Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Joel McCrea and Laraine Day in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Foreign Correspondent”

Foreign Correspondent (1940) is an American spy thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, and George Sanders. The screenplay was written by Charles Bennett and Joan Harrison. The music was by Alfred Newman and the cinematography was by Rudolph Mate.

Before the outbreak of World War II, Mr. Powers (Harry Davenport), editor of the New York Morning Globe, sends crime reporter John Jones (McCrea) to report on the situation there.

While in the Netherlands, Jones attends an event sponsored by the Universal Peace Party led by Stephen Fisher (Marshall). When the keynote speaker Van Meer (Albert Basserman) becomes ill, he is replaced by Carol Fisher (Day), Stephen Fisher’s daughter. Earlier, Jones had insulted Carol but now finds her irresistible.

As Jones continues to delve into European politics, he becomes suspicious of the Universal Peace Party and Carol’s father.

Does the Universal Peace Party really stand for peace or do they have another agenda?



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).

Joel McCrea (1905 – 1990) was an American movie star who appeared in over 100 films. During his almost-five-decades career, McCrea worked with some of the top directors in Hollywood including Alfred Hitchcock (Foreign Correspondent 1940), Preston Sturges (Sullivan’s Travels 1941, The Palm Beach Story 1942), and George Stevens (The More the Merrier 1943). McCrea worked opposite some of the top leading actresses of the day including Miriam Hopkins, Irene Dunne, Veronica Lake, Claudette Colbert, and Barbara Stanwyck with whom he made six films. He was the first actor to play Dr. Kildare in the film Internes Can’t Take Money (1937) costarring Stanwyck. McCrea married actress Frances Dee in 1933. The two were married until Joel died in 1990.

Laraine Day (1920 – 2007) was an American actress. Day appeared in films, stage, radio, and television. In 1939, she signed with M-G-M and starred as Nurse Mary Lamont in the popular film series Dr. Kildare. She made seven Dr. Kildare movies with Lew Ayres in the title role. In 1946, she signed a contract with RKO. Her contract stipulated that she would make one movie per year at $100,000. During the late 1940s, Day co-starred with John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, and Robert Mitchum. Some of Day’s films include Those Endearing Young Charms (1945), The Locket (1946), and Tycoon (1947) with John Wayne.

 

Foreign Correspondent trivia

  • Gary Cooper was offered the John Jones role but turned it down. He regretted it once he saw the film.
  • Alfred Hitchcock had two films up for Best Picture of 1940. This film and Rebecca.
  • Hitchcock had wanted Barbara Stanwyck or Joan Fontaine for the female lead.
  • The film was made before the U.S. had entered the war. The closing scenes of the movie were added when it became clear that the bombing of London was imminent.
  • An entire square was built on a ten-acre site for $200,000 (over $4M today).
  • A flight on the Clipper 314 cost $675.00 round trip which is roughly $12,000 in today’s dollars.
  • Laraine Day was 19 years old during production.
  • The film was a box-office hit but the film’s budget was so high that it didn’t make a profit for the filmmakers.

 

Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, and George Sanders

Click HERE to join the discussion on April 15, 2024, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

Click HERE to watch the movie on YouTube.



Discussion questions

  1. Where do you think this film ranks with other Hitchcock movies?
  2. The film is famous for its elaborate set pieces. Were you impressed with the film’s recreation of Amsterdam?
  3. Joel McCrea was Hitchcock’s second choice for the lead. What did you think of his performance?
  4. Laraine Day was only 19 years old when she took on the role of Carol Fisher. What did you think of her performance?
  5. Were there any other performances that you enjoyed?

 

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Rick's Cafe and the Moral Maze: Love, War, and Choices in “Casablanca”

Guest blog post written by Stephen Galen Estevan


We all know the lines, we've probably seen the tearful goodbye a hundred times, but what truly sets this 1942 classic apart? It's not just the trench coat drama or the Bogie-Berman magic. Casablanca's secret sauce is its unique ability to cook up a storm of moral complexity in a wartime setting. Buckle up, cinephiles, because we're diving into the heart of what makes this movie so darn special.

Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart

First off, Casablanca throws you right into the grimy underbelly of a war-torn Europe. Rick's Cafe Americain, our Casablanca hotspot, isn't some swanky Hollywood hangout. It's a pressure cooker of refugees, gamblers, and desperation. Everyone's got a story, everyone's running from something. This backdrop instantly throws out a challenge: how do you define "good" and "bad" in a world gone sideways?

Here's where Rick Blaine, the cynical nightclub owner with a heart of gold (or maybe tarnished silver), takes center stage. Humphrey Bogart doesn't play Rick as a superhero. He's a guy who's seen the worst humanity has to offer, and it's hardened him. He prioritizes self-preservation, neutrality above all else.  But then Ilsa Lund walks in, a blast from his romantic past, and suddenly Rick's carefully constructed moral gray area starts to crack.

Dooley Wilson, Bogart, and Bergman

Ilsa, played by the stunning Ingrid Bergman, is another wrinkle in this moral tapestry. She's torn between her love for Rick and her duty to her husband, Victor Laszlo, a Czech resistance leader.  Laszlo embodies the fight against tyranny, the clear-cut "good" in this conflict.  Yet, Ilsa's love for Rick is real, and it forces us to confront the fact that good guys don't always get the girl, and love can be a powerful motivator, even if it complicates the fight against evil.

Casablanca doesn't shy away from the messy bits of human decision-making. We see characters wrestle with their conscience. Renault, the cynical police captain who seems to be in cahoots with the Nazis, throws a wrench into the works with his own moral dilemma.  Even Sam, the piano-playing confidante, wrestles with the line between loyalty and doing the right thing. There are no easy answers, and the film doesn't try to spoon-feed them to us.

This ambiguity is what makes Casablanca's climax so powerful. The iconic scene where Rick lets Laszlo escape with Ilsa is a masterclass in emotional storytelling. Rick sacrifices his own happiness for a cause he initially wanted nothing to do with. It's a selfless act born out of love, a love that transcends personal desires.  In that moment, Rick sheds his cynicism and chooses a side, a decision that resonates because it feels real, not forced.

Paul Henreid, Bergman, and Bogart

Casablanca's moral complexity extends beyond the central love triangle. The film doesn't shy away from the horrors of war. We see refugees desperate to escape, the cruelty of the Vichy regime collaborating with the Nazis.  It reminds us that war isn't just fought on battlefields; it's a fight for the soul in every corner of the world.

This brings us to the final ingredient in Casablanca's recipe for moral complexity: cynicism versus hope. Rick's initial cynicism reflects the disillusionment of a world at war.  But as the film progresses, a flicker of hope emerges.  Laszlo's unwavering belief in the fight against fascism becomes a spark that ignites Rick's sense of purpose.  The ending, while bittersweet, leaves us with a sense of optimism.  Even in the darkest of times, good can prevail, and individuals can make a difference.

Casablanca isn't a film that gives easy answers. It forces us to confront the complexities of human nature, the sacrifices we make for love and for what we believe in. It's a film that stays with you long after the credits roll, prompting you to ponder the murky waters between right and wrong.  That's why, even after all these years, Casablanca remains a cinematic masterpiece, a timeless reminder that the lines between good and bad can be as blurry as the smoke hanging over Rick's Cafe Americain.




Stephen Galen Estevan is the founder and operator of FrameTrek.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Richard Basehart and Scott Brady star in “He Walked by Night”

He Walked by Night (1948) is an American film noir directed by Alfred L. Werker and an uncredited Anthony Mann. The film stars Richard Basehart and Scott Brady. Others in the cast include Roy Roberts, Whit Bissell, James Cardwell, Dorothy Adams, and Jack Webb. The cinematography is by the legendary John Alton.

Set in Los Angeles, California, the film is based on the real-life crime spree by Edwin “Machine-Gun” Walker. Walker, a former police department employee and World War II veteran committed a series of burglaries, robberies, and shootouts in the Los Angeles area between 1945 and 1946.

Office Rob Rawlings (John McGuire), a Los Angeles patrolman, on his way home, stops a man whom he thinks might be a burglar. Roy Morgan/Martin (Basehart) shoots the patrolman and mortally wounds him. Thus begins the cat and mouse game between Morgan and Sgt. Marty Brennan (Brady) and Captain Breen (Roberts).

