DR MONICA (1934)

STARDUST AND SHADOWS has a great affection for  Pre-code dramas as most watchers of these style of pictures have. Classic pre-code period being from 1925 to 1934 produced so deliciously seditious works before  the Hays code came into effect.  DR. MONICA made back in 1934 was  at the end of this cycle has two of the  very best actors in the person of Kay Francis and Warren William.

DR. MONICA: Directed by Warner Brothers work horses William Keighley and  an  uncredited  William Dieterle with an  adapted script by Charles Kenyon who also wrote other  pre-code films  such as OFFICE WIFE (1930) and  PARTY HUSBAND (1931). Kenyon who was apparently good at adapting plays to the  screen  (DR. MONICA was originally a polish stage play) also scripted the  debatable misfire of   the  Warner Brothers  version of A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS  DREAM (1934) with likes of James  Cagney and Mickey Rooney spouting Shakespeare dialogue in a forest in an  attempt to bring “Prestige” to the studio.  William Dieterle  was also in the  Directors  chair  for that picture. Watch it  at  your peril.

The  story is direct and simple  of that  of a  female Obstetrician played  by Kay Francis in the  title role  which of course was limited by 1930’s standards  of  female occupations delivers a child of a patient even as she knows it was was fathered by her husband played  by Warren William in an affair.

Kay Francis literally glides through the opening party scenes with assurance even to the point of adding a  little  “finger waggle” business  to an off screen acquaintance.  Dr Monica Braden is played as being totally devoted to her  husband and  selfless in here medical work often doing long hours.   Warren William who plays  John Braden is a  best selling  globe  trotting author working on a book for  his publisher.   Little does the audience  know of  the  peccadillo   that Warren  William who does  dastardly subtly   well  in both  body language  and  speech pattern until  the  audience meets Mary Hathaway played  by Jean Muir.

Hathaway is  at party at the  Braden residence when she collapses after being asked to play the piano.  Good  Dr. Monica begins to offer her add and  thus  starts the  unraveling of the mystery all in 60 plus minutes.

You can watch Kay Francis change Dr Monica as  she becomes cold  yet  still offers aid  due to her  oath as a physician for  Hathaway.  The  controversy which made this  so censurable to the audience  at the time was that Dr Monica rejects helping Hathaway  and  the  child painting  the Medical world in a bad light. She is  set straight by a literal ‘slap in the face ” by Verree Teasdale  playing  Anna  Littlefield who reminds her of  her  duty.   Dr Monica even demands  that the  child be  “kept out of her  sight” which was unsettling for the 1930’s institution  of Motherhood. The other irony is  that Dr Monica Braden was a  child by her  husband and expresses  it to him.   There is much going on in this picture as  you have a female doctor which was unheard or limited as 1930’s occupations gave females the  choice of  home maker, secretary or  store clerk.  To  top it off we have a  woman rejecting the  act of being a Mother when the  child is  at first abhorred.

The  ending which puts everything right by Hollywood standard was some what  dramatic   yet it  fit the times.   Through it  all you get flawless performance  from Kay Francis (Brilliant  wardrobe as usual) Warren  William,  Jean Muir, Veree Teasdale, and the others in the small effective cast.  Barbara Stanwyck was to be the Dr. Monica as her star was  rising yet  Kay Francis  does the role justice  as  she had  already played  a female  physician  in MARY STEVEN  M.D (1934) also for  Warner Brothers.

DR. MONICA is  an excellent example of  pre-code women’s  view in the  cinema at that  time.  This of course all changed with the coming of  the  code which made the  screenwriters less direct yet still  risque.  DR MONICA (1934) runs just over 60 mins and is  well worth a look if not just for the acting of  the entire cast.

 

 

 

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THE YOUNG DOCTORS (1961)

THE YOUNG DOCTORS made back in 1964 is a  watershed of dramatic talent and performance. None more so then screen veteran Fredric March as aged Head Pathologist Doctor Joseph Pearson who clashes with new ways and  attitudes personified by Ben Gazzara’s character Doctor David Coleman  The  story is  not new yet the way it is handled with  60’s sensitivity is.

