James Cagney

The Mayor of Hell (1933)

When Patsy Gargan (James Cagney) first arrives as a deputy commissioner of the state’s reform school, he has no idea of what he’s in for.  He doesn’t even take the job very seriously at first, he only got the job as a favor and only cares about the money.  But when he sees the appalling way the school is being run, he changes his tune very quickly.  During his first visit, a boy named Jimmy (Frankie Darro) makes an escape attempt and cuts himself badly and falls off of the barbed wire fence.  The school’s warden Thompson (Dudley Digges) tries to dismiss just how badly he had been hurt, but nurse Dorothy (Madge Evans) insists he needs medical attention and Patsy agrees.

Patsy talks to Dorothy about the school and finds out it’s worse than he even thought.  Thompson rules the school with an iron fist, he regularly denies the boys medical treatment, and the food is barely edible.  He listens to her suggestions about how to improve the school and takes them to heart.  Patsy sends Thompson away for a while and turns the school around.  To teach the boys responsibility, he lets them set up a sort of mini government, complete with a judicial process and elected officials.  He brings in better food and most importantly, he treats the boys with respect.

The school has never been better than it was with Patsy’s rules.  He gets through to those boys in a way nobody else ever has.  But then Thompson returns and tries to sabotage Patsy’s success.  He bribes a couple of the boys to try leaving the school so it looks like they’re trying to run away, but they come back on their own free will.  However, Patsy is a former racketeer and when he gets into a fight over some old business, he accidentally shoots a man and goes into hiding.  Thompson takes the opportunity to undo all of Patsy’s rules and the boys think Patsy has abandoned them.

The boys aren’t happy and when Dorothy is fired for complaining about the quality of the food, Thompson fires her.  Things reach a breaking point when Thompson forces a boy that he knows is very sick to spend a night in a drafty solitary confinement cell and he dies.  The boys begin to riot, complete with torches, and put Thompson on trial for murder.  Meanwhile, Dorothy has gone to tell Patsy about what’s been going on and he comes rushing back to the school.  When he gets there, he finds out that Thompson has died after being chased onto a rooftop and falling.  But once again, Patsy can talk sense into the boys when no one else can and puts a stop to the madness.

Mayor of Hell gets off to a bit of a slow start, but stick with it because it does pick up after a while and builds to a very wild finish.  The riot scenes are absolutely spectacular and pretty terrifying.  The anger that all those boys were unleashing absolutely radiates off the screen.  But if you’re a big Cagney fan, you might be disappointed by how little he’s actually on screen.  Cagney doesn’t show up until almost half an hour into the movie.  He gets top billing, but the real stars of the movie are all of the boys.  Even Dudley Digges figures more prominently into the story, so if anything, Cagney is actually playing third fiddle here.

Mister Roberts (1955)

Captain Morton (James Cagney) may officially be the captain of the USS Reluctant, but as far as the crew is concerned, Lieutenant Doug Roberts (Henry Fonda) is the man in charge.  Captain Morton is very strict and routinely denies the crew their small rewards over very minor infractions.  Doug, on the other hand, is much kinder and often ignores the Captain’s orders to make the crew’s life more bearable.  However, the USS Reluctant isn’t seeing any of the action of World War II and Doug would much rather be on active duty than be stuck on that boat.  His closest friend Doc (William Powell) tries to reassure him that his being on the ship means the world to the crew, but that doesn’t stop him from requesting a transfer.

In order for Doug to get a transfer, Captain Morton would have to agree to it and Morton knows that he would look bad if Doug were to leave so he refuses to sign his letters.  Captain Morton hasn’t even let the crew have leave in a very long time, so behind the Captain’s back, Doug bribes an official to get the crew granted one night of leave.  When the Captain finds out about it, he threatens to deny the whole crew their leave unless Doug promises to stop undermining him and to stop requesting transfers.  Doug reluctantly agrees, and the crew is mystified to see Doug suddenly playing into the Captain’s hand.

The crew thinks Doug is just gunning to get a promotion and starts giving him the cold shoulder.  But on the night of V-E Day, Doug listens to a speech on the radio that inspires him to stand up to the Captain.  While the Captain confronts Doug in his office, the intercom is accidentally left on and the whole crew finds out the price Doug paid for them to have their leave.  To show their gratitude, the crew decides to get Doug the transfer he wants so badly.  Before he leaves for Okinawa, the crew presents Doug with their own special award and he finally realizes just how much he really meant to everybody.

