William Powell

Double Wedding (1937)

Double Wedding 1937Margit Agnew (Myrna Loy) is a successful business woman who prides herself on leading an extremely well-ordered life. She isn’t content to just keep her life in perfect order, she also likes to manage her sister Irene’s (Florence Rice) life, too. Irene is a bit more free-spirited than her sister and dreams of becoming an actress. At night, she takes acting lessons from Charlie Lodge (William Powell) along with her fiance Waldo Beaver (John Beal). Although Waldo is very respectable, the type of man Margit fully approves of, he’s a terribly timid, dull man. Irene is much more interested in Charlie, who is a very bohemian type who very happily lives in a trailer and has all the charisma that Waldo lacks.

Once Margit learns how Irene and Waldo have been spending their nights, she wants it to stop. She personally asks him to stop seeing Irene, but she doesn’t realize that Charlie doesn’t love Irene, he loves her. He agrees to stop seeing Irene, but only if Margit lets him paint a portrait of her. As she spends time with him posing for the portrait, she actually starts to fall in love with Charlie, even if his lifestyle is the complete opposite of hers.

Margit doesn’t want to believe she’s in love with Charlie and has her butler, a former detective, try to get some dirt on Charlie, but anything potentially incriminating that comes up turns out to be not so bad. When Margit sees Irene leaving Charlie’s trailer, she gets angry and fears the worst. She doesn’t realize their visit was innocent and that Charlie is working on a plan to get Irene and Waldo back together and marry her.

Myrna Loy and William Powell are remembered as being one of the most delightful on-screen duos of all time for a very good reason. Double Wedding isn’t the finest of their movies together, but they were so fantastic together that even a lesser Loy/Powell film is still better than many other actors’ best movies. In all fairness, it’s important to keep in mind that Double Wedding wasn’t made under the best of circumstances; Jean Harlow passed away during its production. Since both Loy and Powell were both very close to Harlow, Powell in particular, her death hit them very hard and neither of them felt like they were at their best in Double Wedding.

Despite everything, Double Wedding is a pretty good movie. Not nearly the same caliber as The Thin Man, but still great fun. The story is delightfully zany and Loy and Powell still do a great job in it. Even if they weren’t at their absolute best, the fact that they were still as good as they were in it is a testament to their talent and their incomparable chemistry.

TCMFF 2015, Day 1: Tours, Red Carpets, and Garbo

Waiting for the TCM Film Locations Tour with Thomas, Kendahl (A Classic Film Blog), Jessica (Comet Over Hollywood), and Danny (Pre-code.com)

Waiting for the TCM Film Locations Tour with Thomas, Kendahl (A Classic Film Blog), Jessica (Comet Over Hollywood), and Danny (Pre-code.com) Photo courtesy of TCM.

For the first day of TCMFF 2015, my day started by taking a bus tour of locations that were featured in various films. This is the tour Turner Classic Movies partnered with Starline Tours to create. Unlike many other tours of film locations you can take in Los Angeles, the TCM Movie Locations Tour is unique in the sense that it not only encompasses more films from the classic era than most other tours, it’s the only film location tour that visits downtown Los Angeles.

The tour takes visitors by locations such as Chaplin’s former studios, Paramount Studios, Echo Park, Los Angeles City Hall, and the Formosa Cafe, just to name a few. The bus itself was nice; very comfortable with lots of windows so all passengers have a great view of the places they’re seeing. There’s also a large HDTV so people on the tour can see the locations as they appeared on film and as they look today.

Bradbury Building

The Bradbury Building

There are two stops on the tour where visitors are able to get off the bus and spend a few minutes exploring: the Bradbury Building and Union Station. In both cases, you’ll find yourself wishing you could stay and explore the buildings more. Walking into Union Station is like walking into a different era; it’s absolutely beautiful. And I couldn’t get enough of admiring the architecture of the Bradbury Building.

What impressed me the most about the tour was the wide range of films it references. Since this is a tour organized by Turner Classic Movies, you can naturally expect most of the locations to be related to classic film, but there are some modern films represented in the tour such as L.A. Confidential and The Artist.  Of course, there are plenty of familiar titles like Rebel Without a Cause and Sunset Boulevard that are referenced, but the tour also talked about locations used for less instantly recognizable movies such as Buster Keaton’s Battling Butlers and Barbara Stanwyck’s The Miracle Woman. I never though I would ever go on a film locations tour and hear anyone talk about The Miracle Woman, so that one really made me happy.

