Thursday, February 25, 2021

“Rebecca” casts a long shadow over Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine

Rebecca (1940) is an American romantic thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock—in his American directorial debut—and starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. The screenplay was written by Robert E. Sherwood and long-time Hitchcock associate, Joan Harrison. The film score was written by Franz Waxman and the cinematography was by George Barnes who won an Academy Award for his work on this film.

The film was producer and filmmaker David O. Selznick‘s follow up to Gone with the Wind (1939). It would be impossible for Selznick to match that success in his long career, but Rebecca won Best Picture and a Best Actress Academy Award for Joan Fontaine. It was a critical and commercial success and one of the biggest hits of the year.

Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine

Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980) was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century. Hitchcock directed over 50 feature films, many are classics that have been honored and studied for years. Some of Hitchcock’s classic films include The 39 Steps (1939), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Notorious (1946), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960).

Laurence Olivier (1907 - 1989) was an English actor and director who was one of the most celebrated actors of the 20th century. Olivier attended drama school in London where he learned his craft. He made his West End debut in Noel Coward‘s Private Lives (1930). More successes followed and he eventually made his way to Hollywood. He had a huge success with his role as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights (1939) and Rebecca the next year. Olivier‘s career in films also includes lead roles in Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948), Richard III (1955), Spartacus (1960).

Joan Fontaine (1917 – 2013) was a British-American actress who starred in more than 45 films during Hollywood’s “Golden Age.” After secondary roles in Gunga Din (1939) and The Women (1939), her fortunes turned with her starring role in Alfred Hitchcock’s first American film, Rebecca (1940). She was nominated for Best Actress for her role in that film but lost to Ginger Rogers. The next year, she worked with Hitchcock again in Suspicion and this time won the Best Actress Oscar, beating out her older sister Olivia de Havilland. She received a third and final nomination for The Constant Nymph (1943). Other popular Fontaine films include This Above All (1942), From This Day Forward (1946), Ivy (1947), Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), The Emperor Waltz (1948), and Ivanhoe (1952). After the late-1950s, she appeared less in films and more on stage and television. Fontaine and her sister are the only siblings to have won major acting Academy Awards.

Others in the cast include Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers and George Sanders as Jack Favell.



Rebecca trivia:

  • Loretta Young, Margaret Sullavan, Anne Baxter, and Vivien Leigh were among the over 20 actresses who screen-tested for the role of Mrs. de Winter.
  • Hitchcock instructed Judith Anderson to rarely blink her eyes.
  • This is the only film directed by Hitchcock to win Best Picture.
  • Olivier wanted his then girl-friend, Vivien Leigh, to costar in the film which made him treat Fontaine very badly during filming.
  • Hitchcock shot the film in black and white to keep with the dark atmosphere of the book.
  • The director and cinematographer, George Barnes shot the film in deep focus, one year before Citzen Kane (1941) which is often credited with inventing the technique.


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



To Join the discussion on March 2, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. click here. Once you RSVP, you will get an invitation and link to join the discussion on Zoom.


Questions for discussion:

  1. What genre do you think best describes this film?
  2. Joan Fontaine‘s character has no first name; what effect does it have on the film?
  3. How does the relationship between Max and his bride change after they arrive at Manderley?
  4. What role does Mrs. Danvers play in the film?
  5. What are some of the clues to Rebecca‘s true nature?


Friday, February 19, 2021

Ann Harding and William Powell share a "Double Harness"

 Double Harness (1933) is a pre-Code melodrama directed by John Cromwell (Of Human Bondage) and starring Ann Harding and William Powell. The screenplay was written by Jane Murfin (What Price Hollywood?, Alice Adams), and the music was by Max Steiner.

The plot concerns Joan Colby (Harding), the sensible older sister who decides to get married not for love but for her own betterment. She sets her sights on rich playboy, John Fletcher (Powell) who owns a shipping line that is floundering due to his indifference in working for a living.

Joan tricks John into marrying her but she turns out to be a great asset. She encourages him to take an interest in the family business which he does to great success. Everything comes undone when John discovers the truth surrounding their marriage. Will Joan be able to convince her husband that their marriage wasn’t a mistake?

