The Thin Man, 1934

The Thin Man (1934, MGM) is a movie that doesn’t need another review or description written about it. Heck, even here on this blog I’ve already written about it here, and here and the blog is only a few months old.  Classic movie bloggers have read and/or written so many articles about it over the years, and I’ll never get tired of reading them. I just needed to say a little something about it here (again) because it is the one movie, along with its 5 sequels, that I will think about constantly for the rest of my life. Just the thought of these movies overwhelms me with happiness. It’s exactly the kind of thing I need right now. The Thin Man has always had the power to move my mood to a happier place. It never disappoints, always keeps me riveted no matter how many times I’ve seen it and never fails to provide me a happy place to escape to. Right now, it seems I need these things more than ever before, and I can vouch for the fact that Bill and Myrna can provide them.

The Thin Man wasn’t the first “old” movie I ever saw, His Girl Friday was. Hell, it wasn’t even the first Thin Man movie I ever saw, but it was the movie that got me hooked on all six of them for a lifetime. Finding it was a happy accident; I was a teenager and my Grandmother had just introduced me to Jimmy Stewart with Anatomy of a Murder. I loved it, and immediately began a quest to watch every Jimmy Stewart movie I could find because…..Jimmy Stewart! Duh! I checked out several of his movies at the library that same week. The first one I watched? After The Thin Man,1936 – the second movie in the six movie Thin Man series.  At that moment, I totally forgot about the quest to see every Jimmy Stewart movie.

“I’m a hero. I was shot twice in the Tribune,” Mr. Charles said.
“I read you were shot 5 times in the tabloids,” Mrs. Charles said.
“That’s not true, he didn’t come anywhere near my tabloids.”

That kind of banter continues through the film. It’s fun and funny. Oh yes, there’s a murder investigation going on too, but for my money it’s the chemistry between Myrna Loy and William Powell that is the main attraction. It’s the star of every movie they’ve done together (14 of them total). When I see them together in a movie I ache for more. The love and respect they have for each other is always on display and it feels good to be in the presence of it.

There’s no doubt that the script of The Thin Man is helped by having the married couple Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich adapt Dashiell Hammett’s book to the screen for it, but it seems like so much of the dialogue is naturally Loy and Powell. Great lines in a movie are one thing, but real chemistry between the actors like this is something else altogether. In my opinion, that’s what takes the movie to a higher level. Together, Bill and Myrna put their chemistry to work in creating an environment I crave to be in. The Thin Man still makes me laugh out loud even after seeing it dozens of times. Spending 90 minutes with this movie is the easiest way I can think of to cheer me up,. Today, being able to gain that from something as simple as a 90 minute, 86-year-old movie means more than it ever did before.

While it’s obvious the Loy and Powell friendship off screen (they were never romantically involved according to Myrna Loy’s autobiography) enhanced their ability to create this kind of magic on screen, it is also a testament to the talent they both possess. They play off of each other with an ease that I’ve never seen in any other onscreen couple (sorry Bogey and Bacall, Hepburn and Tracy). It’s effortless every time and a joy to watch.

I always say I was born 50 years too late because it seems like I would feel so much more comfortable back in the day of Loy, Powell and The Thin Man but then I remember that I wouldn’t be able to watch them over and over again as many times as I want to like I can today. Would I really want to give that up? Probably.

“Those were the good old days,” –party guest
“Don’t kid yourself, these are the good old days.” –Nick Charles to his party guests.

I’m writing this in the middle of a long overdue racial uprising and the Covid-19 pandemic, so it’s hard to absorb this line the way I did the first time I heard Nick say it. I remember the hopeful feeling that came over me back then, but it’s hard to let myself feel that right now.  Honestly, I’m currently leading more toward the “those were the good old days” line from the party guest. . At the very least, Nick and Nora will always be here to make it all better for at least an hour or two and don’t think I’m not relying heavily on them for that right now.  So yeah, more posts about The Thin Man are always welcome. Please post a link to yours below.

“How many drinks have you had?” – Nora to Nick
“This will make six Martinis.” – Nick replies.
“Fine”>[to the waiter] All right. Will you bring me five more Martinis, Leo? Line them right up here.

It couldn’t hurt.

Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming by Myrna Loy
iMDB

It Should Happen To You, 1954

“It isn’t just make a name for yourself, it’s making your name stand for something.” – Pete Sheppard (Jack Lemmon) to Gladys (Judy Holliday)

This movie. Oh how I love this movie…

In addition to starring Judy Holliday, It Should Happen To You is Jack Lemmon’s first leading role. Peter Lawford also makes an appearance as Evan Adams III. It’s a romantic comedy that was directed by George Cukor and written by Garson Kanin for Columbia Pictures. I needed this movie this week and wanted to point out that taking an 86-minute break with Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon can work a little magic on a drained soul.

Gladys Glover (Holliday) wants to be famous. She’s convinced herself that achieving fame is the most important thing in life and will earn her the respect and money she thinks she needs to be happy. When she loses her modeling job, because she was “3/4” to large around the waste for the girdle she was modeling, she realizes that may never happen for her. She gets desperate.

As is her way, Gladys takes her shoes off so she can “think about it” all and heads into Central Park for a walk. After being fired from her modeling job for being too big, she takes joy in walking in the park and feeding the pigeons. But, notices how rude people in New York can be. She feels pretty grim about the future.

Then, she meets Pete Sheppard (Lemmon), a documentary filmmaker working on a project in the park. They instantly hit it off. The chemistry here is obvious right away. As the two talk, we see just how much her quest for fame has taken over Gladys’s mind. Pete listens, but makes it clear that he thinks it’s ridiculous. The spark between the two is evident, even though they have different views about it all.

