Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Screening of "A Letter to Three Wives" May 29 at Daystar Center

A Letter to Three Wives (1949)
Where: Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street
When: May 29, 2018
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Hosted by Stephen Reginald


A Letter to Three Wives (1949) is based on a novel by John Klempner. His novel was entitled A Letter to Five Wives. Writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz thought the novel was too long and would be difficult to transfer to the screen. So, he shortened it to four wives and then shortened it again to three. Mankiewicz adapted the screenplay with author and screenwriter Vera Caspary (Laura).



The plot revolves around three wives who, just before going on a boat ride and picnic with some disadvantaged children, receive a letter from a society friend named Addie Ross. In the letter, Addie says she’s run off with one of their husbands. While the women spend the afternoon volunteering, each looks back on her marriage and wonders if hers is the husband who ran off with Addie.

Is it Deborah Bishop’s (Jeanne Crain) husband Brad (Jeffrey Lynn)? Deborah, a poor farm girl, met her husband in the Navy during World War II. Somewhat insecure and na├»ve, she thinks Brad is attracted to Addie because she is beautiful and sophisticated. Is it Rita Phipps’s (Ann Sothern) husband George (Kirk Douglas)? Rita has a career writing radio soap operas, the quality of which, her schoolteacher-husband disapproves. She wonders if her job, which brings in some much-needed cash, is somehow intimidating to George and ruining their marriage. Is it Lora Mae Hollingsway’s (Linda Darnell) husband Porter (Paul Douglas)? Lora Mae is a girl literally from the wrong side of the tracks who tries her best to marry up by marrying her boss, in part, to help provide for her widowed mother (the wonderful Connie Gilchrist) and younger sister Babe (Barbara Lawrence).



Like Mankiewicz’s All About Eve a year later, A Letter to Three Wives has witty dialogue delivered by a cast of pros. Crain, Sothern, and Darnell are all wonderful as the three wives, with Darnell a standout. As Lora Mae, Darnell has a tough exterior, but in many ways is more vulnerable than either Crain or Sothern.

For Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1949 was an extraordinary year. Not only did he win the Academy Award for Best Director, but he also won for Best Writing as well. Writing and directing was something Mankiewicz had always wanted to do and A Letter to Three Wives showcases Mankiewicz at the height of his creativity.


Have some Joe and Enjoy the Show!
You can bring food and beverages into the auditorium; we even have small tables set up next to some of the seats. General Admission: $5 Students and Senior Citizens: $3.

Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Twice a month we screen classic films and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.

Stephen Reginald is a freelance writer and editor. He has worked at various positions within the publishing industry for over 25 years. Most recently he was executive editor for McGraw-Hill’s The Learning Group Division. A long-time amateur student of film, Reginald hosts “Chicago Film Club,” a monthly movie event held in the South Loop, for the past two years. Reginald has also taught several adult education film classes at Facets Film School, Chicago.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

2018 Turner Classic Film Festival (#TCMFF) Day 3

Saturday the 28th was the third day—second full day—of the TCM Film Festival. And what a tough beginning to the day. There were four movies that I would have loved to have seen, but I had to choose one.

Dana Andrews (center) in The Ox-Bow Incident
His Girl Friday (1940) is a favorite of mine and it would have been great to see it with an audience in the Chinese Theatre and who doesn’t love the teaming of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell? Kiss Me Deadly (1955) is a movie that I’ve never understood its appeal; this was an easy pass for me. Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) would have been great fun with Mickey Rooney, Lana Turner and Judy Garland before they became screen legends. And another favorite, A Letter to Three Wives (1949) I would have really loved to have seen with an audience. In my opinion this Joseph L. Mankiewicz classic (he won Oscars for his writing and direction) holds up better than All About Eve, the movie he made the next year. I decided to go to the Egyptian Theatre to see The Ox-Bow Incident (1943). This modest western was a favorite of the film’s star, Henry Fonda. The film is a tragic example of what happens when men take the law into their own hands. When word comes to town that a man has been shot dead, a group of men decide to find and hang the murderer. The supporting cast is excellent. It includes Dana Andrews, Anthony Quinn, Francis Ford, Jane Darwell, Harry Davenport, Harry Morgan, and William Eythe. Andrews is a standout as one of the victims at the hands of the posse. Fonda delivers a solid performance as a member of the posse who doesn’t go along with the mob. William Wellman, who also counted this as among his favorites, directed the film. Scott Eyman who is the author of the recent biography Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart, introduced the movie. The movie was shown in a digital format that looked flawless.


