Lana Turner

Johnny Eager (1941)

Johnny Eager Robert Taylor Lana Turner

Johnny Eager (Robert Taylor) had been a known as a ruthless gangster, but after spending some time in prison, he’s turned over a new leaf as a cab driver.  At least that’s what he wants his parole officer to think.  When he isn’t driving a cab, he’s as cutthroat as ever, involved in illegal gambling, and is working on opening his own dog racing track.  While visiting his parole officer one day, he runs into sociology student Lisbeth Bard (Lana Turner).  There’s an immediate attraction between them, but it grows into a deeper infatuation when they meet again later.  Lisabeth is much more sophisticated and intellectual than the type of women Johnny usually meets.

When Johnny suspects his friend Lew (Barry Nelson)  has been short-changing him, he and his associate Jeff (Van Heflin) go to a nightclub to confront Lew.  While there, he runs into Lisabeth again, who has been left alone after her date got drunk.  Johnny gladly keeps her company for the rest of the night, but when he brings her home, he discovers Lisabeth’s father is John Benson Farrell (Edward Arnold), the man responsible for putting Johnny behind bars.  Farrell is also the one preventing Johnny’s dog track from opening.

Of course, Farrell isn’t happy about Johnny seeing his daughter and wants to put a stop to it.  He tells Johnny he will do anything to protect his daughter, even if it means killing or framing Johnny for something.  So Johnny decides to turn the tables on Farrell by coming up with a scheme for his friend Julio to come bursting into Johnny’s apartment while Lisabeth is there.  Julio and Johnny stage a fight, Lisabeth shoots Julio with a gun loaded with blanks, and Johnny escorts her away before she can question what happened.  Lisabeth has a breakdown over the incident, but Johnny uses gun with her fingerprints on it to blackmail Farrell into letting his dog track open.

Johnny’s dog track has a successful opening night, but after the stunt with Lisabeth, some of his closest associates are getting concerned that his ruthless behavior is getting out of hand.  One of them even offers Johnny $500,000 to close the track and leave town with Lisabeth.  It isn’t until he visits Lisabeth that he realizes just how badly he’s hurt her.  For once, Johnny feels badly about what he’s done and wants to make it right, even if it means putting his life on the line to do it.

Johnny Eager has a pretty standard gangster movie/film noir plot, but strong writing and good acting save it from being just another run-of-the-mill gangster flick.  Robert Taylor may get the star billing, and he is very good as Johnny Eager, but it’s Van Heflin who really steals the show.  Heflin completely deserved the Best Supporting Actor Oscar he won for his work in Johnny Eager.  I’m a big fan of Lana Turner, but I don’t think this was her best work.  Although I did get a kick out seeing her play what has got to be the most outrageously glamorous sociology student of all time.  If you’ve never seen it before, Johnny Eager is definitely worth keeping an eye out for; it’s very enjoyable.

What’s on TCM: June 2013

Eleanor ParkerHappy June!  Eleanor Parker is this month’s Star of the Month so her movies will be highlighted every Tuesday night.  This month’s edition of Friday Night Spotlight will be hosted by Eddie Muller, the founder of the Film Noir Foundation, and all of his selections are film noir classics that are based on novels.

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Fashion in Film: Berets

If you’re like me, you often find yourself watching films and seeing tons of fashion styles you would love to wear in real life.  I watch movies from so many decades and from so many different genres, if I actually did copy all the styles I like, I’d have one diverse wardrobe.  But if there’s one accessory you could easily get a lot of mileage out of, it’s a beret.  Berets have been a popular hat style for decades, so if you want to go for a Norma Shearer inspired look one day and a Faye Dunaway inspired look the next, a beret could easily work for both styles.

