Sunday, January 22, 2023

Richard Conte travels down "Thieves' Highway"

Thieves’ Highway (1949) is an American film noir directed by Jules Dassin and starring Richard Conte, and Valentina Cortese. Lee J. Cobb, and Barbara Lawrence co-star. 

Nico “Nick” Garcos, a returning war veteran arrives home to find his father, a California fruit farmer, who lost his legs in an accident and was forced to sell his truck. Nick discovers that his father was crippled at the hands of Mike Figlia (Cobb), a corrupt produce dealer in San Francisco. Nick vows revenge. 

Nick goes into business with Ed Kinney (Millard Mitchell), hoping to beat Figlia at his own game. Through a series of suspicious circumstances, Nick’s future at hauling and selling produce is jeopardized. Along the way, Nick meets a streetwalker named Rica (Cortese) who Garcos hired to distract Nick so he can undermine his ability to sell his haul. 

Eventually, Nick gets paid $4,000.00 for his haul by Garcos but while he is out one evening with Rica, he is beaten and robbed by two of Garcos’s stooges. 

Will Nick be able to get his money back and win justice for his father?

 

Valentina Cortese and Richard Conte

Jules Dassin (1911 – 2008) was an American film director. He got work as an assistant director at RKO and then moved to M-G-M where he directed short subjects. Dassin directed the film noir classics Brute Force (1947), The Naked City (1948), and Thieves’ Highway (1949). He was blacklisted because of his once being a member of the Communist Party so he left the United States for Europe where remained for the rest of his life. He was married to Greek film actress Melina Mercouri.

Richard Conte (1910 – 1975) was an American actor who came to prominence in the late 1940s under contract to 20th Century-Fox. He co-starred with James Stewart in Call Northside 777 (1948) and had the lead role in Thieves’ Highway (1949) directed by Jules Dassin (Night and the City 1950), and played Gene Tierney’s husband in Otto Preminger’s Whirlpool (1949). Conte worked constantly and had major roles in Ocean’s 11 (1960) and The Godfather (1972).

Valentina Cortese (1923 - 2019) was an Italian actress. She graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Art in Rome and began her film career in Italian films in 1940. She starred as Fantine and Cosette in an Italian production of Les Miserables (1948). In Europe, she worked with all the top directors including Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, and Francois Truffaut. She signed a contract with 20th Century-Fox and made several American films including Thieves’ Highway (1949), House on Telegraph Hill (1951), and The Barefoot Contessa (1954). She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Truffaut’s Day for Night (1973).


Thieves' Highway trivia

  • Dana Andrews and Victor Mature were under consideration for the role of Nick.
  • Richard Conte was a truck driver before he was "discovered" by Elia Kazan and John Garfield while acting on the stage in 1935.
  • The film was filmed in San Francisco's Produce Market.
  • Jules Dassin made his film debut as the man in the freight elevator with Figlia.
  • Richard Conte, Lee J. Cobb, and Kasia Orzazewski all appeared in Call Northside 777.


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



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

Discussion questions

  1. Did this film feel realistic to you? 
  2. This film is considered a film noir. Do you agree with that classification? 
  3. What did you think of the performances? Had you ever seen the Italian actress Valentina Cortese in an American film before? What did you think of her performance?
  4. The film had an impressive supporting cast. Did any of the supporting performances impress you more than the others?
  5. Do you think the location shooting helped make the film more realistic? 
  6. Would you recommend this film to a friend interested in classic movies?





Tuesday, January 17, 2023

“Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” starring George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) is an American silent romantic drama directed by F.W. Murnau and starring George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor. This was German director Murnau’s first American film.

A farmer (O’Brien) and his wife (Gaynor) with their child on their farm. The farm isn’t doing well and when a woman from the city (Margaret Livingston) gets his attention. They begin an affair and the city woman suggests he kill his wife. At first, he is enraged by this suggestion but he goes along with her suggestion to drown his wife. But can he really go through with it?

F. W. Murnau (1988 – 1930) was a German film director, producer, and screenwriter. Murnau was educated in his native Germany and was a successful filmmaker there. He directed Nosferatu (1922), an early adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Last Laugh (1924), and Faust (1926). Murnau immigrated to the United States in 1926. He signed a contract with Fox Studio and made three films there before his untimely death at age 42. Sunrise is considered one of the best films ever made.

