“I have been uncompromising, peppery, intractable, monomaniacal, tactless, volatile, and oftentimes disagreeable. I suppose I’m larger than life.”
( Bette Davis )
Bette Davis is one of the most prominent figures from Hollywood’s golden age. In a career that spanned sixty years, Davis received a total of ten Academy Award nominations, and went on to win two of those Oscars for her roles in Dangerous ( 1935 ) and Jezebel ( 1938 ). This however is not including the write-in nomination she had attained in 1935 for her groundbreaking performance in Of Human Bondage, the previous year.
For most actresses in Hollywood, getting nominated for an Academy Award is not something that is easily achieved. In some cases it has taken years of hard work and financial struggle before finally being recognized, while others have endured a successful tenure in motion pictures without being nominated for a single performance, but for Bette Davis, who was noted for her fierce determination and her indomitable spirit, garnering an Oscar nomination seemed to be an easy feat.
Bette Davis was unlike any other actress who adorned the silver screen. She was volatile. She was feisty. She was uncompromising, but most of all, she was her own person with a willful spirit and headstrong personality who pioneered her way through each film with her own scripted brand of artistry.
Once discovering Bette Davis for the first time, it is easy to determine that she was a powerful force who couldn’t be reckoned with. In an illustrious filmography that consisted of 124 acting credits, Davis never expressed her limits as an actress. She was always willing to take on challenging roles that displayed her potential as an actress, and she was never shy to appear unglamorous and grotesque looking when a movie called for it. At a time when many stars feared the idea of portraying a villainous character, Davis was always the first one to jump at the chance. She relished the fact that she could unleash those claws by playing an immoral person with evil instincts on screen. It is no wonder that Bette Davis broke the world record by acquiring ten Oscar nominations.
Below is a list of the Academy Award nominated films of Bette Davis, including those that earned her the Oscar.
“To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy.”
( Bette Davis )
DANGEROUS ( 1935 )
Bette Davis received the Academy Award for her role as Joyce Heath in Dangerous, a solid drama that revolves around the story of alcoholism and the damaging effects it has on an actress who was once a glorious star with an unparalleled stature.
JEZEBEL ( 1938 )
Some say it resembles Gone With The End, and it certainly does have its similarities, but in Jezebel, Bette Davis proved that she was more than capable of portraying a Southern Belle whose tenacious spirit and imperious nature fuels altercations that lead to disaster between her and her fiance, Preston Dillard ( Henry Fonda )
DARK VICTORY ( 1939 )
Many people, including myself consider Dark Victory to be Bette’s greatest film. Here she plays Judith Traherne, a young vehement Long Island socialite whose passion for horses and parties is a never-ending daily activity, but things take a drastic turn when Judith discovers that she is gravely ill with an incurable brain tumor, which will eventually lead to blindness and death.
THE LETTER ( 1940 )
Made at the commencement of the Film Noir period, Bette Davis gave an electrifying introduction to the genre when she portrayed Leslie Crosbie, the wife of a rubber plantation administrator who kills a man and pleads with authorities that it was self defense, but once they discover a letter, Leslie becomes the subject of further questioning.
THE LITTLE FOXES ( 1941 )
Set in the deep south at the turn of the century, the film tells the story of Regina Giddens ( Bette Davis ) the ruthless and villainous wife of Horace Giddens ( Herbert Marshall ) who is suffering from a terminal illness. After years of struggling financially, Regina becomes desperate for money, and starts manipulating those around her to help assist her in some scheme she is concocting.
NOW VOYAGER ( 1942 )
Bette Davis illuminates the screen with her portrayal of Charlotte Vale, a depressed woman who lives a life of brutal domination. With a lack of self-esteem, and constantly feeling restrained and despondent over the tyrannical rulings and controlling ways of her mother, Charlotte enters a sanatorium, and is sent away on a lengthy cruise, where she is transformed into an elegant, sophisticated young girl of society.
MR. SKEFFINGTON ( 1944 )
The film revolves around the story of embezzlement, self sacrifices and one-sided relationships. Bette Davis plays Fanny Trellis Skeffington, a majestic beauty whose trapped in a loveless marriage with a Jewish banker in order to save her brother from financial ruin.
ALL ABOUT EVE ( 1950 )
Fasten your seatbelts, its going to be a bumpy night. In her most memorable film, Bette Davis plays, Margo Channing, a successful stage actress whose career is eclipsed by the manipulating, Eve Harrington ( Anne Baxter ) a woman with a facade of innocence who conjures up a destructive plan to steal parts and relationships and threaten the profession of Margo Channing.
THE STAR ( 1952 )
The Star is not a well known film, but it features a laudable performance from Bette Davis who takes on the central role of Margaret Elliot, a washed up former movie star who wants to resurrect her career, but is plagued with difficulties that descends her further into alcoholism.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? ( 1962 )
At a time when most stars of her caliber were facing a career lapse, Bette Davis received her final Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Baby Jane Hudson, a former child star whose fame was eclipsed in later years by her sister, Blanche Hudson ( Joan Crawford ). Decades later the two are living together in a decaying Hollywood mansion. Plagued with resentment and sibling rivalry, Jane torments and abuses Blanche who is now confined to a wheelchair.
OF HUMAN BONDAGE ( 1934 )
The Academy doesn’t consider this as a nomination, but an array of sources state that Bette Davis’ groundbreaking performance as Mildred Rogers, the cockney waitress who spurns Philip, a medical student who is attracted to her in Of Human Bondage is worthy of a place on the nomination list. Bette Davis did however garner a write-in nomination for her role in the film the following year.
In addition to her ten Academy Award nominations, Bette Davis attained a myriad of other awards and nominations for her impressive contribution to motion pictures. After many years of continual success in the entertainment industry, Davis received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1977. Sadly Bette Davis passed away on October 6th, 1989. Almost twenty seven years since her passing, Bette Davis is remembered for her enduring legacy that has left an indelible mark on cinema history.
Ethel Barrymore, the consummate actress who hailed from a prominent family of thespians exhibited her unique artistry in an array of diverse roles in stage and film, and attained success in every medium she explored.
While her film career was condensed and short lived compared to other stars of her caliber, Ethel Barrymore has left an indelible imprint in the hearts of millions worldwide for her memorable contribution to motion pictures. In a film tenure that officially commenced in 1944 with short brief stints in 1932 and the silent era, Barrymore portrayed everything from the ailing Mrs. Warren in The Spiral Staircase and her Academy Award winning performance as Ma Mott in None But The Lonely Heart to Princess Czarina in Rasputin And The Empress.
One role she has played that unfortunately hasn’t received the credit it deserves is her performance as Granny in The Secret Of Convict Lake, a western style Film Noir that is directed by Michael Gordon, and produced by Frank P. Rosenberg, with a screenplay by the renowned, Oscar Saul, who would later attain critical acclaim for his screen adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire.
In addition to Ethel Barrymore, the film features a prominent array of stellar players. Actor, Glenn Ford, whose career spanned more than fifty years was assigned the role of Jim Canfield. Ford was a prolific talent during the golden age of cinema. Noted for his extreme versatility, Ford was often seen in diverse and challenging roles that epitomized his adaptability as an actor, but while he was equally at home playing complex characters, Glenn Ford is often associated for his embodiment of traditional and ordinary men who were usually faced with unusual situations.
Starring alongside Glenn Ford is Gene Tierney in one of her lesser known roles as Marcia Stoddard. Tierney whose success was unparalleled during the 1940’s later admitted that she was glad to be cast in a small budget production that wouldn’t garner the deluge of fans and reporters that besieged her familiar surroundings after her appearances in critically acclaimed films that include, The Ghost And Mrs. Muir, Laura and Leave Her To Heaven. She was also euphoric about working with Ethel Barrymore, whom she had always admired.
The Secret Of Convict Lake may be a little known production, but for a film that has been neglected for decades, it has a wealth of history behind it. To cut a long story short, the premise of the film is depicted from true events that took place at the lake on September 17th, 1871, when an assembled group of convicts escaped from a prison in Carson City and found shelter at the lake, which at the time of the incident was known as Monte Diablo Creek.
While most critics have stated that Hollywood’s interpretation of the real event is a myth, the film does make a point of capturing many aspects of the incident. However it would be difficult to clearly document the exact happenings of the day as a lot of it remains the stuff of legend. As is depicted in the movie, five prisoners reached Monte Diablo and managed to remain there for a few days before being caught by posses that was led by George Hightower.
