Friday, April 22, 2016

Loving and Fighting Furiously: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

Let me preface this by saying I set myself up for failure on this one. So much as been written about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz -- books, movies, TV specials, great blog posts. I can't possibly include all of the vast information I have at my fingertips, so if you're at all intrigued by my post, good news: there is a wealth of material out there. The Ball-Arnaz relationship was messy and sometimes hurtful, but it all came from two people who loved each other more than they could say. Their marriage brought them a legacy that transformed them into icons, yet they weren't the Ricardos -- they were Lucy and Desi, fallible people who ultimately couldn't stay together.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Garson and Colman melt hearts in... Random Harvest (1942)

James Hilton is a somewhat familiar name for old movie fans. Seven of his books have been made into films, some more than once, with Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Lost Horizon emerging as the undisputed classics. Hilton also penned screenplays for Hollywood, winning an Academy Award for his script for Jan Struther's novel Mrs. Miniver. The same year Mrs. Miniver was released, another adaptation of Hilton's work came to the screen: Random Harvest. Interestingly tied to Hilton was actress Greer Garson. The lovely Englishwoman had great luck with the author -- her film debut was Goodbye, Mr. Chips in 1939, which earned her a Best Actress Academy Award nomination. 1941's Blossoms in the Dust gave her another nomination, the first of five consecutive noms, a record that Garson shared with Bette Davis and one that still stands. Greer didn't have to
wait long for that Oscar, though; Mrs. Miniver brought her the statuette, just as it did for James Hilton. Funnily, Greer set another Academy Award record that night... for the longest speech ever given. After her five and a half minute-long speech, the Academy put in force a time limit. Unrelated, how cute is this photo from the ceremony?

Random Harvest would be the third and final time Greer worked with material from Hilton, and for her leading man Ronald Colman, it would be his second time after Lost Horizon in 1937. A consistently amazing actor, Colman was weirdly nominated for an Oscar just three times, Random Harvest being responsible for one of those and only winning for 1947's A Double Life. (Technically, he was up for Best Actor four times -- in 1929, Bulldog Drummond and Condemned were lumped together as a single nomination.)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A thank-you note to Charlotte Vale.

When I first became a classic film devotee, I had just gotten to junior high school, more specifically the seventh grade. Going from the snug comfort of elementary school to the uncertain territory of junior high was like a form of culture shock -- the rules were looser yet stricter, the teachers were unknown, there were many more students because junior high was when the four towns that make up our county pooled all their students into the same school. You remember being thirteen. It's a weird, awkward time when you suddenly become conscious of your body and your hair and all the things that never bugged you before but now were suddenly so important. In the midst of all that, I had a life preserver thrown out to me, a 1942 melodrama that chronicled the psychological issues of a woman who wasn't weak, but rather unaware of her strength. Her name was Charlotte Vale, and the actress who embodied her so completely was Bette Davis.