The Wings of Eagles (1957)

When a well known movie couple is put together in many films, they usually end up in a biopic together. Take Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, they played Vernon and Irene Castle; Myrna Loy and William Powell played the Florenz Ziegfeld and Billie Burke, and it even happened for John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara who portrayed Frank “Spig” Wead USN Ret. and his wife Min in the 1957 John Ford picture: The Wings of Eagles.

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(wikipedia)

The real Frank Wead was born in Peoria IL in 1895. He was a Navy man who served on both land and sea before serving in World War I. In 1926, Spig was forced to retire early due to an accidental fall at home, as he fell down the stairs running to his daughter after hearing her crying. Spig was temporarily paralyzed and learned how to walk again, before going to Hollywood in the early 1930s, working as a screenwriter.
He worked on films such as Hell Divers, Test Pilot, both with Clark Gable, and They Were Expendable with Ford and Wayne.  The amazing part is after Spig recovered from his injury, he then enlisted in World War II- first in a non active position of planning, but then moved to an active duty at sea. Unfortunately after formally retiring from service his life was cut short at the age of 52 in 1947, due to complications from surgery .

Frank Wead | Military Wiki | Fandom
The real life Frank “Spig” Wead

The Wings of Eagles was Maureen O’Hara’s fifth and final film with Ford, as she would never professionally cross paths with him again (they of course they stayed in each other’s lives until his death, while Duke Wayne would work with him professionally until 1963’s Donovan’s Reef). In Duke’s first post Searchers film, it’s easy to dismiss this film as silly 1950s biopic fluff, but look beneath the surface to realize it’s actually got more credit than what it initially presents.

Although "Wings of... - Maureen O'Hara Magazine Website | Facebook
Tender moment!

According to Ford, everything in this movie is true, including the plane flying in the pool, and the cake fight too (Ford swears he personally dodged the cake!!! The film even gets really meta when Ford veteran Ward Bond plays a spoof of Mr. Ford himself: John Dodge. The scene in which Frank goes into Dodge’s office, if you look closely you can see Ford’s real life Oscars, cane, pipe, and Bond even sports an eye patch in true homage.

Unfortunately for Maureen, her “character” Min received cut screen time. In her autobiography, she talks about more scenes that were shot, but due to the objections of the Wead’s real life daughters, the scenes were cut. Maureen also mentions the daughter’s and the studios efforts to omit from the picture the fact the real life Mrs. Wead was an alcoholic.

The Wings Of Eagles (1957) - The 1950's - John Wayne Message Board (JWMB)
(JWMB) Spig is gonna move that toe!

In my personal view, this film proves John Wayne is an actor. The scenes in which Spig learns to walk again, and the agony over being separated from his wife, it’s all raw and real.I’d like to point out, there’s something natural about the way John Wayne plays this “character”, the tenderness of his scenes with his family and the camaraderie he has with the men in the Navy scenes. It proves you don’t need ‘action scenes’ for a John Wayne picture to be good, because what really counts is the actor himself. 

Overall, to me this film is marvelous, because it brings a real life Naval hero to the attention of the movie public. If you’re a John Wayne fan- which if you’re reading this you probably are-, and if you love Duke with Maureen (which again, you probably do love them together if you are reading this!) you are going to end up watching this movie and learning about a hero whose story is not always told. Not everyone’s story is as big as JFK’s or Abraham Lincoln’s, yet their contributions to society are just as important. Added in the fact its the dream team of Ford, Wayne and O’Hara- you’ve got one solid Hollywood biopic!

this was written for the Sept/Oct 2021 Biopic Blogathon hosted by Hometowns to Hollywood . Make sure to check out other entries!

The Rare Breed

This post is written for The No True Scotsman blogathon hosted by RealweegieMidget Reviews! Check out the other posts!!

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Bonnie Scotland! Portrayed on screen a number of times but almost never in the correct context! There’s a handful of Scottish actors, musicians, TV personalities and royals I have come to really admire from Scotland- Mary, Queen of Scots, Sir Sean Connery, Robert Carlyle OBE, Angus and Malcolm Young, Chef Gordon Ramsay OBE just to name to a few! But the thing that blows my mind every time is just how many people throughout the screen’s history have acted the part of a Scot. And its certainly way more than you even thought!

