The Awful Truth (1937) starring Cary Grant & Irene Dunne/His Girl Friday (1940) starring Cary Grant & Rosalind Russell

The Awful Truth

Before their divorce becomes final, Jerry (Cary Grant) and Lucy Warriner (Irene Dunne) BOTH do their best to ruin each other’s plans for remarriage. They divorced (hastily) b/c they suspected that cheating was going on; Lucy learns that he lied re: going away to Florida and Jerry is VERY disturbed upon learning that she was stuck (overnight) w/ her (suave/French) music teacher. It’s up to the audience to decide IF they actually cheated! Lucy meets an earnest Okie oilman- Daniel Leeson (Ralph Bellamy)- while living w/ her outgoing auntie at a fancy hotel. Jerry visits their pet dog (a fox terrier), Mr. Smith, as was decreed by the judge; the dog (obviously) doesn’t like the couple being apart. One night, while Lucy and Daniel are out at a fancy club, they run into Jerry and his date- a wanna-be actress named “Dixie Belle Lee.” She is young, blonde, and Southern; she reveals that she changed her name (b/c her family disapproves of show business). They all watch (w/ bemusement) as Dixie Belle happily screeches out a song; at certain points, her skirt blows up (a la Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch). One day, BOTH the music teacher and Jerry show up at Lucy’s hotel and confusion ensues! Jerry seriously begins seeing a socialite- Barbara Vance- who is covered in the society pages. Jerry tells Lucy that he’s going to meet the parents; she barges in on them, calling herself Jerry’s “sister.” The Vances, a humorless bunch, look on w/ horror as Lucy does her own impression of Dixie Belle, complete w/ a burlesque-style dance.

Much of the film (adapted from a Broadway play) was improvised by its director, Leo McCarey, and the cast each day. This caused Grant much anxiety, BUT it became a big hit. After a time, Grant realized that McCarey was deliberately creating nervous tension in him to enhance the performance. By keeping the cast slightly off balance, the director was building scenes from spontaneous moments between the actors. There is clever/fast dialogue, physical humor (incl. w/ the energetic dog), and great chemistry between the leads. The supporting actors do a good job, too; they add to this screwball comedy.

His Girl Friday

It all happened in the “Dark Ages” of the Newspaper game- When to a reporter “Getting That Story” justified anything short of murder. Incidentally you will see in this picture no resemblance to the men and women of the press of Today. Ready? Well, once upon a time… –Opening title card for the film

Having been away 4 mos, Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), walks into the offices of The Morning Post, where she is a star reporter; her purpose is to tell her boss/editor, Walter Burns (Grant), that she is quitting. She got a divorce in Reno (from Walter- who admits he “wasn’t much of a husband”) and had a vacation in Bermuda. Hildy wants to “have a home” and “live like a real human being,” instead of chasing after stories. She plans to take the 4PM train to Albany, where she will be getting married the next day to an earnest/doting insurance agent, Bruce Baldwin (Bellamy- yet again the guy who doesn’t get the girl). Walter doesn’t want to lose Hildy, as a reporter or a wife, so he does whatever he can to delay her trip and convince her that she belongs w/ the paper- and him!

You’ve got an old fashioned idea divorce is something that lasts forever, ’til death do us part.’ Why divorce doesn’t mean anything nowadays, Hildy, just a few words mumbled over you by a judge. -Walter explains to Hildy

What were you when you came here five years ago – a little college girl from a school of journalism. I took a doll-faced hick... -Walter says

Well, you wouldn’t take me if I hadn’t been doll-faced. -Hildy retorts

Well, why should I? I thought it would be a novelty to have a face around here a man could look at without shuddering. -Walter replies

He forgets the office when he’s with me. He doesn’t treat me like an errand boy, either, Walter. He treats me like a woman. -Hildy comments re: her fiance, Bruce

