Drama


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Heidi

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Heidi

Tagline – Shirley’s A Little Swiss Miss In The Loveliest Story of Her Career!

Starring – Shirley Temple (Heidi), Jean Hersholt (Adolph Kramer), Marcia Mae Jones (Klara Sesemann), Sidney Blackmer (Herr Sesemann), Arthur Treacher (Andrews).

Released – October, 1937

Directed By – Allan Dwan

Produced By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Distributed By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Description – Heidi is a young Swiss orphan girl who is taken by her Aunt Dete to live with her grandfather Adolph Kramer. Aunt Dete will no longer be able to care for Heidi because she has accepted a job offer from a rich family in Frankfurt, Germany.

Neither Heidi, or Adolph are very happy with this new arrangement. Adolph lives alone on a mountain outside the village of Dorflo and has become a bitter recluse since his son had married against Adolph’s wishes.

Initially, Adolph refuses to even speak to Heidi unless it is totally unavoidable and Heidi refers to him only as “the grandfather.” As time passes, the pair gradually grow closer and Adolph finds his love for his granddaughter growing daily.

However, the living arrangement between to two begins to get the attention of the people in the village, with Heidi’s future becoming their primary concern. Pastor Schultz decides to pay a visit. The purpose of the visit is to encourage Adolph to enroll Heidi in the village school and to start bringing her to church.

Still deeply hurt over the loss of his son from his life, Adolph angrily orders the Pastor to leave. Once calm, Adolph realizes that the Pastor’s suggestions are what would be best for the young girl. He brings Heidi to church and the pair are warmly welcomed into the village community.

But, their new found happiness is destined to be short-lived. On Heidi’s eighth birthday, Aunt Dete returns and abducts Heidi. She will take the child back to Frankfurt with her to become the companion of Klara Sesemann, an invalid child whose wealthy, widowed father has gone away on business.

This arrangement does not sit well with the Sesemann’s housekeeper, Fraulein Rottenmeier. It is the intention of the greedy and heartless Rottenmeier that Klara remain ill so that her father will think that the child cannot live without the help of Rottenmeier and may, one day, marry her.

Rottenmeier decides to pay Aunt Dete to return the child, but after Klara insists that Heidi stay she relents. Heidi does wish to return to her grandfather and makes a deal with Klara to stay until her father returns for Christmas in two weeks.

Meanwhile, Rudolph has undertaken the 100 mile journey to Frankfurt on foot to bring home his granddaughter. Christmas Eve arrives and Klara’s father returns to find that, with the help of Heidi, his daughter Klara is learning to walk. He is delighted and totally approving of the two young girls relationship.

As for Fraulein Rottenmeier, she is busy plotting to have Heidi’s grandfather Rudolph arrested, and to sell Heidi to a family of gypsy’s.

NOTABLE: Heidi is based on Swiss author Johanna Spyri’s children’s story written in 1880.

The Alpine scenes were filmed at Lake Arrowhead, California during the summer. This proved to be a serious problem for actor Jean Hersholt whose heavy costume once caused him to collapse from heat exhaustion.

The make-believe Alpine set also caused some difficulty for young Shirley Temple who accidentally swallowed fake snow causing throat problems that required production to shoot around her for two days.

Young actress Marcia Mae Jones did such a wonderful job playing Klara in this film that she received fan mail from disabled children all over the world.

In the scene where Shirley Temple is milking a goat, and suddenly squirted with milk, was planned without the young actresses knowledge. Her wonderfully surprised reaction was 100% genuine.

httpv://youtu.be/xS34el5_DIA

Stage Door

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Stage Door

Tagline – The gaiety… glamour… foolishness and fun of show business… played on the Great White Way.

Starring – Katharine Hepburn (Terry Randall), Ginger Rogers (Jean Maitland), Adolphe Menjou (Anthony Powell), Gail Patrick (Linda Shaw), Andrea Leeds (Kay Hamilton).

