I love Mary Tyler Moore and her self-titled, groundbreaking sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (TMTMS). It is my second favorite show after I Love Lucy. TMTMS is one of the best written sitcoms of all times. Usually shows with such large ensemble casts have at least 1-2 characters that are kind of lame, or irritating, or what have you. However, TMTMS is so well-written, so well-cast, that every character in the show is worthwhile. Every character is important. Even scenes not involving Mary Richards (Moore), the central character in the series, are worth watching. One of the best parts of TMTMS in my opinion, is the friendship between Mary and Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper).
Mary and Rhoda are such opposites personality-wise, that they don’t even seem like they should be acquaintances, let alone friends. In the 1970 pilot episode, “Love is All Around,” Rhoda is first introduced to viewers as a potential enemy of Mary Richards. Throughout the entire episode, Rhoda is contentious towards Mary, as she thinks that Mary has usurped her apartment. Thankfully, by the second episode, the writing staff had given up on the idea of Mary and Rhoda being enemies. Rhoda’s character was changed into being Mary’s new neighbor and new friend.
It is in the second episode, “Today I am a Ma’am” where we are first introduced to Rhoda’s self image issues. After Mary is called a “ma’am” in the office, she begins to feel self-conscious about being 30. Both Rhoda and Mary begin to commiserate with one another about being 30 and still being single. To make themselves feel better, Rhoda suggests that she and Mary invite someone over to the house for a small gathering. Mary invites over the suffocating Howard Arnell. Rhoda takes a different approach and invites over Armond Linton, a man she ran over with her car. When the guests show up, we’re treated to a classic Rhoda line:
RHODA (to MARY): “How can you gorge yourself and stay so skinny? I’m hungry and I can’t stand it.”
MARY: “Why don’t you eat something?”
RHODA: “I can’t. I’ve got to lose 10 pounds by 8:30.”
Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern and Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards in “Today, I am a Ma’am” in The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970).
Throughout the rest of the first season and all of the second, Rhoda continues to be self-deprecating about her body and general attractiveness. Many of Rhoda’s lines allude to her being envious towards the tall, svelte Mary Richards. For the record, while Mary is very pretty and definitely has a good figure, there was absolutely nothing wrong with Rhoda’s appearance. Rhoda is a very beautiful woman. Thankfully, in the season three episode, “Rhoda the Beautiful,” Rhoda finally accepts the fact that she is an attractive woman.
“Rhoda the Beautiful” opens as many episodes do, with Rhoda walking into Mary’s apartment while Mary is doing some sort of household task. In this particular episode, Mary is washing dishes. She wonders aloud whether a pot that was only used to boil water needs to be washed. Rhoda, in her usual style says that she only uses paper pots. Rhoda announces to Mary that she learned that during her recent “Calorie Cutters” meeting, she had successfully met her 20-lb weight loss goal. Mary is ecstatic for Rhoda, but Rhoda in her usual self-deprecating way, won’t accept Mary’s compliments. Mary is frustrated that Rhoda will not allow herself to be happy and proud of herself for meeting her goal. To further compound Rhoda’s frustrations about her appearance, even her frenemy, Phyllis (Cloris Leachman), says that Rhoda looks fantastic. And Phyllis is being genuine.
In the second act, Rhoda visits her Calorie Cutter colleague, Murray (Gavin McLeod) for a healthy lunch. Murray compliments Rhoda and says she looks great. Rhoda reveals to Mary and Murray1 that she has entered the employees-only Ms. Hempel Beauty Pageant. Per usual, Mary and Murray are very supportive of Rhoda and are excited that she’s taking this chance. As an aside, I love how seamlessly the writers were able to integrate Mary’s home life (Rhoda and Phyllis) into Mary’s work life (Lou, Ted, and Murray). It is logical that Mary’s friends and co-workers would interact at Mary’s various infamously bad parties and become friends. Rhoda fits in perfectly with the WJM gang, even with Ted who thinks she’s Israeli and named Rita.
The third act opens with Rhoda, Mary and Phyllis trying to help Rhoda find a dress to wear in the pageant. We get to hear Rhoda express another semi-envious sentiment about Mary’s figure when she rebuffs Mary, who is offering her wardrobe. “Mary, you weigh three pounds,” Rhoda says. We also get to watch and listen to Phyllis deliver a hilarious rendition of “Ten Cents a Dance” while wearing an “endangered” Orlon coat. Mary and Rhoda are wandering in the background, looking for a dress for Rhoda. In one of my favorite parts, Mary and Rhoda imitate the contestant interviews during the Miss America pageant. Mary recalls the contestants always having a multi-part name. She re-christens Rhoda as “Miss Mary Jo Beth Ann Lou” and asks her some probing questions:
MARY (to RHODA aka MISS MARY JO BETH ANN LOU): “What are some of your favorite hobbies?”
RHODA (affecting a demure, beauty pageant contestant voice): “My favorite hobbies are cheerleading, liking people, and living in America.”
MARY: “And, uh, what…is your goal…in life?”
RHODA: “After I graduate from high school, I would like to become a brain surgeon… or a model!”
Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards and Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern in “Rhoda in the Beautiful,” in The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1972).
At the end of the third act, we see the dress that Rhoda finally settled on. Rhoda wears a black halter dress with a white scarf that drapes across her back. She looks fantastic. As an aside, Valerie Harper wore this same dress to accept her Emmy Award in 1971 and she looks fabulous there too. Rhoda announces to Mary and Phyllis that she placed a respectable third place. Mary and Phyllis congratulate her and the episode seems to come to an end. However, as Rhoda leaves, she somewhat lingers. Mary probes and Rhoda announces that she actually won the contest. This next moment is what I think is the most important part of the episode and is the catalyst for Rhoda’s character development. This is the moment when Rhoda finally accepts that she is an attractive woman. She no longer has the weight issue that she can hide behind and blame for her own perceived shortcomings.
RHODA (to MARY): “I sort of heard my name called, and uh… they were all applauding…for me. I couldn’t believe it.”
MARY: “Oh Rhoda. That’s so great.”
MARY: “And you deserved it.”
RHODA: “Well… they gave it to me, and I, uh, took it. So I guess I really won it. How do you like that? I won! After 32 years! Me! Mary Jo Beth Lou Ann Morgenstern!”
Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern and Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards in “Rhoda the Beautiful,” The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1972).
This is such an amazing moment. Then we see Rhoda in her full pageant winner regalia, crown, cape, scepter and all. She looks silly but gorgeous. Phyllis, of course still doesn’t know the truth about Rhoda’s win:
PHYLLIS (looking at Rhoda’s crown and cape): “Boy, they sure make a big fuss over third place.”
RHODA: “I won, Cookie!”
Cloris Leachman as Phyllis Lindstrom and Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern in “Rhoda the Beautiful” Mary Tyler Moore Show (1972).
1 One thing I have always wondered about this show: Why did they give so many characters similar sounding names? This show has a Mary, Murray and Marie!
I don’t normally blog two days in a row, but I couldn’t miss an opportunity to write about one of my favorite “bad” movies, Roller Boogie, made in 1979. I love the roller disco films, and own the trilogy–Roller Boogie (1979), Skatetown, USA (1979), and Xanadu (1980). These movies are national treasures and are very much a product of the time in which they were produced. Unfortunately, I was born too late for the roller disco fad, so I live vicariously through these movies. Roller Boogie is a particular favorite of mine. Yes, it’s considered bad; but compared to things that people consider “good” or “masterpieces,” e.g. Apocalypse Now, give me Roller Boogie any day of the week!
TERRY BARKLEY: If I’m old enough to be on my own; then, I’m old enough to make my own decisions. I do not want to play the flute. I do not want to go to Juilliard. I do not want to be paired off with Franklin Potter. He is a lecherous jackass! And I never want to hear another string quartet again in my life!
LILLIAN BARKLEY: Well, now that we know what you don’t want, what is it that you do?
TERRY BARKLEY: Now, I want to win a Roller Boogie contest down at the beach.
LILLIAN BARKLEY: A Roller Boogie contest?
Linda Blair as Theresa “Terry” Barkley and Beverly Garland as Lillian Barkley in “Roller Boogie” (1979)
And with that conversation, we have the basic premise of this film. Terry Barkley (Linda Blair) is a young woman whose parents dream of her using her musical talent to pursue a flautist scholarship at the prestigious Juilliard. We’ll overlook the fact that when Terry is seen playing the flute that she doesn’t appear to be very good. We’ll take Roller Boogie‘s word for it that she’s gifted. The point is, Terry doesn’t want to play the flute. She doesn’t want her college paid for. She wants to give all that up for a Roller Boogie contest that will be over before school starts. But that doesn’t even matter. TERRY WON’T BE CONTROLLED. SHE WILL BE A ROLLER BOOGIE CHAMPION.
The fly in the ointment however, is that the skating club, Jammer’s (which holds the annual Roller Boogie competition), is threatened by LA mobsters who want the land that the club is sitting on. They use some rough tactics to harass the proprietor, Jammer, into shutting down the club. Without Jammer’s, how will Terry become a roller boogie champion?
Much of rest of the plot involves Terry, her beau, Bobby (Jim Bray, who might be one of the worst actors I have ever seen) who has Olympic aspirations (last I checked, there was no roller skating event, but whatever), and the other skaters trying to band together to save Jammer’s. The mob of course, is there to try and thwart the skaters’ attempts at interfering with their plans. However, these are the most ineffective mobsters ever. They are forced to flee an altercation with the skaters when the skaters start throwing produce at their car. Later, they chase Terry and Bobby through the city streets. Apparently two teenagers on roller skates can move faster than a car. But whatever. Then there is tension between Terry and her parents, who don’t want to see their daughter give up her scholarship for something trivial, like roller boogie.
This film is absurd. There are so many things in this film that make absolutely zero sense. There are characters in the film who don’t really serve any purpose. Terry’s parents want her to get together with the wealthy Franklin Potter, but he’s a total sleaze, and Terry is not interested. At the beginning of the film, Franklin tries to put his hand up Terry’s skirt after her flute recital. Later, when she’s leaving to head down to Jammer’s, he “surprises” her by trying to trap her in the garage and force her to have sex with him. He’s ready to go, as he’s doffed his pants and underwear, keeping only a towel wrapped around his waist. Thankfully, Terry is able to not only rebuff his advances, but she is able to take off with the towel–leaving Franklin to show off his business to his and Terry’s mothers.
Jim Bray is an absolutely horrible actor. There is nothing redeeming to say about his performance. The only good thing about him is that he can skate. That’s all I have to say about him. There isn’t anything really remarkable about the other skaters in the film. I recognized Terry’s friend, Lana (Kimberly Beck), as one of Lucille Ball’s children from Yours, Mine and Ours. The best performance in the film was probably Linda Blair, as she was probably the most seasoned performer as well. Blair was Oscar-nominated for her role as Regan in The Exorcist (1973). I am not a fan of The Exorcist, but I am also not a fan of horror. Give me Linda in Roller Boogie any day of the week!
THINGS I LOVE ABOUT ROLLER BOOGIE:
The roller skating costumes. There are some crazy costumes in this movie. Some are more conservative than others. Linda Blair for the most part dresses fairly conservatively compared to some of the other women in this film. But I am here for the gold sequined leggings that I saw one woman wearing. I also loved Terry’s white fringe dress in the finale. I also loved her polka dot blouse that she wears during the roller skate chase scene.
The entire premise of the film. Terry wants to give up a scholarship to a prestigious school in favor of a contest that will be over before school starts.
The name of the club–Jammer’s. My husband’s name is James and one of my pet names for him is calling him “Jammers.” So that makes me laugh. Unfortunately, he told me that he did NOT want to form a roller disco dancing partnership with me, so that was disappointing.
Terry’s car. Terry drives a mint green Excalibur Phaeton car that looks reminiscent of a 1920s vehicle with running boards and the spare tire on the side. Researching this car led me to learning about “kit cars” of which I knew nothing about. Not being a car person (except to look at them and say if they’re cool or not), I researched them. I learned that this car was based on a 1928 Mercedes SSK. The manufacturer would take a contemporary car engine and chassis and fit a fiberglass body over the top.
The montage of Terry and Bobby’s skating lesson. Terry asks Bobby to teach her how to dance on skates so that she can enter the Roller Boogie competition. Their lessons last for approximately one day, where we don’t see Terry get any better, but supposedly, she learns enough to enter the competition and be considered a worthy opponent.
