Summertime and the Livin’ Is Easy: The 2019 Summer Classic Film Book Challenge

•September 14, 2019 • 3 Comments

I can scarcely believe that this is my seventh year participating in the Summer Classic Movie Book Challenge, hosted by Raquel over at Out the Past. I’m telling you, time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. (Thank you! I’ll be here all week! Tip o’ the hat to Groucho!)

But seriously, just as I look forward each year to attending the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival, and my two-week Christmas vacation, and Homecoming weekend at my alma mater, Spelman College (shout out!!), I wait with great anticipation for summer to arrive so that I can dive into some of the classic movie books that line the shelves of my bookcases. To join in the fun, you have to commit to reading a total of six books related to classic films, and then write about each one. And this summer, I read some of my most enjoyable selections yet!  I always do a big wrap-up at the end, so without further ado, here are the classic movie books I read this summer!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943) by Betty Smith

This semi-autobiographical novel is a coming of age story centering on Francie Nolan, a young girl who lives in a Brooklyn tenement with her younger brother Neeley and her parents, Katie, who works cleaning houses, and Johnny, an alcoholic who barely contributes to the household coffer as a part-time singing waiter. Also on hand is Katie’s older sister, Sissy, who’s sexy, illiterate, and immensely popular with the opposite sex, who weds one man after another (and calls them all ‘John’) and gives birth to no fewer than 10 babies, all of whom die.

The story starts in 1912, when Francie is 11, and ends in 1918, as she is about to attend college. There isn’t necessarily a plot but, rather, a portrait of the family and the world in which they live, following the Nolans through a variety of life’s experiences. In addition to mundane events like Francie running errands for her mother to buy the cheapest possible items for dinner (wilted celery, stale bread and suet), the story includes such shocking occurrences as Francie nearly getting molested and her mother shooting the offender. Throughout, the novel tackles issues like Francie’s knowledge that her brother was their mother’s favorite, Sissy’s desperation to have a baby of her own, the tension between Katie and Johnny because of Johnny’s affinity for alcohol, and Johnny’s inability to support his family. Smith did an outstanding job in her debut novel in depicting the world of the early 1900s in an impoverished section of New York; in one scene, for instance, Francie and Neeley participate in a Christmas Eve ritual in an effort to secure a Christmas tree, where they allow the tree seller to toss a tree at them. If they can withstand the impact of the tree without falling down, they get the tree for free. Francie and Neeley, together, take on the challenge; even though the seller himself was reluctant to throw the tree at the children, he winds up tossing it with all of his might. Francie and Neeley remain on their feet and proudly haul the huge tree through the streets of their neighborhood.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this book, and I fully intend to read it again. I also look forward to re-watching the 1945 20th Century-Fox film of the same name, starring Dorothy McGuire, James Dunn (who won an Oscar for his performance as Johnny), Joan Blondell, and Peggy Ann Garner as Francie. There was so much in the novel about the Nolans – both minor and significant – that it will be interesting to see what was included in the movie.

Margaret Sullavan: Child of Fate (1986) by Lawrence J. Quirk

The author of this book was the nephew of James Quirk, former editor and publisher of Photoplay magazine, and wrote more than 20 books about classic film and movie stars. This one not only benefited from Quirk’s interviews with many individuals who were close to Sullavan, including directors George Cukor and Frank Borzage, and actor Kent Smith, but also with Sullavan herself.

The book covers the life of the highly acclaimed actress, from her birth in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1909, to her death at the age of 50 from an overdose of barbiturates. In between, Quirk discusses Sullavan’s volatile marriages to actor Henry Fonda, director William Wyler, and agent Leland Hayward, and her relationship with her children (one who died from a drug overdose just eight months after Sullavan’s death).

While I found the book to be well-written and easy to read (unlike many movie star biographies that I’ve come across), there were several things about it that bothered me. First off, from nearly the very first page, the author seemed determined to drive home the notion that Sullavan was “over-sexed” – he makes countless references to this concept, including reports that she had “assorted crushes on various boys” by the age of 13, and descriptions of her “prowling” after young actors when she moved to New York. I just felt that it was overkill, and a little disrespectful. (Like, we get it already!) Also, the book contains several conversations that could not have been overheard and were not attributed, such as an argument between Sullavan and Henry Fonda, during which Fonda mocks her “chinless face” and Sullavan slaps him. (To be fair, the book contains extensive notes in which most conversations are attributed.) On the other hand, Quirk provides a number of interesting tidbits including a feud between Sullavan and Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart’s long-time crush on the actress. The book is definitely worth a read.

Red-Headed Woman (1931) by Katherine Brush

I approached this novel, given to me by a friend for my birthday last year, with great anticipation, since the 1932 film Red-Headed Woman, starring Jean Harlow, is one of my favorite pre-Codes. And I wasn’t disappointed. The story, in a nutshell, focuses on Lil Andrews and her single-minded efforts to climb the social ladder in the small town in which she lives. The other characters include Sally, Lil’s best friend; Bill Legendre, on whom Lil sets her amorous sights; and Bill’s wife, Irene, with whom Lil is enviously obsessed – even after she succeeds in stealing her husband.

I was interested to discover that there were two significant differences between the novel and the film. First off, in the film, Lil and Sally (played by Una Merkel) have a close relationship; even though Sally is sometimes brutally honest with her social-climbing buddy, we never get the impression that there is any malice behind her advice and observations. In the book, though, Sally is somewhat jealous of her friend’s upward mobility and, as for Lil, she looks down on her pal and plans to drop Sally from her circle of friends as soon as she firmly establishes herself in society’s upper stratum. Also, in the film, Lil leaves Bill for wealthy family friend C.G. Gaerste (played by Henry Stephenson), has a fling with Gaerste’s chauffeur (played by a young Charles Boyer), shoots Bill when he exposes her duplicity to Gaerste, and winds up with an even older sugar daddy, with the chauffeur still in tow. (Whew!) Lil’s course of love in the book is far more straightforward – during an extended trip to New York, she meets and falls for Gaerste (who is not a friend of the Legendre family and is at least 20 years younger than the character in the film), and eventually leaves Bill for him. (No chauffeur in sight.)

Incidentally, I admired the author’s skill at engendering an occasional sympathy toward Lil, even though she was a homewrecker, dismissive toward her friend and even her mother, and sometimes simply not a very nice person. In particular, the book contains an exquisitely described dinner party that Lil gives for the town’s upper crust, which turns out to be an unmitigated disaster. From Lil’s over-elaborate evening gown, to the perfectly timed late arrival of every single guest, to the countless conversations that leave Lil on the sidelines, unable to participate, the entire scene is effectively cringe-worthy and made me feel what it was like to be in Lil’s shoes. (Another interesting aspect of the book was the numerous words to which it introduced me – words that I’d never heard of and for which I had to consult Webster for assistance. Some of these included: descried, quinsy disease, wroth, misprision, inconnu, and encomiums. It was quite the vocabulary lesson!) Of all the books I read this summer, this was definitely one of my favorites.