George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor

George O’Brien (1899 – 1985) was an American actor who was a popular leading man during the silent film era and into the early 1930s. He is best remembered for his leading role in Sunrise co-starring Janet Gaynor. O’Brien starred in John Ford’s The Iron Horse (1924). The film was a huge success and it helped boost the careers of both men. O’Brien made nine more films with Ford. He starred opposite all the popular actresses of the era. Later in his career, he played character roles.

Janet Gaynor (1906 – 1984) was an American film, stage, and television actress. She is the first recipient of the Academy Award for Best Actress. She was one of the most popular actresses of the silent era where she was paired with Charles Farrell in 12 films, making them one of the most popular screen teams of all time. Gaynor made the transition to sound and was one of the top box-office draws in the early 1930s. During the sound era, some of Gaynor’s popular films include Daddy Long Legs (1931), Tess of the Storm Country (1932), State Fair (1933), and The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935) which marked the film debut of Henry Fonda. When Fox Films merged with Twentieth Century Pictures to form 20th Century-Fox, the studio lost interest in her. She left Fox and had a big success with the original version of A Star is Born (1937) which earned her a second Best Actress Academy Award nomination. Unhappy with the roles she was being offered, she retired in 1939 at the age of 33.


Sunrise trivia

  • The director hated using title cards and they are almost nonexistent toward the end of the film.
  • It won the first Best Picture Academy Award.
  • The city scenes were filmed on a back lot, not on location.
  • The main characters' names are never mentioned. 
  • Voted as the 5th greatest film of all time in Sight & Sound's 2012 critic's poll. 

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




Discussion questions

  1. Many critics consider this one of the greatest movies ever made. What is your opinion on this claim?
  2. Did you think it was odd that we didn't know the names of the main characters? Do you think this was on purpose?
  3. What did you make of the performances? 
  4. There were very few intertitles. Did it make it difficult for you to follow the story?
  5. Did anything surprise you?
  6. Janet Gaynor won the first Best Actress Award in part for her performance in this film; was it Oscar-worthy in your opinion?


To join the discussion on January 23, 2023, at 6:30 p.m., click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Fuse.


Monday, January 9, 2023

Edward G. Robinson and Jean Arthur wonder why "The Whole Town’s Talking"

The Whole Town’s Talking (1935) is an American comedy film directed by John Ford and starring Edward G. Robinson and Jean Arthur. The screenplay was written by Jo Swerling and Robert Riskin and based on a story by W. R. Burnett (Little Caesar, High Sierra).

Arthur Ferguson Jones (Robinson) is a mild-mannered advertising clerk who has a crush on Wilhemina Clark (Arthur) who barely knows he’s alive.

Jones looks precisely like the notorious bank robber “Killer Mannion” and is arrested by the police. When his true identity is confirmed, they let him go with a “passport,” a letter that says he’s not Mannion.

Mannion devises a plan to use his lookalike, making Jones the fall guy for a crime he has planned.

Will Mannion get away with his crime with Jones holding the bag?

Jean Arthur and Edward G. Robinson

John Ford (1894 - 1973) was an American film director who won a record four Academy Awards, more than any other director in history. He is perhaps best known for his western films, but ironically the Academy Awards he won weren’t for classic westerns like Stagecoach (1939) and The Searchers (1956). Ford got his start in silent film, first as an actor, then as a writer-director. He directed many silent films including the epic The Iron Horse (1924). Once the sound era arrived, Ford was one of its first pioneers. He hit his stride in the 1930s with films like The Lost Patrol (1934), The Whole Town’s Talking (1935), and The Informer (1935), which brought Ford his first Academy Award for Best Director. Other popular Ford films include The Hurricane (1937), Wee Willie Winkie (1937), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), and The Grapes of Wrath (1940) the last three all starring Henry Fonda. He also had a long collaborative relationship with John Wayne. Wayne starred in many classic Ford films including She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Quiet Man (1952), The Searchers, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).

Edward G. Robinson (1893 – 1973) was an American actor on the stage and screen. Robinson is a true star from Hollywood’s Golden Age where he starred in the gangster classic Little Caesar (1931), Kid Galahad (1937), Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), The Sea Wolf (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), and Key Largo (1948). Robinson was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 1973 but was never nominated for a competitive Oscar.

Jean Arthur (1900 – 1991) was an American stage and film actress whose career spanned three decades. Arthur got her start in silent films but became a major star with the advent of sound. Her unique speaking voice made her a natural for comedy. She came to prominence by having major roles in a series of films directed by Frank Capra: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), You Can’t Take it With You (1938), and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). Other popular films Arthur starred in included Only Angels Have Wings (1939), The Talk of the Town (1942), and The More the Merrier (1943). For her work in The More the Merrier, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress; it was her only Academy Award nomination. Arthur’s last film role was in the classic western Shane (1953). After retiring from acting, she taught drama at Vassar College where one of her students was Meryl Streep.