The LAPD cop who patrols the Venice Beach beat! He wears the standard police cap with police emblem, which is whatever. But then! He wears a white T-Shirt with a generic LAPD emblazoned across the front. BUT THEN, he wears navy blue hot pants and roller skates. YES! This is law enforcement in Roller Boogie-land.
Bobby wears a shirt with a glittery red “BJ” showcased in all its glory. I know that it’s his initials. But it’s still funny.
All of the skating scenes. This movie is about roller disco after all, so it wouldn’t even be half as good without good skating scenes. The opening scene of the chain of roller skaters moving throughout Venice Beach in California is awesome and makes you think that you really need to start roller skating to get into shape!
The dialogue in this movie. There are some real gems in this film when it comes to quotable lines. Some of the things that people say in this film would never be uttered by a real person. See my Favorite Quotes section below.
The mother’s disapproving of Terry’s Roller Boogie aspirations, while at the same time being hooked on a myriad of different pills. The woman’s purse is a mobile pharmacy. The parents in this film completely disapprove of Terry’s Roller Boogie dreams, with the dad going as far as to say: “It’s the skating isn’t it? It’s that insane disco music thing!” Then, the dad ends up being the lawyer to Jammer’s, then all of a sudden the parents are at the roller boogie contest and are only too eager to present the trophy.
LILLIAN BARKLEY: Lovey, you’re giving your mother a migraine. (She opens her purse and looks inside, pulling out various medicine vials) LILLIAN BARKLEY: Diet pills… sleeping pills…diuretics…quaaludes…valium! There you are.
Beverly Garland as “Lillian Barkley,” in Roller Boogie (1979)
FAVORITE QUOTES IN ROLLER BOOGIE:
TERRY BARKLEY to FRANKLIN: I swear you’ve got more hands than in a poker game!
TERRY BARKLEY: Franklin, I’m not in the mood for octopus rallies. FRANKLIN POTTER: Terry! I need you, your body is driving me crazy! TERRY BARKLEY: Franklin, Barbie dolls drive you crazy. You’re oversexed!
BOBBY JAMES: Hey Terry! Wait up! Hey, wait up! TERRY BARKLEY: Thanks for skatin’ with me kid. BOBBY JAMES: We still have 45 minutes left. And my name a’int kid, it’s Bobby. Bobby James. TERRY BARKLEY: Keep the change, Bobby James.
BOBBY JAMES: Take off your skirt! TERRY BARKLEY: Okay.
BOBBY JAMES: Look, you’re not no bimbo from the boardwalk.
TERRY BARKLEY: Hi. Remember me? LILLIAN BARKLEY: Oh, Theresa! Theresa! Oh! Now before I turn you over to your father, is there anything you want to tell me? Pregnant? TERRY BARKLEY: Mother! I’ve been gone over night. LILLIAN BARKLEY: Well, how long does it take these days?
2021 is (finally) coming to a close. While the year wasn’t so hot as a whole, except for my fabulous trip to Southern California in October, it was another year of discovering new favorite films. One of the best thing about being a fan of film, especially classic film, is that you never run out of “new” movies to see. As Lauren Bacall says in an episode of Private Screenings with Robert Osborne, “It’s not an old movie, if you haven’t seen it,” and I couldn’t agree more. There is an entire world of movies to discover, a world of films just waiting to become someone’s favorite.
Without further adieu, in no particular order, here are some of my new favorites that I watched for the first time in 2021:
#1 Road House (1948) This was a fabulous film noir that I watched right at the start of the new year. It is the final volume in the Fox Film Noir DVD series (I own the entire collection). I decided to take a look at it, because I’m a big fan of Ida Lupino. In addition to Lupino, it also starred Cornel Wilde, Richard Widmark, and Celeste Holm. At first, it seems like Ida is going to be the femme fatale, but it is soon revealed that she is a woman who will not be made a pawn in the games of the men, Wilde and Widmark. Even though she was originally brought into the Road House by Widmark to be another of his fly by night floozies, she refuses to be used and becomes a big star and later saves the day. In a time when every woman who wasn’t Judy Garland or Doris Day was dubbed, Ida uses her own voice to warble out “One for my Baby (And One More For the Road)” and it was fabulous.
#2 Mrs. Miniver (1942). I know. This is a big Oscar winner. A major classic of the studio era, but I hadn’t seen it yet. I absolutely loved this movie and actually bought the blu-ray literally right after watching it. That’s how much I loved it. Greer Garson won an Oscar playing the titular Mrs. Miniver and infamously delivered the longest acceptance speech, a record which still stands today. Long-winded speech or not, Garson deserved her award. In Mrs. Miniver, Garson portrays a very stoic woman and mother who stays strong and protects her family even directly in the line of fire during the German invasion of Britain. She puts humanity above all else, even when directly threatened by an injured German pilot. The scene with Mrs. Miniver and her husband and children hiding in the shelter while bombs fall all around them is heartbreaking. This family does not know what they’ll find when they emerge, or whether their house will still be standing. Despite everything, Mrs. Miniver remains a calm influence even in the middle of a tumultuous event, like a World War. I cannot say enough good things about this film, it was fantastic.
#3 Girl Happy (1965). Like the esteemed Mrs. Miniver, this Elvis movie is another film that I purchased immediately after watching it. I loved it. For years, with the exception of Viva Las Vegas (my favorite Elvis movie), I wrote off Elvis’ movies as pure fluff, and not fluffy in a good way, and many of Elvis’ movies are ridiculous, like Girl Happy, but if you can suspend disbelief and just go along with whatever plot is presented, I’ve found that many of Elvis’ movies are enjoyable diversions. In Girl Happy, Elvis plays a musician (a premise setting up lots of opportunities for Elvis to sing) who, along with his band, is hired by his boss to indirectly chaperone his 18-year old daughter, Shelley Fabares. Shelley is traveling to Florida for Spring Break and her overprotective father is worried. Elvis happily agrees, because he gets an all expenses paid trip to Florida. Like how most movies with this plot go (see Too Many Girls), Elvis starts to fall in love with the girl whom he’s chaperoning, and the girl discovers that he was hired to watch her and gets upset. Regardless, this movie was charming, fun, and I loved it.
#4 History is Made at Night (1937) This was a movie that I’d never even heard of until I heard that Criterion was restoring it and releasing it as part of their esteemed (at least among the boutique label community) line of films. I first watched it on the Criterion Channel and must have seen a pre-restoration print, because it was pretty rough. After watching it, I couldn’t believe that I’d never heard of it. It had one of my faves, Jean Arthur! And Charles “LUCY! RAWWWR” Boyer. How has this movie been hiding from me this entire time? In this movie, Jean Arthur plays Irene, a woman who leaves her husband, Bruce, (Colin Clive) after he falsely accuses her of having an affair. To prevent the divorce from being finalized, Bruce tries to manipulate a situation to frame Irene for infidelity. He hires his chauffeur to pretend to be Irene’s lover, so that a private detective walks in and catches them in a compromising position. While this is taking place, Paul (Charles Boyer) is walking by Irene’s window. He overhears the ruckus and comes to Irene’s rescue, pretending to be an armed burglar. It’s a weird set-up, but ultimately leads to a beautiful love story with an ending that I was not expecting.
#5 Naked Alibi (1954). This was another film noir that I’d never heard of until I was reading Sterling Hayden’s filmography and discovered that he’d made a film with one of my faves, Gloria Grahame. Fortunately, my library had this film available and I was able to borrow it. This was a great movie. Hayden plays a police chief who tails a suspect, Willis, to Mexico. Willis is suspected to be the mastermind behind a series of crimes in the small town from which he and Hayden hail. While in a border town on the Mexican border, Hayden meets Grahame, a singer with whom he becomes smitten. Unfortunately, Grahame is the girlfriend of Willis, despite the shoddy treatment she receives from him. Hayden and Grahame’s connection with one another continues to grow until the very end of the film. This was a wonderful film and I thought that Gloria Grahame looked absolutely gorgeous.
#6 Dead End (1937). Despite the appearance of the Dead End Kids, whom I cannot stand (I don’t get their appeal), I thought this was a great movie. This film is a story about social classes and the privileges that are afforded to those of a higher social standing. The neighborhood in the film is a “dead end” both figuratively and literally. The rich live in high rise apartments that overlook the slums and tenements. Those who are not privileged to live in the high rises literally have the rich looking down upon them. If you have the misfortune to be born into the slums, it is all you can do to get out. Some try to do so honorably, like Dave (Joel McCrea), who dreams of making a career as an architect. However, he can’t just seem to book the right gig, so he has to survive by doing odd jobs. Others, like Drina (Sylvia Sidney) have slightly less honorable means to get out of the tenement, she wants to marry a rich man. Then, there are those like Hugh “Baby Face” Martin (Humphrey Bogart), who did manage to get out of the slums, but he did so by becoming a big-time mobster. The Dead End Kids represent the next generation who most likely will remain in the slums, unless they can somehow be guided into making a better life for themselves. Marjorie Main has a heartbreaking role as Baby Face’s mother. Claire Trevor is fantastic as Baby Face’s old girlfriend, who was never able to get out of the slums.
#7 Klute (1971) This was the first film in Alan J. Pakula’s “Paranoia Trilogy,” which unfortunately I watched all out of order. I don’t think the films in the trilogy have anything to do with one another, so I think I’m okay. Anyway, there’s just something about the 1970s thrillers that I find fascinating. There’s a grittiness, a seediness, combined with the earth tones aesthetic that I just love watching. Anyway, in this film, Jane Fonda gives an Oscar-winning performance as Bree Daniels, a prostitute who aids police detective, John Klute, in investigating a murder. After finding an obscene letter addressed to Bree in the murder victim’s office, Klute rents an apartment in Bree’s building and begins tracing her. Concurrently, Bree is working as a freelance call girl to support herself while she tries to make it as a model/actress. Bree is also trying to find meaning in her life through sessions with a psychiatrist. This was such a fantastic movie and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out who was responsible for the murder.
#8 Thunder on the Hill (1951) I am a big fan of Ann Blyth and this was a film of hers that I hadn’t heard of until I purchased Kino Lorber’s Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema box sets. Thunder on the Hill, by the way, is on the second collection in the series. In this film, Blyth plays Valerie, a young woman convicted of murder and sentenced to be hanged. However, on her way to the gallows, Valerie and the police officers accompanying her, are forced to spend the night in the hospital ward of a convent due to massive flooding. Running the hospital ward is Sister Mary (Claudette Colbert), a woman who is also battling with her own mental troubles involving her sister’s suicide. Valerie is understandably combative and angry, but confides to Sister Mary that she is innocent of the crime of which she was convicted. Sister Mary, who has been warned in the past about meddling in other people’s affairs, is convinced of Valerie’s innocence and sets to save her before she is executed. This was such a wonderful film. It was interesting to see Blyth in such a different role than that of Veda in Mildred Pierce or the mermaid in Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid. I loved the suspense of the story and the cinematography was gorgeous. I am also a big fan of Douglas Sirk, so this film fit the bill.
#9 King Creole (1958) A second Elvis film on the list? Yes! I watched a lot of Elvis movies this year according to LetterBoxd, so it was bound to happen. This was an excellent film. It was much higher brow fare than Elvis would be offered once he returned from his stint in the army. In this movie, Elvis plays super senior Danny, who has failed high school once and looks like he’ll fail it again due to his behavior. He is offered a chance to graduate if he agrees to take night classes, but Danny turns it down, much to the chagrin of his father, Dean Jagger. There is drama between Danny and his father, in that Jagger lost his job as a pharmacist after his wife died. The family is forced to leave their nice home outside of New Orleans for a much more modest flat in the French Quarter. To help make ends meet, Danny was working before and after school. Now with school out of the way, Danny starts working at a club. As how most Elvis movies go, he is coerced into singing and is offered a job performing at the club, much to the chagrin of the club’s main act. Danny is soon a sensation. Eventually his connection with the local gangs threaten to affect his family, his relationship with a young woman named Nellie (Dolores Hart), and his life. This was such a great movie with a stellar cast. Aside from Elvis, Dean Jagger and Dolores Hart, Carolyn Jones, Walter Matthau, Vic Morrow, and Paul Stewart also star in this film… and it was directed by none other than Michael Curtiz!