The next choice at 11:30 a.m. was pretty easy. Bullitt (1968) starring Steve McQueen was a film that I had never seen from beginning to end. I’d seen clips of the famous car chase, but again, I never sat down to watch the whole film. The IMAX screen in the Chinese Theatre was the perfect venue in which to watch this movie. When the car chase happened, it was incredible and it holds up amazingly well. Actress Jacqueline Bisset was scheduled to appear at the screening, but she canceled at the last minute due to a family emergency. Eddie Muller, who was set to interview Bisset, expressed his disappointment at this turn of events, but managed to pull it together and deliver a good introduction.


My next film was another easy choice for me. I chose Sunset Boulevard (1950) because it’s just an amazing piece of filmmaking, directed by the legendary Billy Wilder. The movie takes a look at Hollywood in a most unglamorous light, which was a big risk at the time of its release. The Studio System was still in effect and many in Hollywood, including Louis B. Mayer, hated it. The film also features a great early performance by William Holden as Joe Gillis and was his first collaborative work with director Wilder. Gloria Swanson also delivers an amazing performance as silent film star Norma Desmond, winning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in the process. She lost out to Judy Holiday. On the big screen in the Chinese, Sunset Boulevard looked just perfect…and Sunset Boulevard is an almost perfect movie. Nancy Olson who starred as Betty in the film was interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz before the screening.

Nancy Kwan and William Holden in The World of Suzie Wong

Another relatively easy pick for me came up at 6:30 p.m. The World of Suzie Wong (1960) starring William Holden and Nancy Kwan in her film debut. I had never seen this movie, being too young to have seen it in the movies (I was only three at the time) and when it finally arrived on network TV, I wasn’t allowed to watch it (once again, I was too young as far as my parents were concerned). By today’s standards, the movie is fairly tame, but it does deal with serious issues of race, sex, discrimination, and marriage. And it does so in a way that I found interesting and not as dated as I had been led to believe. Before the film, Kwan was interviewed by film historian Donald Bogle. She talked about her early life and how she entered acting completely by accident. Kwan was studying ballet in London and was discovered in her native Hong Kong when she visited the studio where they were testing for the role of Suzie Wong. Kwan wanted the opportunity to see some of her favorite actresses in person. She had no intention of auditioning herself. I enjoyed listening to Kwan talk about the movie, working with Holden (a good experience for her), and how her movie career wasn’t sustainable due to too few roles for Asian actresses.


The last movie of the night for me was Gigi (1958). I though it would be great to see this film on a big screen because every frame looks like a painting. I was not disappointed. The digital restoration was beautiful. The music by Lerner and Lowe is memorable, as is the cast: Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jordan, Hermione Gingold, and Leslie Caron as Gigi. Caron was perfect in the role; it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing her. The tuneful classic was the perfect end to the third day of the festival.

Looking ahead to day four of the festival. Some good choices in the morning: Once Upon a Time in The West (1968), The Black Stallion (1979), Woman of the Year (1942), Tunes of Glory (1960). What movie will I choose? What movie would you pick for your first movie on the last (sniff) day of the festival?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

2018 Turner Classic Film Festival (#TCMFF) Day 2

Friday the 27th was the first full day of the TCM Film Festival. It started early, with screenings starting at 9 a.m. There were three good choices: The Merry Widow (1934), Strangers on a Train (1951), and Intruder in the Dust (1949).


