Thursday, 29 September 2011

Spreading the June Haver love


I've always loved the musicals of June Haver. She had such a charming and natural screen presence. I've often wondered why more people don't talk about her nowadays! She dances just as well and is just as charming as co-star Betty Grable in The Dolly Sisters, one of her better-known films. Yet, there is no biography of her life and/or work. An underrated talent to be sure. And a woman with an interesting life: she left films in 1953 to become a nun, left the convent because of an illness, and who did she fall in love with while she was recovering out of the convent? Hollywood actor Fred MacMurray! No more convent for her! The two were married until his death. True Hollywood romance.

In light of the need for a Haver appreciation, I have decided to start spreading the Haver love! Here are a few of my favourite Haver movie moments.

June's last film is one of her best: The Girl Next Door. She has a great partner in Dan Dailey, a charming song and dance man, and a very able performer. Here's "You're Doing All Right" with somewhat terrifying tenor Dennis Day.



Dailey and Haver also share a gorgeous dance duet as they dance to the title song... they don't have moments like this in film anymore. Makes Haver fans wish she had stuck around in the business! Looks like she reached her peak here.



My favourite June Haver film is Look for the Silver Lining, and is available now from the Warner Archive (click on the title to find it at amazon). Definitely worth taking a look if you can get your hands on it. Haver is charming as the legendary stage actress Marilyn Miller, and shares the screen with newcomer at the time Gordon MacRae, who sings in his beautiful baritone, and dancing legend Ray Bolger. If you pick one Haver film to watch, this would be my recommendation.To give you a taste, here is the trailer:


Here's Haver doing a great tap solo, and then is joined by dancing great Gene Nelson. From The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady.



June Haver was once a bigger star than Marilyn Monroe! Don't believe me? Take a look at this trailer for the charming 1951 comedy Love Nest, starring Haver, and featuring Monroe in one of her first roles.



Another June Haver movie, rare though it may be, is one of her best. I'll Get By with costars Gloria DeHaven, William Lundigan, and Thelma Ritter is truly worth a look if it ever pops up on TV. No DVD is available as of yet. And, of course, check out The Dolly Sisters with Betty Grable, which made Haver a star, and is easily attainable on DVD.

I hope this inspires you to delve more closely into the work of June Haver, one of the cutest, perkiest, happiest, charming, and real performers the movie musical ever knew.

Stay tuned... my next blog will be a tribute to the cruelly underrated dancer Vera-Ellen!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Judy and Mickey tribute!



The never-let-up spirit of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney's backstage musical classics hasn't diminished. Mickey just celebrated his 91st birthday! A living legend if there ever was one. So, a tribute for Mickey and Judy is certainly in store and timely.

From 1937-1948, Judy and Mickey made a staggering nine movies together. Judy as the supposed ugly duckling (how anyone ever perceived her as such is beyond me, especially when you look at the picture posted above... a knockout and one-of-a-kind beauty if there ever was one) with the golden voice that was the selling point of each show, and Mickey the young man about town with the grand, Broadway-scale ideas. The result was movie magic. And so, today, I leave you with of my favourite clips of the grand duo, thanks to the magic of youtube!

Babes on Broadway is probably my favourite backstage musical from the duo. Judy is a stunning young woman, gets more respect from Mickey than earlier films up to this point, and they share this understated and lovely duet in an apartment. Shows you they didn't need those elaborate Busby Berkeley production numbers to pull off a number! Here's "How About You?" from the beginning of the film.


My favourite early Mickey-Judy moment, here's the classic "Good Morning" from Babes in Arms:



The end of the Mickey-Judy black and white era was 1943's Girl Crazy, and what a delightful role reversal of their regular characters! Judy is the one being pursued by Mickey, and Mickey is pining after Judy's beautiful mail girl at Cody College. Their humourous first number, with Judy taking no interest in Mickey's character, is one of my fave Mickey-Judy moments.



The Judy-Mickey swan song five years later proves the magic wasn't gone. Here they are, Mickey as composer Lorenz Hart and Judy playing herself. "I Wish I Were In Love Again."