This (fast-talking) screwball comedy influenced MANY films that came after it, from rom coms to workplace comedies. There are jokes aimed at the behavior, looks, and speech of journos (who were almost ALL men that time). I’ve seen this film several times over the years; I recently learned that Hildy was first written as a man (in the play- The Front Page). For the film, the studio (producers) decided to change it to a woman, so there could be a romance (instead of bromance) element. In the middle section of the film, Hildy is at the helm of the story, and we see things from her POV. The other reporters covering the case admire Hildy for her talent (writing); they even bet on how long she’ll last as a housewife! The female Hildy was a rarity for Hollywood; she had a career, was confident, smart, and independent-minded. She wears cool hats, coats, and (menswear-inspired) skirt suits. Grant (then in his 30s) looks great (as usual); he projects charm, humor, and mischievousness in his scenes. Walter (who rarely shows vulnerability, BUT is still easy to relate to) is one of Grant’s MOST known/loved characters.

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Two (Lesser Known) Films Starring Rita Hayworth

Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)

[1] It’s always interesting to stumble on old movies like these that resonate more than 50 years later. How much and how little has changed when it comes to religious zealots…hhmmm?

[2] Sadie Thompson is a woman of questionable repute… trying to re-make her life. The Jose Ferrer character is effectively odious. A man hung up on projecting his moral issues on the nearest target. This happens to be Miss Sadie. 

[3] Look for a studly young Charles Bronson in a minor role, listed in the credits as Charles Buchinsky.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

At a remote military outpost on American Samoa, it’s either hot/humid or raining. A ship quarantine strands a small group of Americans, incl. Sadie Thompson (Hayworth), on the way to a new job on another island. She’s a “breezy dame” who ALL the Marines want to get to know, including Phil O’Hara (Aldo Ray). As she steps on the dock, men clamor for a bit of her company. As Sadie sings, some of the natives (even little kids) leave church to go to the bar next door, ignoring their preacher. Mr. Davidson (Jose Ferrer), the powerful/wealthy head of the Mission Board, suspects Sadie is one of the women who worked at the Emerald Club in Honolulu. He calls her a bad influence (on the Marines and local natives), who must be shunned. 

This island looks volcanic. -Dr. MacPhail comments 

It is – in more ways than one. All these isolated islands where our servicemen are stationed are volcanic. It takes constant vigilance to keep them under control. -Mr. Davidson replies

Hayworth looks gorgeous (as usual); she’s a redhead here who wears a lot of red (associated w/ evil, love, and during this era- Communism). Sadie is independent, tough, unapologetic, and quite jaded (though she puts on a fun-loving front). Phil, who will soon be finished w/ his service, suggests going to live in Australia. He quickly falls in love w/ Sadie and asks her to marry him; she is surprised, but pleasantly. Meanwhile, Davidson has put the gears into motion to get Sadie deported back to the States. 

This is a “Personal Pick” of Robert Osborne, who was host for TCM. It starts off as light and comedic (w/ songs), but takes a serious (and quite dark) turn. While it’s an uneven film, there are timeless themes w/in (based on a short story by W. Somerset Maugham).

The Story on Page One (1959)

[1] You’ll never see a movie with such long scenes again. It’s a shame, because they were very absorbing, with Franciosa really ratcheting up the fireworks.

[2] People who knew her say she was much like the character of Josephine – quiet, shy, insecure and sweet. Hayworth doesn’t exhibit much personality in this, but then, probably the unhappy Josephine wouldn’t have either.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

An elderly woman, Mrs. Brown (Katherine Squire), approaches a surly, down-on-his-luck  lawyer, Victor Santini (Anthony Franciosa), desperate for representation for her daughter. Mrs. Brown knew Victor’s (deceased) mother, who told her that he was a Harvard grad and experienced w/ trials. Victor (who’s more interested in drinking) tries to dissuade the woman, but she’s insists on him hearing out her story. 

