Monday, April 25, 2022

The Movie Quote Game (Bette Davis Edition)

This month, we're focusing on quotes from Bette Davis films. We will list a quote from a famous Bette Davis movie and ask you to name it. Try to answer these questions on your own without resorting to Google searches. As always, please answer no more than three questions per day so others can play.  If you have a response other than the intended one, just be able to defend it. 

1. "And after ya kissed me, I always used to wipe my mouth! Wipe my mouth!"

2. "I'd like to kiss you, but I just washed my hair."

3. "I didn't bring your breakfast, because you didn't eat your din-din!"

4. "I think I'll have a large order of prognosis negative!"

5. " Lonely people want friends. They have to search very hard for them."

6. "With all my heart, I still love the man I killed."

7. "I've been skating for the first time in my life! I'm told I'm the only person to do a figure eight from the sitting position!"

8. "Can't I? I'm going to. This is 1852, dumpling, 1852! Not the Dark Ages. Girls don't have to simper around in white just because they're not married."

9. "You're a prisoner only if you think of yourself as one." 

10. (In response to "What happened in the bathroom?"): "I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about."

11. "That man is so stupid, it sits on him like a halo."

12. "The only thing I ordered by mistake is the guests. They're domestic, too, and they don't care what they drink as long as it burns!"

13. "Dull, foolish, vulgar to some but not to me. To me, he was a man like a rock."

14. "Dr. Jasquith says that tyranny is sometimes expression of the maternal instinct. If that's a mother's love, I want no part of it."

15. "Do you mind very much, Mr. Shane, taking off your hat in the presence of a lady with a gun?"

Monday, April 18, 2022

My Name Is Julia Ross

Nina Foch as Julia Ross.
After reviewing Gun Crazy, the Cafe's staff decided to seek out more of director Joseph H. Lewis' work. That led us to My Name Is Julia Ross, a 1945 "B" picture with an intriguing premise that sadly fell short of our expectations.

It gets off to a very promising start when unemployed, unmarried Julia Ross (Nina Foch) answers an agency's ad for a live-in secretary to a wealthy widow. After securing the position, she reports that night to her new home and place of work in London. The next morning, Julia wakes up in a different room in a different house overlooking the coast. All her clothes bear the initials M.H. and everyone is calling her Marion--even her husband.

Meanwhile, Julia's almost-boyfriend Dennis is unable to find any trace of her. No one is living at the address she gave him and the employment agency is no longer in business.

My Name Is Julia Ross was adapted from the novel The Woman in Red  by Anthony Gilbert. The author's name is a pseudonym for Lucy Beatrice Malleson, a cousin to British actor-screenwriter Miles Malleson. She was a prolific mystery writer and The Woman in Red was part of a series featuring an uncouth lawyer named Arthur Crook. However, his character does not appear in My Name Is Julia Ross.

Foch and George Macready.
The opening scenes brim with atmosphere (e.g., rainy London streets, the coastal house sitting on a cliff) and mystery. However, much of that goodwill evaporates when the screenplay reveals too many details too quickly. As soon as Julia leaves the employment agency, we learn that a devious plot is afoot. It would have been far more effective to keep the viewer in the dark along with Julia. That way, director Lewis could have even made us question whether Julia was a victim or a patient in need of psychiatric care.

Nina Foch delivers a believable performance as Julia, but she is saddled with a character who makes a number of ridiculous decisions. After successfully hiding in a car that leaves the estate, she tries to jump out much too soon. She reveals the contents of a letter for help to her captors. And she too easily trusts a physician who makes a house call. It's enough to make one wonder if she might murdered at the end after all!

Dame May Whitty.
As she often did, Dame May Whitty steals the film as the sinister Mrs. Hughes, the most intelligent person in the film. Dame May was 72 when she moved to Hollywood in 1937 and promptly earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for Night Must Fall. She died in 1948 at the age of 82, three years after completing My Name Is Julia Ross.

The 1987 movie Dead of Winter, starring Mary Steenburgen and directed by Arthur Penn, is a very loose remake of My Name Is Julia Ross.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Seven Things to Know About Barbara Eden

1. Born Barbara Jean Morehead in 1931, she was using her stepfather's last name, Huffman, as a young actress in Hollywood. In her autobiography, she writes that her future agent, Wilt Melnick, didn't like her last name. He told her: "The name Barbara Huffman sounds like a doctor. Change it and I'll represent you." When she agreed, Melnick added: "You seem kinda innocent, so let's call you Eden, like the garden."

