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Aah, 1947. A year of returning servicemen, major advances in television, the invention of the microwave, Kon-Tiki, the proposal of the Marshall Plan, and Jackie Robinson joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. Two years after the war, and life was looking rosy. The U.S hadn’t yet made their ill-advised foray into Korea, and you could still get a cuppa joe for a nickel.
On the not-so-nice side, the friendly folks at HUAC gave us the infamous Black List, setting out to destroy Hollywood careers, and gangster Bugsy Siegel took a mess of lead to his handsome face.
In the midst of all the current events, Paramount decided to give everyone a taste of history (with the full Hollywood technicolor musical treatment, of course). Directed by William Marshall, with fun songs by Frank Loesser, The Perils of Pauline wasn’t going to win any academy awards, but it is a fun time waster, and an entertaining way to pass a lazy weekend afternoon.
When I began searching for a film to cover for the 1947 blogathon, most of the jewels I thought about were already taken, but then I remembered this one and squealed. How else to tie my love of silent film to a relatively more modern time period?
The Perils of Pauline, like most reputedly “biographical” films of the era, gives only a passing nod to the truth, instead favoring a more glamorized version. But Betty Hutton makes it a fun ride. In addition to Betty, the film is chock full of former silent film stars playing cameos: Chester Conklin, William Farnum, Paul Panzer (the original villain from Pauline), Snub Pollard, Creighton Hale, Heinine Conklin, Jean Acker, Ethel Clayton, and Julia Faye. Keep an eye out if you’re a silent movie buff.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the film (or its subject), let me take you back a few years. In the early days of film, producers discovered that they could rake in the simoleons by having a whiz bang of a movie with lots of action, an evildoer or two, and of course, the damsel in distress. At the end of each film episode (called a short), they’d have a cliffhanger of an ending (where do you think we got the word?). To find out what happened, you had to tune in the next week. And the next week, and the week after that…
There were several serials that gained fame in the mid teens– Million Dollar Mystery with Florence LaBadie forThanhouser and The Hazards of Helen with Helen Holmes for Kalem (she was later replaced by Helen Gibson). But arguably the most famous was The Perils of Pauline, starring Pearl White, brought to us by Pathe’.
Although pegged as a damsel in distress, Pearl was actually one of the more resourceful of these ladies, and didn’t need as much help from the dashing hero. Between her athleticism and her smarts, she could usually find a way out of her scrapes.
Pearl White was born March 4, 1889 in Green Ridge, Missouri. She began acting when she was young, doing the requisite Little Eva in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She later went on the stock circuit. When her voice began to crack from the strain, she turned to silent films, going to work for the Powers Company in the Bronx. She was athletic, so she polished her skills in very physical comedies and by doing stunts. She worked with Pathe-Freres, Lubin, and several other companies until Pathe’ director Louis Gasnier offered her the role in Pauline.
In the movie version, we first meet Pearl (Betty Hutton) at the Metropolitan Garment Company where she works. She and the other girls try to find a way to make the hours seem less drab, so when the friendly organ grinder comes around with his monkey, she tosses him a coin to keep the music coming, raising the ire of boss Joe Gurt (Frank Faylen). “Whaddya think I’m runnin’ here, a kaffeeklatsch?” he says sarcastically.
Annoyed, Pearl sings her homage to the sewing machine to entertain the girls (“The Sewing Machine”). [True fact: I saw this scene when I was a little girl…could have sworn it was “That’s Entertainment” but I could be wrong. Might have just caught my mom watching this and loved it, just never knew what film it was. It wasn’t until years later that I found out].
But of course, boss Joe Gurt is none-too-pleased with Betty’s impressions of him, or of her further goofing around and says he’s going to dock everyone a half day’s pay. She tries to apologize, but he gets fresh, and she decks him, to the approval of Julia Gibbs (Constance Collier), an older theatre actress there to pick up a costume she’s ordered.
Pauline tells her how much she loves her (and theatre people in general). “If I could be in the theatre…why even thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach!” she says.
Miss Gibbs promises her an audition if she’ll come with her to the theatre. Joe tells her not to come back without the $98.00 for the costume. The “audition” turns out to be theatre manager Michael Farrington (John Lund) pushing her out on stage, where she is promptly pelted with tomatoes from an impatient audience, who’ve been waiting for the delayed Julia Gibbs.
She makes a deal with them. “This is mighty important,” she says, after tossing a couple tomatoes back. Just let her sing her song. If they like it, they can give her a little hand. If they hate it, they can throw more tomatoes and she’ll toss em back. Deal? OK. She settles herself on the piano, and instead of doing something beautiful and sentimental (more fitting for Romeo and Juliet, the play they’re doing), she goes for a hefty, raucous dose of vaudeville (“Rumble, Rumble, Rumble”). She gets the job, but Farrington tells her he’s going to take the $98.00 out of her salary.
While on the train to their next destination, she’s introduced to Timmy Timmons (Billy DeWolfe). He’s Farrington’s second-in-command, and nearly ended up having to play Juliet in Julia’s absence. He teaches her something about acting– controlling her voice (projecting!). “Never enunciate like a lemon or a grape.” Only an orange.
When Farrington comes through the train car, he tells her that no job can be too big or too small for her, then promptly dumps the mending in her lap. Next scene, we see her working on the ironing for the cast as she preps for her role as a maid. She’s expected to simply say, “Milord, your carriage awaits.” Instead, she knocks over a lamp, and proceeds to destroy half the set before exiting ungracefully. She gets an earful from Farrington. Then, it’s into blackface to play a house slave in a Civil War melodrama.
She and Farrington attempt to polish a scene together where she has to kiss him, but she freezes up, then freaks out and runs out of the theatre. He can’t figure out what’s wrong. Julia calls him an idiot. It’s obvious to everyone but him that Pearl’s in love with him.
