From the black-and-white silent screen classics of the 1920′s to the glorious color productions of the 1950′s – these were Hollywood’s greatest decades.
Explore early Hollywood film history and the wonderful Hollywood Movie Memories that were created, as this was a time when both Hollywood and its stars were their most glamorous.
Continue reading for a brief primer of each of the featured film decades, with the films suggested for viewing those that I feel offer an accurate representation of each film genre for each year during this historic period in Hollywood.
Starring – Tyrone Power (Stanton “Stan” Carlisle), Joan Blondell (Zeena Krumbein), Coleen Gray (Molly Carlisle), Helen Walker (Lilith Ritter).
Description – He was all things to all men …but only one thing to all women!
Small-time huckster Stan Carlisle has taken a job, with a traveling carnival, as an assistant to Mademoiselle Zeena and her husband Pete. At one time, Zeena and Pete, who work a very impressive mind-reading act, only worked with the top carnival’s as the top-billed act.
Then, something happened. Zeena has committed an offense that drove her husband to drink. So much so that his alcoholism has reduced their act to now only third-rate carnivals. While the act itself has fallen, the elaborate word code secret that sells audiences on Zeena’s psychic ability is worth its weight in gold.
This fact has not escaped the notice of Stan. Many have tried to buy the secret from Zeena, but she has refused, wanting to sell only when she and Pete retire. The amoral Stan tries to romance Zeena into giving him the secret, but she resists believing that after their life in the carney she will send Pete to an alcoholic rehab facility and they can begin a new life.
It is now that fate decides to take an ugly turn. One evening, in Texas, while Pete and Stan are together, Stan gives a bottle to Pete. The bottle, wood alcohol and not moonshine, poisons Pete killing him.
After the death of her husband, Zeena, in an effort to keep the psychic act going, tells the secret of the acts success to Stan so that he may continue in the role of her assistant. Stan so efficiently learns the mind-reading secrets that he begins to hatch a plan of his own.
Stan focuses his attention on young Molly, convincing her that his only interest in Zeena was to get the code, and seduces her. This does not sit well with the other members of the carnival, who like Molly, and insist, “shotgun wedding” style, that Stan marry Molly and that he is no longer welcome to remain with the carnival.
This is no disappointment for Stan and he has much greater ambitions. He starts a show of his own and assumes the identity of “The Great Stanton,” someone with the ability to communicate with the dead.
Working with the assistance of crooked psychologist Lilith Ritter, who gives Stan information regarding her patients, it isn’t long before “The Great Stanton” is playing the top nightclubs.
Stan’s fraudulent act sets it’s sights on a path to swindle wealthy Ezra Grindle. Complications ensue, Stan may just find himself the target of a scam while developing an alcohol problem of his own. Molly will refuse to participate in Stan’s heartless scheme, while Lilith Ritter proves to be even more crooked than she appears.
If only this phony psychic could have seen his own future.
NOTABLE: The role of Stan Carlisle was a successful attempt by Tyrone Power to escape being typecast as just a romantic, swashbuckler in film.
To lend authenticity to the picture, the producers build a full-size carnival on the Fox back lot and hired over 100 actual carnival acts and workers.
Initially, the film had very limited box office success, partly due to content that was considered too scandalous. Over time, acclaim grew and Nightmare Alley is now considered a film noir classic.
September, 1947 – Life With Father has delighted audiences on Broadway for 3,224 performances and now the long-running comedy has come to the big screen.
Warner Brothers has beautifully produced a Technicolor re-creation of the successful stage production that can now be enjoyed by viewers nationwide. Directed, with a light touch, by Michael Curtiz, and starring William Powell , Irene Dunne, and a young Elizabeth Taylor, the completed film is both heartwarming and totally charming.
An 1880′s New York slice-of-life film about the Day family who are led by the headstrong William Powell, his wife played by Irene Dunne and their four children. A budding young romance for the family’s oldest son and the seemingly impossible task of getting the stubborn Mr. Day finally baptized is based on an original series of articles written by Clarence Day, Jr. as a tribute to his father.
The screen version of Life With Father has matched the stage play and is nothing less than a warm, witty, nostalgic, turn-of-the-century pleasure
Starring – William Powell (Clarence Day, Sr.), Irene Dunne (Vinnie Day), Elizabeth Taylor (Mary Skinner), Edmund Gwenn (Rev. Dr. Lloyd), ZaSu Pitts (Cousin Cora Cartwright).
