THE LAUREN BACALL BLOGATHON IS HERE

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The Second Lauren Bacall Blogathon has arrived. I am thrilled to be honoring the legendary Lauren Bacall for the next three days, and just in time for what would have been her 94th birthday on Sunday.

Bloggers: Once you have finished your entry, please submit your post via the comments section below, and I will link it as soon as I can. Thank you. I look forward to reading your articles.

This is for you Lauren.

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THE LAUREN BACALL BLOGATHON ENTRIES

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films kicks things off with a post on Lauren’s film debut, To Have and Have Not ( 1944 )

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The Story Enthusiast has arrived at the party with Lauren, Marilyn and Betty in How To Marry A Millionaire ( 1953 )

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The Midnight Drive-In talks about Blood Alley ( 1955 ). Lauren’s first collaboration with John Wayne.

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Caftan Woman joins the party with Young Man With A Horn ( 1950 )

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The Stop Button brings us Lauren and Bogie in their second film together, The Big Sleep ( 1946 )

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For his first of three entries, Movie Rob brings us The Shootist ( 1976 )

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Taking Up Room embarks on a fashion parade with her post on Designing Woman ( 1957 )

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Movie Rob is back with his second of three posts on Lauren in Written On the Wind ( 1956 )

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Love Letters To Old Hollywood joins the party with her Top Five Lauren Bacall performances.

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Karavansara makes an entrance with Murder On the Orient Express ( 1974 )

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For his third post, Movie Rob talks about the third Bogie and Bacall collaboration and one of my personal favorite films, Dark Passage ( 1947 )

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Critica Retro pens a tribute to Lauren Bacall in Harper ( 1966 )

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The Wonderful World of Cinema visits Bogie and Bacall in Key Largo ( 1948 )

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Hamlette’s Soliloquy has arrived at the party with Lauren Bacall in Designing Woman ( 1957 )

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Overture Books and Films writes about How To Marry A Millionaire ( 1953 )

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Anybody Got A Match explores Lauren’s life and career after Humphrey Bogart.

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No Nonsense With Nuwan Sen compiles a list of Lauren’s famous quotes.

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THE JOSEPH COTTEN BLOGATHON IS HERE

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The day has finally arrived. For the next three days, the legendary Joseph Cotten will be our shining star in the spotlight. To celebrate the illustrious life and career of this magnificent actor, please join Maddie and Me.

Both Maddie and I would like to say a big thank you to those of you who are participating. We look forward to reading your entries.

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THE ENTRIES

My co-host Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Film discusses her three favorite Joseph Cotten performances. 

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Moon In Gemini joins us with Joseph Cotten in The Steel Trap ( 1952 )

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Pop Corn and Flickers presents Joseph Cotten in this film debut, Too Much Johnson ( 1938 )

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Mike’s Take On The Movies pens a tribute to Joseph Cotten in Two Flags West ( 1950 )

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The Stop Button talks about one of my personal favorite movies, Gaslight ( 1944 )

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Cinematic Scribblings writes about The Scopone Game ( 1972 )

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The Midnight Drive-In tells us about Joseph Cotten in The Hearse ( 1980 )

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Caftan Woman brings Joseph Cotten in Walk Softly Stranger ( 1950 ) to the party.

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Widescreen World joins us with Joseph Cotten, Loretta Young and Ethel Barrymore in The Farmer’s Daughter ( 1947 )

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For his first of three posts, Movie Rob discovers Joseph Cotten in Soylent Green ( 1973 )

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The Wonderful World of Cinema presents us with an ABC of Joseph Cotten.

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Down These Mean Streets embarks on a journey to meet The Third Man ( 1949 )

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Dubsism discusses the sports analogies hidden in Tora, Tora, Tora ( 1970 )

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Movie Rob is back with Joseph Cotten in A Blueprint For Murder ( 1953 )

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I Found It At The Movies pens a tribute to Joseph Cotten in Citizen Kane ( 1941 )

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Real Weegie Midget Reviews discovers Joseph Cotten in Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, Dead Weight ( 1959 )

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Musings of a Classic Film Addict shines the light on Joseph Cotten in Lydia ( 1941 )

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For his third post, Movie Rob brings us The Oscar ( 1966 )

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Hamlette’s Soliloquy delivers us the thrills and chills as well as Joseph Cotten in Gaslight ( 1944 )

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Taking Up Room takes a trip down memory lane and visits Joseph Cotten and the Mercury Theatre.

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Karavansara takes us on a Journey Into Fear ( 1943 )

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Critica Retro has arrived with Joseph and Ginger in I’ll Be Seeing You ( 1944 )

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Love Letters To Old Hollywood joins us with Joseph and Jennifer in Love Letters ( 1945 )

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Poppity talks about Joseph Cotten’s second collaboration with Hitchcock, Under Capricorn ( 1949 )

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Back To Golden Days writes about Joseph Cotten in Since You Went Away ( 1944 )

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ANNOUNCING THE ROCK HUDSON BLOGATHON

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A consummate actor who epitomized the words, tall, dark and handsome, Rock Hudson endured a successful career in motion pictures, and is best remembered today for his romantic on-screen partnership with Doris Day.

Rock Hudson was one of cinemas most acclaimed stars. In a career that spanned forty-two years, Hudson showcased his acting abilities in a diverse range of genres and particularly excelled at comedy, a field in which he was initially reluctant to explore.

Away from the camera, Rock Hudson led a rather storied life. He had forged memorable friendships with Doris Day and Elizabeth Taylor, who both supported him immensely during his final years. Sadly, Hudson passed away on October 2nd, 1985, from AIDS related complications. He was less than two months shy of his 60th birthday.

Rock Hudson made his star-studded debut into this world on November 17th, 1925. To honor this tremendous actor on what would have been his 93rd birthday, Michaela from Love Letters To Old Hollywood, and myself from In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood, are hosting a blogathon dedicated to Rock Hudson and his unparalleled talents.

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THE RULES:

1. Bloggers are welcome to write about anything relating to Rock Hudson, from his films, his television appearances, his friendship and collaborations with Doris Day to his personal life. We only ask that all posts must be respectable. We will not accept any article that raises the subject of his homosexuality.

2. Rock Hudson has an extensive resume of films that consists of 74 acting credits, but to give everyone the chance to participate, we are allowing no more than two duplicates. Please check the roster to see if your choice of topic has been claimed twice.

3. When it comes to Rock Hudson, there are so many different avenues to explore, so if you want to write more than one entry that’s fine. However, we are allowing a limit of no more than three entries per person.

4. The blogathon will take place on the dates, November 17th – 19th, so please have your articles ready by then. We also accept early entries.

5. Please submit new material. We will not accept previously published posts.

6. To express your interest in participating in the blogathon, leave a comment on my blog or on Michaela’s 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 or by contacting Michaela. 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 spread the word about this blogathon by advertising the event on your blog. Below are a few banners made my Michaela, so grab yourself one of the gorgeous banners, and we’ll see you in November to celebrate all things Rock Hudson.

Subjects that have been claimed twice and therefore cannot be chosen again.

Pillow Talk ( 1959 )

Rock Hudson and Doris Day’s friendship.

A Gathering of Eagles ( 1963 )

The Undefeated ( 1969 )

Has Anybody Seen My Gal? ( 1952 )

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THE ROSTER

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood : Pillow Talk ( 1959 )

Love Letters To Old Hollywood : Blindfold ( 1966 )

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films : Magnificent Obsession ( 1954 )

The Wonderful World Of Cinema : The friendship of Rock Hudson and Doris Day.

