Movies

Movie Monday: February 11, 1959

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Sleeping Beauty Image One
Image Credit: imdb.com & amazon.com

Sixty years ago, today, the most popular film at the box office was Sleeping Beauty.
Voice Cast:
Mary Costa…….Princess Aurora
Bill Shirley…….Prince Phillip
Eleanor Audley…….Maleficent
Verna Felton…….Flora/Queen Leah
Barbara Luddy…….Merryweather
Barbara Jo Allen…….Fauna
Taylor Holmes…….King Stefan
Bill Thompson…….King Hubert

IMDB Summary:

After a beautiful princess, Aurora, is born in to royalty everyone gathers to exchange gifts. Everything is perfectly fine until an unwanted guest appears, Maleficent. Maleficent casts a spell on the young princess and announces that she will die by pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel on the evening of her 16th birthday. Fortunately, one of the good fairies, Merryweather, changes the spell so Aurora will fall asleep, and that the only way to wake her from her sleep is true love’s kiss. Finally the day comes.

The Sleeping Beauty story has many variations and has deep, medieval roots. Disney’s movie was based on French author Charles Perrault’s La Belle Au Bois Dormant (German: Dornröschen or Little Briar Rose) or, in English, The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods, written in the late 1600s.

Sleeping Beauty Image Two
Image Credit: imdb.com & amazon.com

Other Perrault works include Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood), Cendrillon (Cinderella), Le Chat Botté (Puss in Boots) and Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard). Perrault’s literary tales predate the Brothers Grimm material by 100+ years but, The Sleeping Beauty, in particular, was based on the Sun, Moon & Talia (Sole, Luna, e Talia) piece by Italian writer Giambattista Basile, published, posthumously, in the early 1600s. This would NOT be a good children’s fairy tale.

Perceforest, a collection of six French books from the middle 1300s, with ties to the Arthurian Legend, appears to be the earliest written form of the story.

Trivia Bits:
♦ Princess Aurora’s long, thin, willowy body shape was inspired by that of Audrey Hepburn.
♦ The prince is named after Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, as well as Prince Philip of Belgium (now King Philip).
♦ This is the only Disney movie with square trees.
♦ Famed Warner Bros. animation director Chuck Jones worked on the film, briefly, when Termite Terrace closed temporarily during the late 1950s. He found the atmosphere at Walt Disney Productions oppressive because everything anyone did there had to be approved by Walt Disney before, during and, after the process of production. He was more than happy when Warner’s animation department re-opened, where he stayed until it closed again in 1964.

Five Nominations & One Award

Movie Monday: February 4, 1954

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It Should Happen To You Image
Image Credit: imdb.com

Sixty-five years ago, today, the most popular film at the box office was It Should Happen to You. I am changing my wording from “#1” to “most popular” as I am having great difficulty determining if my “older movie” posts are actually number ones. It is hard to tell.

Starring Judy Holliday, Peter Lawford, Jack Lemmon and Michael O’Shea, this romantic comedy (Rom-Com) was written by Garson Kanin, directed by George Cukor, was originally titled A Name For Herself and was supposed to be a Danny Kaye movie.

Leonard Malton Review:

Holliday is Gladys Glover of Binghamton, N.Y., who has come to N.Y.C. to make a name for herself and does so by plastering her moniker across a Columbus Circle billboard.

IMDB Summary:

Gladys Glover has just lost her modelling job when she meets filmmaker Pete Sheppard shooting a documentary in Central Park. For Pete, it’s love at first sight but, Gladys has her mind on other things…like making a name for herself. Through a fluke of advertising, she winds up with her name plastered over 10 billboards throughout city. Suddenly, all of New York is clamoring for Gladys Glover without knowing why and playboy Evan Adams III is making a play for Gladys that even Pete knows will be hard to beat.

Trivia Bits:
♦ This film was the début of actor Jack Lemmon.
♦ Teenage John Saxon has an uncredited cameo in Central Park.
♦ Gossip columnists reported that during the filming of It Should Happen to You, Holliday dated her co-star Peter Lawford. The actress was having marital problems at the time and did, reportedly, enjoy a romantic fling with Lawford (it only lasted until the production wrapped) which may be why their scenes together have a genuine spark.
♦ The same year of the movie release, co-star Peter Lawford married Patricia Kennedy, daughter of Joseph P. Kennedy and sister of the future President. Of the extended Kennedy clan, Lawford was closest to his brother-in-law Robert.

Nominations
♢ Best Costume Design/Black & White (Jean Louis/1955 Academy Awards)
♢ Best Written American Comedy (Garson Kanin/1955 Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) Award)

Movie Monday: January 28, 1949

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A Letter To Three Wives Image
Image Credit: imdb.com

Seventy years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was A Letter to Three Wives, starring Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Kirk Douglas, Paul Douglas and Jeffrey Lynn. Celeste Holm provided the uncredited voice of Addie Ross. Directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz, the movie was adapted by Vera Caspary from a 1945 John Klempner Cosmopolitan magazine novel titled A Letter to Five Wives. Mankiewicz also wrote the screenplay.