With Doug off in Okinawa, Frank Pulver (Jack Lemmon) takes over Doug’s old position on the ship. Frank is pretty intimidated by the Captain, so he can’t bring himself to go against the Captain the way Doug used to.  But when the crew gets word that Doug has been killed, Frank finally finds the nerve to stand up to the Captain.

Genre-wise, Mister Roberts is really in a league of its own.  It deals with World War II, but there aren’t any big battle scenes.  It’s got comedy, but it’s not a farce like Dr. Strangelove.  And for all its lighthearted moments, when it was serious, it was very heartfelt and touching.  It’s very hard to combine all of those genres and do all of them well, but Mister Roberts managed to pull it off.

The part of Doug Roberts is such a perfect Henry Fonda role.  He’s that “everyman fighting for what’s right” type of character that Fonda is best remembered for playing.  As good as Fonda is, Jack Lemmon really steals the show at the end of the movie.  His performance in the scene where he reads Doug’s letters aloud to the crew is so genuinely moving.  He’s great in the rest of the movie, too, but boy did he ever hit it out of the park in that scene.

I love everything about Mister Roberts.  I don’t know why on Earth I put off seeing it for such a long time.

City for Conquest (1940)

Danny Kenny (James Cagney) isn’t a man with big dreams.  He likes working as a truck driver, he’s got his girlfriend Peggy (Ann Sheridan), he’s got a roof over his head, what more could he want?  Well, he could use some extra cash so that he can send his musician brother Eddie (Arthur Kennedy) to music school.  To get the money he needs, he starts participating in boxing matches.  He’s a great boxer, but he doesn’t want to make a career out of it.

Peggy, on the other hand, has loftier ambitions.  She loves to dance, and when she meets fellow dancer Murray Burns (Anthony Quinn), it’s immediately clear that they make great dancing partners.  They keep entering and winning dance contests around New York, and when they have the chance to get into the vaudeville circuit, she can’t resist the opportunity and leaves Danny behind.  Danny decides to make something of his life and starts pursuing boxing more seriously in the hopes of winning Peggy back.

Danny fights his way to the top, and when he’s in the same town for a fight as Peggy is for a show, he goes to see her.  She still loves him and they decide to get married as soon as her tour is over.  But when she gets another big opportunity, she’s in a position where she just can’t say no.  Danny becomes even more determined to win her back, and when he’s fighting for a championship title, he refuses to give up, even when his opponent puts rosin on his boxing gloves and blinds Danny by rubbing the rosin in his eyes.

City for Conquest is exactly the type of movie you think of when you think of Warner Brothers.  It’s tough and gritty, it’s got James Cagney in top form, and it’s even got some songs you’ll recognize from other classic Warner Brothers hits such as 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933Anthony Quinn was perfectly slimy as Murray and it was really interesting to see Elia Kazan in one of his few acting roles.  It’s not the same caliber as The Public Enemy or Angels With Dirty Faces, but it is pretty enjoyable.

For my money though, Ann Sheridan was a big scene stealer.  She did such a good job as Peggy, especially in the scene where she comes back to her hotel room and finds Murray and their manager waiting to tell her about their new big deal.  It’s easy to see Peggy as nothing more than an ambitious woman, but I think she’s more complex than that.  Peggy’s got a dream and when she and Murray started to make it, of course she got stars in her eyes and gladly said yes to anything that she thought would make it happen.  But then she found out the man she trusted to help her is a controlling, abusive monster.  She wanted to get away from him but was deeply conflicted between wanting to leave him and not wanting to give up on her dream.  And then when she finally does get away from him, she ends up broke because she made the mistake of letting Murray control all the money.  They could have done an alternate version of this movie told from Peggy’s perspective and it could have been pretty interesting.

The Strawberry Blonde (1941)

One Sunday afternoon, dentist Biff Grimes (James Cagney) gets a phone call about a man who urgently needs to have a tooth pulled.  Biff doesn’t typically work on Sundays, but when he finds out the man in question is Hugo Barnstead (Jack Carson), he’s willing to make an exception.  It’s not because Hugo is a big-shot business man and he thinks having him as a patient would be good for his career.  No, his reasons are much more personal.

