Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Jeanne Crain, William Holden, and Edmund Gwenn in "Apartment for Peggy"

Apartment for Peggy (1948) is an American comedy-drama directed and written by George Seaton (Miracle on 34th Street) and starring Jeanne Crain, William Holden, and Edmund Gwenn. The supporting cast includes Gene Lockhart, Randy Stewart, Charles Lane, and Cliff Barnett. The screenplay was based on the novel An Apartment for Jenny (1947) by Faith Baldwin.

Jeanne Crain and William Holden play a young married couple trying to cope with the GI housing shortage after the war. The movie begins with Peggy (Crain), who appears to be very pregnant, taking a short rest on a park bench next to retired Professor Henry Barnes (Gwenn). Peggy immediately likes the old professor; she calls him “pops” and baffles him with her rapid-fire speech and modern slang. When she finds out that Barnes’s friend, Professor Bell, (Lockhart) might have “suction” with veteran housing on campus, Peggy asks Barnes to please put in a good word for her.

Before you know it, Peggy and Jason are turning Professor Barnes’s attic into a very comfortable and functional living space. Even Professor Barnes is amazed at the transformation. Reluctant at first to this “home invasion,” Professor Barnes learns to enjoy sharing his home with the young couple, although living with Peggy can be challenging at times.

What Peggy and Jason don’t know, is that before they moved in, the professor was planning his own suicide. The university forced him to retire years earlier and Barnes thinks his usefulness has come to an end. His wife is deceased and his only son was killed in the First World War. He concludes that he’s lived a satisfying life and feels it’s time to exit on his own terms.

What will become of the professor, Jason, and Peggy?

William Holden and Jeanne Crain

George Seaton (1911 - 1979) was an American director, screenwriter, and producer. Seaton started out as an actor and played the Lone Ranger o the radio. He got a job as a contract writer at M-G-M in 1933. His first credited script was for the Marx Brotherscomedy A Day at the Races (1937). Unhappy with only working on comedies, Seaton moved to Columbia in 1940. In the early 1940s, he went to 20th Century-Fox where he achieved his greatest success as a writer and director. At Fox, he wrote the scripts for That Night in Rio (1941), Moon Over Miami (1941), and The Song of Bernadette (1943). He made his directorial debut with Diamond Horseshoe (1945) starring Betty Grable. He wrote and directed Junior Miss (1945) starring Peggy Ann Garner. Seaton wrote and directed the classic Miracle on 34th Street. He won an Academy Award for his screenplay. Other films directed by Seaton include Apartment for Peggy (1948), The Country Girl (1954), Teacher’s Pet (1958), The Counterfeit Traitor (1962), 36 Hours (1964), What’s So Bad About Feeling Good (1968), and Airport (1970), the biggest hit of Seaton’s career.

Jeanne Crain (1925 – 2003) was an American actress whose career spanned more than three decades. While still a teenager, she was asked to take a screen test with Orson Welles. He was testing for the part of Lucy Morgan in his production of The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). She didn’t get the part (Anne Baxter did), but she was on her way. She had a bit part in The Gang’s All Here (1943), but had a leading role in Home in Indiana (1944). The film was a box office hit and Crain became a favorite of film fans everywhere. She had another hit with Winged Victory (1944) and co-starred with Dana Andrews in the musical State Fair (1945). That same year, she was the “good girl” opposite Gene Tierney’s “bad girl” in Leave Her to Heaven. More good roles came her way including leads in A Letter to Three Wives (1949), The Fan (1949), and Pinky (1949). The latter won her a Best Actress Oscar nomination. She lost that year to Olivia de Havilland. Crain’s popularity continued into the 1950s but suffered when she was released from her exclusive contract with 20th Century-Fox. She continued to work in films and on television until 1975.

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 of all time including Sunset BoulevardSabrina, 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 very 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.

Edmund Gwenn (1877 – 1959) was an English stage and film actor. He is best remembered for his role as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Gwenn made his Hollywood film debut in Sylvia Scarlett (1935) and went on to have a long career in that town. He was a member of what was known as the British Colony—British ex-pats who were working in Hollywood. So of his other films include Pride and Prejudice (1940), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Lassie Come Home (1943), The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), Undercurrent (1946), Apartment for Peggy (1948), and Mister 880 (1950). The actor Cecil Kellaway was Gwenn’s cousin.