Description – Here for all!! All the happiness of the play that ran longer, with the laughs that were louder than any known before!
This is the true story of straight-laced stockbroker Clarence Day and his attempts to run his household as efficiently as he does his business.
This approach pleases no one, especially the family servants. Clarence’s outbursts over even the smallest of infractions have the staff terrified. Even the charm and sweetness of Clarence’s wife Vinnie can’t get a maid to last any longer than three days.
Mr. and Mrs. Day have four redheaded sons, the oldest of which, Clarence Jr., is headed for Yale. Son John fashions himself a bit of an inventor. while Whitney is struggling to learn his catechism. Harlan, the youngest of the clan, is interested in little more than his dog.
Clarence has more than a few quirks, one being his dislike of having company. So, Vinnie has kept it a secret that their cousin Cora Cartwright, and her young companion, Mary Skinner, will be visiting for a week and that she has promised them that Clarence will take them to a special dinner at Delmonico’s restaurant.
The visit provides the unexpected situation of Clarence, Jr. developing a crush on young Mary. A religious conversation between the two young people reveals that Mary is a Methodist while the Day family are Episcopalian.
While this is no big deal to the couple, one other fact comes to light. Apparantly, Clarence, Sr. has never been baptized. This upsets Vinnie who insists that Clarence be baptized so that the two will be reunited in the afterlife. Clarence refuses stating that, although unbaptized, God would never refuse his entry into heaven. However, this matter is far from unsettled.
Meanwhile, another battle is being fought as Clarence, Jr. bounces back-and-forth in his efforts to impress Mary and desperately needs a new suit. Comedic charm and sweetness abound as Vinnie’s efforts to get Clarence baptized intensify and Clarence, Jr. conspires with brother John to earn enough money for that new suit and win the heart of Mary.
NOTABLE: Life with Father received four Oscar nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role (William Powell), Best Cinematography, Color, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color, and Best Music Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.
The film was based on a stage play that ran for 3,224 performances and held the record for the longest non-musical run on Broadway. The play still stands as the sixteenth longest running Broadway production in history.
Silent screen legend Mary Pickford, after a thirteen year absense, was to have made her big screen comeback in the role of Vinnie, but Irene Dunne was given the role due to her current box-office appeal.
Starring – William Powell (Nick Charles), Myrna Loy (Nora Charles), Keenan Wynn (Clarence ‘Clinker’ Krause), Dean Stockwell (Nick Charles, Jr.),
Description – Powell, Loy, Asta, and “Little Nickey” together again in a new MGM mystery, comedy!
Phil Brandt and Janet Thayar are sponsoring a charity benefit aboard the S. S. Fortune. The couple have recently eloped due to the fact that Janet’s father does not approve of Phil’s lower class background.
The entertainment for the benefit is provided by Tommy Drake’s jazz band featuring singer Fran Page and clarinetist Buddy Hollis. In attendance are Nick and Nora Charles. During the event, Tommy Drake gives a disappointed Phil Brandt the news that he is quitting having received a better offer.
Also at the gala is gangster Al Amboy who is very interested in the news that Drake is leaving. You see, Drake owes Amboy $12,000. This is where things get a little sticky. Amboy demands full payment that evening from Drake who has no money. Desperate, Drake sneaks into Brandt’s office to steal the money from his safe. While doing so, he is shot dead.
The morning after the murder, Phil and Janet show up at the apartment of Nick and Nora looking for help. The police believe Phil to be the prime suspect in the killing and he insists that he is innocent. A shot is fired that just misses Phil without anyone seeing where the shot came from. Nick decides to turn Phil over to the police where they can keep him safe until Nick has a chance to investigate.
Sneaking aboard the S. S. Fortune, Nick finds a piece of sheet music where the back was used a receipt. It is signed by Al Amboy and states that Drake’s debt has been paid in full. After speaking with the musican’s in the band, Nick learns that Drake had many enemies who would benefit from his death including clarinetist Hollis and Drake’s girlfriend Fran.
The bullet that killed Drake came from an antique gun and Nick decides to question Janet about her father’s antique gun collection. Sure enough… one gun from the collection is missing.
