KIRK DOUGLAS REACHES HIS 100TH CENTENARY

“I think half the success in life comes from first trying to find out what you really want to do. And then going ahead and doing it.”

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Kirk Douglas, the prominent actor whose immense talent was showcased in ninety-one acting credits celebrated his 100th birthday on December 9th, 2016. Noted for his trademark cleft chin, steely eyes and chiseled smile, Douglas rose from poverty and became a cinematic icon of the silver screen.

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Even though acting was a profession that seemed impossible to a family who was trapped in a life of financial ruin, little Issur Danielovitch was destined to be a star from the moment he entered the world on December 9th, 1916. The baby with the glistening blue eyes who delivered a multitude of happiness into their dreary existence was the prized package of his Jewish immigrant parents, Bryna Bertha Sanglel, and Herschel Harry Danielovitch, a rag-man, who was constantly fighting for a dollar to support his family.

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Living an impoverished lifestyle was not easy for a teenager with big dreams. Once he was old enough, Issur, who was now known as Izzy Demsky was forced to take on menial duties, which included selling snacks to mill-workers and delivering newspapers, so he could earn enough money to provide his family with food and the daily essentials. After working in a total of forty jobs, Demsky started to yearn for an auspicious and rewarding career, but with his inadequate funds, Izzy realized that it would take years to climb the ladder to success.

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For a while, Izzy was unsure with what career path he should follow. However, while he was in high school he developed a profound interest in becoming an actor, and from that moment on he instantly knew that his dream destination was going to be Hollywood, a place that seemed far away to Izzy, who was trying his hardest to elude the cramped and stifling conditions in which he and his six sisters lived in at home.

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Dreaming of becoming an actor was a lot easier than to become one, but Izzy was determined that not even a price tag was going to get in the way of him achieving his dreams. Unable to afford tuition, he managed to talk his way into the Dean’s office at St. Lawrence University, where he presented them with a list of his previous accomplishments. The professor was that impressed with his resume that he offered him a loan, which he was to pay back once he attained steady employment.

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For Izzy Demsky, this seemed like a long road that would entail plenty of setbacks, but not long after embarking on his acting expedition, Izzy secured a placement at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, a prestige performing arts conservatory that helped launch the careers of a plethora of notable talents, who would soon adorn the silver screen. While studying at the academy he met an ambitious young student named Betty Joan Perske, who would later be known the world over as Lauren Bacall. The two developed a great rapport and became close friends. Bacall, who was eight years his junior also grew up in poverty, and knew what it was like to be constantly low on funds. However, Bacall felt sorry for Demsky, and did all she could to help him out, but the most effective thing she did was being the instrumental force behind his motion picture establishment.

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“I thought he must be frozen in the winter …. He was thrilled and grateful.” Sometimes, just to see him, she would drag a friend or her mother to the restaurant where he worked as a busboy and waiter. He told her his dream was to someday bring his family to New York to see him on stage. During that period she fantasized about someday sharing her personal and stage life with Douglas, but would later be disappointed: “Kirk did not really pursue me. He was friendly and sweet–enjoyed my company–but I was clearly too young for him.”

( Lauren Bacall on Kirk Douglas )

After a brief stint in The United States Navy, Izzy Demsky, who had legally changed his name to Kirk Douglas before he entered the navy, returned to New York to pursue a career in acting. The only position available for an individual with his range of experience was radio work and appearances in theater and commercials. However, this type of work didn’t exactly fulfill any major goals, but it did open the door to many endless possibilities, as well as providing him with the opportunity to make his mark on stage in 1943, by replacing Richard Widmark in Kiss and Tell.

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On November 2nd, 1943, Kirk Douglas took time away from the theater to marry, Diana Dill. The marriage was not always a happy reunion, but it did produce two childen, Michael, who was born in 1944, and Joel, born 1947. The couple divorced in 1951.

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After a few years of considerable success on the stage, Douglas was content with his profession, and wanted to make that his life’s work. However, Lauren Bacall, who was already permanently established in Hollywood had different plans. She thought that Douglas should embark on a career in movies. If he was going to embrace motion pictures like he did the stage, he would receive triumphant results, and would be set for life. Initially Douglas was hesitant, and uncertain with what a future in film would bring, but when Bacall approached director, Hal Wallis, who was canvassing around for a new male talent, Douglas capitulated, and agreed to take the plunge.

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Hollywood was a totally different world to Kirk Douglas. It was foreign territory, a place that he would never have dreamed of visiting, but now after all these years, Douglas found himself in the movie capital of the world, and under the spell of Hal Wallis, who wanted Douglas to make his screen debut opposite Barbara Stanwyck in The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers, a film that would transform Douglas into a bona fide star.

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Unlike a plethora of stars whose film debuts are brief cameos, The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers, was an ideal production for a newcomer. Douglas played Walter O’Neil, an insecure district attorney, who is stung by jealousy and the brutal domination of his wife. This was the only time that Douglas would play a weakling, but even though his role was dissimilar to his usual tough and unyielding characters with a strong demeanor, Douglas already exuded all the qualities of a consummate and seasoned actor.

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With a new life, and a career transformation, Kirk Douglas was planted in a reputable position in Hollywood. His performance in The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers, led to supporting roles in Mourning Becomes Electra, and, Out Of The Past, among other lauded performances that would ultimately lead Douglas down the path to super stardom.

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A polished professional from the very beginning, Douglas had only made eight films when he received his first Academy Award nomination for his role as Midge in Champion. Upon its release, critics and sports historians stated that Douglas’s acting was alarmingly authentic, perfectly executing every element of his character.

