What I Love About Jean Arthur

Jean Arthur, the Nonconformist | The Current | The Criterion Collection
Blonde or Brunette- it doesn’t matter, she’s fab! (The Talk of the Town)

The first time I ever saw Jean Arthur on screen was with Cary Grant in Only Angels Have Wings (1939). While my eyes were naturally on Cary, my ears turned to Jean.  Automatically, I was drawn in by her voice: I’d never head a voice quite like that. It wasn’t breathy, husky, squeaky, it had a distinct characteristic, that to this day I still can’t point my finger on.

Naturally, with all actors I take a liking to I set out to learn as much as I could about her, but it turns out Jean Arthur was an extremely elusive actress. She was an actress who was so private and guarded, she admitted she’d rather slit her own throat than talk to an interviewer.

With the lack of info about her, the best way to learn about Jean is to watch her films, and amazingly enough Jean had a period of time in her career in which she was so successful, but chose to end it on her own accord. Many of her silent films are unavailable, or difficult to track down, but I’d reckon from about 1936-1943 Jean dominated the silver screen with a great array of films- mainly her screwball comedies. My personal favorite is 1943’s The More the Merrier. Although it was not the first film of her’s I saw, it was the one that made me adore Jean wholly as an performer.

YouTube | Jean arthur, Old hollywood movies, Simple living
I’ve kind of always wanted to do this! (from Easy Living)

On the whole, Jean Arthur is a rare actress in which I see myself reflected. Sure, I adore many actors and actresses from the silver screen, but mainly for the fact they are unlike me, or I wish I could be them, or be around them. However, with Jean its different; perhaps if I were an actress in the golden age, I would have found myself in similar situations as Jean did. Jean didn’t like being bound by a contract and often was put on suspension for refusing parts she knew were unsuitable for her. I could absolutely picture myself doing the same thing; in life I’m an extremely particular person, and I sense that too about Jean.

In any Jean Arthur film you watch you always notice that any romance plot is secondary to film. You get that sense of her characters would be just as happy in life with or without a boyfriend. She’s the tough, yet, smart working woman and you believe it: whether she be a newspaper woman, a secretary, or a teacher she always has that sense of independence with romance always on the back burner in life. Of course, it’s always really sweet when she does end up with the leading man, because you as the viewer just know it’s the perfect ending.

The More the Merrier' review by Kevin Jones • Letterboxd
The sexiest kiss scene ever.. bar none (The More the Merrier)

I’ve read many sources that claim Jean would be so nervous before filming began she would vomit in the dressing room, walk on set, cameras would roll and everything would be fine. Having the right leading man beside her always seemed to help matters, as Jean was particularly fond of Cary Grant (great choice), Gary Cooper (her all time favorite!), and Joel McCrea. I personally think she was brilliant alongside Ray Milland in Easy Living (1937) as well, and if she was nervous it didn’t show. I saw similar results with 1936’s The Ex-Mrs Bradford, with William Powell, and it’s incredible how at ease she could be.

Other leading men were always quick to compliment her; James Stewart said she was the finest actress he ever worked with, praising her humor and timing (evidence points Jean may not have loved working with him, she did turn down Its a Wonderful Life), while Edward G Robinson said Jean had a stage personality without the ego.

Forget you? Not while I live...not if I die | Jean arthur, Gary cooper,  Movie couples
Jean and Mr Gary Cooper- Her leading man of choice (Mr. Deeds goes to Town)

To me personally, one of the most striking elements of Jean Arthur is reading she admitted she never had a best friend (she actually perferred dogs to people.. don’t blame her) and that is something I completely empathize with. Jean went on to say it’s so hard to open your heart when your older (compared to when you’re younger) and I’m sad to say it’s so true. It’s difficult to open up to people as an adult as when we are older, we are more judgmental than when we were kids. Maybe that’s what made her so nervous before she went on, so nervous around the other actors, the crew, believing they didn’t like her. If only Jean knew how admired she was an actress, maybe it would have eased her nerves.

Kitschy Kitschy Coo | 2010 | December | Jean arthur, Classic movies,  Classic movie stars
Jean: she LOVED dogs!

Overall, Jean Arthur is one of the most three dimensional leading ladies the silver screen has ever seen. Despite the fact she rarely let people in, through her screen portrayals somehow it’s enough to say we “know her”. Every time you watch Jean Arthur on screen you can discover a new facet about her and that along with her charm certainly is what keeps me watching her on screen. Jean’s mystique coupled with her unexplainable attractive voice is what will forever make her remembered. 

THIS was written for The Wonderful World of Cinema’s 120 Screwball Years of Jean Arthur Blogathon Check out the other entries for more Jean!