I would have liked to have seen The Merry Widow, since I really enjoyed Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald in One Hour with You (1932) at last year’s festival. I’ve seen Strangers on a Train numerous times, but you can never watch a Hitchcock film too many times, right? However, I decided to see Intruder in the Dust, a movie I hadn’t seen in decades. Based on a novel by William Faulkner, the movie features a great cast headed by David Brian, Claude Jarman Jr, and Juano Hernandez. Directed by M-G-M’s top director, Clarence Brown, the movie concerns a black man threatened with lynching when he’s accused of murder. The movie was filmed entirely on location in Oxford, Mississippi, using locals as extras. The other standout in this perfectly cast movie is Elizabeth Patterson—immortalized as Mrs. Trumbull on I Love Lucy—as an elderly woman who helps lawyer Brian and teenager Jarman prove Hernandez’s innocence. Film historian Donald Bogle introduced the movie. He interviewed star, Claude Jarman Jr., which was a great treat.


Next up starting at 11:30 a.m. were some more great movies to choose from: Witness for the Prosecution (1957), My Brilliant Career (1979), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944). All of these movies are worth watching, in my opinion, but I decided I wanted to laugh so I went to see The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek. Preston Sturges was a huge hit last year with The Palm Beach Story (1942) at the Chinese. I was sure The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek would be just as big a hit this year. And indeed it was. Even though I’ve seen this film numerous times, I was laughing out loud and actually crying at the end from laughing so long. It was the prefect film to see with an audience that thoroughly enjoyed this timeless classic.


At 2 p.m., another round of great films were screened: Sounder (1972), The Set Up (1949), A Hatful of Rain (1957), Blessed Event (1932), and How to Marry a Millionaire (1953). Out of all these great films, I chose How to Marry a Millionaire because I’ve never seen it from beginning to end. The digital presentation was flawless. The Technicolor was eye-poppingly beautiful. The interplay between the three stars: Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, and Lauren Bacall was terrific. Bacall’s characterization was the most fleshed out, I thought. The Cinemascope classic featured great support from David Wayne, Rory Calhoun, Cameron Mitchell, and the legendary William Powell.

Deanna Durbin, Barbara Read, Charles Winninger, and Nan Grey in Three Smart Girls
At 5 p.m. it was no contest. As soon as I saw that they scheduled Three Smart Girls (1936), I planned on seeing this gem on the big screen no matter what. The movie that launched the career of Deana Durbin was a hoot and featured a young Ray Milland, alongside veteran character actors Binnie Barnes, Charles Winninger, Alice Brady, and Mischa Auer. Bob Koster, director Henry Koster’s son, introduced the film. Universal Studios was on the verge of bankruptcy when Three Smart Girls was released. The film was such a huge success—it was even nominated for Best Picture—that it’s attributed with saving the studio from disaster. Durbin went on the make more hits for Universal until she abruptly retired from the movies and left Hollywood in 1949 at the ripe old age of 28.

As it got later in the evening, there was another easy choice for me, even though the other films in competition—The Exorcist (1973), Romeo and Juliet (1968), Point Blank (1967), and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)—were all worth seeing.

 

The Technicolor wonder that is Leave Her to Heaven (1945) was my choice from the beginning. The opportunity to see this film in a nitrate print at The Egyptian Theatre was a rare treat. The melodrama starring Gene Tierney, Cornell Wilde, and Jeanne Crain is based on Ben Ames Williams’s best-selling novel of the same name. It was Twentieth Century-Fox’s biggest box office success until The Robe (1953). The supporting cast featured a pre-horror Vincent Price and Ray Collins. Tierney—looking amazing in Technicolor—playing  the insane Ellen Berent was nominated for Best Actress, but lost to sentimental favorite Joan Crawford.