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Whatever role he graced, Kirk Douglas always delivered his own scripted brand of artistry to the film. Throughout the 1950’s, Douglas appeared in an array of diverse roles that garnered him critical acclaim. In 1951, he was given the opportunity to reunite with his friend Lauren Bacall when he played the counterpart to Bacall’s character in Young Man With A Horn. 

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The 1950’s, was a busy decade for Kirk Douglas. It was during this period that his star status catapulted to an even higher pinnacle. Along with churning out picture after picture, Douglas formed Bryna Productions in 1955, a movie company that is named after his mother. Despite the fact that he had to cancel contracts with Hal Wallis and Warner Brothers’, Bryna Productions opened up even greater opportunities, and now Kirk Douglas was producing his own films as well as starring in them.

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The following year he was cast as Vincent Van Gogh in Lust For Life, a biographical picture about the tortured artist whose revolutionary paintings still continue to have a great impact on aspiring artists. The film was an overall success, and Douglas received another Academy Award nomination, but was sadly robbed of the Oscar. Instead his co-star Anthony Quinn won for Best Supporting Actor.

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While filming Lust For Life, Douglas met Anne Duydens, who was working as producer. The couple married on May 29th, 1954, and had two children, Peter and Eric Douglas. More than sixty year later, Douglas and Anne still endure a marriage filled with peace and happiness.

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Most of Kirk Douglas’s films that were released around this time were successful. As well as being the executive producer, he played the lead role in the star-studded production, Spartacus. The film was considered to be among the most expensive ever made, but the end result was worth all the effort. Screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, who was on the Hollywood Blacklist received full credit for his work in the picture, and after all the merits he attained, the Blacklist was effectively ended. Douglas later stated, “I’ve made over 85 pictures, but the thing I’m most proud of is breaking the blacklist.”

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Breaking the Blacklist was a risky venture for someone like Douglas who held a prominent reign over Hollywood. After years of being in a prestige position, Douglas now feared for his career, which was under threat, but he was pleased that he did it, and as it turned out, he managed to escape any altercations regarding his career.

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During the course of the next few decades he would go on to appear in more films with his frequent co-star, Burt Lancaster. In total, Douglas and Lancaster made seven films together, and would both sort out independent Hollywood careers as an actor and producer.

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Kirk Douglas was one of those stars who never stopped working. He remained positively active well into the 21st century, and gave his last performance in the 2008 television movie, Empire State Building Murders, a tribute that celebrates American Film Noir and the icons of Hollywood’s golden age.

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Despite being injured in a helicopter collision in 1991, suffering a severe stroke in 1996, which left him with a speaking impairment, and losing his son Eric from a drug overdose in 2004, Kirk Douglas has remained largely active in the public eye. Throughout his life he has donated to numerous charity organizations, and along with his wife Anne, he engages himself in volunteer and philanthropic activities. With sheer dedication and devotion to their work, Douglas and his wife Anne have traveled to more than forty countries at their own expense to act as Goodwill Ambassadors for the U.S Information Agency.

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The recipe to Kirk Douglas’ success is that he never stopped acting. In a career that spans over sixty years, Douglas is considered to be a treasure to the film industry. His multitude of achievements along with his contribution to motion pictures will continue to leave an indelible mark on cinematic history.

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Happy 100th Birthday Kirk, and here’s to many more.

THE AGNES MOOREHEAD BLOGATHON IS HERE

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After months of impatiently waiting, the Agnes Moorehead Blogathon has finally arrived. during the course of the next few days a plethora of illustrious bloggers will be paying tribute to Agnes by submitting articles that cover a wide array of topics regarding this legendary actress, who has left an indelible mark on cinematic history.

I look forward to reading all your entries, and I know that Agnes herself will be thrilled to know that her territory is finally being charted in the blogasphere. This is for Aggie.

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THE AGNES MOOREHEAD BLOGATHON ENTRIES:

The Midnight Drive-In: Night Mare On The Farm: Agnes Moorehead in The Invaders from The Twilight Zone

Thoughts All Sorts: How The West Was Won ( 1962 )

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: Agnes’ early life, and Citizen Kane ( 1941 )

Crimson Kimono: Untamed (  1955 )

Caftan Woman: Station West ( 1948 )

Wolffian Classic Movies Digest: Dark Passage ( 1947 )

Silver Scenes: Agnes Moorehead profile ( Life story )

Taking Up Room: Since You Went Away ( 1944 )

The Dream Book Blog: Agnes Moorehead’s aborted performance in “The Magnificent Ambersons”  ( 1942 )

Moon In Gemini: Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte ( 1964 )

The Incredible Thinking Woman: Agnes Moorehead: Unsung Feminist Icon

Taking Up Room: Our Vines Have Tender Grapes ( 1945 ) 

The Stop Button: Journey Into Fear ( 1943 )

Karavansara: The Bat ( 1959 )

Reelweedgie Midget Reviews: Agnes’ voice behind Charlotte’s Web ( 1973 )

The Flapper Dame: The Magnificent Obsession ( 1954 )

A Shroud Of Thoughts: Agnes Moorehead’s radio career

Critica Retro: Dark Passage ( 1947 )

Minoo Allen. Guest post on the Classic Movie Hub: All That Heaven Allows ( 1955 )

Old Hollywood Films: The Magnificent Ambersons ( 1942 )

Apocalypse Later: Dear Dead Delilah ( 1972 )

Finding Franchot: Without Honor ( 1949 ) and the television career paths of Agnes and Franchot Tone

Taking Up Room: The Bat ( 1959 )

Life’s Daily Lessons Blog: Before The Witch: The Fabulous Agnes Moorehead 

Christina Wehner: The Lost Moment ( 1947 )

Defiant Success: Agnes Moorehead’s Oscar nominated performances

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies: The Woman In White ( 1948 )

Classic Film: Flickers Of Silver and Gold: The Golden Voice of Agnes Moorehead

THE AGNES MOOREHEAD BLOGATHON COMMENCES TOMORROW

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After months of impatiently waiting, I’m pleased as punch to be finally honoring the legendary Agnes Moorehead for three days, commencing tomorrow, and finishing on Tuesday December 6th, which would have been Agnes’ 116th birthday.

