Myrna Loy

The Barbarian (1933)

Jamil (Ramon Novarro) lives in Cairo and makes a living out of being a driver for wealthy female American visitors and then scamming them for whatever he can get from them.  As soon as Diana Standing (Myrna Loy) gets off the train in Cairo, Jamil knows he’s found his next mark.  He immediately tries to become her driver, but Diana’s fiance Gerald (Reginald Denny) puts a stop to him.  Undeterred, Jamil ups his game from “scam artist” to “frighteningly manipulative” by stealing her dog and returning it to her later.  When she offers him a reward, he tells her to repay the favor by letting him be her driver.

This time around, Diana agrees and Jamil’s frightening behavior only continues and gets worse. He constantly sets up situations that would allow him to come off as a hero to Diana and that get her alone with him.  Once he starts trying to romantically woo her, she tries to send him away and heads off on a caravan through the desert to visit Gerald, who has been away on business.

But even in the desert, there is no escape from Jamil and he forces his way into being her guide again. Once again, he tries to woo Diana, who isn’t having it and demands that they go back to Cairo immediately. So what does Jamil do? Send her chaperone on a different route so that it’s just him and Diana alone in the middle of the desert. Then he brings her to Achmed Pasha’s (Edward Arnold) oasis. Pasha is Gerald’s business partner who also has designs on Diana, so Jamil tells him that it was her idea to be there so that he would try to come onto her and he could come to her rescue again.

After Jamil and Diana flee from Pasha’s oasis, Pasha sends some people after them to bring her back, but Jamil not only kills them, but kills Diana’s horse in the process.  Jamil forces Diana to walk along side him while he rides on the horse and when they stop for water, he refuses to let her have a drink before him and the horse. With Diana’s spirit now completely broken, he drags her to his home village where he plans to marry her. She breaks away from the ceremony and returns to Gerald to marry him.  But just as she’s about to marry Gerald, guess who shows up yet again?  Yep, Jamil’s back to make another attempt for Diana.  Only this time Diana, for some reason, decides she’d rather be with Jamil and leaves Gerald standing at the altar.

My two GIF review of The Barbarian:

Oh, good Lord, this movie.  I …just…WHAT WAS THAT?!  Allegedly, this was supposed to be a romance, but it seemed more like a horror film to me.  It was outright disturbing. There is absolutely nothing romantic or charming about Jamil’s pursuit of Diana; it’s nothing but stalking and dangerously manipulative behavior.  I certainly wasn’t rooting for Jamil and Diana to wind up together. The only union I wanted to see between these people was of her fist meeting his face.  I could not get past Jamil’s astounding creepiness to possibly enjoy The Barbarian on any other levels.  I wish I could get those 83 minutes back so I could spend it doing something more productive like watching my cats sleep.

Night Flight (1933)

Delivering the mail by air through South America is a dangerous game and Riviére (John Barrymore) is determined to be the best at it.  He manages a mail-carrying airline and stops at nothing to uphold his its reputation for punctuality.  Even the owners of the airline think he’s too strict with the pilots.  He doesn’t even like airline employees to be friends with each other outside of work.  When he finds out that his inspector Robineau (Lionel Barrymore) had dinner with pilot Auguste Pellerin (Robert Montgomery), he forces Robineau to give Auguste a citation for something he didn’t do just to prove to Auguste that being friends with a higher-up won’t do him any favors.

Riviére also fines the pilots 200 Francs if they’re late, which means the pilots often find themselves flying through dangerous situations even though common sense would suggest they land.  When Auguste has to make a flight to Buenos Aires, he runs into some very treacherous conditions along the way.  He gets there ten minutes behind schedule, but luckily he does make it.

Meanwhile, pilot Jules Fabian (Clark Gable) is making his first night flight.  His wife Simone (Helen Hayes) is waiting for him at home with a nice dinner, eagerly awaiting his return.  He’s flown that route before so she has no reason to suspect there will be any problems.  Everything is going smoothly for Jules until he unexpectedly gets caught in a terrible storm.  Rather than land, Jules keeps on going through the storm, loses communication with ground control, and gets thrown off course.  The airline frantically tries to make contact with Jules and Simone starts to worry when she finds out he’s been delayed. When she tries to contact Riviére, he won’t tell her anything, which only upsets her more.  She knows that he would be running low on fuel by then.

