The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon: 24 Hours (1931)

•January 22, 2015 • 14 Comments

To be sure, Miriam Hopkins is not the star of 24 Hours. Not on paper, anyway. She’s third billed, and she’s not even in the whole movie.

But for me, she IS the movie.

Before I go any further down that path, though, let’s dispense with a little housekeeping:  the plot. (Spoiler alert!)

The entire movie takes place over the course of – in case you hadn’t guessed it – 24 hours. And all kinds of stuff is going on – murders, mobsters, two-timing, backstabbing – and in less than 70 minutes! The film focuses on Jim and Fanny Towner, an unhappy couple who, although they’re “nutty” about each other, are both engaged in extramarital affairs. Jim is seeing nightclub singer Rosie Dugan, who, in turn, is continuously bedeviled by her estranged husband, a two-bit crook named Tony. In a fit of jealousy, Tony kills Rosie, and Jim – who was dead drunk in the next room at the time – is accused of the crime. Ultimately, Tony is killed by a rival gang member, Jim is cleared of the charges, and Jim and Fanny reunite with vows to rekindle their love.

But in other news – Miriam Hopkins.

Fanny and Jim and Tony and Rosie.

Fanny and Jim and Tony and Rosie.

Hopkins is Rosie Dugan, the woman with whom Jim (Clive Brook) is having an affair (and exhibiting very good taste, I might add). Jim’s wife, Fanny, is played by Kay Francis who, under normal (Hopkins-free) circumstances, would be the highlight of the film for me. But in this one, she – like everyone else – is just so much background.

We first meet Rosie when Jim – already half-drunk after tippling at a dinner party and downing a series of shots at a local dive – makes his way to a nightclub that bears her name. When Jim pulls back the curtain leading to the nightclub’s main room, we see, seated atop the piano, in a low-cut, glittering gown, none other than Rosie, who proceeds to sing a song like nothing you’ve ever seen or heard. It provides two of my favorite minutes in all of cinema – seriously. And I am making it my personal goal to figure out how to post a clip of it on YouTube. But until I’m able to master that feat, let me try to describe it to you.

First off, “singing” is far too mild a label for what Hopkins does with this song. She belts it out in a slightly off key. She moans. She shouts. She laughs. She soundlessly mouths the words. She sidles through the crowd, singing only to the men in the audience – completely ignoring the presence of their pissed off dates. She clutches her hair. She sighs. She warbles in a baby voice. She sings just inches from the face of one man, rolling her eyes in resignation when her attentions fail to raise the ardor of another.

Everything's Rosie.

Everything’s Rosie.

The song is called “You’re the One I Crave.” Here’s one of the verses:

“I’m yours for the taking. That’s just what is making me rave. Baby, come and get me. You’re the one I crave.”

But that’s just the beginning. Hopkins truly brings Rosie to life – she’s at once sweet, loving and sad (“I’m good leather – but I just ain’t polished.”), and fearless, tough, and bitter (“I got a whole wad of money in the other room, but you ain’t even gonna have a postage stamp.”). She makes you fall in love with Rosie, the same way Jim Towner did.

Hopkins is really in only five scenes: the opener where she’s performing, talking to Jim in a small room off the nightclub’s main floor, an encounter when her ex shows up at the nightclub, caring for the soused Jim in her apartment, and her final confrontation with Tony. But in her brief time on screen, Hopkins serves up a fully realized character.

