Tuesday, June 28, 2022

John Garfield stars in "Force of Evil"

Force of Evil (1948) is an American film noir directed by Abraham Polonsky and starring John Garfield. The film is based on the novel Tucker's People, which was adapted by Polonsky and Ira Wolfert from a novel by Wolfert. The music is by David Raskin (Laura, Fallen Angel, The Bad and the Beautiful).

Garfield stars as lawyer Joe Morse who works for a big-time gangster Ben Tucker (Roy Roberts) who runs the numbers racket in New York City. Things get complicated when the gangster Joe works for eats up all the smaller rackets, including Joe's brother Leo (Thomas Gomez).

Will Joe be able to protect his brother and still be effective as the lawyer for Tucker?

Abraham Polonsky (1910 - 1999) was an American film director, screenwriter, and novelist. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Body and Soul (1947) starring John Garfield. Polonsky earned a law degree from Columbia Law School but after a few years of practicing law and teaching, he decided to be a writer. Other films Polonsky directed include Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969) and Romance of a Horse Thief (1971). Polonsky was a member of the Communist Party and a Marxist. These affiliations hindered his career in Hollywood after he directed Force of Evil.

Marie Windsor and John Garfield

John Garfield (1913 - 1952) was an American actor who specialized in brooding, rebellious characters. Garfield was a popular stage actor with the Group Theater in New York when Hollywood came calling. Garfield's first film was Four Daughters (1938). The movie was a big success and Garfield's performance was praised. He received a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination for his role as troubled musician Mickey Borden. His success in his first film led to a long-term contract with Warner Brothers. Other films Garfield starred in include They Made Me a Criminal (1938), Juarez (1939), Castle on the Hudson (1940), Out of the Fog (1941), Destination Tokyo (1943), and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), and Body and Soul (1947) for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Garfield had long-term heart problems. Against the advice of his doctor, he played tennis the day he passed away.

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

To join the discussion on July 11, 2022,  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.

Force of Evil trivia
  • The director gave cinematographer George Barnes a copy of a book of Edward Hopper's Third Avenue paintings to give him an idea of the look he wanted on film.
  • The lighthouse at the end of the film is under the George Washington Bridge.
  • Supposedly, this film had an impact on director Martin Scorsese as it was the first film he remembers seeing.
  • Garfield stood on an apple box in his scenes with Marie Windsor since she was taller than he was.

Discussion questions
  1. What did you think of John Garfield's performance?
  2. Was the relationship between Garfield and Gomez (Leo Morse) believable?
  3. Do you think film noir is the correct category for this film?
  4. The was Beatrice Pearson's (Doris Lowry) first film (she made only one more). What did you think of her performance?
  5. A lot of the movie was filmed on location. Did that add anything to the film for you?
  6. Who is more dishonest, Joe or Leo Morse?
  7. What about the relationship between Joe and Doris?
  8. Was the ending believable?

Friday, June 17, 2022

Robert Young, Maureen O'Hara, and Clifton Webb are "Sitting Pretty"

Sitting Pretty (1948) is an American comedy directed by Walter Lang and starring Robert Young, Maureen O'Hara, and Clifton Webb. Other members of the cast include Richard Haydn, Betty Lynn, and Ed Begley.

Harry King (Young) and his wife Tacey (O'Hara) have gone through several nannies for their three boys and are desperate. So desperate in fact that Lacey hires a Lynn Belvedere (Webb) sight unseen only to find out that Lynn is a man. A man with many talents and abilities that he puts to good use in the King household. 

But is Lynn too good at his job? He may have tamed the three boys but has he won over their parents?

Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty

Walter Lang (1896 - 1972) was an American film director who is most identified with Twentieth Century-Fox studio where he directed some of their most popular films. At Fox, he directed all their top stars including Tyrone Power, Loretta Young, Shirley Temple, Alice Faye, Betty Grable, Don Ameche, John Payne, Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, and Jeanne Crain. Some of the films Lang directed at Fox include The Little Princess (1939), Moon Over Miami (1941), State Fair (1945), Mother Wore Tights (1947), Cheaper by the Dozen (1950), With a Song in My Heart (1952), The King and I (1956), and Desk Set (1957). Lang was married to Madalynne Field who was an actress at the Mack Sennett studio. Field acted with Carole Lombard at Sennett where they became great friends and was Lombard's secretary until her marriage to Lang in 1937.

Robert Young (1907 - 1998) was an American actor. He was a radio, movie, and television actor. In spite of the fact that Young made over 100 films, he is best remembered for his starring roles in the television series Father Knows Best (1954 -1960) and Marcus Welby MD (1969 - 1976). Young was under contract with MGM early in his career. At Metro, he costarred with some of the most famous leading ladies from that studio including Katharine Hepburn, Margaret Sullavan, Joan Crawford, and Hedy Lamarr. Young received some of his best film roles once he left MGM. As a freelance artist, he starred in The Enchanted Cottage (1945), Claudia and David (1946), They Won't Believe Me (1947), and Crossfire (1947). Young's last theatrical film was Secret of the Incas (1954) co-starring Charlton Heston. Supposedly, this was the film that inspired Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

Maureen O’Hara (1920 - 2015) was an Irish-American actress and singer. In her native Ireland, O’Hara trained with the Abbey Theatre at age 14. She screen-tested for the role of Mary Yellan in Jamaica Inn at age 19. Director Hitchcock wasn't impressed with O’Hara’s test but Laughton persuaded him to cast her. After finishing the film, O’Hara moved to Hollywood where she was signed to a contract at RKO. In 1941 she starred in How Green Was My Valley, her first collaboration with director John Ford. She starred alongside Tyrone Power in The Black Swan (1942), The Spanish Main (1945) with Paul Henreid, and Sinbad the Sailor (1947) with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. That same year she starred in the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street with John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, and a young Natalie Wood. Other popular films include The Quiet Man (1952), The Parent Trap (1961), and McLintock! (1963).

Clifton Webb (1889 - 1966) was an American stage and film actor. Webb was a successful Broadway star and had made several silent films before he appeared in Laura (1944). As the acerbic Waldo Lydecker, Webb established himself as a character actor and eventually a leading actor in films like Cheaper by the Dozen (1950), Dreamboat (1952), and Titanic (1953). Working exclusively for Twentieth Century-Fox, Webb's last film was Satan Never Sleeps (1962) co-starring William Holden and directed by Leo McCarey.

Maureen O'Hara and Robert Young

Sitting Pretty trivia

  • John Payne was set to play the role of Harry King before Robert Young was cast.
  • Although third billed, Webb was nominated for Best Actor for his role as Lynn Belvedere.
  • Film debut of Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou in The Andy Griffith Show).
  • The movie produced two sequels all starring Clifton Webb repeating his role as Belvedere.

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

To join the discussion on June 27, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and link to join the discussion on Zoom.

Discussion questions

  1. Was the premise of the film believable?
  2. Sitting Pretty was one of the most popular comedies of the late-1940s. Does it hold up in 2022?
  3. Clifton Webb's performance in this film earned him a Best Actor Academy Award nomination. Did he deserve it? Was his performance Oscar-worthy?
  4. Were Robert Young and Maureen O'Hara believable as a married couple having trouble raising their children?
  5. Did you have a favorite scene from this film?
  6. Was this film like any other family comedy you've seen?


Monday, June 13, 2022

Betty Grable, Victor Mature, and Carole Landis star in "I Wake Up Screaming"

I Wake Up Screaming (1941) is an American film noir directed by H. Bruce Humberstone and starring Betty Grable, Victor Mature, and Carole Landis. Other cast members include Laird Cregar, Alan Mowbray, Allyn Joslyn, Elisha Cook Jr., and Charles Lane.