They have a good talk that first day, then:

“Good luck to you, Gladys. I sure hope you make a name for yourself, if that’s what you want. If that’s what you really want, you’ll get it.” – Pete

How?”- Gladys

“I don’t know. Just a theory of mine: that not only ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’… but, ‘where’s there’s a way, there’s a will’. See?” Pete.

Gladys walks home to her apartment, with her shoes off and this on her mind. It’s when she walks past a blank billboard that what Pete said hits her; “where there’s a will there’s a way.” She decides to rent the billboard and have her name painted on it. Gladys heads to the advertising agency listed on the sign. It’s gonna cost $210 a month, with a three month minimum. We already know she has saved $1000 so she signs a lease on it.

After she has “Gladys Glover” painted in large letters on the once vacant sign for no reason but to see her name there, the Adams Soap Company,  and Evan Adams III (Peter Lawford) enter the picture. Seems that Gladys’s sign is the same billboard the Adams company always uses, only they’d forgotten to renew the lease for it. To get it back, they make Gladys all kinds of offers.

After several days and several offers from the Adams Soap Company, Evan Adams’ attempt to seduce her and a final offer of six other signs for this one, Gladys takes the deal for the six signs. Things start to happen right away for no reason at all, other than people recognize her name from the signs.  All of a sudden, Gladys is offered TV spots, radio spots, and her own Adams soap campaign. Meanwhile, Pete is watching it all, from the apartment he leased down the hall from Gladys’s to be closer to her. He’s not happy about any of her new found “fame:”

“It’s better if your name stands for something on one block than if it stands for nothing over the entire world,” Pete says to her. “What’s the point of being above the crowd and not a part of it.”

I love that.

This movie is a joy to discover. It’s so much fun. Judy Holliday, as always, is pure bliss to watch. She’s amazing. I can never find the right words to capture her….it feels good to watch her in all of her movies. She can and does deliver lines like no one else. She is the perfect Gladys. And Jack Lemmon. Wow. I just can’t find the right words….

Frank McHugh and I Love You Again, 1940

Frank McHugh

It’s Frank McHugh‘s birthday today! I suppose I could honor him by listing all of his movies, plays and TV shows, but we can get that list here. Instead, I wanted to write about the fun of watching him along side my all-time favorite onscreen pair, William Powell and Myrna Loy, in I Love You Again, 1940. I’m crazy about this movie. Powell and Loy’s, witty chemistry, combined with the genuinely lovable character McHugh brings to ‘Doc’ Ryan, makes this a perfect movie to me.

Birthday boy Francis Curray McHugh was born May 23, 1898 in Homestead, Pennsylvania. His life was devoted to acting from an early age. At 10, he started performing in his parent’s theater troupe with his sister Kitty and brother, Matt. At 17, he left his parent’s company to join the Marguerite Bryant Players. From there, he went on to be the juvenile and stage manager at the Empire Theater in Pittsburgh. He then joined the Keith and Orpheum circuits and in 1925, he debuted on Broadway in The Fall Guy.” In 1929 Frank McHugh married actress Dorothy Spencer. They had three children and remained married until his death on September 11, 1981.

It was in 1930 that Frank was hired as a contract player at Warner Brothers. From this point forward, he almost always played a version of the role he played in I Love You Again – a sweet, funny, likable sidekick to the leading actor’s character. He was pals on and off screen with dozens of actors like Humphrey Bogart, Pat O’Brien and James Cagney  McHugh holds his own with all of them, and generally steals the scenes he’s in with his comedic delivery. He does that here too.

Lobby Card, I Love You Again, 1940

I Love You Again was directed by W.S. Van Dyke II (yes, the same W.S. Van Dyke that directed the first four Thin Man Movies) for MGM in 1940. Three of my all-time favorite actors, together in a W.S. Van Dyke-directed movie is paradise for me!

Larry Wilson (Powell) is a teetotaling, stuffed-shirt, do-gooder who gets on everyone’s nerves with his cheapskate ways. We meet him as he’s sailing home on the S.S. Falkness from a business trip. He’s insufferable and we’re already sick of him a few minutes into the movie when an extremely drunk Doc Ryan (McHugh) rescues us. Ryan, clearly a troublemaker, antagonizes Wilson in the ship’s bar. Ryan is really drunk and desperate to prove to Wilson that he isn’t. To do this, he decides to walk the “tightrope” atop the railing of the ship “blindfolded.” Oh boy. Wilson tries to stop him, reminding him that he’s “inebriated” but Ryan is determined to prove he’s fine and ends up falling overboard anyway.

Larry Wilson jumps in to save Ryan’s life. When rescuers come to bring them both back aboard the ship, one of them slams an oar onto Wilson’s head. That conk on the head turns Wilson back into George Carey – the man he really is AND was before he took another blow to the head in a fight nine years earlier. Once George Carey is back, he doesn’t remember one second of his life as Larry Wilson. Meanwhile, Doc Ryan is with him and so grateful to Wilson for saving his life that he’s decided to “go straight” and commit himself to Wilson for life. Wilson, now Carey, has no idea what Ryan is talking about. Thankfully, they figure it out together for all of us…

“I’ve had amnesia. A blow to the head can make you forget your entire past. You can live on for years, maybe the rest of your life as somebody else, unless a shock or another blow brings you back to your right self.” – George Carey (William Powell)

….and once they do, they realize how much they had in common nine years ago, before that first bump on the head. As it turns out they have a grifter’s life in common and they love it. With this new common ground, they come up with a plan to milk everything they can out of Larry Wilson’s life. All those bank accounts they discovered in Larry Wilson’s wallet provoked them to get moving on to Wilson’s beloved Habersville where they planned to get away with Wilson’s fortune.

Until Kay meets them at the dock when the ship gets home. Kay is Larry Wilson’s wife. She had heard about the rescue, and even though she plans to divorce Larry and marry Herbert (Donald Douglas), she meets him to bring him home anyway. She doesn’t realize Larry doesn’t exist anymore. And George Carey doesn’t realize she’s his wife. He is stunned to learn he’s really married to her at all. Doc Ryan’s and Carey’s plan hits a wall before it ever gets started.

