Monday, March 24, 2014

Week in Review

Films I've Viewed

Louise Latimer and Owen Davis; The Plot Thickens (1936)
  • Plot Thickens (1936) - James Gleason, Zazu Pitts, Louise Latimer, Owen Davis.  Zazu Pitts replaces Edna Mae Oliver in the role of Hildegarde Withers.  Murder and a jewel found, known as the Sultan's Emerald, have both Hildegarde and Inspector Piper on the case.  James Gleason plays Inspector Piper in a great, crusty way.  While Pitts does an admirable job as Withers, she just can't hold a torch to Oliver's portrayal.
James Gleason and Zazu Pitts; The Plot Thickens (1936)

  • Forty Naughty Girls (1937) - James Gleason, Zazu Pitts.  Another entry and the last in the RKO B movie series.  A fun Broadway romp that takes place during a play "Forty Naughty Girls", the old play within a play.  Plagiarism, murder, weapon issues, and scent all played a role.  The behind the scenes atmosphere was the best part.  I treaded the boards a bit myself in high school and college and the scenes made me wistful for that life again.  Gleason was wonderful reprising his role of the bumbling Inspector Piper.  Zazu Pitts still throws me off in the role of Hildegarde Withers.  It just seemed like Zazu being Zazu - not as Hildegarde Withers.  I never would have guessed she was supposed to be a teacher if I didn't know ahead of time.  I'm not sure if that was more the scriptwriters or the portrayal.  It was a fun little mystery romp.  My concerns:  It creeped me out that Zazu spent about 10 minutes sniffing people.  I know that was a clue, but it was odd.  It was also a bit difficult to figure out which guns were which and which.

  • Rendezvous (1935) - William Powell, Rosalind Russell, Binnie Barnes, Lionel Atwill, Cesar Romero.  William Powell is a master codebreaker during World War I.  He'd rather be on the front lines, but he finds himself forced to work at a desk.  Luckily, intrigue and a group of German spies keeps him busy and at least interested in his job.  Rosalind Russell is his foil of a girlfriend - simultaneously loving him and trying to knock him out with knock out drops.  I found the scenes of code breaking particularly fascinating.  They were the best part of the film for me.  The intensity and brain power were wonderful.  Some of the film did drag.  I also wasn't generally thrilled with the romance aspects.  I tend to find Russell's characters annoying after a while.  I know that is sacrilege, but I felt like slapping some sense into her.  An odd goof: There was some voice over for William Powell at about 120 minutes which was clearly not done by him.  I'm curious why.  The expense?  Was he on vacation?  Was he ill?  Perhaps we'll never know.



  • Lightning Strikes Twice (1951) - Ruth Roman, Zachary Scott, Richard Todd, Mercedes McCambridge.  Intense thriller starring the glamorous Ruth Roman.  In almost all of her films, she seems effortlessly elegant.  Chic, but with an approachable warmth, and this film is no exception.  Roman plays Shelley, an actress sent to a Dude Ranch to heal her nerves.  She happens on a may-or-may-not-be wife-murderer played by Richard Todd.  Sparks fly, and she is determined to prove his innocence.  Mercedes McCambridge's performance is stunning.  I shouldn't be surprised.  One of the great actresses often forgotten.  Great on film and stunning on radio.  Unfortunately, she probably would never be a star today because of her plain looks, but she was an amazing talent.  Lightning Strikes Twice is a thriller worth watching again.
Virginia Bruce in Woman Against Woman (1938)

  • Woman Against Woman (1938) - Herbert Marshall, Virginia Bruce, Mary Astor.  Herbert Marshall (who plays Stephen Holland) is torn between two woman - Mary Astor (who plays his ex-wife Cynthia) and Virginia Bruce (who plays his new wife Maris).  Cynthia basically makes Maris's life miserable.  She uses the couple's child to emotionally blackmail the couple.  She also fakes being the poor wife and gets the entire town to shun Maris.  Wonderful portrayals by Astor and Bruce.  Marshall seemed quite cold.  I couldn't really figure out why the two women were fighting over him!
Adolph Menjou and Mary Astor in Easy to Love (1934)