Told mostly in flashbacks, the film explores the murder of a young starlet, Vicky Lynn (Landis). Vick's manager, Frankie Christopher (Mature) is the prime suspect, however, the case against him isn't that clear cut. Jill Lynn (Grable), Vicky's older sister is determined to find out who murdered her sister and why. In the meantime, detective Ed Cornell is convinced that Frankie is the murderer and works overtime trying to convince the police that this is so.

Did Frankie Christopher murder Vicky Lynn? If so, what was his motive? Was Frankie the only one who had a motive to murder Vicky?

Laird Cregar (far left) and Victor Mature (middle)

H. Bruce Humberstone (1901 - 1984) was an American film director and former child actor. A founding member of the Directors Guild of America, Humberstone worked in a variety of genres including comedies, dramas, and musicals. Some of the popular and classic films directed by Humberstone include Street Scene (1931), Sun Valley Serenade (1941), Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943), Wonder Man (1945), and The Desert Song (1953).

Betty Grable (1916 - 1973) was an American actress, dancer, and singer. She was the most popular pin-up girl during World War II. She was also a top box office star from 1942 to 1951. In 1946 and 1947, she was the highest-paid woman in America. Grable starred mostly in musicals and light comedies. Grable made two non-musicals,  A Yank in the R. A. F. (1941), and I Wake Up Screaming. Both films were extremely popular, but Grable felt most comfortable in musicals. Other popular Grable films include Down Argentine Way (1940), Moon Over Miami (1941), Sweet Rosie O'Grady (1943), The Dolly Sisters (1945), Mother Wore Tights (1947), and How to Marry a Millionaire (1953). 

Victor Mature (1913 – 1999) was an American stage, film, and television actor who became a major movie star during the 1940s under contract to 20th Century-Fox. Before his film career took off, Mature starred in Lady in the Dark (1941) on Broadway opposite Gertrude Lawrence. Some of Mature’s notable films include I Wake Up Screaming (1941) with Betty Grable, The Shanghai Gesture (1941) with Gene Tierney. In 1942, he starred opposite Rita Hayworth in the musical My Gal Sal. Other notable films include Samson and Delilah (1949), and The Robe (1952), the first film released in the Cinemascope widescreen process. Mature was self-deprecating when it came to his acting. He said, “I’m no actor, and I’ve got 64 pictures to prove it.”

Carole Landis (1919 - 1948) was an American actress and singer. She was under contract to Twentieth Century-Fox in the 1940s. Her breakout performance was in One Million B.C.I (1940) for United Artists costarring Victor Mature. It was her success in this film that lead to her contract with Fox. During World War II, Landis toured and entertained troops. She wrote about her experiences which were published in several magazines. Eventually, her experiences became the basis for the film Four Jills in a Jeep (1944). Landis's career declined somewhat in the late 1940s. She had an affair with Rex Harrison during this time. When he refused to divorce his wife and marry her, Landis committed suicide.

Laird Cregar (1913 - 1944) was an American film and stage actor. Cregar came to Hollywood due to his success with the play Oscar Wilde in Los Angeles in 1940. Cregar signed a contract with 20th Century Fox and quickly became a popular character actor. Due to his large size (he weighed 300 pounds), he was often cast as the bad guy. In an effort to become a leading man in the movies, Cregar went on a crash diet during the productions of The Lodger and Hangover Square. To aid in his dieting, Cregar was prescribed amphetamines which had a negative effect on his system, causing abdominal problems. These problems lead to surgery and eventually a heart attack. He died shortly after at age 31.

I Wake Up Screaming trivia
  • This was the first film noir produced by Twentieth Century-Fox.
  • Alice Faye was set to play the role that eventually went to Betty Grable.
  • Grable originally was to have a musical number in the film but that idea was ultimately rejected.
  • Carole Landis did her own singing in the film.
  • This was the first film Victor Mature made under his Fox contract.
  • Grable and the film were a big success but she never made another film noir.

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

To join the discussion on June 20, 2022, at 6 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to the discussion on Zoom.