Pop Culture Reverie : Pillow Talk ( 1959 )

Musings of a Classic Film Addict : Seconds ( 1966 )

Caftan Woman : Has Anybody Seen My Gal ( 1952 )

The Midnight Drive-In : The Undefeated ( 1969 )

Real Weegie Midget Reviews : Pretty Maids All In A Row ( 1971 )

The Stop Button : All That Heaven Allows ( 1955 )

Back To Golden Days : Rock Hudson’s early years.

Critica Retro : Rock Hudson’s Indian roles.

The Story Enthusiast : The Tarnished Angels ( 1957 )

Dubsism : A Gathering of Eagles ( 1963 )

Silver Screenings : The Last Sunset ( 1961 )

Movie Rob : Tobruk ( 1967 ), A Gathering of Eagles ( 1963 ) and Darling Lili ( 1970 )

Hamlette’s Soliloquy : Giant ( 1956 )

Poppity : Ice Station Zebra ( 1968 )

Anybody Got A Match : Rock Hudson and Doris Day’s friendship.

Mike’s Take On The Movies : Man’s Favorite Sport ( 1964 )

Taking Up Room : Send Me No Flowers ( 1964 )

It Came From The Man Cave : Avalanche ( 1978 )

The Flapper Dame : The Undefeated ( 1969 )

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society : Has Anybody Seen My Gal? ( 1952 )

Pale Writer : The Mirror Crack’d ( 1980 )

 

 

 

MEET DEBBIE REYNOLDS AND DICK VAN DYKE IN DIVORCE AMERICAN STYLE ( 1967 )

“Kiss me like a man, not a chipmunk.”

“Kiss you like a man? .. You wouldn’t know a man if you fell under one.”

Oh, I wouldn’t huh? Well maybe not, but I’ll sure know a man if I’ve been living with one.”

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Marriage is supposed to be a happy and joyous institution, but in many circumstances it can fuel verbal disputes, physical assault, separation, and sometimes divorce.

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The facets of marriage is a popular theme in motion pictures. From the most meritorious to the most heinous, the film industry has explored the idealistic and the turbulent lives of fictional married couples on screen. The 1967 film, Divorce American Style depicts a drastically stale marriage where Debbie Reynolds and Dick Van Dyke can’t seem to vanquish the emotional and communication barriers that are preventing them from enjoying married life.

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The instrumental force behind joining Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds in a tempestuous on-screen marriage is producer Norman Lear, who was profoundly interested in the comedy genre and made his foray into writing when he assisted Robert Kaufman with the script. The film was based on Kaufman’s story, and directed by Bud Yorkin, who had more success with his directorial efforts in the television industry.

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Divorce American Style featured a cast who hailed from the finest pedigree. Ever since making her breakthrough role in Singin’ in the Rain ( 1952 ),Debbie Reynolds was continuously soaring to astronomical heights. She had received an Academy Award nomination two years earlier for her portrayal of Molly Brown in The Unsinkable Molly Brown ( 1964 ), and the films that followed had planted her in a reputable position in Hollywood. Although, Divorce American Style was not as popular as some of her other vehicles, Debbie was mostly lauded for her performance.

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While Debbie Reynolds was enjoying her triumphant peak, Dick Van Dyke was struggling to reach critical acclaim. Despite his successful turn in the 1964 blockbuster, Mary Poppins, Van Dyke was mainly being cast in comedy films that were largely panned at the box office. Divorce American Style did nothing to enhance his reputation either. However, acclamation would soon be surrounding him one year later when he played Caractacus Pott in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ( 1968 ). Although the film was steeped in praise, Van Dyke was criticized for his accent.

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Motion pictures may not have turned out the way he had initially anticipated, but away from the big screen, Dick Van Dyke was a phenomenon. On the small screen, Van Dyke had displayed considerable promise with The Dick Van Dyke Show, which aired in 1961. The series was an immediate hit with all television audiences. For his portrayal of Rob Petrie, Van Dyke received three Emmy Awards as well as taking home four Emmy statuettes for Outstanding Comedy Series.

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Debbie Reynolds was the best possible actress to breath life into Barbara Harmon. On the home front, Reynolds was currently plagued with the same problems in her marriage with Harry Karl as what her character Barbara and on-screen husband, Richard were experiencing. Like the harmon’s, Debbie and Karl were less intimate and communication was their most challenging burden. To further exacerbate matters, Karl was a prolific gambler who was constantly churning out bad investments. This added strain to Reynolds family life and it would ultimately lead to severe financial difficulties.

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The only aspect that did not closely mirror the marriage of Barbara and Richard was that divorce was not imminent. Although, Debbie and Harry Karl were constantly enduring some sort of crisis, the two would remain married for six more years until finally divorcing in 1973.

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Coincidentally, Debbie’s marriage was at the rockiest peak when Norman Lear called her in early 1966 to tell her about the project. Debbie knew instantly that the role of Barbara Harmon was right for her. She persuaded Norman to consider her for the part, but it took several interviews with Norman before she found out that she had the job. Debbie later stated in her autobiography, Unsinkable, A Memoir, “Every time I went in to talk with Norman, who was also directing the film, he lowered his offer. Finally we agreed on a price that was much lower than my usual rate. Norman was very serious, which isn’t uncommon for some comics.”

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At the time she acquired the role of Barbara Harmon, Debbie was deeply involved with Girl Scouts. As a child, Reynolds was a highly revered member of the Girl Scouts community and received more than forty-two badges. She often quipped that her most pivotal goal was to become the world’s oldest living Girl Scout. One can only imagine how elated Debbie must have been when her daughter Carrie Fisher possessed the same passion in becoming a Girl Scout. In fact, her enthusiasm is clearly witnessed. Debbie was the leader of the Girl Scout Troop where Carrie and her stepdaughter, Tina Karl attended. For a while in the 1960’s, she stopped working on Friday afternoons to attend Girl Scout meetings, and on October 25th, 1966, Reynolds was honored at the launching of the Girl Scout Piper Project, in which she prolifically participated.

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Debbie Reynolds sporting her Girl Scouts uniform.

By the time the filming of Divorce American Style commenced, Debbie Reynolds was still attending the Girl Scouts meetings, but now that she was busily involved with the picture, it was impossible for her to attend every meeting. Since starting work on Divorce American Style, Reynolds was struck down with a hectic schedule that gave her minimal time to engage herself in other activities that took place away from the camera. Her weekdays were spent working with high intensity and oftentimes under pressure. After seven days of pouring all her energy into the project, Debbie looked forward to the weekends, especially Friday afternoons when her security guard, Zinc drove Debbie, Dick Van Dyke and Jason Robards to her beach house in Malibu. She recalled these moments with great pleasure. In her autobiography, Unsinkable, A Memoir, Debbie wrote, “We’d drink and sing and laugh all night. Jason would sing along to the soundtrack from Mame . He was a happy drunk. I don’t know if his wife, Betty Bacall, appreciated his drinking songs, but I found him the most entertaining company. Lucky Betty, to be married to Bogie and then Jason. What wonderful men. When the party was over, Zinc was available to drive anyone home.”

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Debbie with Spencer Tracy, on the day of her MGM tour. She later stated that she had no idea why she was wearing her Girl Scouts uniform, but she said that she had 47 badges that day.

Those Friday afternoons at Malibu were a lot different then the times spent making the movie. On-set, the atmosphere was often tense with a lingering dark cloud that threatened altercations. The person responsible was usually Norman Lear’s wife, Frances whose hostility towards her assistant Bob Mackie incensed most of the cast. Bob embodied amiability and his talents transcended beyond the expected limits, yet Frances treated him in an uncouth manner that can be described as unsettling.