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(Credit: Wikipedia)

In 1966, American born actor Brian Keith got his turn at playing a Scot in the western The Rare Breed. Despite mixed reactions to the film, the memorable part, according to co-star Maureen O’Hara was Brian’s ability to be a scene- stealer (although he doesn’t show up until around halfway through the film).

Directed by longtime John Ford/ John Wayne associate Andrew V McLaglen, and also starring James Stewart and Juliet Mills, The Rare Breed is one of those westerns that is cute, sweet, but not exactly top notch, “essential” material. You have to be a fan of the actors to recognize the there’s truly a good story to be told.  I’ve actually heard this movie be called a cross between John Ford (well his stock company, anyways) and Disney- a fair assessment, that in my opinion works.


Irish beauty Maureen O’Hara plays Englishwoman Martha, and her daughter Hilary (played by Juliet) who are on their way to sell their cattle at the fair. But their most prized cattle just isn’t any old cattle, his is name Vindicator, who is a rare breed (and is a very sweet bull, who is trained to follow Hilary when she whistles or sings God Save The Queen!).
When a wealthy rancher purchases Vindicator for his business partner,  wild Scotsman Alexander Bowen (Brian Keith) Martha hires Sam ‘Bulldog’ Burnett (Stewart) to help her transport him. Romance, danger, and comedy soon ensures on their journey!

The Rare Breed (1966)
Hilary and Vindicator! AWW! (credit IMBD)

What I adore about this film is really the cast.  Even though, Maureen O’Hara said in her autobiography she was distracted during the shoot and her heart wasn’t completely in it. Behind the scenes, she was dealing with personal matters of the heart with her then boyfriend Enrique Parra. To see Juliet work with Maureen is just awesome! Hayley Mills already worked with Maureen five years earlier in The Parent Trap– and it’s cool to observe that Maureen has a great rapport with both Mills sisters! Jimmy Stewart as always gives a solid performance, and if you enjoy JS westerns, I really do believe this film should be one worth watching.

The Rare Breed (1966)
(THAT’S BRIAN KEITH??!!! credit: IMBD)

Brian Keith, the first time I saw him, I didn’t recognize him! While his accent is not absolutely perfect, it’s a pretty dang great attempt. Its precisely the manner in which he immerses himself in the role and you can tell he’s having a blast. I’d say in this case its spirit over technicality of the accent. I admit, I wasn’t totally hooked on the character the first time I watched it, but over the course of re-watching, Bowen is just a goofy, fun character you don’t have to take seriously. If he was played by another actor, then you would totally hate the character! ! Brain Keith brings warmth and silly humor to the role, it grows on you, and its glorious! ! I mean he even plays bagpipes in this movie- Yeah!!!!

The Rare Breed - Rotten Tomatoes
Sam “Bulldog” with a baby Bull! (credit: rotten tomatoes)

A few fun things to look out for in this film is brief appearances by Harry Carey Jr, Jimmy O’Hara (also sometimes known as James Lilburn; Maureen’s brother) and Ben Johnson.  And I have to give a mention to Vindicator the bull! Vindicator was such a cute sweet bull, that was just adorable to look at. Whenever Hilary would pet him or whisper the words of God Save The Queen to him, it was just sweet. It’s pretty cool Vindicator has a plot all his own within the film, his breed is sought after and we even see his kin towards the end of the film, it was so cute!!

In the end, The Rare Breed may be digging into the western genre, and not super well known, but I’d beg to say its certainly one worth watching. It’s not a gritty western, but rather a cute one, maybe even a western for people who don’t like westerns! And when all said and done- Its even got a Scottish character performance! Aye!! 

The Rare Breed (1966) is available to own on DVD (from Universal) and Blu-ray (from Kino Lorber) !

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

My first ever encounter with A Streetcar Named Desire came in August of 2012. It was schedule pickup day a few weeks ahead of my first day of Junior year of high school and a chance to pickup class material. Junior year, English class was subtitled as, “American literature“, and along with Streetcar, the other required reading that year was The Crucible. With my specific teacher, I also ended up reading: Catcher in the Rye and Death of a Salesman.

