Stagecoach 1939: Forever the Original

This is written for the March 2022 Genre Grandeur hosted by Movie Rob with this month’s theme being Oscar winners and nominees.

(Filmzie)

Before beginning the article, with the 94th Oscars airing soon why not take this opportunity to check out Filmzie, a free streaming service available online and on the app, that currently is offering hidden Oscar winners and nominations. They are currently hosting semi forgotten short titles such as 1941’s Churchill’s Island , 1956’s A Chairy Tale, 1957’s City of Gold and many more!

Warning: Minor spoilers to follow!

When I first learned of the John Ford and John Wayne collaboration team when I was younger, there always seemed to be this age old debate when trying to figure out the best movie the pair did together: The Searchers or Stagecoach. Oddly, although I didn’t see these movies fully at that young age, I was more interested in saying, “Well what about She wore a Yellow Ribbon” because the VHS cover looked interesting or, “What about The Quiet Man” because I had heard it was a, “romance”, movie. I was less interested in two hardcore westerns, even though that’s exactly what the duo was legendary for.

Now that I’m older, and have seen these films many times each, I think I’m more inclined to say the best movie the pair made together is more so a 4-way battle of Stagecoach vs Searchers vs The Quiet Man vs The Man who Shot Liberty Valence. Yet, even with me making my claim for all these legendary movies, Stagecoach is where it all started, and without it, there is no Searchers, Quiet Man, or Liberty Valence.

Stagecoach (1939) is the ultimate example of perfect timing and careful planning to create a rousing success. It was the return to the western for John Ford, if you can believe it, as he hadn’t directed a western since a silent picture from 1926 called 3 Bad Men. While John Wayne had never really been away from the western, it was his return to John Ford, after nearly a decade away from each other professionally with their previous pairing being 1930’s Men Without Women (The Duke was only in a bit part!).

On top of those reunions, Stagecoach was also to be the reunion picture for the western genre and the audience, as the genre had fallen to B-movie filler and radio serial status. Despite the fact the simple story of Stagecoach would introduce nothing “new” to the western overall: 9 strangers gather together in a stagecoach, and it takes them on a journey that will change them by the end of it; what Ford did instead was elevate characters and stunt work to surprise the audience.

For instance, by then cliché characters like the drunk (Thomas Mitchell), the outlaw (John Wayne) and the prostitute (Claire Trevor) were all given layered backstories and behaviors: Doc the drunk ends up sobering up to deliver an officer’s wife’s (Louise Platt) baby, outlaw Ringo only killed to defend his family, and prostitute Dallas ends up being a great caretaker to the newborn baby when the mother falls ill. Other western staples like a carriage attack scene, chase on horseback sequence, and shootout scene were raised to new status when Ford employed the stunt coordination of actor Yakima Canutt (who also would also be a bit player within the film).

Take a look at the intricate carriage chase/ attack sequence, and the careful use of the cameras, actor placement, and rigging in order to pull of the very dangerous scene. There is no CGI, protective gear, or safety equipment; just perfect timing, knowing your marks, and a stuntman dedicated to the craft.

By the time the Oscars came around, Stagecoach would rack up 7 nominations winning two: Best Supporting Actor for Thomas Mitchell, and Best Music (scoring) for Richard Hageman, W. Franke Harling, John Leipold, and Leo Shuken. Most notable nominations include Best Director for Ford and Best Picture- both of which lost to Gone with the Wind.

Perhaps the biggest remembrance of Stagecoach was John Wayne becoming a mega star (despite not scoring an Oscar nom.) after working in movies for 13 years. Ford was very willing on reuniting with Duke, as the financial backer/ producer Walter Wanger wanted better-knowns Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper in the roles of Dallas and Ringo. To see his vision become reality, Ford sacrificed half the budget and did not give John Wayne top billing- small prices in my opinion!

The most under-rated John Wayne Leading Lady: Claire Trevor

In the end, I believe Stagecoach has lasted the test of time (although not without criticism of animal cruelty and treatment of Native Americans) and it will always be the touchstone for the western genre. A story of its journey has and will be told many times over, but not to the high caliber that Ford created.

Stagecoach was remade 27 years later in 1966, directed by Gordon Douglas with a star studded cast (Ann Margaret, Bing Crosby, Red Buttons, Stefanie Powers to name a few) and while I personally can’t speak for everyone, I have no desire to watch it and enjoy it. Out of shear curiosity if I ever do decide to watch it, I could only imagine myself hate watching it and longing to watch the original. I always have a stance that when you’re watching or listening to a remake movie or cover version song and you want the original, then the remake is no good to begin with.

What Ford crafted together was utter magic in 1939 and it’s still magic today 9 decades later in 2022. It will live forever in a moment in time in which people could believe in heroes again, and that will never go out style!  

Constance Bennett Marathon!

