When I first embarked on my journey into the world of classic cinema, I discovered a myriad of stars who I greatly admire, but before any of these individuals entered the picture, I became acquainted with two prominent figures whose names had been etched in my memory – they are known universally as Katharine Hepburn ( 1907 – 2003 ) and Spencer Tracy ( 1900 – 1967 )
Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy are two of the greatest stars to ever have their presence adorn the silver screen. Today they are best remembered for their dynamic and magnetic partnership, but outside of their story-book romance, the two nurtured successful careers of their own, and triumphed in every genre.
Kate and Spence are two of my personal favorite stars. It is because of this reason that I have decided to shine the spotlight on both of them with a blogathon for the second time. When the idea sprang to mind, I simply couldn’t pass it up. For this years edition, my fellow Kate enthusiast and friend Michaela from Love Letters To Old Hollywood is joining me as co-host.
Before I proceed with the rules, I want to say that its rather fitting that I’m hosting this blogathon tribute. I’m currently conducting a blog series and film marathon on Kate, and at the end of it, I’m hoping to get my own weekly or monthly feature writing about Kate films in some sort of publication, if all goes well.
1. This blogathon is not just restricted to the nine films that Spence and Kate made together. The purpose of this event is to celebrate the indelible legacy and illustrious filmography of both stars. Bloggers are welcome to write about any film that starred Kate or Spencer or any topic pertaining to Hepburn or Tracy.
2. Due to the diversity of the subject matter, we are allowing no more than two duplicates per topic. I know this sounds extremely fair, but we want to give everybody the opportunity to participate. If you have a topic in mind, act fast. Also, you are welcome to write more than one entry if you wish. However, we are limiting it to three posts per blog.
3. This blogathon is a loving tribute to both Kate and Spence. All bloggers are welcome to participate, but we will not accept any post that appears derogatory or disrespectful to either star. I also want to state that entries focusing on Kate’s head tremor will not be allowed. By all means, you are welcome to mention it in your articles, but posts that are strictly about that subject are verbatim.
4. All contributions must be new material only. Previously published posts will not be accepted.
5. The blogathon will take place on October 11th- 13th, 2019. Please submit your entries on either of these days or early if you wish. For those of you posting early, just remember that your entry won’t be linked until the event starts. We understand that these are not birth or death dates for either star, but we simply couldn’t wait for any anniversary. Besides, Kate and Spence are important enough to be celebrated any time of the year.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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. Please take one of these beautiful banners that were designed by Michaela, and advertise in on your blog. We look forward to seeing you in October.
SUBJECTS THAT HAVE BEEN CLAIMED THE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF TIMES
PAT AND MIKE ( 1952 )
THE AFRICAN QUEEN ( 1951 )
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY ( 1940 )
In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood – Kate and Spence: A Memorable Partnership & TBD.
Love Letters To Old Hollywood – Stage Door ( 1937 )
The Stop Button – Adam’s Rib ( 1949 )
Real Weegie Midget Reviews – Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? ( 1967 )
Caftan Woman – Keeper Of The Flame ( 1942 )
Critica Retro – Desk Set ( 1957 )
A Shroud Of Thoughts – The People Against O’Hara ( 1951 )
Pop Culture Reverie – TBD.
Pale Writer – Undercurrent ( 1946 )
18 Cinema Lane – One Christmas ( 1994 & It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World ( 1963 )
Dubsism – Pat and Mike ( 1952 )
Vintage Genevieve – Katharine Hepburn and Fashion.
Taking Up Room – The Philadelphia Story ( 1940 )
Poppity Talks Classic Film – Spencer Tracy Double Feature: The Mountain ( 1956 ) and Broken Lance ( 1954 )
Wolffian Classic Movies Digest – The African Queen ( 1951 )
Anybody Got A Match? – Katharine Hepburn’s legendary status with the Academy
Retro Movie Buff – Pat and Mike ( 1952 )
Pure Entertainment Preservation Society – The African Queen ( 1951 ) and Spencer’s costumes.
Screen Dreams – Woman Of The Year ( 1942 )
The Wonderful World Of Cinema – Quality Street ( 1937 )
Linda Pacey: Guest post on In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood – Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner ( 1967 )
“I hope you’re going to tell me your name. I want you for my first friend in New York. Mine’s Eva Lovelace. It’s partly made up and partly real. It was Ada Love. Love’s my family name. I added the ‘lace.’ Do you like it, or would you prefer something shorter? A shorter name would be more convenient on a sign. Still, ‘Eva Lovelace in Camille,’ for instance, or ‘Eva Lovelace in Romeo and Juliet’ sounds very distinguished, doesn’t it?”
In 1932, Katharine Hepburn was an aspiring young actress, who had just arrived in Hollywood to make her film debut opposite John Barrymore in A Bill of Divorcement. One year later the starlet had already conquered the hearts of millions worldwide, and now after adding a few successful films to her resume, Kate received her first Academy Award for playing a carbon copy of herself in a picture called Morning Glory ( 1933 ).
Morning Glory is a superbly crafted backstage production that is infused with plenty of wit and dramatic undertones. Although, the films plot is derived from the usual subject matter of show business, the story is built around a strong narrative arc, and its main core is about the pursuit of dreams and the evolution of hope.
The film started out as an unproduced stage play that came from the pen of Zoe Akins, a notable playwright and author, whose works have become successful screen adaptations. After being labelled as abandoned material for three years, Morning Glory captured the attention of Howard J. Green, who wanted to bring it to vivid life on screen.