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What’s on TCM: November 2011

If you’re a fan of blonde bombshells, this is the month for you!  Rather than having just one star of the month, TCM will be spotlighting two classic blondes every Monday and Wednesday this month.  All the classic blondes like Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Jean Harlow, and Jayne Mansfield (just to name a few) will be getting their time to shine.  And in preparation for the TCM Classic Film Cruise, they’ll be playing a night of movies set on ships every Thursday.  Lots of fun stuff to look forward to, so let’s get to my picks for the month:

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Dramatic School (1938)

By day, Louise Mauban (Luise Rainer) is a regular, albeit promising, dramatic school student.  But by night, she’s always out on the town living the high life with her boyfriend Marquis Andre D’Abbencourt (Alan Marshal).  Well, not really.  That’s just what she tells all her classmates.  The reality is that she works the night shift in a factory to support herself and she doesn’t want to tell her classmates the real reason why she can’t go out with them at night.  She concocts this story one day after Andre visits the factory she works at with his actress girlfriend so she can study the workers for a role she’s playing.  Some of her classmates believe her stories, but others are more skeptical.

No one is more skeptical than Nana (Paulette Goddard), and one night her suspicions are confirmed when she and her boyfriend run into Andre during one of their nights out.  When Nana mentions Louise to Andre, he’s never heard of her.  Nana is awfully catty, so she decides to throw a swanky party and invite both Andre and Louise so that when they meet in front of all their classmates, Louise will be humiliated when he doesn’t know her.  On the night of the party, Andre and Louise both do show up, but Andre has been tipped off about Nana’s plan and doesn’t have the heart to play into it.  He walks in and pretends like he and Louise know each other well, much to Louise’s astonishment.  But then Andre begins to actually fall in love with Louise and he starts showing her the life she’d only known in her mind.  He buys her beautiful clothes, takes her out on the town, and sets her up in a nice new apartment.

But the good times can’t last forever.  One day at school, Louise faces the wrath of her teacher Madame Charlot (Gale Sondergaard).  Madame Charlot was already hurting from being told she’s too old to play Joan in a production of Joan of Arc.  So when Louise gets under her skin, she takes it out on her by promising to have her expelled.  But rather than get upset, Louise thanks Madame Charlot because the suffering will help her become a better actress.  But Louise’s day takes another turn for the worse when she comes home to a letter from Andre breaking things off.  She lets all of her classmates have things Andre has given her and gives Nana the break-up letter because she thinks it will make her happy.  Instead, Nana and Louise end up becoming friends after that.  Louise boldly goes to school the next day and instead of being yelled at by Madame Charlot, she finds out that Madame Charlot has recommended her for the part of Joan in Joan of Arc.  Of course, Louise gets the part, becomes an overnight sensation, and Andre is left kicking himself for having left her.

I liked Dramatic School.  The story itself might not be particularly remarkable, but the cast made it work.  I loved Luise Rainer, Paulette Goddard made a great catty classmate, and Gale Sondergaard was an excellent choice for the aging actress/teacher.  And it was fun to see people like Lana Turner, Ann Rutherford, and Virginia Grey pop up in the supporting cast.  It’s an enjoyable little movie and with a runtime of only 80 minutes, I’d say it’s worth checking out the next time it’s on TCM.

Live Post: The Debbie Reynolds Auction

Even though I’m broke and can’t afford to actually bid on anything in today’s auction, there’s so much amazing stuff up for sale today that I can’t resist trying to follow the auction as best I can.  So I figured I’d try my hand at live blogging and cover the auction the best I can as it happens.  I’m not going to cover every single item up for sale, but I’ll try to keep you updated about some of the more noteworthy items.  So stay tuned, sit back, relax, and live vicariously through other people who can afford to spend insane amounts of money on movie memorabilia.  And I’m just putting it out there right now: I would not be even remotely surprised if Hugh Hefner buys Marilyn Monroe’s white dress from The Seven Year Itch.  A million dollar absentee bid has already been placed on it, so it will definitely be sold for at least that much today.