Capture d’écran 2019-02-07 à 14.44.05
Image result for constance bennett
(silenthollywood.com)

When choosing a star for this year’s Marathon Stars Blogathon I actually had a hard time choosing a star. Choosing Constance Bennett came to me after I had watched two movies with her in them- by coincidence- and like magic, the choice was clear that Miss Bennett was the Marathon Star for me!

Image result for constance bennett
(IMDB) Looking gorgeous!

Constance Bennett was an actress who transitioned successfully from the silent era to the talkies, but sadly had a career decline once the 1930s were over. Oldest daughter of silent star Richard Bennett and sister to actresses Joan and Barbara, she was first known in movies for the clothes she wore, rather than her performances. It wasn’t until her 1937 breakthrough in Topper (alongside Mr. Cary Grant!) that made audiences and critics see her acting ability. Prior to this Blogathon, I had only seen Constance in Topper, and it was only recently I decided to give the sequels a watch. I then realized, Wow, Constance is a great actress, and I really want to do the Blogathon- so it was a perfect opportunity to watch more of her movies!!

For this marathon I watched:

Topper Takes a Trip (1938)

The sequel to the smash hit Topper, this movie follows the silly ghost shenanigans of Marion Kirby without husband George. While George has moved on due to his good deed in the previous film, Marion has another chance to prove herself by helping Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) win back his wife (Billie Burke). With a trip to Paris, this movie is every bit delightful as the original and even stars Asta Atlas too!! Personally, it was this movie when I realized Constance can hold her own in a movie, without a being a love interest!

Image result for topper takes a trip
(TCM)
 Topper Takes a Trip
(TCM)

Merrily We Live (1938)

Image result for merrily we live
(Wikipedia)

A look at the high-society rich, containing an all-star cast, this movie is one of those great screwball comedies from the 1930s. The Killbourne family’s matriarch (Billie Burke) is constantly hiring ex-convicts to be the household servants, and when the previous butler Grosvenor (Alan Mowbray) steals the silver she then vows to never hire another. However, when a handsome, yet mysterious man named Rawlins (Brian Aherne) shows up at the doorstep, the family is so charmed they decide to make him the new chauffeur!! It gets even crazier when Rawlins falls for eldest daughter Jerry (Constance)!!

Sin Takes a Holiday (1930)

Image result for sin takes a holiday
(TVtropes.com)

A pre-code in which Constance plays Sylvia, a secretary to Gaylord Stanton (Kenneth MacKenna), a rich divorce attorney, who only has affairs with married women. When Gaylord’s latest gal, Grace (Rita La Roy), says she’ll leave her husband to be with him, Gaylord gives Sylvia a proposition to be married in name only. With Slyvia secretly in love with him, she agrees, and soon after the wedding he sends her alone on a trip to Paris. When in Paris she meets Reggie Durant (Basil Rathbone) and he falls in love with her. But, when Reggie proposes, is Sylvia really willing to divorce her husband?

Related image
(TCM)

What Price Hollywood (1932) (slight spoilers)

Image result for constance bennett
(Wikipedia)

The prototype to A Star is Born, this movie is a pre code version of the timeless story. However, there are enough differences to make this stand out. While waitressing at the Brown Derby, Mary Evans (Constance) catches the sight of alcoholic director Maximillian Carey (Lowell Sherman), she accompanies him as his date to a movie premiere, and before she knows it, she’s landed herself a screen test for producer Julius Saxe (Gregory Ratoff). While Max is attracted to Mary, he avoids a romance with her fearing his alcoholism will take her down with him. With her newfound fame, Mary catches the eye of polo player Lonny Borden (Neil Hamilton); the two fall in love, and marry despite Max and Julius’s warnings. With fame taking its toll on both their careers, they divorce, and soon Mary is at the top of her game after winning the Academy Award. Her happiness is cut short however after Max commits suicide. With Max’s death plaguing the news, Mary then seeks comfort in her husband and they reconcile.

Image result for what price hollywood
(Wikipedia)

Ladies in Love (1936)

Three ladies (Constance; Janet Gaynor and Loretta Young) share an apartment and hope to find love and adventure in exotic Budapest. Although the three share an apartment they all wish for something different when Martha (Gaynor) insists they follow gypsy superstition after moving in. Susie (Loretta) wishes for independence and to be a hat shop owner, Yoli (Constance) wants a rich man, and Martha wants it all: the impossible- a home, a man, and kids! Tyrone Power, Don Ameche and Simone Simon also co-star. This film is notable for being the start of the Loretta Young- Tyrone Power film duo.