5 Films I don’t care for even though a “favorite” stars in them.

Like many of you who love classic movies, I’m willing to try movies that aren’t as popular on a certain actor or actress’s resume. For instance, I love the movie, A Lady Takes a Chance, (1943) with John Wayne and Jean Arthur; its not one of Duke’s “essentials”, but its a sweet story that makes for a hidden gem of a lesser known film of his. By the same token, there are certain films with my favorite actors/ actress that I cannot watch. Every performer is bound to have a flop (or four!) within their career, and I mean everyone, even Cary Grant, had them! Read on to learn 5 movies I can’t get into despite the fact one of my favorite stars is in the lead role!

Dream Wife - Wikipedia
Let’s dream Cary never made this!

1: Dream Wife (1953, Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr)- I told you Cary Grant has a flop on his filmography! In an extremely poorly aged plot, Dream Wife, co-stars Deborah Kerr as Cary’s diplomat girlfriend Effie who puts work above all, including her romance with Clemson Reade (Cary). Clemson is tired of waiting for an official engagement, so he instead marries a more traditionally minded Middle Eastern Princess. I’m not saying Cary can’t play against type, but this character Clemson Reade is such a jerk, you can’t blame Effie for putting her job over her love life! I watched this with my Mom and we were both embarrassed to see Cary play such a terrible role in a terrible film. Watch An Affair to Remember (1957) if you want something truly heartfelt and romantic!

Force of Arms - Wikipedia
Still love ya, Bill, even though you starred in this flick

2: Force of Arms (1951, William Holden, Nancy Olson)- I love William Holden, I love him so much I call him my “screen boyfriend” (OK, I have a few screen boyfriends, but Bill’s pic is on my wall), but this film is just terrible. It has horrible camera work, a forgettable and badly paced plot, and worst of all, it fails to capture what could have been a great romance for the two leads. Perhaps it was the odd combo of war vs romance, as the battle sequences were not naturally paced against the romance, going on for too long. The flick was later reissued under the title, A Girl for Joe, and it didn’t do anything to help matters!

The Girl He Left Behind
Its OK to leave this film behind!

3: The Girl He Left Behind (1956, Natalie Wood, Tab Hunter)- This movie is very forgettable and you can’t even enjoy Tab Hunter’s character because he has no redeeming qualities. Tab plays a spoiled rich brat who is drafted into the army. The film then follows his struggles of being knocked down a peg while in bootcamp, and his girlfriend, Susan (Natalie) coping with him being away. I’m ok with characters being jerks, however, they must have a likable quality about them, and this script didn’t provide that for Tab’s character. The pacing is also terrible creating a downright boring viewing experience. Natalie Wood, of course, is the main reason any of us attempt to watch this movie, but really, thankfully, we can look elsewhere to see her in a good movie. James Garner also had a small part in this film and later wrote in his memoirs, “the film was awful and I was awful.”

The Fighting Kentuckian - Wikipedia
Duke was in this movie?

4: The Fighting Kentuckian (1949, John Wayne, Vera Raltson) John Wayne plays militiaman John Breen coming home from the War of 1812 and falls in love with a French lady Fleurette De Marchand (Vera Raltson). Conflict arises when a greedy landowner plans to steal Fleurette’s land, leading Breen to ally with the other settlers. This is one of the Duke’s lesser known films, and it is billed that way for a reason. There’s really one one reason this film flopped: his leading lady, Vera Ralston, can’t act. Vera was a pro figure skater and girlfriend of Herbert Yates, chief of Republic Pictures. Wayne later recalled he was forced to use Vera as his leading lady and (rightfully) blamed her for the picture’s failure.

The Girl from Missouri poster.jpg
Classic Harlow look, not so classic Harlow character

5: The Girl from Missouri (1934, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Franchot Tone) Jean Harlow is such a darling and I adore her, but this movie can’t be saved by her presence. In this movie, Jean plays a girl looking for love and marriage rather than just a quick fling. While I think Jean could pull off that character, (as she was capable of playing it, she’s so talented!), it instead just feels boring watching her. I partially believe the film’s poor plot and strange character actions are due to the production code being heavily enforced. Had this film been released just months earlier, it would have been better and considered a fun pre-code. On a personal note, I don’t believe Jean and Franchot Tone had good chemistry, so it makes it hard to root for their romance, but that’s just my opinion!

AND there you have it! There are just a sampling of movies that are not for me, although they do contain actors I’m devoted to! Of course these are just my point of view about these features, and if you personally happen to love them, that’s fine and dandy too! Do you have any films of favorite actors you just can’t watch? Moreover, it makes it more interesting too, when you don’t enjoy a movie a certain actor is noted for. No matter, its all in fair opinion, and what makes talking and blogging about movies all the more amusing!

Footloose (1984)

Footloose (1984) - IMDb

The first time I ever saw Footloose I was 15 years old in the year 2011. I wanted to see the original before the (horrendous and pointless) remake and my mom recorded it on TV. I knew it was from the 80s and after watching for the first time, the only thing I took away from it was the music. I honestly saw everything about it besides the music, as I always have preferred 80s music, as extremely dated.