The Whole Town's Talking trivia

  • The Production Code didn't allow references to drugs or drug addiction but the reference to a character in the movie being "coked up" seems to have slipped by the censors.
  • The $250.00 per week that Jones gets to write the article about Mannion translates to almost $5000.00 today.
  • Mannion is never given a first name. He's always referred to as Killer Mannion or just Mannion.
  • The movie inspired the Bollywood movie Duplicate (1998).


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



To join the discussion on January 16, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to the discussion on Zoom.


Discussion questions

  1. Did you enjoy Edward G. Robinson in a comedy role?
  2. Was Robinson successful in playing two different characters?
  3. Were you surprised to know that John Ford directed this comedy?
  4. What did you think of Jean Arthur's performance? Did she and Robinson work well together?
  5. Did anything surprise you?



Sunday, January 8, 2023

Chicago Film Club Meetup Group: Are you open to watching and discussing silent films?

This post is specifically targeted to the Chicago Film Club Meetup Group.


Over the years, we've discussed dozens of classic films from the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and even the70s, but we've never discussed any silent films.

Several classic silent films are available on YouTube, including works by Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and Janet Gaynor.

Several of you have contacted me to say that their Meetup emails to me were bounced back.

I created this post so you may respond via the comments section below.

1. Are you interested in discussing silent films at all?

2. Are there any particular silent films you would like to discuss?

3. Any other comments?



Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Van Johnson and Vera Miles know there are only “23 Paces to Baker Street”

23 Paces to Baker Street (1956) is an American mystery directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Van Johnson and Vera Miles. The supporting cast features Cecil Parker, Isobel Elsom, and Estelle Winwood.

Philip Hanson (Johnson) is a blind playwright living in London. With the help of his butler Bob Matthews (Cecil Parker), Hanson writes in his flat overlooking the Thames river. One day, Hanson overhears a conversation at a local pub that sounds to him like a plan to commit a crime. He tries to get help from Inspector Grovening (Maurice Denham) without any success. So he turns to his butler and Jean Lennox (Miles), his ex-fiancée. Will the three of them crack the case or find themselves in more trouble than they bargained for?



Henry Hathaway (1898 – 1985) was an American film director and producer. Hathaway started working in silent films in 1925 as an assistant to established directors like Victor Fleming and Josef von Sternberg. His first solo directorial effort was Heritage of the Desert (1932) starring Randolph Scott. Hathaway, along with Scott, would be known for western movies. Besides Scott, Hathaway directed Gary Cooper in several films, including The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935) which earned him his only Best Director Academy Award nomination. In 1940, Hathaway began working at Fox where he directed Tyrone Power in Johnny Apollo and Brigham Young (both 1940), Gene Tierney in China Girl (1942), Don Ameche and Dana Andrews in Wing and a Prayer (1944), and Call Northside 777 (1948) starring James Stewart and Richard Conte. After leaving Fox, he was one of three directors who worked on the western epic How the West Was Won (1962). He directed Steve McQueen in Nevada Smith (1966), directed John Wayne in True Grit (1968) which won Wayne his one and only Best Actor Academy Award.

Van Johnson (1916 – 2008) was an American film, television, stage, and radio actor. He was a major star at M-G-M during and after World War II. During his heyday, Johnson was packaged as the boy next door which made him a popular leading man into the 1950s. Johnson starred opposite some of the biggest female stars in Hollywood including Esther Williams, June Allyson, Judy Garland, and Elizabeth Taylor. Some of Johnson’s many films include Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), Thrill of a Romance (1945), Easy to Wed (1946), and In the Good Old Summertime (1949).

Van Johnson and Vera Miles


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).


23 Paces to Baker Street trivia

  • A lot of the film's exteriors were shot in London as opposed to a Hollywood backlot.
  • The balcony scenes overlooking the Thames were shot from the Savoy Hotel.
  • The scars on Van Johnson's face are real. He was in a serious car accident—his head went through the windshield—in 1943 while filming A Guy Named Joe starring Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne.


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


To join the discussion on January 9, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.


Discussion questions

  1. Did this film remind you of other films you've seen?
  2. Was Van Johnson convincing as a blind man?
  3. Did the on-location filming make a difference in the overall feel of the film?
  4. Would the film have been better if it was filmed in black and white?
  5. Were you surprised by anything?
  6. Does the title have anything to do with the film?
  7. Was the ending satisfying?