They rethink everything, all while Carey is trying to convince Kay to stay married to him.

Herbert (Donald Douglas), Kay (Myrna Loy), Kay’s Mother (Nella Walker), Larry/George (William Powell), Doc Ryan (Frank McHugh), Mayor Carver (Harlan Briggs)

I Love You Again is a screwball comedy. Powell and Loy are as good together as ever. Frank McHugh is fantastic. The way he smoothly delivers his lines along side the engaging chemistry of Bill and Myrna makes this movie pure joy.

I really don’t want to give away any more of the story. I Love You Again is a fun movie to discover, especially the first time. I find it so satisfying. It makes me feel good and laugh out loud and Frank McHugh is a big reason why.

I can’t love it enough!

Sources:

Frank McHugh’s New York Times Obituary
IMDb
TV Guide
TCM
New York Public Library

Frank McHugh, born on this day, 122 years ago,  in 1898

 

 

Mr. Blanding’s Builds His Dream House, 1948 – Based On the Book By Eric Hodgins

“Oh this was a joy, sheer heaven from beginning to end,” Myrna Loy said about Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House in her autobiography, Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming

“Acting is like playing ball. You toss the ball and some people don’t toss it back; some people don’t even catch it. When you get somebody [like Myrna] who catches it and tosses it back, that’s really what acting is all about. Myrna kept that spontaneity in her acting, a supreme naturalness that had the effect of distilled dynamite,” Cary Grant for Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming.

The reason I love this movie SO much is the pairing of Cary Grant (Jim Blandings)and Myrna Loy (Muriel Blandings). They’re magical together. (See Wings in the Dark, 1935 and The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer, 1947) They play off each other so well that I never want a story to end when they’re in it. Their mutual respect shows on screen and its feels good to see that displayed effortlessly and authentically like this. Together, they make us laugh, and laugh some more. Mr. Blandings is my version of a perfect movie-watching experience. I only wish I could have seen it on the big screen.

Both the book and movie follow Mr. and Mrs. Blandings as they pursue their dream of moving to the country to raise their girls in the clean air and peaceful atmosphere. He’s a New York City advertising executive that’s stressed out with his job and the cramped quarters of their city apartment. She does her best to make it comfortable for all of them. A peaceful existence in the rural landscape calls to them both. They find what Mr. Blandings calls their “dream home” in a decrepit “antique” house. They can afford it, if they put some work into it.

They buy it. It immediately becomes a money pit with problems. It’s a chaotic, stressful project that causes more grief than they ever imagined it would when they first saw the house and fantasized about their life in it. And the bills. There’s so many bills!

Grant and Loy play their roles so well that all we have to do now is get lost in the story and smile at the way they handle it all. His funny facial expressions expertly show his passion and frustrations, and, as usual, her presence is comforting, beautiful and strong…to BOTH Mr. Blandings and us viewers.

Add Melvyn Douglas to the mix and, boom, MORE smart comedic timing. The script for the film was written by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank. The dialogue and banter is an improvement from that in the book. I’m glad I read the book after I saw the movie. Placing the faces of Cary Grant and Myrna Loy into the characters of the book, I think, made it an easier read.

The Blandings with their architect, Simms (Reginald Denny).

Bottom line: The movie script, the actor’s abilities  and the setting of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is nothing short of brilliant. It’s funny and uplifting despite the turmoil that comes with building a new house.

There are some differences in the characters from book to movie. Notably, Bill Cole (Douglas), who is a smaller character in the book. narrates and plays a bigger part in the movie. You could say he anchors the whole thing with his narrative observations. Gussie (Louise Beavers), the housekeeper, is an entirely new, and enjoyable character in the movie. Spoiler alert:

Gussie (Louise Beavers) with Betsy (Connie Marshall) and Joan (Sharyn Moffett) Blandings.

She ends up saving the day.

Eric Hodgins published the book in 1946 after he wrote a short story about the home-building process for Fortune Magazine in 1946. Hodgins had a career in magazine publishing starting with the Atlantic in 1926. He was an Associate Editor at Redbook, a Vice President at Time and the publisher at Fortune. This is the only novel he ever wrote.

Each chapter of the book coincides with the chronological steps of the process of buying and rebuilding a dream house. It starts with Mr. and Mrs. Blanding discovering their dream property in Lansdale County, Connecticut (the movie starts in their New York City apartment) and takes us all the way to life in the house after it’s done.  The chaos in between is what both the movie and book are all about. In the book, that chaotic process is trying and full of details. It reads more like a diary than a story. In fact, Hodgins uses Mrs. Blanding’s diary entries to tell a chunk of the story.

The movie treats the chaos with humor and it’s perfect.

Additional Source:

Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming by Myrna Loy

Starring Doris Day and Jack Carson

Every classic film blogger has written a Doris Day and Jack Carson post. It’s understandable. The three movies they made together are simply enjoyable. Have you seen them? Romance on the High Seas, from 1948, was Doris Day’s first major film role. It’s a Great Feeling and My Dream is Yours came in 1949, All three are musical romantic comedies for Warner Brothers and they’re simply fun and easy to spend time with. They’re all shot in Technicolor and are full of bright, colorful scenes with great styles in fashion and decor. Most of all,  I love seeing the chemistry between Jack and Doris. I never get tired of these movies because of it.

Romance on the High Seas, 1948

Directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) for Warner Brothers in 1948, Romance on the High Seas is my favorite of the three movies Jack Carson and Doris Day starred in together. It’s truly a romantic comedy with some great Doris Day singing.

