Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Gregory Peck discovers “The Keys of the Kingdom”

The Keys of the Kingdom (1944) is an American film based on the novel of the same name by A. J. Cronin. The film was directed by John M. Stahl and produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The film stars Gregory Peck, Thomas Mitchell, Rose Stradner, Edmund Gwenn, James Gleason, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Anne Revere, and Vincent Price. Others in the cast include Roddy McDowall and Peggy Ann Garner.

The plot focuses on Father Francis, (Peck) an old man, who returns to the parish of his youth. Monsignor Sleeth (Hardwicke) believes that it would be best if he retires, which is not what Father Francis desires. The Monsignor gets ready for bed and notices Father Francis’s journal. He begins to read it and learns all about the elderly priest’s life from his youth until today. He reads of Francis’s work in China and the church and school that he helped establish with the help of three missionary nuns.

As Monsignor Sleeth finishes the journal, he has second thoughts about Father Francis.

Gregory Peck and Rose Stradner

John M. Stahl (1886 – 1950) was an American film director and producer who began his career in silent movies in 1913. In 1919 he signed with the film company Louis B. Mayer Pictures, which would eventually become Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Stahl made the transition to sound and directed Imitation of Life (1934) starring Claudette Colbert which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. In 1935, he directed Magnificent Obsession starring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor. Other films of note include Back Street (1932) starring Dunne and John Boles, and The Keys of the Kingdom (1944) starring Gregory Peck. Many believe that director Douglas Sirk was influenced by Stahl’s melodramatic style. Sirk remade both Magnificent Obsession (1954) and Imitation of Life (1959).

Gregory Peck (1916 – 2002) was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. He had three Best Actor nominations early in his career for The Keys to the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), and Twelve O’Clock High (1949). He had non-exclusive contracts with David O. Selznick and Twentieth Century-Fox, which gave him great flexibility in the roles he chose to play. Other classic Peck film roles include Roman Holiday (1953), The Big Country (1958), and The Guns of Navarone (1961). He finally won a Best Actor Academy Award for his iconic portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

Thomas Mitchell (1892 –1962) was an American character actor who had a long career in film and theater. Mitchell was one of the most recognizable character actors in movies during the 1930s and 1940s. In 1939, Mitchell had important roles in five classic films: StagecoachOnly Angles Have WingsMr. Smith Goes to WashingtonGone with the Wind, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Mitchell won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his role as Doc Josiah Boone in Stagecoach.

Vincent Price (1911 - 1993) was an American actor who worked on the stage, in film, radio, and television. He was also an art collector and author. Price established himself as a character actor in the 1940s with roles in films like The Song of Bernadette (1943), Laura (1944), The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), and Leave Her to Heaven (1945). In the 1950s, he established himself as a star of horror films including House of Wax (1953), The Fly (1958), and House on Haunted Hill (1959). Toward the end of his career, Price had important roles in The Whales of August (1987) and Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands (1990).

Roddy McDowall (1928 - 1998) was a British-born American actor. He started his career as a baby model and then began appearing in films as a young child in England. When he came to Hollywood, he became an in-demand child actor where he appeared in dozens of films including My Friend Flicka (1943), Lassie Come Home (1943), The White Cliffs of Dover (1944), and Thunderhead, Son of Flicka (1945). McDowell was able to successfully transition from child actor to adult actor appearing in lead and supporting roles in films like Midnight Lace (1960), The Longest Day (1962), Cleopatra (1963), and That Darn Cat! (1965). He may be best known as Cornelius, one of the intelligent apes in The Planet of the Apes (1968), its sequels, and short-lived TV series. McDowall also served as a producer of Overboard (1987) as well as co-starring with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.