Fast forward a couple years later and I watched it, it turns out the movie is dated but dated in the most fun ways possible: the fashion is 80s fun, the atmosphere and set design is cheesy, but its 80s cheese, the best cheese, and most of all the film just captures the essence of being a teen in the 1980s. We may not have the REAL MTV anymore, but there will always be Footloose!

Manic Monday - Footloose (1984) Final Dance Scene | Most popular wedding  songs, Popular wedding songs, Popular wedding dance songs

It all starts when Chicago teen Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), moves in with his Aunt and Uncle to Bomont, a small Utah town that bans dancing. The townsfolk see nothing but trouble in him as he is a teen who escapes reality with dancing, music, and gymnastics. He soon meets his match in Ariel Moore (Lori Singer) the rebellious daughter of a town preacher who’s brother’s death set the rules in motion. Ariel is a girl who lives for adventure and won’t be held back by town rules or her father Shaw Moore (John Lithgow). Rounding out the cast is Sarah Jessica Parker as Ariel’s bestie Rusty, Chris Penn as the lovable Willard, and Dianne Wiest as Ariel’s quiet but understanding Mother. It’s full speed ahead when Ren and Ariel challenge the status quo (and her Father!) to bring back dancing proving it’s an essential and natural part of life!

What makes Footloose a stand out is that it’s a musical, but not a musical and that is a key element of what makes this movie so memorable and timeless. You can’t listen to the song “Footloose” without seeing the opening and/or closing scene of the movie in the your head. I hear Moving Pictures “Never” and all I picture is Kevin Bacon dancing in an empty warehouse.

One of my very favorite scenes is Ren teaching Williard to dance with the “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” montage. It’s funny and sweet all at the same time. Ren with the boombox, Willard so desperately trying to be successful, it’s extremely heartfelt! Makes me wanna get up and dance with Willard!

A parallel I really adore between Ren and Ariel proving they are really meant for each other is their sense of danger. Although dared, Ren partakes in a game of tractor chicken in an epic showdown set against Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding out for a Hero”. Contrast that with Ariel riding between windows of moving cars on the freeway while “The Girl Gets Around” jams in the background, and you’ve seriously got one fearless couple!

ARIEL is a daredevil!
BUT.. So is Ren!!!

Overall, “Footloose” is one of those films that is a great escapist film. It’s not fantasy, per-say, yet it allows us to go back, or in my case, get a glimpse of 1980s life. Who doesn’t want to incorporate amusing 80s songs into their everyday life!!! It’s just a feel good film, and there’s nothing wrong with that!!

This entry is for Movie Rob’s September Genre Grandeur of 80s teen films! be sure to check out the rest!!

Intermezzo (1939)

This entry is for Ginnie’s 5th Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon! Make sure to check out the other posts! (This article contains slight spoilers for Intermezzo 1939)

The 1939 American remake of the original 1936 Swedish film, Intermezzo, is significant for a few different reasons. First off, it was the American screen debut of Ingrid Bergman and secondly, it swayed leading man Leslie Howard to take the role of Ashley in Gone with the Wind (David O Selznick promised Howard the title of “Producer” for Intermezzo, for playing Ashley).

Intermezzo Poster

Intermezzo is similar to other stories of infidelity that played out in cinema at the time. Holger (Leslie), a married man with a son and daughter, falls unexpectedly in love with a beautiful woman, Anita (Ingrid). Torn between his wife, Margit (Edna Best), and family and the woman he has a love affair with, complications arise. It gets even more layered when Anita is the piano teacher to Holger’s daughter Ann Marie (Ann Todd), making Anita’s interaction with his family unavoidable.

Intermezzo'' 1939 | Ingrid Bergman, Leslie Howard | FILM~LIEBHABER | Flickr
(flickr) Howard and Bergman- Talent in a photo

Even though the basic plot is as old as storytelling itself, I truly believe it’s the natural connection Leslie and Ingrid have together that makes this film unforgettable. As a viewer, you care about the happiness of Ingrid and Leslie’s characters. You want them to be together no matter the difficulties they encounter. However at the same time, I personally believe because they don’t end up together, that’s what makes this film endure. Their passion leaves you longing for them and wishing this time you watch, they’ll be together!

I find it peculiar, at the time of release, many people thought Ingrid was speaking broken English throughout the movie, unable to understand her. I think that’s absolutely a weird thought, as she’s just speaking the way she speaks. Granted she was learning English, but there’s nothing wrong with her voice, its wonderful, it’s just Ingrid!

Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939) | Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982)… | Flickr
How could they think THIS BEAUTY needed tons of make-up?

Repeating a film role I think might have been tiring for Ingrid, given her quest to be a diverse actress always wanting different parts. Yet, on the flip side, it must have been extremely exciting for her to be making an American film. Even if she wasn’t completely content with repeating the part, she doesn’t give one inkling in her performance that this version was boring for her. Perhaps working in a new country, with new actors and crew members made an old role refreshing and exciting for her. I think that aspect is what really shines through in her acting in this film.

With Leslie Howard in a main role, as a true leading man, when I was younger I didnt see his appeal. I initially believed he was weird looking. Now watching him as I’m older, I get his appeal, as his personality and stage presence makes him a great leading man. I still don’t think he’s the most handsome, but its really the way he connects with his leading ladies and plays all types of scenes with such dignity that makes him truly amazing.  With Intermezzo you really get an understanding of Leslie as a leading man, even better than you do in Gone with the Wind, as here is THE leading man, not a supporting player.

Overall, Intermezzo may be overshadowed in Ingrid’s career due to the films that were to come for her. She went on to make a boatload of iconic films, and I feel sometimes this one gets lost in the shuffle, sadly. We can look at all her performances in Hollywood,  and they are so incredible, but we cant forget where her American career started, and re-watching Intermezzo should be a reminder for us all that she was already so delightful right from the get go. 

Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939) | Starring Leslie Howard & I… | Flickr
Ingrid was experienced but a newbie to Americans! No name above the title for her… YET!

Made for Each Other (1939)

This entry is for Movie Rob’s August Genre Grandeur: Medicine. Be sure to check out the other entries!

Made for Each Other- 1939- Poster.png

Made for Each Other may not have been happily received by audiences in 1939, but it’s one of those films that has aged nicely. Directed By John Cromwell and produced by David O Selznick, this dramedy stars Carole Lombard and James Stewart.

Upon initial release, audiences were probably shocked to find their favorite comedic actress Carole Lombard in a serious melodrama. Furthermore, James Stewart was still a new leading man, with this being one of his first parts with that title.

Made for Each Other
(TCM) Such Cuties!

The flick is similar in spirit to 1941’s Penny Serenade with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. Its peculiar, as many will say they love Penny Serenade (myself included) but Made for Each Other is awkward, slow moving, and uncomfortable to watch. I whole hearted-ly disagree, as it contains a sweet sentimentality and it’s a real showcase for Carole to prove herself dramatically. Moreover, it demonstrates Jimmy Stewart has always been capable of being the leading man even in his early career.

Made for Each Other does not start off revolving around medicine, but in the end, the whole film revolves around health and the macguffin of “life saving medicine“.

It all begins very dandy- with Jane (Carole) and John Mason(James Stewart) marrying on a whim. John is a young lawyer with an unsympathetic boss (Charles Coburn), and a domineering mother (Lucile Watson). Jane is very supportive of her husband, even reluctantly giving up her honeymoon cruise due to John having a case. Soon enough the couple has a baby, John Jr, and they move in with John Sr.’s mother.

Made for Each Other (1939) Carole Lombard, James Stewart, Charles ...
Happy Family?

Naturally all sorts of problems ascend: John struggles to move up at the law firm when his co-worker, Carter (Donald Briggs), is promoted instead of him, Jane clashes with her mother-in-law, and financial burden causes stress in the marriage. But the main conflict occurs when Baby John falls ill on New Year’s Eve. To save the baby’s life, it all comes down to the plane delivery of life saving medical serum.

There is no explanation of the serum will do, what it made of or anything of the sort- it just helps to save lives! And it’s a race against the clock, as the doctor says “every hour counts”.

Carole Lombard: Dramatic Actress

The scene in which Jane is at the hospital, and sees the doctors pick up the oxygen tank is both over played and brilliant. Carole is brilliant at being distraught. She emotes such a rawness that can’t be seen in any other picture. On the flip side however, you can tell she’s over acting, and is somewhat uncomfortable with she’s trying to play out. I personally think Carole did her best, considering she wasn’t used to playing serious drama.

As for James Stewart’s performance in this picture, it may sound cliche, but I declare he’s a natural. He plays the drama so well, no over acting and you feel his range of emotion. Sometimes you can’t describe what makes James Stewart so great, you just have to watch him.

Overall, Made for Each Other is a fantastic example of what makes melodrama fun to watch. It’s just wonderful to watch Carole and Jimmy Stewart together, and you can tell they genuinely adore working together. The plot may be a bit far fetched, but what plot in melodrama isn’t? 

Made for Each Other (1939) is in the public domain and is available to watch on YouTube!

My Top 15 Favorite John Wayne Movies

In today’s world the western is pretty much dead, the war movie has become boring, and leading men don’t come around like they used to. Movies to lift people’s spirits have always been a go-to, and John Wayne now more than ever needs a refreshing in people’s minds. So without further ado, I present to you 15 of my favorite John Wayne movies! (Note: I still feel I am missing some of the greats! But I wanted to keep this relatively short and sweet!!)