William Holden, Jeanne Crain, and Edmund Gwenn in a publicity photo for
Apartment for Peggy

Apartment for Peggy trivia

  • Charles Lane as Professor Collins, Jason’s chemistry professor, was uncredited in spite of his reasonably significant role toward the movie’s end.
  • Edmund Gwenn both appeared in Miracle on 34th Street.
  • Gene Nelson has an uncredited role as one of the G.I. students.
  • Helen Ford’s (Emmy Swasey in The Model and the Marriage Broker) film debut.
  • Lux Radio Theater broadcast a 60-minute radio adaptation of the movie on February 28, 1949, with Jeanne Crain, William Holden, and Edmund Gwenn reprising their film roles.
  • Jeanne Crain was the first actress to portray an obviously pregnant woman on screen. 

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

To join the discussion on June 12, 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 gives us a glimpse of what life was like after the end of World War II and its effects on returning war veterans. Was it successful in capturing that time period?
  2. What did you think of the performances of Jeanne Crain and William Holden? Were they believable as a young, married couple?
  3. This was Edmund Gwenn’s second film under the direction of George Seaton. Was he as good here as in Miracle on 34th Street?
  4. A lot of the film is lighthearted but it does deal with some difficult issues. Was the film successful in blending comedy with drama?
  5. Did the film have a theme or message?
  6. New York Times movie critic, Bosley Crowther thought Appartment for Peggy was a better movie than Miracle on 34th Street. Crowther also noted that Crain’s “vivid characterization” as Peggy contributed to the film’s overall success. Do you agree with his review?

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Robert Mitchum, Shelly Winters, and Lillian Gish star in "The Night of the Hunter"

The Night of the Hunter (1955) is an American thriller directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum, Shelly Winters, and Lillian Gish.
The supporting cast includes James Gleason, Evelyn Varden, Billy Chapin, Sally Jane Bruce, and Peter Graves. The screenplay was written by James Agee based on the novel (1953) of the same name by Davis Grub. The cinematography was by Stanley Cortez (The Magnificent Ambersons, Since You Went Away, and The Three Faces of Eve).

The Reverend Harry Powell (Mitchum) is arrested for driving a stolen car. In jail, he shares a cell with Ben Harper (Graves) who killed two men in a bank robbery. He stole $10,000 and made his children never reveal where he hid the money. Harper is hanged for the murders and the secret dies with him.

When Powell is released from jail, he visits Harper’s hometown, where he romances Harper’s widow, Willa (Winters), and marries her, all in an attempt to find the money that Ben had hidden. John Harper (Chapin) is suspicious of Powell from the start and wants nothing to do with him, while his younger sister, Pearl (Bruce) is attracted to him as a replacement for her father.

Will Powell be successful in finding the stolen money? And what will become of the children?

Charles Laughton (1899 – 1962) had a long career on the stage and in Hollywood. He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Henry VIII in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) and was nominated for two other Best Actor Oscars for his performances in Mutiny on the Bounty (1933) and Witness for the Prosecution (1957). His performance in The Suspect is considered one of Laughton’s most natural screen performances, which is credited to director Robert Siodmak, a close personal friend of the actor. The Night of the Hunter is the only film Laughton directed.

Robert Mitchum (1917 - 1997) was an American film actor, director, and singer. His breakthrough came in The Story of G.I. Joe (1945) for which he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. He later starred in the film noir classic Out of the Past (1947) Crossfire (1947), Rachel and the Stranger (1948), River of No Return (1954) The Night of the Hunter (1955) Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957), Home from the Hill (1960), Cape Fear (1962), and Ryan's Daughter (1970). Mitchum would remain busy until the late nineties. Mitchum is rated number 23 on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest male stars of classic American cinema.

Shelley Winters (1920 - 2006) was an American actress whose career in film began in 1943 and continued into the 2000s. Some of Winters’s film roles include A Double Life (1947), The Great Gatsby (1948), Winchester 73 (1950), and A Place in the Sun (1951) for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award. Winters was in demand throughout the 1950s having four films in release in 1955 including Night of the Hunter. She won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). She won her second Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in A Patch of Blue (1965). Besides her film work, Winters starred on Broadway and was a frequent guest star on popular television series and made-for-TV movies.

Lillian Gish (1893 – 1993) was an American actress; her career spanned 75 years. Gish was a major movie star during the silent film era. She was called the “First Lady of American Cinema” because she is credited with developing film acting techniques when the medium was in its infancy. She had a close professional relationship with director D.W. Griffith who directed her in some of the most famous films from the silent era including The Birth of a Nation (1915), Broken Blossoms (1915), and Orphans of the Storm (1921). With the advent of sound, Gish performed on the stage and occasionally appeared in film roles. Gish’s last film appearance was in The Whales of August (1987) co-starring Bette Davis, Vincent Price, and Ann Sothern.