Rosie is a rather heartbreaking persona – she’s still in love with her ex-husband (Regis Toomey, in an intriguing, sometimes over-the-top performance), but she refuses to take him back.  We’re given a limited amount of time to suss out their back story, but we learn a lot in a few minutes. We know that Rosie “tried [her] best to make something” out of Tony during their marriage. Instead, he’s a drug addict (one of the mobsters refers to him as a “shivering hophead”), an ex-con (“Even when I was up the river, I used to lay awake nights thinking about you.”) and a small-time crook (“Pretty little thing,” Rosie says about Tony’s gun. “You just wouldn’t be a man without it, wouldja?”) We also know that Tony is a chronic liar and that he was unfaithful to Rosie – he himself says he’s “had other women.” And despite Rosie’s biting insults and her callous exterior – she even goes so far as to have Tony bodily tossed from the club – we realize that Rosie is struggling to maintain her resolve. Her tear-wet eyes, her tremulous voice, and her delivery of her next song tell us how she really feels:  “There’s No Use Tryin’ To Leave That Man.”

In contrast to her fiery façade with Tony, Rosie is the polar opposite with Jim. No longer the effervescent songstress, she lets Jim see her anger and discontent. With him, her vulnerability rises to the surface, as she concedes that he’s still in love with his wife, and bonds with him over their shared despair: “It’s a funny world all right. You got everything people want. I got everything I wanted to have. Both of us ain’t got nothing.”

Taking Jim home with her, Rosie shows us another aspect of her personality – she treats him with tenderness, helping him remove his clothes and putting him to sleep on the sofa, covering him first with his coat, and then taking the spread from her own bed to place over him. But the true manifestation of Rosie’s “heart of gold” was yet to come. When she hears someone trying to enter her apartment, she locks the door to the room where Jim is sleeping and craftily hides the key in a jar of cold cream. Seconds later, Tony belligerently enters, looking for Jim, growing increasingly furious when Rosie insists that she’s alone and that she doesn’t know the whereabouts of the key to the next room. (“The maid lost it,” she offers.).

The end is near.

The end is near.

And when Tony grows violent, we witness the final expression of Rosie’s true feelings for him: “Look here, Tony,” Rosie says, pulling him into an embrace. “Didn’t our life together mean anything to you?” Sadly, Tony is beyond reason, and as the camera offers a close-up shot of a record playing Rosie’s version of “There No Use Trying To Leave That Man,” we hear the sounds of Rosie breathing her last.

It’s really impossible for me to convey how much I love the performance of Miriam Hopkins in this film – seeing it was a revelation. I never wanted it to end. (And when it did, the movie was pretty much over for me.) Before this film, I’d seen – and loved – Hopkins in many films: The Old Maid, Old Acquaintance, Design for Living, These Three, Trouble in Paradise, The Heiress – oh, I could go on and on. But I’d NEVER seen her like this. There’s just something about her melancholy, passionate, wearily vivacious figure of tragedy that struck me like a thunderbolt the first time I saw her, and has stayed with me ever since.

24 Hours isn’t exactly spilling off the shelves at Best Buy, but it can be found – you can get a copy for about a sawbuck at iOffer.com. I highly recommend it – it’s worth the price of admission just to see Miriam Hopkins belt out “You’re the One I Crave.” Trust me.

You only owe it to yourself.

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This post is part of the Miriam Hopkins Blogathon, hosted by Silver Screenings and A Small Press Life

Click the picture at the right to check out the many great posts being presented as part of this event! 

Announcing the Pre-Code Blogathon! (Or: Silk, and Satin, and Lace – oh, my!)

•January 7, 2015 • 69 Comments

Precodegif2Jean Harlow. Joan Blondell. Warren William. Dorothy Mackaill. Kay Francis. Ricardo Cortez. Madge Evans. Leila Hyams. Lyle Talbot. Anita Page. Norma Shearer.

Pick a star, any star.

Or any movie released between 1930 and 1934 – that absolutely awesome, totally titillating, sinfully scandalous era of filmmaking known as pre-Code.

The 2015 Pre-Code Blogathon is a celebration of this brief but oh-so memorable period in the annals of cinema – one that featured more lingerie than you can shake a stick at!  Around these parts, we think that the films produced in the early 1930s are some of the best from Hollywood’s Golden Age – and if you share our fondness for these features and the performers who made them so unforgettable, you are cordially invited to join in the fun!