Golden Boy: The Untold Story of William Holden (1983) by Bob Thomas

This biography has a unique beginning; it starts with the 1981 death of William Holden, covering the reactions of his closest friends and colleagues – including Blake Edwards, Billy Wilder, Robert Preston, Barbara Stanwyck, Bob Hope, and Sterling Hayden – when they learned of the tragedy, and providing details of the L.A. coroner’s conclusions about Holden’s demise. For those of you who don’t know, the actor, after consuming a copious amount of vodka, reportedly slipped on a throw rug, hit his head on the corner of a table, and bled to death. He was 63 years old.

Like the Margaret Sullavan biography, this bio was easy to read, and told us about the actor’s life starting with his birth in O’Fallon, Illinois, where he entered the world as William Franklin Beedle, Jr., in 1918. After moving to California for his father’s health, Holden grew up in Monrovia, located about 20 miles from Los Angeles. As a teen, he exhibited a reckless, daredevil nature that included such antics as walking on his hands on the outer railing of a structure in town known as “Suicide Bridge.” His first foray into acting came while he was a student at Pasadena Junior College, when a friend invited him to take on a small role in a play – Marie Curie’s 80-year-old father-in-law. His performance was seen by a talent scout for Paramount Studios, and before long, Holden was on the big screen. It was early in his career that alcohol began to make its appearance; according to Thomas, “he experienced terror each time he walked on a movie set . . . The solution was easy. Before he reported to the set, he swallowed a shot of whiskey, perhaps two.” The actor’s alcoholism was a theme that was threaded throughout the book – some of the stories were almost painful to read, especially Holden’s experience on the 1968 film The Devil’s Brigade, which included a drunken episode during which he turned on a crowd of townspeople, cursing and firing blanks at them from a machine gun.

Although I thought this book suffered from Thomas’s penchant for glossing over certain events – like Holden’s affairs with Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, and the creation of Holden’s production company, Toluca Productions – the book did contain details about a number of notable occurrences in the actor’s life. These included Holden’s marriage to actress Brenda Marshall, which eventually ended in divorce after 30 years; a drunk driving accident in Italy that resulted in the death of the other driver (Holden received an eight-month suspended sentence for manslaughter); and the actor’s love for Africa, where he opened the Mount Kenya Safari Club.

The book was rife with unsourced conversations, but after a while, I just took them with a grain of salt. Overall, while they added to the book’s readability, they also impacted its believability.

The Hollywood Scandal Almanac (2012) by Jerry Roberts

This book – which I picked up on impulse at the front counter at the Larry Edmunds Bookstore in Hollywood during last year’s TCM Film Festival – serves up, as the title indicates, Hollywood scandals, one for each day of the year, mostly from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Exceedingly easy to read, the book was like consuming a plate of hors d’oeuvres – quick and tasty, but not exactly stick-to-your-ribs fare. Still, I didn’t expect War and Peace, and I’m always up for a juicy scandal, but the title was a bit of a misnomer – all of entries were not scandals (one, for instance, told us that on April 13, 1964, Sidney Poitier became the first black man to win an Academy Award – not too scandalous, I hope!). In any event, here are just a few of the tidbits contained in the book:

January 18, 1923: Silent screen star Wallace Reid dies at the age of 31. He’d been addicted to morphine ever since suffering an injury in a train wreck four years earlier. He died at a sanitarium in Hollywood.

January 24, 1966: Mickey Rooney files for divorce from his fifth wife, Barbara, who was having an affair with a Serbian actor Milos Milosevic who was seen in The Russians are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966). A few days after Rooney filed for divorce, on January 31st, Milos shot Barbara and then himself. Their bodies were found in Milosevic’s home.

March 16, 1934: At the Academy Awards ceremony presented on this date, Will Rogers announced the winner for Best Director. After opening the envelope, he simply said, “Come up and get it, Frank!” and director of Lady for a Day, Frank Capra, made his way to the podium. Only problem was, Rogers was referring to Frank Lloyd, who’d won for Calvalcade. (Whoops.)

May 3, 1947: Miracle on 34th Street became one of three films condemned in 1947 by the National Legion of Decency (the other two were Black Narcissus and Forever Amber). The Legion’s priests objected to the film’s sympathetic treatment of a divorced mother, played in the film by Maureen O’Hara.

October 13, 1940: In one of the book’s most bizarre entries, western star Tom Mix was flown from Arizona to Burbank, California, on this date, after he was killed in a freak car crash. The day before, Mix had been driving at close to 80 miles an hour and hit the brakes when he approached a construction barrier. He was hit in the back of the head by an aluminum suitcase on a shelf in the car that was filled with money and jewels; the impact shattered his skull and broke his neck. (Yikes.)

Sister Carrie (1900) by Theodore Dreiser

I’ve had this book in my collection for years. Decades, actually. (Ouch, how old does that make me sound?!) I was determined to make this the year that I dove into this classic story, which has been called “the greatest of all American urban novels.” The story, set in in late 1800s, centers on Carrie Meeber who, at the age of 18, moves from her family home in rural Wisconsin to live with her sister and brother-in-law in Chicago. On the train to Chicago, Carrie meets a traveling salesman, Charlie Drouet, who becomes somewhat of a savior to Carrie in the coming months, when she’s unable to find work after losing her factory job. Carrie becomes a “kept” woman when she moves in with Charlie, who continually delays fulfilling his promises to marry her. Through Charlie, Carrie meets George Hurstwood, manager of an upscale bar; the unhappily married George falls in love with Carrie, impulsively steals some money from his bar, and convinces Carrie to run away with him. The two settle in New York, where George is forced to relinquish the stolen money, loses the job he’d landed when the business is sold, and pridefully refuses to seek jobs that he considers beneath him. Meanwhile, Carrie is able to get a job in the chorus of a local production and goes on to become a star, leaving George behind as he sinks deeper into the depths of depression and poverty. Ultimately, George is forced to live on the streets and rely on charity, and finally commits suicide in a flophouse, while the famous and wealthy Carrie realizes that the stardom that she sought and has now achieved will never make her happy.