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For those who may be unfamiliar with A Streetcar Named Desire, it tells the tragic tale of Blanche DuBois, a fallen southern woman whose disillusionment over her struggles in life sends her into madness. The 1951 film version stars many of the same actors who appeared in the original Broadway stage version, including Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski, Karl Malden as Mitch, and Kim Hunter as Stella. Vivien Leigh as Blanche DoBois is the notable change for the film, as Jessica Tandy played the role on Broadway.  Leigh did, however, play Blanche in the London production.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).jpg

Reading Streetcar in class didn’t come until just before spring break of that year, and my first impressions of the play weren’t very prestigious at all. I recall thinking it was going to be some sort of romance or drama, not expecting a tragedy, with despicable characters. I found Stanley to be a monster and Stella to be a complete pushover. Blanche, however weird of a character she was, did attract my attention because there seemed to be a mystery about who she was.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951 film) - Wikipedia

At this time, I had no idea there was a movie adaptation, and after we finished the book, the teacher announced we would watch it. I was interested because I wanted to see how these characters would visually interact with each other, I thought it would help me better understand the play as a whole. The moment the teacher put on the DVD and it started playing, a majority of my classmates were uninterested because, “it’s an old black and white movie”. I personally didn’t mind if it was black and white, and while I didn’t know much about Vivien Leigh’s work other than Gone with the Wind, I was glued to watch something with her in it.

My personal highlight of the film was the introduction to the marvelous actor that is Karl Malden. There I was, at age 16, watching this movie for the first time ever, and I see Karl Malden come on screen: I was immediately transfixed on his powerful voice, and automatically had high respect for his acting ability. Due to the fact I knew the outcome of his and Blanche’s relationship, I was really upset! I didn’t want to watch Mitch reject Blanche and snub her after learning her story. I really hoped it to turn out better than the play, but overall, I knew the rejection was the right decision. Mitch and Blanche’s dissolution of their friendship and any level of romantic relationship ending is the catalyst for Blanche’s final descent into her downward spiral, and it needs to happen for the story to conclude.

This movie was my real first exposure to Marlon Brando’s acting as well, and I took an instant dislike him. Of course now looking back, what I really meant was I can’t stand the character of Stanley. Stanley is a horrible husband to Stella, and is disgusting to Blanche- plus his famous “Stella” yell can absolutely get on one’s nerves. When looked at from an acting perspective, I admit it was spectacular. Brando could become any character, and you believed he was this nasty person. I’m sure I can’t picture anyone else yelling “Stellaaaaa” on a balcony.

Blanche was perfectly portrayed, and because I wasn’t alive during the original role on Broadway, I can’t see anyone else but Vivien- Sorry Ms. Tandy!! She was so immersed in this role, which certainly shows shades of her real life struggles. I’m sure it was a combination of Vivien’s stage training in the role, her professionalism, and her real life experience with mental health struggles that made her become Blanche. Its an occasion that only comes once in a lifetime- or perhaps in Vivien’s case, twice, where an actress is so perfectly married to the screen role. I think this was the best paring of actor and role since Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story!

Over the years since my junior year of high school, I sort of put this film out of my mind, really dismissing it, until I took a deeper look at it as an adult. I really was able to connect it to its source material, and it’s as faithful to the play as it could be for the screen.

The ending of the film, is what I wished would have happened in the play, upon comparing the two endings for the first time back in high school. Yet today, when watching the film’s ending, it cheapens the play’s ending. By having Stella stay with Stanley it makes it raw and real, and adds to the tragedy of the whole situation. Seeing Stella run off with the baby while leaving the house in the movie, it kind of almost makes you less emotional about what just Blanche minutes earlier. It was all due to the production code- and I’m not sure a better ending could have been conceived, but it makes the film less emotionally reactive.

