Gregory La Cava

Bed of Roses (1933)

After getting out of jail, prostitute Lorry Evans (Constance Bennett) and her pal Minnie (Pert Kelton) hop on board a steamship headed to New Orleans.  They could take this moment to get their lives on the straight and narrow, but they have no intentions of doing that.  When they realize they don’t have enough money to get all the way to New Orleans, they find a couple of men on board, get them drunk, and steal their money.  When the captain finds out about what they’ve done, he tries to have them arrested, but Lorry jumps overboard.

She gets rescued by Dan (Joel McCrea), the owner of a cotton barge, but she lost her money in the water.  Dan and Lorry hit it off right away, but rather than pursue a relationship with Dan, she steals his money and goes to see Stephen Paige (John Halliday) when the ship docks in New Orleans.  Stephen is a very wealthy book publisher Lorry had seen on board the steamship and she goes straight to work making herself his new mistress.  He sets her up in a swanky new apartment and a stylish new wardrobe, but she hasn’t forgotten Dan and goes back to repay the money she stole from him.

When Dan finds out why she stole the money, he’s very forgiving and would really like to see Lorry again.  She starts seeing Dan on the side and they fall very deeply in love with each other.  However, he doesn’t know about Lorry’s past.  When Dan proposes, she accepts, but a very jealous Stephen finds out about it, he tells her that her past will only hold Dan back.  Afraid that he might be right, Lorry decides to make a more respectable life for herself and leaves Stephen and his lavish apartment to take a shabby apartment and a job in a department store.  Dan is heartbroken when she doesn’t leave with him as planned and becomes obsessed with finding her again.  Eventually, Dan and Lorry are reunited at a Mardi Gras party thanks to a little help from Minnie.

I really liked Bed of Roses.  Constance Bennett brought so much sass and vibrancy to Lorrie, I absolutely loved her in it.  Not to mention the palpable chemistry she had with Joel McCrea!  Pert Kelton proved to be another excellent co-star for Bennett.  Kelton had just as much sass as Constance and she got some really great wisecracks in there, too.  The writing is razor sharp and has held up very well over time.  Even though the movie is only a little over an hour long, it never feels rushed.  This is a movie that reminded me why I love pre-codes, not that I ever actually needed reminding.

The Half Naked Truth (1932)

While working as the publicity man for a two-bit carnival, Jimmy Bates (Lee Tracy) decides that the best way to drum up some business is through a little good old fashioned speculation and controversy. When he announces that dancer Teresita(Lupe Velez) will name the man in town who fathered her and left her mother years ago during one of her performances, not only do people show up to get the dirt, a few men also slip him some money to keep their names out of it.

The police also take an interest in the story, but when they find out the whole stunt is a sham, they shut down the whole carnival and Bates, Teresita, and their friend Achilles (Eugene Pallette) jump in a car and head to New York.  Bates has promised Teresita that he’s going to turn her into a big star, so as soon as they make it to the city, he hits the ground running building hype for Teresita.  He brings them to the Ritz and convinces them that she’s a Turkish princess and they are given a nice suite.

Bates resorts to all sorts of crazy publicity stunts to get the newspapers talking about this mysterious princess. Merle Farrell (Frank Morgan) is the big Broadway producer in town and he’s flabbergasted when Bates tells the press that the princess will be starring in Farrell’s new show.  But when ticket sales increase, Farrell decides to go along with it. On opening night, Teresita’s dance is not a hit with the audience, so Bates stops the show, telling the crowd the dance was too sacred to be performed in public. He has Teresita sing a song instead and she becomes an overnight sensation. She’s now a star and Bates has a new gig as Farrell’s publicity man.

Even though Bates is in love with Teresita, she loses interest in him and starts setting her sights on Farrell instead. When Bates finds out about it, he takes some incriminating pictures of them together, and uses them to blackmail Farrell into giving a spot in his show to another girl he’s determined to turn into a big star.  With the public losing interest in Teresita, she and Achilles lose interest in New York so when he decides to buy the carnival they had worked at before, she leaves with him.  But New York just isn’t the same without those two and it isn’t long before Bates finds himself back at the carnival right where he started.

The Half Naked Truth is amusing, but not great. It’s the kind of movie I’m glad I saw once, but it’s not the sort of thing I’d go out of my way to watch again.  I got some laughs out of it, I liked the cast, but there wasn’t anything about it that impressed me so much that it became one of my favorites.

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

(more…)

Primrose Path (1940)

Ellie May Adams (Ginger Rogers) is hardly living the high life.  She lives in a run-down house with her prostitute mother Mamie (Marjorie Rambeau), her former-prostitute grandmother (Queenie Vassar), her alcoholic scholar father Homer (Miles Mander), and her younger sister Honeybell (Joan Carroll).  Her father can’t hold a job so it’s up to her mother to support the family.  It’s not the best situation, but her parents love her very much and her father wants her to have something better out of life.

While on the way to the beach one day, Ellie May gets a ride with Gramp (Henry Travers), who runs a gas station and restaurant.  Ellie doesn’t have any money for lunch, so Gramp lets her have a sandwich.  While at the restaurant, Ellie meets Ed Wallace (Joel McCrea), a quick-witted waiter.  Sparks begin to fly when Ed realizes  that Ellie has no problem keeping up with his wisecracks.  Ed offers Ellie a ride home and kisses her along the way.  After that, Ellie can’t get Ed out of her head.  She goes out to see him one night, and to avoid bringing him home to meet her family, she tells him that her parents threw her out for being in love with him.

Ellie and Ed get married and wait tables in Gramp’s restaurant together.  All is going well until Mamie comes by the gas station one day with one of her “dates.”  When she gets upset over a customer’s comment about her mother, she doesn’t give the Ed the real story about why she’s upset.  Ed decides he’d like to finally meet her family, but when she takes him to their house, he quickly realizes just how many lies Ellie has told him and leaves her.  Things get even worse later that night when Homer shoots Mamie by mistake.  She doesn’t survive, leaving Ellie to support the family.  Unable to get a job on her own, she has to take her grandmother’s advice and turn to prostitution.  While out on a “date” with “Mr. Smith” (Charles Lane, uncredited), she not-so-accidentally runs into Ed to confront him.  After she leaves, “Mr. Smith” has a few words with Ed and lets him in on what’s really going on with her.

Primrose Path was a pretty darn good drama.  The writing is good, the direction by Gregory La Cava is good, and Ginger Rogers and Joel McCrea are both excellent in it.  It was definitely interesting to see Rogers in such an un-glamorous role for a change.  The supporting cast is wonderful, Marjorie Rambeau absolutely deserved her Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination.

The most surprising thing about Primrose Path is that it somehow got made with the production codes being enforced at the time.  The word “prostitute” is never actually used, but the movie isn’t subtle at all about it.  Not only is prostitution central to the storyline, but Mamie is a very sympathetic character.

All in all, it’s a very enjoyable movie.  Definitely keep an eye out for this one.