The Night of the Hunter trivia

  • Later in his career, Robert Mitchum said that Charles Laughton was his favorite director.
  • The novel and film are partially based on the life of serial killer Harry Powers (1893 - 1932).
  • Elsa Lanchester suggested the casting of Lillian Gish in the role of Rachel Cooper.
  • Shelly Winters said of her performance that it was “the most thoughtful and reserved performance I ever gave.”
  • Charles Laughton’s first choices for the film’s male and female leads were Gary Cooper and Betty Grable but both turned it down.

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

Discussion questions

  1. I categorized this film as a thriller. Do you agree with that category? How would you classify it?
  2. What did you think of the performances of the child actors? Did their performances seem natural and believable to you?
  3. Robert Mitchum’s character is one of the most diabolical in all of film. What did you think of his performance? Was it Oscar-worthy?
  4. Do you agree with Shelly Winter’s assessment of her performance?
  5. Would you recommend this film to a friend to watch?
  6. Lillian Gish is a legend among film actors. What did you think of her performance?

To join the discussion on June 5, 2023, 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.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Happy Birthday, Jeanne Crain

I’m a huge fan of Jeanne Crain. She was one of the most popular movie stars from the mid-to-late 1940s to the early 1950s.

A favorite of studio chief Daryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century-Fox, Crain was cast as the girl next door in the mold of Janet Gaynor, several decades earlier. Like many actresses before her, Crain got tired of playing teenagers when she was in her twenties, married with children.

It was the children that may have ended her career at Fox earlier than Crain may have wanted. Crain had seven children during her tenure at Fox. Since she was often pregnant, roles that Zanuck had planned for her had to be shelved or given to other actresses. The most famous role that Crain lost out to pregnancy was that of Eve Harrington in All About Eve.

Jeanne Crain with Daryl F. Zanuck and his children, Richard and Darrylin

To learn more about Crain and her career, click on the links below for other blog posts from the Classic Movie Man.

Jeanne Crain: More Than Just a Pretty Face 

Jeanne Crain's great year

Classic Films in Context: Pinky 1949

10 Things You May Not Know About Jeanne Crain

Classic Films in Context: Apartment for Peggy

Monday, May 22, 2023

Tyrone Power heads the cast in “Witness for the Prosecution”

Witness for the Prosecution (1957) is an American mystery thriller directed by Billy Wilder and starring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, and Charles Laughton. The supporting cast includes Elsa Lanchester, John Williams, Henry Daniell, Ian Wolfe, Torin Thatcher, Norma Varen, Uno O’Connor, and Ruta Lee.

Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Laughton), a senior barrister, who is recovering from a heart attack, agrees to defend Leonard Vole against the objections of his nurse Miss Pimsoll (Lanchester). Vole has been accused of murdering Emily French, a wealthy widow with no family who had left him the bulk of her estate.

Robarts interviews Vole’s wife Christine (Dietrich) who provides her husband with an alibi. Robarts finds Christine’s testimony off somehow and is suspicious of her motives.

Will Robarts be able to defend Vole against the charge of murder or will circumstances beyond his control change everything?

Henry Daniell, Tyrone Power, and Charles Laughton

Billy Wilder (1906 - 2002) was an Austrian-born American film director, screenwriter, and producer. He won six Academy Awards for his writing and direction and was nominated twenty-one times over a career that spanned five decades. Wilder started his career as a writer, penning the screenplays for Ninotchka (1939), Ball of Fire (1942), Double Indemnity (1945), The Lost Weekend (1946), Sunset Boulevard (1951)  Boulevard (1951)Sabrina (1955), Some Like it Hot (1960), and The Apartment (1961). As a director, he won Academy Awards for directing The Lost Weekend (1946) and The Apartment (1961). Wilder directed fourteen different actors in Oscar-nominated roles. He is considered one of the most versatile directors from Hollywood’s Classical period.

Tyrone Power (1914 – 1958) was a major movie star as well as a star on stage and radio. He was one of the biggest box office draws of the 1930s and 1940s. Power was under exclusive contract to 20th Century-Fox where his image and film choices were carefully selected by studio head Zanuck. After the war, Power wanted to stretch his acting past romantic comedies and swashbuckler roles. Nightmare Alley was Power’s personal favorite of all his films. Some of Power's films include Marie Antoinette (1938), The Rains Came (1939), Jesse James (1939), The Mark of Zorro (1940), and  Blood and Sand (1941). Later in his career, he starred in Captain from Castile (1947), The Black Rose (1950), and Witness for the Prosecution (1957). Power’s favorite of all his films that he starred in was Nightmare Alley (1947) even though it was a commercial and a critical failure when first released. Its status as a classic film noir has been recently reevaluated.