15 The Green Berets (1968)- This one makes my list because John Wayne wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in. He supported the troops no matter what and this film is proof of it. Aside from that, this is the granddaddy of all Vietnam war movies.  And Uncle Allen- The helicopter sequence really isn’t that bad! It’s pretty well shot for 1968!!

14 Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) Uncle Allen once said to me, “You’re  my niece so you have to see [this one].” With that I knew I had to watch, and ordered it the next day after seeing him. When I finally did watch it- Uncle Allen was right, this is one of John Wayne’s essential roles. A must see world war II movie.

13 Island in the Sky (1953)- This one I know was one of my Grandfather’s favorite John Wayne movies. Maybe because in it, John Wayne flies a small plane and is a civilian pilot (something which my Grandfather once did!). This is a different kind of film John Wayne did, but it fits his style of storytelling all at the same time.

12 The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)- I know this one has its criticisms, but I truly enjoy the picture. No one should really care if the ages of the 4 Elder boys don’t mathematically make sense. Isn’t it cool that in an alternate world John Wayne and Dean Martian are brothers?

11 Hondo (1953)- Another one of my Grandfather’s favorites, this movie is such a well told story. When I was little I saw a collie dog on the DVD cover and decided it had to be good movie because A- Bop-Bee (the name I called my Grandfather)  liked it and B- There was a dog involved! Years later I watched this fully through and said to myself- I knew as a kid I had a good eye for a good movie!

10 True Grit (1969) Duke won his Oscar- but that’s not the only reason to love this movie. This movie has the best characters who bring out the most in a simple plot. Plus, I believe Duke really got to have fun with this character- being brass and unpolished, yet still being heroic and cool! I saw this on the big screen in May 2019.

9 The Cowboys (1972) I honestly don’t understand some of the negative comments surrounding this movie. This one is one of the most essential John Wayne flicks. The whole point of the film is the teachings of young boys becoming men and who better to do that than John Wayne himself? Personally, I see striking parallels to Red River present in this movie!

8 She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)- This movie has to contain some of the best use of technicolor on film. It’s the first time ever audiences are Monument Valley in color and what a breathtaking sight it is. John Wayne really proves he is an actor here as he plays a role of a much older person than he actually was.

7 Big Jake (1971)- This movie is close to the hearts of both Patrick and Ethan Wayne- and that’s more than enough for me. Anytime Duke used his family on screen- it’s just really fun. How could you not enjoy the interaction of Patrick and Duke’s characters!!! And it’s awesome to see little Ethan Wayne get some action in the final shootout.

6 Rio Grande (1950)- Its hard to believe John Ford didn’t care about making this movie due to the fact this was essentially an insurance policy for the anticipated fail of The Quiet Man. Yet it’s still such a fine film. Honestly, I love the addition of the “Regimental Singers” (the Sons of Pioneers in real life), and get their songs stuck in my head all the time!

5 The Horse Soldiers (1959)- This is probably the curve ball in my list. Its B grade John Ford- but still a solid Ford. It’s a well made movie considering Ford lost 2 of his stuntmen in a river crossing scene (which affected him deeply, causing him to not care about making the movie) Plus, I love Bill Holden, and for me to see two of my favorite actors ever appear side by side on screen is really awesome!

4 The Shootist (1976)- I hope I’m understood when I say I have to prepare myself before I sit down to watch this movie. It’s such a perfect send off to the Duke’s legacy on screen, making it so emotional. I told my Mom the next time it’s on the big screen, we are going to see it. She then said, “Yes we will, but I’m telling you now, I’m gonna cry.”

3 McLintock! (1963)- it has been said this movie showcases John Wayne’s sense of humor. In addition, it’s basically a Wayne family affair- With Patrick co starring, Micheal producing, and Aissa with a bit part. Add Maureen O’Hara and its perfection. The stairs scene gets me every time!!!!!

2 The Searchers (1956)- I feel like I’m cheating by putting this one down, as it may be too easy. In fact I can’t even call this a number 2 when it’s my favorite John Wayne WESTERN, therefore it is number 1. It is my great hope this movie will still be considered timeless as the world moves into the future. I consider myself forever lucky to have watched this film on the big screen, and in the presence of Lana Wood (young Debbie in the film and Natalie’s sister) in September 2016.

1 The Quiet Man (1952)- This would be my favorite non-western John Wayne did. Again it may be too easy. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I think it’s really sweet to see Duke play a romantic-comedy lead, of course with Maureen O’Hara! I saw it on the big screen in March 2019- and it was just utterly fantastic! And even more romantic on the big screen! 

In my world, John Wayne will always be a hero to admire. He was not a perfect human, but who was? As an immigrant and naturalized citizen of The United States, I truly believe John Wayne is an American Icon; one whose image will last forever.