Sister Carrie was made into Carrie, a 1952 Paramount film starring Lawrence Olivier, Jennifer Jones, and Eddie Albert. The book contained several characters that were either absent from the film or had a far greater presence in the book. There were also subtle differences in the film that I found to be interesting; for instance, the book’s George Hurstwood was arrogant and irresponsible, refusing to look for a job, allowing Carrie to support him, and spending his days in a rocking chair reading the newspaper. The film presented George more favorably, however; he secured a job, but was dismissed when his employers learned about the money he stole, and he was unable, for this reason, to gain any other employment. Carrie, too, gets a better screen treatment. In the film, she is in love with George and leaves him only because she feels that he will be able to reunite with his family if she is out of the picture. And later, when George, homeless and starving, comes to her for help, she plans to take him back into her life. In the book, however, Carrie was never truly in love with George – the book’s Carrie was more pragmatic – she was fond of George, certainly, but she left him because it was to her advantage, not for any selfless reasons related to George. Similarly, when George approached her for help, she gave him money, but she certainly had no intention of taking him into her home.

I found some of Dreiser’s writing to be absolutely masterful, like in the scene where George is contemplating whether to steal the money from his job. Dreiser’s description of the man grappling with his conscience builds a undeniable tension that practically left me on the edge of my seat. On the other hand, there were some sections of the book where Dreiser’s writing was so flowery and esoteric that I frankly didn’t know what he was even talking about. Despite these parts, all things considered, it was an excellent read. I have two other Dreiser books in my collection that were made into films – An American Tragedy and Jennie Gerhardt – and I’m considering tackling at least one of these for next summer’s challenge!

And that’s it! Those are the six books I read for this year’s challenge. It’s been another great experience, and I tip my hat to Raquel for creating this innovative and unique event – starting tomorrow, I’ll start stockpiling my selections for summer 2020!!

Mae Clarke: More than a Grapefruit in the Face

•September 8, 2019 • 6 Comments

I was recently a guest on a podcast, on which I was asked about Mae Clarke, and I am mortified to admit that, at the time, I couldn’t think of the name of a single, solitary one of her movies. This would have been bad enough if it had been just any classic movie star, but Mae Clarke?!? One of my favorite actresses?!? Was my face red! (And that’s putting it mildly.)

For years, my only encounter with Clarke was, like many of us, watching her get smashed in the mug with a grapefruit by James Cagney in Public Enemy (1931). Other than that scene, I’d never thought much about her, never really even knew her name (Mae Busch? Mae Murray?).

But after I saw her portray Myra Deauville in Waterloo Bridge (1933), you can bet that I knew exactly who she was. And I’ve been captivated by her ever since.

The more I learned about Clarke, the more intrigued I became by her story – it was jam-packed with enough drama and pathos to satisfy even the most discriminating audience, but she also seemed approachable, like the kind of gal you’d like to sit down with to share a couple of beers and the latest gossip. She never reached the heights of stardom that her talent warranted – real life saw to that – but hers is certainly a name that deserves to be remembered, and her body of work contains numerous films that deserve to be discovered.

Clarke in the early days of her career.

The blonde actress with the soulful eyes and the slow, easy smile was born Violet Mary Klotz in Philadelphia on August 16, 1910, to Violet Mae and Walter Klotz, a movie theater organist. When the future actress was a baby, her family moved to the New Jersey shore where her father eventually became known as “Atlantic City’s Premier Organist.” As a child, young Mae, as everyone called her, enrolled at the Dawson School of Dancing and got bitten by the performing bug.

“I was fascinated by show biz,” the actress said in her oral autobiography, Featured Player. “My mother took me to see a children’s play . . . the air was so alive with magic that I just had to be with those kids, be one of them.”

In her early teens, she started performing as one of Dawson’s Dancing Dolls at a children’s theater on the Steeplechase Pier and at Atlantic City’s Apollo Theater, where she attracted the attention of vaudeville producer Earl Lindsay and was hired for his show in New York. She was 14 years old when she moved to the Big Apple, appearing as a specialty dancer at the Strand Roof supper club and the Everglades Club. One of her first friends in New York was a young lady by the name of Ruby Stevens – later to be known as Barbara Stanwyck – with whom she appeared in her first play, The Noose, in 1926. By now, she was going by the name Mae Clarke – she’d selected “Clarke” because it was close to “Klotz.” (And she stated in her autobiography that she took it as a “personal insult” whenever the “e” was left off.)

The following year, Clarke appeared in the musical comedy Manhattan Mary; during this production, she met Lew Brice, the younger brother of famed singer/comedian Fanny Brice. “He was a wonderful dresser, very swanky,” Clarke said of Brice. “He carried himself like royalty, without being snobbish. And he was funny. . . . Why did he appeal to me? I liked the way he kissed.”

In her film debut, Big Time (1929), with Lee Tracy.

After a brief courtship, Clarke and Brice were married in February 1928. A short time later, Clarke’s new sister-in-law hired producer Billy Rose to write an act for the newlyweds. The successful act led to Clarke’s screen test for Fox Pictures, followed soon after by a contract with the studio and her feature film debut opposite Lee Tracy in Big Time (1929), a backstage story about vaudeville. Around this time, her father lost his organist job and Clarke moved her family to California, becoming the primary source of financial support for her parents and her two younger siblings. She also filed for divorce from Lew Brice; according to the actress, the failure of the marriage was due to several factors, including her husband’s penchant for drinking and gambling, as well as his lack of employment.

“The [jobs] that should have come my husband’s way were not coming,” Clarke explained. “He had had the unfortunate comparisons that people do to you, being referred to as ‘Fanny Brice’s brother.’ And it hurt. But when he became ‘Mae Clarke’s husband,’ it was too much in one lifetime.” Although Clarke revealed that Brice had been physically abusive – once even breaking her nose – she remembered him fondly as a “fine man, a wonderful friend, and a very clever entertainer.”

Clarke held her own with her seasoned co-stars in The Front Page (1931).

After Clarke starred with Edmund Lowe in Men on Call, her contract with Fox was not renewed. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Her next film was her best yet – The Front Page. Based on a hit Broadway comedy written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, the 1931 feature was the first of several screen versions; Clarke had a small but showy role as Molly Malloy, a streetwalker who befriends a hapless convict slated for execution. While she was seen for just a few minutes, the actress made the most of her screen time, turning in a heartfelt, expressive performance.

Years later, Clarke recalled the experience of performing alongside such Hollywood heavy-hitters as Adolphe Menjou, Pat O’Brien, and Edward Everett Horton. “I was very aware of the talent that I was with,” Clarke said. “Very. And grateful. And stimulated. At the same time, I was terrified that I might not measure up.”

She needn’t have worried. Clarke more than held her own with the more seasoned performers – and for better or for worse, her next film catapulted her into cinematic immortality. The Public Enemy (1931) stars James Cagney as Tom Powers, a street punk who rises through the ranks of organized crime; Clarke plays the uncredited role of Kitty, a prostitute Tom picks up in a local bar. She’s only in a few scenes, but in her last, Clarke gets smashed in the face with a grapefruit by Cagney.