Precodegif3Your co-hosts for this event are:

Danny of Pre-Code.com (precodedotcom@gmail.com) and

Karen of Shadows and Satin (thedarkpages@yahoo.com)

If you’d like to take part, please leave a comment below or send an email to either of your hosts, including the name of your blog, the topic you plan to write about, and your email address. And help yourself to one of the banners below to advertise the event on your blog!

The blogathon will take place March 31 – April 3, 2015, in celebration of the 85th anniversary of the adoption of the Production Code.  If you’d like to post on a designated day, just let us know. (Otherwise, we’ll  assign a date to you.) Our participants so far are as follows:

Silver Screenings The Intruder (1933)
Speakeasy The Old Dark House
Flapper Flickers and Silent Stanzas Aline MacMahon
Now Voyaging Safe in Hell
Now Voyaging The Strange Love of Molly Louvain
Outspoken and Freckled I’m No Angel
Outspoken and Freckled Employees’ Entrance
Noirish Red-Haired Alibi (1932)
Noirish Passport to Hell(1932)
Mildred’s Fatburgers Red-Headed Woman
Mildred’s Fatburgers Golddiggers of 1933
Chiseler Phillip Holmes
Shroud of Thoughts Island of Lost Souls (32)
Acidemic Film Journal Waterloo Bridge
Hitless Wonder Five Star Final
Movies Silently The Monster Walks
WarrenWilliam Warren William
Immortal Ephemera Blood Money
I See a Dark Theater Baby Face
Island of Lost Films Island of Lost Souls (1932)
A Person In the Dark Call Her Savage
Queerly Different The Sign of the Cross
Once Upon a Screen The Divorcee
Once Upon a Screen Cuban Love Song
Classic Reel Girl Consolation Marriage
Classic Movie Hub Scarface
Silent Locations Lady Killer
Silent Locations Public Enemy
Silent Locations Night Nurse
Moon in Gemini Imitation of Life
Girls Do Film The Divorcee
Prowler Needs a Jump Freaks
Caftan Woman The Mask of Fu Manchu
The Movie Rat Blonde Venus
Second Sight Cinema The Bitter Tea of General Yen
Second Sight Cinema The Scarlet Empress
Second Sight Cinema Shanghai Express
Public Transportation Snob The Scarlet Empress
Public Transportation Snob Morocco
The Cinematic Packrat I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang
Critica Retro Story of Temple Drake
Mike’s Take on the Movies Tarzan and Tarzan the Ape Man
Sister Celluloid Christopher Strong
Margaret Perry Jean Harlow
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear The Sin of Nora Moran (1932)
Wolfian’s Classic Movie Digest Barbara Stanwyck
Joanie1977 No Man of Her Own (1932)
Vintage Cameo pre-Code/post-Code Busby Berkeley
Man on the Flying Trapeze Love Me Tonight (1933)
Smitten Kitten It Happened One Night (1934)
Movie Classics Song of Songs (1933)
Watch Over Me Movies Queen Christina
This Girl Friday Taxi
Spellbound by Movies Trouble in Paradise
Shameless Pile of Stuff Little Caesar
Forgotten Filmz Downstairs
Random Pictures Woman in the Moon
Random Pictures Murder at the Vanities
CineMaven’s: Essays from the Couch Shanghai Express
The Stop Button All Quiet on the Western Front
Cinematic Frontier Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Wide Screen World Joan Blondell
Blog of the Darned The Little Giant
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies Platinum Blonde
Karavansara Madam Satan
ilgiornodeglizombi The Unholy Three
Pure Golden Classics The Gay Divorcee

Come on — hop aboard the pre-Code train, and remember, in the words of Mae West,  “It ain’t no sin.”