L.A. housewife/mother, Jo Morris (Hayworth- then 40 y.o.), is very unhappy; her husband/police detective, Mike (Alfred Ryder), is emotionally abusive. Hayworth’s looks are underplayed in this film; she comes off as a bit tired, anxious, and isn’t dressed glamorously. Jo feels sympathy for an accountant/widower, Larry Ellis (Gig Young), and they start seeing each other. They break up, but Jo’s mother (Mrs. Brown) urges her to reach out again. Larry and Jo meet; she learns that his young son was killed in an accident. They finally spend one night at his hotel, and realize that they still love each other. Larry’s  mother, Mrs. Ellis (Mildred Dunnock), shows up on Jo’s doorstep one day, just as Mike is going to work. Jo is stunned when Mrs. Ellis explains that she hired a private detective to follow Larry; she threatens to reveal all to Mike (unless Jo stays away). One weekend, the family goes to a wedding, where Mike gets very drunk. When they get home, Larry is waiting to speak to Jo (after the others are asleep). She lets him into the kitchen and Larry explains/apologizes about his mother. Mike comes down the stairs (holding his gun), thinking there could be a burglar. When he sees Jo embracing Larry, Mike fights w/ Larry and the gun goes off. Mike is dead; the adulterous couple find themselves on trial for their lives (yet refuse to turn against each other). 

It turns out that Victor (who cleans up nice) is a fine lawyer; he’s confident in the courtroom and passionate about getting justice for his client. He faces some tough opposition from a tough/elderly prosecutor (played by Sanford Meisner, known as an acting coach). While Meisner was exposed to method acting (w/ its emphasis on “affective memory”), his approach was based on “the reality of doing.” Since most of this film is the trial, it will appeal to those who like courtroom dramas (and a lot of dialogue). There isn’t any flair w/ the direction; it was done by the writer, Clifford Odets. As several viewers have noticed, the supporting characters, esp. Victor and the two mothers, are more interesting than the leads. 

SPOILER-FREE Review: White Boy Rick (opening 9/14/18) starring Matthew McConaughey

[1] I hadn’t read up on this story, because I wanted to watch the movie not knowing any details. I was pleasantly surprised. This movie was not what I was expecting. I went in thinking it would be a Pablo Escobar kinda movie, but it was not. 

[2] Although the story is meant to be light-hearted in most moments (due to the nature of this crazy story), there are quite a few dramatically effective scenes to go along with them, but it almost felt like the movie was getting a little too serious for the writers, so they had to take away from some of the emotion by adding jokes. 

Matthew McConaughey gives one of his best efforts in a while and a particular scene actually had me in tears. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, seeing as everyone expects him to bring a lot to the table nowadays. Newcomer Richie Merritt is the one to talk about, however. While his performance isn’t something that people will be talking about for decades to come, this was quite the impressive first impression. 

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

This is likely to be one of the MOST serious (and unflinchingly violent) films of 2018. I saw it at a free pre-screening w/ a Meetup earlier this week; it’s out this FRI. The gritty indie drama is based on a true story and filmed in Cleveland (which stands in for Detroit). In 1984, Ricky Wershe, Jr. (newcomer Richie Merritt) is a 15 y.o. H.S. dropout who helps his gun dealing father, Rick Sr. (Matthew McConaughey), hustle for a living. In the opener, they attend a gun show. The Wershes haven’t left Detroit (“a lion doesn’t leave the Serengeti”) b/c Rick thinks that they can still make something of themselves. Rick’s older sis, Dawn (British actress Bel Powley) is angry, rebellious, and (possibly) on drugs. The grandparents are played by veteran actors (Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie); their scenes are few, yet memorable. 

There is an epidemic of gun violence and crack cocaine in the area; local cops seem to turn a blind eye and the FBI has a presence. Two FBI agents- Snyder and Byrd (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rory Cochrane) and local undercover cop, Det. Jackson (Brian Tyree Henry) have their eye on a young dealer, Johnny ‘Lil Man’ Curry (Jonathan Majors), who has connections in high places. Ricky knows Johnny, having done some business w/ him, so the FBI starts following him (to encourage him to assist them). 