William Powell and Ann Harding

John Cromwell (1886 – 1979) was an American film and stage director. Cromwell started his career as an actor on the stage and in the early days of talking pictures. He was under contract to Paramount where he directed many pre-Code films. Some of the stars he directed during this time included Kay Francis, William Powell, and Jean Arthur. In 1933, he moved to RKO and directed Irene Dunne in Ann Vickers (1933), Spitfire (1934) with Katharine Hepburn, and Of Human Bondage (1934) with Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. Of Human Bondage was a tremendous box office success and made Cromwell a top director in Hollywood. Other films he directed include Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), Since You Went Away (1944), Anna and the Kind of Siam (1946), and Dead Reckoning. He is the father of actor James Cromwell.

The Strand Theatre in Plainfield, NJ promotes Double Harness


Ann Harding (1901 - 1981) was an American stage, radio, movie, and television actress. She acted on Broadway and with other theater companies before going to Hollywood. Harding arrived in Hollywood just as the sound era in movies was beginning. Due to her stage training and perfect diction, Harding was one of the first major stars to emerge in the early days of talking pictures. Harding was under contract to Pathe, which was eventually taken over by RKO Pictures where she became one of its top female stars alongside Helen Twelvetrees and Constance Bennett. Harding received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance in Holiday (1930). Katharine Hepburn played the same role in the 1938 version, and like Hepburn, Harding attended Bryn Mawr College. Other popular films starring Harding include The Animal Kingdon (1932), When Ladies Meet (1933), and Peter Ibbetson (1935). After the end of the 1930s, Harding’s popularity as a leading lady waned and she started playing secondary leads and character roles. She continued to act on the stage, radio, and television until her retirement in 1965.

William Powell (1892 – 1984) was an American actor who was most famous for the Thin Man series in which he costarred with Myrna Loy. Loy and Powell made 14 films together. Powell was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times: The Thin Man (1934), My Many Godfrey (1936), and Life With Father (1947). Powell was under contract to Paramount, Warner Bros., and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer where he had his greatest success. Some of Powell’s popular films include Manhattan Melodrama (1934), The Great Ziegfeld (1936), Libeled Lady (1936), The Last of Mrs. Cheney (1937), Love Crazy (1941), Life with Father (1947), The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947), Dancing in the Dark (1949), How to Marry a Millionare (1953), and Mister Roberts (1955).


Double Harness trivia:

  • The $5000  (each) set aside for Joan and Valerie to be used for their wedding is equal to over $92,000 today.
  • The newspaper announcing the home of Valerie and Dennis at being at 2200 Lombard Street in San Francisco was home to a pizzeria in 2016.
  • The film had been out of circulation for decades due to a dispute with the producer’s estate. TCM acquired the rights to six films from RKO in 2007. Double Harness was one of the six.
  • The film played Radio City Music Hall in New York City.


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



To join the discussion on Zoom on February 23, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click on the link here. Once you RSVP, you will get an email with a Zoom link.


Questions for discussion:

  1. What do you think is the significance of the title?
  2. What did you think of Joan’s plan to trap John into marriage?
  3. Why do you think Joan acted so diligently on behalf of John’s business?
  4. What do you think made John return to Joan and their marriage?
  5. Ann Harding was a favorite of actress Barbara Stanwyck.What do you think Stanwyck saw in Harding’s acting style?

Friday, February 12, 2021

John Mills, Horst Buchholz, and Hayley Mills struggle in “Tiger Bay”

Tiger Bay (1959) is a British crime drama directed by J. Lee Thompson and starring John Mills, Horst Buchholz, and Hayley Mills in her first major film role.

The plot centers around a young Polish sailor named Bronislav (“Bronek”) Korchinsky (Buchholz) who returns from a voyage to visit his girlfriend, Anya (Yvonne Mitchell). He discovers that she is no longer living in the apartment he was paying for, he tracks her down at her new flat. There she tells him that she no longer wants him and is involved with a married man (Anthony Dawson). They argue and in a fit of jealously, he hits her. She defends herself with a gun, but Bronek takes the gun from her and shoots her dead. 