How many lives will be in danger while Roy walks by night?

Richard Basehart

Albert L. Werker (1896 – 1975) was an American film director who got his start during the silent era. He continued working into the sound era, mostly directing B-pictures. Two A-pictures he directed include The House of Rothschild (1934) and Kidnapped (1938) starring Warner Baxter and Freddie Bartholomew. In the late-1940s, Werker signed on with Eagle-Lion Films where he directed Repeat Performance (1947) starring Louis Hayward, Joan Leslie, and Richard Basehart.

Richard Basehart (1914 - 1984) was an American actor who worked steadily in film and television. Basehart starred in several films noirs of the late 1940s and early 1950s. He also had a lead role in director Federico Fellini’s La Strada (1954). Other film roles include Moby Dick (1956), Decision Before Dawn (1951), The Brothers Karamazov (1958). Baby Boomers would remember Basehart as Admiral Harriman Nelson on Irwin Allen’s science fiction television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964 -1968).

Scott Brady (1924 – 1985) was an American film and television actor who achieved fame in a series of movie westerns. Brady followed his older brother Lawrence Tierney to Hollywood. He studied acting at The Beverly Hills Dramatic School under the G.I. Bill of Rights. Brady made his movie debut in 1948 and worked steadily in film until his death. His last film role was in Gremlins (1984). Other films featuring Brady include Johnny Guitar opposite Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden, Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955), co-starring Jeanne Crain and Jane Russell, Marooned (1969), Doctor’s Wives (1971), and The China Syndrome (1979). Brady guest starred on many television shows starting in the 1950s to the mid-80s. He was offered the role of Archie Bunker in All in the Family but turned it down! He appeared on the show as Joe Foley for four episodes. He also guest starred on Laverne & Shirley as Shirley Feeney’s father.

 

He Walked by Night trivia

  • During the filming, Jack Webb became acquainted with the movie’s technical advisor, Sgt. Marty Wynn. It was from this relationship that Dragnet was born.
  • This was the first film to use the Los Angeles underground sewer and storm-drain system and its canals and tunnels as a backdrop.
  • The film featured Jack Webb’s first credited screen appearance.
  • Part of the film was directed by Anthony Mann who was uncredited.
  • Both Webb and Scott Brady would become popular TV cops. Webb in Dragnet and Brady who played a retired officer and bar owner on Police Story.


Click HERE to watch the movie on YouTube.

 


Click HERE to join the online discussion on April 8, 2024, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

Discussion questions

  1. What did you think of the procedural style of the film?
  2. Did you enjoy seeing what Los Angeles looked like in 1948? Did anything surprise you?
  3. The performances of the actors were praised when the film was released, especially that of Richard Basehart as Roy Morgan/Martin. What did you think of Basehart’s performance? Did any other performances impress you?
  4. During the late-1940s, procedural crime dramas were popular. Did this film remind you of other procedural films you’ve seen?

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

James Cagney tries to sell Coke-a-Cola to the Soviets in “One, Two, Three”

One, Two, Three (1961) is an American political comedy film directed by Billy Wilder and starring James Cagney, Horst Buchholz, Lilo Pulver, Pamela Tiffin, and Arlene Francis. The screenplay was written by Wilder and frequent partner I.A.L. Diamond. The music is by Andre Previn and the cinematography is by Daniel L. Fapp who won an Academy Award for West Side Story (1961).

C.R. “Mac” MacNamara (Cagney) is an executive with the Coca-a-Cola Company, based in West Berlin during the early days of the Cold War. He was sent there after a business failure in the Middle East. Still bitter over the demotion, Mac is determined to become head of the Western European operations in London. While attempting to introduce Coke to the Soviet Union, Mac’s boss asks him to look after his seventeen-year-old daughter Scarlett (Tiffin) when she arrives in Berlin.

Looking for a “marvy” time in Berlin her trip to Europe wasn’t any fun for her. Scarlett goes out every night, unbeknownst Mac and his wife Phyllis (Francis). Every night, Scarlett would sneak over to East Berlin where she met a Russian Communist named Otto (Buchholz). She falls in love with him and they get married. Then, she declares she’s pregnant!

