Lana Turner

Blogging Under the Stars 2015

Site News, Movie Memorabilia, and a Liebster!

Hey everyone! Sorry for being a rather infrequent blogger lately. Let’s take some time to catch up with a few fun things. I promise, things are going to be a lot less idle here in the near future.

First of all, it’s almost August and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know what that means — it’s almost time for this year’s round of Blogging Under the Stars! If you aren’t familiar with Blogging Under the Stars, here’s how it works: every August 2-September 1, I watch and review a movie that airs as part of Summer Under the Stars, preferably something I’ve never seen before, although that’s not always possible. My intent of doing this is to encourage myself to watch some movies I otherwise might not have watched and watch some films from actors I’m not so familiar with. I’ve done this for the past few years and every year I’ve discovered some really great movies, so it’s a lot of fun for me.

Now, on to some more fun things…

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Marriage is a Private Affair (1944)

Marriage is a Private AffairWhen man-hungry heiress Theo Scofield (Lana Turner) playfully agrees to marry soldier Lt. Tom Cochrane West (John Hodiak), the last thing she expects is for him to actually taker her up on the offer. They’ve only known each other for three days, but Theo goes through with the wedding anyway, much to the dismay of her mother Irene (Natalie Schafer) and admirer Captain Miles Lancer (James Craig). But it doesn’t take long before Theo begins to question whether or not she’s really meant to be married. She’s used to being pursued by many men and it’s not like she’s grown up with a positive example of what marriage can be. Her mother has been married and divorced several times and Theo is worried that perhaps she’ll inevitably end up following in her mother’s footsteps. Tom is more positive about their marriage; his parents have been married for over 30 years and he idealizes the marriage between his friends Ted (Herbert Rudley) and Sissy (Frances Gifford).

Theo and Tom are married just before Tom is supposed to report for military duty, so they spend their honeymoon trying to get to know each other better. Their plans suddenly change and Tom is sent to take over his father’s optical company. Tom’s friend Joe (Hugh Marlowe) was the head of the company, but his behavior has become too erratic. Theo barely has time to adjust to marriage when she has a baby and then struggles to cope with motherhood.

On her son’s first birthday, she runs into her old admirer Miles, who is now stationed nearby. Frustrated by Tom’s long hours at work and desperate to feel attractive again, Theo goes out to meet Miles that night. When Tom finds out where she is, he’s furious at her for her not being home to celebrate their son’s first birthday. In dire need of some marriage advice, she goes to see Sissy, but is shocked to discover Sissy has been having an affair. After seeing that even someone like Sissy is capable of being unfaithful, Theo wonders if she’s truly a lost cause.

Marriage is a Private Affair probably would have worked better if it had been made in 1934, not 1944. IMDB lists it as a comedy, but it’s really more of a drama with some light moments. With the production codes being enforced in 1944, it would have been very hard to get the OK to produce a movie that could be seen as making fun of adultery. That’s something The Seven Year Itch had problems with over ten years later. In fact, this was originally announced as a project for Myrna Loy and Robert Taylor in 1941, but it faced so many problems with the Hays Office, the project was shelved. When it finally ended up being produced in 1944, the result wasn’t anything spectacular, but it’s still a likable movie. If nothing else, it’s interesting to see a Hays Code era film that depicts a woman seriously questioning whether or not she’s cut out for things like marriage and motherhood.

Johnny Eager (1941)

Johnny Eager Robert Taylor Lana Turner

Johnny Eager (Robert Taylor) had been a known as a ruthless gangster, but after spending some time in prison, he’s turned over a new leaf as a cab driver.  At least that’s what he wants his parole officer to think.  When he isn’t driving a cab, he’s as cutthroat as ever, involved in illegal gambling, and is working on opening his own dog racing track.  While visiting his parole officer one day, he runs into sociology student Lisbeth Bard (Lana Turner).  There’s an immediate attraction between them, but it grows into a deeper infatuation when they meet again later.  Lisabeth is much more sophisticated and intellectual than the type of women Johnny usually meets.

When Johnny suspects his friend Lew (Barry Nelson)  has been short-changing him, he and his associate Jeff (Van Heflin) go to a nightclub to confront Lew.  While there, he runs into Lisabeth again, who has been left alone after her date got drunk.  Johnny gladly keeps her company for the rest of the night, but when he brings her home, he discovers Lisabeth’s father is John Benson Farrell (Edward Arnold), the man responsible for putting Johnny behind bars.  Farrell is also the one preventing Johnny’s dog track from opening.

Of course, Farrell isn’t happy about Johnny seeing his daughter and wants to put a stop to it.  He tells Johnny he will do anything to protect his daughter, even if it means killing or framing Johnny for something.  So Johnny decides to turn the tables on Farrell by coming up with a scheme for his friend Julio to come bursting into Johnny’s apartment while Lisabeth is there.  Julio and Johnny stage a fight, Lisabeth shoots Julio with a gun loaded with blanks, and Johnny escorts her away before she can question what happened.  Lisabeth has a breakdown over the incident, but Johnny uses gun with her fingerprints on it to blackmail Farrell into letting his dog track open.