The famous grapefruit scene from The Public Enemy (1931).

A number of theories cropped up regarding how this famous deed came to be. Producer Darryl Zanuck claimed that the idea was his. Writers Kubec Glasmon and John Bright said that they’d based the scene on a real-life gangster who’d assaulted his moll with an omelette. And director William Wellman explained that he’d had an argument with his then-wife, aviatrix Marjorie Crawford, and at breakfast the next day, wanted nothing more than to “squash [a] grapefruit in her lovely face.” Instead, according to Wellman’s biography, penned by his son, William Wellman, Jr., the famed director instructed Cagney to carry out the act with Mae Clarke – an offshoot of this version further states that Wellman purposely kept Clarke in the dark in order to extract a genuine reaction.

But in her autobiography, Clarke said that Cagney told her that he and the director had come up with the idea of pushing the grapefruit in her face as a way to play a gag on the unsuspecting crew. “I didn’t want to do that,” Clarke said, “but all I had done . . . was all out the window if I said no. I’d be a lemon. So I knew I had to do it.” The actress said she had no idea that the scene would be in the final print, adding, “They had no right to put that in the picture without my permission. I gave no permission, I signed no release.”

Regardless of the origin of the famed scene, Clarke seemed years later to have mellowed considerably, even going so far as to express gratitude about her role in the incident: “All I have to do is identify myself as the gal Cagney socked with the grapefruit and I automatically get a lot of attention and frequently a job.”

My introduction to Clarke was her superb performance in Waterloo Bridge (1931).

Clarke’s screen presence continued to expand that year, starting with a second-billed part in Frankenstein, as Elizabeth, the mad doctor’s bride; she was singled out by several reviewers, including the critic for Variety, who found her “charming.”  Next, in The Good Bad Girl, she portrays the titular role of a moll who leaves her gangster boyfriend to marry a banker’s son, followed by Waterloo Bridge, in which she arguably gives the performance of her career. In this film – set in World War I London – Clarke portrays Myra Deauville, a prostitute who falls in love with an idealistic soldier, played by Kent Douglass (later known as Douglass Montgomery). The role was originally assigned to actress Rose Hobart, but she later refused the part when she learned that the studio was not renewing her contract. Clarke was glad to get the chance to play Myra: “At last I could get my teeth into something and really bite through it and spit it out,” she said. “I really had something to say.”

Clarke’s performance in Waterloo Bridge was a revelation – she displayed a natural acting style that was liberally infused with poignancy, sincerity, and subtlety. Critics agreed; the reviewer for the New York Daily News labeled her a “splendid dramatic actress reaching really great heights,” the Chicago American announced that her performance ranked “among the finest of the year,” and the critic for the New York Evening Post proclaimed that “her fame is assured.”

Clarke was a standout in Night World (1932).

Following Clarke’s appearance in Waterloo Bridge, she signed a five-year contract with Universal, and went on to appear in a series of memorable films during the next two years. The first of these was Night World (1932), a kind of Grand Hotel set in a New York nightclub. In it, Clarke plays Ruth Taylor, a nightclub dancer who’s pursued by a local gambler (George Raft) but is drawn to Michael Rand (Lew Ayres), a troubled young patron who drinks himself into a nightly stupor in an effort to blot out the memory of a family tragedy. The proverbial showgirl with a heart of gold, Ruth takes pity on Michael when he collapses in the club, placing cold compresses on his head and keeping his watch and wallet safe from the other employees. A short time later, Michael impulsively proposes to Ruth, asking her to accompany him on a voyage to Bali – “one of the few unspoiled places in the world” – and the film’s explosive climax finds them facing their future in each other’s arms.

Next up, in Three Wise Girls (1932), Clarke plays Gladys Kane, one of the “wise girls” of the film’s title, along with co-stars Jean Harlow and Marie Prevost. Gladys is sweet, kind-hearted, down-to-earth, and worldly wise – and involved in a “back street” affair with a married man. When her hometown pal, Cassie (Harlow), comes to New York, Gladys doesn’t hesitate to share her wise counsel, although she’s unable to heed her own warning. “Take my advice, Cassie – never fall in love,” Gladys tells her. “Do you know what you become when you live the way I do? A panhandler. You have to bow and scrape and beg for everything you get. And that goes for love as well as money. Their wives get everything – a home, security, respect. Everything. And what do you get? Nothing. Nothing but grief.” For her performance, the critic for Variety judged that Clarke “takes the acting honors.”

The Final Edition (1933) saw Clarke re-teamed with her Front Page co-star, Pat O’Brien.

After Three Wise Girls, Clarke enjoyed one of her most progressive roles in The Final Edition (1932), where she was seen opposite Pat O’Brien as a shrewd newspaperwoman. Clarke’s Anne Woodman grabs our attention from her first appearance on screen and never lets go; in her opening scene, she confronts her boss and lover, city editor Sam Bradshaw (O’Brien), who has just fired her from the newspaper: “Last night, I told you some things about yourself I thought you ought to know,” she says, looking at him unflinchingly. “When I get married, it’ll be to a man, not a newspaper. Aside from that, I thought you were pretty all right. I certainly never thought you’d sink low enough to fire me just because I wouldn’t marry you.” Later, Anne shows her moxie on the job as well – beating out her competition to snag a scoop about the murder of a police commissioner, and fearlessly putting her safety at risk to secure evidence against those responsible for the crime. Even when she’s abducted by the killers, she’s cool as a cucumber, losing her neither her nerve nor her wits. Following the film’s release, the actress was praised in the New York Times, whose reviewer wrote, “Mae Clarke, looking lovelier than she ever has before, does a fine bit of sleuthing in this role.”

Clarke had another juicy part in Parole Girl (1933) where, as Sylvia Day, she plays a cunning ex-con whose misdeeds include fleecing department stores through an extortion racket, earning her release from prison by courageously extinguishing a fire that she herself had set, and employing an elaborate ruse to gain revenge on the man who sent her to jail. In one of her best scenes, Clarke’s emoting skills run the gamut from earnestly begging for compassion from department store manager Joe Smith (Ralph Bellamy), to vowing vengeance when he callously dismisses her pleas. The film is seldom cited as one of Clarke’s best, but it’s never dull and Clarke plays a multifaceted character that you can’t help but root for. (Plus, she sports an unusual – for the time period – strikingly attractive, close-cropped hairdo that’s not to be missed!)

Another first-rate performance in Lady Killer (1933).