Image result for ladies in love 1936
(IMDB)

MY OPINIONS

Looking back, Merrily We Live and What Price Hollywood were stand outs for me! Merrily We Live surpassed my expectations (and was so wonderfully written up by Ginnie in her article!), while What Price was interesting to see what changes and similarities there are to A Star is Born. Sin Takes a Holiday was good- but very slow moving for a 75 minute movie. Constance and Basil had good chemistry but the pacing took forever!! Topper Takes a Trip was in fact so great that I bought it for my collection! Ladies in Love was a bit similar How to Marry a Millionaire in terms of set up and was a film I have never heard of prior to this. It may take another viewing for me to fully appreciate it.

What I do appreciate though is Constance Bennett’s acting. I feel sad that she couldn’t have made the transition like Joan and also have been a Noir Queen- that would have been super cool. Sure she would have looked great in those 40s fashions, but she would have been an even tougher femme fatale! Nonetheless, we have her wonderful movies of the 30s when she was a Queen of the Silver Screen!

Image result for constance bennett gif
(tumblr) In a scene from Three Face East (1930)

Thanks for hosting Ginnie, Crystal and Samantha!!! You’re all super swell!

CHECK OUT THE OTHER POSTS

DAY 1 DAY 2 DAY 3

Jean Harlow steals the meal in Dinner at Eight (1933)

Happy March everyone! I’m back today for an entry for my two fellow awesome bloggers that I absolutely positively adore, Ginnie at the Wonderful World of Cinema and Samantha of Musings of A Classic Film Addict, as they are hosting a blogathon in honor of another fabulous lady (like themselves)- Jean Harlow.

Jean Harlow was the original blonde bombshell who had a brief spell in Hollywood, a tragic end, yet had an enormous impact on movies and was certainly a Queen of the Screen in the 1930s.

Dinner at Eight (1933)
(AMC filmsite)

In Hollywood, its sometimes hard to stand out, but Jean always made her presence known- and the best part of was she didn’t even have to draw extra attention to herself- she was was herself and people noticed her. And it’s exactly that quality about her that made her stand out in George Cukor’s 1933 comedy of manners pre-code flick Dinner at Eight.

Dinner at Eight is tricky to categorize and even write about. Its a comedy of manners, contains an “all star” cast (Marie Dressler, John Barrymore AND Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Lee Tracy, Edmund Lowe, Billie Burke!) is episodic in plot structure, and is pre-code in its themes (they vividly talk about topics such as suicide, infidelity, alcoholism, financial destitute, and more).

The flick is often seen as a “twin” to 1932’s Grand Hotel and a precursor to all of the comedies of the high society rich we all know and love such as: My Man Godfrey (1936), Merrily We Live (1938) , Holiday (1938), and The Philadelphia Story (1940) to name a few. While this movie is all about the preparation for the dinner and we never see the actual event, we do however see the more interesting conflicts of what the guests are dealing with before they put on their facade being “rich and stuffy” at dinner.

But because this is Jean Harlow’s blogathon, I thought it would be more fun to write why Jean makes herself the scene stealer in a picture filled with stars!

1- She makes the most of her role: Jean plays the part of Kitty Packard (wife to Wallace Beery’s Dan). In this movie there is a cast of 25 (according to wikipedia!) with 8 actors getting main billing above the title. Jean is also acting amongst some of the most famous veteran players of her day: John and Linonel Barrymore! Silent star Marie Dressler! Beloved stage star Billie Burke! But in it all, here we are talking about Jean’s legacy in the film. Many today cite this was not only her finest but most complex performance: she just wasn’t Clark Gable’s girl to win or the pretty blonde girl at the party- she had a real interesting layers to her character that made you want to keep your eyes on her in the scenes she was in.

2- She has a gorgeous wardrobe: This movie in general is just so pretty to look at! Everything is art-deco and beautiful, including Jean’s wardrobe! Don’t you just want to borrow her outfits!?

Image result for dinner at eight jean harlow
(wikipedia)
Image result for dinner at eight jean harlow
With Marie Dressler (hollywoodreporter.com)
Image result for jean harlow dinner at eight
Pintrest
CAN I BORROW THIS!!??

3- Jean gets the snappy lines: This may be the reason we remember Jean so instantly when we discuss this movie as Jean has some of the best dialogue lines in the film. Here is just a sample of her best ones!

Dan: You mean to tell me you’ve been putting it over on me with some other man? 
Kitty: Yes, and what are ya gonna do about it, ya big gasbag?


Dan: Remember what I told you last week? 
Kitty: I don’t remember what you told me a minute ago.

and finally this last exchange which happens to be the final scene in the movie: I’m leaving it as a video so you can watch if you choose

Gotta love Jean!!! Check out the other entries here

58
THANKS FOR HOSTING LADIES!!!!

The King Of Hollywood Blogathon- Red Dust and Jean Harlow

2018 is here and I for one cannot think of a better way than to kick of the year than by writing about the King of Hollywood (click banner for host site). I can already tell that 2018 is gonna be a great year- especially for classic Hollywood fans like us because of so many awesome events (*cough*cough*- William Holden Centenary) Anyways back to the King!