For those bloggers who are participating in the blogathon, please send your articles to my blog on any of the dates, and I’ll post them up on that days recap. I look forward to reading all of your entries. Thank you.

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THE MAGIC OF KATE AND CARY

“We got on well, Cary and I. It was fun to play with him, and I think he had a good time too. People liked us together, so we enjoyed it,”

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In the spirited life of Katharine Hepburn lived Spencer Tracy, a unique and complex individual who made movie magic with Hepburn in a nine film collaboration, which spanned from 1942 to 1967, but before the evolution of this legendary dynamic duo was the famed partnership of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, who helped pave the way for each others future success in motion pictures.

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As far as many audiences are concerned, Katharine Hepburn’s ascent to super-stardom was fueled by Spencer Tracy, and their highly extolled on-screen romance, but in truth, Hepburn was already an established star in Hollywood, and had reached the pinnacle of success long before Tracy entered the picture. After making her film debut in A Bill Of Divorcement ( 1932 ), Katharine Hepburn had formed two notable partnerships with director, George Cukor, and Cary Grant, in which they appeared in four movies together.

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In many ways, the teaming of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn is just as pivotal as her celebrated association with Spencer Tracy. In addition to possessing that unique flair for Screwball Comedy along with their magnetic chemistry that had the power to lure audiences, both stars inhabited similar personalities, and were not afraid to admit that they shunned the spotlight, and often refused interviews.

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Even though the partnership of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn was only short-lived, and was later eclipsed by her unparalleled collaboration with Spencer Tracy, the four films that they did appear in together are among the best of both stars, and will continue to leave an indelible mark on cinematic history.

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Their first film, Sylvia Scarlett may not have been as commercially successful as their other three outings, but it did open the door to many endless opportunities, as well as introducing audiences to this iconic couple whose sheer magnetism and zest for life are clearly evident in all four of their vehicles. In fact, if it weren’t for Sylvia Scarlett, the likeness of this screen-team may not have spawned the three Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant comedy extravaganzas that followed.

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By the time the two made Sylvia Scarlett in 1935, both stars were secure in the motion picture industry, but hadn’t yet garnered the popularity or the prominent status that they would attain as time progressed. Cary Grant already had twenty-two acting credits to his resume, and was cemented in a reputable position in Hollywood, while Katharine Hepburn, who had made her movie debut the same year as Grant, had a total of nine films to her credit, and had already received her first of four Academy Awards two years earlier for her performance in Morning Glory ( 1933 )

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While exhausting your way through the four film collaboration of Hepburn and Grant, you come to discover that their ephemeral partnership was a gift from heaven. These were two stars who produced magic together, and had the talent to reduce you to laughter even when your facing your darkest days, and a smile is the hardest thing to pull off. It’s a huge shame that after sending sparks fly in The Philadelphia Story, Cary Grant would never share the screen with Katharine Hepburn again. I personally would have liked to have seen Cary Grant appear alongside both Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in a movie, but I can only dream.

“She was this slip of a woman and I never liked skinny women. But she had this thing, this air you might call it, the most totally magnetic woman I’d ever seen, and probably ever seen since. You had to look at her, you had to listen to her; there was no escaping her.”

( Cary Grant on Katharine Hepburn )

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SYLVIA SCARLETT ( 1935 )

Directed by: George Cukor: Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Brian Aherne, and Edmund Gwenn.

In a film that floundered at the box office, Katharine Hepburn is given the opportunity to return to her childhood roots by playing, Sylvia Scarlett, a young girl who disguises herself as a boy, so her and her father, Henry Scarlett ( Edmund Gwenn ) can flee the country to elude embezzlement charges, and escalating troubles with the law. Along the way they meet and get involved with con-man, Jimmy Monkley ( Cary Grant ), who encourages them to join him in brief crime stints.

The film was initially considered to be a romantic comedy, and went as far to be labeled as one. However, on it’s release, the reaction from audiences was less than enthusiastic with critics complaining that it lacked the sublety of a comedy. Instead what we are given is a production that delves more into the facets of dark comedy.

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BRINGING UP BABY ( 1938 )

Directed by: Howard Hawks: Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Charlie Ruggles.

Bringing Up Baby is a cinematic masterpiece that truly epitomizes Screwball Comedy. In this glorious and cheerful extravaganza, Cary Grant plays David Huxley, a zoology professor who acquires one million dollars to complete the brontosaurus skeleton at his museum, but when he is pursued by Susan Vance ( Katharine Hepburn ), a flighty and maniacal heiress, he becomes embroiled in a series of complicated disasters that jeopardize everything that David has worked so hard for.

Bringing Up Baby is arguably the funniest and wittiest movie ever made. It is because of this that it simply cannot be surpassed. However, back in 1938, the film flopped dramatically, and was considered a commercial failure, but in the years that followed the film has attained the recognition that it so rightfully deserves, and now seventy-eight years since it’s release, Bringing Up Baby is considered to be the true definition of Screwball Comedy.

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HOLIDAY ( 1938 )

Directed by: George Cukor: Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Edward Everett, and Lew Ayres.