Apart from the films brush with history, The Secret Of Convict Lake did little to propel any positive action from audiences. On its release, the film opened to mix reviews. Most critics looked favorably on the performances, but thought that the plot detoured away from true accounts.
“You’re takin’ a lot on yourself, aren’t you ma’am? Judge, jury, hangman all wrapped up in pretty skirts? Having yourself a ladies’ lynching party?”
The Secret Of Convict Lake did nothing to warrant a vigorous response from the cast and crew members either. During filming, Glenn Ford was suffering from a serious viral infection in his left eye that resulted in him enduring bouts of severe pain for most part of the production. When he was away from the camera he was forced to wear an eye patch on the set, but every time he was required to stand under the intense studio lights, his condition exacerbated.
The only aspect of the production that Glenn Ford developed fond recollections of was his time working with Ethel Barrymore. He had always idolized Barrymore, and considered her to be a virtuoso at her craft. In response to Ethel Barrymore, Ford later stated to his son Peter that, “She had a wonderfully dry wit, and I tried to be in her presence as much as possible.”. On the other hand however, Peter Ford mentions in his book of how his father befriended Gene Tierney, who at the time was married to Oleg Cassini. Just like Glenn, Tierney was an adventurous soul who was willing to try anything courageous. In his diary, Glenn Ford wrote the following about Gene Tierney, “It’s the walk. She walks and all you can think of is following her. She’s got the original come-hither sway. I was a fan of hers for a long time, a gorgeous, sculpted beauty and a real pro. I wish I could have worked with her again.”
As for Ethel Barrymore, The Secret Of Convict Lake marked one of her last major roles. After her appearance in the 1954 film, Young At Heart, Barrymore’s health rapidly declined. She did however manage to attain the leading role in 1957’s, Johnny Trouble, but after enduring numerous issues that were fueled by her failing condition, Ethel Barrymore retired permanently. She died two years later on June 18th, 1959 at the age of 79.
Based on true events, The Secret Of Convict Lake follows the story of Jim Canfield ( Glenn Ford ) and his fellow group of escaped prisoners, who are en-route to some destination far away from Carson City. Jim however has other plans. He has duties to fulfill in Monte Diablo, so Canfield and the four other convicts manage to find shelter at Monte Diablo, a small settlement that is occupied by a group of women headed by Granny ( Ethel Barrymore ) who is in control, and allows the five convicts to use an empty cabin while providing them with food.
The following day, Jim Canfield sets out on his mission. Wrongfully convicted of killing a woman and stealing $40,000, Canfield plans to seek revenge and kill Rudy Schaeffer, the man who framed him. This plan however is altered and ceased when Jim learns that Rudy Schaeffer is engaged to marry Marcia Stoddard ( Gene Tierney ) who he becomes smitten with.
The Secret Of Convict Lake is one of those films that has been unjustifiably dismissed, but once viewing it however, you come to discover that its a movie that is easily appreciated. For audiences who prefer films that contain action and a variety of genres packed into one, this is definitely the vehicle for you. The entire production is filled with Film Noir undertones and dramatic plot twists that is guaranteed to keep the viewer enraptured from beginning to end.
“They were evil men and they touched us all with their evil. But maybe we ain’t the ones to do the judgin’. We ain’t without sin. None of us. So I say may the Lord have mercy on us as well as on them. And deliver us from evil and hatred. Amen.”
TheSecret Of Convict Lake also boasts a stellar cast which consist of seasoned professionals like Ethel Barrymore whose majestic charm and unique artistry was a welcoming presence in any movie. Although Barrymore only had a supporting role, her character helped hold the film together. As Granny, the domineering matriarch of the female inhabitants living in Monte Diablo, Barrymore delivered acidic dialogue with every addressing command.
“You got no call to be scared. They’re men, not wild bear. Just ask ’em to account for themselves… Marcia, come take this rifle. Just in case they turn out to be wild bear after all.” ( Ethel Barrymore as Granny )
Glenn Ford and Gene Tierney were the perfect choices for the films protagonists. Gene Tierney who was known for her natural beauty and luminous screen presence played a tormented soul with a formidable background. To elude her troubled past, she plans to marry Rudy Schaeffer, a vicious man with a penchant to kill. At first Marcia is unaware of Shaeffer’s demons, and is all set to relocate to a private cabin with him when he returns from prospecting, but Jim Canfield, who views Shaeffer as a completely worthless man tries his hardest to deter her from marrying him.
Glenn Ford is the hero of the film. On the exterior, he appears very ruggedly and gruff, but his interiors show an amiable man with a heart of gold, who wants to seek revenge on his biggest enemy. Initially he is viewed as a criminal to the women, but once he saves the cattle in a barn fire, his true colors are revealed.
Abounded with atmospheric cinematography, and an intelligent screenplay along with the unforgettable cast, The Secret Of Convict Lake is a film that is not to be missed.
The Secret Of Convict Lake was initially a proposed vehicle for Dana Andrews and Linda Darnell.
Agnes Moorehead was originally considered for the role of Rachel, played by Ann Dvorak.
Glenn Ford: Born Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford on May 1st, 1916 in Quebec, Canada. Died: August 30th, 2006 in Beverly Hills, California. Aged 90.
Gene Tierney: Born Gene Eliza Tierney on November 19th, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York. Died: November 6th, 1991 in Houston, Texas. Aged 70.
Ethel Barrymore: Born Ethel Mae Blythe on August 15th, 1879 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Died: June 18th, 1959 in Los Angeles, California. Aged 79.
This time last year I was celebrating the successful run of my first ever blogathon that I hosted, and that was the Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon. Now we’re back in August again, and I can hardly believe that it’s been a year since the auspicious event took place.
I am thrilled that this is going to be an annual event. Last year I received innumerable spectacular entries that covered a wide array of topics relating to all members of the Barrymore family, and I’m sure that this year will bring the same.
I will be updating this page daily as I receive each entry. A big thank you to all participants who registered for the blogathon. I look forward to reading all your entries, and a very happy 136th Birthday to Ethel Barrymore. This is for you Ethel.
THE SECOND ANNUAL BARRYMORE TRILOGY BLOGATHON ENTRIES
After years of being unfairly dismissed due to the child abuse allegations that have largely surfaced since the initial publication of Mommie Dearest in 1978, Joan Crawford is finally being honored during the course of the next three days, for the purpose of my blogathon which commences today.
For years, I have been an ardent supporter of Joan Crawford, so when the idea of hosting a blogathon dedicated to the great actress was proposed to me, I was automatically enthused, and was anxious to announce the event.
I was even more impatient waiting for the blogathon to commence, but now after two months of waiting, it’s now here. So without further ado, I look forward to reading all the entries about the unsurpassable Joan Crawford, whose inimitable talents and achievements continue to leave an indelible mark on motion picture history.
Below is the roster of entries that will get updated daily as each post comes in. This is for you Joan.
“TOGETHER and TERRIFIC…in a story of unforgettable warmth and impact.”
James Cagney, the consummate actor, who graced the screen with his perilous traits along with his tenacious and malicious demeanor, immersed audiences worldwide during the golden age of cinema. In the years that proceeded his passing in 1986, James Cagney has been remembered by many for the embedded image of him yelling “Made it Ma. Top of the world” in the 1949 perennial classic White Heat, while others remember him for his other tough gangster roles in, The Public Enemy and The Roaring Twenties.
While James Cagney instilled fond recollections in legions of fans for playing multifaceted tough roles, Cagney also proved time and time again that he was able to shed his bad guy image by portraying a character that inhabited a softer nature. Despite the rejections from certain fans who preferred to see their idol playing a villainous gangster, James Cagney was usually always lauded for his deliveries of a hero or a person that was noted for their amiability.
After the success of White Heat, James Cagney’s gangster portrayals began to diminish. He had been cast in a few roles that are linked to that genre, but none of these characters were highlighted as a ruthless racketeer like the predecessors. His most notable film from this period came in 1955, when he starred alongside Doris Day in Love Me Or Leave Me.
With the accolades that he attained for Love Me Or Leave Me, James Cagney was now planted in a reputable position in Hollywood. He had film offers pouring in everywhere, but he chose to replace Spencer Tracy in the western production titled, Tribute To A Bad Man. Cagney’s performance was highly received, and it led to him securing the part of Lon Chaney in the biographical picture, Man Of A Thousand Faces ( 1956 )
Considering the fact that Tribute To A Bad Man was panned on it’s release, MGM thought well enough of Cagney’s performance to offer him another assignment. This time he was to star for the first and last time alongside, Barbara Stanwyck in a film about a notable businessman who pleads with the adoption agency to help locate his son who he abandoned twenty years earlier.
