Comet Over Broadway


Comet Over Broadway with Kay Francis. Eve Appleton (Kay Francis) stars in the local community theater and dreams of becoming a professional actress. When a well known actor visits her small town for some R&R, she approaches him for some career guidance. He just sees an opportunity to make some time with a small town gal, even though she is married and has a baby. When Eve sneaks out of the house to meet the actor (infidelity not intended on her part, but definitely intended on the actor's part), her husband follows her and punches the actor in jealous anger. Unfortunately, that one punch kills the actor and husband Bill is sentenced to life in prison. Their lawyer and family friend, Joe (Donald Crisp), convinces Eve that she is really to blame for putting her acting aspirations above her duty to husband and child. Eve vows to to make amends and dedicate her life to freeing Bill, BY FOLLOWING HER DREAM OF BEING A FAMOUS ACTRESS. She reasons that this is the way to make money to finance appeals, etc.

Eve takes her baby on the road and begins her steady rise from carnival shows to burlesque shows to vaudeville shows. At this point she realizes that she can't move her career forward while dragging along her baby girl so she leaves her with a vaudeville friend who is retiring. Eve proceeds to a touring act, almost breaks into Broadway, then launches a successful stage career in the West End of London. About this time lawyer friend Joe informs her that the time is right, and if she can come up with $10,000 before the current governor leaves office (some sort of shenanigans there) then husband Bill can be free. She gets the money from her successful Broadway debut and then regretfully leaves the life (and producer) she loves to be Bill-the-auto-mechanic's wife.

This movie is most famous for being the role that Bette Davis refused to play, causing Warner Brothers to suspend her.

Familiar faces: Melville Cooper as the murdered actor's valet.

Susan Hayward is supposed to be in this movie. Is this her?

Dramatic School


Dramatic School with Luise Rainer and Paulette Goddard. Louise (Luise Rainer) is a student in a school for dramatic arts in Paris.  She is poor so she works nights on the assembly line at a gas meter factory.  In order to hide her humble situation from her classmates and also as a way of practicing her acting, she invents a society life for herself.  The character she adopts has a rich lover and a closet full of fabulous dresses, but eschews jewelry.  When asked why she didn't join her friends after school, she explains that she has spent the night dancing with celebrities.  These fabrications seem artistic to her, but her friends suspect she is just a big fat liar looking to impress them.  After a famous actress and her boyfriend/benefactor - the Marquis Andre D'Abbencourt - visit the factory floor one night, Louise weaves them into her fantasy life.  Another student (Paulette Goddard), who is actually dating a man in the society set, confirms that Louise has been lying about her relationship with the Marquis, and plots to embarrass Louise in front of all of her classmates.  In the end Louise gets to live the life she imagines and to become the famous actress she always longed to be.

Luise Rainer won back-to-back Oscars for her roles in The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Good Earth (1937) under producer Irving Thalberg at MGM.  When Thalberg died,  Louis B. Mayer placed her in lesser movies and her career dwindled.  She has one more movie from 1938 for me to see.  She is still alive, by the way, and has just turned 100, which must be why TCM is showing these movies.

Dramatic School classmates include Lana Turner and Anne Rutherford.  MCMXXXVIII staple Melville Cooper plays a producer.  Louise's roommate and coworker is played by Marie Blake who later used the stage name Blossom Rock and who ended her career playing Grandmama on "The Addams Family". 

A young Grandmama and Luise Rainer

The Toy Wife


The Toy Wife with Luise Rainer, Melvyn Douglas, and Robert Young.  The Brigard family, prominent plantation owners in pre-Civil War French Louisiana, have just returned home after spending many years in Paris.  Sixteen-year-old Gilberte, known as 'Frou Frou' (Luise Rainer), has only the faintest childhood memories of the plantation but is excited at the idea of being near the party town of New Orleans.  Frou Frou is flighty and frivolous and has always been spoiled by her father and older sister Louise.  She meets and marries respected attorney George Sartoris (Melvyn Douglas), who had been Louise's beau.  George loves Frou Frou for her gaiety and innocence, but becomes frustrated at her inability to manage his household (and household slaves) or properly raise their son.  He allows sister-in-law Louise to move in to handle all of the practical matters while Frou Frou is thought of as his "toy wife", pretty and fun but not practical.  Frou Frou realizes that Louise has always loved George and their lives would be better without her, so she runs away to New York with Andre Vallaire (Robert Young), who has been pursuing her romantically.  Her husband George cannot forgive this insult and vows to duel Vallaire if he ever returns, even though Vallaire is a master swordsman and would surely win.

