As I type, my poor fingernails are glowing a bit with paint; we’re staging our library with a dining table & chairs, which I’ve found (mostly for free!) around town and am repainting; the table white, and the chairs soft blue so that their mismatchedness does not draw your attention. After a heat and humidity wave last week, I’m taking advantage of the cooler weather as much as possible before the next one strikes! And let me tell you, soft dusty blue paint looks really pretty on my hands (I don’t know how the home makeover show types can do *any* painting job without getting at least a few splashes on themselves, but apparently, they’re miracle workers).
The chairs should be done (I hope!) by the end of the weekend—though the library is not completed, I’ll try to have a photo or two for you. My intention is to paint a pretty design on the tabletop in the same blue as the chairs to really pull it all together, but first, I must figure out how to make a stencil of the pretty embroidery design purchased from Urban Threads for this purpose (and eventual embroidery onto something, of course!). Do cross your fingers for me!
The Lemon Drop Kid 1951
We begin with a comedy—as you know I firmly believe we all need to laugh more these days. This Bob Hope classic should certainly keep you grinning from beginning to end! Now, there is a Christmas undercurrent to this—Hope is a bookie who needs to repay a gangster by the end of the Christmas season—but it is July. Christmas in July, yes? Why not? Besides, all of those snowy scenes ought to help cool us off here in the midst of summer. This film is also notable for introducing the song “Silver Bells”. Also starring Marilyn Maxwell, this is a very funny film (and don’t worry—it isn’t hip-deep in Christmas, so you shouldn’t feel too odd watching).
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon 1949
A very fine John Ford Western starring John Wayne—for all the abuse, he must have been one of the director’s favourites—as a Cavalry officer who sees war with the Indians approaching not long after Custer’s defeat at Little Big Horn, and he is loathe to walk out on the military he’s served for so long despite his pending retirement; this is a terrific performance from the Duke, it really is, but the critics still favour films that cast the man in a bad light (The Searchers, for instance, which is beautifully filmed with some good performances, but hardly the best John Wayne film in the ouvre). This is a more understated, even tender performance from Wayne, as an officer leaving what is, in essence, his family—the men he commands and fights with. There’s something special about this sort of camaraderie, and it’s very well-captured in this film.
The other real star is Monument Valley, where She Wore A Yellow Ribbon was filmed. If you know John Ford’s work, you know he could get his cameramen to capture the American West most stunningly, and this is no exception.
The rest of the cast will be familiar too: Victor McLaglen and Arthur Shields starring alongside Joanne Dru, Harry Carey Jr., Ben Johnson, John Agar.
I’m hoping it rains again this Saturday, so I can drag my BabyLock down to the living room and watch as I sew up a new dress without any guilt!
Portrait of Jennie 1948
3:45AM Sunday (so really, Monday morning)
Starring Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones, this is simply a lovely movie, a romance-fantasy, with an intriguing story that will keep you curious ’til the end. Don’t let ‘fantasy’ put you off if you’re not in the Twilight crowd; it’s set in (1934) New York—this film is really in the line of other great fantasy-romances like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and perhaps Miracle In The Rain and The Enchanted Cottage, though I think conceptually and execution-wise Jennie certainly rises above the latter. Romance-wise, though, it matches them all, as well as films like Wuthering Heights. The two stars don’t hurt, either—Cotten was always a gentleman’s gentleman, yet suitably earnest in this film, and Jones was always luminous, otherworldly, which are ideal qualities for this role (I just re-read Madame Bovary over the weekend, and having seen Jones masterfully play the title role, could not help but picture her while reading).
Cotten stars as a frustrated artist who one day meets a pretty young girl dressed in turn-of-the-century apparel in the park. Bright and charming, Jennie captures Cotten immediately, and her sudden disappearance of course gives her that much more power over his imagination. He meets Jennie, she appearing a bit older, again later, and she asks him to “wait for her” so they can marry when she’s of age before disappearing again.
This happens several times, with Cotten doing his best to understand this mysterious girl with her comings and goings and her being more womanly and less girlish with each meeting, until we reach the film’s rather spectacular climax, which I shan’t ruin for you. I can only tell you that Portrait of Jennie is the sort of beautiful film that casts a spell, wrapping itself around you, leaving you in a sort of daze afterwards, as if you’ve been whirled around the room a few times. If you’ve never seen this, you’re in for a treat indeed. Ethel Barrymore also stars.
King’s Row 1942
Interesting (if soapy) film about the life of a small town—its dramas, romances, mysteries, scandals and tragedies—just before the first world war begins. Robert Cummings, a young man deeply affected by some of these happenings, decides to become a psychiatrist as a result, but as you might suspect, that cannot protect his heartfrom some of what he sees and endures: the mystery of his love and her physician father (Claude Rains), his best friend’s (Ronald Reagan) suffering a double amputation, and so forth. It’s based on a rather sprawling and somewhat prurient novel that was of course cleaned up for the screens of the early 40s.
Again, this is melodramatic and soapy (but I repeat myself!), rather like Imitation of Life only with a lot of death and destruction going on, and frankly, I think Cummings is just…well, he’s weak as the lead. Still, it’s interesting to watch and moves along well with quite a few plot twists. Ann Sheridan, Charles Coburn, and Maria Ouspenskaya also star; additionally, the film offers a rather pretty score from Wolfgang Korngold score.
Of course. Of course. TCM wraps up a month dedicated to Star of the Month Paul Henreid with one of his biggest films and one that’s considered among the finest ever made (yours truly concurs).