Uncategorized

The Outstanding Ensemble Cast of “Since You Went Away”

 

Since You Went Away Cast

There’s no way to talk about Since You Went Away without talking about how incredible the cast is as a whole. It’s one of those movies where virtually every actor who appears in it is extremely memorable. Lead roles, supporting roles, everybody makes an impact.

Since You Went Away Claudette Colbert

I’ve already talked a bit about how much I love Claudette Colbert’s performance in Since You Went Away, but her outstanding work doesn’t stop after the first scene. Claudette Colbert was initially hesitant to take the part of Anne Hilton because she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be seen as old enough to be the mother of teenage daughters. But fortunately, a nice salary and the assurance that she would be boosting audience morale were enough to convince her to take the part. Anne may have been old enough to have teenage daughters, but it gave Claudette Colbert to prove just how much range she had. She handled everything from being warm and maternal to uncertain and afraid without missing a beat.

Jennifer Jones Robert Walker Since You Went AwayCasting actors who are married to each other to play a young couple in love hardly seems like a stretch. But if Jennifer Jones and Robert Walker’s relationship was ever like Jane and Bill’s relationship, those days were long behind them. By the time they made Since You Went Away together, Jones and Walker’s marriage was essentially over. They had separated in late 1943 and would be divorced a year after the movie was released. But their ability to put personal issues aside for the sake of the movie is extremely impressive and a testament to their talent. Their rapport is so strong and they made such a believable couple, I was very surprised to find out Jones and Walker were actually on the verge of divorce at the time.

Since You Went Away Shirley Temple

When she appeared in Since You Went Away, Shirley Temple, then 16 years old, hadn’t made a movie in two years. Although Shirley Temple is most widely celebrated for her work as a child actress, she proved to be more than just a cute kid in Since You Went Away. Temple gave Brig such a wonderful natural charm without being over-the-top precocious. All of the cast had great chemistry together, but I particularly love Shirley Temple’s scenes with Monty Woolley. The friendship between Brig and Col. Smollett never fails to warm my heart.

Since You Went Away Shirley Temple Monty Woolley

While Shirley Temple is associated with sweetness and light, Monty Woolley had the opposite screen image; best remembered for playing the acerbic Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner. Monty Woolley certainly had plenty of chances to do what he did best in Since You Went Away, but Col. Smollett is a character that let him show some softness as well. It’s a very well-rounded role that let him show how much talent he really did have.

Since You Went Away Agnes Moorehead

Agnes Moorehead plays Emily Hawkins, Anne’s snobbish friend, and boy does she ever excel at playing someone you love to hate. I tend to think of Emily as being like Sylvia Fowler: The War Years. Her haughty attitude, back-handed comments, and wardrobe would certainly make Sylvia Fowler proud. But while Sylvia Fowler is a total caricature, Emily Hawkins feels like someone you could actually meet, which makes the scene when she gets taken down a peg one of the best of the movie.

Since You Went Away Hattie McDaniel Joseph CottenJoseph Cotten was a perfect fit for the role of Tony, the handsome, charismatic friend of the Hilton family. It’s certainly not hard to see how someone like him would be so alluring to young ladies like Jane and Brig. I absolutely love his scenes with Claudette Colbert. Even though there is clearly an attraction and a little bit of history between Tony and Anne, Joesph Cotton never plays Tony as someone who is out to steal his friend’s wife. But there’s just enough of a spark to leave the audience wondering if they’re going to wind up together at the end of the movie.

Last, but certainly not least, there’s Hattie McDaniel.  Simply put, Fidelia is a classic Hattie McDaniel role. She got to do everything that made her so likable.

Benjamin Braddock and Mrs. Robinson: The Parts That Almost Got Away

Dustin Hoffman Ann Bancroft The Graduate

The Graduate is a movie I love every single aspect of. To me, it’s about as close a movie gets to perfection. By far, one of my favorite aspects of it is the cast. Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock and Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson are two of my favorite performances ever committed to celluloid; a career-defining film for both of them.

Nobody has ever played an awkward young guy quite as brilliantly as Dustin Hoffman did in The Graduate. He projected just the right amount of nervous energy and uncertainty. Mrs. Robinson is such a wonderfully rich role for a more mature woman and Anne Bancroft played that very complex character to the hilt.

Last week, I talked about how it’s hard to imagine The Graduate without songs like “Mrs. Robinson” and “The Sound of Silence,” but neither of those songs were originally intended to be used in the film. It’s even harder to imagine The Graduate without Anne Bancroft or Dustin Hoffman, but remarkably, neither of them were even close to being the first choices for their roles.

