Sunday, August 18, 2013

Duel In The Sun (1947) Jones, Peck, & Cotten..what a love triangle!


Duel In The Sun (1946)
Directed By: King Vidor
Starring: Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Gregory Peck, Lionel Barrymore, Herbert Marshall, Lillian Gish, Walter Huston, Charles Bickford, Harry Carey, Butterfly McQueen

Producer: David O. Selznick


This movie takes place in Texas in the 1880's. Pearl Chavez (Jones) is a half breed girl who is a true beauty who enjoys life and dances. Her mother dances in a saloon who is Indian and her father is a Creole man Scott Chavez (Marshall). It is a very interesting dynamic where the mother dances for all the men's delight while the father sits and gambles watching his wife flirt with many of the men.
Pearl watches her mother leave quickly with another man while her father gambles and has no money left.

Pearl is told to go home and she watches only as her father shoots and kills his wife and her lover. Scott states to the authorities he committed the crime and what is fitting is to hang him. Now what is going to happen to Pearl? Scott tells Pearl of his past and how he was in love in the past with a lady named Laura Belle (Gish) and now she is to move and live with her. Her father is to be hung and has come to grips with it and wants only the best for his daughter which is to live with a good person being Laura Belle. Pearl gets a red scarf from her father prior to leaving as a token of his love to his daughter.

Pearl by stage coach arrives to Paradise Flats a small Texas town where she is greeted by Jesse McCanles (Cotten) who is a lawyer. Jesse is awaiting for Pearl since he is one of Laura Belle's son's. The McCanles family is headed by Sen. Jackson (Barrymore) who married Laura Belle. Jesse brings Pearl in his wagon to the ranch. A marker shows where the McCanles ranch begins and Jesse states it
is one million acres "empire" as they call it. Pearl's eyes widen in astonishment that the home is huge and sprawling. The "Senator" gives Pearl a cool welcome and Laura Belle states that ever since his accident hence the wheelchair he has changed.....then on comes Lewton "Lewt" (Peck) on horseback and is smitten by the beauty of Pearl.

Vashti (McQueen) is the faithful servant of the McCanles and is in search of the perfect man to marry.  Vashti and Laura Belle are very close. Laura Belle states that her eldest Jesse is such a giving man that she adores and admires him staying longer to be on the ranch. While Laura Belle and Pearl are enjoying a conversation below in his own corridors; the Senator speaks to his younger son (his favorite) "Lewt" whose traits are very similar to each others. Gambling and women seem to be on their mind.

Both Jesse and Lewt could not be any different. Pearl wants to prove herself that she too can ride horses so shows Lewt however things don't go as well as planned. The horse leaps and runs off where she is out of control and Lewt races on horseback to rescue her. Pearl is clearly as time goes on attracted to both Jesse and Lewt who also share these emotions.

The Senator and other officials are add odds that the railroad company that is looking to expand. Jesse does not agree that his father is going to simply shoot defenseless people and takes the side opposing his father's view. In comes the militia to assist the town and the national expansion of the railroad. Now the fight looks like it will be more fair. With his father, the Senator states to never return to the ranch and leaves. Jesse stays with the men who are expanding the train rails which will bridge the gap from the east to west coast.

A storm sets in and Jesse rides onto the ranch to see that no one is around except Vashti. According to Vashti his father with a lot of other men went to meet together (most likely on the topic of the train expansion). Now we see that Pearl is still at home cleaning her bedroom when in walks in Lewt who closes the door and grabs her in his arms and starts to kiss her passionately.

Jesse consoles his mother Laura Belle about having to leave the land. Laura Belle is sad stricken that she may never see her son again. Jesse decides to pack his things and say goodbye to Pearl and onwards he goes to her room. Knocks on the door and only to find that the both of them are getting
dressed. Jesse is cold and leaves only Pearl runs after him since she cares for him. Jesse announces that he is leaving resulting in Lewt being happy about that and Pearl desperately wanting to make that evening's events go away. Jesse states his love and wants to come back for her but will never forget what happened between Lewt and Pearl. "Trash, trash, trash..." is what Pearl has to say about herself.
Now Jesse has left and Pearl is very emotional and decides that being the temptress with Lewt and fall to her bad ways is the path forward.

Sam Pierce (Charles Bickford) enters into the scene where he is going to be the grounds keeper and has affection for Pearl. At the big dance on the ranch Pearl tells Lewt to tell everyone that they will be engaged to be married but sees that he finds it a complete joke. Pearl meets after being mad Sam Pierce and they dance and connect. Sam is older than Pearl but has accepted marriage. While this is all unfolding Jesse brings back on the train Helen Langford (Joan Tetzel) a refined lady he cares for along with her father. Jesse finds out about the possible marriage and tells Helen that yes he wants to the best for Pearl but no longer loves her but has eyes for Helen.