If you want to follow along with the auction live, just go here, click on “Live Bidding”, then click the option to just watch the auction. There is a live video stream, but no audio.

Updates:

Note – The selling prices I list here don’t include the buyer’s premium.  If you see articles about Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz test costume selling for more than a million, that source factored in the buyer’s premium.

3:12 PM – The first lot, a 1915 35mm Bell and Howell camera just sold for $32,500!

3:16 PM – Rudolph Valentino’s matador suit from Blood and Sand just went for $210,000.

3:19 PM – Mary Pickford’s headpiece from Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall went for $3,250.

3: 21 PM- Francis X. Bushman’s charioteer helmet from 1925′s Ben Hur sold for $30,000!

3:26 PM – Harold Lloyd’s suit and hat went for $4,000!

3:34 PM – Mary Pickford’s gown from The Taming of the Shrew sold for $17,000.

3:36 PM – Lots 17 and 18, both Douglas Fairbanks costumes from The Taming of the Shrew sold for $20,000 and lot 18 didn’t sell.

3:38 PM – One of Charlie Chaplin’s infamous hats went for $110,000!

3:40 PM – A Model T used by Laurel and Hardy sold for $32,500 and a pair of their suits went for $16,000.

3:42 PM – Carole Lombard’s gown from No Man of Her Own sold for $11,000.

3:47 PM – Claudette Colbert’s Cleopatra gown went for $40,000.

3:52 PM – Greta Garbo’s gown from Anna Karenina also sold for $40,000!

3:53 PM – Harpo Marx’s hat and wig went for $45,000!

4:10 PM – Lots 42, 43, and 44 are the paintings commissioned by Marion Davies and respectively went for $10,000, $11,000, and $17,000.  These really got the bidders going.

4:17  PM – W.C. Fields’ joke box sold for $35,000.

4:39 PM – Norma Shearer’s purple gown from Romeo and Juliet went for $20,000.

5:04 PM – Now we’re into stuff from The Good Earth and people went nuts for some of the furniture!  The pair of chairs went for $20,000, the opium bed for $20,000, two Paul Muni robes for $4,000 each, Luise Rainer’s shirt for $2,000, the lot of stands and other furniture for $3,500, and Luise Rainer’s jacket for $3,000.

5:13  PM – A gown worn by Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette and Lucille Ball in Du Barry was a Lady sold for $11,000.

5:44 PM – Oh, now we’re into a busy bunch of lots!  First up was Marlene Dietrich’s outfit from “The Boys in the Backroom” number in Destry Rides Again, which went for $8,000, one of Judy Garland’s test costumes from The Wizard of Oz went for $910,000, a test pair of the ruby slippers sold for $510,000, an extra’s jacket from the Emerald City scenes of the Wizard of Oz sold for $22,500, Clark Gable’s dressing robe from the production of Gone With the Wind went for $10,000, and Basil Rathbone’s famous Sherlock Holmes caped overcoat sold for $50,000!

5:54 PM – Vivien Leigh’s suit from Waterloo Bridge sold for $16,000.

6:09 PM – Gary Cooper’s military uniform from Sergeant York went for $55,000.

6:16 PM – A couple of costumes worn by James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, the satin jockey shirt went for $27,500 and the clown outfit sold for $15,000.

6:19 PM – Not so fast, Louis!  A suit worn by Claude Rains in Casablanca sold for $55,000!

6:53 PM – Took a dinner break and missed another busy bunch of lots!  Elizabeth Taylor’s riding outfit from National Velvet went for $60,000, Judy Garland’s “Under the Bamboo Tree” dress from Meet Me in St. Louis sold for $16,000, Judy’s dress from the snowman building scene in Meet Me in St. Louis went for $10,000, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra’s sailor suits from Anchors Aweigh went for $27,500 and $15,000 respectively.

7:00 PM – $22,500 for Joan Crawford’s waitress uniform from Mildred Pierce and $5,000 for Ann Blyth’s Mildred Pierce suit.

