Who Was That Lady? 1960

Who Was That Lady? 1960. Directed by George Sidney for Columbia Pictures.

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.

Professor of Chemistry, David Wilson (Curtis) at Columbia University.

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!

Uh huh.

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.

The Google Sisters (Barbara Nichols and Joi Lansing)

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….

Michael Haney (Dean Martin) and Agent Harry Powell (James Whitmore)

….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!

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.

The Thin Man – Based on the Book By Dashiell Hammett

The Thin Man – 1934, MGM – Directed by W.S. Van Dyke, starring Myrna Loy  & WIlliam Powell

A scene from the movie:

Nick: “I’m a hero. I was shot twice in the Tribune.”

Nora: “I read where you were shot five times in the tabloids.”

Nick: “It’s not true. He didn’t come anywhere near my tabloids.”

Same scene from the book:

“We had the afternoon papers sent up. Morelli, it seemed, had shot me — twice for one of the papers and three times for another–when I tried to arrest him for Julia Wolf’s murder, and I was too near death to see anybody or be moved to a hospital.”

And that perfectly illustrates the difference between the book and the movie.

I saw The Thin Man movie a gazillion times before I read the book.  It was one of the first classic movies I ever saw when my Grandmother had it on on her tiny black and white TV one day and made me watch it because she was a huge Myrna Loy fan. It wasn’t the first classic film I ever saw, His Girl Friday gets that honor (also with Grandma), but it is my favorite one. I immediately fell in love with Nick Charles and his wife, Nora……(and WIlliam Powell and Myrna Loy)….and still watch this movie again and again after all these years. My love for all six of these films continually grows, but the first one has its own special place in the corner of my heart and I’ll never get enough of it.

The 1943 paperback my Grandfather gave me. Oh how I treasure this! (The original story was published in 1933 in Redbook)

I’m not so sure I would have seen the movie if I’d read the book first. It’s good, it’s just nothing at all like the movie and would appeal to a different audience. The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett and its movie both have the same plot: a retired detective is roped into a murder investigation while he’s on vacation. The movie’s funny, the book isn’t. The writers Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich  turned the book into a movie filled with a lot of laughs and feel-good moments that the book just doesn’t have. The movie is a cosmopolitan 1930’s murder-mystery, with light-hearted moments that can make your heart melt and muscles relax. Yeah, it’s that good.

Depending on what you’re in the mood for, the movie or the book has you covered. Though there are some smiles in the book, it’s more of a hard-boiled crime story that suspense novel fans would be attracted to. In the book laughs are few and far between, and most of them feel forced to me, unlike the movie where I still find myself giggling at the banter between the characters even after all these years of watching it. The organization of the book is completely different than the movie, scenes are in a different order and there are quite a few scenes we don’t even see in the movie. The Jorgensen family is so much more annoying in the book, (probably because they play a bigger role) especially Dorothy. Ugh! Other characters like Morelli and Studsy have a bigger presence too. Nick’s drinking is front and center in the book, just like the movie…

…and spoiler alert:

Asta is a girl in the book.

I’m still not over that.

There’s some merit to each version, but in this case I think the movie is more entertaining. That script is hilarious!  I will always, always, always love the movie and it’s five sequels. They are my go-to classic movies whenever I need to laugh and feel good. Bill and Myrna never let me down. The movie is a more concise, organized version of the story in the book, which leaves lots of room for on-screen mystery, martinis and quips that make the movie so darn entertaining. The book is wonderful if you’re in need of a good crime-drama. I read a lot of those too, but in this case I find the movie to be exactly what I need every time I see it.

I can’t honestly say that if you loved the book you’ll love the movie, or vice versa. But, I’m sure glad I’ve done both. Have you read it? What do you think?

Next on my reading list is The Maltese Falcon by Hammett.  I’m looking forward to reading the book that another one of my favorite movies is based on. Have you read the book or seen the movie? What do you think?