Dinner & a Movie: Roman Holiday (1953)

I recently checked a new book out from the library, TCM: Movie Night Menus: Dinner and Drink Recipes Inspired by the Films we Love.  While I questioned some of the meals, I liked the idea of pairing a meal and a cocktail with a film.  A decade or so ago, TBS had a television show that followed these same lines.  It, I believe, was called “Dinner and a Movie.” In the show, the hosts would prepare a meal that was loosely themed to the featured film.  Usually it had some cutesy name (often times the name was a pun on the name of the film).  I liked the ideas featured in the TCM book as it was less corny and seemed more in tune with my idea of making film viewing an event in and of itself. Who says you have to leave the house to “go out” ?

I’ve been trying to come up with some type of feature for the blog.  I often enjoy pairing drinks and/or meals with specific films.  Even if this is my hundredth time watching the film, it can feel like a different experience in the context of a dinner and drink event.  For my first feature, I went with Roman Holiday (1953).  I decided to go with Roman Holiday, because I wanted to watch something that took place in Italy to go with my Italian meal. I made lasagna and paired it with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from California.  I’m not going to include recipes, because lets face it, I had to use a recipe to make the meal in the first place–so it’s not my recipe. My lasagna happened to be made with italian turkey sausage (instead of the traditional ground beef or ground beef and pork sausage blend).  The turkey makes the meal feel lighter.  I also added fresh spinach to the ricotta filling.

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My turkey, spinach, tomato lasagna with a breadstick and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.  I USUALLY TRY NOT TO BLOW PLOT POINTS, BUT I NEED TO DO SO FOR THE SAKE OF DISCUSSION***

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Roman Holiday is such a delight.  It is Audrey Hepburn’s first major film role and is the film that catapulted her to stardom.  Peck was very kind to Hepburn during the making of this film.  At this point, Peck was the bigger star and should have received sole star billing (i.e. above the title).  However, he felt that this was Hepburn’s film and that she would win an Oscar for it.  He insisted to the studio heads that Hepburn’s name also appear above the title with his.  He was right.  Hepburn went on to win the Best Actress Oscar for her work in this film.  Peck and Hepburn went on to be life long friends.

In this film, Hepburn portrays Princess Ann.  Princess Ann’s nationality I do not believe is ever disclosed in this film. Princess Ann is on a European tour and is quickly growing bored with her regimented routine and schedule.  One night, appearing at another function (undoubtedly just one of hundreds that she has to attend), Ann has a breakdown after being briefed on her next appearance.  A doctor gives her a sedative (seemingly every doctor in the Golden Age’s solution. “She’s hysterical. Give her a sedative”).  Not knowing about the sedative, Princess Ann sneaks out of the embassy and into Rome.  Joe Bradley (Peck), an American reporter for the American news service comes across her sleeping on a bench.  Not knowing of her true identity, he tries to give her money for a taxi to go home, but she’s too out of it to cooperate.  He ends up taking her home to sleep it off.

The next morning, word is out that Princess Ann has taken ill and has canceled all appearances (obviously the embassy is trying to save face and figure out where she is).  Bradley ends up going to work late under the pretense that he’s completed his interview with Princess Ann.  His boss calls him out on his lie.  Bradley sees a photograph of the Princess in the newspaper in his boss’ office.  Seeing an opportunity, Bradley bets his boss $5,000 that he can get an exclusive interview with Princess Ann.  He returns home and despite the Princess’ hesitations, he ends up taking her out for a day of fun in Rome.  With her newfound freedom, Princess Ann cuts her hair short and even drives a Vespa around town! Unbeknownst to her, Bradley has hired his friend Irving (Eddie Albert) to photograph the Princess during her day of freedom.

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Isn’t this just one of the most joyful scenes in cinema?

Many romantic comedies involve deception.  Roman Holiday features multiple deceptions.  Gregory Peck deceives Audrey Hepburn in two ways: 1) He knows her true identity but pretends like he doesn’t and 2) He tells her that he is a fertilizer salesman.  Audrey Hepburn deceives Gregory Peck by devising her fake identity of “Anya.” Of course, Hepburn’s deception seems reasonable, as she wouldn’t want word to get out as to her whereabouts.  Peck on the other hand, at the beginning of the film, is lying to Hepburn purely to profit off of her decision to be “free.” Of course, in most of these romantic comedies, the characters usually find out about the other’s deception and the relationship seems to be in jeopardy at first until one of them makes a great gesture.

In Roman Holiday, however, Hepburn never finds out about Peck’s true intentions.  In fact, she realizes that her jig is up when the government agents track her town at a party and chaos ensues.  At the conclusion of the party, Hepburn bids Peck adieu, stating that she must resume her royal duties.  Peck realizes that he’s developed true romantic feelings for her and doesn’t want to hurt her by profiting off of the photos he has of Hepburn acting very un-Princess like.  While appearing at another meet and greet event, Peck and Albert present Hepburn with the photos of her trip under the guise of a generic memento of her trip to Rome.  Hepburn and Peck exchange some vague but direct allusions to their day together while maintaining the appropriate distance between a royal and a “strange” reporter.  At the conclusion of the event, Peck is left to wonder what could have been as he leaves Princess Ann. I can’t help but think that Peck’s character will stick around in Rome hoping to see Princess Ann each time she visits–or perhaps he’ll get an assignment in Princess Ann’s country.

