Monday, May 26, 2014

Because of the Brave!!

In honor of Memorial Day, I wanted to re-run a 2-year old post, about The Fighting Sullivans. This 1944 tearjerker tells the story of a real-life Iowa family, who lost all 5 sons when their submarine went down in the Pacific.  Watching this film is a Memorial Day tradition for our family. It's a great reminder that the freedoms we enjoy today were bought at an enormous cost---the lives of men and women.

If you've never seen The Fighting Sullivans, I highly recommend it.  HERE is the link to my 2012 review of the film.

Happy viewing...and Happy Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931)

In honor of Mother's Day, I wanted to give a brief shout-out about a touching little pre-code tearjerker I caught recently.  The Sin of Madelon Claudet,  from 1931, is what I call a "mommy" movie---you know, a movie in which a mother's sacrificial love for her children shines through. The film, which is adapted from Edward Knoblock's play The Lullaby, stars Helen Hayes, with Lewis Stone, Neil Hamilton, and Robert Young taking on supporting roles. Miss Hayes' husband, Charles MacArthur, was the co-writer of the screenplay.

After her lover (Neil Hamilton) returns to America and is railroaded by his family into marrying a more suitable woman, French farm girl Madelon Claudet (Helen Hayes) gives birth to their illegitimate son. By becoming the mistress of the wealthy Carlo Boretti (Lewis Stone)--who unknown to Madelon is a jewel thief--- she is able to send money to the friends who are caring for the little boy.

A few years later, just as Carlo---who has known about Madelon's child's existence all along---is about to marry her and bring the youngster to live with them, his real identity as a jewel thief is discovered.  Rather than go to jail, Carlo shoots himself, leaving Madelon unable to prove that she was not his accomplice. Convicted, she is sent to prison for ten years.

Upon her release from prison, Madelon wants to spare her son the shame of having a "jailbird" mother, so she allows him to be told that she has died. Wanting to do all she can to give the boy a good future, Madelon falls into prostitution, providing her earnings to a friend who sees to it that the young man goes to medical school.   Years later, when Madelon is very old and sick and her son (now played by Robert Young) is a successful doctor, their paths cross again.

The Sin of Madelon Claudet is definitely worth seeing.  While the subject matter (illegitimate children) is, of course, dated, the story of a mother's sacrificial love is timeless. Helen Hayes---in what is essentially her film debut---is brilliant in her portrayal of Madelon, and that is not just my opinion.  The Academy thought so too, for Miss Hayes' performance graced her with a Leading Actress Academy Award win. Also worthy of mention is Lewis Stone's performance, as well as the work of the makeup artist.  The job of aging Miss Hayes, who was 30-years old at the time of filming, was spectacularly done. I highly recommend this film and am going with 4 stars on it.

Out on DVD, this film ought to be fairly easty to track down.  I do hope you get a chance to see it.

Happy viewing!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Happy Birthday, Gary Cooper!

Regular readers of They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To know that Gary Cooper is one of my great loves.  As one of my "terrific ten," he's right up there at the top of my favorite actor list. So, of course, I simply must acknowledge his 113th birthday.  (May 7, 1901 - May 13, 1961)

To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite photos of ol' Coop.

What a profile!!

The guy could sure wear a suit!

An older Coop---still looking very handsome.  Is it any wonder so many people of that generation (including all 4 of my grandparents) smoked?

Yes, Shirley, you surely have reason to smile!

So deep in thought...wonder what he's thinking about?

A man is not fully dressed without his hat.

Bow ties work for me too!

From You're in the Navy Now---How do you improve on Coop's fabulous good looks?  Put him in Naval dress blues!

From Souls at Sea---a film I've been yearning to see but have not yet tracked down.  Like Abandon Ship, which I reviewed for the Tyrone Power 100th birthday blogathon, this film is loosely based on the 1841 account of the William Brown.

From The Plainsman---a film I haven't seen in quite a few years.  I just love this photo.

From Bluebeard's Eighth Wife---a little too slapstick/screwball for my taste, but I love this photo

From Meet John Doe---Coop and Barbara Stanwyck had terrific chemistry in their 3 pairings

Gary Cooper was an incredibly handsome, wonderfully photogenic man, and I have dozens more favorite photos of him.  In fact, I could fill an album with favorite photos of Coop---but these dozen are among the cream of the crop, and they are my way of celebrating him on his special day.  I'll also be watching A Farewell to Arms and Ten North Frederick in the coming couple of days.