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Friday, 16 September 2011

Happy 87th Lauren Bacall

While she will forever be known as part of "Bogie and Bacall," Lauren Bacall is a class act all on her own. Still active in the biz today, she's an inspiration to us all, and a survivor.

So, as a tribute, here are my (probably surprising) faves of the birthday girl. Bogie and Bacall fans, don't shoot me!

How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)

I've always thought Bacall made too few comedies. She has a great knack for it, and shares the screen with two other legends: Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable. As the strong-willed Schatze Page, she is perfect as the "leader" of the trio who is the brainchild of the goal to marry a millionaire. Bacall is at her comedic best in this Fox Cinemascope charmer. 


Written on the Wind (1956)

 The trademark Douglas Sirk melodrama has never been more evident than in Written on the Wind. Bacall is great as the Lucy, the woman married to Robert Stack's Kyle Hadley while truly in love with
heartthrob Rock Hudson's Mitch Wayne. While the whole movie is ridiculously over-the-top, that's the fun of it. And Bacall adds a touch of class to the production.

Designing Woman (1957)

Bacall at her comedy best with film great Gregory Peck and the stylish direction of Vincente Minnelli. Bogie was ill at the time, and Bacall found doing a comedy very therapeutic at such a difficult time. The role was a departure for her, and she is wonderful in it. She and Peck make a funny team.

Other faves include her supporting turn with Henry Fonda in Sex and the Single Girl, a lesser known Bogie-Bacall endeavour, Dark Passage, and her more recent turn as Barbra Streisand's mother in The Mirror Has Two Faces. Bacall effortlessly steals every scene she is in with Streisand.

So, get a slice of birthday cake, and take your pick from these Bacall flicks tonight!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Warner Archive: Singing The Praises

 One of the best sources for the classic movie fan is the Warner Archive: http://www.wbshop.com/Warner-Archive/ARCHIVE,default,sc.html

Now available in both Canada and the U.S., classic movie fans can rejoice at finally finding some of their favourite, hard-to-find, or lesser known movies on DVD. Made on demand at the time of order, some amazing titles are available.

Here are some of my favourite titles from the Warner Archive:

For Cary Grant fans, his moving and soapy escapade with the one and only Carole Lombard, "In Name Only," and the cruelly underrated comedy-drama with the great Ginger Rogers, "Once Upon a Honeymoon."





Judy Garland fans can enjoy a lot of her early MGM titles, like the 1938 "Everybody Sing," or her dual role in the charming "Little Nellie Kelly."

Gene Kelly fans can see his rarely seen but brilliant all-dance film achievement, "Invitation to the Dance."



















Other great musical titles from the archive: Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Ann Miller, Red Skelton, and Marge and Gower Champion team up for a fast-moving and underrated MGM adventure in "Lovely to Look At," an all-star cast team up for the MGM WW2 musical "Thousands Cheer," and June Haver makes a charming Marilyn Miller in "Look for the Silver Lining" with a young and handsome Gordon MacRae.

Romance abounds with Dorothy McGuire in the unique and deeply moving "Enchanted Cottage" and Ginger Rogers, Walter Pidgeon, Lana Turner, and Van Johnson all find love in the MGM remake of "Grand Hotel," "Weekend at the Waldorf."

Hundreds more titles are available through the Warner Archive site. Operating mainly online, the archive has made its way into some specialty DVD shops in Canada and the U.S. If you don't feel like ordering online, check your local DVD stores and see if they carry or special order from the archive. Also, please check my widget on the tabs on the right of the blog to see my complete Warner Archive recommendations, and you can order titles directly from amazon.ca!!

Happy watching! And I'd love to hear your favourite Warner Archive titles!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Happy Birthday Peter Lawford!



If Peter Lawford were alive, he would be 88 today. Sadly, he died on Christmas Eve, 1984 at the age of 61. Thankfully, he has left a legacy full of charming films. I particularly enjoy Lawford's appearances in the great MGM Musicals. He appeared in many, despite not being particularly musically inclined. But, he could carry a tune, and perform a simple dance when needed.