About ten years earlier, Biff was studying to become a dentist and was good friends with Hugo.  Back then, all the guys in town would line up to watch Virginia Brush (Rita Hayworth) as she walked by.  One night, Hugo manages to land a date with Virginia and he asks Biff to come with him because Virginia was bringing her friend Amy (Olivia de Havilland).  Virginia is concerned with being respectable and proper (or at least appearing to be), but her friend Amy is much more forward-thinking and loves to shock people with her modern ideas.  Biff finds Amy rather off-putting and after that night, he puts all his efforts into wooing Virginia.  The two of them spend a memorable day together and Biff asks to see her again, but she can’t see him for a few weeks.

When the day of their date arrives, Biff waits for Virginia in the park, but is in for a surprise when Amy shows up instead.  Even worse, he gets word that earlier that day, Virginia married Hugo.  After talking to her for a while, Biff begins to see something in Amy that he hadn’t seen before and they start seeing each other.  Eventually, they get married and when they run into Virginia one day, she invites them over for dinner.  By then, Hugo’s contracting business has really taken off and he offers Biff a job as Vice President of his company.  However, Hugo is involved in some illegal business practices and really just wants Biff around to take the fall for it.

Biff ends up spending a few years in prison because of Hugo, but while he’s there, he finishes his dentistry program and starts practicing as soon as his sentence is over.  So when Biff gets the call about Hugo needing his tooth pulled, he knows this is his chance to get his revenge.  But when Hugo and Virginia arrive and he sees how miserable they are together, he realizes he’s truly gotten the last laugh.

I’d never even heard of The Strawberry Blonde before today, but I’m really glad I took a chance on it.  It’s funny and pretty endearing for the most part.  James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland were hilarious in this and played off each other so well.  Cagney has charisma to spare here and did such a great job of making Biff sympathetic.  You don’t typically think of Olivia de Havilland as a comedienne, but she made me laugh out loud in this movie.  All she had to do was wink and I was cracking up.  The supporting cast is excellent, particularly Alan Hale, who played Biff’s father.  Rita Hayworth didn’t really have to do very much other than act very proper.  I actually liked Rita the most in her last scene where we get to see how eight years of marriage to Hugo has changed her. Also, you might be surprised to know this was directed by Raoul Walsh.  At the time, he wanted a little change of pace from movies like High Sierra and The Roaring Twenties, and The Strawberry Blonde fit the bill perfectly for that.  Walsh proved he can direct comedy just as well as he can direct gritty noirs or gangster films.

The only thing keeping me from calling The Strawberry Blonde “completely charming” is the fact that the way Biff gets revenge on Hugo is awfully ghoulish.  Hugo certainly deserved to get some kind of punishment for his behavior, but watching him get a tooth yanked with no anesthesia while his wife and former friends laugh with delight just seemed too awful even for him.

What’s on TCM: August 2012

How is it already time for another round of Summer Under the Stars?!  As usual, TCM has done a great job of coming up with a nice blend of stars who are no strangers to the SUTS schedule and stars who have never been featured before.  The more I look at the schedule, the more excited I get to start my Blogging Under the Stars marathon.

Some of the days I’m most looking forward to are: Myrna Loy (August 2), Marilyn Monroe (August 4), Toshiro Mifune (August 9), Ginger Rogers (August 12), James Cagney (August 14), Lillian Gish (August 15), Jack Lemmon (August 22), Gene Kelly (August 23), Kay Francis (August 21), and Warren William (August 30).  I have seen woefully few Akira Kurosawa films, so I am really looking forward to Toshiro Mifune’s day.  As a fan of silents and pre-codes, I was thrilled to see Lillian Gish, Kay Francis, and Warren William got spots on this year’s line-up.  Lately, I’ve been really getting into Tyrone Power movies, so I’m glad to see he got a day this year.  And since I’ve always wanted to see more Jeanette MacDonald movies, I’ll definitely be tuning in a lot for her day.

The complete Summer Under the Stars schedule is available to be download here.

