PRIDE MONTH: Fante and Mingo from The Big Combo (1955)

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It’s Pride Month and, once again, I give you one of my favorites ‘are-they-I-don’t-know-it-was-the-fifties-nah-they-gotta-be-look-at-them-it’s-way-too-obvious’ LGBT couples from Hollywood’s Golden Age. The impossibly cool gangsters Fante (Lee Van Cleef) and Mingo (Earl Holliman), from The Big Combo (1955, dir. Joseph H. Lewis).

I’ve talked about The Big Combo here, here and here, so I won’t bore you again, but here’s the thing. It remains, in my opinion, one of the most exciting, most exhilarating films noir of all time, as well as one of the most complete and well-rounded. I could watch it over and over and over and you will not be surprised to know that I have. Part of what makes it so unique is, of course, what they managed to get past the censors: Mr Brown (Richard Conte) going down on Susan (Jean Wallace) while the camera remains on her face comes to mind, and then there’s Fante and Mingo. Brown’s henchmen are quite clearly a gay couple, and everyone seems to be aware of and OK with that – in the film’s opening scene, Susan hits Mingo, then looks directly at Fante to see his reaction. There are plenty of innuendos, logically (‘The cops will be looking for us in every closet.’), they sleep naked next to each other though in separate beds (even Lucy and Ricky couldn’t get away with that one!) and they seem to always be in synch, no matter what they do. The fact that they are gangsters also goes against old-fashioned expectations and I find that refreshing. I’ve always loved these two and I love that them being a couple wasn’t a joke, in the same way so many characters were in the early days of Hollywood. Everyone in their circle respects Fante and Mingo. And we respect Joseph H. Lewis for it.

ONE MOVIE, THREE QUOTES: A Star is Born (1954)

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June 2022, the 10th to be precise, marks the centenary of Judy Garland’s birth. The BFI in my city is having a Judy season and I am, logically, there like a shot. And here at the Garden, we are celebrating the world’s most talented individual with another edition of ONE MOVIE, THREE QUOTES. I’ve talked about Meet Me in St Louis (1944, dir. Vincente Minnelli) here, here and here, so I’ll refrain from going on about it, ‘cause even I am getting on my nerves. But yeah, it’s my all-time favorite musical, without a close second and I love my musicals, so that’s how much I love Meet Me in St Louis! But alas, this time, we’re going back to 1954 with the second version of A Star is Born (dir. George Cukor). You know the story, aging movie star Norman Maine (James Mason, in an Oscar-nominated performance) meets aspiring performer Esther Blodgett (Garland, also nominated), and the two of them get together, as their careers take very different paths. Here are three of my favorite quotes from A Star is Born:

1. ‘I need a job.’ Norman – The repeating of this line as he drunkenly addresses the audience during Esther’s Oscar acceptance speech is just brilliant. His life has fallen apart, he’s finished and he knows it. His old colleagues are there, everyone he’s ever known in the industry is there, and all he can do, out of desperation, is tell them that he needs a job…

2. Esther’s monologue about Norman’s alcoholism – Yes, I know, this is a bit of a cop-out, but I couldn’t leave this one out. Judy Garland’s performance in this scene is something to behold. Heart-breaking, sad and ultimately bittersweet, this was no doubt one of those moments that earned her that Academy Award nomination.

3. ‘Hello everybody. This is Mrs Norman Maine.’ Esther – Curtain.

Happy Judy Garland season!

My Medium page – reviews, lists and more!

Hello everyone! Quick reminder that I’m on Medium, if you’d like to follow me (email subscription is fine)! I recently wrote about the 8 sexiest scenes in classic movies, including Marlene Dietrich smoking in Shanghai Express (1932, dir. Josef von Sternberg), Lauren Bacall’s rendition of ‘How Little We Know’ in To Have and Have not (1944, dir. Howard Hawks) and Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman smooching in Notorious (1946, dir. Alfred Hitchcock), among others. You’ll also get top 7, 8, 9 and 10 lists, TV reviews, and of course, miscellaneous stuff. Those of you already following, thank you, you’re all lovely ❤

ONE MOVIE, THREE QUOTES: Woman of the Year (1942)

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It’s Katharine Hepburn’s birthday and you know what that means. May’s edition of ONE MOVIE, THREE QUOTES goes out to her! No, not The Philadelphia Story (1940), I’ve talked about that one far too much at this point. Also not Bringing up Baby (1938), Holiday (1938) or Stage Door (1937), which, endlessly quotable as they may be, they have also made numerous appearances here on the Garden. Nah, let’s go for Kate and Spencer’s first film together, Woman of the Year (1942, dir. George Stevens): international affairs correspondent Tess Harding (Hepburn) and sportswriter Sam Craig (Tracy) fall in love, but Tess’ hectic lifestyle starts getting in the way of their relationship. This is probably my favorite Hepburn-Tracy film, along with Adam’s Rib, and I thought I’d pay tribute to it on this day. So here are three of my ultimate quotes from Woman of the Year!

