Friday, 27 August 2010

"I never drink... wine."

In 1897 a book was published by an Irish author that was not an immediate bestseller. That it should become in the following century. In the 1920s the novel was adapted as a play and became later a longtime hit on broadway. The actor who played the lead should star in the 1931 Universal Studios-adaptation of the play: Bela Lugosi. The author was Bram Stoker and the novel was DRACULA.

In a nutshell:

Renfield (Dwight Frye), a young British estate agent, travels to Transylvania to make a deal with Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi). Dracula, who is a vampire, takes possession of him and travels with Renfield to England. There Dracula meets Dr. Seward (Herbert Bunston), Mina Seward (Helen Chandler) -Dr. Sewards daughter -, Mina's fiancé John Harker (David Manners) and Lucy (Frances Dade), Mina's friend. Dracula turns Lucy into a vampire and tries the same to Mina, but is finally killed by famous Dr. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan).

Watch out for

The voice of the harbour master - it is director Tod Browning himself!

  • The melody played at the opening credits is from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" and was Universal Studio's signature tune for their horror movies as THE MUMMY or the like.

  • Though he was the star Bela Lugosi earned only $500/week.

  • It exists a memo saying: "Dracula is only to attack women." - apparently there shouldn't be any gay subtext.

  • Bela Lugosi and Edward Van Sloan are the only actors out of this picture who appeared also in the original 1927 play on Broadway.

  • The hungarian innkeeper is played by Michael Visaroff, who also appears in Tod Browning's FREAKS (1932).

  • A spanish version was filmed silmutaniously (same time, same set, different actors.)

  • You can see the set (Carfax Abbey & Dracula's castle) in other Universal movies.

  • It is said, that Bela Lugosi doesn't blink once in this film - I have not checked that yet..

  • Dracula never shows fangs in this film.

  • Bette Davis was supposed to play Mina but producer Carl Laemmle, jr. wasn't positive about her sex appeal.

  • Helen Chandler and Frances Dade were good friends.

  • Conrad Veidt, Paul Muni and Lon Chaney (who died before this film was realised) were considered to play Dracula.

  • In Dracula's castle you can see some opossums - there are no opossums in mid/east europe. That applies too for other animals like the armadillo.

  • Dwight Frye and Bela Lugosi appeared together with Frederic March in a broadway comedy play THE DEVIL AND THE CHEESE in 1926. Neither Lugosi nor Frye should play many comedies on screen after DRACULA.

  • Geraldine Dvorak, who plays one of Dracula's wifes was Greta Garbo's stand-in.

  • The first lines in this movie are spoken by Carla Laemmle - Carl Laemmle's niece - she plays a young tourist, who drives in the carriage together with Renfield and other people.


  • You can hear Franz Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony" and the prelude to Richard Wagner's "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg".

Murphy's Law:

  • Renfields briefcase appears magically on the table whilst it was seconds before in Draculas hands.

  • Dr. Seward's asylum is considered to be near London and in Whitby - must be a really colossal estate for Whitby is on the Yorkshire coast in nothern England..

My favourite feature:

Dracula's castle.

Favourite character:

Renfield - I am a fan of Dwight Frye..

Scene to see:

Renfield arrives and Dracula welcomes him to his castle.

Quotes corner:

One of the most famous film lines ever is delivered by Dracula himself:

"Children of the night, what music they make."

This film differs for the most part from the novel, which I am a great fan of. If you want to see a more authentic adaptation I recommend the 1992 version with Gary Oldman as Dracula to you - I really love that film, but won't make a revision because it is way to young for this blog.. *sigh* - maybe I should make a parallel blog with newer films.. naah.. - The 1931 version was planned to be more authentic to the novel, but after the Great Depression to adapt the play was less expensive.

I like the fact that music is used very sparingly - which is normal for the beginning talkies: Music was only used when actually music was played in a scene and in the credits of course. The nontalking sequences are more intensive that way.

I love Bela Lugosi because he resembles my late grandfather and there for it's a great delight for me to watch DRACULA.

