Jul 25, 2010

Quote of the Week

A tragedy relieved by heavy doses of gloom and good honest tedium.

-Charles Laughton's assessment of Arch of Triumph (1948), in which he appeared

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Jul 20, 2010

Dream Casting: The Classic Duos That Never Happened

Have you ever seen a classic movie and wished it would have been cast differently? Or have you seen a perfect pair in a supporting role and wished they were the leads? And then there’s the role that was nearly perfectly cast—but for some reason wasn’t.

I nearly always think in pairs when I pine for that kind of perfect casting. Here are some of the duos I wish could have been (some of which almost became a reality):

Joan Blondell and Louise Beavers run a numbers racket together As much as I love Edward G. Robinson in Bullets or Ballots (1936), my favorite part of this crime drama is the lively relationship between numbers racket business partners Joan Blondell and Louise Beavers. Their story was the movie I really wanted to see. Blondell runs the primary business, while her former maid Beavers handles the Harlem sector. I loved their snappy dialogue and gal pal chemistry—and I was so frustrated by how few scenes these two had together. Their relationship could have been the basis for a fantastic crime comedy. When I imagine it taking place in the pre-code period, I practically weep for the lost possibilities.

Carole Lombard and Clark Gable costar in a screwball comedy It’s hard to say how real life couples will play off each other on the big screen. They definitely aren’t all Bogey and Bacall. In fact, some of the worst romantic screen pairings are real life lovers (maybe they get self-conscious?) Lombard and Gable had such big personalities; I can see how they may have been too overwhelming together in a screwball comedy. And yet, what an idea! Imagine these two getting wild together on the screen. They were both comfortable in comedies, and they had the bravado and courage necessary to go for the big laughs. This could have been a dynamite pairing.

Marie Dressler and Jean Harlow costar in a comedy According to biographer David Stenn, Harlow was so proud of her comic performance in Dinner at Eight (1933) that she burst into tears in her dressing room after filming her last scene. Co-star Dressler was also impressed with the young star, and hoped that she could star in comedy with her. It could have been the start of an entirely new kind of comedy team—the glamour girl and the matron. Unfortunately, Dressler died in 1934 before the movie could be made.

A film noir with Marie Windsor and Robert Mitchum Windsor and Mitchum had a similar laid back menace, strangely interwoven with a down-to-earth quality. They stole scenes on their own, so I’m guessing they’d either cancel each other out, or be absolutely electric together in a noir. I envision Mitchum as a detective and Windsor as the tough-talking owner of a nightclub. Maybe she helps him solve a crime?

Cary Grant with Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina (1954) I only learned last year that Billy Wilder wanted Cary Grant for the part of Linus, the older man who seduces Audrey Hepburn’s Sabrina away from her girlhood crush, but that he wasn’t available. Now I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to watch that movie without imagining him in the role. I think that bit of casting could have made Sabrina my favorite romance. As it is, I can’t accept Bogie in that role; I never believed Linus loved Sabrina. I just wanted her to go back to David. I could see Grant playing the role in some Bringing up Baby-style glasses—and gradually revealing the handsome romantic beneath the serious businessman. It would have made so much more sense.

What classic duos do you wish could have been?

Jul 18, 2010

Quote of the Week

If Irene Dunne isn’t the first lady of Hollywood, then she’s the last one.

-Gregory La Cava
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Jul 13, 2010

Ethel Merman: A Showstopping, Ripsnorting Swan Song

I recently re-watched Airplane (1980), and I was stunned to see Ethel Merman in a brief cameo. I couldn't believe that I had forgotten this hilarious moment. I checked out her filmography later, and realized that this was Merman's last movie role. What a great way to go! Singing your most famous song with gusto while getting a laugh in an enormously successful comedy. Good work Ethel!

(Too bad this didn't happen for more classic actresses who worked past the studio age. Can you imagine an exit like this for Joan Crawford, Bette Davis or Veronica Lake?)

Jul 6, 2010

TV Tuesday: Lana Turner on Donahue (1982)

I've got another great Lana Turner clip to share this week. I love the way she is holding court on this 1982 episode of The Phil Donahue Show. It's a marvelous performance! I especially like the way she uses that fan as a dramatic prop.

Jul 4, 2010

Quote of the Week

In order to have great happiness, you have to have great pain and unhappiness-otherwise how would you know when you're happy?

-Leslie Caron

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Jul 3, 2010

Great Pre-code Quotes

I found this little list of quotes from pre-code movies in my files. I can’t remember what I planned to do with them, so I thought I’d share them:

Vantine (Jean Harlow): You can check the wings and halo at the desk.
Dennis (Clark Gable): I'll be right up.
-Red Dust (1932)

Nan (Joan Blondell): You scram, before I wrap a chair around your neck!
Vivian (Claire Dodd): It's three o'clock in the morning - where do you want me to go?
(Nan starts to speak, but Vivian cuts her off)
Vivian: You cheap stenographer...
Nan: Outside, countess. As long as they've got sidewalks YOU'VE got a job.
(Shoves her out, kicks her in the bum, and slams the door)
-Footlight Parade (1933)

Lil (Jean Harlow): I'm not gonna spend my whole life on the wrong side of the railroad tracks.
Sally (Una Merkel): I hope you don't get hit by a train while you're crossing over.
-Red-Headed Woman (1932)

Lily (Miriam Hopkins): Well, I'll leave you alone with that lady. But if you behave like a gentleman, I'll break your neck.
-Trouble in Paradise (1932)

I know there are so many more good ones out there. Leave a comment if you’ve got a favorite to share.