And now for the 4th instalment of my 100 Days of Old Movies:
31: Smart Woman (1931)
A wife should stick to her husband. If she doesn't, some other woman will!
I drew Mary Astor alone for this movie, mainly because the husband in this film is a total dead loss and I didn't think he deserved to be included. I'm harsh, aren't I?
Mary Astor returns home from visiting her sick mother in Europe, longing to see her husband, to whom she is devoted. She's met a very nice English lord (John Halliday) on the boat, but she's told him that she loves her husband (Robert Ames). However, when she gets home, she's met by her sister-in-law and her husband (Edward Everett Horton) who tell her that hubby dear is off with a new woman she's met. Mary is devastated. But she's also smart (unless you count her unaccountable penchant for that husband of hers...). She acts like she's not upset, invites the gold-digging mistress and her mother down for the weekend, and brings out the big guns - that rich English lord she met on the boat, whom she says she's leaving her husband for - that, of course, is why she's not upset. She knows her husband didn't read the last three letters she sent, so she tells him that she'd written to say she wanted a divorce. Halliday refuses to pretend to be in love with her, it cuts too close to the bone, but he does help her, drawing away the mistress and helping the Ames to realise that he really loves Mary after all.
I really enjoyed this film, it's full of smart wise-cracks and excellent dialogue for such an early talkie. And while watching it we can lament the fact that tea-gown are no longer wardrobe necessities.
Here is a clip. TCM would choose clips that don't feature wise-cracks, wouldn't they?
More below the cut:
32 & 34: Anchors Aweigh (1945)
you constantly torture me.
I sometimes wonder
if this spell that I'm under
can only be a melody
for I know no one but me
has won your heart.
But when the music starts,
My peace departs.
This is a glossy morale-booster musical, with sailors, because musicals like sailors.
Gene Kelly is a sailor on leave with a heavy date lined up, Frank Sinatra is his shy friend who wants help with the ladies. Gene reluctantly agrees to find Frank a girl if Frank will then leave him alone. After being enlisted by the police to return a navy-mad little boy runaway to his aunt (Kathryn Grayson) Frank decides that she is the girl she wants. However, she already has a date, so Gene and Frank get rid of the guy, which was a bad move - he had influence and she was hoping he would introduce her to Jose Iturbi, and she might get an audition to sing in the movies. Gene says that Frank knows Iturbi and has set up an audition for her. The rest of the movie is the guys desperately trying to get hold of Iturbi (whom they do not know) and get the audition set up, complicated by Gene falling for Kathryn and Frank falling for a waitress. All to the backdrop of a lot of singing, of course.
This film is also well-known for the sequence where Gene Kelly dances with Gerry the Mouse, but I think my favourite number is Kathryn Grayson singing Jalousie (which I am learning on the piano right now).
35 & 36: My Man Godfrey (1936)
– And I want to justify your faith in me by being a very good butler, and filling the void created by your late, lamented pomeranian.
– Oh, I've forgotten all about him. He had fleas anyway. Besides, you're different. You use big words and you're much cuter.
This is a classic screwball comedy, of the sort that sets my mother's teeth on edge. But it has William Powell and Carole Lombard in, so it's all good, and even she has a soft spot for it.
Super-ditzy Lombard picks up forgotten man Powell in a scavenger hunt, and decides that he is going to be her protege. They need a new butler anyway. Powell has to deal with her 100% insane family as well as Lombard hanging on his neck at every opportunity. I could tell you the plot twist, but then you might not watch it - and it's out of copyright, so you can grab it on the Internet Archive here. Head on over!
37 & 38: Easter Parade (1948)
You're not even a man! You're nothing but a pair of dancing shoes!
Easter Parade is an Irving Berlin musical, by which I mean that they took a bunch of Irving Berlin back catalogue songs, and wrote a musical around them. It apparently went through a bunch of actor and actress combinations before we ended up with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland (And Ann Miller). It could have been Gene Kelly, Judy Garland and Cyd Charisse and a completely different film.
Astaire plucks Garland out of a chorus line and tells her she is going to be his new dancing partner - he's bitter and had a bit too much to drink after his current partner (Ann Miller) walks out on their partnership to sign a contact on her own. The new team doesn't do so well until Ann points out that Judy is imitating her (at Fred's instruction). Fred has an epiphany and rejigs their team to work with Judy's strengths. (I've always had a bit of a beef about that, how come he can change stage personality so easily but the girls can't?). Peter Lawford also features. He's being chased by Ann, is a friend to Fred, and is in love with Judy. Who is in love with Fred. Fred doesn't notice anyone. Fun times.
39 & 40: The Glass Slipper (1955)
Why be careful? Every man has his own special vulnerability. I once knew a man who couldn't resist fat women. Women with rolls. Another who fell madly in love every time a woman slapped his face. Well this is mine. Why go against nature?
The Glass Slipper is my favourite Cinderella adaption. And I collect them - I have both Disney versions, the Rogers and Hammerstein version with Julie Andrews and The Slipper and the Rose as well. I admit that it may not be to everyone's taste - you need to be comfortable with 50s musicals that segue into protracted arty ballet sequences. But I am, so that's fine. In this version, I love the way the prince is actually useful. They set up a reason for him to fall for her on sight (which he does when she's a mess, not beautiful and at the ball), he sends his friend to find out who she is, and then gets to know her before the ball. When she runs off and loses her shoe he isn't bothered, because he knows her name, her family and where she lives. Let's face it, most Cinderella princes are very wet and probably in need of strong glasses. There isn't a lot of room for character development, with three ballets (carefully choreographed to try and hide the fact that they cast a non-dancer as the prince) but we don't really need character development in a fairytale musical. The godmother is delightfully eccentric and the use of magic is, unusually, only hinted at.