Initially, the script was designed to fit the personality of Constance Bennett. At the time, Bennett was the main top-drawer at RKO, and to capitalize on her popularity the studio assigned her the role of Eva Lovelace in Morning Glory. This was until the film piqued an interest in Katharine Hepburn, who immediately realized that she was destined to play the part, and persuaded Pandro S. Berman to reconsider his casting choices. In order to have Hepburn in the role, the part of Eva had to be modeled to suit Katharine’s talents, but despite all the adjustments that had to be made, the task was far from impossible. Katharine Hepburn received her wish, and Constance Bennett found her moment of triumph in the 1933 film Bed Of Roses.
“I went into Pandro Berman’s office, saw the script on his desk, picked it up and started to read it. Was fascinated. Called my friend Laura Harding. She came. She read it too. It was by Zoe Akins. Laura thought it fascinating. Went to Pandro and said I must do it. He said no. It was for Connie Bennett. I said No-ME. I won. It was directed by Lowell Sherman, who was in the original What Price Hollywood? as leading man opposite Connie Bennett. A brilliant picture. He was very good.”
( Kate )
The casting of Katharine Hepburn was a masterstroke of success. Ironically, Constance Bennett remained incognizant of the fact that Kate was steeped in acclamation for a role that could have brought her success. On the RKO lot, the two stars were friendly acquaintances. Hepburn remembered Bennett for her amiable persona and went on to state that they were always exchanging pleasantries whenever they crossed paths at the studio.
Director Lowell Sherman played a large part in the films success. Although, Sherman was not as prolific with his directorial duties as the more mainstream directors were, he’s contributions to the field never went unnoticed. At the time of filming, Lowell was hitting triumphant peaks in his career. His previous works had garnered critical acclaim, and his efforts behind Morning Glory was solid proof that helming pictures could be his staple.
In fact, if there is one word that would best define Lowell Sherman, it would be versatile. Before embarking on his directorial career, Sherman worked prolifically as an actor in motion pictures and on Broadway. After a while, the acting profession became a mundane task, and when he grew tired of it, he started to explore other opportunities that the entertainment industry had to offer. The answer to his quest to secure better employment was becoming a director. His foray into this medium came when he started directing movies that he starred in, a practice that was considered unusual at the time in Hollywood.
After the success of Morning Glory, Lowell Sherman continued his auspicious tenure as a director, but right at the height of his success and popularity, Sherman died of complications from pneumonia on December 28th, 1934. He was 46 years old.
The untimely death of Lowell Sherman sparked a melancholy commotion, but the large body of work he left behind is a true testament to his talents. In Morning Glory, he paints a clear portrait of the ambitious Eva Lovelace ( Katharine Hepburn ), and her quest to rise above her current predicament to become an actress.
I won’t rehash too much of the plot, but to hint slightly at the films happenings: Eva Lovelace is a stage-struck hopeful, who eludes her small time life to pursue a career on Broadway. Despite the fact that she exudes innate optimism and a high level of confidence, Eva has not been able to requisite enough experience to be noticed by top agents, but once she meets Louis Easton ( Adolphe Menjou ) and Joseph Sheridan ( Douglas Fairbanks Jr. ), she starts moving around in theatrical circles.
The plot of Morning Glory closely echoes the other films about show business that largely dominated Hollywood, but its not entirely reminiscent. While many of these movies are about producers putting on a show, the essence of our story is Eva Lovelace, and her visions of becoming a successful stage sensation.
Katharine Hepburn was the best possible actress to breathe life into Eva Lovelace. A few years before the film was made, Kate was leading an existence that closely paralleled that of her characters. Like Eva, Hepburn had left her hometown to find her destiny. Both were in search of fame and success, but neither found the life they had envisioned for themselves imminently. In order to reach their preferred heights, Katharine performed on stage for stock theatre companies and largely went unnoticed or sometimes fired, while Eva studied drama at school and attended several auditions.
Apart from all their similarities, there is also a striking contrast between the two. This is clearly evident in their personalities. In the movie, Eva is ambitious and tends to look through rose colored spectacles, but asides from being ebullient and confident, she is also extremely naive. On the other hand, Katharine was more independent and didn’t exude so much conviviality and girlishness when it came to pursuing her career. She was also more mature and experienced in the sense that she had been exposed to the harsh realities in life and therefore knew what to expect in the theater world.
While it’s common knowledge that for the part of Eva Lovelace, Kate drew inspiration from her own theatre days and added biographical tones to the film, there are also traces of Ruth Gordon’s life in her performance. Hepburn stated in her autobiography Me: Stories Of My Life that she had seen Gordon in a play titled Church Mouse, and she could visualize Morning Glory played in the same key.
Walking into Academy Award territory is no easy feat, but Katharine Hepburn proved that she could successfully glide in to the privileged vicinity. After taking home the Oscar for Morning Glory, Hepburn later received three more gold statuettes to adorn her mantelpiece, and to this day she still holds the record of being the only star to become a four time Academy Award recipient.
It was from this moment on that Kate made a firm decision not to attend the Academy Awards ceremony. This decision would remain with her all through out her career. At first she was shunned, but as time progressed everybody had become accustomed to Hepburn’s absence that it was listed as a habit. In fact, when she finally did make her first and only appearance at the Oscars in 1974 to present the Irving Thalberg Award to Lawrence Weingarten, everyone was in a state of shock. You can watch Kate’s appearance on the Academy Awards here.
“I never went to the Oscars when I was nominated. I always said I couldn’t go because I didn’t have anything to wear. It was a flippant answer. It was also the truth. I didn’t care to have Oscar clothes in my wardrobe. Those fancy dresses use up so much space, but I could have afforded to buy a dress. In my more serious moments, I knew I didn’t go because I didn’t know I’d win and I’ve never been a good loser. After a while I said no to going so many times, it became a habit.”
( Kate )
Katharine always stated that the Academy Awards was not her style. She detested the idea of having to wear a lavish gown that would take up her entire wardrobe. Plus, away from the cameras, Kate secluded herself from the movie star life, and retreated back to her beloved family in Fenwick.
