Posts Tagged ‘lionel barrymore’

It’s A Wonderful Life

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

It’s a Wonderful Life [Blu-ray]

Tagline – Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!… How Could It Be Anything Else!

Starring – James Stewart (George Bailey), Donna Reed (Mary Hatch Bailey), Henry Travers (Clarence Oddbody), Lionel Barrymore (Mr. Henry F. Potter), Thomas Mitchell (Uncle Billy Bailey).

Released – January, 1947

Directed By – Frank Capra

Produced By – Liberty Films (II)

Distributed By – RKO Radio Pictures

Description – Businessman George Bailey is on the edge, literally. Deeply frustrated and troubled, George’s family and friends are worried enough about him to pray, and pray hard, on this Christmas Eve, 1945.

Their prayers are heard loud and clear in heaven and novice angel (yet to get his wings) Clarence Oddbody is sent to earth to prevent George from taking his own life. Prior to the trip, Clarence is shown George’s life.

And an eventful life it has been. At the tender age of 12, George saves his younger brother Harry from drowning in an icy pond. However, this act of heroism left George with a bad cold that resulted in the loss of hearing in his left ear.

While working a part-time job, after school in the local pharmacy, George notices that the druggist, Mr. Gower, who has recently lost his son, is mistakenly filling a child’s prescription with arsenic. He stops Mr. Gower from a mistake that would have resulted in tragedy and promises to never tell anyone about the incident.

That same evening, at younger brother Harry’s graduation party, George finds himself attracted to Mary Hatch, a girl who has had a secret crush on George since childhood. As the two talk about their idea’s for the future, George’s uncle brings him the news that his father has suffered a stroke which proves fatal.

While planning to leave for college, George learns that his father’s business, the Bailey Building and Loan Association, is in serious financial trouble and that the board of directors will shut it down unless George stays and takes over the management of the business.

In the background, majority shareholder Henry F. Potter is working hard to convince the board to stop making loans to the working poor. George is able to prevent this from happening and gives his college money to his brother Harry with the understanding that when Harry graduates he is to return and take over the business.

Again, George’s dreams for himself are crushed when Harry returns with a wife and an excellent job offer. Unable to deny his brother the opportunity, George continues running the business.

Finally, something positive happens in the life of George Bailey as he and Mary are wed. This new found happiness is short-lived as a run on the bank again puts the Building and Loan on the verge of collapse, World War II erupts, and a company bank deposit of $8,000 never gets to the bank, ending up in the hands of Henry F. Potter.

Always wanting George out of the picture, Potter, as majority shareholder, has an arrest warrant written against George for bank fraud claiming that George has stolen the money.

This has been the life of George Bailey. This collection of events has led him to consider suicide and his only hope is with angel Clarence Odbody whose strategy is to show George what life would have been like had he not been born.

NOTABLE: It’s A Wonderful Life received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Frank Capra), Best Actor in a Leading Role (James Stewart), Best Film Editing, and Best Sound,

In 1990, It’s A Wonderful Life was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Drained from his service to his country during World War II, James Stewart was hesitant to accept the role of George Bailey. Fortunately for everyone, Lionel Barrymore convinced Stewart to take the role.

Films made prior to this one would use painted corn flakes to give the appearance of snowfall. However, director Capra felt that they were too loud and did not want to add the dialogue after scenes were filmed. To solve the problem of recording the sound live a new method of creating snow was invented. The fire-fighting chemical of foamite, combined with soap and water was pumped at high pressure through a wind machine producing a silent, falling snow. This new method garnered an award for the RKO effects department from the Motion Picture Academy.

Actress Jean Arthur was director Frank Capra’s first choice to play Mary Hatch, but she was committed to a play on Broadway which opened the door for Donna Reed’s first starring role. Popular actress Ginger Rogers also turned down the role.

Actor Cary Grant was to play the role of George Bailey, but when Frank Capra inherited the project from another studio he rewrote the part for James Stewart who would later state that this was his favorite film role.

This was the first, and only time, that Frank Capra would produce, direct, finance, and co-write one of his films.

It’s A Wonderful Life was voted the #1 Inspirational Film of All Time by the American Film Institute as well as the 20th Greatest Movie of All Time.

In the film, actress Beulah Bondi plays the role of Jimmy Stewart’s mother. It was one of five times that she would play the mother of Stewart in his films.

Personal Note: While high production costs and stiff competition at the box office, primarily from the opening of The Best Years of Our Lives, the popularity of this motion picture has done nothing but grow with the passing to time. It’s A Wonderful Life now stands as one of the most loved Christmas films of all-time.



Captains Courageous

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Captains Courageous (1937)

Tagline – The Most Exciting Picture Since “Mutiny on the Bounty”!

Starring – Spencer Tracy (Manuel Fidello), Freddie Bartholomew (Harvey Cheyne), Lionel Barrymore (Disko Troop), Melvyn Douglas (Frank Burton Cheyne).

Released – May, 1937

Directed By – Victor Fleming

Produced By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Distributed By – Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer

Description – Again – as in the stirring Mutiny On the Bounty – you live the roaring drama of men against the sea. You share the struggles, the heartaches, and the laughter, of courageous souls who leave the women they love to dare the wrath of the angry waves.

Harvey Cheyne is the spoiled son of his business tycoon and absentee father Frank Burton Cheyne. Shipped off to a private school, where he is shunned by his classmates, young Harvey is suspended due to his bad behavior.

Realizing that his son needs closer attention, his father decides to take Harvey along on a trans-Atlantic business trip. During the voyage Harvey displays arrogance to all around him, and during a prank gone wrong falls overboard off the coast of Newfoundland.

He is rescued by Portuguese-American fisherman Manuel Fidello and taken aboard the fishing schooner. Harvey tries to convince the captain of the schooner, Disko Troop, that he is wealthy and should immediately be taken to shore.

Captain Troop, not believing his story, refuses and puts Harvey to work at a low paying job for the three month duration of the voyage. Also on the schooner is the captain’s son Dan who gradually develops a friendship with Harvey as the young man begins to learn the ways of working on a ship.

With the guidance of Manuel, and the influence of the other tough crew-mates, young Harvey begins to learn a hard lesson. His former habits of demanding special treatment, lying, cheating, and whining to get what he wants are of no value at sea where every man, young or old, must pull their own weight.

Slowly, Manuel begins to become the father figure that Harvey had always wanted and needed. But, the hardest life-lesson is yet to be learned as tragedy looms in the near future for young Harvey.

NOTABLE: Captains Courageous received an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Spencer Tracy), and was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Writing, Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.

This motion picture would become the first MGM film to be shown on television, in 1955.

Spencer Tracy hesitated before finally accepting the role of Manuel Fidello because the role required him to sing in several scenes and to have his hair curled. Tracy’s new hairdo prompted a great deal of kidding from his actor friends with Joan Crawford referring to him as Harpo.

Captains Courageous was one of Lionel Barrymore’s last films. Degenerative arthritis was beginning to cripple him. The next year in You Can’t Take it with You, Barrymore hobbled around with crutches, and shortly after that film was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

When Spencer Tracy was presented his Oscar for this film he was shocked to find that the statue was inscribed to Dick Tracy. The very embarrassed Academy replaced the statuette.




Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012


Tagline – Greta Garbo Loves Robert Taylor

Starring – Greta Garbo (Marguerite Gautier), Robert Taylor (Armand Duval), Lionel Barrymore (Monsieur Duval), Elizabeth Allan (Nichette).

Released – January, 1937

Directed By – George Cukor

Produced By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Distributed By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Description – You who are so young — where could have learned all you know about women like me?

Marguerite Gautier was born in Paris into a lower class family. Over time she has lifted herself into high society, but not by the usual methods. You see, Marguerite has become a courtesan known as Dame Camille.

Her life’s expenses are taken care of by the wealthy Baron de Varville. Dame Camille has used her good looks as the pathway to success for many years. Until now. She has met the handsome Armand Duval, a young man of promise, and fallen deeply in love.

The attraction goes both ways as Armand returns her love. Love is a new feeling for Dame Camille and she embraces the emotion. So much so that she is willing to walk away from the comfortable life provided her by the Baron in order to be with Armand.

However, the romance between Camille and Armand does not please everyone. Camille’s background is not what Armand’s father, Monsieur Duval, had hoped to find in the woman his son would fall in love with.

It is Monsieur Duval’s belief that a union between his son and Camille would be scandalous and ruin any prospects for the future success of his son. With the hope of ending their relationship, Monsieur Duval meets with Camille and begs her not to ruin the hope of a career and position for his son by marrying him.

It is a plea that strikes at the heart of Camille. In spite of her love for Armand, she painfully realizes the wisdom of Monsieur Duval’s request. She could never live with herself feeling that she would be responsible for causing Armand to become a failure and a disgrace to his family.

Camille decides to break off her relationship with Armand. His heart is broken, but his love for her is so strong he continues, without success, to pursue her.

The once comfortable and prosperous life of Dame Camille quickly begins a steady fall downward. Poverty and terminal illness overwhelm her as her heart longs for the love of Armand.

NOTABLE: Camille received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Greta Garbo).

In 2005, Camille was included in Time Magazine’s list of All-Time Greatest Movies.

The role of Camille was said to have been Greta Garbo’s favorite role and is considered by many of her fans as her greatest performance.

Actress Joan Leslie made her film debut in this motion picture.



Duel in the Sun

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Duel in the Sun

Tagline – Emotions… As Violent As The Wind-Swept Prairie!

Starring – Jennifer Jones (Pearl Chavez), Joseph Cotton (Jesse McCanles), Gregory Peck (Lewton ‘Lewt’ McCanles), Lionel Barrymore (Sen. Jackson McCanles), Herbert Marshall (Scott Chavez), Lillian Gish (Laura Belle McCanles).

Released – December, 1946

Directed By – King Vidor

Produced By – The Selznick Studio, Vanguard Films

Distributed By – Selznick Releasing Corporation

Description – Pearl Chavez is a half-white, half-Native American woman whose father Scott has just killed her mother and her lover. Scott Chavez is sentenced to hang, and just before his execution he arranges for Pearl to live with Texas family member Laura Belle McCanles.

When Pearl arrives by stagecoach she is met by gentlemanly Jesse McCanles, one of Laura’s two grown sons. Jesse takes Pearl to Spanish Bit, the family cattle ranch, where she is warmly greeted by Laura.

However, she is not welcome by Laura’s wheelchair bound husband Senator Jackson McCanles who hated Pearl’s father and considers her no more than a “half-breed.” Second son Lewt , a womanizer with an nasty personality, sees Pearl as no more that a beautiful woman with whom he would like to bed. He makes his feelings known and immediately is disliked by Pearl.

With Pearl’s best interests in mind, Laura invites gun-toting preacher Jubal Crabbe, known as the “Sinkiller” to teach Pearl how to avoid the evils of temptation.

One evening, Lewt forces himself on Pearl in her bedroom. While she is both angry and ashamed, she is also flattered by Lewt’s lust and attention.

The McCanles family is in a dispute with the railroad and when Jesse sides with the railroad men against his father’s personal wishes, he is no longer welcome at the family ranch. Jesse realizes that he has fallen in love with Pearl, but leaves for Austin to pursue a political career. While there he becomes engaged to Helen Langford the daughter of the railroad head.

Lewt, who has been giving Pearl false promises of marriage in order to keep her attention for himself, finally reneges on his marriage promise for the last time. Furious, Pearl soon takes up with neighboring rancher Sam Pierce. Although she does not love him, Pearl accepts his proposal of marriage.

Before their marriage can take place, Lewt intentionally picks a fight with Pierce and guns him down. His insistence that Pearl can only belong to him has now made him a wanted man. On the run and hiding, Lewt sneaks back to the ranch to continue his relationship with Pearl who cannot resist her desire for him.

When Laura becomes deathly ill, Jesse returns to the ranch only to arrive too late, as Laura has died. His father and Lewt still want nothing to do with him and Pearl’s happiness to see him will now pit brother against brother.

NOTABLE: Duel In the Sun received Oscar nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jennifer Jones), and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Lilian Gish).

The Hays Code insisted that the film be severely edited as the original cut was considered to have too much sexual content. The strain of the films controversy contributed to the marriage breakup of Producer David O. Selznick and actress Jennifer Jones.

Director Martin Scorsese has said that Duel In the Sun was the first motion picture he ever saw and holds the film in high regard.

Popular actress Teresa Wright was originally to play the role of Pearl, in direct contrast to her girl-next-door image. However, her pregnancy forced her to drop out of consideration.



The Little Colonel

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

The Little Colonel

Tagline – Hail to the conqueror of ten million hearts!

Starring – Shirley Temple (Lloyd Sherman), Lionel Barrymore (Col. Lloyd), Evelyn Venable (Elizabeth Lloyd Sherman), John Lodge (Jack Sherman), Hattie McDaniel (Becky Porter), Bill Robinson (Walker).

Released – February, 1935

Directed By – David Butler

Produced By – Fox Film Corporation

Distributed By – Fox Film Corporation

NOTABLE: The Little Colonel was the first of four films pairing the talented young Miss Temple with veteran dancer Bill Robinson. A highlight of this film is the famous duo’s staircase dance. This number was the first interracial dance pairing in American film history. The scene was deleted from showings in the southern United States.

Although filmed in black-and-white, the film ended with a short scene filmed in Technicolor. This scene is referred to as Shirley’s “pink party.”