Goodbye I'll go and watch another movie - or this one again? -

"Isn't this a strange conversation for men who AREN'T crazy?"

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Lunch at the usual time

A play by Terence Rattigan - usually perfomed in two one-act plays, in which the same actor performes the male main characters and the same actrice the female main characters - became a movie, directed by Delbert Mann which brought David Niven the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role with the shortest performance (16 minutes!) on screen that ever won this price: SEPARATE TABLES. (1958)

In a nutshell:

Serveral people are living in a little boarding house in England - some of them for years. Pat Cooper (Wendy Hiller), the landlady, has to find out that her secret fiancé John Malcolm (Burt Lancaster), still cares for his ex-wife (Rita Hayworth) and the longtime tennant Mrs. Railton-Bell (Gladys Cooper) discovers that Major Pollock (David Niven) - to whom her timid and prudish daughter Sybil (Deborah Kerr) is secretly attracted - is no Major at all and is pleaded guilty that he badgded women in a cinema. Now Mrs. Railton-Bell does everything in her power to evict him out.

Watch out for:
David Niven's and Deborah Kerr's performance! It's the cat's pjyamas!!


  • Wendy Hiller also received an Acadamy Award for her performance.
  • Gladys Cooper was the most popular Pin Up Girl for the British in WWI. She and Cathleen Nesbitt (who played her friend in SEPARATE TABLES) both played the mother of Prof. Higgins (played by Rex Harrison) in MY FAIR LADY - Gladys Cooper in the movie version and Cathleen Nesbitt on Broadway.

  • Though she was introduced with the phrase: "...not a day over 30" Rita Hayworth was actually 40 years old.

  • The pool split Miss Meacham (May Hallat) does was cutted afterwards. It was actually her doing the split and no stand-in was used, though you are not able to see that now.

  • The title song "Separate Tables" became a bestselling single for Vic Damone.

  • Instead of Rita Hayworth Vivien Leigh was designated for the role of Ann Shankland, John Malcolm's ex-wife. She dropped out as her then husband Laurence Olivier didn't assume the direction of this picture.

My favourite feature:

I confess: In thisfilm I don't have an eye for anything but the ensemble.

Scene to see:
The conversation between the Major and Sybil after she learned, that he behaved in a way she can't put up with!

Window shopping:
I'd like to sneak a peek into that fashion magazine that Rita Hayworth pages through.

Quotes Corner:
"I have no couriosity about the working classes."

This film sure is talkative - it has to. After all: This is a play. And for that it may come off a bit tiring if you are not used to films like it.
It was pretty daring in the 1950ies because: It is all about sex and domination. You won't see anything and compared to todays TV-Crime Series as C.S.I. and the like. It seems not to be that dreadful that the Major nudged (!) a women in a cinema - nonetheless molestation starts in little things. Despite that he still engages my sympathie - and that is a bit confusing for me. But as he is pictured as a very VERY inhibited man I feel something like compassion.
And David Niven is incredible! Similarly is Deborah Kerr! You would not believe that this is the same woman that kisses Burt Lancaster in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY in that famous beach scene - she is so a mousy person in SEPARATE TABLES!
And I love Rod Taylor's facial expressions in this movie - his girlfriend (Audrey Dalton) is frequently trying to distract him from learning for his medical exam by seducing him..
Goodbye I'll go and watch another movie - or this one again? -


And as a goody - Gladys Cooper, dream of oh so many soldiers in WWI: Enjoy it, boys! ;"p

Saturday, 21 August 2010

"I always wanted to meet Mrs. Thorwald!"

In 1942 Cornell Woolrich (whose real name was William Irish) wrote a short story called "It had to be murder", in which a man watches a murder from his window. It should become an immortal film classic in 1954 - directed by Alfred Hitchcock and with a changed title: REAR WINDOW.

In a nutshell:
After an accident photojournalist L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries (James Stewart) is forced to stay in his appartment. He passes the time watching his neighbours across the courtyard. After a chain of strange events he assumes that his neighbour Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) has killed his wife.
Jeff, his girlfriend - the glamour girl Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) - and Stella - Jeff's nurse (Thelma Ritter) - start to investigate. ...