Janet then receives a call from Fran who offers to sell her some information that would clear Phil. Nick and Nora follow Janet to Fran’s apartment where Janet finds Fran dead from a stab wound to her back.
It looks as though the investigation is one step behind a killer who is trying to cover all his tracks.
NOTABLE: Song of the Thin Man was the sixth and final installment of the very popular Thin Man series of films and the thirteenth of fourteen films pairing William Powell and Myrna Loy.
This motion picture was only the second in the series not directed by W. S. Van Dyke who had died in 1943. Also, the script was one of two not written by the husband and wife team of Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, who had worked with crime author Dashiell Hammett on the creation and development of the Nick and Nora Charles characters.
Description – Two of a kind!… Tough!… Torrid!… Terrific!
Vincent Parry, convicted of murdering his wife, has just escaped from San Quentin prison by stowing away in a garbage truck. He is out to prove his innocence.
Eluding police, Parry hitches a ride with a man named Baker. While driving, a radio broadcast announces the escape and Baker realizes that he may have given a lift to the escaped convict. His suspicions provoke Parry into knocking him out and stealing his clothes. While attempting to hide the unconscious Baker, and planning to steal his car, another motorist stops.
Painter Irene Jansen, who somehow knows Parry’s name, offers to help him. She brings Vincent to her San Francisco apartment and tells him that she had followed his trial very closely and believes him to be innocent. She goes on to tell him that her father was also wrongly convicted of his wife’s murder and ended up dying in prison.
Irene goes out to buy some new clothes for Vincent while he remains in her apartment. There is a knock at the door and a woman asks for Irene. Vincent, without opening the door, tells her that Irene is not home. This, however, was not just any woman’s voice. Vincent recognizes the voice to be Madge Rapf, a former flame, who testified against Vincent at his trial. This coincidence is more than a little too suspicious.
When Irene returns, Vincent asks about her relationship with Madge. Irene tells him that she is dating Madge’s former friend Bob. This explanation raises more questions then it answers for Vincent.
Later that evening, Vincent leaves Irene’s apartment to begin his search for evidence that might help clear him. He is picked up by a taxi driven by a man named Sam who also recognizes Vincent and is sympathic to his situation.
Sam tells Vincent that he can’t successfully search to clear his name with a face that just about anyone in the city will know. He suggests Vincent see Dr. Walter Coley, a plastic surgeon, who can alter his appearance.
Vincent agrees to the idea and arranges to stay with his only friend George Fellsinger while he heals from the surgery. Dr. Coley performs the operation and Vincent, with his face wrapped in bandages and unable to speak, returns to George’s apartment. When arriving he finds his friend dead.
Vincent returns to Irene’s apartment noticing Baker’s car parked outside. Too weak to think of this as anything other than a coincidence he collapses at her door. Irene brings him inside and begins to nurse him back to health.
It isn’t long before Vincent and Irene learn that he is now suspected of murdering George Fellsinger.
Once healed, Vincent checks into a hotel using the name Alan Lynell. He has been followed and is soon accosted by Baker who demands $60,000 in blackmail money to keep quiet. Vincent tells Baker that he has no money, but Baker informs him that Irene is wealthy and he can get the money from her. If Vincent does this, Baker will get him a fake passport.
While driving to Irene’s apartment, Vincent overcomes Baker and questions him. Baker tells him that he was followed by someone in an orange convertable when Vincent went to his friend George’s apartment.
Another struggle ensues between the two men and Baker falls over a cliff to his death. Now, not only will Vincent have to prove innocent of killing his wife, but also innocent of George’s murder and now Baker.
It’s beginning to look as if Vincent was better off in San Quentin. And as for Irene Jansen, her sympathy for Vincent’s dilemma is a mask for an agenda all her own.
NOTABLE: Dark Passage was the third of four films made by husband and wife Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
This was the first motion picture where Humphrey Bogart would wear a full hairpiece. Bogart’s hair, at this time, was rapidly falling out due to a severe vitamin deficiency.
Dark Passage is notable for the first third of the film being shot from the point of view of Bogart’s character. His unseen face is not seen clearly until the scene where he removes the bandages from his charactor’s plastic surgery and looks into a mirror.
At the time of the films production, Humphrey Bogart was Hollywood’s highest-paid actor earning in the neighborhood of $450,000 a year.