Unbeknownst to Bronek at the time, a young tomboy named Gillie (Mills) watches the whole scene through the letterbox. Gillie at first fears for her life when Bronek confronts her, but instead the two develop a bond that will change both their lives.

Hayley Mills and Horst Buchholz

J. Lee Thompson (1914 - 2002) was a British film director. He made pictures in England and Hollywood and is best remembered for Cape Fear (1962) and The Guns of Navarone (1961). Thompson began his career as a screenwriter and dialogue coach. After a stint in the RAF during World War II, he went back to screenwriting. In 1950 he directed his first feature Murder Without Crime (1950) in England. Other Hollywood films directed by Thompson include What a Way to Go! (1964), John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (1965), and Mackenna’s Gold (1969).

John Mills (1908 - 2005) was an English actor who made over 100 films in the United States and in Great Britain. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Ryan’s Daughter (1970). Mills worked on the stage in London in the Noel Coward revue Words and Music (1932). He made his film debut in the U.K. in 1932 and appeared with Ida Lupino in The Ghost Camera (1933). He had a supporting role in Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) starring Robert Donat. Mills starred as Pip in Great Expectations (1946) to great acclaim and popular box office. Mills continued acting into the 2000s.

Horst Buchholz (1933 - 2003) was a German actor who was once called “the German James Dean” was an international movie star and voice artist. In America, he starred in The Magnificent Seven (1960), On, Two Three (1961). He starred opposite Leslie Caron in Fanny (1961) and Nine Hours to Rama (1963). He’s almost as famous for the roles that got away. He was offered the roles of Tony in West Side Story (1961) and Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) but scheduling conflicts prevented him from starring in those films.

Hayley Mills (1946 - ) is an English actress and at one time was one of the biggest child stars in the world. The daughter of actor John Mills and Mary Hayley Bell and younger sister of Juliet Mills, she got her start in films playing Gillie in Tiger Bay (1959). It was her performance in that film that brought her to the attention of Walt Disney and international stardom. Mills made her American movie debut in Pollyanna (1960), winning the Academy Juvenile Award in the process. Other films she made at Disney include The Parent Trap (1961), In Search of the Castaways (1962), Summer Magic (1963), and That Darn Cat! (1965).


Tiger Bay trivia:

  • The role of Gillie was meant to be a boy, but when the director met John Mill’s daughter Hayley, he thought making Gillie a girl would improve the movie.
  • This was the English-speaking movie debut of Horst Buchholz.
  • John Mills said that Hayley received no film offers in the U.K. after her acclaimed performance.
  • John and Hayley Mills worked together again in The Chalk Garden (1964).


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


To join the discussion on Zoom on Tiger Bay on February 16, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time click on the link here. Once you RSVP, you will get an email with a Zoom link.


Questions for discussion:

  1. Do you think the film would have been different if the role of Gillie had been played by a boy?
  2. Why do you think Gillie bonded with Bronek?
  3. Did anything about the film surprise you?
  4. What do you think happened to Bronek after his arrest at the end?

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Joan Fontaine and Louis Jordan in “Letter from an Unknown Woman”

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) is an American drama directed by Max Ophuls and starring Joan Fontaine and Louis Jordan. The movie is based on the novella of the same name by Stefan Zweig.

Joan Fontaine (Lisa) and Louis Jordan (Stefan)

During the early days of the twentieth century in Vienna, Lisa, a teenage girl (Fontaine) becomes enamored by concert pianist Stefan Brand (Jordan) who is a new tenant in her apartment building. As Stefan’s career gains traction, Lisa becomes obsessed with him. She stays up late to listen to him play, and even sneaking into his apartment to see how he lives and to admire him from afar.

Lisa’s mother reveals that she is engaged to be married to a wealthy gentleman and that they will be moving to Linz. This makes Lisa distraught and she finds her life in Linz almost unbearable. Eventually, Lisa moves back to Vienna, working as a dress model. She lingers the streets of her old neighborhood hoping to get a glimpse of her idol and love, Stefan.

Will he notice her? Will the love she has for Stefan bloom into a relationship between the two of them?