Released – October, 1937

Directed By – Gregory La Cava

Produced By – RKO Radio Pictures

Distributed By – RKO Radio Pictures

Description – Terry Randall is a rich society woman with stars in her eyes. She hopes to break into Broadway without taking advantage of family connections.

Terry moves into the Footlights Club, a theatrical rooming house shared by many aspiring Broadway actresses. It is not an easy transition, as Terry’s sophisticated manners and attitude of superiority rub the other girls the wrong way. Especially, her roommate, dancer, Jean Maitland.

Terry’s expensive clothing, and a picture of her “grandfather,” lead Jean to believe that granddad is really Terry’s “sugar-daddy.” This would be a familiar situation as another resident of the rooming house, Linda Shaw, has the help of influential theatrical producer Anthony Powell.

Right now, Terry has only one person supportive of her independent efforts to break into Broadway and that is aging actress Catherine Luther.

After seeing Jean dance, Powell decides to dump Linda and focus his attention on Jean. He arranges for Jean, and her dance partner Annie, to headline a floor show in a nightclub that he partly owns. However, Powell is not so interested in Jean’s success as he is in his success with her.

Another of the girls, the well-liked Kay Hamilton, had great reviews for her work in a play a year earlier. But, she has not worked since. Running out of money, and suffering from disappointment and malnutrition, she is desperately seeking a role in Powell’s new play.

She arranges an audition with him, but he cancels at the last minute. This infuriates Terry who confronts Powell about his rude and inconsiderate treatment of Kay. This act of support for Kay warms the other girls to Terry.

Meanwhile, in the background, Terry’s wealthy father secretly finances Powell’s new play so long as Terry gets the lead role. This is the role that Kay had so hoped for and Powell does give it to Terry as he agreed with her father.

Opening night arrives, but the excitement and anticipation are shattered by tragedy.

NOTABLE: Stage Door received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Gregory La Cava), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Andrea Leeds), and Best Writing, Screenplay.

Katharine Hepburn had originally been considered to star in the Broadway version of Stage Door, but Broadway producer Leland Hayward gave the role to, his then girlfriend, Margaret Sullavan who he married one month after the Broadway opening. When the play was set to become a motion picture, Sullavan was expecting a baby and unavailable for the role which then went to Katharine Hepburn.

Actress Ann Miller, who played the role of Annie, was only 14 years old at the time. She wanted the role so badly that she presented a fake birth certificate and held her own dancing with the already dancing favorite Ginger Rogers.

Lucille Ball, who had a bit role in the picture, always considered Stage Door to be her big break.

Prior to this picture, Katharine Hepburn’s last four films had failed commercially, but the positive response to her work in Stage Door caused RKO to star her with the popular Cary Grant in the wonderfully enjoyable Bringing Up Baby.

httpv://youtu.be/9CMpe-s2Xp8

Stella Dallas

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Stella Dallas (DVD)

Tagline – Sure – I like a good time!

Starring – Barbara Stanwyck (Stella Dallas), John Boles (Stephen Dallas), Anne Shirley (Laurel Dallas), Barbara O’Neil (Helen (Morrison) Dallas), Alan Hale (Ed Munn).

Released – August, 1937

Directed By – King Vidor

Produced By – Samuel Goldwyn Company

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – Stella Martin has her sights on a better life. She lives in a post-World War I factory town in Massachusetts and wants more. In Stella’s cross-hairs is factory executive Stephen Dallas who is emotionally vulnerable, and ready to be had. Stephen’s father has just committed suicide after losing his fortune.

Stephen has had to start over and worked very hard in order to restore financial stability to his life. Having reached his goal, his intention was to marry his fiance Helen Morrison. However, Stephen’s dedication to his work has kept him apart from Helen. During that time things changed as Stephen painfully reads in a newspaper headline… Helen is going to marry someone else.

