ARE THESE OUR CHILDREN (1932)

The Pre code era continues to delight when one finds hidden delights.  Sounds like a  tagline on a picture yet it is also what the  Wesley Ruggles Directed ARE THESE OUR CHILDREN (1932) is.  Its another drama  about  good  youth falling under the influence to turn against society however like most typical stories it is the way  it is handled.

This picture is a tough one to find yes was able to watch a  good print on TCM network.  These lead is played by very capable slightly young Cagney looking Eric Linden as Eddie Brand.     Brand is  hard working, cookies and milk eating kind of guy that in  in love with the pretty neighborhood gal  Mary (Rochelle Hudson) .

Brand is  studious and caring as he lives  with his Grandmother (Beryl Mercer)     Naturally that changes that changes as  times  are tough to get ahead plus falling under the  influence of  drinking, smoking partying all night friends  and of course a  girl named  Flo Carnes played by Arline Judge.  The  result is  tragedy, thrill seeking pursuit of  all that is lazy resulting  in   a death and disintegration of a family.

 

Eric Linden at times can be  to innocent for some people yet he does  fit the bill well as  he  struts around the  dance floors  and restaurants with his buddies and  Flo Carnes and her  friends on his arm.  In spite of everything  Brand  returns home to eat his cookies and milk provided by his Grandmother in spite of stinking of booze and perfume.

 

The love interest in the  form of  the  “Good  girl” Mary ( Christian religious influence in the name except if  you were MIDNIGHT MARY  made in 1933) with Loretta Young)  doesn’t get much screen time except to establish her sanctity of  soul.  Brands Grand mother and  her plus  Brand’s Little brother Bobby (Billy Butts) watch the gradual changes happen.  What makes this picture compelling is the totally plausible  relationships that evolve and in this case devolve toward the  conclusion.

You have the  Eddie Brand /Mary relationship that changes to the Brand/Flo couple plus her friends  Maybelle known as  Giggles ( Roberta Gale) and Agnes known as  Dumbell (Mary Kornman) add to that the male friends Nick Crosby ( Ben Alexander) and  Bennie Gray (Bobby Quirk) that  urge  each other on to all sorts  of bad  decisions.  Each works in this small film without large name actors or faces which in this case  tend to give it the ‘every person’ look  and feel. This could and  did happen on any street in any  city if you stray from the beaten path of solid work.

The stakes get more as  Brand forsakes staying in to prove  ‘he is not a baby anymore’ finally spending the most of one snowy  night 1930’s style effects included in the embrace of Flo only to return to cookies. Not to be  outdone the  thrill seekers search out more liquor from a neighborhood store of family Heine friend played by William Orlamond with tragic  results for all.

 

 

The prison moments hold together well  even on par  with the stunning ending moments from  ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938).   Tearful moments between younger  brothers  and  Grandmother played well together.  The best if  not slightly over dramatic moment is Eddie Brand walking towards his fate and  the slight dissolve technique used in the background.  You don’t get  the  big speech or needless preaching of what we all know is about to happen you just get the cold hard facts of the fate.

 

 

Disturbing moments  in the  courtroom scenes as all must testify to the events  that occurred. Wesley Ruggles and the  Writer Howard Estabrook chose to make the owner of  the  Drinking and dancing establishment that is the focal point of these  events  an  Asian named Sam Kong (James Wang). It is as  if no ‘White person’ would allow these  kids  to do their nocturnal activities but  the  nefarious foreigner.   One wonders in this age of non Asians playing Asians that they chose a  real  Asian actor to do this.    Kind of not  putting forth a positive image while staying true  to race.

ARE THESE OUR CHILDREN (1932)  is a  solid “B” picture  filled with good performances, lovely street scene work especially at night in the  snow.  The  cast works  well together forming  strong if  slightly cliche relationships all to tell a  story we have seen before.  Yet  watch the cast work together  is  the  treat in itself with sexual innuendos  like Flo remarking to Eddie that he doesn’t  wear and undershirt as  she  blows  down his chest after  dancing.      Good  picture, hard to  see  but well worth it.

