Ralph Bellamy

Carefree 1938

Carefree (1938)

Stephen Arden (Ralph Bellamy) has been engaged to singer Amanda Cooper (Ginger Rogers) multiple times, but she continually breaks off their engagement. After finding himself jilted for the third time, Stephen asks his friend Tony (Fred Astaire), a psychiatrist, to analyze Amanda and find out what’s causing her fear of commitment. Before meeting her, Tony thinks Amanda is a “mindless female,” and says so into his dictaphone, a recording that Amanda ends up hearing while waiting in his office. Furious, Amanda gets out of the appointment and snubs Tony when she meets him again later.

Eventually, Amanda admits why she’s angry with Tony and Tony apologizes before he starts questioning Amanda about her fear of commitment. Amanda can’t offer any explanation for it, so Tony orders her to have a meal of ridiculous food combinations to bring on dreams that could offer some insight. The plan works, but Amanda awakens the next morning realizing she’s in love with Tony, not Stephen.

When Tony asks Amanda about her dream, she doesn’t want to admit the truth, so she makes up a wild dream that makes Tony want to study her further. He orders her to be given a truth serum, not realizing she’s due to perform on the radio very shortly. Despite the fact that her broadcast is a complete disaster, Amanda still loves Tony, but just as she’s about to admit her feelings to him, Stephen announces that he and Amanda are engaged again. Although Tony loves her back, he tries to hypnotize Amanda into thinking she loves Stephen, a plan that also totally backfires.

Carefree is an Astaire-Rogers movie that I don’t think gets nearly enough credit. Sure, there aren’t as many songs as some of their other movies and the musical numbers aren’t as dazzling as “Cheek to Cheek” or “Never Gonna Dance,” but there still are some really great dances in it. I love the hypnotic dance they do to “Change Partners” and I like the slight surrealness of “I Used to be Colorblind.” I actually didn’t mind that it wasn’t as heavy on the songs as some of their other movies because there was less to distract attention from how great Astaire, Rogers, and Bellamy all were in it, just in different ways. For example, Ginger Rogers in particular was hilarious in it, but I think that’s a fact that might have been overshadowed if there had been more dance scenes. So even if Carefree isn’t the best of the Astaire-Rogers pairings, it’s nice to see them in a movie that lets them emphasize some of their other talents.

The Secret Six (1931)

The Secret Six 1931 PosterLooking to make some fast money, Scorpio (Wallace Beery) meets with gangsters Johnny Franks (Ralph Bellamy) and Mizoski (Paul Hurst) about joining a bootlegging racket.  They work for Newton (Lewis Stone) and he wants to muscle fellow bootlegger Joe Colimo (John Miljan) out of some of his territory.  Of course, Colimo isn’t about to take that sitting down. He gets into a gunfight with Newton’s guys and Colimo’s brother is killed in the crossfire.  When Colimo comes looking to get even, Johnny tries to set Scorpio up to take the fall, but Scorpio figures out what’s going on and turns the tables on Johnny.

With all the excitement, police and newspaper reporters flock to Newton’s headquarters.  Among them are reporters Hank (John Mack Brown) and Carl (Clark Gable), who take a linking to Newton’s associate Anne (Jean Harlow).  Each of them is hoping to get the scoop from Anne.  After the excitement surrounding Johnny and Colimo dies down, Scorpio  continues to prove to be a valuable asset to the gang and even helps get Mizoski elected as Mayor.  Not content with just running a small town, Scorpio sets his sights on taking over the big city, too.  But the big city doesn’t want Scorpio around. A group called The Secret Six is formed to fight his influence and Carl is recruited to help their cause.

The Secret Six is a somewhat unusual MGM movie in that it has none of the gloss generally associated with MGM movies and instead has all of the grit of a Warner Brothers movie.  Indeed, The Secret Six was produced by Irving Thalberg in an attempt to compete with Warner Brothers’ gangster hits like The Public Enemy. Although The Secret Six is an enjoyable movie with a good cast, it lacks the organic quality that Little Caesar and The Public Enemy have.   It’s a movie that tried so hard to follow a trend that it simply could not have that effortless quality of the trendsetter.