What will Mac do when Scarlett’s parents come to Berlin to take her home to Georgia?

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.

Billy Wilder (far left), Pamela Tiffin, James Cagney, and Horst Buchholz


James Cagney (1899 – 1986) was an American actor of stage and film. During the early 1930s, Cagney emerged as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood in films like The Public Enemy (1931), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), and White Heat (1949). Cagney was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times, winning for Yankee Doodle Dandy. His other Best Actor nominations was for Angels with Dirty Angels, and Love Me or Leave Me with Doris Day. Cagney retired from acting in 1961 but came out of retirement 20 years later for a role in the movie Ragtime (1981).

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), One, 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.



Pamela Tiffin (1942 – 2020) was an American film, stage, and television actress. She was discovered by producer Hal Wallace while she was on a tour of Paramount Studios. She was given a screen test and was cast in the film version of Summer and Smoke (1961). Her next film was Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three (1961). Wilder caller her “the biggest find since Audrey Hepburn.” She was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her first two roles. Other roles followed in State Fair (1962), Come Fly with Me (1963), The Pleasure Seekers (1963). She made two films with James Darren geared for the teen audience: For Those Who Think Young (1964) and The Lively Set (1964). In 1965 she co-starred with Burt Lancaster, Lee Remick, and Jim Hutton in The Hallelujah Trail. She also co-starred with Paul Newman in Harper (1966). In 1967, she won a Theatre World Award for her performance in Dinner at Eight on Broadway.

Arlene Francis (1907 – 2001) was an American stage, television, and film actress. Her career spanned more than five decades. Francis also gained fame as a radio personality in New York City. She made her film debut in 1932 in Murders in the Rue Morgue. Sixteen years later, she appeared with Edward G. Robinson and Burt Lancaster in the film version of All My Sons (1948). Perhaps her greatest claim to fame was as a weekly panelist on the popular game show What My Line (1950 – 1967). Francis’s last film role was in Fedora (1978) directed by Billy Wilder. She earlier worked for the director in One, Two, Three playing James Cagney’s wife.

 

One, Two, Three trivia

  • The film lost money due to folks thinking the Cold War wasn’t a good subject for comedy at that time.
  • Joan Crawford (then on the board of Pepsi) didn’t like the Coke-Cola connection. At the end of the film, Cagney buys four Cokes but the last one out of the machine was a Pepsi.
  • The building of the Berlin Wall impacted filming with the crew moving to Munich, building the lower half of the Brandenburg Gate.
  • James Cagney hated working with Horst Buchholz. Cagney complained that he was uncooperative and was always trying to steal scenes. It was so unpleasant for Cagney that he retired from movies until he accepted a supporting role in Ragtime.
  • In 1985, the film was rereleased in France and Germany and was a big hit.
  • There are many homages to other Wilder and Cagney films. Can you name some?

 

Click HERE to join the discussion on Zoom, April 1, 2024, 6:30 p.m. Once you RSVP, you will receive and invitation with a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

Click HERE to watch the film on YouTube.

 


Discussion questions

  1. Can you understand why the film wasn’t well received when first released? Why do you think the film is now considered a classic by many?
  2. This was Cagney’s last film before appearing Ragtime (1985). What did you think of his performance?
  3. Horst Buchholz was reportedly a thorn in Cagney and Wilder’s side. What did you think of his performance?
  4. Wilder was really high on Pamela Tiffin as Scarlett, comparing her to Audrey Hepburn. Some people might declare “blasphemy” with this comparison. What do you think?
  5. Is there anything that is still relevant between the Capitalist and Communist systems?
  6. The film is loaded with great dialogue; did you have a favorite line or scene?

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, and Janet Leigh star in Alfred Hitchock’s suspense classic “Psycho”

Psycho (1960) is an American suspense thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, and Janet Leigh. The supporting cast included Martin Balsam, John McIntire, Simon Oakland, Frank Albertson, and Pat Hitchcock. The music was by Bernard Herrmann and the cinematography was by John L. Russell. The film was edited by long-time Hitchcock collaborator George Tomasini.