Despite Jules being lost, Riviére pushes ahead with the schedule and calls a Brazilian pilot (William Gargan) to deliver some mail to Rio de Janeiro, which his wife (Myrna Loy) begs him not to do.  Despite her protests, he goes ahead with the flight and manages to make it safely.  However, Jules isn’t nearly as lucky.  Lost over the ocean with no fuel left, Jules and his wireless operator have no other choice but to jump from the plane into the dangerous waters.

I really wanted to love Night Flight, and I did enjoy it, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with it and I’m having a hard time pinpointing exactly why.  I loved the cinematography and I really liked Helen Hayes, especially in the scene where Simone has dinner by herself and pretends Jules is there with her.  And, of course, it does have some pretty exciting flight scenes.

If you’re curious about Night Flight because of its cast, don’t go into it expecting to see a lot of interaction between all these great stars because you will be let down.  For example, Clark Gable and Myrna Loy have no scenes together.  In fact, Myrna Loy doesn’t even have a very big role and most of Clark Gable’s scenes are him by himself.  But that isn’t what disappointed me about the movie.  Like I said, I really wanted to love Night Flight, but something about it just didn’t resonate with me the way I hoped it would.  If I had my choice, I’d definitely pick Only Angels Have Wings over Night Flight, but I’m really glad Night Flight is finally becoming available after being out of circulation since 1941.  If you like movies about aviation or you’re a big fan of anyone in the cast, it’s worth seeing, but there are better movies about pilots and all of the cast has been in better movies.

The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933)

While at a bar one night, boxing manager Edwin J. Bennett, AKA: Professor, (Walter Huston) sees sailor Steve Morgan (Max Baer) knock out a couple of drunks.  The Professor sees that Steve has the potential to be a great boxer and convinces Steve to let him train him.  While the two of them are jogging on a country road one day, another car rolls over into a ditch.  Steve goes to help and pulls singer Belle Mercer (Myrna Loy) out of the wreck.  He takes her to a nearby house and makes sure she’s okay.  To repay the favor, Belle agrees to go to one of Steve’s fights.

Steve is quite infatuated with Belle and is thrilled when she comes to see him, but he soon finds out that she’s the girlfriend of gambler Willie Ryan (Otto Kruger).  That doesn’t deter him from pursuing Belle, though.  He keeps on trying and eventually he wins her over and they get married.  News of their marriage comes as a shock to Willie, but he vows to kill Steve if he ever does anything to hurt Belle.

Belle is a very devoted wife and does everything she can to support Steve’s career, but he isn’t as dedicated to her.  As his career rises, his ego spirals out of control and he starts seeing other women.  She knows what’s going on and after catching him in a lie, she tells Steve that if he messes up again, she’s gone.  Steve promises to behave, but when he hits the road with a vaudeville act, the showgirls are just too tempting.  Belle stays true to her word and goes back to Willie and gets her job back singing in his nightclub.  Steve works his way up to a championship match, but without Belle’s support, he gets depressed and starts hitting the bottle.  On the night of the big fight, Belle goes to the match hoping to see Steve get knocked out.  But as the fight progresses, Belle realizes she still does love him.

The Prizefighter and the Lady was a pretty darn engaging film.  In regards to Myrna Loy’s career, I’m not sure why I haven’t really heard much about her work in this movie because I thought she was great in it.  She made a very sympathetic wife and her quip, “Mother said there’d be days like this,” as Belle is helped out of the car wreck is pure Myrna Loy.  I loved that so many real-life boxers like Max Baer and Primo Carnera appeared in it; the fight scenes were terrific.  My only complaint about this movie was the musical number.  Yes, there really is a musical number in this movie about a boxer.  It didn’t add much of anything to the story and it just slowed down the whole thing.  Other than that, though, it’s a great movie.