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.

Hands Across the Table (1935)


Like so many other women, Regi Allen (Carole Lombard) longs for a way out of her mundane life.  She’s tired of having to count her pennies, fighting the crowds on the subway, and she’s tired of having to do nails for a living.  Of course, the easiest way out of that life would be to marry a rich man and she’s determined to do just that.  One day, she’s called up to give Allen Macklwyn (Ralph Bellamy) a manicure and he instantly adores her.  Allen is quite wealthy, he had formerly been a pilot but was left disabled after a flying accident.  He falls in love with her, makes appointments with her constantly, and they become very good friends, but he never lets her know that he loves her.

As Regi is leaving her first appointment with Allen, she bumps into Theodore Drew, III (Fred MacMurray) as he’s playing hopscotch in the hallway.  She doesn’t know who he is, but she thinks he’s a bit screwy and goes on about her day.  Later, Ted makes an appointment to get a manicure from Regi.  The salon receptionist tells Regi that Ted is from a wealthy family, so when Ted comes to her table and she sees the odd guy from earlier, she tries to turn him away.  But when she realizes her mistake, she’s so flustered that she can barely do his nails.  Despite the lousy manicure, Ted asks Regi out to dinner and of course, she accepts.  The two of them have a swell time on their date, especially Ted who has a little too much to drink.  But after a few drinks, he admits that he’s engaged to be married soon.

When Ted passes out in the cab after dinner, Regi lets him sleep on her couch.  She only expects him to stay for the night, but he ends up staying longer when he misses his ship to Bermuda and is stuck in New York with no money and no place to stay.  His family lost all their money in the big stock market crash and his trip to Bermuda was paid for by his future father-in-law.  Of course, the two of them fall in love in spite of one thing: the fact that they both want to marry for money.  Regi tries to not get too involved because she’s convinced that Ted could never be happy with her.  But when Ted’s fiancée Vivian begins to suspect that Ted isn’t really in Bermuda, she does some detective work and finds out that he’s in New York and that he’s been seen with a manicurist.  Vivian books a manicure with Regi and confronts her about what’s been going on.  Vivian doesn’t want to give Ted up, but Ted is willing to let Vivian go and he begs her to end their engagement.  He wants to marry Regi and he’ll do anything to make it happen, including the one thing he never thought he would do: get a job.

Hands Across the Table is one of my favorite under-appreciated gems and my personal favorite Carole Lombard movie.  It may be just a lighthearted romantic comedy, it’s not great cinema, but it is immensely charming.  I loved Carole and Fred together.  When I saw this movie for the first time, I thought Regi and Ted seemed like a couple I’d want to hang out with and now I know why.  Carole and Fred were good friends off-screen and that really came through on-screen, they must have been a blast to be around.  Of course, Carole Lombard was a natural with comedy, but the same couldn’t be said for Fred MacMurray.  Hands Across the Table is one of Fred’s earliest movies and he wasn’t exactly well versed in comedy yet.  Carole and director Mitchell Leisen had to work hard to get his silly performance just right.  But all their hard work paid off because he was great as that kind of hapless but lovable character.  Why Hands Across the Table doesn’t get more love is a mystery to me.

What’s on TCM: June 2010

June is looking like a pretty stellar month on TCM.  Natalie Wood is the star of the month, which I’m happy to see since I’ve become pretty fond of her lately.  If you’re a Jeanette MacDonald fan, you’re really in luck because 10 of her movies are on this month.  It’s really a pretty diverse month.  You can see anything from tributes to Judy Garland and Jaques Cousteau to a day of movies about brides and a night of movies that involve mental institutions.  It’s going to be a busy month, so let’s get to the highlights.

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