Tag Archives: Cary Grant

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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What’s on TCM: December 2011

We’re down to the last month of 2011 already!  TCM will be closing out the year in top form.  December’s star of the month is William Powell, which I am very excited about since I’m a big fan of his.  It also means we get two nights of movies featuring him with Myrna Loy, one night being the entire Thin Man series and another night featuring their other collaborations.  His movies will be showcased every Thursday night this month.  TCM will also be celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens a little early (his birthday isn’t actually until February) by devoting Monday nights to showing various film adaptations of his work.  And of course there are Christmas classics galore to look forward to!

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I’m No Angel (1933)

Tira (Mae West) is a circus sideshow burlesque performer, but Tira loves the finer things in life and you can’t buy diamonds and furs on a sideshow performer’s salary.  But if she can’t buy them herself, she has no issues with doing the next best thing: hopping from one rich man to another and letting them buy things for her.  In fact, she can spot a rich man from the stage while she’s performing.  Tira knows she isn’t exclusive, but Slick Wiley (Ralf Harolde) seems to be under the impression that he’s Tira’s one and only boyfriend.  One night, Tira has a date with yet another rich man and all is going well until Slick shows up.  Slick hits Tira’s date over the head with a bottle, knocking him unconscious.

Slick and Tira both think he’s dead and try to get rid of the body.  He lives, but the police catch up to Slick and he is arrested.  Even though Tira did nothing wrong, she needs to get a lawyer to see that she also doesn’t wind up behind bars, too.  She doesn’t have the money to hire a lawyer and the only way the boss will give her the money is to become the lion tamer in a new act and stick her head inside a lion’s mouth.  Naturally, Tira is a bit hesitant about this, but she does it anyway and the new act is a huge success.  She becomes a big star and wins over a whole new audience of wealthy men.

Among her new admirers is Kirk Lawrence.  He’s already engaged to Alicia Hatton, but just can’t resist lavishing expensive gifts upon Tira.  Eventually, Alicia comes to Tira personally to ask her to stop seeing Kirk and Tira refuses.  So then Alicia steps it up and gets Kirk’s friend Jack Clayton (Cary Grant) to talk to her and see what he can do.  Tira may not have been willing to listen to Alicia, but she’s always more receptive to a handsome man.  She gladly pushes Kirk aside in favor of Jack and even begins to do the unthinkable — think about marriage.  Just when she’s ready to walk down the aisle, her old pal Slick gets out of jail and tries to come back into her life.  He even tells Jack that he’s been seeing Tira and of course, Jack believes the worst and breaks off the engagement.  But Tira isn’t about to take this sitting down, sues him for breach of contract, and defends herself in court.  But when Slick is called to the witness stand, Tira not only manages to win her case but also wins Jack back.

Mae West movies are all about one thing and one thing only — Mae West.  So if you like Mae, then you’re bound to love I’m No Angel.  She purrs and quips and shimmies her way through the whole movie in her signature style.  Luckily for me, I do like Mae so I really got a kick out of this one.  If you’ve never seen a Mae West movie before, this is a good one to start with because this is truly her in all her glory.  But if Mae’s style isn’t your cup of tea, then you might as well sit this one out because there’s not really anything else to watch it for.  Even fans of Cary Grant might be a little disappointed since he doesn’t really have a big part, he doesn’t even come in until late in the film.  But when he does show up?  Their chemistry is awesome.

In Name Only (1939)

Julie Eden (Carole Lombard) and Alec Walker (Cary Grant) are both lonely for two different reasons.  Alec is married to Maida (Kay Francis), but neither of them actually loves the other.  Maida only married him because of his money.  Julie is a widowed illustrator who lives with her young daughter and divorced sister.  The two meet when Julie rents a house in the town where Alec lives and naturally, they end up falling in love.  When they first meet, they hit it off right away and it starts off innocently enough.  Julie doesn’t know he’s married and Alec sees that Julie is everything Maida isn’t.  But complications arise one night when Alec and Maida’s friend Suzanne get into a car accident near Julie’s house.  Suzanne asks Julie to call Alec’s wife and a doctor for him and before Julie knows it, she’s face to face with Maida.  But Maida immediately knows there’s something between Alec and Julie when she notices Julie’s sketchbook sitting in Alec’s wrecked car.

When Julie finds out about Maida, she’s heartbroken.  After her sister’s marriage ended because of another woman, she absolutely does not want to be the other woman.  But Alec is more determined than ever to get out of his loveless marriage and demands that Maida give him a divorce.  The only way he can get her to give him a divorce is if he lets her take a trip to Paris with his parents to get it.  Desperate to be rid of her, he gladly agrees to this plan and as soon as Maida and his parents are on the boat, Alec and Julie’s relationship moves very quickly.  When Julie goes to New York for work, Alec goes with her and proposes.

The only thing standing in their way of happiness is Maida.  Their marriage plans keep being pushed back because Maida keeps running into delays with the divorce.  Or so they think.  The truth is that Maida never had any intention of giving him a divorce and she makes that point quite clear to them when she and Alec’s parents return to New York on Christmas Eve.  When Alec threatens to go to Reno himself, Maida vows to make the whole legal affair as ugly as possible.  Tired of all the frustrations, Julie breaks it off with Alec, who then heads out to a bar to drown his sorrows.  Alec stumbles into a cheap motel for the night and passes out in front of an open window.  The motel staff finds him the next morning seriously ill and Julie is called to take care of him.  At first they only think he has the flu, but it turns out to be a much more serious bout of pneumonia and he is rushed to the hospital.  The hospital won’t let Julie in to see Alec since they’re not married, but when the doctor tells Alec’s father (Charles Coburn) that Alec needs a reason to want to get well again, he lets Julie see him so he’d have that reason.  But the movie wouldn’t be complete without one last showdown between Julie and Maida.  Not only does Maida get told off by Julie, Maida accidentally reveals her true motives to Alec’s parents.  Now that Alec’s parents have finally seen the real Maida, they fully support the idea of Alec getting that divorce.

I must say, it was a pretty bold move to take Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, Kay Francis, and Charles Coburn, what would have been one of the most brilliant comedic casts ever assembled, and put them in a drama.  But the good news is that none of their talents are wasted here.  Actually, I think this is a completely underrated movie for both Cary Grant and Carole Lombard.  Even though this gets a 7.0 on IMDB, for some reason, I didn’t go into it expecting anything special.  But I was very pleasantly surprised.  It may be pretty melodramatic, but at least it’s well acted melodrama.  Kay Francis was definitely somebody I loved to hate and I liked the chemistry between Carole and Cary.  I really wish Carole and Cary had made another movie together, perhaps they would have if Carole hadn’t died so young.  They were wonderful in a drama together, but in a comedy, they would have been absolutely unstoppable.

Be sure to visit Carole & Co. for more of her 103rd birthday celebration!

This is the Night (1932)

Claire Mathewson (Thelma Todd) is married to Olympic javelin thrower Stephen Mathewson (Cary Grant), but that doesn’t stop her from carrying on an affair with Gerald (Roland Young) while her husband is out of town for the Olympics.  One night, Clarie and Gerald were supposed to go to the theater, but then her dress gets caught in the car door and is ripped completely off, much to the amusement of the crowd in front of the theater.  They cut the night short and head back to her place, but on the way back, Claire tells Gerald that she’s planned a trip to Venice for the two of them.  Meanwhile, Gerald’s friend Bunny (Charlie Ruggles) stops by Claire’s apartment to drop off their train tickets.  What he doesn’t expect is to run into Stephen, who has decided to not go to the Olympics after all.  Of course, Stephen coming back really throws a wrench into Claire’s plans for Venice.  Thinking quickly, Bunny tries saying that the tickets were for Gerald and his wife, Claire was just going to tag along on their trip.  Stephen doesn’t quite buy that story, but he calls their bluff and insists on coming along, too.

The only problem is that now they need to find someone to pretend to be Gerald’s wife.  He tries hiring an actress, but she doesn’t want to upset her boyfriend and the she gets the out-of-work Germaine (Lili Damita) to go in her place.  Germaine goes to meet with Gerald, and of course Bunny can’t resist crashing the interview.  They initially have their doubts about her, but she manages to win them over and the next thing she knows, she’s on the train to Venice.  Claire doesn’t like her right off the bat and can’t stand seeing Gerald with her.  She tries to get Gerald to send her back to Paris, but she refuses to leave and threatens to tell Stephen what’s really going on.  But it turns out that Gerald isn’t the only one Claire has to worry about.  Stephen is a bit infatuated with Germaine.  In fact, Germaine is turning out to be the most popular lady on this trip because Bunny and even Gerald, despite his “strictly business” attitude, also begin to fall for Germaine.

Later, as Germaine is getting ready for a night out with Bunny, Gerald gets jealous and sends him away when he arrives.  Gerald takes the opportunity to really win her over and she falls for him, but is getting frustrated by this whole set-up and wants to leave.  But Bunny isn’t willing to give up so easily and tries climbing a ladder into her bedroom.  She tries to get rid of him, but he’s drunk and when he tries to leave on the ladder, he falls into a canal.  Stephen overhears the commotion, thinks there’s a burglar in Germaine’s room, and goes to investigate.  Gerald and Claire also both rush in and when they see Stephen and Germaine together, they get the wrong idea.  After he gets out of the canal, Bunny comes back to explain what happened and Claire realizes that the idea of her husband being in love with another woman has made her fall back in love with him.  Claire ends things with Gerald, leaving Gerald free to pursue Germaine.