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Joe Bradley says goodbye to Princess Ann.

When I first saw this film, I loved Audrey Hepburn’s character but thought that Gregory Peck seemed wooden.  I have had that same opinion of Peck in other films, but as I see more of him and learned about him as a person outside of the silver screen, I’ve grown to appreciate him more.  Now, when I watch him in Roman Holiday, he still has that deep, stiff sounding voice.  However, now his deep voice lends itself to sounding more romantic and strong–which is a good quality for a leading man.  He and Audrey have magnificent chemistry.  Audrey’s effervescence is a nice contrast to Peck’s tendency to seem too serious and she helps lighten him up a bit.

This film is filled with so much joy and happiness that it is impossible to tire of it.  This film was a wonderful way to introduce Audrey Hepburn to the American public.

In Memory of Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017)

Beloved television icon Mary Tyler Moore passed away today at the age of 80.  While I knew that Mary had been in poor health for the last few years and I’m not entirely surprised by her passing, I am still very sad.  I absolutely love Mary Tyler Moore.  Along with I Love LucyThe Mary Tyler Moore Show was my “must see” show during my Nick at Nite years.  I also loved The Dick Van Dyke Show, the show that put Mary on the map, but The Mary Tyler Moore Show will always have a special place in my heart.

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While I Love Lucy is my #1 favorite television show of all time, The Mary Tyler Moore Show comes in a close second.  While Lucy Ricardo got the best of her husband Ricky often and for the most part, always got her way, she was still expected to live up to the expectations of women in the 1950s.  Lucy was expected to keep house, take care of children (or in her case, child) and attend to her husband’s needs.  Husband Ricky was the breadwinner.  She took care of all domestic chores.  To Lucy, this life was mundane and she wanted the excitement of show business, something that Ricky experienced on a daily basis.  Ricky didn’t want his wife having a career.  Even when Lucy got her way and made her way onto the stage, she was still expected to return to her domestic duties.  In the only two-three cringe-worthy moments in I Love Lucy, Ricky actually spanks Lucy when she does something he doesn’t like.  Ricky keeps Lucy in her place and she usually always returns to domestic life even though it is apparent that she wants more.

In 1961, 24-year old Mary Tyler Moore was cast in The Dick Van Dyke Show.  She landed the star-making role of Laura Petrie, wife of Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke).  This role allowed Moore to showcase her talent for dancing and also her comedic skills. In addition to her excellent chemistry with Van Dyke, the role of Laura Petrie allowed Mary to establish one of her great comic shticks.  Where Lucille Ball’s comedy came from situations she got herself into, much of Mary’s comedy came from being embarrassed.  In the episode “My Blonde-Haired Brunette,” Laura decides that Rob has become uninterested in her.  Knowing that blondes like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield are currently in vogue, Laura decides to make herself blonde.  She looks horrible as a blonde and Rob tells her over the phone that he loves her brown hair and he’s taking her out to dinner.  Desperate to change her hair before he comes home, she enlists friend Millie to help her.  Unfortunately, Rob arrives home when Laura’s hair is only half dyed.  She comes out with her half and half hair and collapses into a blubbering mess.  Mary Tyler Moore became one of the all-time best criers on television.  Even though Rob encouraged his wife to explore her talents, Laura Petrie ultimately was still a housewife and was expected to take care of son Ritchie and their home.  Laura somewhat bridges the gap between Lucy Ricardo and Mary Richards.

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Which brings us to The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  The Dick Van Dyke Show ended in 1966 after a very successful five-year run on television.  Between 1966-1970, Mary was having trouble finding her next project.  She tried movies.  Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) was successful, but did not lead to any big projects.  In 1969, Mary and Dick reunited for a special called, Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman.  In this variety special, Mary and Dick portray themselves and through a variety of song and dance routines, it shows off the various sides of Mary and Dick’s musical comedy talents.  This special paved the way for Mary to get her own show.  In 1970, The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered.

In The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary portrayed Mary Richards, a newly single 30-year old woman who moves to Minneapolis to start a new life and career after her long-term relationship fizzles out.  Mary moves into a fantastic studio apartment managed by longtime friend, Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman).  Soon to be BFF, Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), lives upstairs.  Applying for a secretarial position at WJM News, Mary lands the job of Associate Producer.  WJM’s news is the lowest rated news program in the city.  Mary’s new co-workers include the brash, but secretly a softie, Lou Grant (Ed Asner), sarcastic and disillusioned writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin McLeod) and the buffoonish, arrogant anchorman, Ted Baxter (Ted Knight).  Later, Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White) who hosts “The Happy Homemaker” program at WJM and Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel) join the gang.  Georgette ends up becoming Mrs. Ted Baxter.

