I’ve been surprised by a lot of movies lately that I’ve never heard of. Who Was That Lady? is another one. Man, is this one fun. Busy, but I think that’s what made it so enjoyable to watch. It was Tony Curtis that brought my attention to it (I really have a thing for him lately), and Dean Martin who demanded I sit down and watch it (I could listen to him sing all night and he does sing a couple of songs here!). How could I lose with those two starring in it?I couldn’t and I didn’t.
Add Janet Leigh (Mrs. Tony Curtis at the time) to the mix and, voilá! Romantic comedy paradise and a great way to spend a couple of hours.
Who Was That Lady? is another comedy that I didn’t know I needed to see until I watched it. It’s a fun, light-hearted movie with some great Sammy Cahn music and a plot that’s complicated, yet interesting. Mostly. The very last minute of it bugged me, but by then it didn’t matter, I had already had a good time and was completely satisfied with the whole thing.
Who Was That Lady? was based on a play by humorist, Norman Krasna, who also wrote the movie script. George Sidney directed it for Columbia Pictures in 1960.
David Wilson (Curtis) is a Professor of Chemistry at Columbia University when one day his wife Ann (Leigh) caught him in his lab kissing a student. Her demand for a divorce was angry and swift: she gave him just three hours to get out of their apartment. Meanwhile, she made a reservation to fly to Reno right after he left to get her quickie divorce.
David is destroyed. He loves his wife and can’t believe he would let a student kiss him at all!
As soon as Ann demanded a divorce, he knew he had made a mistake. He realized right then just how much he loved his wife and had to make things in their marriage right. The desperation was damn near heartwarming. He called in his friend, Michael Haney (Martin), who is a TV writer. David begs for his help and the two finally come up with a plan to make it all look like an FBI job. That’s right. Haney creates an entire FBI Special Agent character for David to use to cover up why he was kissing the student Ann caught him with. She was a spy! Of course! And he was tasked by the FBI with bringing her to justice! [cue the eye roll emoji].
David and Michael wind up at the CBS prop room where they procure a revolver and an FBI Special Agent identification card from the prop foreman. (It’s cute that Jack Benny makes a cameo appearance in this scene. Even David thinks that’s cool).
David’s a nervous wreck, clearly afraid of Ann’s reaction to all of this, but can’t think of anything else to get her back. Michael, on the other hand, is having a ball creating the story. It takes some effort, but Ann finally falls for it. In fact, she gets really involved in it all because she’s so proud of David being an FBI agent. She’s never loved him more.
Meanwhile, Michael is also using the story to cover up more shenanigans, like a date for them with the Google Sisters. Poor David is left uncomfortable and afraid of how out of control everything has gotten. He just wants Ann back.
Then, the real FBI catches wind of the Special Agent ID card the TV network made and didn’t use. They’re wondering where it is and why it was requested. Hmmmmmm. Enter the REAL FBI….
….and Agent Harry Powell (James Whitmore). The search is on and all hell breaks loose. It’s a lot of fun.
These actors are great together and play off each other in such a way that everything keeps moving in an ever-increasing complicated mess. It’s interesting. It’s funny. Dean Martin sings a few times (yay!). And Tony Curtis is Tony Curtis. I can’t quite put my finger on him yet. Currently I feel like he’s a cross between Cary Grant, Elvis Presley and…..Wally Cleaver? Maybe it’s those eyes…..I don’t know. I’ve been in lockdown for four months and am getting a little punchy I guess……. Thank goodness for movies like THIS one!
The pandemic has me doing things I wouldn’t normally do. Like watch Elvis movies. I’m surprised that, so far, I’ve enjoyed what simple fun they can be when I give them my undivided attention.