Stella takes advantage of the situation and Stephen agrees to marry her. A year passes and the couple have a daughter they name Laurel. Initially, motherhood has done little to curb the partying ways of Stella Dallas, but little by little she begins to realize her growing maternal instincts.

As Laurel grows older, Stella begins to impose her own ambition and social-climbing scheming on her daughter. Little remains with the relationship between Stella and Stephen with him strongly objecting to Stella’s negative influence on their child. Making matters worse is Laurel’s friendship with the vulgar Ed Munn.

When Stephen receives a promotion that requires he relocate to New York, Stella tells him that she and Laurel will not accompany him. While they remain married, the two are now separated.
Years pass with the couple still apart and one day Stephen runs into Helen who is now a rich widow.

They renew their relationship and Laurel is asked to live in Helen’s mansion with them and Helen’s sons. She does and the group become very happy together prompting Stephen to ask Stella for a divorce. She refuses.

Laurel visits her mother and they go to a fancy resort to vacation together. At the resort, Laurel meets, and falls in love with, Richard Grosvenor III. This meeting is dampened when Laurel overhears comments regarding the vulger behavior of her mother. Embarrassed for her mother, Laurel insists they leave without giving her mother an explanation. On the train home Stella learns the truth.

Stella goes to visit Helen and begins to realize that a marriage between Helen and Stephen would provide a better life for Laurel leading her to a shattering sacrifice.

NOTABLE: Stella Dallas received Oscar nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Barbara Stanwyck), and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Shirley).

In 1999, Stella Dallas was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Producer Samuel Goldwyn first wanted actress Ruth Chatterton to play the lead role, but she refused having just played the less-than-perfect wife in Dodsworth.

The popularity of this motion picture was enormous. In October of 1937, a radio serial dramatizing the later lives of the films character’s lasted eighteen years.

Stella Dallas marked the film debut of actress Laraine Day.

The Good Earth

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

The Good Earth

Tagline – China… Land of unrest… tomorrow they may starve!

Starring – Paul Muni (Wang Lung), Luise Rainer (O-Lan), Walter Connolly (Uncle), Tilly Losch (Lotus), Charley Grapewin (Old Father).

Released – August, 1937

Directed By – Sidney Franklin

Produced By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Distributed By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Description – When farmer Wang Lung marries O-Lan life begins to take on a number of new joys. O-Lan had been a servant at the Great House which is the residence of their villages most powerful family.

She has proven to be a hard-working wonderful wife who also possesses the highly-desirable quality of not being a woman who always complains. Wang Lung’s efforts bring him a new prosperity, more land, and best of all, two sons and a daughter.

However, the situation is about to undergo serious change. The area has become drought stricken and the drought has resulted in famine as the farmers are unable to grow their crops. The Lung family has gone from prosperity to the brink of survival.

Desperation has caused Wang Lung to consider a suggestion made by his uncle to sell their land for food. O-Lan resists this idea and convinces Wang that they should travel to the closest city and look for work.

Their efforts go unrewarded and the family is forced to beg, and even steal, in order to survive. While in the city they hear a revolutionary speak of an approaching army in an effort to gather support from the local citizens. They also hear that rain is coming in from the north.

With the news of rain the family longs to return to their farm, but their time in the city has brought no financial gain and they have no money for an ox, seed, or even food.

The approaching revolutionary army arrives and takes over the city. During the chaos, O-Lan participates in the looting of a mansion. She is trampled by the mob and knocked unconscious. When she awakens she finds a bag of jewels that escaped the looting.

With the finding of the jewels, the family is again able to return home and prosper. O-Lan, grateful for their good fortune, keeps only two pearls for herself.

As the years pass, prosperity has begun to change Wang Lung. During this time the family’s children have gotten a good education and grown to adulthood while Wang’s character has steadily declined. Lotus, a pretty young dancer at the local tea house has caught his eye and it isn’t long before Wang makes her his second wife.

