Gene Tierney

Black Widow (1954)

Black Widow 1954

After saying goodbye to his actress wife Iris (Gene Tierney) at the airport, Broadway producer Peter Denver (Van Heflin) decides to make an appearance at a party being thrown by their neighbor, Lottie (Ginger Rogers), a fellow actress. Peter really doesn’t want to go, but he finds it hard to make excuses not to when he lives in the same building as the host. At the party, he meets 20-something-year-old Nancy “Nanny” Ordway (Peggy Ann Garner).

Like lots of young people, Nanny has recently come to New York City full of ambition and looking to start a successful career as a writer. Peter is very happily married and has no interest in having an affair, but he likes to help people who are just getting started, so he offers to take her out to dinner, making his platonic intentions very clear. After that night, he continues his friendship with Nanny and when she says her apartment isn’t very conducive to writing, he agrees to let her work from his luxurious apartment while he’s at work during the day.

When Iris returns from her trip, she and Peter arrive at their apartment and discover that Nanny has committed suicide. But once the police get involved, it becomes clear there was foul play involved. Iris was well aware of Peter’s friendship with Nanny and never felt threatened by it…until the investigation gets underway. Once the police investigation begins, though, some evidence comes forward that makes Peter look like the prime suspect. Determined to prove his innocence, Peter has to do some investigating to clear his name.

Black Widow isn’t a bad movie, but it’s not a great movie, either. The story is nothing innovative or groundbreaking, but it’s entertaining enough to watch at least once. There are certainly far worse ways you could spend 95 minutes. But I have a slight soft spot for it since there’s something about film noir movies that were filmed in Technicolor that I really like (I don’t know why really, just one of my many random fixations.) Also, because it has a poster that is far more scandalous than the movie actually is. (Seriously, why does the woman on this poster have long hair? Nanny has super short hair, nor is she nearly that vampy.)

Black Widow has a lot of big stars, but none of them are at their best in it. Gene Tierney in particular is extremely under utilized in it, so if you’re watching it for her, you may be disappointed. George Raft was pretty underwhelming in his role as a detective working the case. And although I liked some of Lottie’s sassier quips, it’s not one of Ginger’s finest roles, but it’s not a terrible one, either, especially considering where she was at that point in her career.  This was one of the last feature films she made before mostly moving into television and stage roles, so while Black Widow is no Kitty Foyle, it doesn’t even come close to Trog or Sextette territory, either. The best performance of the movie comes from Peggy Ann Garner, who unfortunately, doesn’t get top billing even though she deserved it more than most of the other actors in this movie.

What’s on TCM: April 2014

John Wayne Happy April, everyone!  For Turner Classic Movies, April 2014 isn’t just any ordinary month — it marks the channel’s 20th anniversary.  This entire month can only be described as a celebration of everything that makes TCM wonderful.  TCM will be celebrating their 20th year by handing control over to their fans with a week of viewer requested movies during the daytime from April 7-11th.  In prime time that same week, several of the top contestants in TCM’s Ultimate Fan competition will join Robert Osborne to introduce some of their favorite movies.  And on April 14th, the day the channel was launched, you’ll find a day packed to the brim with many of the greatest films ever made.

TCM’s anniversary isn’t the only major milestone happening this month.  April 2nd is the 100th birthday of Alec Guinness and April 3rd is Doris Day’s 90th birthday.  Both stars will be feted with 24-hour marathons of their films on their respective birthdays.  Also turning 90 this year is MGM Studios.  TCM will be featuring 48-hours of some of MGM’s finest films from April 17-18.

John Wayne fans may want to clear some space on their DVRs because  John Wayne is April’s Star of the Month.  Instead of having one night a week of his movies, as is usually the case for Star of the Month showcases, TCM will be dedicating five straight days to The Duke.  That’s right, from April 21-25, TCM will be all John Wayne, all the time.  Although I’m personally not the biggest fan of Westerns, I’ve gotta admit that John Wayne is a perfect choice to be Star of the Month during such a milestone month for TCM.