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Taxi! (1932)

The taxi business can get pretty cutthroat in New York City.  Pop Riley (Guy Kibbee) is an independent cabbie who for the past six years has laid claim to a choice corner outside of the restaurant where his daughter Sue (Loretta Yong) works as a waitress.  When rival Consolidated Cab Company decides they want his spot, they’re willing to stop at nothing to get their way.  First they try telling him to go someplace else.  Then while Pop is having lunch one day, someone working for Consolidated intentionally drives a truck into Pop’s cab, completely demolishing it.  Pop is so furious that he pulls out a gun and shoots and kills the person responsible for it.  He is sentenced to ten years in prison, but soon becomes ill and dies.

One cabby who isn’t willing to be pushed around by Consolidated is Matt Nolan (James Cagney).  He becomes a leader to the other independent cabbies and tries to rally them to overthrow Consolidated.  Although Sue hates Consolidated for what they did to her father, she can’t stand violence anymore and tries to stop them.  At first, Matt is upset that she isn’t helping them, but since she’s pretty, he decides to ask her out on a date anyway.  Although Sue loves Matt, the only thing she can’t stand about him is his awful temper.  They can’t go anywhere without him trying to start a fight with somebody.

After Matt and Sue get married, they go out to a nightclub with some friends and Matt’s brother Danny to celebrate.  As it turns out, Buck Gerard, head of Consolidated, is also at the same club with his girlfriend Marie.  Buck is pretty drunk and tries to start trouble with Matt.  Marie also doesn’t like it when Buck tries to start fights, so she pulls Sue aside and tells her to just ignore Buck to avoid problems.  But when Buck questions whether or not their wedding was a shotgun wedding, Matt can’t resist punching him.  Danny tries to get Matt away, but Buck pulls a knife out and accidentally stabs Danny to death.  Now Matt really wants revenge.  Marie has been hiding Buck and has found a way for him to sneak down to South America, but needs money to get him there.  Since she knows Sue wouldn’t want Matt to kill Buck and be sent to prison, she asks her for it.  Sue gives her the money, taking it from the money Matt was saving to buy Danny a headstone.  But when Matt’s friend spots Marie talking to Sue and finds out about the money, he storms over to Buck’s apartment to settle the score before he can get on the train to South America.

Taxi! isn’t bad, but isn’t particularly memorable either.  My biggest complaint about it movie is that I just don’t understand why Sue wouldn’t call the police when she knows exactly where the man who killed her father and husband’s brother is hiding.  But if you’re a big James Cagney fan, it’s worth seeing.  This movie was released a little less than a year after The Public Enemy had made Cagney a star and Taxi! is definitely pure Cagney.  Not even five minutes into the movie and he’s already beating somebody up.  Not only do we get to see Cagney the tough guy, it also gives us a glimpse at Cagney the dancer, which we got to see more of later in Footlight Parade and Yankee Doodle Dandy.  There’s also an interesting scene where Cagney speaks Yiddish to a passenger.  So really, this is a showcase for a lot of different sides of James Cagney.  Loretta Young isn’t bad in it, either, but she actually wasn’t Warner Bros.’ first choice for the part of sue.  When I was looking for a picture to use for this post, I stumbled across an old Carole & Co. post that talks about how they originally wanted Carole Lombard for the part.  I would have loved to have seen Carole and Cagney together, but I liked him and Loretta well enough.

Other Men’s Women (1931)

Other Men's Women 1931Bill White (Grant Withers) is the irresponsible kind of guy that women are usually warned to stay away from.  He may have a job as a train engineer, but he’s a womanizer who drinks too much.  He does have a girlfriend named Marie (Joan Blondell), but she’s eager to get married and he isn’t.  Bill’s longtime friend Jack (Regis Toomey) is a bit more stable and has been married to Lily (Mary Astor) for two years.  On the night of their second anniversary, Jack invites Bill to join him and Lily for dinner.  But when Bill gets thrown out of his boarding house because of his irresponsible behavior, he’s invited to stay with them.

Living with Jack and Lily seems to have a good effect on Bill.  He straightens up his act a bit and is able to help out around the house a lot.  Everybody seems to be benefiting from this arrangement.  That is until one day when Bill realizes there is a woman he’d be willing to settle down for after all– Lily.  Lily has also fallen in love with Bill, but Bill cares too much about Jack to carry on with Lily behind his back and leaves with no explanation.  Jack knows that something happened between Bill and Lily and confronts him about it while they’re at work on a train.  They get into a huge fight that leaves Jack blind.