NOTE:  All photos obtained from Doctor Macro (HERE) and Golden Age of Hollywood (HERE)

Monday, May 05, 2014

Happy 100th Birthday, Tyrone Power

Happy 100th birthday to one of my top 10 favorite actors---one of my "terrific 10"---the tremendously under-rated, incredibly handsome Tyrone Power  (May 5, 1914 - November 15, 1958)

In some ways, my love affair with Tyrone Power began the day I was born.  Yes, it's true---Tyrone Power has occupied a special place in my heart for over five decades now, even before I ever saw one of his films.  That's because one of my grandfathers (who was 3 years Powers' senior) was always told he looked like Tyrone Power.  Even though Power had been dead since 1958, he was still very much in the hearts of my grandparents' generation in the 1960's, and people of that age regularly remarked on the resemblance between my grandfather and the movie star they loved. As I grew up, conversations about the resemblance inevitably took place around the dinner table, and those conversations took root in my memory.  When I watched my first Power film in 2007, I immediately saw the resemblance between him and my beloved Pap, and those long-ago dinnertime conversations were relived afresh.  So, for me, Tyrone Power and my precious grandfather are somewhat one and the same.  When I watch a Ty Power film, I actually think of my grandfather; similarly, when I look at a photo of my grandfather, Tyrone Power often comes to mind. So, is it any wonder that Power is among my 10 most beloved actors?

Capable in both comedic and dramatic roles, Mr. Power was an actor who never got the praise and recognition he deserved.  While he gave wonderful performances in many films, not a single Academy Award nomination ever came his way.  I think that is very sad...and a definite oversight on the part of the Academy.

In addition to excelling at both comedy and drama, Power was also quite adept in adventure and swashbuckling films...Blood and Sand, The Mark of ZorroPrince of Foxes, to name just a few.  Perhaps it was fitting that it was while doing just that, Mr. Power died.  While in Spain for the filming of Solomon and Sheba in 1958, Ty succumbed to a sudden heart attack in the midst of a dueling scene with George Sanders.  He died enroute to the incredibly talented man gone far too soon at the age of 44.

Besides entertaining audiences with a wonderful variety of films, Mr. Power also faithfully served his country as a pilot in the Marine Corp.  He saw action in the South Pacific in the Second World War, taking part in "the air supply and evacuation of wounded from Iwo Jima to Okinawa."  The California State Military Museum has a page about Mr. Power's service in the Marines HERE.

My all-time favorite Ty Power film continues to be Witness for the Prosecution (reviewed HERE). Besides this being what I deem possibly the very best performance of Mr. Power's career, it is also his final completed film, as he would die while making his next movie.

Rounding out my list of five favorite Tyrone Power films are:

2.  Abandon Ship!  (with Mai Zetterling and Lloyd Nolan---reviewed HERE)

3.  The Eddy Duchin Story  (with Kim Novak---reviewed HERE)

4.  I'll Never Forget You  (with Ann Blyth---reviewed HERE)

5.  The Mark of Zorro  (with Linda Darnell and Basil Rathbone)

Quite honestly, Blood and Sand and The Long Gray Line could also occupy the #5 position.  I enjoy them both as much as I do Zorro.  I also have high hopes for Untamed, Power's second pairing with Susan Hayward.  A blog friend provided me with a copy of that film, and I'm hoping to watch it this week.

While I don't count it among my top-5 Power films, I just have to make mention of The Black Swan. As part of Maureen O'Hara's 93rd birthday bash last August, The Black Swan was shown on the big screen of Boise, Idaho's historic (and very beautiful) Egyptian Theatre.  (Miss O'Hara currently lives in Boise.)  As a Boise resident, I attended the event and was able to catch The Black Swan in this incredible environment.  I'm tellin' you, until you've seen Tyrone Power "up close and personal" on the big screen, you are missing out.  Truly, that is how he was meant to be seen!

There is a movement underway to bring about a Tyrone Power postage stamp.  HERE is the Facebook page for more information about how to help the dream become a reality.  I would definitely love to see Mr. Power honored with a postage stamp, and should that happen, I can assure you, it's the only stamp I will be using for as long as it is available.

So, Mr. Tyrone Power, here's to you on your 100th birthday. You were a wonderful, completely under-rated actor, and you will always be one of my favorites.  And, in the words of George Eliot, "Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them."  Since we have not forgotten you (nor will we ever!), you do, indeed, live on! Thanks for enriching my life with so many incredible films!!

NOTE:  This article is part of the Power-Mad, Tyrone Power 100th birthday blogathon being hosted by The Lady Eve's Reel Life and They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To. Go  HERE or HERE to check out all the other fantastic entries.

Abandon Ship! (1957)

Near the top of the list of my favorite Tyrone Power films and what I deem one of the absolute best performances of his career is 1957's Abandon Ship!.  A meaty, intense British drama---also known as Seven Waves Away---Abandon Ship! features Mai Zetterling, Stephen Boyd, and Lloyd Nolan in supporting roles.  Produced by Tyrone Power and directed by Richard Sale, the film is loosely based on the 1841 incident of the William Brown.

After hitting a mine in the waters of the South Atlantic, a luxury liner explodes, and in seven minutes, all but just over two dozen of its 1,156 passengers perish.  Those few had managed to get into one of the ship's dinghies before the ship went down.   One of the survivors is ship's officer, Alec Holmes (Tyrone Power), who is given command of the small boat just before the captain dies.  With the words, "Save as many as you can," Holmes becomes the captain and assumes responsibility for the lives of his passengers.