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Mary Richards in many ways is the ideal woman of the 1970s (and maybe even now).  She’s gainfully employed and makes enough money to live independently.  She has many friends and even a close-knit group of co-workers who in many ways serve as a surrogate family for Mary.  While she would like to be married and have children, she isn’t desperate to have them.  She goes on dates and it is even implied that she spends the night with some of them.  She’s on The Pill!  Prior to 1970, were there any female television characters that even had sex, let alone were on The Pill? Mother characters don’t count.  Mary lived her own life according to her own terms.  There were times when Mary was a bit of a pushover and naive, but this is where the Rhoda and Lou characters came in handy–they were able to express their concerns to Mary in hopes that she’d make the right decision.  Throughout the 1970s, Mary Richards approached uncharted territory.  In an early episode, she discovers that the man who had her job before her made $50 more a week than she does.  She confronts Lou and demands to know why; In the fifth season, Mary faces the possibility of jail time for not revealing her news source; In the seventh season, Mary becomes hooked on sleeping pills. These are just a few examples.

Without further ado, my top 10 favorite episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

(This definitely isn’t meant to imply that I am not a fan of the other 158 episodes of the show)

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1. Put On a Happy Face (Season 3, Ep. 23)

Mary Richards is having a really bad week.  She’s late to work after her alarm fails to go off; She drips coffee on her new sweater before a meeting; she gets a flat tire; her paper bags fail causing her to drop her groceries all over the floor; she slips on the freshly waxed floor and sprains her ankle after trying to walk to the ladies’ room to fix her “hair bump”; she catches a cold from soaking her sprained foot; her date to the Teddy Awards bails; she ends up going to the award show with a “Robert Redford-type” (aka Ted Baxter); the dry cleaner ruins her dress; her hair dryer breaks; she gets a run in her stocking; it starts raining… This all culminates with Mary showing up at the Teddy Awards in a tacky dress, one wet slipper and one shoe, wearing a yellow rain slicker and haphazard hair.  Her false eyelash falls off.  She of course wins the Teddy Award she was nominated for and ends up a blubbering mess on the podium, only managing to apologize for her appearance.  She gets her award, and Mary is spelled wrong.  Of course it is.

*This is my favorite episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

2. The Dinner Party (Season 4, Ep. 10)

It’s time for another of Mary’s disastrous parties.  For someone who is so pleasant and well-liked by her co-workers and friends, it becomes a running gag in the series that she can’t seem to give a good party to save her life.  Nothing that happens at her parties is ever her fault, it just seems like everyone likes to bring their troubles to her parties.  In this party, Mary has invited Congresswoman Geddes as her guest of honor.  Her table only seats six.  The guests will be: Congresswoman Geddes, Mary, Lou, Rhoda, Murray and Sue Ann (who is cooking the dinner).  Sue Ann cooks exactly six portions of “Veal Prince Orloff.”  Rhoda shows up with a date (Henry Winkler) who has just been fired from Hempels and she feels bad.  Lou ends up taking 3 portions of Veal Prince Orloff and has to return two portions to the platter.  Ted, who was not invited to the dinner party, shows up to dessert.

3. The Lars Affair (Season 4, Ep. 1)

This is the funniest Phyllis episode.  This episode also introduces the Sue Ann Nivens character.  In this episode, Phyllis learns that husband Lars and Sue Ann are having an affair after meeting at Mary’s party.  Phyllis agonizes over the fact that her husband is cheating on her and even bakes a pie in an attempt to compete with Sue Ann.  The episode culminates with a confrontation on the set of “The Happy Homemaker” where Sue Ann refuses to give Lars up even after Phyllis points out all of his faults.  Sue Ann finally relents when Mary gives her an ultimatum, stating that being a homewrecker wouldn’t be a great image for “The Happy Homemaker,” it’s either Lars or her show.

4. Rhoda the Beautiful (Season 3, Ep. 6)

Perpetual dieter Rhoda has finally reached her goal.  Mary, Phyllis and the WJM staff give her praise but Rhoda cannot accept any of the compliments and meets each kind statement with a self-deprecating remark.  She ends up entering her department store’s “Miss Hempel Beauty Pageant.”  After a hilarious scene where Mary and Phyllis help Rhoda find something to wear (and Phyllis sings “10 Cents a Dance” from Love Me or Leave Me), Rhoda leaves for the pageant.  She looks fantastic and wins the contest.  Rhoda is finally able to admit that she looks good.

5. You Try to Be a Nice Guy (Season 5, Ep. 21)

Mary ends up becoming reacquainted with Sherry, a prostitute she met in jail while she was incarcerated for not revealing her news source.  Sherry got out of jail but was arrested again.  She recruits Mary to be a character witness at her court appearance.  Sherry is relying on a good character witness like Mary to keep her out of jail.  Mary agrees but unwittingly becomes responsible for Sherry’s behavior after having to give an oath promising to help Sherry look for legitimate work.  Mary, taking her oath seriously, is determined to find a decent job for Sherry but struggles since Sherry doesn’t have any marketable skills.  Finally, Sherry tells Mary that she wants to be a fashion designer.  Mary encourages her to pursue her dream.  To thank her, Sherry makes Mary a custom gown.  It ends up being a ridiculous, green colored concoction with lots of cutouts across Mary’s stomach and legs.  Only Mary Tyler Moore could wear this dress and not look atrocious, but it is so tacky and so completely not Mary Richards, that she looks ridiculous.  Ted and Georgette happen to show up at the same time Mary is wearing this dress and Ted can’t keep it together.  His reaction is the funniest part of the episode.