What happens when Marion Crane (Leigh) an on-the-run thief meets Normal Bates (Perkins) an odd motel proprietor? That is the mystery of Psycho.

Marion Crane has left town with $40,000 in cash from her employer. She hopes that if her boyfriend Sam Loomis (Gavin) can pay off his debts, they can be married. When Marion goes missing her sister Lila  Crane (Miles) teams up with Sam to try and track her down.

Will Lila and Sam find Marion or discover more than they bargained for once they visit the Bates Motel?


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).

Janet Leigh as Marion Crane

Anthony Perkins (1932 – 1992) was an American stage and film actor. Perkins got his start in summer stock but worked in movies before his Broadway debut. His first film was The Actress (1953), co-starring Spencer Tracy, Jean Simmons, and Teresa Wright. He made his Broadway debut in Tea and Sympathy (1953) replacing John Kerr in the role of Tom Lee. He then returned to Hollywood to star in Friendly Persuasion (1956) with Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire. Perkins was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance in that film. Other films followed including Fear Strikes Out (1957), This Angry Age (1958) Desire Under the Elms (1958), The Matchmaker (1958), and Tall Story (1960). It would be Perkins’s role as Norman Bates in Psycho (1960) that would define him for the rest of his life and career.

Janet Leigh (1927 – 2004) was an American actress. Leigh was discovered by actress Norma Shearer who helped her secure a contract with M-G-M. Leigh made her movie debut in The Romance of Rosy Ridge (1947) co-starring Van Johnson. Other films followed including Act of Violence (1948), Little Women (1949), Angels in the Outfield (1951), and The Naked Spur (1953).  After she left M-G-M, Leigh signed contracts with Universal and Columbia. In 1958, Leigh co-starred with Charlton Heston in the film noir classic Touch of Evil directed by Orson Welles. Her most famous role was as Marion Crane in Psycho (1960) for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. Later films include The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Bye, Bye Birdie (1963), and Wives and Lovers (1963). Leigh took a three-year break from acting, turning down some major roles, to concentrate on raising her two young daughters. She returned to film acting in 1966 starring in Kid Rodelo, Harper, and Three on a Couch co-starring Jerry Lewis. Apart from her acting, Leigh wrote four books, two novels, and two nonfiction works.

Vera Miles (1929 - ) is an American actress (retired) who was a popular leading lady in film during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1957, Miles signed a five-year personal contract with Alfred Hitchcock. Earlier he cast her opposite Henry Fonda in The Wrong Man (1956) and was his original choice for the female lead in Vertigo (1958). Hitchcock was grooming Miles as his next “cool blonde” replacing the recently retired Grace Kelly. When Miles became pregnant, she lost the role to Kim Novak. Miles starred in two classic John Ford westerns: The Searchers (1956) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Other film roles include Lila Crane in Psycho (1960), Beau James (1957), The FBI Story (1959), and Hellfighters (1968).

John Gavin (1931 -2018) was an American actor and diplomat. He was president of the Screen Actors Guild (1971 – 1973) and was the United States Ambassador to Mexico (1981 – 1986). Gavin was a successful leading man in the late 1950s through the late 1960s. Some of Gavin’s films include Imitation of Life (1959), Spartacus (1960), Midnight Lace (1960), and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). He was the hero, playing Sam Loomis in Psycho (1960), probably his most famous role. He was set to take over the role of James Bond in Diamonds are Forever (1971) when George Lazenby left the role. Sean Connery ended up playing the role instead. Once again, Gavin was set to play 007 in Live and Let Die (1973), but the producer wanted a British actor to play Bond so the role went to Roger Moore. Gavin was married to actress and singer Constance Towers.


Psycho trivia

  • Hitchcock was so pleased with Bernard Herrmann’s score that he doubled his salary.
  • The director had the cast and crew pledge that they wouldn’t say anything about the movie’s storyline.
  • The rights to the novel by Robert Bloch were purchased by Hitchcock for only $9,000.
  • Both Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh said they didn’t mind being stereotyped because of their work in Psycho. Both obtained screen immortality by their roles in the classic film.
  • Hitchcock was so anxious to make Psycho that he took a percentage deal (60% of the gross) instead of his normal $250,000 fee.
  • The movie was filmed in black and white because Hitchcock thought it would be too gory in color.