On the heels of a small role in Penthouse (1933) – in which, after just two brief scenes, she ends up shot dead on the floor – Clarke was back to her bad-girl ways in Lady Killer (1933), which re-teamed her with James Cagney. Here, Clarke portrays Myra Gale, the distaff member of a gang of low-level hoods, who gets involved with the gang’s newest recruit, played by Cagney. Another one of Clarke’s delightfully memorable characters, Myra was one tough cookie – feisty, shameless, and bold: “Let me give you a tip,” she warns Cagney’s Dan Quigley in one scene. “You know, I could change all this good luck of yours. If I ever whisper in a cop’s ear what I know about you . . . Say, I think you better start being nice to mama.” (Incidentally, as in Public Enemy two years earlier, Clarke is once again the recipient of a notable form of abuse at the hands of James Cagney. This time, he drags her across the floor by her hair and physically tosses her out of his room, with a swift kick to the rear as a closer.)

Clarke’s first marriage, to Lew Brice, ended in divorce.

But while Clarke was making a name for herself with these films, she was experiencing ups and downs behind the scenes. Just 10 months after she filed for divorce from Lew Brice, the Los Angeles Times announced her formal engagement to publicist John McCormick, who had previously been married to silent star Colleen Moore. The following year, though, during a trip to Hawaii, McCormick got married to someone else. Clarke said she found out from an item in the newspaper. (“Oh, it was a shock, to say the least,” she said. “And the embarrassment!”)

Not long after, Clarke fell ill; sources commonly report that she suffered a nervous breakdown. According to the actress, her problems began innocently enough – the result of overwork, a lowered resistance, and a severe sinus condition – but took a turn for the worse after she checked herself into a hospital in Palm Springs. “I had nothing wrong with my mind and my judgment. . . . I had an infection,” Clarke said. “I needed intravenous feeding and blood and rest. I didn’t need half-nelsons and big men sitting on my stomach. [But] that’s what happened.” Clarke was eventually sent to two separate sanitariums, where she was continuously medicated, restrained, and given shock treatments.

“It was too awful. Shouldn’t happen to a dog,” Clarke recalled, adding that her mother was denied access to her.  “They wrapped me with canvas and stuck me in a long tube of very hot water with my head poking through a hole at one end, which is like hanging you from a tree. Everything is designed to make you know you’re a prisoner and to put more fear into you. I kept begging, ‘Please, send me home.’”

Clarke and Phillips Holmes were in a serious car accident in 1933.

By the time she was released, Clarke’s contract with Universal had been terminated “due to illness.” And her downward slide continued in March 1933, when she was involved in a car accident with actor Phillips Holmes after leaving a party. Driving down a narrow street on an especially foggy night, they ran into the back of a parked car; Clarke broke her jaw and lost several teeth. (According to the L.A. Times, Clarke later sued Holmes, charging that he drove his car in a “grossly negligent manner” and asking for $21,500 in damages. The suit was dismissed in March 1934, when Holmes agreed to pay Clarke’s hospital bills.)

Clarke’s first film after the accident was Turn Back the Clock, opposite Lee Tracy, but her part was a relatively small and thankless one and, by now, most of her best roles were behind her. She was also seen in Nana (1934), a period piece intended by producer Sam Goldwyn to introduce Anna Sten as his answer to MGM’s Greta Garbo; This Side of Heaven (1934), a soaper where Clarke played the daughter of Lionel Barrymore and Fay Bainter; and The Man With Two Faces (1934), starring Edward G. Robinson and Mary Astor.

After the last film, Clarke was hospitalized again – this time because of her family. “My nurses and family all said, ‘She’s having another breakdown. We know it because we’ve seen it before.’ So they overpowered me and put me in a strait jacket, and I sure did have one. I hadn’t up to that point,” Clarke said. “How can you be in this business and not have temperament? And a right to burn off steam once in a while? How would you like to be accused of having a breakdown every time you say, ‘I’m not going to do that picture?’”

According to Clarke, she was actually suffering from manic depression – at that time, the remedy for the disorder was shock treatment, which was administered without anesthetic. She recalled, however, that this second experience with the treatments was less traumatizing than her first: “It did not generate the same fear in me,” she explained. (There was also a third “breakdown” in the late 1940s – this time, Clarke checked herself into L.A.’s Olive View sanitarium and demanded to see a psychiatrist. She was there for three months. “I was perfectly fine,” she said. “I needed to cool off and be relieved of people watching me and interpreting this and that and telling somebody else behind my back.”)

She appeared opposite Holmes in House of a Thousand Candles three years after the car accident.

Clarke returned to the big screen in 1935 with The Daring Young Man (1935), a comedy with James Dunn and Neil Hamilton, then appeared in a number of films for Republic Studios, including House of a Thousand Candles (1936), a spy drama opposite Phillips Holmes, and Hearts in Bondage (1936), a well-done drama set during the Civil War. She was in only a handful of features during the remainder of the 1930s; the best-known was Great Guy (1936), her third film with James Cagney. Her output during the 1940s wasn’t much better, with mostly small parts – some uncredited – in just a few films a year; her most noticeable role during that decade was as the heroine of the Republic serial King of the Rocket Men in 1949. “The only thing I remember about King of the Rocket Men is being completely bored with the whole setup and yet grateful for the work,” Clarke said.

While Clarke’s on-screen presence was dwindling, her romantic life was far from idle. In 1937, she married Stevens Bancroft, a pilot and business manager for Pam Am airlines, and moved with him to South America. Bancroft has been characterized by some sources as “the love of Clarke’s life,” but after two years, the marriage was over, and there are indications that Bancroft was a heavy drinker and a serial philanderer. For her part, Clarke spoke highly of her second husband – categorizing her marriage as “beautiful, unusual, rare, special” – but she declined to give specifics on why the couple split: “It hurts so much, I’ve largely put it out of my mind,” she said.

Less than 10 years later, in 1946, she married again, this time to Herbert Langdon, a musician and captain with the Army Special Service Forces; the couple married after Langdon’s returned to the U.S. following his overseas duty in London.  Like Lew Brice before him, however, Langdon’s inability to find work took a toll on the relationship. “There weren’t any immediate openings for entertainers, and he wasn’t that big of an entertainer,” Clarke said. “I couldn’t carry him as a load, and he wasn’t going to help me any. I had to go, and he didn’t mind letting me go. It was a fast marriage to begin with, an emotional thing at the time of war.”

Clarke can be seen in a bit part in Singin’ In The Rain.