Bill feels terribly guilty after the accident and starts hitting the bottle again.  He goes back to Marie and in a drunken stupor, the both of them nearly get married.  But he backs out at the last minute and goes to see Jack instead.  Jack has no desire to hear from his former friend and when he finds out Bill had come over, he sends Lily away for a few weeks. Bill falls into a very deep depression and when their town is hit by some heavy rainfall that causes the river to overflow and flood the town, Bill decides to drive a train engine off a bridge as a way to dam up the river.  Jack has also fallen into a severe depression and when he finds out about Bill’s idea, decides to beat him to the punch.  Bill tries to stop him but Jack knocks him unconscious, throws him off the train, and carries on with the plan.  Some months later, Lily comes back to town and she and Bill run into each other.  Lily is still open to a relationship with Bill, which makes him happier than he has ever been.

I really enjoyed this movie.  Good story with good acting and good direction by William Wellman.  I loved Grant Withers as Bill and James Cagney and Joan Blondell are standouts in their minor roles.  Cagney played Jack and Bill’s friend Eddie Bailey, and even though he doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, you can definitely see that he was a real up and comer.  The interesting thing about Other Men’s Women is that it can just as easily appeal to someone interested in the love triangle aspect of the story as it can to someone in the mood for something more gritty.  When this movie is gritty, it’s pretty darn gritty.  The fight scenes are very well done and it was interesting to see how it dealt with Jack’s blindness, especially just before he got on the train to drive it off the bridge.

Picture Snatcher (1933)

After a three-year stint in prison, Danny Kean (James Cagney) decides he’s going to straighten up and fly right.  He puts Jerry the Mug (Ralf Harolde) in charge of his old gang and starts pursuing his dream of becoming a newspaper reporter.  While he was in prison, he had gotten a letter from Al McClean (Ralph Bellamy), city editor for the Graphic News, offering him a job when he got out.  Graphic News isn’t known for being the most reputable paper in town, but Danny is still eager to work there.  However, once Danny shows up in their offices, Al has second thoughts about having such a notorious name on board.  While Danny is talking to Al, a story breaks about a firefighter being called to put out a fire, only to find the bodies of his wife and her boyfriend inside, and then barricaded himself in the burnt-out home with a gun.  Photographers from every paper in town are waiting to get a picture, but nobody is getting anything.  Eager to prove himself, Danny marches over there, pretends to be an insurance adjuster to get inside the house, and gets the picture everybody wants.

Of course, Danny lands a job as a photographer at the Graphic News and quickly becomes one of their top photographers.  He even lands a few dates with reporter Allison (Alice White), even though she is Al’s girlfriend.  But their relationship doesn’t go anywhere and he ends up falling for Pat Nolan (Patricia Ellis), a journalism student he meets when her class takes a tour of the Graphic News offices.  What Danny doesn’t know is that Pat is the daughter of Casey Nolan, the police lieutenant responsible for putting Danny behind bars.  When Casey finds out, obviously he wants Pat to have nothing to do with Danny, but Al helps win him over by getting a nice article written about him in a reputable newspaper.

Even though Danny is making good money at the paper, he becomes more and more eager to prove himself as a real newsman and bring in even more money so he can afford to marry Pat.  When a woman is set to be executed, every paper in town except for the Graphic News is invited to cover the event.  Danny manages to steal an invitation from another paper’s reporter and when they hesitate to let him in, he manages to get in on Casey’s word.  He has a camera hidden on his leg and manages to sneak a picture of the execution.  But when the other reporters find out, it results in a huge chase as the reporters and cops try to stop him from getting back to the Graphic News offices.  But Danny is no stranger to being chased, so he makes it back to the offices and his picture makes the front page.  Unfortunately, it costs him his relationship with Pat when her father gets demoted because of his stunt.  To hide Danny while all the commotion dies down, Al sends Danny to stay at Allison’s apartment while she’s supposed to be out-of-town.  Instead, she comes home early, tries to seduce Danny and Al catches them together and fires Danny.  Feeling guilty, Al quits his job at the Graphic News and tries to apologize to Danny.  He accepts and the two of them decide to use Danny’s connections to find Jerry the Mug, who is now being hunted down by the police.  Danny gets a shot of Jerry during a big shoot-out, Al writes a story to go with it, and they not only get jobs at a better paper, but Danny gets Casey his job back and wins Pat over again.