Jeanne Moreau Lana Turner Ava Gardner

Jeanne Moreau was director Mike Nichols’ first choice to play Mrs. Robinson, but the producers didn’t want her. Lana Turner, Shelley Winters, Susan Hayward, Patricia Neal, Angela Lansbury, Judy Garland, and Doris Day were all considered for the part. Ava Gardner was very interested in the part, but Nichols wasn’t very interested in her.

Robert Redford Anthony Perkins Warren Beatty

Before Dustin Hoffman came into the picture, Mike Nichols had considered Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Burt Ward, Robert Wagner, George Hamilton, Anthony Perkins, George Peppard, and Jack Nicholson for the part of Benjamin. Robert Redford was a top contender for the part, but ultimately Mike Nichols didn’t think audiences would find him believable as an underdog type.

When Hoffman was approached about auditioning for Benjamin, Dustin thought he was so wrong for the part that he wondered if he was being made fun of.  After Nichols convinced Hoffman it wasn’t a joke, he agreed to come in for a screen test with Katharine Ross and the result was nearly disastrous. When he arrived for the screen test, Hoffman looked so common and unpolished that producer Joseph E. Levine mistook him for a messenger. The test was supposed to be a love scene and at the time and not had Hoffman never done a love scene before, he was convinced that someone like Katharine Ross would never be interested in a guy like him. Dustin was certain he had failed miserably, but he got the part because he had the awkward quality they had been looking for all along.

A Few Final Thoughts on TCMFF 2014

TCMFF is more physically demanding than I expected.

As I was leaving the airport to come home, there were some employees standing near the entrance to the baggage claim area saying things like, “Have a nice day!” and “Enjoy your visit!” to people as they left. Not me, though. When I walked by, they said, “You’re almost there, you can make it!”  I’m sure I did look pretty exhausted by that point. I was coming right off a very long day at the festival, I was running on very little sleep, my shoe was starting to bother me and I was just ready to go home.

I knew the days would be long, but since I’m a person who likes walking and I generally walk a few hundred miles a year, I thought spending a few days running around within just a few blocks of Los Angeles should be no problem for me. Hahahahaha….no.  Maybe it would have been easy under normal circumstances where I’m eating normally, not jetlagged and not spending over 12 hours a day in theaters.  But I can’t wait to do it again.

The quality of prints were consistently very good.

During press day, Genevieve McGillicuddy and Charles Tabesh said that one of the biggest challenges of programming a festival like this is finding prints in acceptable quality.  Once the festival got started, I quickly appreciated how much effort they put into finding good prints.  The movies I saw were an even mix of digital and 35mm and they were all consistently very good, and in some cases, pristine. The lowest quality print I saw was National Velvet, but that’s completely forgivable considering it was a last minute addition.

The midnight movie selections were perfect.

Reactions to Eraserhead were generally…confused, but there’s no denying that Eraserhead and Freaks are two of the ultimate midnight movies.

You won’t be able to do it all, but what you will do will be amazing.

TCMFF is a bit like having your own On The Town type experience.  Only instead of having one day to do everything you want, you have four days and there will probably be at least two things happening at any given time that you’d love to be doing. (And that’s only if you come strictly for the festival events. If there are other things you want to see and do around town, I recommend either coming a day or two early or staying after the festival.)  I went into the festival with my list of movies and events to go to,  but I also went into it expecting those plans to change at any time.  And they did change, but I’m not sorry they changed, either.

I would have loved to have seen Maureen O’Hara, Jerry Lewis, and Quincy Jones in person, but the things I went to instead of those events and screenings were things I enjoyed so much that if I had it to do all over again, I would have made the exact same choices.  I realize that if I had gone to the Quincy Jones conversation on Friday like I originally planned to, I probably would have ended up missing either Why Worry? or Employees’ Entrance, and since both of those were highlights of the festival for me, I have no regrets.

The festival may be over, but I still have movies to watch.

Since it simply wasn’t possible to see everything, I came home with Fifth Avenue GirlSorcererOn Approval, Written on the Wind and Hat Check Girl on my list of movies I need to see.

The people are as exciting as the movies.

If you’ve been following other bloggers’ coverage of TCMFF, you’ve read a lot of people saying how appropriate it is that the theme for this year’s festival was “Family: The Ties That Bind” because there is a very strong sense of family among attendees.  At the risk of sounding clichéd, they’re all absolutely correct about that.

This was my first time attending the festival and even though I knew many people who were going to be there, it was also my first time getting to meet them in person. Despite the fact that I’ve known some of these people for years, there was still a small part of me that was a little worried that it would be totally weird to spend a few days going up to people and saying, “Hey, I know you from the Internet!”