Charles Laughton (1899 – 1962) had a long career on the stage and in Hollywood. He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Henry VIII in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) and was nominated for two other Best Actor Oscars for his performances in Mutiny on the Bounty (1933) and Witness for the Prosecution (1957). His performance in The Suspect is considered one of Laughton’s most natural screen performances, which is credited to director Siodmak, a close personal friend of the actor.

Marlene Dietrich (1901 – 1992) was a German and American actress. Dietrich got her start in silent films in her native Germany. She was directed by Josef von Sternberg in The Blue Angel (1930) which made Dietrich an international star. Its success also earned her a contract with Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. Dietrich had her biggest successes during the 1930s in films like Morocco (1930), Shanghai Express (1932), Blonde Venus (1932), The Scarlet Empress (1934), The Devil is a Woman (1935), and Destry Rides Again (1939). After World War II, Dietrich starred in A Foreign Affair (1948), Stage Fright (1950), and Judgment at Nuremberg (1960). 

Witness for the Prosecution trivia

  • Marlene Dietrich was convinced she would receive an Academy Award nomination and was crushed when she did not.
  • Agatha Christie was pleased with the film version of her novel.
  • This was Tyrone Power’s last completed film. He died of a heart attack on the set of Solomon and Sheba in 1959.
  • William Holden was the director’s first choice to play Vole but he was unavailable. Other actors considered include Gene Kelly, Kirk Douglas, Glenn Ford, Jack Lemmon, and Roger Moore.
  • Actresses considered for the role of Christine include Ava Gardner and Rita Hayworth.

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

To join the discussion on May 29, 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. What did you think of the film's casting?
  2. Some critics thought Tyrone Power looked too old to play Vole. Do you agree?
  3. The cast is impressive. Did any one cast member stand out to you?
  4. Was the ending a surprise to you?
  5. How does this film stack up to other Billy Wilder films?

Sunday, May 14, 2023

George Sanders and Linda Darnell in Douglas Sirk's "Summer Storm"

Summer Storm (1944) is a romance melodrama directed by Douglas Sirk, starring George Sanders and Linda Darnell. The supporting cast includes Edward Everett Horton, Hugo Haas, and Anna Lee. The film is based on the novel The Hunting Party (1884) written by Anton Chekhov.

The film, told in flashback, tells the story of Judge Fedor Petroff (Saunders) and his infatuation with the beautiful Olga Kuzminichna Urbenin, (Darnell) in early-19th century Russia.

Before Petroff became acquainted with Olga, he was engaged to Nadena Kalenin (Lee), the daughter of a Russian book publisher. One day, Nadena discovers Petroff kissing Olga, and Nadena calls the wedding off, reluctantly because she still loves Petroff.

Petroff’s affair with Olga continues but things do not go well. Olga has her own ideas and she plots to improve her station in life and Petroff isn’t necessarily at the center.

Will Petroff be able to work out his feeling for Olga? Will Olga set her sights on another man who can give her financial security and social position?


Summer Storm trivia

  • This was director Douglas Sirk’s second American movie.
  • Sirk wrote the screenplay with “Michael O’Hara.” O’Hara is a pseudonym for Sirk.
  • Sirk had planned to film Anton Chekhov’s The Shooting Party before he fled Germany in 1937.
  • George Sanders was born in Russia in 1906; he left with his family in 1917 during the Russian Revolution.
  • Sanders did his own singing in the tavern scene.
  • Linda Darnell campaigned hard to get the role of Olga. This role changed the arch of her career; she went from a sweet, virginal girl next door to a major Hollywood sex symbol.

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

To join the discussion on May 22, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you’ll receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom


Discussion questions

  1. Douglas Sirk is famous today for his Technicolor melodramas like Written on the Wind and All That Heaven Allows. Do you see any hints in Summer Storm that foreshadows Sirk’s later work in the 1950s?
  2. What did you think of George Sanders’s performance? Did it remind you of any of his other performances?
  3. What did you think of Linda Darnell’s performance? Darnell was only 21 when this film was released.
  4. Were there any performances that you thought were particularly good?
  5. Did the ending surprise you or was it what you expected?