This is particularly evident in "Good News", a 1947 musical from MGM. Co-starring with the cute-as-a-button, adorable June Allyson, they make a charming pair. The "Varsity Drag" finale, with Lawford and Allyson front and center, is a prime example of the wonderful ensemble numbers MGM turned out.

He also proves a worthy adversary to Fred Astaire's Don Hewes in the MGM classic "Easter Parade", where he vies for Hannah Brown's (played by screen legend Judy Garland) heart. While it is always clear that Garland and Astaire will (and should) end up together, Lawford's Jonathan is Peter at his most handsome and charming. He even shares a vocal duet with Garland, "Fella With an Umbrella".

Lawford had a diverse career while under contract to MGM in the 1940s, along with an array of female costars. Over the years, he fancied the likes of songbird Kathryn Grayson, swimmer Esther Williams, and lavender-eyed Elizabeth Taylor, and perky songstress Jane Powell, to name a few.

While Lawford is most known today because of his MGM movies, one of my personal favourites is a film he did at Columbia in 1954. "It Should Happen to You" paired him with one of the greatest comedic film actresses of all time, Judy Holliday. He, in classic Lawford style, is involved in a love triangle in this charming comedy. The man he competes with to win Holliday's heart? The legendary Jack Lemmon in his film debut.

Lawford's career from mid-1950s onward saw him frequently on television, and much less often on the big screen. But, us classic film watchers still remember and enjoy Lawford's big screen appearances.

Happy Birthday to you, Mr. Lawford!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Modern silent movie to hit the Toronto Film Festival

This looks fascinating. A black and white silent movie, set in 1927... when was it made? This year! Looks like it was very successful at Cannes, and it's being screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9th and 10th. I very much look forward to seeing it! Something unique actually hitting the movie theatres!

A great read for Monroe and Olivier fans



I'm currently reading Colin Clark's book "The Prince, the Showgirl, and Me: Six Months on the Set with Marilyn and Olivier". http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Showgirl-Me-Marilyn-Olivier/dp/0312143958

It's a fascinating account from Clark, who served as 3rd Assistant Director during the making of the infamous "The Prince and the Showgirl", and kept a daily diary during filming. He published the diary in essentially its complete form, and provides some fabulous insight into the behind the scenes atmosphere of the movie that brought together two very unlikely stars in Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe.

Clark confirms in the book what I could almost sense while watching the film. Monroe gives what appears to be one of her most natural, charming, and adorable performances, while director/leading man Olivier seems unable to hide his distaste with the project through his onscreen character. Clark states that the real-life atmosphere was similar: Olivier was disgusted with Monroe's tardiness and inability to remember lines, and this was reflected in a wooden, unfeeling performance. And, once the rushes were viewed, it was Monroe's performance that always seemed effortless and scene-stealing, despite sometimes requiring upwards of 30 takes to get the scene in the can.

Clark's account is also fascinating in his discussion of the "supporting players" associated with the film: Monroe's new husband, famous playwright Arthur Miller, and Olivier's legendary actress wife Vivien Leigh. Clark's observation of Miller is very low: an egotistical intellectual who viewed Monroe as his beautiful trophy wife, and therefore, showed her little respect. Clark views Leigh as charming and the most beautiful woman in the world, with a wit that seemed sugar-sweet even if she was blatantly insulting someone (in one particular case, Monroe).

Overall, there is much for the Monroe fan to eat up through Clark's account of a few months with the world's biggest film star. Clark sees her in many different lights throughout the course of the book: as both breathtakingly beautiful and shockingly ghastly in physical appearance, surprisingly observant and intelligent, charming, terrified, depressed, unfocussed, irritating, needing to be loved and assured, and above all, magical on screen.

Introduction!

Hi everyone! Welcome to my blog! I have wanted to start a classic movie blog for a long time now, and finally it's a reality! I hope you find my posts interesting, and can't wait to hear your comments! First official post to come soon!