Fortunately, those on-set quarrels didn’t tarnish the films reputation. Divorce American Style may appear somewhat dated today, but on its release, audiences and critics recognized the film for its uniqueness and satirical humor. Roger Ebert from Chicago Sun-Times   described the film as “a member of that rare species, the Hollywood comedy with teeth in it. Bud Yorkin has directed with wit and style, and the cast, which seems unlikely on paper, comes across splendidly on the screen . . . The charm of this film is in its low-key approach. The plot isn’t milked for humor or pathos: Both emerge naturally from familiar situations.”, while Variety wrote, “Comedy and Satire, not feverish melodrama, are the best weapons with which to harpoon social mores. An outstanding example is Divorce American Style . . . which pokes incisive, sometimes chilling, fun at US marriage-divorce problems.”

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THE PLOT

Divorce American Style is a story about the perils of a loveless marriage and the loneliness of divorce, but first and foremost, it is the story of Richard and Barbara Harmon ( Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds ), a wealthy Los Angeles suburban couple who have been married for seventeen years, and seem to be in reach of everything they desire, except for happiness.

“What has been eating you lately? Nothing I do is right. Nothing I say. What is it with you?”

“I’d rather not talk about it.”

Barbara and Richard are enmeshed in a strained marriage and are at war with each other. When the advise of a marriage counselor don’t seem to help matters, they decide to explore the world outside of their marriage. For Barbara and Richard, this is a long road that would ultimately lead to divorce, but when that finally does happen, they embark on a journey into unknown territory, which they find rather daunting. Did they make a mistake or can divorce bring them the contented life that they have always been searching for?

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I’m not knowledgeable when it comes to the divorce scene in the United States during the 1960’s, but according to most sources the film is historically accurate. However, other articles that I’ve read have left me confused and only make me assume that the films depiction of divorce is not entirely authentic. It wasn’t until 1970 that major changes would be made to the legal system. At the time of release, no fault divorces were  granted. Couples could only file for divorce on the terms of cruelty or adultery and possibly for other reasons that would fall under that criteria. In Richard and Barbara’s case nobody was at fault, but yet they were still granted divorce.

Despite the films unrealistic approach to the divorce setting, Divorce American Style is a thoroughly entertaining motion picture that features performances from some of cinemas most beloved stars. While the central protagonists are Debbie Reynolds and Dick Van Dyke, the film is graced by the presence of its stellar supporting cast, which include, Jason Robards, Jean Simmons, Van Johnson and Lee Grant, who all add to the pictures prestige.

For those audiences who are expecting to see Van Johnson in a leading role, disappointment is bound to set in. Sadly, Johnson plays a somewhat minor character who only appears during the last half of the movie. When he does make his entrance however, fireworks start to erupt. The actor who was noted for his neighborly on-screen persona, plays Big Al Yearling, a millionaire auto-dealer whose romance with Barbara was plotted by Nelson and Nancy. Barbara has no cognizance of this arranged set up, and for a while Al Yearling becomes her object of affection. Coincidentally, Yearling also shares the same feelings and is passionately smitten with Barbara.

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Actress, Lee Grant had an even smaller role than Van, and appears at the first half of the film. Here Grant plays Dede Murphy, a prostitute who a drunk Richard Harmon visits. Although, Richard never accepted her services he still offers her money for taking up her time. For someone of Grant’s stature, I would have liked to have seen her in a bigger role. This particular scene does not give Grant the opportunity to explore the depth of her talent. If her character was expanded on, Lee Grant would have been sensational.

“So, since when do men grow up? They just grow old. You know what I call this apartment sometimes? Boys’ Town.”

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While all the cast shine in their respective roles, Debbie Reynolds and Dick Van Dyke are the films emotional core. Barbara and Richard Harmon are struggling to come to terms with their failing relationship. They do everything in their power to try and salvage what is left of their marriage before it turns to debris, but when all their avenues of help fail to resolve their problems, the only answer is divorce. This is a heartbreaking situation to be in, and “us” the audience can feel their anguish as the two try to save their broken marriage. This is important for their sake and for their children.

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After Divorce American Style, Debbie Reynolds and Dick Van Dyke would continue to achieve greatness in films and other forms of entertainment. As of 2018, Van Dyke is still prolifically involved in the arts, and holds one of the last keys to Hollywood’s golden age, while Debbie Reynolds was struck with tragedy when her beloved daughter, Carrie Fisher suffered a cardiac arrest on-board a transatlantic flight from London to Los Angeles, and died on December 27th, 2016, leaving an emotionally distraught Debbie filled with grief and sorrow. Unable to continue on with life without Carrie, Debbie Reynolds suffered a stroke and passed away the following day. She was 84 years old. Debbie’s son Todd Fisher later stated that moments before death his mother said, “I want to be with Carrie.”

Debbie Reynolds with daughter Carrie Fisher

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TRIVIA

Divorce American Style is the film debut of actor, Tim Matheson.

The judge presiding over divorce proceedings in the film is played by John J. Anthony, a real-life marriage guidance counselor. This was his only acting role in a film.

Early in the movie they mention that they’re paying their maid $250/month and that their house cost $49,000. Inflation adjust equivalents in 2010 are $1614.14/month for the maid and $316,372.14 for the house.

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CAST

Debbie Reynolds: Born, Mary Frances Reynolds on April 1st, 1932 in El Paso, Texas. Died: December 28th, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Aged: 84.

Dick Van Dyke: Born, Richard Wayne Van Dyke on December 13th, 1925 in West Plains, Missouri.

Jason Robards: Born, Jason Nelson Robards Jr. on July 22nd, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois. Died: December 26th, 2000 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Aged: 78.

Jean Simmons: Born, Jean Merilyn Simmons on January 31st, 1929 in Lower Holloway, London. Died: January 22nd, 2010 in Santa Monica, California. Aged: 80.

Van Johnson: Born, Charles Van Dell Johnson on August 25th, 1916 in Newport, Rhode Island. Died: December 12th, 2008 in Nyack, New York. Aged: 92.

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This post was written for the Lovely Lee Grant Blogathon, hosted by Real Weedgie Midget Reviews and Angleman’s Place. To view the other entries being exhibited during this event, please click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANNOUNCING THE 2ND DISABILITY IN FILM BLOGATHON

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In Hollywood, where glamour, physical beauty and talent are of great advantage, the subject of disability is very rarely explored. When the movie industry do decide to give viewers a glimpse into the lives of people suffering from any form of disability, the film usually garners critical acclaim and is often greeted with Academy Awards.

It’s a shame that the many facets of disability is not often examined. The subject is fascinating and it doesn’t stretch credulity like a lot of other film plots. Millions of people worldwide are inflicted with some form of disability.

Some of our most beloved stars had some sort of disability. Actor Lionel Barrymore was a victim of arthritis and spent his later years in a wheelchair. Although, Lionel was crippled with pain, he never let his mobility hindrance his career or lifestyle. Other stars like, Marilyn Monroe, James Stewart, Elvis Presley, Anthony Quinn and James Earl Jones, lived with a lifelong speech impediment, known as stuttering. Being a stutterer myself, I know that it proposes an obstacle, and it can be difficult at times when you want to speak, but being the professionals that they were, they never let their stuttering affect their career.

As what Robin stated in her 2016 announcement post, disabled characters run the gamut from the sympathetic to the heinous, the monstrous to the victorious. Some portrayals of disabled characters are well developed and three dimensional; others, whether heroic or wicked, are sadly lacking in depth.

To pay tribute to those on-screen characters or real life film stars who have endured any form of disability, Robin from Pop Culture Reverie and myself from In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood are hosting the 2nd addition of the Disability In Film Blogathon, which Robin launched solo two years ago.

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Before we go any further, there are some ground rules that must be adhered to. 