By now, Clarke’s finances were feeling the effects of her diminishing screen offers. She continued to work during the 1950s, but most of her roles were reduced to uncredited bit parts – she played a party guest in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), “Telephone Operator #1” in Royal Wedding (1951), and a hairdresser in Singin’ in the Rain (1952). Around this time, one news account reported that she’d gotten a job as a secretary and a receptionist and was “hoping to regain fame in acting.” She began appearing on television, with numerous roles throughout the 1950s and 1960s in such shows as Dragnet, Playhouse 90, The Loretta Young Show, Perry Mason, and Batman. (Incidentally, it’s said that Clarke was author Anita Loos’ model for the character Lorelei Lee, played by Marilyn Monroe in the hit 1953 feature Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I’m not really sure how Clarke inspired this character, but that’s what they say!)

In 1957, Clarke was back in the news again when she sued a local Los Angeles television station, KTLA. The station was airing Frankenstein for the first time, and the hostess for the broadcast introduced herself as none other than Mae Clarke. And that wasn’t all. The fake Mae reportedly told viewers, “I’m in a picture you’re going to see when I was young and pretty and had enough money to pay my bills. I can’t pay my bills now.” The real Mae filed suit for $1 million. “They were stupid,” Clarke said. “They thought they could get away with anything – they were television. We didn’t want to know how they did it, or if they were sorry and all that shit.” She eventually settled for $10,000.

Between bit parts and lawsuits, Clarke took up painting, and it turned into a hobby that she would enjoy for the next several decades. She even had a “showing” of her work in the early 1960s – in her unemployment insurer’s office.  “No sense hiding my talent on my apartment wall,” Clarke told the press. “The ideal thing would be to have an exhibit at Raymond Burr’s gallery, but he only has Picasso and people like that. Or I’d have a big party and let Vincent Price introduce me. I can’t afford it.”

With brief appearances in A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), Clarke’s screen career came to an end. She’s credited with a bit part in Watermelon Man (1970) as her final film, but Clarke insisted that she was not in the picture, which starred Godfrey Cambridge as a bigoted white man who awakens one morning to find that he has turned black. “I was paid for having been in it, but I never appeared in it,” she said. “The crowd gathered and they forgot to call me. They never missed me.” On a positive note, Clarke enjoyed meeting Cambridge – so much so that she asked him to escort her to the American Film Institute’s tribute to James Cagney a few years later. (Cambridge was unable to attend, but Clarke acknowledged that it “would have been a knockout.”)

If you only know Mae Clarke from the grapefruit scene in The Public Enemy, treat yourself. Discover her.

After her retirement, Clarke moved to the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, where she continued to receive mail from fans on a daily basis. In 1990, she began recording her memoirs, which were eventually turned into Featured Player: An Oral Autobiography of Mae Clarke. Two years later, at the age of 81, Clarke died of cancer; the book was released after her death, in 1996.

At the book’s end, Clarke was asked how she wanted to be remembered. She replied, “I’ll refer you to a little remark that Jimmy Cagney made when he was speaking of me. He said, ‘Mae Clarke was a very professional actress who knew what was required of her and did her job excellently.’

“I think I’ll leave it at that.”

If you only know Mae Clarke as the recipient of that grapefruit assault in The Public Enemy, or you’ve only seen her trying to escape the monster in Frankenstein, do yourself a favor and track down some of her films from 1931 through 1933. Start with Waterloo Bridge, toss in The Good Bad Girl, Night World, and Parole Girl, and give yourself an extra treat with Three Wise Girls and Lady Killer. You won’t be sorry. I promise. You may even find yourself as fascinated by Mae Clarke as I am.

If that’s even possible.


A version of this article appeared in The Pre-Code Companion, Issue #1.

Noirvember 2018 in Review

•September 7, 2019 • 3 Comments

It’s only September, but the wintry months are just around the corner, and you know what that means: Noirvember will be here soon! To whet your appetite for this year’s daily fare of shadowy posts, here’s the complete listing of last year’s Noirvember series. Don’t go down those dark streets alone . . .

Day One: Here We Go Again!

Day Two: Top Five in ’45

Day Three: Laura Trivia

Day Four: The Noirish Life of Gig Young

Day Five: List o’ the Week — My Favorite Noir Titles

Day Six: Quote of the Day

Day Seven: Jack Palance Gets the Confidential Treatment

Day Eight: Trivia Thursday

Day Nine: Quote of the Day

Day Ten: Laraine Day and The Locket

Day Eleven: The Tragic Life and Times of Gail Russell

Day Twelve: List o’ the Week — Top 10 Taglines

Day Thirteen: Savage Detour

Day Fourteen: Stranger Than Fiction — The Phenix City Story

Day Fifteen: Trivia Thursday

Day Sixteen: The Words of Noir

Day Seventeen: Favorite Femme Fatales (Part 1)

Day Eighteen: Reel Names

Day Nineteen: Celebrating Gene (Tierney)

Day Twenty: The Noir of HUAC

Day Twenty-One: Quote of the Day

Day Twenty-Two: Happy Thanksgiving!

Day Twenty-Three: Top Three in ’53

Day Twenty-Four: The 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival — Part 4

Day Twenty-Five: Favorite Femme Fatales (Part 2)

Day Twenty-Six: Happy Birthday, Adele Jergens

Day Twenty-Seven: Unlikely Film Noir Folks — Fred Clark

Day Twenty-Eight: Top 20 Noirs on YouTube

Top Twenty-Nine: My Five Noir Dinner Guests

Top Thirty: Parting Gifs

A Many Splendored Thing: The 2019 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival — Part 4

•September 1, 2019 • 14 Comments

Now that TCM has announced the dates for next year’s Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (April 16-19, 2020), it’s the perfect time for another installment in my year-round recap of the 2019 event!

Today, I’m taking a look at the only poolside screening I attended – well, I actually didn’t attend the screening, which was Ocean’s 11 – I was there to see one of the film’s stars, the one and only Angie Dickinson. Several years ago, Dickinson had appeared at a restricted event for fest attendees that took place before I arrived in Los Angeles, so I didn’t get a chance to see her. I wasn’t letting that happen this year!

Dickinson, who was introduced as “one of the great actresses of her generation,” was interviewed by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, who informed the enthusiastic gathering that they were part of the largest crowd ever to attend a poolside screening at the festival. Clad in black pants and white jacket, wedge heels and a sassy leather hat, Dickinson shared that her lengthy career began with a small part that was “sort of a little below a dancer” on a variety show starring actor/singer Jimmy Durante. “I wanted show business so badly,” she said, “and here I am with you.”

Before starting her interview with Mankiewicz, Dickinson joked that the last time the two talked, “You got me drunk . . . and I told stories that I’ve never told before.” This time around, the 86-year-old actress shared that her big break was the western Rio Bravo (1959), starring John Wayne and Dean Martin. In it, Dickinson was fourth-billed as Feathers, Wayne’s love interest. “It was one of the most wonderful movies,” Dickinson said. “Once you start watching it, you cannot turn it off.”