#10 Private Lives (1931) This was a fabulous pre-code starring Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery. In this film, Shearer and Montgomery play Amanda and Elyot, two ex-spouses who end up staying at the same hotel while honeymooning with their new respective spouses. Both honeymoons are NOT going well. Amanda and her new husband Victor (Reginald Denny) are already fighting due to Victor’s incessant need to talk about Elyot. Because yes, let’s talk about your new bride’s ex-husband on your honeymoon. Great idea, Victor. Elyot is dealing with the same thing from his new wife, Sybil (Una Merkel) who won’t stop asking about Amanda. Eventually, Amanda and Elyot find each other and begin to reminisce about “the old times.” They end up leaving the hotel together and head to a new place in St. Moritz. This was a fabulous pre-code that had plenty of racy moments. I am not as big a fan of Shearer in her production code movies like The Women, but I love her in pre-code. She and Montgomery also make a great pairing. Poor Una Merkel is wasted in her role, but she is wonderful in her scenes.
#11 Hold Back the Dawn (1941) This was an amazing movie. One that I’d always wanted to see but it seemed like it was never on TCM–then finally it was and the movie was everything I’d hoped it would be. In this film, Charles Boyer stars as Georges Iscovescu, a Romanian immigrant who is stuck in a Mexican border town. Per immigration laws, he is looking at up to an eight year wait to obtain a quota number for entry in the United States. Georges then runs into an old flame, Anita Dixon (Paulette Goddard), an Australian who married a US citizen purely to obtain US citizenship. As soon as she could, she divorced the man and retained her citizenship status. Anita suggests that Georges do the same thing, then he and she could be free to start a new life together in New York. Georges immediately goes to work and spots Emmy Brown (Olivia de Havilland), a California school teacher whose bus has broken down. The bus is set to be repaired shortly, but Georges manipulates the situation (by “losing” a vital piece of the bus’s machinery) and forces Emmy and her class to stay overnight. This gives Georges enough time to woo Emmy and they are married after a whirlwind romance. However, Georges is required to wait in Mexico a few weeks before he can join Emmy in California. Emmy returns unexpectedly and Georges takes her on a trip (under the guise of a honeymoon, but in reality he is trying to hide from an immigration officer who is looking for con artists like Georges and Anita). Georges’ plans are complicated when he finds himself falling in love with Emmy. This was such an amazing film. Even though we’re supposed to dislike Georges, it’s hard to do because it’s Charles-freaking-Boyer. It’s easy to see why Emmy falls for him. I love true, legitimate romantic films (with no contrived plot points), and this is one of the best that I’ve seen.
#12 Gaslight (1944) Another Charles Boyer film! Third one on the list! Surprisingly Boyer was not on my top 10 actors watched in 2021, per Letterboxd. This was an amazing film. I don’t know how I went so long without seeing it. This is the film that gave the name to a form of psychological abuse, where one partner mentally manipulates another into thinking that they’re losing their mind. In this film, Boyer plays Gregory Anton, a pianist who marries Alice Alquist (Ingrid Bergman), a famous opera singer. Gregory works as Alice’s accompanist. At first, Gregory seems sweet, he convinces Alice that they move into her deceased aunt’s old home #9 Thornton Square in London, seemingly under the guise that Alice loved her aunt so much and that her aunt would want her home to be lived in. However, Gregory has ulterior motives which are revealed throughout the film. To keep Alice from catching onto Gregory’s motives, he gaslights her by manipulating situations and then making her think she caused them. Alice begins to think she’s going insane. And while she begins to question Gregory’s actions, he’s gotten her mind so messed up that she can’t convince herself that she’s right. A young, 17-year old Angela Lansbury makes her film debut as Nancy, a tart of a maid who takes pleasure in observing Gregory’s manipulation of Alice. Nancy even plays along to exacerbate the situation. Ingrid Bergman’s performance was a tour-de-force and she deserved every piece of the Oscar that she received.
#13 I Want to Live! (1958) If there are two things I love, it’s classic film and true crime. I Want to Live! has both. This film is a biopic of Barbara Graham, a prostitute who was executed in California in 1955 for her part in the murder of a wealthy widow. Susan Hayward gives an Oscar-winning performance as the doomed woman who at the beginning of the film, works as a prostitute who is arrested for soliciting sex across state lines. She then receives jail time after providing a false alibi to two friends who committed crimes. Despite her growing rap sheet, Barbara continues to “make a living” by committing petty crimes and turning tricks. Eventually, she hits the big time when she gets a job working with a big time thief, Emmett Perkins. Her job is to lure men into his illegal gambling parlor. Meanwhile, her husband has a drug addiction and is unemployed–leaving Barbara as the breadwinner. Eventually Perkins ends up becoming involved with criminals, John Santo and Bruce King. Barbara returns to Perkins’ establishment which is soon raided by the police. Barbara surrenders to the police for her involvement in the gambling ring, but soon learns that she is being accused in being complicit with Santo and King’s murder of a wealthy widow. Barbara tries to give her alibi, saying that she was home with her husband and son, but her husband has skipped town. Unless he can be found, Barbara is toast. This was such an amazing film. I know that there was controversy regarding how Barbara Graham was portrayed in the film, versus the real life events. I can’t comment on that; but what I can say is that real facts or not, this was a great movie.
#14 Suspense (1946) I went into this film noir not knowing entirely what to expect. It starred Barry Sullivan whom I like and Albert Dekker who always turns in a good performance. Sullivan and Dekker’s co-star was British figure skater, Belita. Often when athletes are put into films, especially athletes whose sport is exploited on screen, the results can vary drastically–especially if the athlete has limited acting talent. Sometimes this is good, such as the case with Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan series. Other times, it can be limiting like is the case with Belita in another film of hers that I’ve seen. However, in this film, I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not saying Belita was amazing; but she was asked to play a figure skater, and Belita delivers on that front. In this film, Sullivan plays schemer, Joe Morgan, a newcomer to New York City who ends up taking a job at a theater as a peanut vendor. Belita plays the star performer, figure skater, Roberta. Albert Dekker plays Leonard, the owner of the theater and Roberta’s husband. Joe ends up suggesting a new act for Roberta, which revitalizes the show–as a reward he is made a manager. When Leonard leaves for a business trip, he puts Joe in charge. Joe and Roberta end up striking up a romance which Leonard soon discovers. This was a fantastic film. I actually was in suspense and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.
#15 The China Syndrome (1979) This was another 1970s thriller that I watched which I really enjoyed. In this film, Jane Fonda plays television reporter, Kimberly Wells, who keeps getting stuck with the fluff stories during the local news segments. There is chauvinism present at the station, as it is thought that she couldn’t possibly handle a serious story. Her cameraman is the hot-tempered Richard Adams (Michael Douglas). One day, Kimberly and Richard end up getting a plum gig: doing a report from the Ventana, CA nuclear power plant. While visiting, they witness a malfunction in the nuclear power plant turbine operation and emergency shutdown protocol. Richard, despite being asked not to film, covertly records the entire incident. The incident is played off as not a big deal, but it becomes clear that the plant was thisclose to a meltdown. Jack Lemmon gives a fantastic performance as Jack Godell, the supervisor of the plant. Wilford Brimley was also excellent as the long-time employee, Ted Spindler, who battles with knowing what is right and his resentment over being passed up for promotion opportunities. I loved this movie. This isn’t normally my type of thing, but as a fan of 1970s thrillers and Fonda and Lemmon, I gave it a try. I’m glad I did. I was captivated from beginning to end and I especially loved Lemmon’s performance in the second half of this movie.
A Cry in the Night (1956). Raymond Burr, Natalie Wood, Edmond O’Brien.
Jane Fonda in Five Acts (2018). A fabulous documentary on HBO Max.
The Caine Mutiny (1954). Humphrey Bogart, Fred MacMurray, Van Johnson, Jose Ferrer.
Once a Thief (1965). Alain Delon, Ann-Margret, Van Heflin.
Walk on the Wild Side (1962). Laurence Harvey, Jane Fonda, Barbara Stanwyck, Anne Baxter, Capucine.
Moonrise (1948). Dane Clark, Lloyd Bridges, Gail Patrick.
The Glass Wall (1953). Vittorio Gassman, Gloria Grahame.
The Big Combo (1955). Richard Conte, Cornel Wilde, Jean Wallace.
Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021) The Great Gonzo, Pepe, Will Arnett.
Die Hard (1988) Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson.
Confession (1937) Kay Francis, Basil Rathbone, Ian Hunter.
Three Days of the Condor (1975) Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Max Von Sydow, Cliff Robertson.
I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955) Susan Hayward, Richard Conte, Eddie Albert.
Possessed (1947) Joan Crawford, Van Heflin, Raymond Massey
Ed Asner passed away this morning at the age of 91. He was the last surviving cast member of the original cast of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (My #2 favorite show). 2021 has been a particularly tough year for fans of ‘Mary Tyler Moore,’ as we lost Cloris Leachman in January and Gavin MacLeod in May. 2019 marked the loss of Valerie Harper. 2017 was particularly heartbreaking, in that we lost Mary Tyler Moore. Ted Knight sadly passed away from cancer in 1986. During the fourth season of the series, we were introduced to Georgia Engel and Betty White who played Georgette Franklin and Sue Ann Nivens, respectively. Ms. Engel passed away in 2019. Betty White and John Amos (who played Gordy the Weatherman in a few episodes throughout the series, but was never a regular) are the only surviving cast members of the series. Betty White is also the only surviving cast member of “The Golden Girls” (my #3 favorite show).
The characters of Georgette and Sue Ann were intended to serve as replacements to Rhoda (Harper) and Phyllis (Leachman) whose characters were spun-off into their own series. With the departure of Mary Richards’ (Moore) two best friends, the focus of the show switched from Mary’s home life to her work. Georgette’s role as Ted Baxter’s (Knight) girlfriend and later wife, and Sue Ann’s job as “The Happy Homemaker” made sense to shift the show’s attention to life at WJM. With this increased focus on WJM, Mary’s relationship with her co-workers deepened. Much like a real job where co-workers have spent a lot of time (and years) together, you become like a family. Mary regularly went to Lou Grant (Asner) for advice or solace. She also had touching moments confiding in her work BFF Murray (MacLeod). Mary even had some wonderful moments consoling Ted and Sue Ann. WJM was a family. The real heart of the show though was the relationship between Mary and Lou Grant.
Mary and Lou Grant’s relationship was very much like a father/daughter relationship, even though I believe that Lou was really only like 15 years older than Mary. We’ll ignore the episode toward the end of the series where they tried going out on a date, that was just awkward. Thank goodness that Mary and Lou did not become an item at the end of the show. A romantic relationship was not what Mary and Lou were about. Mary was able to confide in Lou about her deepest insecurities, her toughest problems. Lou was there to give her advice and his opinion, whether she wanted it or not. At the same time, Mary was a source of comfort for Lou. When he separated from wife Edie and later when Edie remarries, Mary is there as a shoulder to cry on–though she’s the one who ends up crying. Even after WJM fires Mary and Lou, and the two of them presumably go their own ways, we know that they’ll remain friends to the end.
As a tribute to my second favorite show with one of the all-time greatest ensemble casts ever assembled, my top five favorite episodes:
#1 Put on a Happy Face. Season 3, Episode 23. Originally aired February 24, 1973.
Summary: Poor Mary is having the worst week ever. It starts off with her coffee cup having a crack and dribbling coffee all over her new sweater. She then learns that her date, Dan, has made plans to attend a basketball game instead of being her plus-one to the annual “Teddy Awards.” Needing a date, Ted promises to hook her up with a “good-looking version of Robert Redford.” At first, Mary turns down his request, but relents after she’s unable to secure a date on her own (it seems that every man in her address book is unavailable or married). The next day or so, Mary’s hair is being unruly and she has a big “hair bump.” While trying to walk to the bathroom to fix her hair bump, Mary slips and sprains her ankle on the newly waxed floors. Now at home, Mary ends up catching a cold from having to soak her ankle in water. Throughout the week, it’s one thing after another for Mary: she drops her phone in her foot water, the dry cleaner ruins her Teddy Awards gown, her hairdryer breaks, and she has a run in her stocking while getting ready for the Teddy Awards. Then of course, it’s raining when Mary has to leave for the award show. And, if things aren’t bad enough, her “good-looking version of Robert Redford” ends up being none other than Ted!