Discussion questions
  1. Does this film fit your understanding of what makes a film noir?
  2. Betty Grable said she never received a good review; what did you think of her performance?
  3. Carole Landis had a tough task playing the wildly popular Grable's younger sister. What did you make of her performance?
  4. We have another moody and odd performance by Laird Cregar, although this was one of his earlier character roles at Fox. Was he believable as the obsessed detective?
  5. Were you surprised by the film's conclusion? Would you have written a different ending?

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Paul Henreid and Joan Bennett in "Hollow Triumph"

Hollow Triumph (1948) is an American film noir directed by Steve Sekely and starring Paul Henreid and Joan Bennett. The screenplay was by Daniel Fuchs and based on the novel Hollow Triumph (1946). The cinematography is by John Alton. Henreid also produced the film for the newly formed Eagle-Lion Films.

John Muller (Henreid) just released from prison plans a holdup at an illegal casino. Things go wrong so he takes a job in an office to hide out for a while. 

By accident, Muller runs into Dr. Swangron (John Qualen), a dentist who mistook him for Dr. Bartok. The dentist's office is in the same building as Dr. Bartok. When Muller discovers that he really does look like Dr. Bartok, except for a facial scar, he hatches a plan to impersonate him. Along the way, he falls in love with Dr. Bartok's secretary Evelyn Hahn (Bennett).

Will Muller be successful in impersonating Bartok and start a new life with Evelyn or will his past catch up with him?

Paul Henreid and Joan Bennett

Steve Sekely (1899 - 1979) was a Hungarian film director who directed films in Hungarian, German, and English. He mostly directed B movies in the United States and Europe. His most famous film is the science fiction classic The Day of the Triffids (1962) starring Howard Keel.

Paul Henreid (1909 - 1992) was an Austrian-British-American actor, producer, writer, and director. Henreid is probably best known for two films released in 1942: Casablanca and Now, Voyager. Henreid was under contract with Warner Bros. where he was a popular leading man starring opposite the studio's top actresses including Bette Davis, Ida Lupino, and Eleanor Parker. After he left Warner Bros. Henreid made a series of adventure films. He later directed films and television shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Maverick, and The Big Valley.

Paul Henreid and Joan Bennett

Joan Bennett (1910–1990) began her film career during the early sound era. A natural blonde, Bennett dyed her hair as a plot device in the film Trade Winds (1938). As a brunette, Bennett projected a sultry persona that had her compared to the brunette beauty, Hedy Lamarr. During this period she starred in two costume epics. She played Princess Maria Theresa in The Man in the Iron Mask (1939) and Grand Duchess Zona of Lichtenburg in The Son of Monte Cristo (1940). Bennett was one of two finalists for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939), along with Paulette Goddard. She had a very successful collaboration with the director Fritz Lang. With Lang, she starred in the classics Man Hunt (1940), The Woman in the Window (1944), and Scarlet Street (1945). Bennett acted on stage and on television where she became a pop culture icon playing Elizabeth Collins Stoddard on the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows (1966-1971).

John Qualen and Paul Henreid

Hollow Triumph trivia
  • Steve Sekely was removed as director early in production; Paul Henreid took over as director but Sekely retained director credit due to his contract.
  • Paul Henreid produced the film so he could play a bad guy.
  • Jack Webb's film debut.
  • Gasoline was 25.5 cents per gallon.

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

Discussion questions:
  1. What did you think of the film's premise?
  2. Was Paul Henreid believable in two roles?
  3. Joan Bennett wasn't a femme fatale in this film noir but was she effective in her role?
  4. Were there any character actor performances that were memorable?
  5. Did this film remind you of any other films you've seen?
  6. Was the ending a surprise? Was it what you expected?

To join the discussion on June 13, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. To join the discussion, click here. Once you RSVP, you'll receive an invitation and link to join the discussion on Zoom.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Barbara Stanwyck and Barry Sullivan in Samuel Fuller's "Forty Guns"

Forty Guns (1957) is an American western written and directed by Samuel Fuller and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Barry Sullivan. The film also stars Dean Jagger, John Ericson, and Gene Barry.