 

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MY WICKED WICKED WAYS: The Legend of Errol Flynn (1985)

Firstly I can say  that I am a  big Errol Flynn  fan who doesn’t  think he  has gotten what he deserves   in terms of  recognition from Hollywood.   That doesn’t  cloud me in thinking that everything a  “Star” did was correct or wonderful that it  deserves  to be  given its  due.   This Don Taylor  Directed MY WICKED  WICKED  WAYS (1985) made for  TV  film  was an attempt to use  some  of Flynn’s  self penned   biography of the same  name as  source material.   Good  attempt that falls short.

Don Taylor  who Directed and  also listed as  writer for this  had a huge career as an actor in  films  like  STALAG 17  to Directing for  Television in a  number of  series  like  BURKE’S LAW  and THE WILD WILD  WEST. Taylor is well versed in the medium of  directing for the small screen and  handling fast moving story. If that was a decision as a  Writer or  Director this picture ignores many of  Flynn’s live moments in favor of focus on Lili Damita .

Flynn is  played  by Lethbridge  Alberta Canada born  Duncan Regehr  who has a slight  facial resemblance.  He also has  the physical background  as he was a champion skater when he was  young so  comfortable with the  athletic aspects  of  Flynn’s roles.   Regehr is also large  in body  to  Flynn who was  thinner but  you cant have everything.

Sadly missing are  Flynn’s real life moments  with Olivia de Havilland  played   quite well yet all to brief by Lee Purcell.

Lili Damita  is portrayed by Barbara Hershey who once  again has  physical resemblance again one  cant have it all when casting these.   The accent  she  tries through out is pretty much a  caricature  which does get in the  way of  her speech.

MY WICKED WICKED  WAYS  has  some other not some large roles that are actually better then the  two leads  the  first  is  Hal Linden as  Jack Warner. Linden  has  the age  and  the  background to pull this off  with relish yet  what is missing and  only hinted  at in the  screenplay  was  the actual fiery confrontations between  Warner  and  Flynn. Linden and  Regehr never  really  get the opportunity to  unleash.   Missing also  is  Flynn’s  utter contempt for  authority in any form  that he manifested  with his dislike for  Warner and the studio system in general.

The oddest role is  Darrin McGavin as  Dr. Gerrit Koets a  sort of German or  Austrian adventurer which is a corruption of  Flynn’s  real life  companion Dr Herman Erben who is  said to have been working for the  S.S.   This  was used in screenplay to not  draw attention  at the  time  Charles Higham wrote a controversial, unproven book ERROL FLYNN THE UNTOLD STORY  claiming Flynn was a Nazi  during the  Second World War.

Englishman Barry Ingham  does a  good turn as John Barrymore  in some wonderful scenes notably missing is frequent urination on the  Muholland Drive house fireplace.  There is a  delightful silly moment when Barrymore’s corpse is stolen for night of  fun which did happen.

Inaccuracies abound in MY WICKED WICKED WAYS not doubt many I am  did not see.  Firstly was  the  total omission of actor Alan Hale was  one of  Flynn’s greet buddies on and off the screen.  John Huston was not present  nor is  the  very famous punch up the two actually had at a party  that ran all over the property sending both to hospital.  David Niven is nowhere to be seen also since  both he  and  Flynn moved into together calling their home  “Cirrhosis  by the  Sea”

The sets are  slightly off in that  I do not believe Lili Damitia  had that style of  living arrangements  similar  to  Jean Harlow.   Mulholland house  was not  white inside it  was  wood grain through out with book cases filled  with literature.   Missing most  is the  thunderous arguments  between Errol and Lili that made them known as  the   “Fighting Flynn’s’ along with the  “Battling Bogart’s’.

MY WICKED  WICKED  WAYS ; THE LEGEND OF ERROL FLYNN is an attempt that falls  short. Too much  silly comedy and   poor characters other than the ones I mentioned. Situations are  deeply fictionalized  to the point of  what  is this about.   If  you can get by Duncan Regehr’s high pitched nasal tone in accent  you can enjoy this more. Like the book perhaps this is the best form for the story as  it was thought to be a fabrication of a  drug addled mind.    Still enjoyable if  not for the attempt. Now bring on  Kevin Cline and a proper production of this varied life.  Then again  the  title  does  say “Legend”

SHIP OF FOOLS (1965)

 These epic  pictures like ITS A MAD  MAD MAD  MAD  WORLD  (1965) also a  Stanley Kramer film  along with  HOW THE WEST WAS  WON (1962)  all make  for interesting watching.  Many things happen in these pictures or should happen that  make them special .    While  SHIP OF  FOOLS (1965) has been called  the  GRAND HOTEL (1932) on a  ship however I  found  it different in style and  content.