7:05 PM – Edmund Gwenn’s Santa suit from Miracle on 34th Street just sold for $22,500.

8:12 PM – The gold lame dress worn by Ginger Rogers in The Barkleys of Broadway went for $8,000.

8:51 PM – The chiffon robe worn by Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire sold for $18,000.  Then it went into a bunch of items from An American in Paris with Leslie Caron’s peacock dress from the fantasy ballet number for $15,000, Nina Foch’s white halter gown from a party scene for $3,000, and a showgirl costume from the Stairway to Paradise number for $1,100.

9:05 PM – We have reached the Singin’ in the Rain part of the auction.  First were the green and white checked suits worn by Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly, $8,000 and $14,000 respectively.  Jean Hagen’s Marie Antoinette-esque dress sold for $5,500 and Gene Kelly’s period costume went for $9,000.  Debbie’s green and white leaf print dress went for $15,000, Gene Kelly’s jacket from the Broadway Melody Ballet number went for $6,500, Jean Hagen’s black and white fur coat went for $6,000, Donald O’Connor’s “Good Morning” suit didn’t sell, Cyd Charisse’s white Broadway Melody Ballet outfit for $7,000, and Debbie’s “Good Morning” dress went for $27,500.  A pink dress worn by Gwen Carter sold for $3,750, and a bunch of costumes from the “Beautiful Girl” montage brought $5,500.

9:22 PM – Now we’re getting into some of the Marilyn Monroe and Marilyn-related items.  First up is Marilyn’s red “Two Little Girls from Little Rock” dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which brought $1.2 million!  Then came the feathered hat worn by Jane Russell when she impersonates Loreli Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, that sold for $4,250.  Lauren Bacall’s wedding dress from How to Marry a Millionaire went for $8,000 and the car used by Marilyn and Cary Grant in Monkey Business sold for $210,000.

9:48 PM – A lot of two safari outfits worn by Grace Kelly in Mogambo sold for $47,500.  A Winchester rifle used by Clark Gable in Mogambo brought in $15,000.

10:00 PM – A couple more from Marilyn Monroe.  The gold dress from River of No Return went for $510,000 and her costume from the “Heat Wave” number in There’s No Business Like Show Business brought in $500,000!

10:52 PM – After a little break, we’re back with the dress everyone’s been waiting for — the infamous Marilyn Monroe white subway dress from The Seven Year Itch.  I fully expected bidding to be out of control for this one and I wasn’t disappointed.  It brought in an astonishing $4.6 million!

11:03 PM – Now we’ve got a couple from To Catch a Thief.  A coat worn by Cary Grant brought in $15,000 and an outfit worn by Grace Kelly earned a jaw dropping $450,000!

11:41 PM – A couple of dresses worn by Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember brought in $6,000 and $11,000.

12:17 AM – One of Lana Turner’s dresses from Peyton Place sold for $4,250.

12:22 AM – Lot number 407 is rather unique because it includes things worn by both Kim Novak and Rita Hayworth in Pal Joey.  It went for $6,500.

12:29 AM – Leslie Caron’s iconic plaid schoolgirl outfit from Gigi went for $65,000.

12:40 AM – Charlton Heston’s tunic and cape from Ben Hur could have been yours for the low, low price of $320,000!

1:32 AM – Marlon Brando’s naval outfit from Mutiny on the Bounty just brought in $90,000!

2:12 AM – Elizabeth Taylor’s famous headdress from Cleopatra went for $100,000 and Richard Burton’s tunic, cape, and sword brought in $85,000.

Oh, who cares what time it is anymore?  Yes, I’m still going!  Aren’t these people tired and broke yet?!  Janet Leigh’s yellow fringed dress from Bye Bye Birdie fetched $3,750 and Bette Davis’ blood stained dress from Hush, Hush…Sweet Charlotte sold for $11,000.