Over here we have Georgia Garrett (Day). She’s a single, working girl who’s always planning exotic trips but never takes them. Then, over here we have Mrs. Elvira Kent (Janis Paige), a well-known society woman, married to business executive, Michael Kent (Don DeFour). Elvira is excited about the big cruise to South America that she’s been planning for her and her husband. Michael, however, insists he has to forgo the cruise to stay home and attain to business. He’s just too busy. After Elvira meets Michael’s beautiful, new secretary, Miss Medwick (Leslie Brooks), she’s convinced he’s actually staying home to have an affair with her. To catch him in the act of cheating on her, Elvira comes up with a plan. To do it, she has to pretend she’ll go on the cruise without Michael. This way she can stay home, follow him without him knowing she’s in town, and catch him in this affair. To accomplish this, Elvira needs to feign her presence on the cruise ship in case Michael tries to contact her there. She comes across Georgia, planning yet another trip, at the travel agency. At this point, it dawns on Elvira how she can pull this all off – After a complicated explanation to a skeptical Georgia, Elvira hires her to take her place on the cruise. Georgia can’t believe her luck and decides it’s okay to accept. It’s one of her dream trips, after all. What does she have to lose? Elvira gives Georgia her passport and a long list of to-dos and to-don’t’s, (all intended to live up to the Elvira Kent name), and sends her aboard the ship. Meanwhile, Michael is disturbed with Elvira’s insistence that she go without him on the cruise so he hires Peter Virgil (Carson), a private detective, to follow HER and make sure she’s not cheating on HIM. Oh boy. Carson and Day take over from here and it’s so much fun. Not surprisingly, Peter ends up following Georgia, thinking she’s really Elvira. They stumble with this charade all over the cruise ship and end up falling in love. This plot is so unique and interesting. Every scene is meaningful to the story and Doris and Jack deliver comedic lines so effortlessly. Doris Day sings some incredible songs here too. I love “It’s Magic.” The chemistry between Day and Carson is exactly that.

It’s a Great Feeling, 1949

It’s a Great Feeling is the only movie of these three that wasn’t directed by Michael Curtiz. It’s more comedy than romance, and was directed by David Butler for Warner Brothers in 1949. Everyone in the movie plays themselves, except for Doris Day. She plays Judy Adams,  a small-town girl from Goerke’s Corners, Wisconsin. (Shout out to Goerke’s Corners! It was a real place at one time (but gone now) in Waukesha County). Goerke’s Corners is mentioned several times in the movie to illustrate how important small-town life is to Judy. But, this small town girl has a dream to make it big in Hollywood.

We meet Judy while she’s working in the commissary at Warner Brothers hoping for a chance to get her big break. She accosts Jack Carson (plays himself) when she delivers food to his dressing room and forces him to listen to her audition for him. He’s not impressed right away, but suddenly sees an opportunity here to con Dennis Morgan (plays himself) into playing a role in his new production. Jack is looking for a way to make money and knows Dennis’s presence in the production will bring it in.  He hires Judy to “play a part” to get him onboard. Carson and Morgan ultimately work together to do what they can to put Judy’s talents to work for them in other productions. I got a kick out of the parade of Warner Brothers’ stars that appear throughout this movie. They just kept showing up! All playing themselves, of course.  Jane Wyman, Joan Crawford, Eleanor Parker and Ronald Reagan all make cameos. Gary Cooper, and Edward G. Robinson do too. And several more! It feels like every actor from the studio made an appearance in this. What a fun movie. Psssst…there’s a surprise ending!

My Dream is Yours, 1949

In 1949, Michael Curtiz directed My Dream is Yours for Warner Brothers. This one’s a little more romance than comedy, and has some serious drama too. Doug Blake (Carson) is a talent agent that represents the popular, but mean, slimy putz, Gary Mitchell (Lee Bowman). When Mitchell refuses to sign another contract to do the Enchanted Hour radio program, Doug’s boss, Thomas Hutchins (Adolphe Menjou) insists he find a replacement. On his quest to find a new act to replace Mitchell, he discovers Martha Gibson (Day) at one of the studios he visits, working as a turntable operator. She’s a war widow with a young son. And, she’s willing to follow Doug through anything if it means she can make a living doing what she loves to support her son. It’s a rocky journey. One that’s saved more than once by Hutchin’s feisty but caring secretary, Vivian Martin (Eve Arden). This movie was released at Eastertime in April of 1949 and has a strange, Easter-themed animated sequence in the middle of it that includes Bugs Bunny, another Warner Brother’s star. Bugs, along with Carson and Day who are dressed in rabbit costumes, give us a few moments of a child-like Easter celebration. Strange. Rumor has it that Jack Carson and Doris Day were an item during the filming of My Dream is Yours. Somehow, knowing that adds to the enjoyment of this onscreen romance.

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960) – Based on the Book By Jean Kerr (1953)

Directed by Charles Waters for MGM in 1960

I watch this movie about once a year, usually when it’s on TCM, because I adore Doris Day.

Because of Doris, it’s hard to admit that the book by Jean Kerr is so much better, but it is.

The movie has potential in the beginning; Kate MacKay (Doris Day) is knocking heads with all of her, um, energetic (?) sons so she can meet her husband, Larry (David Niven), for dinner. It’s a funny scene with promising energy for the rest of the movie.

It doesn’t work out that way.

In the movie, Kate and Larry MacKay struggle with a hectic life inside a New York City apartment. They have four young boys, a housekeeper and a dog and they all survive in this cramped, crowded space. They’re coping and honestly, don’t seem phased by it. Until they get kicked out of their apartment. Seems in all the chaos, they forgot to renew their lease and now they have 30 days to get out.

In the middle of this, Larry leaves his career as a professor, to one as a drama critic for, presumably, The New York Times. 