1. ‘I want to take you to a baseball game.’ ‘OK!’ (Sam and Tess) – The beginning of it all! This rather simple dialogue is just perfect for this scene – their first. Sam’s uneasiness and Tess’ enjoyment of it go together perfectly. Her delivery of ‘OK’ is just *chef’s kiss*

2. ‘I don’t want to speak to him now, he’s a pest.’ ‘She doesn’t want to speak to you now, you’re a pest.’ (Tess and Sam) – Cranky Sam is a funny Sam. Don’t know what I like more, Tess’ face after that, or the lovey-dovey moment on the couch afterwards. 

3. ‘Thought you might want to kiss me goodbye...’ (Tess) – It’s a well-known fact that Hepburn and Tracy fell in love during the making of this film, and it’s just a joy to watch. Nearly every scene in this film is like a real-life version of fanfiction and I, for one, looove it.

Happy Katharine Hepburn Day!

CAFTAN WOMAN BLOGATHON: A Paddy Nolan-Hall Tribute

On March 7th, our dear Paddy Nolan-Hall of the Caftan Woman blog sadly left us. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll have no doubt seen her comments on many of my articles, and you’ll no doubt be familiar with her warmth, support and love, not to mention her love of classic films and television shows. So I couldn’t let Another Old Movie Blog and Lady Eve’s Reel Life’s blogathon pass by without saying a few words about our friend.

As a classic film buff and blogger, I love nothing more than to connect with fellow nerds and to share my love of cinema with the world. When I started the blog in 2015, I knew nothing about blogging or what it would take to get started and then noticed. Little did I know I would find a family. My people. Paddy was one of those people. She knew that blogging was hard and that support goes a very, very long way, and she always did everything that was in her power to help a fellow blogger. Throughout the years, she left the most heart-warming comments on my articles, showing her appreciation, and we would chat back and forth about a certain film or performance or actor. She always made me feel at home, and it was great to hear her say that an article of mine reminded her to watch or re-watch a certain film! Blogging is both fun and hard but when you’ve got people who appreciate you and what you do, the hard part becomes easier.

And this appreciation and dedication is what made Paddy’s own blog so wonderful. I have occasionally done a few mini-marathons of The Caftan Woman, and it is always such a thrill. From her love of Perry Mason to her knowledge of Westerns to her many miscellaneous posts, she always had the most interesting ideas and each post was more informative and fun than the last. Her regular presence at blogathons, however, was, of course, what a lot of bloggers will remember her for. The Umpteenth Blogathon, Bond Not Bond Blogathon, Distraction Blogathon, Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon, you name it. She graced our blogathons with her wonderful, well-researched contributions many, many times and her knowledge was inspiring. She knew her pop culture, and she knew her audience. She loved us and we loved her. So, as the classic film world mourns a true film champion, I urge you to check out The Caftan Woman blog if you haven’t already. I’d link some of her articles, but I don’t think that would do her justice. And if you’re a blogger, vlogger, YouTuber, content creator, etc, please help your friends and fellow creatives however you can.

Rest in Peace, dear Paddy. Love, from all of us.

Film-related books I own (and recommend)

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As a lifelong film nerd, I’ve collected some great books on film, screenwriting and Hollywood over the years. Not as many as I’d like but I’m getting there! I thought I’d share some of them with you.