Why I Like This Episode: I love this episode because it finally shows Mary having some bad luck. I very much identify with Rhoda while watching this series and it seems that everything works out in Mary’s favor. To see Mary having a bad week, with one minute thing happening after another, it makes it so much fun to watch. And of course, Mary Tyler Moore delivers a tour de force performance, culminating with her having to go on stage in front of everyone to accept her Teddy Award. Mary Richards’ comedy very much stems from the fact that she hates embarrassment and hates making a scene. At the Teddy Awards, this is probably the one time that Mary hopes that she doesn’t win. But of course, nothing else that week is going right, so why should it now? Poor Mary has to go on stage with one wet slipper, her hair a mess, her fake eyelashes all askew, sniffling and sneezing because of her foot-water cold… all leading up to her starting off her acceptance speech with, “I usually look so much better than this.”
RHODA (to MARY): You’re having a lousy streak. I happen to be having a terrific streak. Soon the world will be back to normal again. Tomorrow you will meet a crown head of Europe and marry. I will have a fat attack, eat 300 peanut butter cups and die.
#2 Angels in the Snow. Season 4, Episode 2. Originally aired September 22, 1973.
Summary: Mary meets and picks up (!) a young man, Stephen, from the market. They end up spending the day together, cavorting in the snow. When Rhoda meets Stephen, she’s instantly concerned about the age difference between Mary and Stephen. It turns out that Stephen is 25 to Mary’s 33. From the way that Mary and the rest of the gang talk about her age, you would have thought Mary was 70 dating an 18-year old. Anyway, Mary is unconcerned about the age difference. When Lou, Murray and Ted meet Stephen, they are also concerned about the age difference. Lou says to Mary, “Your young man, he’s a YOUNG man.” And of course, Ted babbles on about how he and Mary are both carrying on “Autumn/Spring” relationships. Anyway, Mary is determined to prove all the naysayers wrong. Stephen invites her to a party at his place. Wanting to fit in and look younger, Mary and Rhoda go shopping in this ridiculous store, “Shot Down in Ecuador Jr.” She puts on a hideous pair of pants with patches on them, that would look terrible on a 5-year old. Thankfully, Mary gives up on the clothes and wears her own wardrobe. When Mary and Rhoda go to Stephen’s party, they discover that they are completely out of place and it becomes apparent to Mary that she and Stephen are not compatible.
Why I Like This Episode: I like this episode purely for the “Shot down in Ecuador Jr” scene and the ridiculous party where Mary and Rhoda talk about “hitching to Europe” and “staying in one of the funkier rooms” in Amsterdam. There’s just something about this episode that I find it fun to watch–even the awkward voice-over in one scene where Mary obviously re-records her line, “Maybe I’ll see if Rhoda wants to come to the party.”
BECK (Stephen’s friend at the party): Hey Rhoda, don’t go yet. We could go downtown and goof on people.” RHODA: Goof on people? What’s that? BECK: You know. Walk around, act weird, hope somebody notices. RHODA: That’s my life, kid.
#3 The Lars Affair. Season 4. Episode 1. Originally aired September 15, 1973.
Summary: Mary is throwing a party, which surprisingly isn’t terrible–except that Lou and Edie have an offscreen argument. But that doesn’t matter. The real story is Sue Ann and Phyllis’ never-seen husband, Lars. This episode introduces the hilarious Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White) who hosts “The Happy Homemaker Show” at WJM. Sue Ann regularly gives unsolicited household tips and can be very catty while continually keeping a smile plastered on her dimpled face. It seems that Lars has offered to give Sue Ann a ride home. Hours later, Lars still hasn’t returned home and calls Phyllis with the absurd story that their car broke down and he has taken it to an all-night body shop for repairs. In the days following, Phyllis reports that Lars and Sue Ann are continuing to see each other. Ted even sees them having lunch together. Upset, Phyllis goes down to the studio to confront Sue Ann. Mary gets pulled into the middle.
Why I Like This Episode: This episode is absolutely hilarious. From Phyllis’ monologue about the mating rituals of bees and trying to compete with Sue Ann and bake a pie, to Sue Ann’s collapsed chocolate soufflé, this episode has everything. Mary’s speech telling off Sue Ann is hilarious. Phyllis trying to talk Sue Ann out of an affair with her husband, by discussing his irrational fear of swallowing hair is hilarious. This entire episode is a riot from beginning to end. The funniest moment of the entire episode though might be when the supposedly prim and proper Sue Ann shuts the oven door with her knee after removing the collapsed chocolate soufflé from the oven.
PHYLLIS: “Do you know how hard it is to make an apple pie? My beautiful hands, hands that once touched the notes of Chopin. This is what that woman has driven me to to save my marriage! Cooking a damn pie!”
PHYLLIS: “I was reading this wonderful book called ‘The Life of the Bee.’ Maybe you’ve read it. Did you know that the male bee is nothing but the slave of the queen? And once the male bee… uh, how should I say… um, has serviced the queen, the male dies. All in all, not a bad system.”
#4 I Was a Single For WJM. Season 4, Episode 24. Originally aired, March 2, 1974.
Summary: Lou wants to do a location feature as something different on WJM. Murray suggests covering the new singles’ bar, Valentino’s. However, Murray’s wife isn’t keen on Murray covering the goings on in a singles bar and he’s unable to cover the story. Being single and wanting to prove that she can handle the assignment, Mary offers to perform the reconnaissance work at the bar solo. Wanting to make sure that Mary is okay (not that she can’t handle the assignment), Lou also goes to the bar, but mostly to make sure Mary doesn’t get into trouble. Mary is irritated but continues to talk to the regulars and find out some information for their story. However, when it comes time to film, the bar-goers find out about Mary and WJM and their cameras, and flee for a neighboring bar. On camera, Lou, Murray and Mary have to report the story from an empty bar. The funniest part of the entire episode is when Ted asks Mary the reporter how she found about about Valentino’s. Mary points at Murray and says, “he told me.” And Murray has a deer in headlights look on camera.
Why I Like This Episode: I love the entire scene at the singles bar, with Big Dino, and Penny Marshall and Arlene Golonka (who just passed this year as well). But the funniest part is the part at the end with the WJM staff reporting from an empty bar, trying to salvage their story. From Mary’s discussion of “remnants of people,” and Murray’s hilarious “deer in headlights” face, to Lou’s very poignant, stoic speech that falls four minutes short, to Ted’s four minutes of silence for the closing of the Auto show, it’s very funny.
MY FAVORITE QUOTE:
LOU (on camera, trying to salvage the story by giving it a poignant closing): “There’s nobody here tonight. Our camera crew scared them off. Uh…we…uh…we wanted to tell you, something new about a singles bar. We didn’t find anything new. Uh, the people here, got what they came for. They met each other. Maybe that’s all we found out. I guess, it’s our blessing, and our affliction, that people, need people. My name is Lou Grant.
CAMERAMAN: Lou, we still have four minutes to fill.
LOU: And back to you, Ted.
#5 The Square-Shaped Room. Season 2. Episode 13. Originally aired, December 11, 1971.
Summary: While Edie’s away, Lou wants to redecorate their living room as a surprise. He plans to get his buddy who designs bus stations to help with the design, because he doesn’t want to spend a lot of money doing so. Mary, not liking the idea of Lou’s living room being decorated by someone who decorates bus stations, helps to find him an inexpensive (but not cheap) decorator. Mary decides that the perfect candidate for this job would be Rhoda, who makes her living designing window displays at Hemple’s. Rhoda is excited about the opportunity, feeling that this might help her break out of the window decorating business and get into something more prestigious. To secure the job, Rhoda even offers to let Lou pay her after the job is done, so he can decide a fair price. Lou agrees and Rhoda has the job. However, Lou is a tough client, as he has no ideas about how he wants the room to look, only that it has to include his crappy chair, a doorknob, and he doesn’t want antiques. Rhoda goes to town collecting catalogues and re-doing his room. When it is finally revealed in one burst, we see an all white, blinding contemporary room that is very clean and minimalist but is not Lou’s style whatsoever.
Why I Like This Episode: Rhoda’s redesigned living room is everything. It is so bright and blinding and does not take into account Lou’s character at all. It’s so 1970s that it’s amazing. Parts of it are actually kind of cool, but all together, it’s completely unusable. It looks like a showroom rather than someone’s actual living space. But Lou’s tirade about the living room is hilarious as his is flip-flopping and saying “I love it” when he obviously hates it. And seeing the room in one burst, is really what makes the entire episode.
LOU: “Mary, you may not have noticed, but I don’t live in a window.”
The Mary Tyler Moore Show was my second favorite show to watch back in the day on Nick at Nite (I Love Lucy was #1). Nick at Nite is where I discovered this show and it was one of my must-see programs. Even if I didn’t get all the jokes initially as a 10-11 year old, there was something endearing about the program and its characters. Mary Richards was and still is one of my role models and I was truly devastated when Mary Tyler Moore passed away. Now everyone is gone, and slowly as the years pass, so many of my Nick at Nite favorites are gone. Thank goodness for ME-TV and other channels devoted to classic television, streaming services, and physical media. In some form or another, all the classic shows from my childhood (albeit, I wasn’t old enough to have seen them during their first run) will live on.
Who’s up for petitioning Viacom to bring back the 1990s iteration of Nick at Nite? Surely the graphics and jingles must live on somewhere and obviously, they can be re-created with today’s computers.
May 16th is upon us again. It’s National Classic Movie Day. Though honestly, I’m sure for many of us, EVERYDAY is National Classic Movie Day. For this year’s event, Classic Film and TV Cafe has asked us to list six favorite films, each from a different decade–starting with the 1920s through the 1970s. We were also given another option of the 1930s-1980s, but since my husband I have been trying to watch more silent films, I’m going to take the original challenge. To ease ourselves into silent films, we’ve started with the classic comedians–an obvious and easy jumping off point. Good comedy is universal and timeless. Since I’ve written about a lot of my favorite films over the years and have a tendency to be verbose and not wanting to bore everyone with yet another dissertation detailing my love for The Long Long Trailer, I’m going to try and change things up a bit by selecting some favorites that I don’t *think* I’ve talked about yet.
1920s- The Freshman (1925)
Starring: Harold Lloyd & Jobyna Ralston
Plot: Lloyd stars as “Harold Lamb,” an incoming freshman who is eager to begin his studies at Tate University. He has saved up quite a tidy sum, $485 ($7400 in 2021 dollars), to use as spending money while enrolled in college. While on the train, Harold meets Peggy (Ralston) and the two are smitten with one another. While at Tate, Harold decides that the best way to fit in is to emulate his favorite movie star, known as “The College Hero” in a series of films. Upon introducing himself to a potential friend, Harold performs The College Hero’s jig and adopting the nickname, “Speedy.” However, unbeknownst to Harold, his attempts to be cool and fit in make him the object of everyone’s jokes, especially the college bully. The students’ laughter makes Harold think that he’s fitting in and he’s unaware that he is the school laughing stock. His only true friend in the film is Peggy, his landlady’s daughter. Harold ends up trying out for the football team, but his obvious lack of athleticism does not impress the coach. The star football player, wanting to continue to make fun of Harold, convinces the coach to hire Harold as the waterboy, hereby making Harold think that he’s made the team. The star football player’s ruse may end up haunting him and the team later.
My Favorite Part: My favorite part of this film is when Harold is at the Fall Frolic in an unfinished suit. His tailor has all the pieces of the suit attached with some very loose stitches. Harold opts to wear the suit while the tailor hides behind a curtain, hoping to casually finishing sewing Harold’s suit. While Harold tries to partake in the Fall Frolic activities, his suit starts falling apart.
1930s- Alice Adams (1935)
Starring: Katharine Hepburn & Fred MacMurray
Plot: Hepburn stars as the titular Alice Adams, a young woman from the “wrong side of the tracks,” at least from Alice’s perception. In reality, there’s nothing wrong with the Adams’ home. It is a nice, clean home. It’s not fancy, but it’s functional and well-maintained. However, it is obvious that the Adamses are unhappy with their lot in life. Mr. Adams (Fred Stone) is an invalid and works as a clerk at Mr. Lamb’s (Charley Grapewin) glue factory. Mr. Lamb as been very nice and patient with Mr. Adams and his illness. However, Mrs. Adams (Ann Shoemaker) is frustrated with her husband’s lack of motivation or ambition to do anything to improve their financial situation. Alice’s brother, Walter (Frank Albertson), is a gambling addict and is unable to hold down a job. He also fraternizes with African-Americans, which at the time, was seen as unseemly (and embarrassing) behavior.