1. Entries must cover some topic related to disability in film, excluding mental illness or terminal illness.

2. No more than two duplicate entries per person. Please check the roster to see what topics have been claimed.

3. If you want to do more than one post, that’s fine, but our limit is, no more than three posts per person.

4. No previously published material. All entries must be newly posted.

5. Since October is Disability Awareness Month, the Blogathon will take place on October 24th – 26th, 2018.

6. Posts must feature one of the banners below and a link back to the blogathon post on either my blog or Pop Culture Reverie.

7. 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 or robinpruter@gmail.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. We look forward to having you join us in October.

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THE ROSTER:

In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood : The stars who stuttered, The Spiral Staircase ( 1946 ) and TBD.

Pop Culture Reverie : The Sessions & The Lookout. 

Cinematic Scribblings : Immortal Love ( 1961 )

The Stop Button : My Left Foot ( 1989 )

The Midnight Drive-In : The X-Men movies or possibly I Borg. 

Real Reegie Midget Reviews : The Rain Man ( 1988 )

I Found It At The Movies : The King’s Speech ( 2010 )

Old Hollywood Films : The life of Harold Russell.

Critica Retro : Lucky Star ( 1929 )

Poppity : What’s Eating Gilbert Grape ( 1993 )

Taking Up Room : Mr. Holland’s Opus ( 1995 )

The Wonderful World of Cinema : Charly ( 1968 )

I Came From The Man Cave : Monkey Shines ( 1988 )

18 Cinema Lane : Bucky Barnes and Matthew Rogers: Paralleling Stories of Disability.

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society : The River ( 1951 )

ETHEL IS THE DELIGHTFUL PROTAGONIST IN JOHNNY TROUBLE ( 1957 )

“You may have bought the Lakeside Arms Mr. Parsons, but you haven’t bought my home, because I own it and I haven’t sold it.”

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Ethel Barrymore achieved success in many forms of entertainment. The stage was her destiny and her sweeping presence is etched in the hearts of theatre-goers world wide, but it was her short yet memorable tenure in motion pictures in which she is fondly remembered for today.

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It can’t be argued that Ethel had trouble adjusting to motion pictures, but as much as she detested the art of film making, she was still capable of achieving the same amount of adoration and greatness on celluloid as what she attained in the theatre. As an actress, Ethel was in full command. Her indomitable screen presence was a great asset to any film, but unfortunately, due to her advancing age, Ethel was mainly relegated to secondary roles.

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For Ethel, all those years of being cast as supporting characters was about to change. For the first time since she left the stage, Barrymore secured a leading role in the 1951 remake of Kind Lady, in which she played Mary Herries, an elderly victim who finds her colossal residence being taken over by a group of criminals who proceed to sell her paintings and other possessions. On its release, the film didn’t garner the popularity that its predecessor did, and nor did it make much of a dent in the filmography of its cast. However, it did enhance Ethel Barrymore’s chances of starring in more leading roles.

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Kind Lady ( 1951 )

Kind Lady is indisputable proof that Ethel Barrymore was still able to take on a lead role. Although Barrymore would only work sporadically after this due to illness and a twelve month suspension, the movie industry were apparently impressed by Barrymore’s starring performance.

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Kind Lady ( 1951 )

When no starring vehicles came her way, Ethel thought it was just a fanciful dream and that her days of playing leading ladies were over. What she didn’t know is that hope would become reality once more, but it would take seven more films, the death of brother Lionel, incessant debts and deteriorating health for it to happen.

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By the mid to late fifties, Ethel Barrymore’s frequent bouts of illness were beginning to dominate her entire lifestyle. To further exacerbate matters, she was drowning in debt, but with inefficient energy she was unable to pour all her dynamism into work. The only way to elude her financial problems was to act, though that task was proving to be more and more difficult. Her last movie role was in 1954 when she played Aunt Jessie Tuttle in Young at Heart, starring Doris Day and Frank Sinatra. Since then, her health has largely impacted her ability. Finally, help came in the form of her close friend, Katharine Hepburn who realized that her frailty was her most challenging burden. Hepburn expressed her concern by approaching George Cukor about setting up a fund where everyone could contribute.

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In August 1956, the Ethel Barrymore Fund was established. Although the fund was no secret from Barrymore, Hepburn continuously made Ethel think that only George Cukor and her circle of closest friends were contributing. There was no way in the world that Ethel was going to accept money from anybody, but Hepburn was deeply touched by Ethel’s graciousness and she wanted to try and eliminate Barrymore’s debt as best she could.

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Ethel’s response to the outpouring of generosity has never been documented, but one can imagine that she would have been moved with happiness. Perhaps, her accepting the lead role in the 1957 film Johnny Trouble is a slight indicator of her feelings. What we do know is that Barrymore was independent and depending on others was not in her vocabulary. We can also assume that after all these years, Barrymore was still clinging to the hope of acquiring one more starring role.

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Nobody alive these days knows Ethel’s exact motive behind wanting to make Johnny Trouble, but its true to say that she didn’t want to be viewed as being wholly dependent. She also couldn’t stand laying idle for long periods of time, and since she was currently in semi-retirement, she probably felt inactive and useless. I think she wanted to prove to the world that her illness was not an hindrance to her capabilities and that she still possessed her theatrical skills.

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At the time that Ethel Barrymore signed with the independent company Clarion to make Johnny Trouble, almost everyone was shocked by Barrymore’s decision to return to the screen. In the years prior, Barrymore’s health worries were starting to fuel significant problems. These troubles were clearly apparent in Young At Heart when Ethel appeared decrepit and old. Although her mobility seemed normal in the film, Barrymore spent most of her time on set in a wheelchair.

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This paints a clear picture of why everybody thought that Ethel Barrymore’s sudden decision to make another film seemed anything but normal. They were generally concerned about Ethel’s condition, and were worried that if she took on a leading role in a movie her health would rapidly disintegrate. Ethel on the other hand, was obstinate. She was not going to take no for an answer. She was determined to show the world that magic could still be spawned whenever she was in a scene.

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Johnny Trouble may not have been the success that Ethel was initially anticipating. In fact, some state that it was a rather sad departure for a Barrymore, but its true to say that she still went out with a bang. Despite being cheaply made and sinking into obscurity shortly after, the film boasts some familiar names who would continue to attain greater prosperity in the proceeding years. Directed and produced by John H. Auer and written for the screen by Charles O’Neil and David Lord who based the film on a story by Ben Ames Williams, Johnny Trouble is an endearing remake of Someone To Remember ( 1943 ).

“This is the first time you’ve scuttled me without offering me a cup of tea.”

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Coincidentally, Johnny Trouble is the last film John H. Auer directed. However, he did direct an episode of U.S. Marshal the following year and he continued to produce television series until 1960, when he decided to leave the industry for good. As a director and producer, Auer received little recognition. Born in Hungary in 1906, Auer developed an intense interest in film when he was still only a child. By the time he was twelve, John was already acting in European motion pictures, but like a lot of child stars he found it difficult to transition into adult roles. As a result, he decided to embark on a business career. That remained his soul focus for a while, but deep down he yearned for a more prestige profession in the entertainment industry and moved to the United States in 1928 to secure work as a director.

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THE PLOT:

Johnny Trouble is a tale of inaccessible dreams, blossoming friendships of the unexpected kind, and the spirit of trust. It is also the story of Katherine Chandler ( Ethel Barrymore ), an invalid elderly who has been told to leave her residence when her apartment complex is purchased by a local college and is soon to be remodeled and transformed into a boys dormitory. This creates a difficult problem for all involved except for Katherine who has permanently resided in her suite for decades and refuses to move. Katherine fears that if she vacates she may never see her son who disappeared twenty-seven years ago, and if she remains she is convinced that her son will someday return.