  At a quiet saloon Lewt exchanges words with Sam about the potential marriage that is not going to happen. Sam defends Pearl's name and then Lewt shoots him dead. Lewt is now a wanted man from
this murder. Now Laura Belle and the Senator are distraught on what will come of Lewt. The Senator demands that Pearl leaves that very evening since this to him is all her doing. Laura Belle refuses and states that she is not leaving until she does. Then we see the Senator meets up with his son Lewt the wanted man and gives him money to survive and tell him to stay away until he can clear things up. What a mess!

Lewt finds the perfect opportunity to make his father proud by detaching a part of the train rail which causes the entire on coming train to fall off the tracks to a disastrous end. Lewt is very happy of the end and he then goes to see Pearl who brings a gun out and wants nothing to do with him. Lewt gets angry at Pearl and leaves her. Laura Belle and the Senator have a lot of unresolved issues from the past and what will come of Pearl, Lewt, and the movie to find out!


Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Helen Morgan Story (1957) Blyth & Newman ignite a volatile love!

The Helen Morgan Story (1957) / Warner Bros.
Directed By: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Ann Blyth, Paul Newman, Richard Carlson, &
Alan King.

This film is based on the real famed singer Helen Morgan (played by Ann Blyth).

It is the 1920's and the girl's; one being Helen (Blyth) is playing at a small hunky tonk town as a hulla dancer. Rains pour in and the show is over. Larry Maddux (Newman) is the man that puts the show together and starts to get to know Helen in her dressing room after the other dancers leave and her last show. Helen is from a small town herself and wants grand and big things in her life. Larry offers
her to stay there with him and that he is "stuck" on her. They kiss passionately and we see the next morning they spent the night together only to see that Larry leaves a letter: "Sorry kid. Help yourself to coffee. See you around sometime ---." A very classy way to up and leave to not deal with Helen who is crushed but travels on and leaves for other opportunities in show business.

 Helen moves from one casting call to another where she is told her songs are perhaps to dreary and gets the door often. Larry sees Helen as she is trying to audition and he now is working for the mafia with Whitey Krause (Gene Evans) by selling alcohol during the prohibition. Helen is hired because Larry states that Whitey will want her hired and with the force made her land a position as a showgirl. During her first show Larry comes down and states that Helen will be the perfect front for the work that he is going to be doing and comes to the rescue when a touchy/feely man is bothering Helen.

Larry has an idea that she can travel one being a Ms. Canada; which will give her a Broadway contract and money which then will bring her to NYC. Larry's partner Benny Weaver (Alan King) to help him talk to Helen. Helen is not Canadian but decides to go north and try out for such a great opportunity. Russell Wade (Richard Carlson) is the famous judge from USA and votes for Helen to win. While this is being done Larry and Benny are working on getting the alcohol hidden and delivered from Canada to the USA via the train. Russell asks to meet her one on one about her true identity and how they know she may not be Canadian which she agrees. Helen open up that the truth for doing this is getting the role on a Broadway musical.

Larry, Benny, Helen and some girls all travel together with Dolly Evans (Cara Williams) and Sue (Virginia Vincent) being two of them. Helen, Dolly and Sue are friends since all working with Larry in the past. The trains stop and Dolly says they are hoodlums since feeling that they are up to no
good. The train employees ask to detain Larry who is billed "Manager of the troop" takes both of them to jail since the hidden alcohol is found. A bunch of people in the theater are getting together to help earn money to keep the rent coming in for Helen, Dolly and Sue.

Larry shows up with Benny and Helen wants nothing to with him and his lies. Dolly finds that Sue has hung herself in the bathroom since her supposed boyfriend was there with someone else and did her wrong by ignoring and saying she was nothing. He had another girl on his arm so Sue was over with. Sue already was depressed prior of how he was treating her so poorly. The final action was Sue acting in desperation a very sad one.