Peggy Ann Garner (1932 – 1984) was an American child film actress who achieved great fame during the mid-1940s. Garner entered films at age six. By age twelve, she had reached her peak playing the role of Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. For her performance in that film, Garner won an Academy Juvenile Award. Garner was memorable as the title character as a young girl in Jane Eyre (1943). After her success in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Garner had starring roles in Nob Hill (1945), Junior Miss (1945), and Home Sweet Homicide (1946). Soon thereafter, Garner was relegated to a supporting player, never able to successfully transition to adult roles. In spite of the lack of film roles, Garner had success on Broadway and appeared on popular television shows including Perry MasonCombat!BatmanThe Big Valley, and Lou Grant.

The Keys of the Kingdom trivia

  • This film garnered Peck’s first Academy Award nomination.
  • Joseph Cotten tested for the role of Father Francis. Other actors considered were Spencer Tracy, Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Gene Kelly, Alan Ladd, and Henry Fonda.
  • Ingrid Bergman was considered for the part of Mother Maria Veronica. The role went to Rose Stradner, the wife of producer Joseph L. Mankiwicz. This was her final film.
  • Alfred Hitchcock liked the novel and hoped to direct it.
  • Thomas Mitchell was in his 50s and Peck in his 20s when the film was released which makes it a bit odd that they were cast as best friends from childhood.


To watch the film on YouTube, click on the link.


To join the discussion on Monday, September 25, 2023, at 6:30 Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.


Publicity photo of Gregory Peck and Roddy McDowall reading the novel on set

Discussion questions

  1. This was Gregory Peck’s breakthrough film. What did you think of his performance?
  2. The film is an example of the studio system at its zenith. The depth of the supporting cast is staggering. Of all the great supporting players, did you have a favorite or one that stood out to you?
  3. The movie was filmed entirely on the backlot and the sound stages at 20th Century-Fox. What did you think of the production? Were you convinced the action took place in China?
  4. What do you think the movie had to say about faith and belief?
  5. Did anything about the film surprise you?


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

William Holden romances Kim Novak in “Picnic”

Picnic (1955) is an American drama film directed by Joshua Logan and starring William Holden, Kim Novak, and Rosalind Russell. The film is based on the Broadway play of the same name by William Inge. The movie features Susan Strasberg, Cliff Robertson, Betty Field, Arthur O’Connell, and Reta Shaw.

Hal Carter (Holden) arrives by freight train in a small Kansas town on Labor Day morning to visit a fraternity friend, Alan Benson (Robertson). While staying with Helen Potts (Verna Felton), he meets Alan’s girlfriend Madge Owens (Novak), Madge’s younger sister Millie, and their mother Flo (Field). Alan promises Hal a job at his family’s grain elevator operations.

Things don't go well at the Labor Day picnic for Hal. An intoxicated Rosemary Sydney (Russell) forces herself on Hal and creates a scene that makes him look bad in front of Alan and the picnic crowd. Hal flees the party and is followed by Madge. Will Madge trade rich boy Alan for an uncertain life with Hal?

Joshua Logan (1908 – 1988) was an American theater and film director, playwright, and screenwriter. He was also an actor. He shared a Pulitzer Prize for co-writing the musical South Pacific. During his college years, he was involved with the University Players (an intercollegiate summer stock company) with James Stewart, Henry Fonda, and Margaret Sullavan. During the late-1930s, Logan went to Hollywood where he wrote some of the dialogue for The Garden of Allah (1936), History is Made at Night (1937), and Suez (1938). Logan’s film directing career included Picnic (1955) and Fanny (1961), both were film adaptations of Broadway plays that he directed for the theater. He also directed Bus Stop (1956), Sayonara (1957), Tall Story (1960), Camelot (1967), and Paint Your Wagon (1969).

William Holden (1918 - 1981) was an American actor and major movie star. He was one of the most bankable stars of the 1950s. Holden starred in some of the most popular and beloved films, including Sunset Boulevard, Sabrina, Picnic (1955), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), and Stalag 17, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Holden became a star with his first role in Golden Boy (1939). He had lead roles in other popular films like Our Town (1940), and I Wanted Wings (1941). World War II interrupted his career. Holden was a first lieutenant in the United States Army Air Force. After the war, he made some popular but forgettable films. It wasn’t after he collaborated with director Wilder on Sunset Boulevard that Holden’s popularity and stature in Hollywood grew to superstar status.