Viva Las Vegas opens with us being introduced to race car driver, Lucky Jackson (Elvis Presley) at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Seems he’s trying to qualify for the Las Vegas Grand Prix there, but he needs a new engine in his car to do it. I assumed that would be the plot. Wrong! We lose sight of that story line pretty early in the movie. Too bad, it might have been interesting. Lucky does spend the rest of the movie at jobs that are supposed to pay him enough money to buy that engine, but it seems like no one really cares about that anymore. Writers and director anyway. Instead, the whole movie now focuses on Lucky’s relationship with Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret). It’s the typical boy gets girl, loses girl, gets girl back, plot. But, for me anyway, it’s filled with mid-century eye candy and stellar acting (just kidding, there’s no stellar acting), that I can’t stop watching. Even I’m surprised I enjoyed spending 85 minutes with Viva Las Vegas. The 1960’s Las Vegas style that fills up my eyes in every single scene feels magical after three months of quarantine. The lights, decor, hotel swimming pools and dance floors, wardrobes, etc., etc……it’s all beautiful, colorful and pleasing. Elvis and Ann-Margret are beautiful too. I love that in some scenes they are the only two people onscreen dressed in yellow while all the others wear darker, drabber colors. I get it, they shine through this way, but they would have without it. They’re singing and dancing makes sure of that. If you like Elvis music, there’s a lot of it here. Ann-Margret’s dancing made the movie for me. Even though the plot was a yawn, and the script less than worthy, it was still a fun trip into 1960’s Las Vegas. And boy oh boy does it look like fun.
Elevator to the Gallows, 1958
Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet) is in love with his boss’s wife, Florence Carala (Jeanne Moreau). Simon Carala (Jean Wall) is in their way of a life together, so they’ve concocted a plan to murder him, making it look like a suicide. Julien uses a grappling hook and rope to climb to the upper floor where Mr. Carala’s office is in the building they work in. No one saw him and he murdered his boss. It worked. Instead of using the grappling hook and rope to get back down to street level, he takes the elevator instead. As he’s getting into his car in front of the building, he notices that he forgot to take down the grappling hook and rope. So in a panic, he leaves the car running and rushes back in to take the elevator to go up and retrieve it. While he’s in the elevator, the superintendent of the building, who doesn’t notice him, shuts the power off to the building for the night. Tavernier is stuck in the elevator and can’t escape. He realizes he left his car running in front of the building and fades into the reality of his situation. In the meantime, his car, along with his gun, is stolen.
We’re just getting started.
This is the best new movie I’ve seen this week. Honestly, it’s the best new to me classic movie I’ve seen in a while. Elevator to the Gallows is a French film that tells its story, in this case, with English subtitles. This unique suspenseful drama, coupled with terrific writing and acting, kept my mind busy from the first scene. I keep telling myself for some reason that good, light-hearted comedies are what the doctor ordered for me right now, but this movie proves that spending time with a riveting, engaging, dark, dramatic movie can be just as helpful. An escape is an escape, right? This movie is that and so much more. Bonus: the Miles Davis soundtrack is fantastic.
I loved this one!
The Doughgirls, 1944
I don’t care how many years it was on stage or how many laughs were on screen. With this cast, (and I sincerely I love them all!), I expected so much more. Like a plot.
In the opening scene of Fifth Avenue Girl, Millionaire Timothy Borden (Connolly) meets unemployed and hungry Mary Grey (Rogers) in a park. Borden is distraught. His business has problems, his wife, Martha (Verree Teasdale) is out with a playboy, his kids ignore him…and, it’s his birthday. He’s lonely and depressed and somehow convinces Mary to help him celebrate his birthday at a nightclub. The next morning, everyone’s surprised that Mary has slept in the guest room for the night. Timothy notices that this piques Martha’s interest in him again so he hires Mary to stay at the house as an employee so they can go out on the town every night to hopefully gain Martha’s affections again. Meanwhile, Mary, though not thrilled with the situation, has a positive effect on other members of the household too. But not before complications arise with various family members and love interest struggles. Of course, Mary gets caught in the middle of it all. It’s funny and fun to watch. Ginger Rogers as Mary is terrific. I still like Easy Living better, but this one will do too.