TCM Synopsis:

Just as they are leaving with a group of orphans for a Hudson River outing, three suburban housewives receive a note from Addie Ross, a friend against whom each woman measures herself. Addie claims to have run off with one of the women’s husbands. As they try to get through the day, each thinks back on her marriage, considering the likely reason her husband would have run off with the other woman. Deborah (Jeanne Crain) remembers the disappointment her husband felt when he discovered the chic WAVE he fell for during World War II was a simple farm girl who could barely keep up with the educated Addie. Radio writer Rita (Ann Sothern) thinks her career as a radio writer has led her to neglect her husband (Kirk Douglas), who may have been drawn to the more attentive Addie. Social climber Lora Mae (Linda Darnell) recalls how she trapped department store magnate Porter Hollingsway (Paul Douglas) into marrying her when he had hoped to wed the more socially upright Addie. As the day finally ends, each returns home to prepare for the opening of the social season, the big country club dinner at which one of their husbands will not be present.

Trivia Bits:
♦ The identity of the actress Celeste Holm who did the voice-over for Addie Ross was kept secret when the film was released. The studio held a number of “Who is Addie?” contests around the country where moviegoers could guess the actress’ name.
General Douglas MacArthur was so confused by the ending that he had his aide write Joseph L. Mankiewicz a letter asking with whom Addie had, in fact, run off.
The film actually went into production in 1946 as “A Letter to Five Wives” from a script by Melville Baker and Dorothy Bennett. Gene Tierney, Linda Darnell, Maureen O’Hara, Dorothy McGuire and Alice Faye were all earmarked to play the wives but, this version was quickly shelved until Joseph L. Mankiewicz retooled it in 1948.
♦ Both Joan Crawford and Ida Lupino were considered for Addie’s off-screen voice before Celeste Holm was cast. When Mankiewicz offered Holm a role that would never be seen in the film, she quipped, “Oh my, that’s wonderful. My wooden leg won’t have to show.” (Holm, quoted in Geist). She consented when he told her Crawford was after the role.
♦ When Ann Sothern’s look of joyful surprise on finding her husband hadn’t run off with Addie wasn’t strong enough, Mankiewicz had Kirk Douglas jump up from behind the set’s sofa (out of camera range) in only his underwear.

Awards
Best Director & Best Writing/Screenplay (Joseph L. Mankiewicz/1950 Academy Awards)
Best Written American Comedy (Joseph L. Mankiewicz & Vera Caspary/1950 Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award)
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (Joseph L. Mankiewicz & Gaston Glass/1949 Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award)
Top Ten Films (1949 National Board of Review (NBR) Award)

Nomination
♢ Best Picture (Sol C. Siegel/1950 Academy Awards)

Movie Monday: January 14, 1939

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Kentucky 1938 Image
Image Credit: imdb.com

Eighty years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was Kentucky, a Romeo & Juliet type film with elements of the Hatfields & McCoys thrown in. Starring Loretta Young, Richard Greene and Walter Brennan, the backdrop of the story is horseracing.

IMDB Summary:

During the Civil War, two of the oldest families in Kentucky, the Dillons and the Goodwins, begin a long and bitter feud that has lasted into 1938. When Jack Dillon refuses to enter his father’s banking business he, under an assumed name, gets a job as a trainer in Sally Goodwin’s stables. A romance develops between them. When Sally’s father dies, the entire estate, including the horses, has to be sold at auction to pay his debts. A note turns up left by Sally’s father that, according to a wager made between him and the elder Dillon, any one horse in the Dillon stable can be claimed by the Goodwins. Complications arise when Sally finds out that Jack is a Dillon.

Trivia Bits:
♦ A number of famous Kentucky-bred champion racehorses are presented including Gallant Fox, Omaha, Hard Tack, Chance Play and Man of War, who is called the greatest racehorse.
♦ Two Kentucky Derby winners, Willie “Smokey” Saunders and Charlie Burrell, were employed for the film.
Don Ameche was originally cast for the male lead but, was replaced by Richard Greene after undergoing a tonsillectomy.
Arleen Whelan was originally scheduled for the female lead.

Award:
Best Supporting Actor (Walter Brennan/1939 Academy Awards)

There’s not really a trailer for this movie but, I did find this:

Movie Monday: January 7, 1934

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Design For Living Photo
Photo Credit: criterion.com

Eighty-five years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was the menage a trois comedy Design For Living. Released on December 29, 1933, it starred Fredric March, Gary Cooper and Miriam Hopkins. It was based, loosely on a play written by Noël Coward in 1932. It was very risqué for its time and, was a pre-code movie produced and released before strict enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code, the censorship guidelines demanded by American Roman Catholics. Interestingly, the critical response to the film was more about its gutting of the original material than of its questionable morality.