He also starts to find fault with O-Lan and gives her two pearls to Lotus. Although, O-Lan suffers from both a broken heart and broken spirit she continues to work tirelessly for family and farm. The family’s fortunes continue to decline as Lotus seduces the younger son with Wang learning of the betrayal.

As the family foundation crumbles, there is again a threat to the survival of the farm on the horizon. A swarm of locusts is on the way, panicking the entire village.

NOTABLE: The Good Earth won Oscar’s for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Louise Rainer), and Best Cinematography. The film also received nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Sidney Franklin), and Best Film Editing.

This was the second year in a row that Louise Rainer won the Best Actress award making her the first performer to ever do so.

Producer Irving Thalberg had to deal with Warner Brothers in order to cast Paul Muni. Warner Brothers insisted on borrowing Clark Gable and Leslie Howard to work with their studio before agreeing to allow MGM to use Paul Muni.

Upon hearing that he would have to play the role of Wang Lung, Muni told Thalberg that he was “about as Chinese as Herbert Hoover.” It was Thalberg’s intention to cast the film using only Chinese actors, but there were just not enough Chinese actors to fill the casting requirements.

Prior to the casting of Paul Muni, James Stewart auditioned, and almost got, the part of Wang Lung.

The impressive special effects for the locust plague weren’t special effects at all. MGM’s special effects experts were not able to reproduce the look of an actual locust plague and were almost ready to give up on the scene when they heard of an actual locust plague that was taking place. A camera crew was rushed to the location and captured it all on film.

Chinese born actress Anna May Wong wanted the role of O-Lan. However, with Caucasian actor Paul Muni cast to play the lead, Thalberg knew that The Hays Code prohibited actors of different races from playing husband and wife to avoid offending white audiences in the segregated American south.

httpv://youtu.be/3iEREqQjjzU

 

Kid Galahad

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Kid Galahad

Starring – Edward G. Robinson (Nick Donati), Bette Davis (Louise “Fluff” Phillips), Humphrey Bogart (Turkey Morgan), Wayne Morris (Ward Guisenberry).

Released – May, 1937

Directed By – Michael Curtiz

Produced By – Warner Brothers

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – Ward Guisenberry is a quiet and shy young man who, as we will soon find out, packs quite a punch. It is his hope to save enough money to buy a small farm.

He takes a position as a bellhop and his first night on the job will drastically change his modest ambition. While doing a little extra work mixing drinks at a party thrown by boxing manager Nick Donati, Ward comes to the rescue of a woman who is being insulted.

Unknown to Ward is the fact that the woman is the girlfriend of Donati, Louise “Fluff” Phillips. The guy doing the insulting is Sam McGraw a fighter owned by gangster Turkey Morgan. The confrontation is short as Ward knocks the professional fighter out cold.

Now, Nick Donati knows a good thing when he sees it and wants Ward to become a fighter. Donati promises Ward that this will be a quick way to earn the money he needs to buy that farm.

Ward agrees and, although Fluff tries to talk him out of getting involved in the fight game, Kid Galahad is born.

Embarrassed by his fighter being knocked out by a nobody, Turkey insists on a rematch between Ward and McGraw. The fight is held and Kid Galahad, to the surprise of most, wins again. However, he better hold off on the celebration. Turkey’s men are now looking for him with violent revenge on their mind.

Fluff sends the kid to Nick’s family farm to hide out in spite of Nick’s rule to never involve his family with the boxing game. While there, Ward easily charms Nick’s mother and kid-sister Marie. When Nick learns that Ward is hiding at his family’s farm he is furious and immediately brings him back to the city.

Nick protects Ward from Turkey’s gang and the young fighter begins a successful career as Kid Galahad. This is where things begin to get complicated. During this time, Nick’s girlfriend Fluff, and his kid-sister Marie, have both fallen for Ward. A situation that infuriates Nick.

To get back at Ward, Nick arranges a championship fight for the young man. A fight that he is not ready for. Disaster and a murderous confrontation will soon follow.