If you’re going to be in the Los Angeles area and are interested in taking the TCM Movie Locations Tour, I definitely recommend it. If you’re like me and not from the area, it’s a fun way to see the town in about 3 hours. Visit the Starlines Tours website for more information about ticket prices and when tours run.

After the tour, I went out to lunch with fellow bloggers Jessica (and her lovely parents), Raquel, Kendahl, and Danny and spent some time hanging out at the Roosevelt Hotel before heading off to my next big event — watching red carpet arrivals for The Sound of Music.

A view of the red carpet from the bleachers.

A view of the red carpet from the bleachers.

Festival attendees who weren’t attending The Sound of Music screening were able to watch the red carpet arrivals from some bleachers that had been set up by the red carpet. I joined some other movie bloggers to brave the heat (it was about 90 degrees and very sunny that day) and wait in line for the opportunity to get a brief glimpse of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

Christopher Plummer

Christopher Plummer

Many of the celebrities who appeared on the red carpet were people who were guests at the festival such as Keith Carradine, Robert Morse, Leonard Maltin, Diane Baker, Peter Fonda, Norman Lloyd, and of course, Christopher Plummer. Although she wasn’t doing any other events at the festival, Shirley Jones also made an appearance. While some of the stars stopped to address the crowd, others moved so quickly it was hard to even get a picture of them. Most of the pictures I took at the event could be compiled into a series called “Famous People Shielding Their Eyes from the Sun,” but it was worth attending because it gave me the chance to see some people I wouldn’t have been able to see in person otherwise.

Queen Christina Garbo Gilbert

My first film of TCMFF 2015 was 1933’s Queen Christina with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. If you ever have the chance to see Garbo on the big screen, you must go. Garbo had a face that was made to be seen on a larger-than-life screen. I’ve always loved the movie, but being able to see it on the big screen brought out many little nuances in her performance I had never noticed while watching it at home.

As an added bonus, they screened a rare Queen Christina lighting test from the Academy archives before the movie, which was an absolute pleasure to watch. It was a 2-and-a-half minute long silent clip of Greta Garbo simply being Greta Garbo. Since these were just lighting tests, she was relaxed in a way that you don’t see her being when she’s actually acting. Plus some of the shots were close-ups, which were simply breathtaking. If Queen Christina ever gets a blu-ray release, that lighting test would make a fantastic bonus feature.

My Man Godfrey Powell Lombard

After Queen Christina, I got in line to see 1936’s My Man Godfrey starring the incomparable Carole Lombard and William Powell. I was still debating what I would go see during this time slot up until I got out of Queen Christina. I like The Sea Hawk and after saying I had never seen Breaker Morant in my post about what I was planning to see, several people told me, “You must see Breaker Morant!” so I was definitely intrigued by it. In the end, Godfrey won because I was in the mood for something light and fun, but I fully intend on seeing Breaker Morant sometime in the near future. Godfrey was a digital print, which looked absolutely stunning; I’ve never seen it look better. Not only was tonight my first time seeing Garbo on the big screen, it was also my first time seeing Carole Lombard on the big screen. In both cases, it was an absolute delight. The crowd for Godfrey was very enthusiastic, which always makes classic comedies so much fun to watch.

Pre-Code Essentials: Jewel Robbery (1932)

Jewel Robbery 1932

Plot

Baroness Teri von Horhenfels (Kay Francis) seems like the kind of woman that has it all. Or at least she would have it all if her husband weren’t so painfully dull. She tries to alleviate her boredom by having affairs and seeking excitement any way she can. But there is one thing she loves more than any man and that’s jewelry, which her husband gladly buys for her. While paying a visit to a very exclusive jewelry store to buy a new ring, they’re joined by a jewel robber (William Powell) and his gang. This thief has his own very unique style. He’s the wittiest, most charming robber in Vienna and has the distinct touch of offering marijuana to his witnesses so they won’t call the police.

Teri can’t help but be enchanted by the thief, even after he steals her new 28-carat ring. She isn’t offered the marijuana since she tells him that she has no interest in having him arrested. When she returns home, Teri and her friend are shocked to find her jewelry safe has been broken into, but are even more shocked to notice that nothing has been stolen. In fact, something has been left behind: her new ring. When the robber appears, she insists that he take the ring back since she could never be seen wearing it. He refuses and before long, a detective shows up to take both of them away. But it’s all part of a rouse to get her back to the robber’s apartment because he’s leaving for Nice soon and wants her to join him.


My Thoughts

It’s awfully hard to resist a pairing of William Powell and Kay Francis. Francis and Powell were experts at working with this kind of suave, sophisticated, witty material and although Jewel Robbery isn’t the best movie they made together (I’d give One Way Passage that distinction), it’s still an extremely amusing movie.


The Definitive Pre-Code Moments

The robber trying to steal the ring off of Teri’s hand.

When the police officer gets too high to be able to do his job, then gets his supervisor high and they make prank phone calls together.


Why It’s an Essential Pre-Code

A well-to-do woman who wants to leave her husband to be with a suave thief is pure pre-code material, but what makes this an essential pre-code in my book is the drug use. I can think of other pre-code movies that deal with drug use, Three on a Match is a big one, but I mostly think of it as being shown in a cautionary or unflattering way. Jewel Robbery not only actually shows people smoking marijuana, it shows people having a darn good time doing so. This was Cheech and Chong levels of weed enjoyment.

Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

Manhattan Melodrama

Childhood friends Blackie Gallagher (Clark Gable as an adult, Mickey Rooney as a child) and Jim Wade (William Powell as an adult, Jimmy Butler as a child) grow up together facing a great deal of adversity. But even from an early age, it’s pretty obvious that these kids are on completely different paths in life. Blackie and Jim stay close over the years, but their lives head in completely different directions. While Jim studies hard and grows up to be District Attorney, Blackie ends up running his own gambling club.

Even though they’re on different sides of the law, Blackie has the utmost respect for Jim and when Jim is named District Attorney, Blackie wants to go out with him to celebrate. Unfortunately, Blackie can’t make it to the celebration at the last minute, but he sends his girlfriend Eleanor (Myrna Loy) in his place. Eleanor and Jim have a lovely night together and it leaves Eleanor wishing Blackie could be more like Jim. Realizing that Blackie will never change, Eleanor leaves him. A few months pass and Jim runs into Eleanor again at a party. This time, it turns into a real romance and it isn’t long before they’re married. Although Blackie wishes them well, one of his cohorts unwittingly puts Jim in a compromising position that could cost Jim everything he’s worked so hard for.

Manhattan Melodrama is rather notorious for being the movie John Dillinger had seen before being killed while leaving a movie theater. But classic movie fans may best remember it for being the first on-screen pairing of Myrna Loy and William Powell. Of the non-Thin Man movies Myrna Loy and William Powell made together, Manhattan Melodrama may be my favorite. It may not be a comedy like The Thin Man, but Loy and Powell still positively sparkle together and I just adore the scene where their characters meet for the first time when she jumps into his taxi cab. It’s absolutely no wonder they went on to make so many more movies together.

The great thing about Manhattan Melodrama is that Myrna Loy doesn’t get just one of her best co-stars, she gets two of them. As phenomenal as Loy and Powell always were together, Loy and Clark Gable are pretty delightful together,too. All three stars deliver very strong performances. When you take a cast like that, add tight direction from W.S. Van Dyke and a story that delivers on the melodrama, but has enough grit to be anything but ordinary, and you’ve got a really effective yet complex little drama. Usually, I tend to find MGM’s attempts at gangster films to be pretty weak attempts to latch on to the popularity of Warner Brothers’ gangster movies, but Manhattan Melodrama is definitely an exception.

What’s on TCM: March 2014

Mary Astor Humprhey Bogart Maltese FalconHappy March!  31 Days of Oscar may be coming to an end, but there are still plenty of other great things to look forward to in the upcoming month.  What I’m most excited to see returning to TCM is Carson on TCM!  You may remember that back in July 2013, TCM aired a number of classic Johnny Carson Tonight Show interviews with stars such as Doris Day, Kirk Douglas, George Burns, and Bette Davis.  This time around, we have interviews with Gene Kelly, Lauren Bacall, Bob Hope, Jack Lemmon, and Gregory Peck (just to name a few) to look forward to.  I absolutely loved watching the interviews back in July, so I’m very excited to see more.

After taking a break last month for 31 Days of Oscar, Friday Night Spotlight returns with a series about Food in the Movies selected by Anthony Bourdain.