In perspective: this was the  ‘Golden Age” of medical television shows such as  BEN CASEY  and  DOCTOR KILDARE both (1961-1966).  DOCTOR KILDARE character has been around for  a while in a series of pictures  in the late  1930  and  40’s.  The 1960’s of course was also the age of ‘The Pill”  and  the beginnings of  Test Tube baby research plus abortion issue.  The  fallout  if  you will  from the  ‘Free Love’ attitude that was  to come.

The script was written by Arthur Hailey and  filmed as  NO DEADLY MEDICINE which was broadcast as  a 1957 television play starring William Shatner in the  Gazzara  role and Lee J Cobb in the  Fredric March part. Hailey also adapted  the script for the 1959 novel “THE FINAL DIAGNOSIS”.

 

Fredric March did intense research in the ways of a pathologist for the role studying procedures and  methods of  dissection. The brain used  in the above clip is an actual human brain that was  substituted at the last moment. Apparently the Director  Phil Karlson made the switch and  whispered the fact to March before filming the scene resulting in an impassioned  subtle moment.

This picture is filled  with wonderful supporting performances such as  romantic interest Ina Balin  a  student  nurse Cathy Hunt who’s conflict becomes central to the plot.

 

You will also find Eddie Albert  as Dr. Charles Dornberger who is close friend of Doctor Joseph Pearson in fact even makes himself the  ‘Peacemaker”  who changes.  Screen veteran Aline MacMahon who has  done so many pictures  from musicals in the  1930’s to  Film Noir in the  1950’s  to  Westerns as  feisty Dr. Lucy Grainger.

The  picture rights  were bought by none other  than Dick Clark best known as host of  ‘American Bandstand” who has a dramatic role as  a young doctor  who’s wife played  by  Phyllis Love is about to have their first child of which they suspect complications.

THE  YOUNG DOCTORS (1961) was  just one of the  1960’s pictures  to look at medicine and the  personal lives of people.   It still handles the somewhat dated  subject matter with  style  and acting skills.

 

The ‘Other King of Hollywood” King Vidor

The style of Director King Vidor has fascinated in the way he handles story and actors. Vidor had  a long career beginning in 1913 all the way up to 1980 in a  variety of  genres yet always with a way of making actors and story fit well against a large backdrop such as  modern society or rural life.  THE  CROWD is a brilliant piece of  film making in general be it  silent or  sound.  The story of a  man and  woman trying to succeed in a  corporate  world   that   influenced  BRAZIL (1985)

Vidor also made  THE BIG PARADE(1928( which was one of  John Gilbert’s  finest performances in what was  one of  cinema’s pivotal War  films.

The  penultimate for many  was  the all black musical Hallelujah (1929)  showcasing  some brilliant song and dance but people  who simply would not have gotten a chance

This is  just a  capsule look at King Vidor’s contribution  to Hollywood.  Seeks his name  out on the  credits it is usually  displayed  well above  the  credits  in posters  and  on screen.   You will be engrossed, entertained  and intrigued  all the same time. Find  his  work  and watch  it  for  flow  and  story.

THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES (1941)

This picture Directed by Sam Wood for RKO STUDIOS is an odd film to view.  Not so much because of the  story which is of a Millionaire goes undercover at his own store to find the people responsible for hanging his effigy from a  street light as protest but  because of the main characters.

It follows  the genre of  the ‘Oppressed workers  against big business” which would  follow with other films giving rise  to what some would later  say were communist throughs

Actor Charles Coburn who’s distinctive speech style reminds me of  Fred Mac Murray in MY THREE SONS on television in the 1960’s(William Demarest who played “Uncle Charlie” in MY THREE SONS when William Frawley left is also in this  film in small role) to  chirpy, crusading Jean Arthur have this low  key chemistry that did not seem to make the picture go.