“How will I look to him? Will he recognize me? Would he be glad?”

Problems continue to arise, but eventually the chaos is put to a halt when Katherine is permitted to stay. The arrangement seems bizarre. Almost anyone would find the destruction a daily interference, though Katherine does not view it as an impediment to her lifestyle. She continues to carry on with her normal day to day routine as if nothing is happening. Even once the boys arrive everything seems to be mundane in Katherine’s world until she forges a close friendship with the boys who treat her as their collective grandmother. One of these students is Johnny Chandler ( Stuart Whitman ) whose behavioral traits closely mirror those of Katherine’s son Johnny. When Johnny Chandler enters her life, Katherine is convinced that he is her grandson, and at last her dreams of reuniting with her son who disappeared twenty-seven years earlier are finally in her reach or are they?

JOHNNY TROUBLE, Ethel Barrymore, (left), 1957

While the plot reaches the depths of sentimentality, it never actually hints at being too mawkish or sugary. However, Katherine Chandler embodies all the core characteristics of a saccharine person. She is lovable and extremely sweet, but she also carries an air of stubbornness. Her amiable persona and the way she exudes eccentricity is why the boys find her so appealing. They don’t look at her through the lens of her syrupy nature. They see her as a grandmother figure who they can have tea and cake with every afternoon. But their connection is much deeper than that. Katherine is their pillar of strength and their tower of comfort. Whenever they are embroiled in a difficult situation, they can always rely on Katherine’s support.

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On the other hand, the boys have improved Katherine’s life. Before the students entered the picture, Katherine was stuck in the perils of loneliness. The only contact she got with the outside world was when her longtime chauffeur Tom McKay came to take her to church. Most of the time she sat there reminiscing about the past and wishing that her son will return. At least when she meets Johnny Chandler she gets to relive those memories she has of her son, and it made her all the richer in believing that if Johnny is her grandson than the dream of seeing her real son could come true in the imminent future.

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Johnny Trouble is strongly anchored by Ethel Barrymore who infuses splashes of majestic charm and a special kind of grandeur to her role. The rest of the cast are given their moments to shine, but they are mostly aided by the presence of Barrymore. The only other star of the film who is capable of reaching the same heights as Ethel is Cecil Kellaway whose performance of Tom McKay brings a mixture of comedic relief and dramatic tension to the film. Tom is the only one who holds the key to the truth about Katherine’s son and he’s hidden the secret from her for many years. Although, Kellaway was also relegated to character parts, he had a brief stint as a leading man in Australian and American films earlier on in his career.

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Ethel Barrymore had previously worked with Cecil Kellaway in Portrait of Jennie ( 1948 ). After their first collaboration the two instantly developed a friendship that touched more on professionalism rather than an intimate bond. Kellaway was never a frequent visitor at Barrymore’s residence, but there’s a strong possibility that he has a been a guest on several occasions.

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In addition to Ethel Barrymore and Cecil Kellaway, the film also features a performance by Carolyn Jones, who is best remembered for donning the famous role of Morticia on The Addams Family. In Johnny Trouble, Jones plays Julie Horton, Johnny’s love interest who is trying to amend the complications in her relationship, but falls pregnant in the process. The part of Julie is pivotal to the story and without her presence the plot would fall rather flat. Julie adds depth to the film and provides more dramatic content.

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The next major character would be Johnny Chandler who is portrayed by Stuart Whitman. At the time of filming, Whitman was still relatively unknown to audiences, but his status soon catapulted to great heights. As Johnny Chandler, Whitman does an exceptional job at playing an unruly and rebellious student who becomes the object of Katherine’s obsession. Barrymore and Whitman surprisingly have solid chemistry and its because of this that their characters don’t stretch credulity.

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Ethel Barrymore’s son, Samuel Colt played the small role of Mr. Reichow in the film. Although Colt was usually only given unaccredited parts in motion pictures, Barrymore was instrumental in Samuel’s brief tenure in film. On the home-front, Samuel had no direction in life. He didn’t know what career to pursue and he certainly wasn’t interested in marriage. The only profession he knew was caring and escorting his mother around, a duty that he continued until Ethel’s death.

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Johnny Trouble was Ethel Barrymore’s final screen appearance. The actress wanted so  desperately to continue on working. In early 1958, she signed up to play Jesse James’s mother on TV’s Playhouse 90, but her deteriorating health which caused her to have a bad fall and break her arm at home forbidded her to take on the role. This fueled major upset, but her emotional stability started crashing down when she found out that she would never return to her beloved Mamaroneck estate. By now, Ethel was confined to her bed with an oxygen tank parked permanently by her side and waiting for the inevitable to happen. As time progressed, her health rapidly declined, and on June 18th, 1959, Ethel Barrymore finally passed away at the age of 79.

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TRIVIA:

Jack Larson (Eddie Landis) and James Bridges (Ike) met during the making of the film. They became domestic partners in 1958 and remained so until Bridges’ death in 1993.

The Shakespeare which Johnny Chandler (Stuart Whitman) reads to Nana (Ethel Barrymore) is an excerpt from Sonnet 29 ; which reads as follows: Sonnet 29 When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself, and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d, Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope, With what I most enjoy contented least; Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee, and then my state, Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate; For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my state with kings. ~ William Shakespeare.

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CAST:

Ethel Barrymore: Born, Ethel Mae Blythe on August 15th, 1879 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Died: June 18th, 1959 in Los Angeles, California. Aged 79.

Cecil Kallaway: Born, Cecil Lauriston Kellaway on August 22nd, 1890 in Cape Town, Cape Colony, South Africa. Died: February 28th, 1973 in West Hollywood, California. Aged: 82.

Carolyn Jones: Born, Carolyn Sue Jones on April 28th, 1930 in Amarillo, Texas. Died: August 3rd, 1983 in West Hollywood, California. Aged: 53.

Stuart Whitman: Born, Stuart Maxwell Whitman on February 1st, 1928 in San Francisco, California.

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This post was written for the Fourth Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathonhosted by me. To view the other entries being exhibited during this event, please click here.

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THE FOURTH ANNUAL BARRYMORE TRILOGY BLOGATHON IS HERE

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Here we are for the fourth consecutive year. For the next three days where going to be celebrating nothing but the illustrious Barrymore family.

Bloggers, once you’ve finished your entries, please submit them to me via this post. Thank you. I look forward to reading your articles.

And last but not least, I would like to wish my all time favorite actress, Ethel Barrymore a very Happy Heavenly Birthday for Wednesday.

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THE ENTRIES:

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict joins John and Carole on board the Twentieth Century ( 1934 )

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Michaela from Love Letters To Old Hollywood is memorized by Ethel, Jane and Bing in Just For You ( 1952 )

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Maddy Loves Her Classic Films visits John and Kate in A Bill of Divorcement ( 1932 ) Katharine Hepburn’s film debut. 

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Patricia from Caftan Woman pens a tribute to John Barrymore in Counsellor-At-Law ( 1933 )

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The Story Enthusiast joins the party with John and Lionel in Arsene Lupin ( 1932 )

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The Stop Button shines the spotlight on the 1938 screwball comedy, You Can’t Take It With You.

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Real Weegie Midget Reviews brings Drew Barrymore to the party with The Screaming Woman ( 1986 )

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For her first post, Rebecca from Taking Up Room brings a Barrymore feast with Dinner At Eight ( 1933 )

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Dubsism talks about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ( 1920 )

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Lionel Barrymore Obsessively explores Lionel’s performance in the Kildare & Gillespie Films. 

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I Found It At The Movies takes us on a journey to Key Largo in 1948. 

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Terence from A Shroud of Thoughts talks about Lionel Barrymore on the radio.