I don't know Luise Rainer but apparently she was hot stuff at the time, having just won back-to-back Best Actress Oscars.  It looks like her film career only really lasted about four years.  This film was jarring (by today's standards) in its depiction of happy slaves and the language used in connection with them.  When Frou Frou meets the household slaves she is introduced to the two Maries ('Yellow' Marie and 'Brown' Marie) and to a young slave without a name who goes by the appellation "Pick", short for pickaninny.

Familiar face:  Frou Frou's father was played by H.B. Warner, Mr. Gower from It's a Wonderful Life

Frou Frou meets the household slaves

George must quell an argument among the "darkies" because Frou Frou does not maintain a well-run house.

The Sisters


The Sisters with Bette Davis and Errol Flynn.  The sisters are Louise, Helen, and Grace.  Louise (Bette Davis) leaves the boring accountant she has been dating to elope with Frank Medlin (Errol Flynn), a hard drinking sportswriter from San Francisco with an idea for a novel.  Grace marries Tom, Louise's old boring accountant.  Helen marries Sam (Alan Hale), old enough to be her father but wealthy and willing to give her a fun loving lifestyle.  Frank doesn't accommodate the bridle of marriage well; Grace and Tom have a boring respectable life; Helen marries again and again.  The movie starts with the presidential election of 1904, is punctuated by the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, and ends with the presidential election of 1908.

The parents are played by Beulah Bondi and Henry Travers, who were Ma Bailey and Clarence Oddbody in It's a Wonderful Life.

Le Schpountz


Le Schpountz is in French with subtitles.  'Schpountz' is a slang term used by a film crew in this movie to refer to someone who has an unreasonably high opinion of how he might fare in the world of cinema.  The trademark of the schpountz is that he is blind to anything that does not agree with his self delusion, and can easily be made a target of jokes.

While travelling near Marseille, the film crew runs across Irénée, who is working in his uncle's grocery.  Irénée is an incredible schpountz, and they proceed to lead him on while laughing behind his back.  After signing a fake contract, gullible Irénée follows them back to their film studio in Paris, where he keeps sneaking in to meet the studio head.  The gang finally embarrasses him so much that even he notices, and he gives up acting to take a job in the prop department.  After a year he is given another chance at acting and accidentally becomes a huge success as a comic actor.

Watching this was a little like watching a silent film, since I had to read all the dialog and Irénée always used such exaggerated expressions.  It took awhile but this movie did grow on me.  No familiar faces in this one.

Schpountz sounds more like "spoon" than "pound".

Irénée mourns the fact that his acting is perceived as comedy.



Algiers with Charles Boyer, Sigrid Gurie, and Hedy Lamarr.  Charles Boyer plays Pepe le Moko, a French jewel thief who is hiding in the Casbah region of Algiers.  The Casbah is labyrinthine and lawless which makes it impossible for the police to capture Pepe while he resides there.  The Casbah is his own little fiefdom but he misses Paris.  His self-imposed confinement  becomes intolerable when he meets a vacationing French beauty played by Hedy Lamarr.
Boyer was nominated for an Academy Award for this role and, even better, the Loony Tunes character Pepe le Pew is based on Boyer's Pepe le Moko. 
Familiar faces: Alan Hale and Gene Lockhart



Pygmalion with Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller.  Phoneticist Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard) makes a bet that he can teach a poor flower girl (Wendy Hiller) to speak English properly enough to pass her off as a Duchess at the Embassy Ball.

My Fair Lady is a musical version of this movie (actually the play upon which the film version of My Fair Lady is based is based on both the play and film versions of Pygmalion). When I first saw Pygmalion I was amazed at how much of the dialog was identical that in My Fair Lady.  I guess if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Since I was already such an admirer of My Fair Lady pretty much all I can do is compare this movie to that one.  Pygmalion was nominated for several Oscars, but won only for Best Screenplay.  My Fair Lady was nominated for twelve and won eight. The big addition that the movie Pygmalion made to the play was the addition of the Embassy Ball scene.  My Fair Lady adds the songs and substitutes the terrific Ascot racetrack scene for a scene at Mrs Higgins' house.

I think with stage productions you often get the chance to see the same role reinterpreted by different actors, but you don't often get that opportunity with movies.  I think the great risk My Fair Lady took was in changing so little, and it really paid off.

"Buy a flower off a poor girl?"

Eliza at the Embassy Ball

Designed by: | Bloggerized by Dhampire