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!

Meet Cute: Easy Living (1937)

So for Valentine’s Day 2019 the very sweet and awesome Phyllis Loves Classic Movies is hosting the Meet Cute Blogathon!

There are so many cute “meet cutes” to choose from but I chose to write about the cute meeting of Jean Arthur and Ray Milland in Mitch Leisen’s Easy Living from 1937.

I’m not going to discuss the whole movie (maybe save this for another blogathon!?) but I will write a short sweet post on the scene where Mary (Jean Arthur) meets John Ball Jr (Ray Milland).

Easy-living-1937.jpg
(wikipedia)

In an absolutely classic meeting of two people, they meet in probably the most 20th century setting you can get: The Automat!

When Mary stops by just for a quick meal she gets more than she bargained for when she meets John Ball Jr who just so happens to be the son of JB Ball: the third richest banker in America (who is played by Edward Arnold- Jean and his character meet in the beginning of the film).

Image result for easy living 1937
How cute are they two? (pintrest)

What is adorable about the two meeting is Mary just thinking John is a regular ol’ worker, but in reality John is working undercover in an effort to be independent from his father. Mary 100% buys into John’s story and she invites him to stay in her luxurious suite while he looks for a job.

When the two leave the automat its for certain to say they each have fallen for each other! And for the others at the automat, well they just fall down in a hysterical sequence that makes us all wish we had this much fun while eating out.

For the rest of the film: there’s a bunch of cute scenes between them- and personally I wish Jean and Ray made another film together because they have natural chemistry- and for Jean Arthur that’s major, as she was a shy actress who sometimes had trouble playing scenes with her leading men.

What I will say is further hilarity ensures and includes a funny scene of the two trying to turn off multiple shower heads!

If you adored the scene above I hope you tune into the whole movie the next time it pops up on TCM! Its a legitimately under rated screwball comedy from its era and every time I watch it, I wish I could be lucky to meet someone in an automat!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! and Don’t forget to “meet” the other “cute” entries in the link above!

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Hello All! This is my entry for the one and only Cary Grant Blogathon Hosted by my good friend over at Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. Before I begin just a few things 1-Happy Noirvember! I hope you all are enjoying/ enjoyed it! (Best new watch for me was Detour 1945) 2- I want all of you to know that while I may not reply to all of your comments, I do read every single one, and I can’t thank you enough for them- seriously they mean a lot to me! 

With that done, without further ado, I now give you my entry! Only Angels Have Wings is one of those films from Hollywood’s Golden Year, 1939, and the second of three movies for Cary that year.

Only Angels Have Wings poster.jpg

For me, Only Angels was the second Cary Grant drama film I ever watched, with the first being Penny Serenade (1941). In fact, I did see a snippit of the this film even before I knew who Cary Grant was- it was when I was 13, at my Grandfather’s place- he had the TV on TCM, and I heard Cary’s character calling out over the radio- that was my first encounter with Cary Grant- too bad it took three more years for me to fully embrace his awesomeness!!!

Three years later, this film was one of the first of his  I saw, like I mentioned, but  will admit I didn’t really want to watch it at first- I was so enamored with Cary making me laugh, I didn’t know if I could handle him doing a full on drama (as Penny Serenade is technically a melodrama)- but boy was I wrong!!

One of the best things about Only Angels is that the picture is a different Cary Grant picture and in the best way possible. I don’t wanna say Cary isn’t the focus, but at the same time, I do. I think the picture really belongs to Jean Arthur, and even scene stealer Rita Hayworth.

However Cary’s character, Geoff Carter, is important (as always), as without him, there is no development- he’s the guy who keeps everyone moving forward- he consoles Jean Arthur when  Joe is killed, catches Thomas Mitchell’s character’s, Kid, bad eyesight, and all in all is a great guy to have on hand (I mean he is Cary Grant!!!)

Another aspect that makes this film just wonderful is the direction of Howard Hawks- who literally could direct anything- film noir, musical, screwball comedy, adventure, drama, comedy, western- he seriously did it all , with them all being enjoyable. And while Cary Grant may have been the favorite of Mr. Alfred Hitchcock, Cary’s favorite director was said to be Hawks. If any other director would have been at the head of this project, I personally feel it wouldn’t have turned out as wonderful as it did.

Image result for only angels have wings airplane scenesLastly, what makes this film is the aviation scenes and attitudes that are depicted. Flying in airplanes was the fascination for people in the 1920s and 30s- and yes so many films have depicted pilots, it this film is probably one of the best , if not THE best from the era. And- To those who watch today and say “that’s cheesy”- please just remember- this was without computer and green screen CGI- no animation whatsoever, yet it looks great!

On the whole, Only Angels Have Wings is a delightful picture, it’s a bit long, but that’s OK- I love Cary Grant and I love him with Jean Arthur (she’s soo underrated!). It’s just one of those movies that offers a real escape from everyday life- go out to the South American coast with Mr Cary Grant? SIGN. ME .UP.

To wrap up, I’m just gonna leave you with this really awesome picture of Cary and Jean- man I wish I was her! (For those who have seen the movie- I just adore the ending scene, and so did Ms. Arthur- for years later she recalled “I loved sinking my head into Cary Grant’s chest”. ) SIGGHHH! 

 

 

 

You Can’t Take it With You (1938)

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(Note- Earlier I was working on this and I accidentally hit “publish” instead of “Save”- sorry to my email followers!)

Based of the hit Broadway play and directed by Frank Capra, You Can’t Take it With You (1938) is one of the best from the best. And because this is for the Barrymore blogathon, the star at the center of this film is Lionel Barrymore.

You Can’t Take it with You is a story about two people who just get engaged, Anthony “Tony” Kirby (James Stewart) and Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur) but they come from two different worlds- Tony is from a rich, slightly stuffy family, while Alice comes from a poorer, slightly eccentric, but loving family. Alice fears she will not be accepted by Tony’s family, and Tony fears his stuffy family will not approve of his choice. The film then plays out to see whether or not the two families can get along for the sake of Alice and Tony.

You Can't Take It with You 1938 Poster.jpg

Personally I just think this film is charming- as not only does it teach us to accept differences, its just a cute story in general. So many good moments and one liners (really don’t wanna spoil them!). I LOVE Jean Arthur- I probably relate to her more than any other actress- and James Stewart is just great. All the players were well cast right down to the supporting players. But it is Barrymore’s portrayal of Grandpa Martin Vanderhof that keeps everyone together- and is the conscience of the film. He’s just the type of guy you want as your own grandfather.

Sadly by the time of this picture’s production, Barrymore was suffering from health problems and the character was altered to accommodate his medical needs. The crutches, Grandpa Vanderhof uses served to help Barrymore stand, and it was explained in the movie as his character having a sprained ankle from sliding down the banister (because why else?? :-)) ) .

I say one of my favorite scenes has to be when Alice and Tony are sitting together at dinner and their dance together ! Its too cute! 😉

But in this film there is also a great irony, as in this movie, Barrymore plays the moral compass of the film, bringing everyone in and advocating for Tony and Alice’s union, but in Frank Capra’s other classic, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), he plays the meanest of the mean, the banker Mr Potter. Just goes to show the versatility in Barrymore’s ability and that he can make audiences both adore, and (love to) hate him.

CREDIT GOES TO: Classic Movie Hub

IN the end, I do not call Capra’s films “CapraCorn” and even if they are- so what! They are all adorable and at the heart of all of them, contain a sweet love story. If you haven’t seen this Capra work, put it on your list- its just splendid!

Other picture credits- Wikipedia