Thus ensues a comical scene intended to take place in the South Seas, where she wears a Dorothy Lamour type getup, but because she’s doused ahead of time, and they point fans put at her, she can barely talk during the scene, she catches a cold, and nearly freezes to death onstage. When Farrington gives her what for, she tells him off and heads out. Julia leaves the cast too in protest.
Pearl ends up auditioning for a theatrical agent (“I Wish I Didn’t Love You So”), with the help if Julia on the piano. They tell her they can maybe find her something in the flickers. Even though Julia denigrates them, Pearl is game, so they show up at a studio, with multiple productions underway at once. Julia gets the vapors. They meet director Mac McGuire (William Demarest, famous for playing “Uncle Charley” on My Three Sons), and he puts them to work. In her first scene, Julia gets pelted by three pies at once.
Pearl is not amused. She guides Julia off the set (Julia has whipped cream in her eyes) and they proceed to destroy several other productions in progress as they try to leave. Pearl makes such an impression (telling off a lion), that Mac hires her on the spot. (“I thought it was a dog!” she says) When Julia hears how much, she accepts for Pearl.
When we hear that Pauline is going to be the biggest thing in pictures, we see workmen putting up a billboard for The Perils of Pauline, over the cute song “Poor Pauline”, and see the various predicaments she finds herself in (blowing desperately on the fuse for dynamite, tied to the tracks, going over Niagara Falls, etc).
When she’s filming a scene where she has to jump onto a moving train from a horse, she runs into Timmy Timmons, who’s camped out in a cattle car, riding the rails. Farrington’s group disbanded, and they’re all getting by however they can. She and Timmy get reacquainted and she asks him where Mike is. Turns out he’s working as the barker for a hoochie coochie show at a seaside carnival. They have an encounter, and she tells him there’s so much he could help her do. At first he denigrates her choosing of flickers over live theatre, but when she tells him it pays 100 bucks a week, he says he’ll do it. They bring along Timmy too. He makes a good villain.
In their first episode together, The Fatal Idol, Farrington (like Lund himself ed: Oops! Did I say that out loud?) is wooden, and Mac gives him hell for not emoting enough. He gets it right on the next take.
In “Murder in the Clouds, she and Mike are tied together in a hot air balloon as Timmy cuts the rope down below.
“Are you sure we’re tied down?” Pearl says. “You’re safe as in your mother’s arms!” Mac says. After Mac and Timmy go around and around on the differences between gnashing his teeth and chewing, everything goes wrong.
The rope is cut, and there is nothing else tethering the balloon to the ground. The pilot never got a chance to get in the basket before they took off. They’re floating up up and up, with no signs of stopping!
Mike and Pearl cuddle up for warmth, through rain and cold and storms, and Pearl finally admits her feelings. Mike promises to marry her.
Mike gets disgusted at a party and tells Pearl that he had taken the job to try to build her up, but that she’s “dragged him down to where she is.” She calls him a snob and tells him to leave.
World War I breaks out, and Pearl attends a Liberty Bond rally, climbing to the very top of a tall ladder, and being caught in a net. On an ocean liner on their way to Europe, Mike and Timmy catch a viewing of The Fatal Idol. Mike leaves in annoyance. Timmy soaks up the adoration of the crowd when they figure out who he is.
Mike heads for Broadway, and Pearl catches a performance of “Kiss the Tears From My Eyes” one night, right about the time serials begin fading. Mac talks to his backers, and tries to keep things going, but they’re not interested. While he’s talking to them, his secretary comes in with a telegram Pearl has sent him. She’s on her way to Paris, and thanks him for everything. He knuckles under to the backers.
Farrington arrives just then, and threatens to punch Mac in the nose of he doesn’t tell him where she is. So he hands him the telegram. Pearl is working at the Casino de Paris, accompanied by Julia. We see her perform (“Poppa don’t preach to me”).
Mike sends her a message to meet him at the depot, and she says she feels like she has wings. While Timmy is performing, she climbs into the rafters, grabs a long tassel, and swings back and forth across the stage. When she grabs a tassel hanging from the stage ceiling, it breaks loose and Pearl is injured.
To tell you any more would give too much away!
But suffice to say that through Pearl did injure herself, it was during the making of one of the serials, and not afterward. Pearl’s real finale’ was much different than the one in the movie, and much sadder. She was married twice, but never had children. She prepared for the end she knew was coming, and willed her sizable estate to family and friends. She died of “a liver ailment” (most likely cirrhosis) in Paris in 1938, and was buried at Passy Cemetery.
This post is dedicated to a groundbreaker of silent film, Miss Pearl White.
This post is part of the 1947 Blogathon, sponsored by Speakeasy and Shadows and Satin. You can find the other participants here.
So excited to announce my first blog tour and book blast for The Forgotten Flapper, brought to you by those awesome folks at Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours.
More info on the reviewers as they become available, but here’s my homepage for the tour. Join us, won’t you?
Well, around here anyway….
It’s only a few weeks until I release The Forgotten Flapper, and as you may have guessed, things have been a little nutty, what with all the edits, and then more edits, and yet still more edits, trying to make it as completely perfect as I can before the final shipping of books!
My proof arrived the other day, looking completely, utterly PERFECT. Except for those few last minute items I caught inside, exclaiming “WTF?” in dismay, and then having to go through another round of edits, to make sure I caught lots of still mistakes that still made it past my editor, my beta readers, my early reviewers AND me. It’s just so easy to catch them when they’re presented so beautifully in their final format.
I’ve set up a couple of events through Facebook for my signings in Edmonton and Calgary, and the responses are coming in at a good clip (mostly positive!). I’m pretty excited, I have to tell you.
The magical day is approaching, and when it arrives, I’m going to be over the moon. Won’t you join me?
In 1922, a play opened in Philadelphia that underwhelmed the population so much that it closed within weeks. Producer and promoter Sam H. Harris, his client Jeanne Eagels, and the rest of the cast and crew had to decide whether they would fold it up and lick their wounds or try another tack with it. Rain was not the success they had hoped it would be. Jeanne vociferously defended Sadie Thompson, the main character, whom she’d fallen in love with. She refused to let the show die. So with a little reworking, they reopened at the Maxine Elliott Theatre in Manhattan. And American theater has never been the same since.