John Ericson and Barbara Stanwyck

Jessica Drummond (Stanwyck) runs the territory of Tombstone in Cochise County, Arizona, with her "Forty Guns," men and landowners who she controls, with an iron fist. Enter Griff Bonnell, and his brothers, Wes and Chico. Griff, a reformed gunfighter, is working for the Attorney General's office, looking to arrest Howard Swain (Chuck Roberson). 

Things get tense when Griff confronts Jessica's baby brother Brockie (John Ericson), a drunk bully who routinely bullies the town, going so far as to shoot the town marshal (Hank Worden) in the leg. Griff pistol whips Brockie and knocks him out with one blow, bringing order back to the town.

Will Jessica seek revenge for her brother, setting in motion, more strife in Tombstone?

Jessica Drummond and her Forty Guns

Samuel Fuller (1912 - 1997) was an American director, screenwriter, novelist, and journalist. Fuller got his start writing and directing B-pictures. He wrote and directed two cult films in the early 1960s: Shock Corridor (1963) and The Naked Kiss (1964). In 1957, he directed Barbara Stanwyck in the western classic Forty Guns. Later in Fuller's career, he directed the big-budget World War II film, The Big Red One starring Lee Marvin and Mark Hamill. Fuller's work influenced directors Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino.

Barbara Stanwyck (1907 – 1990) was an American film star who got her acting start with a supporting role on Broadway in a play called The Noose (1926). The next year she had the lead in another Broadway production, Burlesque which was a huge hit. She eventually made it to Hollywood where her success was not immediate. Director Frank Capra saw something in Stanwyck and he educated her in filmmaking and film acting and the rest is history. Stanwyck was nominated four times for the Best Actress Oscar—Stella Dallas (1937), Ball of Fire (1941), Double Indemnity (1945), Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)—and remains one of the most beloved movie stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Barry Sullivan (1912 - 1994) was an American film actor whose career dates back to the 1930s. Sullivan had roles on the stage as well as in film. He was under contract to Paramount and MGM studios, playing mostly supporting roles, although he often had some leading-man roles opposite stars like Lorreta Yound, Lana Turner, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Barbara Stanwyck. Sullivan worked in television during the 1950s and beyond. He guest-starred on Highway Patrol, Alfed Hichcock Presents, Playhouse 90, Mission: Impossible.

Forty Guns trivia:

  • Stanwyck did her own stunt, being dragged by a horse, when the stunt woman refused to do it.
  • The film contains one of the longest camera takes in film history.
  • Jessica Drummond was the name of Stanwyck's character in My Reputation (1946).
  • Reviews in the U.S. condemned the violence, but in Europe it was admired for its energetic style.
  • Working title was Woman with a Whip.

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

To join the discussion on June 6, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to the discussion on Zoom.

Discussion questions:

  • Stanwyck was 49-years-old when she made this film. Does this fact surprise you?
  • How does the violence from Fuller's Pickup on South Street compare to Forty Guns?
  • What do you make of Fuller's depiction of the two main woman in this film? Are their characters believable to you?
  • Did this film remind you of any others you've seen?
  • The relationship between Jessica and Griff is a complicated one. Did it work well on film?
  • Did anything about this film surprise you?

Monday, May 23, 2022

Merle Oberon, George Sanders, and Laird Cregar in "The Lodger"

The Lodger (1944) is an American horror-suspense film directed by John Brahm and starring Merle Oberon, George Sanders, and Laird Cregar. The film is based on Jack the Ripper story and is a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's silent version, The Lodger: A Story of London Fog (1927). The screenplay was by Barre Lyndon, and the cinematography was by Lucien Ballard—who was married to Merle Oberon from 1945 to 1949. 