Alice is invited to a dance hosted by a wealthy peer of hers, Mildred Palmer (Evelyn Venable). Alice tries to put on airs, despite being escorted by her brother and carrying a bouquet of violets that she harvested outside. In an attempt to prove herself worthy of attending this party, she tries to impress her peers with haughty behavior and conversation, but they are not impressed and she is essentially shunned. While at the dance, she meets the wealthy Arthur Russell (MacMurray) who sees through her shtick but is nonetheless charmed. He makes it known that he wishes to see her more often and Alice, worried that he won’t be interested in her if he knew her true social standing (though he already does), tries to continue her charade.
My Favorite Part: The family dinner is hilarious and heartbreaking all at once. Alice invites Arthur to have dinner with her family. Alice hires a maid, Malena (Hattie McDaniel), to keep up the charade. Despite being blistering hot outside, the entire family dresses in formal attire. Alice plans this absurd (and very hot and heavy) meal made up of fancy delicacies, but Malena’s poor cooking skills are not up to par with the food Alice wants to serve. Malena provides the comic relief of the dinner with her unimpressed facial expressions and genuinely uncouth behavior. Poor Alice is collapsing emotionally with each and everything that goes wrong. Arthur, bless his heart, stoically carries on despite the disastrous evening.
1940s- Gilda (1946)
Starring: Rita Hayworth & Glenn Ford
Plot: Johnny Farrell (Ford) is an American gambler, newly arrived to Buenos Aires, Argentina. When the film opens, Johnny is hustling some gangsters outside during a game of craps. Johnny wins a large sum of money using loaded dice. When the gangsters discover Johnny’s ruse they are about to beat him up when Ballin Mundson (George Macready), a stranger, steps in and rescues Johnny. Ballin owns a fancy casino and brings Johnny there, but warns him not to cheat. However, once a cheater, always a cheater and Johnny is caught cheating at blackjack. After Ballin catches him cheating again, Johnny convinces him to give him a job and soon becomes the manager.
One day, Ballin comes back from a trip announcing that he’s taken a new wife, despite having only known her for a day. He takes Johnny to meet his new wife, Gilda (Hayworth), and Johnny is shocked. The smile on Gilda’s face quickly fades. It is obvious that these two know each other and have a past. What kind of past remains to be seen. Ballin assigns Johnny to be Gilda’s keeper of sorts. Gilda and Johnny have a very intense love/hate relationship. Gilda at one point says to Johnny: “I hate you so much, that I would destroy myself to take you down with me.” However, in spite of how much they say they hate each other, they’re also always about 5 minutes away from jumping into the sack with one another. To irritate Johnny and get his goat, Gilda begins cavorting with various men at all hours of the evening. Johnny has to keep intervening out of loyalty to Ballin. However, at some point, the tension between Gilda and Johnny begins to take over and they’re unable to contain themselves. Ballin observes his manager and wife’s lust for each other and takes matters into his own hands.
My Favorite Part: My absolute favorite part is Gilda’s floor-length sequin coat. But plot wise, the classic “Put the Blame on Mame” song is definitely a highlight. I also really love the scenes at Carnival. Gilda’s gaucho outfit is amazing.
1950s- His Kind of Woman (1951)
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, Vincent Price & Raymond Burr
Plot: Robert Mitchum plays Dan Millner, a professional gambler. At the beginning of the film, he is very much down on his luck. One night, after being ambushed by a group of thugs, he is brought to one of the more senior thugs and is offered a “too good to be true” job. For $50k, Dan has to spend a year in Mexico. Figuring that there’s got to be a catch, but also figuring that he has nothing to lose, Dan accepts a $5k advance and takes a chartered flight to the isolated Morro’s Lodge in Mexico. While on his flight, Dan meets Lenore Brent (Russell). Lenore very matter-of-factly tells Dan that she has a million dollars. Dan is attracted to her but disappointed to learn that she’s involved with another guest at the resort, famous actor Mark Cardigan (Price). While milling around the resort, Dan overhears two guests: Martin Kraft and a man by the name of Thompson (Jim “Thurston Howell III” Backus) discussing a plot that Dan suspects is related to the $50k he was offered. The two men give Dan $10k hush money and tell him that someone will be arriving soon to go over the plan with him.
Around the same time, an undercover agent from the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service shows up stating that underworld boss, Nick Ferraro (Raymond Burr) is scheming to try and get back into the US. Four years prior, he’d been deported to Italy. At this point, as far as I can tell, Ferraro is planning a “Face/Off” situation where he and Dan, supposedly of similar height and build, will literally switch faces. It seems that Martin Kraft is a plastic surgeon, who is armed with some sort of anesthesia that will allow him to perform the face switching procedure. At some point, Dan is kidnapped and under duress on Ferraro’s boat and it becomes up to Mark Cardigan to head an expedition to save Dan.
My Favorite Part: The entire scene involving Mark Cardigan heading up the rescue mission. Vincent Price’s hamminess makes the scene and it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as interesting or funny without Price. Price brings some much wanted levity to the film, especially while Robert Mitchum faces the idea of having to literally have his face ripped off and switched with Raymond Burr’s. I love the scene where Mark valiantly boards a small boat, only to have it sink immediately because it’s overloaded. I love the hilarious super long (and I imagine, heavy, especially water-logged) cape that he wears while he mans the (larger) rescue boat.
1960s- Girl Happy (1965)
Starring: Elvis Presley & Shelley Fabares
Plot: Elvis plays Rusty Wells, a nightclub singer (duh) who along with the other three members of his quartet have just ended their gig at a nightclub in Chicago. They plan to travel to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for Spring Break before moving onto their next job. However, the nightclub owner, “Big Frank,” messes up their plans when he extends their contract and they have to cancel their trip.
At the same time, Big Frank’s 18-year old college-aged daughter, Valerie (Fabares), is also planning on traveling to Fort Lauderdale for spring break. Despite his daughter’s legal adult status, Big Frank is terrified at the idea of letting his daughter travel so far away with just her friends in tow. Rusty sees his boss’ worry, and still wanting to go to Florida, comes up with the brilliant idea of offering to chaperone Valerie. Big Frank likes the idea and offers to bankroll Rusty and his friends’ trip. While in Fort Lauderdale, Rusty struggles with keeping an Italian playboy from lusting after Valerie and maintaining a semblance of a relationship with a “good time girl” (i.e. loose girl) Deena (Mary Ann Mobley). Rusty has to keep bailing on Deena when duty calls and she quickly grows tired of him. But because it’s an Elvis movie and he has to find himself in some sort of love triangle, Deena continues to maintain an interest in Rusty throughout the entire film.
And because this is an Elvis movie and because it’s a tried and true plot with one party being hired to chaperone or hang out with (or what have you) the other. You know that they’ll fall in love and you know that the person being chaperoned will find out. Despite the formulaic Elvis movies and plotlines, I still love it. His movies are fluffy, but they’re fun. And sometimes a fun movie is all that is needed.
My Favorite Part: I love the part when Elvis dresses up in Nina Talbot’s dress to escape from Officer Jackie Coogan’s jail. Elvis had dug a large hole and burrowed himself into the jail cell so that he could save Valerie and the other women.
1970s- The Muppet Movie (1979)
Starring: Kermit the Frog & Fozzie Bear
Plot: The film opens with all of the Muppets sitting together in an auditorium, waiting to watch their film. This film shows how all the Muppets met. We meet Kermit the Frog sitting in a boat in a pond, singing “Rainbow Connection” while strumming his banjo. A talent agent (Dom Deluise) who just happens to be at the same pond, hears Kermit’s song and says that he could be a Hollywood star. I mean obviously, it’s a singing frog playing the banjo! What more could anyone want? Kermit loves the idea of making millions of people happy and sets off for Hollywood. Along the way, he meets a terrible (but awesome) stand-up comedian, Fozzie Bear. Kermit invites Fozzie to Hollywood and the two set off in Fozzie’s Studebaker. This brings about my favorite quote from the film, “A frog and a bear, seeing America.”
Along the way, Kermit and Fozzie meet Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem (which includes Animal), the band’s manager, Scooter, Gonzo and his girlfriend (Camilla the Chicken), Sweetums, Miss Piggy, Rowlf, Bunsen Honeydew, and Beaker. There are a million of celebrity cameos: James Coburn, Madeline Kahn, Telly Savalas, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, Cloris Leachman, and perhaps the greatest cameo of them all… ORSON WELLES.
My Favorite Part: This entire film is hilarious. But I really love the part where Kermit the Frog and Miss Peggy go out for a romantic dinner. They are greeted by a snarky and rude waiter (Steve Martin) who wears shorty shorts, offers them a straw for their bottle-capped Idaho champagne (after offering to let them smell the bottlecap, of course).
Here’s the story of a lovely lady. Who was bringing up three very lovely girls. All of them had hair of gold, like their mother. The youngest one in curls.
It’s the story of a man named Brady, who was busy with three boys of his own. They were four men, living all together. Yet they were all alone.
Till the one day, when the lady met this fellow and they knew it was much more than a hunch. That this group must somehow form a family.
And that’s the way [they] became:
So goes the iconic opening theme song and credits sequence that not only introduces the characters, but also provides the audience with all the information they need to enjoy the show. I love The Brady Bunch. Yes, it can be corny at times and overly sappy, but for me, it treads the fine line between being charmingly sappy and obnoxiously saccharine (looking at you Full House) that purposely manipulates its audience. Yes, episodes of the Brady Bunch can have lessons, but more often than not, there are repeating motifs that “kids” of all ages (yes, adults too) can identify with. Some common motifs are: boys/men against girls/women, younger versus older, big-head syndrome, and puppy love. Despite what setbacks and challenges the characters may face, the audience knows that all will be resolved by the end of the episode.
Much of the action of the series unfolds inside the Brady residence at 4222 Clinton Way in an unnamed city. However, based on references made throughout the series, we can safely assume that the Bradys live somewhere in the sprawling Los Angeles area. It is also established that the oldest son, Greg Brady, is the “Casanova of Clinton Avenue.” The Brady Bunch’s house is a character in and of itself. Their house, both the exterior and interior is iconic. Even the layman Brady Bunch fan, even someone only remotely aware of the Brady Bunch’s existence, knows what the house looks like.
Mike Brady, the patriarch of the Brady clan, and an architect, designed the Brady’s home. Despite popular belief, they have more than one bathroom in the house. Aside from the kids’ famous Jack-and-Jill bathroom, Mike and Carol also have a bathroom in their master bedroom. Where else would Carol hang her purple shower curtain that Greg and “Raquel,” Coolidge High School’s goat mascot, rip down? Finally, I think it is safe to assume that Alice has her own bathroom attached to her bedroom. Based on the amount of Brady Bunch that I’ve watched (and it’s a lot), I believe that Alice’s room is behind the kitchen nearby the service porch.
The Brady house is well-designed and decorated. The multi-level home has a small foyer that brings guests into the Brady’s living room and dining room. The living room seems to be a more formal space as this is frequently where Mike entertains his clients, like Senor and Senorita Calderon, who later see Peter aka “Phil Packer” and Greg entertaining some girlfriends in a supposed X-rated manner at Marioni’s Pizza. This room is where Marcia entertains Davy Jones who stops by to bring Marcia a copy of his new album after he overhears her lamenting to his manager that she promised to get Davy to appear at her prom. The living room is also where Marcia meets her “dream of dreams,” Desi Arnaz Jr. The living room is not without its drama however, this is also the room where Peter accidentally breaks “mom’s favorite vase” with a basketball, despite mom having said: “don’t play ball in the house.” The living room is also where Marcia holds slumber parties until they’re disrupted by itching powder, and where kids hold their parties. It is at one of these parties when Peter learns that he does have a personality after all, and that personality is “lady killer.” This room is not without heartbreak however, aside from the sad demise of “mom’s favorite vase,” this is the room where Marcia starts bawling after the boys completely ignore her speech when she runs for Class President (against Greg).
