My true growing-up time was in the 1970s, on Detroit’s east side, not far from the Grosse Pointes. Not just for my body, but with my mind and my emotions. It was when I began to learn that this world isn’t such a nice place, and just how un-nice it could be to a girl born in the year the Beatles came to the USA.
“Hustling” shows a part of that un-nice side of life experienced by women all through the ages, but this time centered upon New York City at a time before Disney and M&Ms took over Times Square. It’s based on a book by Gail Sheehy (“Passages” was probably her best-known tome) that was published in 1971 and I never heard of it, but I intend to glom onto a copy somehow. It’s an investigative work on just how and why female prostitution still existed at that time in the USA.
The movie adaptation might make you want to read the book as well. Here, watch if for yourself; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! (Thanks to the Cult Cinema Classics channel on YouTube for posting it in the first place!)
I recently found a crumpled-up sheet of steno-pad paper with what appears to be a list of my favorite movies on it. There’s no date, but I do remember I still had access to TCM, so it’s at least three years old. Here they are, in no particular order (with a few additions that popped into my head when I was typing up the original list as suggestions for a friend to watch with her 13-year-old daughter):
Born Yesterday (1950). I wouldn’t bother with any other version after this, I don’t care if John Goodman was in the remake. Written with Columbia Studios head Harry Cohn in mind, who was said to be flattered. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upJ5pZdyZlM
Ball of Fire (1940). Charming old men and Gary Cooper meet mob moll Barbara Stanwyck in their quest to learn about slang. Best gangster name EVER is Duke Pastrami, played super-well by Dan Duryea. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74cN0TJdjPM
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Better than Citizen Kane in many, many ways, which was a fine technical film, but is over-rated by many simply because they don’t know of any other films that are comparable to it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR7loA_oziY
A Star is Born (1937 and 1954, in that order). Who can resist adorable Janet Gaynor and drunken Fredric March? Not me – plus, Andy Devine! The second, while marred by Judy’s Blackface performance (really, in 1954 they still felt the need to do that?), is pretty charming, but I love Jack Carson’s take on the fed-up press agent, which is on a par with Lionel Stander’s version Matt Libby. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=culU4EUXww8,
The books weren’t campy. They weren’t even as bad as the critics would lead one to believe – the dialogue and descriptions are really good. But “The Love Machine”…zomg, it’s…I mean, you have some really great actors playing straight with a fucked-up adaptation – that’s dark camp, truly.
I’m not so sure about “Once is not Enough”, another crappy adaptation. A lot of the camp in these movies made from Jackie’s books comes from the fact that they couldn’t show and/or talk about people and subjects that are discussed now.
If one is among others who are fans of movies from the late 1930s through the 1940s and/or television from the 1950s through the 1960s, dropping the name “Ann Sothern” will bring on varied reactions:
“Cry ‘Havoc’ “!
“The Ann Sothern Show!”
“My Mother, The Car!”
“The Countess” on “The Lucy Show”!
Ms. Sothern recently had her day on TCM, August being their month to focus on films that feature one classic-Hollywood movie star a day for the entire month. There were ten “Maisie” movies, but they only aired five of them. The character interests me for a few reasons – her wardrobe (pre-WWII stage dancer, only more so because it’s MGM), her language (she is hep, for sure), and her attitude. And it’s the latter I’m going to focus on now.
Maisie, being a travelling entertainer, gets around so she sees a great deal of humanity at its best, its worst, and its in-between those two. She can read, and it if something that really grabs her, she’ll read more, but there’s usually no time. And somehow, she manages not to break a high heel or lose her bracelets or have any wardrobe malfunctions – just watch “Congo Maisie” (1940) and you’ll wonder how she does it! Yet despite all the stuff that is heaped upon her, she still maintains her compassion for others. And it’s not a smarmy, syrupy compassion either; she knows what it’s like to have the short end of the stick, or to not even have a stick at all!
Of course, Maisie wasn’t real. She was a character developed by MGM for Jean Harlow to portray in films. Unfortunately, Miss Harlow died way too early at the age of 26 due to complications brought on by her failing kidneys (and that’s a whole ‘nother story, covered by better scribes than I.) I’m fairly certain that Ms. Harlow would’ve been been able to put over Maisie’s kindness toward all that she felt deserved it, but we’ll never know. Does it matter, though? Not really, since Miss Sothern does it wonderfully. It must’ve been a part of her essence, because she carries that over into many of her other roles (though certainly not into “Shadow on the Wall”, where she’s the bad woman, and perhaps not so much in “My Mother the Car”).
