loses his temper and hardly ever takes the time to actually think about the case or anything else for that matter. His prejudiced opinions are enough for him, thank you very much, and he refuses to back down. Consequently, his rage-fueled speech towards the end is one of the most powerful moments in the film, as not only do all the other jurors turn their backs on him in protest, but he also, silently, acknowledges that he may have been wrong this whole time, and not just about the case.

SCREENPLAY BY Daniel Taradash

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Adapting James Jones’ gigantic novel From Here to Eternity into the 1953 classic may have been one of the most laborious jobs in Hollywood, but not only did Daniel Taradash insist on it, he got Jones’ seal of approval upon the film’s release, and ended up winning an Oscar for it.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1913, he went to Harvard, where he studied law, graduating in 1936, before making it in the theatre when his play The Mercy won the Bureau of New Plays contest just two years later. He moved to Hollywood not long after that and received his first credit as one of the writers of Golden Boy (1939, dir. Rouben Mamoulian). A few years later, he served in the US Army, where he also worked in army training films as a writer and producer. Upon his return, he went to New York seeking more theater success, but returned to Hollywood when that failed. He wrote and co-wrote a string of films, including Knock on Any Door (1949, dir. Nicholas Ray), Rancho Notorious (1952, dir. Fritz Lang), Don’t Bother to Knock (1952, dir. Roy Ward Baker) and, more famously, From Here to Eternity (1953, dir. Fred Zinnemann), for which he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as the Writers Guild of America Award. In 1956, he directed Storm Center, a clear anti-censorship and anti-McCarthyism vehicle that, despite Taradash’s best intentions, didn’t have the impact it should have. He went on to write Picnic (1955, dir. Joshua Logan) and Bell, Book and Candle (1958, dir. Richard Quine) and, in 1970, he became President of the Academy, presenting Charlie Chaplin with his Honorary Oscar in 1972, one of the most famous moments in Oscar history. In 1977, he became President of the Writers Guild of America, and in 1996, he received the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement, before passing away in 2003 at the age of 90.

Classic Literature on Film blogathon – Crimes at the Dark House (Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White)

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The stupendously hammy Crimes at the Dark House (1940, dir. George King) follows a plot not too dissimilar to that of the wonderful The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, the book it is loosely based on: a man pretending to be Sir Percival Clyde (Tod Slaughter) begins his murderous spree in a wealthy manor in order to inherit his estate, with the help of Dr Fosco (Hay Petrie). This is all very well, but I’m not going to lie: Crimes at the Dark House is bad. The Woman in White is not. In fact, it’s probably one of the best books of its genre and it was the first one that came to mind when my friend Paul from Silver Screen Classics announced his Classic Literature on Film blogathon. But the low-budget, melodramatic horror film does not do it justice, nor, I suspect, did it ever think it would. For starters, the book’s opening sequence is grand, mysterious and eerie, and while Crimes at the Dark House opens quite dramatically, it is entirely different altogether. Then, it’s only one hour and seven minutes long and, as a result, it overlooks a lot of subplots and key elements – the sisterly relationship between Laurie (Sylvia Marriot) and Marion Fairlie (Hilary Eaves), for instance, could have been better explored, as it is in the book. The film is dramatic and suspenseful when it needs to be, but apart from that, it lacks all the things that make the book great and, at times, it’s downright laughable. Now I’m not saying I don’t understand why it came to be that way. I get it. These George King-Tod Slaughter melodramas came out at an alarming rate and without the necessary budget, in order to fill a quota, and to be honest, they are not entirely un-enjoyable. I just found it interesting to witness the differences between the book and the film and I can’t help but wonder what Robert Siodmak would have done with it. Or even Edgar G. Ulmer. But alas, we’ll never know.

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