6. The Last Show (Season 7, Ep. 24)

All good things must come to an end and The Mary Tyler Moore Show unfortunately reached that point in 1977. I personally think they could have continued a couple more years, but it’s good that the show ended before the episodes started diminishing in quality.  In what is perhaps one of the best (if not the best) series finales of all time, the WJM crew (with the exception of Ted) learn that they are going to be fired.  Though they’re trying to repress their emotions, they finally let it all out after the end of their last newscast.  It’s hard to watch this scene without getting at least a little teary-eyed. Lou and Mary emotionally give speeches to everyone.  This culminates with the group sobbing in a large group hug.  Ted (or maybe Lou?) says he needs Kleenex and they move in one big glob toward the Kleenex box.  To lighten the mood, they sing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” and leave the room.  Mary is left to turn off the lights. Thus ending The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

7. Sue Ann’s Sister (Season 7, Ep. 3)

Sue Ann’s sister Lila is in town.  Sue Ann is deeply jealous of Lila as it seems that every time Sue Ann gets something, Lila comes around and steals it from her.  Upon arrival, Lila and Lou immediately become chummy, which infuriates Sue Ann.  Lila then announces that she is interviewing for a “Happy Homemaker” type show on a rival network. This latest news is just too much for Sue Ann and she retreats to her bedroom.  The scene in Sue Ann’s bedroom is the funniest part of the entire episode.  Her bedroom is frilly gaudy.  She sleeps in a round bed, which we learn also vibrates.  She’s also got Tchaikovsky’s “Love Theme” from “Romeo and Juliet” queued up to play whenever I imagine she’s got something hot and heavy going on.  The best scene is when Ted walks in, looks up, and straightens his hat and tie–telling the audience about Sue Ann’s mirrored ceiling.

8. I Was a Single for WJM (Season 4, Ep. 24)

Inspired by the popularity of a local singles bar, WJM News decides to do a feature on the singles scene in Minneapolis.  The crew spends time at the bar each evening looking to find an “angle” for their story.  By Friday, Mary has become acquainted with many of the regulars and hopes to use them in WJM’s story.  When the singles become aware of the plan for cameras to enter their hangout and interview them, they become camera shy and leave in droves.  By the time the news starts, the bar is empty and Mary and co. are forced to improvise.

9. Edie Gets Married (Season 6, Ep. 1)

In this very emotional episode, Lou finds out that ex-wife Edie is planning on remarrying.  While he knows there isn’t a chance of them getting back together, Lou is still having trouble admitting that that aspect of his life (he & Edie) is over.  In a goodwill gesture, Edie invites Lou to her wedding.  Lou doesn’t know if he wants to attend, but ultimately does.  With Mary as his date, Lou very graciously and stoically watches his ex-wife tie the knot with someone else.  Originally Mary was supposed to provide moral support, but by the end of the ceremony, she’s a blubbery mess.  Lou then wishes Edie the best of luck in her marriage and Mary loses it completely.  Lou ends up taking her to the bar to console her.

10. The Square-Shaped Room (Season 2, Ep. 13)

Lou wants to surprise wife Edie with a makeover of their living room.  He plans to hire an old “designer” friend who currently decorates bus stations.  Mary suggests Rhoda, whose vocation is window decorator.  Lou hires Rhoda.  Rhoda agonizes over the right details for the room and finally settles for an all white motif with modern design.  The bookshelves appear to be made of white PVC piping.  There’s lots of white, shag, PVC and glass and a big number “5” on the wall.  This room is not Lou’s style at all and Rhoda has to return the room to its original state–however, there’s one change that Lou and Edie liked–the white walls.

The great thing about The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was that despite the show being named after its star, it was truly an ensemble show.  While Mary was in every episode, not every episode centered around Mary.  Every character had their own story lines and chances in the spotlight.  This is one of the few shows where the main characters were fleshed out.  We knew each character’s backstory, frustrations, successes, etc.  What I also loved about this show is how effortlessly they blended drama with comedy.  Lou had many very emotional moments (especially when dealing with Edie) and the show was able to easily add levity to a situation without undermining the scene.

In the famous “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode, Chuckles the Clown dies.  Not funny stuff.  Chuckles was dressed as a peanut and a rogue elephant tried to shell him.  His death is absurd and tragic.  Lou, Murray and Sue Ann get all the jokes out of the way in the first half of the episode.  Mary is mortified at her co-workers’ lack of sensitivity.  At the funeral, the co-workers are able to provide the somberness required for the occasion.  Mary, on the other hand, finally realizes the absurdity of the situation and can’t stop laughing during the pastor’s eulogy.  However, laughing at a funeral would be a very un-Mary Richards like thing to do–her laughter quickly turns to loud sobs.  It is a testament to Mary Tyler Moore’s talent that she was able to switch from laughter to crying so quickly and realistically.

Goodbye Mary.  You had spunk!

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Carole Lombard Blogathon!