On it’s release, These Wilder Years was denounced for being a less than effective starring vehicle for the two main leads. Audiences would have preferred to see Barbara Stanwyck and James Cagney sparring off together as ruthless villains in a gangster production or a film that had plenty of bite, but instead they were greeted with something completely different.
Even though These Wilder Years was expected to flounder at the box office, James Cagney and Barbara Stanwyck enjoyed the filming process, and later developed fond memories of their time on the set. They especially relished the fact that their pasts were closely mirrored, and saw this as the perfect opportunity to relive their Vaudeville years by entertaining the cast and crew with their dance improvisations.
The films disastrous status is largely due to the small scale crew that were hired for the production. Director, Roy Rowland had considerable success in Hollywood, and helmed a few critically acclaimed staples, such as, Our Vines Have Tender Grapes and Meet Me In Las Vegas, but compared to a lot of other directors of his caliber, Rowland was only second-rate. That being said, Rowland shouldn’t be solely blamed for the films flaws when certain aspects can be traced to the weakness of the script, which was written by, Ralph Wheelwright and Frank Fenton.
These Wilder Years tells the story of Steve Bradford ( James Cagney ), a wealthy businessman who returns to his home town with high hopes of locating his illegitimate son, who was put up for adoption twenty years earlier. On his arrival, he visits the orphanage, which is ran by Ann Dempster ( Barbara Stanwyck ) who announces that she’s in no position to help him trace the whereabouts of his son. Instead Steve discovers that he’s got a lot more on his hands than what he ever imagined when he meets, Suzie ( Betty Lou Keim ), a sixteen year old expectant orphan, who resides with Ann Dempster.
These Wilder Years may have lacked the ingredients to be a motion picture staple, but it’s premise is definitely promising. Steve Bradford is a millionaire who is eager to use his affluent wealth to locate his son, whom he has never met, and provide him with a new home full of luxuries. The fact that he wants to take away his grown son from a family who has loved him from the day they adopted him sounds ludicrous, but despite these foibles, the story is quite entertaining, and keeps the viewer wondering if Steve Bradford will ever meet his son?
Even for those people who find the film bland, you can’t deny the talents of Barbara Stanwyck and James Cagney, who alone make this vehicle worth watching. Both stars are exceptional in their roles, and actually have great chemistry together. Barbara Stanwyck as Ann Dempster, the owner of the orphanage is dedicated to her work, and through sheer determination, she manages to find unwanted babies a home, but when it comes to Steve Bradford whose determination is unyielding, she’s a tenacious force to be reckoned with. She is reluctant to give out any information regarding the sons whereabouts, and decides to remain professional. Steve however, does not stop at that. He proves that money is no object by hiring James Rayburn ( Walter Pidgeon ) an expensive lawyer, who states that millions of dollars can go a long way.
Another redeeming feature is the relationship between Steve Bradford and sixteen year old Suzie. James Cagney as Steve Bradford, exudes warmth and plenty of understanding. Seeing as he eluded the chance to father a son, he realizes the obstacles that she is faced with, and knows the pain that she will feel when she is forced to give up her baby. It’s also interesting to note that for a film made in 1956, years after the Hays Code was enforced, These Wilder Years clearly depicts the subject of unwed and pregnant teens, a topic that was concealed in movies after the establishment of the Production Code in 1934.
All and all, These Wilder Years is an overlooked melodrama that deserves more recognition. It’s a shame that Barbara Stanwyck and James Cagney never had the chance to work together in a film that had more bite, but at least we can witness their extreme versatility and adeptness in this great film.
The American Airlines plane Steve flies in at the beginning of the film is a Convair CV-240 – American’s replacement of the Douglas DC-3.
The film debut of Michael Landon, who played a small cameo role.
Upon James Cagney exiting lawyer Leland G. Spottsford’s office building, a theater marquee and film posters can be seen advertising Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956), which was the previous film directed by _These Wilder Years (1956)_ director Roy Rowland.
Barbara Stanwyck: Born Ruby Catherine Stevens on July 16th, 1907 in Brooklyn, New York. Died: January 20th, 1990 in Santa Monica, California. Aged 82. Cause of death: Congestive heart failure and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
James Cagney: James Cagney: Born James Francis Cagney, Jr. on July 17th, 1899 in New York. Died: March 30th, 1986 in Stanfordville, New York. Aged 86. Cause of death: Heart attack.
Walter Pidgeon: Born Walter Davis Pidgeon on September 23rd, 1897 in Sain John, New Brunswick, Canada. Died: September 25th, 1984 in Santa Monica, California. Aged 87. Cause of death: Massive stroke.
Betty Lou Keim: Born Betty Lou Keim on September 27th, 1938 in Malden, Massachusetts. Died: January 27th, 2010 in Chatsworth, California. Aged 71. Cause of death: Lung Cancer.
When it comes to films that arouse your sexual desire, productions from the Pre-Code genre are the perfect model of eroticism. Sizzling with suggestiveness, evocative nature, and anything that deals with the sexual denominator, this magical bygone era of Hollywood continues to cement itself in a reputable position in motion picture history.
The Pre-Code era dealt with a lot of issues that were prohibited once the Production Code was rigorously enforced. Films that were provocative in structure and revolved around themes that were immodest and openly seductive became a thing of the past and remained extinguished until decades later when movies that graphically depicted sex and displayed nudity were released.
Even before the establishment of the Production Code, certain films were rejected from the Censorship Board because of their overt sexual content and for seductive aspects that were considered too explicit for public viewing. Perhaps the best example of this can be seen in Red Dust( 1932 ), a film starring Clark Gable and Jean Harlow in a role where she plays a prostitute who exploits her sexuality to arouse and stimulate the less enthused Gable.
“That’s a… a very polished little speech for a… barbarian.”
Although Red Dust managed to elude the strict refusals of the Censorship Board, it contains adultery and many elements of infidelity that could of easily been rejected for release even back in 1932 when illicit subject matters were candidly presented on screen. Just as well the rigid constraints that somewhat affected a myriad of films from the same period, including Baby Face were not as harsh when it came to Red Dust, because what we witness here is Pre-Code Hollywood at it’s greatest.
The film was released in 1932, a year that is now considered to be a memorable twelve months for movies with notable productions like Grand Hotel hitting cinemas and winning the Academy Award for ‘Best Picture’.
While Grand Hotel, a lavish spectacular that featured more stars than heaven, surpassed any other picture released that year, Red Dust ascended in stature right from the very beginning. The film boasted a stellar cast with acting veterans, Clark Gable and Jean Harlow colliding with the likes of Mary Astor and Gene Raymond. And it addition to all that, it was written for the screen by, John Mahin, and directed by, Victor Fleming, who would go on to direct such critically acclaimed masterpieces like, The Wizard Of Oz and Gone With The Wind.
Clark Gable and Jean Harlow were hot commodities in Hollywood. Noted for their sexual magnetism that was coupled by their on-screen chemistry, the two starred in six films together with Red Dust marking their second collaboration. During their first appearance in the 1931 crime drama, The Secret Six, Gable and Harlow became close friends, and would remain supportive of one another until the day Harlow passed away in 1937. Harlow had possessed an innumerable amount of qualities that Gable admired. He particularly relished her lack of pretense along with her casual and free spirited nature, but while many people have tried to envision a romantic relationship between the two, the connection they shared was completely different with Clark Gable acting as her protective older brother, who treated her like a lovable sister.
“I thought we might run up a few curtains and make a batch of fudge while we were planning on what to wear to the country club dance Saturday night.”
Jean Harlow as Vantine
Originally, Red Dust was supposed to be a proposed vehicle for John Gilbert, who was set to play the role of Dennis Carson. This was an attempt to capitalize on his success in previous years, and to try to resurrect his suave and masculine appearance that was once an alluring enchantment for a plethora of female movie-goers worldwide, but this casting decision was soon abandoned due to Gilbert’s floundering descent into alcoholism, which helped fuel is premature death in 1936, when Gilbert was only 38.
Red Dust was meant to be a monumental experience for Clark Gable and Jean Harlow, but just when the occasion started out as joyous, things took a bad turn. Shortly before filming commenced, Harlow married Paul Bern, the German born producer, who helped establish her career. Seeing as they had just eloped two months earlier, Harlow was in happy spirits during filming, and was euphoric about returning home each night to be with him. Things however were not to remain. On Labor Day, police were summoned to the home that Harlow shared with Bern. On their arrival they discovered that Paul Bern had either committed suicide or had been murdered when they found his naked body sprawled on the floor with his brains blown out, and a revolver clutched in one hand.