Made shortly after Bringing Up Baby, Holiday is an entertaining romantic comedy that explores the economical status and the social class of two people from different walks of life. When Johnny Case (  Cary Grant ), a man who hails from menial beginnings, falls in love with the rich society girl, Julia Seton, he plans to marry and spend the immediate years of his marriage on holiday, But what he don’t realize is that he’s plans are obstructed by Julia and her father, who envision a successful life in business for Johnny. However, things take an unexpected turn when he discovers that Julia’s sister, Linda ( Katharine Hepburn ) supports his idea of a free way of life.

Holiday is considered an underrated masterpiece, and was recently labeled as one of George Cukor’s finest films, although on it’s initial release, it opened to critical acclaim. Financially the film was not a success with audiences during the Great Depression, who were struggling to find work, but despite the negative response from audiences, Holiday was not totally disastrous, as critics held it in high regard.

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THE PHILADELPHIA STORY ( 1940 )

Directed by: George Cukor: Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, Roland Young, and Virginia Weidler.

After a few years of being crowned “Box Office Poison”, Katharine Hepburn was back on the radar, and had catapulted to her zenith after starring in The Philadelphia Story, a cinematic masterpiece that tells the story of Tracy Lord ( Katharine Hepburn ), a Philadelphia socialite, who is on the verge of marrying the affluent aspiring politician, George Kittredge two years after divorcing, C.K. Dexter Haven ( Cary Grant ). For a wedding that was originally anticipated as a formal affair for selected elite guests, Tracy is shocked to discover that C.K. Dexter Haven has arrived on the scene the day before the wedding with two assigned reporters, Mike Connor ( James Stewart ) and Liz Imbrie ( Ruth Hussey ), who are required to cover the wedding.

Initially Katharine Hepburn wanted Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable as her co-stars in The Philadelphia Story , but when word came back that both actors were busy with other commitments the respective roles went to Cary Grant and James Stewart. At first, Hepburn was a bit disappointed that Tracy was unavailable. Hepburn didn’t need to worry however, as two years later her wish would finally be granted when she was teamed alongside Tracy in Woman Of The Year, the film that made them embark on a glorious and passionate love affair that remained a secret for years.

The Philadelphia Story received six Academy Award nominations. James Stewart won the award for “Best Actor”, and Donald Ogden Stewart attained the Oscar for “Best Screenplay”, while the film received another four nominations for best leading actress, best supporting actress (Ruth Hussey), best director, best picture.

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That brings us to the end of Katharine Hepburn’s journey with Cary Grant. After the triumphant success of The Philadelphia Story, both stars went their own separate ways, and followed a different road to even greater acclaim. Cary Grant made his foray into more challenging roles that would lead to him becoming the prominent figure in four Alfred Hitchcock productions, while Katharine Hepburn would go on to make history with Spencer Tracy.

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 This post is part of The Cary Grant Blogathon, hosted by my friend Laura at Phyllis Loves Classic MoviesPlease be sure to visit the other entries being exhibited during this event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANNOUNCING THE CAROLE LOMBARD: THE PROFANE ANGEL BLOGATHON

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A consummate actress, with an indelible flair for comedy, Carole Lombard will forever be immortalized as the ethereal beauty whose amiable charm and fun-loving nature lured her into the arms of Hollywood’s iconic legend and movie king, Clark Gable.

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Almost seventy-five years since her tragic and untimely death in the catastrophic plane crash that extinguished her young life, Carole is primarily remembered for her wisecracking portrayals of maniacal heroines from the Screwball Comedies, but what many people don’t realize is that there was much more to Carole Lombard than these performances. In short, Carole Lombard was a successful motion picture actress whose versatility shone through in a diverse range of roles that epitomized Lombard’s skillful adaptability.

It is for this reason that Laura from Phyllis Loves Classic Movies, and myself have decided to commemorate Carole Lombard on the 75th anniversary of her passing by hosting a blogathon, which will be solely dedicated to this immensely talented actress whose illuminating presence continues to adorn television screens worldwide.

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With all that said, and without further ado, lets get onto the rules.

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BLOGATHON RULES

1.  Bloggers are more than welcome to write about any topic related to Carole Lombard, or any aspect of her life and career. If you have a subject in mind, but your unsure whether it qualifies, just run it by Laura or me.

2. Because Carole Lombard has an illustrious filmography that consists of 79 acting credits, we will be allowing no more than three duplicates. There are a wealth of topics to go around, and remember, your choice doesn’t have to be a movie.

3. When: The Blogathon will be held on January 16th – 18th, 2017, so please post your entries on either of these dates.

4. If you want to write more than one entry, you’re more than welcome. However we will not be accepting links to previously published entries. All posts must be new material.

5. To express your interest in participating in the blogathon, leave a comment on my blog or on Laura’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 Laura at solidmoonlight@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. Once you get confirmation, please spread the word about this blogathon by advertising the event on your blog. Below are a few banners, so grab yourself a banner, and let’s start honoring the one and only Carole Lombard.

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ROSTER, WITH THE LIST OF PARTICIPATING BLOGS:

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: TBA

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies: In Name Only ( 1939 ) and a profile on Carole’s life

The Wonderful World Of Cinema: My Man Godfrey ( 1936 )

Old Hollywood Films: Carole Lombard: The Screwball Queen

A Shroud Of Thoughts: Mr. & Mrs. Smith ( 1941 )

All Good Things: Carole Lombard tribute.

Love Letters To Old Hollywood: Hands Across The Table ( 1935 )

Karavansara: To Be Or Not To Be ( 1942 )

The Old Hollywood Garden: Twentieth Century ( 1934 )

Christina Wehner: Made For Each Other ( 1939 )

Smitten Kitten Vintage: Twentieth Century ( 1934 )

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: True Confession ( 1937 )

Sleepwalking In Hollywood: Carole Lombard and Clark Gable ( Relationship and marriage )

Carole & Co: Carole Lombard Blog: TBA

Silver Screenings: Nothing Sacred ( 1937 )

Back To Golden Days: Carole’s WWII work, and TWA Flight 3, plane crash.