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For my blogathon entry, I am covering Carole Lombard’s friendship with Lucille Ball.

January 16, 2017 is the 75th anniversary of the death of comedienne Carole Lombard.  In 1942, Lombard, along with her mother, husband Clark Gable’s press agent, and fifteen army servicemen were killed when their plane crashed into the mountains in Nevada.  Lombard, et. al. were on their way back from a war bond rally in Lombard’s home state of Indiana.  It has been said that the group was supposed to travel back to Los Angeles via train, but Lombard was anxious to return home and wanted to fly.  Her mother and Gable’s press agent did not want to fly, but agreed to flip a coin with Lombard.  Lombard “won.”  After her death, Clark Gable was inconsolable and was seen racing around his San Fernando neighborhood on his motorcycle.  Friends were concerned that he was suicidal. Two such friends were Lucille Ball and husband Desi Arnaz.

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Ball and Lombard were friends from RKO Studios.  They were neighbors in the San Fernando Valley.  When Ball and Arnaz married in November of 1940, Lombard and Gable (who married the year prior) threw them a party at the Chasen’s nightclub in Hollywood. Many of Ball and Arnaz’ friends predicted instant doom for their union, but not Lombard and Gable.  Lombard and Gable frequently invited Ball and Arnaz to spend the day with them at their ranch.  After Lombard’s death, Gable (after tearing around on his motorcycle) would stop at Ball and Arnaz’ doorstep just to talk about his beloved wife Carole.  He would also occasionally bring over one of her films for the three of them to watch.  In her book, Love Lucy, Ball notes that she was never sure whether Gable was trying to torture himself by watching his late wife’s films, or whether seeing and hearing her brought him a sense of comfort (Ball, p. 123).  However, Ball and Arnaz were there for Clark and consoled him and entertained him when he needed it. caroleclark

By 1951, Ball’s career in the movies was waning and Arnaz’ never really started (because of his accent, studios claimed he was difficult to cast).  They had an opportunity to star in their own series in the fledgling industry of television. Ball was currently appearing on CBS’ radio show, My Favorite Husband, and the network wanted to move the program to the small screen.  At the time, “movie people” frowned on television as it seemed like a novelty and beneath them somehow.  It took some time to lure big screen stars to the small screen.  Ball and Arnaz (who at this time was a successful bandleader with The Desi Arnaz Orchestra that toured the country frequently) had to make a decision.  One night, Ball had a dream where friend Carole Lombard appeared and she said (to Lucy) “take a chance honey, give it a whirl.” This was all the confidence Lucy needed and I Love Lucy was born and television history was made.

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TRIVIA: Lucy had a superstition about the combination of the letters AR–a combo which is present in both Lombard’s first and last name.  Lucy believed she hadn’t hit it big until she married Desi ARnaz.  When I Love Lucy filmed their pilot, Lucy and Desi’s characters were Lucy and Larry Lopez.  Aside from the fact that those names sound corny, Lucy wanted the characters renamed to incorporate “AR.”  Lucy and Larry Lopez became Lucy and Ricky RicARdo.  Later in her subsequent sitcoms, Lucy appeared as: Lucy CARmichael (The Lucy Show); Lucy CARter (Here’s Lucy) and Lucy BARker (Life With Lucy)

Ball, Lucille (1996). Love Lucy. Boulevard Books.

In Memoriam…

Sorry for the delay in posting, but I’ve been very busy with work and dealing with the aftermath of a disaster incurred in my home.  During the Thanksgiving weekend, my sewer pipe and sump pump decided to join forces and fail at the same time.  Not to be outdone, the rain poured furiously, further compounding the problem.  As a result, my basement flooded about 1′, destroying everything in its path.  Unfortunately, in one of the rooms in the basement, I was storing my DVD collection.  I lost all the films on the bottom shelves in the room.  Some other films also suffered some collateral damage due to coming in contact with one of its flood-ravaged brethren.

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You’ll notice that the rug is floating.  All the movies that are on their sides on the second to bottom shelf are the ones in the water.  There were seven shelves in all.  Sadly, inside that cardboard box on the right side, were all my husband’s classic NES, SNES, Sega, etc. game cartridges.  While I know that the DVDs themselves are okay, the cover art is destroyed.  Plus the movies were covered in sewer water.  Who wants sewage contaminated films? I don’t.  Ick! Insurance should provide me with enough money to be able to replace all the victims.

Anyway.  This brings me to my post:

In Memoriam to some of those lost in the great flood of 2016…

You’ll Never Get Rich (1941) /You Were Never Lovelier (1942).

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In You’ll Never Get Rich, Fred Astaire portrays the manager of a theater who is enlisted by the theater owner, Robert Benchley, to help him woo dancer Rita Hayworth by buying her a gift.  However, Benchley is caught by his wife, Frieda Inescort, who is at the end of her rope.  It is implied that Benchley has a wandering eye and Inescort has had enough.  She threatens divorce.  To save his marriage, Benchley insists that Astaire bought the gift and sets Astaire and Hayworth up on a date.  Matters are further complicated when Astaire is drafted into WWII and Hayworth travels to the camp (to perform for the troops) and to visit her real boyfriend.  She and Astaire end up falling in love.