Kim Novak (1933 - ) is an American film and television actress. She retired in 1991. Novak was one of the last “studio-created” stars during a time when the studio system was in decline. Born Marilyn Pauline Novak in Chicago, her name was changed to Kim after she signed a long-term contract with Columbia Pictures in 1954. By the next year, Novak was a major star working opposite the likes of Frank Sinatra and William Holden. Some of her significant films include Picnic (1955), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), The Eddy Duchin Story (1956), Pal Joey (1957), and Bell, Book and Candle (1958). Perhaps her most celebrated film is her dual role in Vertigo (1958) co-starring James Stewart and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. In 2012, the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound critic’s poll voted Vertigo as the best film of all time. After retiring from film, Novak has devoted herself to painting and has exhibited her work publicly.

Rosalind Russell and Arthur O'Connelll

Rosalind Russell (1907 - 1976) was an American film and stage actress. She was nominated for four Best Actress Academy Awards throughout her career. She won five Golden Globe Awards and a Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance as Ruth in Wonderful Town. Russell was a versatile actress who excelled at both comedy and drama. She was also one of the few actresses of her day to portray lawyers, judges, and psychiatrists. Some of her famous films include The Women (1939), My Sister Eileen (1942), Sister Kenny (1946), Picnic (1955), Auntie Mame (1958), Gypsy (1962), and The Trouble with Angels (1966).

Picnic trivia

  • William Holden almost turned down the film role, thinking at 37, he was too old.
  • Holden didn’t want to do the dance scene with Kim Novak. “I just don’t know how to dance,” he told co-star Cliff Robertson. To get over his fear, he did the scene intoxicated. Holden danced in only three other movies: Dear Ruth (1947), Sunset Boulevard (1950), and Sabrina (1954).
  • Columbia Pictures wanted to promote Rosalind Russell for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Russell refused because she didn’t want to be considered a supporting actress.
  • Arthur O’Connell, Reta Shaw, and Elizabeth Wilson recreated their Broadway roles for the film version.
  • Kim Novak’s hair was dyed a reddish auburn color, rather than her usual platinum-blonde look, to give her a more innocent and youthful look.

To watch the film on YouTube, click here.


To join the discussion on September 18, 2023, at 6 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation along with a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

Discussion questions

1.      1. William Holden thought he was too old for the role of Hal Carter. Do you agree?

2. This film made Kim Novak a superstar. Was she believable as Madge Owens?

3. Do you think Rosalind Russell would have won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar if she allowed Columbia Pictures to campaign on her behalf? What did you think of her performance as Rosemary?

4. The film’s supporting cast is impressive; do you have a favorite?

5. Was the film relatable?

6. Do you think Hal and Made have a chance at happiness?

7. Does the film hold up in 2023 or is it a relic of its time?

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford burn up the screen in “Gilda”

Gilda (1946) is an American film noir directed by Charles Vidor and starring Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford. The cinematography is by Rudolph Mate and Hayworth’s legendary costumes were designed by Jean Louis. The supporting cast includes George Macready, Joseph Calleia, and Steven Geray.

Johnny Farrell (Ford), a new arrival to Buenos Aires, Argentina almost loses his life after cheating at craps, he finds himself being saved by Ballin Mundson (Macready). Ballin tells Johnny about a high-class casino and recommends that he not try to cheat there.

Johnny ignores Ballin’s advice and starts winning at blackjack. Little does Johnny know that the casino is owned by Ballin. Instead of getting kicked out of the casino, Johnny convinces Ballin that he should hire him. Ballin hires Johnny and soon he becomes Ballin’s right-hand man.

When Ballin brings home Gilda (Hayworth) as his new wife, things get a bit rocky. Unknown to Ballin, Johnny and Gilda have a romantic history beginning to crack in public. Will Ballin discover the truth? And what will that mean for Johnny and Gilda?