After the first full day, I was ready for bed so I could start all over again on Saturday. Saturday morning was one of the toughest of choices: His Girl Friday (1940), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), and A Letter to Three Wives (1949). Decisions, decisions!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

2018 Turner Classic Film Festival (#TCMFF) Day 1

It’s hard to believe that the 2018 TCM Film Festival is over. My anticipation builds as soon as the weather turns chilly here in Chicago. Dreaming about the film festival and warm days and nights in Los Angeles helps me get through the winter. Plus it’s great reconnecting with friends from all over the country and the world.


This year’s festival began for me on Thursday, April 26. Flying out of Chicago’s Midway airport in the morning and arriving in LA four hours later…in the morning! After leaving the airport and heading for the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel where fellow classic movie fans gather in the Blossom Room—the room where the very first Academy Awards ceremony was held in 1929—to hang out and chat, celebrity watch, and watch everyone arrive. After the couple of hours of meeting and greeting, it’s check in time at the Air B & B; this year barely a block away from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Score!

After checking in, it’s back to the Hollywood Roosevelt for the hardest movie trivia game ever, “So You Think You Know Movies,” hosted by Bruce Goldstein, repertory program director of New York’s Film Forum. I think my knowledge of classic movies is pretty good, but every year, this event just crushes me. We assembled a good team, but we came up extremely short.


As usual I opted for the Classic Pass, which doesn’t include the red carpet presentation movie (this year Mel Brooks’s The Producers). The bump in price has never seemed worth it and there are plenty of movies to choose from while the celebrities mingle with ordinary folk on the red carpet at the Chinese Theater. The first movie I saw was To Have And Have Not (1944) directed by Howard Hawks. I’ve seen bits and pieces of this film over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it from beginning to end. The film that introduced Lauren Bacall to film audiences starred Humphrey Bogart who would end up marrying his 19-year-old leading lady the next year. The 35MM print provided by Warner Bros. Classics looked great on the big screen at the Egyptian Theatre and was the perfect movie to start my 2018 TCMFF.


The next movie on my agenda was The Sea Wolf (1941) directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Edward G. Robinson, Ida Lupino, and John Garfield. The supporting cast includes Gene Lockhart, Alexander Knox, and Barry Fitzgerald. Besides being a fan of all three stars, this movie went through a restoration. In 1947, Warner Brothers paired The Sea Wolf with The Sea Hawk (1940) on a double bill. In order to get more screenings in, Warners cut 14 minutes from The Sea Wolf. Those 14 minutes were thought lost forever until a 35MM nitrate print was discovered at the Museum of Modern Art. What we saw at the Chinese Multiplex House # 6 was a beautiful digital restoration that looked brand new. The performances of Robinson, Lupino, and Garfield are extraordinary. Robinson’s performance is especially good; it’s hard to believe he was never nominated for a competitive Oscar—neither was Lupio; Garfield was nominated twice: Best Supporting Actor in Four Daughters (1938) and Best Actor in Body and Soul (1947). By the time The Sea Wolf ended, it was nearly 11:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. Chicago time!). Time to get some shuteye and plan on what movie to see Friday morning. Here are my three choices: The Merry Widow (1934), Strangers on a Train (1951), and Intruder in the Dust (1949). Which movie would you pick?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Screening of “Hands Across the Table” at the Daystar Center May 12

Hands Across the Table (1935)
Where: Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street
When: May 12, 2018
Time: 6:45 p.m.
Hosted by Stephen Reginald

Hands Across the Table (1935) is a classic screwball comedy starring Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray in their first movie together (The two starred together in a total of four films).

Lombard is Regi Allen, a gold-digging manicurist and MacMurray is Theodore “Ted” Drew III, a handsome playboy engaged to Vivian Snowden (Astrid Allwyn), a rich New York City debutante.


Directed with a steady hand by Mitchell Leisen, Hands Across the Table did wonders for the careers of both Lombard and MacMurray. Lombard was already a top star, but her performance in this film was a huge hit with both critics and the public. MacMurray appeared in seven movies in 1935, but his performance in Hands Across the Table elevated his status to that of a popular and sought after leading man.