The Flapper Dame: In Name Only ( 1939 )

Critica Retro: Now and Forever ( 1934 )

The Stop Button: Vigil In The Night ( 1940 )

Pop Culture Reverie: Nothing Sacred ( 1937 )

Mike’s Take On The Movies: Virtue ( 1932 )

Lauren Champkin: My Man Godfrey ( 1936 )

Cinema Cities: To Be Or Not To Be ( 1942 )

That William Powell Site: Carole Lombard & William Powell.

Wolffian Classic Movies Digest: The Princess Comes Across ( 1936 )

Goose Pimply All Over: In Name Only ( 1939 )

Taking Up Room: My Man Godfrey ( 1936 )

Movie Rob: To Be Or Not To Be ( 1942 ) and Made For Each Other ( 1939 )

Widescreen World: Made For Each Other ( 1939 )

The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog: Lady By Choice ( 1934 )

FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS, IT’S BETTE DAVIS IN ‘ALL ABOUT EVE’ ( 1950 )

 

“Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!”

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They make our life more memorable and fun, they support you in all your latest endeavors, they give you total freedom to just be yourself, they are always there for you in your time of need, they make you feel valued when you feel that the rest of the world is against you, they are the confidante of our utmost secrets, but most of all, they are our best friends with whom we share a deep abiding friendship that is based on mutual understanding, loyalty, and trust.

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One of the most important things in life is friendship. Everyone needs at least one close friend. It is for this reason that the topic is often explored in fictional novels, motion pictures, and television series that in most cases epitomize the irreplaceable role of a true friend who helps to divide the good in life, and subtract the evil.

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Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s, All About Eve ( 1950 ) is a pivotal film when it comes to friendships. Adapted to the screen by Joseph L. Mankiewicz from a short story titled, The Wisdom Of Eve by Mary Orr, and featuring an all star cast, the film examines the many different types of human bonding and interpersonal relationships that are developed in the theater.

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There is only one person to thank for All About Eve, and that is Elisabeth Bergner, the notable stage actress, who became the unfortunate victim of an aspiring young hopeful whose only motives were to destroy and take advantage of her newfound employment that was granted to her by Bergner. Years later, Bergner reflected back on the past, and recalled the incident to Mary Orr about the young girl who she first met while performing in the stage play of The Two Mrs. Carrolls. Orr was that immersed in the story that it became the basis for her proposed mini project.

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The idea of a young ingenue upstaging and charting the territory of an already established actress was a worthy subject for a film. Previously, a similar premise had been generating in the minds of a few studio executives, especially Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who saw this sort of plot as great material. However, the thought quickly diminished until Mankiewicz read The Wisdom Of Eve, and suddenly realized that he could make movie magic with this type of story.

“I can think of no project that from the outset was as rewarding from the first day to the last. It is easy to understand why. It was a great script, had a great director, and was a cast of professionals all with parts they liked. It was a charmed production from the word go.”

( Bette Davis on All About Eve )

Euphoric with what he just read, Mankiewicz started to improvise plans for a screenplay, and sent a memo to producer, Darryl F. Zanuck about casting Susan Hayward in the lead role of Margola Cranston, which was later changed to Margo Channing. Like Mankiewicz, Zanuck was positive that this type of production would be well received by audiences and critics, but he rejected Mankiewicz’s request about casting Susan Hayward, who he considered too young for the role. Initially Zanuck wanted to hire Barbara Stanwyck to play Margo Channing. He thought that the part was tailor made for Stanwyck, but when word came back that Stanwyck was busy working on other assignments, he assigned the role to Claudette Colbert, who was later forced to withdraw from the project after suffering an injury. For a while Ingrid Bergman was being favored for the part. However Zanuck dismissed that idea, and contacted Bette Davis, who heavily campaigned for the role once she discovered that this was the type of film she needed to put her back on the pedestal.

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Bette Davis was definitely the inspired choice to play Margo Channing. Davis who had just ended an eighteen year association with Warner Bros., was desperately in need of a project that would help revive her career. When the offer for All About Eve came along, Davis instantly knew that this part was for her. Due to her willingness to play characters with an unpleasant nature, Mankiewicz adjusted the script to suit Bette Davis, and altered the personality of Margo Channing by making her more feisty and abrasive.

“Funny business, a woman’s career – the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster. You forget you’ll need them again when you get back to being a woman. That’s one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman. Sooner or later, we’ve got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we’ve had or wanted. And in the last analysis, nothing’s any good unless you can look up just before dinner or turn around in bed, and there he is. Without that, you’re not a woman. You’re something with a French provincial office or a book full of clippings, but you’re not a woman. Slow curtain, the end.”

Once all the arrangements were made for Davis’ character, Margo channing, Joseph L. Mankiewicz started canvassing around for an actress to fulfill the role of Eve Harrington. Jeanne Craine whose career was in the middle of ascending to great heights was his first preference, but when Crain fell pregnant, the role went to Anne Baxter, an immensely talented individual, who was still being cast in supporting roles that very rarely garnered her the recognition she deserved.

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Altercations also ensued while trying to find actors for the remaining supporting parts. The role of Bill Sampson was initially intended as a starring portrayal for John Garfield or Ronald Reagan with Reagan’s future wife, Nancy in the role of Margo’s best friend, Karen Richards. That was until things changed, and Gary Merrill, and Celeste Holm were hired to fulfill the parts.