March’s Star of the Month will be the one and only Mary Astor.  A 24 hour marathon of her films will start very Wednesday night this month and continue into the following Thursday

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Evelyn Prentice (1934)

Evelyn Prentice Myrna Loy William PowellEvelyn Prentice (Myrna Loy) adores her husband John (William Powell), but John is an attorney and often has to work long hours and travel for work.  Lately, he’s been hard at work defending Mrs. Harrison (Rosalind Russell) and Evelyn really misses spending time with her husband.  One night, she goes to a nightclub with her friend Amy (Una Merkel) and meets a man named Lawrence Kennard (Harvey Stephens), who claims to know her from somewhere.

Lawrence doesn’t actually know Evelyn, but he knows she’s married to a prominent attorney and plans to trap her in a scandal and blackmail her.  The next day, he sends Evelyn a book of his poetry and invites her to tea.  Evelyn isn’t at all impressed by Lawrence, but she’s feeling lonely with John out of town so when Amy accepts his invitation on her behalf, she meets with him.  She continues seeing him while John is away, but after John returns, she begins to suspect that he has been having an affair with Mrs. Harrison.  A heartbroken Evelyn goes to see Lawrence again, but ultimately decides to stay true to John and tries to end things off with Lawrence.

Lawrence isn’t about to let Evelyn get off that easily, though.  He reminds her of some letters she had written to him and demands $15,000 for them.  During the dispute, Evelyn shoots Lawrence with his own gun and leaves.  The next day, news of his murder is all over the front page, but nobody suspects Evelyn.  However, Lawrence’s other girlfriend Judith (Isabel Jewell) is considered the top suspect.  John agrees to defend Judith and during the trial, Evelyn’s guilt eats away at her.  Near the end of the trial, Evelyn tries to come clean about the whole thing.  But fortunately for them, John has a plan to get both Evelyn and Judith off the hook.

Movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy are always a hit with me.  Although it’s much more fun to watch them playing happily married couples in more lighthearted movies, Evelyn Prentice is still a darn good movie.  It’s very smartly written and well acted.  Myrna Loy did an excellent job of conveying the guilt Evelyn was feeling and Isabel Jewell and Una Merkel were both great in their supporting roles.  It’s another one of those wonderful underrated gems that I just love finding.

Jewel Robbery (1932)

Baroness Teri (Kay Francis) has a life that many would envy.  She’s married to Baron Franz (Henry Kolker), who can easily afford to buy her all the furs and jewelery she could ever want.  There’s just one problem — he’s incredibly boring.  Teri desperately needs some excitement in her life, so she openly dates other men, but gets bored with them pretty quickly, too.

When Teri and Franz go to a jewelery store so that Franz can buy Teri a very large diamond ring, the store is robbed by an unnamed robber (William Powell).  This is no ordinary jewel thief, though.  He’s very suave, charming, and has the unusual habit of giving marijuana to the people he robs so they won’t call the police.  And it just so happens that this robber is exactly the type of man  Teri has been longing for.  He flirts with her as he steals her new ring from her, and she’s so enchanted with him that she doesn’t even need the marijuana to stop her from talking to the cops.

When Teri gets back home, she finds some mysterious flowers waiting for her and discovers that her jewelry safe has been opened.  However, nothing has been stolen.  In fact, something has been added to it — the ring that had just been stolen from her.  The robber sneaks up to her room and Teri tries to get him to take the ring back since there’s no way for her to wear it without raising suspicions.  He refuses, and it isn’t long before there’s a knock at the door from Detective Fritz (Alan Mowbray), who arrests Teri for being an accomplice to the robber.

It just so happens that Detective Fritz isn’t a detective after all, he’s actually working for the robber.  Fritz brings Teri to the robber’s apartment, where he spends the night wooing her and she falls even more deeply under his spell.  They make plans to run away to Nice together, but before they can leave, the real police show up.  The robber and his gang escape, but first, they tie Teri to a chair so the cops won’t accuse her of being an accomplice.  When all is said and done, her name stays clear, but she announces that she could use a vacation to recover from her “ordeal.”  Perhaps some time in Nice would do the trick…

If you know someone who thinks old movies were all super sanitized and boring, Jewel Robbery is the perfect movie to prove them wrong.  With its witty banter, infidelity, jewel heists, and drug use, Jewel Robbery is perfectly pre-code from start to finish.  The chemistry between Kay Francis and William Powell is phenomenal and it’s very hard not to laugh at the scenes of the jewelery store’s security guard acting high as a kite after the robber gives him that joint.  There’s nothing about it I didn’t like.  It’s a total delight to watch and is absolutely essential pre-code viewing.