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The Midnight Drive-In explores the performances of John Barrymore in the Bull Dog Drummond series.

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For his first of three posts, Movie Rob discusses Never Been Kissed ( 1999 )

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For her second post, Rebecca from Taking Up Room visits Hostage Hotel in Key Largo ( 1948 )

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Davide from Karavansara discovers Lionel Barrymore at The Mysterious Island ( 1929 )

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Le from Critica Retro tells us about her stay at Grand Hotel ( 1932 )

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For his second of three posts, Movie Rob writes about Lionel’s final film, Lone Star ( 1952 )

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Nuwan Sen Film Sense pens a tribute to Drew Barrymore in Fire Starter and Cat’s Eye.

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Movie Rob brings Ethel to the party with The Farmer’s Daughter ( 1947 )

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Taking Up Room is back with her third post on He’s Just Not That Into You ( 2009 )

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Finding Franchot joins us with The Girl From Missouri ( 1934 )

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Robin from Pop Culture Reverie talks about Santa Clarita Diet ( 2017 )

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Old Hollywood Films has arrived at the party with Ethel in Pinky ( 1949 )

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Yours truly talks about Ethel’s leading role and final screen appearance in Johnny Trouble ( 1957 )

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And last, but not least, Virginie from The Wonderful World of Cinema talks about my all time favorite film, The Spiral Staircase ( 1946 )

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JOHN HURT IS JOSEPH MERRICK IN THE ELEPHANT MAN ( 1980 )

“I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!”

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The real Joseph Merrick.
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The real Joseph Merrick.

In Victorian Era, London, lived, Joseph Carey Merrick, a seriously deformed and tortured soul who became the face of curiosity after years of being disrespectfully exhibited at freak shows, where his grotesque appearance earned him the nickname of the “Elephant Man”.

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Joseph Merrick was born on August 5th, 1862 in Leicester, England. During his short yet challenging life, Merrick was constantly the subject of criticism when freak show hosts were benefiting from his misery. Fortunately, his formidable years of humiliation would ultimately come to a halt when he was rescued by Sir Frederick Treves, an eminent British surgeon who provided him residence at the London Hospital. After weeks of examination, Treves discovered that behind that hideous facade lived an extremely sensitive human being who exuded innate knowledge and had the capabilities of being loved.

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The birth certificate of Joseph Merrick.

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The story of Joseph Merrick explores compassion, warmth, cruelty and degradation, but most of all, it is an inspirational account of a courageous human being whose life was destroyed from Proteus syndrome which left his face and body severely deformed. On the inside, Joseph Merrick was a man of profound intelligence who was interested in love and romance. Sadly, Merrick wasn’t destined to experience an intimate relationship or even marriage, but in his last few years he was blessed to be around people who loved and understood him.

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After years of living in constant pain, Joseph Merrick passed away on April 11th, 1890 at the London Hospital. In the years that proceeded, Merrick’s life has inspired researchers and historians as well as the entertainment industry who saw great potential in his story and wanted to capitalize on his situation. Joseph Merrick was first revived in 1977 when a stage play titled The Elephant Man opened at the Hampstead Theatre in London. The success of the production led the show to moving to the National Theatre and Off-Broadway before closing to critical acclaim in 1981.

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The skull of Joseph Merrick.

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While the stage production was hitting triumphant peaks, the movie industry brought the life of Joseph Merrick to the screen in 1980 when a motion picture of the same name was released. The film was based on the book, The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences by Frederick Treves and The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu, and starred John Hurt in the role of Joseph Merrick.

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DAVID LYNCH: DIRECTOR OF THE ELEPHANT MAN.

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Often touted, “The greatest unknown director in the world.”, David Lynch was the only candidate that was deemed suitable to direct The Elephant Man. Despite being almost anonymous outside of the United States, Lynch made his directorial debut three years earlier with Eraserhead ( 1977 ), a significant cult classic that spawned his future success as a director.

As a first-time director, David Lynch was impressive. His work greatly astonished Mel Brooks personal assistant, Stuart Cornfeld, who immediately suggested David Lynch to Jonathan Sanger and persuaded him to send him a copy of the script. Upon reading the screenplay, Lynch expressed enthusiasm and automatically realized that The Elephant Man would be perfect for his next project, but before he was employed, Sanger and Cornfeld had to convince Mel Brooks that Lynch was the ideal person to direct The Elephant Man by arranging a private screening of Eraserhead at 20th Century Fox. At the time Brooks had not heard of David Lynch, though when he discovered that Lynch possessed all the qualities he was after in a director, he was elated that Lynch was being hired.

For David Lynch, The Elephant Man was a challenging project that would really test his directorial abilities. Instead of delving into familiar territory, Lynch had to detour away into an unknown region and direct a more conventional film that explored human courage and the severity of a medical condition that plagued a once existing figure. The task of traveling into foreign land and analyzing Merrick’s life was stimulating, but it also brought strain and grueling demands that Lynch wasn’t accustomed to enduring.  The hardest part was adapting to the twelve week schedule, which he described as “so expensive and so many people involved”. However, David soon found that these minor problems were only secondary. He began to realize that a lot more could be achieved with a legion of crew members involved.

Overall, David found that directing The Elephant Man was a pleasurable experience. His fellow crew members held him in high esteem and the cast noted that he was amiable and easy to work with. They also thought that his talents transcended beyond the capacity of any other new director of motion pictures.

MEL BROOKS ASSOCIATION WITH THE ELEPHANT MAN AS CO-PRODUCER.

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Mel Brooks is a highly revered member of the motion picture community. During his successful tenure in film, Brooks has served as director, producer, actor and composure. These days however, he is best remembered for his unique and prolific flair for comedy. Although he was largely associated as a comedienne, Brooks prospered outside of the genre.

Mel Brooks played a pivotal part in the production of The Elephant Man, but due to his prominence in comedy he was mainly absent from the set during filming. He feared that his association with the film might tarnish his image as a comedienne. As a result he launched his own production company titled, Brooksfilms, where a large number of straight drama films were produced.

Despite his absence from The Elephant Man, Mel Brooks was the instrumental force behind the production. He was responsible for the casting aspects, and in his spare time he spent long hours guiding the script and suggesting structural development with the writers. It has been said that Brooks contributed a lot to the films success.

JOHN HURT AS JOHN ( JOSEPH ) MERRICK.

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John Hurt was one of the most influential actors Britain has ever produced. From the moment he embarked on his theatrical career, Hurt evoked considerable popularity by portraying a diverse range of characters and demonstrating a gamut of emotions. The depths of his talents along with his sheer versatility and his utmost professionalism were among the assets that Mel Brooks, David Lynch and Jonathan Sanger continued to marvel at. It is because of these reasons that John Hurt was the only star they considered to play John Merrick.

The part of John ( Joseph Merrick ) called for an actor who could become the character they were portraying. While many stars didn’t appear authentic when it came to playing a particular person, John Hurt had the ability to successfully morph into the character and he always made it look believable. With that in mind, Mel Brooks instantly knew that John Hurt could give a realistic portrayal of John ( Joseph ) Merrick.

The only worry was that John Hurt might not accept, but luckily, Hurt had no other commitments at the time, and was looking forward to taking on the challenge. His biggest concern was the extraordinary make-up job that was involved. He knew that he would have to undergo a rapid transformation to play Joseph Merrick. This meant long hours and little sleep, but with his utmost determination, he was positive that he could handle it. John Hurt later stated, “That make-up job? – It’s one thing sitting in a make-up chair for seven hours watching oneself getting prettier and prettier. But I was getting uglier and uglier! I was uncomfortable. I couldn’t eat once the make-up was on. I started at 5.am. with my head shaven, and by midday we had the head and the face done. Then it was time to do the body. It was evening before we began to shoot. It was such a performance that we could only do it all every second day.. Without the crew and cast, becoming John Merrick would have been real hell! In fact, it was a kind of joy. From David Lynch down to the electricians, they were fantastic people to work with.”