For years the suicide had remained a mystery, but as the decades progressed, it was revealed that part of the suicide was caused from a sexual development that would make it merely impossible for him to indulge in sexual intercourse. According to most biographers, Harlow was unaware of this condition, which would be kept a secret until more facts about the relationship between Jean Harlow and Paul Bern were unearthed.
To add to the already formidable situations that Harlow and Gable were enduring while shooting Red Dust, were the arduous conditions and the grueling schedule. Filmed in the late Summer of 1932, when the sound stages were without air conditioning, the cast and crew underwent hours of discomfort due to working in the sweltering heat, where the smell of a jungle was emanating from everything. A lot of this had to do with the constructed Indochina backdrop that consisted of the constant releasing of moths and insects. Considering how difficult it was to work in these horrific conditions, Gable and Harlow were determined to complete the picture on time, and have it released on schedule.
Clark Gable and Jean Harlow ignite the screen in flames in this steamy Pre-Code production that was based on the 1928 play by Wilson Collison. Set on an Indochina rubber plantation during the monsoon season, the film tells the story of Dennis Carson ( Clark Gable ), the owner of the plantation, who is greeted to the unexpected arrival of Vantine Jefferson ( Jean Harlow ), a prostitute, who is on the run from the Saigon authorities.
After succumbing to Vantine’s charms, complications arise when Gary Willis ( Gene Raymond ), an inexperienced engineer, and his wife, Barbara ( Mary Astor ) join the establishment, and make sparks fly with Dennis Carson, who immediately falls in love with Barbara, leaving Vantine in a state of jealousy, while Dennis finds himself swept into a difficult love triangle that is hard to escape.
Red Dust may have never eventuated if it weren’t for the influence of Paul Bern, who had implored Louis B. Mayer to buy out Jean Harlow’s contract with Hughes, and sign her to MGM. Initially, Mayer had refused the offer. He viewed Jean Harlow as an abhorrent floozy, something that did not go well with his class of elegant leading ladies at MGM. Bern however was not going to stop there. He was determined to have Harlow signed to a contract with the studio. His next best preference was to urge Irving Thalberg, who eventually agreed after taking Harlow’s popularity and established image into consideration.
As a result of this decision, audiences worldwide are treated to endless hours of entertainment with the indomitable presence of Jean Harlow and Clark Gable in Red Dust, a film that is an exceptionally worthy addition into the Pre-Code canon.
“If it was the summer of 1894, I’d play games with you, sister. But life is much simpler now.”
Red Dust is a film that is totally ahead of it’s time. Brimming with fresh and suggestive dialogue that serves as a perfect accompaniment to it’s imaginative script, this picture has everything that a Pre-Code could possibly offer. Clark Gable with his ruggedly good looks is the owner of the rubber plantation. He is tough and stalwart with a demeanor that is as hard as nails, but along with his ferocious manner, he is a two timing cad, who would fall for any girl that comes into close contact with him, even if it is a hard boiled, wisecracking tramp like Vantine, a prostitute, who challenges him to seduce her.
At first we witness nothing but their personalities clashing. Dennis knows that Vantine is a prostitute, and has little time for her; that is until he observes whats underlying in her interior, and immediately succumbs to her alluring charisma, but in the midst of their steamy romance, their passionate love affair is interrupted when Gary Willis and his new wife, Barbara, who steals Carson’s affections, arrive on the plantation.
In the years that have progressed, the racism elements in Red Dust has remained a subject of controversy, but these aspects are not key features and can easily be overlooked since the main premise of the story is about the sexual progressiveness of Vantine, who lures and beguiles Dennis, but whose love is eventually overshadowed by the repressed, Barbara, who turns to Dennis for intimate and immoral comfort while trying to elude the weaknesses of her husband.
All in all, Red Dust is a memorable film that shouldn’t be dismissed. Not only does it spotlight the inimitable talents of Clark Gable and Jean Harlow, who exuded sexuality, it is an extremely engaging, sizzling melodrama that immerses movie enthusiasts worldwide.
Red Dust was remade in 1953, with the title of Mogambo, which also starred Clark Gable.
During filming of the famous rainbarrel sequence, Jean Harlow reportedly stood up – topless – and called out something along the lines of “one for the boys in the lab!” Director Victor Fleming quickly removed the film from the camera to prevent any footage from reaching the black market.
The two time Academy Award winning actress, Olivia de Havilland, who is best known for her role as Melanie Hamilton in the 1939 classic, Gone With The Wind celebrated her 100th Birthday on Friday, July 1st, in Paris.
It’s hard to believe that Olivia de Havilland, who holds the record of being the oldest Oscar winner alive is still living a contented fulfilling life with no progressing health issues in existence.
The legend known as Olivia de Havilland may have never materialized if it weren’t for her parents, Walter Augustus de Havilland, an English Professor, who later became a patent attorney, and her mother, Lilian Augusta, a notable stage actress, who spent a considerable amount of time touring England with prolific composers.before settling down in a commodious house in Tokyo, where the prospect of motherhood first evolved.
Three years later, Olivia Mary de Havilland made her star-studded debut in the world on July 1st, 1916 in Tokyo, Japan. Despite their crumbling marriage that was fuelled by daily pressures and hardships, Lilian and Walter were determined to make it a congenial environment for the baby. The following year when Olivia was one, Lilian gave birth to her second child, a daughter who they called Joan ( Later known as Joan Fontaine )
After years of struggling to resurrect their marriage, Lilian and Walter separated in 1919, when Lilian was advised to vacate to a warmer climate where the fresh air would improve Joan’s exacerbating health. With that suggestion, she packed up and relocated to Saratoga, California while Walter remained with his Japanese housekeeper in Tokyo, whom he would later marry.
The move to California was a blessing for Joan’s frequent bouts of illness. While Joan was recuperating in Saratoga, four year old Olivia started to inherit her mothers passion for the arts. That same year she was enrolled in ballet lessons. When it was discovered that Olivia was relishing her ballet classes, and was surpassing all the other girls her age, Lilian registered Olivia in piano lessons the following year.
After attending lessons for both ballet and piano, young Olivia was fast becoming a prodigy of the arts. By the age of six, she was an avid reader, and enjoyed reading stories that focused on an array of different subjects. To help enhance her dexterity and to strengthen her diction, Lilian trained Olivia to recite passages from Shakespeare, an activity that she became quite adept at, and one that she would rely on during her career.
In 1922, when Olivia de Havilland reached school age, her mother enrolled her in lessons at Saratoga Grammar School, where she excelled in all subjects. Due to her astuteness in reading, writing and poetry, she was entered into a county spelling bee, and came second place.
Just when her academic intelligence was accelerating, Olivia’s home life started to affect her emotionally. Once the divorce was finalized in 1925, her mother married George Milan Fontaine, a notable businessman whose strict parenting style created animosity in the family, forcing Olivia and Joan to rebel against his wishes.
It took a while for Olivia and Joan to become accustomed to sharing the house with their stepfather, but as time progressed they started to adapt more to the new routine. Even though this was a difficult chapter in Olivia’s life, de Havilland was determined to not let her problems with her stepfather take over her entire being. Instead she decided to continue on with her schooling. To further her education, she was enrolled at Los Gatos High School. It was here where she was given her first taste in the world of dramatics by being strongly involved in the school drama club, which would lead to her participating in the school plays, and becoming the clubs secretary.
For a while, Olivia de Havilland had her mind set on a career as a school teacher of English and speech, and attended Notre Dame Convent in Belmont to help her follow that path, but after a while the thoughts of becoming an actress piqued an even greater interest in her. In 1933, de Havilland made her debut in amateur theatre when she appeared in Alice In Wonderland, a production that was sponsored by Saratoga Community Players. To help support her goal, she continued to act in school plays, and was often given starring roles. This however led to a harsh confrontation with her stepfather, who was strictly against Olivia immersing herself in theatrics. He totally forbade de Havilland to join in on any more plays, and tried his hardest to deter her away from following her dream. In order to continue on with drama, she must elude her stepfather, which she eventually did when he gave her the ultimatum, forcing Olivia to move in with a friend.
In 1934, Olivia de Havilland graduated from high school with dreams of becoming an actress. However she had a decision to make. Not long after graduating, de Havilland was offered a scholarship to Mills College in Oakland to pursue a career as an English teacher. At the same time she was also offered the role of Puck in the Saratoga Community Theatre production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Both options enthused de Havilland, and while she commended the prospects of a profession in teaching, she eventually chose to stay with the Saratoga Community Theatre.
For Olivia, this decision proved to be the right move, and eventually it would change her life forever. That Summer, Austrian director, Max Reinhardt visited California with a major production of the same play that was to premiere at the Hollywood Bowl. During his time in Los Angeles, Reinhardt’s assistants saw Olivia perform in Saratoga, and was immediately captured by her magical performance that he had just witnessed. As a result, he offered her the second understudy position for the role of Hermia. Olivia was contented with being the understudy, but what she really wanted was to have her own starring role. One week before the premiere, de Havilland attained her wish when the lead actress, Gloria Stuart abandoned the project, leaving eighteen year old Olivia de Havilland to play Hermia.
From the moment he saw her perform, he knew right away that this girl had a promising future among the stars ahead of her. Even at the age of eighteen, Olivia exuded that rare star quality that was combined with a multitudinous amount of talent. Max Reinhardt was that impressed with the magic that the young girl possessed, that he automatically invited her to play the part of Hermia in a four week Autumn tour that was approaching. At the time this was an opportunity that could not be passed, but little did she know then that this very same tour would make her land on a reputable place on Hollywood soil with the motion picture studios knocking at her door.
For Olivia de Havilland, this was a dream that she never had imagined in her wildest expectations. She thought that she might end up following her mothers footsteps, but a movie career was something that was never discussed in the family until it was discovered that young Olivia de Havilland was about to take the world by storm.
It all began in the fall of 1934 when Olivia de Havilland was on tour playing Hermia. During that four weeks, Reinhardt received a call from Warner Brothers. who relayed the news that he was to direct the film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Reinhardt, who was that impressed with de Havilland envisioned nobody else but Olivia portraying Hermia for the film version of the stage production.
Olivia de Havilland was euphoric about being cast to play Hermia in the film, but lingering on deep down in side was the thoughts of returning to her old roots of becoming a teacher. It wasn’t until Reinhardt and executive producer, Henry Blanke implored her to sign a five year contract with Warner Brothers. that Olivia finally decided to embark on a career in motion pictures.
On December 19th, 1934, nineteen year old, Olivia de Havilland made her film debut in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a romance and fantasy production that was based on a play by Shakespeare. Starring alongside de Havilland was acting veterans, James Cagney and Mickey Rooney, who assisted de Havilland in learning the craft. In addition to rehearsing and filming, de Havilland spent her time studying acting and camera techniques. By the end of production, she was versed in lighting and camera angles, and how to find her best lighting.
“The one thing that you simply have to remember all the time that you are there is that Hollywood is an oriental city. As long as you do that, you might survive. If you try to equate it with anything else, you’ll perish.”
While the film was largely panned at the box office, Olivia de Havilland was lauded for her performance as Hermia. The San Francisco Examiner critic stated that de Havilland “acts graciously and does greater justice to Shakespeare’s language than anyone else in the cast.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream failed to make a dent in the resumes of the other fellow cast members, but for Olivia, it was an experience that would take her on a long successful journey into the world of motion pictures. Her next destination was a leading role in Alibi Ike ( 1935 ), where she starred alongside, Joe E. Brown and Ruth Donnelly in a story that revolves around baseball.
Alibi Ike and her next picture, The Irish In Us did nothing to enhance her reputation. Instead it left de Havilland yearning for a better role that boasted more appeal. She was tired of portraying sweet and charming heroines after being a Reinhardt player. However never-ending fame and achievements was soon to follow. In 1935, de Havilland was cast alongside Australian born, Errol Flynn in a swashbuckling epic titled, Captain Blood, which has de Havilland playing the role of Arabella Bishop. The film was an immediate success, and Olivia De Havilland and Errol Flynn would go onto make seven more films together.
Olivia de Havilland may have been excluded from praise for Captain Blood , but her performance alone made her land a role in Anthony Adverse, a film that was based on the renowned novel by Hervey Allen. On it’s release, the film opened to critical acclaim with Olivia’s portrayal of Angela Giuseppe being held in high esteem. Several more films followed, including The Charge Of The Light Brigade, which also attained a myriad of accolades.
With her eminent stature along with her positive reputation, Olivia de Havilland’s contract was renegotiated to seven years with a weekly earning of five hundred dollars. In 1937, de Havilland received her first top billing in Call It A Day, an Archie Mayo directed comedy that vanished shortly after it was released. She had better success when she was co-starred alongside Bette Davis in the 1937 film, It’s Love I’m After. Davis, who was known for her fierce determination and her vivacious personality immediately developed an amiable relationship with de Havilland, and became close friends. The two would go onto make three more films together.
After filming It’s Love I’m After, de Havilland was cast in a few more productions that were of moderate success. In September, 1937, de Havilland heard word that Jack Warner was wanting her to play the role of Maid Marion alongside Errol Flynn in The Adventures Of Robin Hood ( 1938 ), which at the time was the most expensive film to be made. The film was released on May 14th, 1938 to critical acclaim, and would later garner an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Seventy eight years since it’s release, The Adventures Of Robin Hood continues to cement itself as one of the most beloved adventure films from the golden age.
The Adventures Of Robin Hood not only ascended Olivia’s popularity rating, it also proved to be a turning point in her career. The first few films that followed may not have done anything to extol her star power, but with each character she portrayed, the closer she came to acquiring a role in the most triumphant and powerful film to ever be presented on screen, Gone With The Wind.
During the filming of the classic Technicolor western, Dodge City, Olivia de Havilland was feeling rather melancholy. She was perturbed and angered with the supporting love interest roles she was getting, and she was yearning for something more challenging. De Havilland later stated, “I was in such a depressed state that I could hardly remember my lines.”. The only thing that boosted her optimism at this point was a letter from David O. Selznick, “I would give anything if we had Olivia deHavilland under contract to us so that we could cast her as Melanie in Gone With The Wind.”. Olivia was delighted that Selznick would want her for the part. She had already familiarized herself with the novel, and was eager to play Melanie Hamilton, a character whose quiet dignity and inner strength she understood. She knew she could bring Melanie to life on the screen, and more than anything she wanted that part, but there was only one obstacle in her way: Jack Warner was refusing to lend her out for the project.
The only thing that made Jack Warner change his mind is when he discovered that de Havilland had a paid a visit to his wife Anne, who had convinced Warner that the role of Melanie was tailor made for de Havilland, and only she could do it justice. Warner finally relented, and Olivia de Havilland was cast as Melanie a few weeks before principal photography commenced on January 26th, 1939.
Gone With The Wind broke box office records, and is now considered to be ‘the greatest film ever made’. At the 12th Annual Academy Awards, which was held at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, the film set a record for Academy Award wins and nominations, and received eight awards from the competitive categories it was nominated in, from a total of thirteen nominations. Olivia de Havilland’s portrayal of Melanie Hamilton Wilks was held in high esteem. Frank S. Nugent from The Times described de Havilland’s Melanie as “A gracious, dignified, tender gem of characterization”, while John C. Flinn from Variety called her “A standout.”
After Gone With The Wind, Olivia de Havilland was planted in a successful position in Hollywood. Movie studios wanted to employ her, while others wanted to sign her to a contract. Olivia de Havilland however returned to Warner Brothers. and immediately began work in the historical royalty drama, The Private Lives Of Elizabeth and Essex, where she was co-starred alongside Errol Flynn once again and Bette Davis in their second collaboration.
“I felt Gone with the Wind would last five years, and it’s lasted over 70, and into a new millennium. There is a special place in my heart for that film and Melanie. She was a remarkable character – a loving person, and because of that she was a happy person. And Scarlett, of course, was not.”
The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex garnered five Academy Award nominations, and earned a profit of $550,000. With the commendable praise that the film obtained, de Havilland was hoping for some quality parts, but instead she found herself in roles that she thought were rather restrictive. Her next financially rewarding role would come in 1940, when she was paired with Errol Flynn for the seventh time in Santa Fe Trail, which went onto become one of the top grossing films of the year.
Santa Fe Trail enjoyed an auspicious premiere at the Lensic Theatre in Santa Fe, where thousands of fans besieged surrounding areas waiting to see their idols. For some fans however, this was not to be. On the night of the premiere, Olivia de Havilland fell ill, and was rushed to hospital the following morning with appendicitis.
For years, Olivia de Havilland had been hoping for some hard earned rest, but between constant rehearsing, filming and conflicting schedules, she very rarely had time to breathe. While recuperating in hospital, de Havilland rejected any film offers that came her way. This however would lead to another suspension. On her return to Warner Brothers. de Havilland was placed in three outstanding productions in 1941, the first being The Strawberry Blonde, where she was paired with James Cagney and Rita Hayworth. In Hold Back The Dawn, her second picture of the year, she received her second Academy Award nomination, for her copacetic delivery of a school teacher.
Olivia de Havilland ended 1941 on a high note. She appeared in They Died With Their Boots On, her eighth and final film with Errol Flynn. The production was crowned the second biggest money-maker of the year. By the time the film commenced, de Havilland and Flynn were estranged due to an altercation they had the previous year. As a result, she did not intend to work with him again, and only by sheer force did she finally accept to star alongside in him in They Died With Their Boots On. Luckily this vehicle was worth while. The picture was highly received at the box office, and de Havilland walked home with a multitude of accolades.
The following year, Olivia de Havilland starred alongside Bette Davis and George Brent in In This Our Life, a film that features Davis in one of her most villainous roles as an evil sister, whose destructive nature destroys the family. While In this Our Life is compatible with a plethora of de Havilland and Davis fans, the film was mostly panned on it’s release. During production, de Havilland and director John Huston became romantically involved. Their relationship would come to an end three years later.
Olivia de Havilland, who was constantly unsatisfied with the roles that she was being given was longing for a deep complex role that would display her versatility and potential as an actress. Most of the time she was discouraged when all she was cast in was roles where she played a sweet ingenue. For once she wanted something that she could sink her teeth into. Finally, Jack Warner handed her a script of a movie that she was actually contented with. The film was Princess O’Rourke, a story about a European princess, who en-route to San Francisco falls in love with an American pilot.
Like her close friend, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland found herself a victim of a career barrier that forced her to mount a lawsuit on Warner Brothers. As for de Havilland however, the court case worked in her favor, and the Labor Code Section 2855, is now known as the “de Havilland Law”.
During this period, de Havilland was mostly inactive from filming. Instead she was immersed in the war effort. After joining the Hollywood Victory Canteen in May 1942, de Havilland spent most of her time travelling around the United States as part of the USO tour that she was involved with. Olivia loved expressing her patriotism, and she later garnered respect and admiration for visiting wounded soldiers in military hospitals and visiting isolated islands and battlefronts in the Pacific.
On her return to work, Olivia de Havilland was greeted with her first Academy Award for her poignant and touching portrayal of Jody Norris in To Each His Own, a perennial tear-jerking classic about an unwed mother who through unfortunate circumstances is forced to give up her only child for adoption. The film was an immediate hit, and set de Havilland on a continual pattern of success.
The year 1946 was a high period for Olivia de Havilland. On August 26th, she married Marcus Goodrich, a navy veteran, journalist, and author of the notable novel, Delilah. The couple enjoyed six years of pure bliss before their relationship endured strain and tribulations that were fuelled by Goodrich’s unstable temperament, which would ultimately lead to divorce in 1953.
In the mid 1940’s, Olivia de Havilland was mostly cast in films that ascended her star status. Her first outing was The Dark Mirror, a psychological thriller about two identical twin sisters who possess different natures. When one of the sisters commits a murder, a difficult investigation ensues until the murderer is revealed.
When it was first released, The Dark Mirror was considered too complex to be glorified as a classic, but with each passing decade, the film rose to prominence, and is now hailed as an essential piece of motion picture history among film scholars.
In addition to her memorable portrayal of Melanie in Gone With The Wind, Olivia de Havilland is primarily remembered for her unparalleled performances in The Snake Pit ( 1948 ) and The Heiress ( 1949 ). In the predecessor, de Havilland received an Academy Award nomination for her realistic depiction of Virginia Cunningham, a mentally unstable woman whose outlandish behavior sends her to a mental institution, where she finds herself ensnared by corrupt nurses who do all they can to challenge her. With the help of Dr. Kik ( Leo Genn ) Virginia tries to recall the incidents that fuelled her mental disorder.
The Snake Pit was lauded for it’s significant approach at delving into the disturbing aspects at an insane asylum, and the harsh treatment that patients ensue while trying to battle a mental illness. The film was also noted for being one of the first productions to focus on psychiatric and mental disorders.
The following year, Olivia de Havilland attained her second Academy Award for The Heiress, which tells the story of Catherine Sloper, a young naive woman, who lacks social etiquette, and remains trapped in the confined mansion of her abusive father, who views Catherine as being worthless to society. Despite the objections of her father, Catherine is eventually pursued by Morris Townsend, who is immediately captivated by her charms. When the two announce that they want to get married, Dr. Sloper forbades the idea due to his firm beliefs that Morris is a fortune hunter.
The Heiress is a cinematic staple that features a solid delivery of acting that is not able to be surpassed by any actress in motion picture history. Not only did, Olivia de Havilland obtain her second Academy Award, she also received a New York Film Critic’s Award along with a Golden Globe Award for her performance of Catherine Sloper.
Following the victorious success of The Heiress, Olivia de Havilland took a long hiatus away from filming. On December 1st, 1941, de Havilland gave birth to her first child, Benjamin, who would grow up to live a life of struggle due to being inflicted with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which he was diagnosed with at the age of nineteen. After years of suffering from the disease, Benjamin passed away on October 1st, 1991 in Paris.
During her absence from filming, de Havilland was offered many parts in movies, including the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, in which she turned down due to her commitments as a mother. She later stated that becoming a mother was the most transforming experience, and that she could not relate to the character. It wasn’t until 1950, when her family relocated to New York that de Havilland gained an interest in returning to work, but instead of starring in a movie, de Havilland decided to revisit her roots as a stage actress by appearing on Broadway. From the moment that Olivia de Havilland focused on becoming an actress, she set herself a mission that one day she would play Juliet. For de Havilland, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Just when her family were settling down in their New York tenement, a stage production of Romeo And Juliet was announced, and de Havilland immediately jumped into rehearsal. She won the role, and gave her first performance on March 11th, 1951 at the Broadhurst Theatre to a crowd of fans, who were ecstatic about witnessing the presence of their idol adorning the stage right in front of them.
Even though Romeo And Juliet never garnered her the recognition that she had hoped, Olivia de Havilland just continued on with indomitable force. She was soon sweeping the stage in George Bernard Shaw’s production of Candida at the National Theatre on Broadway. This time the reviews were more effective, and Olivia’s character appealed more to audiences. After a momentous tour that consisted of 323 additional performances, Olivia de Havilland now ranked in a pivotal position in the world of theatre.
Due to her reputable status in the entertainment industry, Olivia was receiving invites to attend many functions and events around the world. One such invitation that meant nothing at the time, but would soon have life changing consequences was from the French Government, who wanted her present at the Cannes Film Festival. Not knowing what heavenly and enchanting permanent destination was on the horizon, Olivia accepted, and traveled to the Cannes Film Festival, where she fell into the arms of Pierre Galante, who at the time was working as an executive editor for the French journal, Paris Match. For Olivia, it was love at first sight. Her and Pierre were constantly seen dating, but after a long-distance courtship and a nine month residency requirement, the media attained an outstanding news story with the announcement that Olivia de Havilland and Pierre Galante were married on April 2nd, 1955, in the village of Yvoy-le-Marron. The couple separated in 1962, but continued to live in the same house for six years to raise their children together.
“Of course the thing that staggers you when you first come to France is the fact that all the French speak French—even the children. Many Americans and Britishers who visit the country never quite adjust to this, and the idea persists that the natives speak the language just to show off or be difficult.”
Olivia de Havilland
After the move to France, where she planned to live a fulfilling and contented life with Pierre, de Havilland laid low from the movie cameras. Apart from appearing in a few films, she mostly took time off to tend to her marriage and their new three-story house that is situated in the Rive Droit section of Paris.
Shortly after her appearance alongside Frank Sinatra in the hospital drama, Not As A Stranger ( 1955 ), Olivia de Havilland fell pregnant with her second child, a baby girl, who she called, Gisele, born, July 18th, 1956.
Two years after giving birth to Gisele, Olivia de Havilland returned to the big screen when she appeared in, The Proud Rebel, a notable western that was directed by Michael Curtiz. The film boasted wide encomium, and was praised by critics, who looked favorably on Olivia’s performance for being able to convey the warmth, affection and the sturdiness that was needed for the role.
While The Proud Rebel brought her the financial gain that she needed, Olivia reached her pinnacle with her next film, Light In The Piazza, which escalated her prestige status that was starting to flounder after her unrecognized performances in the two commercial failures she appeared in before giving birth to her daughter. In Light In The Piazza, Olivia played a mother who is vacationing in Italy with her mentally disabled daughter, who is being pursued by a young Italian.
As the 1960’s progressed, Olivia’s box-office appeal began to diminish. She starred in a few films during this period, but most of them failed to bring her the acclaim that she needed. Her most consummate performance from this decade was in 1964 when Bette Davis implored director, Robert Aldrich to hire de Havilland to replace Joan Crawford in the role of Miriam Deering in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte ( 1964 ).
“The great lesson I learned from Bette was her absolute dedication to getting everything just right. She used to spend hours studying the character she was going to play, then hours in make-up ensuring that her physical appearance was right for the part. I have always tried to put the same amount of work into everything I’ve done.”
Olivia de Havilland on Bette Davis
Like Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte was an unexpected success at the box-office, and garnered seven Academy Award nominations. If it weren’t for de Havilland, who agreed to replace Joan Crawford, who left production due to illness,the film would have been suspended indefinitely.
After Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Olivia de Havilland fell into relapse. As with the case of most stars of her caliber, film roles for people of her age group were scarce, and became more and more difficult to find. Despite her disdain of the medium, de Havilland relied on television work to assist with financial security.
During her years on television, Olivia de Havilland experienced a plethora of memorable moments. When it comes to her appearances on the small screen, for some people she is best remembered for her portrayal of Mrs. Warner in the ABC miniseries, Roots: The Next Generations, while others have developed fond memories of Olivia in The Screaming Woman or her first television production, Noon Wine.
Around the same time, de Havilland began doing speaking engagements in cities across the United States with a talk entitled, From The City Of The Stars To The City Of Light. She also enjoyed attending tributes to Gone With The Wind, and attending premieres of recent releases. In 1979, she starred in The Fifth Musketeer, which marked her final film appearance.
In the years that followed her departure from acting, Olivia de Havilland has remained largely active during her retirement. In the early 21st century, she traveled to the United States, where she underwent interviews, and celebrated her 90th birthday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2006. During the years that have progressed, de Havilland continues to maintain a happy and congenial lifestyle in Paris, where she has lived since 1953. For the occasion of her 100th Birthday on Friday, Olivia de Havilland spoke to interviews about her life and career, and revealed to truth about the alleged sibling rivalry between her and her sister, Joan Fontaine, who passed away on December 15th, 2013.
Here’s to you Olivia. Wishing you many more years of happiness.
After months of being enthused and sitting in high anticipation, two time Oscar winner, Olivia de Havilland, who is best known by many for her role as Melanie Hamilton in Gone With The Wind has now officially reached her monumental milestone year.
It’s not often that a notable star who held a prominent reign over Hollywood’s golden age lives to celebrate the welcoming of their 100th Birthday, but Olivia who has spent most of her time living in Paris with no existing health issues is fortunate to attain her 100th year crown. Her plethora of fans worldwide are just as excited as Olivia is, and to mark her centenary tribute, Laura from Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and myself from In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood are elated to be honoring Lady Olivia on her very special day.
My co-host and I are looking forward to reading all the entries written by the participating bloggers to celebrate the life and career of this legendary prolific actress, who exuded a unique quality combined with an infinite of charm that continues to emanate a sparkling glow through television screens worldwide.
So without further ado, let’s get onto the entries. Below is the roster that will get updated as each post comes in. Here’s to you Olivia on your 100th Birthday.
Silver Screenings writes about Olivia de Havilland’s visit to The Snake Pit
In an electrifying production, we are introduced to the picturesque scenery of Key Largo, the fury of nature as a fierce hurricane is about to approach, and the major dispute between a set of gangsters. All this and more takes place in a dark and gloomy hotel where the cyclone that’s evolving outside is nothing compared to the storm that’s brewing inside.
John Huston’s Key Largo plays a pivotal part in motion picture history. Released in 1948, and starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in their fourth and final collaboration together, this enduring classic is a quintessential addition from the Film Noir repertoire.
Coined by French critic, Nino Frank, the term Film Noir means dark or black films that represent crime, murder and mysteries with stories that revolve around femme fatales, cynical characters, cold realists, detectives or doomed and anti-heroes. This certain genre was largely in existence during the 1940’s and 1950’s, when accustomed stars like Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford and Lauren Bacall dominated the field.
Based on a 1939 Broadway play by Maxwell Anderson, the renowned playwright, who succeeded in journalism, writing, and poetry among an array of other subjects, Key Largo proved to be one of those stage productions that displayed his virtuosity as a dramatist. The play showcased his extensive use of blank verse, which along with his skillful technique helped it’s profitable run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
With the success of the stage production, the films producer, Jerry Wald purchased the rights to the play, and implored, John Huston to adapt it into a motion picture. Huston agreed, and viewed it as a great starring vehicle for Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall to play off against Edward G. Robinson, Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor, but as time progressed, Huston’s patience exacerbated when the flaws and inadequacies in the play fuelled his anger, which resulted in him refusing Jerry Wald entry onto the set.
While John Huston was beginning to succumb to the difficulties that ensued during production, Lauren Bacall documented Key Largo as one of her happiest movie experiences. In the months prior to filming, Bacall’s career was struggling to follow the path of triumph and eminence that she had initially anticipated after the success of her first two vehicles with Humphrey Bogart. To help resurrect her floundering stature, Bacall was yearning to work with Bogart’s frequent director, John Huston, who was known for his masterful camera approach and inventiveness.
Lauren Bacall’s unyielding determination finally came to a head a few weeks later when John Huston announced that her and Bogart were assigned the central roles in his upcoming production, Key Largo. Bacall automatically agreed. She was looking forward to working with Bogart again. She was also enthused about starring alongside acting veteran, Lionel Barrymore, whom she had always admired for his sheer versatility and his colorful origins. A few weeks into filming, Lauren Bacall met Ethel Barrymore when she visited the set. Bacall who had idolized Ethel since her theatre-going days in New York was instantly captivated by her luminous presence and her affable personality. After their first encounter, the two became close friends, and Ethel Barrymore was now a frequent guest at Bogart and Bacall’s dinner parties.
For a film that was a hot commodity for Warner Brothers, it only took three weeks to rehearse and shoot. The expedite filming process was largely due to the sufficient cast and their cooperative team work. Everyone was compatible with one another. Humphrey Bogart who was certainly accustomed to working with Edward G. Robinson enjoyed their role reversal, and took great pleasure in portraying characters with duel personalities. Lionel Barrymore benefited from the cordial environment, and felt at ease working with such a friendly group of people who all possessed amiable qualities. In real life, Lionel Barrymore was terribly lonely. He had been suffering from arthritis and confined to a wheelchair for years. His legs unceasingly pained him, but even though he was always enduring discomfort, he never complained, being the pro that he was, he just continued on with his job. Lauren Bacall however, broke the monotony of the repetitive filming pattern by serving tea and cookies in her dressing room, a kind gesture that the entire cast and crew savored, especially Lionel Barrymore, who relished these gatherings, and always remained jovial when it came to regaling the group with theatrical stories.
“I adored him. He was wonderful – wonderful. He was one of those people who pretends he doesn’t need anyone and doesn’t care, but is so thoughtful, so kind. I use to serve tea in my dressing room every afternoon, and the whole cast would come in – Eddie Robinson, Bogey, Claire Trevor. Lionel had to sit outside the door in his wheelchair, but he looked forward to those tea parties, always came, really enjoyed himself. And when Bogey’s and my first son was born, he sent him a silver engraved porringer and cup, which I mean from Lionel Barrymore was something.”
( Lauren Bacall on Lionel Barrymore )
The film follows the story of Frank McCloud ( Humphrey Bogart ) a disillusioned war veteran, who travels to Key Largo to visit James Temple ( Lionel Barrymore ) the father of his friend, George Temple, who was killed in action while serving in the Italian campaign. On his arrival, he expectedly meets, Georges’s widowed wife, Nora ( Lauren Bacall ) who along with James helps run the Hotel Largo.
When it is announced that a hurricane is expected to badger Florida, Frank takes the advice of the Temple’s, and decides to spend the night at their hotel. Problems arise when he discovers that the hotel is being taken over by Johnny Rocco ( Edward G. Robinson ) and his gangster friends, who all hold them hostage until the storm passes.
Key Largo may not be the most memorable of the Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall vehicles, but it sure does pack a punch. What the film lacks in sexual chemistry between Bogart and Bacall, it makes up in verbal dispute with Edward G. Robinson as the antagonist playing off against Bogart in a game of cat and mouse.
Neither Humphrey Bogart or Lauren Bacall have outstanding parts. While they are effective in their roles by delivering commendable performances, it is Edward G. Robinson who steals the screen and dominates most of the picture. Robinson who causes nothing but corruption all through out the storm will stop at nothing to retain his confidence. On the exterior, Johnny Rocco is a tough gangster on the run, who was supposedly exiled to Cuba before he was prohibited from the country, but on the inside, Johnny Rocco is a man whose fear begins to monopolize his entire existence. He will transmit impertinent dialogue, and he will threaten everyone who is metaphorically trapped within the confines of Hotel Largo during the hurricane, and he will most certainly display tenacious force, but in short, Johnny Rocco tries to inconspicuously cower under Frank McCloud, who is tough and resilient.
“You don’t like it, do you Rocco, the storm? Show it your gun, why don’t you? If it doesn’t stop, shoot it.”
( Humphrey Bogart as Frank McCloud )
Audiences at this time were use to Lauren Bacall playing sultry femme fatales, and Bogart’s love interest. Instead what we witness in Key Largo is something completely different. As Nora Temple, the widow of McCloud’s army friend, Bacall is an amiable strong woman, who is resolute and inhabits a rather defiant nature. Without actually highlighting the fact, we get the impression that Nora is wary and cautious about falling in love with someone who might try to steal George’s place in her heart, but as the night progresses, Nora begins to yield to Frank’s charms.
Lionel Barrymore is one of the main focal points of the production for me. His character as the wheelchair bound, James Temple is complaisant and very protective. He loves Nora like she is his own daughter, and he sees Frank McCloud as a great companion for Nora. But while he is usually convivial, he displays a fighty side, as he abandons his wheelchair for a short moment while he tries to wrestle with Johnny Rocco.
Claire Trevor, who was known for her hard-boiled characters that often possessed a callous nature attained an Academy Award for her portrayal of Johnny Rocco’s former lover, Gaye Dawn, the alcohol dependent ex lounge singer, who solely relies on the bottle to pull her through the daily hardships of life.
On it’s release, Key Largo was a monumental success. The film was lauded for it’s distinguished cast, and it’s use of portentous and sinister dialogue that is wrapped around it’s impressive cinematography.
The film has continued to evoke an interest in today’s popular culture. In 1981, Bertie Higgins critically acclaimed hit song, Key Largo about the passionate romance between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall is heavily influenced by the film.
Key Largo is a worthy example of Film Noir. From the dreary hotel, where the atmosphere is foreboding, to the menacing gangsters, who all come alive during a ferocious hurricane, this is a perfect fit into the genre.
A high point of the film comes when Robinson’s alcoholic former moll, ex-nightclub singer “Gaye Dawn”, played by Claire Trevor, is forced by Rocco to sing a song a cappellabefore he will allow her to have a drink. Trevor was nervous about the scene, and assumed that she would be lip-syncing to someone else’s voice. She kept after director Huston, wanting to rehearse the song, but he put her off, saying “There’s plenty of time,” until one afternoon he told her that they would shoot the scene right then, without any rehearsal. She was given her starting note from a piano, and, in front of the rest of the cast and the crew, sang the song. It was this raw take that was used in the film.
Exterior shots of the hurricane were taken from stock footage used in Night Unto Night, a Ronald Reagan melodrama, also produced in 1948.
The boat used by Rocco’s gang to depart Key Largo, with Bogart’s character at the helm, is named the Santana, which was also the name of Bogart’s personal 55-foot (17 m) sailing yacht.
Humphrey Bogart: Born Humphrey DeForest Bogart on December 25th, 1899 in New York City. Died: January 14th, 1957, in Los Angeles, California. Aged 57.
Lauren Bacall: Born Betty Joan Perske on September 16th, 1924, in The Bronx, New York. Died: August 12th, 2014, in New York. Aged 89.
Edward G. Robinson: Born Emanuel Goldenberg on December 12th, 1893 in Bucharest, Romania. Died: January 26th, 1973 in Los Angeles, California. Aged 79.
Lionel Barrymore: Born Lionel Herbert Blythe on April 28th, 1878 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Died: November 15th, 1954 in Van Nuys, California. Aged 76.
Claire Trevor: Born Claire Wemlinger on March 8th, 1910 in Brooklyn, New York. Died: April 8th, 2000 in Newport Beach, California.
When discussing classic movie star crushes, John Barrymore is not usually an actor that appears on the list of heartthrobs, but for several years now, this elegant human being with his lush sex appeal, majestic charm and his distinctive side profile has continued to surface my preoccupied mind.
Many years have passed since my passion for classic cinema first evolved. During that time I have met and corresponded with a plethora of film enthusiasts worldwide, and each and everyone of them marvel over the likes and sexual attractiveness of a certain movie star, but ever since the day that I first embarked on this journey through the magical world of the silver screen, I have never encountered anyone who is infatuated in John Barrymore.
Some might think it strange that somebody my age would swoon over John Barrymore, an actor whose alcoholism eclipsed his fame and popularity, but when you happen to be a fan-girl like me, you dismiss all that negative talk that has in someway overshadowed his stature. Instead of focusing on the tormented soul that made Barrymore release the demons through drinking, you witness his stately exterior along with his powerful magnetism that he displayed on screen.
Once you look past all that, what you see is pure magic. John Barrymore embodied all the manly qualities that entices me. Apart from being three dimensional, he was extremely handsome. He was suave, he was masculine, and he exuded an air of sophistication that he carried with him at all times, but in addition to all that, he was also ultimately tragic.
Away from the camera, John Barrymore led a very storied life. His background was just as colorful as his on-screen persona. Born on February 15th, 1882 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Barrymore hailed from an illustrious family that consisted of a legion of show business personalities. His grandmother, Louisa Lane Drew was a highly esteemed stage actress, who owned the famous Arch Street Theatre, and his parents, Maurice and Georgie flourished in the arts, but the most famous of this theatrical family was John, and his siblings, Ethel and Lionel, who emanated an alluring sparkle over Hollywood and the entertainment industry.
Initially John had his sights set on being a painter, a profession that seemed inferior to his family, who were immersed in the arts. However, when that idea fell through, and when he finally did decide to embark on a career as an actor, he was often lauded for his sheer versatility and his willingness to portray intense macabre characters that a lot of stars of his caliber tried to elude.
On-screen, John Barrymore was delicious eye candy. Along with being debonair, he was usually always nonchalant, but in addition to that, he had a smooth, polished and refined voice that gracefully supplemented his worldly and expressive characteristics. In short, he epitomized the perfect gentleman. Why wouldn’t a girl like me fall in love with him?
I was first introduced to John Barrymore when I discovered Grand Hotel years ago, and from the moment I first laid eyes on this legendary actor, who was adorning the screen right in front of me, I was immediately captivated by his alluring charm and sex appeal. After that one performance, I instantly had to delve into his filmography.
In Grand Hotel, John Barrymore is exceedingly gorgeous as the aristocratic, penniless Baron, who is living in genteel poverty. Inside, the Baron is a thief, who is inflicted by sadness and desperation, and spends his time searching for money and jewels, but winds up falling in love with a cultured but temperamental ballerina. On the outside however, the Baron is an amiable character that in truth really has a heart of gold.
Don Juan ( 1926 ) is a film that represents eroticism in every sense of the word. If this doesn’t get you sexually aroused, I don’t know what does. Here you see John Barrymore masquerading around in skin tights in a rather provocative state whilst he exudes an aura of sexuality.
In Arsene Lupin, John Barrymore is suave, charismatic, sophisticated and an intelligent human being that inhabits an air of mystery. It is enlightening to watch him play off with Lionel Barrymore as they both get embroiled in criminal actions.
Many people would probably disagree with me here, but Twentieth Century ( 1934 ) is another film where Barrymore’s presence fixates my attention. John Barrymore as Oscar Jaffe is not only classy and elegant, but watching him spoofing a Svengali role is beguiling. There is nothing better than watching an overwrought John Barrymore shamelessly hamming it up, and getting swept into many endless tirades.
In Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde ( 1920 ), John Barrymore looks very sprucely and dapper as Henry Jekyll, the highly respected doctor of medicine, who spends his time treating the poor and experimenting in his laboratory, but along with all that charm, there is also a lot of spice when Barrymore unleashes the heinous, and metamorphoses himself into the hideous, Edward Hyde, an abominable creature, who becomes more violent and depraved with each occurring minute.
Of course, there are other movies where I swoon over John Barrymore, but if I was to list them all, this post would be never-ending. For those of you who haven’t had the chance to witness the powerful and debonair force known as John Barrymore, please do yourself a favor and treat yourself to his electrifying performances. All I can say is, John Barrymore has certainly enriched my movie-going experience.