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Pre-Code Crazy: Platinum Blonde (1931)

•January 1, 2015 • 14 Comments

Loretta Young’s birth date is January 6th, and TCM is celebrating the occasion by showing a string of films starring this talented and lovely actress, including such pre-Code gems as Big Business Girl (1931), They Call It Sin (1932), Weekend Marriage (1932), and Employees’ Entrance (1933). In fact, TCM is airing so many first-rate pre-Code features that I wasn’t sure, at first, how I would be able to choose one for my Pre-Code Crazy pick for January.

Then I spied Platinum Blonde (1931) in the lineup, and my decision-making experience abruptly changed from a dilemma to a no-brainer. Platinum Blonde has Loretta Young at her pre-Code peak, Jean Harlow at a stage in her brief career when she hadn’t quite come into her own but was showing signs of the promise to come, and a top-notch performance from a talented newcomer, Robert Williams, in what was, sadly, his final film role. But more on that later.

The story focuses on these three.

The story focuses on these three.

What’s the story?

Platinum Blonde focuses on a love triangle between newspaper reporter Stew Smith (Robert Williams), who falls for “platinum blonde” heiress Anne Schuyler (Jean Harlow), not realizing that his co-worker and closest pal (Loretta Young), is in love with him. It’s really just that simple. But, oh, what goodies lie beneath this uncomplicated plot!

Like what?

First off, the movie is directed by Frank Capra. Capra is perhaps best known for such “Capra-corn” as Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), You Can’t Take it With You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and Meet John Doe (1941). But during the pre-Code era, Capra helmed a string of pictures that were of an entirely different type – films like Ladies of Leisure (1930), Forbidden (1932), The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933), and this month’s pick – which were pretty much completely devoid of Capra’s soon-to-be-trademark sweetness, morality, and lesson-delivering. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Louise Closser Hale (left) was one of the film's many highlights.

Louise Closser Hale (left) was one of the film’s many highlights.

Small roles are played by Walter Catlett as a rival newspaper reporter, Louise Closser Hale as Anne Schyler’s mother, Reginald Owen as the Schyler family attorney, and Halliwell Hobbes as – what else? – the Schyler family butler. Each performer is only in a few scenes, but they make a memorable impact on the film.

Five writers were credited with working on the film; these included Robert Riskin, who was responsible for the dialogue, and also penned the screenplays for such Capra films as It Happened One Night (1934); and Jo Swerling, renowned for his work on classics that included Blood and Sand (1941), Pride of the Yankees (1942), Lifeboat (1944), and Leave Her to Heaven (1945). It’s no wonder that Platinum Blonde crackles with lines that are practically poetry.

The best part of the film is Robert Williams. I simply cannot say enough about this actor. He delivers his lines as if they’re all his own idea. He was such a natural performer, not a hint of artifice. Watching him portray Stew Smith is like eavesdropping on the character’s life, if you know what I mean. I’m not exaggerating when I say that he is one of the most talented actors I’ve ever had the pleasure to see. (Tragically, in October 1931, Williams suffered a ruptured appendix on the set of his next film, Lady With a Past, co-starring constance Bennett. Williams underwent emergency surgery, but he was diagnosed with peritonitis. Following a second surgery, he developed pneumonia, and died on November 3, 1931, just three days after the release of Platinum Blonde.)

Favorite scenes:

There are so many great scenes (like, basically, every scene that Robert Williams is in) but I think my absolute favorite is the one in which Anne Schyler tries to convince Stew Smith to wear garters. Down-to-earth and unpretentious, Stew is firmly opposed to the notion. Anne employs baby talk and kisses to sugar-coat her insistence on the wardrobe modification. For his part, Stew is just as resolute that he will never add garters to his personal attire, but he does so with a playful, loving speech: “I love you, dear, I’ll eat spinach for you, I’ll go to the dentist once a year for you, I’ll wash behind my ears for you, but I’ll never wear garters.”

This is from yet another scene that featured Anne's unique powers of persuasion.