This is not a story about pool or billiards. It’s a tremendous story about character. Fast Eddie Felson, just happens to be a pool-hustler…
Walter S. Tevis wrote The Hustler in 1959. The movie, one of Paul Newman‘s first big roles, came in 1961. Both expertly tell Fast Eddie Felson’s story: He’s a pool-hustler who’s convinced himself that he needs to prove to everyone (and himself) that he’s the best pool player in the country so he can gain the respect and riches he so desperately craves. Eddie tells himself he can beat anyone, Including Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason), who is the actual best pool player in the country. We recognize early that maybe Eddie could do it, if he just had the character he doesn’t know he needs to accomplish it. Talent isn’t everything like Eddie thinks it is. He believes beating Minnesota Fats would prove everything. Like the poster says, it’s a hunger that lies within him, and it drives every decision he makes.
“You just want the money. Sure. And the aristocratic pleasure of seeing him fall apart.” – Bert Gordon, calling Eddie out on his lack of character it takes to win.
I don’t like Eddie in the book or the movie. I’m not supposed to. He has little integrity and no character. He’s a mouthy, arrogant, obnoxious brat – one that Paul Newman brings to life brilliantly. The “aw shucks” smiles he invokes to show the emotions Eddie struggles with, and tries to cover up, are perfect. I DO admire, respect and like his adversary, Minnesota Fats (Gleason). It’s evident in HIS manner, language…even the clothes he wears…that this is where the man with real character is. And success. He’s the one that deserves the respect Eddie can’t seem to achieve. The same thing happens In The Cincinnati Kid, 1965, a remake of The Hustler (in a poker environment instead of a pool hall one), I don’t like the The Cincinnati Kid (Steve McQueen) either, for the same reasons I don’t like Eddie. But I DO admire, respect and like HIS adversary, Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson) for the same reasons I like and respect Minnesota Fats in this movie. In The Color of Money, the Martin Scorcese-directed 1986 sequel (not remake) to The Hustler, I don’t like Vincent (Tom Cruise) at all either for, you guessed it, the same reasons. But, I finally DO get a chance to admire, respect and like Eddie Felson (Paul Newman revisits this role) for a little while.
By the way, there was no real Minnesota Fats at that time. The nickname came about after the 1961 movie when a plump pool shark named Rudolf Walter Wanderone, Jr. adapted the nickname for himself from the Jackie Gleason character in the movie.
In the book, Walter S. Tevis gives us vivid descriptions of dark, gritty, urban (and not-so-urban) pool halls that give it a distinct noir feeling. The opening scene of the book takes place at Bennington’s Pool Hall in Chicago and I swear, I could smell the smoke in the air just reading Tevis’s words. Excellent writing like this continues throughout the book and, thankfully, the visuals in the movie live up to every word Tevis writes in the book. Every character is properly placed in the exact atmosphere they should be in both the book and movie. The reader…and viewer…are too. We never feel ourselves cringing at any misplaced dialogue or setting in either one. I always felt like I was there. Listening, watching and very interested in a man that comes full circle in his quest for respect.
The Hustler was directed by Robert Rossen for 20th Century Fox and in addition to Paul Newman, it also starred Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie and George C. Scott. Newman, Rossen, Gleason and Laurie were all nominated for Academy Awards for their roles. The movie was nominated for 11 Oscars total and won two; one for Best Cinematography and another for Best Art Direction. Director Robert Rossen communicated Tevis’s atmosphere perfectly. The movie follows the book closely, up until the billiards game between Eddie and James Findley (Murray Hamilton) with a few minor exceptions. It’s then that the book and movie diverge. Bert Gordon’s (George C. Scott) entrance into the story changes things for Eddie. In one way for the book, in another for the movie. The endings are completely different but the same overall message is the same: Character matters.
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!
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.
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 Daisiesto watch it every time TCM runs it. Did I mention that I adore her?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.