Cary Grant

My Favorite Wife (1940)

My Favorite Wife

Seven years after being lost at sea, Nick Arden (Cary Grant) has his wife Ellen (Irene Dunne) legally declared dead and gets re-married to Bianca (Gail Patrick). Just as Nick and Bianca are heading off on their honeymoon together, Ellen arrives back at home. It turns out she had spent the past seven years stuck on a deserted island and finally been rescued. On the trip home, Ellen had time to mentally prepare herself for all the things she expected to change in her absence, but the one thing she hadn’t expected is that Nick may have re-married. When she hears where Nick and Bianca have left for their honeymoon, she goes to see find them.

Obviously, Nick is stunned to see his first wife waiting for him at the hotel. He doesn’t have a clue about how he should explain a situation like this to Bianca, so he does his best to hide it from her, which brings out some very odd behavior. Bianca is considering leaving Nick and wants to get him professional help. But then this situation gets even complicated when Nick gets a visit from an insurance adjuster who informs him that Ellen wasn’t alone on an island all that time, she was there with a man named Stephen Burkett (Randolph Scott).

Desperate to assure Nick that nothing happened between her and Stephen on the island, Ellen convinces a bland-looking shoe salesman to pose as Stephen and meet with Nick. However, Nick has already done his homework and knows the real Stephen is far more attractive. Just as Nick finally tries to tell Bianca the truth about what’s been going on, she doesn’t believe him until he is suddenly arrested for bigamy and the whole crazy incident gets dragged into a courtroom.

Cary Grant and Irene Dunne really deserve more credit for being a great on-screen duo. They may not have made as many movies as Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy or Myrna Loy and William Powell, but The Awful Truth and My Favorite Wife alone are amazing enough for me to put them in that league. It might be easy to think of My Favorite Wife as not being particularly original since it went on to be re-made as Move Over, Darling (and almost re-made as Something’s Gotta Give with Marilyn Monroe, Cyd Charisse, and Dean Martin) and Too Many Husbands has a very similar plot, but My Favorite Wife manages to shine just a bit brighter than the others. While Too Many Husbands felt like a one-note movie that got old fast, My Favorite Wife never felt stale. Simply, it’s a fantastically madcap romantic comedy and that’s all it tries to be.

Night and Day (1946)

Night and Day 1946

Before becoming one of the most celebrated songwriters of all time, Cole Porter (Cary Grant) was a law student at Yale. However, Cole simply has no interest in becoming a lawyer; he’d much rather be in the theater department writing songs. Cole is only studying law because his grandfather expects him to and would never approve of him becoming a songwriter. When Cole and his law professor Monty (Monty Woolley) spend Christmas at his grandfather’s estate, Cole meets Linda Lee (Alexis Smith), his cousin’s beautiful roommate.  During the holiday, after receiving a little support from his mother, Cole announces he’s leaving law school to try and make it as a songwriter.

Cole gets to work staging his first show, called “See America First,” with some help from Monty, who has given up teaching to go into the theater. The show is a flop and opening night just happens to be the night the Lusitania sinks. Cole heads over to France to join the French Army and is injured while on duty. As luck would have it, Cole is reunited with Linda when she is his nurse. To boost his morale, she arranges for the hospital to get a piano, inspiring him to write his signature song “Night and Day.” Cole loves Linda, but after he has recovered, he can’t resist the lure of the theater.

Back in America, gets back to work with a newfound vigor and takes the theater world by storm. On a roll of hit shows, Cole goes to England where he meets up with Linda once again. Through it all, Cole had never forgotten her and they are soon married. But their marriage is strained by Cole’s unrelenting drive to work. When his work stands in the way of their vacation one too many times, Linda leaves Cole to go to Europe. But after a number of personal setbacks, Cole keeps on going and is reunited with Linda once again when he returns to Yale for a special tribute.