Once I got there and started seeing people, I realized I had nothing to worry about. Excitement kicks in before you even have time to think of it as being potentially weird.  And after all, they know me from the Internet too and it’s fun for everybody be able to put a voice and a face to the blogs they read. No awkwardness, just an instant sense of camaraderie.  Even in cases where I had read a person’s writing but never personally knew the person behind the blog, it was still like running into an old friend.  I flew out there by myself, but once I got there, there was never a moment where I felt like I was alone.  Getting to spend a few days surrounded by so many friends in this classic film utopia was one of the most completely joyous experiences I’ve ever had.

What’s on TCM: March 2013

Greer GarsonHappy March, everyone!  Hopefully you’ve all been enjoying 31 Days of Oscars, I know I have.  But we already have just a few days left of that before it’s back to the standard TCM schedule.  Greer Garson will be the Star of the Month for March and her movies can be seen every Monday night this month.  TCM will also be shining the spotlight on director Roberto Rossellini every Friday night in March.  Now, let’s take a look at the rest of the schedule:

(more…)

My Local Joan Crawford Connection

About a year and a half ago, while I was reading Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford, I discovered that I had a local connection to Joan Crawford.  I’d known that while Joan was trying to get started as a chorus girl, she had a brief stint dancing in a club in Detroit, but I didn’t know which club or where it was.  But thanks to that book, I not only found out the name, I realized I’d been right past it a hundred times.

This is the place.  3067 E. Grand Boulevard.  (Picture found on the Library of Congress website)

When Joan danced there in the 1920s, the club was named Oriole Terrace, which was a pretty swanky jazz joint at the time.  It was located on East Grand Boulevard just off of Woodward Avenue (if you’re familiar with the area, it was across from the police station, next to Goodyear).  Joan didn’t dance there for long, but it was a pretty important stepping stone in her career.   While she was here, she met Broadway producer J.J. Shubert who asked her to come to New York to be part of his new show called Innocent Eyes.  When she finished with that show, she went into another Shubert show, which is where she was spotted by Harry Rapf.  Harry had her do a screen test, asked her to come work for MGM, and the rest is history.

The front of the theater in the 1940s, after a fire.

Aside from the Joan Crawford connection, this theater actually had a pretty interesting history.  It was built in 1915 and was originally one of the first duplex movie theaters.  The movie house closed in 1922, then it became Oriole Terrace.  As the years went by, it went through a series of name changes, but stayed active and performers such as Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Lena Horne and Jimmy Durante graced its stage.  (Here’s what the interior of the club looked like in 1960.)  In its last incarnation as Grand Quarters during the 1980s and early 1990s, it was a pretty popular place for rock concerts.  Bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails all played there.

Unfortunately, after it closed down sometime in the mid-to-late 90s, it fell into a state of disrepair.  It was just demolished in January after having been slated for demolition since 2008.  It’s too bad that such a historic theater couldn’t be saved (I can’t help but be fascinated by any place where performers ranged from a pre-fame Joan Crawford to Diana Ross and Kurt Cobain), but I’m glad that I was at least able to find out where it was and get a glimpse of it while it was still standing.  Now I can’t help but think of Joan every time I’m at Woodward and East Grand Boulevard.

The Time Gene Kelly Made Madonna Suddenly Timid


Gene Kelly and Madonna: talk about an odd couple.  But believe it or not, the two of them did briefly work together in 1993.  I had almost forgotten that little detail until I was watching my DVD of Madonna’s Girlie Show tour earlier tonight.  The story is that when Madonna was getting ready to go out on tour, there were several different choreographers she wanted to work with and Gene Kelly was one of them.  She specifically wanted him to choreograph a number for her song Rain.

Well, it doesn’t take a genius to see that Gene Kelly’s style just wasn’t going to mesh well with Madonna’s, who was then at her most outrageous.  According to her brother Christopher Ciccone, the show’s director, Gene Kelly wasn’t very comfortable working with her dancers, who had been picked more for personality than classical dance backgrounds.  But he got a number together and when Christopher saw it, he realized it just wasn’t a good fit for the show’s burlesque circus theme.  So he got Madonna to come check it out, and at first she was adamant that they keep Gene.  But then about a week later, she decided that his number had to go.  She went up to Christopher again and told him — and then asked him if he’d be the one to fire Gene.  Personally, I just think it’s absolutely hilarious that Madonna didn’t have it in her to fire Gene Kelly.  Throughout her whole career, Madonna has been the most fearless woman in the music industry.  Nothing intimidates that woman, but the thought of having to fire Gene Kelly was enough to suddenly turn her into a shy little girl.

I imagine this was a little different from her deciding that she wants to work with a different record producer, though.  Madonna is a big classic film aficionado (that tour in particular was chock full of classic film references) so I imagine she grew up watching his movies and had a lot of  respect and admiration for him as a dancer.  But I guess she must not have had any hard feelings toward him considering the show ended up including a very Gene Kelly-esque dance interlude set to Singin’ in the Rain.