Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Screening of Hitchcock’s “Notorious” at Daystar Center February 10, 2015

When: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Venue 1550 at the Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street

It’s complicated
Notorious is the most complex and perhaps the best of Alfred Hitchcock’s films produced during his first decade in America. The film features the star power of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, two of the director’s favorite performers. It also showcases the director’s technical storytelling skills, skills that he honed during his tenure in Hollywood.

Pretty as a picture
Grant and Bergman were two of the most glamorous movies stars of the day and they are photographed exquisitely by famed cinematographer Ted Tetzlaff. The close-ups of the two stars are beautifully lit and staged. Many of the shots are framed so well that they stand on their own as works of art.

Nazis in hiding
The plot revolves around Alicia Huberman (Bergman), the American daughter of a convicted Nazi spy. Intelligence agent T. R. Devlin (Grant) recruits her to infiltrate a group of Nazis hiding out in Brazil after World War II. Devlin arranges things so that Alicia reacquaints herself, with Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), the leader of the Nazis in Rio de Janeiro. Sebastian was smitten with Alicia several years earlier and is eager to try and woo her once again.

Cover blown
Things get complicated when Sebastian proposes marriage to Alicia. Devlin who has feelings for her reacts badly to this development and withdraws emotionally. Alicia marries Sebastian and continues her work as an agent of the United States government. After a party at their home, Sebastian discovers that his wife is a double agent and has been spying on him. With the help of his mother (Leopoldine Konstantin), Sebastian sets about to slowly poison Alicia in an attempt to hide her true identity from his fellow Nazi conspirators. Will his plan be successful?

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman at the racetrack
Have some Joe and Enjoy the Show!
Before the movie, grab a cup of coffee from Overflow Coffee Bar, located within the Daystar Center. You can bring food and beverages into the auditorium; we even have small tables set up next to some of the seats. General Admission: $5 Students and Senior Citizens: $3.

Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Once a month we screen a classic film and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. To purchase your ticket in advance, click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.

Backstory: David O. Selznik had originally planned to produce Notorious himself, but sold the property to RKO. Selznik lobbied for Joseph Cotton, who was under contract to the producer, to play Devlin. Hitchcock wanted Cary Grant. Hitchcock obviously won that fight. Clifton Webb and George Saunders were considered for the role of Sebastian. Selznik recommended Claude Rains for the role, which Hichcock agreed with. Notorious premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on August 15, 1946 with Hitchcock, Bergman and Grant in attendance.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Rod Taylor star of “The Birds” and “The Time Machine” is dead at 84

Rodney Sturt “Rod” Taylor was born on January 11, 1930 in a suburb of Sydney, Australia. He was the only child of a construction worker (William Sturt Taylor) and commercial artist and writer of children’s books Mona Taylor (née Thompson).

Taylor trained as a commercial artist, but got the acting bug after seeing Laurence Olivier on the stage in Australia while he was on tour.

The actor came to America to pursue his career and was signed to a long-term contract with M-G-M. During this period he had supporting roles in A Catered Affair, Raintree County, and Giant (sometimes billed as Rodney Taylor).

His big break came when he was cast in the George Pal production of H.G. Wells’s classic The Time Machine (1960). Another great part came his way in 1963 when director Alfred Hitchcock cast Taylor as Mitch Brenner in the thriller The Birds (1963), costarring Hitchcock discovery ‘Tipi’ Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, and Jessica Tandy. Other starring roles would come Taylor’s way including Sunday in New York (1963), costarring Jane Fonda and Cliff Robertson, the all-star The V.I.P.s, and the John Ford production of Young Cassidy (1965), costarring Julie Christie and Maggie Smith. In the late 1960s, Taylor costarred with Doris Day in two popular film comedies: Do Not Disturb (1965) and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966). He was top-billed in the all-star production of the Arthur Hailey bestseller Hotel (1967).

In the 1970s, Taylor had roles in television, including the lead in Bearcats! From 1988 to 1990 Taylor had a recurring role on Falcon Crest starring Jane Wyman. Taylor’s last major film role was a cameo as Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds (2009).

Taylor would have celebrated his 85th birthday on Sunday January 11.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” to screen January 13, 2015 at Daystar Center

When: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Venue 1550 at the Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street

Spellbinding Suspense
Spellbound (1945) The Master’s first collaboration with star Ingrid Bergman is an intriguing look into the “secret recesses of the mind” as described in the New York Herald Tribune’s review. 