A young and beautiful Jeanne Eagels.
Sadie Thompson is a woman of dubious morals, on the run from illegal activities in San Francisco. She happens to be on a ship that docks in Pago Pago, Samoa in the South Seas. Also included in this equation are Trader Horn, who manages the general store with his native wife, a battalion of Marines headed for Subic Bay in the Philippines, and a holier-than-thou priest and his wife (the Reverend and Mrs. Davidson).
Jeanne as Sadie with the Marines
“I don’t want to be a prostitute,” Jeanne told Sam Harris. “The play doesn’t call me one. I can’t feel myself a prostitute. I don’t want to be cheap, sordid and vulgar.” When Harris told her that she wasn’t a prostitute– that she was a common streetwalker, he told her that she had no morals, but no malice either. “All right, I’ll be a common harlot then, but not a cheap one.” What she did do was to make the part her own. She shopped carefully for the look she wanted, scouring New York shops for the perfect type of dress and hat and shoes. According to biographer Edward Doherty, “she found the shoes at a dingy East Side bargain counter, after weeks of searching for them. She paid $2.00. They were on sale.” Supposedly. she ordered a dozen more pairs just like them. The famous hat with the sad droopy plume she found at a shop in the Bronx. And a secondhand store in The Bowery was the source for her white lace coat with peach sateen lining. She found the bedraggled parasol at a fire sale, and the multitude of bangles from a five and ten cent store. From her first sashay onstage, she took over the character, getting inside her head and exploring her personality and motivations. “Sadie wouldn’t do that,” she was known to say. And she defended her fiercely. When someone once asked her if she’d like to visit the Barbary Coast, “where Sadie was from,” Jeanne lost it. “How do YOU know she was ever there?” she said crossly. Nothing in the play indicated it. She wanted to get the most out of life, that was all. “Does anybody actually KNOW Sadie is a harlot?” No one could tell her. Two years after her lover, Thomas Chadbourne, deserted her and married Mrs. Chadbourne, the couple attended the opening night of Rain. According to Doherty, she ignored Chadbourne until the second act, where she turned all her vitriol at Reverend Davidson. But she was not speaking to Davidson, she was accusing Chadbourne. That last word of her tantrum, “sonofabitch,” was covered in fury.
Her persona became ingrained in the American consciousness. In All About Eve, George Sanders mentioned Jeanne as one of the greats he’d worked with over twenty years after her death.
So, in 1927 when Hollywood inevitably decided to film its own version of Rain, Jeanne would have been the obvious choice for the part. Why then, was Gloria Swanson selected instead?
In a word, clout.
Gloria Swanson was one of the biggest female stars at the time, all due to her work with director Cecil B. DeMille on pictures like Male and Female, The Affairs of Anatole, and Why Change Your Wife. She had recently married an impoverished French nobleman named Henri de la Falaise de la Coudray. She was a marquise.
Obstacle #1 – Rain was on the Motion Picture Production Code’s list of theatrical works that could not be filmed, due to Sadie’s line of work.
However, cagey Gloria Swanson worked with some writers to finagle important details (Sadie’s profession became fuzzier, and the reverend became a reformer). And most importantly, they changed the movie’s name to Sadie Thompson so that it wasn’t associated with the scandalous Broadway play of the same name. Because of her wealth and pull in Hollywood, Swanson pulled a fast one on the censors.
Obstacle #2 – Jeanne’s dislike of films.
At the time, the gulf between theater people and “movies” was much wider. Although stage plays did provide fodder for the newer medium, for years theater people had looked down on film people as upstarts. No one wanted to actually admit they made flickers. Until the money began rolling in, and in, and in… and then the talkies arrived. Directors needed trained stage voices. That was when things really changed.
Jeanne had done her time in films in the early part of her career, working for the independent Thanhouser, which was based in New Rochelle, New York. During 1916 and 1917, she made several films, including The World and the Woman, The Fires of Youth, and Under False Colors.
She loved California– loved the sun and the warmth and the people. It was the industry she couldn’t stand. As Doherty says, “Movies, she believed, were made by stupid people, of stupid people, and for stupid people.” And she didn’t feel like films had progressed much past where they’d been a decade earlier when she’d been in them to pay the bills.
When Rain‘s run was complete, Jeanne and her husband, Ted Coy, had traveled to California, and the next thing anyone knew, she was making Man, Woman, and Sin with John Gilbert. She’d been convinced to join by Monta Bell, the director, but supposedly she hated everyone on the lot. Except Bell and Gilbert.
Jeanne and John Gilbert, with whom it was rumored she had an affair
It was the routine she hated– having to get there so early, getting made up, and then waiting around– sometimes for hours, sometimes for days– for technical issues to get ironed out. The lights, the cameras, the director, the editing…she had no patience for it. Finally, she walked off set. For three days.
Obstacle #3 – Jeanne herself.
The furor over Her Cardboard Lover cemented Jeanne’s reputation as difficult and unstable. Erratic behavior, missed performances, and rumors of drunken binges followed the show. Due to the fallout, Jeanne was fined two weeks’ pay and banned from the live stage for eighteen months by Actors Equity. She was casual about the whole affair, and did a stint on vaudeville in the meantime. She knew it would pay more than legitimate theater, and movies would pay even more than that.
But her descent had begun. Alcoholism slowly and surely began to claim her. Rumors of drug abuse surfaced after her death as her behavior became more and more unstable. Supposedly, she had a broken heart when Swanson played Sadie, but Swanson had done the legwork to earn the part for herself. And Jeanne couldn’t be bothered to work in Hollywood voluntarily. Plus, in addition to the alcohol, she had a myriad of health problems with sinuses etc that inhibited her work at times.