Dickinson’s career started on Jimmy Durante’s variety show. (That’s her in the middle.)

Dickinson also told the audience about her experience in working with Frank Sinatra in the film that they were about to see, Ocean’s 11. She said that Sinatra wasn’t “the most fun” that she’d ever had when working with another actor, explaining that “he knew his work so well that he didn’t help you much.” Dickinson also noted that Sinatra had a penchant for only doing one take, and she recalled one instance where Sinatra walked away after the scene was filmed. When Dickinson later expressed an interest in another take and was looking for Sinatra, she was told, “’Oh, he split.’ He didn’t even hang around to wait and see if I wanted to do it again. He knew he had it nailed.”

Mankiewicz shared a theory that actor Billy Bob Thornton – a big fan of Sinatra’s – once offered to explain why the “Chairman of the Board” only liked to do one take in his films. Thornton thought that there was some insecurity in Sinatra, where, if he did a scene again, he would get “exposed . . . that people would see through him,” Mankiewicz said.

Dickinson’s response? “Bullshit,” she said, to the delight of the audience. And Mankiewicz, without missing a beat, rejoined, “’Bullshit,’ you said? Well, it’s been great talking to you. Angie Dickinson everybody! It’s been a lot of fun!”

Her first big break was in Rio Bravo (1959).

Once the audience’s laughter died down, Dickinson went on to give her own rationale: “Being a singer, singing on pitch, and being so prepared to do a recording . . . he knows when he’s good and when he got it, and why would he do it again?” Dickinson added that she thought Thornton was a great actor and an intelligent man, “but he just doesn’t know Frank Sinatra.”

Working on Ocean’s 11 in Las Vegas was an “incredible” experience, Dickinson recalled, sharing that the cast members – which, in addition to Sinatra, consisted of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop – constantly played pranks on each other, with Sinatra usually being the ringleader. “He was naughty, but he loved being naughty,” she said, “and he loved playing with his friends.” After filming during the day, Dickinson said, the film’s stars would appear at night at the Sands Hotel for the famous Rat Pack performances – a show that she saw at least five times – once from backstage. “They were having the time of their lives, from the minute they started the show until they finished,” she said. “They really had that brotherhood to the ultimate.”

Mankiewicz asked Dickinson about the romantic relationship she had off-screen with Sinatra that started after the filming of Ocean’s 11. She called the singer-actor “the most exciting man on Earth.”

“And that didn’t mean I wanted to marry it,” she said. “It was a possibility – we did use the ‘M’ word. But I didn’t want to be married to Frank because I knew I would have to live his life, and not mine, and I wasn’t through – I hadn’t hit the high points yet. He actually said we could have a baby, and I thought, ‘Oh, Jesus.’ I was not ready for that – I was trying to be a movie star.”

With Sinatra on Oceans 11.

Dickinson also spoke of her experience playing the title role in the popular TV show Police Woman, which ran on NBC from 1974 to 1978, but her delightful interview with Mankiewicz was over all too soon. In introducing the film that was about to be shown, she assured the crowd that the film’s stars “had as much fun on the set as you have watching them.”

Tune in next month for another installment of A Many Splendored Thing: The 2019 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival!

Pre-Code Crazy: The Little Giant (1933)

•August 20, 2019 • 13 Comments

Edward G. Robinson? Mary Astor? It’s a “don’t miss” combo – and the reason why The Little Giant (1933) is my Pre-Code Crazy pick for the month of August. (My Pre-Code Crazy partner in crime, Kristina over at Speakeasy, is taking a little break from our monthly collaboration, so I’m going to do my best to keep it moving in her absence!)

The Little Giant is a rare Robinson comedy (for that matter, I’m not all that accustomed to seeing Astor in comedies either, especially during this stage of her career), but it’s a welcome one, and is a perfect showcase for the actor’s versatile talent. The movie opens with the presidential election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which signals the impending termination of Prohibition.  The members of Chicago’s Little Social Club are none too pleased about this news, but the gang’s leader, J. Francis “Bugs” Ahearn (Robinson) accepts the eventuality with philosophical optimism: “It lasted long enough to put us in the dough.” He divvies up the profits from the group’s bootlegging enterprise and vows to turn legit. “I’m gonna mingle with the upper classes,” he tells them. “I’m gonna be a gentleman.”

Before he leaves for California, Bugs leaves a little something for one of his former rivals.

When we next seen Bugs, he’s wearing a smoking jacket and spats, practicing his golf game in his drawing room. He affectionately but decidedly gives his girl, Edith, the gate – along with a check for 25 grand (nice work, if you can get it), and also gets rid of his trucks, machine guns, and ammunition. When his right-hand man Al (Russell Hopton) insists on staying with him, Bugs acquiesces, but on one condition – Al will have to “keep improving himself.”

Bugs and Al head for California, winding up in Santa Barbara, but Bugs soon finds out that the “American Riviera” is not all that it’s cracked up to be. When he realizes that he’s paying a whopping $45 a day to stay at the Biltmore Hotel, Bugs runs around his suite, turning on all the lights and water and shining his shoes with the towels: “They ain’t gonna make a chump outta me!” he declares. “I’m gonna get my money’s worth!” At dinner, Bugs is embarrassed to find that all of the other gents are wearing suits, while he and Al – following Al’s advice – are decked out in white tie and tails. And after three whole days, Bugs hasn’t met a single woman: “They walk around like we have the smallpox. Forty-five bucks a day, and they high-hat ya.”

Bugs can’t get enough of Polly.

Lucky (or maybe not so lucky) for Bugs, a chance encounter brings him into the realm of the super-swanky (or so they seem) Cass family and their perfectly posh daughter, Polly (Helen Vinson), who makes fun of Bugs behind his back until she learns that he’s a millionaire. For his part, Bugs is instantly smitten, and in an effort to impress Polly, he rents a 20-room mansion; the real estate agent is Ruth Wayburn (Astor), who Bugs promptly hires to help him run the house. What he doesn’t know is that the house actually belongs to Ruth, and that she needs the money to pay the back taxes and interest.

When it’s not focusing on Bugs’s persistent efforts to fit into Santa Barbara high society, the film centers on the three principal characters: Ruth, who is falling in love with Bugs, who’s crazy about Polly, who has a boyfriend on the side and plans to marry Bugs for his money. The non-stop goings-on also focus on Polly’s deadbeat brother and corrupt father, and their efforts to carve out a slice of Bugs’s cash pie for themselves. It’s an action-packed, fun-filled romp that will hold your attention until the madcap conclusion.

And here’s some other stuff:

Russell Hopton was a standout in the film.