Later, in the dining room, mom’s favorite vase endures yet another humiliation when it starts leaking all over the table after having been filled with water for some flowers. It seems that the kids’ glue job wasn’t up to snuff. The dining room also serves as the location for the kids’ house of cards contest that would determine whether the boys or the girls would receive Alice’s bounty of trading stamps. The boys wanted to use their stamps to buy a rowboat, and the girls wanted a sewing machine. In the end, Tiger runs into Greg, causing him to fall into the house of cards. The girls make good though and use the stamps to get a color television set. Presumably, this is the set that goes into the family room. Poor Alice, despite doting on the family day in and day out, never gets to eat dinner with the family. She finally gets to eat dinner with them when Mike announces that he will be making a gourmet dinner for the family. The dining room also features an entrance to the Brady’s backyard with the famous, low-maintenance (though we see Marcia cutting it with scissors in an episode) Astro-Turf lawn.
The dining room is adjacent to the Brady’s kitchen. The Brady kitchen is iconic with its orange formica countertops and avocado green appliances. There is also an awesome double oven built into a brick column. There’s also a stovetop built into the counter. Over the years, much cooking goes on in the Brady kitchen, including, but not limited to: meatloaf, the girls’ horrible breakfast, pork chops and applesauce, strawberry preserves, Mike’s gourmet dinner, Marcia’s merit badge meal, spaghetti that tastes like metal when eaten with Marcia’s one-episode braces, Brady Kid lunch assembly line, Peter’s “Straw Split Fudge Short,” and countless other meals. This room is where Alice has the last apple, the last peach, and the last banana hidden. The tulip table and chairs (that I love, by the way) is where Marcia and Greg fight over Marcia’s date with Warren Mulaney and where Jan pretends to be an only child. This is where Mike, Carol and Alice sit over coffee at the table and discuss issues regarding the children. The kitchen also features an entrance to the backyard.
Through the saloon doors and passthrough of the kitchen is the Brady den. The den is where the family watch the latest sports game, movie, or family member(s) on television. This is where the kids “Can make the World A Whole Lot Brighter” with their Brady Six act. This is the room where Alice irons and listens to her soap opera. This is also the room where the kids, seated on the plaid couches, sometimes receive lectures. One such lecture they received involved the high phone bills they were racking up. To remedy the situation (or so he thought), Mike installed a payphone in the family room. This somewhat worked until Mike found himself without a phone and without a dime needing to take a call from an important client. In the den, Marcia practices her yoga for one of the dozen clubs she joins when she starts at Westdale High. The den has the most-used entrance to the Brady’s backyard.
The backyard is where Bobby and Cindy try to break the record for longest time teeter-tottering. This is where the kids, sans Jan, practice for the potato sack race. This is where Mike and the kids refurbish and paint the “S.S. Brady” a row-boat too small for the whole family to enjoy. The backyard provides room for all the kids’ school pursuits, such as a working full-size dunking booth (you can’t say Mike and Carol don’t go all-in for their kids and their kids’ educations. Money and time are no object, apparently) Greg’s re-creation of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, and where the family puts on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” as a benefit to pay for a gift for Mrs. Whitfield, a beloved teacher who is retiring. Later, in The Brady Bunch Movie, we will again see Mrs. Whitfield who has returned to teaching, but has apparently fallen on hard times in the 1990s and is busted for stealing school supplies. The backyard is where Bobby receives his first kiss, courtesy of the potentially mumps-infested Millicent. The backyard is not completely full of mirth and whimsy however, It is also the where Jan, not wearing her glasses (they make her look “positively goofy” she says), crashes into Mike’s anniversary gift for Carol, Peter risks potential murder (via Alice) for getting mud all over the patio, Greg brings home his lemon of a car, Peter is nearly killed by a falling ladder, but pushed out of the way by Bobby (who is covered in green paint in the process), Greg loses the pull-up contest to Bobby and has to become his slave, Greg announces to his parents that he will not attend college and will instead focus on becoming “Johnny Bravo,” and finally, poor Tiger’s vacant dog-house still stands as a reminder that Tiger hasn’t been seen since Season 2.
Above the backyard are the bedrooms. The girls’ room is the room that had the shutter Greg was painting before he dangerously climbs through the window from the ladder (that comes crashing down towards Peter’s head, before Bobby pushes him out of the way and is doused with green paint) to answer the phone. The girls’ room is where a lot of tears were shed: Marcia when she was removed as Juliet from her school’s rendition of “Romeo and Juliet,” Marcia when she has to get braces, Jan when she thinks she’s ugly, and poor Cindy when she endures frequent bullying by Buddy Hinton who mocks her for having a lisp. Buddy Hinton was such a loser, aside from being a bully, he’s obviously at least a 5th-6th grader picking on a 1st grader. But looking at his parents, especially his doormat of a mother, it’s no wonder. However, the girls’ room is also one of much happiness, this is where Marcia displays all her awards, where Jan finds her lost locket after looking for “The Little Bear” and where Cindy keeps her life savings (inside her doll’s head of course) that she happily contributes when the kids decide to form a singing group.
Adjacent to the girls’ bedroom, is the famous blue Jack-and-Jill bathroom. This room causes a lot of tension between the children, definitely fueling the misconception that it is the only bathroom in the house. The girls scatter their hair ribbons all over the place, much to the boys’ chagrin. Jan locks herself in the bathroom to scrub her freckles off with a lemon. Marcia tries to impress Cindy with her beauty routine only to have Cindy inquire about brushing her teeth with braces. Jan locks herself in the bathroom to try out the wig she purchased when she decides to change her whole look–“The New Jan Brady.” The drama over the bathroom reaches a boiling point in one episode, when Mike and Carol actually consider moving to a larger house with additional bathrooms. Thankfully, they reconsider after the kids proclaim their love for the house (and haunt it for good measure) when a potential buyer comes to look at the home.
On the other side of the bathroom is the boys’ room. Peter and Bobby share a bunk bed with Greg in a single bed on the other side of the room. Unlike the girls’ room which was re-decorated at least three times, the boys’ room stayed pretty much the same (can’t lose those scary clown paintings), except when Greg moves into the attic. The boys’ room is pretty basic however. This is where Peter locks Bobby in the closet after he tires of being his slave. Greg croons “Clowns never laughed before, beanstalks never grew,” lyrics from a song he’d written during happier times before he was busted for smoking. Greg has a reality-check when he realizes that he may never be as great a pitcher as baseball great, Don Dysdale, whom he’d met earlier in the backyard. This is also where Bobby meets Joe Namath, who comes to visit the “ailing” Bobby after Cindy writes him a letter talking about her brother’s illness. This is the room where Greg wants to talk to Mike “man-to-man, not kid-to-man man-to-man but man-to-man man-to man.” This is where both Greg and Peter start shaving their one whisker.
The hallway isn’t that exciting except that it features Carol’s favorite feature: a walk-in linen closet, that she shows off briefly when giving an impromptu tour of her home to her fellow Westdale High PTA members. This closet is also located directly below Greg’s attic bedroom and the kids can hear all his secrets: such as him stashing “Raquel” in his bedroom. The hallway also has two random chairs that I don’t understand. Who is going to just sit in the hallway randomly? Get these out of here, Carol! These are taking up precious walking room.
At another end of the hall, we have Mike and Carol’s master bedroom. This room was supposedly redecorated, when a decision was being made between striped or floral wallpaper. In the end though, they painted the room teal and it seemingly looked the same as it did before? I loved the floral architectural piece behind Mike and Carol’s bed. I also loved that this show actually featured parents who seemingly had a life and some romance outside of their six children. The more “romantic” side of their relationship is hinted to when the kids make Mike and Carol a “Do Not Disturb” sign for their bedroom. Mike and Carol’s closet, supposedly divided 50/50, but probably more 70/30 in Carol’s favor, is full of Carol’s frilly nightgowns, bags to match her shoes, and the different outfits she buys (skiing outfit for the mountains, bikini for the beach, cowboy outfit for the dude ranch, red flapper dress for the Charleston contest, country dress for the square dance). Nobody can accuse this woman for not dressing appropriately for the occasion.
Upstairs, in the attic (that Mike must have somehow retrofitted from its 2′ height clearance in season 2 to being at least 7′ if not 9′ at the end of season 4), is Greg’s bedroom. Greg’s moving into the room was a contentious affair, with Marcia wanting the room as well, but ultimately Greg won out. His “bachelor pad” so to speak, is pretty sweet. Greg has a patchwork carpet, a larger bed, an old-time radio, a coat rack, a dartboard, a beaded curtain that separated a sink from his bedroom, and a globe! Greg’s room looks like what a kid might decorate his own room with if he had unlimited access to random stuff in his parents’ attic. I only wish Greg had incorporated some of the things from his previous bachelor’s pad in Mike’s den, such as the plastic flowers, the lava lamps and the mattress on the floor. The most exciting thing to happen in Greg’s attic room is when he stole Raquel the goat mascot from his rival, Coolidge High. Greg then tried to keep Raquel a secret, but everyone quickly found out.
The famous Brady stairs were the focal point for many scenes. There are many moments with kids rushing excitedly up or down the stairs. Kids hid at the top of the stairs to spy, such as the kids spying on Marcia when she meets both Davy Jones and Desi Arnaz Jr. The Kids used the stairs to scare Alice when they send a “ghost” down a zipline to scare her when she walks in the door. Bobby slides down the stair railing in an episode. The Brady cast members regularly posed on the stairs, the kids in order by age, then the adults at the end. Then, of course, lest we forget, the stairs served as the vehicle in which Peter’s basketball traveled to take out mom’s favorite vase.
At the base of the stairwell is Mike’s den. For the most part, this room remained quiet and professional (except when Greg redecorated it) as this is where Mike often worked when a deadline was looming, or when he had to re-create plans, such as when delivery boy, Greg, lost Mike’s plans after setting them down to peruse a car magazine. This room was strictly forboden to the kids, as Marcia learned when she spilled correction fluid all over the plans, during some horseplay with Jan and Cindy. Marcia was in the office writing her article for “Father of the Year.” Carol was really the only other person Mike allowed to be in the den while he was working. Alice came into the den to clean and talk to Mike and Carol. The kids only seemed to come into the den to seek some advice, like Jan did when she was stressed out about Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. Mike’s den is very classic in its decoration and lacks some of the more dated decor of the 1970s.
Behind the stairwell, I believe is Alice’s room. Her room isn’t seen often in the series, but she is seen emerging from somewhere behind the kitchen. As a live-in maid, and someone whom the Brady’s value enough to take to the Grand Canyon, Hawaii, Cincinnati, and camping at Mount Claymore, it seems reasonable that she would have her own bedroom and bathroom. In the episode where Alice sprains her ankle tripping on Bobby’s Chinese Checkers (lying on the floor of the dining room), we see her in bed reading a book, All My Loves. Alice’s bedroom seems to be off-limits to the kids, except when they see her packing up her bedroom. After Mike and Carol’s marriage, Alice feels that her job is redundant, because Mike won’t need her after marrying Carol. The family puts on an elaborate ruse to show Alice how much she is needed.
Just off of Alice’s bedroom is the laundry room, or service porch. No doubt Alice’s room suffered water damage when Bobby decided to wash his suit (dirty after rescuing “Pandora,” a cat owned by the world’s worst child actress) with an entire box of Safe detergent. Speaking of Safe, the service porch must be where Carol is storing the 2000 boxes of Safe they received as payment for the commercial they filmed. The service porch isn’t seen much, but it does serve as the opulent entrance to Alice’s bedroom!
The Brady home is iconic. For fans like me, every room of the house featured some memorable moment. We experience these moments as if we also lived in the home with the family. As an oldest child (though definitely not of six), I always identified with Marcia and Greg. They were my favorite of the kids. I also could identify with the third oldest, Peter, to an extent. I loved that the kids weren’t overly goody goody like Wally and Beaver in Leave it to Beaver, and I liked that the parents were portrayed as intelligent people with lives independent of their children. Carol, while she didn’t work outside the home (though she’s a relator in A Very Brady Christmas made-for-TV movie), was shown as being part of different clubs and charities. She also had hobbies like embroidery and sculpture. I felt like the kids were well-rounded and realistic. They didn’t have annoying catchphrases like kids on 90s sitcoms had. Even if their problems were solved in 30 minutes, so what? Who wants to watch Marcia’s over-inflated ego over playing Juliet play out over multiple episodes? I would welcome an extension of the Family Night Frolics. Or any of the episodes where the kids sing. “Good Time Music,” indeed.
