Lucille Ball

Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949)

Miss Grant Takes Richmond Poster

Graduates from the Woodruff Secretarial School are virtually guaranteed to have their choice of good jobs.  Well, that may be true for most students, but not Ellen Grant (Lucille Ball).  Despite desperately wanting to have a career, Ellen just can’t get the hang of secretarial work.  On the last day of class, Dick Richmond (William Holden) stops by the school looking to hire a secretary for his new real estate company.  Much to everyone’s surprise, Ellen is the one who gets the job.

Ellen is thrilled to have a real job, but Dick has a motive for  choosing the most inept student.  Dick’s real estate company is merely a front for his gambling racket and he thinks by hiring the worst student, he’ll be getting a secretary who won’t get wise to what’s really going on.  Meanwhile, Ellen becomes aware of her town’s housing crisis.  Ellen feels compelled to help so she pressures Dick to build an affordable housing project.  Dick pretends like he’s going along with the project and every time he makes up an excuse to back out, Ellen finds a way to solve the problem.

Eventually, Dick decides Ellen has to go but he can’t fire her without it looking suspicious.  So he tries to make her quit by giving her ridiculous amounts of work and aggressively flirting with her, but she doesn’t back down.  Dick and Ellen are even starting to fall for each other.  Meanwhile, Dick’s former girlfriend Peggy Donato (Janis Carter) wants him back so he can run her gambling racket.  He turns Peggy down, but when Ellen unwittingly takes a large bet on a horse race from Peggy, he’s suddenly indebted to her.

Peggy is willing to forgive the debt if he will be with her, but Dick won’t stand for it.  He decides to go ahead with the housing project so he can get the money from potential residents, use the money to pay his debt, and leave Ellen holding the bag when the project runs out of money.  When he sees how upset Ellen is when the project fails, he tries to make it right by giving the money back, even if it means having to be with Peggy.  But when Ellen finally figures out what Dick’s real business is and comes up with a plan to get Dick back from Peggy.

Miss Grant Takes Richmond is good for a few laughs, but it wasn’t one of my favorites.  Lucille Ball and William Holden were both pretty good in it and I liked the basic idea of the plot, but it just wasn’t executed to its full potential. While I was watching the movie, I kept thinking there was something about Ball and Holden that made me feel like I was watching two people on the verge of doing something big.  It turns out, I was right — William Holden’s career really took off the following year after starring in Sunset Boulevard and Lucille Ball became a television legend two years later with I Love Lucy.  And, of course, Ball and Holden were reunited a few years later when he appeared on an episode of I Love Lucy.

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Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)

Hat check clerk Louis Blore (Red Skelton) works in a nightclub where one of the star performers is May Daly (Lucille Ball).  Louis is in love with May, but he has some competition from dancer Alec Howe (Gene Kelly).  May loves Alec and Alec loves her, but unfortunately for both Louis and Alec, she’s determined to marry a rich man and neither of them has much money.  But all of that changes when one day, telegram messenger Charlie (Rags Ragland) brings Louis a telegram informing him that he’s won a sweepstakes!  All of a sudden, he is a rich man and asks May to marry him.  She makes it abundantly clear that she’d only be marrying him for his money, but he doesn’t mind.  But even then, she still has reservations.

One night, Charlie, who has taken Louis’ old hat check clerk job, suggests slipping a mickey into Alec’s drink so he won’t be any competition for a few days.  Of course, this plan goes horribly wrong when Louis accidentally gets the drugged drink intended for Alec.  While unconscious, Louis dreams that he’s back in the 1700s.  In his dream, he is King Louis XV and May is Madame Du Barry.  Just like in real life, King Louis is trying to win over Madame Du Barry by showering her with lavish presents, but her love can’t be bought.  In fact, when she starts receiving mysterious notes from someone named The Black Arrow (Alec’s dream alter-ego), she insists on meeting with this Black Arrow.  She goes to see him and finds out he is leading a rebellion against Madame Du Barry and King Louis XV because he thinks Du Barry is encouraging Louis to take taxpayer’s money to pay for her extravagant gifts.  But despite this, she can’t help but be attracted to The Black Arrow.  When The Black Arrow and his posse are captured, Louis sentences them to death by the guillotine, but Du Barry pleads with him to spare The Black Arrow.  When Louis wakes up, he awakens with the realization that trying to buy love is a ridiculous idea.  By then, May and Alec have decided to get married and Louis wishes them well and the three of them decide to remain friends.