Now, let’s get on to the good stuff!

(more…)

Heaven Can Wait (1943)

Heaven Can Wait PosterWhen Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche) dies, he has no delusions about going to Heaven.  But before he can go anywhere, he has to explain to the devil why he belongs in Hell.  So he starts telling his life story, beginning with his privileged childhood spent living with his parents and doting grandfather (Charles Coburn).  As a teenager, his family hires a maid and tutor who helps put him on the path to becoming a real playboy.  Just as Henry is about to turn 26, Henry meets Martha (Gene Tierney), the woman of his dreams.  The only problem is that she is already engaged to his cousin.  However, Martha is more interested in Henry so they elope.

Ten years later, on the morning of Henry’s 36th birthday, Martha tires of him stepping out on her so she leaves.  With encouragement from his grandfather, Henry patches things up with her and they elope all over again.  Another twenty-five years pass and Henry has settled down, but their son Jack (Tod Andrews) is behaving much like Henry had when he was younger.  On the night of their twenty-fifth anniversary, Henry notices Martha hasn’t been feeling well and she dies a short time later.

Without Martha in his life, 60-year-old Henry is back to staying out late and cavorting with women.  Jack, on the other hand, has settled down and become a responsible business man.  Henry lives to be 70 years old and dies in his bed, under the care of a beautiful nurse.  After hearing Henry’s life story, the devil decides that Henry does not belong in Hell, for he has made many people in his life happy.

Considering its cast and director, I went into Heaven Can Wait with very high expectations.  For me, this was an example of the adage, “Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”  Heaven Can Wait isn’t one of my favorite Ernst Lubitsch films, but I’m so fond of Lubitsch that even if one of his movies isn’t a favorite of mine, I still enjoy it very much.  Gene Tierney and Don Ameche made a wonderful couple and Charles Coburn was perfectly cast as Henry’s grandfather.  The story is very sweet and has a great deal of warmth to it.  However, I just didn’t feel like it was quite in the same league as some Lubitsch’s other films like Ninotchka, Trouble in Paradise, or The Shop Around the Corner.  But those are some very lofty standards to live up to and even if Heaven can Wait doesn’t quite reach them, it’s still a pleasure to watch.

What’s on TCM: December 2012

It’s hard to believe we’re already down to the final month of 2012, but leave it to TCM to end the year on a high note!  There is so much going on that I’m excited for.  First and foremost, we get Barbara Stanwyck as Star of the Month!  Every Wednesday night in December will kick off a 24-hour block of Stanwyck movies, and since I know a lot of my readers are big Stanwyck fans, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got plenty of room on your DVRs.  Every Friday night this month will be a salute to director Ernst Lubitsch, so you know every Friday night is going to be good.

Naturally, you can expect plenty of Christmas movies throughout the month.  Also worth noting is Baby Peggy night on December 3rd.  Baby Peggy is one of the last surviving stars from the silent era and was recently the subject of the documentary Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room, which will be airing on TCM that night along with some of her movies.

(more…)

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1946)

After the death of her husband, Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) spends a year living with her controlling mother-and-sister-in-law.  Eventually, Lucy decides it would be best if she found a place of her own to raise her daughter Anna (Natalie Wood as a child, Vanessa Brown as an adult).  Her family highly disapproves of this idea, but she’s determined to live on her own.  She finds a place that would be perfect for her and the price seems almost too good to be true.  When she goes to look at the place, she quickly discovers the place is haunted.  Other tenants have been scared off by the ghost, but Lucy is determined to live there.

After she moves in, Lucy realizes the house is haunted by its previous owner, Captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison).  Daniel tries to scare her away, but after she stands up to him, the two of them become very fond of each other.  Daniel manages to help Lucy out in many ways.  He helps her stand up to her controlling family and when she falls into financial trouble, he has her write his life story for him, which becomes a big hit.  Eventually,they fall in love with each other, but they know they couldn’t truly be together.