“Put the Blame on Mame”  

Charles Vidor (1900 – 1959) was a Hungarian film director whose career started during the early days of talking pictures. Vidor is most famous for the work he did under contract to Columbia Pictures including Ladies in Retirement (1941), Cover Girl (1944), Together Again (1944), A Song to Remember (1945), and Gilda (1946). After leaving Columbia, Vidor directed Hans Christian Andersen (1952) for Sam Goldwyn, Love Me or Leave Me (1955) for M-G-M, and The Joker is Wild (1957) for Paramount. Vidor suffered a heart attack and died three weeks into filming.

Rita Hayworth (1918 - 1987) was an American actress, dancer, and producer. She was one of the biggest stars of the 1940s and was the top pin-up among GIs during World War II. Hayworth was Gilda (1946) opposite Glenn Ford. A still from this film made it to the cover of Life magazine where she was dubbed “The Love Goddess,” a title she hated. An accomplished dancer, she starred with Fred Astaire in two films: You’ll Never Get Rich (1941) and You Were Never Lovelier (1942). In 1944 she starred in Cover Girl with Gene Kelly. Other popular Hayworth films include Tonight and Every Night (1945), Down to Earth (1947), The Loves of Carmen (1948), Affair in Trinidad (1952), Miss Sadie Thompson (1953), Fire Down Below (1957), Pal Joey (1957) where she received top billing over Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak, Separate Tables (1958), and They Came to Cordura (1959). Hayworth was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which contributed to her death at age 68.

Glenn Ford (1916 - 2006) was a Canadian-American actor who was one of the biggest box office draws for three decades. Ford acted on stage in California before being signed to a contract with Columbia Pictures. He appeared in mostly B movies until The Lady in Question (1940), the first time he was paired with fellow Columbia contract player, Rita Hayworth. After serving in the Coast Guard during World War II, Ford’s career began to take off. He and Hayworth had a huge hit with Gilda (1946) and A Stolen Life (1946) with Bette Davis. Ford came into his own in the 1950s with films like Blackboard Jungle (1955), Interrupted Melody (1955) with Eleanor Parker, Jubal (1956), and The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) with Jeanne Crain, all box office successes. By the end of the decade, Ford was one of the biggest stars in the world. Ford continued making movies in the 1960s but his successes were more uneven than in the previous decade but had hits with Experiment in Terror (1962) and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father  (1963). In 1978, he played Clark Kent’s adoptive father in Superman. His last film role was Raw Nerve (1991).

Gilda trivia

  • Rita Hayworth’s voice was dubbed by Anita Ellis.
  • Humphrey Bogart was offered the role of Johnny Farrell but declined reasoning that no one would notice him playing against the beautiful Hayworth.
  • Hayworth wore a corset when she shot the “Put the Blame on Mame” number. She had given birth to her first daughter, Rebecca Welles, just months before filming.
  • Gilda was such a financial success that Hayworth’s agent negotiated that going forward, she received 25% of her films’ profits.
  • Glenn Ford hadn’t been on the screen since 1943 due to his service in the Marines during World War II.
  • Charles Vidor previously directed Hayworth in Cover Girl (1944).

To watch the movie on YouTube, click here.


To join the discussion on September 11, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation to join with a link to join the discussion on Zoom.


Glenn Ford and George Macready

Discussion questions

  1. Gilda is considered one of the great films noir. Does it work as a film noir for you?
  2. Is Gilda a femme fatale? Why or why not?
  3. Modern reviewers make much of the relationship between Ballin and Johnny. What do you think is at the heart of their relationship?
  4. What did you think of the on-screen chemistry between Hayworth and Ford?
  5. We don’t get a lot of backstory, but do you think Gilda and Johnny really love each other?
  6. The “Put the Blame on Mame” number has reached icon status. Do you think it’s deserved?
  7. Could you follow the plot? Was that important?