Despite any misconceptions that the general public may of had regarding the film and Hepburn’s Academy Award winning performance, Kate always maintained that the production of Morning Glory was a high point of her career. Compared to the tense atmosphere and the problems she was enmeshed in on the set of her second picture Christopher Strong, the filming process ran smoothly – taking only seventeen days to complete.
Katharine Hepburn found that the Morning Glory set was abounded with privileges. One major asset was the choice of director. Kate had favored Lowell Sherman’s methods of filming in sequence, a technique that allowed her to fully develop her character like she did on stage. Having a director that she understood was beneficial for Kate, so much so that Hepburn herself often credited Sherman as being the instrumental force behind her receiving the Academy Award.
Attaining the role of Eva Lovelace was a twist of fate. If the start of 1933 was an indicator of how the rest of the year would pan out, it would have been impossible for any epiphany to occur. In January of that year, Kate was taken to the Good Samaritan Hospital on Wilshire Boulevard, where it was reported that she was suffering from influenza, but as it turns out, the problem was more serious than any diagnosis given. When she was discharged, Hepburn immediately returned to Connecticut to be placed under her fathers care at Hartford Hospital. After undergoing a operation, it was determined that Kate was inflicted with severe uterine troubles.
It took several months for Kate to fully recover. Those closest to Kate reported that she grew tired frequently and lacked interest in food. For a while, Luddy feared that she was going to meet her death, though these worries were soon vanquished when Hepburn jumped out of her sickbed to make an appearance at the New York premiere of A Bill Of Divorcement.
Shortly after the premiere, Katharine’s health rapidly improved. Within a few weeks, she bounced back and was once again pounding the pavements for work. One month later, she secured the role of Lady Cynthia in Christopher Strong ( 1933 ).
Behind the cameras, Kate may have been shrouded in acclamation. She devoured basking in all her success, and the fact that she was a motion picture actress in the movie capital of the world was stimulating and rewarding to her, but away from the bright lights of Hollywood, she was steeped in chaos. At the root of her worries was her crumbling marriage to Ludlow Ogden Smith ( Luddy ). Kate had never fully committed to the domesticated married life and always considered her career to be more fundamentally important. On the other hand, Luddy was constantly trying to resurrect their matrimonial state and was yearning for another chance of happiness, but when Katharine entered the film industry in 1932, his plans were thwarted.
With Kate now working in movies, Luddy realized that he would have difficulties trying to repair the strains of their marriage, but he still clung to the hope. What he didn’t know is that Kate had plunged straight into a passionate affair with her agent Leland Hayward, and considered her life with Luddy to be over.
For Katharine, this was a perplexing crisis to be embroiled in. Despite her marital rows, she still deeply loved Luddy, and she hated having to let him down. Kate felt guilty when they agreed to separate on account of her career, but this time she was faced with an even bigger problem- she had to tell him that she was sleeping with Leland Hayward, a difficult task that she feared would hurt Luddy. Fortunately, Luddy understood. Katharine’s affair with Leland was absolutely no business of his and he was not about to dwell over something that he can’t prevent. After all, Kate was still his wife, and he viewed Leland as a man who made love to her. As far as Luddy was concerned, it was only an innocent affair that wouldn’t last.
It soon became clear to Luddy that the marriage was over. In 1934, Hepburn traveled to Mexico to file for a quick divorce. By now, Luddy accepted his fate and supported Kate’s decision. The two remained close friends until Luddy’s death in 1979.
In later years, Kate always held Morning Glory in high esteem. She remembered a myriad of things about the film, but the one aspect that was continuously embedded in her memory was the beautiful friendship she forged with Douglas Fairbanks Jr.. The two built a close rapport with each other from the moment they first met, and would remain close all throughout the years. Incidentally, Fairbanks passed away in 2000, three years before Kate.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. also had fond memories of the film. He and Hepburn both stated that their favorite scene was when they played Romeo and Juliet for a dream sequence. Fairbanks strongly believed that he would receive an Academy Award for his performance in this scene alone, but instead he was left perturbed when he discovered that it was scrapped from the picture and sent to the cutting room floor.
The fact that the Romeo and Juliet scene was scrapped was a misfortune for all involved, but despite from that, the positive aspects eclipsed any altercation that may have ensued. Katharine certainly didn’t recall being plagued with difficulties, and neither did Douglas. At this point in her career, her biggest burden was nerves. When Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Sr. came to watch her and Fairbanks perform the Romeo and Juliet scene in costume, Kate was terrified. She was still only a newcomer to the industry, and the thought of being observed by two of cinemas most renowned stars made her wound up in fear.
“When I met Miss Hepburn, I was more than pleased. She came upon the scene from Broadway and then a wonderful first movie performance in A Bill Of Divorcement as John Barrymore’s daughter, and she held her own with Barrymore. It was clear she had a brilliant future, and a brilliant present. I wasn’t much of a judge of how fabulous Kate was as an artist, because my all too-susceptible heart had been captivated by her. I fell in love with my Juliet, with Eva Lovelace, her character, who my character fell in love with in the film, and with Kate, the real-life flesh-and-blood person.”
( Douglas Fairbanks Jr. on Kate. )
Although the film was made during the Pre-Code era, Morning Glory is far from being a model of eroticism. What the film presents instead is an undercurrent of suggestiveness, but none of this is openly explored and any topic discussed is not really part of the sexual denominator. In fact, the movie is that tame that it could have easily been released when the production code was rigorously enforced.