The small craft, which was meant for nine passengers, is filled far beyond its capacity.  A total of 26 people are depending on the tiny vessel for life...some of them are in the water and desperately hanging onto the side of the craft.  Since there had not been time to send a distress signal, reaching the African coast---1,500 miles away---is their only hope.  Overloaded as they are, and with only one gallon of water, a tiny amount of canned food, several serious injuries, and an upcoming storm, can they possibly reach land?

Although some of the people believe that it is the duty of the strong to protect the weak, a well-respected ship's officer counsels Alec to evict the tenants who cannot pay the rent, to save half of them instead of losing them all.  Much as it horrifies him to do so, Alec may just have to begin choosing which passengers will remain in the boat and which ones will not.

This is an incredibly powerful, thought-provoking, "discussion piece" kind of movie---you know, the kind that makes you really think about the hard questions in life.  Was Holmes right in his actions? Or was he wrong?  What would you do if you were in his shoes?  Tyrone Power is totally stellar in this role; in fact, I think this is up there with Witness for the Prosecution and The Eddy Duchin Story as one of his absolute best performances.  He is thoroughly believable as the reluctant captain who was forced to make the hardest decisions anyone could ever make. For those who say Power couldn't act, see this film, and your mind will be changed.

As stated above, Abandon Ship! is loosely based on an actual incident.  In 1841, the William Brown departed Liverpool for Philadelphia, 65 passengers aboard.  After hitting an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland, the ship sank, taking nearly half its passengers to their watery graves.  The entire crew (including one Alexander Holmes) and the remaining passengers took to two boats, but before their eventual rescue, many of them would be sacrificed in order to lighten the load.  For more information about the incident, check out this Wikipedia article or this article from the County of Tyrone Ireland.

To my knowledge Abandon Ship! is not available on DVD; however, it is available in VHS format and is on YouTube in its entirety (HERE).  Also, TCM does air it periodically. Definitely catch it if you can.  When comparing this film to the similar Lifeboat, Abandon Ship! easily comes out on top for me.  In fact, in my opinion, it's a 5-star, gem of a film.

Happy viewing!!

NOTE:  This article is part of the Power-Mad, Tyrone Power 100th birthday blogathon being hosted by The Lady Eve's Reel Life and They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To. Go  HERE or HERE to check out all the other fantastic entries.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Welcome to Power-Mad, The Blogathon Celebrating Tyrone Power's 100th Birthday

After several weeks of planning and anticipation, Power-Mad---the eagerly-awaited Tyrone Power 100th birthday blogathon---is finally upon us.  Monday, May 5th, we'll be celebrating one very under-appreciated actor, and I, for one, am thrilled.  Mr. Power so deserves the honor and recognition. (Participants, please include a link to this page somewhere in your post, and then either leave as a comment or email me or my co-hostess (Patty, the Lady Eve) the link to your article, so we can include it on the page.)

Participating in the event are two dozen Tyrone Power enthusiasts.  With swashbucklers, romantic comedies, Westerns, and dramas being highlighted, we're sure to get a great cross-section of Power's film career---hopefully, you'll discover several titles you want to track down. Also, Maria, of the Tyrone Power website, will be giving us a glimpse into her incredible memorabilia collection. This is sure to be a fantastic event, so I hope you get a chance to visit all the entries (even if it takes all week to do so!).

The contributors are as follows:

Barry Bradford---The Razor's Edge
Citizen Screen---The Black Swan
Citizen Screen---Tyrone Power on the Radio
Classic Film Freak---The Mark of Zorro
Critica Retro---Lloyd's of London
Greenbriar Picture Shows---100 Years of Tyrone Power
Hamlette's Soliloquy---The Sun Also Rises   (she's having a giveaway of this film)
Immortal Ephemera---Tyrone Power and Alice Faye
Kevin's Movie Corner---Son of Fury
The Lady Eve's Reel Life---Tyrone Power and Loretta Young
Lasso the Movies---Jesse James
Laura's Miscellaneous Musings---This Above All
Movie Classics---Witness for the Prosecution
The Nitrate Diva---Day-Time Wife
Old Hollywood---King of the Khyber Rifles
Shadows and Satin---Blood and Sand
Sidewalk Crossings---Crash Dive
Silver Screen Modes---Johnny Apollo
Slightly Shabby---Marie Antoinette
They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To---Abandon Ship!
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear---Nightmare Alley
Twenty Four Frames---Rawhide Power, King of the Disaster Movies Very Special Memorabilia Collection  Tyrone Power and Annabella, Tyrone Power and Linda

Have fun celebrating the great Tyrone Power!

A huge thanks to my co-hostess, Patty, of The Lady Eve's Reel Life.  Actually, Patty was much more than a co-hostess---she did the lion's share of the work for this event, including creating the blogathon's beautiful banners.  It was a real joy getting to know her better these past few weeks. Thanks also to each person who spread the word about the event, each person who contributed an article, and each one who visited the blogs and read the entries.  This celebration would not have happened without the participation of all of you!!