Monday, August 28, 2023

Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, and Ronald Colman are "The Talk of the Town"

The Talk of the Town (1942) is an American comedy-drama film directed by George Stevens and starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, and Ronald Colman. The supporting cast features Edgar Buchanan, Glenda Farrell, Lloyd Bridges, Leonid Kinskey, and Rex Ingram. The screenplay was written by Irwin Shaw and Sidney Buchman.

Leopold Dilg (Grant), a mill worker and political activist, is accused of arson and murder. He is accused of setting fire to the woolen mill and killing the foreman, Clyde Bracken (Tom Tyler). Dilg escapes from jail and hides out in a cottage owned by former schoolmate Nora Shelley (Arthur). He’s had a crush on her for years. In the meantime, a professor, Michael Lightcap (Colman) plans to stay at the cottage to write a book. The professor comes a day early while Dilg is in the house. Nora hides Dilg in the attic and pretends that he’s the gardener when he is discovered by Lightcap.

Nora convinces the professor that she should be his secretary and cook in a way to help keep Dilg safe. Will this plan work? Will Dilg prove to be guilty or innocent? And what about the professor?


George Stevens (1904 – 1975) was an American film director and producer. He was nominated for five Best Director Academy Awards, winning one for Giant (1956). Stevens got his start in the movies as a cameraman working on many Laurel and Hardy films. Stevens directed many of the top stars of Hollywood’s Golden age including Barbara Stanwyck, Katharine Hepburn, Ronald Colman, Ginger Rogers, James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Carole Lombard, Fed Astaire, Joel McCrea, Alan Ladd, Spencer Tracy, and Elizabeth Taylor. Other popular films directed by Stevens include Annie Oakley (1935), Gunga Din (1939), Woman of the Year (1942), The More the Merrier (1943), I Remember Mama (1948), Shane (1953), and The Diary of Anne Frank (1959).

Cary Grant (1904 – 1986) was an English-born American actor who became one of the most popular leading men in film history. Grant started his career in vaudeville before heading to Hollywood. He became a superstar in the late 1930s in a series of screwball comedies including The Awful Truth (1937) with Irene Dunne. He was a memorable C. K. Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story (1940) opposite Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart. He received two Best Actor nominations: Penny Serenade (1941) and None but the Lonely Hearts (1944). Other classic Grant films include Gunga Din (1939), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), and Arsenic and Old Lace (1944). He made four popular films with Alfred Hitchcock: Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959). He was presented with an Honorary Oscar at the 42nd Academy Awards in 1970.

Jean Arthur (1900 – 1991) was an American stage and film actress whose career spanned three decades. Arthur got her start in silent films but became a major star with the advent of sound. Her unique speaking voice made her a natural for comedy. She came to prominence by having major roles in a series of films directed by Frank Capra: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), You Can’t Take it With You (1938), and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). Other popular films Arthur starred in included Only Angels Have Wings (1939), The Talk of the Town (1942), and The More the Merrier (1943). For her work in The More the Merrier, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress; it was her only Academy Award nomination. Arthur’s last film role was in the western classic Shane (1953). After retiring from acting, she taught drama at Vassar College where one of her students was Meryl Streep.

Ronald Colman (1891 – 1958) was an English-born actor whose career started in the theatre. In 1923, Colman appeared opposite Lillian Gish in the silent film The White Sister. He was a hit with the public and starred in over 20 silent films in America. Due to his wonderfully trained stage voice, Colman made the transition to talking pictures with ease. Some of his sound films include Clive of India (1935), A Tale of Two Cities (1935), Lost Horizon (1937), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), The Talk of the Town (1942), and Random Harvest (1942). Colman was nominated three times for the Best Actor Academy Award. He finally won for his performance in A Double Life (1947).