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Marilyn Monroe, who was still relatively unknown in Hollywood was assigned the role of Miss Casswell, a part that was originally slated for Angela Lansbury, while acting veteran, George Sanders won the role of Addison DeWitt over their first preference, Jose Ferrer. One part that wasn’t in the short story, but was written in the movie adaptation by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, was Birdie Coonan, who was played by the renowned character actress, Thelma Ritter. Mankiewicz, who had previously worked with Ritter in A Letter To Three Wives ( 1949 ), deeply admired Ritter, and considered her to be ideal to portray the first character to become suspicious of Eve Harrington’s motives.

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In addition to the relationships being formed on-screen, there were also a few memorable partnerships developing off-screen. During filming, Bette Davis fell in love with co-star, Gary Merrill, who was seven years her junior. The couple married in July 1950, and adopted two children, who they named Margot, after Davis’character, Margo Channing, and Michael. Aside from Gary Merrill, Davis built a great rapport with Anne Baxter, which resulted in the two becoming lifelong friends.

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All About Eve not only resurrected Bette Davis’ career, it also opened the door to many endless opportunities, as well as creating a new life for her and Gary Merrill. In Davis’ autobiography, The Lonely Life, Davis wrote, “I found out Gary had spent all his summers in Maine. He had gone to Loomis in Windsor, Connecticut, where he was born and brought up. I had known the current headmaster, Frank Grubbs, years ago. Gary use to vacation as a child at Prouts Neck, Maine-just across the bay from Ocean Park, Maine, where I spent all my summers as a child. I found him an excellent actor to work with-one with integrity. Our scenes went well together. By the time we played out our story and the actress had retired to be the little woman, I had fused the two men completely. Margo Channing and Bill Sampson were perfectly matched. They were the perfect couple. I was breaking every one of my rules. I always swore I’d never marry an actor. Gary told me that years before he had been inducted into the army directly behind Ham. Everyone had realized Ham had been married to me. Gary had said, “How the hell could a guy let himself get into a deal like that?”. Now here he was. The cards were all reshuffled and we didn’t either of us see the jokers in the pack.”

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On its release, the film was a triumphant success, and received fourteen Academy Award nominations. Bosley Crowther from The New York Times wrote, “It is a fine Darryl Zanuck production, excellent music, and on air ultra-class complete the superior satire.”. Bette Davis’ performance also garnered critical acclaim with Roger Ebert from Chicago Sun Times, stating, “Bette Davis’ character, veteran actress, Margo Channing in All About Eve was her greatest role.”, while Boxoffice.com, stated, “It is a classic of the American cinema – to this day the quintessential depiction of ruthless ambition in the entertainment industry, with legendary performances from Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and George Sanders anchoring one of the very best films from one of Hollywood’s very best Golden Era filmmakers: Joseph L. Mankiewicz. It is a film that belongs on every collector’s shelf – whether on video or DVD. It is a classic that deserves better than what Fox has given it.”

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THE PLOT:

Partially based on true events, All About Eve, follows the story of Margo Channing ( Bette Davis ), an aging stage actress whose success has transformed her into a distinguished icon of the theater. Because Margo is an established star, who is presented as a legendary figure, she very rarely allows fans to get a glimpse into her personal life, but when she does hire Eve Harrington ( Anne Baxter ), a young fan with a facade of innocence, she soon realizes that she made a big mistake that proves to be threatening when she discovers that the conniving and duplicitous, Eve has mapped out a plan to eclipse her career in every way possible by stealing her parts and fiance, as well as breaking up relationships.

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All About Eve may not be categorized as a vehicle about best friends, but while the film mostly revolves around performing arts, the subject of friendship is rather dominant throughout the picture. In fact, relationships and companionship is an underlying theme in All About Eve.

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When you think about it, All About Eve is really a movie about an association of theater folks, who maintain solid friendships with other people of their caliber. The chief protagonist in this close knit group of individuals is Margo Channing, who despite her abrasive manner is friends with just about everyone in their circle. To outsiders, Margo is often considered to be a self-centered egotist, who utters a cavalcade of harsh and rather offensive remarks, but in truth, Margo is a lonely person, who is in desperate need of a man to welcome her home each evening. She relies solely on her boyfriend, Bill Sampson, and her close friend, Karen Richards, who has remained her pillar of strength through thick and thin.

“I’ll admit I may have seen better days, but I’m still not to be had for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut.”

Even though the friendship between Margo and Karen is real, the film also makes an effort by detouring away from the true and glorious friendships that are often depicted in movies. Instead it addresses another aspect of friendship that is largely common today, but is very rarely approached in movies. This is the subject of betrayal and deceit, in which All About Eve paints a clear picture of the topic by representing Eve Harrington, an aspiring young hopeful, who is befriended by Margo and Karen after delineating her admiration for Margo, and sharing a moving story that personifies her as the poor victim. However, Eve Harrington is far from the embodiment of a sweet and innocent ingenue, who cares for the welfare of Margo Channing. She is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Her ambitions stretch far and beyond, and her main goal is to antagonize Margo Channing, and her fellow friends and acquaintances, just so she can attain a part in a play, and capitalize on her own undeserved success.

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The key scene in All About Eve that really exemplifies the importance of maintaining a solid friendship is displayed prominently in the Cub Room scene when Karen’s husband, playwright, Lloyd Richards, delivers an honest acknowledgement and toasts, “To each of us and all of us, never have we been more close, may we never be farther apart.”. This is a very poignant and touching moment of the film. After watching this scene, it is clearly evident that they have an enduring friendship that is their foundation for support.