This is from yet another scene that featured Anne’s unique powers of persuasion.

Anne promptly offers a sing-songy response to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell,” informing Stew that he’ll wear garters and like it – and Stew responds in kind, warbling his unwavering refusal. The scene continues in this vein until the fadeout (after which, incidentally, Stew is seen sporting the hated garters), but the scene is so delightful that you want it to go on and on. It’s especially enjoyable because it’s obvious that Jean Harlow and Robert Williams are making up their lines, and they seem to be having a great time together. I dare you to watch it without smiling.

Favorite quotes:

Platinum Blonde is fairly brimming with witty lines. Here are few favorites:

“Stewart Smith. My friends all call me Stew. An injustice, too, ‘cause I hold my liquor all right.” Robert Williams

“That’s the 14th crack you’ve made to me. I’m keeping count. When they get to 20, I’m going to sock you right in that nose. As a matter of fact, I ought to sock you right now.” Robert Williams

"Don't turn female on me."

“Don’t turn female on me.”

“There you go, talking like a woman. You’re my pal, aren’t you? Then don’t turn female on me.” Robert Williams

“It’s a good thing your father passed away before he saw insanity ravage the family. I can’t imagine what made you do such a thing. A reporter! Of all things, a reporter! A barbarian who lets his socks come down.” Louise Closser Hale

Other stuff:

The film was originally titled Gallagher – the name of Loretta Young’s character. When the film was shown to preview audiences in September 1931, the title was changed to The Gilded Cage, a reference to a ribbing Stew Smith received from a colleague. But when the picture was officially released later that month, the title was changed again, this time to Platinum Blonde, to make the most of Jean Harlow’s burgeoning popularity.

Don't miss Platinum Blonde on January 6th.

Don’t miss Platinum Blonde on January 6th.

In 2008, in an interview with TCM, actor Christopher Plummer was asked about the impact of “The Method” style, a type of acting that was popularized by such performers as Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift. Plummer stated that Robert Williams was one of the “most realistic comedians the screen had. He made Cary Grant look like he was overacting…. To watch Robert Williams act was like seeing a comic using the Method, long before the Method became famous.”

As you may know, I love seeing goofs in movies. Keep your eyes peeled for this one. It’s in the scene right after Anne is trying to coax Stew into wearing the new garters she bought him. Stew is at work in the newsroom and, spotting the garters, his co-workers start razzing him about them. Stew receives a phone call from Anne, and when he picks up the telephone, he has a pipe in his mouth. A second later, though, when he says “Hello,” the pipe has disappeared!

Platinum Blonde is airing on the morning of January 6th on TCM. Do yourself a big, fat favor and make sure that you don’t miss it. And while you’re making plans for that day, pop over to Speakeasy and find out Kristina’s Pre-Code Crazy pick of the month.

You only owe it to yourself.

Happy Holidays!

•December 25, 2014 • 9 Comments

Norma Shearer and Shadows and Satin wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and a safe and prosperous New Year!!

Remembering Norman Foster, on the Occasion of the Date of His Birth

•December 13, 2014 • 2 Comments
SSNormanFoster

Norman Foster, man of many talents.

Saluting one of my favorite pre-code actors today – Norman Foster, born on December 13, 1903. He’s not necessarily the best actor of the pre-Code era, and he’s certainly not the most remembered, but to me, he’s always a delight to watch.

Foster was born Norman Foster Hoeffer in Richmond, Indiana. He began his acting career in 1926, when he appeared on Broadway in Just Life. He made his screen debut three years later, appearing with Walter Huston and Kay Francis in Gentlemen of the Press. During the early 1930s, he went on to appear in some 25 pre-Codes – my favorites include Men Call It Love, with Adolphe Menjou and Leila Hyams (1931), Under 18 (1931), where he was the billiard-playing, ne’er-do-well spouse of Anita Page; Play-Girl (1932) and Weekend Marriage (1931), both opposite Loretta Young; and Skyscraper Souls (1932), starring Warren William and Maureen O’Sullivan.