The Talk of the Town trivia

  • Ronald Colman’s character is supposed to have just turned 40 in the film but he was 51 years old when the movie was filmed.
  • Jean Arthur was 41 when she made this film but she only admitted to being 30-something.
  • Claire Trevor was reportedly supposed to play a second female lead but that never materialized.
  • Cary Grant was 38 at the time of filming.
  • This was the first time that Colman was billed below a male star since his days in silent films.
  • Grant and Colman made about $100,000 each while Arthur who was in the doghouse with Columbia Studio head Harry Cohn was only paid $50,000. Arthur was constantly at odds with Cohn for turning down roles he thought she should take.


George Stevens, Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, and Ronald Colman

To watch the film on YouTube click here.


To join the discussion on September 4, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation with a link to join the discussion on Zoom.


Discussion questions

  1. The film is described as a comedy-drama. Do you think that’s the right classification for this film? Is it more comedy or more drama in your opinion?
  2. Through the characters of Dilg and Lightcap, we get a good contrast between the letter and the spirit of the law. Did you find yourself siding with Dilg or Lightcap during their discussions?
  3. Even though Colman is billed after Cary Grant, he has the more substantive role—even Grant thought so.
  4. What do you think? Who had the bigger role?
  5. Were you surprised/disappointed with the man Jean Arthur’s character chose at the end? Do you think she made the right choice? Why or why not? 

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Julie Harris wants to be “The Member of the Wedding”

The Member of the Wedding (1952) is an American film drama directed by Fred Zinneman and starring Ethel Waters, Julie Harris, and Brandon De Wilde. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Carson McCullers (1946). The cinematography was by two-time Oscar winner Hal Mohr. The music was by Alex North.

The plot surrounds Frankie Addams (Harris), an awkward and unhappy 12-year-old tomboy growing up in the Southern United States. She has no friends—although she’s desperate to have some—except her young cousin John Henry (De Wilde). Frankie’s father works long hours and doesn’t have much time for his daughter. The housekeeper Bernice Sadie Brown (Waters) acts as a surrogate mother for Frankie. 

When Frankie’s older brother announces his wedding, Frankie decides she’s going to run off with him and her new bride.


Brandon deWilde, Ethel Waters, and Julie Harris

Fred Zinnemann (1907 -1997) was an Austrian Empire-born American film director. He won four Academy Awards for directing and producing films. He was an early advocate for filming on location for authenticity. Zinnemann introduced many stars to film, including Brando, Julie Harris, Montgomery Clift, Shirley Jones, and Meryl Streep. He also directed 19 actors to Oscar nominations, including Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, Jason Robards, Gary Cooper, and Maximilian Schell. Some of his films were From Her to Eternity (1953), Oklahoma! (1955), and The Nun’s Story (1959).

Ethel Waters (1896 – 1977) was an American singer and actress. She was a popular blues singer and had hits with “Taking a Chance on Love,” “Stormy Weather,” and “Cabin in the Sky.” Waters was a pioneer in the entertainment industry. Waters was the first black woman to star in her own television show and the first black woman to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. She was also the second black person to be nominated for an Academy Award for her supporting role in Pinky (1949). Waters originated the role of Bernice Sadie Brown on Broadway in The Member of the Wedding and recreated the role for the film version. Later in her life, Waters toured with Billy Graham and sang His Eye is on the Sparrow along with giving her testimony of faith.

Julie Harris (1925 – 2013) was an American actress famous for her roles on the Broadway stage, making her debut in 1945. Harris won five Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Play. Some of her famous stage roles were in The Member of the Wedding (1950), I Am a Camera (1951), The Lark (1956) The Last of Mrs. Lincoln (1973), and The Belle of Amherst (1977). Some of her major films include East of Eden (1955), The Haunting (1963), Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962),  Harper (1966), Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), and The Hiding Place (1975).