Larry offers Helen to travel with him. No marriage but just being together. Helen does not like how her career has been based on such bad things from her childhood to now. Larry promises that she will be a star. There is a new show where Dolly is dancing to an opening number and Helen will headline who is very nervous. Larry has an understanding to allow his girl to sing and breakout while they deliver alcohol. Whitey catches that Larry is trying to move on and do his bootlegging business for himself and move away from him which is not going to happen. Whitey sees that Larry is actually talking to a business and trying to get them to move with him and leave Whitey which makes him angry. Whitey states that it will be forgotten that he tried to quit but Larry states he is done where he gets beaten up and is kicked out while Helen gets on stages in her flapper dress to sing. Larry makes a call while Helen sings a lovely song "Somebody Else."
Helen gets great feedback on her new show but she still is concerned about Larry since not seeing him return back to the club. The club closes because someone squeeled that they were a speak easy. Helen gets arrested and has no one to call but then remembers Russell who is a lawyer. He gets her out and Helen starts to have her star on the rise singing at larger venues with Russell's affection.

Larry then appears with a new girl while Helen is singing while her new love Russell is there in support. Helen tries to not pay attention and is very happy with Russell who is truly a kind man to open doors and giving her a good life. Helen loves that her success now has her face on the written/published songs and on marquees. Helen only finds out that Russell is married already and that within the marriage they have things open since they are simply friends and nothing more.

Dolly and Benny are married and are out together with Helen where Larry shows-up. Helen tries to walk away from Larry and keep him out of her mind but always seems to haunt her. Helen sings "The Man I Love" and it brings back feelings for Larry. He waits for her in her home and they fight but at the end can not resist one another. Larry speaks to Russell who owns property on the idea of building a night club that was elegant. Big profits where Helen Morgan will have a long term engagement there where Larry gets some money and helps manage and Russell owns and builds the club with his finances. Russell wants his name nowhere associated to the club. Come opening day it is called "The Helen Morgan Club" where the band is playing, diamonds everywhere, lush and elegance everywhere. Larry is excited since on the opening night Florence Ziegfeld (Walter Woolf King) to see Helen and maybe a new chance for Helen down the road. Brand new music is written especially for Helen's first engagement with her looking to the nine's ready to give them all.

"On The Sunny Side of the Street" is her opening number at the club where she looks stunning. Helen
is fast becoming the torch singer that is making a big splash. Show Boat is just being done with the role of Julie being given to Helen right off with no auditions. She opens in Feb. on Broadway as the first Julie and the infancy and premiere of Show Boat! Now Helen is a true Broadway star!

Things quickly go south where the club closes since it is found to be dealing with alcohol, Helen is close to being broke due to being too generous, and emotionally she is a wreck. "Everything I touch turns bad" is what Helen truly thinks and decides to take a voyage to London where she performs at the famed Palladium, Teatro Madrid and more venues to great success.   

Helen's life though takes a turn which is not for the better and finds out that Larry might not be doing well. Let's hope this star is able to sort her life out before things get to be too late.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Scaramouche (1923) one of the best silent films!

Scaramouche (1923) / MGM Studios
Directed By: Rex Ingram
Starring: Ramon Novarro, Alice Terry, & Lewis Stone

Note: In my book this is one of the best silent films hands down. Between the great cast, director, sets, costumes it makes one see this as a true classic. I personally feel that it is such at perfection that one took cameras back into 18th Century France to get this film's feel of being in a time capsule. We as viewers actually look at the characters and not the actors and truly believe what is going on is truly the case. Bravo to Rex Ingram along with the entire cast and crew for executing such an excellent result of this motion picture.


This silent film classic stars Quintin de Kercadiou (Lloyd Ingraham)  Aline de Kercadiou (Terry) the niece of Quintin and Andre-Louis Moreau (Novarro) which his Quintin's godson. The Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr (Lewis Stone)...Countess de Plougastel (Julia Swayne Gordon)

This classic Roman Novarro, Alice Terry, & Rex Ingram silent film has a collaboration of creators such as actors and the director that did fantastic work together as a trio and as documented enjoyed each others collaboration in motion pictures since always wanting this team to be utilized on projects.
Our teaming of these stars see's them in France in the 18th Century.

The story starts of by stating: "The reign of Louis XVI, King of France, marked the passing of the French Monarchy. Bankrupt, abandoned to the rule of an all-powerful Nobility and an indifferent Clergy, the nation faced starvation - or revolt. Our story starts in the provinces, in the wooded valley of Gavrillac, with its nestling village and gloomy château."

Within the village we see many peasants that are living in shambles and are very hurt. A man is just brought back to town who is lifeless and it is stated that his treatment is due to trying to get preserves from the Marquis de La Tour's land. A very lethal way to communicate that this shall never happen even if you are starving and know their is bountiful elsewhere for the noble. Andre-Louis has just returned to the land after being away for two years at law school in Paris. Andre is stunned at the site of the town and the living conditions. Philipe de Vilmorin who is becoming a priest has arrived with his best friend Andre.