The only aspect that hints at the film being Pre-Code is the entanglement between Eva Lovelace and Louis Easton. When Robert Hedges ( C. Aubrey Smith ) escorts Eva to a party at Easton’s plush and commodious tenement, she is given two glasses of champagne. For many people this is only a minimal amount, but for Eva, its a large quantity. Even though Eva is not use to consuming alcohol, she drinks it like its a delicacy. As a result she is quickly inebriated, which causes her to lose control of her faculties and behave in a strange manner. Shortly after we witness Eva performing a set of Shakespeare tragedies to the assembled guests, who she is hoping to impress. However, her veneer of professionalism has just been stripped. The audience look at her as being an intoxicated stage-struck hopeful, who constantly fantasizes about her future among the stars. Her drunken rendition does not warrant an enthusiastic response from Easton either, but he provides her with shelter for the night, even if he does not wish to become involved with her quest for stardom.
If Morning Glory was made after July 1934, this particular scene could have been omitted. That being said, all the explicitness has been watered down, and the happenings at the party do not reach the depths of full on Pre-Code. One interesting observation I have made while watching Katharine Hepburn’s movies is that her Pre-Code work seems to be more subtle and delicate in racy content compared to other films from that period. If you look at Kate’s films from this time frame, the only production that really represents the full nature of Pre-Code is Christopher Strong, a 1933 vehicle that has Kate playing an aviator who embarks on an elicit affair with a married man.
When analyzed and reviewed, Morning Glory is not often lauded for its screenplay, but in actual fact its one of the films greatest attributes. Howard J. Green provided a script that was punctured with effective dialogue that is sometimes poetic, and tinged with plenty of witticism. There is also a juxtaposition with Eva’s speech delivery. In the scenes where she is trying to sell herself, she is speaking affluently with poise, etiquette, grace, and polished mannerisms, but in other scenarios, she is very talkative and speaks with a girlish tone while still remaining sure of herself.
The prolific efforts from the background team all helped catapult Morning Glory to a higher level. The renowned music composer Max Steiner contributed a lot to the film, and cinematographer Bert Glennon’s input was exceptional. It’s not often that these aspects are lauded, but the hours that these individuals spent working on the production is worthy of applause.
Katharine Hepburn is the heart of the story. Without her presence anchoring the film, Morning Glory would probably fall flat. We are first introduced to Eva when she is seen in a majestic New York theatre gazing at portraits of Ethel Barrymore, Maude Adams and Sarah Bernhardt. This brief scene encapsulates our heroines most pivotal goal. She is in awe of these tremendous talents, and she envisions that one day her name will be on the marquee just like her idols. Will all Eva’s dreams come true? or will her star soon fade?
The film was later remade in 1958, and was given the title Stage Struck. This version stars: Henry Fonda, Susan Strasberg, and Christopher Plummer.
Katharine Hepburn: Born, Katharine Houghton Hepburn on May 12th, 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut. Died: June 29th, 2003 in Fenwick, Connecticut. Aged: 96.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.: Born, Douglas Elton Fairbanks Jr. on December 9th, 1909 in New York City. Died: May 7th, 2000 in New York City. Aged: 90.
Adolphe Menjou: Born, Adolphe Jean Menjou on February 18th, 1890 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Died: October 29th, 1963 in Beverly Hills, California. Aged: 73.
This article is part of a blog series on Katharine Hepburn that I am conducting. It was also written for Tiffany, the author of the website, Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. I would like to say a big thank you to Tiffany, who kindly asked me to write for a few events that is taking place on her website. As you may know, Kate is my all time favorite actress along with Ethel Barrymore and Bette Davis, so writing about Kate is an absolute pleasure for me.
The following article was written by Parker Bena, the grandson of Joan Bennett, and son of Melinda Markey. Parker has kindly asked me to publish his reminisces of his grandma on my blog. This post was submitted as part of The Joan Bennett Blogathon, hosted by me.
Joan Bennett (aka “Doanie”) had 13 grandchildren. They are in order: Amanda (or Mandy), Timothy (or Tim), Cynthia (or Cindy), Markey, Lisa, myself, Felix, Victoria, Samantha, Vanessa, Frederick, Andrew and Lily. Before the birth of the first, Mandy, in 1949, Marlene Dietrich had been widely rgearded as “the world’s sexiest grandmother”. After Mandy’s birth on March 13, 1949, Ms. Dietrich sent Doanie a telegram, which read – “Thanks for taking the heat of me.” Sadly, three of the grandchildren – Timothy, Markey and, most recently, Lisa – have passed away.
It has been said that Doanie got her unique nickname because my cousin Victoria, when she was little, couldn’t say “Joanie”. In the language of Baby Talk, it became “Doanie” and it stuck with her until the day she died. However, it may or may not be true because I seem to remember that some of the older grandchildren were calling her that before Victoria was ever able to talk.
Some Hollywood celebrities have a reputation as being very distant parents. Doanie was not a bad grandmother, although when you were around her, it was always HER way or the HIGHway. One thing she was very good at was remembering the grandkids’ birthdays and Christmas. The present ALL came from the same place – Bonwit Teller. So, when you saw the white box with the blue Bonwit Teller lettering, you know right away who it was from. Another dead give away? Her distinctive handwriting. Some of my ealiest memories of Doanie were Christmases spent at her and David’s apartment in New York City.
Doanie was an Episcopalian, so, therefore, her daughters – Diana (aka “Ditty”), Melinda (my mother), Stephanie (aka “Steffi”) and Shelly – were raised Episcopalian. So, it was kind of a shock when my mother decided to convert to Catholicism. When I was growing up in Chappaqua, New York (about 35 miles north of New York City and about 10 minutes north of Scarsdale where Doanie moved in 1972), we had a few family friends who were Catholic priests and Doanie (and even David) became good friends with them. One of them, the pastor of our church Monsignor Robert J. Skelly, had been a Drama major at Fordham University before switching to Religion. He had at one time aspired to be an actor and he was a fan of my grandmother’s. Monsignor was understandably thrilled when he met her for the first time at our house. They became very good friends and every year on his birthday, she would present him with theater tickets.