Brandon deWilde (1942 – 1972) was an American actor who at the age of seven became a Broadway star—completing 492 performances—in The Member of the Wedding. But it’s his role as Joey Starrett in the Western classic Shane (1953). For his performance in that film, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. DeWilde was in another Broadway play in 1953, Mrs. McThing For his role in that play he was featured on the cover of Life magazine. He also had a television series, Jamie, which aired in1953 and 1954. At the age of 17, deWilde starred in Blue Denim (1959) costarring Carol Lynley. Other films include All Fall Down (1962) with Eva Marie Saint and Warren Beatty, Hud (1963) with Paul Newman, Patrician Neal, and Melvyn Douglass, and In Harm’s Way (1965) playing John Wayne’s son. DeWilde was in a stage production of Butterflies Are Free and was killed in a traffic accident on the way to the theater. He was 30 years old.


The Member of the Wedding trivia

  • Julie Harris was 27 when she played Frankie Adams on the screen.
  • Ethel Waters, Julie Harris, and Brandon deWilde all reprised their Broadway roles.
  • This film marked the film debuts of both Brandon deWilde and Julie Harris.
  • This was Julie Harris’s only Oscar-nominated performance.
  • Ethel Waters sings “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” in the film. This would become her theme song later in life.
  • This was Fred Zinnemann’s favorite film.


To watch the film on YouTube, click on the link here.


To join the discussion on August 28, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation with a link to join the discussion on Zoom.


Discussion questions

  1. What was your overall impression of the movie?
  2. Did you think Julie Harris was convincing as a 12-year-old girl?
  3. What did you make of the relationship between Bernice, Frankie, and John Henry?
  4. Ethel Waters’s performance was lauded on stage and in film. Do you think her performance holds up?
  5. The film is mostly confined to the Addams family kitchen. Were you okay with that? Did it hurt the film in your opinion?  
  6. Did anything about the film surprise you?


Monday, August 14, 2023

Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan do battle in “Beware, My Lovely”

Beware, My Lovely (1952) is an American film noir directed by Harry Horner and starring Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan. The film is based on the play The Man by Mel Dinelli. The Man was originally a short story, and then a play on Broadway starring Dorothy Gish. It was also adapted as a radio drama as To Find Help in 1945 with Frank Sinatra and Agnes Moorehead and again with Gene Kelly and Ethel Barrymore in 1949. The cinematography is by George E. Diskant and the music is by Leith Stevens.

World War I window Helen Gordon (Lupino) hires a handyman Howard Wilton (Ryan) during the Christmas holidays to help her with home repairs and cleaning. She soon discovers him to be mentally unstable and physically dangerous. Howard keeps Helen captive in her own home, threatening her if she tries to call for help.

Will Helen be able to escape the clutches of Howard or will things take a turn for the worse?

Harry Horner (1910 – 1994) was a German Bohemian-born American art director who was an Oscar-winning art director and feature film and television director. Horner one his art direction Oscar for his work on The Heiress (1949) directed by William Wyler. He also created the scenery for the original Broadway production of Lady in The Dark (1941). Horner also did the art direction A Double Life (1947), Born Yesterday (1950). Horner directed several TV series including Gunsmoke. Horner won another Oscar, shared with Gene Callahan, for set decoration (back and white) for The Hustler (1961)

Ida Lupino (1918 – 1995) was an English-American actress, director, and producer. She appeared in over 50 films and was one of Warner Bros.’s biggest contract players during the 1940s starring in High Sierra (1941), The Sea Wolf (1941), and The Man I Love (1947). After she left Warner Bros., Lupino formed her own production company, producing, writing, and directing films that tackled subjects the big studios wouldn’t touch. During the 1950s, Lupino was the only female director working in Hollywood. She directed several small independent films but really made a name for herself directing for television. Lupino directed episodes of The Twilight Zone (starred in one too), The RiflemanBonanzaGilligan’s IslandIt Takes a ThiefFamily Affair, and Columbo. In 1966, she directed her one-and-only big-budget studio picture, The Trouble with Angels starring Rosalind Russell and Haley Mills.