Overall, its been a long winding road for me to appreciate this film. Seeing it in high school was just that, a high schooler watching, doing as they are asked. I did watch it as an adult for the first time at age 20- and I didn’t care for it, finding it even more bizarre than I did in high school. Finally fast forward now to my current age of 24 where it just clicks- and I defend the Oscars for Vivien Leigh and Karl Malden. I look at the film and I see something so tragic, but deeply layered with psychological depth and connection. I view it, and I really do see a masterpiece!

Be sure to check out other posts for The 4th Broadway Bound Blogathon 2021, HERE!

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Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (film) - Wikipedia

If you’re like me and have a lotta love for Colin Firth, chances are you know his most associated role is that of Darcy. Whether it be Fitzwilliam Darcy in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice or Mark Darcy in the Bridget Jones trilogy, it’s no secret Colin was born to play the role. He’s so perfect at being that aloof, at times slightly arrogant, all round English gentleman. With the success of Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), it was a no-brainer the cast (which also includes Renee Zellweger as Bridget and Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver) reunited for a sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004). 

The concept: what happens when you’re in an established relationship and on the edge of proposal; not a bad concept, it follows the pattern set by the novels. The execution: really, really terrible that it’s worth a watch to see just how terrible. Although it is awful, and gets more awful the more I watch it, I will admit it is a guilty pleasure. It’s fun to laugh at and there are some legitimately funny scenes. Plus more Colin Firth is never a bad thing.

Image gallery for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason - FilmAffinity

First off, this film suffers from terrible pacing and transition. One minute Bridget is at a dinner gala in London, next she’s on the slopes in Austria and before you know it, she’s in jail in Thailand. Add in the fact that her jail sequence is too long and sluggish you’re just waiting for the end, which is a bit abrupt.

Next, this film suffers from a poor script and bad direction. While I do say it was right for another woman to direct, Beeban Kidron didn’t grasp the dynamic of the 3 characters, making character development just non existent. Bridget is even more clumsy, awkward and crass in the second film. It’s as if the portrayal is a spoof of the character when compared to the first film. In the first movie, Bridget is still clumsy, awkward and crass, but she’s got a likable charm that balances these traits. She wants to better herself for the sake of becoming better, while in Reason she’s stalemated to being an unlikable version of herself.
Colin and Hugh on the other hand, have significantly less screen time: with Hugh being almost absent from the first half, and vice-versa for Colin. This gives them virtually no character development. Plus they don’t have any interaction except one scene: fighting in a fountain.

Lastly, there are just random elements that make this film really bad. The opening credits song, for instance, is: Nobody Does It Better; what? Renee’s hair always looks messy and Hugh’s as well, for that matter. Finally, Bridget’s wardrobe is just so awful. Maybe that’s a character trait, but clashing colors and ill fitting pieces, they could have tried to give her a pretty wardrobe; she dressed much better in the first film.

On the positive side, for me, the main reason for watching and the highlight of the whole film for me is Darcy vs Cleaver fighting in a fountain. Not only is it an epic sissy fight set against the awesome rock sound of The Darkness’s  ‘I believe in a thing called Love’, it’s probably the only aspect of the film that’s taken to the next level. Even if you don’t think the movie is worth it this one scene certainly is. I mean, Colin Firth, in a fountain, chasing Hugh Grant is always entertaining no matter the film!


The other aspect that make this film enjoyable are the funny side characters: Bridget’s friends, Mark’s co worker Rebecca Gillies (who can forget Rebecca’s true feelings!), and the women in the Thai jail are amusing. There’s even a scene at the jail when Bridget leads a “Like a Virgin” singalong that has a ton of spirit.

I heart Christmas sweaters - Mark Darcy / Colin Firth in Bridget Jones's  Diary | Bridget jones diary, Colin firth bridget jones, Bridget jones

Overall, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason may be a hot mess, but it’s one you have to watch too believe. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, but most of all: you’ll see Colin Firth play Mark Darcy again.

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This entry is for TAKING UP ROOM’S Third So Bad its Good blogathon! Be sure to check out more bad-goodness!