The Mysterious Dr. Edwardes
Bergman plays Dr. Constance Peterson, a dedicated psychiatrist who puts her career on the line when she falls in love with Dr. Edwardes (Gregory Peck). Is Dr. Edwardes an impostor, pretending to be someone he is not in order to avoid arrest for a cold-blooded murder? Or is he a victim of some horrible event from his past that threatens to destroy him? 

Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman
A David O.Selznick Production
Produced by David O. Selznick, Spellbound is a stylish and complex love story, featuring standout performances from Bergman and Peck. The dream sequences designed by artist Salvidor Dali are hauntingly beautiful, as is the film’s score by Miklos Rozsa (Ben-Hur).

Have some Joe and Enjoy the Show!
Before the movie, grab a cup of coffee from Overflow Coffee Bar, located within the Daystar Center. You can bring food and beverages into the auditorium; we even have small tables set up next to some of the seats. General Admission: $5 Students and Senior Citizens $3. 

Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Once a month we screen a classic film and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. To purchase your ticket in advance, click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.

Backstory: Spellbound was one of the first films to deal with psychoanalysis. Producer David O. Selznick had his own psychoanalyst on the set for accuracy. Selznick objected to the use of artist Salvador Dali because of the expense, but then decided that the publicity his work would bring to the project would be worth it.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top-ten Posts of 2014

The top-ten posts for 2014 are dominated by Chicago Film Club screenings. And why not? With the last two series featuring some great screwball comedies and classic Alfred Hitchcock from the 1940s, it’s no surprise these posts garnered a lot of attention. So here we go!

10. The Chicago Film Club screens “The Awful Truth” January 14, 2014—This great screwball
Irene Dunne and Cary Grant fight over Mr. Smith.
comedy classic stars the incomparable Irene Dunne and Cary Grant as Lucy and Jerry Wariner. The plot revolves around Lucy and Jerry’s marital woes. Each becomes suspicious of the other, which eventually leads them to divorce court. After the divorce, Lucy and Jerry are consumed with foiling each other’s new romantic interests. Is the awful truth the fact that Lucy and Jerry are still in love? Few stars clicked the way Dunne and Grant due; each brings out the best in the other. Fortunately for us, they made two more classic films: My Favorite Wife (1940) and Penny Serenade (1941).

9. Deanna Durbin: Winnipeg’s Sweetheart—Anyone who has read this blog knows that I’m an unabashed Deanna Durbin fan. I could watch her movies everyday of the week and still not get tired of them. She had a charming screen presence that is hard to define. This post was written for the O Canada blogathon. It’s an expanded piece on a post I wrote about Durbin several years ago.

8. “Bringing Up Baby” 4th film in Screwball Comedy series screened February 11, 2014—The classic Howard Hawks screwball comedy is a fan favorite today, but not so when originally released. The film, starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn had a short run at New York’s Radio City Music Hall where it was quickly replaced (after one week!) with Jezebel. It’s hard to know what turned off fans in 1938 because today it’s considered one of the top comedies of all time.
The Master of Suspense

7. Hitchcock in the 40s—New film series begins May 13, 2014How can you go wrong with a an Alfred Hitchcock film series? Featuring the Master of Suspense’s studio films when he was under contract to David O. Selznick. Hitchcock felt personally and professionally frustrated working for Selznick. But during this period Hitchcock produced some of his most famous films, including Rebecca, Spellbound, and Notorious.

6. John Wayne: The Life and Legend—This new biography offers new insight into the person behind the iconic movie star. John Wayne was a hard working actor, producer, and business man. Scott Eyman has written a biography that reads like a novel—a good novel.

5. Classic Films in Context: Gone With The Wind—I wrote this piece on the 75th anniversary of the legendary screen classic’s release. It asks the question: Is Gone With The Wind still relevant in the 21st century? Your comments are welcome.

4. Hitchcock’s “Foreign Correspondent” to screen June 10, 2014—Hitchcock’s second American film is a rousing action/adventure that would foreshadow later classics like North by Northwest.

3. Book Review: Tinseltown by William J. Mann—This nonfiction work investigates one of the Tinseltown reads like a novel and is a primer on the early days of motion picture industry and some of its most famous and infamous characters. Mann’s book is a fascinating read that I found hard to put down.
movie industry’s most notorious unsolved crime: The murder of silent film director William Desmond Taylor.