Jeanne as the murderous Leslie Crosbie in The Letter
Only after her suspension did Jeanne find Hollywood a legitimate enough source of income to complete the two films we know her for today. The first was the brilliant W. Somerset Maugham work The Letter, where she played the murderous adultress Leslie Crosbie, and the second was Jealousy. Since both are talkies, we can fully get a sense of her acting skill and ability to full inhabit a character.
It’s a true loss that we never got to enjoy Jeanne on film playing the role she was known for, but Swanson comported herself admirably in the role. If only Jeanne had had the foresight to ensure that her Rain legacy included film as well as live theater.
This has been my entry in the Classic Movie History Blogathon, hosted by Silver Screenings. Check out these other great entries! A wealth of amazing film history lore. Check it out, y’all! I’ll be reading for days.
1880-1895: Eadweard Muybridge and the Black Maria: The birth of the movies
|Silent-ology||Early History of Film|
|The Movie Rat||The Muybridge Experiment|
1896-1900: From novelty to art: The movies increase in popularity
|Silent Volume||The Best Pre-Feature Movies|
|Christy’s Inkwells||How I Learned to Love Silent Movies|
1901-1907: The first hits: Melies, Edison and the blockbuster
|Big V Riot Squad||Life of an American Director: Edwin S Porter in 1903|
1908-1913: Nickelodeon! The movies in the mainstream
|365 Days 365 Classics||India’s Silent Era Movies|
|Silver Screenings||Early Trick Photography The Thieving Hand (1908)|
|Now Voyaging||The early career of Lois Weber|
1914-1918: The War and the feature film: The move away from shorts
|Now Voyaging||Movie audience perceptions of the war|
|Century Film Project||Regeneration (1915)|
|Once Upon a Screen||Birth of Fox Studio – a centennial tribute|
|Yesterday, Tomorrow and Fantasy||Tom Sawyer, the 1917 Film|
|The Cinematic Packrat||A Brief History of MGM|
|Sir Arthur Conan Doy’s Lost World||William Selig’s Lost World|
1919-1923: Hollywood triumphs: Post-war dominance
|A Small Press Life||Anita Loos: Females in Early Hollywood|
|Movies, Silently||Home Theatres of the Silent Era|
|vivandlarry.com||James Abbe: Capturing the silent screen|
1924-1927: The high art of pantomime: The silent film reaches artistic heights
|Sepia Stories||Jeanne Eagels was Robbed. Why the stage’s most recognized Sadie Thompson didn’t appear in the film.|
|In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood||John Barrymore in Don Juan & the introduction to Vitaphone|
1928-1929: The last of the silents: The talkie revolution
|film, fashion & frivolity||Garbo’s Last Silents|
|Critica Retro||1928 Around the World|
|CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch||The Crowd (1928)|
1930-1931: All Singing! All Dancing! All Talking! The end of the sound transition.
|A Person in the Dark||Early Musicals|
|Classic Reel Girl||Early portrayal of taxi dancers: Ten Cents a Dance (1931) and Two Seconds (1932)|
|Cinephilia||Lubitsch Films: 1930-1943|
|Silver Screen Modes||How Fashions Sold the Movies: 1930-1940|
|regularpop||Loretta Young’s career|
1932-1934: Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? The wild world of pre-Code.
|Carole & Co.||Of Carole and Pre-Code|
|Girls Do Film||Barbara Stanwyck’s Pre-Code Bad Girls|
|The Stop Button||Son of Kong|
|Wolffian Classic Movies Digest||Bette Davis, dame of the screen|
|stevielounicks||Dinner at Eight|
|In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood||Ethel Barrymore’s transition from stage to screen|
|Second Sight Cinema||Development of newsreels, real life influencing Hollywood and vice versa, and presidential politics and policy in 1932-’33.|
|Outspoken & Freckled||Feminism in the Pre-Code Era|
|CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch||Heat Lightning (1934)|
|stars and letters||Correspondence from Joseph Breen from 1934 and 1935 regarding the Production Code|
1935-1938: Let’s misbeha— I mean, lovely day, isn’t it? The Code enforced and the rise of Technicolor.
|Nitrate Glow||Disney’s Early Features|
|Silver Scenes||1936-A Grand Year in Film|
|CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch||(Guest Post) The Flame Within|
1939: The Big Year. Selections from the biggest year in classic cinema.
|Movie Movie Blog Blog||The Flying Deuces (Laurel and Hardy)|
|Smitten Kitten Vintage||1939: The Big Year (Selections from the biggest year in classic cinema)|
|MovieFanFare||The Worst of 1939|
1940-1945: We’ll murdelize that paper hanger! Wartime Cinema.
|The Vintage Cameo||Wartime Musicals|
|Speakeasy||1943 at RKO|
|The Motion Pictures||For Me and My Gal|
|Way too damn lazy to write a blog||Christmas in Connecticut|
|Phyllis Loves Classic Movies||What the Stars Did to Help Win the War|
|Shadows and Satin||Barbara Stanwyck in Film Noir|
|B Noir Detour||Wartime Cinema: Gentleman’s Agree’t, Crossfire, A Double Life|
|Queerly Different||The Rise and Fall of the Biblical Epic Part 1|
|Pure Golden Classics||Gilda (1946)|
|regularpop||Lizabeth Scott’s career|
1950-1952: Realism and the Method: New directions
|Sister Celluloid||Stage Fright: Hitchcock Goes Home|
|Old Hollywood Films||Hollywood Expose Pictures (Sunset Blvd, Bad the Beautiful)|
|Hitchcock’s World||Destination Moon (1950)|
|Caftan Woman||Adult Westerns|
|Criterion Blues||The Collapse of the Studio System Parts 1,2,3|
1953-1957: Rebels with and without causes: The birth of cool
|Back to Golden Days||Juvenile Deliquency: The Wild One, Blackboard Jungle, Rebel Without a Cause|
|Movies Silently||After the Silents: A Face in the Crowd (1957)|
|Movie Mania Madness||It’s Always Fair Weather – The Musical Gets Cynical|
|Voyages Extraordinaires||Scientific Romances in the Atomic Age|
|Silver Scenes||3-D Films of the 1950s|
|Culural Civilian||Revisiting It Should Happen to You (1954) in a Reality-TV World|
|Queerly Different||The Rise and Fall of the Biblical Epic Part 2|
|Let’s Go to the Movies||Love as portrayed in key films released during this time period|
|Totally Filmi||The Apu Trilogy|
|Silver Screenings||3D Film Shorts|
1958-1962: A little song, a little dance, a lot of people with no pants: Musicals, biblical epics and the shimmy-shimmy shakes.