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All this and more is the result of a masterfully crafted production that still manages to evoke positive memories from movie enthusiasts worldwide. In addition to the intriguing plot that is filled with amiable and scheming characters, All About Eve is blessed with memorable crisp and sharp dialogue that gloriously stains every scene. This is the epitome of the fine art of movie making.

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TRIVIA:

All About Eve was the first of only two films to receive 14 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.

Bette Davis‘ marriage to William Grant Sherry was in the throes of breaking up while she was making the film. Her raspy voice in the film is largely due to the fact that she burst a blood vessel in her throat from screaming at her soon-to-be-ex-husband during one of their many rows. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz liked the croaky quality so he didn’t have Davis change it.

Upon learning that he had cast Bette Davis, one of her former directors, Edmund Goulding, rang up Joseph L. Mankiewicz and warned him that she would grind him down into a fine powder. This proved to be an unnecessary warning as Davis knew better than to mess with Mankiewicz’s finely tuned screenplay. In fact, Mankiewicz found her to be one of the most professional and agreeable actresses he’d ever worked with.

Bette Davis filmed of all her scenes in sixteen days.

In 1970 the story was adapted into a Broadway musical called “Applause” and in 1973 a made-for-TV movie (Applause (1973)). Lauren Bacall played Margo Channing. When Bacall left the show, the actress who took over the role was Anne Baxter, who had played the role of Eve in the film.

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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.

Anne Baxter: Born Anne Baxter on May 7th, 1923 in Michigan City, Indiana. Died: December 12th, 1985 in New York. Aged: 62. Cause of death: Brain Aneurysm.

George Sanders: Born George Henry Sanders on July 3rd, 1906 in Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire. Died: April 25th, 1972 in Barcelona, Spain. Aged 65. Cause of death: Suicide.

Celeste Holm: Born April 29th, 1917 in New York. Died: July 15th, 2012 in New York. Aged: 95. Cause of death: Heart attack.

Gary Merrill: Born Gary Fred Merrill on August 2nd, 1915 in Hartford, Connecticut. Died: March 5th, 1990 in Falmouth, Maine. Aged 74. Cause of death: Lung Cancer.

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This post was written for the You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon, which is being hosted by Moon In GeminiTo view the other articles being exhibited during this event, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

FOURTEEN HOURS ( 1951 )

“Look, I almost had him a couple of times. I – I know I can con him in if I can just get my hands on what’s bothering him.”

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It’s a peaceful, crisp clear morning in New York City. Many people are heading to work for what seems to be another ordinary and mundane day in the office, but what they don’t know is that their normal monotonous day is about to turn into an exhilarating fourteen hour ride that beats any humdrum task that the workplace has in store for them.

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The above caption perfectly encapsulates the Fourteen Hours, a tense but chilling Film Noir that is now known as the production that gave birth to a legend, a new star on the horizon, who in a few years time would become one the greatest and most influential stars to ever adorn the silver screen. Her name as known the world over is Grace Kelly.

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Grace Kelly, the prominent actress, who is best remembered by many as the gorgeous blonde in the Hitchcock films, would have celebrated her 87th birthday on November 12th. Noted for her luminous beauty, her refreshing charm, and her fairy tale marriage to Prince Rainier, Kelly is among the most recognizable icons from Hollywood’s golden age.

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The legend known as Grace Kelly may have never materialized if it weren’t for Edith Van Cleve, the notable actress and theatrical agent, who witnessed potential in Kelly, and paved the way for her future success in motion pictures. Van Cleve, who had been introduced to Kelly by Don Richardson, gained full control over the aspiring young hopeful, and started sending her to auditions and casting calls for roles that met the requirements of a star who was not yet established in Hollywood.

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For Grace Kelly, this was a long journey that ensured many triumphs and rejection, but at the end of the road, Kelly finally reached her dream destination in 1951, when she made her silver screen debut in Fourteen Hours, a film that is based on true events.

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For a film that has faded into obscurity, and is very rarely mentioned today, some find it hard to believe that Fourteen Hours has a wealth of history behind it. The inspiration for the film came from the series of events that occurred on July 26th, 1938, when John William Warde, a twenty six year old native from Southampton, New York, plummeted to his death from the seventeenth floor of the Gotham Hotel after standing on the ledge for eleven hours, contemplating suicide.

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Twelve years later, this tragic disaster made history once again when Hollywood transformed the incident into a motion picture spectacle, that was written for the screen by John Paxton, and based on a short article by Joel Sayre, titled, The Man On The Ledge, which reflected back on the 1938 debacle. The film featured a prominent array of stars, who all delivered solid dexterity under the masterful direction of Henry Hathaway, the renowned director who became notable for helming a string of financially successful westerns.

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Based on a real life catastrophe that shocked the nation, Fourteen Hours chronicles the unfolding of events that take place on the fifteenth floor of New York City’s Rodney Hotel. The central protagonist in this story is, Robert Cosick ( Richard Basehart ), an emotionally unstable and despondent man, who decides that the only way to elude all the troubles in life is to commit suicide by jumping to his death. His attempts are halted however, when a waiter delivering breakfast witnesses the horrific sight of Robert standing on the ledge, and immediately calls for help. All of a sudden, Robert’s secret attempt at contemplating suicide turns into a media frenzy when a deluge of people on the streets watch on while Robert is being aided by Charlie Dunnigan ( Paul Douglas ), a traffic control police officer who along with others try their hardest to implore Robert to vanquish his suicidal thoughts.

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In many ways, Fourteen Hours should be made essential viewing for people struggling with depression or other psychotic disorders that trigger unwanted suicidal thoughts. Looking through our own personal lens, we witness from a birds eye view the struggles of a dispirited person whose depression has affected him emotionally. In this case it’s Robert Cosick, a perturbed individual whose lifelong rejection has led to him envisioning the advantages of being deceased, and free of life.