  • Easy to Love (1934) - Genevieve Tobin, Adolphe Menjou, Mary Astor, Edward Everett Horton.  A fun 1930's tale of a husband (Adolphe Menjou as John), a wife (Genevieve Tobin as Carol), his lover (Mary Astor as Charlotte), and a man who wishes to be the wife's lover (Edward Everett Horton as Eric).  This is a film that screams 1930's - wealthy people solving their problems in a clever and dignified ways).  I wish they would put this film out on DVD.  I can see why this film was condemned at the time by the Catholic Legion of Decency.  It is definitely the epitome of a Pre-Code film.   

  • Three Who Loved (1931) - Betty Compson, Conrad Nagel, Robert Ames.  Insufferable!  This film almost made me put Betty Compson on my Least Favorite Actresses list.  Betty Compson plays Helga, a Swedish immigrant, and the accent is quite dreadful!  I cringed every time she spoke.  Two men fight over her (Conrad Nagel as John and Robert Ames as Phil).  Helga is engaged to John but doesn't like that he studies and works instead of parties like his friend Phil.  So of course, she starts seeing Phil and elopes with him.  So John starts investing to try to earn the money she wants fast and loses $10,000.  He steals the money from the bank he and Phil work for to pay the debt - but out of Phil's drawer.  Phil goes to jail and John and Helga marry because John eventually makes bit bucks.  Helga spends her life partying - even though they have a child - and John works to make the money Helga wants.  Guilt and trauma are the only way this story can end.  I thought the character of John was rich and multifaceted, played expertly by Conrad Nagel.  The character of Helga was insufferable, immature and spoiled, and poorly acted.  Nagel was the only saving grace of the film.    
John Darrow and Betty Compson in The Lady Refuses (1931)

  • The Lady Refuses (1931) - Betty Compson (as June), Gilbert Emery (as Sir Gerald Courteney), John Darrow (as Russell Courteney).  June decides one night she will be a "lady of the night" because she has reached rock bottom.  Sir Courteney saves her and makes a deal with her - she will get $1,000 if she can get his son away from a gold digger.  Everyone falls in love with June - including Sir Courteney.  Intelligent, Pre-Code film.  This film saved Betty Compson from ending up on my Least Favorite Actresses List!  I found it quite refreshing.  A mature love story - not because of age, but because of depth.   




Links of the Week

Thelma Todd demonstrating proper lipstick application [Source]
  • GlamourDaze has some wonderful tutorials for the twenties girl in all of us.  Actress Thelma Todd is the guide in these Six Hair and Makeup Tips from 1926.  What's fascinating about this is that I apparently have been brushing my hair wrong for many years.  Who guessed?  
Improper Flapper Posture [Source]

  • The site also features Proper Posture and Deportment from the Max Sennet and his girls.  I'm not sure if they are the best people to ask about good manners, but Sennet certainly had some useful advice.


The Muppets on Broadway

  • I adore the Muppets!  While I have not generally been a fan of post Jim Henson work, I'm hoping Muppets Most Wanted will be good.  Bowery Boys took a look into the history of Muppets Take Manhattan.  There was some interesting facts relating to New York, as well as some of the film's locations.

  • I adore tips from the past.  These days it doesn't seem like people are interested in passing on practical information nor how to perform practical things.  I find the tips from those of the past incredibly useful, even today.  That's why I adore the site 19th Century Historical Tidbits.  This week the site has some wonderful Household Tips.
Brittany's pattern in Sew News [Source]



  • Rochelle at Lucky Lucille has started another Sewing challenge.  Calling it Sew for Victory 2.0, I've decided to give it a try.  Perhaps it will get me out of the funk I'm in.  The only rule seems to be that you must sew something from a 1940s or 1940s inspired pattern.  I'll keep you posted as to how it goes.

2 comments:

  1. I, too, brush my hair wrong!

    Ah well, it hasn't all fallen out...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mandy, Greetings from Austin, Texas! Just wanted to drop in and let you know how much I look forward to reading your blog every week...I have found wonderful sites, books and movies through you. Best regards, Ana

    ReplyDelete

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