Lately, I’ve not been doing too well in some ways, so that’s why I’ve not written anything for over a month. But I just finished reading – in the space of three days (and yes, I admit skipping through the third book I’m listing because of the deal-making discussions) the following books:
I know, a pretty diverse trio, eh? But I needed to get out of myself, and not into unreality (although goodness knows it crept into the latter two books at various points); rather, to live through reading about it, the lives I would never lead – and wouldn’t really want to. So diverse and diverting, and lots of Hollywood’s Golden Age -I couldn’t really have chosen better, as all three are very well-put together.
In addition to reading the above, I watched two James Cagney films, in between watching interviews with him:
It was Mr. Cagney’s birthday on July 17th; 120 years since the day of his birth. A very interesting man, to be sure. There certainly hasn’t been any like him since, and I expect that’s a good thing.
Oh yeah, I also watched his AFI-LTA acceptance speech, which is a real hoot:
However, I believe it’s in the longer film, which is actually more of a short documentary than an interview, where he tells from whom he really got his neck-jerk from; in the above, he gives a somewhat sanitized version of the inspiration for it.
I’ve very much fascinated with the stories behind the stars; some of them could truly act, some couldn’t but had other value onscreen; but their stories of how they got there – they will never occur that way again. And that saddens me, just a little bit.
Other than how HUGE Lana Turner’s baby-blues get nearly every time she’s in front of the camera? Well, sugar – there’s LOTS!
It’s got a pseudo-psychedelic coffee house with a pseudo-psychedelic band, and a pseudo-LSD-freakout, complete with folks in pseudo-psychedelic hip fashions!
It’s got a dark-ginger male stripper!
Not to mention, Oscar-winner George Chakiris crawling around on all fours, grabbing LSD-soaked sugar cubes off of a filthy floor and eating them! (Sorry, I couldn’t find footage of that, so you’ll just have to watch the movie yourself to see it! It is on TCM On-Demand until 6/12/19, so hurry!)
Yes, I’m starting with the last scene first, because I felt like it. Also, Robert Preston singing and…um, well, moving about, let us call it, in drag. Spanish drag, at that. Oh, but that voice!
And for me, that’s only part of the appeal of this movie. The costumes – well, except for that black bon-bon-umbrella-arrangement that Julie Andrews wears in the above….yeah, not flattering, even though we can see her cleavage. But everything else she wears, whether it’s made for a female or a male is just right for her. Who wears it better, Julie or Robert?
I would be MOST remiss, however, were I to leave out Lesley Ann Warren’s turn as Norma Cassidy. If she and the makeup department didn’t pore over old movie magazine photos of Jean Harlow, then I don’t know what! Her character isn’t at all like that of”The Baby”, though; she’s a tarty little creep, but boy can she pop that coochie (or is it cootchie?)!
The song that really grabs me and is the one that gets “Count Grazinski” started on her/his road to stardom is ” Le Jazz Hot”. Leslie Bricusse and Henry Mancini did such a fantastic job of capturing the feel and sound of the jazz of the 1930s, one’s tempted to think it was written back then, but nope!
To end this post, I’m posting the audition scene of Victoria Grant (Julie Andrews). Breaks my heart to see and hear it, considering what happened to the poor woman; thank goodness she had the wherewithal to expand her talents. But she’s a superheroine in this film:
(One last bit: Who decided that Carl Perkins’ toup’ would look “good” on Robert Preston? Thanks for reading, folks!)
Charles Bickford. Wow. I first became aware of him in “The Virginian”; my late mother pretty much had the cable box stuck on the Western channel, so I was exposed to, like or not, just about every episode of that show. Not as tall as John Anderson but craggier by far, his career was wide and varied. Here’s the link to his Wikipedia entry:
I can very much relate to Mr. Bickford in the sense that he discovered that being a character player, rather than a star, was more to his liking; and it is definitely more interesting to watch him play a variety of supporting roles instead of seeing him typecast as a tough leading man over and over, with only the name of the characters varying. And that certainly would’ve been his fate had the scars from being mauled by a lion while filming “East of Java” not affected his looks to the point were he wasn’t considered leading-man material any longer. All the better for him AND us fans!
For me, it was seeing him in two films: “Johnny Belinda” (1948) as the grandfather of the titular character of the film, Black Mac Donald. When he finally realizes his deaf-mute daughter can actually think and reason and communicate, not just recognize marks on paper, whatever gruffness he’s got melts away in the wonder of that discovery. The second role is about as far away as one can get from Cape Breton Island – it takes place in Hollywood, CA, and of course I’m typing about “A Star is Born” the 1954 remake (and the best remake of the Janet Gaynor/Fredric March vehicle of the same name from 1937, which was itself a remake of “What Price Hollywood?” released in 1932 and starring Constance Bennett and Lowell Sherman). Mr. Bickford plays Oliver Niles, the studio head who has to deal with Norman Maine, and whose sympathy with Mrs. Maine is so well-portrayed by him. And it’s also a treat to see him dressed in business attire ; no padding needed on those shoulders, I’ll wager!
And now, it’s time for my mid-day swoon – thanks for reading!
Never heard of Ann Sheridan? Well, you will now! She’s one of my absolute favorite actors from the 1940s; she died in 1967 at the age of 51, so many people’ve never heard of her.
In “Woman on the Run”, she plays Eleanor Johnson, whose husband, Frank (Ross Elliott, doing a great job), witnesses a murder while out walking their dog, Rembrandt, not too far from their apartment in San Francisco. The murderer, who just killed the state’s number-one witness against him, fires a few shots at what he thinks is Frank’s head, but it’s actually his shadow thrown on the pillar at the top of a flight of stairs, not too far from where the car was in which the murderer committed his foul deed. The police, led by Inspector Ferris (David Keith, whom I didn’t know was in it as I was composing the beginning of this blog when the opening credits were showing), discover all this, but Frank manages to get away from them – they want to put him in protective custody, but look what happened to the last guy! – by saying he dropped his pipe; he releases Rembrandt (who looks like some sort of water spaniel, I wasn’t able to find any credits for him). By this time, they’ve brought Eleanor to the scene; she doesn’t seem too concerned.
So now, the whole point of the film is to find Frank Johnson, an average-looking white guy in a trench coat in a city filled with average-looking white guys wearing trench coats. A reporter from one of the local papers, appears, wearing a trenchcoat; he’s a white guy named Legget, and wants more on the story. Mrs. Johnson isn’t cooperating. With anyone.
I’m not sure, but it’s either her hairdo or the fact that her husband doesn’t trust her enough to tell her about his life before her that’s making her cranky – while looking for him, she finds out quite a bit about him from other people. And it turns out, after talking to his doctor, that he has a heart condition THAT COULD KILL HIM. Never told her about THAT, either. I’m amazed they stayed together for four years! So now she has another reason to find him: To give him the ampules of medicine that will keep him alive (hypertension pills, they are in actuality).
Eleanor teams up with Legget to find her husband. It helps that they need money and that the reporter has made her an offer of $1,000 for an exclusive story about her husband’s situation. We get to see San Francisco’s many neighborhoods as they take the roughest cab in town (they bounce back and forth in the back seat every time the car makes a turn) searching for Frank at all of the places she could think of where he might be, all the while avoiding Inspector Ferris. This also makes for a lot of fun banter betwixt Ms. Sheridan and Mr. O’Keefe. One of the funniest bits of business, though, involves Eleanor and a drunken blonde at bar that Frank used to frequent. Here’s the scene: The blonde is in the foreground, on the left of the screen, Eleanor to her right, facing the camera; the dialogue:
Blonde (slurring): “Why don’t you wear a hat?”
Eleanor (facing Blonde); I look funny in hats. (turns away, showing small beanie-type cap covering the crown of her head)
Blonde (still slurring): Y’know, you’re right!
I about died laughing over that little exchange! Joan Fulton, who played the towheaded lush, is now burned into my memory.
The key to finding Frank seems to depend on Eleanor remembering the place they were at when Frank “lost” her. You see, she’s received a cryptic letter from him and it all has to do with their entire relationship and marriage and how she doesn’t understand him and I think you get the idea. Also, he’s an artist , which should tell you a lot right there.