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As the movie progresses, snippets of Robert’s life is revealed through family, who paint a clear picture that slowly pieces together the information on what made the depression evolve. First we are introduced to Robert’s mother, Christine Hill Cosick ( Agnes Moorehead ), an hysterical woman whose frantic behavior exacerbates his mood, and lures him into jumping. We then meet his father, Paul Cosick ( Robert Keith ), a man who his mother has brought him up to despise, but while putting together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, police come to question the motive as to why his mother made his father into being his biggest enemy.

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In addition to the commotion happening at the hotel, there is also a story revolving around Louise Fuller ( Grace Kelly ), who is in town to sign her divorce papers, but once she witnesses the spectacle, Fuller decides not to go ahead with the proceedings, and realizes that reconciling with her husband is more important than getting a divorce.

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The shooting process for Fourteen Hours was not a happy experience for Richard Basehart whose wife Stephanie Klein passed away of a brain tumor that July, leaving Basehart distraught for most part of the production. Despite the fact however that he was grieving for his wife, Basehart’s delivery of a mentally disturbed man earned him a multitude of accolades.

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Fourteen Hours is a film that captures the essence of realism. It is for this reason that Henry Hathaway was assigned as director. However, the film was initially suppose to be directed by Howard Hawkes, who declined once he found out that the production delved into a very heavy subject matter, which could be considered quite controversial at the time. As soon as Hathaway stepped into directorial duties, he commenced work on the picture, and started filming at the Twentieth Century Fox lot before moving to New York where the exteriors were filmed.

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The film is also particularly notable for it’s impressive cast. While Robert Cosick and Charlie Dunnigan are the main focal points of the story, Agnes Moorehead steals every scene she’s in as Robert’s neurotic mother whose guilty instincts are about to be unraveled. Grace Kelly is also worthy of note. Even though her screen time is very limited, Kelly’s character, Louise Fuller is a pivotal figure in the movie. Also starring in the film is Barbara Belle Geddes, who plays Robert’s girlfriend. Though, Geddes only appeared towards the end of the film, she received third billing behind Paul Douglas, and Richard Basehart.

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On its release, the film opened to many positive reviews. Bosley Crowther from ‘The New York Times’ stated that Fourteen Hours is a “gripping suspense, absorbing drama and stinging social comment in this film. He also went on to praise Hathaway’s directing technique, and the performances of Richard Basehart, and the other fellow cast members, while ‘Time Out Film Guide’ remarked that the film was a, “Vertiginous melodrama that recounts the event in professional low-key journalistic fashion.”. Coincidentally, Fourteen Hours was voted one of the best films of 1951.

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Fourteen Hours may not have led to any immediate film offers for Grace Kelly, but it did open the door to a world of opportunities, as well as planting her in a reputable position in Hollywood’s constellation of stars. Her greatest epiphany occurred that Summer when an actor of the first magnitude visited the set of Fourteen Hours, and was immediately captivated by the alluring presence of Grace Kelly. The star was no other than Gary Cooper, an iconic figure from motion pictures, and one who Grace had always admired. From the moment that they first met, Cooper’s eyes were instantly fixated on this intriguing new star, who he said embodied all the characteristics of female virtue, and was unlike any other screen goddess that was in vogue at the time. Gary Cooper later stated, “I thought she looked pretty and different, and that maybe she’d be somebody. She looked educated, and as if she came from a nice family. She was certainly a refreshing change from all those bombshells we’d been seeing so much of.”

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At the time of her chance meeting with Gary Gooper, Grace Kelly had no conception of what the future would bring, but even if she did have the slightest inkling, she certainly would never have dreamed that the following year she was going to make movie magic with Gary Cooper in the perennial western classic, High Noon.

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TRIVIA:

A nonprofessional performer named Richard Lacovara doubled for Richard Basehart in long shots on the ledge, which had been enlarged to minimize risk of falling. Lacovara was protected by a canvas life belt hidden under his costume, connected to a lifeline, Even with the double, Basehart still had to endure over 300 hours of standing on the ledge with little movement during the fifty days of shooting in New York, even though he had a sprained ankle and his legs were ravaged by poison oak contracted on the grounds of his Coldwater Canyon home.

The production used a real bank building in New York (The Guaranty Trust Co.) and they planned to film all of the outdoor crowd scenes over Memorial Day weekend. However, the ledge on the bank building turned out to be too narrow, so an extension was built (12 inches deep, 42 feet wide)) and filming ended up taking two weeks. The entire bank building was dressed with curtains, a new entrance canopy, metal nameplates, and marquee. The replica of the hotel ledge that was built on Fox’s Stage 8 cost $32,000.

Richard Basehart‘s performance impressed Federico Fellini, who subsequently cast him in La Strada (1954).

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CAST:

Richard Basehart: Born, John Richard Basehart on August 31st, 1914 in Zanesville, Ohio. Died: September 17th, 1984 in Los Angeles, California. Aged: 70. Cause of death: Stroke.

Paul Douglas: Born, Paul Douglas Fleischer on April 11th, 1907 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Died: September 11th, 1959 in Hollywood, California. Aged: 52. Cause of death: Heart attack.

Agnes Moorehead: Born, Agnes Robertson Moorehead on December 6th, 1900 in Clinton, Massachusetts. Died: April 30th, 1974 in Rochester, Minnesota. Aged 73. Cause of death: Uterine Cancer.

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This post was written for The Second Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathonwhich is hosted by The Wonderful World Of CinemaTo view the other entries being exhibited during this event, please click here.