|A Shroud of Thoughts||British New Wave|
|Cary Grant Won’t Eat You||Single Roommates in the City: The Best of Everything (1959)|
|Queerly Different||The Rise and Fall of the Biblical Epic Part 3|
|Jim Fanning’s Tulgey Wood||The Widescreen Splendor of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959)|
|Paula’s Cinema Club||Roger Corman (guest post by Jack Deth)|
1963-1967: Mod’s the word: And then things started to swing
|The Last Drive In||The Bold & The Beautiful Strong Women of 1960s Film|
|The Wonderful World of Cinema||1967: An Important Turning Point in Films|
|Reel and Rock||The Girl-Getters aka The System (1964)|
|That Other Critic||Batman (1966)|
|Classic Becky’s Brain Food||3 Big Films 1969: Midnight Cowboy, Sterile Cuckoo, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?|
|No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen||1966: The Year dubbed as Nineteen Sexty Sex|
|The Joy & Agony of Movies||Movies: 1963-67 (Topic TBA)|
1968-1972: Hays is dead: The end of the Code
|Portraits by Jenni||Airport (1970)|
|The Joy and Agony of Movies||Films about politics and civil unrest|
|Girls Do Film||The American Road Movie (Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider, Badlands)|
|Moon in Gemini||Paranoia in Movies|
|Le Mot du Cinephiliaque||The year 1968 in France’s Cinema|
1972-1975: The Godfather and Jaws: Auteur films and the modern blockbuster
|Once Upon a Screen||Mel Brooks’ Take on Classic Movie Genres|
|Crimson Kimono||The Surveillance Sleuth of “The Conversation”|
|The Joy & Agony of Movies||Movies: 1972-75 (Topic TBA)|
In 1926, Clara Bow was already becoming a solid commodity in motion pictures. The irrepressible redhead had showed her range in a few dramas early on, but after her roles as naughty but nice Cynthia in The Plastic Age or the gold-digging manicurist Alvira in Mantrap, she had found her niche. She was the sexy, devil-may-care flapper who was the envy of every woman and the dream girl of every man.
When the writer Elinor Glyn (infamous for penning a tryst on a tiger-skin rug in Three Weeks) came to Hollywood, and Clara was selected as the lead for It, her career would never be the same.
The Divine Ms. Glyn
Upon meeting Clara for the first time, Glyn supposedly took Clara’s face in her hands and said, “You are my muse!” And crazy as it sounds, maybe she was. But it also may have been the other way around.
After It, Clara, who’d previously been billed as the Brooklyn Bonfire, became The It Girl. And the 1920s ignited.
Audiences probably responded so positively because, other than the fun story and appealing cast, Clara was playing herself– salt of the earth, poor Brooklyn girl Betty Lou Spence. Not only that, but she was helping out her friend and co-worker, Molly (Priscilla Bonner) after the birth of Molly’s baby. She’s letting them stay with her until Molly can go back to work.
Now, I’m the least maternal person I know. I honestly don’t like kids– the crying and whining and carrying on sets my teeth on edge. But this baby (who Clara affectionately calls Toodles) is utterly adorable. They don’t make babies any cuter. Blonde, plump, and cherubic, and she bounces up and down, happy to see Clara.
Okay, how freaking CUTE is this kid?
I saw Wings years ago, and I enjoyed it, but this was the movie that cemented my love for Clara. Because she’s the main attraction here. And this scene is why.
You see, Betty Lou has a crush on her department store owner boss, Cyrus Waltham (Antonio Moreno). Actually, he’s the real boss’s son, left in charge while Waltham, Senior is out of town. Betty thinks Cyrus is the cat’s pajamas. “Sweet Santa Claus, give me him!” she says, upon first seeing him.
She tries to get Cyrus’ attention, but is unsuccessful at first. However, Cyrus’s pal Monty (William Austin) is currently reading It, and he’s convinced Betty has it. He invites Clara to dinner, but she says “only if we go to the Ritz.” She overheard Cyrus telling Monty that he was going there.
Excitedly, she heads into her little flat, out of breath, and full of starry-eyed dreams of Cyrus.
Her interaction with Toodles the baby here is completely natural and so perfectly Clara. She makes faces, picks up the little nipper and holds her while Molly warms a bottle. Her eyes and eyebrows are a perfect concertina of expressions that are completely believable and expressive.
“Crap! What can I wear to the Ritz?“
Realizing she’ll have to have a better frock than what she has, she decides to perform major surgery on the dress she wore to work, enlisting Molly’s help.
“A stitch in time saves nine, right?”
Ensuring her scissors are nice and sharp, she slices it right through the center of the bodice, then has Molly keep going with it, completely removing the massive lace collar. In her inimitable Clara way, she goofs around, wearing the lace collar as a hat, and wincing in pain when Molly accidentally jabs her with the scissors.
“Hey Molly, a little to the right”
After a look away at Clara’s competition, snooty Adela Van Norman (Jacqueline Gadsden), we’re back just in time for an application of talc (in a black dress? Shah, right…), and the Betty Lou pulls the (presumably now basted) frock back over her head.
“Hand me that Shower to Shower, willya?”
She gives us a glimpse of well turned ankle, then drapes a sheer scarf over her head, adding instant glamour. then, she attaches some flowers to the waist of her dress (they did that back then. In my granny Smith’s wedding picture from 1919, they did the same thing).