After meeting with her publisher one day, Lucy meets children’s author Miles Fairley (George Sanders) and can’t resist his charms.  The two of them begin a relationship, but Daniel is jealous of their relationship and tries to warn her about Miles, but Lucy won’t listen.  Daniel decides the best thing he can do is step out of Lucy’s life and lets her carry on her relationship with Miles.  Unfortunately, it turns out Daniel was right about Miles and Lucy soon discovers that Miles is already married and has children of his own.  Heartbroken, Lucy goes home to live out her life as a single woman.  As the years go by, Daniel doesn’t come to visit her, but she never forgets him.  One night, as an old woman, Lucy sits down in her room and passes away.  Daniel finally appears, waiting to lead her into the afterlife with him where they can finally be together again.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is a pretty unique movie.  At first, I thought it might be something along the lines of The Uninvited, but then it became more of a fantasy movie than a horror movie, and then it finally turned into a romance movie.  It can be hard to make a movie with so many shifts in style, but Joseph L. Mankiewicz totally made it work.  I loved Gene Tierney as Lucy and Rex Harrison was spot-on as Captain Daniel Gregg.  This was such a charming and sweet movie with an excellent Bernard Hermann score as the icing on the cake.  This would be the perfect movie to watch on a cool Fall night while having a cup of hot chocolate.

Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942)

After the death of his parents, Benjamin Blake (Roddy McDowall as a child, Tyrone Power as an adult) goes to live with his kind grandfather.  His father was the Baronet of Breetholm, but Benjamin doesn’t inherit the estate that is rightfully his.  Because of some debate over whether or not Benjamin was born in wedlock, it goes to his sadistic uncle Sir Arthur Blake (George Sanders) instead.  Arthur takes Benjamin away from his grandfather and forces him to become his bonded servant.  Benjamin considers running away with his grandfather, but decides to stay and lets his uncle’s torment fuel his ambition to reclaim his father’s estate.

Ten years pass and Benjamin is still a servant, but has also fallen in love with his cousin Isabel (Frances Farmer).  They want to get married, but Benjamin wants to wait until after he has proven the estate is his.  Isabel promises to wait for him, but Benjamin soon finds himself on the run from the law after he and Arthur get into a fight.  With some help from his grandfather, Benjamin manages to escape on a boat headed for the South Seas, but his grandfather winds up in jail for helping him.

On the ship, Benjamin proves to be quite the sailor and makes friends with fellow sailor Caleb Green (John Carradine).  Eventually, the two of them head off for an island where they find a fortune by diving for pearls.  Things get even better for Benjamin, who falls in love with a native girl named Eve (Gene Tierney).  He couldn’t be happier living on the island with Eve, but knows he must go home to clear his name and get his grandfather out of jail.

I saw Son of Fury for the first time recently after buying it on a whim.  I hadn’t even heard anything about it before then, but I just had a feeling about it and I’m so glad I took a chance on it.  It’s got adventure, it’s got drama, it’s got romance.  Although I do wish Gene Tierney and Frances Farmer had a little more to do, I loved Tyrone Power in it and George Sanders brought pure villainy to Sir Arthur Blake.  Roddy McDowall and Elsa Lanchester both make their small roles quite memorable.  The cinematography and score were also first-rate.  There’s nothing about it I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.  It’s a good thing I bought this movie because it’s one I’ll definitely want to watch again.

What’s on TCM: August 2010

It’s August, and that can only mean one thing: Summer Under the Stars!  Like 31 Days of Oscar, Summer Under the Stars never disappoints and I’m definitely excited for this year’s schedule.  There are plenty of days dedicated to showcasing some SUTS mainstays like Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Henry Fonda.  But this year they’re really mixing things up and spending nearly half the month focusing on people who have never been part of SUTS before, including John Gilbert, Ethel Barrymore, and Gene Tierney.  Not only are there lots of stars who are new to SUTS, there are also tons of movies being premiered this month.  I counted a grand total of 54 TCM premieres in August, 19 of which are on Thelma Todd day alone.

Here is a complete list of the stars featured this month.  To get the complete schedule, you can download a copy here.

(more…)