Monday, December 26, 2022

Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward star in "Rawhide"

Rawhide (1951) is an American western film directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward. The supporting cast members include Hugh Marlowe, Dean Jagger, Edgar Buchanan, Jack Elam, and George Tobias.

Tom Owens (Power) is the sophisticated heir to the J. C. Owens of the Overland Mail Company. His father sends him west to the remote relay station Rawhide Pass to learn about the business from Sam Todd (Buchanan). Tom can’t wait to get back to civilization in one week’s time.

A young woman named Vinnie Holt (Hayward) arrives at the station with her young niece Callie. Callie is the daughter of Vinnie’s deceased sister. Vinnie was traveling east to take Callie to her paternal grandparents. Before Vinnie can catch the next train, The U.S. Calvary arrives to inform the stagecoach passing through Rawhide that four convicts escaped from Huntsville prison. With this news, the Calvary refuses to let Vinnie and Callie ride the stagecoach—it’s against the law to allow children to travel in a dangerous situation.

Tyrone Power and Hugh Marlowe

Now Vinnie and Callie are stuck at the Rawhide Pass with the escaped outlaws heading their way. When Rafe Zimmerman (Marlowe) arrives at the pass with his three fellow outlaws, no one is safe.


Henry Hathaway (1898 – 1985) was an American film director and producer. Hathaway started working in silent films in 1925 as an assistant to established directors like Victor Fleming and Josef von Sternberg. His first solo directorial effort was Heritage of the Desert (1932) starring Randolph Scott. Hathaway, along with Scott, would be known for western movies. Besides Scott, Hathaway directed Gary Cooper in several films, including The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935) which earned him his only Best Director Academy Award nomination. In 1940, Hathaway began working at Fox where he directed Tyrone Power in Johnny Apollo and Brigham Young (both 1940), Gene Tierney in China Girl (1942), Don Ameche and Dana Andrews in Wing and a Prayer (1944), and Call Northside 777 (1948) starring James Stewart and Richard Conte. After leaving Fox, he was one of three directors who worked on the western epic How the West Was Won (1962). He directed Steve McQueen in Nevada Smith (1966), directed John Wayne in True Grit (1968) which won Wayne his one and only Best Actor Academy Award.

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.

Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward


Susan Hayward (1917 – 1975) was an Academy Award-winning actress for her role as Barbara Graham in I Want to Live! (1958). Hayward worked as a fashion model but traveled to Hollywood in 1937 to try out for the role of Scarlett O’Hara. She didn’t win that coveted role, but she secured a film contract. Hayward’s career took off in the late 1940s when she was nominated for Best Actress for Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman (1947). She received four more Best Actress nominations for My Foolish Heart (1949), With a Song in My Heart (1952), I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955), and I Want to Live. Later in her career, Hayward replaced Judy Garland as Helen Lawson in Valley of the Dolls (1967).


Rawhide trivia

  • This was Susan Hayward's first film for Fox after Walter Wanger sold her contract to the studio.
  • Tyrone Power was 20 years older than his character.
  • The film score was originally written for Brigham Young (1940) starring Power and Dean Jagger. It was also used for Yellow Sky (1948).
  • Quentin Tarantino said this film was the inspiration for The Hateful Eight (2015).


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


To join the discussion on January 2, 2023, at 6:30 p.m.Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation with a link to the discussion on Zoom. 


Discussion questions

  1. Does this film remind you of any other westerns you've seen?
  2. Did you think Tyrone Power was too old for the role of Tom Owens?
  3. Were Power and Hayward a good "team?"
  4. What about the supporting cast? Did anyone stand out to you?
  5. Did anything about this film surprise you?

Monday, December 19, 2022

Barbara Stanwyck Sleighs Christmas

Barbara Stanwyck is one of the icons of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She was believable as a hard-boiled film noir dame as she was a madcap heiress in screwball comedy. She had a way of mixing toughness and vulnerability like no other actress in film history. These qualities would contribute to Stanwyck’s longevity in a career that spanned over 60 years.

Stanwyck is so closely identified with film noir due to her Oscar-nominated performance in Double Indemnity (1944) that she is almost forgotten for some of the best Christmas-themed movies ever made.

The four Christmas movies Stanwyck starred in have stood the test of time and all are worth watching, even in the jaded 21st century. So here we go!

Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck) and John Sargent (Fred MacMurray) take a break on their way to Indiana.

Remember the Night (1940) is directed by the underrated Michell Leisen with a screenplay by Preston Sturges. It’s a wonderful Christmas movie that has been rediscovered in the last several years. It’s also the first pairing of Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, four years before Double Indemnity cemented their status as film noir icons.

Lee Leander (Stanwyck) is arrested for shoplifting a bracelet from a jewelry store in New York City. Her trial is set to start right before Christmas. John “Jack” Sargeant (MacMurray), the lawyer set to prosecute her, gets the trial postponed until after Christmas. He fears that the jurors will be filled with compassion during the Christmas holiday and declare her not guilty. But when he hears Lee complain to her lawyer that she’ll be spending Christmas in jail, Sargeant arranges for her bail.

Through a misunderstanding, the bail bondsman delivers Lee to Jack’s apartment, thinking he wants to take advantage of the situation by seducing her. When Jack realizes that Leander is a fellow Hoosier, he volunteers to drive her home for Christmas. When Lee arrives at her mother’s home, she finds a mean spirited woman who wants nothing to do with her daughter. Lee is devastated by her mother’s rejection. Seeing how hurt she is, Jack invites her to come home with him for Christmas.

Lee is embraced by Jack’s family including his mother (Beulah Bondi), Aunt Emma (Elizabeth Patterson), and Cousin Willie (Stanley Holloway). Perhaps for the first time in her life, Lee feels loved and accepted. Jack’s mother and aunt treat Lee like family and it has a profound effect on her.

Lee and Mrs. Sargent (Beulah Bondi) have a serious conversation. 

When Jack and Lee start falling in love, things begin to change. As much as Jack’s mother feels for Lee’s predicament, she’s concerned for her son’s career, a career that took a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

Will Jack and Lee be able to overcome the obstacles in their way and find happiness? I hope you get the chance to see this classic for yourself; I think you’ll be surprised by the ending. 


Meet John Doe (1941) is a comedy-drama directed by Frank Capra. Stanwyck’s co-star is Gary Cooper who has the title role. Stanwyck stars as Ann Mitchell, a newspaper reporter who is fired when a new owner takes over The Bulletin a paper with a sagging readership. As she exits, Ann creates a column featuring a man she calls John Doe who plans on committing suicide to protest the ills of the world on Christmas Eve.

John Willoughby (Gary Cooper) and Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck)

The column gets such a big response from the public that the new editor of the paper hires Ann back. Once she’s back on the paper, Ann sets about finding a “real” John Doe to promote her column and to keep her employed. When she sees Long John Willoughby (Cooper), a former baseball player and tramp, she thinks she’s found the perfect man to play the part. With coaching from Ann, John develops into a competent speaker and leader. John Doe clubs pop up all over the country due to John’s appearances on the radio and Ann’s columns.

Ann convinced newspaper editor Henry Connell (James Gleason) that she should get her job back.


When the owner of the paper D. B. Norton realizes that the John Doe clubs could help him with his political ambitions, as long as he can convince Ann and John to go along. Things get complicated when Ann finds herself falling in love with John but is blinded by the money and position Norton offers her.

John refuses to go along with Norton which also alienates him from Ann who he thinks has betrayed him. At an outdoor rally where John is set to speak, Norton has the microphones turned off and agitators in the crowd hired to turn the rallygoers against him. Ann, now being held by Norton is desperate to explain herself to John but he won’t listen. Frustrated and upset, Ann makes herself sick when she realizes that John thinks she played him for a fool.

Hurt and disillusioned, John decides to jump off of the top of City Hall on Christmas Eve just as Ann had said he would in her first column. D. B. Morton and his associates fear that John may actually try to jump to his death and go to the top of City Hall. They’re afraid he’ll turn himself into a martyr and thwart their political ambitions.

Ann Mitchell begs John not to jump

Ann, leaving her sickbed goes to City Hall in an attempt to keep John from jumping. She confronts John and begs him not to jump. She also proclaims her love for him and that together they can continue the John Doe movement. Exhausted from her climb to the top of City Hall and her illness, Ann collapses in John’s arms. At that moment, some members of the John Doe clubs have gone to the top of city hall to tell him the movement isn’t dead and that they still believe in him.

What does John do? Is there hope for John and Ann and the John Doe movement? Watch this classic (it’s free on YouTube) to find out.