Watch out for:
  • Alfred Hitchcock's cameo!


  • Judith Evelyn - Miss Lonelyheart - played also in GIANT (1956) and THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV (1958).

  • Allegedly Raymond Burr was supposed to colour his hair grey, because he should look like David O. Selznick, with whom Hitchcock has had some quarrels.
  • Though they were within the Paramount studios and especially build for this movie, the apartments in Thorwald's house had electricity and running water, and could actually be lived in. Miss Torso (Georgine Darcy) allegedly relaxed in her "apartment" between the takes as if it was her real home.
  • You may know Ross Bagdasarian - the Songwriter - as the singing soldier in STALAG 17 (1953) and creator of Alvin and the Chipmunks.
  • Hitchcock did the direction directly from Jeff's apartment - the other actors outside had little earpieces to get the direction.

  • For the German (-speaking) filmviewers: After the rights to this movie reverted to Hitchcock all prints with the first German dubbing of 1955 were destroyed, so that a new dubbing had to be created in 1984 for the new release. (I think, this is why Jeff uses the word "arse" - I am pretty sure, that he didn't do that in the 1955 version..)

  • This was the 4th and last score for Hitchcock by Franz Waxman.

  • Maybe you have recognized the voice of Jeff's editor Gunnison, whilst he is talking to Jeff on the phone: It's Gig Young!

Murphy's Law:
  • Lisa's slippers are magically arranged after she had tossed them in her suitcase shortly before. Where can I learn that, please? This would do wonders for my packing skills!
  • The drinks in several glasses seem to refresh themself.

My favourite feature:

The set!! All this lights and people and stories!! It's a bit like a giant living dollhouse!

Scene to see:

Jeff is set about to eat his breakfast and Stella starts talking about how Thorwald possibly could have cut up his wife. - But, please!, watch the whole movie!! I can't imagine that you'll regret that!

Window shopping:
Lisa's night gown, her white and black dress from her entrance scene, her jeans and her black dress will go perfectly with my garderobe. (I sure have a soft spot for Edith Head's fashion!)

Quotes corner:

I picked this one, because right now it fits the weather situation (here) perfectly:

"You'd think the rain would've cooled things down. All it did was make the heat wet."

This film may be the perfect Hitchcock film for beginners. You can relate to the hero (you are watching movies like he is watching his neighbours, so I guess you are at least a bit interested in other ones' lives..), Grace Kelly is so photogenic it almost kills me and these little stories about the neighbours intrigue every one I know so far. Plus: I am a huge Thelma Ritter fan! I love wise-cracking dames!

(I love how James Stewart turns and starts talking to the audience. I like my stars talking to me..)

Goodbye! I've got to go and watch another movie and:

"Oh, I love funny exit lines."

Thursday, 19 August 2010

"I doubt that you played Russian Roulette all the time with your father!"

Preston Sturges wrote and directed a pitch-black screwball comedy, which was his first film for 20th Century Fox: UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (1948). Though it recieved rave reviews, it was no box office hit.

In a nutshell:
With assistance of his brother in law, August (Rudy Vallee), the famous conductor Sir Alfred de Carter (Sir Rex Harrison) comes to the conclusion that his wife Daphne (Linda Darnell) commits adultery with his secretary Tony (Kurt Kreuger).
While conducting a concert, Sir Alfred imagines how he could satisfy his thirst for revenge by a) killing his wife b) forgiving her in a noble way and become the moral winner or c) playing russian roulette with Tony.
After the concert he tries to put his ideas in action but fails in every way. Finally he recognizes that his wife is faithful to him and he is coming down with a heavy cold, which will not prevent him from going dancing with his wife.

  • Lionel Stander, who plays Sir Alfred's manager, is known as Max in the TV-series HART TO HART (1979-1984) and as Cornelius Cobb in MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN(1936).
  • Barbara Lawrence, who plays Daphne's sister, is a distant cousin to Nelson Eddy and has also played Linda Darnell's little sister in A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1949). She is still alive.