The MacKays pile everyone into that oh-so-cool woody wagon and go tour a house in the country. It’s always been their plan to move to the country and they were excited. They drive up to a creepy, debilitated house that’s big enough and cheap enough. Kate loves it. Larry doesn’t. The house’s condition, along with the new commute to New York, depresses him. Of course, Kate sees a project and looks forward to making a home for them. They buy it. Kate can’t wait to start fixing up the house, getting involved in the community and raising their kids in the country.

From here, the movie explores a lot – jealousy, ego, temptation, creativity, raising kids, small town culture and a love of home. The problem is there’s no chemistry between Day and Niven. Kate’s mother, Suzie (Spring Byington), the kids and the dog provide laughs, thank goodness. I enjoy watching those scenes, but there is a cohesiveness missing between Kate and Larry and I didn’t feel myself rooting for them like I wanted to because of it.

In one seen, Larry thought Kate ought to be home doing “housewife” chores, but she was nowhere to be found. When he did find her…

“Where have you been?,” Larry snapped.

“I was on a rendeveaux with Rock Hudson,” A ticked off Kate replied.

I wished she was!

Jean Kerr

THE BOOK, Please Don’t Eat The Daisies, by Jean Kerr, however, is hilarious. The characters are similar to the movie, but there isn’t a storyline like that.  Instead, the book is a collection of essays that cover several subjects. The funniest are the essays about raising four young boys that are close in age. There are also essays that comment on the theater, cooking, decorating and day-to-day life of creative professionals. Every one of them has an element of humor to it, some funnier than others. The book holds up well. Jean Kerr is a great writer, and her sense of humor connects with mine perfectly. This is a laugh-out-loud book for me, I loved it.

Doris with Hobo

The best thing about the movie is Doris Day’s comedic lines. That and her singing attract me enough to Please Don’t Eat The Daisies to watch it every time TCM runs it.  Did I mention that I adore her?

Solid Gold Cadillac – 1956

Laura Partridge is a smart, down-to-earth actress who doesn’t have much luck in her acting career.  When a neighbor she sometimes made soup for and played cards with, passes way and leaves her 10 shares of stock in the International Projects company in his will she finds her niche. Having stock in this billion dollar company instills the pride Laura has always wanted to feel. She likes the importance it conveys and lives up to it throughout the movie.

Laura takes the responsibility of being a stockholder very seriously and puts her power to work.

Solid Gold Cadillac is a 1956 romantic comedy that stars Judy Holliday as Laura Partridge and Paul Douglas as Ed McKeever. It’s adapted from the Broadway play by George Kaufman and Howard Teichman. This is one movie that fits perfectly into my quest for good stories right now that make me feel good and laugh out loud. It’s mostly Judy Holliday that provides both here. What a pleasure it is to be in this movie’s world of a passionate, intelligent female, great writing and good over evil. The movie is directed by Richard Quine and produced by Fred Kohlmer Productions for Columbia pictures.

It’s a black and white movie until the final scene – that’s shot in Technicolor.

Bonus: George Burns narrates and he doesn’t think any of the board members are worth a quarter….or a dime….or a nickel…or anything at all. (He’s funny as ever) But he does like the founder of International Projects, Edward McKeever.

The movie opens with Laura exercising the power of her 10 shares of stock at a stockholder’s meeting. It doesn’t take long for her to stand up and question everything, including the board’s outrageous salaries. They don’t like that. I love it. I admire Laura’s immense curiosity and fear of nothing. She stands up in front of everyone and asks question and after question of these men, without missing a beat. She pushes the board members more and more and makes them admit in front of shareholders that they make $100,000 a year for very little work. She concludes, also in front of everyone, that the Chairman of the Board works about 10 hours a year for a salary of $175,000. By the time she’s done with them, they’re exposed as the greedy fools they are and it’s wonderful. She’s not intimidated or impressed by them in the least.

The founder of International Projects, Ed McKeever (Douglas) is at this meeting too. It’s his last stockholder’s meeting. Though he doesn’t seem interested in anything that’s going on except for his lunch. McKeever built the company from the ground up, but has recently sold all of his stock and given up his position as Chairman of the Board so he can try something new. Like Laura, he needs a more fulfilling purpose, so he decides to serve his country in Washington, D.C. instead. The remaining board members couldn’t be happier about that because they’re sure McKeever will get the company a lot of big government contracts to support their big spending on booze and women. Life will be good for these greedy “dopes.” So they think. They didn’t plan on Laura Partridge.

Laura’s the only thing in that meeting piques McKeever’s interest.  Afterwards, they wind up meeting at the counter of the building’s cafeteria and McKeever offers her a ride home. They talk, we listen and observe how much they have in common despite their different places in life. The chemistry is clear, but neither pays attention to it. Yet.

Meanwhile, Laura keeps attending stockholder’s meetings and questioning everything. Exposing the Directors’ greediness isn’t why she keeps asking questions, she’s more interested in protecting the small shareholders, it just happens as she does it. The Directors really are “dopes.” The power of those 10 shares of stock Laura has is driving them nuts. She must be dealt with before she destroys their perfect plan!

So, they hire her.

The Board offers Laura $75 per week, but she holds out until they agree to $125 per week. She knows what they make, after all, and she’s no dummy. She’s given an office with her name on the door, a secretary, the title, “Director of Stockholder Relations” and no responsibilities. She’s giddy. For a minute. As it turns out, having all the impressive things that make her look important isn’t enough for Laura, she needs to be doing something that is important.

Amelia Shotgraven (Neva Patterson), her secretary, is initially there to spy on Laura for the board but the two become quick friends instead. Amelia is inspired by Laura and is valuable to her mission as Director of Stockholder Relations. Laura pledges to contact all the other small shareholders of International Projects to communicate with them, and to show them a respect they’ve never seen before from the company. She knows it’s important to give them company news, and just keep in touch with them. It’s what she wanted as a stockholder and now she can to give it to them. They adore her for it.