SHIP OF  FOOLS is a stark story dealing with people figuratively trapped on ship bound for the  unknown of  what was to become  Nazi Germany.  The story was  adapted by Katherine Anne  Porter’s  voluminous  novel was  adapted to the screen by none other than Abby Mann.   Mann was more  suited  to gritty investigative dramas usually and  cracking dialogue involving the police  or lawyers in some shape as  JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961) and being the creator  of  TV series KOJACK with Telly Savalas  are in his past and future.

The  film is  book ended by the  character of Karl Glocken played by small actor Michael Dunn for  which he  received a  Academy award nomination  for best supporting actor.   Glocken breaks the  “fourth wall”  setting  the  audience up with the mood onboard ship. Later in the picture  Glocken discusses the ways  of  German music with fellow staunch yet funny Heinz Ruhman who has a  snoring  problem that completely irritates his  forced bunk mate.

SHIP OF  FOOLS  use “fade to black” technique in between moments which gives  an  almost “French New wave”  feel  or  late  twenties to  early  thirties Hollywood when they didn’t  have any other transition techniques or camera movement.  This is enhanced by SHIP OF FOOLS being photographed in Black and White by Ernest Laszlo.  Mr Laszlo was the  cinematographer for  JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961): BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL (1965) and Kramer’s  ITS A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (1965)  among his large award winning credits.

What makes  SHIP OF FOOLS so watchable is the cast as  they all try to find Love in some form as they sail into the darkness  of  what was  wartime Germany.  You have Vivian Leigh her final on screen performance as  Mary Treadwell.

Treadwell is older woman feeling that years and  her torment of  a life passing.  She  refused  companionship offer Ltd Hubner played  by Werner Klemperer

Klemperer would be sent his own “doom” playing Colonel Klink in  TV series HOGAN’S HEROS.

Desperate to be  loved  again is some form as  she  paints her travesty of the makeup worn by the young Spanish women aboard ship  only to have a  surprise nocturnal visitor.

Simone Signoret as a  drug addicted Cuban Countess Le Condesa being sent to prison in Spain.

Jose ferrer as a  German Siegfred  Rieber who spouts prejudicial remarks yet claims  to pitifully ‘Need Love”  while laying in a  hammock with Lizzi  (Christiana Schmidtmer).

Elizabeth Ashley as Jenny and  George Segal as  David; a couple also need  a version of  love  that either of them seem capable of  giving.

Many other performances stand out as  each  gets a moment such as  Gila Golan as seventeen year old Elsa who is upset that no one wants to dancer with her because of how she looks much to the surprise of her parents.

Two performances for me  steal the  film and that is  the interaction between Simone  Signoret Countess La  Condesa and Oskar Werner as  Ship Doctor Schuman.

Werner’s  Schuman is a married crusading medical person concerned with the oppression of  people.  He is the one  who advocates  turning hoses on the poor people in steerage to cool them  during a  heat wave.

He also falls in love with the  Countess as  is  called  to  treat here which is  doomed as both must part as they have  duty and  obligation to  fulfill.     Their relationship features  some  amazingly subtle moments of character and acting especially when they must part.

George Segal as David is an all consumed  artist who demands  from his girlfriend played  by Elizabeth Ashley that  his work be all important.

They  reconcile on very  treacherous  grow but only after a moment of truth has both passed  through them.    Everyone wants love  on this ship be it paid  by money  or by the heart.

Lee Marvin is a total slime ball American Bill Tenny who is out for anything he can get out of women yet as he  said  He  can’t hit a baseball.   Tenny is  actually bested by Vivian Leigh as  Mary Treadwell in a moment  you will not soon forget.

 

SHIP OF  FOOLS has  compelling character if not  slightly  jaded outlook on Love  as one floats voluntarily towards oblivion. Whether its  Art, Music, carving of a figure,  denied love  because  you cant pay or  simply happiness  it  all has a price that is paid  here.  Each  find a  type of release, each loses something of themselves on the  trip to a land that one would lose a lot more.

BOURBON AND FILM

Humphrey Bogart once said that the problem with the world is that it is always “a  few drinks behind”.