My mother was thrilled when she found out that Doanie was moving to Scarsdale. Once that happened, she and my mom became a lot closer. As a result, visits to Doanie’s house and dinners at Doanie’s house became a lot more frequent. Whenever my mom and dad entertained, Doanie and, by extension, David were always on the guest list. My mom and dad’s friends were, for lack of a better term, a little more “casual”. Despite all that, Doanie and David mixed very well with my mom and dad’s friends.
Doanie loved dogs. In fact, when our French Poodle had a little of puppies, we gave one of them to Doanie and it became her faithful companion for sixteen years. I always got a kick out of the fact that our French Poodle was the mother of Doanie’s. Doanie named her Mouche, which is French for Fly. Later, she got a Lhasa Apso that she named Muffin. A lot of the time, whenever Doanie and David came to our house, the Dogs would be right there with them. We had four dogs ourselves. However, much to everybody’s surprise, all the dogs got along well together even my Yellow Lab. I often wondered if Mouche remembered that our Poodle, Jolie, was her mother.
Whenever my mom and dad would go to Bloomingdale’s in White Plains, my mom would get the standard greeting, “Oh! You’re Joan Bennett’s Daughter!”. That reminds me of a funny story my mom told. One time, Doanie and David went into Bergdorf Goodman’s in White Plains and, this time, the tables were turned. Doanie was greeted with, “Oh! You’re Mims’ mother!” My mom’s nickname was, and still is, Mims.
On one of our frequent visits to Scarsdale, I had been invited to go for a run with a guy I knew from Scarsdale High. We knew each other through competition. We started off at Doanie’s house on Chase Road. When I got back, I was sweating like a pig and BOY was Doanie mad – despite the fact that both my dad and I had told her and David what was going on beforehand. Like I said earlier – HER way or the HIGHway.
One of my last memories of Doanie was in 1990 when I was in the Navy. I was deployed in the Mediterranean and we had a liberty call in Haifa, Israel. I had just found out that my wife was pregnant with twins. When I called my mom in the States, she told me that Doanie’s last grandchild (my Aunt Shelly) had recently given birth to Lily) and her first two great children were going to be less than a year apart. Unfortunately, Doanie didn’t live to see her first two great grandchildren. She died on December 7, 1990 – eaxctly six months before our sons – Jordan and Jeremy – were born.
It is with absolute pleasure that I am honoring my third favorite actress, Joan Bennett this weekend with her very first blogathon. Unfortunately, Joan is extremely underrated, and is in need of more recognition, so its about time that I’m putting her back on the radar.
For those bloggers who are participating, please submit your entries below, and I will link them as soon as I can. Thank you.
Today ( July 1st ) is a monumental day for classic film enthusiasts worldwide. The legendary Dame Olivia de Havilland celebrates her 103rd birthday in Paris. For the occasion, Laura from Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and I are back for the fourth edition of the Olivia de Havilland Blogathon, an event that honors the great actress and her many contributions to the entertainment industry.
Attention bloggers: Once you have completed your entries, can you please send me the links, and I’ll post them as soon as possible. Thank you. I look forward to reading them.
It is with great pleasure that I am announcing the return of my blogathon, dedicated to the Royal Family of Hollywood, for the fifth consecutive year. This year I am joined by the wonderful Gabriela from Pale Writer, who has kindly offered her services as co-host.
The prominent theatrical family known as the Barrymore’s have been prolifically involved in the entertainment industry since before the birth of motion pictures. Louisa Lane Drew became a prodigy of the arts at the age of eight, and continued to follow a successful road as a thespian and manager of the historic Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia. Her children all embarked on a career as stage actors, but it was her daughter Georgiana’s children who really shone the light on the family business.
Lionel, Ethel and John Barrymore were all reluctant to break into the acting mold, but when they realized that the stage was their only destiny, they utilized all their energy on building a successful career as actors. When the movies came calling all three transitioned into silent pictures, but after a short tenure in film Ethel returned to the stage. She arrived back in Hollywood in 1932 to appear alongside her brothers in Rasputin and the Empress, but it wasn’t until 1944 that Ethel made movies her soul focus.
August 15th marks the 140th anniversary of the birth of Ethel Barrymore. To celebrate my favorite actress on what I consider to be a milestone birthday, I am honoring my favorite actress and her siblings yet again.
FOR THOSE BLOGGERS WHO WISH TO JOIN THE BLOGATHON, THERE ARE SOME RULES THAT MUST BE ADHERED TO. PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING.
1. Bloggers are welcome to write about any film that stars either of the three Barrymore siblings, or any topic pertaining to Ethel, John or Lionel. Previous years, I have allowed posts on Drew Barrymore, but this year however, we have decided to keep things classic, and that means that we are omitting Drew from the blogathon.
2. Due to the diversity of the subject matter, we are only allowing two duplicates, so if you have a topic in mind act fast. If you wish to write more than one post, that’s fine. However, we are limiting this to three entries per blogger.
3.The blogathon will take place on August 13th- 15th, 2019. Please submit your entries on either of these days or early if you wish. For those of you posting early, just remember that your entry won’t be linked until the event starts.
4. To express your interest in participating in the blogathon, leave a comment on my blog or on Gabriela’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: email@example.com or by contacting Gabriela. 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 get ready to celebrate the legendary Barrymore siblings.
In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: TBD.
Pale Writer: Tribute to John and “The Beloved Rogue” ( 1927 )
The Stop Button: Twentieth Century ( 1934 )
Poppity Talks Classic Film: The Paradine Case ( 1947 ) and A Family Affair ( 1937 )
Real Weegie Midget Reviews: Barrymore ( 2011 )
Thoughts From The Musical Man:You Can’t Take It With You ( 1938 )
Critica Retro: Broken Lullaby ( 1932 )
Screen Dreams: A Bill Of Divorcement ( 1932 )
Love Letters To Old Hollywood: The Spiral Staircase ( 1946 )
Taking Up Room: David Copperfield ( 1935 )
Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: John Barrymore’s burial situation.