Enters in a beautifully decorated carriage is the Marquis de La Tour (Stone) whose land adjoins the town. It is clear of the have's and have not's in this situation where it is a line drawn in the sand letting everyone remember their position and ranking. Andre and his friend Philipe know that the treatment being done in this village is wrong and even with the decree accepted by the King states
"...all uses of tyranny and oppression on the part of nobility must end, and that the following rights are sacred to man and citizen..." This speaks that what is going on in this specific village and the conditions should not be accepted. Philipe states the Marquis simply defies what the country overall demands and is that much more powerful not knowing that the person he is speaking about is stepping right into the shambles of a home where he is speaking. The Marquis confronts him of what he has said and still Philipe does not back down. A sword fight is now demanded as satisfaction from the Marquis to Philipe. Andre pleads that the Marquis reconsiders what he is about to do but goes on deaf ears.

Time for battle. The men face each other in a sword fight where Philipe is not just harmed but killed. No remorse shown but now Andre asks for a repeat and death. Andre after the Marquis leaves and decides to not battle him vows that Philipe's words will not ever be silenced that he will continue the cause. Freedom for the oppressed and to obtain this from someone like the Marquis not matter what.

The château is where Andre goes to visit his godfather Quintin de Kercadiou (Ingraham) for advice. Quintin's niece Aline de Kercadiou (Terry) has returned to the home from the courts of Versailles with her lessons of flirting. Aline while Andre is indoors stressed on what recently taken place is rather out in the gardens relaxing. In the meantime, Andre's godfather thinks that the idea of demanding justice from the powerful Marquis is a mad thing to do. Andre tells him that the Marquis has ordered the murder of two men in the village and by his own hand.

They look outside to only find that there is a suitor for Aline none other than the Marquis himself who has called a visit with her in the gardens. Quintin states that this is the reason why they need not anger him since the great hope for the family and wealth is the relationship between Aline and the Marquis. Andre is saddened of what is taken place. Andre loves Aline and now knows it is all up to him to do what is required and right. Now seeing the Aline has moved on he walks out and leaves ending whatever they had in the past. Andre after several evening arrived in Rennes a larger city. The rationale for traveling to Rennes is that the city has become the center and home of revolutionaries, a perfect place to seek help!

The King's lieutenant oversees the Palace of Justice within Rennes. This is the man that Andre decides to initially meet with. However as soon as Andre meets him he sees that this rotund man loves his lavish life of fine clothing, wine, and sees him as a nonsense. While the Lieutenant is living a grand life within the palace right outside the steps is a large group of people speaking up about their rights for justice, freedom and to be treated fairly which one can see does not impact what is going on indoors of the palace. The Leiutenant decides to listen to what Andre has to say about the criminal
acts of the Marquis which wins him over and cries in horror of who could do such horrible things in France. Upon stating who was doing the harm the Lieutenant is taken back and angry that his name should even be part of these accusations. Andre pleads that justice should not care about the wealth and power the person yields but to treat and punish one fairly across the board. Andre makes the Lieutenant angry which then calls for his arrest though escapes.

As Andre leaves the palace he sees the great man who is standing upon the statue in the square get shot and killed. One of the palace guards is the culprit and Andre goes in the gentleman's place and speaks to the crowd. Andre states that the decree which has already been accepted by the King himself would remove nobility of the lands to rule by force and remove the acts like what was just done of the shooting.  Andre while speaking narrowly missed being shot at and points into the palace of a traitor where they all start to break windows then disband upon the arrival of the military troops.

Back at the château Aline is entertaining the Marquis and her uncle where she sees Andre arriving in the back door. Aline comes up with an excuse to be back and ensures that he is alright and can get in without notice. Both share a lovely moment together and Aline then upon the barks of the dogs asks him to hide before anyone knows he is there. The guards bust into the home looking for Andre where Aline pleads with the Marquis to help but does nothing since it is ordered by the King. Aline tries to protect Andre who she truly does love and finds that he escaped without harm. Now Andre is a wanted fugitive on the run and hides wherever he can for rest. Andre finds out that he is wanted and will be hung upon capture.

Andre to get out of harms way joins a theater troop called Binet to escape the warrant. For several months, no one has heard anything about nor from Andre.  Andre has become a success along with the troop whom are now entering into Paris. Andre calls himself Monsieur X now and writes plays and acts, what a new and lovely life! The biggest success for the Binet troop is their production of  "Figaro-Scaramouche."