The Brady Bunch has always been one of my absolute favorite shows. It’s right up there with I Love Lucy and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I have seen every episode, multiple times. I own the entire series on DVD and I have the two satire films: The Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel. It’s quotable, I can recognize the episodes within seconds, I love their clothes (well most of them), and I really love their house. I would live in that house today, orange formica and all. Long live The Brady Bunch!
And remember: “Mom always said, don’t play ball in the house!”
Unfortunately, politics have been around since the beginning of time. I absolutely cannot stand politics. I find today’s political climate very toxic and damaging to one’s mental health. But, I do like political-oriented stories if they’re presented in a historical context (e.g. All the President’s Men), or if the politics are presented in a fictional narrative, where there’s no blatant agenda or propaganda–just a basic story about someone running for an office or some other aspect of the political arena.
The Candidate, directed by Michael Ritchie (Downhill Racer, Bad News Bears, Smile) depicts the fictional election of the 1972 California Senate seat within the US Senate. Peter Boyle plays Marvin Lucas, an election specialist who is tasked with finding a viable Democratic candidate for the California Senate seat in the US Senate. The incumbent, Republican Senator Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter aka Sally Field’s dad in TV’s Gidget), is extremely popular and seemingly is a shoo-in for re-election. He’s so popular in fact, that solid Democratic candidates are convinced that running against him is futile because it’s a given that they’ll lose.
After seeing an article about San Diego lawyer Bill McKay (Robert Redford) in the newspaper, Lucas decides that he is the perfect candidate to run against Jarmon. To sweeten the pot, McKay is also the son of former California Governor, John McKay (Melvyn Douglas). Hoping to cash-in on his connection to the former governor, Lucas visits McKay at his office and makes him a proposition: Because it’s a given that Jarmon will win, if McKay agrees to campaign for California Senate, he can mount whatever type of campaign he wants. Despite not particularly wanting to be Senator, McKay agrees because he feels that this will be a good opportunity to speak about about some of his pet causes like: ecology, civil rights, and legal aid.
McKay easily wins the nomination and mounts a grassroots campaign and his charisma and realism helps him quickly attract supporters. However, his campaigning isn’t doing enough and preliminary election projections show that McKay is not only going to lose the election, he’s going to be obliterated. Not wanting McKay to be embarrassed, Lucas informs him that they will need to mount a more serious, conventional campaign. McKay goes along Lucas’ plan.
McKay’s campaign begins to transform into a more typical political campaign. He is given pre-written answers to questions or is asked to give more standard answers that pander to the American public. His answers are full of buzzwords and other shallow phrases, designed to sound good, but mean absolutely nothing. McKay begins receiving criticism for seemingly drifting away from his ideals and turning into a more typical politician.
As McKay gets deeper and deeper into the election, he begins to question his integrity and how much he’s willing to compromise his ideals to win a campaign for an office that he wasn’t interested in winning in the first place. His dilemma comes to head during a debate with Jarmon.
Jarmon represents the celebrity candidate. He knows how to pander to his supporters. He knows how to appeal to his supporters with big, splashy galas and rallies. Jarmon knows what buzzwords to say, what empty phrases to use. He knows how to make promises to his supporters without actually making any promises at all. Jarmon interjects himself into situations (e.g. the forest fire in Malibu) to make him seem like he cares, but he doesn’t really. He says words like “Change” and “America” a lot.
McKay, on the other hand, is the naive, wide-eyed candidate. He’s the one who has no idea what he’s “supposed” to say, what his supporters want to hear. McKay has his laundry list of issues that he wants to fix and actually has ideas on how to fix these issues. He holds rallies to try and attract supporters. McKay says the wrong thing. He says the right thing. And of course, because it’s Robert Redford*, he attracts the young women to his camp because he’s attractive. Being eye-candy never hurt anyone’s campaign. (Honestly, it’s not often that attractive people run for any sort of office).
*For the record, in the never-ending “Paul Newman or Robert Redford?” debate, I am Team Redford all the way.
Despite his inexperience, McKay’s grassroots campaign gains traction. He is charismatic. McKay appeals to all facets of society: the unemployed, the minorities, everyone–not just the wealthy. He wants to fix widespread issues that are actually hurting the voters of the country–like joblessness and poverty. Corporations and taxes aren’t the point of his campaign. He wants to help the actual voters and the environment in which they live. As his supporter base grows, so does the size of his campaign–and before he knows it, McKay is running a bonafide political campaign.
I was on a Robert Redford kick a while back and found this film on HBO Max. I have since watched it three times and really enjoy it. In 1972, The Candidate was released as a satire of the American political system. But is this film really a satire?
Many of the situations presented in this campaign are still true today. The hypocrisy present in both major political parties is the same. The way in which the public responds to the different candidates is the same. The pandering and fake promises are the same. The mudslinging between the candidates is the same. While social media changes the medium in which information is spread, the way in which it persuades (or dissuades) is the same.
Everything is the same. The same tactics that were used in 1972 are used today in 2020.
I highly recommend watching The Candidate. While I’ve never run for office (and don’t plan on doing so), I feel that the way in the film depicts how a campaign is run, how the candidates are asked to sell-out their personal convictions in the name of winning, and how the political parties try to manipulate the voters into supporting them is still very timely today. This film would make a good companion piece to All the President’s Men. Aside from the Redford connection, this film can show what happens when someone in an important political office (e.g. THE PRESIDENT) sacrifices their integrity (if they had any) in the name of winning.
I wouldn’t touch politics with a “39 and a half-foot pole,” but I would watch The Candidate again and again.
Just a few weeks ago, I participated in the Olivia de Havilland blogathon, celebrating her 104th birthday on July 1. In that post, I discussed her nine films with her most frequent co-star, the gorgeous Errol Flynn. It brings me great sadness to have to write a memorial post about Olivia. Last weekend, she passed away in her sleep of natural causes in her Paris townhouse at the age of 104.
While this news is not unexpected, I cannot help but feel sorrow over Olivia’s passing. She was the last surviving major Hollywood star from the golden age. When I was growing up in the mid-80s through early-00s, many of the classic Hollywood stars were still alive. Some were even still working! While I am too young to remember the passings of Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth in 1987 (I was in preschool then), and thank god I wasn’t aware of Lucille Ball at the age of 5 when she passed in 1989 (if that had happened just a few years later, or even now, I would have been devastated). I remember being in middle school when Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Robert Mitchum, and James Stewart passed.
People like Katharine Hepburn and Bob Hope were old when I was born, they were still old throughout all of my formative years. When they both died within a month of one another, I was sad as they were enduring symbols of old Hollywood, immortal as far as I was concerned. Kirk Douglas was always there. Doris Day was too. Joan Fontaine seemed like she would last forever. Shirley Temple was just a child! Surely she would be around forever. Then, there was my queen, Olivia de Havilland.
Now, they’re all gone.
It is moments like this when people start making lists of people from the Golden Age who are still alive. I cannot bring myself to make such a list. To me, that seems like bad luck. It seems like chronicling those who are blessed with longevity is just asking to have a hex placed on them. So I will refrain.
Olivia de Havilland’s death represents the final door closing on the Golden Era. She was the last tangible link to this amazing period of filmmaking where everything was in its infancy, numerous techniques, camera angles, acting styles, etc. were pioneered every day during this period of great innovation. Olivia de Havilland was a woman who could recall working with people like: my boyfriend Errol Flynn, Montgomery Clift, Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, the amazing Hattie McDaniel, James Cagney, Rita Hayworth, Rosalind Russell, Dick Powell, Charles Boyer, Bette Davis… legendary Hollywood personalities who had long since passed.
Olivia had an infamous feud with her sister, Joan Fontaine. It’s a shame that the two ladies could not get along and share their respective good fortunes with one another, but that isn’t anyone’s business but Olivia and Joan’s. What was the feud about? Who knows? Both ladies must have had their reasons.
Can you imagine if What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? had been made with Olivia and Joan instead?
Olivia was also not afraid to put herself on the line to speak out about perceived injustices both she and her peers faced. In 1943, Olivia sued Warner Brothers for violating California Labor Codes. During the early days of the studio system, contract players were signed to seven-year contracts. The studios viewed actors as employees, they were no different than the cameraman, the set designer, the electricians, or the propmen. The actors would be assigned to specific projects and were expected to fulfill their end of the contract and make the film.
However, many of the performers believed that they should have a say over their projects–especially if their appearance in a film was proven to make money for the studio. Many actors, such as Bette Davis, were trying to hone their craft and also take on challenging parts. These performers didn’t want to hurt their box office clout and essentially, their marketability by taking on crappy parts. The studios believed that they were allowed to suspend actors for refusing parts. Then, after the film was completed with a different actor, the length of the production time would be added to the actor’s existing contract.
In 1943, Olivia reached the end of her 7-year contract at Warner Brothers. She was then informed that she owed them an additional 6 months time to make up for the parts she refused. Olivia sued Warner Brothers to be released from her contract and won the lawsuit! Warner Brothers tried to appeal, but lost. The California Superior Court upheld the “seven-year contract” labor ruling and named this law the “de Havilland Law,” a law that is still in place today. Even sister Joan Fontaine gave Olivia kudos stating “Hollywood owes Olivia a great deal.”
Of course, Warner Brothers, being petty, managed to get Olivia blacklisted in Hollywood for two years.
In 1945, Olivia signed a two-picture deal with Paramount. She immediately went to work on To Each Her Own.
She won the Best Actress Oscar.
In 1949, Olivia made The Heiress with Montgomery Clift. I just watched this film the other day. I’d seen it once prior, but didn’t really remember much about it, except for the ending. Olivia’s performance in this film is nothing but fantastic. Her transformation from meek, proper, shy Catherine to a cynical, bitter, hardened woman is nothing short of remarkable. Not only does Olivia’s portrayal change, but her entire look, her voice, the way she carries herself, everything changes. I absolutely loved it.
Olivia won a second Best Actress Oscar for her performance in The Heiress.
In the 1950s, Olivia moved to Paris, married, had two children, and continued her film career and started appearing in the theater and on television. Her career continued until 1988 when she retired. From then on, Olivia stayed active appearing in various career and film retrospectives. As the last surviving major cast member (since 1967, with the death of Vivien Leigh) of Gone With the Wind, Olivia served as an ambassador for that film. She also received numerous accolades and honors, including being appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
I will miss Olivia immensely. Knowing that she was still alive, healthy, and active was such a consolation–the Golden Age of Hollywood was alive and well. Now, another piece of it is gone. However, Olivia has achieved immortality. Her films, along with everyone else’s, will live on forever.
I’ve been on a bit of a ‘Brady Bunch’ kick lately. I don’t know why I’m saying “lately,” I’ve been on a ‘Brady Bunch’ kick for probably 20-25 years now. I used to watch it back in the day when it aired on TBS. I remember when it moved to Nick at Nite back in 1998, I was so excited. Along with I Love Lucy and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Brady Bunch became one of my “must-see” shows every evening.
Greg in the beginning of the series.
I always thought that Greg Brady (and to some extent, Peter as well) was kind of cute which is why I selected him for this year’s “Reel Infatuation” Blogathon. The Greg and Marcia-centric episodes were always my favorite, mainly because as the oldest child, they’re the characters who I identified with the most. The episodes centered around Greg are some of the funniest ones in the series, especially one of my favorites, “Getting Greg’s Goat.”
Greg has always been my favorite Brady. He’s attractive (nice eyes!), a great singer, an athlete, a photographer and he “fits the suit.” He’s a bit of a ladies’ man (he isn’t called “The Casanova of Clinton Avenue” for nothing) even though he can be a bit blinded by the opposite sex. When he was the head of the committee to select the head cheerleader, contender Jennifer Nichols attempted to use “Greggy” for his vote. In this instance, Greg demonstrated that he had character by not being swayed by his hormones or by nepotism (sister Marcia was a contender as well). He selected Pat Conway, the contestant whom he felt did the best. In another demonstration of character, when he finds himself running against sister Marcia for Student Body President, Greg fires his campaign manager when he announces his intent to spread false rumors about Marcia.
Greg in the final season.