  • In this movie you can hear Rossini's "William Tell Overture" and "Semiramide", Wagner's "Tannhäuser Overture" and "Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32" by Tchaikovsky. You can also hear parts of "Jingle Bells" - played by a musical box.

Murphy's law:

  • At the rehearsal you can hear the orchester laughing but you don't see any laughing face. Rather disciplined!

My favourite feature:

The internal door of Sir Alfred's closet - mighty practical! I like that there's a mirror inside in height of the head. And all this little panels! Handy, indeed!

Scene to see:

Sir Alfred commits the perfect murder! You've got to see that! It is as cross as two sticks and really amazing! (who said I am a good girl??)

Linda Darnell's evening gown and "the purple one" but without "the plumes on the hips".

Quotes Corner:

"You handle Händel like nobody handles Händel. And your Delius - delirious!"

Though I don't allways get along with slapstick, I enormously enjoy this comedy:

The finale is quite hilarious! I am also no fan of Sir Rex Harrison, but I love his perfomance in this film: He is pretty darn funny! I adore Linda Darnell pretty much, so she was the main cause for me to watch this movie for the first time. - Beside the fact, that this is a Preston Sturges flick! - Since then I saw it several times and still like it. And that Charles LeMaire was in authority for the wardrobe is also a bonus. There's only one thing that causes trouble at my home, when I turn on this film: that home recorder makes a sound that makes my cats flip out and run like smoke.. :")

Goodbye! I'll go and watch another movie..

Keep in mind: "So simple it operates itself!"

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

"I am legally dead!"

It was the first film, that Fritz Lang made in America after he flew from the Nazi regime in Germany - yes, I am talking about FURY (1936).

In a nutshell:
Joe Wilson (Spencer Tracy) and Katherine Grant (Sylvia Sidney) are engaged to be married. To raise money Katherine goes west and takes a job as a teacher, while Joe stays in Chicago and - together with his brothers Charlie (Frank Albertson) and Tom (George Walcott) - establishes a filling station.
A year has elapsed and on the way to Katherine (finally the date for the wedding is set) Joe is mistaken for a wanted kidnapper and arrested. Gossip goes wild in that small town called Strand and a furios mob - leaded by Kirby Dawson (Bruce Cabot), a local ne'er-do-well - rages against the prison, where Joe is locked, and blows it up.
Joe is believed to be buried to death but he has survived. He pretends to be dead and goes back to his brothers, where he hides out. Tom and Charlie bring 22 citizens, who were ivolved in the lynching, to trial. The witnesses tell lies to protect the defendants. Joe anonymously sents evidence, which prove Katherine that he is still alive. Tom and Charlie change their opinions and want to withdraw the charge, whilst Joe is all "eye for an eye". Finally he changes his mind and in the moment the defendants are about to hear wether they are found guilty or not guilty he steps in the court.
Watch out for:
  • Walter Brennan (who may be bestknown as "Stumpy" in RIO BRAVO),
  • George Chandler (one of the Sheriff's helpers - amongst others he was the bell hop in LIBELED LADY) and
  • Walter Abel, who gives a marvellous perfomance as district attorney.
  • And if you wonder wether you know that youngster at the salon yelling: "Come on, let's have some fun!" - it's George Offerman, jr, whom you may know from A LETTER TO THREE WIVES.
  • Rainbow, Joe's dog, was portrayed by no one but Terry, who you may know as "Toto" of THE WIZARD OF OZ - I forgot to mention that in my last post: Terry has a fighting scene in THE WOMEN at "Sydneys"! She later would star under the name "Toto". (Guess why!)
  • Ward Bond and Clara Blandick (another cast member of THE WIZARD OF OZ) did scenes but were cutted out.
  • It was the only film Sylvia Sidney made for MGM.
  • FURY was Leila Bennett's (who plays the "modiste" Edna Hooper) last picture.

Celebrate the celluloid:

Eat salted peanuts!
Murphy's law:
  • When the newsreel pictures a held you can still hear the projector.
  • After Kirby Dawson has thrown a stone into the sheriff's office you can see, that he had worn out one bar. When the sheriff goes to the window and looks out of it, there is no bar left - boy, what a pitch!!
My favourite feature:
The wedding ring Katherine gives to Joe! It is engraved "Henry to Katherine to Joe" - Henry was her father and she is named after her mother - In my opinion this ring says: "You are part of my family." and I think this is a really, really wonderful thing to say to someone.
Scene to see:
The court scenes are a must - and because half the movie takes place in the court, you might as well watch the whole movie.. ;")


I simply love Sylvia Sidneys' hats and I would like to get some of the flowers of the flowershop Spencer Tracy gazes at..

This film is really awesome. Sometimes I wonder that the newsreel pictures show so many angles - but that's allright with me.
It is quite creepy to see that mob go off the rails. (I confess: especially the women!) - And each time I wonder wether I should laugh about that visual analogy between the chatting women and the gaggling chicken or should I be offended. (Most of the time I laugh..)
And my favourite line is that about a citizen "peaceably armed with an axe". Terrific!!
By the way: To those who expected a post about "that horse-movie": There are actually NO horses - I have checked that. But don't be sad: There're a few puppys in it. (who don't look like their mother, but: they're dogs and that's possibly the main point..)
Goodbye - I'll go and watch another movie. Because:
"An impuls is an impulse. It's like an itch. You gotta scratch it."

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

"Most of my friends exit horizontally"

Clare Booth Luce is reported to have heard some gossip-loaded talk at a powderroom in a nightclub and got the inspiration to write a play, which became a Broadway-hit: The Women.

In 1939 it was adapted to screen. George Cukor was director and Anita Loos wrote together with Jane Murfin the screenplay.

In a nutshell:
Mary Haines (Norma Shearer) considers her life as perfect. She is happily married and has a daughter, who she loves a lot. Then - with a little help from her friends, esp. her cousin Sylvia (Rosalind Russell) - she finds out, that her husband Stephen has an affair with Chrystal Allen (Joan Crawford) - a femme fatale selling perfume. Eventually Mary goes to Reno, gets a divorce and new friends.

Two years go by and Chrystal Allen is now good friends with Sylvia and married to Stephen Haines, whom she betrays with a singin' cowboy. Mary figures that out and finally gets her man back.

Watch out for:
Butterfly McQueen (her film debut!), Virginia Grey, Ruth Hussey, Hedda Hopper, Hattie McDaniel and Dorothy Sebastian in bit parts.

Margaret Dumont played a Mrs. Wagstaff (probably the wife of Prof. Quincy Adams Wagstaff of "Horsefeathers" - a Dumont-free Marx Bros. movie?? Wouldn't that be great?!) but her scene were deleted.

In the fightscene Rosalind Russell bites Paulette Goddard (Mrs. Charles Chaplin at that time). Miss Goddard maintained a scar from that bite. Anyway they remained friends.

Allegedly there are (in addition to an all female cast) only female animals in this movie. Even art, books etc. are penned by women.

Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer and Rosalind Russell are rumoured to have a quarrel till George Cukor stepped in.

Joan Fontaine is the only cast member who is still alive.

My favourite feature:

"Sydneys" - the beauty parlour! It is just marvellous! I love the opening scene when these women are chatting and running through that awesome setting. "Sydneys" was named after Sydney Guilaroff - MGMs chief hairstylist.

I'd like to get that perfume flakon for "Summer Rain"!! Or some of the dresses from the Adrian fashion show (the only part in this film in Technicolor.)

This film is one of my alltime favourite - it would be among my top ten. I love the opening credits when all the bigger parts are presented with a picture of an animal and a portrait of the actrice. Although the end scene is way to corny. (Norma Shearer, what's that supposed to mean? Do you never ever went out of a picture that way! That's so Norma Desmond!), this picture contains all I love about comedies: Pretty ladies, opulent settings and decor, marvellous costumes (Rosalind Russells' hats!!) and hairstyles and most important of all: a witty script. I really love these tartly ladies of "The Women" (1939)!
If you don't want to see the whole film watch Rosalind Russell doing her excersises or.. or.. *er*. No, you've got to watch that movie!

There were two remakes: one of 1956 ("The Opposite Sex"), which I will review some day and a 2008 version (also called "The Women") which I avoid to see - so somebody out there has to do that review.
And here the most famous quote out of "The Women" (1939):

"I've had two years to grow claws, mother! Jungle red!"

Good bye! I got to go and watch another movie! So:

"Get me a bromide - and put some gin in it!"

Monday, 16 August 2010

"Which Esther Williams do you want to hear about?"

Something I got to confess: I like Esther Williams. I like her films - and her amazing smile!! Esther Williams seems to be the personification of optimism.
The movies may not be the best around, but they are really fun to watch - and they brought the money in to make highclass movies. (Don't you ever forget that!!) It is a sort of films that I like to call "Breakfast Movies" because you have not to be all awake to watch them and enjoy them. Just look - don't think about it.

I read her autobiography The Million Dollar Mermaid, which she wrote together with Digby Diehl.

It is great! Miss Williams is really really REALLY outspoken and very honest. She doesn't hide her own faults, which I think is really admirable.

There are 30 pages with pictures in it, some are rare private photos - all black-and-white.

There is a lot juicy stuff to find in this book. Yes, this lady talks about sex - and some great gossip. Read about L. B. Mayer's tantrums, Johnny Weismuller making "advances" to poor Miss Williams and her first acid trip - suggested by Cary Grant! And, yes, you may learn a lot about bathing suits.

  • Side effects: You may get the urge to buy an Esther Williams swimsuit - as I did. (I love it!!) and you'll probably will swim a lot more.. :")

I am going to post some reviews about her films. (Not so many but a few.)

And here an Esther Williams quote, to think about:

"We can't all win Olympic medals. Even I never won one."

Well, how about you?

Sunday, 15 August 2010

When there are more sick ones than well ones, the sick ones will lock the well ones up

One of the best novels I've ever read became one of the best movies I ever saw : The Snake Pit by Mary Jane Ward. (1946)

Virginia, a young women, finds herself in an asylum. The knack of the novel is that the main character isn't aware of her condition and sometimes not even knows who the surrounding people are and if they are, who they claim to be. Virginia goes through serveral wards and has to go through miscellaneous treatments.

This story is generaly written in observant view, but changes every now and then into first person. There are leaps in time because the main character has

black outs, too.

The book was written in the 1940ies and the medical care differed a lot from that treatmant you would expect today.

The author Mary Jane Ward herself remained several times in mental health facilities, so that most of the events in this story should be based on her own experiences.
  • Side effects while reading the book: You could develope some abnormal behavioural pattern while/after reading - please let me know! (For a while I adopted the "thinking pattern" - I hope you know what I mean: I simply thought the way the main character thought.. somewhat paranoid..)

    Olivia de Havilland got an Acadamy Award nomination of for playing Virginia in this film. Ginger Rogers was asked to play the lead but turned it down. Just like Gene Tierney.

Miss de Havilland did a lot of research - as usual. She observed some treatments in mental institutions and attended some events for the patients like dances etc..

  • When Virginia (Olivia de Haviland) and Robert (Mark Stevens) go to see a movie you can hear the 20th Century Fox fanfare - guess which studio produced "The Snake Pit"! (Yes! Good guess!)

    There are some differences between the book and the movie, but it is not THAT bad..

  • Watch out for: Celeste Holm in her 5.Movie, Sterling Holloway (the voice of Winnie the Pooh), Betsy Blair (she played the female lead in "Marty" and was at this time Mrs Gene Kelly) and Ruth Donnelly (she plays Jean Arthurs' roommate Mabel Dawson in "Mr. Deeds goes to town") as inmates.