Movies Meet Their Match: That Midnight Kiss ( 1949 )
Caftan Woman: On Borrowed Time ( 1939 )
Pure Entertainment Preservation Society: Grand Hotel ( 1932 )
For those bloggers who would like to join the party, there are some rules that must be adhered to. Please read the following.
1. If you wish to participate in the blogathon, please select a topic relating to Olivia de Havilland. You can write about her extensive resume of films, her relationship with frequent co-star Errol Flynn, her friendship with Bette Davis or whatever subject piques your interest. All we ask is that there be no more than two duplicates. We want this event to be as diverse as possible. Also, you are welcome to write more than one entry if you wish. However, there is a limit of three posts per person.
2. The blogathon will take place on July 1st and will run through to July 3rd. You are welcome to post on any of those days, or you can even post early. However, if you wish to post early, just remember that your entry won’t be linked until the event starts.
3. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting Laura at email@example.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, and grab one of these fabulous banners, designed by Laura. Thank you. We look forward to celebrating Olivia’s 103rd birthday with you all next month.
Subjects claimed twice, and therefore cannot be chosen again.
The Snake Pit ( 1948 ), My Cousin Rachel ( 1952 ), The Adventures of Robin Hood ( 1938 ), The Heiress ( 1949 )
P.S. I will be announcing my Fifth Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon soon, and this time I have a wonderful surprise in store, so please stay tuned.
In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: The Dark Mirror ( 1946 ) and TBD.
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies: The Well-Groomed Bride ( 1946 )
Pale Writer: The Snake Pit ( 1948 )
Real Weegie Midget Reviews: Olivia on The Love Boat.
The Stop Button: The Heiress ( 1949 )
Silver Screen Classics: My Cousin Rachel ( 1952 )
Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: Olivia’s Salade Nicoise Recipe.
The Midnight Drive-In: The Snake Pit ( 1948 )
Pop Culture Reverie: Murder Is Easy ( 1982 )
Pure Entertainment Preservation Society: Santa Fe Trail ( 1940 )
The Flapper Dame: My Cousin Rachel ( 1952 )
Hamlette’s Soliloquy: Dodge City ( 1939 )
Movies Meet Their Match: The Proud Rebel ( 1958 )
Critica Retro: A Midsummer Night’s Dream ( 1935 )
Poppity Talks Classic Film: Gold Is Where You Find It ( 1938 )
Screen Dreams: It’s Love I’m After ( 1937 )
18 Cinema Lane: Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte ( 1964 )
A Shroud Of Thoughts: The Adventures of Robin Hood ( 1938 )
Old Hollywood Films: The Adventures of Robin Hood ( 1938 )
“Fred put me completely at ease. He’s a gentleman – and lots of fun to work with.”
( Judy Garland on Fred Astaire )
The year was 1948. Judy Garland and Gene Kelly were about to embark on their next big musical extravaganza, and were heading to critical acclaim when suddenly a disastrous mishap threatened to put a halt to their plans.
Judy Garland and Gene Kelly were left in a quandary that seemed impossible to escape, but when confusion was beginning to fuel more difficulties, a movie musical miracle was born, and a legendary screen pairing was on the horizon.
The movie in question is Easter Parade, and the stars that made it are Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, two of cinemas most influential musical stars who almost never appeared in a single film together.
Fred Astaire and Judy Garland were destined to make movie history together, but it’s only through sheer luck that this epiphany occurred. Initially Easter Parade was intended as a starring vehicle for Gene Kelly and his frequent dancing partner, Judy Garland, but Kelly was forced to abandon the project when he broke his ankle during a game of volleyball. At first Kelly’s injury created havoc for Garland and the production team, who envisioned the film not coming to fruition. However, Gene Kelly had an inkling that magic could still be made if Garland united with America’s most popular dancer, Fred Astaire.
Gene Kelly certainly possessed a great thought, but there was one problem: Fred Astaire was in retirement from motion pictures, and he would have to be coaxed into replacing Kelly. Luckily, this task was not as arduous as anticipated. L. K. Sidney, the vice president from MGM had phoned Astaire, and asked him if he was willing to return to the studio. As it turned out, Fred Astaire was full of ambition and still had plenty of scope for ideas.
The thought of starring alongside Judy Garland also lured him back to the studio. Fred had admired Garland from afar and secretly wanted to work with her. Now that the chance had arose, Fred was eager to break out of his retirement and make a comeback.
The only concern about having to return to the studio so soon was the important job that was awaiting him and the little time he had to rehearse. After a two year hiatus from motion pictures, Fred Astaire was clinging to the hope that he was still able to dance and was capable of handling the strenuous workout that was involved. Apart from teaching ballroom at his dance studios, Astaire hadn’t put his dancing artistry to good use during his two year absence. For one of the first times in his life, he now proposed a few questions: Would he still possess the ability to dance?. What if his muscles and joints have stiffened? Those types of scenarios kept creeping up in his mind. Fortunately, his optimism took higher precedence over his negativity and the perils of failure was not in his reach.
Once Astaire realized he still retained the power to dance, he sprung back into action. Fred spent most of his days rehearsing, and when he wasn’t practicing he was collaborating with choreographer, Robert Alton on his dance sequences and discussing different ideas. In order to replace Gene Kelly, the script underwent a myriad of amendments, and the part of Don Hewes had to be re-written to suit the styles of Fred Astaire.
“L.K. Sidney got me on the phone and asked me if I’d care to come home again. With Irving Berlin’s score and the wonderful Judy Garland to play opposite, I was lucky. The part could be made to suit me. I called Gene to find out for sure whether or not he wanted to relinquish his role, he assured me that he could not possibly continue. My retirement was over. Of course, Judy was the star of the picture. And its a joy to work with somebody like Judy, because she’s a super talent, with a great sense of humor. She could do anything. She wasn’t primarily a dancer, but she could do what you asked her to do. And she had a great charm, and she was a very big star. She was in good form – we had a very good time. Our numbers together remain as high spots of enjoyment in my career. Her uncanny knowledge of showmanship impressed me more than ever as I worked with her.”
( Fred Astaire on Judy Garland )
Easter Parade may have had a troubled production, but the delays that originally ensued were not evident during filming. Once the shooting process commenced everything ran smoothly. Judy Garland appeared to be in better health, and all cast members built a great rapport with each other. This made it incredibly beneficial to the film, and with the continuous pattern of advantages, Easter Parade was completed in three months.
The result of Fred Astaire vacating his retirement to collide with Judy Garland in Easter Parade proved to be among the best decisions he made in his life. The film was an immediate hit, and was touted as the greatest musical of the year. Although Astaire and Garland never attained any Academy Awards for their performance, Roger Edens and Johnny Green took home the statuette for “Best Musical Score.”
Fred Astaire and Judy Garland are not the only masterminds behind the films triumph. Directer Charles Walters contributed a lot to the project. At the time of directing Easter Parade, Walters’ experience was not as comprehensive, but he still had vast knowledge on movie musicals to successfully helm the production. Before his work on Easter Parade, Charles Walters only had one feature film to his credit, though he was partly involved with Ziegfeld Follies and Spreadin’ the Jam, which were both released in 1945. Joining Charles Walters in acclamation were Sidney Sheldon, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett who provided a screenplay that was rich in flavor and lively in character development.
Set in 1912 in New York, Easter Parade follows the story of Don Hewes ( Fred Astaire ), a successful Broadway dancer who is forced to find a new dance partner after his current partner, Nadine Hale ( Ann Miller ) announces that she’s accepted an offer to appear in a Ziegfeld production and will be abandoning Don to join the show. Don is incensed with anger over Nadine disrupting his plans, but he is convinced that he can find another girl and transform her into a competent dancer.
Don’s new dance partner comes in the form of Hannah Brown ( Judy Garland ), a cheap diner performer whose knowledge on dance is sparse compared to Don’s, but with prolific training, Hannah and Don become highly acclaimed stage sensations.
Easter Parade was first conceived in late 1946, when Irving Berlin conjured up the idea of making a movie around his song Easter Parade. Around the same time, Berlin discussed his plans with Twentieth Century Fox, who reportedly refused to deal with his requests. This spawned a series of altercations until Arthur Freed stepped in and offered his services.
Originally, Easter Parade was designed as a starring vehicle for Judy Garland and Gene Kelly with Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson and Red Skelton playing supporting roles. Vincente Minnelli who was Garland’s husband at the time was set to direct, but when developments for the production commenced, the idea of casting Sinatra, Grayson and Skelton were scrapped. Instead, Peter Lawford and Cyd Charisse were chosen as the films sidekicks.
That was the initial plan, but Easter Parade was plagued with adversities from the onset. The first unfortunate predicament came when Gelly Kelly broke his ankle, but when Cyd Charisse withdrew from the project after tearing a ligament in her knee, the production company were really under strain. With Charisse’ departure, the search for an actress to play Nadine Hall continued. The investigation was over when Ann Miller was rescued from B movies to fulfill the role that would ultimately pave the way for her future success in motion pictures.
“I was pleased to be responsible for getting Fred back to work, but every time I see him and Judy singing A Couple of Swells, I do get a twinge of regret.”
( Gene Kelly )
Around the same time, Arthur Freed removed Vincente Minnelli from the directors chair. The exact motive behind Freed’s decision is unknown, but certain historical sources state that the action was undertaken when Judy’s psychiatrist suggested it due to her marriage with Vincent being under strain. Whatever the reason, Minnelli’s removal from the project was conducted abruptly and in a rather abrasive manner.
Despite these obstacles that could have sabotaged the project, Easter Parade managed to hit all the high notes on its release. The film is composed of masterful musical scores by Irving Berlin whose showcase of songs are festive, joyous and extremely stimulating. A large majority of the music present in the film are a trademark of the singing careers of both Fred Astaire and Judy Garland and are considered to be among their most recognizable songs.
Although Easter Parade is a showcase of memorable musical scores, the famous We’re A Couple Of Swells number still continues to evoke considerable popularity, and is perhaps the best remembered today. The song was performed by both Garland and Astaire and written by Irving Berlin, who was forced to undergo drastic changes to help further the films success. Initially, Berlin wrote Let’s Take An Old-Fashioned Walk for that particular scene, but producer Arthur Freed was more interested in tapping into Judy’s comedic ability and suggested that he replace it with another song that would pay more emphasis on Garland’s talent.
As much as I adore Judy Garland and her remarkable on-screen chemistry with Fred Astaire, I think my favorite scene from the movie though, is where Astaire visits the toy shop and performs his famous tap dance number Drum Crazy. This segment alone gives viewers a glimpse into the window of Astaire’s genius. At the time of filming, Fred was forty-eight, but he exuded so much flexibility and vitality for somebody he’s age. What I also like about this scene is how certain aspects are tangible. In real life, Astaire was a voracious drummer, a passion that he proudly essays during this routine. For those who haven’t seen the movie, you can watch Fred performing the Drum Crazy number here.