NIGHT FLIGHT (1933)  made by Clarence Brown and  starred  Clark Gable, Helen Hayes, Lionel Barrymore, Robert Montgomery and Myrna Loy with a powerhouse story of flying serum over mountains  also suffered  from something not quite right feeling and  did not  do well.

The DEVIL IN MISS JONES features  dialogue which  very pointed and  exploitative almost one could say preachy in its  tone especially towards the  end .  The picture also opens with a contrived  Devil and  Hell fire prologue featuring  Jean Arthur.  Through the  film: Arthur does  her best as  the oppressed worker of  a  large  Department store who unknowingly befriends her undercover boss  on his mission.

What does lift the film is the  work of  screen  veteran Spring Byington as the older store  employee Elizabeth Ellis who becomes a love interest.  Her quiet mannered ways and  voice  add a  sincerity to the story as  boyish Robert Montgomery crashes about the beach scenes.

 

The  Coney Island  war time  crowded  beach  moments  really do add  a  different look to beach recreation.   People literally upon people in the sand trying to get  some  recreation  followed  by some  comedy bits  with Charles Coburn in a beach shop.

THE  DEVIL  AND MISS JONES  gave  Charles Coburn a Best Supporting actor nomination for the Academy awards along with Norman Krasna for best Original Screenplay

S. Z.  Sakall  is  a  standout in limited screen time as  the  butler of  Charles  Coburns  character.   Its a shame he did not get chance to play the role of the millionaire owner but he  was not a  box office star.

THE  DEVIL AND MISS JONES works on a  different  level due  it odd interaction  so settle back in your slippers you just bought: relax  and  see it  for  yourself. You will not need a  receipt.

ALL THAT JAZZ (1979)

STARDUST AND SHADOWS is currently enjoying the MAD  ABOUT MUSICALS free online course presented by Ball State University and  TCM.   In keeping with that theme, my brain went back to  the Bob Fosse Directed  film ALL THE JAZZ which perhaps will get mentioned in this course.

ALL THAT JAZZ is a huge favorite of mine since it  came out in the  theatre.  I have seen it many time and  still marvel at the sheer audacity of it’s  story,  the  musical numbers and  the  thought  of  choreographing one’s  death on stage and  screen

The picture  stars  non musical Roy Scheider as  self  destructive Theatre Director Joe  Gideon during  his final days.    Scheider gets some high powered Broadway help in the persons  of  Fosse dancer/lover  Ann Reinking  and Leland Palmer  and  Ben Vereen plsu a host of others  that populate this wickedly  cynical music  fantasy.  Without  going into plot: ALL THAT JAZZ features some wonderful  hellish moments  of  venom and  sadness all climaxed with  a  brilliant final musical number.

One  wonders why Bob Fosse  would cast an ex boxer/non musical actor like Roy Scheider in the lead  role but it  succeeds.   Scheider’s weary  face  and laconic delivery of some of the best single lines in the  film make it a  good  choice.  Being an ex fighter Scheider would have the physical look for this look brutal, sweaty world of  Dance and the stage.   Performers,  sweat here,  the  cry here,  the  get injured in both their body and their hearts here. Pills get popped, wine  gets drunk and  relationships mutate. Roy Scheider’s  thin  sinewy frame  seems to hold it all in while reliving his past and  flirting with the embodiment of  Death itself in the person of  white dressed   Jessica  Lange

The  cinematography  of  Italian Giuseppe Rotunno is without a doubt  some of the best to be shot in the small world of the Theatre.   Dark gloss blacks, bright lights, Neon signs. mirrors, smoke plus  brief moments  on the real streets of  New York make it a  real treat. Interesting to  note  that Rotunno also worked on the  1966  disjointed yet notorious  fantasy film CANDY.

The  costumes all work.  The use of  solid black for  Joe Gideon except when he goes outside he wears  white goat.   All the brights and  dark colors have  delicious urban used  feel to them like the characters these people inhabit.