Johnny’s dog track has a successful opening night, but after the stunt with Lisabeth, some of his closest associates are getting concerned that his ruthless behavior is getting out of hand.  One of them even offers Johnny $500,000 to close the track and leave town with Lisabeth.  It isn’t until he visits Lisabeth that he realizes just how badly he’s hurt her.  For once, Johnny feels badly about what he’s done and wants to make it right, even if it means putting his life on the line to do it.

Johnny Eager has a pretty standard gangster movie/film noir plot, but strong writing and good acting save it from being just another run-of-the-mill gangster flick.  Robert Taylor may get the star billing, and he is very good as Johnny Eager, but it’s Van Heflin who really steals the show.  Heflin completely deserved the Best Supporting Actor Oscar he won for his work in Johnny Eager.  I’m a big fan of Lana Turner, but I don’t think this was her best work.  Although I did get a kick out seeing her play what has got to be the most outrageously glamorous sociology student of all time.  If you’ve never seen it before, Johnny Eager is definitely worth keeping an eye out for; it’s very enjoyable.

What’s on TCM: June 2013

Eleanor ParkerHappy June!  Eleanor Parker is this month’s Star of the Month so her movies will be highlighted every Tuesday night.  This month’s edition of Friday Night Spotlight will be hosted by Eddie Muller, the founder of the Film Noir Foundation, and all of his selections are film noir classics that are based on novels.

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Fashion in Film: Berets

If you’re like me, you often find yourself watching films and seeing tons of fashion styles you would love to wear in real life.  I watch movies from so many decades and from so many different genres, if I actually did copy all the styles I like, I’d have one diverse wardrobe.  But if there’s one accessory you could easily get a lot of mileage out of, it’s a beret.  Berets have been a popular hat style for decades, so if you want to go for a Norma Shearer inspired look one day and a Faye Dunaway inspired look the next, a beret could easily work for both styles.

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What’s on TCM: November 2011

If you’re a fan of blonde bombshells, this is the month for you!  Rather than having just one star of the month, TCM will be spotlighting two classic blondes every Monday and Wednesday this month.  All the classic blondes like Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Jean Harlow, and Jayne Mansfield (just to name a few) will be getting their time to shine.  And in preparation for the TCM Classic Film Cruise, they’ll be playing a night of movies set on ships every Thursday.  Lots of fun stuff to look forward to, so let’s get to my picks for the month:

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Dramatic School (1938)

By day, Louise Mauban (Luise Rainer) is a regular, albeit promising, dramatic school student.  But by night, she’s always out on the town living the high life with her boyfriend Marquis Andre D’Abbencourt (Alan Marshal).  Well, not really.  That’s just what she tells all her classmates.  The reality is that she works the night shift in a factory to support herself and she doesn’t want to tell her classmates the real reason why she can’t go out with them at night.  She concocts this story one day after Andre visits the factory she works at with his actress girlfriend so she can study the workers for a role she’s playing.  Some of her classmates believe her stories, but others are more skeptical.

No one is more skeptical than Nana (Paulette Goddard), and one night her suspicions are confirmed when she and her boyfriend run into Andre during one of their nights out.  When Nana mentions Louise to Andre, he’s never heard of her.  Nana is awfully catty, so she decides to throw a swanky party and invite both Andre and Louise so that when they meet in front of all their classmates, Louise will be humiliated when he doesn’t know her.  On the night of the party, Andre and Louise both do show up, but Andre has been tipped off about Nana’s plan and doesn’t have the heart to play into it.  He walks in and pretends like he and Louise know each other well, much to Louise’s astonishment.  But then Andre begins to actually fall in love with Louise and he starts showing her the life she’d only known in her mind.  He buys her beautiful clothes, takes her out on the town, and sets her up in a nice new apartment.

But the good times can’t last forever.  One day at school, Louise faces the wrath of her teacher Madame Charlot (Gale Sondergaard).  Madame Charlot was already hurting from being told she’s too old to play Joan in a production of Joan of Arc.  So when Louise gets under her skin, she takes it out on her by promising to have her expelled.  But rather than get upset, Louise thanks Madame Charlot because the suffering will help her become a better actress.  But Louise’s day takes another turn for the worse when she comes home to a letter from Andre breaking things off.  She lets all of her classmates have things Andre has given her and gives Nana the break-up letter because she thinks it will make her happy.  Instead, Nana and Louise end up becoming friends after that.  Louise boldly goes to school the next day and instead of being yelled at by Madame Charlot, she finds out that Madame Charlot has recommended her for the part of Joan in Joan of Arc.  Of course, Louise gets the part, becomes an overnight sensation, and Andre is left kicking himself for having left her.

I liked Dramatic School.  The story itself might not be particularly remarkable, but the cast made it work.  I loved Luise Rainer, Paulette Goddard made a great catty classmate, and Gale Sondergaard was an excellent choice for the aging actress/teacher.  And it was fun to see people like Lana Turner, Ann Rutherford, and Virginia Grey pop up in the supporting cast.  It’s an enjoyable little movie and with a runtime of only 80 minutes, I’d say it’s worth checking out the next time it’s on TCM.