I love Cary Grant, but as much as I love watching pretty much anything he made, he is woefully out of place in Night and Day. Given that Grant was 42 at the time Night and Day was released, he is laughably unbelievable as college-aged Cole Porter. Granted, we’re told that Cole was hardly a star pupil at Yale Law School, but really now. I also love that Monty Woolley is in this movie for literally no other reason than to be Monty Woolley. It’s true that Monty and Cole did meet at Yale and remained close for years, but he wasn’t his law professor. Of course, the whole movie is very highly fictionalized. By now, I think most people expect Hollywood biopics to take some creative liberties, but still, this is a bit much. Not surprising is the fact that the movie completely whitewashes the fact that Cole Porter was gay. Night and Day‘s only major redeeming factor is that it naturally features many Cole Porter songs, which are always a pleasure to listen to.

My Dinner With Zuzu

For me, no holiday season is complete without a trip (or two) to Detroit’s Redford Theatre.  Going there to see Christmas classics like White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street never fails to get me in the holiday spirit.  Not only is it a treat see my favorite holiday movies on the big screen, the theater is also beautifully decorated and there is always such a nice feeling of community in the audience during those movies.

2013-11-23 19.14.35Christmas came to the Redford a little early this year with three very special screenings of It’s a Wonderful Life. Actress Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey, made appearances at all three shows. But before the final screening on Saturday night, Karolyn joined a small group of VIPs for dinner at the Charles T. Fisher mansion in Detroit’s historic Boston-Edison district.  The Boston-Edison district is full of beautiful old homes, many of them built by or lived in by some of Detroit’s most famous residents including Henry Ford, Joe Louis, and Berry Gordy.  My mom and I were among the lucky attendees for this event and we couldn’t have been more thrilled to be there.

The Charles T. Fisher Mansion

The Charles T. Fisher Mansion

Before dinner, Karolyn briefly spoke to us about her career and answered a few questions.  Once dinner got started, Karolyn came around to each table to say hello and answer more questions.  Since Karolyn also starred in The Bishop’s Wife, I couldn’t resist asking what it was like to work with Cary Grant and Loretta Young.  She said Cary was just wonderful, but remembered Loretta as being a bit aloof.  However, she and Loretta started corresponding more when they were a bit older and Loretta would often send her prayer devotionals.  While they were filming The Bishop’s Wife, Loretta put a “curse box” on set and anytime somebody cursed, they had to put money in the box.  When the movie was finished, Loretta donated the money to a Catholic church.

As soon as we were finished with dinner and dessert, we headed over to the Redford Theatre to watch It’s a Wonderful Life.  I saw It’s a Wonderful Life at the Redford a couple of years ago and there was a great crowd then, but this time, it was even better — it was a sold out house!  Before the show, Karolyn signed autographs and took pictures with fans in the lobby.  If you ever have the opportunity to meet Karolyn, don’t be shy to say hello!  She’s extremely approachable and very sweet.

Me with Karolyn.

Me with Karolyn.

When stars make appearances at the Redford, they come onstage and give an introduction before the movie starts.  Typically this lasts about 5 to 10 minutes, but Karolyn went above and beyond and spent about half an hour talking about It’s a Wonderful Life trivia, her memories of making the movie, and what it was like working with Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra.  She didn’t have a single unkind word to say about working on It’s a Wonderful Life.  The experience was very stress-free for her and Jimmy and Frank made it very fun to be on the set.

Photo from the Redford's Facebook page.  This picture perfectly captures the essence of being at the Redford during Christmas.

Photo from the Redford’s Facebook page. This picture perfectly captures the essence of being at the Redford during the Christmas season.

It truly was a wonderful night, pun fully intended.  Being able to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen is always a joyous occasion, but having Karolyn there made it exceptional.  It was the perfect way to kick off the Christmas season.

IAWL Book Autograph2On a side note, I got an autographed copy of Karolyn’s book “Celebrating It’s a Wonderful Life: How the Movie’s Message of Hope Lives On.”  If you’re looking for a gift for someone who is a big fan of the movie, this book would be a great choice.  It’s a very cute little book full of trivia, Karolyn’s memories, recipes inspired by the movie, and comments from fans about what the movie means to them.

Merrily We Go to Hell (1932)

Merrily We go to Hell PosterJerry Corbett (Fredric March) is a journalist, aspiring playwright, and known around Chicago for his love of alcohol.  Heiress Joan Prentice (Sylvia Sidney) doesn’t drink, but when they meet, but there is still a connection between them.  They start seeing each other and Joan repeatedly invites Jerry to gatherings at her house, but he continually gets drunk and fails to show up.  When he finally does meet Joan’s father, he’s not at all impressed by Jerry.  And when Jerry and Joan decide to get married, Joan’s father offers Jerry $50,000 to go away.  But Joan is more valuable to Jerry than money and they get married anyway.