Broadway Blogthon- Rent (2005)

RENT is a rock musical with the lyrics and music written by ...

Thanks to Taking up Room for hosting the Broadway Bound Blogathon and Check out the other posts!

Rent the musical may start off as a bunch of bohemian friends struggling to make ends meet, but beneath it all, it’s truly a human story about love, loss, and life.
Based on a 1896 play called La Boheme, Rent is not only Jonathan Larson’s sole work, but his life’s legacy.
The musical Rent has been around as long as I have, since 1996. However, the musical didn’t come into my life until the film version was made in 2005. The film version has 6 of the 8 principles from Broadway with only the Mimi and Joanne characters being recast.

The film, for the most part, is faithful to the play, with only the removal of one song (Contact), and much of the narration from the script was turned into dialogue. Rent begins on Christmas Eve 1989, with filmmaker Mark (Anthony Rapp) and his best friend, musician Roger (Adam Pascal) struggling to light and heat their apartment. Mark is getting over his ex-girlfriend, Maureen (Idina Menzel) leaving him for a lawyer, Joanne (Tracie Thoms), while Roger is coming off of half a year’s withdrawal. Roger is also struggling with his HIV positive diagnosis, and the death of his girlfriend, April. Meanwhile the guys pal, college teacher, Tom Collins (Jesse L Martin) is back in town and their landlord/ former friend, Benny (Taye Diggs) is about to turn of their power, demanding they pay last year’s rent after letting them slide.

They ARE NOT Gonna pay RENT!

On the way to the apartment, Collins is beat down, only to be helped back on his feet by street drummer and drag queen Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia). Its also on this Christmas Eve, Roger meets his neighbor, exotic dancer Mimi (Rosario Dawson), who like him (and also Angel and Collins) is HIV positive.

From here on out, the narrative follows the group of friends for a year in their life.

Tonight's Movie: Rent | The Love Pirate
The famous La Boheme scene! Note: Poor Mark!


The film itself is very long for a musical movie, over 2 hours, but in reality it goes extremely fast due to its soundtrack. Some songs flow straight into each other, such as One Song Glory going into Light My Candle.

I have fond memories of just listening to the soundtrack in the car over and over again as we drove from my hometown in IL to Hammond, IN where my grandparents lived. My family and I would go over every weekend, and we practiced that routine for two years from 2005-2007. Needless to say I learned the soundtrack really quickly. I sang along in my head to all the tunes- even if maybe the lyrics weren’t suited for a 9-11 year old. My favorite song was most certainly “What You Own”, and Adam Pascal’s heartfelt “One Song Glory”. In fact, all because of Adam Pascal’s voice I developed a crush on him. I didn’t even know what he physically looked like, I just knew I had a crush on him regardless. When I finally saw his picture in a Rent book, I was a bit shocked at his appearance, but I didn’t care, I was just happy to match his voice to his face.

Adam Pascal as Roger in RENT | Rent musical, School of rock ...
Adam as Roger. At age 9, I had a super crush… on his voice!


I find it to be a striking parallel Rent came into my life at a time of personal loss. My Grandma unexpectedly passed away at the end of 2005, and all of a sudden, the constant soundtrack in my life were songs about “measuring life in love” and living life without specific people in it. Looking back I can say the soundtrack was certainly part of the healing process, and perfectly captured what I and my family were feeling.
Today I feel the Rent soundtrack is very much embedded in my soundtrack of life. I think it’s got the catchiest songs and once they enter your life, they don’t leave your life. Rent will forever be a relatable and emphatical story because it’s a human story with universal appeal.
Especially in today’s new world, its crucial to keep in mind the values Rent teaches us: no day but today

ANTHONY AND ADAM: MAGIC!!

KISS Meets the Phantom of The Park (1978)

This entry is for the Pop Stars Blogathon (NOTE: KISS are ROCK stars, but this entry was deemed acceptable for the theme!) hosted by Real Weegie midget.

It’s almost as if I was destined to be a KISS fan, as I was born in 1996, the year KISS reunited with the original four- and officially became a fan in 1998, thanks to my Mom, a fan since the 70’s.

With the band currently on their, “End of the Road Final Tour Ever” (note- my Mom saw them on their 2000 “Farewell” tour… so…), I decided to review the 1978 made for TV movie: KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park aka KISS in Attack of the Phantoms in Europe. Their are slight differences to the versions, with the most noticeable difference for the Attack version being the inclusion of the band’s 1978 solo albums as part of the film’s soundtrack.