Here they are:

  • 1001 Movies to See Before You Die (three different versions)
  • 501 Movie Stars
  • 501 Movie Directors
  • 501 Must-See Movies
  • Me: Stories of my Life (Katharine Hepburn)
  • Tracy and Hepburn: An Intimate Memoir (Garson Kanin)
  • How to Hepburn (Karen Karbo)
  • Kate Remembered (A. Scott Berg)
  • The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: A Personal Biography of Bette Davis (Charlotte Chandler)
  • By Myself and Then Some (Lauren Bacall)
  • Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder (Gene D. Phillips)
  • Billy Wilder interviews (Robert Horton)
  • My Life with Judy Garland: Heartbreaker (John Meyer)
  • Screenplay: the Foundations of Screenwriting (Syd Field)
  • Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir (Eddie Muller)
  • Film in Five Seconds (Matteo Civaschi and Gianmarco Milesi)
  • Eleven books in the Taschen Movie Icons Series (Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Orson Welles, Marx Brothers, Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, Marlene Dietrich and Grace Kelly)

Some of you lovely folks out there have recommended some amazing stuff, and I promise I’ll check them all out (Jon, your John Alton recommendation is top of the list!).

Share your books in the comments!

ONE MOVIE, THREE QUOTES: Dinner at Eight (1933)

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A few years ago, I wrote about Marie Dressler’s performance in Dinner at Eight (1933, dir. George Cukor) and why she’s the stand-out performer for me. And in a film of this calibre, that is quite something. You see, the dinner in Dinner at Eight never happens. The film is actually about the lives of these characters leading up to the dinner itself. We’ve got hostess Billie Burke, her businessman husband Lionel Barrymore, broke stage star Marie Dressler, the other broke stage star John Barrymore, and bickering couple Jean Harlow and Wallace Beery. With all this talent in a Kaufman and Ferber play adaptation directed by George Cukor all of people, it’s damn near impossible to pick just three stand-out quotes. But I’m going to try. (I am leaving out the final exchange between Harlow and Dressler, because, well, it’s too great to put into words.)

– (about her theatre) ‘For six months, they haven’t taken the lock off the door. It’s now known as the spiders rendez-vous. Can’t collect rent from them. You know, when old Stanfield gave me that theatre, I thought it was very magnificent of the old boy. Now I wish I’d taken a sandwich.’ Carlotta Vance – This, to me, is one of the best lines in the film. Not only is this a brilliantly written speech, it also sums up Carlotta’s character perfectly. She is broke and about to sell her stock, and this tongue-in-cheek speech reflects her feelings without getting too dramatic, which is something I’ve always loved about Dressler’s performance in the film. That balance between comedy and drama is magnificent.

– ‘I’ve told you a million times not to talk to me while I’m doing my lashes!’ Kitty – Kitty’s shallowness is often a punchline and this is easily her best line!

– ‘I’ve had the most ghastly day anybody ever had! No aspic for dinner, and Ricky in jail, and Gustav dying for all I know. And a new butler tonight and that Vance woman coming in. And having to send for crab meat. Crab meat! And now on top of everything else, the Ferncliffes aren’t coming to dinner. They call up at this hour, the miserable cockneys, they call up to say they’ve gone to Florida. Florida!’ Millicent Jordan –Ah the woes of hosting a big, high society dinner party, we’ve all been there. Millicent has lost it at this point and Billie Burke brought it! Her delivery, her expressions, her voice… She was made for type of film. And you know I worship her in Merrily We Live (1938)! But I digress.

Go on, go watch Dinner at Eight, if you haven’t. And if you have, watch it again. You can never go wrong with it.

Oscar Season: Walter Huston in The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948)

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It’s Oscar season! Woohoo! I was going through the Garden’s previous Oscar posts, and I realized I have never talked about one my favorite categories. We’ve had Best Actress nominees of 1942/43, Best Supporting Actress nominees of 1952/53, Howard Hawks’ sole Oscar nomination and why that’s a travesty, Ray Milland’s stunning performance in The Lost Weekend, people who never won an Oscar, my top 10 favorite Oscar wins, which at this point, needs an update, and, of course, the ill-advised Oscar jokes – hey, I think I’m funny! But I have never talked about the Supporting Actor category. Some of my favorite Oscar wins are in this category and yet, I seemed to have overlooked it all these years. Well, no more! Supporting Actor is probably my favorite of the acting categories. I think it’s the one that, for me, has the most consistently interesting characters and performances. One could argue with a lot of choices in the other categories, but for some reason, Supporting Actor seems to be almost always unanimous. From George Sanders in All About Eve, to Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives, to Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, Supporting Actor has given us some of cinema’s most memorable moments ever. Enter Walter Huston.

Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) are two Americans down on their luck in Mexico. They come across an elderly man named Howard, played by Walter Huston, while staying at a flophouse, and they soon concoct a plan to dig for gold in the Sierra Madre.