This movie was so popular that Lombard and MacMurray went on to star in three other films. The film also features a top-notch supporting cast, including Ruth Donnelly, Marie Prevost, and Ralph Bellamy.

Have some Joe and Enjoy the Show!
You can bring food and beverages into the auditorium; we even have small tables set up next to some of the seats. General Admission: $5 Students and Senior Citizens: $3.

Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Twice a month we screen classic films and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.

Stephen Reginald is a freelance writer and editor. He has worked at various positions within the publishing industry for over 25 years. Most recently he was executive editor for McGraw-Hill’s The Learning Group Division. A long-time amateur student of film, Reginald hosts “Chicago Film Club,” a monthly movie event held in the South Loop, for the past two years. Reginald has also taught several adult education film classes at Facets Film School, Chicago.

Monday, April 9, 2018

10 Things You May Not Know About Deanna Durbin

Deanna Durbin (1921 – 2013) was one of the biggest stars of the 1930s and 1940s. She had an international fan club that was the largest in the world. With her beautiful soprano voice and genuine charm on screen, Durbin endeared herself to a generation of film fans. Her fame is still celebrated today.

1. Durbin was born in Winnepeg, Manitoba, Canada. In 1923 her parents moved the family—Deanna had an older sister, Edith (b. 1909)—to Southern, California, and became United States citizens.

A very young Deanna Durbin

2. In 1935 she was signed to a six-month contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, but her option was dropped in 1936. The studio had another girl singer named Judy Garland.

3. In 1936 she signed with Universal Studios, which was on the brink of bankruptcy, at the tender age of 14. Her starring role in Three Smart Girls (1936) made her an overnight sensation and put Universal in the black.

4. Durbin auditioned for the voice of Snow White, but Walt Disney thought her voice sounded “too old” for the part. She was 15.

5. She was one of Anne Frank’s favorite movie stars. If you visit the Frank house in Amsterdam, Holland, you will see pictures of Durbin on Frank’s bedroom wall.

Deanna Durbin with Gene Kelly from Christmas Holiday
6. In 1938, Durbin received an Academy Juvenial Award for “bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth.” 

7. When Durbin was kissed by Robert Stack in First Love (1939), the press dubbed it “The kiss heard around the world!”

8. In 1941, Durbin starred in what many consider her best film, It Started with Eve, costarring Charles Laughton and Robert Cummings.

9. During her reign at Universal, Durbin always received top billing.

10. In 1947, Durbin was the highest paid woman in America. She retired the next year (at age 27), never to work in show business again.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Chicago Film Club spring and summer film schedule set

The Chicago Film Club is getting underway with a collection of great classic movie melodramas and classic comedies.

The series kicks off with Daisy Kenyon (1947) featuring the dream cast of Joan Crawford, Dana Andrews, and Henry Fonda. Based on the Elizabeth Janeway best-selling novel, the movie features a love triangle between the three stars, with Crawford at the top of the triangle. Will she choose the rich, married New York City lawyer (Andrews) or the World War II veteran (Fonda)? Directed by the legendary Otto Preminger, Daisy Kenyon stands out as one of the best melodramas of the 1940s.


Joan Crawford and Dana Andrews in Daisy Kenyon

Backstory: Preminger admired Crawford’s hard work in bringing her character to life. He also loved working with Andrews and Fonda, two actors the director said were incapable of overacting (Preminger worked with Andrews more than any other male actor). He also appreciated that all three stars arrived on time and knew their lines.

All movies below will be presented at The Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street. We will be meeting in room 102. For more information on the Chicago Film Club, click here. It’s free to join and it’s a lot of fun. Just read our reviews!

Here’s the complete schedule.

Daisy Kenyon—April 14 6:45 p.m.
Hands Across the Table—May 12 6:45 p.m.
A Letter to Three Wives—May 29 6:30 p.m.
It Started with Eve—June 9 6:45 p.m.
East Side, West Side—June 19 6:30 p.m

Hands Across the Table

A Letter to Three Wives
It Started with Eve

East Side, West Side


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