In You Were Never Lovelier, Hayworth portrays the second eldest daughter of a wealthy Argentinian, Adolph Menjou, who also owns a local nightclub.  Menjou has four daughters and has insisted that his daughters must marry in order of age.  Astaire portrays an American dancer who finds himself out of work after losing all his money betting on horses.  Looking for work, Astaire visits Menjou’s club.  Menjou is not interested.  Astaire ends up contacting his friend, Xavier Cugat, who has been hired to perform at Menjou’s eldest daughter’s wedding.  Astaire spots Hayworth and is immediately smitten, but she rebuffs him.  Hayworth is not interested in marriage.  Her two younger sisters are in love and desperately want to marry (in the film it the ladies seem like they’re more desperate to sleep with their boyfriends, but of course, morality dictates that they must wait until they’re married).  Knowing the plight of his youngest daughters, Menjou begins sending orchids and love notes to Hayworth under the guise of a secret admirer.  One day, Astaire tries to visit Menjou.  Menjou, not seeing Astaire and thinking he’s the bellboy, orders him to go deliver the latest love trinkets to Hayworth.  Astaire complies and Hayworth assumes that Astaire has been the one sending the notes.  Hayworth ends up asking Menjou to set her up with Astaire.  Menjou, who dislikes Astaire, offers to give Astaire a long-term contract at the club if he will do his best to repel Hayworth.  Of course, they fall in love instead.

A Summer Place (1959)

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One of my favorite types of films are the over-wrought melodramas of the 1950s.  A Summer Place has everything you could ever want in a film: adultery, bigotry, alcoholism, love, teen pregnancy, everything.  Plus, it has memorable theme music that is present throughout the film and adds to the overall mood of the film.

A Summer Place tells the tale of two former teenage lovers (Dorothy McGuire and Richard Egan) who end up reuniting twenty years after the end of their affair.  Neither McGuire nor Egan are happy in their respective marriages.  McGuire’s husband, Arthur Kennedy, is an alcoholic.  McGuire and Kennedy operate an Inn on Pine Island off the coast of Maine.  The Inn used to be Kennedy’s family’s opulent family mansion.  With the family fortune all but gone, they are forced to rent out rooms.  McGuire and Kennedy have even moved into the small guest house on the property so that they can rent out their master suite.  One day, Kennedy receives a message from an old acquaintance, Richard Egan, who wants to bring his family to the resort.  Egan, who used to be a lifeguard back when Kennedy knew him, is now a millionaire.  Kennedy doesn’t want Egan to visit, feeling that he’s only there to brag about how he’s rich and Kennedy is now broke.  However, McGuire tells him to accept the request, because they need money.  McGuire and Kennedy also have a teenage son, Troy Donahue.

Egan shows up with wife Constance Ford and teenage daughter Sandra Dee.  Egan and Ford have a rocky marriage.  She is bigoted against pretty much everyone.  He even delivers a delicious diatribe completing ripping her a new one.  Egan, who is very cognizant of “the love that got away” (McGuire) encourages daughter Dee to listen to her natural desires and to embrace her developing figure and interest in the opposite sex.  Ford on the other hand, is a prude who forces Dee to hide her curves and disapproves of any behavior that seems indecent.  She particularly disapproves of Donahue and even goes as far as forcing Dee to submit to a particularly embarrassing and degrading physical exam after she suspects that Dee and Donahue were having sex, even though both parties vehemently deny it.

McGuire and Egan, who haven’t been together for twenty years since McGuire left the then broke Egan for the rich Kennedy, rekindle their romance and are soon engaged in an adulterous affair.  Their respective spouses end up finding out and the marriages are soon dissolved.  At the same time, McGuire and Egan’s respective children, Donahue and Dee, are wrapped up in a teen love affair of their own.  Knowing of the time they lost, McGuire and Egan are the most supportive of their children’s affair.  Ford and Kennedy both disapprove.  Donahue and Dee are deeply in love and nothing, not even being sent to different schools in different states, will keep them from seeing one another.

Yours, Mine and Ours (1968)

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This film, the precursor to The Brady Bunch (1969-1974), features Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda as widowed spouses who end up marrying and merging their families.  The problem? Ball is the mother of eight children and Fonda has ten children.  The beginning of the film features funny scenes of Ball and Fonda’s courtship.  When they originally meet, neither knows about the other’s considerable brood.  When the truth comes out, they try to put the kibosh on their relationship, but soon it is apparent that they are truly in love and they decide to take the plunge.  Both groups of children dislike each other and the tension is high.  Eventually they end up learning how to work together and to actually like each other.

One of the funniest scenes is when Ball comes over to meet Fonda’s children for the first time.  The eldest sons, tasked with making cocktails, end up getting Ball schnockered by making her “an alcoholic Pearl Harbor” (as Fonda puts it), which is a screwdriver containing vodka, gin and scotch with a tiny bit of orange juice (for color, I imagine).  Ball ends up dumping food on one of the children, laughing and crying maniacally, and generally making a fool out of herself.