It is time for the troop to put on the production at this lush theater covered with art work on the ceiling and all the finery in Paris architecture. Countess de Plougastel (Gordon) is in attendance sitting in her box to watch this production. The Marquis has come in attendance to see this show
unbeknownst to Andre. The Marquis meets the Countess de Plougastel who neither take a shining to one another though Aline is accompanying her. Aline recognized Andre even with the mask on but then reaffirms it upon his removing it at the curtain call. Andre quickly leaves the stage stunned as to whom he has saw in attendance and runs off before he can be pinned down. Aline the next day goes to visit Andre where she states that for her life it would be well suited to wed the Marquis.

The Marquis is an awful person even where love is concerned and has started to see the young lady whom is part of the acting troop who was to be wed to Andre now changed her mind. Aline saw both of them in a carriage so her heart is broken on that area. Andre washes his hands of the foul people and focuses on his role in order to be close the Marquis when he is planning on attending and now has many others who vow their assistance in ridding the country of horrible people like the Marquis. Andre sees his chance and starts to tell the story to all in the theater of the horrible wrong doings from people in the nobility who may be in attendance. Aline is there watching. Andre points out the Marquis where everyone starts in the audience to run and get him. In the meantime Aline is captured by a fool and then is freed by the Marquis. What next?! Now in up-coming months the French nobility are now opposing the idea of people to be treated fairly and to have the decree just removed.

A day of court comes where the Marquis attends and speaks along with famous speakers of the commoners. Will Andre end up being with Aline or what is in the future for all will have to watch to find out!


Thursday, August 8, 2013

In Memoriam: Karen Black (1939-2013)

In Memoriam: Karen Black (July 1, 1939 - August 8, 2013)

Karen Black entered into the movie scene and especially for her 1970's roles will always be remembered.

The beginning of Karen's career: Karen took acting very seriously and studied under the direction of the famed Lee Strasberg in New York City. During this time being the mid to late 1950's, Karen was going into roles in off-Broadway productions and getting noticed. Landing her first acting role in "Prime Time" in 1959 but would get critical acclaim for her real splash later. Karen then was able to continue to focus on her acting skills through theater and appeared on Broadway in "The Playroom" (1965).

After Karen's opportunity in NYC theater it was time to venture into bigger and better roles in motion pictures. Her second appearance in movies is where people took notice which was her role in "You're a Big Boy Now" (1966) also starring Geraldine Page & Elizabeth Hartman and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. In this film Karen played Amy Partlett who was on the mind of the main character's Bernard.

From there Karen got a lot of work in television in programs such as; "The Big Valley" "Mannix" & "Adam-12" just to name a few. Then in 1969, Karen went back into the movies and appeared in; "Hard Contract" and in the same year the classic: "Easy Rider" where she starred alongside Peter Fonda & Dennis Hopper.

1970's the best acting roles for Karen:

The 1970's were to be the very best time for Karen Black's career which soared after her role in "Easy Rider" in 1969 from there on she got very meaty roles. People took notice to her not right out of the cardboard box looks and being a new look for the motion pictures.

Karen got a great starring role alongside Jack Nicholson in the 1970 classic; "Five Easy Pieces." Karen played Jack's love named Rayette who always dreamed of become a singer and being a true
sweetheart with a good heart. Then going into starring; "Drive, He Said" (1971/directed by Jack Nicholson), "A Gunfight" (1971) which also starred Kirk Douglas, Johnny Cash, Jane Alexander. "Born To Win" (1971) starring a new man on the scene; Robert De Niro & George Segal. "Cisco Pike" (1972) also starring Gene Hackman & Kris Kristofferson.

Other very noteworthy and best Karen Black films in the 70's were yet made but were:

The Outfit (1973) - also starring Robert Duvall & directed by John Flynn.
The Great Gatsby (1974) - also starring Robert Redford, Mia Farrow (this was one of the biggest commercially successful films of the year)
Law and Disorder (1974) - also starring Ernest Borgnine & Carroll O'Connor.
Airport 1975 (1974) - also starring Charlton Heston
The Day of the Locust (1975) - also starring Donald Sutherland & Burgess Meredith. A great vehicle for Karen as the lead actress, a wonderful must see!
Nashville (1975) - Another great vehicle with Karen as the leading lady and another "must see!" Also starring Keith Carradine and directed by Robert Altman.
Crime and Punishment (1976) - also starring Omar Sharif.
Burnt Offerings (1976) - also starring Burgess Meredith.
Capricorn One (1977) - also starring James Brolin & Elliott Gould.
In Praise of Older Women (1978) - also starring Tom Berenger & Susan Strasberg.

Karen Black was nominated for "Best Supporting Actress" for her role in "Five Easy Pieces."

Karen Black was a shining star that brought light to all her roles and will be missed.