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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What’s on TCM: December 2011

We’re down to the last month of 2011 already!  TCM will be closing out the year in top form.  December’s star of the month is William Powell, which I am very excited about since I’m a big fan of his.  It also means we get two nights of movies featuring him with Myrna Loy, one night being the entire Thin Man series and another night featuring their other collaborations.  His movies will be showcased every Thursday night this month.  TCM will also be celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens a little early (his birthday isn’t actually until February) by devoting Monday nights to showing various film adaptations of his work.  And of course there are Christmas classics galore to look forward to!

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Love Me Tonight (1932)

Viscount Gilbert de Vareze (Charlie Ruggles) is a huge fan of Parisian tailor Maurice Courtelin (Maurice Chevalier).  Not because he’s a particularly big fan of his work, but because he’s the only tailor in Paris who will let him buy suits on credit.  After Gilbert buys several suits from him on credit and skips out on the bill, Maurice isn’t about to sit back and take this, so he heads out to his family’s estate to collect on the debt.  Gilbert lives with his uncle Count de Savignac (Charles Butterworth), the Count’s daughter Princess Jeanette (Jeanette MacDonald) and niece Countess Valentine (Myrna Loy).  On his way to the estate, Maurice runs into Jeanette on his way to the estate.  It’s love at first sight for him, but Jeanette isn’t as easily won over.

When Maurice arrives at the estate, he refuses to leave until Gilbert pays his bill.  Unable to pay, Gilbert goes ahead and invites Maurice to stay for a few days until he can get the money.  He tells his family that Maurice is really a Baron and  even though Maurice thinks this scheme is ridiculous, he decides to go along with it when he realizes that Jeanette lives there.  Some of the family questions his background, but ultimately, he wins them over.  They even throw a costume ball in his honor.  Valentine in particular has taken a shine to Maurice, but he still loves Jeanette and Jeanette can no longer deny that she loves him, too.

But Maurice’s cover is blown when one day he sees Jeanette’s seamstress working on a new riding habit for her and he thinks he could do better.  First he rudely dismisses the seamstress, but then the family is scandalized when he is caught with a semi-dressed Jeanette.  At last it comes out that he’s a tailor, not a Baron, and Maurice catches the next train out of there.  The only person not outraged by this revelation is Jeanette, who hops on the fastest horse she can find and chases him down.

I really enjoyed Love Me Tonight.  I wouldn’t say it’s one of my favorite movies, but it is very light, charming, and witty.  The cast is wonderful and you’ve really got to see its incredibly lavish sets.  Maurice Chevalier and Jeannette MacDonald may be the stars, and they’re great, but Myrna Loy is a total scene stealer.  Myrna’s character is very man crazed and one of my favorite moments of the movie is when Gilbert asks her if she could go for a doctor and she says, “Yes!  Bring him right in!”  Her delivery of that line is classic.  She says it in total Myrna Loy fashion and it’s perfect for this movie.

Fashion in Film: My 10 Favorite Costumes

10.  Rita Hayworth’s “Put the Blame on Mame” dress from Gilda

On a lot of other women, that gown would have been pretty unremarkable.  But Rita Hayworth had so much charisma in that movie and had such an incredible screen presence that she turned what could have been a forgettable gown into the most iconic costume of her career.

9.  Elizabeth Taylor’s white slip from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

This right here is proof that Elizabeth Taylor could take the simplest garment and turn it into a definitive screen costume.  Nobody worked a white slip better than Elizabeth Taylor.

8.  All of Norma Shearer’s gowns from Marie Antoinette

I’d be very hard pressed to pick just one favorite costume from Marie Antoinette.  Adrian put an enormous amount of time and effort into designing all those exquisite gowns, no detail was overlooked.  They are all works of art.

7.  Debbie Reynolds’ “Good Morning” dress from Singin’ in the Rain.

Plain and simply, she looks absolutely adorable in it.  She had a lot of wonderful costumes in Singin’ in the Rain, but whenever I think about her in that movie, this is the first costume that comes to mind.