For a large majority of actors, the role of John Merrick would require an innumerable amount of research, but John Hurt approached his role with a different perspective. Like the previous characters and historical figures he portrayed, Hurt didn’t engage himself in hours of study. Instead of reading books and visiting museums etc., John Hurt was able to paint a clear picture of Joseph Merrick by just reading the screenplay. When the question about his lack of homework was proposed to him in interviews, John Hurt said, “It’s just the way I work. I know some people do endless research and are tremendously successful with it. But I find if the script doesn’t tell you enough then I think there’s something wrong with the script. I prefer to work imaginatively than totally out of observation. Of course one observes. But imagination to me is what heightens things. I think perhaps there are two major categories into which performances can be put. One performer will go to the character. Another takes the character to himself. I’m of the former really. I prefer to take whatever gifts I have to the character, so it doesn’t really matter whether it looks like me or somebody else. It’s the character I’m playing – I hope! – rather than the other way round. With John Merrick I was playing a role I wanted from the moment I first heard of it in Mel Brooks’ office.”. He then went on to state, “Merrick was obviously an amazing man. He was in constant pain, suffering from a disease that, to this day is still incurable, and he was destined for a very short life, dying at the age of 27. But with the help of Frederick Treves and others, his enormous courage and quiet dignity enabled him to find some enjoyment in his last few years.”

ANTHONY HOPKINS AS FREDERICK TREVES.

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Frederick Treves was a man who embodied compassion and empathy. All most every actor wanted to play him, but nobody campaigned for the role harder than Anthony Hopkins who immediately felt that he was the perfect star to fulfill the role from the moment he read the script.

After his recent successes in motion pictures, Anthony Hopkins was the first in line to play Frederick Treves. The actor who is greatly recognized for his ability to portray an assortment of different characters from villains to a man of tremendous humanity, possessed all the ingredients that were required to play a highly respected physician who sees the beauty in a poor, gentle soul who is trapped behind his hideous deformities. In real life, Hopkins personified cordiality, and in many ways his personality paralleled with Frederick Treves. Upon securing the role, Hopkins stated, “I like Treves very much. He’s a nice quiet man and I’m very fond of him. The lovely thing about the story is that it’s about care. Treves was a remarkable man who stuck his professional neck out for John Merrick. He was genuinely concerned about him and felt a real love for this other human being who was in a terrible predicament. I think that makes Treves a very full and rich man. Like all dedicated men, he was a bit of a fanatic. A bit eccentric. Perhaps a bit blinkered even. But a lovely man.”

Unlike John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins believed that research should take higher precedence over imagining a character without studying the role. For his portrayal of Frederick Treves, Hopkins read Treves book, The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences. While this was his main source of information, he occasionally searched around for other related facts, but most of his knowledge was grasped from Treves’ autobiography.

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THE PLOT.

Set in Victorian London, The Elephant Man follows the story of John Merrick ( John Hurt ), a beloved man who suffered from a combination of Proteus syndrome and other medical conditions which left his face and body severely deformed. Although Merrick leads a miserable existence, he finds happiness in the hands of Frederick Treves ( Anthony Hopkins ) who becomes his pillar of strength, and supports him through his trials and tribulations.

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THE SUPPORTING CAST.

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“My life is full because I know I am loved.”

In addition to John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins, The Elephant Man boasts the talents of Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud and Wendy Hiller, who help round out the supporting cast. John Gielgud only plays a secondary role, but he is still an important character with a sizable part. As Francis Carr-Gomm, the governor of the London Hospital, Gielgud adds serious depth to the film and supplies a bit of tension. This is clearly apparent in the scenes where Francis expresses his disapproval over Treves providing Merrick with housing at the hospital. He is not willing to accept an incurable case and continues to stay firm on his decision until he finally realizes that Merrick is indeed quite scholarly. Mothershead, the steely and abrupt matron supports Francis’ idea, but compared to Francis, she takes a while to warm up to the decision.

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I’m not sure how I feel about Wendy Hiller’s character. For most of the movie she appears rather aloof. Her relationship with Merrick seems to be somewhat distant at first, and its only when Merrick is guaranteed permanent residence by Queen Victoria that her personality becomes more amiable. Of course, Mothershead isn’t malicious and her intents aren’t harmful or anything. She just takes a while to adjust to John Merrick and the severity of his condition. Her biggest problem is that she doesn’t know how to react to someone as hideous looking as John Merrick, but that could be a challenge that anyone could face on their first introduction to John.

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The one person who does emanate warmth when she enters into John Merrick’s life is Madge Kendal ( Anne Bancroft ), a dignified stage actress who is immediately accepting of Merrick’s condition and helps him find much deserved happiness. Despite her limited screen time, Bancroft infuses the very few scenes that she is in with feelings of sincerity and tenderness. She doesn’t look at him through the lens of his disability. She sees John Merrick as a man who epitomizes beauty and who is not incapable of love.

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The relationship between John Merrick and Madge Kendal transcends any ordinary bond. The two forge a short but glorious friendship, and in the heartfelt moments they spend together, Madge introduces Merrick to Shakespeare, a kind and deeply touching gesture. It is during these times that Madge discovers that Merrick is profoundly interested in the theatre, but due to his condition he has never had the privilege to attend a stage production. Madge remedies that. She invites John Merrick to one of her shows and dedicates her performance to him.

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Perhaps my favorite part in the movie is the Romeo and Juliet scene where John Merrick welcomes Madge Kendal in his room. After John reads a bit of the Shakespeare book he has just received from Mrs. Kendal, Madge touchingly says “Oh, Mr. Merrick, you’re not an elephant man at all. You’re Romeo.”. This particular scene clearly exemplifies the sweetness that Madge inhabits and the compassionate person that she is. You can watch that scene here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ep-gKH1I_IY

“Why, Mr. Merrick, you’re not an elephant man at all.”

“Oh no?”

“Oh no… no… you’re Romeo.”

At the time of filming, Bancroft was married to the films co-producer, Mel Brooks. Brooks was the mastermind behind Bancroft being cast in the role of Madge. The Elephant Man was not her only collaboration with Brooks however. Bancroft had appeared in Silent Movie ( 1976 ) as well as playing an unaccredited part in Blazing Saddles ( 1974 )

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The film is made up of many sweet components, but along with all the sugar, there is also a bit of spice. The Elephant Man introduces a few villainous characters who are only interested in profiting from John Merrick’s misery. These people see his macabre appearance as some form of entertainment for the general public, and they make him an exhibit at freak shows, where Merrick is viewed as a monstrosity. Seeing Merrick as the victim of humiliation is painful to watch, but it does paint a clear picture of the tribulations that Joseph Merrick endured in real life.

“Life!… is full of surprises. Consider the fate of this creature’s poor mother, struck down in the fourth month of her maternal condition by an elephant, a wild elephant. Struck down!… on an uncharted African isle. The result is plain to see… Ladies and gentlemen… The terrible… Elephant… Man…”

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In The Elephant Man, the main antagonist is Bytes ( Freddie Jones ), a merciless showman who is drawn into the perils of alcoholism. We are first introduced to Bytes at the beginning of the film when John Merrick who is kept by Bytes is the star attraction at a Victorian freak show. Right away, Bytes is represented as a deplorable person whose motives are corrupt. All he wants is to earn a considerable income by making Merrick’s life a living hell. To further exacerbate matters, he often beats Merrick badly, which is fatal for somebody of Merrick’s condition.

