Joesph L. Mankiewicz

The Honey Pot (1967)

The Honey Pot PosterAfter catching a performance of the play “Volpone,” Cecil Fox (Rex Harrison) has the idea of playing a prank on some of his former lovers.  He decides to send letters to three of his former lovers — actress Merle McGill (Edie Adams), Princess Dominique (Capucine), and his common law wife Lone Star Crockett Sheridan (Susan Hayward) — telling them he is on his deathbed and his heir has yet to be decided.  Cecil is perfectly healthy, he just wants to see how they react. Cecil hires out of work actor William McFly (Cliff Robertson) to pose as his assistant and help carry out this scheme.

Since Cecil is a very wealthy man, naturally the three women rush to be by his side.  When Lone Star arrives with her personal nurse Sarah Watkins (Maggie Smith) in tow, she is confident that she will inherit his estate since she is his common law wife.  That night, Sarah goes out with William and when she returns, she finds Lone Star dead, looking as though she had overdosed on sleeping pills.  But Sarah knows it couldn’t have been an accidental overdose or suicide.  Even though Lone Star took sleeping pills regularly, Sarah made a point of giving her placebos to take at night so she couldn’t possibly take too many.  Someone else had to have given Lone Star the pills that killed her.

After a police officer pays a visit to question Cecil and his guests, Sarah finds out that Cecil isn’t really dying, it’s all a ridiculous prank.  Since Sarah had told William that Lone Star took sleeping pills, she immediately suspects him of killing her and believes he may be planning to kill Cecil next.  William is innocent, so when Cecil turns up dead, the story only becomes more twisted.

I really enjoyed The Honey Pot.  The entire cast is absolutely wonderful; I positively adored Rex Harrison, Maggie Smith, and Susan Hayward in this. Joesph L. Mankiewicz’s writing and direction is masterful.  The tone of the movie changes sharply from dark comedy to murder mystery, but Mankiewicz was able to make it work. The comedic parts are extremely witty and the murder mystery aspect is loaded with twists to keep you on your toes.  The Honey Pot is one of those movies I’m going to have to watch twice to make sure that I caught all the details.  I’m definitely glad I decided to give this one a chance.

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.

A Letter to Three Wives (1949)

One Saturday morning, Deborah Bishop (Jeanne Crain), Lora Mae Hollingsway (Linda Darnell), and Rita Phipps (Ann Sothern), get together to take a bunch of children on a boat trip and a picnic.  Only problem is, there was supposed to be a fourth woman with them, Addie Ross (played by a never-seen, only heard, Celeste Holm).  Just before Deborah, Lora, and Rita leave on the boat, a messenger delivers a letter from Addie in which she says that she has run off with one of their husbands, but doesn’t say which one.  As the day progresses, each woman thinks back to an incident that could have made their husband want to leave them and how Addie Ross plays into each scenario.

(more…)