Vera Miles, John Gavin, and Anthony Perkins


Click HERE to join the discussion on March 25, 2024, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and link to join the discussion on Zoom.

Click HERE to watch the movie on YouTube.



Discussion questions

  1. How much did the music contribute to the overall success and feel of Psycho?
  2. Hitchcock made Psycho for under one million dollars. Did the movie look cheap to you?
  3. Anthony Perkins was forever typecast because of his performance as Norman Bates. What did you make of his performance?
  4. Janet Leigh was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, losing to Shirley Jones in Elmer Gantry. Do you think Leigh’s performance was Oscar-worthy?
  5. The acting attention is always on Leigh and Perkins, but what did you think of the performances of Vera Miles and John Gavin?
  6. Anthony Perkins wasn’t nominated for his performance. Do you think the Academy made a mistake in not recognizing him?

Monday, March 11, 2024

Sidney Poitier stars in “To Sir, With Love”

To Sir, With Love (1967) is a British drama directed by James Clavell who also wrote the screenplay based on the autobiographical novel (1959) by the same name by E. R. Braithwaite. Sidney Poitier stars as a teacher in an inner-city school. The all-British supporting cast includes Christian Roberts, Judy Geeson, Suzy Kendall, Patricia Routledge, and Lulu.

Mark Thackery (Poitier) has had no success obtaining an engineering position after a long 18-month job search. He accepts a teaching position for Class 12 at North Quay Secondary School in the East End of London. He took the position as a stop-gap, still hoping to get an engineering position, even though he has no previous teaching experience.

The students Thackery has to teach are a tough bunch. He does his best to reach them despite their negative attitudes toward him and the school in general. 

Will Thackery be able to connect to his students or will he leave teaching for the engineering job that finally comes?

  


James Clavell (1921 – 1994) was an Australian-born British writer (later an American citizen), screenwriter, and director. Clavell is best known for his novels, especially his Asian Saga novels. He wrote the screenplays for The Fly (1958), The Great Escape (1963), and The Satan Bug (1965). Clavell’s novel Shogun (1965) was made into a TV miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain. The series achieved huge ratings.

 

Sidney Poitier (1927 - 2022) was an American actor and director. He was the first black man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field (1963). Poitier made his film debut in No Way Out which launched him on a path to movie stardom. Other early films include Cry, The Beloved Country  (1951), Blackboard Jungle (1955), and Edge of the City (1957). Another breakthrough came with The Defiant Ones (1958) where he co-starred with Tony Curtis. Both actors were nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award, with Poitier’s nomination the first for a black man. In 1959, he starred in the first production of A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway. He starred in the film version in 1961. That same year he starred with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in Paris Blues. Other film roles include The Bedford Incident (1965) and A Patch of Blue (1965) co-starring Elizabeth Hartman and Shelley Winters. Poitier’s big year was 1967. He had three hits: To Sir, with LoveIn the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. The popularity of these three films made him the top box office draw of the year. Later in his career, Poitier started directing films like Uptown Saturday Night (1974) and Stir Crazy (1980). Poitier was a recipient of an Honorary Academy Award for his contribution to the motion picture industry.

 

Sidney Poitier and Judy Geeson

 

To Sir, With Love trivia

  • The British Museum wouldn’t let the producers film inside. They did allow still photography which resulted in the montage that appears in the film.
  • Lulu performed the title song which was a number-one single in the U.S.
  • Sidney Poitier earned a flat fee of $30,000 plus 10% of the gross. Due to the film’s huge success, he earned the equivalent of $45M in today’s dollars.

 

Click HERE to watch the film on YouTube.

 


 

Click HERE to join the discussion on March 18, 2024, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation via email with a link to the discussion on Zoom.

 

Discussion questions

  1. The film was set in the late-1960s. Do you think this was a realistic portrayal of what it was really like?
  2. Sidney Poiter was surrounded by an all-British cast. How do you think his performance holds up?
  3. Did you have a favorite student in Thackery’s class?
  4. The movie was a huge and unexpected hit. Did this surprise you?
  5. Does the film remind you of any other films you’ve seen?
  6. Did you have a favorite scene or piece of dialogue?

