Hedy Lamarr

Her Highness and the Bellboy (1945)

Her Highness and the Bellboy 1945

Jimmy Dobson (Robert Walker) has a humble job working as a bellboy at a swanky hotel. When he’s not working at the hotel, he spends his spare time with his friend and co-worker Albert (Rags Ragland), trying to keep him from getting mixed up with gangsters, and their neighbor Leslie (June Allyson), a former dancer who is now disabled and bedridden. Albert and Jimmy like to cheer Leslie up by taking her up to the roof and telling her stories, but Jimmy is completely unaware that Leslie is in love with him.

When Princess Veronica (Hedy Lamarr) arrives in America, she stays at the hotel where Jimmy works. But when she arrives, she accidentally walks into the employee area, she isn’t recognized by Jimmy, who thinks she’s a new maid. He invites Veronica to join him for a walk in the park and they have a lovely time together, but when they go back to the hotel, Jimmy nearly gets fired for hanging around with such an important guest, but Veronica saves him by arranging for him to be her personal attendant while she’s in town.

As Jimmy and Veronica spend more and more time with each other, they become great friends and Jimmy starts to fall in love with her, much to Leslie’s dismay. But Veronica is really in love with Paul (Warner Anderson), a reporter she had been in love with several years before but ultimately left to marry her now-deceased husband. In fact, the whole reason she’s in America is so she can try to win him back. Paul is still too hurt to give her another chance, but she’s not ready to give up. Meanwhile, due to a misunderstanding, Jimmy ends up thinking Veronica is in love with him, too, and at one point, he does have the chance to go back to her home country with her. But when he goes to say goodbye to Leslie, she has some news for him that makes him change his mind.

Her Highness and the Bellboy is what I like to think of as a great Sunday afternoon movie — it’s not great cinema or anything, but it’s simple, charming, lighthearted entertainment that was never meant to do anything more than make the audience smile at the end. Those are the types of movies that always just feel so perfect to me on a Sunday afternoon, hence why I call them “Sunday afternoon movies.” Sure, it’s predictable and hardly innovative, but that’s not always a bad thing. It’s like cinematic comfort food; it just makes you feel good and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a cute, fluffy little movie with a happy ending, a few laughs, and a great cast. I ended up liking it a lot more than I really expected to, actually, and look forward to watching it again someday.

Come Live With Me (1941)

Come Live With Me 1941After fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria, Johnny Jones (Hedy Lamarr) comes to America, starts a career as a showgirl, and starts dating book publisher Barton Kendrick (Ian Hunter). But when her passport expires, she continues to stay in America illegally and eventually, the government catches up with her. When an agent comes to see her, he tells her she’ll have to leave the country unless she marries an American citizen. But the real problem is that she can’t even marry Barton, he’s already married. Later that night, she goes out to a restaurant and meets Bill Smith (James Stewart), a writer going through a rough patch and in dire need of money. Since Johnny has money and Bill is an American citizen, she suggests a marriage of convenience: he marries her and she pays him $17.80 a week to be her husband. Bill agrees.

Two months go by and Johnny is happy with the arrangement. She keeps seeing Barton, but he’s clueless about how Johnny solved her citizenship dilemma. At least Johnny is happy with the arrangement until Barton tells her he’s leaving his wife Diana (Verree Teasdale) to marry Johnny. When Johnny tells Bill she wants a divorce, he’s reluctant to agree to it. Not because he wants the money, but he’s become infatuated with Johnny and has started writing a book about his unusual marriage.

When Bill finishes his book, he sends it to several publishers, including Barton. Both Barton and Diana read the book and want to publish it. But during a meeting with Bill, the Kendricks realize what’s really going on. Bill uses the money from his advance to buy a car and take Johnny on a trip before he’ll agree to the divorce. He wants to get to know her better before they divorce and hopes she’ll reconsider. During a visit to Bill’s grandmother’s home, Johnny realizes that maybe Bill is the one she really wants to be with after all.