The  crowd  scenes backstage when  Gideon is  confronted by a irrate yet in effective  film producer and is  chastised  for  ‘going over budget on  editing a  movie while  Gideon is  cutting about a stand up Comic routine is priceless.

The music (yes  there are songs)  all fit with  the  Bob Fosse “Jazz Hands”  dance  moves along with the  “Busby Berkeley on speed” inspired  staging.

ALL THAT JAZZ (1979) caused some trouble(Like he didn’t  already have  enough problems) in Director Bob Fosse’s life as it was thought some of the portrayals of the Broadway people particularly the producers hit a little  to close to home.  Then again Fosse  didn’t  seem to care.

ALL THAT JAZZ (1979) is not  ‘happy musical” yet it has  a  strange  uplifting ending.  Very worthy of been scene  again on the wide screen.

 

 

 

 

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CRUEL GUN STORY (1964)

No these are not screen shots from the latest Neo Noir thriller of today but images  from 1964 Japanese picture  CRUEL GUN STORY.   A stylistic heist film made  in response to the coming “Spy Craze”  ignited by  DR NO (1963)  and the subsequent ending of the  Classic Film Noir cycle  in the  early fifties.     This picture was  directed by  Takumi Furukaw who was influence Sejuin  Suzuki to spin out his wonderful TOKYO DRIFTER (1966) and   and BRANDED TO KILL (1967).

These pictures  all feature fast editing,  action, gun play and  girls some  like the  Suzuki films  is  brilliant colors.   There were not well received in their native country when made and  did cost Suzuki his career there which was later  restarted  with more conservative fare.

CRUEL GUN STORY features lead actor   Joe  Shishido who recruits various unsavory types  to perform a bank heist involving the stealing of an armored vehicle.  Flashing guns,  fist fights (although some unconvincing) abound.    What is a highlight  is the  good  use of light and space in the  composed shots even something as  simple as  gravel on a  highway flying up.

Joe Shishido was a  “non descript” leading man in the industry at the time who had an operation  to augment his facial cheeks for more  menace and  distinction.  The idea  worked and  he  went on very long career in film  and  Television is Japan including the  already mention  BRANDED TO KILL (1967)

For an action difference that lead to the creation of the  ‘Hong Kong cool” of  Chow Yun Fat, Jackie Chan  and  Tony Leung why not enjoy this  high octane  blasts.

 

 

GOING HOLLYWOOD (1933)

 

Its summer time (IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME made in 1949) and that means  a  song in  some people’s hearts so why not enjoy a Hollywood musical. Take a  spin through the 1937 Raoul Walsh directed GOING HOLLYWOOD.   The one and only Bing Crosby and Marion  Davies are  featured along with  Canadian Born Fifi D”Orsey ( Born Yvonne Lussier  in Montreal Quebec) and Ned Sparks ( Born Ned Sparkman Guelph Ontario.)

D’ Orsey  has a wonderful musical number  that Sparks interrupts is one of  the  pictures best comic moments.

Bing Crosby makes  this picture  go with his crooning and  his presence.  Crosby was the  top selling male singer  in the  world then and  continued  even  as  rising star Frank Sinatra was  beginning to make  a  dint. Crosby was the  ‘Gold standard” in  radio play, record and sheet music sales plus lifestyle  with his clothes and  cars.

The clip shows  the  wonderful use of  crowds and   control that Raoul Walsh used in this song sequence of Bing’s character leaving for Hollywood.   This played a part in the action sequences Walsh was  to direct later in his career.

Marion Davies who was  William Randolph Hearst’s mistress was cast in an attempt to team here with the huge presence  that was Crosby and others in the picture.  Davis  does a credible job in GOING HOLLYWOOD  yet she appears  out of her  element in the  dance sequences.  She  tried hard and no doubt has  the best  teachers that money could buy to help.

GOING HOLLYWOOD (1937) may seem to be a spectacular musical in the MGM vein was  strong attempt at the formula by Warner Brothers.  The picture lacked  the MGM people behind the cameras and on set yet still worth a look only because it contains Crosby singing his heart out with ease.