Al was played by Russell Hopton, who had previously been seen in such pre-Codes as The Miracle Woman (1931), Street Scene (1931), and Night World (1932). In The Little Giant, he played one of his biggest and best roles, and was a standout as Bugs’s wisecracking but utterly devoted sidekick. Sadly, Hopton’s career declined as the 1930s went on, and in 1945, at the age of 45, he committed suicide.

The cast also features Leonard Carey, who made a career in Hollywood primarily playing butlers, waiters, and valets. Here, he plays the butler for the Cass family – you might remember him from similar roles in such hits as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Bombshell (1933), Rebecca (1940), Mrs. Miniver (1942), Heaven Can Wait (1943), and Strangers on a Train (1951). During a career that spanned three decades, Carey appeared in close to 150 films.

Mary Astor is a delight. (What else is new?)

One of my favorite lines comes when Bugs is telling Al that he’s been preparing for his entry into society by reading Greek philosophy and purchasing fine art. He points to one of the new paintings on his wall: “You ever seen anything like that before?” he asks, to which Al drolly rejoins, “Not since I been off cocaine.” (Whoa!) Another favorite comes after Bugs moves into his new mansion, and Al is testing the springs on one of the beds. “Boy, what a crib!” he says. Bugs responds, “Kinda gives you ideas,” and Al retorts, with his voice fairly dripping with innuendo, “You think not?”

Near the end of the film, Ruth tells Bugs what she really thinks of his beloved Polly, revealing that Polly has been in one scandal after another since the age of 16, and saying that Polly has been “a sister-in-law to the world.” I’m not really sure what that means, but I’m certain that it’s not a compliment. (If you know, please share with the group!)

Tune in to TCM on August 26th, Mary Astor Day on Summer Under the Stars, to see The Little Giant. I think you’ll be glad you did.

A Many Splendored Thing: The 2019 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival — Part 3

•June 26, 2019 • 6 Comments

The “So You Think You Know Movies” trivia contest is held each year in the historic Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel.

It’s (finally) pleasantly warm outside, putting me in mind of the glorious weather in L.A. . . . and reminding me that it’s a great time for the next installment of my year-round coverage of the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival.

This month’s post takes a look at what has become a tradition for me at the festival – the “So You Think You Know Movies” trivia contest, in which I’ve participated each of the seven years that I’ve attended TCMFF. Hosted by the charmingly erudite Bruce Goldstein, Repertory Director of New York’s Film Forum and founder of Rialto Pictures, the trivia contest is no walk in the park – there have been years when I haven’t known a single answer. This year was different, though – of the 16 questions, I actually knew he answers to two! (Woot!)

I had the great good fortune to meet James Karen at the 2017 TCM film festival.

The 2019 contest opened with a tribute to actor James Karen, who’d been a special surprise guest at the contest for several years. A featured performer in such films as The China Syndrome (1979) and Poltergeist (1982), and countless TV shows (including All My Children, as the original Linc Tyler!) Mr. Karen passed away in October 2018 at the age of 94. The trivia contest was dedicated to his memory. He was truly missed – it was always a treat to see him in the room.

Unlike previous contests, this year’s event contained multiple choice questions – but with a twist: each question could have one, two or even three correct answers! (It’s always something!) Because of the rapid fire delivery of the questions, and the numerous possible answers, I was barely able to jot them all down, but I did manage to capture a few. Play along and see if you know any of these answers – and no Googling!

1. Of these classic films – Citizen Kane, Casablanca, and Gone With the Wind, which character actor played in all three?

  • Isabel Jewell
  • Ona Munson
  • Gus Schilling
  • Gino Corrado

2.  Which of the follow actors starred in The Invisible Man Returns (1940)?

  • Lon Chaney
  • Vincent Price
  • Basil Rathbone
  • George Sanders
  • Tom Conway

3.  Which of the members of the Little Rascals was nominated for an Academy Award?

  • Jackie Cooper
  • Dickie Moore
  • Stymie Beard
  • Darla Hood
  • Alfalfa Switzer
  • Tommy “Butch” Bond
  • Spanky MacFarland
  • Billie “Buckwheat” Thomas
  • Gordon “Porky” Lee

4.  In which movie were the credits entirely sung?

  • Broadway Melody (1929)
  • Hollywood Revue (1929)
  • Show of Shows (1929)
  • Hellzapoppin’ (1941)
  • Skiddoo (1968)

And as a bonus, here are a few more questions, for which I didn’t have time to write all of the choices. See if you can come up with the answers to these!

Who did this singing in this scene?

5. Who played the Mary Astor role in the 1932 version of The Maltese Falcon?

6. Which actor who played a movie butler lent his name to a fast-food chain?

7. Who was the singing voice of Rita Hayworth in Gilda’s “Put the Blame on Mame”?

8. Who played Miss Lonelyhearts in Rear Window (1954)?

9. Who played the songwriter in Rear Window (1954)?

10. What film was the inspiration for Singin’ in the Rain (1952)?

Scroll down (way, way down) for the answers. And join me next month for another installment in A Many Splendored Thing: The 2019 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival!














  1. Gino Corrado
  2. Vincent Price
  3. Jackie Cooper
  4. Skiddoo
  5. Bebe Daniels
  6. Arthur Treacher
  7. Anita Ellis
  8. Judith Evelyn
  9. Ross Bagdesarian
  10. The Cameraman (1928):

The Great Villain Blogathon 2019 – Day 3 Recap

•May 26, 2019 • 4 Comments

Day 3 of The Great Villains Blogathon 2019 made us want to dance with joy!

Our participants turned in another batch of swoon-worthy posts in which they extolled the virtues (or the lack, thereof) of those baddies we love to hate. Check ’em out, below . . .

And you’ll find all of the recap links together at the main blogathon page, including entries posted on Day 1 and Day 2.

Now take a deep dive into today’s dastardly collection!

The Lonely Critic: The Invisible Man

Fading, But Not Forgotten: The Abusive Power of Nicholas Van Ryn

Speakeasy: The Villains of The Tall T (1957)

MovieRob: Monster (2003)

Old Hollywood Films: The German Pilot in Mrs. Miniver

Moon in Gemini: Judas Iscariot in Jesus Christ, Superstar

Mildred’s Fatburgers: Rhoda Penmark Problematizes Eugenics

Critica Retro: The Many Faces of Bafo, The Villain of Disney

Movies Silently: Behind the Door (1919) A Silent Film Review

18 Cinema Lane: Why Jiggy Nye is Not An Effective Villain in Felicity: An American Girl Adventure

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society: Salome, Where She Danced” from 1945; Who is the Real Villain?

Shadows and Satin: Pre-Code Villainy