Christmas in Connecticut (1945) is a wonderful screwball comedy directed by Peter Godfrey. Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane, a popular food writer for Smart Housekeeping magazine owned by publisher Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet). Her stories about her married life on a farm in Connecticut with her husband and baby have helped boost circulation, making it one of the top magazines in the country. The only problem is Elizabeth Lane’s life is one big lie. She can’t cook, she’s not married, has no baby or a farm in Connecticut. All her recipes come from her friend Felix Bassenak (S.Z. Sakall) a restaurateur in her neighborhood.

Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) and Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) out for a sleigh ride

As a publicity stunt, Yardley invites a Navy veteran who was adrift at sea for several weeks before his rescue to Elizabeth’s “farm” for Christmas. Yardley believes that if Elizabeth Lane entertains a war hero in her home, readers will buy and subscribe to Smart Housekeeping.

This development puts Elizabeth on the spot. How will she be able to entertain a war hero when she lives in a small New York City apartment? Enter John Sloan, an architect, who is in love with Elizabeth and has asked her to marry him on several occasions but has always been turned down…until now! John has a farm in Connecticut, the farm she has based her stories on, and he’s anxious to make her his bride. Sloan even has worked out a plan where they can “rent” a baby!

Felix (S.Z. Sakall) teaches Elizabeth how to flip pancakes

When returning war hero Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) arrives at the Connecticut farm, he is immediately smitten with Elizabeth Lane, and she is with him. Elizabeth and Sloan try numerous times to get married at the farm but are always interrupted by someone or something. Felix, who doesn’t think Sloan is the right man for Elizabeth, finds ways to disrupt their wedding plans on several occasions. On the other hand, he does all he can to bring Elizabeth and Jefferson together since Felix sees the war veteran as a better match for his friend.

Like many screwball comedies, the action is fast and furious with lots of witty dialogue and improbable situations. You know that Elizabeth and Jefferson are destined to be together, but it’s the crazy path they take to get there that makes this movie so much fun.


My Reputation (1946) is a wonderful romantic drama directed by Curtis Bernhardt. Stanwyck stars as Jessica Drummond a widow who is trying to get on with her life while raising two young boys. She gets a lot of advice from her friends and family on how she should act now that she’s a widow. Her mother (Lucile Watson) especially feels that her daughter should mourn her husband perpetually. Jessica’s mother still wears black in memory of her dead husband. Jessica wants no part of her mother’s view of widowhood. Some of the film’s major events take place during the Christmas and New Year’s Eve holidays.

Ginna Abbott (Eve Arden) and Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck)

Jessica’s best friend Ginna Abbott (Eve Arden) and her husband Cary (John Ridgely) invite her on a ski vacation in Lake Tahoe. Jessica has a skiing mishap and is assisted by Major Scott Landis (George Brent). Jessica is wary of Scott’s attention but she needs his help to get back to her friends' cabin. After a little back and forth between the two, Jessica asks him to leave.

Back home in Lake Forest, Illinois, Jessica learns that Scott is stationed in Chicago. In the meantime, Jessica’s social circle starts spreading rumors about her and Scott. Not understanding why, when she’s unattached, a platonic relationship should garner so much attention and ruin her reputation. One of Jessica’s chief critics is Riette Van Orman (Leona Maricle) whose husband tried to force himself on Jessica.

Jessica and Major Scott Landis (George Brent) on the slopes


During the Christmas holiday, Jessica spends time with her mother her boys, and the family lawyer and friend Frank Everett (Warner Anderson). Jessica’s mother thinks Frank is a suitable man for Jessica to consider dating. Jessica is having none of it; she doesn’t want to be pushed into a relationship with someone she doesn’t love.

After being subjected to her “friends” talking behind her back for months, Jessica confronts Riette at Van Orman’s New Year’s Eve party. Riette expresses her disapproval of Jessica’s behavior in a most unkind way. Jessica protests saying she’s done nothing wrong and resents Riette’s judgment.

It’s about this time that Jessica realizes that she’s in love with Scott and wants to build a life together with him in spite of the gossip and judgment she may encounter going forward. Scott has orders to go overseas which complicates their relationship. It is especially difficult for her two boys who wonder if Jessica has forgotten their father. She tells them that she loved their father but has it in her to love another

My Reputation had its premiere at a U.S. Army base.

Scott is on his way to New York by train and Jessica goes to meet him. She originally planned on going to New York with him but after speaking with her boys decided not to. Jessica meets Scott at the train but tells him she can’t go with him because her boys are too young to understand. Scott asks her to wait for him. Jessica says she will as she watches the train leave the station.



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