Watching Laura fall in love with Edward McKeever when he returns to the company for a visit, is not unexpected, but their chemistry thrills us anyway. Judy Holliday’s toughness as Laura, with the teddy bear quality Paul Douglas creates with McKeever works well. It seems like an unlikely love connection, but it’s spot on for me. There’s rocky times ahead for this relationship and the viewer can’t help but root them on.

The board fires Laura’s secretary, Amelia, because she wouldn’t spy on Laura the way they’d hoped. When Laura finds out, she gives up and sends a resignation memo to one of the board members, Clifford Snell (Fred Clark). It doesn’t feel like something Laura would do. Before the resignation makes it to Snell, she learns something that stops her cold.

It seems the new board member that replaced McKeever accidentally puts one of International Projects’ own companies, Apex Clock Company, out of business. Laura’s mad as hell and staying put.

“Someone’s got to keep an eye on these big geniuses.” – Laura tells Amelia.

Selling power tools with a swimsuit model…really?

The board schemes left and right to make money. When McKeever doesn’t come through with those government contracts like they hope, they start to panic. Things turn ugly and the movie takes off.

The Board desperately needs those contracts to keep their free ride going. Laura knows it’s time to get McKeever back and right the ship for all those small shareholders that depend on those dividends. He doesn’t like his Washington D.C. gig anyway and after he learns of what they’ve done, he vows to come back and throw them all off the board and take his rightful place back. Laura is the savior here. It’s her plan and McKeever helps her achieve it. The Board throws up obstacles and resorts to some pretty shady antics to save their own skins. Taking Laura and McKeever to court is the beginning of the end and it’s not pretty. While this main plot is going on, there’s side stories too – Amelia falls in love with Jenkins, Jenkins gets fired, Amelia gets fired again. And saved by Laura, again. It’s so satisfying to see these “geniuses” go down for what they’ve done and to see the good we’re rooting for win. In the end, Laura is McKeever’s savior too. Judy Holliday makes this movie for me. Her strength, intelligence, sense of humor and relatable personality in this movie are endearing. This is such fantastic movie with terrific writing, and a lot of laughter thanks to Holliday’s perfect comedic timing. There’s a lot of good acting all around, but it’s definitely Holliday’s movie. Laura Partridge is a hero. Not just for 1956, but 2020 too.

 

The Solid Gold Cadillac.

 

 

Bachelor in Paradise – 1961

TCM | iMDB

Bachelor in Paradise stars Bob Hope as author A.J. Niles and Lana Turner as real estate executive Rosemary Howard. It was directed by Jack Arnold for MGM in 1961 and is based on the story by Vera Caspary. I’m leaning toward classic comedies at this point in the pandemic, and like Boeing, Boeing in my previous post, this is a light-hearted, mid-century comedy that had the power to make me laugh out loud and forget about things for a couple of hours. It is also filled with glorious mid-century decor, fashion and lifesytles. This movie doesn’t pretend to be a deep, societal observation, but there is an important feminist message here, especially for 1961 I suspect, mostly delivered to us via Bob Hope’s peppy narrating as Niles and Lana Turner’s beautiful, independent intelligence as Rosemary.

Yep, it’s a romantic comedy and it’s a lot of fun.

The opening scene is somewhere in the “south of France.” A.J. Niles is a writer of trashy adult novels who has lived in Paris for years and is currently working on his next book, How The French Live. We first meet him as he’s smooching a pretty girl on his patio in Paris, you know, for research. As he’s kissing her, he stops every few seconds to dictate this “experiment” into a dictaphone.

Thankfully, he’s interrupted by a phone call or this could get boring fast.

It’s Niles’ lawyer, Austin Palfrey (John McGiver) on the phone and he has bad news. It seems that Herman Woppinger, A.J. Niles’s long-time business manager, has fled with all of Niles’ money. Oh, and Woppinger never paid Niles’s income taxes in the 14 years he worked for him either. The IRS found out about that and is demanding payment. Niles is required to go back to the United States, stay there and write another book that will pay off the $624, 470 bill to the IRS.

Niles can’t believe that Herman Woppinger would do this:

“He was always a real stuffed shirt. He had piping in his vest,” A.J. Niles in typical Bob Hope fashion.

Palfrey arranges for Niles to rent a house, he provides money for a secretary for him and gives him an allowance of $85.00 per week while he gets his “distemper shots” and writes his new book, How Americans Live, that will hopefully make enough to pay off the debt to the IRS. Palfrey is urgent about the whole thing and knows he has to demand “observation only,” from Niles to keep him out of more trouble. Sure. At this point it’s clear that Niles is a bachelor who’s obsessed with women.

The rental house is in a suburban Southern California tract development called Paradise Village. It’s run by the ambitious businessman Thomas Jynson (Don Porter) and the stunning Rosemary Howard (Turner).

Niles gets his key and signs the lease under his “Adams” alias (he is a famous author after all, and doesn’t want to be found out) at the developer’s office. Rosemary drives him to the rental house (that she just happens to own, but he doesn’t know this). As the conversation progresses, Niles sees that Rosemary isn’t a pushover or falling for his usual lines. Her strength and independent nature intrigues him, even rattles him a little. He doesn’t faze her at all. Rock on Lana.

Side note: Every time I watch this movie, it’s at this point I’m so distracted by the houses, the cars, the children playing in the street and the yards, the clothes. Everything. It’s mid-century bliss and I feel myself aching to be there.

I even like love the pink mid-century ranch house Niles rents.

“It’s not pink. It’s California Coral,” Rosemary says.

Before he even gets settled in, Niles begins his “research” and starts making friends with his neighbors. He’s the only bachelor in Paradise Village so his presence is recognized. He observes:

“Paradise Valley is the typical American community. It’s completely matriarch and dominated by females,”

While there is sexism spread throughout the story, we’re soon aware that it’s been placed there intentionally to make this one point:  women are the smart, busy managers of life and wIthout them, things would fall apart. A.J. Niles and the husbands prove it.