2. “What’s Up Doc?” final film screened in screwball comedy series April 12, 2014—Director Peter Bogdanovitch’s homage to the classic screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s is a classic in its own right. Featuring the talents of Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal at the height of their careers. And like those classic screwball comedies of old, What’s Up Doc? features a fantastic supporting cast, including Kenneth Mars, Austin Pendleton, and Madeline Kahn in her scene-stealing motion picture debut. A laugh-riot from start to finish.

Joseph Cotton and Teresa Wright in Shadow of a Doubt
1. The most chilling of them all: Joseph Cotton in “Shadow of a Doubt”—Not surprisingly, my number one blog post for 2014 is on my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie, Shadow of a Doubt. More specifically, it's about Joseph Cotton’s amazing portrayal of murderer Charles Oakley. The post was part of the Great Villains Blogathon in April. How Cotton was neglected at Oscar time (and Teresa Wright too!) is one of Hollywood’s great mysteries.

I hope everyone had a great 2014. I'm looking forward to an even better 2015!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Classic Movie Man’s Favorite Christmas Movies: 2014 Edition

It’s Christmastime again. And it’s time for some more classic Christmas films to enjoy during the holidays. Some of these films you might not associate with Christmas, but all feature the holiday prominently. Make some hot chocolate, light up the fireplace and get cozy on the couch or your favorite chair to watch some great classic movies!

Lady for a Day—1933 This early Frank Capra classic (released a year before It Happened One Night) is about Apple Annie (May Robson), a poor woman who sells fruit on the streets of New York City to support her daughter’s education in a Spanish convent school. Her daughter is coming to visit her mother, who she thinks is a society lady. Annie needs a Christmas miracle to keep up the charade when her daughter arrives with her fiancé Carlos and his father, Count Romero. Will Annie’s street friends and gambler Dave the Dude (Warren William) come to her aid? What do you think? It’s great classic entertainment from one of Hollywood’s great masters.

Backstory: Capra wanted Robert Montgomery (it was written with Montgomery in mind), James Cagney or William Powell to star as Dave the Dude and Marie Dressler to star as Annie, but their respective studios wouldn’t loan them out.

The Thin Man—1934 The first of the classic films featuring Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) includes several scenes during the Christmas holiday. Nick, a former detective and Nora, his rich wife, solve murders for the fun of it. The film combines comedy, mystery, and slapstick (check out Myrna Loy’s terrific pratfall at the beginning of the movie). The Thin Man basically invented the comedy murder-mystery genre. It’s fast and furious, featuring some of the best dialogue of all time. Nora utters my favorite: “Waiter, will you serve the nuts? I mean, will you serve the guests the nuts?”

Backstory: The very efficient W. S. Van Dyke reportedly shot the film in only two weeks. The Thin Man was the first of six movies featuring the sleuthing Nick and Nora Charles, all starring Powell and Loy.

Bright Eyes—1934 This was the first film developed for Shirley Temple. Temple is Shirley Blake who lives with her mother Mary, (Lois Wilson) a maid in the house of the Smythe family. When she becomes an orphan on Christmas morning, Shirley’s future is uncertain. Her bachelor godfather and pilot, James “Loop” Merritt (James Dunn) would like to adopt the orphan, but wheelchair-bound Uncle Ned Smythe (Charles Sellon) wants Shirley to live with him. His snooty relatives, Anita and J. Wellington Smythe and their obnoxious daughter Joy (Jane Withers) reluctantly agree to his wishes, hoping to stay in his good graces financially. This is the film that features the song “On The Good Ship Lollipop,” a tune forever identified with Temple. Bright Eyes established Temple as a top box office star. Temple would continue to be a major fan favorite throughout the 1930s.

Backstory: Temple won a special juvenile Academy Award in 1935, the first year it was presented, for her work in Bright Eyes and Little Miss Marker. Shirley’s dog, Rags (Terry) was the same dog that played Totto in The Wizard of Oz.