Ballard invented a light mounted by the side of the camera that provided direct light onto an actor’s face, which reduced skin blemishes and wrinkles. The device was named the “Obie” after Oberon, who had some facial scarring from a car accident.

Slade (Cregar) is a lodger in the home of a 19th-century London family. So is Kitty Langley (Oberon), a cabaret performer. Slade is attracted to Kitty and she to him. Will Kitty become Slade's next victim?

Laird Cregar

John Brahm (1893 - 1982) was a German film director who immigrated to the United States in 1937. Brahm found work as a director, first employed by Columbia Pictures and then 20th Century-Fox. Brahm's most famous films include The Lodger (1944), Hangover Square, and The Lockett (1946). Brahm also directed many television shows, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone.

Merle Oberon (1911 - 1979) was a British actress who had roles in several popular films in Britain before coming to the United States to make films for Samuel Goldwyn. In 1935, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in The Dark Angel. In 1937, she was in a car accident that left her with facial scars. The accident almost ended her career but she was able to work in film and television until 1973. Oberon starred as Anne Boleyn opposite Charles Laughton in The Private Lives of Henry VIII (1933), which was her first big success. She starred opposite Lesley Howard in The Scarlet Pimpernel  (1934). Perhaps her most famous role is as Cathy in Wuthering Heights (1939) opposite Laurence Olivier. She also starred in These Three (1936), Beloved Enemy (1936), Lydia (1941), A Song to Remember (1945), Night Song (1947), and Berlin Express (1948).

Merle Oberon and George Sanders

George Sanders (1906 – 1972) was a British film and stage actor who also had a fine singing voice. Hollywood was looking for a villain to star opposite a young Tyrone Power in Lloyd’s of London (1936) and Sanders more than fit the bill. His performance in that film would forever stamp him as a sophisticated bad guy. Before his acting career, he worked in the textile industry, which must have helped him with his role in The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry. In the 1960s, Sanders played Mr. Freeze in the Batman (1966) television series.

Laird Cregar (1913 - 1944) was an American film and stage actor. Cregar came to Hollywood due to his success with the play Oscar Wilde in Los Angeles in 1940. Cregar signed a contract with 20th Century Fox and quickly became a popular character actor. Due to his large size (he weighed 300 pounds), he was often cast as the bad guy. In an effort to become a leading man in the movies, Cregar went on a crash diet during the productions of The Lodger and Hangover Square. To aid in his dieting, Cregar was prescribed amphetamines which had a negative effect on his system, causing abdominal problems. These problems lead to surgery and eventually a heart attack. He died shortly after at age 31.

The Lodger trivia
  • Merle Oberon fell in love with cinematographer Lucien Ballard during production. They were married the next year.
  • This film propelled Laird Cregar to stardom and the studio was in the process of finding similar properties for the actor.
  • One of the first films to have a point of view shot from the killer's perspective.
  • The film was completed in 1943 but not released until the next year.

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

To join the discussion on Monday, May 30, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and link to join the discussion on Zoom. 

Discussion questions
  1. This film is related in style and plot to Hangover Square (1945), a film we discussed a few months ago, which also starred Laird Cregar and George Sanders and was also directed by John Brahm. Which film do you think is better?
  2. Did the film seem like a realistic depiction of the Jack the Ripper story?
  3. What did you think of Merle Oberon's performance as Kitty? Did she make a credible cabaret performer?
  4. This was a breakout film of sorts for Laird Cregar. What did you think of his performance?
  5. The film is often categorized as a horror film. Do you think that's the best category for this film? Do you have a better one?
  6. The Lodger was praised for the atmosphere created by the director and the production team? Were the critics correct in their assessment?

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Charles Boyer and Jennifer Jones in Ernst Lubitsch's production of "Cluny Brown"

Cluny Brown (1946) is a romantic comedy produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Charles Boyer and Jennifer Jones. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Margery Sharp. The cinematography was by Joseph LaShalle (Laura 1944). The supporting cast includes Peter Lawford, Helen Walker, Reginald Owen, Reginald Gardiner, Richard Haydn, C. Aubrey Smith, Sara Allgood, Florence Bates, Margaret Bannerman, and Una O'Connor.