In 1936, Foster stepped behind the camera, kicking off a whole new career as a director. He went on to helm several films in the Mr. Moto and Charlie Chan series; films noirs such as Journey Into Fear (1943) and Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948); and such popular fare as Rachel and the Stranger (1948), Father Is a Bachelor (1950), and Sombrero (1953), a musical starring Ricardo Montalban and Pier Angeli. He also wrote the screenplays for five Mr. Moto films, along with a number of other features, and directed numerous television series, including Zorro, The New Loretta Young Show, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Batman, The Green Hornet, and It Takes a Thief (one of my mother’s favorite TV shows when I was little – she always used to call it To Catch a Thief. But I digress.) Along the way, Foster was married to actress Claudette Colbert for seven years, from 1928 to 1935, and to actress Sally Blane – also the sister of his co-star Loretta Young – from 1935 to his death in 1976. Foster and Blane had two children.

If you get the chance to see Norman Foster in action, check him out and see why he’s a pre-Code gem!

Pre-Code Crazy: Under Eighteen (1932)

•December 1, 2014 • 13 Comments

Selecting this month’s Pre-Code Crazy pick was a tiny bit difficult – TCM’s December line-up isn’t exactly brimming with pre-Code features. But no worries –I found a good one; it’s airing on December 2nd, so start making plans now to check out Under Eighteen, starring Marian Marsh, Warren William, Anita Page, and Norman Foster.

This feature focuses primarily on the character played by Marian Marsh, a sweet young seamstress by the name of Margie Evans. Margie is in the center of a maelstrom, if you will. She and her mother live in a tenement on the Lower East Side of New York. She’s a first-hand witness to the unhappy marriage of her big sister, Sophie (Anita Page), whose unemployed husband is a gambler and a spendthrift, living off the glory days when he was a billiards champion. She sees the models at her job wearing furs and jewels, riding in limousines, and taking lavish trips – all due to the largess of their “Sugar Daddies.” Her good-natured boyfriend, Jimmy Slocum (Regis Toomey), vows to rescue her from her current situation and insists that prosperity is just around the corner, but he doesn’t seem in a big hurry to get there.

Warren William. Always up to no good.

Warren William. Always up to no good.

By the time her pregnant sister gets socked in the eye during an argument with her husband, Margie has come to a decision: “I’ve seen all I want of marriage,” she tells her mother. “I’ve made up my mind that any time I hand myself to a man for life, it’s cash on delivery.”

Serendipity tiptoes into Margie’s life in the form of a chance meeting with Raymond Harding (the always fascinating Warren William), a mega-bucks Broadway producer who takes a liking to her – during a shopping trip with his girlfriend, no less.  (Margie’s boyfriend knew what he was talking about when he referred to Harding as “girl nutty.”) When her sister decides to divorce her no-good spouse, Margie turns to Harding for financial assistance. And that’s when the movie really kicks into high gear!

My Favorite Scenes

Margie’s boyfriend picks her up from work in his grocery truck, and instantly starts an argument with her about modeling in front of that “rich, no-good heel” Raymond Harding. He questions where she got the orchids she’s wearing, accusing her of receiving them for “showing [her] shape.” Margie tells him, “Don’t be an ass.”

Margie and Sophie go to a lawyer to discuss Sophie’s plans for the divorce. As the rather oily attorney itemizes his fees, he pours himself a shot of liquor from a flask he retrieves from his desk. He offers a drink to the women and when they decline, he downs the liquid, explaining, “Helps my gas.”

Warren William gives instructions to his butler during the pool party.

Warren William gives instructions to his butler during the pool party.