A Place to Call Home (2013-18)

The Australian tv show, A Place to Call Home, has one of the most fascinating stories of how I personally came to watch it. I came across it in 2015, when looking for more info on Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries season 3. A Place to Call Home pictures kept popping up and I saw an image of a cast with 1950s clothing, so I was curious about it. Upon Googling the show I had learned it ran in Australia for 2 years, got cancelled, but miraculously was uncancelled. I searched around for a trailer and watched the American one made by Acorn TV. It was in that very moment after watching the 1 minute and 50 second trailer, I knew the show was going to be a real winner. I just had an instinctive feeling about it, and bought season 1 DVD as basically a blind buy, taking a nearly $35 gamble on it.

This SOLD ME!

As I waited for the DVD to arrive, I didn’t have any doubts, which is unlike me, rather I was just so excited. I also had the benefit of knowing there wasn’t going to be an unresolved cliffhanger, as the show was locked in until at least season 4. I binged 1 and 2, watching 3 and beyond as it was airing.

The cast of A Place To Call Home prepare to say farewell | OverSixty
This kept popping up!

Created by the man behind Packed to the Rafters, Bevan Lee, the premise of A Place to Call Home starts as follows: In 1953, Sarah Adams (Marta Dusseldorp) returns home to Australia after spending 20 years in Europe. On her journey back to Oz, working as a nurse for ocean liner passage, she meets the wealthy Bligh family, by taking care of the family matriarch, Elizabeth (Noni Hazlehurst) and it’s that encounter that changes everyone’s lives.

The series goes on to explore not only Sarah finding her home in the town of Inverness, but healing from her traumatic past. Other themes throughout the show’s run include Anti- Semitism and religious intolerance, public vs personal image, family disfunction, class divide, 1950s homosexuality, second chances, and above all, love and the meaning of home.

While A Place to Call Home is impacted by 1950s events, the show really is a character driven narrative. I’ve said it on Twitter and I will say it here, Marta’s character Sarah is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever seen on screen (Marta even retweeted me, I was so excited). Sarah Adams is Jewish by faith, (converting to marry her now deceased husband, Dr Rene Nordmann), defended the left in the Spanish Civil War, was a Nazi resistance worker, and is a Holocaust survivor. (Author’s note: I learned more about the Jewish faith and practices from this show than any class ever could offer.)

As for the Bligh family: Widower George Bligh (Brett Climo) is the owner of the estate Ash Park, although his Mother, Elizabeth is the real head of the family. George’s wife, Elaine, was a civilian war victim, passing away while their children, James (David Berry) and Anna (Abby Earl) were very young. In the first episode, James is newly married to his English bride, Olivia (Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood). Anna on the other hand is 20 at the show’s beginning with a long time crush on her childhood friend, Gino (Aldo Mignone), son of Italian immigrants.

Rounding out the cast is essential town busybody Doris Collins (Deborah Kennedy), family friend Dr. Jack Duncan (Craig Hall), family black sheep, sister/ daughter Carolyn Bligh (Sara Wiseman), rugged farmer Roy Briggs (Frankie J Holden), George’s sister-in law Reginia Standish (Jenni Baird) and starting in season 3, Dr. Henry Fox (Tim Draxl).

Overall, if Douglas Sirk created a TV show, and was allowed to outwardly explore the darkness within the glossy 1950s facade, this is the TV show you’d end up; only this show is even better. A Place to Call Home has been compared to Mad Men, Downton Abbey, and even Dynasty, but I think it’s got a style all its own, with a tremendous 6 year run covering the time span of 1953- to New Year’s Day 1960.

Some fans claim the time jump to 1958 in season 5 weakened the show’s narrative, but I personally declare it gives the show more intrigue, of filling in the missing 4 years. Another critcism I have heard was David Berry’s limited availability in seasons 5 and 6, but compared to other shows I’ve seen, the writers handled it tremendously well. I have the upmost respect for David Berry as James still had an impact on the plot, and the fact he appeared on screen proved he didn’t cut and run the minute a fame offering role in Outlander was offered.

The bottom line is if you’ve never seen the show I highly recommend it. It’s one of the best family saga tv shows you’ve never seen, and it reminds us all just who and what the real meaning of home is.

This is an entry for the Home Sweet Home Blogathon hosted by Reelweegiemidget and Taking up Room ! Be sure to check out other entries! !

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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!

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!

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.