Another big item to watch tonight was Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot dress from My Fair Lady.  I fully expected it to exceed the $200,000-$300,000 and it sure did.  It went up to $3.7 million!

I would say that the hills are alive with the sound of music, but at this time of night, I’m pretty sure that’s a noise ordinance violation.  Julie Andrews’ guitar went for $140,000, her jumper from the “Do Re Mi” number for $550,000, her turquoise and green dress for $45,000, the peasant dress went for $42,500, and a pair of the Trapp children’s outfits sold for $35,000.

And at long last we have reached the Barbara Streisand part of the auction.  First from Funny Girl is her costume from “I’d Rather Be Blue” for $65,000, a lot of the other roller skating costumes for $2,500, the black velvet dress from “My Man” for $16,000, a bunch of stuff worn by the Ziegfeld girls in the “His Love Makes Me Beautiful” number for $7,500, Anne Francis’ silk dress for $1,800, and Kay Medford’s beaded shawl for $1,400.

A jacket worn by Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid brought $8,500 and a dress worn by Katharine Ross went for $16,000.

And back to Streisand.  The purple Hello, Dolly dress went for $55,000 and the gold dress for $100,000.  Surprised the gold dress went for that little, that’s how much it cost to make that dress back in the day.

You’ll be fascinated to know that a shirt worn in the cinematic masterpiece known as Grease 2 sold for $475.

We have finally made it to the final segment of posters/portraits!  The title cards for Blind Husbands fetched $2,000, the lot of three Gloria Swanson title/lobby cards sold for $1,200, the portrait of Gloria Swanson went for $8,500, the lot of two Mabel Normand lobby cards for $800, the pair of silent title/lobby cards for $1,600, the lobby card for Lon Chaney’s The Penalty for $1,700, and the lobby card for Chaplin’s The Idle Class for $1,600.  The portrait of Jean Harlow went for $11,000!

Now it’s high time I called it a night!  Good night everybody!

They Won’t Forget (1937)

In one small Southern town, the day starts out looking like it’s going to be just another typical Confederate Memorial Day.  For students at the local business college, this means they get a half day of classes and Mary Clay (Lana Turner) has plans to go get a soda with a friend before meeting her date for the day.  But when they get to the soda shop, Mary realizes she left her compact at school, so she goes back to get it.  When she gets to the school, she finds her compact in the classroom, but doesn’t come back out of the building alive.  When a janitor finds her murdered corpse in the basement, the town is rocked by scandal.

For District Attorney Andy Griffin (Claude Rains), he sees this case as an opportunity for him to land the Senate seat he’s been eyeing.  He knows that the whole town wants Mary’s murderer to be caught and if he’s the one catch him, he’s sure to be elected to the Senate.  Andy is so determined to get someone, anyone, behind bars that he’s not terribly concerned about having hard evidence, circumstantial is good enough for him.  He sets his sights on Mary’s teacher Robert Hale (Edward Norris), who is originally from New York.  All the evidence that Andy has against Robert is pretty flimsy at best, but Andy uses the media to work the entire country into a frenzy.  Even though the country as a whole is pretty divided on the whole issue, virtually the entire town is convinced Hale is guilty.  The few people who could stand up for Hale back down because they can’t bear the thought of what would happen to them if Hale went free.  In the end, Hale is sentenced to death.  Hale’s only hope is the governor, who recognizes how terribly the trial was carried out, and commutes his sentence to life in prison.  People were so furious over the governor’s decision that a mob goes after Hale to enact some vigilante justice.  Hale dies at the hands of the angry mob.  In the final scene, Hale’s widow Sybil (Gloria Dickson) goes to see Andrew and makes a speech to him about how he’s the real murderer.