When Margie goes to Harding’s penthouse apartment to ask him for a loan, she finds that he’s having a pool party – and, boy, is it some party! There’s some of everything going on, no matter where you look. A tuxedo-clad gent runs hand in hand with a woman wearing a bathing suit.  A drunken party-goer tosses a fistful of jewels in the pool and invites the guests to dive for them, causing a dozen women (and one man!) to dive in – some in full-length gowns. A woman rips off her necklace and ring and throws them at her companion, telling him he doesn’t “know the difference between [his] horses and [his] women.” A woman bobs up and down in the pool on top of an inflated pony – well, that one you’ll just have to see for yourself.

My Favorite Quotes

“Marriage. It’s a great game – yes, for men that make saps out of girls like you and me.” Sophie (Anita Page)

“A girl’s got to use her brains to get anything out of this life.” Margie (Marian Marsh)

“You’re wasting your time. They haven’t got a dime. They’ve got cars and clothes, but when a man has to hold a girl that way, he’s not giving her cash to spend on some other man. They’re allowed about as much freedom as one of their Airedales on a leash. ” Seamstress (Claire McDowell)

“Why not take off your clothes and stay a while?” Raymond Harding (Warren William)

Check out Under Eighteen on TCM Tuesday, December 2nd. You only owe it to yourself. And be sure to pop over to Speakeasy to find out Kristina’s Pre-Code Crazy pick for December!

Day 30 of Noirvember: A Tale of Two Brunettes

•November 30, 2014 • 6 Comments

Sonia Darrin. Helene Stanton. Two actresses from Hollywood’s Golden Age who didn’t have blockbuster screen careers – in fact, I’ll wager that you’d be hard-pressed to find a half-dozen classic film fans who even recognize their names. But they have several characteristics in common – both actresses played small but memorable roles in first-rate noir offerings (with similar names, yet!), neither appeared in more than 10 feature films, both had a son who became famous in his own right, and both are still with us today. For today’s farewell salute to Noirvember, I’m happy to shine the spotlight on these two talented but unsung performers.

Sonia Darrin

Darrin's character in The Big Sleep was feisty and underhanded.

Darrin’s character in The Big Sleep was feisty and underhanded.

Darrin was born Sonia Paskowitz in Galveston, Texas, one of three children of Louis and Rose Paskowitz. According to Ron Schuler, author of the blog “Ron Schuler’s Parlour Tricks,” Louis operated a dry good store in Galveston, but it wasn’t a success. The family later moved to San Diego, where Louis supported his family working as a shoe salesman. As for the Paskowitz children, Dorian, the oldest son, went to Stanford and became a doctor, Adrian studied music and became a music teacher and violinist, and Sonia wound up in Hollywood. She only had a brief career in Hollywood, appearing in fewer than 10 films between 1941 and 1950, but among those 10 features was The Big Sleep (1946), where she played Agnes Lowzier, the “front girl” for the “bookstore” operated by Arthur Gwenn Geiger. As the feisty, hard-boiled Agnes, Darrin went toe-to-toe with the film’s star Humphrey Bogart – in the book Film Noir Reader 4 (edited by Alain Silver and James Ursini), Agnes is described as “the picture of unalloyed greed and underhandedness.”

Sonia's son, Mason Reese, was well known in the 1970s.

Sonia’s son, Mason Reese, was well known in the 1970s.

In the early 1950s, Darrin left Hollywood and headed East, where she met and married Bill Reese, a one-time theater set designer who eventually ran his own marketing services company, specializing in 3-D design work. Bill and Sonia went on to have four children, one of which was titian-haired Mason Reese, who enjoyed a measure of childhood celebrity in the 1970s as the pitchman for a number of products (including Dunkin Donuts, Ivory Snow, and Underwood Deviled Ham, for which he charmed TV viewers with his mispronunciation of the word “smorgasbord”). He also worked for a time as a temporary co-host for Mike Douglas, worked on a prime-time show with Howard Cosell and, as an adult, went into the restaurant business.

Sonia resurfaced in this documentary.