“Vera Wang, eat your heart out! “
With the addition of the sheer scarf over her already state-of-the-art bob, Betty Lou comes off like a carefree millionairess, and purrs at the camera, lowering those eyelids and convincing anyone and everyone that she really does have It. Monty is already convinced, but Cyrus takes a bit longer to see. After a misunderstanding involving Molly’s baby, things are finally resolved at a yacht party. We see Clara play a ukulele, Clara frolic, and Clara be Clara basically.
Of course she gets the guy (and leaves poor Adela in the dust), but we all knew that would happen anyway. She has It.
“Hey, Cyrus, let me impress you with my mad ukulele skillz”
Wanna watch for yourself? NeilAvon at youtube has kindly posted the scene for your enjoyment: Watch the Dressing for Dinner scene…
And go check out the other And…Scene!” Blogathon entries (read more here at Sister Celluloid’s blog). Good stuff…
The Movie Rat The repeated scene in Persona
Cinephilia The scene after Harry’s wedding in It’s a Wonderful Life
Le Mot du Cinephiliaque The first scene where Jeff snoops on his neighbors in Rear Window
Cary Grant Won’t Eat You The courtroom scene in I’m No Angel
MovieFanFare The Maharaja scene from Three Little Pirates
Another Old Movie Blog Favorite scene in Katie Did It
Vienna’s Classic Hollywood The “Maida revealed” scene in In Name Only
Old Hollywood Films The filibuster scene in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Nitrate Glow The “descent into the lair” scene in the 1925 version of Phantom of the Opera
Girls Do Film The “bumpy night” scene in All About Eve
Movies Silently The fight scene in Tol’able David
Movie Movie Blog Blog The Looking for Trouble scene in The French Line
Second Sight Cinema The stoop scene in The More the Merrier
Caftan Woman Favorite scene in The Searchers
BNoirDetour The Put the Blame on Mame scene in Gilda
Gina Dalfonzo The drunk scene in The Philadelphia Story
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies The “house plan” scene in Blandings Builds His Dream House
Vivien Leigh Legend The opening scene in Gone With the Wind
Critica Retro The funhouse scene in The Lady from Shanghai
Wolffian Classic Movies Digest The shower scene in Psycho
Back to Golden Days The gin rummy scene in Born Yesterday
Writer’s Rest The porch scene in It’s a Gift
Wide Screen World The “Barton gets suspicious” scene in Double Indemnity
The Wonderful World of Cinema The opening scene in To Be or Not to Be
Back to the Viewer The grapefruit scene in Public Enemy
Defiant Success The party scene in Seconds
The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood The final scene in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Sister Celluloid The love scene in D.O.A. (yes, there is one!)
Hey all! Today I’m participating in the Beach Party Blogathon, hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. Kowabunga! Here’s my entry…a little gem that is completely underrated.
You know those art deco travel posters that are all the rage? The ones advertising trips to Juan les Pins or Biarritz featuring stylized, tanned 1930s rick folk in belted maillots and swim caps? Imagine one of those come to life. That is Evil Under the Sun.
From its lovely watercolor sketch titles to its breezy Cole Porter soundtrack and its exotic Mallorca locales (standing in for an island off Albania somewhere), this movie has always ranked among my favorites.
Not singing to you yet? Then throw in who I consider to be the best Hercule Poirot of all time– Peter Ustinov, who reprised him in several films in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including Appointment with Death, Death on the Nile, and Thirteen at Dinner. I found Albert Finney monumentally stiff and boring in Murder on the Orient Express, and I never warmed to Suchet. I know– the British TV purists will tut-tut at me, but it’s true. To me, Ustinov really wears those little grey cells. He comes across as a cuddly teddy bear of a man innately proud of his abilities, but also supremely amused at not only others’ foibles, but also his own. When the agent at the London Trojan Insurance Company laments having to pay out, Poirot tells him this is one of those times he must “laugh and lump eet.” Then chuckles at his own humor.
If that’s not enough to bring you onboard, imagine (for you youngins) a cage match between Lady Olenna Tyrell of Game of Thrones (Diana Rigg) and Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham from Downtown Abbey (Maggie Smith). Yep, you heard me. Intriguing you a bit now?
If you know your Christie, you know the plot will be convoluted and inexplicable, and it doesn’t disappoint here. The movie locale has been transferred from the book’s original island off the coast of Wales, but the snappy dialogue and costumes carry you along on a wave of 1930s bliss. It’s the perfect beach movie (with a little mean-spiritedness thrown in for good measure).
The story begins when the insurance company asks Poirot to speak to Sir Horace Blatt, a millionaire industrialist who has recently tried to insure a diamond with them that is a cheap knock-off. Since Sir Horace is not in London, Poirot must travel to the South of France to visit Sir Horace on his yacht, the Jolly Roger.
Sir Horace explains that he recently met a showgirl whom he bought the diamond for, but she’s evidently had the diamond copied. He wants to confront the woman, Arlena Marshall, and he knows that she’ll be at “Daphne’s Place,” a fancy inn on an island paradise for society folk. Daphne herself is the former mistress of the King of Tirrhenia, who bought her the inn to keep her quiet when he married the Queen. However, since Poirot cannot handle boats (le mal de mer, unfortunately), he must take the train, and says he’ll meet Sir Horace there. But Sir Horace is delayed sue to his “piffle valve.”
When the guests arrive, Poirot doesn’t endear himself to Daphne, what with his unusual demands for “a good valet, a tisane de Montpoivret at 8:00 every morning, and beeswax for his shoes. That’s all.” Oh, and don’t forget his requests for creme de cassis or sirop de banane instead of the Sidecars and Between the Sheets cocktails she favors.
His hilarious “swim” involves him walking shin-deep in the cove, waving his arms in a swim-like motion, but barely getting wet.
“Great day for a swim, Poirot!”
“You saw me?”