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It’s true to say that Bytes doesn’t understand the nature of John Merrick’s illness. He views Merrick as useless. To Bytes, Merrick is an absurd oddity whose restricted by an extreme handicap. But what he doesn’t know is that Merrick’s deformities do not affect his brain. In actuality, John Merrick has more intelligence than Bytes himself.

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The Elephant Man is filled with many characters who inhabit different personalities, some who model civility like Frederick Treves and Madge Kendal and some who are the essence of cruelty and sadism, but the heart of the film is John Merrick. As John Merrick, John Hurt delivers a touching portrayal of a man whose life was ruined by his severe deformities. Playing a person with abnormal body distortions is quite challenging and complex. The role required an actor with an air of professionalism. John Hurt hailed from this pantheon and he certainly was no stranger to depicting real life figures on screen, but John Merrick was by far the most difficult. For his performance, Hurt had to endure hours of wearing heavy make-up, which meant that he was forced to go without food and sip through a straw. John Hurt received an Academy Award nomination for his role, but lost to Robert De Niro who won for his performance in Raging Bull. 

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On its release, The Elephant Man was financially successful. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards including John Hurt’s nomination for “Best Actor”, but lost in all categories. The fact that Elephant Man was not even recognized for the extraordinary make-up effects sent the movie industry into an outrage. A letter of protest was sent to the Academy’s Board of Governors, requesting that the film be given an honorary award. However, the Academy rejected, and did not even take their frustration into account. Although, the make-up artists did receive their only category in the next years Academy Award and An American Werewolf in London was the first recipient.

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The Elephant Man may have been robbed at the Academy Awards, but its progress at the BAFTA Awards proved to be more successful. John Hurt took home the statuette for Best Actor while the film won for Best Film. In addition to its winnings, the film was nominated in four other categories.

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Although it was a difficult film to make, The Elephant Man reached critical acclaim on all levels. From the masterful cinematography by Freddie Francis to John Morris’ exceptional music score, this heartfelt and moving production gives viewers a rare glimpse into the life of one of London’s most unfortunate citizens.

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TRIVIA.

Following the death of the real Joseph “John” Merrick, parts of his body were preserved for medical science to study. Some internal organs were kept in jars, and plaster casts were taken of his head, an arm, and a foot. Although the organs were destroyed by German air raids during World War II, the casts survived,, and are kept at the London Hospital. The make-up for Sir John Hurt, who played Merrick in this film, was designed directly from those casts.

The last lines, spoken by Merrick’s mother, are quoted from Alfred Lord Tennyson‘s poem, “Nothing Will Die.”

A lifelong smoker, Sir John Hurt still managed to smoke his cigarettes through the heavy facial prosthetic make-up, whenever the urge came on, during the lengthy hours on-set.

Sir John Hurt kept the prosthetic cast of Joseph “John” Merrick’s head after the shoot. He stored it in a cupboard in his house. Several years later, his house was burgled while was out, a friend phoned him and said, “There has been a burglary at your house.” John asked what was taken, and the reply was, “Nothing! The robber must have opened the cupboard and the mask fell out! The burglar must have fled the scene in fright!”

Sir Frederick Treves great nephew played a cameo role in the movie.

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CAST.

John Hurt: Born, John Vincent Hurt on January 22nd, 1940 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England. Aged 76. Died: January 25th, 2017 in Cromer, Norfolk, England. Aged: 77.

Anthony Hopkins: Born, Philip Anthony Hopkins on December 31st, 1937 in Margam, Port Talbot, Glamorgan, Wales.

John Gielgud: Born, Arthur John Gielgud on April 14th, 1904 in South Kensington, London. Died: May 21st, 2000 in Aylesbury, United Kingdom. Aged: 96.

Anne Bancroft: Born, Anna Maria Louisa Italiano on September 17th, 1931 in The Bronx, New York. Died: June 6th, 2005 in Manhattan, New York. Aged: 73.

Wendy Hiller: Born, Wendy Margaret Hiller on August 15th, 1912 in Bramhall, Cheshire, England. Died: May 14th, 2003 in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England. Aged: 90.

This post was written for the Rule Britannia Blogathon, hosted by Terence at A Shroud of Thoughts. To view the other entries being exhibited during this event, please click here.

ANNOUNCING THE SECOND LAUREN BACALL BLOGATHON

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Back in September 2015, I hosted a blogathon dedicated to Lauren Bacall. This was my second ever blogathon, and the result was triumphant. Sadly, I wasn’t able to host it the two previous years, but this year I’ve decided that I want to shine the spotlight on Lauren once again, and here’s hoping that I can replicate the success of the last one.

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Anyone who knows me will know that Lauren Bacall has played a pivotal part in my life. At the end of 2011, I wrote to Lauren’s home address in New York. After hearing reports from my Mum and Grandma who attained front row seats to see Lauren being interviewed live on the Mike Walsh Show in 1979, I wasn’t expecting any fruitful activity to occur, but to my surprise, I was coming home one day and I noticed a big envelope sticking out of the letter box. I took the envelope out of the box, and discovered that the parcel was from no other than Lauren Bacall. Inside the envelope were a myriad of personalized photographs with my name on it. I was that euphoric that I wrote to her again, and to my amazement, she got back to me the second time and signed even more photos. Lauren was extremely generous.

As a token of gratitude, I’m celebrating Lauren’s 94th birthday on September 16th with this blogathon. I was hoping to announce it sooner, but I’ve been under strain lately, and have been drowning in journalism assignments yet again.

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THE RULES:

1. Bloggers are welcome to write about anything relating to Lauren Bacall from her filmography, her television appearances and stage work to her storybook romance and marriage with Humphrey Bogart. There are tons of things that you can talk about.

2. To give everyone a chance to participate, I’m allowing no more than two duplicates. I know this sounds very fair, but I like to make sure that bloggers attain the topic of their choice.

3. Because there are a wealth of topics to be discussed, I’m not limiting how many posts you want to do. I only ask that there be no previously published posts. I’m only accepting new material.

4. The blogathon will take place on the dates, September 14th – 16th ( Lauren’s birthday ), so please have your articles ready by then. Early entries are allowed.

5. To express your interest in participating in the blogathon, leave me a comment with your choice of topic and the name of your blog. If you wish to register by email, my email address is: carolelombardforever@yahoo.com. Once you receive confirmation, please select one of the banners below, and I’ll see you in September.

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THE ROSTER:

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood : TBD.

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films : To Have and Have Not ( 1944 )

The Story Enthusiast : How To Marry A Millionaire ( 1953 )

The Wonderful World Of Cinema : Key Largo ( 1948 )

The Stop Button : The Big Sleep ( 1946 )

Love Letters To Old Hollywood : Written On The Wind ( 1956 )

Caftan Woman : Young Man With A Horn ( 1950 )

Real Weegie Midget Reviews : Applause ( 1972 )

The Midnight Drive-In : Blood Alley ( 1955 )

Taking Up Room : Designing Woman ( 1957 )

Movie Rob : Dark Passage ( 1947 ), The Shootist ( 1976 ) and Written On The Wind ( 1956 )

Critica Retro : Harper ( 1966 )

Old Hollywood Films : Lauren Bacall: A life in pictures.

Karavansara : Murder on the Orient Express ( 1974 )

Overture Books and Films : How To Marry A Millionaire ( 1953 )

Anybody Got A Match? : Lauren’s life after Bogart. 

Whimsically Classic : Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

Pop Culture Reverie : The Big Sleep ( 1946 )

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies : The Gift of Love ( 1958 )

Hamlette’s Soliloquy : Designing Woman ( 1957 )

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