Image result for clark gable
My ultimate favorite pic of Mr Gable!

Clark Gable is someone who in my view is not overrated- I think he’s a wonderful and humble man who never thought of himself as a star. He was so down to earth and someone who seemed like he would be a great friend to chat with. And of course I can’t mention the man without his great lady, Carole Lombard- to me they are the definition of true love!

Image result for clark gable and carole lombard

But getting back to the friend label- Clark Gable is a man I would want as my best friend- and that’s just what Jean Harlow had in him- a great friend and brother.

Red-Dust-1932-film-poster.jpg

Their first real movie Clark and Jean were in, Red Dust (1932) (they made The Secret Six-1931 but had no scenes together)  first came to my attention through the OTHER movie Gable was in, Mogambo (1953) in which as most of us know; Gable played the same part (different character name yes- but same part). I saw Mogambo first thanks to Grace Kelly and I really didn’t understand why people were calling referring to Gable as “past his prime”. I thought he looked good with a bit of graying temples and looked distinguished.  It wasn’t until a few years later when I finally saw Red Dust- and watching it didn’t alter my opinion- Gable looked good younger, in black and white, and later when his hair was black and white- I think we can appreciate Gable at both stages of his life- he’s just that swell!

Image result for red dust 1932

Red Dust tells the tale of a love triangle- with plantation manager Clark, prostitute (!?) Jean, and married woman Mary Astor – set on a rubber plantation in French Indochina. The details of the story aren’t really important but let’s be frank– or rather- fred– its Clark and Jean playing opposite each other!

While I love Mogambo and Grace Kelly and think she’s the greatest- I do believe I have to give Jean Harlow the best Gable co-star award. The chemistry she brings to her scenes with Gable in Red Dust is electric- you are just waiting for them to clap back at each other with that sharp and witty pre code dialogue. It’s peculiar to think but Clark and Jean are the type of stars you root for to be together on screen, but off screen you just love their friendship. You can certainly get a glimpse of their friendship in any movie they did together- but I declare its Red Dust in where it’s the most evident because it is a pre-code- they were more free to be- such as with their body language- the scene in which Clark and Jean sit on the bed together!!!

Related image
Image result for jean and clark red dust rain barrel

             And let’s not forget that rain barrel scene– which of course Jean absolutely nailed despite dealing with the shocking death of husband Paul Bern. To me that scene personifies what a professional she was. Behind the scenes I  have no doubt that Clark was the rock for Jean during this incident- and then their friendship just took off from there.

Image result for clark gable jean harlow behind the scenes
Behind the scenes (Credit- to Dearmrgable.com)

Clark was the only one not to refer to Jean as “the baby” instead opting to call her “sis”. I think she was his best leading lady and they would have made even more films beyond Saratoga 1937 had she not died.

Personally, I still need to watch China Seas (1935) but I think Red Dust will forever remain the best pairing between the two. I for one would love to have a friendship like that of Clark and Jean’s- it’s really their type of friendship that lacks in today’s modern world and I say we all can learn by example from it.

Why I love The 39 Steps (1935)

Image result for 39 steps
For starters, I love the characters. Mr. Memory (Wylie Watson), an amazing fact file that puts Google to shame! Mr. Richard Hannay played by the ever so suave (but not as suave as Nathan Page 🙂 ) Robert Donat. Hannay has a perfect mustache and I love it how he just has to go with the flow- every twist and turn- no matter what happens to him he stays as cool as a cucumber. Of course, he has his frantic moments- the train scene– but who can blame him- (NOT ME!). And naturally I must mention the lovely Madeleine Carroll, the first Hitchcock blonde.  I love the feisty personality, and her ability to match Hannay word for word- their banter is just perfect.
Hannay: Now let’s make ourselves as comfortable as possible. What about that skirt of yours? It’s still pretty damp, you know. I don’t want to be tied to a pneumonia case on top of everything else. Take it off. I don’t mind.
Pamela: I’ll leave it on, thank you…My shoes and stockings are soaked so I think I’ll take them off.
Hannay: That’s the first sensible thing I’ve heard you say.

As much as I do adore North By Northwest, I do feel this film is somewhat superior. It just has something about it that makes it intriguing. Maybe it just has so many “moments” that make me say both “Awww” and “Ahhh!” at the same time or maybe it’s the fact it’s a British… Hitchcock… Film. Or maybe it’s this scene…

(dvdtalk.com)

Maybe this one????

train 39 steps
The Famous Train Scene!   (The 1000 Frames of The 39 Steps Hitchcock Project )

OR perhaps I love this film so much because it’s this film introduces the world to the most famous Hitchcockian element, “The MacGuffin”. WHAT IS The 39 Steps? Who are they? What do they need? And what makes them so dangerous???? Well.. I’ll tell you, you see they are….