The road to the altar is far from smooth for Joan and Jerry, though.  Before their engagement party, he gets so drunk before the event, he passes out before he even gets to the party.  At the wedding, he arrives drunk and without the wedding ring.  The guests are impressed he showed up at all.  But despite all of Jerry’s problems, Joan is bound and determined to stick by him and she encourages his ambitions to write plays.  After many rejections, his play is finally picked up by a producer in New York.  And as it turns out, the producer has Jerry’s ex-girlfriend Claire (Adrienne Allen) in mind to star in it.  Jerry does his best to stay sober and stay faithful to Joan, but he completely falls apart again on opening night.

When Jerry falls off the wagon, he falls off hard and lives his life in a drunken haze.  He also starts having an affair with Claire.  When Joan finds out about it, she finally snaps, starts drinking, and decides that if he can cheat, she might as well do the same and starts having an affair with Charlie Baxter (Cary Grant).  Joan lives the high life until she discovers she’s pregnant.  She doesn’t tell Jerry and goes back to Chicago to live with her family.  Meanwhile, Jerry realizes how much pain his behavior has caused her and desperately tries to patch things up with her.

Merrily We Go to Hell is a good but not great look at alcoholism.  The story is good, the performances are good, the direction is good, but it just doesn’t seem to rise above being anything better than just good enough.  I feel like Merrily We Go to Hell tried to do what Billy Wilder would go on to do more successfully thirteen years later in The Lost Weekend.  But Merrily We Go to Hell did try to offer a cold, hard look at alcoholism and it certainly didn’t glamorize drinking.  Jerry is not a fun drunk and when Joan starts hitting the bottle, they are no Nick and Nora Charles. During a party scene, we don’t see guests cavorting happily with glasses of champagne in hand, we see guests passed out on couches.  It’s just not the hardest look at alcoholism that you’ll find.  Jerry’s attempt in the end to get his act together seemed  oversimplified and unrealistic.

What’s on TCM: January 2013

Annex - Young, Loretta (He Stayed for Breakfast)_03Happy new year, everyone!  With winter officially underway, it’s very tempting to spend every night at home watching movies with a cup of hot chocolate, and TCM has plenty of reasons to do just that.

Loretta Young is January’s Star of the Month, in honor of her 100th birthday, and will be spotlighted every Wednesday night this month.  If you’re a fan of pre-codes, you’re bound to adore the first two Loretta Young nights.  I tend to enjoy heist films, so I’m really looking forward to every Tuesday night this month being dedicated to movies about big robberies.

Another star who would be celebrating their 100th birthday this month is Danny Kaye.  If you only know him from White Christmas, be sure to tune in on January 20th because TCM will be playing his movies for a full 24 hours, including an episode of The Danny Kaye Show and an interview he did on The Dick Cavett Show.

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What’s on TCM: September 2012

Happy September, everyone!  I hope you all enjoyed this year’s edition of Summer Under the Stars.  One good thing may be coming to an end, but fear not, there are some very, very cool things to look forward to in September.

Silent film fans, rejoice!  Every Thursday night this month, TCM will be spotlighting movies produced at Mack Sennett studios, which means there will be tons of silent films being played during prime time.  83 short films will be included in this tribute, the vast majority of which have never been shown in TCM before, and will feature stars  such as Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Fatty Arbuckle, and Gloria Swanson.  I, for one, am very excited for this!

Lauren Bacall is the Star of the Month and every Wednesday night in September will be full of her movies.  September 3rd will be TCM’s annual tribute to the Telluride Film Festival

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What’s on TCM: January 2012

Happy 2012, everybody! January is, as always, chock full of good stuff on TCM.  The first star of the month in 2012 is Angela Lansbury and her movies can be seen every Wednesday night this month.  Every Thursday night will be dedicated to showcasing the work of cinematographer Jack Cardiff.  With no further ado, let’s get to my picks for January.

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