It’s obvious as soon as he moves into Paradise Village that this self-proclaimed “bachelor for life” needs a woman a whole lot more than he thinks.  Not just for “housewife” things, but everything. Niles can’t even cook a meal for Pete’s sake.

Or operate a washer.

First, we start at the grocery store. Niles’s trouble with accomplishing everyday things women in 1961 were responsible for is expected. And funny. When Niles goes into the store, it’s Mrs. Pickering (Florence Sundstrom) that has to help him get a cart out of the cart corral. It’s Sissy (uncredited role by Tracy Stafford), the neighborhood child who calls herself Mrs. McIntyre, that has to maneuver aisles and displays for him. He can’t find a thing and just messes everything up when left to his own grocery store abilities.

In fairness to him though, why in the world would cartons of eggs be stacked in a grocery cart in the middle of the canned goods aisle?

Niles bumps into Rosemary here too. While they’re discussing a broiler chicken, Mrs. Brown, the resident busy-body, offers Rosemary a petition to sign that would ban all of A.J. Niles’ books from the library. Rosemary declines to sign. While Niles is impressed with Rosemary at that moment, he signs the petition. “It’s proven that anytime a book is petitioned to be banned, its sales skyrocket.” Mrs. Brown is shocked and Niles and Rosemary are impressed with each other.

Paula Prentiss as Linda.

Day after day, Niles gets to know the women of the neighborhood. He “observes” their schedules and how they manage the multitude of things they do. He’s convinced himself, and them, that they’re in a rut and that he’s the man with the answers. Niles even leads well-attended discussion groups with the neighborhood wives in his backyard (“research”). He helps them make decisions that will “spice” up their marriages. The ladies are excited, encouraged and have hope that they haven’t had in a while about getting the attentions of the husbands back.

Janis Paige as Dolores

Dolores Jynson (Janis Page), the developer’s always bored, often drunk wife is the most serious of the women’s stories. She’s out for revenge against her husband because he “is not interested anymore.” Thomas Jynson, her husband and the developer of Paradise Village is the worst of all the husbands and Dolores has gone as far as holding up the development of Paradise Hills, another one of his planned developments, with threats of divorce and alimony just to get his attention.  Like all the other wives, Dolores is actually madly in love with her husband, she just wants him to recognize how important she really is in his life.

It’s when the wives start taking Niles’ suggestions to improve their marriages, and get out of the ruts they think they’re in, that things turn ugly. The husbands are so angry that they eventually sign a petition to throw Niles out of the development. “He’s not a family man anyway, he’s a bachelor.”  They clearly have been taking the wives for granted and aren’t understanding why they’re doing these things that Niles suggests.

Jynson demands that Rosemary throw Niles out of her house. She refuses and he fires her. She immediately goes to work for Niles full-time as that secretary he needed. The movie continues to tell the wives’ stories through Niles and his own tension with Rosemary.  When the husbands finally file for divorce,  (for some reason three of them are happening at the same time in the same courtroom) we see a realization on everyone’s part.

Agnes Morehead as Judge Peterson

Thanks to another smart, independent woman: Judge Peterson (Agnes Morehead). She presides over the courtroom with a firm heart and light humor, keeping everything in perspective. SHE understands what’s going on and the guys are finally getting it. Even Niles.

I love it.

Women in power are all over this movie, whether it be in business or at home, but it’s not preachy as it sends the message. I wonder how audiences reacted to this in 1961? There are a couple of speeches A.J. Niles gives toward the end that make you feel good and proud of all of these women. Overall, the laughter, the love stories, mid-century eye candy and the strong message about intelligent, beautiful, independent women come together to make this movie worthwhile.

A.J. Niles and Rosemary Howard. (Bob Hope and Lana Turner)

Boeing, Boeing – 1965 Comedy

Boeing, Boeing, 1965, directed by John Rich and produced by Hal B. Wallis (True Grit) for Paramount Pictures.

Boeing, Boeing is a comedy starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis.

It’s about an American journalist in Paris that has convinced himself that it’s okay to secretly manage three fiancées, who are stewardesses with three different airlines, in one apartment. He’s a very content and happy guy.

Tony Curtis plays the journalist Bernard Lawrence. His maid, Bertha, is played by Thelma Ritter

…and in typical Thelma Ritter fashion, she steals the movie with perfectly-placed one-liners. I haven’t laughed out loud this much during a movie in a long time and it’s largely because of her.

“I’ll talk to you later,” Bernard says as he runs out the door to pick up one of the fiancées.

“That’ll be a thrill,” a worn-out Bertha replies.

This banter runs throughout the movie and makes the entire hour and 42 minutes worth it.

Bernard is engaged to Vicky (Susanna Leigh), who works for British United Airways, Lisa (Christiane Schmidtmer) who works for Lufthansa and Jacqueline (Dany Laval) who works for Air France. They all unknowingly share the same apartment with Bernard, who manages to pull this whole thing off only because they all have different flight schedules. Ok, yes that, but mostly because of a well-organized Bertha.

Bertha makes sure everything is in its place for each girl and she’s clearly tired from it. She changes the clothes in the dresser to make sure they’re the ones that belong to the girl that’s visiting next. She makes sure the soap in the bathroom is the right one for that girl and even changes the pictures in the frames to match each girl’s visit. She’s responsible for making them the food they like (of course they’re all different). She’s exhausted and driven to snippy remarks that make the whole movie. Thank God she can keep a sense of humor about it all.

“Which one is it?,” Bernard whispers as Bertha answers the phone for him. “Fraulein D Cup,” she wearily replies.