Easter Parade marked the first and final time Fred Astaire would work with Judy Garland. The two were set to appear in The Barkley’s of Broadway together the following year, but Garland’s illness thwarted the production plans. In his autobiography, Steps In Time, Astaire stated that the studio decided to wait in the hopes that she might make a rapid recovery. However, the chances of Judy returning to work were impossible. Fred said that Garland’s departure was a great disappointment, though when he discovered that his new co-star would be Ginger Rogers, he was relieved.
Decades after the films release, Fred Astaire often reminisced about his time on the set of Easter Parade, and would later state in his autobiography that making the movie with Judy was one of the “high spots of enjoyment in his career”. Although, Fred was well aware of the crisis’ that constantly surrounded Judy on the home-front, he was one actor that never looked at her through the lens of negativity. Instead, he lauded her for her knowledge on showmanship and her professional work ethic.
One of the films greatest assets is the famed partnership of two legends who both epitomized brilliance. Some reviewers have criticized the film because of the massive age-gap between Astaire and Garland, but these people are clearly not comprehending the gist of the story. Of course, Fred was many years her senior, and it could have been more beneficial if a younger actor was cast, but honestly I can’t envision anyone but Fred Astaire playing the role of Don Hewes. Astaire was an actor who infused his own special kind of magic into each performance he delivered.
What I think was also beneficial to the film was how Astaire and Garland forged a close friendship behind the cameras. That connection only enhanced their on-screen partnership and made their chemistry more magnetic and authentic. It would have been difficult for both stars if they weren’t so affable on set. It could have even hindered the picture or make the scenes together stretch credulity.
Even though Astaire and Garland are the main attractions, the film also boasts a stellar supporting cast. After years of being relegated to B-grade movies, Ann Miller was finally given the opportunity to sport her talents and tap-dancing skills in a high budget musical. The recognition she received cemented her future success an an actress. Enveloped between the three main characters is Peter Lawford, who plays Don’s best friend and sidekick, Johnny Harrow. At the time of filming, Lawford was one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood, but as the years progressed, his status has somewhat diminished.
“Judy and Fred got along just great, because she’s a great pro and a fantastic entertainer, and he was too. And I think that when you put pros together, its always a happy union, because they like to work and work hard. And they did.”
( Ann Miller )
For many people, Easter Parade is remembered as the last big budget musical Judy made for MGM, but for others, the film is remembered for its eye-popping Technicolor, exquisite costumes, vibrant musical scores, and the two leading stars who spawned magic whenever they appeared on screen.
The film deleted a musical number, “Mr. Monotony,” in which Judy Garland wears the same costume she would immortalize two years later in Summer Stock (1950) in the number “Get Happy”; the costume was a man’s tuxedo coat and hat. For years, there were rumors that “Get Happy” was cut from another film and inserted into Summer Stock(1950). It is believed that this song being removed from “Easter Parade” is the origin of that rumor. An abbreviated version of the “Mr. Monotony” number was included in That’s Entertainment! III (1994), and the complete number is included as an extra on the Warner Home Video Easter Parade (1948) DVD.
The dye from the feather on Judy Garland‘s hat in “Fella with an Umbrella” song ran all over her face and jacket, so they coated it with Vaseline. The feather looks different in two different shots.
Ann Miller danced with pinched nerves in her back. She was also taller than Fred Astaire, so she offered to wear ballet slippers instead of heels when she danced with him. This can be seen towards the end of the movie. When she finishes the number “The Girl I Love” she goes behind the curtain wearing red high heels; when she comes back out in front of the audience to entice Astaire to dance with her to their old song “It Only Happens When I Dance With You”, she’s wearing red flats.
Jules Munshin’s seemingly superfluous routine, as the waiter who pantomimes the elongated making of a gourmet salad, had a purpose beyond this film. It was one of several instances wherein MGM enacted a screen test through a feature film in order to determine public response to the performer, and how he or she registered on film. Other memorable examples are Charlotte Arren’s madcap rendition of “Il Baccio” in Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940), the Ross Sisters’ jaw-dropping contortionist routine to “Solid Potato Salad” in Broadway Rhythm (1944), and five-year-old Margaret O’Brien’s push-the-button histrionics during an audition sequence in Babes on Broadway (1941). In most cases, these screen tests-cum-screen debuts were ill-fated, but both O’Brien and Munshin scored studio contracts based on enthusiastic audience response to their brief snippets of screen time.
Ann Miller had to perform her biggest numbers in a back brace. In an interview with Robert Osborne, she revealed that she had been thrown down the stairs by her then husband Reese Milner. She was also pregnant at the time and was in a lot of pain.
Judy Garland: Born, Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10th, 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Died: June 22nd, 1969 in Chelsea, London. Aged: 47.
Fred Astaire: Born, Frederick Austerlitz on May 10th, 1899 in Omaha, Nebraska. Died: June 22nd, 1987 in Los Angeles, California. Aged: 88.
Ann Miller: Born, Johnnie Lucille Collier on April 12th, 1923 in Houston, Texas. Died: January 22nd, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. Aged: 80.
Peter Lawford: Born, Peter Sydney Ernest Aylen on September 7th, 1923 in London, England. Died: December 24th, 1984 in Los Angeles, California. Aged: 61.
This post was written for the Second Annual Broadway Bound Blogathon, hosted by Rebecca from Taking Up Room. To view the other entries being exhibited during this event, please click here.
As an avid fan of Rosalind Russell, I was anxious for this blogathon to arrive. Rosalind is unfortunately extremely underrated, and does not get the recognition that she deserves. It is for this reason why I am putting her back on the radar for the next three days.
Today Rosalind would have celebrated her 112th birthday. For the occasion a prolific array of bloggers are teaming up to honor the indelible talents of this great actress, who holds a special place in my heart. A big thank you to those who have taken the time to participate. I look forward to reading your entries.
This is for you Rosalind. Happy Heavenly Birthday.