RBG (2018)

People ask me “Don’t you feel uncomfortable being compared to a rapper?” Why would I? We have a lot in common like being born and raised in Brooklyn. -Ruth Bader Ginsburg

If you’re not watching #RBGMovie you are missing one of the great multi layered love stories. Love of the law, love of knowledge, love of equality and above all, love of marriage as a true partnership, bursting with mutual respect. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an American original. -Tom Harrington (CBC Radio)

The love story between Ruth and Martin Ginsburg is nothing less than awe-inspiring. I love how she tells about her undergraduate years at Cornell where there was a four to one ratio of boys to girls. “Every mother wanted to send their daughter there because, if you couldn’t find a husband there, you were hopeless.” She reveals that during her freshman year, she never dated the same boy twice. That is, until she met Marty, who was the first guy that recognized she had a brain. -Excerpt from IMDB review

He was okay playing second fiddle. In fact, he joked about it… -Nina Totenberg (NPR legal correspondent) on Marty, a very successful tax attorney in NYC, who moved to DC when his wife’s career took off. 

The film traces RBG’s life from her childhood in Brooklyn through her years struggling to be taken seriously as a young female law student  and practicing attorney, and through her tenure on the SCOTUS and emergence as a pop culture icon. The storyline is mostly linear, but includes frequent jumps backward, forward, and even sideways as it examines different aspects of her life, personality, and public image. There’s a mix of historical photos, videos, but the main draw are the interviews. We hear from Ginsburg’s children, childhood friends, colleagues, admirers and a few detractors, as well as fellow feminist icon Gloria Steinem, former Pres. Bill Clinton, and Ginsburg herself.

Some of the cases RBG argued before the SCOTUS:

  • Frontiero vs. Richardson (1973): A young newly-married woman from Alabama, Sharron Frontiero, working in the U.S. Air Force, sues for gender discrimination when the housing stipend is denied her (unlike male co-workers).
  • Weinberger vs. Wiesenfeld (1975): A widower and father to baby boy, Simon Wiesenfeld, sues the Social Security Administration for sole-survivor benefits (then called “a mother’s benefit” and only avaiable to women). When the case reached SCOTUS, RBG had Simon come sit w/ the lawyers (putting a masculine face in front of the all-male justices).
  • Califano vs. Goldfarb: Leon Goldfarb, a widower, who applied for survivor’s benefits under the Social Security Act had his application denied (even though his wife Hannah had paid Social Security taxes for 25 years).
  • Edwards vs. Healy: Challenging the Louisiana law that allowed women to opt-out of jury service.

You may remember these (high-profile) cases that RBG presided over:

  • U.S. vs. Virginia Military Institute (1996): VMI boasted a long and proud tradition as Virginia’s only exclusively male public undergraduate higher learning institution. The U.S. brought suit against Virginia and VMI alleging that the school’s male-only admissions policy was unconstitutional insofar as it violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
  • Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (2007): Over her 19 yr. career at Goodyear, Lilly Ledbetter was consistently given low rankings in annual performance-and-salary reviews and low raises relative to other employees. Ledbetter sued for gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that the company had given her a low salary because of her gender.

A granddaughter, Clara Spera, who recently graduated from Harvard Law School, explains that this was the first year that the graduating class was 50% male and 50% female (WOW). Jane and James (her adult children) recall how their mother rarely laughed, stressed education and personal responsibility, and was a horrible cook (LOL). Her husband, Marty, worked hard by contacting people from the business and legal communities to get RBG (then aged 61) to the top of the list for Supreme Court justice in 1993. Pres. Clinton was very impressed by her interview. RBG, who even won the admiration of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), was confirmed 96-3 in a quite partisan time. This is a MUST-SEE documentary (for people of ALL ages)!