Though not entirely unpredictable once we know what’s going on, John Huston’s The Treasure of Sierra Madre is still a riveting tale of greed and mistrust, led by three leads brilliantly playing off each other throughout. And while I’d love to be able to talk about Bogart’s performance in one of these Oscar posts things, you’ll be shocked to find he neither won nor was nominated for this. Walter Huston, however, was and did. A scene-stealer if there ever was one, Huston managed to capture the humanity among the greed, as well the humor in an otherwise very tense film. From his first scene in the flophouse, in which he gives an impassioned speech about prospecting and its downfalls, to the very last moments and that infectious laugh, he’s a commanding figure and he has our attention, which is impressive considering he shared the screen with Humphrey Bogart. This, of course, was the first and so far only time in which a child directed their parent to an Oscar, and when he receiving his award, Walter Huston remarked that he told his son John that if he ever became a director or a writer, to please find a good part for his old man. ‘He did all right!’, he said. John Huston also won a Best Director Oscar for The Treasure of Sierra Madre. Ain’t it sweet!

ONE MOVIE, THREE QUOTES: The Naked City (1948)

Ahh, the Screenplay Oscars. Has there ever been a more confusing Academy Award category? Starting with the very first ceremony in 1929, they have had many iterations, names and categories over the years, some of them defunct these days. But one thing that’s interesting is that, in 1949, the Original and Adapted categories, already a thing since 1940, were turned into one with several nominees that fell into either category. And then there was the Best Motion Picture Story, which they classified essentially as the best story on paper, rather than the screenplay it became. Soooo darn confusing! Anyway, at the 1949 Oscars, John Huston won the Best Screenplay Oscar for The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948, dir. Huston) and Richard Schweizer and David Wechsler won Best Motion Picture Story for The Search (1948, dir. Fred Zinnemann). One of the other nominees in the latter category was The Naked City (1948, dir. Jules Dassin), which I covered a few years ago. I always thought that, if they hadn’t put Original and Adapted together, The Naked City could have easily won Original Screenplay (I mean, does it count? I don’t know anymore). Written by Malvin Wald and Albert Maltz, The Naked City takes us through the streets of New York City as our detectives, played by Barry Fitzgerald and Don Taylor, try to uncover the truth about Jean Dexter’s murder. Like any self-respecting film noir (more on the police procedural side of things in this case), The Naked City has some amazing lines. Here are three of them:

  • ‘Jean Dexter is dead. And the answer must be somewhere down there.’ Narrator (the film’s producer Mark Hellinger) – With its straight-forward nature, this is one of those films where the voice-over narration really works. And this particular line is probably the most poignant as it reminds us of what’s at stake.
  • Thought you were off the liquor. Liquor is bad. Weakens your character. How can a man like me trust a liar like you? I can’t.’ Willie Garza (Ted de Corsia) – The brutal nature of this scene, right in the first ten minutes of the film, is pretty daunting and it takes exactly where The Naked City wants us to go.
  • There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.’ Narrator – A now iconic line thanks to the television adaptation, this is simply one of the very best closing lines in film history.

Happy Oscars season!

Frank and Bing, Well Did You Evah!

High Society (1956, dir. Charles Walters) may not be everyone’s cup of tea. A lot of people don’t like musicals, and a lot of people don’t like remakes. And a lot of people love The Philadelphia Story (1940, dir. George Cukor). However, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby AND Louis Armstrong? Come on! And though I love Grace Kelly in it – because I love her in everything -, it’s Frank and Bing who take today’s spotlight with their wonderful, chaotic and awesome rendition of Cole Porter’s ‘Well Did You Evah?’.

So, what’s happening? Tracy Lord (Kelly) and George Kittredge (John Lund) are getting married, but C. K. Dexter Haven (Bing Crosby), Tracy’s ex-husband shows up unexpected, as do journalists Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra) and Liz Imbrie (Celeste Holm). You know how it goes. Naturally, during the party, heads butt and egos clash. Enter Frank and Bing. Two of the greatest voices of the 20th Century drinking it up, complaining about the party, taking friendly jabs at each other and bringing it, like always. ‘True Love’ may be High Society’s biggest song, but Well Did You Evah! has always been my favorite. The lyrics, the tune, the (drunken) dance routine, the comic timing, the jokes… It’s just a joy to watch these two giants doing their thing. And apparently, they almost didn’t happen! Originally written for the musical DuBarry was a Lady, the song was apparently added at the last minute because they realized they didn’t have a song for Frank and Bing to sing together. Makes sense. If only they’d thought of that for Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart!