THE FOURTH ANNUAL BETTE DAVIS BLOGATHON HAS ARRIVED

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Today would have been Bette’s 111th birthday. For the occasion, I’m proud to be honoring Bette with a blogathon for the fourth consecutive year.

Bloggers, once you have completed your entries, please submit them on the comments section below or via email, and I will showcase them as soon as I can. Thank you.

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Without further adu, here are the entries for this years Bette Davis Blogathon. This is for you Bette wherever you are. Happy Heavenly Birthday to my favorite actress.

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Down These Mean Streets gets the party started with her post on one my all time favorite movies, All About Eve ( 1950 )

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Maddy Loves Her Classic Films pens a tribute to Bette in Now Voyager ( 1942 )

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Poppity Talks Classic Films joins the party with her delightful article on Bette in The Star ( 1952 )

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Love Letters To Old Hollywood discovers another Bette film with 1937’s Marked Woman.

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Real Weegie Midget Reviews talks about Bette’s performance in Madame Sin ( 1972 )

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I Found It At The Movies has arrived with Bette in The Letter ( 1940 )

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The Wonderful World of Cinema spotlights Bette in Of Human Bondage ( 1934 )

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The Stop Button gives an honest and insightful review of The Scapegoat ( 1959 )

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Wolffian Classic Movies Digest pays tribute to his all time favorite actress, Bette Davis.

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Caftan Woman embarks on a journey on the Wagon Train with Bette in The Ella Lindstrom Story ( 1959 )

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Dubsism discovers the link between Bette Davis and Baseballer, Harmon Killebrew.

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Taking Up Room shines the spotlight on one of my personal favorite movies, Dark Victory ( 1939 )

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Stars and Letters discusses the on-screen aging of Bette Davis.

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Silver Screen Classics talks about Bette’s Oscar winning performance in Dangerous ( 1935 )

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The Dream Book Blog taps into Bette’s intense portrayal of Regina Giddens in The Little Foxes ( 1941 )

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The Lonely Critic tells us about The Man Who Came To Dinner ( 1942 )

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For his first of three posts, Movie Rob reviews Dangerous ( 1935 )

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Movie Rob is back with his second of three posts. This time he tells us about the time Bette collided with Lillian Gish in The Whales of August ( 1987 )

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Vitaphone Dreamer tells us to fasten our seat-belts, because she’s bringing us All About Eve ( 1950 )

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Cinematic Scribblings joins Bette and Debbie in The Catered Affair ( 1956 )

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Critica Retro also presents Of Human Bondage ( 1934 )

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Karavansara visits the twilight years of Bette Davis with The Watcher In the Woods ( 1980 )

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Poppity Talks Classic Films introduces us to Mr. Skeffington ( 1944 )

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Overture Books and Films analyzes one of Bette’s most underrated films, The Corn Is Green ( 1945 )

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Pale Writer joins the party with Bette in Now Voyager ( 1942 )

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Pale Writer has returned with a comparison between A Stolen Life & Dead Ringer.

Screen Dreams has arrived with Bette’s Academy Award winning performance in Jezebel ( 1938 )

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JANE AND ROBERT SPAWN MAGIC IN BAREFOOT IN THE PARK ( 1967 )

“Bob was trying to impress everyone that he hadn’t gone Hollywood, so to speak, now that I look back on it. He had played Paul Bratter for so many performances on Broadway and, I think, come to hate the character, who had none of his sense of whimsy and humor. He might have tried to impress upon people a bit too hard that he was this wild, crazy guy, when he really wasn’t. Fun, yes, but not as zany as all that.”

( Gene Saks )

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On August 26th, 2018, the world was left in mourning when legendary playwright, Neil Simon passed away at the age of 91. During his career that spanned sixty-two years, Simon was responsible for successfully penning several plays that would ultimately evolve into triumphant cinematic classics.

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Audiences worldwide are familiar with most of Simon’s work, but it was his prolific efforts behind the 1967 film Barefoot in the Park that made the biggest impact on his career. At the time of the films release, Simon was still only a newcomer to the entertainment medium, though this was about to change. With the success of the production, Neil Simon was destined to catapult to the highest pinnacle.

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Barefoot in the Park first originated on Broadway in 1963. The play was written by Neil Simon, and ran for a total of 1,530 performances before closing on June 25th, 1967 to critical acclaim. In the stage version, Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley donned the famous roles of Corie and Paul Bratter, but in the film, Ashley was replaced by Jane Fonda while Redford reprised his role on screen. The films supporting actress Mildred Natwick played the role of Corie’s mother on stage, and when it came to hiring cast members for the film adaptation, casting Natwick in the role of Ethel was a no-brainer.

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From the onset, the film was expected to be financially successful at the box-office. Directed by Gene Saks, who was known for his professional association with Neil Simon, and written for the screen by Simon himself, Barefoot in the Park provided viewers with quality entertainment that was put together by stars of the highest magnitude.

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Actress Jane Fonda was born into a family that was strongly anchored by fame and acting. Her father Henry Fonda was one of the brightest stars to ever come out of Hollywood’s golden age, while her mother Frances gracefully moved around in society circles. Both Jane and her brother Peter would inherit their fathers talent and would go on to pursue successful careers in motion pictures.

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Jane Fonda’s co-star, Robert Redford is a highly revered member of the entertainment industry. Like many stars, Redford started out as an aspiring actor whose most pivotal goal was to achieve fame. His big break came in 1963 when he secured the role of the stuffy Paul Bratter in the stage production of Barefoot in the Park. After being steeped in acclamation, Redford continued to follow a road that would lead to even greater opportunities on stage and film. With the triumph of his latest performances, it was no surprise that Robert Redford was hired to reprise his role of Paul Bratter in the film adaptation of Neil Simon’s 1963 play.

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Even though both the film and the play were expertly crafted with Neil Simon’s signature hallmark, the plot is simple yet intriguing. Set in the hustle and bustle of New York City, Barefoot in the Park tells of the story of Corie and Paul Bratter ( Jane Fonda and Robert Redford ), a newlywed couple who experience the turbulent side of marriage when they move into their first home, a fifth floor apartment in Greenwich Village, which is cramped and leaky with a broken skylight and a flight of steep stairs to reach it. The condition of the apartment creates many obstacles, but the free spirited Corie who finds adventure in everything, is determined to transform the dilapidated dwelling into a home for the two of them, while her stuffy husband, Paul struggles to come to terms with the occurring dilemmas.

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Neil Simon was a playwright who preferred his stories to echo back to his past. In a large majority of his works, Simon depicts a more grittier side of life rather than looking through the lens at the idyllic world that is so often captured on celluloid. What Simon presents in Barefoot in the Park is an authentic character study of two human beings who deeply love each other, but are plagued with a set of difficulties that threaten to thwart their marriage.

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Barefoot in the Park benefits from its representation of realism, but what really makes it succeed is the fact that the film is tinged with plenty of wit and banter. Neil Simon was adroit at infusing comedic elements into sordid tales or conditions and making them entertaining. This is clearly epitomized when Corie turns her dreary living existence into an adventure. The atmosphere of their new apartment is far from congenial. The place is small. The rain and the snow comes in through the broken skylight, and the five flights of stairs to reach their home is a huge inconvenience. In addition to all that, the neighbors are eccentric and mysterious, but despite all these burdens, Corie is determined to make the most of what they have.

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Barefoot in the Park marks the second of four collaborations between Jane Fonda and Robert Redford. The two previously worked together in The Chase ( 1966 ) and would go onto make The Electric Horseman ( 1979 ) and Our Souls at Night ( 2017 ). In her autobiography, My Life So Far, Fonda states “I was very happy to be working with Bob Redford again and looking forward to our cuddling-in-the-cold-apartment scenes, something I hadn’t gotten a chance to do in The Chase. There’s something about Bob that’s impossible not to fall in love with. We’ve made three films together, and each time I was smitten, utterly twitter-pated, couldn’t wait to get to work, wouldn’t even get made when he was habitual one to two hours late. He never knew it of course. Nothing ever happened between us except that we always had a good time working together.”

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The making of Barefoot in the Park was memorable for Jane Fonda. The actress later recalled that she liked the intimate working environment and the amicable relationship she shared with her co-stars.

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“You’re almost nearly perfect.”

“That’s a rotten thing to say.”

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The close relationship between the two stars shines through in their performances. Both Fonda and Redford have that luring and magnetic chemistry that makes them appear credible. A lot of this has to do with Redford’s reluctantness and Jane’s willingness to film love scenes. In all honesty, it actually makes their on-screen romance appear more authentic.

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Initially, Barefoot in the Park was designed as a starring vehicle for Natalie Wood, who had previously worked with Robert Redford twice before in Inside Daisy Clover ( 1965 ) and This Property Is Condemned ( 1966 ). However, Wood had different ideas. She was planning to take a long hiatus away from filming and therefore would not be available to fulfill the role of Corie Bratter. This created a few difficulties for the studio who was still adamant about casting Natalie Wood, but were forced to consider other actresses for the role, including Yvette Mimieux and Sandra Dee. Finally the search was over when producer Hal B. Wallis hired Jane Fonda, who he thought was the only star that could curb Redford’s insecurities.

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In addition to Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, the film features stellar performances from Charles Boyer and Mildred Natwick, who lend solid support to the production. This was to be one of Boyer’s final film credits. After Barefoot in the Park, he would go on to appear in seven more pictures, but none of these vehicles left much of an impact on his career.

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On the other hand, Mildred Natwick continued to work prolifically after Barefoot in the Park. Her last film role was in Dangerous Liaisons  ( 1988 ), where she played Madame de Rosemonde. The picture was a commercial success and was the perfect way for Natwick to take her final bow. The actress died six years later on October 25th, 1994 at the age of 89.

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What makes the presence of Charles Boyer and Mildred Natwick so captivating is their chemistry. Although Boyer was past his prime, he still had the power to spawn magic and forge a beautiful romance with Natwick. It’s always a delight when the movies augment a blossoming relationship between two older people. Most films tend to focus on the young or teenage love affairs, but in Barefoot in the Park we are given a glimpse into two different types of romances – the relationship between Paul and Corie Bratter as well as Victor and Ethel’s developing friendship.

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“I feel like we’ve died and gone to heaven – only we had to climb up.”

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Although Victor and Ethel are not entirely compatible, they are well suited to each other and they work as a great support team. Despite being polar opposites with Victor leading a bohemian lifestyle while Ethel lives in loneliness, Corie feels that Victor just might be the cure for her mothers solitary existence. In many ways she is right. I personally see Victor as being Ethel’s pillar of strength. He breaks her boredom and provides her with comfort and helps her find much deserved happiness. For her performance, Mildred Natwick received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, but lost to Estelle Parsons, who attained the Oscar that year for Bonnie and Clyde. 

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After the success of Barefoot in the Park, Jane Fonda catapulted to great heights. Before donning the famous role of Corie Bratter, Fonda was mostly cast in menial films that did nothing to enhance her box-office appeal. Now, the public began to recognize her as an actress instead of Henry Fonda’s daughter. This was a huge achievement, and it’s one of those pictures that Fonda herself is most proud of.

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TRIVIA

It is believed that Neil Simon based the play on his first marriage to Joan Baim.

Robert Redford loathed wearing a suit and tie all day which was required for his character. During breaks between filming, Redford wore western boots and a black cowboy hat.

This is one of Jane Fonda’s favorites of her own films. She once tweeted, “too bad we never got Neil Simon to do a sequel… those characters 40 years later”

When Jane Fonda is shown going up the stairs to her apartment, they used the same footage of her for every floor she climbs. As she nears the top of the stairs, every hallway flooring (right beside the spindles), has the exact same damage done to it, and a wrinkle or tear in the hallway carpet runner is in the exact same place on every level.

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CAST

Jane Fonda: Born, Jane Seymour Fonda on December 21st, 1937 in New York City.

Robert Redford: Born, Charles Robert Redford Jr. on August 18th, 1936 in Santa Monica, California.

Charles Boyer: Born, Charles Boyer on August 28th, 1899 in Figeac, Lot, France. Died: Auguust 26th, 1978 in Phoenix, Arizona. Aged. 78.

Mildred Natwick: Born, Mildred Natwick on June 19th, 1905 in Baltimore, Maryland. Died: October 25th, 1994 in Manhattan, New York. Aged. 89.

 

 

 

ANNOUNCING THE JOAN BENNETT BLOGATHON

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As you all would have guessed by now, I’m addicted to hosting blogathons. The thought of honoring a star who I’m passionate about is something that means a lot to me. It is even more thrilling when the honoree is extremely underrated and desperately needs to be put back on the radar.

The star that I’m honoring this time around is the legendary Joan Bennett, a wonderful actress whose indelible talents graced a myriad of successful films during Hollywood’s golden age. Although she is best known for her collaborations with Fritz Lang, and for being the sister of Constance and Barbara Bennett, Joan herself is first-rate and spawned magic whenever she appeared on screen.

Joan Bennett is one of my absolute favorite actresses. It is for this reason that I’ve been wanting to host a blogathon dedicated to her for a long time , but sadly I was unable to hold it for her birthday on February 27th, and her death anniversary on December 7th is a long way off, and I simply can’t wait for that long, so I’ve decided to spotlight Joan in July.

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FOR THOSE BLOGGERS WHO WISH TO JOIN THE BLOGATHON, THERE ARE SOME RULES THAT MUST BE ADHERED TO. PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING.

1. You can write about anything relating to Joan Bennett, from her illustrious body of work, her collaborations with Fritz Lang, her relationship with her sister Constance, her friendship with Humphrey Bogart and others to whatever topic piques your interest.

2. Even though there are an array of topics to go around, I’m allowing two duplicates only. The only thing I ask is that there be no more than three entries per person.

3. The blogathon will take place on July 19th – 21st, 2019. Please submit your posts on any of those dates. If you wish to post early, that’s fine, though I won’t link the posts until the day the blogathon arrives.

4. To express your interest in participating in the blogathon, leave a comment on my blog, along with the name and URL of your blog, and the subject you wish to cover, or you can always register by email at: carolelombardforever@yahoo.com. For those of you who wish to register by email, please be sure to include the name and URL of your blog, and the topic you wish to cover. Once you get confirmation, please choose one of the banners and advertise it on your blog. Thank you. I look forward to hearing from you.

SUBJECTS THAT HAVE BEEN CLAIMED THE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF TIMES:

THE RECKLESS MOMENT ( 1949 )

ME AND MY GAL ( 1932 )

SCARLET STREET ( 1945 )

 

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THE ROSTER

IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS OF CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD – PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO JOAN & TBA.

THE STOP BUTTON – THE RECKLESS MOMENT ( 1949 )

A SHROUD OF THOUGHTS – THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW ( 1944 )

CAROLE & CO – JOAN BENNETT AND CAROLE LOMBARD IN “POWER” ( 1928 )

SILVER SCREEN CLASSICS – SCARLET STREET ( 1945 )

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF CINEMA – ME AND MY GAL ( 1932 )

DUBSISM – THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK ( 1939 )

POPPITY TALKS CLASSIC FILMS – THE WIFE TAKES A FLYER ( 1942 )

REAL WEEGIE MIDGET REVIEWS – SUSPIRIA ( 1977 )

PALE WRITER – THE RECKLESS MOMENT ( 1949 )

MUSINGS OF A CLASSIC FILM ADDICT – TWO IN A CROWD ( 1936 )

CRITICA RETRO – LITTLE WOMEN ( 1933 )

CAFTAN WOMAN – MAN HUNT ( 1941 )

APPRECIATING JOAN BENNETT – THE THUNDERING WAVE ( 1957 ) FROM PLAYHOUSE 90

TAKING UP ROOM – HOLLOW TRIUMPH ( 1948 )

OVERTURE BOOKS AND FILMS – ME AND MY GAL ( 1932 )

PARKER BENA ( THE GRANDSON OF JOAN BENNETT ) – GROWING UP WITH JOAN BENNETT

THE MIDNIGHT DRIVE-IN – SCARLET STREET ( 1945 )

ANYBODY GOT A MATCH? – THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW ( 1955 )

ROSANGELA B. GOZ: GUEST POST ON “IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS OF CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD – JOAN’S POPULARITY IN BRAZIL.

The 2nd Marathon Stars Blogathon – Day 3

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We’ve finally reached the last day of the 2nd Marathon Stars Blogathon that I’m hosting with Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Samantha from Musings of A Classic Film Addict. This blogathon is the perfect occasion for its participants to discover an actor or an actress they aren’t too familiar with.

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So far I’ve read some wonderful articles that were published on day  1 and day 2 and can’t wait to read more about your discoveries!

And here are your lovely entries!

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Christine from Overture Books and Films explore six Joan Leslie films she hadn’t seen before!

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Make sure to check the articles posted on day 1 and day 2.

Many thanks to all the participants of this blogathon and to my wonderful co-host Crystal and Samantha. You all made this possible!

See you!

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THE MARATHON STARS BLOGATHON: DAY 2 RECAP

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The spectacular blogging event that provides us with the opportunity to delve into the filmography of a certain actor or actress who we are not that familiar with, has finally arrived. This fantastic idea was the brainchild of the wonderful Virginie from The Wonderful World of Cinema. The blogathon was first launched back in 2016 with Virginie and I co-hosting. The time we are joined by film enthusiast Samantha from Musings of a Classic Film Addict.

As I previously stated on my announcement post, discovering new stars is like discovering a pot of gold. There is something rewarding about witnessing the talents and on-screen presence of an individual who you once dismissed or who you haven’t seen before. For this event I chose Linda Darnell. She’s my Mother’s namesake, but before watching her in A Letter to Three Wives for the first time last year I had always dismissed her for some reason. After exposing myself to her work, I can now honestly say that Linda is cemented in a reputable position on my list of favorite actresses.

I hope that all participants were impressed by the body of work that was amassed by the star of your choice. I know I was, and I’m excited to hear about your discoveries. For those bloggers who are submitting articles today, Please send them into me and I will add it today’s recap. If you want to view the entries from yesterday, please visit Samantha’s blog, where the day one entries are showcased. All posts published tomorrow must be sent to Virginie. Thank you, and now I kindly present Day Two’s discoveries.

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THE MARATHON STARS BLOGATHON ENTRIES

Poppity Talks Classic Films has expanded her old Hollywood knowledge by discovering the best films of Irene Dunne.

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Wide Screen World explores the work of the Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan.

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Vintage Genevieve delves into the films of Clara Bow.

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Popcorn & Flickers embarked on his first journey into the films of James Cagney.

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ANNOUNCING THE ROSALIND RUSSELL BLOGATHON

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Legendary actress, Rosalind Russell endured a successful tenure in motion pictures. In a career that spanned over forty years, Russell displayed her versatility and unique brand of artistry in a diverse range of roles, such as, Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday, Mame Dennis in Auntie Mame and Lavinia Mannon in Mourning Becomes Electra, in which she attained a Golden Globe for her performance.

Despite her prolific contribution to motion pictures, Rosalind Russell appears to be somewhat underrated compared to a majority of her contemporaries. For as long as I can remember, my Mother and Grandmother have been enamored by the talents and on-screen presence of the great actress, and when I began to express an interest in classic cinema they encouraged me to delve into her filmography. My Mother has fond memories of watching The Trouble With Angels as a child, and she was eager to introduce my brother and I to the enduring family classic that has been embedded in her memory ever since her first viewing.

On June 4th of this year, Rosalind Russell would have been 112 years old. For the occasion, I’ve decided to host a blogathon dedicated to the great actress. The instrumental force behind this idea was no other than Mum and Grandma, who suggested that my next blogathon honoree be Rosalind Russell. Needless to say, I agreed. Rosalind sure is worthy of a blogathon.

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FOR THOSE BLOGGERS WHO WISH TO JOIN THE BLOGATHON, THERE ARE SOME RULES THAT MUST BE ADHERED TO. PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING.

1. Bloggers are welcome to write about any film starring Rosalind Russell, or any aspect of her life and career that piques your interest. If you have a topic in mind but not sure whether its suitable, just run it by me, and I will gladly help. As always, I encourage bloggers to think outside the square.

2. For this blogathon, I am allowing no more than two duplicates, so in order to get the topic of your preference, act fast. Also, I won’t limit how many posts you want to do, but I do ask that there be no more than three entries per person.

3. As stated above, the blogathon will take place on June 4th – 6th, 2019. Please submit your posts on any of those dates. If you wish to post early, that’s fine, though I won’t link the posts until the day the blogathon arrives.

4. To express your interest in participating in the blogathon, leave a comment on my blog, along with the name and URL of your blog, and the subject you wish to cover, or you can always register by email at: carolelombardforever@yahoo.com. For those of you who wish to register by email, please be sure to include the name and URL of your blog, and the topic you wish to cover. Once you get confirmation, please choose one of the banners and advertise it on your blog. Thank you. I look forward to hearing from you.

SUBJECTS CLAIMED TWICE AND THEREFORE CANNOT BE CHOSEN AGAIN

Never Wave at a WAC ( 1953 ) , Sister Kenny ( 1946 ) , The Women ( 1939 ) , The Trouble With Angels ( 1966 )

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THE ROSTER

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: Sister Kenny and TBD. 

Pale Writer: His Girl Friday ( 1940 )

The Stop Button: Picnic ( 1956 )

Poppity Talks Classic Film: My Sister Eileen ( 1942 )

18 Cinema Lane: The Trouble With Angels ( 1966 ) and Where Angels Go Trouble Follows! ( 1968 )

Caftan Woman: Craig’s Wife ( 1936 )

Silver Screenings: Never Wave at a WAC ( 1953 )

Taking Up Room: Never Wave at a WAC ( 1953 )

Real Weegie Widget Reviews: The Crooked Hearts ( 1972 )

The Midnight Drive-In: Auntie Mame ( 1958 )

Movie Rob: Sister Kenny ( 1946 ) and The President Vanishes ( 1934 )

Love Letters To Old Hollywood: She Wouldn’t Say Yes ( 1945 )

The Story Enthusiast: The Women ( 1939 ).

Portraits By Jenni: A Woman of Distinction ( 1950 )

Overture Books and Films: Gypsy ( 1962 )

Pop Culture Reverie: Hired Wife ( 1940 )

Vitaphone Dreamer: The Women ( 1939 )

Screen Dreams: Four’s A Crowd ( 1938 )

Critica Retro: The Trouble With Angels ( 1966 )

Anybody Got A Match?: The Feminine Touch ( 1941 )

 

BETTE DAVIS TRIUMPHS ON THE SMALL SCREEN: STRANGERS: THE STORY OF A MOTHER AND DAUGHTER ( 1979 )

“You think you can come back now and take over? well you can’t. You won’t even get it when I’m dead, do you hear me? when I’m dead.”

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Legendary actress, Bette Davis garnered success in all corners of cinema, but as she got older and her work in films became sporadic, Davis entered the forsaken territory known as the small screen, and proved that she was more than just a dimming light on television.

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Bette Davis was a force to be reckoned with. Her powerful screen presence combined with her fierce persona and indomitable spirit were among her famous traits that made her such a prominent figure. As a star of the first magnitude, Davis was never afraid to explore the unknown or appear unattractive or grotesque looking if a role called for it. When it came to challenging herself, Bette held no barriers. After-all, she was an actress who was always striving for perfection.

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Bette Davis continued to follow the road to success, but like most of her contemporaries she was struck by the hurdles of a career decline, and was fighting desperately to resurrect the triumph of previous years. Her next destination was the television medium, a risky venture that a large majority of stars refused to undertake, but Bette embarked on her next journey with absolute gusto and was determined to conquer the small screen.

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That was exactly what she did. The television medium rescued an array of popular stars whose motion picture work was floundering as their aged advanced. Bette Davis first made her foray onto the small screen when she realized that everything around her was beginning to crumble. Her beloved mother Ruthie had just died, her marriage to Gary Merrill was falling to debris, and with her film work diminishing, her only hope was television.

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Bette Davis’ first appearance on television was in 1955 on the 20th Century Fox Hour, but it wasn’t until she was cast as three different characters on the NBC Western Wagon Train that she realized that television could be her savior.

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Even though she had commenced acting work on television, Bette still accepted film offers and did not abandon motion pictures. In 1962, she starred alongside her rival, Joan Crawford in the classic horror film, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, and received her final Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of the demented and sinister Baby Jane Hudson. The picture was one of the years biggest money-makers, putting Davis and Crawford back on the radar.

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Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? boosted Bette Davis’ box office appeal, but it didn’t improve the quality of the scripts Bette was being offered. A large majority of her film appearances after this period were flops with occasional successes. Bette still had to fight to stay in the public eye, but in order to do this she had to endure the grueling demands of television, where she sometimes didn’t get a dressing room.

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Bette hardly called the television industry a picnic. Even though she often compared it to the luxurious treatment she received at Warner Brothers, she was still thankful that it provided her with a sufficient income, and allowed her to pay her bills and put food on the table. Her work in the medium would soon come to a head in 1979 when she attained an Emmy Award for her performance in the made for television drama, Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter, which starred Bette alongside Gena Rowlands.

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Directed by Milton Katselas and written by Michael de Guzman, Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter is a poignant tale that is infused with conflict, sadness and heartfelt sentiments. Headlining the production is Bette Davis as Lucy Mason, the embittered mother who is unexpectedly reunited with her daughter, Abigail ( Gena Rowlands ) after a twenty one year estrangement.

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After all these years, Abigail who is now terminally ill with stage four cancer has come home to make amends with her mother and try to regain her friendship before it is too late. At first tensions arise and sparks are flying, but through sheer determination, Abigail is certain that she will win back her mother.

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Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter is a realistic portrait of estrangement and the destruction of affection. Sadly, the scenario that is depicted in the movie rings true for a legion of people worldwide whose constant feuding and family quarrels fueled alienation. Like millions of others, Abigail became estranged from her mother after a string of arguments that mainly involved her father. The bitter separation forced Abigail to move to Boston where she secured employment and got married, but when she discovers that she is terminally ill with cancer, her only wish is to spend her final chapter with her mother and rebuild a loving relationship. Lucy, on the other hand feels that Abigail has only returned home to betray her and continues to blame her for the problems regarding her father.

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Although she never admits it, I feel that on the inside Lucy yearns to have that special connection with her daughter, but the bitterness and anguish from the rift is eclipsing positivity and blotting out any hope. The same can be said for a few people that I know personally. A family friend of ours has a son who left her years ago under acrimonious circumstances, and has never returned. Since he departed no contact has been made to his mother and now she doesn’t even know his whereabouts or whether he is dead or alive, which is extremely sad. I myself have also experienced a similar situation with my aunt who passed away on New Year’s Eve ( 2016 ). The story as some people would know is that my aunt and I use to be close. Despite the fact that we lived in different states we would telephone and message each other daily and talk for hours until one day when things turned sour. Years have passed since that quarrel, but I can now understand what inflamed the hostility. As it turns out my aunt had mistakenly blamed me for the childish actions of a crazed woman who has been dangerously obsessed with both my family and me for years. At the time of the argument I had recently seen her a few days earlier, and I messaged her to make another date, but because she had initially thought that I was the one prank calling and messaging her late at night, she telephoned me that evening and was incensed with anger. As you would expect the conversation was not a pleasant one. Instead of a general, friendly discussion, altercations arose when both my aunt and I became embroiled in a verbal dispute that would ultimately lead to a nine year estrangement. Fast forward to August 2016 when my grandmother delivered me the sad news that my aunt had stage four cancer and was only given six months to live. As soon as I heard that piece of news my heart sunk. I knew that I had to see her before the inevitable happens, and even my mother plainly stated that it was crucial that I fly over and make amends with her. Four months later I did just that. What proceeded was a gamut of emotions and a deeply moving story that started with me reuniting with my aunt who showered me with love, and ending with me sitting beside my aunt and lovingly caressing her as she died.

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My beloved Aunty Pat and me. This was the last photograph ever taken of my aunt – she died 11 days later. ( December 2016 )

As you can see my story closely resembles Lucy and Abigail’s story. The only difference is that I arrived to discover that the conflicts of the past were buried years ago whereas Abigail detected enmity and soon realized that Lucy had a hard time putting past altercations to rest.

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In 1985, Bette herself experienced a similar problem when her daughter B.D Hyman published a scathing book titled My Mother’s Keeper. Although Davis’ scenario is different in many aspects, part of it closely echos the synopsis of the film. In Davis’ case, estrangement came soon after she heard news of the books publication. Bette had severed all ties with Hyman, and the two would never meet again. It has been reported that Hyman is now inflicted with waves of guilt over her treatment of her mother, but whether or not this is true, Hyman’s cruel act of humiliation and heartbreak cannot be forgiven.

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Bette Davis with daughter B.D Hyman.  ( Circa, 1950’s )

Strangers: The Story of Mother and Daughter is not considered to be one of Bette Davis’ greatest achievements, but she’s still deserving of the Emmy Award nonetheless. In order to succeed at creating an authentic character study and delivering a totally moving performance, Bette had to follow a long road that was full of obstacles and harsh weather conditions that made the location shooting in Montecito in Northern California almost impossible to endure. The bitter cold inflicted illness among several crew members, including Bette, which caused delays with the filming schedule.

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The final result was a prestigious made for television movie that is constructed from a great script, which is tinged with fluid dialogue and narrative tension. At the heart of the story is Bette Davis, who adroitly crafted an emotional character arc and delivered one of her greatest performances from her later day career. The evolution of Lucy Mason is fascinating to watch. First Lucy is an embittered mother who is automatically thrown out of orbit when her daughter whom she hasn’t seen in over twenty years arrives at her doorstep. Due to lingering memories that constantly torment her, Lucy struggles to adjust to Abigail’s presence, but within a short period of time Lucy morphs into a compassionate person, who begins to understand her daughter and ultimately comes to enjoy her company.

“We had many talks, and I found her more objective about herself than her publicity would lead one to believe.”

( Gena Rowlands on Bette Davis )

Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter may suffer from a few flaws, but despite those minor problems, the film benefits from a myriad of worthy aspects. Both Bette Davis and Gena Rowlands create a solid and authentic chemistry that is appeasing to viewers. Off-screen, both stars forged an intimate friendship that touched personal and professional levels. It was not often that Davis developed a close rapport with her co-workers, but with Rowlands, an amicable relationship was looming from the moment production commenced.

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After her successful turn in Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter, Bette Davis continued to work in television and film. She would attain two other Emmy Award nominations, and was continuously recognized for her efforts she lent to these productions, but along with all her latest achievements came a series of tragedies that started when her beloved sister Barbara ( Bobby ) passed away in July 1979, and ended ten years later when Bette Davis departed this world on October 6th, 1989.

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CAST

Bette Davis: Born, Ruth Elizabeth Davis on April 5th, 1908 in Lowell, Massachusetts. Died: October 6th, 1989 in Neuilly, Sur Seine, France. Aged 81. Cause of death: Breast Cancer.

Gena Rowlands: Virginia Cathryn Rowlands on June 19th, 1930 in Cambria, Wisconsin.

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This post was written for The So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, hosted by the lovely Rebecca from Taking Up Room. To view the other entries being exhibited during this event, please click here.

BETTE DAVIS

THE HEIRESS ( 1949 ) A SECOND ACADEMY AWARD FOR OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND

“He’s grown greedier over the years. Before he only wanted my money; now he wants my love as well. Well, he came to the wrong house – and he came twice. I shall see that he does not come a third time.”

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The movie industry has given birth to an array of actresses who possessed originality and enchanted audiences with their indomitable screen presence, but when it came to being powerful and intense, Olivia de Havilland was unequivocally the best.

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Olivia de Havilland was a hot commodity in Hollywood during the golden days. The actress who first rose to super stardom in 1938, after being cast in the role of Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood, endured a triumphant tenure in motion pictures, and became known for her magnetic on-screen partnership with Tasmanian born actor, Errol Flynn and for being the last surviving cast member of Gone With the Wind ( 1939 ).

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With the success that both films generated, Olivia was already rising to astronomical heights, but it was after her famous law suit battle and the signing of her two year Paramount contract that de Havilland really started to display the depths of her talents. Her dramatic prowess is clearly evident in productions like, To Each His Own  ( 1946 ), The Dark Mirror ( 1946 ) and The Snake Pit ( 1948 ). However, the film in which she was the most lauded for was 1949’s, The Heiress, a story about a fragile and naive woman who falls in love with a suspected fortune hunter.

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The story of Catherine Sloper first evolved in 1880 when Henry James published his novella titled, Washington Square, which first appeared as a serial in Cornhill Magazine and Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. The plot is drawn from a real life scenario that was told to James by his close friend, Fanny Kemble, a notable British actress who hailed from a prominent theatrical family in the 19th century.

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Unlike his other literary works, James was dissatisfied with Washington Square. He thought the novel touched too deep into the melodramatics and was over simplified, lacking the complexity of his other books. He was that ashamed of his efforts that he unsuccessfully tried to remove Washington Square from the rest of his fictional works, but in the process he found out that the novella was a best seller with the general public.

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During his tenure as an author, Henry James published an array of successful novels that were highly praised by his legion of readers. Most of his works delved into emigre Americans or dignified people of high society who were usually confronted with some sort of moral dilemma. Washington Square explored the lives of the affluent and the impoverished, but relies heavily on the emotional crisis that Catherine is plagued with. Due to the narrative structure, Washington Square is now considered to be a literary masterpiece.

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Since it’s initial publication, Washington Square has followed a triumphant road. In 1947, Ruth and Augustas Goetz, the renowned husband and wife playwrights, adapted the novella into a critically acclaimed stage play of the same name that originally opened on Broadway on September 29th, 1947 and closed on September 18th, 1948, after 410 performances. Wendy Hiller, the notable English actress who was held in high esteem for both her work in film and stage played the lead role of Catherine Sloper, and veteran actor, Basil Rathbone who is primarily remembered for donning many Shakespearean roles on stage was cast as Dr. Sloper, Catherine’s abusive father. The following year the play moved to the Haymarket Theatre in the West End of London, where Sir Ralph Richardson took on the role of Dr. Sloper. The play was palatable with British audiences and lasted for 644 performances.

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During it’s successful run on Broadway, the play captured the attention of Olivia de Havilland, who was particularly impressed with the part of Catherine Sloper, and wanted to bring her to life on screen. As soon as she left the theatre, de Havilland called William Wyler and persuaded him to fly to New York to see the play and to convince him that she would be perfect to portray the role of Catherine in a screen adaptation.

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In the meantime, Olivia de Havilland clung to the possibility that her virtuous wish would be fulfilled. Coincidentally, William Wyler couldn’t be more agreeable. He had seen the play and could vividly picture de Havilland in the role of Catherine Sloper. With Olivia’s assistance, Wyler approached the Paramount executives about purchasing the screen rights from Ruth and Augustus Goetz for $250,000, as well as offering them $10,000 per week to write the screenplay.

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The result was a masterful work of art that would receive a total of four Academy Awards out of eight nominations, including an Oscar win for Olivia de Havilland, who already had an Academy Award for her performance in To Each His Own ( 1946 ) adorning her mantelpiece. Director William Wyler played a large part in the films success. As a director he strove for perfection, and was known for his continuous efforts of directing an array of classic literature and turning them into highly profitable box-office hits.

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The hardest part was the search to find actors to fulfill the other roles. Ralph Richardson who portrayed Dr. Sloper in the London stage production reprised the role on screen, and Montgomery Clift whose sudden ascent to fame was hired to play Morris Townsend. Initially, Clift was reluctant to take on the role, fearing that he didn’t possess the capabilities to play a fortune hunter, but Paramount wanted to bolster his sex-appeal and propel his popularity. Montgomery only agreed to be in the picture on the conditions that he wouldn’t be typecast. He was an enthusiastic actor and had an appetite to explore different territories that the film industry had to offer, but during the filming of The Heiress, he lacked the confidence and was continuously carrying an air of uncertainty about his performance. This meant that he would spend most of his time locked up in a drab hotel room studying his script late into the night with very little sleep. As a result, Monty would often appear tired and gloomy on set, which created problems for the rest of the cast.

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Adding to the tensions on the set was the animosity that was in the air. Despite the facades of kindness, none of the cast members could develop a great rapport with each other. During filming everyone behaved with the utmost politeness, but away from the camera, hostile disputes would often erupt. Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift were distant and barely spoke. The way William Wyler favored Olivia inflamed Clift’s temper and made it unbearable for him to focus on his lines. This was coupled by the towering presence of Ralph Richardson whose consummation intimidated him. He also found Miriam Hopkins to be a nuisance, especially when he had the feeling that Wyler was letting her overshadow him and steal the scenes, though despite all the occurring dramas, Clift managed to continue on with the filming like a ultimate professional.

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In a film directed by William Wyler, audiences are taken back to 1840’s, New York, and into the life of Catherine Sloper ( Olivia de Havilland ), an abnormally shy and naive woman who lacks social etiquette and remains trapped in the confined mansion of her emotionally abusive father, Dr Sloper ( Ralph Richardson ), who views Catherine as being worthless to society. Suspicions immediately arise when Catherine starts being pursued by the handsome suitor, Morris Townsend ( Montgomery Clift ) who her father believes is only chasing after her considerable inheritance. 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.

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“Can you be so cruel?”

“Yes, I can be very cruel. I have been taught by masters.”

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To this day, The Heiress is considered to be one of William Wyler’s greatest artistic achievements. Bosley Crowther from the New York Times wrote, “The film crackles with allusive life and fire in its tender and agonized telling of an extraordinarily characterful tale. Mr. Wyler has given this somewhat austere drama an absorbing intimacy and a warming illusion of nearness that it did not have on the stage. He has brought the full-bodied people very closely and vividly to view, while maintaining the clarity and sharpness of their personalities, their emotions and their styles . . . The Heiress is one of the handsome, intense and adult dramas of the year.”, while TV Guide stated, “This powerful and compelling drama . . . owes its triumph to the deft hand of director William Wyler and a remarkable lead performance by Olivia de Havilland.”

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Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the film is Olivia de Havilland’s performance. Olivia is known for essaying a wide array of characters on screen, but it is her portrayal of Catherine Sloper in The Heiress that really exudes her authenticity as an actress. This is the type of role that could be overacted or theatrically driven if not handled with care. The part of Catherine was given the proper treatment by Olivia, who was able to create a believable character study of a woman plagued with communication and emotional problems, who is automatically thrust into the throes of a difficult crisis when a gold-digger hidden behind an amiable facade enters her life.

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For a film that is strongly anchored by Olivia de Havilland’s performance, the rest of the cast shine in their respective roles. Montgomery Clift concealed his insecurities on screen and managed to tap into his characters unscrupulous motives successfully. The Heiress marked Clift’s fourth appearance in a motion picture. The actor would continue his auspicious tenure in films before meeting his tragic death on July 23rd, 1966.

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Another aspect of the film that can’t go unrecognized is Ralph Richardson’s indomitable portrayal of Dr. Sloper. Although his character is cruel and verbally insultive to Catherine, Austin infuses every scene he’s in with splashes of majestic charm and grace.  Some viewers believe that Dr. Sloper is fueled with hatred for his daughter, but I tend to disagree. I don’t actually think Austin fully despises Catherine. He detests the way Catherine has decided to embrace her life, and can’t stand the fact that he’s a father to a socially inept daughter who is not a mirroring image of her mother.

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Most importantly, Dr. Sloper is able to observe all of Morris Townsend’s salient traits. He is quick to realize that Morris is hiding his true colors, and he tries to deter Catherine away from him. If Catherine married Townsend she would be enmeshed in a wreath of difficulties. Austin can foresee this and threatens to disinherit her if Catherine goes off with Morris. It’s just unfortunate that Catherine has to endure the harsh criticisms of her father as well as being the object of Morris’ gold-digging schemes.

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“Don’t be kind to me, father. It doesn’t become you.”

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It’s obvious to the viewer that Catherine needs support – fortunately this comes in the form of Aunt Lavinia, played by Miriam Hopkins. Aunt Lavinia is the only one who can solidify Catherine’s trust, but even she is blind to Morris’ true motive and encourages Catherine to marry him.

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The film adaptation closely echos James’ novella, though it does take a slight detour. In the book Henry James paints a clear picture of Morris Townsend, but in the movie, audiences can be left perplexed as to what Morris’s true intentions are. At first some might not know who the main antagonist is, but eventually Morris’s core motive is revealed. The suspense leading up to the unearthing is compelling. Does Dr. Sloper have a right to be so forthright with his feelings about Morris Townsend when his description of him is only a speculation? or why would an impoverished yet charming suitor like Morris Townsend be interested in Catherine who has had no experience with relationships and has no social skills?. These questions do make the viewer ponder over the entire scenario. If Townsend was desperate for a relationship and marriage then we can understand why he’s taking such actions, but considering the fact that he’s only just met Catherine, it makes the viewer wonder why’s he’s acting so fast. The key to a large majority of romances between the rich and poor is money. Some people crave to be affluent, and they will make sure they will get their desired wealth even if it means trapping an innocent soul in their fortune hunter schemes.

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Filming for The Heiress commenced in June 1948, and opened at New York’s Radio City Music Hall to critical acclaim on October 6th, 1950. The fact that the film was steeped in acclamation and earned her another Academy Award, deeply exhilarated Olivia, but when asked about her time making the movie, de Havilland was the first to admit that it was far from a pleasurable experience. On-screen she was vying for her fathers love and affection, but off-screen she was yearning for William Wyler’s attention. Olivia later stated that Wyler was inexcusably rude, and would exclude her from his between-take conversations with Ralph Richardson. In an interview, de Havilland said, ““It is entirely possible Willie did that deliberately to make me feel … inadequate and … uninteresting.”

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The year 1949 was a turning point for Olivia both personally and professionally. On the home front, she was experiencing the newfound joys of motherhood and took great pleasure in caring for her son, Benjamin, who was born on September 27th of that year. What happened behind the cameras was not of high precedence, but her artistic achievements still brought her much satisfaction nonetheless. In early February, Look Magazine labeled Olivia de Havilland and Laurence Olivier as the top grossing movie stars of 1948 – this was based on Olivia’s performance in The Snake Pit and Olivier’s acclaimed Hamlet. 

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After her triumphant turn in The Heiress, Olivia de Havilland continued to achieve greatness in motion pictures and other forms of entertainment. At age 102, de Havilland is the oldest surviving actress from the golden age. Although she suffers from Macular degeneration, she lives a contented life in Paris, and enjoys reflecting back on her past career.

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THE HEIRESS: ACADEMY AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS:

Academy Award for Best Actress – Olivia de Havilland. ( 1949 )

Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography – Leo Tover. ( 1949 )

Academy Award for Best Costume Design – Edith Head & Gile Steel.

Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.

Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor – Ralph Richardson.

Academy Award for Best Art Direction – Harry Horner, John Meehan, and set decoration, Emile Kuri.

Academy Award nomination for Best Director – William Wyler.

Academy Award for Best Score – Aaron Copland.

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TRIVIA

To help Olivia de Havilland achieve the physically and emotionally weary and worn effect that he wanted, Producer and Director William Wyler packed books into the suitcases that the actress lugged up the staircase in the scene where her character realizes that she has been jilted by her lover.

The song sung by Montgomery Clift while playing the piano is originally a vocal romance, “Plaisir d’amour”, composed in 1784 by classical composer Jean-Paul-Égide Martini (August 31, 1741 – February 10, 1816), and was the basis for Elvis Presley‘s 1961 hit “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” written for the movie Blue Hawaii (1961).

During the spiral staircase scene, Producer and Director William Wyler made thirty seven takes with Olivia de Havilland. Only after the last one, when she fell of exhaustion, Wyler declared that was the one he wanted to keep in the box.

Cary Grant was campaigning for the role of Morris Townsend, but William Wyler declared him unsuitable for the part.

The original idea was to reteam Olivia de Havilland with her frequent co-star Errol Flynn, but this was dropped in favor of the more subtle acting that Montgomery Clift could bring to the role.

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CAST

Olivia de Havilland: Born, Olivia Mary de Havilland on July 1st, 1916 in Tokyo, Japan.

Montgomery Clift: Born, Edward Montgomery Clift on October 17th, 1920 in Omaha, Nebraska. Died: July 23rd, 1966 in New York. Aged: 45.

Ralph Richardson: Born, Ralph David Richardson on December 19th, 1902 in Cheltenham, United Kingdom. Died: October 10th, 1983 in Marylebone, United Kingdom. Aged: 80.

Miriam Hopkins: Born, Ellen Miriam Hopkins on October 18th, 1902 in Savannah, Georgia. Died: October 9th, 1972 in New York. Aged: 69.

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This post was written for the 7th Annual 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Once Upon A ScreenOutspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club. To view the other entries being exhibited during this event, please visit the three hosting blogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A CINEMATIC DREAM COME TRUE: MEETING ANGELA LANSBURY IN 2013.

“Meeting Angela Lansbury was like a dream. Did this really happen? I’ve always been a fan of hers. I particularly liked her in Murder She Wrote, but I never once thought that I would one day meet her.”

( Linda Pacey: Mum )

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Yours truly with Dame Angela.

Angela Lansbury has always been an actress who I’ve greatly admired. My first introduction to this legendary icon occurred well before I embarked on my journey into the world of classic cinema. At the time I was totally enamored by Judy Garland and had plunged straight into an obsession that forced me to dismiss the talents of the other co-stars that shared the screen with her.

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The fact that I spiraled into the realms of obsession appeared unhealthy to my family, but many years later everyone’s perspective has changed and now they view it as being a fun and innocent passion that enlightened my life. In the long run, discovering Judy Garland turned out to be one of the best things I ever did.

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Although my mind was still preoccupied with Judy, I gradually started to venture out of my comfort zone. While watching Garland’s movies, I began to recognize her co-stars and other fellow celebrities who she was associated with. At the start of my journey I gained a strong appreciation for Angela Lansbury, who had appeared with Judy in The Harvey Girls ( 1946 ) and Till the Clouds Roll By, also released in 1946.

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Despite Lansbury’s mercurial attitude towards Judy Garland in The Harvey Girls, I realized that she was an actress with considerable depth and promise. No matter how villainous she appeared on screen, I started to look at her through the lens of her talent instead of judging her by the character she played.

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After endlessly studying her performance in my repeated viewings of The Harvey Girls, I knew it was time to branch out and delve into the rest of Lansbury’s filmography. My Mother had strongly urged me to see more of her work. She had always held Angela in high esteem and was constantly advising me to attain copies of Blue Hawaii and Murder She Wrote, which at the time was her favorite Angela Lansbury performances.

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Like I always do when I develop a fixation on a certain star, I instantly had to go on a spending spree to purchase Angela Lansbury movies. My Father thought that I was treating my latest interest as a necessity and encouraged me to spend my money on items that are more essential, but as usual my enthusiasm knew no bounds and I failed to take notice. The only thing that took precedence at this particular time was attaining my own copies of Angela’s filmography.  I realize that many other people might believe that I was taking my passions to extreme by buying movies all at once. I totally understand where everyone who thinks that is coming from, but when you are a classic film enthusiast you can’t resist the temptation and certain films or memorabilia must be in your reach at once.

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I must admit that at this stage I had a hard time convincing some people that my classic cinema obsession was advantageous. The younger generation considered me archaic. They didn’t even know that old movies existed nor did they know the stars that graced the silver screen. What they saw was me trying to pursue an interest that would not enrich my life in anyway or serve as a great purpose. My Mother on the other hand, encouraged me wholeheartedly to embrace my passion. She never once thought I was carrying an air of eccentricity. Instead, she was proud that the old movies engrossed me. After all, Mum had always loved Angela Lansbury and the golden age in general.

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To cut a long story short: Mum has always thought that Angela Lansbury was one of the greatest actresses cinema has ever produced. She remembers being absorbed in her movies as a child and she has fond recollections of watching Murder She Wrote when it was being aired on television – but that’s as far as it went. My mother never had the slightest inkling that she would one day be in the presence of the great actress. This was one thing that she would never have imagined even in her wildest expectations. She thought that she would have to continue admiring her from afar.

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Fast forward to early 2013. A newsflash that read “Angela Lansbury is coming to Australia” had apparently appeared across the television screen. For some reason Mum and I missed the announcement. I can’t recall where we were at that particular time, but the only reasonable answer is that we must have been out walking or running errands. I later heard word of it from Dad, though he never told us the full nature of the story. What he gave us was a fabricated version of the story by saying that Angela Lansbury will only be in certain parts of Australia for interviews and will not be coming anywhere near us. Little did we know it then, but Angela Lansbury was indeed heading our way to perform in the stage production of Driving Miss Daisy. 

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What happened before this next chapter of events is all very blurred in my memory, but for the following scenario I can provide a vivid detailed account of the occasion as if it took place only yesterday. One Saturday afternoon in early 2013 I was perusing the internet when I stumbled across an announcement that read Tickets on sale soon to see Angela Lansbury in Driving Miss Daisy.” . As soon as I read that headline a sudden wave of excitement hit me and a wonderful idea sprung into my mind. I seen this as the perfect surprise birthday present for Mum, who shares the same May 30th birthday with me. I have never been a fan of gift shopping, because it gets harder and harder with each passing year to find a unique present, but purchasing these tickets would mean that my birthday shopping spree would be over within one click and the ideal and totally unexpected gift will be on its way. I was exuding that euphoric feeling. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect also.

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Unfortunately, I couldn’t order the tickets right at that very moment as they weren’t on sale for a few days later. For somebody who can get impatient like me, the wait was frustrating. All I wanted to do was purchase the tickets . This was an event of a lifetime and I wanted to be sure that I could attain them. Anyway, I left my computer and went for a walk with Jarrahn ( my brother ) to pick up dinner. As we were about to enter the park down the road from us I told him that Angela Lansbury was touring Australia for Driving Miss Daisy, and that I had plans to purchase tickets for both Mum and I. Jarrahn never said much, but he knew Mum would be thrilled about it and agreed that its an ideal surprise.

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It was about a week later when the tickets finally went on sale. Having reflected back on previous shows, I knew that in order to attain good seats you had to act fast. That is what I always do, but this time it was even more essential. Angela Lansbury is a prominent actress and her stature and popularity would fuel a successful and monstrous commotion. That is exactly what happened – within a few days the shows were completely sold out.

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Once my tickets were ordered the waiting game was on. I could hardly wait to present the surprise tickets to Mum on our birthday, but first and foremost, I was getting impatient waiting for the day of the show to arrive. Those months before our birthday was like an obstacle that I was trying to defeat. I was constantly worried that when the tickets arrived I would not be the first to get to the letter box. What if Mum pulled the tickets out of the box? or what if I was out and Dad got the envelope with the tickets in it? These questions were always running through my mind. I did not want Dad to know anything about the show until the birthday, and it would be difficult to cover up when they would be able to tell by the envelope that the contents were tickets. Luckily, I survived that period without any major difficulties. The only barrier that I struck was getting the envelope with the tickets out of the box and into my room without being caught. When the mail came that day I went outside and got the envelope with the tickets out of the box and raced into my bedroom as fast as I could. Unfortunately, Mum seen me racing into my room with an envelope and immediately thought that I was hiding something that she should know about. It was a major relief when she believed my story about the mail being advertisements and she shrugged it off. Needless to say, she eventually did find out the truth about the mail, and six years later it still gives us a giggle.

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After months of waiting in anticipation our birthday that year soon approached. This birthday was more exciting than any other for one reason – the perfect present was awaiting Mum, and I knew that she would never have guessed the surprise that I had in store for her. To be honest, she didn’t even know that Angela Lansbury was touring Australia. She was not in the room when Dad told us the fabricated stories about Angie’s interviews in Australia, and she never heard the news anywhere else. – that was an added bonus.

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The revealing of surprise birthday presents has always been a joyous occasion for me, but due to my parents work and my commitments, we have to wait until the night time to open the gifts. However, this particular birthday was different. My Father was on early shifts at the time and he was getting home sometime after lunch, which meant that we could unwrap the presents in the afternoon. By now, I was impatient, but at least Mum would get her surprise sooner. At last the afternoon came. Mum sat down at the table to drink a cup of coffee while Jarrahn and I went to get our gifts to give her. Jarrahn handed over his present first, and then it was my turn to give her the birthday card that had the tickets inside it. Mum took one look at the envelope and said “It must be a gift card.” – how wrong was she? – Five seconds later it was all unearthed. Mum was shocked and elated. I wish I could remember her exact words. I know she said that she had no idea that Angela was coming to Australia, but sadly that’s all I can remember.

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After our birthday passed, the time seemed to go slow. We often commented that usually time flies, but just when something really exciting is on the horizon it decided to crawl. Finally, the day arrived. The show was taking place that night at the His Majesty’s Theatre in the city. I remember having our dinner at lunch time and getting showered and dressed straight after so we could leave early. I forget exactly what time we left home, but I know Dad and Jarrahn dropped us at the train station, as we were catching a train into the city and walking to the theatre.

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Chugging along the Mitchell Freeway, moving progressively past the still scenery outside, the train was filled with many euphoric faces and lively chatter, the time ticking swiftly as the train approached each station. Finally the train reached its destination, and in an instant, a deluge of passengers disembarked, some carrying signs adored with Angela Lansbury’s name on them, while others sporting Jessica Fletcher t-shirts. It was obvious that all these people were attending the show that night too, and we were all taking the journey together.

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As we approached the theatre, the crowds became larger and the noise grew louder. The atmosphere was congenial, the restaurant and coffee strip leading up to the theatre was packed with people wining and dining while waiting for the big colossal doors of His Majesty’s to open. Inside, was a lavishly decked out ballroom that was surrounded by doors and stairs that provide entrance into the commodious, grandiose auditorium, where the show was held.

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His Majesty’s Theatre, where we seen Angie.

After taking a peak in through the glass colossal doors, Mum and I walked right around the complex. The most important thing for me at this stage was to find the stage door. I had met Petula Clark the previous year ( I’ve actually met her twice since then ), and now my goal was to meet Angela Lansbury. Mum knew about my plans of meeting Lansbury, but she thought it was nothing more than a fanciful dream. The chances of meeting a prominent star like Angela Lansbury was very slim. She said it would be near impossible, but I continued to cling to hope, and I was certainly prepared to have them shattered.

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Even though the stage door was hidden, we managed to find it, and we were going to return there once the show finished. By the time we walked back around to the entrance, the glass colossal doors were open and people were entering the art-deco style ballroom foyer. We followed the crowd in and proceeded to make our way to the auditorium to find our seats, which were situated at the Platinum section ( the most expensive in the house ), and then we sat down and awaited for the legendary Angela Lansbury to appear on stage.

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Minutes later the clock struck seven, and out came Angela Lansbury, who illuminated the whole auditorium as her presence swept across the stage, waving and smiling gracefully to the cheerful and spirited audience as she took to her seat, ready to introduce the play and her co-star James Earl Jones.

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I won’t rehash the plot of the stage version of Driving Miss Daisy, for the reason that it closely echoes the 1989 film starring Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy. What I do want to say though, is that Angela Lansbury was phenomenal. She perfectly embodied all the characteristics and exuded the same level of emotions as Jessica Tandy displayed in the 1989 picture.  Angela is an authentic actress, and witnessing her indelible talents live on stage is something that my Mum and I will never forget.

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It was after the show that we discovered that Angela Lansbury is not just an actress with considerable talents. She is a amiable human being, who carries no airs of aloofness. I’ve read few reports that criticize Lansbury’s off-screen attitude, but those articles are written from a third person point of view. What we witnessed is totally different. I was fortunate enough to meet her twice, and on both occasions she appeared very down to earth.

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The first time I met her was with Mum after the show that night. As I previously stated, we returned to the stage door in the hopes of meeting Angela Lansbury. At this time, we were the only two at the door, but as it turns out, our idea piqued an interest in other people who followed shortly after. Luck was on our side that night. Ten minutes later the stage door opened and out came Angela Lansbury, dressed in casual clothes. On the road side of the theatre was a chauffeur, who was trying to rush Angie into the car, but he’s pleads were to no avail. As soon as she stepped outside, Angie looked in our direction and immediately walked up to us. Mum almost faintest. She couldn’t believe that she was about to meet Angela Lansbury.

Angela Lansbury James Earl Jones in DRIVING MISS DAISY (c) Jeff Busby

In less than a few seconds, Angela approached and said hello to us. I was star-struck. Before I left that day, I had planned what I was going to say to her, but now that I was in her presence, I became inflicted with sudden bouts of shyness and I went completely blank. I still managed to exchange words with her, and I told her that I really enjoyed the show, especially her performance. Angela thanked us for our kind comments and talked back to us. She exuded graciousness and warmth emanated from her. After we spoke, she autographed our performance book and went on to the next person.

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The Driving Miss Daisy production book that Angie autographed.

The more I think back, the more I realize how lucky we were that night. There were other people waiting at the stage door, but unfortunately Angela could not go up and talk to them all. She would have liked to, but like all stars, she was on a schedule and her chauffeur was rushing her. I can imagine how disappointed those people would have been. It hurts when you have your dreams crushed, but sometimes it can’t be helped, and it definitely was not intentional.

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All the way home that night and for all the days that followed, I was wheeling with joy. Posts about Mum and me meeting Angela Lansbury were constantly posted on Facebook, and many people were envious. I decided to fuel their jealously by taking my brother Jarrahn down to the stage door one afternoon a week later. This time there were a few people waiting, but because it was quiet they were in luck. Once again, Angie appeared and walked up to us. I asked her if I could get a photo taken with her, and she was more than happy to pose for a photo with me. She’s a beautiful soul, and I’m fortunate to have met her twice.

“I never seen the show, but at least I can say that I met Angela Lansbury. That is one day that I will never forget.”

( Jarrahn Brett: Brother. )

At the end of 2013, I sent a letter to Angela Lansbury’s home address and attached the photo of us together. A few weeks later, Angie responded to my mail and signed her name at the bottom of the photo. I’ve also wrote to her since then, and attained another signed photo from her.

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My autographs I received when I wrote to her home address.

It’s now almost six years since I met Angela Lansbury, but its an occasion that will always remain vivid in my memory. I sure do hope to see her again one day, and I’m certainly planning on sending her another letter.

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This post was written for The Angela Lansbury Blogathon, hosted by Real Weegie Midget Reviews. To view the other entries being exhibited during this event, please click here. Before I go, I want to say that I was initially planning to host a blogathon dedicated to Angela, but obviously Gill beat me to it.

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