Another funny scene deals with the plight of poor Phillip, one of Ball’s youngest sons.  This poor kid can barely get any food at breakfast, can’t reach the sink to brush his teeth, is left with enormous rain boots that he can’t walk in and later ends up getting in a fight with the teacher in his Catholic school.

My favorite scene though, is the one where Henry Fonda hands out room assignments.  He assigns a number to each child (oldest to youngest), a color to each bathroom and a letter to each bedroom.  One of the children walks away repeating, “I’m 11, Red, A.”

Van Johnson co-stars as a co-worker of Fonda and Ball; Tim Matheson appears as the eldest child, Mike; and Tom Bosley appears as a doctor.

…and for the saddest casualty of them all…

The Long, Long Trailer (1954)

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This is my favorite film of all time.  I have probably seen it a hundred times–not exaggerating.  When I replace my copy, I will be on my third copy.  I wore out my VHS.  Anyway, myself and my family can recite all the dialogue.  Desi Arnaz has the best lines.  These are some of the gems:

“It’s a fine thing when you come home to your home and your home is gone!”

“Have you any conception how much room it takes to turn this thing around? We might have to go on for miles and miles!”

Then the mechanic has two of the funniest lines, that continually haunt Arnaz for the first half of the film:

“Trailer brakes first!”

“Forty feet of train!”

This film is about a newlywed couple (Lucille Ball and Arnaz) who purchase a trailer and take it on their honeymoon.  Arnaz’ job takes him to different locations all over the country (it is not stated what his job is, but I am assuming that he is some type of engineer as Ball mentions him working on a bridge and a dam), and Ball envisions them living in this motor home and traveling to wherever Arnaz’ job takes him.  They plan to drive from Los Angeles to Colorado for their honeymoon.  On the way, they visit Ball’s relatives in another part of California and also visit Yosemite.  They get into hilarious incidents along the way, including an impromptu housewarming party, a night stuck in the mud, ruining Ball’s Aunt Anastasia’s prized rose, and much more.  The highlight of the film is when Ball has the bright idea of trying to prepare dinner in the trailer while Arnaz drives.

This film is basically one big long I Love Lucy episode, Arnaz’ character’s name is “Nicky” after all, but it is fun from beginning to end and features gorgeous Technicolor and scenery.

 

Cary Grant Blogathon–“To Catch a Thief” (1955)

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FRANCES: “Do you want a leg or a breast?”

JOHN: “You make the choice”

This exchange between Grace Kelly and Cary Grant’s characters is just one of many innuendo-laden scenes in one of Alfred Hitchcock’s sexiest films, To Catch a Thief.  Set in the picturesque French Riviera, To Catch a Thief depicts the story of a retired cat burglar, John Robie (Cary Grant) who finds himself back in the spotlight after a series of copy-cat jewel heists occur which threaten to implicate him as the culprit.  Reformed, he sets out to unveil the real jewel thief.  The jewel thief specifically targets the rich guests of a local ritzy resort.  One of these guests is Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly) whose mother, Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) is on the hunt for a suitable beau for her daughter.  Of course, one look at John Robie, and mother and daughter are on his tail.  A Lloyd’s of London insurance agent (John Williams) is also chasing the cat burglar (as his clients are the ones who are being targeted).  He ends up enlisting the help of John Robie to catch the real cat burglar.  Things are complicated when Jessie is targeted by the jewel thief.

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One of the best things about this film is the chemistry between Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.  In many of Grant’s most popular roles, he plays the sophisticated, witty and charming romantic man.  Women can’t help but be taken in by his suave mannerisms and debonair good looks.  To Catch a Thief is no exception.  Grant and Kelly absolutely sizzle when they’re on screen.  One of their sexiest scenes is the famous fireworks scene in the hotel.  In this scene, Kelly invites Grant up to her hotel room “to watch the fireworks.”  At the beginning of the scene, she turns off the lights (saying that fireworks look better in the dark) and at another point, steps into the shadow which only hides her face but showcases her white strapless gown and diamond necklace (which conveniently points down to her cleavage).  At the end of the scene, Kelly invites Grant to sit next to her on the couch, while also ensuring that her necklace and decolletage are on display.  She asks him to “hold them. Diamonds.” After seductively kissing his fingers, Kelly asks Grant if he’s “ever had a better offer.”  After Grant calls out Kelly for trying to seduce him with imitation diamonds, she reassures him that she’s not imitation and they kiss.  Fireworks explode in the sky behind them.

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Grace Kelly tries to seduce Cary Grant

Prior to making To Catch a Thief, Cary Grant had announced his intention to retire after 1952’s Dream Wife.  He felt that at, 48, he was too old to continue acting.  Alfred Hitchcock had to personally coax him into accepting the John Robie role.  Even after filming was completed in summer of 1954, it was feared that Grant, at 50, was too old for 26-year old Grace Kelly.  However, in this film, like Grant’s other May-December romance films, nobody cared.  Grant is one of the few actors who can seem to get away with being a middle-aged man courting a twenty-something and it doesn’t seem strange or awkward.  Perhaps it’s his permanently tanned skin and black hair which gives him a youthful appearance.  Perhaps it’s his suave and charming persona which would be irresistible to almost any woman.  Perhaps it’s all of the above.  Whatever “it” is, Cary Grant is timeless. He makes To Catch a Thief what it is.  Without him, it would not be nearly as fun.