6.  Myrna Loy’s striped party dress from The Thin Man

I just think this dress is pure Nora Charles.  It’s fun, but classy.  She looks like the life of the party.

5.  Grace Kelly’s black and white outfit from Rear Window

This just epitomizes Grace Kelly to me.  It is so clean and simple, it’s not bogged down with a lot of accessories or jewelry, but it’s one of the most elegant dresses I’ve ever seen.

4.  Jean Harlow’s party dress from Dinner at Eight


It’s slinky and ridiculously glamorous.  This is Jean Harlow at her finest.

3.  Marlene Dietrich’s tuxedo from Morocco

In an era when women rarely wore pants, Marlene Dietrich went all out and donned a tuxedo.  Not shocking by today’s standards, but it’s no surprise that her tux caused a commotion when Morocco was released in 1930.

2.  Gloria Swanson’s outfit from her first scene in Sunset Boulevard

This outfit tells us right off everything that we need to know about Norma Desmond.  She looks rich, she looks like a movie star, and she’s definitely got some issues.

1.  Charlie Chaplin as The Little Tramp

As far as I’m concerned, this is the most iconic movie costume of all time.  It doesn’t just represent one movie, it represents Chaplin’s entire body of work and it’s a symbol for that whole era of film history.  When you see that hat, the cane, those shoes, that mustache, there’s no mistaking him for anybody else.  Even when people who don’t know silent films try to describe silent films, odds are they’re going to describe Charlie Chaplin and what he wore.

Lonelyhearts (1958)

Adam White (Montgomery Clift) is an aspiring news writer looking to get his foot in the door any way he can.  Luckily for him, he befriends Florence Shrike (Myrna Loy), who is married to Bill Shrike (Robert Ryan), editor for The Chronicle.  She introduces Adam to Bill at a restaurant one night and Bill has Adam sort of audition for a job on the spot.  Bill jerks Adam around for a little bit, but in the end, tells Adam to drop by the Chronicle offices because there may be a place for him.  Adam is thrilled and runs off to tell his girlfriend Justy (Dolores Hart)  the good news and of course, she is thrilled for him.  When Adam arrives at the Chronicle offices the next day, the wind gets taken out of his sails a little bit when he finds out the job is writing the Miss Lonelyhearts advice column.  He knows that he’s all wrong for the job, but agrees to take it because he so badly wants to start his career.

Some of the other reporters like to make fun of the letters people send into the Miss Lonelyhearts column, but Adam is much more compassionate.  People keep telling Adam to just give cold, thoughtless answers, but he thinks they deserve better than that.  Justy advises him to do his best, but not to take it too seriously.  He starts spending more and more time at work, trying to help these people the best he can.  This takes him away from Justy, but she wants to be supportive.  Growing frustrated, he sees Bill in a restaurant one night and asks for a new column.  Bill tells him that it’s either Miss Lonelyhearts or nothing.  But their conversation is overheard by Fay Doyle (Maureen Stapleton), who has written into the column.  Bill and Adam frequently get into arguments over the nature of the people who write in, and one day Bill suggests calling up some of the letter writers and finding out what they’re like first hand.  Adam takes Bill up on this suggestion and by pure chance, dials up Fay Doyle.  The two of them arrange to meet up so Fay can tell him more about her problems.  When they meet and Fay tells Adam all about how her husband Pat had lied to her about how he got a major injury and how it’s left her desperate for affection.  Adam is truly moved by her story, but knows that he’s completely unfit to truly help her with her problems.  Fay had also been hoping that he was looking to have an affair with her, but is disappointed when she finds out he isn’t.