Cluny Brown (Jones) is an orphan who lives with her uncle (Billy Bevan), a plumber. Cluny has learned all about plumbing from her uncle, but her uncle doesn't think being a plumber is good for a young woman. By coincidence, Cluny meets Adam Belinski at the London home of Mr. Ames (Gardiner). Mr. Ames is having plumbing issues and Cluny manages to fix the issue, much to the surprise of both Belinski and Ames. Cluny and Belinski hit it off and seem to make a special connection.

Unfortunately, Cluny's uncle procures a job for Cluny as a parlor maid at the country estate of Sir Henry Carmel (Owen) and Lady Carmel (Bannerman). As fate would have it, Belinski is the invited guest of Andrew Carmel where he meets Cluny once again. Their relationship continues while Belinski is a guest in the Carmel home.

Will Cluny be content with the life of a parlor maid, or will she and Belinski build a life of their own?

Charles Boyer, Reginald Gardner, and Jennifer Jones

Ernst Lubitsch (1892 – 1947) was a German-born film director who became famous for his sophisticated comedies during the pre-code era. Silent film star Mary Pickford lured Lubitsch to Hollywood in 1922. He directed Pickford in Rosita, which was a huge, hit and cemented his reputation in Hollywood. Lubitsch’s films were so unique that they were described as having the “Lubitsch touch.” Some of Lubitsch’s classic films include Trouble in Paradise (1932), Design for Living (1933), Ninotchka (1939), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), Heaven Can Wait (1943), and Cluny Brown (1946). Lubitsch was awarded an Honorary Academy Award for his work in film.

Charles Boyer (1899 - 1978) was a French-American stage and film actor. Boyer was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award four times. He became a major movie star in the late 1930s in films like The Garden of Allah (1936), Algiers (1938), and Love Affair (1939). He starred as the evil husband of Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight (1944). Boyer starred opposite most of the top female stars of the period including Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Irene Dunne, Jean Arthur, Greta Garbo, Bette Davis, Joan Fontaine, Katharine Hepburn, and Olivia de Havilland. As he grew older, Boyer played supporting roles in film and also starred on Broadway in Kind Sir (1953 - 1954) and The Marriage-Go-Round (1958 - 1960).

Jennifer Jones (1919 - 2009) was an American actress. She received five Academy Award nominations, including one win for her performance in The Song of Bernadette (1943). At age 25, Jones was one of the youngest Best Actress Award winners. She was a major movie star throughout the 1940s and 1950s. She starred in Duel in the Sun (1946), Portrait of Jenny (1948), Madame Bovary (1949), and Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955). Jones was married to producer David O. Selznick who carefully managed her career. 

Jennifer Jones takes direction from Ernst Lubitsch on the set of Cluny Brown.

Cluny Brown trivia

  • This was director Ernst Lubitsch's last completed film. He died while filming That Lady in Ermine (1948).
  • In the novel Adam Belinski is Polish. In the film, he's Czech but retains the name Belinski which is Polish.
  • Richard Haydn and C. Aubrey Smith starred together in And Then There Were None (1944).
  • Reginald Owen and Billy Bevan appeared together in National Velvet (1944).
  • Reginald Gardiner and Una O'Connor appeared together in Christmas in Connecticut (1945).

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

To join the discussion on May 23, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to the discussion on Zoom.

Discussion questions

  1. Did you think the relationship between Adam Belinski and Cluny Brown was believable?
  2. Was there chemistry between Boyer and Jones?
  3. Was there a theme or message? Do you think Ernst Lubitsch was making a statement of some kind with this comedy?
  4. The film is filled with some of the greatest character actors. Did any one of the character actors stand out to you?
  5. Did this film remind you of any other films you've seen?

Charles Boyer and Jennifer Jones in a publicity photo for Cluny Brown

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