And then Bernard’s American friend Robert (Jerry Lewis) comes for a visit. I have to admit that this is the first Jerry Lewis movie I’ve ever watched to the end. I know! I’ve just never been drawn to his trademark craziness. But he’s more controlled here than I’ve ever seen him. It’s Tony Curtis who plays the chaotic basket case here. I enjoyed seeing Jerry Lewis in this role.

Robert can hardly believe what he sees Bernard is pulling off and even starts helping him manipulate all the fiancées. It eventually dawns on him that he, too, could have this same set up. He just needs Bernard’s apartment….and Bertha.

It’s when the Boeing company introduces the new DC-10 that things start to unravel.

The DC-10 is a much faster airplane the three girls are used to working on, and it makes a mess of Bernard’s schedule. Turn up the chaos! It’s no longer enjoyable for anyone and the situation disintegrates before our eyes.

Spoiler alert:

In the end, all three girls find out about each other, but until then the chaos Bernard has created in his Paris apartment is laugh-out-loud funny. Near the end, things feel a little bit off in the plot department, but Thelma Ritter rescues it with another funny line and all is forgotten. The movie isn’t. I’ve been thinking about it since I watched it and it makes me feel good. I’ll watch it again and again. Tony Curtis is worth it, Jerry Lewis gives a great performance….but it’s Thelma Ritter that makes all the chaos a pleasure to spend time with.

Hopscotch – Based on the Book By Brian Garfield

Hopscotch, 1980, Directed by Ronald Neame, Produced by Edie & Ely Landau Inc.

TCM | Amazon

The screenplay for Hopscotch was written by Brian Garfield, who wrote the book the movie is based on.

Amazon

“Hopscotch never pretended to be anything but a light-hearted comedy,” Ronald Neame, Director. “It’s a comedy-thriller.”

“We wanted to show that you could tell a suspense story like this where no one gets killed,” Brian Garfield, writer.

They did. And it’s wonderful.

Roger Ebert once called Hopscotch, starring Walter Matthau as Miles Kendig and Glenda Jackson as Isobel von Schmidt,  “pleasant.” I call it a pure delight. Laughter and suspense are hand-in-hand throughout the movie, and they carry the plot along with them perfectly. I saw this movie for the first time recently, and have since watched it several times because it is such a pleasure. I’m writing this in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and I can’t tell you how much I just love being lost inside the Hopscotch world right now. This escape factor is a good illustration of why movies like these are so important to me.

Ned Beatty plays Kendig’s nemesis, G.P. Myerson. He’s the new head man at the CIA department Kendig works in and is an arrogant, nincompoop bureaucrat. Beatty is great in making us despise him right from the start. The tension begins with Myerson being upset with Kendig. Seems Kendig had a chance to “dismantle” the Russian network in Germany (and make Myerson look good because of it) but didn’t. Kendig didn’t arrest the top Russian spy Myerson wanted him too because he thought it was a better idea to keep a relationship with him so they could better keep an eye on what he was up to. Myerson uses the incident as a reason to take the aging Kendig out of the field….and out of his way. He sends him to a desk job and Kendig is devastated. After thinking about it for what seemed like a second, and a suggestion from that same Russian friend/counterpart, Kendig decides to write his memoirs instead of take that desk job.

He immediately flies to Austria to meet with Isobel, a former love, to ask for her help. Kendig meeting Isobel at a restaurant, and the detailed conversation they have about wine, reveals the plot, and chemistry between the two that makes the movie doubly satisfying. You can’t help but root for them from the very beginning.  Isobel was not a character in the book and was created just for the movie. Thanks to her,  he’s able to implement his plan to perfection. It’s a little more complicated than that in the book when he tries to do it without her.

It took some convincing, Isobel wasn’t supportive at first, but Myles pouted until she gave in (who wouldn’t?) and got him a typewriter.

With Mozart records playing in the background, Kendig began to write about his detailed CIA missions. He sent the CIA, and other spy agencies in the world, one chapter at a time as he completed them. It drove Myerson crazy. Kendig realized, as he wrote, that he’d never go back. This realization amped up his game. He led them on a chase across the U.S. and Europe, always one step ahead of them and everything they assumed he’d do.

“Writing this makes me realize I’ll never go back.” Watch this portrait of Myerson through the scenes in the house. It goes from this smile to frowns as Kendig makes things worse for him.

At that first meeting in Myerson’s office, Kendig overheard him talking to his wife about their vacant house in Savannah, Georgia. Of course that house became an entry on Kendig’s agenda of mayhem! He rented it, used it as a place to write a couple more chapters…..and to provoke Myerson, who had to call in in the FBI for help. That had to hurt. And then it got worse for Myerson. Together, the FBI and CIA gassed and shot up the house, destroying it, while assuming Kendig was inside. They proved they were out to kill him. He wasn’t wasn’t inside. Another clever ploy.

Kendig keeps writing and sending out chapters one by one while hopping back and forth over two continents. Meanwhile, the CIA becomes more and more desperate to stop him.

“What are you trying to prove?” – CIA Agent Cutter (Sam Waterston)

“I’m just trying to have some fun,” Kendig.

Boy is it fun to watch him accomplish this. Every single thing that happens is specifically planned for a result that takes them to the next thing that makes the CIA look foolish. Everything is carefully laid out to create the most mayhem. He is successful on all accounts. It’s suspenseful, yes, but it’s hilarious too…..and extremely satisfying to watch.

Brian Garfield also wrote Death Wish in 1972. It was turned into a movie starring Charles Bronson in 1974 with Wendell Mayes writing the screenplay. In an interview for Hopscotch, Garfield implied he hadn’t been too happy with “other books that had gone to movies” so he took a bigger role in this one. It worked. He helped give us a terrific movie.  “The motivation for the main character is that he wants to have fun instead of a desk job,” he said. “This movie was a delight all the way around.”

I agree.

P.S. The Criterion Collection DVD is terrific and includes interviews with Ronald Deame, Brian Garfield and Walter Matthau.