They Won’t Forget features a couple of memorable performances from Lana Turner and Claude Rains.  This was Lana Turner’s film debut, and even though she has a small part, she makes the most of her time.  Her Southern accent wasn’t the greatest, but she did have a lot of screen presence.  Claude Rains made quite a believable corrupt politician.  I really didn’t care much about Gloria Dickson’s character throughout the movie, but in her final scene, she came in and completely nailed it with her powerful speech to Andy.  The writing is an absolutely scathing look at small town politics, prejudices, and media manipulation.  It was probably the most scathing indictment of the justice system to come out after I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang.  Very bleak, but very compelling.  They Won’t Forget was a perfect name for this movie because it really is pretty unforgettable!

My Top 100, 70-61

Welcome to week four of my 100 favorite movies!  This week is going to be my most 1970s centric bunch of movies of this countdown.  I’ve got two of the biggest hits of the 70′s along with one set in the 70′s.  Appropriately, this week’s list starts with number 70…

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My Top 100, 80-71

It’s Friday again, which means it’s time to count down ten more of my favorite movies!  All I really have to say about this bunch of movies is that almost all of my favorite types of movies are represented here.  Silents, musicals, foreign, film noir, drama, comedy, they’re all there.  The only way this week’s bunch could be more ‘me’ is if I had worked in some offbeat B-movie in there somewhere.  Now, onto number 80…

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The Big Cube (1969)

A while back, I bought the book Lana: The Memories, The Myths, The Movies by Cheryl Crane and while reading it, I came across something about a movie Lana was in called The Big Cube.  The book didn’t say much about it, but all I knew is that there was a movie about Lana Turner on LSD.  And since I love crazy drug movies from the 60′s, I knew I had to see this movie.  I was in luck, because not too long after reading about it, TCM played it as part of TCM Underground.  I told my friend Nikki about this movie and she was equally intrigued by the idea of a movie about Lana Turner on acid.  Next thing I know, it’s 2:00 AM on a Friday night, and Nikki and I are having a blast on Facebook making fun of this completely insane movie.  It’s chock full of bad acting, strange accents, inexplicable stripping, questionable fashions, and loads of crazy psychedelic goodness.  At times, I felt like I was watching an episode of Dragnet.  I kept waiting for Friday and Gannon to come barging in and for Friday to start making one of his famous speeches. So all in all, The Big Cube was everything I could ask for in a 60′s drug movie.

In The Big Cube, Lana Turner plays Adriana, an actress who marries Charles Winthrop, a wealthy tycoon.  Charles has a daughter Lisa, who is not at all pleased with her new stepmother and she starts hanging around with the wrong crowd.  Lisa’s closest friend is a woman named Bibi.  Why Lisa hangs out with her is beyond me, since it seems Lisa and Bibi have nothing in common. One night, Bibi brings Lisa out for a night at a psychedelic club and she meets Johnny, a med student and fan of LSD.  Johnny knows Lisa comes from a rich family and gets close to her to get her money.  Shortly after Adriana and Charles are married, the two of them go boating and in an accident, Adriana suffers a concussion and Charles dies.  When the will is read, Lisa finds out she can only inherit her entire estate if she gets married to someone Adriana approves of.  Of course, Adriana doesn’t approve of Lisa marrying Johnny so they do what any normal young couple would do and plot to make everyone think Adriana is crazy by spiking her  medicine with acid and making her think they are trying to kill her.  Sure enough, their scheme works and Adriana is deemed mentally incompetent and Lisa and Johnny are free to marry.  But the marriage is short-lived and Lisa discovers Johnny actually did want to kill Adriana.  Lisa starts trying to help Adriana recover and when all is said and done, the two end up becoming friends.  Johnny, on the other hand, doesn’t fare as well.  The last we see of him, he’s in his apartment high on acid, putting an ant in his pocket and descending into madness.

When I was in school, I had to go through the D.A.R.E. program, so I already knew all about why drugs are bad.  But I think The Big Cube taught me a few new valuable lessons about why drugs are bad and why you should stay away from people who do them:

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