The Backstory

Max Ophuls (1931-1957) was born in Germany where his film career began. After it was clear the Nazis would take power in Germany, Ophuls, a jew, moved to France in 1933 where he became a French citizen in 1938. After the fall of France, he traveled through Switzerland and Italy, eventually ending up in the United States. In Hollywood, Ophuls directed Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in The Exile (1947), Joan Fontaine and Louis Jordan in Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), Caught starring James Mason, Barbara Bel Geddes, and Robert Ryan. The Reckless Moment would be his last Hollywood film before he returned to France, where he directed major successes La Ronde (1950) and The Earrings of Madame de…(1953) starring Charles Boyer and Danielle Darrieux.

Joan Fontaine (1917 – 2013) was a British-American actress who starred in more than 45 films during Hollywood’s “Golden Age.” After secondary roles in Gunga Din (1939) and The Women (1939), her fortunes turned with her starring role in Alfred Hitchcock’s first American film, Rebecca (1940). She was nominated for Best Actress for her role in that film but lost to Ginger Rogers. The next year, she worked with Hitchcock again in Suspicion and this time won the Best Actress Oscar, beating out her older sister Olivia de Havilland. She received a third and final nomination for The Constant Nymph (1943). Other popular Fontaine films include This Above All (1942), From This Day Forward (1946), Ivy (1947), Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), The Emperor Waltz (1948), and Ivanhoe (1952). After the late-1950s, she appeared less in films and more on stage and television. Fontaine and her sister are the only siblings to have won major acting Academy Awards.

And older Lisa and Stefan


Louis Jourdan (1921 - 2015) was a French film and television actor. Jourdan worked on the stage in Europe and even began working in films as early as 1939, but his film work was interrupted due to World War II. After the war, Jourdan was brought to Hollywood by producer David O. Selznick. His first film in Hollowood was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Paradine Case (1947). The next year he made Letter from an Unknown Woman, one of his most famous roles during his long career. Jourdan made movies in Europe and Hollywood and starred on Broadway in The Immoralist in 1954 co-starring with Geraldine Page and James Dean. Jourdan’s most famous and successful American film was Gigi (1958). The film cos-starred Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier and won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture.


Letter from an Unknown Woman trivia:

  • Fontaine was 30 years old when she played Lisa, who was 16 years old at the beginning of the film.
  • The film was made by Rampart Productions, an independent film company formed by Fontaine and her then-husband William Dozier.
  • Japanese film director, Hideo Nakata considers this “The best film in the entire movie industry.”
  • Both Fontaine and Jourdan were under contract to David O. Selznick at the time of production.


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


To join us on Zoom for a discussion of the film on February 6, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and link to the Zoom meeting.


Questions for discussion:

  1. Do you think Fontaine was convincing as a teenager early in the film?
  2. Was Jourdan convincing as a concert pianist and playboy?
  3. Do you think Stefan ever loved Lisa?
  4. What did you think of the film’s production?

Friday, January 29, 2021

Bette Davis wants “The Catered Affair” for daughter Debbie Reynolds

The Catered Affair (1956) is an American drama directed by Richard Brooks and starring Bette Davis, Ernest Borgnine, Debbie Reynolds, Barry Fitzgerald, and Rod Tayor. The musical score is by Andre Previn and the cinematography is by John Alton.


Agnes Hurley (Davis), a Bronx housewife married to cab drive Tom Hurley (Borgnine) wants her only daughter to have the wedding she never had. The problem is, she and her husband are of humble means and really can’t afford one. Their daughter Jane (Reynolds) and her fiance Ralph Halloran (Taylor) don’t want a big wedding, in part due to all the complications and conflicts they can create.

Agnes persists with the big wedding plans and Jane, Tom, and Ralph reluctantly give in, not realizing how this decision will impact family and friends as the big day approaches.


Richard Brooks (1912 – 1992) was an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. He received eight Oscar nominations during his career. Some of the famous films he directed include Blackboard Jungle (1955), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Elmer Gantry (1960), In Cold Blood (1967), and Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977). Brooks was married three times, twice to actresses: Jean Brooks (1941 – 1944) and Jean Simmons (1960 – 1980).