I find Greg’s self-confidence attractive, such as when he thinks he’ll be the next Don Drysdale or when he thinks he’s written the next hit song (“We Can Make the World a Whole Lot Brighter”). He’s musically inclined and has performed on local television multiple times. His talent did not go unnoticed. While singing “You’ve Got to be in Love (to Love a Love Song),” Greg was discovered by music agent Tammy Cutler. She was planning to groom him into the next pop star, under the moniker “Johnny Bravo.” After hearing his sweetened up vocals, Greg demonstrated that he had pride when he declined the offer of a contract, as he did not want to be a sell-out. However, he showed a questionable understanding of the legalities of a contract, as merely ripping up a contract does NOT relieve you of legal obligation.
Greg’s groovy threads
Greg also demonstrates a great sense of fashion. I loved his “man” outfit which consisted of a fringe vest, a blue shirt with a floral print, glasses with green-tinted lenses, headband, and striped pants. He also sports a great suede fringe jacket when they record “Time to Change” at Mr. Dimsdale’s record studio. I even loved his plaid pants in “Adios, Johnny Bravo.”
Greg did have some questionable hairstyles at times. As an 8th-9th grader, he wore his hair short on the sides and back, longer on top. Frankly, this is the style I prefer, but Greg was a bit young. As he matured, his hair took on a questionable look and texture. There is a period where he is decidedly older, his hair longer, but it is this weird straight-ish mop on his head. I read that Greg’s portrayer, Barry Williams, experimented with a chemical straightener and it did not go well. I’ll assume that this is the period of Greg’s awful hair. I don’t know what happened in Hawaii, but the Brady men’s hair did not fare well. The men went over to the Island State with straight hair and returned with permed hair. There was also a period where Greg seemed to be attempting to grow a ‘fro. I was not into this era either. By the end of the series, he’s got his hair under control and is rocking some great sideburns. This is the Greg I like the best.
One of Greg’s faults is his sometimes sexist attitudes.
Since nobody is infallible, Greg did have his faults. He seemed to regress into “men are superior than women” attitude on occasion. Such as when the Brady men took their new female family members on their first camping trip. The gang fails to catch fish for dinner. Greg and his brothers attribute the lack of fish to their sisters’ lack of fishing ability. Thankfully, the women thought ahead and packed fried chicken and cold cuts. Who can forget Greg’s immortal words, “That’s sissy food!” He also gets into a battle of the sexes when the boys and girls argue over the use of the trading stamps and the clubhouse. Then there was the time when Marcia wanted to be in Greg’s Frontier Scout troop. Despite his efforts to prove that men were superior in the wild than women, he failed. Finally, in a last ditch attempt to assert men’s dominance, he resorted to challenging Marcia in a driving contest. Perhaps he’ll reconsider his stance as he irons Marcia’s clothes for the next year.
Despite having questionable hair at times, I still think Greg Brady is pretty hip! *Yes, I know that the orange hair was an accident in the last episode of the series.
Despite his bravado, I still find Greg to be pretty groovy. He sings, he plays guitar, he surfs, he plays football, baseball and basketball. I love that he sticks up for his siblings while also providing guidance and advice. Finally, Greg was able to escape from Vincent Price’s clutches while imprisoned. If that doesn’t make someone great, I don’t know what does!
If anyone doesn’t like Greg Brady or The Brady Bunch for that matter, all I can do is quote the great Greg Brady: “Kids. What do they know about life?”
By 1970, television shows were starting to move away from the family comedies like Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons and The Donna Reed Show to name a few. The “rural comedies” like Petticoat Junction, Green Acres (my personal favorite)and The Beverly Hillbillies had been canceled. The fantasy shows like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie had been canceled or would be ending soon. Even the “Queen of Television,” Lucille Ball’s brand of slapstick comedy was beginning to wane in popularity. Her last sitcom, Here’s Lucy, debuted a year before The Brady Bunch. It also ended, along with The Brady Bunch, in 1974. Lucille Ball was old fashioned by the time the 1970s rolled around. The new “hot” shows were issue driven and were challenging societal norms. The most popular shows during this era were The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons and Sanford and Son to name a few. Compared to these shows, The Brady Bunch was in its own little fantasy world.
The iconic opening credits of “The Brady Bunch”
The Brady Bunch debuted on September 26, 1969 and aired Friday nights on ABC until its cancellation on March 8, 1974. During its five-year run, the beloved family sitcom never ranked high in the ratings (never even reaching near the Top 30). It faced much critical snark, ranging from criticizing the simple (and sometimes saccharine) storylines, the unrealistic situations and resolutions, corny dialogue, just to name a few examples. After the show ended, it was sold into syndication. It was in syndication where The Brady Bunch achieved its iconic status and became firmly entrenched in pop culture. While critics disliked the show, children loved it because creator Sherwood Schwartz specifically geared the show to portray situations from the children’s point of view. Just like during its original run, opinions on The Brady Bunch fall into two camps: love it or loathe it. I happen to fall into the former. I love The Brady Bunch. Some people like to refer to this show as a “guilty pleasure.” I don’t. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures as I don’t experience any guilt while indulging in things I love. I unapologetically love The Brady Bunch. I can watch this show non-stop all day and never tire of it.
The plot of The Brady Bunch is very simple:
Here’s the story, of a lovely lady
Who was bringing up three very lovely girls
All of them had hair of gold, like their mother
The youngest one in curls.
Here’s the story of a man named Brady
Who was busy with three boys of his own.
They were four men living all together.
Yet, they were all alone.
Till the one day when the lady met this fellow
And they knew that it was much more than a hunch
That this group, must somehow form a family
That’s the way we all became ‘The Brady Bunch’ …
Yes, the show is saccharine at times. Yes, many of the plots are simplistic. Yes, it can be unrealistic in how polite the children are to each other and their parents. But, I say, what’s wrong with that? There are some other saccharine shows that are too sticky sweet for me, Full House for example (which believe me, I watched EVERY episode back in the day. But the show doesn’t hold up as well as Brady Bunch. I place the blame solely on the irritating Olsen Twins). 7th Heaven was unwatchable because it seemed fake and preachy. With The Brady Bunch however, the show is just so charming, that I cannot get enough. It’s corniness is part of its charm. And what’s wrong with characters being nice to one another? There is so much hate in this world these days, watching The Brady Bunch is a nice way to go back to a time where people respected one another. The Brady Bunch is also a nice way to escape all the awful things that happen these days and visit a world where the biggest thing that happens that day is that Cindy needs help deciding which parent to invite to watch her perform as “The Fairy Princess” in the school play. I don’t need to be confronted with issues like racism and domestic violence all the time.
Now, to get to the point of this blogathon entry: to discuss a favorite episode of a TV Show. For this entry, I selected an episode of The Brady Bunch, “Adios, Johnny Bravo.” This episode opens the fifth and final season and is a pop culture icon in its own right. Many avid viewers of The Brady Bunch, will remember this episode as the time when Greg is told “you fit the suit” when he challenges the image a hotshot record company agent creates for him.
The Brady Six (from left to right: Cindy, Marcia, Peter, Greg, Jan, and Bobby) audition for “Hal Barton TV Talent Review” television station. I actually genuinely love Marcia and Greg’s outfits.
Many of my favorite ‘Brady Bunch’ episodes involve the episodes with “The Brady Six,” the singing group that the kids form. I believe they only sing in maybe three episodes, but I love their songs. They’re so cheerful and upbeat, it’s hard to feel miserable watching the kids belt out “It’s a Sunshine Day.” “Adios, Johnny Bravo” opens with The Brady Six auditioning for “Hal Barton’s TV Talent Review,” a local television show. Oldest kid Greg is crooning “You’ve Got to Be in Love (To Love a Love Song).” The other kids, ranked from next oldest to youngest: Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby, and Cindy serve as the back-up singers and dancers. They of course win the television audition, but Greg also catches the eye of Tami Cutler, portrayed by 1970 Playboy Playmate, Claudia Jennings.
Tami, along with her hilarious partner Buddy Berkman, work as talent scouts for a local record label. Tami is in the audience at the auditions and approaches Greg about a possible record deal. She gives Greg her card and asks him to call her at 10AM the next morning. The kids, thinking that they’ve been “discovered,” are overwhelmed with excitement. Back at the Brady house, the kids are overjoyed about the possible record deal and eagerly wait for 10AM the next morning to roll around. The next morning, Greg calls Tami as the kids anxiously wait to hear about the deal. Tami asks Greg to come down to her office, alone. Greg assumes that Tami thinks that he is “the leader” of the group.
Tami and Buddy present Greg with his amazing new Johnny Bravo costume
Greg, now in Tami and Buddy’s office, plays some guitar as Tami and Buddy marvel at their new “find.” Buddy presents Greg with his new suit, an amazing glittery matador outfit complete with epaulettes. Greg will also be known as “Johnny Bravo.” This is also the point when Greg discovers that Tami and Buddy only want to sign him and not the other five kids. When Greg informs the kids of this new development, they are understandably upset and disappointed. The girls stew in their room for about five minutes until maid Alice walks in and very astutely tells the girls that they just have sour grapes. If they were in Greg’s shoes, they probably would have accepted the deal as well. Of course, in true ‘Brady Bunch’ fashion, when a few of the kids have made amends, all the kids make amends. There are never any holdouts.
Throughout the episode, mom and dad Carol and Mike playfully banter back and forth about which college Greg will attend when he graduates from high school at the end of the year. Carol wants Greg to attend her alma mater, State University, and Mike wants Greg to go to his alma mater, Norton College. It seems a given that Greg will go to college. However, with the new record deal, Greg’s collegiate future appears to be in jeopardy. Carol, Mike and Alice sit around the kitchen table, sipping hot cocoa, worried that Greg will decide against college. The next day, while Carol and Mike plant flowers, Greg informs them that he will not be attending college. They are understandably upset and disappointed. Carol reminds Greg that fame is fleeting, but college will last a lifetime.
“Adios, Johnny Bravo!” Greg rips up his contract after discovering Tami and Buddy’s intention to use him as a prop for their manufactured pop music.
At the studio, Greg informs Tami and Buddy of his decision. Tami and Buddy go to work transforming Greg into “Johnny Bravo.” Greg is informed of his new team of PR representatives, record label contacts and everyone else associated. He even meets the group of girls hired to be Johnny Bravo’s groupies who mob him and tear off his shirt. Greg then records his first Johnny Bravo song, “High Up on the Mountains.” After hearing the finished product, Greg is upset. It sounds nothing like him. It is so over manufactured, so sweetened up in the studio, that it doesn’t sound like anyone. Greg’s voice is barely audible under the distorted guitar track. When Buddy doesn’t seem to care and mentions the amount of “work” that went into creating “Johnny Bravo,” Greg realizes that he’s been taken in by Tami and Buddy. To Greg, Tami utters those immortal words: “You fit the suit.” Greg figures out that all Tami and Buddy really wanted was a naive guy whom they could use to pose as a singer while they created potential hit pop songs in the studio. Greg is upset about being used as a stooge and rips up his contract and walks out. (Side note: Greg already signed the contract. Does ripping it up really nullify it? I doubt it, unless Tami and Buddy didn’t make carbon paper copies or something).
The amazing costumes from “Good Time Music”
The episode concludes with the kids performing “Good Time Music” on Hal Barton’s television program. The Brady Six wear these amazing outfits. The outfits aren’t as good as the ones they wear when they perform as “The Silver Platters,” but they’re pretty awesome. The outfit comes in three colors: orange, goldenrod and pale yellow. The boys and girls are paired off with their respective counterpart and are decked out in matching outfits. Greg and Marcia are in orange. Jan and Peter don the goldenrod. Bobby and Cindy rock the pale yellow. The boys’ outfits are pretty simple: white pants with a stripe of “their color” down the leg with a matching button down shirt and white patent leather shoes. The girls wear these ugly, but fantastic, long dresses with ruffled collars and sleeves. Cindy’s outfit is obviously a jumpsuit. I cannot figure out if Marcia and Jan’s outfit are dresses or jumpsuits. The best part of this whole performance is when Peter screws up the intricate Brady choreography (it happens toward the end of the performance.)
I love “Adios, Johnny Bravo.” It has two awesome songs, hilarious and legitimately great clothes and “you fit the suit.” This episode is only the tip of the iceberg as to what The Brady Bunch has to offer in terms of entertainment.