Robert Ryan (1909 - 1973) was an American film and stage actor. Ryan got his start in acting with a theater group in Chicago, where he was born, in the late-1930s. By 1939, he had a film contract with Paramount appearing in minor roles in a variety of pictures. In 1943, he signed a long-term contract with RKO based on his stage performance in Clash by Night (1941). The studio was grooming him for stardom with 1943’s Tender Comrade co-starring Ginger Rogers when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, serving as a drill instructor. He resumed his career after the war and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance in Crossfire (1947). Ryan worked on stage, TV, and in film during the next three decades. His other film roles include The Set-Up (1949), Flying Leathernecks (1951), On Dangerous Ground (1951), Clash by Night (1952), and Bad Day at Black Rock (1954).

Beware, My Lovely trivia

  • The film’s release was held up for a year by Howard Hughes.
  • Farley Granger was originally going to star alongside Lupino.
  • The photo of Mrs. Gordon’s husband is William Talman who played Hamilton Burger on Perry Mason and starred in Lupino’s The Hitchhiker (1953).
  • The staircase in Helen’s home was left over from The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) set.
  • Mr. Armstrong, Helen’s border, is played by Taylor Holmes. Holmes worked with Lupino’s father Stanley Lupino on the London stage in 1920.
  • This was Harry Horner’s first directorial effort. James Horner was Harry’s oldest son, the Oscar-winning composer (Titanic 1997).


To watch the movie on YouTube, click here.


To join the discussion on August 21, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.


Discussion questions

  1. Would you call this movie a film noir (some critics do) or would you classify it as something else?
  2. Were Lupino and Ryan a good match? Would it have been a different film if Farley Granger played Howard?
  3. Was the film believable? If it wasn’t believable, were you able to go with it anyway?
  4. Did the film remind you of any other films you’ve seen?
  5. Were you surprised by the ending? Why or why not?

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

John Mills has “Great Expectations” in the David Lean adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic

Great Expectations (1946) is a British drama directed by David Lean and based on the 1861 novel by Charles Dickens and starring John Mills and Valerie Hobson. The strong supporting cast included Jean Simmons, Finlay Currie, Martita Hunt, Torin Thatcher, and Alec Guinness. The cinematography by Guy Green won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.

Orphan Phillip “Pip” Pirrip (Anthony Wager) lives with his mean older sister and her kindhearted blacksmith husband, Joe Gargery. While visiting his parents’ graves, Pip meets Abel Magwitch, an escaped convict (Currie). Magwitch intimidates young Pip into bringing him tools to remove his chains. Pip brings him the tools and food too. Magwitch thanks him for his efforts but is eventually captured and sent to jail.

An eccentric spinster named Miss Havisham (Hunt) arranges to have Pip provide companionship for her adopted daughter Estella (Jean Simmons). Estella treats Pip cruelly but he is entranced by her beauty and finds himself falling in love with her.

As Pip (Mills) grows older, a secret benefactor provides him with money and privilege in London. Pip has no idea who his benefactor is. The lawyer Mr. Jaggers says that his benefactor wants to remain anonymous. Pip still pines for Estella (Hobson) even though she still treats him indifferently.

Will Pip ever discover his benefactor and will he find true love with Estella?

Alec Guinness and John Mills

Great Expectations trivia

  • Alec Guinness and Martita Hunt were both in the stage production of Great Expectations.
  • This was Guinness’s first significant screen role. It was the first of six movies he would make with Lean.
  • Jean Simmons who played young Estella would go on to play Miss Havisham in the 1989 TV mini-series.
  • David Lean had never read any Dickens when it was suggested that he direct an adaptation.
  • Tony Wager who played young Pip was three years younger than Jean Simmons.


To watch the movie on YouTube, click here.



To join the discussion on August 14, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.


Discussion questions

  1. If you are familiar with the novel, how close do you think the film was to the book?
  2. This film made John Mills a major star in England. What did you think of his performance?
  3. Many critics thought that Valerie Hobson was miscast as Estella. Do you agree?
  4. The film won an Academy Award for its black-and-white cinematography. Do you think it was well deserved?
  5. Did you have a favorite character actor or performance?
  6. This film is widely considered the best screen adaptation of a Dickens novel. Do you agree?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...