Ernest Borgnine, Bette Davis, and Debbie Reynolds

Bette Davis (1908 – 1989) was an American actress who had a career on stage and screen that spanned more than 50 years. Davis came to Hollywood in 1930 and within four years of her arrival, she was one of its biggest stars winning her first Best Actress Academy Award for her role in Dangerous (1935). Her starring role in Jezebel (1938) won her a second Best Actress Oscar. Davis would go on to star in many popular films during the 1940s including Dark Victory (1939), The Letter (1940), The Little Foxes (1941), and Now, Voyager (1942). In 1950 she starred as Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950), a role she is probably most identified with today. Other popular films include The Old Maid (1939), All This and Heaven Too (1940), Mr. Skeffington (1944), and The Corn is Green (1945).

Ernest Borgnine (1917 – 2012) was an American actor who had a six-decade career in films and television. His film career began in 1951 where he appeared in supporting roles in films like From Here to Eternity (1953), Vera Cruz (1954), and Bad Day at Black Rock (1955). In 1956, he starred in the film Marty (1955) where he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. He also achieved success on television in the comedy series McHale’s Navy (1962 – 1966). Borgnine made another film with Davis, Bunny O’Hare (1971) where the two played senior citizens who go on a crime spree.

Rod Taylor and Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds (1932 – 2016) was an American singer and movie actress. Reynolds made her film debut in 1950 in Three Little Words. Two years later she had her breakout role as Kathy Seldon in Singin’ in the Rain (1952). She appeared in many films during the 1950s including The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (1953), Susan Slept Here (1954), and Bundle of Joy (1956) co-starring her then-husband Eddie Fisher. In the 1960s she starred in How the West Was Won (1962), The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), The Singing Nun (1966), and Divorce American Style (1967). In 1973, she made her Broadway debut in a revival of the musical Irene. For her role in The Catered Affair, she was voted the Best Supporting Actress of the year by the National Board of Review.

Barry Fitzgerald (1888 – 1961) was an Irish stage, film, and television actor. He appeared in many notable films over four decades including Bringing Up  Baby (1938), How Green Was My Valley (1941), Going My Way (1944), None but the Lonely Heart (1944), and The Quiet Man (1952). He was a member of the Abbey Theatre and made his film debut in Juno and the Paycock (1930) directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Rod Taylor (1930 – 2015) was an Australian actor who appeared in over 50 feature film including The Time Machine (1960), The Birds (1963), Sunday in  New York (1963), 36 Hours (1965), The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), and Hotel (1967). Taylor was approached to play James Bond but turned the offer down, something he regretted. Taylor starred in the television series Hong Kong (1961) and Bearcats! (1971), and The Oregon Trail (1976). Taylor’s last film role was a cameo in Inglourious Basterds (2009) where he played Winston Churchill.

 

The Catered Affair trivia:

  • Ernest Borgnine was 39 when the film was released, just 15 years older than Debbie Reynolds who played his daughter. Bette Davis was 48 and played Borgnine’s wife.
  • The $8,000 for the cost of a New York City taxi medallion is equivalent to about $70,000 today.
  • Rod Taylor was cast in the film after his impressive screen test for the lead role in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956). Paul Newman won the role, but Taylor’s Brooklyn accent during the test impressed the folks at M-G-M that they signed Taylor to a long-term contract. The Catered Affair was Taylor’s first film under this contract.
  • Debbie Reynolds said that director Richard Brooks treated her badly on the set, even slapping her once in front of the cast and crew.



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




To join us for a discussion on Zoom on February 2, 2021, at 6:30 p.m., click on the link. Once you RSVP, you’ll get a link to the discussion.


Questions for discussion:

  1. What did you think of the film overall? Could you relate to it?
  2. This film features Bette Davis in a character role. Was she convincing as a middle-class housewife?
  3. The cast included Debbie Reynolds in an early dramatic role. What did you think of her performance?
  4. Ernest Borgnine was at the height of his career when he made this film; do you think he was believable as a New York City cab driver?
  5. Were there other performances worth noting?


Friday, January 22, 2021

Leslie Howard and Bette Davis in the pre-Code classic “Of Human Bondage”

Of Human Bondage (1934) is a pre-Code drama directed by John Cromwell and starring Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, and Francis Dee. The film was based on W. Somerset Maugham’s 1915 novel. The music was by Max Steiner.