Of course, with a name like Evil Under the Sun, someone has to die. This time, it is Arlena. She’s a bitchy, gold-digging chorus girl who has recently given up the boards for marriage and stepmother-hood. She is found strangled on the beach in one of the island’s cove. And coincidentally enough, as it goes with Dame Agatha, everyone on the island had a reason to do her in.
This time, the suspects include:
Sir Horace (Colin Blakely) – Thrown over for Kenneth Marshall, and now made to look like a fool since Arlena kept the real diamond and gave him a forgery. He’s plenty mad.
Rex Brewster (Roddy MacDowell) – Fey theatre maven and worshiper of Arlena, who dug a little too deep for his recent biography, and can’t get it published because she doesn’t like what it reveals (her real birthdate, and how she got her role in Flames of Eternity). Oh, and he’s already spent the advance.
Kenneth Marshall (Denis Quilley) – Arlena’s new husband, who discovers she not only hasn’t given up her single-girl lifestyle, but booked her lover into the inn.
Patrick Redfern (Nicholas Clay) – A married, but extremely attractive lothario who romances Arlena, but leaves his wife mopey and miserable.
Christine Redfern (Jane Birkin) – A bit of an unmade bed in the looks department, and a bundle of neuroses as well (she has vertigo, skin that burns easily, and loves pity parties).
O’Dell and Myra Gardner (James Mason and Sylvia Miles) – Husband and wife Broadway producers who sank a mint into their last show, Hail and Farewell, starring Arlena, only to have her quit and leave them holding the bag.
Linda Marshall (Emily Hone) – Arlen’a stepdaughter. At about fourteen or so, she’s at the age when any cruel word can do extra damage to a psyche, and Arlena provides a battery of them.
Daphne Castle (Maggie Smith) – The proprietress of the inn. She and Arlena performed together years ago, and their dislike for each other is palpable. Besides, Daphne’s sweet on Kenneth (and he likes her too).
Poirot has to put two and two together as usual, this time taking into account the following clues: a watch, a bathing cap, a mid-day bath, a bottle of suntan oil, and the noonday gun (fired every day at noon to commemorate the victory of the Tirrhenian Army against an opposing force of Bosnians in 1183).
Guy Hamilton (who also directed Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d from 1980) helms the catfight expertly. Hamilton was also the mastermind behind several Bond films (Goldfinger, Live and Let Die, Diamonds are Forever, and Man With the Golden Gun). And in addition to Ustinov, several of the others here are Christie regulars. Jane Birkin and Maggie Smith both appeared in 1978’s Death on the Nile. Denis Quilley and Colin Blakely were both in Murder on the Orient Express.
Anthony Powell outdoes himself with the costume design here. Mostly Arlena’s. A silver lame’ number with turban the first night is not-to-be-believed. And another of stretchy, body hugging red lame.’ Then there are the bathing costumes– one white with huge multicolor dots, matching turban, bangles, necklace and cape. And another with a diaphanous Asian print coverup and a pointed Chinese red hat. In addition, there are Myra’s elaborate hats and Rex’s sailor suits.
Dots versus nautical deathmatch…
Red and slinky…
The Gardners are not amused…
The Chinese hat (fashion accessory or murder prop? You decide…)
The dialogue is side-splitting in certain places. “She runs like a dromedary with dropsy!” Arlena cruelly says of her stepdaughter. Or “Linda, don’t just stand there like a cough drop, say hello to Monsieur Poirot.” And Daphne throws out expressions like “diggity boo” with no irony whatsoever.
If you haven’t seen this movie, you’re missing out. Pour yourself a sirop de banane, rub on some Coppertone, and prepare to have some fun.
Here are the other Beach Party Blogathon entries. Enjoy!
|Blue Hawaii (1961)||Speakeasy||hqofk.wordpress.com/|
|Beach Party (1963)||Silver Screenings||silverscreenings.org|
|Hula (1927)||Movies Silently||moviessilently.com|
|Lord Love a Duck (1966)||Font and Frock||fontandfrock.com|
|Great White (1981)||Mike’s Take on the Movies||mikestakeonthemovies.com|
|Point Break (1991)||Brian Doan||http://bubblegum-cinephile.blogspot.com/|
|The Black Camel||Caftan Woman||http://www.caftanwoman.com/|
|To Catch a Thief||Old Hollywood Films||www.oldhollywoodfilms.com|
|Horror of Party Beach||Sister Celluloid||www.sistercelluoid.com|
|Beach Blanket Bingo||A Shroud of Thoughts||http://mercurie.blogspot.com/|
|The Fat Spy||Forgotten Films||https://forgottenfilmcast.wordpress.com/|
|Jaws 2||Cinematic Catharsis||http://cinematiccatharsis.blogspot.com/|
|Jaws / Harvey Lembeck as Eric Von Zipper||Tales of the Easily Distracted||http://doriantb.blogspot.com/|
|Road to Singapore||Now Voyaging||nowvoyaging.wordpress.com|
|Flipper (1963) and Flipper’s New Adventure (1964)||The Movie Rat||themovierat.com|
|Clambake||Once Upon a Screen||aurorasginjoint.com|
|Drive a Crooked Road||Shadows & Satin||https://shadowsandsatin.wordpress.com/|
|Some Like It Hot||The Filmatelist||filmatelist.blogspot.com/|
|The Palm Beach Story||Critica Retro||http://www.criticaretro.blogspot.com|
|Piranha||Prowler Needs a Jump||https://prowlerneedsajump.wordpress.com/|
|On an Island with You (1948)||The Stars are Ageless||http://stars-are-ageless.blogspot.com.au/|
|The Talented Mr. Ripley||BarryBradford.com||Www.BarryBradford.com|
|Local Hero||Moon in Gemini||https://debravega.wordpress.com/|