This is the Night was Cary Grant’s film debut and was actually nearly his last.  He really didn’t care for this movie at all and hated it so much that he almost left the industry all together.  But luckily, he was talked out of it and the rest is history.  But even if Cary Grant didn’t like it, I absolutely adore it.  Actually, I’m kind of obsessed with it and I’ve mentioned before that I wish I could live in that movie.  I’ve heard some people call it a “poor man’s Ernst Lubitsch film,” but even a poor man’s Ernst Lubitsch is still pretty darn entertaining.  It’s hilarious and very pre-code.  The cast had great chemistry together, especially Charlie Ruggles and Roland Young.  And I just love how stylized it is.  I’m not even quite sure what to compare it to.  There are times when it kinda reminds me of a silent film with the way the outdoor night scenes are tinted blue and how in the very beginning, it’s just music and synchronized sound effects.  Then there are moments where it almost turns into a musical, but it doesn’t quite go all the way with it.  It’s certainly a unique one, that’s for sure.  I can’t get enough of it.

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Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

When Bonnie Lee’s (Jean Arthur) boat docks in Barranca, she gets off the boat thinking she’ll just be in town for the night.  But when she meets American pilots Joe (Noah Beery, Jr.) and Les (Allyn Joslyn), she’s happy to meet some fellow Americans and starts spending the evening with them.  The three of them stop into a bar, but then an order comes in that one of them has to fly out with some mail.  It’s very foggy that night, but their boss Geoff Carter (Cary Grant) is trying to land a mail delivery contract for his airline and has to stay on schedule for six months.  It’s decided that Joe must make the trip, but once he gets a ways out, they decide that it’s too dangerous for him to continue and is ordered to turn around.  When he gets back, he can’t see the runway to land.  Carter orders him to stay up until the fog clears, but he doesn’t listen and tries to land anyway.  He hits a tree on his way down, crashes, and dies.

Bonnie is deeply affected by Joe’s sudden death and is rather disturbed by the cold, distant attitude Carter seems to have about the incident.  But when some of the other pilots explain that they understand the risks of the job and that casualties are just a fact of life to them, she softens up toward Carter.  The two of them have a wonderful night together, drinking, singing, and playing the piano.  She even starts to fall in love with him!  Carter is attracted to her, too, but he’s had a bad experience with a woman that’s put him off the idea of love.  Plus he doesn’t want to give up flying and knows a lot of women couldn’t handle being married to a pilot.  Their evening is suddenly interrupted when Carter has to leave to deliver that mail.  Bonnie’s next boat is due to leave before he’d be back, but she decides at the last minute to skip the boat and stay in town for another week.  Carter is very surprised to find her waiting when he gets back, but not in a good way.  Bonnie feels stupid for having stayed, but she sticks around anyway.

But Carter is in for an even bigger surprise when Bat MacPherson (Richard Barthelmess) and his wife Judy (Rita Hayworth) suddenly arrive.  Bat’s come to town under an assumed name because he’s had a bad reputation in the flying world ever since he bailed out of a plane and left his mechanic to die.  The mechanic that died happened to be fellow pilot Kid’s (Thomas Mitchell) brother.  Carter immediately recognizes him and is hesitant to hire him at first.  The other pilots don’t want him there, but they really need the help and Bat is assigned to the most dangerous flights.  Not only that, but it turns out Bat’s wife Judy is the same woman who broke Carter’s heart.  Meanwhile, even though Carter had hurt Bonnie earlier, she continues to fall in love with him.  But after seeing one of his flights nearly go horribly wrong, she really begins to question whether or not she could handle being married to a pilot.  Then the time comes time to make the final delivery to get that mail contract.  Carter had planned to make the treacherous flight himself, but before he can leave, Bonnie accidentally shoots him in the arm and he can’t go.

Bat and Kid make the trip in his place.  When they realize they can’t fly as high as they need to, they’re told to turn around.  But on the way back, a bird hits the windshield and breaks Kid’s neck.  The plane also catches on fire and Kid tells Bat to go ahead and parachute out of the plane.  But this time, Bat is determined to not leave his companion and the two go down with the plane.  Kid doesn’t make it, but Bat survives and earns the respect of his fellow pilots.  By then, Bonnie is ready to catch her boat and move on.  When she goes to say goodbye to Carter, he gets word that the weather is clearing and he starts rushing to make that mail delivery.  But before he leaves, he tells Bonnie they should flip a coin to decide if she stays or not.  She doesn’t want to decide anything so glibly, but then she realizes he’s flipping a two-headed coin.

Even though adventure movies aren’t typically among my favorite movies, I really enjoyed Only Angels Have Wings.  I really liked that it managed to find a balance between being an action film and a romance without feeling like two different movies got stuck together.  And the best part is that both parts are carried out equally well.  Plus the cast is fantastic!  Of course, I like Cary Grant in just about anything, but I really loved him and Jean Arthur together here.  I mostly know Richard Barthelmess from his silent films and a handful of his pre-codes, so it was nice to see him in this.  This was one of Rita Hayworth’s first substantial roles.  She doesn’t have a particularly big part, but she made herself noticeable and this movie really helped her career.  And to top it all off, it’s got superb direction from Howard Hawks!  All in all, an excellent movie.