Sonia resurfaced in this documentary.

Sonia resurfaced in a 2007 documentary called Surfwise, which focused on the unorthodox life of her bother, Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, his wife, and their nine children. (Doc Paskowitz espoused a strict non-fat, non-sugar diet and led his family on an ongoing quest for freedom and health, moving from beach to beach in a 24-foot camper and eventually opening a surf camp in Southern California.)

Sonia was seen in the film discussing her brother’s stubborn nature and explaining that she once took in two of Dorian’s sons when they rebelled against their father’s regime. (It’s a fascinating documentary, by the way – check it out if you get the chance!)

Believed to be in her late 80s or early 90s, Darrin now lives in New York City.

Helene Stanton

Stanton was born Eleanor Mae Stansbury on November 4, 1925, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She showed a natural affinity for performing, and was given ballet and voice lessons from an early age. By the time she was 18, she was performing in a number of local productions as well as with the Cosmopolitan Opera Company in Philadelphia.

Stanton entered showbiz as a singer.

Stanton entered showbiz as a singer.

Stanton took her singing talents to Hollywood in the late 1940s, where she met and married former silent film star Kenneth Harlan, who was more than 30 years her senior. Despite their age difference, the two wed in 1949 and Stanton became – depending on the source you consult – either his sixth, seventh or eighth wife (one of the group, incidentally, was pre-Code favorite Marie Prevost). The union wasn’t exactly made in heaven, though; the couple separated in 1952 and divorced in 1953 – and that’s when Stanton’s career took off. She was part of the opening act for Frank Sinatra at his inaugural performance at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. She also performed with the Ben Blue Orchestra in Las Vegas and at the Dunes Hotel.

Stanton with Cornel Wilde in The Big Combo.

Stanton with Cornel Wilde in The Big Combo.

Also around this time, Stanton made her big screen debut, appearing with Cleo Moore and Hugo Haas (who also wrote and directed) in One Girl’s Confession (1953). Two years later, Stanton was seen opposite Cornel Wilde in what was arguably her most memorable performance, in The Big Combo (1955). In this feature, she played Rita, a showgirl with a steely exterior but the proverbial heart of gold. In love with detective Cornel Wilde – who was in love with someone else – Stanton wound up with the short end of the stick when she was bumped off by thugs who thought they were shooting Wilde. (To his credit, Wilde was appropriately consumed with guilt and remorse, tearfully telling a pal, “I treated her like a pair of gloves. When I was cold, I called her up.”) Stanton also appeared in four other films that year, including The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues, a horror/sci-fi feature starring Kent Taylor, and a Johnny Weismuller vehicle, Jungle Moon Men.

Helene's son, Dr. Drew Pinsky, is known on television and radio.

Helene’s son, Dr. Drew Pinsky, is known on television and radio.

In 1957, Stanton married for a second time, this time to Morton Pinsky, a doctor from Chicago. The couple would go on to have two children – the first, David Drew, grew up to be famed television and radio personality Dr. Drew. The programs on which Dr. Drew has starred in recent years include Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew and Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers. Dr. Drew, who is a practicing physician, He has also guested on a wide variety of shows, from The Dr. Oz Show to Entertainment Tonight, and has hosted the radio series “LoveLine” since 1984.

After wedding Pinsky, Stanton retired from the movies; her last performance was a small role in Four Girls in Town (1957), in a cast that included George Nader, Julie Adams, Grant Williams, and John Gavin. Now age 89, Stanton lives with her husband in Pasadena, California.

Darrin and Stanton may have only enjoyed brief stints in Tinseltown, but their noir performances earned both actresses a solid seat in the annals of film. Do yourself a favor and check out their performances in The Big Sleep and The Big Combo. You only owe it to yourself.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this month-long Noirvember celebration – it’s been a blast for me, and I look forward to making it an annual feature of Shadows and Satin.

Thanks so much for coming along for the ride!

 
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