People getting married for the sake of solving a citizenship problem is hardly a unique plot device for movies or TV shows, but Come Live With Me manages to stand out from the others. Come Live With Me offers enough twists and charm that it doesn’t feel like you’re watching something that’s been done time and time again. Jimmy Stewart and Hedy Lamarr are so likeable together, it’s easy to want them to end up together at the end. It’s all very sweet, gentle, and extremely enjoyable. Come Live With Me is exactly the type of movie I talk about when I call a movie a hidden gem — not exactly well known, but with a great cast, good writing, it’s anything but mediocre.

What’s on TCM: November 2012

Happy November!  Even though this isn’t one of my favorite months on TCM, it’s still a pretty busy month.  First of all, Constance Bennett is the Star of the Month, which I’m pretty happy to see.  Her movies will be shown every Tuesday night in November.

If you’re a fan of seeing how films compare to the novels they were based on, you are going to love this month.  Every Monday and Wednesday night will be full of movies based on books and the adaptations will continue until prime time on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I love the idea of this series, but I would have liked to have seen it done on Mondays and Thursdays instead, just because it’s kind of an avalanche of book adaptations during the first part of the week.

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H.M. Pulham, Esq. (1941)

Harry Pulham (Robert Young) has always lived his life by the book.  He came from a wealthy background, went to all the right schools, has a respectable job, has two children, and is married to Kay Motford (Ruth Hussey), an ideal woman for a man of his stature.  Now middle-aged, he meets up with some of his old college friends for lunch one day and is put in charge of getting all their classmates’ biographies together for their 25-year reunion.  Later, he gets a phone call from his ex-girlfriend Marvin Myles (Hedy Lamarr) inviting him out for a drink.  He accepts, but when he gets to the restaurant and sees her again, he can’t bear to talk to her.

He goes home and starts to write his biography, but when he starts looking back on his life, he realizes that he has never lived life on his own terms.  Everything he’s done in life has been because his family expected it of him.  After graduating from Harvard, he fights in World War I, and after the war, his college friend Bill (Van Heflin) gets him a job at an advertising agency in New York City.  Marvin was working at the same agency and was kind of a 1940s Peggy Olson.  Bill had certainly never met an independent girl like Marvin in any of his upper-class schools and they soon fall deeply in love with each other.

However, Harry’s family back home in Boston just doesn’t understand his new life.  His parents (Charles Coburn and Fay Holden) wish he would just come home and settle down with Kay, who he has known since he was a child.  Harry has never had any real interest in Kay and certainly doesn’t want to marry her, but he wants to marry Marvin instead.  But Marvin isn’t ready to get married yet and she realizes she just doesn’t fit in with Harry’s privileged background.  They go their separate ways, but Marvin promises to always be waiting for him if he wants to come back to her.  Harry decides to settle into his predetermined life in Boston and marry Kay, even though he doesn’t really love her.  After looking back on it all, he decides to call Marvin back to see if her offer still stands.  They meet for lunch, but are still things still the same between them?

I loved this movie!  First of all, this is a King Vidor movie through and through.  It reminded me a bit of The Crowd in the sense that both movies deal with men who aren’t satisfied with where they’re at in life and are yearning for something more.  This is the kind of material that King Vidor was best suited to direct.  The cast in general was pretty stellar; Robert Young and Hedy Lamarr had good chemistry together.  Hedy Lamarr may seem like kind of an odd choice to play a free-spirited, independent woman, but she gave a very thoughtful and nuanced performance.  Ruth Hussey, Van Heflin, and Charles Coburn were all excellent supporting players.  My only complaint about it is that it could have stood being about fifteen minutes shorter.  But if you’re in the mood for something bittersweet, I very highly recommend H.M. Pulham, Esq.  It’s another one of those overlooked gems that deserves to be better remembered today.

Ziegfeld Girl (1941)

Part 2 of my Ziegfeld in Hollywood series.

Ah, Ziegfeld Girl.  Even though it has some flaws, it’s one of my personal favorite movies.  Ziegfeld Girl chronicles the lives of three different girls, Sandra Kolter (Hedy Lamarr), Susan Gallagher (Judy Garland), and Sheila Regan (Lana Turner), as they are each plucked from obscurity and become stars in the Ziegfeld Follies.

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