The whole incident drives Adam to drink, something he never normally does.  When he stops into a bar, he runs into none other than Pat.  Pat knows Adam works for the Chronicle, but not that he writes the Miss Lonelyhearts column and asks him to get back the letter Fay had sent in.  Adam manages to get away from Pat, but then finds himself at a party for a fellow Chronicle reporter.  The other reporters start mocking the Miss Lonelyhearts column again and Adam gets into a fist fight.  Once he sobers up, he realizes that this job is destroying his life and decides to quit the paper and leave town.  He’d like Justy to come with him and tries to repair their damaged relationship.  After thinking it over, Justy decides to go with him and meets up with him at the Chronicle, where Adam is saying goodbye to the other reporters.  But their happy reunion is interrupted by Pat barging in with a gun, looking for the person Fay has been talking to.  Adam is able to defuse the situation and before he leaves, a softened up Bill even asks him to stay with the Chronicle.  But Adam realizes that it’s time for him to move on with his life.  Not only did Adam learn some valuable lessons from his time at the Chronicle, he unwittingly managed to teach Bill a few things about life, too.

I had a really hard time getting interested in Lonelyhearts.  I feel like this had the potential to be a far more interesting movie than it ended up being.  I know it was based on the play “Miss Lonelyhearts,” but I’ve never seen the play so I don’t know if something was lost in translation here or what.  First of all, I think Montgomery Clift was a little bit old for his part.  Adam was supposed to be a young, aspiring writer, but at the time this was made, Montgomery Clift was 38 years old.  Even though he was slightly miscast, his performance wasn’t bad so I can forgive the age issue a little bit.  Actually, all the performances were pretty decent, it’s just that they didn’t have the greatest material to work with.  Maureen Stapleton gave the most notable performance in the movie, as evidenced by her Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.  Other than that, I thought the movie moved along very slowly.  There was a good story at the heart of this, but the movie could have greatly benefited from some rewrites and some tweaking here and there.

Why a Thin Man Remake is Doomed to Fail

Oh, how I was hoping talk of this remake would just go away.  But nope, it looks like they’re serious about remaking The Thin Man with Johnny Depp. *sigh*  When I first heard about this, I think I yelled, “NO!” the exact same way Myrna Loy did in that scene from the first Thin Man movie where Nora is very hung over and Nick offers her a pick-me-up.

To me, The Thin Man is a movie that simply can’t be remade in a way that would do justice to the original.  There are a lot of reasons that the original movie is so perfect.  You’ve got Myrna Loy and William Powell, who are both simply divine in their respective roles.  But Johnny Depp is a good actor, right?  I do like Johnny Depp, but when you’re best known for playing a Keith Richards-inspired pirate and being a muse to Tim Burton, I have a very hard time picturing you in any role originated by William Powell.  Then there’s W.S. Van Dyke’s direction.  But Rob Marshall is an Oscar nominee, so he must be good, right?  OK, so I don’t really have a problem with Marshall directing.  And I can’t forget the razor-sharp writing of the original movie!  Considering the article I linked to names Jerry Stahl as the writer for the remake, then cites him as being a writer for CSI and Bad Boys II, I’m rather concerned about just how genuinely witty and sophisticated this will be.

But the acting, direction, and writing aren’t the only reasons why The Thin Man was excellent.  The real glue that brought the movie together was that spectacular chemistry between Myrna Loy and William Powell.  Their chemistry is always a joy to watch in any movie, but when you put that spark together with that director and that ultra witty script, you get cinematic perfection.  Even if Johnny Depp surprises me and does a great job as Nick Charles and the screenplay is truly delightful, they will never be able to recreate that infamous Loy/Powell chemistry.

I believe that remakes, in theory, can work.  But when a huge part of the appeal of the original hinges on an intangible quality, I really don’t have much hope for the success of a remake.  The part of Nora Charles has yet to be cast, but whoever it ends up being could have fabulous chemistry with Johnny Depp, but it could be the wrong type of chemistry for something like this.  Just try to imagine The Thin Man with some other classic film duos as Nick and Nora.  It just wouldn’t have worked as well starring Bogie and Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, or Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.  Even though I don’t think a Tracy/Hepburn version would be so bad, it just wouldn’t be the same without Loy and Powell.  They were made for movies like The Thin Man and trying to recapture that is like trying to make lightning strike the same place twice.

Wife Vs. Secretary (1936)

Van Stanhope (Clark Gable) seems to have it all: he’s a very successful magazine publisher, he’s been very happily married to Linda (Myrna Loy) for three years, and he’s got Whitey (Jean Harlow), the best secretary he could ever want.  Most wives would be worried about their husbands having secretaries who look like Whitey, but Linda trusts Van completely and she has every reason to.  At least she trusts him until all the suggestions from friends and family that Whitey must be one of those secretaries finally start to get to her.  But Linda isn’t the only one jealous of Van and Whitey’s working relationship.  Whitey’s boyfriend Dave (James Stewart) wants to marry her, but she loves her job and doesn’t want to quit to stay at home.

When Van decides to take on a new business venture, he has to keep it top secret from everyone, including Linda.  Whitey is the only person who knows what’s going on.  So when he says he’s been at a club all afternoon one day, Linda does a little investigating and finds out he wasn’t at the club all day, he was with Whitey.  Linda begins to fear that all those insinuations were right after all, she has no idea that he and Whitey were working together on the new business deal.  Things get even worse when at a company skating party, Linda thinks Van and Whitey look like a little too friendly and she asks Van to transfer Whitey to a new job.  Van refuses and Linda eventually decides she’s being ridiculous and Van promises to take her on vacation soon to make it up to her.

But just when Linda thinks they’re going to leave for vacation, Van has to go to Havana on business and can’t bring Linda along.  This was upsetting enough, but she is pushed to the breaking point when she calls him in Havana at two in the morning and Whitey answers his phone.  Whitey had to join Van in Havana at the last minute to take care of important business.  Even though there are hints of a mutual attraction between the two of them after they have a few drinks together, nothing happens.  But, of course, Linda assumes the worst and when Van returns, she asks for a divorce.  Van is devastated and begins to get a little too friendly with Whitey.  Even though Whitey likes the attention, she knows her boss well enough to know what he really needs and makes a last ditch attempt to get Linda to stay with Van.

Wife Vs. Secretary is a very smart movie.  Even though the title may conjure up images of Myrna Loy comically sneaking around, following Clark Gable and Jean Harlow around by peering in through office windows and hiding behind menus at restaurants in an attempt to spy on them, it’s far more subtle than that.  Clark Gable was often downright hilarious and both Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow gave very thoughtful performances.  Myrna’s character went through a whole gamut of emotions during the movie and she played each one very naturally.  It didn’t matter if her character was happy and engaging in witty banter or absolutely heartbroken, she handled it all like the pro she was.

At the time, Jean was working to try to soften her image a little bit so she really wanted to play something different from some of her past roles.  This wasn’t the first time she played a secretary, but Whitey is the polar opposite of Lil in Red Headed Woman.  Whitey’s not the type to keep her boss’ picture in her garter, she has no intention of breaking up anyone’s marriage, and she’s no gold digger.  She’s just a good-natured gal who loves her job and cares about her boss, but not indecently.  She really did seem like the kind of girl who would go for a Jimmy Stewart type.  Red Headed Woman is one of my favorite Jean Harlow movies, but I think she played Whitey just as well as she played Lil. Speaking of Jimmy Stewart, this was one of his first movies, but he already showed a lot of promise as that very down-to-earth type of guy that he’d become best known for playing.

I loved pretty much everything about Wife Vs. Secretary.  They couldn’t have asked for a better cast, I loved Clarence Brown’s direction, and I loved the writing.  With a story like this, it could have easily gone down a more over-the-top route and turned into an all-out screwball comedy.  But the subtlety of the writing gave the actors the perfect opportunity to take over and really make it great.  With a lesser cast, this movie would have been completely forgettable.  Instead, it’s a real gem.

Fun Fact: Wife Vs. Secretary was first released on February 28, 1936 so this review was published on the 75th anniversary of the movie’s release.

To read more of the Jean Harlow Blogathon contributions, head over to The Kitty Packard Pictorial!