Vice has been an admirable subject of film.   We all pay to see a downfall or a redemption of some style.   Today that has changed for obvious shadowy reasons for the better. There are many destructive cases as we all know from Rosco “Fatty” Arbuckle trials of which he was acquitted yet the ‘taint” destroyed his career.

 

 

It is odd that a feeling can destroy a  film actors career yet certain politicians can have their ‘indiscretions’  even when  publicly stated be glossed  over.   One would think emphasis should be  on the  person in a responsible position not something as perhaps inconsequential as a  film actor.

The studios has  their ‘Fixers’ in the person of  Eddie Mannix and company perhaps there are others in motion today?  Countless  events  covered  up from Stars to contract players going to hospitals or  ‘away” due to exhaustion.

 

Actor Lionel Atwill known as ‘Pinky’ to his friends took the blame as a  ‘gentleman” for an event at one of his parties so a  ‘Well known’ persons would not be implicated.  The result was  a destroyed career very likely the admiration of the  film Colony.

I do enjoy the ‘amber liquid’ in a proper glass often when viewing film at home.  It sets the tone often as  I slip into the world of Film Noir or other picture.  The consuming of liquor has been a catalyst in Classic Hollywood since they were known as the “flickers.”  W. C. Fields stealing a nip from a flask. You have Henry Fonda pouring a shot for Victor Mature, Tyrone Power slamming down gin from NIGHTMARE ALLEY, and James Dean drinking from a bottle of milk from REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE because both he and his character did not touch alcohol.  The  ‘color’ booze  gives Bogart’s character of  Charlie Alnutt  in  THE AFRICAN QUEEN

Booze has been the great trigger for stories of the gangster from silent film to today. Without drink you would not have the “hood” that rises to the top during prohibition. No Cagney, no Raft, no Muni, no Eddie G. laying on the pavement clutching his chest exclaiming, “Is this the end of Rico?” in LITTLE CAESAR.

 

Where would Rick’s Place in CASABLANCA (1942) be without drink?  Ray Milland would not have had been on THE LOST WEEKEND (1945). Jack Lemon and Lee Remick would not have experienced THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (1962). Lee Marvin’s character Kid Shellen in CAT BALLOU (1965) would not have been as interesting.

 

 

 

Miriam would not have lost her mountain bar in the fire during the drinking contest in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981).  Where would James Bond be without his knowledge of wines and Scotch whiskey?  Where would Nick, Nora and Asta (their dog) of the THIN MAN series be without potent potables?  The list goes on and on with the same conclusion of not being as fun to watch. Society is against drinking to excess yet we do enjoy watching the train wreck of alcohol and people.  Clark Gable’s legendary appetite  for whiskey  took away  some of  the inner pain

 

 

Actors on screen- whether we like it or not- have taught us how to drink. Some watch the elegance of John Barrymore,  Errol Flynn, David Niven, Franchot Tone, William Powell, Clifton Webb .  Women get their due with Joan Crawford in RAIN (1932) , Susan Hayward in  SMASH UP THE STORY OF A WOMAN (1947)  plus Anne Dvorak in THREE ON A MATCH (1932).

Women have been portrayed as fallen or evil when booze is involved which is a double standard; witness Dvorak’s portrayal of the doomed Vivian Revere.  Women who drink and are not “good mothers” will suffer consequences from the Law or by God.

 

Just pick a year if you are lucky enough to  attend and you see people at the TCM FILM FESTIVAL dressing the part of Hollywood Glamour which adds a nice touch to things.  Yes, the materials to do this have changed, fabrics have changed, and knowledge to do this has changed. Some has been lost or adapted to today’s audience.  Why try and recapture something as elusive as Hollywood Glamour when it means different things to different people?  You can see it in different looks at the Academy Awards red carpet.  We should move forward towards our own images of glamour be it in nightlife, eatery or stepping out in clothes.  The classic clothes or look, the drinks, the manners, are sometimes neglected by people of both sexes as it’s not a thing to do.  The audiences, the public is different now and so is society.

 

 

The Legendary watering holes of old Hollywood are gone replaced by newer places that seem slightly disposable or cookie cutter in approach. A club or an Eatery is just bricks, or in some cases prefab bits of wood it is the atmosphere and more importantly the people that make it different or unique.  This not a lament for the old days more a “Things have changed” and that’s okay.

Order your poison well if you care to.