 


Monday, March 4, 2024

Judy Holliday and Paul Douglas drive away in “The Solid Gold Cadillac”

The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956) is an American comedy directed by Richard Quine and starring Judy Holliday and Paul Douglas. The supporting cast includes Fred Clark, John Williams, Ray Collins, Neva Patterson, and Arthur O’Connell.

Laura Patridge (Holliday) attends the board meeting for International Projects, a billion-dollar corporation. John T. Blessington (Williams) announces that he is replacing Edward L. McKeever (Douglas) who founded the company and served as president and chairman of the board. McKeever is resigning to serve as Secretary of Defense in Washington, D.C. Laura is a stockholder with just ten shares who frustrates the arrogant and dishonest executives by asking them questions during the meeting which is her right as a stockholder.

To get Laura out of their hair, Blessington hires her for the position of director of shareholder relations. The job has no real duties, but to make sure Laura stays in check, Blessington assigns her a private secretary named Amelia (Patterson) to keep an eye on things. With nothing to do, Laura writes letter to the stockholders. She and Amelia become friends and Laura helps her in her romance with the office manager (O’Connell).

The board of International Projects is distraught because they’ve received no government contracts. McKeever is a straight-shooter and refuses to give preference to his former company. In a move to help them get business, Blessington sends Laura to Washington, outfitted in a new wardrobe to try and convince McKeever to throw some business their way. 

When Laura tells McKeever what’s been happening at International Projects, he decides to return to his old position, but there’s only one catch. He has no controlling stock in the company which leaves him powerless to act.  

Will Laura and McKeever come up with a plan to take the company back and run it honestly and honorably?

 



Richard Quine (1920 – 1989) was an American director, actor, and singer. As a child, he had roles in several films throughout the 1930s including Cavalcade (1933), Dames (1934), and Dog of Flanders (1935). Quine transitioned to adult roles but his career as an actor began to wane after World War II. He decided to switch to directing and producing and became a very successful director during the 1960s and 1970s. Some of his films as director include Bell, Book and Candle (1958), The World of Suzie Wong (1960), Paris When it Sizzles (1964), How to Murder Your Wife (1965), and The Prisoner of Zenda (1979).

Judy Holliday (1921 – 1965) was an American actress, comedian, and singer. She started out in show business playing nightclubs before making her way to Broadway. Her role as Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday in 1946 made her an “overnight” sensation. When she recreated the role for the film version, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress of the Year. Other films include The Marrying Kind  (1952), It Should Happen to You (1954), Phffft (1954), The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956), Full of Life (1956), and Bells Are Ringing (1960), recreating her Tony Award-winning performance. Holliday died of breast cancer in 1965 at the age of 43. 

Paul Douglas (1907 – 1959) was an American actor. Douglas starred on Broadways as in film. He is mostly known for his comedic performances in films like It Happens Every Spring (1949), Angels in the Outfield (1951), and Never Wave at a WAC (1953). Other Douglas films include A Letter to Three Wives (1949), The Big Lift (1950), Love That Brute (1951), and Clash by Night (1952). Douglas was set to play the role of Mr. Sheldrake in The Apartment (1960) but died of a heart attack right before production was to start. He was replaced by Fred MacMurray.

 

Paul Douglas and Judy Holliday

The Solid Gold Cadillac trivia

  • The final scene was filmed in color to show of the “solid gold” Cadillac.
  • Holliday and Douglas starred together in Born Yesterday on Broadway.
  • Producer Hal Wallis tried to purchase the film rights as a vehicle for Shirley Booth.
  • The $225 sheer black nightgown would cost about $2500 today.

 

Click HERE to watch the film on YouTube.

 


 

Click HERE to join the discussion on March 11, 2024, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation via email with a link to the discussion on Zoom.

 

Discussion questions

  1. Do you think the film had a serious message underneath the comedy?
  2. Was this role similar to Holliday’s role in Born Yesterday?
  3. Did Holliday and Douglas have good screen chemistry?
  4. Would you have liked to have been on the board of International Projects?
  5. Does the film remind you of any other films you’ve seen?
  6. Did you have a favorite scene or piece of dialogue?

 




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