|Open Water (2004)||Movie Movie Blog Blog||http://moviemovieblogblog.wordpress.com|
|Malibu Beach (1978)||Cinema Monolith||https://cinemamonolith.wordpress.com/|
|Creature From the Black Lagoon||The last drive in||Http//:www.thelastdrivein.com|
|The Endless Summer||Wide Screen World||http://widescreenworld.blogspot.com|
|Orca (1977)||Film Grimoire||http://www.filmgrimoire.com|
|Such a Pretty Little Beach||Make Mine Criterion!||https://makeminecriterion.wordpress.com/|
|The Palm Beach Story||The Stop Button||http://www.thestopbutton.com|
|Gidget (1959)||Phyllis Loves Classic Movies||http://phyllislovesclassicmovies.blogspot.com/|
|The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965)||A Classic Movie Blog||aclassicmovieblog.com|
|Holiday Camp (1947)||British Film Classics||britishfilmclassics.wordpress.com|
|Girl Happy (1965)||Old Movies Nostalgia||http://oldmoviesnostalgia.com|
|The Seventh Seal||CriterionBlues||http://www.criterionblues.com|
|Tarzan’s New York Adventure.||Wolffianclassicmoviesdigest||https://wolffianclassicmoviesdigest.wordpress.com/|
|Stromboli (1950)||The Wonderful World of Cinema||https://thewonderfulworldofcinema.wordpress.com|
|All is Lost||Hitchcock’s World||hitchcocksworld.blogspot.ca|
|And God Created Woman||GirlsDoFilm||https://girlsdofilm.wordpress.com/|
|A Summer Place||Pop Culture Reverie||https://popculturereverie.wordpress.com/|
|The Ghost And Mrs Muir||In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood||https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/|
|Bikini Beach||Smitten Kitten Vintage||http://smittenkittenvintage.wordpress.com|
|The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini||Classic Film & TV Cafe||www.classicfilmtvcafe.com|
|Lord of the Flies||Part Time Monster||http://parttimemonster.wordpress.com|
|Teen Beach Movie||Victim To Charm||http://victimtocharm.com|
|Plein Soleil||Ramblings of a Cinephile||http://ramblingsofacinephile.com/|
|Dr. No (1962)||The Doglady’s Den||http://thedogladysden.com|
|Die Hard With A Vengeance||Le Mot du Cinephiliaque||http://cinephiliaque.blogspot.ca/|
|Night Tide||The Last Drive In||http://www.thelastdrivein|
|La Mer (1895)||Century Film Project||https://centuryfilmproject.wordpress.com/|
|Point Break||Everything Noir||everythingnoir.com|
|Key Largo (1948)||B Noir Detour||bnoirdetour.wordpress.com|
|The Significance of ‘The Beach’ in Hitchcock’s REBECCA (1940)||No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen||https://nononsensewithnuwansen.wordpress.com/|
|Italian Film ‘Il Compleanno’, in English – ‘David’s Birthday’ (2009)||No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen||https://nononsensewithnuwansen.wordpress.com/|
|Jaws||The Cinematic Frontier||https://cinematicfrontier.wordpress.com/|
|Back to the Beach||Silver Scenes||silverscenesblog.blogspot.com|
|Bikini Beach||The Hannibal 8||https://thehannibal8.wordpress.com/|
|Mr. Hulot’s Holiday||The Stop Button||http://thestopbutton.com/|
|Summertime. 1955||In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood||https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/|
|Humanoids From The Deep||Destroy All Fanboys!||http://fanboydestroy.com|
|Miranda (1948)||Mildred’s Fatburgers||www.mildredsfatburgers.com|
|The Beach||Back to the Viewer||https://backtotheviewer.wordpress.com/|
|Cabin Fever: Patient Zero||It Came From The Man Cave!||http://www.mda4life.blogspot.com/|
|Female on the Beach||Movie Fanfare||http://www.moviefanfare.com/|
|Beach Blanket Bingo||Thrift Shop Commando||http://thriftshopcommando.blogspot.com/|
|Dangerous When Wet||Love Letters to Old Hollywood||loveletterstooldhollywood.blogspot.com|
|Beaches||Plucking Of My Heartstrings||http://pluckingofmyheartstrings.com|
|Evil Under the Sun||Sepia Stories||https://sepiastories.wordpress.com/|
|Evil Under the Sun||Vivien Leigh||http://vivienleighlegend.blogspot.com/|
|The Old Man & the Sea||365 Days 365 Classics||https://365days365classiccinemareview.wordpress.com/|
|“The Raft” in Creepshow 2 (1987)||Reel Distracted||www.reeldistracted.com|
|Beneath the 12 Mile Reef (1953)||The Stalking Moon||thestalkingmoon.weebly.com|
|Beach Party||Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings||http://www.laurasmiscmusings.blogspot.com/|
|The Blue Lagoon (1980)||confessions of a broccoli addict||https://broccoliaddict.wordpress.com/|
|Lonesome (1928)||Nitrate Diva||nitratediva.wordpress.com|
|Mosayile Kuthira Meenukal||Totally Filmi||totallyfilmi.com|
|Girls on the Beach||SixtiesCinema||sixtiescinema.com|
|beach movie influence on fashion/pop culture||Outspoken & Freckled||http://kelleepratt.com/|
|Creature from the Haunted Sea||U.P. Schlock: The Good, The Bad, And The Retro||http://upschlock.blogspot.com/|
Have you ever wanted to climb into a time machine and visit Hollywood in its heyday?
Celebrate Silent Film
Thoughts on history, books, and life
West Hollywood's only connection to Hollywood's storied past and legacies lie within the walls & buildings of the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios.
A look at the movies forgotten by time
Chronicling an ever-changing city through faded and forgotten artifacts
Historic Hollywood and Southern California Architecture, History, People and Travel by Steve Vaught
A Year in Phonograph Records
The Incredible True Story of the Affair of the Diamond Necklace
The Blog of Julie Jordan, @Writers_Cafe (Twitter)
Dissecting entertainment and writing stuffs
when a regular blog just won't do
By Michael G. Ankerich