George Sanders and Linda Darnell

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

William Powell is Philo Vance in "The Kennel Murder Case"

The Kennel Murder Case (1933) is an American pre-Code murder-mystery film directed by Michael Curtiz, and starring William Powell and Mary Astor. Powell plays detective Philo Vance, a sophisticated sleuth, one year before he would play another sophisticated sleuth in The Thin Man. The supporting cast includes, Eugene Pallette, Ralph Morgan, Etienne Girardot, and Helen Vinson.

Philo Vance’s dog is entered into the Long Island Kennel Club’s dog show comes up short—he doesn’t make it to the finals. This disappoints fellow competitor Archer Coe (Robert Barrat) who was hoping to celebrate a victory over Vance. The next day, Coe is found dead, locked inside his bedroom.

What or who killed Coe? Was it suicide or murder? Philo Vance is determined to find out.

The Kennel Murder Case trivia

  • Asta, the dog in The Thin Man series has an uncredited role as a terrier in a cage in the Kennel Club scene.
  • This was Powell’s last time playing Philo Vance. He would move from Warner Bros. to M-G-M the next year.
  • Philo Vance movies were made at Paramount, Warner Bros., and M-G-M.
  • The watch the movie on YouTube, click the link below.


To join the discussion on May 15, 2023, 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.

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

Discussion questions

  1. Do you see any similarities between Powell’s characterization of Philo Vance and Nick Charles?
  2. Any differences between Philo Vance and Nick Charles?
  3. What did you think of Mary Astor’s characterization?
  4. Do you think Powell an Astor had good screen chemistry?
  5. Is murder-mystery the best way to describe this film? Would you categorize it another way?
  6. Did you have a favorite character actor?

Monday, May 1, 2023

Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery are "Mr and Mrs. Smith"

In 1940, Alfred Hitchcock’s third American film, Mr. and Mrs. Smith (released in 1941), was a screwball comedy. Yes, that’s right a screwball comedy. And it starred Carole Lombard, who had recently been proclaimed the “Screwball Girl” in a Life magazine profile. Few classic movie fans are familiar with this Hitchcock comedy, even though it was a critical and commercial hit, making its debut at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

The plot is typical for a screwball comedy. Ann (Lombard) and David (Robert Montgomery) Smith, discover that through a technicality their marriage isn’t legal. After David admits to his wife that if he had it to do all over again, he wouldn’t get married, Ann decides that she doesn’t want to be married either. What follows is a series of events in which each spouse tries to make the other jealous. Ann starts dating David’s law partner Jeff Custer (Gene Raymond) and David takes a room at his club and starts to hang out with a philandering Chuck Bensen (Jack Carson), which leads to some of the film’s funniest moments.

Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery

Alfred Hitchcock loved Carole Lombard. She was his type of actress: beautiful, smart, earthy, and blonde. The Hitchcock family rented Lombard’s house after she and Clark Gable were married in 1939. The Hitchcock’s and the Gable’s became fast friends and it was inevitable that the director and actress would work together. Unfortunately, Lombard would make one movie after Mr. and Mrs. Smith, dying tragically in a plane crash the next year, after a successful war bond drive during World War II.

The script written by Oscar winner, Norman Krasna (Hands Across the TableBachelor MotherIt Started with EvePrincess O’Rourke) is quite good and Lombard and Montgomery have great on-screen chemistry and deliver good performances. Raymond is perfect as Montgomery’s strait-laced college chum and partner. The film is peppered with some great character actors like Carson, Lucile Watson, Charles Halton, Esther Dale, and Betty Compson.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith proved that Hitchcock, the master of suspense, could be successful in any genre he put his mind to.

Carole Lombard directs Hitchcock's cameo.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith trivia

  • Carole Lombard directed Hitchcock's cameo and had him do multiply takes.
  • This was the first movie to feature a pizzeria.
  • Cary Grant was the first choice for the role of David which went to Montgomery.
  • Of Hitchcock's first four American films, this was the first one to take place in America.
  • Montgomery was on loan from M-G-M and Hitchcock was on loan from David O. Selznick.
  • The film was held over for several weeks at Radio City Music Hall.

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

To join the discussion on May 8, 2023, at 6:30 p.m., click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

Discussion questions

  1. Did this feel like a Hitchcock movie? Did you see any Hitchcock touches?
  2. Was this a good screwball comedy in your estimation? How does it compare to others you’ve seen.
  3. Did you think that Lombard and Montgomery had good screen chemistry?
  4. Was there a supporting character that you liked?
  5. Were you surprised by anything?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...