Cary Grant made three other films with Alfred Hitchcock–Suspicion (1941, with Joan Fontaine); Notorious (1946, with Ingrid Bergman); and North By Northwest (1959 with Eva Marie Saint), but To Catch a Thief is my favorite of these collaborations.  The combination of the sexy leading actors and provocative dialogue, the gorgeous color cinematography, the beautiful French Riviera and the fantastic costumes (especially Grace Kelly’s gold ballgown at the end of the film) sets this film apart from the others.

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Grace Kelly’s gorgeous gold ballgown.  I also really like the black mask costume, it’s so outrageous.

I Love Lucy, “L.A. at Last!” Ep. #114

I wanted to incorporate one of my other loves into this website–classic television.  My love of classic television was born after I discovered Nick-at-Nite one evening, circa 1995 when I was in the sixth grade.  The first show I watched on Nick-at-Nite was I Love Lucy.  This ignited my love of Lucille Ball and I Love Lucy.  From then on, I had to see every episode of ‘Lucy.’  Later, my love of Lucille Ball led me to TCM to see her films.  From watching films with Ball, I ended up discovering a variety of other favorite actors including (but not limited to): Gene Kelly, Katharine Hepburn, Ann Miller and Maureen O’Hara, just to name a few.  I Love Lucy also featured a lot of great classic movie stars whom I loved on the show and discovered their films later on TCM.  One of the all-time best I Love Lucy guest stars was William Holden.  Holden guest starred in my favorite episode– “L.A. at Last!”

After spending two weeks driving across country and making stops at a run-down cafe/hotel near Cincinnati, OH, a brief detour/jail stint in Bent Fork, TN, and a visit with Ethel’s father in Albuquerque, NM, the Ricardos and Mertzes finally make it to Los Angeles, CA.  After scoping out their hotel suite in the heart of Hollywood (courtesy of MGM), Ricky makes plans to have lunch alone (i.e. without Lucy) at the studio commissary.  To soothe Lucy and the Mertzes’ disappointment, he gives them full use of their car and some money for lunch.

Since they set foot in Hollywood, Lucy and Ethel have been on the hunt for movie stars.  Lucy wonders out loud if there’s any place where [the stars] gather in a big herd.  Fred jokingly says, “maybe they all gather at the same watering hole.”  This gives Lucy an idea and soon they’re off to “the watering hole,” aka The Brown Derby.  While in the restaurant, Lucy and Ethel immediately begin gawking and rubbernecking at every celebrity in sight.  We hear the restaurant page various unseen celebrities that they have a telephone call: Cary Grant, Walter Pidgeon and Gregory Peck.  Fred reminds Ethel that “they’re (the stars) just people like you and me.” “Telephone for Ava Gardner!” says the overhead page at the restaurant.  Fred jumps up and Ethel reminds him: “Remember? She’s (Ava Gardner) just people like you and me.” “She may be people, but she’s not like you and me!” Fred hilariously replies.

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“Look [Gregory Peck] is smiling…awwwwww!” 
After an embarrassing interaction with Eve Arden where Ethel asks her if she’s Judy Holliday or Shelley Winters, William Holden is seated into the next booth on the other side of Lucy.  Ethel gets Lucy’s attention and soon Lucy is gawking at Holden and making him uncomfortable.  He decides to turn the tables on Lucy and stare back.  Lucy is very uncomfortable and after a hilarious scene where Ethel cuts Lucy’s spaghetti with her manicuring scissors, Lucy and the Mertzes make a hasty exit–but not before Lucy trips the waiter and the pie on his tray falls on Holden.

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Ethel comes to Lucy’s rescue

Later, we see Ricky trying on costumes, a knight costume, for his new Don Juan picture.  He just so happens to meet Holden at the studio and Holden offers to give him a ride home.  Knowing Lucy’s love of movie stars and Holden in particular, Ricky asks Holden if he’d be willing to come in and meet Lucy.  Holden is only too happy to oblige. Lucy, fearful of being exposed as the one who threw a pie at Holden, tries to disguise her appearance.

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I wish I could find a better shot of William Holden and Desi Arnaz’ faces during this scene, they are really what makes it.

The funniest scene of the entire episode is the scene between Lucy with her fake putty nose, Holden and Ricky.  Lucy’s nose constantly needs re-shaped and she ends up lighting it on fire.  The looks on the men’s faces when Lucy is monkeying around with her nose is the absolute funniest part of the episode.  After the jig is up, Holden doesn’t let Ricky know about the shenanigans at the restaurant and tells him that he wanted to ask the waiter “who the beautiful redhead was,” but Lucy ran out before he had a chance.  Overwhelmed at Holden’s kind gesture, Lucy plants a kiss on him.  “I kissed Bill Holden!” she exclaims.

What I love about this episode, besides the episode itself is how it sets up William Holden for being a big blabbermouth.  In multiple episodes, other celebrities mention having heard from Bill Holden about Lucy.  I like the idea that Holden is going around town telling everyone about Lucy and how ridiculous she is.