Leslie Howard and Bette Davis

Leslie Howard stars as Philip Carey a club-footed British man studying art in Paris. After his teacher tells him that he really has no talent as an artist, he returns to London to study medicine. While in London, he falls desperately in love with a waitress named Mildred Rogers (Davis). Philip’s passion is constantly spurned by Mildred, but he finds himself hopelessly drawn to her, to the point of financial and personal ruin.

Will Philip escape from his destructive infatuation with Mildred or will it destroy his life and medical career?


Of Human Bondage is a pre-Code film. Films released before 1934 did not follow strict rules as to what themes or characters could be expressed onscreen. Prior to the implementation of the Production Code, the public was becoming concerned with explicit film content. Rather than be subjected to government oversight, the movie studios united to create and live by a set of rules that each studio would abide by. With the collapse of the studio system, the Production Code ended in 1968 in favor of the film rating system we have today.


John Cromwell (1886 – 1979) was an American film and stage director. Cromwell started his career as an actor on the stage and in the early days of talking pictures. He was under contract to Paramount where he directed many pre-Code films. Some of the stars he directed during this time included Kay Francis, William Powell, and Jean Arthur. In 1933, he moved to RKO and directed Irene Dunne in Ann Vickers (1933), Spitfire (1934) with Katharine Hepburn, and Of Human Bondage (1934) with Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. Of Human Bondage was a tremendous box office success and made Cromwell a top director in Hollywood. Other films he directed include Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), Since You Went Away (1944), Anna and the Kind of Siam (1946), and Dead Reckoning. He is the father of actor James Cromwell.

Leslie Howard (1893 – 1943) was an English film and stage actor. He was a popular movie star on both sides of the Atlantic, working in both England and the United States. He is probably best remembered for playing Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind (1939), but Howard was a big box office draw during the 1930s starring in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), The Petrified Forest (1936), Pygmalion (1938), and Intermezzo (1939). Howard’s life and career were cut short when the plane he was flying in was shot down over the Atlantic in 1943 during World War II.

Bette Davis eyes!

Bette Davis (1908 – 1989) was an American actress who had a career on stage and screen that spanned more than 50 years. Davis came to Hollywood in 1930 and within four years of her arrival, she was one of its biggest stars winning her first Best Actress Academy Award for her role in Dangerous (1935). Her starring role in Jezebel (1938) won her a second Best Actress Oscar. Davis would go on to star in many popular films during the 1940s including Dark Victory (1939), The Letter (1940), The Little Foxes (1941), and Now, Voyager (1942). In 1950 she starred as Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950), a role she is probably most identified with today. Other popular films include The Old Maid (1939), All This and Heaven Too (1940), Mr. Skeffington (1944), and The Corn is Green (1945).


Of Human Bondage trivia:

  • Bette Davis begged Jack Warner to let her out of her contract so she could star in the film.
  • Katherine Hepburn, Ann Sheridan, and Irene Dunne all turned down the part of Mildred.
  • Leslie Howard was not happy that an American was cast as Mildred, but Davis eventually won him over.
  • The film premiered at Radio City Music Hall on June 28, 1934.



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




To join the discussion on Zoom on January 26, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will get an invitation with links to the discussion.



Questions for discussion:

  1. Why do you think Philip was drawn to Mildred?
  2. Why did Philip choose Mildred over Norah?
  3. Davis’s performance was considered a tour de force when released. Do you think it holds up by today’s acting standards?
  4. This movie was made during the pre-Code era. Did you notice things in this film that you didn’t see in films released after 1934?


Friday, January 15, 2021

William Powell and Carole Lombard in “My Man Godfrey”

My Man Godfrey (1936) is an American screwball comedy directed by Gregory La Cava and starring William Powell and Carole Lombard. The film is based on a short novel, 1101 Park Avenue by Eric S. Hatch. My Man Godfrey is considered one of the best screwball comedies of all time. In 1999, the film was deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Carole Lombard and William Powell

During the Great Depression, two socialite sisters, Cornelia and Irene Bullock (Gail Patrick and Carole Lombard respectively) are competing in a charity scavenger hunt and need to find a “forgotten man.” They come across a man living in a New York City dump, but Cornelia gets to him first. She offers Godfrey Smith (William Powell) $5 if he will come play along and help her win the scavenger hunt. Godfrey finds Cornelia’s attitude annoying and backs her up into an ash pile. Irene who has been watching the whole episode ends up speaking with Godfrey who finds her to be kind, but a little bit crazy, decides to help her. Irene drives the two of them to the Waldorf-Ritz Hotel where she presents Godfrey as her forgotten man. Irene wins the scavenger hunt and is so grateful that she offers Godfrey a job as a butler in her family’s home. Little does Godfrey realize that the Bullock family is quite eccentric and hasn’t been able to keep a butler for more than a few days. 

Myrna Loy and Powell in The Thin Man

Godfrey is a success as a butler impressing the entire family especially Irene who finds herself falling in love with him. But Godfrey has a secret and Cornelia, who has held a grudge since she fell in the ash pile, is determined to expose it.


Gregory La Cava (1892 – 1952) was an American film director best known for several landmark films from the 1930s including My Man Godfrey and Stage Door (1937). La Cava was born in Pennsylvania and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. La Cava directed many of the top stars during his heyday including Irene Dunne, Helen Hayes, Constance Bennett, Charles Boyer, Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Melvin Douglas, and Katharine Hepburn. LaCava directed Ginger Rogers in three films in three years: Stage Door, Fifth Avenue Girl (1939), and Primrose Path (1940).

William Powell (1892 – 1984) was an American actor who was most famous for the Thin Man series in which he costarred with Myrna Loy. Loy and Powell made 14 films together. Powell was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times: The Thin Man (1934), My Many Godfrey (1936), and Life With Father (1947). Powell was under contract to Paramount, Warner Bros., and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer where he had his greatest success. Some of Powell’s popular films include Manhattan Melodrama (1934), The Great Ziegfeld (1936), Libeled Lady (1936), The Last of Mrs. Cheney (1937), Love Crazy (1941), Life with Father (1947), The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947), Dancing in the Dark (1949), How to Marry a Millionare (1953), and Mister Roberts (1955).

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard on their wedding day

Carole Lombard (1908 – 1942) was an American film actress who gained great fame starring in screwball comedies. So popular was she as a comedic actress that Life magazine dubbed her “The Screwball Girl.” He got her start in silent films as a child and progressed to more important roles when a car accident almost ended her career. Glass from the car’s windshield cut up her face leaving her with a small scar. She eventually hit the big time in 1934 with her breakout performance in Twentieth Century co-starring John Barrymore. The film directed by Howard Hawks (a distant cousin of Lombard’s) lead to better roles and eventually superstardom. In Lombard’s short career, she appeared in several iconic films including My Man Godfrey, Nothing Sacred (1937), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and To Be or Not to Be (1942). At the height of her career, Lombard died in a plane crash while returning from a bond tour. At the time of her death, she was married to Clark Gable. Together they were one of Hollywood’s original power couples.

The excellent supporting cast includes Alice Brady, Gail Patrick, Jean Dixon, Eugene Pallette, Alan Mowbray, Mischa Auer, and Franklin Pangborn.


My Man Godfrey trivia:

  • Was the first movie to be nominated in all four acting categories.
  • Marion Davies, Constance Bennett, and Miriam Hopkins were all considered for the role of Irene.
  • William Powell and Carole Lombard were once husband and wife and had been divorced for three years when they made the film.
  • Jane Wyman has an uncredited role standing in the crowd in the Waldorf-Ritz Hotel.
  • Gail Patrick (Cornelia) played Irene’s (Lombard) older sister, but in reality, was almost three years younger.


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



To join us for a discussion on Zoom on January 19, 2021, at 6 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an email with an invitation to the discussion with the appropriate links. 



Questions for discussion:

  1. Is there a serious message amidst all the comedy? If yes, what is it?
  2. What do you think motivated Godfrey to get back on his feet?
  3. Did you have a favorite supporting character?
  4. Did Lombard and Powell have believable screen chemistry?
  5. Why do you think the film has remained a classic 85 years after its initial release?




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