IMDB Summary:

Two Americans sharing a flat in Paris, playwright Tom Chambers and painter George Curtis, fall for free-spirited Gilda Farrell. When she can’t make up her mind which one of them she prefers, she proposes a “gentleman’s agreement”: She will move in with them as a friend and critic of their work but, they will never have sex. When Tom goes to London to supervise a production of one of his plays, leaving Gilda alone with George, how long will their gentleman’s agreement last?

Trivia Bits:
♦ Gary Cooper spoke fluent French and was able to use it for the first time in this film.
♦ Lubitsch [then] asked Douglas Fairbanks Jr. to play George, and he accepted but, he contracted pneumonia just before filming was to start and he was replaced by Gary Cooper.
♦ Writer Ben Hecht and producer-director Ernst Lubitsch retained only one line from the original play by Noël Coward: “For the good of our immortal souls!”
♦ Considerable censorship difficulties arose because of sexual discussions and innuendos, although the Hays Office eventually approved the film for release. However, it was banned by the Legion of Decency and was refused a certificate by the PCA for re-release in 1934, when the production code was more rigorously enforced.

Nominations:
American Film Institute (AFI) 100 Years…100 Passions
American Film Institute (AFI) 10 Top 10: Romantic Comedy

Movie Monday: December 24, 1923

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Ten Commandments Image
Photo Credit: imdb.com

Ninety-five years ago, today, The Ten Commandments, a Cecil B. DeMille silent film, was showing. Much like the Charlie Chaplin movie from last week, if this movie was a number one, there is no way to tell as the Academy Awards were still six years away. It was the 2nd highest-grossing film of 1923 so, it was very popular. It starred Theodore Roberts, Charles de Rochefort, Estelle Taylor, Julia Faye, Terrence Moore, James Neill, Lawson Butt and Clarence Burton. It was released on December 4 at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

Plot from IMDB:

The first part tells the story of Moses leading the Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land, his receipt of the tablets and the worship of the golden calf. The second part shows the efficacy of the commandments in modern life through a story set in San Francisco. Two brothers, rivals for the love of Mary, also come into conflict when John discovers Dan used shoddy materials to construct a cathedral.

Trivia Bits:
♦ Most of the chariot crashes in the prologue were real and unplanned.
♦ After production, the enormous movie sets were bulldozed and buried in sand. It is now the legendary “Lost City of DeMille” and the site is recognized as an official archaeological site by the state of California.
♦ Midway through production, the film ran out of money and Cecil B. DeMille’s original backers pulled out. The production was saved when DeMille called in a personal favor from his friend Amadeo Giannini, one of the founders of Bank of America. Giannini’s $500,000 investment allowed the production to continue without stopping.

One Nomination

Movie Monday: December 17, 1918

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Shoulder Arms Image
Photo Credit: imdb.com

Today, we are going waaaaaaay back…to 1918. On this date, Shoulder Arms, a Charlie Chaplin piece, was a very popular film. Was it a ‘number one’? Hard to tell. This film pre-dates the Academy Awards by 11 years. Starring Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Sydney Chaplin (Charlie’s elder, half-brother) and Tom Wilson, it is, primarily, a dream sequence set in France during World War I.

Plot from IMDB:

Charlie is in boot camp in the “awkward squad.” Once in France, he gets no letters from home. He finally gets a package containing limburger cheese, which requires a gas mask and which he throws over into the German trench. He goes “over the top” and captures thirteen Germans (“I surrounded them”) then, volunteers to wander through the German lines disguised as a tree trunk. With the help of a French girl, he captures the Kaiser and the Crown Prince and, is given a statue and victory parade in New York. Then…fellow soldiers wake him from his dream. [edited for grammar]

From an archived New York Times article:

“”The fool’s funny,” was the chuckling observation of one of those who saw Charlie Chaplin’s new film. “Shoulder Arms”, at the Strand, yesterday and, apparently, that’s the way everybody felt. There have been learned discussions as to whether Chaplin’s comedy is low or high, artistic or crude but, no one can deny that when he impersonates a screen fool, he is funny. Most of those who go to find fault with him remain to laugh. They may still find fault but, they will keep on laughing. In “Shoulder Arms”, Chaplin is as funny as ever.” [edited for grammar]

Trivia Bits:
♦ Many in Hollywood were nervous that one of their most famous peers was going to tackle the subject of WWI. It was released shortly before the Armistice so, it did not help boost national morale but, it did end up as one of Charles Chaplin’s most popular films and, it was particularly popular with returning doughboys.
♦ Released two weeks and one day before the end of World War I.