A publicity still with Elvis.
2. Barbara Eden was a contract player for 20th Century-Fox in the late 1950s and early 1960s. She started out with small roles in films like Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and The Wayward Girl (both 1957), but quickly graduated to larger parts. She was cast opposite Elvis in Flaming Star (1960), played a female naval officer in Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961), and worked with Allen again in Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962). One of her co-stars in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was her then-husband Michael Ansara.

3. On the day that I Dream of Jeannie was sold to NBC, Barbara Eden found out she and Michael Ansara were pregnant. When she told series creator Sidney Sheldon, she thought she would replaced as Jeannie. However, Sheldon rushed the series into production. Eden later told People Magazine: "We did the first 13 shows with me pregnant. I was a walking tent. I had so many gauzy things hanging down. It was one of the happiest times of my life."

4. Ironically, I Dream of Jeannie wasn't Barbara Eden's first encounter with a genie. In 1964, she starred opposite Tony Randall in The Brass Bottle, in which Tony's character buys an antique brass bottle that contains a genie--only this genie is played by Burl Ives!

5. When I Dream of Jeannie was cancelled after five seasons and 139 episodes, Barbara Eden starred in a pilot for her own series. In the The Barbara Eden Show, she played the head writer of a hit TV soap, who juggled life at work and home. Despite co-stars like Pat Morita and Joe Flynn, the pilot failed to result in a regular series.

6. Still, Barbara Eden continued to be in great demand as a TV series guest star and lead actress in made-for-TV and theatrical films. In 1978, she starred in a movie based on Jeannie C. Riley's 1968 hit country song "Harper Valley PTA." Shot on a modest budget, the film did solid business and three years later, Sherwood Schwartz adapted it as a TV sitcom starring Barbara Eden. The series, which also starred Fannie Flagg and George Gobel, lasted for two season and fifteen episodes.

7. In addition to starring on TV and in movies, Barbara Eden has appeared in numerous stage productions (e.g., The Sound of Music, Woman of the Year, South Pacific), recorded an album called Miss Barbara Eden (1967), and headlined resorts in Las Vegas. She has performed the play Love Letters on tour with numerous male stars, such as Barry Bostwick, Hal Linden, and her Jeannie co-star Larry Hagman. She will turn 91 in 2022.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Rosemary Clooney's Red Garters

Rosemary singing the title song.
For years, I assumed that Red Garters was Rosemary Clooney's follow-up to White Christmas. In reality, both films were released in 1954 and Red Garters hit theaters several months before Paramount's huge holiday hit. As Clooney once noted, Red Garters is the only movie in which she received top billing. That's ironic since it's basically an ensemble musical and her role is a supporting one.

The story focuses on Reb Randall (Guy Mitchell), an easygoing gunslinger who has come to Limbo County, California, in search of the man that killed his no-good brother. Reb barely hits town when he falls head over heels for the comely Susan Martinez De La Cruz. Her guardian, Jason Carberry (Jack Carson), runs the town while flirting with every female resident--often in front of his girlfriend Calaveras Kate (Clooney). There's also a Mexican gunslinger (Gene Barry), who strives to avoid any discussion on who might have killed Reb's brother.

Guy Mitchell and Rosemary Clooney.
It's a light plot, but provides enough structure to support the musical numbers given the film's 91-minute running time. What separates Red Garters from other musicals of the 1950s is its unique set design. It eschews realism in favor of minimalist structures and backdrops. The buildings are simply fronts and the backdrop a yellow canvas with some artificial trees. It's an unusual look that works well for awhile, but ultimately grows tiresome. Given that Red Garters was filmed in 3D, the end result is it's the most "stagey" of stagey musicals. Still, it earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Color).

Jay Livingston and Ray Evans composed the score, which is pleasant without being memorable. The best songs are "Man and Woman,"a lively duet featuring Evans' clever lyrics, and "Bad News," a big ballad for Rosemary Clooney. She and Guy Mitchell have most of the solo numbers. Like Clooney, Mitchell was already an established recording star who would have more success on television than on the big screen.

Gene Barry in a gunfight!
Red Garters was not a box office hit, but it's a unique movie that's definitely worth a look. In addition to Rosemary Clooney and the unusual sets, you get to see a very limber Buddy Ebsen and a surprising Gene Barry hoofing it up. Gene's scene is quick, but a great reminder that he was a musical star on stage, earning a Tony nomination for La Cage aux Folles.

Here's a clip of Rosemary Clooney singing "Bad News," courtesy of our YouTube Channel: