Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mothers Day!

Clifton Webb and mother Maybelle

Jennifer Jones, husband David O. Selznick and daughter Mary

Deanna Durbin with mother Ada and sister Edith

Fay Wray and Susan

June Haver, husband Fred MacMurray and daughters Kathryn and Laurie

Ida Lupino with husband Howard Duff and daughter Bridget

Kathryn Grayson with Pat and Zsa Zsa Gabor with Francesca

Lana Turner and Cheryl

Marie Wilson and Gregson

Mary Astor and Marylyn

Sandra Dee with mother Mary (and dog!) 

Veronica Lake with Elaine and Diane

Joan Crawford with mother Anna and brother Hal

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Now Playing: "Double Harness" (1933)

As fair warning, spoilers lay ahead!

"Love?  Marriage has got nothing to do with love.  Marriage is a business.  At least, it's a woman's business. And love is an emotion. A man doesn't let emotion interfere with his business. And if more women would learn not to let emotion interfere with theirs, fewer of them would end up in the divorce court."

When the following lines are uttered by our heroine in the first ten minutes of the movie, you know it's going to be good.

Double Harness isn't particularly well known today and that's a damn shame because it's a wonderful insight into the modern woman's thinking in 1933 and an honest look at marriage without the convenience (or inconvenience) of love. It's got some darn good performances to boot.

Ann Harding receives top billing as Joan Colby, a very practical woman who, given her father's financial losses, believes she needs to let her head and not her heart rule any matrimonial decisions.  She has her cap set on John Fletcher (William Powell), a shipping magnate who is debonair, dashing and a playboy.  He has the financial wherewithal to make Joan's life comfortable; unfortunately he also has a regular Saturday night kind of thing named Monica Page.

Joan and her elaborate nightie
Joan, whom it seems has not only been hitting the town with John but also possibly the sheets, comes up with a surefire scheme to nab her prince.  She arranges to have her father show up at John's apartment and catch Joan in her very frilly nightie.  Qué scandal!  The proper thing to do at the time and in their social circle was to marry.  John agrees and he and Joan make an arrangement to remain married, for appearances, for six months.  He then promptly takes up where he left off with Monica Page.

Joan, however, has been lying to herself for months.  She is in love with John and was hoping for a "real" marriage.  Because of that, and because she's a genuinely nice and caring person, she's been working at increasing his business.  Like most magnates and "gentlemen" of the time, movie-wise, he never seems to work.
John needs a drink after the Colonel catches him

Joan's younger sister, Valerie, throws a major wrench in the works.  Valerie is Joan's polar opposite - - we see it from the very beginning when, while shopping for a wedding trousseau, she throws all caution to the wind, despite her father's precarious financial standing.  Marriage does not cure her and she comes to Joan to bail her out of financial dilemmas.  When Joan finally realizes that Valerie will only learn when she has to stand on her own two feet, Valerie blabs to John that their father walking in he and Joan, leading to their marriage, was a set up.  All planned and delivered by Joan.  Uh oh.

John is rightfully pissed and more than a little disappointed in Joan, who he felt was above this kind of deception. He had realized earlier that same day that he was in love with his wife; instead of talking it out, he returns to Monica Page, leaving Joan to host a dinner she has organized for his benefit, one to get him a contract with the postal service.  The dinner goes all kinds of wrong, in the way that only 1930s screwball can deliver, but the ending is just right, with John realizing that Joan is a swell girl and he does love her.

Sure, the film is trite on paper and purely formula but the stars make it so endearing and imminently watchable. 

William Powell is a year out from his super stardom role in The Thin Man; he plays against the Nick Charles type, somewhere in between the bad guys and heavies he smoothly turned in for Warner Brothers and the aboveboard gentlemen MGM preferred. His John Fletcher is at his core a good guy bit takes a particularly good girl to scratch the surface and find it.

Ann Harding is wonderful as Joan Colby, a part that could have been too saintly and too sweet had Harding not nailed it.  But nailed it she did, expressing Joan's character without alienating the audience and making us root for her, even if she had to resort to deceptive tactics to get her man.  When caught, she doesn't deny; she confesses the entire thing, including her love for John, in front of him and Monica.

Double Harness is a perfect example of why Ms. Harding was such a well respected and critically acclaimed actress in the early 1930s and it's tragic that she's not one of the better remembered and considered actresses of yesteryear today.  This film is but one of a handful of Pre-Codes in which she masterfully appears and is very much worth your time.

Joan, Valerie and the Colonel are all smiles
after Valerie has spent too much money
Lucile Browne, Henry Stephenson and Lilian Bond are all excellently cast in their supportive roles as Valerie Colby, Colonel Colby and Monica Page, respectively.  Watch for the prolific character actor Reginald Owen as John's butler Freeman.  Owen would go on to his most famous role as Scrooge in the 1938 production of A Christmas Carol so it's lots of fun to see him here, adding some levity to the film. 

Double Harness is chock full of style, sophistication, suaveness and sex and is just delightful to watch.  It's 70 minutes of well spent time and a wonderful showcase for Ms. Harding and Mr. Powell.

Double Harness can be difficult to find on DVD (although you can locate reasonable copies if you're persistent) and is shown now and again on TCM.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Sunday Funday: Happy Easter!

Wishing you a very Happy Easter!  Enjoy these snaps of celebs in their Easter finery - - some are downright bizarre!

Leave a comment and let me know which one is your favorite and why.

Pier Angeli

Jean Arthur

Fred Astaire

Patricia Avery

Brigitte Bardot 

Barbara Bates 
Joan Blondell and Norman

Edwina Booth

Joan Crawford and Christina

Doris Day

Gloria DeHaven
Olivia De Havilland and Joan Fontaine

Irene Dunne

Ava Gardner

Paulette Goddard 

Bonita Granville

Jane Greer

Susan Hayward

Audrey Hepburn

Darla Hood

Leila Hyams

Adele Jergens

Dorothy Jordan

Barbara Kent

Veronica Lake

Carole Lombard

Myrna Loy

Ida Lupino

Jeanette MacDonald 

Jayne Mansfield 

Lynn Merrick

Ann Miller

Marilyn Monroe

Maureen O'Hara

Debra Paget

Gail Patrick

Mary Pickford

Debbie Reynolds

Jean Rogers

Ruth Roman

Rosalind Russell and Lance

Dorothy Sebastian

Norma Shearer

James Stewart with Harvey

Sharon Tate

Elizabeth Taylor

Shirley Temple

Raquel Torres

Claire Trevor

Lana Turner

Vera Ellen

Alice White

Marie Wilson

Natalie Wood

Jane Wyman

Loretta Young