Picture Snatcher was pretty enjoyable.  Nothing too outstanding, Cagney and Bellamy both have had much more memorable movies, but I liked it well enough.  It’s got enough of Cagney as a tough guy to make it worthwhile, plus a good bit of humor and some pre-code moments to make it fun to watch.  Plus the pacing is great, it really fit a lot into 77 minutes.  I may not go out of my way to watch it again, but if TCM showed it again, I’d probably still tune in for it.

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!

Lady Killer (1933)

Lady Killer 1933 James Cagney

When Dan Quigley (James Cagney) loses his job as an usher in a movie theater, he turns to running a dice game in a hotel lobby.  While in the hotel one day, he spots the lovely Myra Gale (Mae Clarke) sitting in the lobby and as she gets up to leave, she drops her purse.  Dan follows her to return it, but she leaves before he can.  He drops by her apartment later that day to return it, and she invites him in for a drink and introduces him to her brother-in-law, who is in the middle of a poker game.  Not being able to resist a card game, Dan decides to join the game and he gets taken to the cleaners.  As he leaves the apartment, he meets someone else carrying a purse and looking for Myra.  Dan quickly realizes that Myra’s purse dropping is only a ruse to lure men into a crooked poker game.  Never one to miss a business opportunity, he goes back into the apartment and demands to get in on the action.

With Dan bringing in new people to take advantage of, business is booming.  But then the gang sets their sights on a wealthy widow.  Dan stages a car accident with the woman and arranges it so that he and another member of the gang can get inside her house.  They manage to pull off the robbery, but they start feeling the heat from the police after a butler they knocked unconscious dies.  The gang flees for Los Angeles and Dan is arrested before he even leaves the train station.  When he calls up Myra and asks her to bail him out, she says she’ll help him, but instead she skips town with his money.  The police have to let him go because they don’t have enough evidence to hold him, but they warn him to either get a job in the next 48 hours or get out-of-town.

As luck would have it, Dan is approached by a couple of people in the movie business who offer him some work as an extra.  It turns out he’s a natural in front of the camera, so he gets more and more work in the movies and, thanks to some clever self-promotion, he becomes quite a star.  He also wins the heart of movie star Lois Underwood (Margaret Lindsay).  When he brings Lois by his apartment one night, he’s quite surprised to see Myra there waiting for him.  Myra’s there to blackmail him into helping the gang break into the homes of movie stars or she’ll ruin his career by revealing his past.  Success hasn’t made Dan completely lose his tough guy behavior though and he grabs Myra by the hair and throws her into the hallway.  And people thought the grapefruit scene in The Public Enemy was harsh!  But Dan ultimately goes to the gang and offers them $10,000 if they leave town.  They take the money, but they don’t run.  After they steal some of Lois’ jewelry, Dan catches them and takes the jewelry to return it.  But before he can do that, the police nab him, assume he’s responsible for the robbery, and throw him in jail.  The gang realizes that Dan could really send them all up the river and decides to bail him out of jail and then kill him.  They go to bail Dan out of jail, but little do they know that Dan has a trick up his sleeve.

I love gangster movies and I love comedies, but it seems like the two of those don’t come together terribly often.  I can think of Some Like it Hot and Larceny Inc. off-hand, but it’s really a treat to see James Cagney having some fun with the gangster genre.  Cagney really had great comedic timing and I loved being able to see him work that into that tough guy part he played so brilliantly.  I loved all the in-jokes about The Public Enemy, especially when Mae Clarke is reading from a brochure about Los Angeles and looks concerned when she mentions grapefruits as one of its top crops.  It also gets in some great jabs at the film industry, especially the absurdity of having white actors play different races.  The scene where Cagney gets his skin sprayed to look like an Indian chief is hilarious! It’s another one of those great movies that manages to pack a whole lot into a short run-time.  It’s 75 minutes of pure fun and entertainment.