The plot of the movie is wacky, but it goes as so: Due to the KISS concert at Magic Mountain, engineer Abner Devereaux (Anthony Zerbe) is jealous because the band is stealing attention from his attractions. Once he is wrongly blamed for a ride breakdown, park manager Calvin Richards (Carmine Caridi) fires him. To get back at KISS, Devereaux mind controls park employee Sam (Terry Lester) to steal KISS’s magical talisman that give them superpowers. Meanwhile, Sam’s girlfriend Melissa (Deborah Ryan), is worried and after their show asks KISS for help to find Sam. But when a Gene Simmons clone wreaks havoc on the park, and KISS clones show up for their concert instead, while the real KISS is imprisoned and weakened; it’s up to KISS to escape, regain their powers, take down Devereaux and their clones, save Sam, and do it in time to put on the concert their fans deserve!!!

Many fans incuding myself, believe this to be an ultimate Rock-Star shot of the group

Originally described as A Hard Day’s Night meets Star Wars, there were many factors that initially made this movie seem like it would be the ultimate KISS fan’s dream: it was being filmed on location at Magic Mountain, it was backed by Hanna-Barbera productions, KISS was at the height of their popularity, PLUS a real concert attended by fans was going to be filmed and placed in the movie!!!!

However, behind the scenes, things were seriously going wrong. For one, none of the members of KISS could act, it showed, and the script went through countless rewrites, which, in turn translated to the screen. Secondly, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley were dealing with substance abuse; with Criss getting into a car accident with the band’s tour manager on the final day of filming (and true to his Catman ways, came through with minor injuries).

Then, there’s the obvious stunt doubles and of course, the now urban legend of Peter not showing up for ADR sessions resulting in the voice dubbing with Michael Bell. (I, as well as my Mom, personally believe Peter did some, as his voice can be heard in certain scenes, not counting the Beth scene. Just hear the line: “We’re just ordinary human beings” and THAT’S PETER!!!).

Production issues aside, the magic touch of this film certainly HAS to be the fact this movie is all about KISS. To see the original four playing at the concert is a real thrill and time capsule moment in KISSTORY. The music makes the movie in this case, with many songs from the band’s catalouge being used as well as in the Attack version, multiple songs from each of their individual 1978 solo albums (a highlight: Ace’s New York Groove being played during the second fight sequence: complete with Frehley flips!!!!).

Speaking as a KISS fan and a movie fan, I say this movie is still best (because you wanted the best!!!). So what if Paul Stanley’s “magic eye” laser looks fake- it’s only something he as the Starchild could pull off.  Gene Simmons’s voice was ridiculously altered to play up his Demon persona- but he makes it cool.  And even though Peter’s stunt double is especially noticeable – it’s still awesome to know the Catman has enhanced jumping abilities!!!

And of course I have to mention Ace’s ACK! (sorry Mom!! HAHAHA!) I think it’s hysterical and makes the movie extra legendary and funny! Only Space-Ace can make something so pointless and dumb so likable and iconic! It may have caused problems on set, as Ace was originally only supposed to say Ack! the whole movie- (he threatened to leave if real dialogue wasn’t written for him)- but it’s ironic because that’s what he would say in real life when writers were trying to write material around his personality.  

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The humming noise you hear is Beethoven’s Fifth

Today, the film is a real fan favorite and a true cult film. It’s just super fun for KISS fans, 1970’s film fans, and music fans alike to just enjoy the film for what it is: a cheesy, funny, entertaining film involving KISS.  I admit I was laughing- but in a lovable manner. Even KISS has gotten over the initial embarrassment (it being known that for years, KISS employees were not allowed to mention the film in any of the band’s members’ presence) with Ace later stating it was “tons of fun” to film. As my mom says, “This movie is so hokey, but I love it!!”

Farewell?! KISS! We’ll always have the Phantom (and your music… and the dvds… and the action figures… and all the other kollectibles! !!)

Key Largo (1948)

Key largo [1948] is best known for being the fourth and final pairing of legendary couple Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It’s based off the play of the same name, telling a story of a hurricane trapping a dysfunctional group of people in a hotel. It may seem very archetypal by today’s standards, but it’s the group of actors playing the characters that gives way for repeated viewings. Co-starring Edward G. Robinson, Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor in an Oscar winning role, this film does have something for everyone- and provides a thrilling study in supporting characters.

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The first time I ever saw Key Largo, I didn’t care for it. I found it to be slightly over rated, and I didn’t particularly care for the characters. The one scene I found to be disjointed was when Edward G. Robinson’s Johnny Rocco kisses Nora Temple (Bacall), and that one specific scene set me on a path of believing this film is not for me.

However, after chatting about this film with a former teacher- turned friend of mine (our families are good friends), I realized this film actually isn’t all that bad- it’s just a very, very Bogart style film. When I say Bogart film, I mean it’s the type of film that you’d expect Bogart to be in. Everything about this film is tailored to being in Bogart’s taste: director John Huston, wife Lauren Bacall, co-star Edward G. Robinson, even the presence of his beloved boat and his love for the sea.