Du Barry Was a Lady isn’t one of the all time great musicals, but it is a nice bit of frothy entertainment.  Lucille isn’t used to her full comedic potential and Gene Kelly only gets one solo dance scene, but Red Skelton, Rags Ragland, and Zero Mostel do bring some good laughs.  The musical numbers generally don’t add much to the story, but they are fun to watch.  I liked Virginia O’Brien’s “Salome” number and it was nice to see so much of Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra.  It’s also worth noting that this is the first movie where Lucille Ball had her hair dyed that signature shade of red.  All in all, it wasn’t a spectacular movie, but it is light and fun and that’s exactly what I expected of it.

Five Reasons Why I Love Lucy

Happy 100th birthday to Lucille Ball!  Lucy is easily one of the most beloved pop culture icons of all time. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who can’t recognize her picture, name one of her films, or describe one of the many classic scenes from I Love Lucy.  Everyone has their own reasons why they love Lucy, here are just a few of mine:

1.  Plain and simply, she’s hilarious!

2.  She was the first woman to own her own studio.  When she and Desi divorced, she bought out his half of Desilu studios and continued to run the studio very successfully on her own.  Lucy had a very keen eye for shows that she thought would have a lasting appeal and she’s the one to thank for green-lighting classic shows like Mission: Impossible, Star Trek, and The Untouchables.

3.  Television simply wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for Lucy.  I Love Lucy was the first show filmed in the multi-camera style to be filmed in front of a live audience and the first show to prove that there is a market for reruns.  Lucy and Desi didn’t want to move to New York to do the show, they wanted to stay in Los Angeles.  At that time, most prime time shows were broadcast live from New York, recorded by a kinescope, and then the kinescope recordings were aired on the west coast.  Since the quality of kinescope recordings were far inferior to the live broadcast quality, the only way to do a show in Los Angeles and have it look good in east coast airings would be to actually film the show and edit it.  Lucy and Desi offered to take pay cuts to cover the extra production costs, but only if Desilu could keep the rights to each episode after it aired.  At the time, nobody saw the potential value in re-running shows, so they got their wish.  Of course, Lucy and Desi got the last laugh because they went on to make a fortune in syndication.

4.  Lucy has a history of getting the last laugh.  When she was young, she went to a dramatic school in New York and was told that she was too shy to have any future in showbiz.  And after being dubbed the Queen of the B Movies, Desilu studios went on to buy the old RKO backlot where she made a lot of those B movies.

5.  Lucy got the best classic film guest stars for her shows.  Who can forget the Harpo Marx and John Wayne episodes of I Love Lucy?  I remember liking the Betty Grable episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.  She also got Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Jack Benny, and Ginger Rogers for episodes of Here’s Lucy as well as Joan Crawford for an episode of The Lucy Show.

For more Lucy appreciation, be sure to visit True Classics to read more contributions from some terrific bloggers.

What’s on TCM: August 2011


It’s that time of year again!  Let Summer Under the Stars commence!  I love this year’s line-up.  Even though there are plenty of the usual SUTS suspects like Bette Davis, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart, more than half of this year’s stars have never been part of SUTS before.  And many of those who have been featured before, haven’t been featured in quite a few years.  Let’s take a look at the full list of stars:

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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!

Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

Part 3 of my Ziegfeld in Hollywood series.

In a way, Ziegfeld Follies is kind of like Man With a Movie Camera: they’re both movies that are rather difficult to write about since neither one has a real plot.  They’re both concept movies.  In the case of Ziegfeld Follies, the concept is Florenz Ziegfeld (played once again by William Powell) in Heaven planning a show featuring some of the greatest film stars.  The movie is a true all-star extravaganza featuring the likes of Judy Garland, Esther Williams, Lena Horne, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Fanny Brice, Kathryn Grayson, Red Skelton, and Lucille Ball in a series of musical numbers and comedy sketches like you might see in the Ziegfeld Follies.

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