Love Affair—1939 One of the great films from that amazing year stars Irene Dunne as singer Terry McKay and Charles Boyer as painter and playboy Michel Marnet. The two, both engaged to other people, meet on a trans-Atlantic liner and fall in love. Terry and Michel decide to meet at the top of the Empire State Building (the closest place to heaven) six months later. When the date arrives, Terry is hit by a car crossing the street and is badly injured. It is uncertain if she will ever be able to walk. Not wanting to gain Michel’s sympathy or be a burden, Terry refuses to contact him and tell him the reason she didn’t’ show up. The two accidentally meet at a theater, but it isn’t obvious to Michel that Terry cannot walk. Michel visits Terry on Christmas, gifting her with his mother’s shawl, something Terry had admired when she met the old woman who is now deceased. Michel finds out about Terry’s injury, but decides it doesn’t matter; they will be together whatever the diagnosis.

Backstory: Love Affair was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress (Dunne). The film was remade twice: An Affair to Remember (1957) starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr and Love Affair (1994), starring Warren Beatty and Annette Benning.

My Reputation—1946 Barbara Stanwyck plays Jessica Drummond, a young widow and mother of two sons from Chicago’s North Shore. Jess is mourning the loss of her husband as well as attempting to navigate the demands of being an upper class society woman. Her mother, Mary (Lucille Watson) is no help at all. She’s shocked when her daughter refuses to dress in black and makes Jess feel guilty for not following her example—Mary, a widow herself has been wearing black for decades. Fortunately for Jess, she has a great friend in Gina Abbott (Eve Arden) whom she confides in. Gina invites Jess to spend a week at Lake Tahoe with her husband. While skiing she meets Major Scott Landis (George Brent) who takes an immediate interest in her. Jess likes Scott and enjoys his company, but is reluctant to get too involved. The plot thickens when a friend of Jess’s mother sees her enter Scott’s apartment. It doesn’t take long for the society gang to spread rumors about Jess and her reputation, now seemingly tarnished. When Jess’s boys Kim (Scotty Beckett) and Keith (Bobby Cooper) come home from a Christmas party after hearing the gossip about their mother, things take an interesting turn. Stanwyck gives a subtle and sensitive performance as Jess and is ably supported by Brent and the rest of the cast. My Reputation is so well done and it’s a wonderful film to watch during the holidays.

Backstory: Made in 1944, the movie wasn’t released until 1946. The movie premiered in England to the Armed Forces. My Reputation was the first movie since the production code—enforced in 1934—to feature a double bed in a married couple’s bedroom.

In the Good Old Summertime—1949 Don’t let the title fool you! This musical remake of the Ernst Lubitsch classic, The Shop Around the Corner has several critical scenes that take place during the Christmas holidays and features the song “Merry Christmas.” Veronica Fisher (Judy Garland) and Andrew Larking (Van Johnson) are battling coworkers in a music store owned by Otto Oberkugen (S.Z. Sakall). Unbeknownst to Veronica and Andrew is the fact that they are each other’s secret pen pal. Garland is absolutely charming as Veronica and Johnson is perfect as Andrew. The supporting cast is a film buff’s delight that features the talents of Sakall, Spring Byington, Clinton Sundberg, and Buster Keaton, making his first film at M-G-M since being fired from the studio in 1933.

Backstory: Judy Garland replaced June Alyson who had to drop out of the movie due to pregnancy. Liza Minnelli made her film debut as the child of Veronica and Andrew in the closing shot.

Room for One More—1952 This heartwarming family film was a favorite of my family, especially around Christmastime. The movie stars Cary Grant and Betsy Drake (who were married at the time) as George “Poppy” and Anna Rose, a middle-class family who foster children who eventually become permanent members of their family. Anna is the softy of the two, or so it seems. The Roses have three children of their own, but after visiting an orphanage, Anna feels compelled to help at least one child. Poppy who is reluctant and grumpy about his wife’s willingness to bring strange children into their home, eventually warms up to the idea. Room for One More is a wonderfully entertaining film that demonstrates the importance of family, love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Backstory: The words “under God” are missing from the Pledge of Allegiance the schoolchildren recite because they weren’t added until 1954.

What do you think these of these choices? I would love to hear from you. Merry Christmas!

There are so many great classic movies to watch during the holidays. The above are just a small sampling. For a list of some other classic Christmas movies, click on the links below.

Classic Movie Man's Favorite Christmas Movies: 2010 Edition
Classic Movie Man's Favorite Christmas Movies: 2011 Edition
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