Soooo, after a lot of in-and-outs avoiding the lady cop trailing both Eleanor and Legget, she remembers where Frank “lost” her – a seaside amusement park (disappointingly, it’s not San Francisco’s Playland, it’s instead shot at Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica, CA) where they once got separated in the crowd. (At least I think that’s it). He’s been doing sand sculptures there, disguised as a ferryboat captain (no really!). Eleanor tells him what’s going on, and that Legget is waiting for him behind the roller coaster to get the story and to give him the money (which they badly need; he’s an artist and she won’t get a job – an age-old tale). She tells him she does love him, and she wants to know why he never told her about his heart problem. Frank downplays that, but agrees to meet Legget.
MEANWHILE: Inspector Ferris has been extremely busy trying to find Eleanor, Legget AND Frank – he even ordered all the drugstores in SF to deny Frank his prescription (he didn’t carry his ampules with him everywhere, which is kind of dumb for someone who allegedly could pop off if over-stressed). He was especially ticked off when, after filling Rembrandt’s food bowl with a full can of Ken-L Rations dog food (remember that stuff?) and adding a variety of condiments and soap flakes to it, Eleanor wanted to take Rembrandt to the veterinarian because wouldn’t he wouldn’t eat! Of course, it’s a ruse so she can get away from him, but he insists upon going with her. She gives him the slip at the vet’s office, and ends up getting back with Legget to get to the amusement park.
Inspector Ferris is now at the amusement park with Rembrandt, who is now pulling bloodhound duty. Eleanor and Legget are alerted to this, so they get on the roller coaster, with Legget getting off and going to meet Frank and suggesting Eleanor stay on the next run so Ferris won’t find her. She’s not too thrilled, since she told him before they got on the first time that the ride makes her sick. Now, the shots of her on the roller coaster are just WHOAH-DUDE! great, if you know what I mean!
Frank is meeting with Legget – who turns out to be corrupt and is working for the gangster who committed the original murder at the beginning of the film (remember that?)! Didn’t expect THAT, didja? Neither did I! And instead of shooting him, Legget tries to kill him by giving him a strangulation-induced heart attack, or at least that’s what it looks like; I mean, he tells Frank that he’s going to make him kill himself, but he also puts his hands around his throat and Frank appears then to have problems breathing, so that’s the conclusion I’m drawing on that.
Eleanor, trapped on the roller coaster (which appears to be operated by the brother of the cab driver from earlier on in the picture) screams herself practically hoarse yelling to Frank. So what happens next?
Inspector Ferris finds Frank and Legget before Eleanor gets off the coaster. She hears a shot after she’s gotten off and is running to the back of it. She looks down and sees a trenchcoat-wearing body doing the deadman’s float in the water below; Ferris tells her it’s Legget, not Frank and that he shot him. And this is when we have the real reunion between Eleanor and Frank, who pretty much mutually agree to stay together and maybe get to know one another a little better.
The whole flick moves really well, the pacing is fast where it should be and slows down when it should. I found out when watching this on “Noir Alley” on TCM that Ms. Sheridan and Mr. O’Keefe were encouraged to improvise, and it shows; a lot of the dialogue sounds real. Eleanor is snappish, and is bundled up in a semi-bulky, houndstooth-checked long coat through most of the film, if not all of it. Her hair…I can only ascribe that to current fashion amongst the housewives of those years immediately following World War II, there’s no other logical explanation for it.
Here’s the trailer:
Ms. Sheridan is not credited as the co-producer, but she was. Alan Campbell, Dorothy Parker’s 2nd ex-husband, was the co-writer of the script along with Norman Foster, who directed it. Campbell and Parker had a rather bitter divorce, so draw your own conclusions as to how much impact that had on the script’s sub-plot about the marriage of Eleanor and Frank (and those names…sound familiar to anyone besides myself?). John “Go ahead, shoot me!” Qualen has a good part as a window-trimmer co-worker of Frank’s; his earnestness is memorable. The original source material was a magazine story entitled “Man on the Run” (!) by Sylvia Tate. And, Joan Fulton was credited as Joan Shawlee – she played Pickles Sorrell on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” – no wonder she seemed a bit familiar to me!
I like this film. I recommend it. Thanks for reading!