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And then we have scene stealer Claire Trevor, playing Gaye Dawn, whose performance of Moanin’ Low is in part what makes this film unforgettable. Trevor’s character is the most complex of them all, and I can see how she reminded audiences that she could still be a commanding presence on screen. No longer the leading lady, but 100% capturing your attention: she does exactly that and more in this movie.

You can’t help but cringe a little when you hear Gaye Dawn sing Moanin’ Low, but that’s exactly what you should be doing.  Its one of those so bad it’s good performances, and one you certainly cant look away from. Many believe that it was that scene alone  which secured Trevor’s Oscar win; and while I’m not sure about that, it’s absolutely iconic (and NOT lip synced).

Key Largo is one of of those movies where the supporting characters take over from the two leads. Yes- you know Bogie and Bacall will end up together, you of course root for them two. However, you wonder more about the side characters- What are Johnny Rocco’s real motives, what makes Gaye stay around him even though shes considered his “ex-moll”, and even Nora’s connection with father-in-law James is puzzling.

Overall, I myself am still coming to terms with how I receive Key Largo. It’s still not an all time favorite of mine, but I’m coming around to seeing the brilliance of it: and Claire Trevor is certainly a major part of that!

BE sure to check out other entries for the Claire Trevor Blogathon! Thanks to the lovely Ginnie for hosting!

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Re-Review: Mister Roberts

Hey everyone I am so glad to be doing my first blogathon of the year (and decade) and there is no better way to start a new decade than to re-do a review of one of my favorite films 1955’s Mister Roberts. Be sure to check out the Out to the Sea Blogathon, and thanks to Moon in Gemini for Hosting!

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When I first reviewed Mister Roberts I was so fresh to film blogging and while its, well OK, I wanted to take this opportunity and re-do it.

Mister Roberts is based of the Broadway play of the same name in which the ship Reluctant (or The Bucket) is stuck on the Pacific Ocean during the end of World War II. The members on board are getting bored, but are never out of eye of the tight supervision of the Captain. With its colorful crew of clashing personalities, hilarious hi-jinks inevitably occurs.

Mister Roberts has a fascinating behind the scenes story: 2 (technically 3, with Joshua Logan un-credited) directors, a fallout and end of one of the most successful actor-director collaborations, a film that has viewers wondering who directed what; and yet against all odds- it’s a film that is so well done. And I mean everything from the stage to screen adaption, to the wonderful performances, right down to the humorous tone is just so delightful to watch.

The most defying element about this film is the success it had when John Ford stepped down as director and Mervyn Leroy took over. I declare we will never know the exact reason why Ford was replaced: there are reports of an emergency gallbladder surgery, and the punching Henry Fonda incident (maybe its both). If it were any other film, Ford’s departure would make it a failure, but what saved Mister Robets from failing was A- The source material and B- the cast- which just proved how crucial their casting was.

The cast is perhaps the best thing about this film: Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, William Powell, and James Cagney (not to mention Ford stock regulars Ward Bond and Harey Carey Jr) are all just so electrifyingly perfect. They gel in a way that one might not expect, as all of these men were used to being the leading man in their pictures. Their camaraderie on set as evidenced by this picture really translated to their roles and you really believe these guys are all stuck on a ship together.

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I for one love the scene in which Doc (Powell) helps Pulver (Lemmon) make homemade scotch to impress the nurses- who else would be able to do that other than Mr. Nick Charles himself!!! I smile about it every time I watch it, and it’s a nice little callback to Powell’s most famous role. Moreover, who could forget Patrick Wayne’s small but memorable role of young recruit Booksy- I admit the first time I watched I didn’t realize it was Patrick, he was so young; this was even before The Searchers and I failed recognize him!!!

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Doc “Nick Charles” making Scotch.. What Else!?

And then there is the plant gag: that stupid but beloved plant just gives the movie an unexpected funny edge. Every time that plant gets tossed, I just can’t help but laugh, and watching Cagney’s reaction is equally as amusing. Of course, I can’t forget Mr Henry Fonda: no one but him could have played this role, and I cant believe he almost didn’t reprise this role. I don’t even wanna think about him being replaced with Marlon Brando or William Holden (Still love ya Bill!). Fonda holds the film together with Mister Roberts being the go to guy for all the characters. The ending scene with the crew gathered round to read his letter gets me emotional no matter how many times I’ve seen it.

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The Captain with his Pride and Joy

Moreover, what’s also great about this film is that it’s a ‘war movie’ for people who don’t like war movies. Not one battle scene or dipiction of gruesome imagery exists in this film, and I wish more movies could be done in this manner. It’s all about context and atmosphere of war and not necessarily what you see, but what you feel.

Overall, on a personal level, I cant get enough of this film. I don’t care is it’s not “John Ford” enough for a John Ford film: it’s just a darn good movie that deserves multiple viewings. The cast is perfect and the humor is impeccably on point. There isn’t another film quite like it out there and I am glad that in a sea of movies, it stands out in the crowd.